Monday, October 24, 2011

Week 6

Mark and I signed a contract on a house this week!  We will be renovating a house in Garden Oaks (near the Heights just outside the loop).  We're really excited and amazed that we're doing this!  We never would have thought we would be renovating a house, but it all worked out so providentially.

A couple of weeks ago we went to dinner at a friend's house on W. 42nd St.  We loved the area as we drove through, and we thought, "We haven't even looked up here!  I wonder what's available?"  Since we've had NO luck at all finding a house in Memorial, it was a possibility we were interested in looking into.  That night, they mentioned that their friend signed a contract on a house two doors down and it was a steal, but he's not been able to sell his town home so he could move forward with the purchase.  I jokingly said, "No problem!  Have him transfer the contract into our names and we'll go ahead and take it off his hands!"  Two days later, we got word that this friend's contract is running out and the house might go on the market.  NO!!!!!!  We jumped on the opportunity before it could be listed for a higher price!  As we looked into the house more, we realized the friend had already done bids on the renovations, inspections, etc.  This was a no-brainer.  Even better, Mark's commute to work is 12 minutes, our commute to our church is 8 minutes, and we have good friends on the street.  It really can't get any better.  We feel so at peace, and we know this is the Lord providing.

When we step back and think about life right now, we laugh that we are undertaking a house renovation.  Mark has started a new job with a new company, I have changed professions from teacher to mom, we've moved cities, we've changed churches, and we're now embarking upon a renovation project.  Oh, did I mention we have a children's book coming out in approximately 3 weeks!!  (More to come on that!)  We like to do things up big in the Brannan house!  The more change the better!

This week my brother has been on leave, so he's in Houston hanging out with us some!  It's great to have him around, and Zane loves having "Untle Dit" in town.

Zane experienced his first carousel this week at the mall.  He was a little dumbfounded by it, but when he got off, all he wanted to do was ride it again!  As much as he loves animals, he was not into these life-size plastic animals with rhinestone saddles, oddly enough.  Who wouldn't like a roaring lion frozen in time adorned with plastic feathers, beads, and leather?  Freaky.

Zane also got his first American haircut this week.  It cost 8 times as much as it did in Ethiopia.  Gulp.  He did well, but I still can't get over the price.  We left some curls on top, so he's looking pretty D.J. Jazzy Jeff from "Fresh Prince".

We had a few cold days this week, so I pulled out a splurge purchase that I couldn't pass up for little Zaney Boy.  Unfortunately, he thought it was HILARIOUS that I would even entertain the thought of putting this on him, and this is the 2 1/2 seconds he actually wore the thing.  Oh well.

We had a trial run with our Halloween costume for the big Fall Festival coming up.  Zane LOVES it, and he wants to play in it all the time.  No spoilers, yet, though.  You gotta wait for the big night to see this one!

Texas Rangers are tied in the series right now, and the game is going on in the next room.  Hate to do it, but I gotta go watch baseball.  This is the only time of year I will watch it, and the Rangers?!  Couldn't be a better fall.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Week 5

Our update on week five is way overdue at this point!  We are now in week 6 already of being home from Ethiopia.

Week five was such a great week, that I must recap the highlights.

The week started with a depressing lull Sunday morning with Mark rolling over and saying, "I don't wanna go to church this morning."  Frankly, I didn't either.  Our lives had been changing by the minute and our bodies were exhausted.  Even more so, our spirits were quenched.  We'd been going through the motions of life without joy...just surviving really.  We needed some encouragement in the midst of our house, church, and friend hunt.  Moving to a new city is hard, but it was really hard with a new baby.  We're used to going wherever whenever we want, and things change when you have a child.  It's a great change, but it's change none the less.  The Holy Spirit was nudging me Saturday night to try another church in the area, and Mark briefly mentioned as we drove in the car together that he wanted to try the same church.  It was a fleeting conversation, and as we lay in bed Sunday morning, a spiritual battle began to take place.  We woke up late, Zane slept until 8:30, which rarely happens, and we had every reason to stay in bed.  We both needed to take showers and get ready, give Zane a bath and get him ready, and all eat breakfast by 9:00 so we could make it to the 9:30 service.  The 11:00 service would be too late, as Zane usually eats lunch at 11:30 and takes a nap between 12:30 and 2:30.  Something (the Holy Spirit) kept pushing me to get up and go to church, so I got out of bed and urged the guys in the house to "haul it" getting ready.

We step outside at 9:05 to pouring rain.  The kind of rain a city gets when it hasn't had rain in months.  The kind of rain that all of Houston prayed for to stop the wildfires close by.  Torrential downpours.  But now we were all ready, and by-golly, we were GOING to church.  We raced to the car, and headed toward church.

Needless to say, by the time we parked and got inside from the rain, we were 20 minutes late for the service we had planned to go to.  No problem.  We got some coffee and breakfast and decided to go to the Welcome Center for some more information about the church and its programs.  We would attend the 11:00 service and hope for no meltdowns from Mr. Zane.

At the Welcome Desk, I ran into a sorority sister from Texas A&M and her husband.  Providentially, we began talking about adoption, and her family is doing foster care.  We had an encouraging conversation about God's plan for the orphan and lonely, and how sometimes God's plans look different from what we think makes sense.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a friendly woman introducing herself to Mark.  She later introduced herself to me as the Director of the adoption ministry at the church.  "A big group of adoptive parents are meeting before the service to gather to go up on the stage.  We'd love for y'all to join us!"  I laughed for two reasons:  1)  I was overjoyed to learn that I was minutes away from meeting a "BIG group of adoptive families".  2)  I was tickled that after struggling to get to church and being there only 30 minutes, we were being asked to go on stage.  Why not, right???!!!

After meeting a great couple who told us about bible studies, we learned that they were connected to a couple we had become friends with through Mark's work.  Shortly after, we ran into our old friends from NOLA who moved here a few years ago.  And finally, we were delighted to meet about 20 adoptive families who attend the church regularly and are a part of the orphan care ministry before going up on stage.

The pastor addressed the church about the importance of adoption and the fact that all believers are adopted as sons and daughters of God.  He shared his passion about supporting adoption ministry, and the congregation took up a special offering for adoption and foster care funds that assist member who are seeking to care for orphans.

I cannot tell you how I know the Lord speaks to me, I just know that He does.  When I woke up Sunday morning, I knew we were supposed to attend this church that morning, and it was so evident that we were to be encouraged there by God.  Throughout the week, God continued to show himself faithful by providing encouragement and fellowship in a variety of ways.  A new friend has embraced me as an old one, and allowed me to hang out at her house, go to play dates, and attend her small group.  There I have met many more Christian moms who I look forward to hanging out with.

I am so thankful that God sees me.  I told Him last week, "I don't know how to pray right now, but You know me.  I can't explain my feelings, but You feel them with me.  Help me Lord."  And, as always, He did.  He helped me receive encouragement, He helped me find a friend, He gave me joy, and He filled me with new hope.  He is faithful.

This weekend, we went to New Orleans to see old friends, and sleep in our house one last time.  Miraculously, our house sold after three days of being on the market, and we now wait for closing.  It's bittersweet, as selling our house makes it all so real.  Being with our NOLA friends was almost as if I had never been away.  The only difference was that Zane is actually here in the US now, instead of posted on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror.  It was so sweet to see Zane with Eli.  Anna and I always dreamed of our two Ethiopian boys growing up together!  It will take more effort now, but they will still grow up together, even though it's not quite as we dreamed.  The boys got to pick out one pumpkin each at the nearby pumpkin patch that benefited a local school.  They both went for the cute, little pumpkins, which was fine with us, as it's the cheaper choice!  As I walked through the doors of First Baptist New Orleans on Sunday morning, I immediately went to the stage where the choir and praise team gathered just as we had done every Sunday for years.  After the service ended, I entered the fellowship hall and thought, "I need to hurry and get the coffee ready" as I had done for the past two years for our bible study class.  In the foyer of the church sat the Women's Ministry table decorated for the Annual Ladies Tea coming up next weekend, and two women sat selling tickets as they do every year in October.

It's funny how when everything in life changes, some things remain the same.  Becoming a mom, moving cities, changing occupations, and selling/buying a house can seem overwhelming, but there are constants that keep us grounded and remind us that life goes on.  Those constants anchor us and give us hope when tidal waves crash against us.  One day, everything on this earth will pass away.  There will be no more bible study class after worship services, no more Sunday morning coffee, no more Ladies Tea, no more programs.  On that day, one thing will remain:  Love.  When everything around is shaking, we can stand on God, and there find hope in the new thing God is doing.

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

"See I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up!  Do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."  Isaiah 43:19

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Week 4 - Settling In

Last week finished with a BANG, as Zane had the privledge of getting 7 shots (all routine stuff he missed while in Ethiopia) and 4 tubes of blood taken! Congratulations, Zane! You were the lucky winner of the worst doctor visit imaginable. This kind of doctor appointment calls for Chuey's creamy jalapeno! We enjoyed great Mexican food and the waiter even gave Zane a Blue Bell push pop for free. That totally made up for the bad morning.

Friday night, Jay flew in from New York to see Zane and Laura and Ben came from Gonzales, TX. Zane me them for the first time Saturday morning. It was so nice of them to come down.

He's making his Baylor G-Daddy do his "gig 'em" thumb!  Good boy!

Monday, Zane had 2 more shots and three more tubes of blood taken. He's pretty much scarred for life from any doctor's office.

I think we made up for the bad start to the week by going to the pool, the Children's Museum with his buddy, Musse, and the playground at Memorial City Mall later in the week. It was great to see him having fun and smiling with other kids.
 Learning to use a pulley

 A real-life car!!!

 Favorite exhibit?  The Water Fountain.  Fascinating.

 Zane's already hired a driver.

 Memorial City Mall

 King of the Mountain!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Guest Post - Mary Beth Picker

I met Mary Beth Picker through her husband Casey, my friend from high school, over a year ago. Mary Beth has become a good friend and fellow adoptive mom! I was ecstatic when I learned she and her husband were in Ethiopia the same time I was! Only this time, she and her husband came back to Ethiopia to work on a school for a great organization, Lifesong. I was able to meet them for a traditional dinner and learn all about the awesome work they are a part of in Ethiopia. See more information below on how you can get involved!

Mary Beth writes:

Thank you so much Cimbrey for allowing me to post on your blog about a subject that is so important to me.

Over three years ago, my husband and I began our journey to adopt our son from Ethiopia. And since that time, God has been filling our hearts with an overwhelming love and passion for the people of Ethiopia. We returned a year after our first adoption to bring our daughter home. After arriving home with her, we knew we had to do more.

We have been so blessed to team up with other adoptive families around the U.S. and with Lifesong for Orphans. Lifesong is doing some amazing work through a small nursery school that they support in Adami Tulu, Ethioipa. You can read more about Adami Tulu here.

Last year, we, with five other families, raised over $40,000 to build a new building, restroom facility, and gate at the Adami Tulu school. In August, we got to return to Ethiopia to see the new building. We had an amazing trip, and have absolutely fallen in love with Adami Tulu. You can read more about our trip here and here. The school is changing the lives of so many vulnerable children in the area by offering them a wonderful education and two nutritious meals a day.

We've returned home with the knowledge that we have so much more to do in Adami Tulu. So we've agreed to continue our work with Lifesong by raising funds for another school building on the Adami Tulu campus. This will enable the school to expand to include 1st and 2nd grade. More details will be coming soon, but we're anxious to get a jump start on fundraising. We know that this project will cost at least $50,000. But, for these sweet faces, we'll do anything!

We are very excited to announce our first fundraiser for our next phase of the Adami Tulu project: another Aspen Giveaway!

Our Aunt and Uncle have, once again, generously donated toward our fundraising efforts. Only this time they've offered us not one but FIVE stays at the Hyatt Grand Aspen.

Any one of these November stays might make a great early-Thanksgiving get together for you and some friends or family!

We will begin the giveaways today and draw winners on October 15. To enter, donate $20 by clicking the link for the stay that you're interested in. For every $20 you donate to Lifesong for Orphans, you will get one entry in the drawings. By the way, 100% of your donation will go to our work in Adami Tulu.

Here are some details and pictures about the Hyatt stays:

Hyatt Grand Aspen has complimentary continental breakfast, a pool and hot tub, fitness center, fire pit, daily room cleaning and nightly turn down service complete with chocolates. There is even a little hut by the hot tubs where you can hang your robes to keep them warm for you! The hotel is within walking distance of lots of shops and restaurants in Aspen.

The retail value of each stay is approximately $2,500.

To get to Aspen, you could fly into the Aspen airport. The hotel will pick you up and, since everything is within walking distance, you can go without a car during your stay. Or you could fly into Denver and rent a car to drive to Aspen. Or, of course, you could also just drive to Aspen.

Hyatt Stay Giveaway #1:

Sat.- Sat. November 5-12 (full week stay)

Studio Unit (Like a nice hotel room with small kitchenette.)

To enter the drawing for Giveaway #1, donate to Lifesong for Orphans here:

Hyatt Stay Giveaway #2:

Sun.- Thurs. November 13-17 (five days/ four nights)

Two Bedroom Unit (Two Bedrooms and Bathrooms, Kitchen, Livingroom, Dining Room, Washer and Dryer, etc.)

To enter the drawing for Giveaway #2, donate to Lifesong for Orphans here:

Hyatt Stay Giveaway #3:

Sun.- Thurs. November 13-17 (five days/ four nights)

Three Bedroom Unit (Three Bedrooms and Bathrooms, Kitchen, Livingroom, Dining Room, Washer and Dryer, etc.) Maybe a family could do an "early Thanksgiving get together" in this one.

To enter the drawing for Giveaway #3, donate to Lifesong for Orphans here:

Hyatt Stay Giveaway #4:

Tues.-Sat. November 15-19 (five days/ four nights)

One Bedroom Unit (All the things a two bedroom has but only one bedroom and bathroom)

To enter the drawing for Giveaway #4, donate to Lifesong for Orphans here:

Hyatt Stay Giveaway #5:

Tues.-Sat. November 15-19 (five days/ four nights)

Two Bedroom Unit (Two Bedrooms and Bathrooms, Kitchen, Livingroom, Dining Room, Washer and Dryer, etc.)

To enter the drawing for Giveaway #5, donate to Lifesong for Orphans here:

Just imagine, you could win a stay in Aspen, just for donating $20. What a deal! Plus, you get to be part of this amazing project to help these precious kids in Adami Tulu.

If you are unable to use one of the stays, you could donate your entry to a friend, or minister, or someone who could really use the time away.

Help us raise money to expand the Adami Tulu school and spread the word about our giveaway. Please repost on twitter and facebook! Thank you!