Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 23 - Addis Ababa Retirement?

Church this morning was fantastic again.  I absolutely love worshiping God there.  His presence is evident because I sense His spirit moving there among the people.  Today, my favorite song leader lead us in worship.  She is the one who led us the first week we were here with Hillsong worship songs.  I absolutely love the beautiful lyrics Hillsong worship team writes about the Lord.  They help me articulate so much that I want to say to Him.  Every week in this sermons series the pastor is on, a member of the congregation gets up and shares their testimony of how they re-connected with God during difficult times.  This week the sermon was on Re-connecting with God by Demolishing Strongholds.  A guy from California, who now lives with his wife and son in Addis, shared his testimony about how God delivered him from drugs and a life of promiscuity.  At age 13, he was arrested for selling drugs at school, and his life had spiraled down from there until God revealed Himself to him when he was 21 and reading the bible only to prove its irrelevance and inconceivability.  Shortly afterward, God allowed him to meet a woman that He had protected from much of the evil in the world.  This woman was the young lady leading worship this morning.  What a blessing he has received in her.  Now they serve in Ethiopia teaching people about the value of life, God's love, and His grace.

After church, Mom and I went to Lime Tree by ourselves.  It is above the spa we visited the other day.  It's a very "whole food" type restaurant with fresh juices, sandwiches, baked items, and some dinner-type dishes.  We got curry chicken and vegetables with white rice, ate half of it, and saved room for the vanilla and chocolate marble cake in the window at the cash register.  We were only able to eat half of the cake, but it was delicious.  The icing was like cream cheese with a little bit of sugar...not too sweet.  The machiattos we had combined perfectly with the cake that satisfied our craving.   One of the cool things about Lime Tree is that it is attached to an Ethiopian book store.  It's kind of like a tourist book shop with history books on Ethiopia, regular fiction and non-fiction best-sellers like you'd see in America, and children's books with English and Amharic translations.  Mom and I were thrilled to pick up several books for Zane that I know he will appreciate having so much when he is older.  One teaches household Amharic words by taking an adopted Ethiopian boy through his new house.  The other one teaches the Ethiopian legend of the origins of coffee, another is a book on Harar, Zane's home region, and another is a general Ethiopian history book in pictures.  The last item we purchased Zane will be able to enjoy now, a CD of Ethiopian children's songs in Amharic!  We have not seen anything else like these books as we've been shopping, so we were delighted to stumble upon them today.
By the way, all of these books cost us $28.35 USD!

After our great finds, we headed to the transition home where we saw Zane for a couple of hours this afternoon.  He was excited to get outside and walk again today; however, today he was Mr. Independent!  He walked several times all by himself, without hesitation, straight into my arms with the biggest, most proud smile you can imagine.  He was really into the car and truck again that Mimi gave him.  We rolled it to each other over and over again.  He's getting so much more coordinated with everything he does.  It's amazing how much progress he's made physically since we've been here.  With Mark and I, Zane learned how to walk up and down stairs (with support) throw, "catch", and kick a soccer ball.  With Mom and I, he's learned to roll the cars, balance on the curb (with support), slide down the slide in the playground, and climb playground equipment.  It's really awesome to watch him develop so quickly.  He absolutely loves praise, and he's great at getting it from all of us!  
Today he wanted to feed himself with the spoon and the dinner they brought out was soupy pasta stars.  Remember the pasta stars comments?  Zane usually hates pasta stars!  Not today.  He would NOT eat them when I tried to feed them, but he ate almost the entire bowl when I allowed him to feed himself.  Ha!  (I shouldn't say that he almost ate the entire bowl because about 1/4 of the bowl ended up in my lap, as Zane would put the spoon in his mouth sideways, upside down, and every which way.)  It was neat to see him try to do it on his own, but I hope he still wants his mommy to feed him sometimes!

Tonight we just walked about 10 minutes to Kaldi's Coffee down a street much like Bourbon Street in New Orleans; however we didn't see anything inappropriate, if you know what I mean.  I feel like such a "big girl" venturing out on my own.  There were people everywhere, and so many kind "Allo's" and "Hi's".  There is a Kaldi's on almost every corner of Addis, just like Starbucks, but this Kaldi's is a two story with a full glass window facade and it's packed with people.  Unlike Starbucks, Kaldi's offers outstanding Carmel Machiattos for about $0.88, Machiattos for $0.70, and scoops of icecream for about $0.50.  I could spend the rest of my days hanging out at Kaldi's with my two favorite food groups:  coffee and icecream.  Mom had chocolate icecream made with real cocoa powder, and I had kiwi icecream!  Not to mention our terrific Ethiopian coffee!  Between cheap coffee, icecream, food, and books Addis Ababa may not be a bad place to retire!

On the walk home, a guy about my age said, "Jesus loves you" sort of passively as we walked by him.  I turned around, smiled, and said, "Jesus loves you too."  He replied, "You know that?"  to which I said, "Yes!  Of course!"  Louder now he smiled and said, "Bless God!"  I love the encouragement we both received in that moment from the Lord, just knowing that we weren't alone in the world.  We both know the risen Savior!  It was a perfect ending to a wonderful day.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 23 - Ben

This morning, we were surprised to learn that we'd be going to the transition home!  Usually we go to the TH in the afternoon on Sat. and we are only allowed one visit.  The Pfeifers came in this morning to pick up their little girl, so we got to go early!

Praise music poured out of the school room when we arrived.  The sound of African Children's voices singing songs like "Blessed Be the Name" by Matt Redman, and "Sing, Sing, Sing" by Chris Tomlin was so refreshing.  A tall, young Ethiopian walked out of the school room wearing a brown t-shirt with a large golden print of Africa in the middle.  Across it read a bible verse that I can't remember for the life of me, but I remember thinking, "He is a Christian."  He sat down and asked about Zane.  I told him where we were in the process, and I explained that we're waiting on a letter.  It seemed like he understood, but he had more to say.  He then explained that he was given to an orphanage 40 km outside of Addis when his mom died at 8 years old.  He told us he graduated from University and was teaching music to orphans now.  He was so proud to share his story.  I could tell that he that his pain was being used for God's glory.

Difficult times in our lives can seem hopeless.  I can't imagine the hopelessness he must have felt when his father told him, "I cannot take care of you anymore.  Your mom is gone, and I cannot feed you."  I wonder how an 8 year old processes such drastic change and the realization of abandonment.  Likewise, it's hard to imagine the pain of his father and the hopelessness he felt knowing that he can't even provide for his children.  What a seemingly impossible situation.

Ben, my new friend in the Lord, has experienced redemption.  Often we think of redemption as one moment in our lives where we receive God's grace and decide to give our lives to him, and it is definitely that.  But it is so much more.  God's redemption is eternal, constant, and it never returns void.  Every situation in our life is redeemed when we surrender it to the Lord.  The painful moment in Ben's life is a season that could have been wasted; a moment that could have forever been marked by loss, tormenting memories, depression, and growing bitterness.  If Ben hadn't trusted the Lord with his life, he may have turned out a very different man.  Praise God that Ben realizes that God does not leave us as orphans, He comes to us, rescues us, and makes every parts of our lives reflect His glory.

I think we all have a choice in this life to do as Ben has done or turn inwardly self-centered and angry with the hand we've been dealt.  The truth is that Satan is having his way in our lives if we do the latter.  The Great Redeemer waits to make all things good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  He longs to restore what Satan took from you and more.  Ben is experiencing the glory that God reveals when He is allowed to restore loss in our lives.

I pray for Zane to understand God more than he understands his circumstances.  No one, by looking at their past, can resolve the question "why?"  I pray that Zane so personally knows God's redemption that his past becomes a story used for God's glory.  More than that, I pray his commitment and love for Jesus would pile more blessings upon him than he could ever think possible.  Though their be pain in life, I pray for the supernatural joy that come from Christ to permeate his entire being.

Revelation 21:4 "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 22 - Belly Laughs

Mom and I went to the transition home this morning at about 9:30 with two other families here picking up their children to go home forever.  It was great to see one of Zane's friends reunited with his parents after a long wait between their first court appointment in January and their embassy trip this week.

Zane eyed me through the window when I arrived this morning and reached for me.  The nanny quickly changed him and brought him outside.  He was calm and cuddly and stared at his friend as he sat with his new parents.  Then, I brought out the new toys.  Mom brought cars, trucks, books, and balls for Zane to play with here, and I've been trying to bring one or two to him at a time.  I let him get tired of them, then bring new ones when he's ready for something different.  Today it was the Monster Truck and Hot Wheels car.  I thought he would be interested in looking at them and holding them for a while, then take off to go walking as usual.  But he immediately sat on the porch and started rolling them.  We played for a while rolling the cars back-and-forth, as Mom directed them to go the right direction (thanks Mom!).  Each time Zane rolled it or caught it, I yelled, "YEA!"  and his face lit up with a beautiful smile.  This went on for a while, then Zane decided to stand up, walk around the back of a chair, using it for support, smile at his friends, and walk proudly by himself back over to me.  I grabbed him and squeezed him so tight, and he grinned one of those open-mouthed, toothy grins that grabs my heart.  Zane did the same thing about three more times throughout the morning, and each time I squeezed him and showed him how proud I was of him.  It made him so happy to make his mama proud!

One of the books Mom brought for Zane is a cars book that makes noises when you press the buttons.  Zane learned yesterday that if he presses a certain button, the music that plays has a catchy rhythm that makes him want to move.  He pressed it about 15 times in a row today and moved his upper body back and forth to dance to the rhythm.  Each time he did it, I mimicked him and stopped when the music stopped.  He would start it up again, and I danced automatically.  He thought it was so funny that the toothy grin came back out and I couldn't help but kiss him 1,000 times on his sweet cheeks!  Mom caught some of it on video, so I'm super glad to have "Zane and my first dance" recorded!

Zane continues to be more and more comfortable with "Mimi", my mom.  He went to her three or four times today and gave her hugs.  She melted with delight.  He's such a sweet boy.

Just before lunch, Zane and I were alone together on the porch.  He threw his car down, and I set him on his feet to get it.  When I put him down, he immediately got into his fastest moving stance (the crawl) and took off for the stairs.  I grabbed him and swung him upward just as he grabbed the car in his hand.  He thought it was hilarious!  He laughed so hard!  So since he thought it was a big joke that he nearly tumbled down the stairs, I tilted him backward and tickled his throat.  He chuckled as he threw his head backward and starred into the sky.  I swung him toward me, lifted his head to my shoulder and kissed him with 100 kisses on his face, then swung him backward again.  This time, I heard the first belly laugh from Zane as I tickled his throat again.  We did this three or four more times before I spun around several times with him next to my chest.  His face was priceless.

This experience marks one of the first times that I felt Zane really trust me without fear.  From the moment I grabbed him from his crawl to swinging him around and around, until I felt dizzy, he rested freely in my arms knowing that I would not let him fall.  For both of us, it was unrestricted, thrilling fun!  Of course, I wasn't the one being swung around in the air, but I delighted so much in seeing him completely enthralled with the moment, that it felt like I was experiencing the entire event with him.

Sometimes I wonder if my cautious nature, skepticism, or overanalyzation of events causes me to miss out on the delight God has for me in this life.  I imagine there have been many times that God wanted me to release my head, lay back in his arms, and look up at the sky in complete abandonment as Zane did.  I'm sure He has longed for me to trust him to pick me up and rescue me from tumbling.  He knows the thrilling moment with Him that I refuse at times, and I know His heart breaks at my fussing and whining.  If I could only see His arms surrounding me, I wonder if I'd be so careful.  What am I really risking to fall completely into His plan for my life?  Better yet, what am I risking to NOT let go and surrender my life into His hands?

For Zane and I, we would have lost a special memory; a moment in time that will never be repeated, and one that I will never forget.  For God, there may be much more at stake.  Our entire life's joy and satisfaction relies on Him.  We will only know the thrilling ride of life with Jesus if we surrender our reservations and hindrances and dive in fully to the Christian life.

Psalm 90:14 says, "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days."

Our souls are created to glorify the Lord, to find satisfaction in Him, to experience His presence.  Fear keeps us from what we were created to do.  I pray that my life and my precious Zane's life will be filled with God's satisfaction and joy so that we can be glad and rejoice in Him all of our days.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 21 - I'm loosing count

Today is either day 20 or 21.  I'm starting to loose track of time.  I feel like Tom Hanks in Castaway.  I might start carving tally marks in the wall to keep track of the day.  As long as I don't find a volleyball and name it Wilson, I think I'll be okay; although a soccer ball might have to suffice here.

Zane is so funny and curious.  He watches videos Mark left on our iPad where Mark's talking to him and being silly almost every day.  He stares at it and says "Daddy" over and over again.  I reply, "That's Daddy!" and he just stares expressionless a little longer.  I think he's totally confused.  My thoughts were verified when he picked up the iPad and looked behind it for Daddy.  He even tried to separate the cover from the iPad to see if Daddy was inbetween the iPad and the cover!  I guess he thinks Daddy is hiding behind the screen!  It's really cute to watch...and sad at the same time.  I wish Mark was here so Zane could see him in person.  I know Zane wishes he were here too.  At least Mark can rest in the fact that his child thinks he's skinnier than an iPad.  That's a compliment, right?

Today was a great day with Zane.  He was in a good mood again, and mom and I enjoyed being with him.  He ate pretty well when the cooks made him his favorite "cereal", but he will not eat pasta.  No shape, no matter what the sauce is.  I don't get it.  They gave him pasta stars today.  What kid doesn't like pasta stars?
I'm beginning to think we have a picky eater on our hands, and honestly, I don't know how to handle that!  Neither Mark or I have ever been picky eaters!  Zane has learned how to get what he wants at the transition home, and the nannies are well aware of his preferences.  It's amazing how such a young person can have everyone doing his bidding.  Looks like Zane's going to get a "re-boot" in America, so he can receive what he needs, not just what he wants.

Zane is a really good boy, and he shows a lot of potential developmentally and in attachment.  So many children at the transition home are desperate for attention and affection.  They latch on to any "mommy" that comes along, and they are indiscriminate about their attachment toward adults.  This can seem really cute and lovable, but it actually shows a lack of attachment and bonding.  They have not learned who is safe and who isn't, or the difference between mom and dad and a stranger.  I thank the Lord that Zane seems to be VERY discriminate and VERY particular about who touches him, who holds him, etc.  He will whine when mom is holding him and I step away for a minute.  This may seem like he's a fussy baby, but this is the best gift he could give his mom and dad.  This shows that he has bonded with us, and he knows who his parents are.

When Zane and I went to visit his old baby room today, the nannies he was with were so loving toward him.  He's definitely a favorite to many of them.  They hold his hands and kiss them over and over.  One of the nannies said, "Na!  Na!", which means, "Come!" and he didn't reach for them.  He burrowed his arms in my chest and looked away.  They laughed and said something in Amharic, which I interpret to be something like, "He's attaching well to mommy!"  I heard "mommy" in there, and they seemed pleased.

Soon afterward, the doctor, who saw Zane this morning, saw us on the sidewalk enjoying the sunshine, and she said, "He really loves you.  He cries when he comes to me!  He doesn't like for me to examine him."  She said it with a smile of approval, and it really blessed me for her to say this.

Sometimes I don't know if I'm doing the right thing or if I'm being criticized by the people around me at the transition home.  My self-consciousness gets the better of me and I fear that people are talking about me in Amharic sometimes.  It's hard to tell with the difference in language and tone.  I don't know what to make of their stares sometimes and their "firm" and "demonstrative" expressions.  Today, I felt like the Lord graced me with affirmation from the people here, and I know this encouragement was from him.

Mom and I stayed at the transition home until noon and we returned to the guest house to eat lunch with Megan and Aliyea, her adopted daughter.  They left this evening to return to the states.  Aliyea was so excited she was kissing Mom and I and running around like crazy.  I know Dustin and the boys are going to be glad when the girls get home!

We are here now with a Danish couple and her dad, Laura Unrah, her dad, and two adopted children, and another family will be arriving tonight for their embassy appointment.  No one else will have court appointments before the court closures next Friday, so I see many families come in, pick up their children, and return to the states.  It is wonderful to see, yet when each family leaves, I feel lonesome for them.  There is something about being on the other side of the world with Christian families who love their adopted children that make you immediately bond with them.  I miss all the families I've been fortunate enough to meet so much!

I appreciate your prayers, and I feel peace that God is going to clearly show us what our next steps are when it is time for us to know.  Thank you for your love and support!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 19 - All Day at the Transition Home

I have to start this entry with a major shout out to my awesome husband, Mark Brannan!  It was a great surprise and the best gift I could have received to read the words he said about me.  Now, if only they were true...JK

Today Mom and I spent the entire day at the transition home.  We packed a lunch, ate breakfast at the guest house, and we were on our way.  Zane had a rough morning, but so did we.  We were all so tired.  Mom is still trying to get used to the new time zone, Zane is not used to all this one-on-one attention and stimulation, and I, well, I just stayed up too late last night.

We walked around the campus with Zane, played with some toys, and took it easy this morning.  At about 11:55, Zane's lunch came, and he went into a major fit; not because he didn't like it, but because he was ready to go to sleep.  His nap time is 12ish, so lunch was really late today.  He refused to eat and cried so hard.  I tried to console him, but he was inconsolable.  I gave him to his nanny to see if she could figure it out, but he cried harder.  The guard walked up, took him in his arms, and he immediately stopped crying.  What?  Of course he couldn't stand their and rock him to sleep, so he tried to give him back to me.  He wailed.  I decided he needed to just lay down and go to sleep.  And I did too, so well all, Mom, me, and Zane took a rest.  I fell asleep on the couch, and mom read a book.

When Zane woke up, he was much better, and he drank 13 ounces of formula.  He was hungry.  We read a book, kicked the soccer ball, and played.  He was back to himself.  I did notice a croupy cough today, so Zane may be getting sick...again.  Please pray for him and all of the kids.  They are constantly passing around colds and other sicknesses.  They need to be with their parents and away from other sick kids so they can get better.

Next week is the last week courts are open.  I am hoping to pass court and take Zane out of the transition home by Friday.  If we do not pass, we may have to revert to plan B.  What is plan B?  I don't know yet.  We didn't plan for plan B!  Plan B may be God's plan A, and we are open to whatever timetable he has us on.

Pray that God gives Mark and I clear direction about our next steps as a family.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Suprise Guest Post: Happy Eighth Year Anniversary!

[This guest post is brought to you thanks to Cimbrey's use of the same password on just about everything for the last 8 years... Mark]

Cimbrey, it was a mere two-thousand-nine-hundred-twenty days ago that I watched the doors swing open at the back of the church in Bryan, Texas to see your radiant smile marching down the aisle.  I could barely hold myself together but you didn't shed a tear.  I asked you later how you made it through the ceremony with such ease, and you told me that you had been given a supernatural strength of conviction and confidence, but most importantly, you were not going to let your make-up get messed up in front of God and everybody.

We love to joke with our friends that our 8 years of marriage have been the best 6 years of our life.  It's true the first 700 or so days were tough going for the two of us, but I look back at what God formed through our crisis, and I treasure the tribulations of those early days.  It was your strength of character and dependence upon the Lord that lead us through the storm and towards brighter days. 

Remember when you told me you wanted to move to Fort Worth, Texas and were thrilled when I got a job there?  Well I remember how not thrilled you were when I called you back and said we are moving to New Orleans.  But I also love how you were flexible, agreed to follow me, and through your faith you came to love the city and its people more than you ever thought possible.  Even in the darkest days after Hurricane Katrina, you wanted nothing but to move back to your city.  I love how you remain open to the Lord's plan for you despite your own desires.

I love the heart you have for God's children, and I am inspired by the way you lead us to adoption as plan A.  I know the many people who read your blog every day see the light of Christ in you through this process, and I am grateful for your daily surrender.  Zane loves his Momma, and I can't wait for the three of us to be together again.

Now, in a time where it would be easy to feel alone, you remain confident in your calling, continue to rely upon the Lord, display faithfulness in God's calling to the extent that you have grown to love Ethiopia and its people as your own, and you surrender daily despite the uncertainty that remains before us in the adoption process.

You are a remarkable woman of noble character, and I have full confidence in you.  You work eagerly to care for our family and your faith makes you strong for the task.  You open your arms to those in need and you do not fear uncertainty.  You speak wisdom and it is easy to praise you because you fear the Lord!

After Eight years we now sit 8000 miles apart, but I have never felt closer to you!

Happy Anniversary, Cim!

Love, Mark

Since I am in Texas this week, I'll close with a country song:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 18 - Waiting on MOWCYA

Today is day 8 of our wait for the MOWCYA letter.  We were told approximately 20 business days when we went to court on July 13th.  Courts will close next week, August 7, but really August 5 because they don't work on Sat. and Sun.  Soooo...for those of you doing the math, we will be on day 17 of our wait on August 5th.  Hmmmmm...we need a MIRACLE!  I know that you are praying for us, and we feel your prayers.  I appreciate so much all of the encouragement we have received on our blog and on Facebook.  We ask that you continue to pray for the Ministry here in charge of writing favorable letters to the court for adoption.  Pray that the would be diligent and determined to write letters for all of us who have had court dates during July.  Pray that they would see a child's face, read their story and feel compassion to help them as quickly as possible.  Pray that the judge would approve our case quickly and submit our paperwork to embassy so that we can get our children in the loving homes God has provided for them.  Pray for me that I will be encouraged in the wait, continue to see progress with Zane, and enjoy my time with him, even at the transition home for a couple of supervised hours a day.

God is a miraculous and loving God.  No matter what the timing of our adoption is, and how long or confusing it seems to me, I know that He is sovereign and good.  I have to believe now more than ever that God can make a way for the seemingly impossible for His Name and His renown.

Through this process, every time I get impatient, God seems to remind me of this truth:  HE is the Father of the fatherless.  HE is the defender of orphans and the vulnerable.  He will never leave Zane or forsake him.  NOT ME.  God did not say, "I will be the father of the fatherless through you."  No!  He's the Father, our Father, period.

"Which of you fathers, if his son asked you to give him bread, you would give him a stone instead?  If a child asked you for a fish, would you give him a snake instead?  Or if he asked for an egg, would you give him a scorpion?  Of course not!  If you then, though you are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"  (Luke 11:10-13)  I

I know God can provide for my child better than I ever could, so I have to trust that He's doing what He's promised!

Thank you again for your prayers and encouragement!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 17 - Mom's Here!

My mom arrived in Addis Ababa late last night.  We went straight to bed and woke up for church this morning.  The sermon was on Re-connecting with God in a Crisis.  The pastor is so great about connecting current events, personal lives, and scripture so that you can see God working, pray for the world, and apply God's word to your life.  It's so encouraging to be there with people from all over the world all praising our God.  The highlight of the service was the Doxology.  We've sung it the past two Sundays now.  The band stops playing and a chorus of voices loudly sing, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Praise God all creatures here below.  Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts.  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen!"  The best thing is the sound of accents of people from Mozambique, Germany, America, Ethiopia, and all other places singing these words in English to God.  Beautiful.

After church, mom and I went with the AWAA travel group to Island Breeze restaurant.  It's one of my favorites here.  Oddly enough, the quesadillas and fajitas are AWESOME!  Of course, that makes this Texas girl VERY happy.

Next, mom met Zane at the transition home for the first time.  It was really sweet.  He didn't really understand who she was, but we kept saying, "Mimi, Mimi..."  He wasn't afraid of her, and didn't shy away from her like he does with most people.  Mom played with the basketball and rolled it with him, and he smiled and enjoyed it.

Zane is mimicking my voice and expressions more and more.  He now initiates a "YEA!" for himself when he does something he likes!  Every time mom or I rolled the ball to him and he caught it, he shouted, "YEAAAAA!"  So far I don't think self-confidence will be an issue!  Zane continues to be really sad when I leave.  His #1 nanny was here today, and he even cried when he went to her.  This was awkward for me, as I know how much she loves him.  It has to be the most difficult job in the world to part with these little ones.  And to do it continually breaks my heart.  It's amazing how much they open their hearts to children, knowing they will have to leave one day.  It makes me want to love in complete abandonment like them without protecting my heart - to love like Christ loves us, despite the fact he knows we are prone to wander from him.

Love is one of those things that can't exist as a guarded display of human emotion.  It's relentless, confident, and full commitment.  It is steady and sure even when emotion ceases.  Somehow, perfect love loves enough to let go, trust, and forgive at the same time.  I guess this is why God says, "I am love" and "perfect love drives out fear" and "greater love has no man but this, that he would lay down his life for his friends."  I just don't see how love can exist apart from Him.  In others we see manifestations of God's perfect love, but in our humanity, love can become jaded, co-dependent, and selfish.  When we abide in Christ, our love is a renewable resource poured out onto others.

I took a picture of Zane and his caregiver today.  I want him to know about this selfless love she reflects, and the way that all of the babies are given a "transitional mommy" who risks her own heartbreak to love them.  I thank the Lord for her and other "mommies" around the world today who are fostering children until they can be with a forever family.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 16 - Alone with Zane

Today I woke up feeling pretty rested.  I met the other families downstairs for breakfast then went shopping with Debb and Jeff Marquez and Sherry Kishbaugh.  I got a traditional bowl and salt/pepper shakers carved from ebony, a toy for Zane, and a beautiful painted, plaster Africa box to add to the coffee set, woven coffee separater, bag, ebony nativity, and framed Coptic cross I got last week.  I hope to go back later and get a few more things when my mom is here.

We ate at Metro Pizza today ('s the 4th time for me) next to Kaldi's Coffee, which I love.  After pizza, I picked up a Carmel Macchiato, which sort of tastes like home.  Then we all drove over to the transition home.  Zane was in a good mood when he woke up from his afternoon nap.  He says "mama" when I come get him now and he reaches for me.  We played on the playground and he loved peeking through the bars as I said, "Boo!"  It's a game that never gets old.  Little kids remind you how funny and sweet life is.  You start to enjoy things like peek-a-boo because you see how much joy it brings to them.  Zane's best friend is the master of peek-a-boo.  He wants to play it almost every time I see him!  We're hoping to keep the two boys in contact once we move back to the states (thanks Nichols!)

I'm realizing how simple Zane is, and I really love it.  He doesn't need or want to be entertained with a lot of toys and distractions.  He wants me.  That's it.  He loves to watch people as I hold him on my hip, and he loves to focus on one thing at a time, like a balloon that he can examine for hours.  I've thought a little bit about how I tend to show love by giving him things or trying to entertain him, when all he wants is my time and affection, and I wonder if God ever sees me that way.  Do I try to entertain him with my religious acts, my "obligations" of church, even my prayers when all he wants is me?  I think life is a lot more simple than we make it.  I'm seeing in my son the importance of decluttering life and enjoying time together.  When we offer Zane a toy we brought, he refuses it and reaches for a leaf on a tree.  Mark and I joked that we may have a horticulturalist in the making, but I wonder if he just enjoys the things some of us overlook?  I'm challenged by Zane's ability to notice, and I'm encouraged to slow down and join him.

When I left Zane today, I nearly cried.  He's devastated when I leave and crying for me now.  In addition, three couples had to leave their little ones today to go home to the states.  One family is bringing home their baby boy, but their precious daughter who has spent the week here with them had to leave her close Ethiopian friend behind.  It's sad to see families and friends separated, especially when they have spent so much time and energy to be together.  It's hard to see their kids the next day when the van of Americans pulls up, and they light up in hope that their parents' flight has been delayed and they can spend one more day with them, only to walk away in disappointment when they are not there.  Heartbreaking.  But for them there is hope!  There's a picture of a family that will be there's.  There's a dream of a house and a bedroom that they can call theirs.  What about the 5-6 million others in Ethiopia who have waited so long?  The ones who have given up on hope?  When will it be their turn?

We have so much.  Our lives revolve our jobs, our houses, our cars, our favorite tv programs, and our important social lives.  Yet we complain that our job is tiresome, our house is too small, our car is too old, our DVR didn't record our show, and that we have nothing to do.  Why do we complain?  Because our lives are meant to be poured out for others.  Gluttony is self-destruction in the worst way.  We all fall victim to it, yet our world is not lacking in need.  Giving ourselves for the cause of Christ's work in the world is the most fulfilling, purposeful way to live.  This life isn't for select few that "measure up" to God's grace, for that would be impossible.  This "wealth" is for all who will call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.

"Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?"  James 2:5

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 15 - Last Day With Daddy

Today began with solemn hearts.  Mark packed his bags, and I drowsily got out of bed knowing what this day would bring.  We ate breakfast at the Guest House with all the families we've enjoyed spending time with so much, and headed out for the transition home.  This morning, Zane was a little crabby.  There was a big thunderstorm last night, and I'm assuming he didn't sleep very well.  Also, I've noticed his nose is running more than usual, so he may have a cold.  I encouraged Mark to hold him as much as possible today, and I stood back more to allow them time together.  The morning flew by, and Zane refused to stay awake and eat his lunch.  He was so fussy and rubbing his eyes so much that we let him fall asleep at 11:30 (about 30-45 minutes earlier than usual) About 12:30, we gave him to his nanny, and we headed to lunch with our group.  This afternoon we split into a shopping group and a transition home group.  Of course, Mark and I decided to go back to the transition home to see our precious little boy.  He slept for over three hours.  At 2:45, they woke him up, changed him, and let him come outside with us.  He was in a better mood this afternoon.  He played with Daddy, ate well, and had a pretty good afternoon (despite the looming cloud of sadness covering us because Mark was leaving.  I exaggerate a little.)  Mark was able to say goodbye and love on Zane as we left.  He gave him to his nanny, and Zane screamed and cried more than we've ever seen.  We knew it was best if we left quickly, but it was so hard to tear ourselves away from him, especially for Mark.  

In this process there is no clear road, no answers, and no one telling you how much longer until you get there. The past two weeks has been an amazing time of bonding, adventure, and family building for the Brannans.  We've enjoyed being in Ethiopia together, and getting to know our son and his heritage.  However, it is so difficult to part ways and not know how long it will be until we see each other again.  Mark is my best friend, and frankly, he makes the whole trip a lot of fun for everyone.  He leaves a trail of laughter wherever he goes. Mark's jokes and good humor even surpass cultural boundaries, as our new Ethiopian friends have gotten a kick out of him the past two weeks as well.  When he leaves, I feel like my personality changes too.  Together, he makes the jokes, and I laugh at them!  (Every single one...over and over again...) It's a perfect match!  But I'm afraid I'm a little more shy without Mark's witty one-liners and quick remarks.  

Ultimately, I know that God is refining both of us.  He always is.  We're not really living, unless we are changing.  Living things are meant to grow, renew, and change over time.  Spiritually, we are dead if we are not allowing Christ to change us.  Time away from people you love and depend on is a great way for God to remind you of His depth of love, His presence, and His surpassing greatness.  His words and His work among us are so evident when all distractions cease, and we can see His face.  

This is what I pray for during this time that Mark and I are apart.  Like Moses, I do not want to go anywhere if the Lord's presence does not go with me.  Like him, I ask, "Lord, now show me your glory..." (Exodus 33).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 13-14 - Time with Zane and Entoto Mountain

Since we first met Zane, he has been walking only with support from nannies, us, furniture, or whatever he can use to keep his balance.  On Day 8 or so, we were able to help Zane walk a few steps without support from Daddy to me and back.  We knew he was close, but a little too wobbly still to walk on his own.  He loves to practice though, and since he's been playing with us outside, he's been watching the older boys play soccer.  He will stare at them for a long time, then get down and try to walk really fast with our support.  I think he's trying to run!  On Day 10, Daddy was sitting a little far from Zane and I and he randomly got up on his own and walked by himself to Daddy.  It was about 4 steps.  I guess you can say that those were his first steps; however, we thought maybe it was just a fluke.  So we tried again.  Zane wanted to hold our hands to walk the rest of the day.  "Oh well," we thought, "he'll walk when he's ready."  On Day 12, Zane walked from one end of the porch to the other to meet me on the other side.  He definitely was walking on his own with no support this time.  The nannies came to the window to watch and he did it again!  All the nannies clapped and cheered for him.  It was so sweet.  That confirmed for me that it was the first time he had walked on his own. He will still go short distances by himself, but he likes to hold our hands most of the time still.  Today we got a really good picture of him walking on his own and leaning his hand "cooly" against the wall like a stud model.  It was so funny and totally not planned.  I think he likes his new found freedom.

Yesterday after spending time with Zane, we went to Entoto Mountain.  It's the mountain just outside of Addis Ababa that is know for the women who carry wood down to the market at the mountain's base to sell each day.

We drove to the top, and looked out over Addis Ababa.  We also saw St. Mary's Church at the top and the palace of Menelik I and his wife.

It is so beautiful in the mountain.  The air is cleaner and birds are everywhere.  We saw several black "eagles" (according to the guide) that strongly resembled ravens (hmmm...).  The palace is made of a plaster that serves as a natural cooling system for the palace. There was a separate bedroom area and living/dining area.  By separate, I mean totally different huts.  They have tall ceilings and ox skin covered by a thatched roof.

So apparently, Entoto and Saluta Mountains are prime locations for Ethiopian runners to train.  Mark, Tim, Rob, Justin, Laura, Nikki, Arnold, and Randall thought it would be exciting to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, have Job and David pick them up, and go running up Saluta Mountain with Ethiopian runners!  Wow.  They're very brave.  And a little crazy.  Mark and Tim were very proud that they were ahead of Ethiopian runners for approximately 20 yards (not to mention, Mark and Tim started 30 minutes before them)!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 12 - Korah

Many of you may have heard of the Korah dump in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  If you haven't, please watch this video on YouTube that shows a glimpse of life in this small village in Addis.  It is a short documentary of the people who live in and around the dump.

In 2008, a family named the Shannons adopted their youngest little girl from Ethiopia.  They felt God's call to come to Ethiopia and begin a church a short time after returning home.  They were obedient to God and moved their family of 6 to Addis Ababa.  Their hearts began to specifically ache for the poor of Addis.  God put it in their hearts to minister to Korah, the region of Addis shown in the video above.  What they realized through their adoption of their daughter is that adoption is not a solution to the problem of poverty and orphaned children.  It is necessary and good that God puts children into families that can take care of them; however, there must be a way to keep children with their birth mothers, and help them become healthy productive adults.

They had an idea to reach out to moms barely making ends meet, and the Embracing Hope Ethiopia Day Care was born.  Mothers from Korah and surrounding areas in Addis (mostly single mothers) bring their children to a free day care with high protein meals, basic education, and medical care.  Moms then can work at a regular job in the city and pick their children up after work.  The Shannons and their staff empower the moms to make a living that will meet the needs of their family whether it is through their daily job, or creating their own business.  Mothers sew traditional clothing, make baskets, and other crafts to sell to raise money for the Day Care.  When mothers would usually be paid 2.5 birr for sewing a day, the Day Care will pay them more, and then sell the items in the U.S. to raise awareness and support.  Each child at the Day Care is sponsored through a sponsorship program, and this provides them with high protein meals (like the peanut butter on bread that we saw them eating for breakfast this morning), healthcare and hygiene education, business classes for the moms, and other great resources.

Four families staying here with us this week woke up at 6:00 am to get ready for our trip to the Day Care.  We arrived at about 7:30 or shortly after, and we were greeted by the Shannons and their children and a team from South Africa with Global Challenge Expeditions.  The team has traveled through about 8 countries in Africa so far working with children, the poor, and interceding on behalf of the country.  They are leaving Ethiopia in a couple of weeks to go to Kenya, then Tanzania, Mozambique, then back to South Africa.  They are pouring out their lives, as the Shannons are to see the truth of the Gospel of Jesus fleshed out.  They are demonstrating what it really means to love God by loving their "brothers".

It occured to me when I was at the Day Care this morning that had something like this existed for Zane's mother, he might still be with her.  It's hard to say how I feel about that.  I love Zane and want him to come home to us so badly.  He's our firstborn son, our pride, and our joy.  But, I'm sad for his birthmother sometimes.  Life is complicated, and only God knows what's best.  In a perfect world, every child would be nurtured by his birthmother, and live a long, healthy, happy life with his birth family.  There would be no poverty, illness, pain, abuse, addiction, and vices that leave children orphaned and alone.  Maybe that is why God said, "I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you..."  and "I will never leave you or foresake you..."  and "How can a mother forget the baby at her breast?  Though she may forget, I will never forget you.  I will never leave you."

I guess in some way, God shows us who He is through our pain.  If we never had difficulty, would we need Him?  Would we know Him?  Would we see His glory revealed to us?

Adoption is a bittersweet concept, like many things in our lives.  Through someone's pain, another finds joy.  We don't find joy in Zane's birthmother's pain, but we find joy in the hope of a child.  Zane's name means, "God is Gracious."  Grace is the "free and unmerited favor of God, His goodwill toward sinners, His kindness."  His birthmother gave him a name that means "The New One".  We believe that because of God's kindness and love toward Zane, our son has been given a new beginning.  This is the concept of redemption.  God's unmerited favor on us, and his ability to make all things new, has given us the opportunity to receive forgiveness, love, and power through His Holy Spirit.  We pray that one day Zane will choose to bind himself to the God who has redeemed him in a physical and spiritual sense.  Only then will Zane know the ultimate adoption - the adoption God has offered for those of us who are willing to be grafted into His family.

I held Zane as he fell asleep in my arms today at naptime.  He was warm despite the chilly rain outside, well-fed with barley and rice cereal, his face was peaceful as he stared into my eyes.  His body released as he floated into a deep sleep, and I thought, "this is the sweetest boy, and I am the luckiest Mama in the world."  Somehow, someway "God works together all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose."

"'Though the mountains be shaken, and the hills be removed, His unfailing love for us will never be shaken, nor his covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord who has compassion on you."  Isaiah 54:10

***Please visit to get more information about the Day Care in Korah and how you can sponsor a child!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Days 10-11

Yesterday, day 10, began with another great service at the International Church. We had two vans of families to ride to church with this week. The sermon was on reconnecting with God during the valleys of life. I listened closely, as a potential valley is on the horizon. When Mark leaves, it will be difficult, but I know that God gives us times alone so He can show us His glory. The pastor reminded me that we are never alone. God is with us, fighting for us, we need only to be still. There comes a point in every path God walks you down where you realize you have no control. It is there that God is able to show you how He is incredibly glorious and worthy of praise. Mark and I can do nothing to make our letter appear in court, but God is working all people and situations together for our good because We love Him.

Yesterday, our time with Zane was one of the best. He laughed the entire time. We have some great pictures and videos that we can't wait to post. He's such a happy boy. I think Zane really started to bond with Daddy yesterday. Afterall, Dad is way fun! He said Daddy a lot and he wanted to play with Daddy. He seemed to be feeling good and he had a lot of energy. Mark taught him how to play the Aggie band beats on an old washbin. He loved it! Texas Aggie class of 2027ish here we come! I pray that the joy of the Lord fills Him continually and that He knows Jesus in a very real way from an early age. I pray that God's truth overshadows any lies that He could believe about his life, and that God gives him a grateful heart.

Today, day 11, we went to the transition home in the morning and visited Zane and then went to the orphanages again. Zane was fun and sweet again today, but being out of his normal routine and making him eat outside has caused him to be a little squirmy and uninterested in eating. Zane apparently does not like anything with pasta. Why you ask? Good question. What's not to like about pasta? He also will not eat mashed bananas. We'll have to work on that more when we get home. He may like them firm and not mashed. He cried pretty hard when we left. It's getting to where he doesn't want to go to the nannies. Good for me, but hard for him and hard for me to leave him.

We went to Abenezer Orphanage and experienced another coffee ceremony with popcorn and these fantastic roasted wheat seeds. The process is so interesting to watch! I got a coffee pot so that I can teach Zane how to do it someday.

Mynlittle friend from our last visit was there again. He's a precious, polite little boy about 9years Old. Marks favorite is a little girl about 13. They ares both great at soccer and so sweet! I really want to keep up with them. I have to know what happens to them. While I'm here, I will go visit them if I can.

We about to eat dinner with travel group number 2! It's a fun group from all over the US. we hope to stay in touch as much as we can when we get home.

Praying for MOWCYA to urgently write all of our letters this week!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 9 - Laid back afternoon

This morning two families got to take their children from the transition home forever; the Dreyfes's, and the Burke's.  They arrived a the guest house with their children, and they decided to shower, and hang around the hotel.  The rest of us Autry's, Snyder's, and Brannan's went to lunch with Yonas and David.  Then we all went to the transition home.  The Mason's met us at the transition home and the Autry's and Mason's were able to meet their kids for this first time today.  It's so cool to see that.  The Autry's are adopting a sibling group of 4.  They are a lot of fun!  The Mason's are adopting a baby boy.

AWAA Transition Home

Zane wanted to chill a little bit more than usual today.  We walked around the grounds, and Daddy let him see the men unloading Wooha (water) from the truck.  He was very interested in the process of taking water bottles out and putting empty water bottles in.  Then we pretty much stayed on the porch the rest of the time.  He looked at some books with cars, trucks, planes, and boats, played a little with plastic baby toys, but mostly wanted to cuddle.  Mark left for a few minutes to go talk to some of the staff, and Zane said "Daddy" and "Ababa" the entire time.  When Mark returned, he stopped.  I think he knows what it means.  He wasn't much into saying "Mama" today, but he wanted me to hold him a lot.  He's got a little ear infection, so we would appreciate your prayers about that.  That is probably why he is a little cranky and just wanting to lay low.

When we left today, Zane went to the window with the other kids, smiled, and waved goodbye again.  He was a little clingy when I dropped him off, but his friends are WAY too exciting to be sad for long!

We will get to meet the Marquez family and one other family coming in tonight.  It's a full house here at the Yesabi again!

We go to the International Church again tomorrow.  I CAN'T WAIT!  It is such a great church, and it is such a cool picture of what heaven will be like with all people singing praises to God.

It's almost dinner time here, so I gotta run.  Have a great day in the states!

Day 8 - First Signs of Attachment

We went to the transition home on Friday morning with Jenny Burke, who is picking up her daughter forever!  YEA!  Jenny took some pictures for us during her court trip, so it is awesome to get to meet her!  

Zane, Mark, and I played together and Zane learned that he can look at the guard and the pharmacist errand-runner over the railing.  He thought it was so funny to have Daddy on the other side of the railing peeking at him. It's the small things that delight a child!  Zane is very happy with any type of interactive play.  He loves to move and be involved with us doing something.  At the same time, he loves to discover something and figure it out independently.  We walked over to the playground and he found an old formula can in the dirt.  He picked it up, put his hand in it, and Mark tried to teach him the word, "empty".  Then Mark turned it over and showed him how to play on it like a drum.  Zane liked this and he tried to make rhythms on it for about an hour.  His nanny saw us and brought out a toy piano (the old kind with the colored keys that ding a bell inside).  The paint had been chipped off the metal plates, but it still rang like it should.  So, the Brannans formed an impromptu band in the middle of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Zane played the drums, Mama played the piano, and Daddy pretended to play a trumpet through a small plastic piece found on the ground.  What was the first song we taught Zane?  The Mardi Gras Second Line song, of course!!!  Ha!  We were laughing so hard that this is the song that came to mind first!  

After playing, Zane ate a snack - his favorite, oatmeal.  It's full of cinnamon and sugar I think.  When I've been feeding him, I've been trying to get him to make eye-contact with me.  I raise the spoon in the air, say his name, and he looks in my eyes.  This is good for attachment and bonding because he realizes I will take care of his needs.  Friday, I got him to look in my eyes almost every time he took a bite.  It was great.  I think he's understanding that I am his mama.  He attempts to say Mama and Daddy; however, he uses them interchangably with us, so I'm not totally sure if he understands what that means.  We try to use Amharic to explain who we are.  I think the staff here likes that we are trying to learn Amharic and use it with him.  In Amharic, Father is Ababa and Dad is Ebaye.  Mama is emaye.  The nannies try to use English with them some, so Mama and Daddy are used as well.  I think he's starting to get it.

Zane is on a great schedule.  As soon as he finished eating, he started to fall asleep.  His eyes started to close, so I tried to make him comfortable.  Before he was fully asleep, our guides and driver said it was time to go, so I had to hand him over to his nanny.  He screamed and cried and reached out for me.  It was so hard to walk away, but the fact that he was wanting to stay with me was a great sign that he is attaching to me.  It was good to see.

After spending time with Zane, we went to the Post Office area to shop for Ethiopian souveniers and gifts.  We plan to give Zane these gifts as he gets older to keep him informed of his culture.  We then went to look at the place I will be moving to when I'm able to take Zane from the transition home.  It is a nice spacious place on the southwest side of the city.  I felt very comfortable there, and I know it will be a good place to stay until the embassy clears our case.

We are still praying for MOWCYA to expedite letters at a quick rate, and for the embassy to find no need to futher investigate our case.  Please continue to pray with us.  We'll update you on the legal stuff as soon as we find out!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Day 7 - Coffee!

Today we visited the coffee factory here in Addis.  It was amazing, and it's such a beautiful building!  The women sorting coffee beans were beautifully ornamented in colorful scarves.  They picked out "bad" beans and put them in a bucket.  The bucket then went to a group of women sorting beans for local coffee and they would find "salvageable" beans to serve locally.  Nothing was wasted.

Next, we went to the best coffee shop in Addis, according to Yonas.  It makes its own coffee, roasts it, and serves it in the shop, so he thinks its the most authentic I think.  Kaldi's is a popular coffee shop here (like Starbucks) but they don't roast their own beans.  They get it from Tomaca???  I think that's the name of the shop we were at!!!  Yonas and David laugh at me because I can't remember anything in Amharic.  They've taught me to say "thank you" a thousand times, and I still can't remember it 10 minutes later.

This afternoon, we went to the transition home.  Zane was in a great mood again, and we enjoyed playing with him.  He absolutely loves the formula they give him.  He's a little picky about real food.  It's funny.  Thankfully, he loves mashed potatoes!  Okay.  He can live in the south.

Tonight our travel group went to the airport to fly home.  We're so sad.  They were the best group we could have asked for.  We were all the same age, and very similar in personalities.  We'll definitely keep up at home.

The next travel group comes Saturday.  I know two girls in the group, so I'm excited to see them.  Hope we have as much fun as we did with the last travel group!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 6 - Court!

This morning we left for court at 9:00 am.  We arrived at 9:30, and by 10:30 we were done!  That's amazing time for Ethiopian court!  We entered a small room with the judge who was sitting behind a desk.  She asked us a series of questions about our commitment, our knowledge of Ethiopia, etc.  We said yes to all questions and she informed us that the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs had not given her our letter yet.  This was expected, as we had been informed that the ministry was about 20 days behind on Monday.  We are praying that they will expedite letters in large numbers for all families because courts close in mid-late August for the rainy season.  Please pray with us that we will be approved by the court as soon as possible.  Pray that all obstacles would be removed for the employees of the ministry, and that our children would be able to come home quickly.

After court we spent time with Zane for about an hour before heading to lunch.  He had a great morning.  We learned what a chinese yo-yo is and he was able to operate it pretty well by the end of the hour.  We also blew bubbles, and played with the ball he loves so much.  Zane loves anything sports we've noticed.  He wants to watch the older boys play soccer, and then he'll whine to get down and attempt to run with us holding his hands.  It's funny.  He wants to play so badly.  He also loves to play with anything that makes noises.  It's facinating to him.

After lunch, Zane was waking up from a nap.  He loves to walk around the grounds when he's first woken up.  He does not want to play, cuddle, or anything.  He's a little grumpy like his mama.  Once he's had time to wake up, he likes to play with something on our blanket, like a book or the ball.  Then he gets pretty wound up.  He wants to practice walking.  Today, Daddy held his hands while he climbed down the stairs, around the banister, and back up the stairs to me.  Midway, I would peer over the railing and surprise him with "Boo" and a tickle.  He thought it was hilarious!!!!  He wanted to do it over and over.  Mark tried to change it up a bit ( I think he was getting bored with going in circles) and Zane refused.  He wanted to do it the same way each time, and he laughed every time as if it were the first.  He was very cute today.

As we were leaving, we took Zane back to the toddler room.  It has a big window that opens to the porch.  All the little ones gathered at the window as Mark pretended to hit them on the head with the chinese yo-yo through the glass.  They were cracking up so much they would fall to the floor.  Zane joined them, and he had the biggest smile we had ever seen.  Zane and his two best friends, one a girl and another a boy from the same region stood at the glass and said "bye-bye" in English as we left.  It was the first words we had ever heard Zane say in English.  What a moment.  I wish we could capture these impromptu moments on camera, but by the time the camera's out, they are over.  We hope to keep up with Zane's friend (the boy) in the states when we return because his family is our friend on facebook!  The kids are like family, and they light up when they see each other.

In light of the happy times that Zane has had with these sweet children, the love of his nannies, and the tenderness he receives from all employees of the transition home, Mark and I feel very much at peace with not passing court today.  We know that God is Sovereign and Good.  He does what is best.  We feel that Zane's transition would be difficult, sad, and harmful to him if we had passed court today and took him from the transition home.  He would grieve so much the loss of his friends and "family" there.  He knows us now, but not well enough for us to take him away yet.  He needs time, and we believe God has shown us that in the past few days.  We will continue to see him every day as we have been doing the past 5 days.  When Mark leaves on July 22nd, I will continue to go to the transition home every day and bond with him.  By the time we pass court, we hope that he trusts me enough to come with me without too much heart break.  Please pray for him.  He is a sensitive, emotional little guy.  He needs God's peace, His grace, and His joy as he enters this new life.

We appreciate your prayers so much!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Days 4-5

Yesterday we went to the transition home twice; two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.  Zane was very cheery yesterday.  He loved playing with a ball we brought that lights up, and we taught him how to throw and catch.  Clearly, he had never been taught to throw, as he wanted to hand the ball to us each time.  But we kept modeling throws, and he finally had the courage to let go and let us catch it in the air.  He cracked up!  He thought it was hilarious.  He had a great time playing catch most of the day.  We also introduced him to bubbles.  He's a little unsure about them, but when I waved my arms to try to pop them, he did the same thing.  He's constantly learning, and it's awesome to watch.  He still enjoys the Tow Mater book we brought him.  He mostly loves pushing the buttons and hearing the sounds.  He could careless about what the book says.  Right before we left yesterday, we had a doctor's appointment with Zane at the transition home.  The doctor went over his history.  He is a very healthy boy, and we are so thankful.  Unfortunately, the appointment fell during nap time, and when he was awakened by the doctor, he cried so terribly hard I almost started crying.  He couldn't even breathe.  It was painful to watch.  Shortly after the appointment, we had to leave, so it was a difficult goodbye.  We received a video from an America World employee with an interview of Zane's birthmother.  That evening, we watched it with heavy hearts.  We plan to show it to Zane when he is older, and we will let him decide if he wants to share his story or not at that time.

Today we went to the transition home in the morning, and we went to see Zane's orphanage, Abenezer and KVI in the afternoon.  Our time with Zane was a little different today.  His nanny was there (she's been off the last two days), and he was fussy when she gave him to me.  He is clearly attached to her, which is good because it shows he is getting the attention and care he needs.  He is obviously a favorite to all of the nannies. They all say his name and kiss him when they walk by, but his assigned nanny is particularly attached.  She is being so good about trying to hand him over to us, let us feed him, and trying to stay out of sight when we are there for his sake.  It's such a difficult transition.  My heart breaks for her and for him.  In the long run, it is better for him to be with us, as she is giving care to about 15 toddlers, but it still feels weird taking him from her sometimes.

When I was able to calm him down, all he wanted to do today was walk.  We walked up and down the court yard of the transition home countless times, watched the older boys play soccer, tried the stairs a few times, and watched kids play on the playground.  He loves to observe others.  His walking is coming along.  You can tell he wants to be playing with the older kids and running around.  After tons of walking, we played a little on the porch and then he completely passed out in my arms.  It was a great feeling to have him comfortable enough to sleep with me holding him.  I hope each day, he learns to trust us more.

This afternoon, when we saw Zane's orphanage, I was so blessed.  The owner, Elizabeth, runs a fantastic facility there.  We got to see Zane's picture on the wall, the bed he slept in, and the nanny who cared for him. We also went into the school and gave out some toys (chinese yo-yos, frisbees, suckers, cars, and other little trinkets).  They were so excited and so gracious.  The kids were all very young - under 9.  There was another American family there from California.  They were adopting a little girl from the orphanage.  This orphanage held the most beautiful ceremony for her.  They did a traditional coffee ceremony for the adults, had the agency's representative speak about the child and how much she is loved by the nannies, read aloud a letter for the child to read when she is older from the orphanage and how much she meant to them, and prayed in Amharic and English for the girl and her new family.  It was beautiful.  Afterward, everyone celebrated with bottled soda (adults only), juice (kids), some kind of traditional cake (like a pancake but more sugar), cookies, and an Ethiopian "chex mix" of sorts.  It was so incredible to watch, and we were so happy that child would have all of it on video when she is older.  I was so thankful that Zane was in the care of these amazing people for a short time.  They all remembered him and told us how special he was.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 3 - Church, Transition Home, and Traditional Dinner

Today began with hope.  We slept so well last night, woke up early to the sounds of roosters (and barking dogs), and we went up to the terrace to see the most beautiful view of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Next, we ate breakfast at the guest house with five other American families, and we loaded the vans to go to the international evangelical church.  This church was PACKED with people from all over the world.  The pastor is an American, and the praise team is American, Ethiopian, and maybe others.  They have two services, both of which were full.  The music was great!  Hillsong songs were sung predominately, which I LOVE!  The pastor's message was about fear.  Hmmmmm...the minute I saw the sermon title, I knew I was meant to be there.

Since our arrival here in Addis, I have enjoyed every minute; however, I have become increasingly anxious about Mark's departure on July 22nd.  I will stay here until the U.S. embassy decides to clear our adoption, which could be 12 weeks or more with the rainy season beginning August 8th.  It is very nerve-racking to me to imagine myself navigating this city that is so very different from what I'm used to, especially not speaking the language.  I have said aloud to Mark a couple times since we have been here, "I'm scared."  The Lord has heard me, and this morning he spoke directly to me.

As I sat on the terrace I read the chapter I happened to be on in 2 Samuel.  Chapter 24 is about David being called by God to build an alter on the threshing floor of Araunah.  He has been told by God to buy it from him, build an alter there, and worship the Lord.  David obeys, and Araunah emphatically says, "Oh King, I give you all of this.  Take whatever..."  He wanted King David to have it for free.  However, David insists on paying Araunah for the threshing floor.  David could have easily rationalized the "free alter" as a gift from God and claimed it as the Lord's favor, but David remembered God's words..."buy it from him."  I love that David obeyed even the details of God's call.  Then David says, "I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."  Whoa.  I felt like God gave me those words to reflect on today.  What am I so scared of?  What is the cost of staying in Ethiopia?  My comfort?  My security or safety?  And what does the Lord want from me?  A sacrifice that cost me something.  I worship the Lord every Sunday in America, and I spend time with God in his word and in prayer.  But it costs me nothing to do these good things in the comfort of my own home and my home church.  It is easy.  God is calling me to sacrifice.

If that wasn't a word from God that was clear enough, the pastor spoke on one of my FAVORITE passages from scripture that I memorized when I was a teen, "When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God whose word I praise.  In God I trust.  What can mortal man do to me?"  Psalm 56.  I was reminded by his message that God's perfect love casts out fear, and that God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind, and that my fears should drive me to love.  These words really caused me to think about what my purpose is here.  Yes, I have predominately come for my son.  I want to bring him home as soon as possible.  But why am I here when I'm not bonding with him at the transition home?  Is it just that I'm waiting on government red tape?  Oh Lord, let it not be!  What a waste it would be if I spent my time here complaining about the process, the government, the difficulties of a new place.  I am here to sacrifice myself, and love these people as God loves them.  Every moment is an opportunity for someone to experience the peace and love of God through me.  I want to remember that in the low times when it gets hard to spend another day here and I just want to go home.  God is doing a new thing through me each day.

The rest of the day was filled with much more peace than I've had since I've been here.  Our time with Zane was precious.  He laughed, played, and reached for us to hold him.  His guard was down a bit more today, and we found out that he has a precious little friend in his room that is being adopted by a family we know.  It was a wonderful time together today.

Tonight's traditional dinner was an amazing even filled with food, dancing, and great conversation with our America World travel group here.  I'll post a video about that later.  Right now, it takes too long to upload.

We appreciate your prayers and kind words on facebook and email.  Love you all!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 2 1/2 - 12 Hour Flight to Addis and Meeting our Son!

Today could not have gone any better.  The flight to Addis Ababa was pleasant.  Not too boring.  Ethiopian Airlines was really nice!  All of our luggage made it to the airport as we landed!  (Another miracle!)  We only had 2 hours of sleep or so on the plane so we were a bit tired.  We stood for about 10 minutes at the luggage carrel, only to realize that our luggage had been pulled and set aside already near a post.  HA!  We were so out of it!
As soon as we made it through customs, I heard the most pleasant voice say, "You must be Cimbrey! (pronounced correctly!)"  I said, "And you must be JOB!"  It was our travel guide with America World, a native of Addis Ababa.  He then introduced us to our driver, and we immediately hit it off with jokes and laughing.
When we made it to the guest house, we met 4 other American couples here for their court dates.  They have been a lot of fun to be with.  Job gave us the option of staying at the guest house to sleep or going to the cathedral (where Haile Selaisse is burried) tour they had planned, and, of course, Mark and I couldn't pass up the opportunity.  We were thrilled to see one of the oldest Orthodox churches in Addis.

Afterward, we had pizza and Khaldi's (Ethiopian starbucks) coffee, and we were off to the transition home!

The nannies had to wake Zane up from a nap to come meet us.  He was sleepy, but so sweet, not fussy at all.  He just wanted to be held the whole time.  His sweet head just rested on my shoulder for most of the three hours we were with him.  We played with cars (a favorite), read a Tow Mater book (interactive book with sounds), and a jungle animal game I had on my iPad.  He was very curious, and he loves to observe people and things.  While cautious, he did try a couple new games today.  His personality is so easy-going and sweet.      He is a peaceful little fellow who seems to let others have the spotlight.

Day 1 of Travel

( I couldn't get an internet connection until now, so I'm posting this a little late.  Sorry!)

Today is step one of our trip to Ethiopia:  Destination – Washington D.C.!
We woke up at around 6:00 a.m. and hurried around trying to get last minute packing done.  Since I am staying for possibly 3 months, depending on embassy clearance timelines, we have two containers filled with food and must-haves like paper towels and macaroni and cheese!  We get one other back to check on the plane a piece, so that left room for diapers, baby wipes, and toiletries.  We have two carry-on bags a piece as well, with clothing and electronics.  Basically, we look like gypsies.
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Tonight we flew in to Dulles airport, fought a lady who tried to take my bag that looked “just like hers”, received ALL of our checked luggage at baggage claim (HALLELUJAH!  Miracle #1…check!) We are staying overnight at Embassy Suites in the Washington D.C. area.  Our travel agent (Lindsey at Golden Rule is the BEST!) got us a hotel for free since we had a layover.  I was expecting it to feel like a free hotel, you know, where you think if you close your eyes, the roaches and spiders will come out of the walls and slide into your bed, and craw into your ears… This hotel is anything but a “free feeling” hotel!  It’s beautiful and comfortable, and it has swans in an indoor pond on the first floor.  What?  Oh, and the best part is, made-to-order breakfast tomorrow morning! 
Tomorrow we will leave from D.C. at noon to head to Addis Ababa!  We arrive tomorrow at 11ish p.m. (US time) and 8 a.m. (ET time).  We will put our bags in the hotel and head to the transition home to meet Zane for the first time!  Pray for our meeting with him that God will miraculously cause him to understand that we are his parents and that we love him.  (Oh, and while you pray, pray our luggage makes it to Addis from D.C.!  Having loads of luggage is not how the Brannans roll.  Anyone who knows Mark knows how compact and tidy he likes to be at all times!  We have so much luggage it’s embarrassing.)
Enjoy these pics of the trip so far!
Our luggage:  J
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Embassy Suites D.C.:
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