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

13275779_10154173960718373_211384299_n

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.”

13292781_10154173960583373_649010775_n

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.

13275709_10154173960573373_2065810257_n

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.

13271955_10154173979068373_57582060_o

 

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

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

11150704_10153298682283373_2128625552335377813_n

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.

10012130_10153298690498373_1731100028369523347_o

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.

11232286_10153298690318373_433800350058656154_o

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.