My Ugly Beautiful

A house mate in front of cottage at St Joseph’s Villa Summer 1972
One of the most painful times of my adolescence was the two months I spent in a home for wayward girls. After an arrest for shoplifting, my mother thought it was the best way to straighten me out. After telling me I was a bad influence on my younger siblings, she dropped me off at St Joseph’s Villa in Richmond Virginia, and then she drove away.
It took me years to learn the damage that decision caused me. How the fear of abandonment jaded my judgment in every relationship. That it was the driving force behind my need to please the people around me.
But even after learning the devastation her decision had on me, I never blamed my mother. After my father’s death, which I wrote about here,I always saw her as a wounded soul. I saw the poverty of her spirit. And I felt she did the best she could with what she had.
Me on Tim’s car at St Joseph’s Villa
Someone recently asked me if perhaps I gave my mother more credit than she deserved. If I didn’t think she was just looking for an easy way out of a difficult situation. It caused me to think.
How are we supposed to view those with damaged souls who in turn damage others?
I found my answer in Ann Voskamps book One Thousand Gifts.  She writes,
“…what the French call d’un beau affreux…the ugly-beautiful…That which is perceived as ugly transfigures into beautiful…suffering can deliver grace…the Prince is born into a manure-smeared feed trough, where Holy God…breaks bread with cheats, where God wounds Himself through with nails on a cross and we wear the symbol as beauty.”
What if there is a widow’s mite of the soul? What if, just like in the temple, Jesus is saying, “come here, let me show you who really gave the most.” And what if that most no longer looked like pennies to us? Would we then change how we see others?
Aunt Jeanne Marie, Mother, and me. December 1982
I’ll never know my mother’s true motives. In many of our conversations in the last years of her life, she wept bitterly over her regrets as a parent. She said she did the best she could. Her heart spoke volumes so I never felt the need to press for an apology.
Ultimately, it’s my choice to apply grace to her actions. And in doing so, I rob the ugly of any potential to grow. I stop the progression of the wounded wounding others. I change the projectory of the wrong.
For after all, God’s grace covers all. And in Him, I see with different eyes. In Him, I see the transfiguration from ugly to beautiful. And it changes me.
34. A loving aunt.
35. The grace to forgive.
36. Untainted memories.


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