Beauty for Ashes

Beauty for Ashes

As a single mother of three children, full-time college student, abuse survivor and mentor, Daniell stays grounded in the inspiration of three words inked in a gentle script on her left forearm -- “beauty for ashes.”

The phrase comes from Isaiah 61:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me … He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners … to comfort all who mourn … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness …

Daniell has known a broken heart and despair and has been held captive by darkness of depression. But beauty has risen out of the ashes of her life, personified in her 12-year-old twin daughters, Destiny and Jordan, and her 3-year-old son, Cruz, and in a spirit that embodies what a single mother can accomplish when she is guided by God.

“I know that it’s not about me,” she says. “It’s about what Jesus has done for me. I have received grace that I did not deserve.”

A victim of sexual abuse as a child, Daniell went from being a straight-A student and high school softball star to bad marriage and two daughters by the time she was 17. After years of abuse, she escaped her Houston home with her 4-year-old daughters and three trash bags filled with clothes.

While living with an aunt in Cedar Park, Daniell learned about the Family Care Program at Texas Baptist Children’s Home. She lived in a cottage on campus for a year and a half before she transitioned to independence in her own apartment. Still plagued by her past, life was hard for Daniell. She was still making mistakes and, after her son was born, she came back to TBCH and returned to school full time.

It was during this second stay in Family Care that counseling helped her finally deal with the childhood abuse that had triggered so many of her bad decisions.

“I thought because I didn’t cry about it anymore, that I was okay,” she says. “But I still had to deal with the shame and the fact that I was always trying to sacrifice my own well-being as long as everyone else was happy. Counseling taught me that thinking about my kids, school and God in that order was wrong. I need to think about God first because He was the one who has always provided for me.”

For the past two years she has been going to school full time, working part time, and mentoring young girls at a pregnancy help center. Last summer she was accepted into the University of Texas Dental School in Houston, where she is studying to become a hygienist. In August, she and her children moved into the Independent Living Program at Children At Heart’s Gracewood ministry in Houston.

Through it all, she gives the glory to God.

“I’m a single mom, with three kids, going to college full time,” she says. “If that’s not God alive and working, I don’t know what is.”

And God isn’t finished with her.

“I want to keep my eyes fixed on God and I want my kids to always know Jesus,” she says. “When they grow up, I don’t want them to remember a day that I didn’t talk about Jesus.”

“Daniell is an inspiration,” says Melanie Martinez, Family Care Program Supervisor. “After working through all of her trauma, she learned to lean on God and trust Him to guide her to a brighter, more hopeful future. She is the encouragement every woman in our program needs.”

Lori Wiste, who was the live-in case manager at Daniell’s cottage when she first arrived in Family Care, praises her ability to endure and persevere through tough experiences and become a role model for her children.

“I can also testify to how her life in Christ has grown in her a sacrificial love that is uncommon in many from her generation,” Lori adds. “She wants her children to have a better life, with more opportunities, more choices and a hope for the future.”

“My experiences have shown me God’s grace that I did not deserve,” Daniell said. “There are millions of women going through the same things I did. I did not deserve His grace any more than they do.”