Thursday, September 29, 2016

OCS Soccer Program

On October 23rd, I will be running a 10K here in Santiago, Dominican Republic.  I will be running to raise support for the soccer program at Oasis Christian School.  We are currently about $1,000 short to purchase uniforms for this season and we also have about 30 players who are unable to play due to finances.

Why does Oasis Christian School matter to our family and/or Hope House?

1 - OCS is the school that our children attend.  They have been so incredibly amazing in supporting our kiddos in their education.  The school goes above and beyond for its students and we are incredible blessed by them.

2 - OCS is where our Hope House kids will be attending.  We have a partnership with them and they have expressed how important it is to them that their school be involved in shaping the future of the children in our care.

3 - Soccer played a huge role in both Mike and I's lives.  Both of our older kids have chosen to play soccer this year and we want every kid that has a desire to play to have the same opportunities as our kids.

4 - Oasis Christian School is an outreach from our home church here, Iglesia Cristiana Oasis.  Our Church started the school as a way to minister to families in our community and surrounding communities to offer an affordable, private, Christian education.

My goal is to raise $1000.00 to pay for the uniforms.  If we are able to raise over the $1000, the excess money will be used as scholarship for students that would like to participate but are unable to due to financial hardship.

If you would like to donate, please click here for instructions.  Make sure and indicate either in Paypal or the memo line of your check that your donation is for "OCS Soccer."  Your donation will be tax-deductible.

Friday, July 8, 2016

My Silence is not Compliance

I do my best to stay away from really controversial issues.  I am, to the core, a non-confrontational person and I firmly believe that a peaceful stance always wins in the end.  That is until I began seeing subtitles on social media declaring, "Silence is Compliance."

Let me make myself silence is not compliance.  My silence is disbelief and sadness.  My silence is pain and suffering.  My silence is a loss of words, not a lack of them.

A long time ago, I made a commitment to fight for the good in this world.  I got so tired of watching sad videos, posting sad photos and being combative with my passive-aggressive words.  And let me tell you - you either use social media to BRING JOY or TAKE JOY.  There is no gray area.  You either motivate people for positive change or you drag them into your gutter.

Why do I not post #blacklivesmatter or #bluelivesmatter or #alllivesmatter?  Because those phrases are just part of my core beliefs.  People know that about me because of my ACTIONS, not my social media debates.  If I had to put a bunch of hashtags about what I believed it would look like this:


Do you know what all of those hashtags have in common?  No, it's not that they are all in the middle of an incredibly volatile debate.  It's that they are PEOPLE.  And not just people - they are MY GOD's SONS AND DAUGHTERS.

I don't need to go to social media and quote statistics and debate one side or the other or try and explain myself to hundreds of people who are just looking for a fight.  As Christians, Christ taught us that our words are worthless - it's our actions that set us apart.   The bible says NOTHING about publicly declaring war on social issues.  But it says a lot about being Light to others behind the scenes:
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret."-Matthew 6:3-4
Who is considered "needy" in this day and age?  Mankind.  Mankind is needy.  What does my public professions on social media accomplish for mankind?  Let one side see that I am fighting for them and the other feel like I'm against them?  And then the next day, when yet ANOTHER tragedy occurs - let everyone know that I'm really for both sides?   Words are exhaustive - actions matter.

If you want to make a difference, and you are a Caucasian, call every African American friend you know and tell them you love them and you are standing up for them.  If you want to make a difference, and you are an African American, walk up to every single police officer you come in contact with, shake their hand and declare peace, understanding and respect.  And if you MUST, absolutely MUST post something on Social Media - for the love of God and everything holy - you better make sure that it is something that BRINGS JOY not STEALS IT.
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy..."- John 10:10
"The tongue has the power of life and death..."- Proverbs 18:21
This very moment, the Enemy may be using YOU - a follower of Christ - as a way to steal, kill and destroy.  Maybe not exactly with your tongue but most certainly with your key strokes.

No, my silence is not compliance.  But I will choose action over words any day.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Lean In

Two weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about Arturo.  I was in a panic.  Something wasn't right.  As I lay in the darkness I searched for my Father to give me peace, to bring me understanding as to why I felt the way I did.  In silence, I heard a voice telling me to let him go.  That he would be leaving this Earth soon.  I resisted, I rebelled and told Him no.  I gave all the reasons why he needed to stay.  "My love," He said, "you need to let him come to Me."  I began praying to my little Arturo's spirit.  I don't even know if that's how it works but it's what I did.

"Sweet boy, stop fighting.  Stop struggling.  Stop suffering.  Baby boy it's ok.  Don't be afraid.  Jesus is waiting for you.  He has a place prepared for you."

I stayed up crying for hours.  Not the kind of crying that brings more pain but the kind of crying that brings peace and washes over your fears.  I fell asleep at some point faintly begging my Jesus to let him stay if it was possible.

Two days later I was on my way to the hospital and I felt a pit in my stomach.  I felt nauseous.  I had no idea what I was going to walk into - whether this baby boy I loved would still be with us.  To my surprise he was still there and the doctors said he was doing better.  He didn't have any tubes or wires hooked up to him.  He wasn't uncomfortable or crying.  He was just calm and peaceful.  I fed him a little of his bottle and I walked him over to the hospital window.  It was sunny and there was a warm breeze blowing.  He laid on my chest watching the sway of the trees with the rays of the sun cast on his face.  He fell asleep.

I now know just how good my Father is.  He gave me that day.  He let me see this baby boy pain-free, wire-free, tube-free, peaceful - because that's how he is now.

I have experienced loss before but not like this.  His death would be sad no matter what but the events surrounding his death are not only unjust, but tragic.  I have never felt so helpless in my life.  My mind replays the events every moment I have alone.  How lonely he must have felt.  How confused he must have felt.  How helpless he must have felt.  It's something I don't know I will ever get over - and I hope I never do.

Something important I have learned over the last two years can be summed up in two simple words: lean in.  When it hurts, lean in.  When you are suffering, lean in.  When you don't understand, lean in.  When the pain is unbearable, lean in.  So many times in my life when something has happened that I can't explain and that doesn't make any sense, I just ran from it.  I ran from the sadness and the confusion and the difficulty only to be knocked over by it years later.  I pushed anger and unforgiveness to the back corners of my heart instead of bringing it to the surface and letting myself feel it and be freed of it.

Our Father wrote us love letters in His Scripture preparing us for the trials we will face.  "In this world you will have trouble..." It's inevitable.  We can't avoid pain - it will always find us.  And if we don't prepare ourselves for it and lean into it and let ourselves feel it, one of two things will happen; we will either be knocked over by it when we least expect it or we will harden our hearts to it in order to protect ourselves.  Both scenarios have serious consequences.

For many of us, God has been working tirelessly to give us "hearts of flesh" - a heart like His.  A heart that breaks for this world's injustices.  A heart that longs to be part of His perfect plan for redemption.  That means feeling things the way His heart feels them.  A heart that experiences great joy is also one that knows deep pain.

I've been tempted this week, since losing Arturo, to keep myself busy.  To not talk about him.  To lose myself in distractions.  But God keeps whispering to me, "Lean in..."  Because he is not just God.  He is also a Father who knows deep pain.  A Father who watched His son suffer on a cross for people who didn't even know He was doing it for them.

So instead of busy and instead of avoidance and instead of distractions - I stop in the middle of my bedroom, a worship song blaring, my hands in the air and tears falling.  I talk about him with people who ask how I'm doing.  I scroll through his pictures on my phone.  I imagine him in the arms of Jesus, with a perfectly whole body.

Even when it hurts, I lean in.

(This is the song that will forever remind me of my little Arturo)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Day: I want it to be all about them

I stood washing dishes today and daydreamed about tomorrow - Mother's Day.  I fully intended on partaking in a day just for myself; avoiding the kitchen like the plague, leaving dirty dishes for Mike to wash, locking myself in my room and binge-watching Netflix.  I smiled briefly thinking about this glorious day all about me.

I was suddenly surprised when I felt a strange feeling.  It wasn't guilt or disgust but something rather gentle and loving.  I stopped washing the plate I was holding and stared at the wall in front of me - a little unsure of why my daydreams of alone time and sleeping in were suddenly interrupted by thoughts of waking early to make breakfast for my family and maybe spending the afternoon at a playground.

There is only One who can lovingly redirect a self-indulging plan into one that desires to have a day for me, be nothing about me...I knew this was the work of my Father.  So I listened intently as he spoke directly to my heart.

Many videos are going viral on Facebook right now in preparation for tomorrow.  Mom's all over the United States are claiming their day.  I've clicked on a few of these videos and laughed thinking of how right they are.  Yes, it would be totally awesome to sleep in, like, really sleep in without children banging on my door.  Yes, I would like to spend the day at the spa and remember for a few hours that I am more than just a wife and a mother.  Yes, I would love to lay around all day and watch reruns of Gilmore Girls while eating Reece's Peanut Butter cups, only emerging from my cave to indulge in the food that was prepared for me.  But as I stood there with a plate in my hand and the water running, I remembered just how much I treasure being a mom, and the little ones who made me one.

It is true that in many families, 364 days out of the year are all about the children, while one day a year its supposedly all about us.  But if we really take a look at that, we realize one very important thing; if our children think that our lives are all about them, that is not their fault, it's ours.  If there is anything that the life of Jesus teaches us it's that he never tired of serving others.  Even when he was exhausted and emotionally drained, he found something deep inside of him that allowed him to continue serving.  He didn't do it because it was what he was supposed to do or obligated to do - he did it because he knew serving others, served a bigger purpose.  Exhausted,  emotionally drained but still serving a bigger purpose?  Sound familiar?

My husband and I try very hard to teach our kids that this life is not about us.  It's not about our comfort or our agenda or our wants.  It is completely contrary to what this world tries to teach our kids - do what feels right to you, pursue your desires, get yours.  Sometimes we have glimmering moments where our kids "get it" and we feel like Super Parents but a majority of the time we fail miserably.  Which is why, as I was planning my day all about me I felt so very convicted; if on Mother's Day, a day supposedly celebrating a "job" deemed one of the most selfless any woman can have, I choose to make it all about me instead of all about the three absolutely beautiful creatures that gave me this job, what message am I sending them?  "Thanks for bringing me so much joy, making my life-long dream of becoming a mother come true - now, I don't want to see you for the entire day."  Yeah, sounds like a great plan.

I have learned more, grown more, and changed more since becoming a mother than any other stage in my life.  It has taught me unconditional love.  It has taught me how to dig deep in tough situations.  It has taught me how to find joy in the little things and not sweat the rest.  But above all, it has driven me closer to my Savior.  There is no occupation in this entire world that can bring the highest of highs or the lowest of lows, than parenthood.  And there is no one in this entire world that can bring us to our knees in prayer like our children.

I'm not saying that I hope a spa day or a binge-watching-Netflix-day aren't in my future, but this year, on Mother's Day I want my kids to know that on a day that is supposedly all about me, I want it to be all about them.

Landon Joseph, Nohemi Ruth and Levi Frank - I treasure you.  Thank you for being a huge part of making me the woman I am today.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Hope House T-shirt Fundraiser

So, many of you have asked about how to get your hands on a Hope House t-shirt.  Well, here's your chance!  In one week we will be putting in our first order of Hope House t-shirts.  If you want one, here's what you need to do.

1) Send an email to
2) Subject line: Hope House Shirt
3) In the body of the e-mail, put:
        Your name
        Your address
        Which t-shirt you want
        What size you want (they are unisex)
4) Make a payment via Paypal
    Make a payment by check - make checks payable to The Manna Foundation
    The Manna Foundation
    PO Box99472
    Louisville, KY 40269
    (Write Hope House Shirt in memo line)

Once your payment is received, your t-shirt will be mailed out the week of May 15th!

**We are raising these funds specifically to purchase a ministry truck for Hope House**

Thanks so much for your help!!!
Mike and Goody

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Brave, brave, Mamas

 photo E8271ED1-FBE1-4D4D-9BCE-BECB4B1673E5_zpsgbdehjzx.jpg Over the course of the last year, I have held seven orphaned babies in my arms.  I have changed their diapers, fed them bottles and held them while they slept.  The first baby I ever cared for was named Regina.  She had the most beautiful eyes with the longest eyelashes I have ever seen on a child.  She was smiley and cuddly with a calm demeanor.  When I picked her up she wrapped her hands around my arm and nestled into my chest.  She was so confused in this place with unfamiliar faces where her Mama was no where to be found.  She closed her eyes and fell asleep almost immediately.  I just held her in that hospital chair and fought with all my strength not to lose it in front of the staff.  I was so angry at her mom.  How on EARTH could you leave your child in a hospital?  What kind of heartless human being would you have to be to abandon a helpless baby?  I cried the entire way home.

Over the course of a few months, I spent hours every week just holding sleeping babies.  They craved touch so badly.  Almost instantaneously, each one would fall asleep shortly after I picked them up.  The hospital staff thought I had some crazy gift - I knew it was just their deep need to feel love again.  During those hours I had absolutely nothing to do except think, pray and try to make sense of this beautiful tragedy in my arms.  What started out as a very condemning heart toward these birth moms, changed over time to one of love and compassion for them.

A few weeks ago, we had kind of had a dramatic morning involving my daughter.  She picked a hot pepper from our garden and touched her face with the oils that were on her hands.  She immediately had an intense reaction and a lot of pain.  After a lot of screaming, terrified looks and a container of yogurt rubbed on her face, she finally calmed and fell peacefully asleep on the couch in our living room.  As angry (and frightened) as I was a few minutes earlier because she had disobeyed and touched the pepper I told her not to touch - I was quickly filled with complete love and adoration of her as she lay there sleeping.  She was mine and I loved her with this intense feeling that is absolutely unexplainable in human terms.  I was suddenly reminded of the babies in the hospital and the birth Moms who left them there.

I could never imagine being so desperate that I would abandon my child in a hospital.  I could never imagine a situation so destitute that I would think my babies could be cared for better by someone else but me.  I could never imagine that my child would be better off without me.  But for hundreds of thousands of Mamas around this world - that is their reality.

So often, people that hear what we are trying to do (Dominicans, Haitians and Americans alike) respond by saying something along the lines of "How selfish is that Mom?"  "How horrible!"  "I can't even imagine!"  But let me tell you something; abandoning your child in a hospital is one of the least selfish things a mother could do.

Have you ever lived in such poverty that you eat pies made out of dirt?  Have you ever watched one of your children die from starvation?  Have you even been tricked into a life of prostitution that is dangerous, not only for you, but for your children too?  Have you ever been addicted to cocaine because that's how your pimp keeps you under his control?  Have you ever been sexually abused as a child to the point that, as an adult, you think you are worthless and can't climb out of a hole of depression?  Chances are, most people reading this have never and will never experience any of these circumstances.  But for a huge percentage of women here in the Dominican and in many countries around the world - that is their reality.

Do I think one day these women up and decided in order to live the life they want they need to kick their kids to the curb?  Not in a million years.  Do I think that some of them have fought and tried and prayed for a way to get out of the life they are living, but can't?  Absolutely.  Do I think that in one of the most unselfish moments of their lives they decide their children deserve better, even if that means giving them away?  Oh my goodness, yes.

In a perfect world we wouldn't need to care for other mothers' children.  But we know this is not a perfect world.  And whether you know it or not, Mamas, we see you.  We love you.  We wish we could have found a way to support and love you and help you take care of your own children but we promise we won't let them be alone.  We will take care of your children.  We won't let you down.  We won't let the toughest choice you have ever had to make, be made in vain.

Brave, brave, Mamas.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

You Aren't Worth It

If you follow me on Instagram you know yesterday was a tough day.  And like most tough days, I seek out meaning in the hard things.  God has taught me a lot in the last two years about asking him questions that are hard.  Questions they didn't teach you to ask when you were growing up going to Sunday school.  Questions that most Christians avoid because they are afraid of the answers...or worse yet, no answer.

On my drive home from the hospital yesterday, I kept replaying the scene in my head over and over.  The sound of the hustle and bustle of doctors and nurses and moms going in and out of rooms.  Machines beeping.  The smell of bleach, as the cleaning lady had just finished mopping the floor.  A faint smell of coffee that one of the moms was drinking.  In my head, I was avoiding looking in his crib.  To feel the weight of that pain all over again.  To remember the heaviness in my stomach as I listened to the neurosurgeon talk us through his complications.  There were times during the conversation I tuned him out - I couldn't help but let my mind wander to the worst.  And as I held my little Baby A I asked myself the hard question: "Why am I even here?"

It may surprise you that the question rolled around in my head; believe me, it surprised me too.  But as I looked at this precious baby sleeping in my arms I knew it was a question I have struggled with since I met him two months ago.

You see, I have no obligation to be there with him.  From a ministry standpoint, it doesn't even totally make sense.  Children's Services has already told us we can't take him home.  We aren't registered as a "disabled baby orphanage."  I am also not a nurse.  I have no training in caring for a child born with hydrocephaly.  Plus, it's an hour of driving to only be able to be with him for two hours.  Believe me, I've used these arguments with myself when I struggled to not want to go to the hospital.

But there is always this pull.  A thought in the back of my mind.  If I don't go see him, who will?  If I don't go hold him, who will?  If I don't change his diaper and change his sheets and feed him, who will?  If I don't pray over him, who will?  If I don't show him with my actions and my words that he is worth it, who will?

It changes everything...those two words.  Worth it.  Is it worth it?  Is he worth it?  Is he worth the sacrifice of time?  Is he worth the emotional turmoil I feel when I hold him and when I have to leave him?  Is he worth sleepless nights trying to figure out how to get him home?  Because ultimately, all of these things we face everyday, all of the opposition, all of the tough situations, all of the painful circumstances that involve people we love and people we don't even know, all come down to one thing:  Are they worth it?

I first learned about worthiness from my parents when they found out my Mom was pregnant with my sister, Abbey.  After a simple prenatal test, it was discovered that Abbey would be born with Down Syndrome.  That day the doctor asked my mom when she wanted to schedule the termination of pregnancy.  My mom politely told her that because of her belief in God and her belief that Abbey is not a mistake she would be continuing with her pregnancy.  For the first five years of Abbey's life, my mom practically had to hold her every night, propped up against the wall, so that Abbey could breathe to sleep.  She had many bouts with respiratory illness and we almost lost her an several occasions.  Countless hours in physical therapy, occupational therapy and doctors appointments.  We received ridicule from many people, our friends would call her a retard and kids made fun of her at school.  But for those that took the time, even though sometimes it was hard and often uncomfortable for them to get to know our Abbey, they showed her, and us, that they understood she was worth it.  That even though she was different than them, had to do things differently, saw things differently - it made her even more worth it, not less.

So as I asked myself the hard question sitting in a public hospital holding a sick baby that wasn't even mine, Jesus responded to my question with his own..."Is he worth it?"  Because ultimately, this question that Jesus is asking all of us is about much more than a sick baby in a hospital.  This is just as much about a drug addict, a Muslim, a struggling single mom, a refugee from Syria, a homosexual, a Trump supporter or a Sanders supporter, an autistic boy, a family on welfare, an illegal immigrant, an abortion doctor, a soldier or a missionary in a foreign country.  The thing that connects all of these types of people is that they are worth it.  They are worthy of your friendship.  They are worthy of you knowing their story.  They are worthy of a seat at your dinner table.  They are worthy of the sacrifice of your time to be with them.  They are worthy of a fair chance to be educated.  They are worthy of love, care and affection.  They are worthy to be told they are worthy, that they are worth it.

Somehow, as Believers, we have mixed up Jesus' message.  None of this is about us.  It's not about our schedule or our routine or our career or our ten-year plan.  It's about showing this hurting world that they are worthy to be loved and that they are treasured by a Savior who died for them before they were even born.

It took a sick little baby to show me exactly what Jesus has been trying to show me my entire life.  I am complicated and obsessive compulsive and selfish and irrational and sinful; but I am worth it.  And so is Baby A.  And so are you.

Let's stop telling people whom we may not understand, "You aren't worth it."  And lets start doing the uncomfortable and the seemingly impossible to show them that they are.

We have THREE new runners!


"We are running for Hope because we have hope in Jesus Christ, and we know that we can't just keep that hope to ourselves. The bible says that true religion is caring for the widow and orphan, and we know that Hope House is going to care for, love, and provide a family for many orphans in Santiago. These children will not only have an earthly mother and father who love them, but will know the love of their Heavenly Father through the work of the Braisteds. It is an honor and blessing to partner with them through running."

If you are interested in joining our team, please e-mail Amanda at

Thursday, March 3, 2016

We have a new runner!


"I am running for Hope house to help raise funds to get orphans the care they so desperately need sooner than later. This is a tangible way for me to make a commitment to Hope House and the orphans of the Dominican. I am not naturally a runner so I feel this is a way to for me to not only accomplish a 5k, but as I am training it is a way for me to remember the Braisteds and Hope house during my runs."

Jennifer will be running Capturing Hopes 5K in Winston Salem, NC, on May 8th, 2016.

If you are interested in joining our team, please e-mail Amanda at or click on the "i Run for Hope" tab above for more information.