“Slow down; it’s not a race. There is no finish line.”

I’m over at Alamo City Moms Blog reminding you to slow down, there is no finish line.

The moment she feels her baby move inside her womb, she imagines the life her child will have.
She tries to picture the precious face of her baby and what color her hair will be.
She can’t wait to give birth, to get through the pregnancy and let her new life begin.
The mother-to-be rubs her belly, sighs, and says out loud, “Mom, I just want it to be over. Am I going to be pregnant forever? I can’t wait to finally have this baby!”
Her mom takes her by the hand and gently whispers, “Slow down, sweet girl; it’s not a race. There is no finish line.”

She’s exhausted from long nights and short naps and can’t remember the last time she slept for more than a few hours at a time.
The laundry is piled up, and the sink is full of dishes.
She plops herself in the glider, lifts her shirt, and begins to feed her newborn.
While her baby quietly breastfeeds for the millionth time that day, she twirls one of her daughter’s curls around her finger.
She sighs and thinks, This can’t be what my life is all about. When will she sleep through the night? I can’t wait until she’s able to walk and talk!
Then she recalls her mom’s gentle whisper: “Slow down; it’s not a race. There is no finish line.”

Read The Rest Here

There Is No Finish Line

Coparents, please don’t pack your child’s suitcase.

 

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A little girl stuffs the next few days worth of clothes into a small backpack and waits for her mom to pick her up.
Her mom adores her and she adores her mom. She looks forward to this day each and every week and can’t wait to spend then next few days with her mom.

When she gets to her mom’s house she sets aside her backpack, careful to make sure whatever comes out of it is washed, neatly folded, and returns with her to her other house. She’s silently taking inventory so neither parent is upset if clothes that might be accidentally taken to the other house don’t make it back. Over and over she’s heard her items refereed to as “mom’s stuff” or dad’s stuff”, even though she’s the one who wears them.

The older she gets the more she feels the divide between her homes. The older she gets the line becomes thicker and darker.

Unintentionally her parent have made her feel like visitor in her own home.

Unintentionally her parents have divided her into two different people.

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Coparenting can be tricky and because we are busy struggling with the big details, we often overlook the small ones.

It’s a balancing act.
It’s hard work.
It’s extremely sensitive.

One thing we can do for our kids who glide between two parents in two different homes is to not make them pack a bag. It tends to make them feel like a visitor, like when we arrive at a hotel pulling our luggage behind us. It never feels permanent.

Don’t pack a bag.

Whether it’s their own room or their own drawer, give them the security to know that, even when they aren’t there, there is still a place for them. Have everything they need for their time at your home. Don’t make them pack a bag. Don’t fight over whose clothes they are. No matter who purchased them, they’re her clothes. Give her the freedom.

Coparenting can be brutal  but one simple and easy act can minimize some of the stress for the child. A drawer full of clothes, a tooth-brush, her own hair brush, and an extra pair of shoes can give her a sense of security.

It can also eliminate some pointless arguments when an article of clothing doesn’t make it back to its original home. It’s one less thing that stands in the way of finding a way to healthy coparenting. There are already enough things to navigate through, remove this one.

 

A little girl gets dressed, brushes her hair,  and waits for her mom to pick her up.
Her mom adores her and she adores her mom. She looks forward to this day each and every week and can’t wait to spend then next few days with her mom.

When she gets to her mom’s house she grabs her pajamas out of her special drawer and cuddles up on the couch with her mom, settled in for movie night. She’s thankful to freely spend time with her mom.  Over and over she’s heard her parents remind her that both homes are hers and she is safe and wanted in each. She doesn’t even think about what clothes belong at which home, they’re her clothes and she knows her parents allow her to have her space and her things.

Intentionally her parents have made sure that both of their homes are hers and a place she belongs.

Intentionally her parents have found a way to be one united front so their little girl doesn’t have to stress over little details of two different homes.

Intentionally her parents are working their way towards healthy coparenting for the sake of their daughter.

I Thought My Son Was Safe In Our Car Until Britax Showed Up.

As a mom to 6 kids, I’ve seen my fair share of all things baby related. When our triplets were little we had three of every baby item, from bouncers to cribs to car seats. Our house has been filled with kid contraptions, jumpy things, and more for the last 16 years and our car has never been without at least one car seat.

I’m a resale girl so most of our stuff comes second-hand. I don’t really look for all the bells and whistles, I’m more of a price tag junkie. Give me a good deal! When it comes to toys, swings, and items like that, I always buy second-hand. When it comes to the car seats, the smart thing to do is always buy new.

That doesn’t mean that I would go to the big box baby store and grab the fanciest one, I always went middle of the road with a car seat that was simply a car seat and would keep my child buckled in. Sad to say, I never did much research, I just bought the one that look dependable.
Then I would go home, place it in the seat, dig my knee into it and pull the seat-belt and tightly as I possibly could. There was always a little wiggle to the seat but I just figured that was normal.

But then I was introduced to the Britax Advocate Clicktight ARB at an event for local moms held by Alamo City Moms Blog.

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Someone’s ready to break this box open and check out his new car seat.

 

On my way to the event I pulled into a car wash to vacuum out the Cheerios and crumbs from under my son’s car seat. I didn’t even have to unbuckle him, I just kind of tilted the car seat to the side a little and shoved the vacuum under his seat. Huge clue that he wasn’t exactly as safe as I had thought he was.

During the Britax event we were shown all the safety features and new technology that makes this new car seat the safest on the market. You can see all the amazing safety features here.

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Britax went above and beyond for us and removed our old car seats and replaced them with the new Britax Advocate Clicktight and I was seriously blown away at how secure the new seat is. Not only is it extremely easy to install, that thing doesn’t budge an inch and I didn’t even have to stand on top of it while pulling the seat belt. Once my son was buckled in I was amazed at how comfortable and snug he was. I almost can’t believe that I actually drove him around for two years in a car seat that wasn’t as safe as I thought it was.
When it comes to car seats, from now on, I will never sacrifice safety for price. When it comes to the safety of our children, the investment in the most safe car seat on the market is always worth it. This new car seat goes far beyond the standard or required safety features. Every detail has been carefully designed to make sure our children are as safe as the can possibly be. It can be used for your 5 pound infant or your 65 pound and is designed to be used rear facing and forward facing.

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Snug as a bug in a rug in his new Britax

My son was so excited about his car seat, almost as much as I was. Ever since we installed the Britax Advocate Clicktight, I have to announce the car seat like a game show host every time I go to buckle him in. “NEEEWWWWW CAR SEAT!”. I once made the mistake of simply opening the door and buckling him in and it led to an epic meltdown… until I did my game show voice introduction of the car seat. I wonder what the people in the Target parking lot thought about what was going on in my car.

A huge thanks to Britax for giving me peace of mind and a safe ride for my son and to Alamo City Moms Blog for hosting the wonderful luncheon.

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Your Blended Family Is Going To Fail.

Your Blended Family Is Going To Fail.

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Being a spouse can be difficult.
Being a parent can be hard.
Finding balance in family life and doing your best to get it right is rough and takes mountains of patience.

Even trickier than all of that is trying to pull it off in a blended family.

I tried to look up statistics on blended families and it became overwhelming. What it boils down to is that about 50% of American families are blended, meaning the adults in the family have children from previous relationships.

My family is blended. Well, my family is chopped, minced, and then blended. Even though we don’t use the terms step or half, the reality is that we have step parents, step kids, step siblings, half siblings and we even have my sister who we’re raising as our daughter.

We’re the poster family for blended families.

Being a blended family is tough work. You don’t just have to figure out how to make life inside your home work, you also have to figure out a way to make life between two or more homes work. Navigating co-parenting with another family is not for the faint of heart and is another post all together.

I’d like to say we get it right all the time and that love always trumps the hard times but I’d be lying.
I’d like to say grace is always given when we tread on bumpy terrain but I’d be lying.
I’d like to say that we never doubt the choices we’ve made but sometimes none of our choice make any sense at all and I wonder how the heck we got here in the first place.

Blending families takes more than most of us are equipped with and because of that the failure rate is through the roof.

The brutal reality of it all is that your blended family is going to fail and over and over again you’ll fail at trying to make it work.

You’ll fail at never having feelings of resentment.
You’ll fail at swallowing your pride.
You’ll fail at relinquishing some control and allowing another person discipline your child.
You’ll fail at showing compassion and grace.
You’ll fail at keeping jealousy under wraps.

You’re family will fail at not being territorial inside your own home.
You’re family will fail at making love completely equal between all its members.
You’re family will fail at pretending it’s easy.
You’re family will fail at wanting to make it work.

But through all the rough spots you’ll find immense beauty.

There will be the moments where the light shines through the cracks.
There will be the moments when the broken pieces will come together to make a stained glass window where others will look through and see nothing but beauty. They’ll see all the different colors, shapes and sizes and stare in awe at how it all came together so perfectly.

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There will be the times when you watch your spouse love on and parent your child as their own and it will bring up a love so deep you can’t even imagine how it contains itself inside your heart.

There will be a time when your spouse’s child kisses you and tells you that they love you and you’ll wonder how you ever lived your life without them.

There will be times when your children walk hand in hand with your spouse’s children and you’ll know that you are teaching them to love far beyond any boundaries.

Your blending family is going to fail.
They’re going to fail over and over but they’re also going to prove that love and grace can outshine any darkness.
They’re going to show others how broken things can be mended, maybe not back to the way they were but to a way that lets the light shine through the cracks and heal the hurts.

I’m never going to be your mama, but…….

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I know I’m never going to be your mama. I know I won’t be the one sitting on the edge of your bed and asking about your new boyfriend or helping you study for your big test. I know I won’t be there to press a cool wash cloth to your forehead when you have the flu. I know I’m not your first mama — the one you loved so much who died too early and too suddenly for some of you and the one who was just a little girl herself and couldn’t handle the pain after your daddy was murdered and so she ran away. I know I don’t look like you and we don’t share the same beautiful brown skin that you wear so well. I know we don’t even speak the same language —- you with the Ateso words that drip from your tongue and your new, broken and adorable English.

In short….I know I’m not enough. I’m not enough to heal up those gaping wounds or fill the gaps that make you gasp in pain. I know, baby girl. And yet here I stand — offering all that I am. I don’t understand it anymore than you do. I don’t understand how when I met you for the first time, you crawled into my soul. I don’t understand how out of the thousands of Ugandan children that I know how you 6 beautiful girls have somehow become mine. I don’t understand why I love you with a mama’s love. I don’t understand the tears that fall down my cheeks even now as I write about you. But it’s true. It’s real. It might not be much and certainly not enough, but I offer you my mama heart to love you all of your days.

6 girls. Ranging in age from 7 to 16. All motherless.

Many months ago  I stood in an auditorium full of adoptive and foster parents who were lifting their hands in worship before their God, many of them openly weeping for the hard journeys they have walked and I began to silently weep. I had just gotten back from Uganda where I had been wrecked all over again. Many of you have read about the day Beatrice crawled into my soul and broke my mama heart….but now other girls were being added. I dropped to my knees and pressed my forehead against the chair in front of me as I wept for these 6 precious girls – these motherless ones who had lost too much in their young lives. These girls who were considered the heads of their households at ages where kiddos should be complaining about school work and not worrying about feeding their siblings. I wept for each of them and told God I didn’t understand this love I had for them. Love for Ugandans….that I understood. There are 7,615 of them in the program I run and I love every one of them fiercely. But this was different. This was a mama’s love. But that couldn’t be. I was not their mother and adoption isn’t even an option for them. And yet the love and the tears (because my dear, doesn’t love come with tears) continued. In that still small space between my gasping cries while I tried to catch my breath, I heard Him “You are their mother, Brandi. You are. They don’t have a mama and you are here. Why do you run from it? Will you choose to be a mama in ways that don’t make sense here on earth? Will you accept the mantle of motherhood? For these girls and for many, many more in many, many ways. The motherless are waiting for mothers to step into the gap.” My breath caught in my throat once again and tears came afresh as I offered my hands and my heart up to
my God and croaked out a quiet, “yes.”

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You see, I wonder if motherhood is so much bigger than I’ve ever thought. I’ve seen it expanded over the years already, but I wonder if I’m just scratching the surface of how big and beautiful motherhood really is? I birthed my first child nearly 12 years ago and I thought I understood the heart of a mama. My second child came along 20 months later, expanding that vision just a bit. 18 months after that, I welcomed a 2.5 year old into my heart and my home from a war-torn country. “Oh now I really get motherhood,” I thought. Experiencing motherhood as an adoptive mama taught me how I could easily love children another woman had borne.

But this? This is a whole new concept that is blowing my mind. It’s motherhood from a kingdom perspective.

Because we all need to be mothered. There are motherless all around us just begging to be mothered. Children and adults alike who never had a mama who could really, really mother them for one reason or another, who crave the ministry of motherhood. I remember hearing a friend of mine who had grown up with tremendous abuse and trauma tell me once, “Even at 40 years old, I wish I could be adopted. I just want to have a mom and dad so deeply. Is that silly?” NO! That’s not silly! It’s how we are made!!! The motherless of all ages around the world are asking with no words, but from the deepest, loudest places of their souls to be mothered. And it’s time we let motherhood break out of some boxes and stepped up to the plate.

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For me, offering my mama heart to the world and accepting the mantle of motherhood is going to look like choosing to love and be mama to 6 precious girls who will never live in my house. It will mean skype conversations when I’m in the US and snuggles in a hotel room bed on the weeks I am in Africa. It will mean me knowing that while I cannot offer much and certainly not enough, I can offer what I have. I can offer to love them fiercely, pray for them devotedly and do all I can to provide for Beatrice, Rhoda, Leah, Auma, Anyait and Mary. It will also mean mothering people when I walk women through their deepest trauma memories here in the US. It will mean sitting on my couch with grown women who may even be older than me and holding them and speaking to and loving on the little girl inside of them who needs to be spoken sweetly to.

This is what it looks like for me….but it may look different for you. This post may have stirred up in you a deep longing to be mothered. Oh sweet one, I wish I was sitting next to you and could hold you tight and speak gentle words to those wounded places. I pray God will provide a friend who will mother those places in your soul. For others, this post may have stirred your mama heart. You may or may not be a physical mama here on earth, but your mama heart – the heart in you that is created to reflect the image of God as mama (because he is both mother and father and in Him both exist). I encourage you to offer that mama heart to a hurting world. I don’t know what that
will look like or who He will bring you to mother, but I trust that when you offer what you have even when it feels like not much, it will make a kingdom difference. It might look different from you ever imagined, you might mother friends who are your own age or teenagers from your neighborhood or you might pursue the courageous adventure of becoming a foster mama (!) —I don’t know! No matter what, I wonder if you will accept the mantle of motherhood and offer His mother heart to the world.

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I little bit about Brandi Lea

Brandi Lea is a single mama to 3 amazing humans – 1 adopted from Liberia + 2 biological. She is the founder / executive director of 3 non-profits: She’s Worth It (a campaign to fight human trafficking), SoulCare (pouring into non-profit leaders) and Beauty for Ashes Uganda (working with single mamas across the Teso region of Uganda). She is absolutely passionate about promoting justice and championing value. She spends her days raising money for mamas in Uganda, encouraging non-profit leaders and walking with dear women who find themselves healing from trauma — all from the comfort of her home in beautiful Southern Colorado. She loves healing and fighting for beauty and hopes you will do the same.

Instagram: @brandilea + @beautyforashesuganda FB: Brandi Lea + Beauty for Ashes Uganda beautyforashesuganda.org + brandilea.me + soulcareretreats.org

This is what social media and texting are doing to our “selfie” generation.

 

I want to say the duck face picture days are behind us but I’m not sure if that’s a safe statement yet. We still have the mouth wide open, peace sign pics but I haven’t seen a duck face pic in a while so I’m hopeful.

I’m not one for selfies. They actual freak me out and when I see my teenager take 75 selfies during the 3 minute ride to church, I completely lose my cool. She says she has to get it just perfect.
She once tried to get me in one of her selfies so I shot the camera the bird in an effort to make it unsendable (I know, I know, there’s no need for chastising comments) …it ended up being sent anyways and now she’s the kid who’s mom flipped off the camera.

Seriously.

Snapchat is nonstop in our house. We have two teenagers that use snapchat 26 hours a day.

What’s wrong with these kids?

How did we raise a generation of selfie taking narcissist who are constantly sending their friends pictures of themselves. I told my daughter to send something else instead of a selfie to her friends on snapchat and she looked at me like I had 2 heads. “Like what? What else would I send?”

I was speechless.

Last week one of our teens missed a week of school and ended up in the ER because she was so sick. I have no doubt that on Monday morning ,when her friends realized she wasn’t at school, they started snapchatting. I’m pretty sure they all got a selfie of my sick child with puffy eyes and pale face.

Oh my God, make it stop.

But then something strange started happening.

The first day she was home sick the doorbell rang mid-afternoon and it was one of her selfie taking friends with a milk shake for my daughter. She knew my daughter couldn’t eat because her throat was so sore so she brought her a milk shake. She drove to Sonic and spent her own money on a milkshake for my daughter. Even if it seems like the smallest act of kindness, it’s kind of huge in the teen world.

They next day the door bell rang and it was the delivery guy from Panera Bread. Her “oh my gosh mom, stop calling him my boyfriend, you’re so embarrassing” called in an order for her and had it delivered to our house. For real, this sweet young man placed a lunch order for my daughter and had it sent to our house. What? Who does that? I’m sure she snapchatted him a thank you. I called my husband to tell him he needed to step up his game because this kid just schooled him!

The following day the doorbell rang again and when I opened the door, there stood a pizza delivery guy. Her BFF (who doesn’t even live in our city) called in a pizza and had it delivered to my daughter. He handed me a personal pizza, fries and a drink and let me know that everything down to the gratuity was covered.

I called her mom later on in the day to tell her thank you and her mom had no idea that her daughter had sent mine lunch. There was no glory in it for her friend, she was simply and silently being kind.

The next day we landed in the ER and as she laid in the hospital bed I watched her phone go off nonstop with friends checking on her. I also watched her snapchat pictures of her IV, monitor, socks, and whatever else was in that room.

On the last day of the week, her “oh my gosh mom, stop calling him my boyfriend, you’re so embarrassing” and her best guy friend showed up to our house during their lunch hour with hamburgers from our favorite fast food joint. The three of them sat outside and had lunch together. They kept her company and gave her several reasons to smile after a long and isolated week.

 

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I have no explanation for the scrunchies in their hair or why he has the order number on his head. I can tell you that they’re the sweetest boys just being silly to make my daughter smile and that’s what matters.

 

 

These kids proved me wrong over and over all week-long. It was a humbling experience to say the least.  Maybe all this technology, snapchat, texting and selfies aren’t making them all crazy, self-centered bullies. It’s giving them access to each other in ways that we didn’t have growing up and maybe that’s not always a bad thing. I know that sometimes social media is abused and used in hateful ways but I’ve learned this week that sometimes it’s used in the sweetest, most generous ways.

When I was growing up and friend missed a week of school due to illness we really didn’t do much about it. We might have called them from our Swatch phone after dinner to see if they were okay and if we were really cool we added a friend to the conversation by using three-way calling. But other than that we kind of just let their parents handle it and waited for them to return to school.

The instant access these kids had to each other over the week gave them the ability to show compassion to my daughter in ways we couldn’t when we were their age. It gave them ways to love on her while she was home sick. It gave them the ability to show her that they cared and that she was not only loved but she was missed. I want to call each one of their parents and tell them thank you and well done.

We don’t give this generation enough credit. These are good kids doing their best to navigate through a world that has instant access to everything and every event the moment it happens. Their lives are being played out through social media in real-time right in front of all of our faces. Teenaging is hard stuff right now but they’re actually doing a pretty good job at making it work for them.

If you have little ones and are terrified of the teen years please let me tell you that the best is yet to come. These kids are the coolest and even through their struggle in trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in, they can be surprisingly awesome.  It’s so amazing watching these kids grow into compassionate and generous young adults, even if we have to see most of it via snapchat. .

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This is the most normal pic I could get them to take.

 

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Snapchat would have come in handy here. Next time they’ll let each other know what they’re wearing before he picks her up and they’re accidentally wearing matching outfits. I added this pic purely for my enjoyment and because it’s adorable. .

I’ve never fully understood redemtption until my father took his own life.

 

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If you’ve never seen redemption, this is what it looks like.

I’ve never fully understood redemption until my father took his own life. What I thought he stole from us that day turned out to be a gift.
Because he made the choice to leave us behind on that rainy Monday, this precious little girl now lives in my home.

My husband and I have been given the gift of parenting my teenage sister. We’ve been blessed with loving her through her pain and watching as the corners of her mouth gradually sneak up to her cheeks to form a smile.

Her story was set to be told by a very different narrator.
The road she traveled on was rough terrain.

But redemption came that day.

God’s redeeming my story by allowing me to parent her in the absence of our father.
God’s redeeming her story by allowing her to get a daily glimpse of our father through my eyes.

If you’ve never seen redemption, this is what it looks like.

The day I testified against my father in court and how I was taught to stand in the gap.

“Mrs.Curry, isn’t it true that…”

I almost couldn’t believe that I was where I was. Sitting in the witness stand ,while my whole body shook violently, I calmly and honestly answered the question that my very own father presented to me in the middle of his custody hearing for my minor siblings. He represented himself in his custody case. Bad move.

The result of me being on the stand left my father with very little time with my siblings and every second of it supervised. I’m not happy about that but it had to be done. It was my responsiblity to protect them and they needed to be protected from our fathers mental and emotional abuse. It was one of the worst and best things I’ve ever done. After so many years of torture from my father, I was happy to take the chance away from him to do it to my siblings but he was still my dad and watching him struggle broke my heart.

The hardest part was the gap it left for the kids.

Growing up, I had the same gap.

My father was an abuser on many levels. Even though he never laid a hand on us, the mind games were just as painful. Those mind games and his in and out presence in my life left a gap. A gap where a father was supposed to be. A huge gap that presented pain and heartache that I would have otherwise never known.

But my life has been full of strong people and unbelievable blessings. I’ve always had people who have stepped in and stood in the gap.

My mom worked tirelessly to provide financially. She showed up at every school event. She made sure I was always smiling and did her best to keep me on the right track.She made sure I was a responsible person, had a good work ethic and was kind and compassionate.

She stood in the gap.

My brother made sure to do the things a father should have done.. He changed the oil in my truck, rebuilt the engine, changed the brake pads and more. He threw the hammer down on me when I was out of line and reminded me to stand up for myself in all circumstances. He comforted me through my pain on more than one occasion and stood up for me daily. He taught me how to be tough, helpful and funny

He stood in the gap.

I’ve been blessed with people who stand in the gap for me. People who stand in the gap of my father’s absence. People who show up and do whatever it takes to make sure I’m not only okay but that I thrive in life. People who pray for me when I’m too hurt to whisper my own prayers.

Now it’s my turn to stand in the gap where my father should be.

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My husband and I will stand in the gap for my 16-year-old sister and welcome her into our home as one of our own. We’ve made a promise to God that we will do our best to be an example of compassion and grace. We will do our best to provide tough love and discipline. We will insist that she just be kid and only have the responsibilities a child should have and nothing more.

We will have the discipline to stand in the gap.

We will provide dinner every night at 6 and breakfast every morning at 6:30.
We will provide a quiet place to do her homework and a safe place to sleep.
We will provide a guaranteed ride to school and promise to be waiting outside when the last bell rings.
We will provide smiles and hugs on a daily basis and firm words when needed.

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We will have the courage to stand in the gap.

We are family. This is what we are called to do. If only for the blink of an eye, a moment in time, we will be a solid rock for her to lean on.

We will have the strength to stand in the gap.

When she crumbles in sadness over our dad’s suicide, we will pull everything from us to remind her of the love he had for her and the love she has now through our family. When she cries for what has been stolen from her childhood, we will find a way to ease the pain. When she stumbles on the stones thrown in front of her, we will reach out our hands to catch her fall.

We will have the dedication to stand in the gap.

I had brave people in my life that, in all circumstance, stood bravely in the gap for me. Today I pray that we have what they had and can be brave enough to stand in the gap for my little sister.

We will stand in the gap.

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When A Hungry Girl Crawls Into Your Soul. Because Of Beatrice!

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Today Brandi is telling her story about Beatrice. Oh Brandi, I love you.

They wrapped her tightly to my back with fabric, like I was a real African mama. She didn’t know me from Adam and yet she snuggled her little face against my back and my heart soared with joy. I didn’t know in this moment what this little girl would do to my heart, how she would rip me open to a new depth of love and a new pain that would take my breath away.

Her name? Alaso Beatrice.

Even now, I whisper it with reverence and wonder if you will read it with the care it deserves. She is beyond special. She is the epitome of the Biblical phrase “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

After they placed her on my back for a few hours of good, solid African mama work – I slipped her out of the fabric and brought her to my hip to hold. It is here that I first saw her dimples. Dimples for days and a shy little smile that will make your heart soar. Oh, I was in love. Just like that. Head over heels.

Don’t get me wrong, I love fairly easily. I have a son adopted from Liberia, West Africa and, as any adoptive mama will tell you, it’s not as hard as some might think to love another child as your own. I have traveled to Uganda multiple times. I run a non-profit there (Beauty For Ashes Uganda – you can pause and go like it on FB if you need too ). I know what it is to love the Ugandan people and to have your heart fall a little more in love every time. But this? This was different from any time before.

This hungry little girl crawled into my soul and settled there, staring up at me with her dimples, shy smile, and sparkly eyes. My soul felt something that can only be called holy and sacred.

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I spent the rest of my day in her village, Odukai, with her on my hip. She was my little shadow. We worked together and I snuggled into her little neck, sending her into fits of giggles whenever I had the chance. I painted her little nails, along with 100 others, and watched the little girls beam at their new pretty hands and feet. I even left her dig through my backpack, looking for snacks. I shared my banana with her and handed her any food that was handed to me.

After we spent time in the garden, digging up the cassava and piling it all together for all of us mamas to peel, I set Beatrice down next to me. She immediately reached for the sharpest blade she could find and I gasped, “Oh sweet girl, little ones shouldn’t play with knives.” She looked at me, a tad incredulous and grabbed a piece of cassava and quickly peeled it. The other mamas laughed and one leaned over to me and said, “It looks like she’s been preparing her own meals for a while.”

I sat back stunned ~ in both wonder and heartbreak. Beatrice is four. Four-year-olds shouldn’t play with knives…not just because it’s not safe, but because four-year-olds shouldn’t be responsible for their own meals. Littles shouldn’t know how to peel
cassava, or anything else, because they should be too busy playing to worry about making sure their bellies are fed.

Beatrice is four, but she’s the size of a two-and-a-half-year-old. Just a little peanut that fits perfectly on my hip or snuggled into my back or on my chest for a quick little nap.

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As best as we can put together her story, here’s what we believe has happened: Beatrice’s sweet mama was just a young teenager when she had her first babe. Five years later, Beatrice was born. Sometime when Beatrice was a babe, her father was poisoned and her mama ran away. Beatrice and her sister went to live with their grandma. Grandma, however, had late stage AIDS and was not doing well. From what her great aunt told us, at this point, Beatrice almost starved to death. This thought alone is so unimaginable to me that I can barely write the words. The one who my heart adores almost starved to death, while my babies beg for snacks every hour and eat until their tummies are more than full every single day. A mzungu (white person) came along and took her to a hospital or care center of some sort for a time, nursing her back to health before bringing her back to Grandma.

Now, Grandma lives in Odukai village. She is still very, very sick and can’t work. From what we have heard, Beatrice lives there along with a few other kids (possibly 10 total). Since Grandma can’t work, the kids go from house to house (mud hut to mud hut) asking neighbors for food or if they can have a piece of cassava. No worries, they can peel it themselves. Sometimes, they find enough food. Sometimes they don’t. A mama from the village told Rita (our field director) that sometimes Beatrice sleeps on the path on the way back home because she’s so weak.

The day I heard this news, I was on my way to a meeting at Chick-fil-A. I got into line and when the young man asked for my order, I wept. Here I was, eating lunch while Beatrice went hungry.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do with a heart that weeps over the hungry. Every night when my family sits down to pray over our dinner, I get choked up, “Father, thank you for this food. Please provide for those who are hungry. Amen.” And my children and I look at each other and whisper, “especially Beatrice.” All I know is that this heart, this broken, weeping heart of mine cannot stop at crying for the hungry. If I simply cry that there are children who are hungry, I will have done nothing to ease their hunger. My tears over their trauma must move me to action.

Here’s what I know: I know that Beatrice lives in Odukai village. We are asking the mamas of our women’s cooperative in Odukai to “adopt” Beatrice’s Grandma and allow her into their cooperative even though she has very little to offer to the group. We are brainstorming what needs to be done for Beatrice and the other children who live with Grandma. We may treat their family like we do the “child headed
households” in our program and provide food for them every month. While we agree that mamas should be empowered and given the tools to feed themselves, we do not believe that children should have to work.

So here’s the plan to help make that happen!

I want to help Beatrice’s whole village in her name. The precious mamas of Odukai Peace Group (the name they have given their cooperative of 45 single mamas and widows) need to send their kids to secondary and vocational school and can’t afford it themselves. They need another $1099 to send their kids to school on June 15th ($40 for secondary school, $100 for vocational school). They also have another 6 kids that want to start University in August — at a cost of $500 per student. So $1099 is due June 15th and another $3000 is due August 1st.

Do you think we could come together and help the kids in Beatrice’s village in her name? I want to be able to go to Odukai and tell the mamas that because of our sweet little Beatrice, people all across the world rose up to help her village.

My hope is to endear our sweet little Beatrice to every mama in that group so they will want to rise up and help even more! Do you think we can do it? Would you join me? For Beatrice. To honor her and the pain she has gone through and to bring blessing from that horror?

You can donate at www.beautyforashesuganda.org Put “because of Beatrice” in your comments. Total, for all of the children in our program, we still have to raise $6,856 — so please note in your comments what you would like your money to go towards if Odukai is covered. It can go towards the other school children, or to the fund to help Beatrice’s family and others like hers.

**PS: I promise to tell you what we find out about our little Beatrice and her family and what our staff decides is the best way to help. Together, we will make sure this sweet little precious one doesn’t go hungry again.

If you’d like to share these stories or photos, please do so only with the intent to allow others a window to this world and to allow their tears an opportunity to make a difference. You can use #beacauseofBeatrice if you would like.

Far beyond my expectations. The gift God is letting us borrow.

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Stiles and her BFF from New Orleans. They made each other friendship bracelets.

 

Our oldest daughter turns 15 today and never in a million years would I have been able to dream up the kind of young woman she has come to be.
We face all the normal teenage things like eye rolls and extreme air exhale but when it comes to teens we have it pretty good.

My sweet husband constantly reminds me that if all we have to deal with from our teen is eye rolling then we are doing good.

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Stiles and her stepdaddy. We have huge blended family blessings.

 

This sweet young lady has a heart that is fully focused on God and the works He wants her to do. She effortlessly lights up every room she enters and has a level of compassion that just can’t be measured.

She seriously lacks dance skills and like to sings loudly off-key in the car just to grate our nerves but we love her anyways.

She chose to spend her spring break on a mission trip being the hands and feet of Jesus. All week we got texts from her that broke our hearts wide open and filled us with pride. She gave her heart away so many times on that trip and we cried each time she showed us a picture of her and her new boyfriends.

 

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He asked if he could be her boyfriend and she gladly accepted. Heart of gold.

 

This precious child is an amazing big sister. She’s the best fort builder in history and should get paid a teacher’s salary for how much school she plays with her sister. My husband and I have taken a back seat to her little brother who she is borderline obsessed with and we are completely fine with that. She actually forces us to go on date nights and offers up her mad babysitting skills free of charge.

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And the best big sister awards goes to….STILES!!

 

Every night she comes to us and reminds us how much she loves us and every single time by heart skips a beat.

I don’t know why God has such incredible faith in us that he would lend us this precious child to raise but we will never complain.  Our promise to God is to always raise her in His word and teach her that doing for others is what we are called to do. We pray to be examples of unconditional love, true forgiveness and unwavering compassion.  We know our time with her is a gift and we never want to take it for granted.  She’s on borrow from God and we simple want to do our best to honor His gift.

Happy Birthday to our amazing young lady. You are one in a million!