From a childhood of poverty and struggle to an adulthood full of mistakes and poor choices, Ines Franklin left a trail of pain in her wake as she made her way through the first 40 years of her life.
But despite how far she had fallen, Jesus had a very different legacy in mind for Ines. This is the story of how God lifted a lonely, burdened woman and made her the matriarch of a large, loving, generous, faithful family. This is the story that Ines Franklin was born to tell.
Growing up extremely poor in Puerto Rico, Ines watched as her mom struggled to provide for her and her six siblings. Her dad had left when she was less than a year old, and from an early age, Ines developed a survivor mentality through the daily fight for basic needs.
At 16, she left Puerto Rico and moved with her mom and two youngest siblings to California, with the hope of starting a better life. At first, they shared a cramped apartment with her brother and his family. With nine people in the one-bedroom flat, Ines knew something had to change. She got a job and started providing for her family, so they could get their own place. But this desperate mindset didn’t always create the best circumstances.
“The word that described my life was survival,” says Ines. “If a guy liked me and was kind to me, that was good enough. I needed help to survive.” At 19, she got married, but after four years she was divorced. “After my divorce, I thought ‘ok, I made a mistake. I’ll start over.’ I met someone else, and I thought, this will be the answer.” But after 13 years, she was divorced again.
Ines continued on the same journey and soon was in another relationship, this time with a married man. After two divorces, two abortions, and an affair, her thoughts began to shift. “For the first time in my life, I could see that my survival was hurting others,” she says.
Ines’ boyfriend, Jim, left his wife, and he and Ines continued to see one another.
One day, Jim suggested they go to church. Ines quickly agreed. “We knew we needed something,” she says. So, they searched a list of churches in their area, and every Sunday, they visited a different one. The last church on their list was Mariner’s Church in Irvine. Ines will never forget what happened when she and Jim walked in.
“It was October 20, 2002, and the pastor read a passage from John 4, the story of the woman at the well. Jesus showed grace to a woman who had five husbands, and the man she was with was not her husband,” Ines says. She thought, “Her story is like mine!”
This was the first time that Ines had ever really heard the gospel. “I heard that what I needed was the grace of Jesus through the cross.”
From there, she began reading the Bible for the first time. She started in Genesis, and when she reached the 10 commandments in Exodus 20, she had a life-changing experience. “I was so convicted. I fell on my face on the floor and sobbed. I was in pure despair. I knew what I deserved. I knew I needed grace.” Soon after, she was baptized, and she began a new journey with Jesus at the age of 40.
But for the first seven years of her faith journey, Ines was plagued by shame. “I carried around this U-Haul-sized load of shame. Yet from that place of despair, God started rebuilding my life with his grace. God looks at shame, and says, “No! You’ve made mistakes, but that’s not who you are.”
To move past the shame, Ines went on a mission to forgive people who had hurt her and apologize to those she had hurt. “I finally got to a place where I had to own the forgiveness that I had been given through Jesus. I had to get rid of the shame that came from the carnage of my life. I had to rip it out and throw it away. That’s when I fully embraced the grace of Jesus.”
Stewarding a generous family
Today, Ines is a speaker, pastor, mentor, and advocate. And perhaps best of all, she is the matriarch of a large, blended family that includes her son from her first marriage, two daughters from her second, two step-daughters from Jim’s first marriage, their children’s spouses, and eight grandchildren. “We are so blended, we call ourselves the smoothie family,” she says.
She and Jim have made generosity a core value of their family, and they are taking practical steps to ensure that they pass on a legacy of giving to all their children and grandchildren.
Ines explains, “We allocate an amount from our Giving Fund at NCF for each of our family units to give away. Then, we have a family meeting to report what we’ve given. For the first time this year, our kids wanted to have two meetings instead of just one. And they suggested that we invite the three oldest grandchildren in to participate.”
The family loves to support their local church and a wide range of causes, including spreading the gospel, discipleship and leadership development, equipping the next generation, and wheelchair distribution.
Giving together is an integral part of what keeps the family united. She says, “Despite the messy way we got here, we are all very close. To steward this family well and to step into our roles as the matriarch and patriarch is a blessing that Jim and I could have never imagined. God’s grace and generosity blows my mind and humbles my heart.”
In addition to stewarding her family, Ines says that sharing with others about her life is one of her greatest privileges. “My biggest act of obedience is telling my story. Shame holds everything that’s good about us back, and it sends the wrong message that there’s no way out of our mistakes. I’m here to tell you that Jesus takes broken people, and he makes beautiful things.”
Watch a video to hear more of her story: