Counting the stars, I lay, cold grass all around me. Perhaps somehow, I thought, this might put me to sleep. One-hundre and six, one-hundred and seven, trying my best to consentrate on counting, so I wouldn't have to think. But some how the dark thoughts pushed their way in.
I could hear her crying. Oh God, her precious cries. I cringed. Let me start again. One, two, three, four... but even as I counted, the dark memories of that day danced in the background. Taunting me so viciously.
I closed my eyes and shook my head. I felt like I was slipping into madness. Soon I'd be gone and wouldn't care about anything. I had to try to hold on to my sanity. I had to try for Tiffiny's sake.
Tiffiny, my pride and joy, with her hazel eyes, dark tan skin and curly brown hair, was one of a kind. She was never shaken by life's ups and downs. She had learned how to ride the waves at only ten years old.
Since the day she was born we were on a wild and wacky journy, never having a home or a place to call our own. Just drifting from one place to another, sometimes hungry, sometimes homeless, sometimes hiding out for days in the back woods somewhere. She didn't cry. That was life and it was all fun and exciting for her.
I rolled around in the grass. I wanted to grab it up in my fist and eat it. I had heard a Bible story once, about a king who went mad and ate grass and acted like an animal for seven years, till he came to know that God was God.
God? Is there really a God? I wondered. If so, where? Did he hate me. Even so, even if he hated me, couldn't he have compassion on my little Tiffiny. Oh my little Tiffiny.
How she screamed and cried when they ripped her from my grip. "No, she's mine, don't take her away," I had screamed. "Mommeeeeee, Mommeeeeee," she wept. I saw their eyes judging me. Unfit mother, trash, pathetic woman...I knew that's what they were thinking. But all I wanted was my baby and all she wanted was to be with me. Why did they have to take us from each other. Together, no matter what we faced, we were happy. We could make it. They took my baby's joy.
"Where are you my child?" I thouhght. "Locked up in some pretty home, sleeping in a nice warm bed for the first time in your life. Alone in a dark room, weeping your little eyes out, wondering if you'll ever see your homeless Mom again."
I wanted to get a gun and go down to that social service office and blow them all away. Just kill everyone I saw. Eew, how I hated them. I will go there tomorrow and demand her back, I thought.
I got up. The cold wind blew. I found my way to the stream and began to wash in it. My clothes were on but they needed cleaning too. Hard to wash when you don't have soap. I scrubbed with my hands, my clothes, my skin, my hair. My feet were getting muddy. How could I clean away the dirtiness of my life so I could have my pretty little girl back.
I found my way to the social service office. The sun was beginning to rise. I laid down on the step outside. I would wait. Somehow sleep came.
As I opened my eyes, Ms. Jones was holding me. "Janell, get up."
I tried to compose myself. I tried to sound sophisticated. "I want my baby back. I need her and she needs me."
"I know, Janell. I'm here to help you." The tears fell. This lady didn't judge me. She was different. It was like she felt my pain. I could see the non-judgemental compassion in her eyes. "First we gotta get you cleaned up. Then we gotta get you a job. From there, a place to live."
"I just want to see her. Can we visit."
"Yes, you'll get to visit each other, but first let's get you cleaned up."
That old lady took me under her arms like a mother. She introduced me to her church. That church is now my family. And my Tiffiny is back with me again.
When I was on the brink of insanity, God reached me through her love and showed me that He was God and He did love me.
Ms Jones, was my Angel. She's now my spiritual mom and Tiffiny calls her Grandma. She's adopted us as her own family.
Some nights, I still look out my window and count the stars. But now, I see each one of those stars as a lost and hurting soul that needs to be reached. And I live, not just to raise Tiffiny to be a Godly young woman, but also to show those precious stars the love of God that changed my life forever.
Erica Ndaguba is married to a wonderful Nigerian man and they have 4 wonderful kids. They've been married 7 years. She's lived 6 years on the mission field and returned to the States 4 years ago. She used to teach ESL but now she's a fulltime housewife and mother.