Friday, August 13, 2010

Finding Grace In Her Smile: A Five Part Story

Click these links to read Parts 1, 2, and 3:

Finding Grace In Her Smile: A story of discovering love and grace when all seemed lost.

{Part 5: Then She Smiled}

Guilt had kicked in.  The last two days we remained at the Ranch packing up is all a blur to me.  I went numb and shut down.  I remember very little.
We trekked the 1,500 miles back to Southern California and were beside ourselves.  We had just downsized from a family of 10 to a family of 3.  We had just moved out of a 3,500 square foot house to a whopping 300 square foot room.  My parents had no more rooms left in their home so they emptied out their family room, put up a temporary wall with a bed quilt for a door and we moved in: All three of us.
We had very little money to our name, no insurance, no jobs, a lot of bills and a heart full of guilt.  Jon kicked it into gear real quick.  He started applying for everything under the sun.  I, on the other hand was quite content in my jammies.  I was too numb to do anything.
My sister was staying with my parents for a couple of months while her visa was in process so she can go back to Australia.  She helped take care of my baby girl while I struggled with finding passion and joy.  Something switched in me.  The guilt continued to grow and fester and I started to blame my little girl for taking me away from the boys I loved.  “If I just hadn’t gotten pregnant, all of this wouldn’t have happened.”  I started listening to the lies that I was just like some of the parents that had abandoned them before.  People would ask why we left and assumed that because I had my own child, I no longer wanted other peoples.  I struggled with fighting against what I knew was right, with the guilt that was taking over my heart. 
I would go to bed at night and as soon as all the lights were out and all was quiet, I would see their faces.  Their tears.  I would see Boo’s face of confusion as he saw everyone else in the room hugging and crying.  He was too young to understand that the man and woman he would come to feel safe and comforted with would leave him and never return.  The images haunted my mind and fueled the guilt.
I slowly pulled away emotionally from my little girl, but my husband and sister were there to pick up the pieces.
As days went on, and my baby girl started to grow and blossom, her personality started to shine with smiles.  I remember her first real smile.  It was beautiful.  There was nothing special going on, just the face of her mommy and daddy standing over her watching her every move, and she smiled.  And my resentment towards her turned to blame towards me.  What have I just done?
Not only had I just abandoned my seven boys, I had just blamed an innocent 1 month old baby for it.  It was then I hit rock bottom.
The blame had now turned to me.  I felt like a failure.  I had failed the boys.  I failed my husband.  I failed my brand new baby girl.  This went on for a long time. 
Many people close to me probably have their own take on what happened.  Each in a different way.  I know so because I received many emails, some supportive, some not so much.  I had hurt a lot of feelings during this process and for that I am greatly sorry.
Each day was challenging.  I was fighting from all different angles.  I woke up each day and fought the urge to wallow in my self -pity.  I fought the lies that I wasn’t a good mother.  It took every fiber of my being to do what needed to be done.  But it was the night that robbed me the most.
 This is why I co-sleep.  At night I would refuse to close my eyes, ‘cause when I did, my memories would take over and ‘cause me to break into tears and the guilt would overwhelm me.  My husband was very supportive, but he needed his full nights rest (he didn’t get any responses to his applications so he just worked as a laborer in construction) and my midnight sobs were keeping him up, so he was anxious for me to get over this struggle pretty quick.  So I would go, grab my sleeping babe in her crib, and cuddle with her until I fell asleep.
Days started to get easier.  But I still didn’t feel whole.  So I started writing.  I wrote to my little girl.  I purchased a $2.00 journal from Marshalls and wrote on the first page:

To My Beloved Daughter,
Josselyn!  May you
Forever know how much you
Are loved.

Because I couldn’t show her yet in full, I committed to showing her in words.  I wrote to her our story.  I wrote to her how much I love her.  I wrote to her about her seven brothers miles away.  I wrote their stories.  And with each entry, I was able to think back and cry a little less.  So I was on my way to recovery.
I’m still not completely there yet.  But I’m able to let go.  I can look at those sweet memories from last year and the previous year with more joy than I did the previous day.
I see her smile at me and wonder how such a little one can look at me with such innocence and grace after all I have done to her.  And she still loves me.  My, what a God we serve.    
I am not perfect.  Goodness, many can attest!  I don’t strive to be.  I have been shown such a grace and forgiveness in my life that the hurt and pain I have put people through and I have put myself through will not win over me.  So, as we continue to learn to live in this new life we’ve made of the mess I created, grace abounds. 
I am learning daily what grace really means and each time she smiles at me, I see forgiveness all over again.    



  1. Dear Jhen,

    I bet if your mother were reading this she would be bawling her head right now, while still trying to smile really big because she knows the God has been answering her prayers for all her children. Inasmuch as she wants to solve all your problems herself, I bet she knows that God does a better job on His own, while she stays on her knees!

    I bet she's a proud mommah, but she probably won't gush about it too much so you wouldn't get embarrassed and argue with her.

    I bet when she's finished reading this, she would want to give the link to all her friends so they, too, can be blessed a by a story of grace in a smile.

    Oh, and after reading Part Five, she might change her name to MuddyMommah.

  2. I know how hard it is to write out all of your emotions, but it must be theraputic at the same time.

    I did the same today. I wrote out my emotions on my insecurities, guilt, and past hurts. It felt great to get them out and let them go

    If you read my post you'll get why I say to you - It may just be August 13th for you too. Time to let the guilt go, and let the grace in.

    Big Fat Mama

  3. I very much appreciate this story, and your willingness to share it I know I said that before- but I truly am inspired by your strength. It takes a lot of strength to take on 7 boys, to have your own child, to deal with the things you've dealt with following her birth. But I am confident that you will make peace with the decision you've made. God will take care of his children, all of them. And that means you, too!

  4. I cried so hard as I read this whole thing. I am glad that I was able to read all five post at once because I don't think I could have waited in between. You have such a beautiful spirit and I am so glad to have to have (virtually) met you. I have a lot more to say about this but I'll leave it at that for now. Thank you for sharing your story!

  5. I had to come back and write one more comment, because I've been thinking about your story since I read your last post of your story last night...

    Max Lucado once said that one of his daughters played volleyball. He would go to all of the games and he said he loved and cared about all of the girls on the team, but the one he treasured was the one who came home with him at the end of the game, and the one who called him Father, his own daughter. He used this story to reflect how God feels about his chosen children. How He loves everyone, but those who call Him Father, he treasures and holds on tightly too.

    Your story reminded me of what Max was trying to illustrate. You loved those boys and cared for them, and probably still do, but when your daughter was born...she was yours, your own child. Your emotions reflected the power that a child of your own has on a mother, the same power that God's children have with Him.

    I hope you're having a great weekend!
    Big Fat Mama

  6. dear Jhen, I came over to read your blog for the first time and I am completely sucked in (smile) I am only finished with reading part 1,2 and the latest one (i've got to keep reading so I get this last part) very intriguing and can't wait to read more. Just don't have the time to finish right now. I will be back.

  7. THANK YOU ALL for you words of encouragement, wisdom, and kindness! I am soaking in them all!!!

    I am thankful for the opportunity to share my story, though I am sure each of you have an inspiring story of your own!

  8. I finally got to finish your story Jhen. I love that you are sharing right up to present so we can encourage you as you keep persevering. Jhen, at one point in my life the Lord really spoke to me about the fact that He does give good gifts and He is the architect of our lives. It may not be the plan that we had invisioned in our head but it's His plan, which means it's the best plan, even though we don't understand it so often. Keep up the hard work and pressing into Him. You are quite amazing.

  9. What a beautiful story. Sounds like a great movie. Part 1 was similar to my life but the rest is amazing. I'm glad you are coming to terms with this and are enjoying your baby girl. I love your blog and joss is so cute. I look forward to reading more you are a great writer and photographer. Take care