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