Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Is it really July?

Ezekiel peeking out our front door

Graci posing in the first dress I made for her.

Jon devouring his reuben sandwich. Notice the Superman shirt :)

An update on a shot we took last year in the kid's pool at Tom and Kat's house.

Our little studmuffin, Isaiah.

I can't believe how time has flown since the beginning of the year. We are indeed still among the living and doing well...

Jon survived his spring semester at DTS as well as a two week long summer course in May. This marks the 1/3 way mark toward his Master's of Theology degree. Woohoo!!!! He has completed 42 hours of the 120 total required. We are very excited that his class schedule in the fall will allow him to finish by 5pm both Tuesday and Thursday rather than getting off at 9:30pm one of the days. He will be taking Greek again in the fall which he is excited about. Please pray for him as the curriculum will be covering more translation practice rather than the focus on vocabulary. The Lord has blessed him with some wonderful friends at DTS. He continues to facilitate his Spiritual Formation group of 2 other men.

We just celebrated Jon's birthday on Monday. I surprised him by taking the night off of work. He requested corned beef and saurkraut for dinner-his favorite. I have a wonderful crockpot recipe that I've made the last few years that he loves. His favorite part is using the corned beef to make a reuben sandwich with sourdough bread and 1,o00 island dressing. I topped it off with a lemon pound cake with icing for his birthday cake. The kids and I went shopping for presents and they all said they wanted to give him shirts, so they all picked out shirts for Daddy. Isaiah picked out a Superman shirt for him. Love it!

I am currently involved in a women's summer Bible study through our church. I've so enjoyed the fellowship with the other ladies in the group-some of whom are in our Sunday School class. We are going through Priscilla Shirer's study on Jonah. She is the daughter of well known pastor, Tony Evans. The subheading of the study is "Navigating A Life Interrupted." It seems like each week she asks what the interruption or "divine intervention" is in our life that God has allowed. I think for me it's going back to work while Jon is in seminary. I am blessed to be doing a job that I love, but it's still difficult to leave Jon and the kids five nights of the week for The Cheesecake Factory. This time has helped me to cherish time with my kids and my husband more. One lesson I'm still learning is to put their needs before my own (especially the kids) when I just want some down time for me. Can anyone relate? I love doing studies through books or stories in the Bible that are common Sunday School lessons that we learned as kids; yet as an adult it's as if the story jumps off the page as it never has before. I experienced the same thing when I did Beth Moore's study through Daniel.

Cheesecake Factory continues to go well. I was honored to be named employee of the month for May. I get to wear a special pin on the collar of my work uniform and was also given a gift card for Cheesecake Factory. We've already used a fair amount of it on a few different occasions. Jon often brings the kids in on Sunday nights for a light dinner so I can see them all. The kids love coming in to "mommy's work."

The kids are all growing so fast! I was just looking through some pictures from last year and was amazed at how much they have grown in just one year. Graci will start kindergarten on August 22-two days before she turns 5. She is fascinated with clocks and time right now. She knows that two o'clock is nap time, 8 o'clock is bedtime and 10 o'clock in snack time. She's a bit of an alarm clock of sorts for us as you can imagine. I have gotten into sewing dresses for Graci this summer. I have completed two for her and made another for her cousin. It makes me smile that she loves to wear them.

Isaiah is growing, growing, growing! He has probably changed the most in the last year. He's lost most of his pudgy baby face and is stretching out. His favorite thing to do is be chased around the apartment by us with the "bonk wand." Jon rolled up a large envelope one day and dubbed it the bonk wand so he chases the kids around the house "bonking" them with it. It's lots of fun! Isaiah loves to snuggle with us and has such a tender heart. We hear from his Sunday School teachers all the time (no really, like every week practically) how much fun he is and how he entertains them.

Ezekiel is walking and dancing around like a champ. He is quite the little communicator with his babble. He went up to Graci yesterday and "asked" her for some of her snack- in his babble of course. Apparently he was quite convincing because she gave him some. He started walking shortly after his first birthday in April. He loves to dance to music and has such a sweet personality. He can be quite the snuggle bug and has been enjoying playing a bit of chase lately too. One prayer we have for Ezekiel right now is that his teeth would come in. He will be 15 months on Saturday and the poor little guy still has no chompers! His upper gums are a bit swollen and look white-ish, but still no teeth yet. The dentist says not to worry unless he reaches 16 months and still is toothless.

Apartment Life has been a bit discouraging lately. We have not been in prayer for our ministry here nearly as much as we should be. We are working on that. Please pray that the apartment complex will be able give us a regular budget each month so that we can put on appealing events to draw residents out of their homes. We live in a very transient complex which makes it difficult to grow deep relationships with them.

We will be taking off for a road trip to Boone, North Carolina in a few weeks. We'll be meeting up with Jon's twin sister and family as well as his oldest brother and family in Arkansas and then heading on the rest of the way as a caravan. We are really looking forward to the trip. We will be there for a family reunion with all of Jon's family minus one brother and his clan. Jon's parents are moving back to the states this weekend after serving 35 plus years in Kenya. Please pray for them as they adjust to life in North Carolina, which will be their new home base. Please also pray for Jon's youngest brother Philip, who will be finishing high school in North Carolina. He will be the only one of the Bransford kids to not graduate high school from Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya.

I think that's about it. Sorry for the length, I guess it's difficult to sum up 5 months in one blog entry. Thank you all for your prayers and loving support of our family.

Jeni (for JJGIE)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Stand in Awe...

Daddy and Zeko buddy.
The snow covered van next to our bronco is our new van!

Having fun together on the top bunk.

One last snuggle before mommy heads off to Cheesecake Factory for work.

Happy birthday Isaiah!!

Greetings from the ice covered Dallas region! We have been hit with a frigid ice/snow storm this week. I know all our friends in CO are probably laughing at the ridiculousness of practically shutting down the city for 3 days now due to "inclement" weather with temps in the teens and twenties during the day. However, with windchill it has been as low as -9. So there :) We've learned that Texans tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to anything freezing that falls from the sky. The blessing of it all is that it has given us some wonderful family time at home together. With DTS closing campus Tues-Thurs this week, Jon getting called off work Wed. morning and me getting called off work Tuesday night, we've have 3 glorious days of being home together with nowhere to go. Jon's getting a bit of cabin fever so he's out picking up a few groceries, but other than that we haven't ventured out anywhere. So nice!
So, I stand in awe of all the amazing things God has blessed us with. We got to renew our food stamps for another 6 months, WIC support, and the kids are still covered with Medicaid until April when we'll renew them again. The biggest blessing came the first week of January when we were able to purchase a used 2005 Chrysler Town and Country minivan. We got a special gift that was desginated for this purchase and the gift covered all but $100 of the price. As we were driving home from picking it up, the worship song, "I Stand in Awe" came on and brought me to tears almost instantly. We serve such a generous Lord who provides well beyond all we ask and think, and I just can't thank Him enough.
Jon is back into the swing of things with school. His classes have a ton of reading as usual. We are both amazed at how many books he has read in the last year. He continues to enjoy his classes and enjoys hanging out with some seminary buddies of his while he's on campus Tuesdays and Thursdays each week.
I am still waiting tables at The Cheesecake Factory and really enjoying it. I am working 4-5 nights a week and I've earned the privilege of working a number of closing shifts which helps bring in a little more money each month. The tips were particularly good in January and that has allowed us to have a bit of breathing room financially and help us nearly pay off our debt and begin saving a bit for tuition in the fall. I am also able to take a quick trip to Ca in the middle of February to visit my family for a weekend. Ezekiel gets to go with me so he can meet all of his aunts and uncles for the first time. We with both get to be there for my nephew's dedication and get to meet him for the first time too. I am really looking forward to it- and I'm sure Ezekiel will be excited too!
Graci, Isaiah and Ezekiel are doing well now after a month of illnesses spread through all three of them. They all had a horrible chest cough and cold for the first two weeks of the month. No fun! Especially when Graci is the only one who really knows how to blow her nose by herself. Isaiah is good at inhaling, but hasn't quite figured out how to blow the air (and other contents) out of his nose. Ezekiel is just a cutie who is happy letting his nose run all over his face and smearing it on his hands right before mommy comes with a tissue. The dear :) Graci and Isaiah's favorite past times of late are singing worship songs together, dancing, and tickling mommy. Graci has found my tickle spots and LOVES to torture me.
Last weekend Jon took Ezekiel to the emergency room after he had been running a fever of 102. The only thing that kept it down was pumping him full of tylenol. We wanted to be sure there were no infections, so daddy sacrficially sat in the emergency room for 5 hours with the little man to make sure all was well. They ran all the tests and everything came back fine, so we all deduced that it was just teething. He still hasn't broken any teeth through, so I'm guessing he'll get a few of them all at once and his poor little body is on overload from it. His fever broke Monday morning and we haven't seen it since. Thank you, Lord!
Apartment Life is going well, but seems very busy at times. We met a Kenyan lady last week and she said that there are a fair amount of Kenyans who live in the complex. (There are actually a LOT of Africans in general who live here.) We exchanged contact information and are hoping to set up some kind of a potluck with Kenyan food. I'm so excited! With a complex as large as ours (708 units), we've been averaging 50-60 new residents moving in each month as well as that same amount renewing leases each month. We are required to talk with 50% of both lists to welcome them and see if they will be renewing their leases. This can be very time consuming. Please pray that we can do our job here well and help the residents connect with each other.
Jon has been asked by a pediatric neurologist (Pam) that we met in Kenya, to do the architectural designs for a medical clinic for YWAM (Youth With A Mission) in Tanzania. He is very excited and yet intimidated by this venture. We are meeting with Pam and her husband tomorrow night for dinner to talk details about what it all will entail. We renewed Jon's passport so he'll be ready to fly out to see the land possibly in March during one week of his spring break. He would be working from home and maybe only go to TZ once or twice throughout the entire process. Pam saw some designs of Jon's when we were living in Kenya a few years ago and the name that kept coming to her mind was Jon's. We all prayed about it and decided to take this leap of faith and see what God has planned through it. Jon will be able to work on the plans over the summer and some during the semester. Thankfully for our sake, nothing happens quickly in Africa, so there isn't the time constraint pressures or even guidelines that one would have to deal with in the States.
Jon's twin sister and family came down from Kansas to join us for Christmas and Isaiah's birthday (Christmas Eve). It was quite cozy with 4 adults and 6 kids ages four and under in our little apartment, but we had so much fun! It was nice to stay home for Christmas this year and not travel anywhere.
Whew! I think that's all the nitty gritty details I have to share for now.

Blessings to you all :)