Sandy knows without any doubt that she has discovered her place of greatest calling for the second half of her life – right there in the rocking chair with the baby of a drug addict. “This little baby had just been taken off the Methadone … and he was suffering horribly,” she says. “As long as you were holding him he was happy, but if you put him down, even to change his diaper, he screamed.
“I just pulled up a chair, picked him up and held him for about three hours. He slept peacefully in my arms, and it was an amazing moment because his ability to rest in my arms was such a picture of my ability to rest while holding him. It was like both of us were being fed, because all I wanted in the world was a peaceful place. … So I’m sitting there holding this little guy, knowing that this is the only real peace that he’s going to have that day because there isn’t anybody else to hold him.”
Years earlier, Sandy was rocking her own premature baby when she realized this was her area of passion. As she sat and rocked her son, she noticed there was no one to hold and love most of the other babies in the NICU. Their mothers had been discharged, and most had returned to work. The nurses could feed them and change them but did not have time to hold them.
Once her own kids had grown, Sandy realized that “raising kids was fun and significant, but they don’t need me like they used to. So who am I going to be now that I am all grown up?” As she explored opportunities with preemie babies, almost every door closed on her until she and a friend arrived at Ben Taub’s high-risk unit. She quickly realized that these were the babies who really needed what she had to offer. These were the abandoned babies, often the children of young drug addicts who come in, have their babies and then disappear.
“Looking back on it, I can see that God had been working on me the whole time,” Sandy says. “But until I went to the place where He wanted me to go, He wasn’t just going to let me get safe and comfortable in an environment that didn’t need me.” Sandy goes to Ben Taub Hospital almost every Friday to rock the babies, feed the babies, pray for the babies and hopefully intersect in the lives of those young moms.
Along the way, she’s prepared the path for other women to do the same. She’s organized donations of rocking chairs, furniture and other wish-list items for the unit. In fact, her work helped the hospital build an apartment suite inside the unit so that those young moms don’t have to vanish in the middle of the night. They can live with, and learn to care for, their babies while still under the supervision of the nurses. She and her friends are providing an alternative, some encouragement and support to moms in one of Houston’s most impoverished areas.
A decade ago, she would have become jaded and depressed working in such circumstances, but she’s developed a faith that God’s at work even in the most horrific of situations. “There is hope in everything,” she says. “If He really is who I believe He is, there’s no end to the hope that God’s got it well in hand. If you look at the statistics and go read your Newsweek, chances are this baby has no life ahead of him. I just choose not to believe that.” Sandy regularly prays that God will pull the babies out of their bad circumstances and provide for them in ways that no one can foresee. She sees hope in the hopelessness. “I’ve seen it happen and I know it could, so I’m just going to pray that it will and know that He’s in charge,” she says. “As long as I’m where He asked me to be, and I’m praying the prayers, He’s going to honor that. I just have a confidence about it.”
As Sandy’s rocking chair ministry drew attention outside her circle of friends and family, she and her husband David, a successful attorney, began seeing the greater significance of her obedience. “In the beginning, it was ‘another one of those little projects that Sandy has,’”
Sandy reflects. “I think David’s come to realize that beyond the shadow of a doubt this is God’s calling, and I’m doing something important. Both of us have been on that road of learning. All I do is rock babies. It’s totally feeding me, and it’s so easy to do.” Too often, Sandy says, people do nothing because they believe what they have to offer simply isn’t good enough. In doing that, they might miss out. “I had to be available and obedient,” she says. “I didn’t have to have a million dollars.”