When I see a woman

In light of the recent women’s retreat, I have had some issues on my mind. We spent a better part of the weekend learning about what kind of woman NOT to be. The immoral woman. The indiscreet woman. The irritating woman.

As the descriptions unfolded I heard the gasps around me. I heard the shocking cries about these terrible women. I could feel the JUDGMENT in the very large room, and the underlying hint of anger at their actions and corruptions.

Friends, it did not make me feel righteous. Truth is, I have been all three of those women in my lifetime. I’ve been in some of those places they described. I’m not proud of it. Not at all. But know this – because of that – I don’t see people the same way as others, at least most of the time anyway. I guess it makes me different (or maybe I’m not?). I know to me it hurts to shame women with opinions I have no right to behold. Maybe there is another story behind their actions, behind their clothes, behind their situation. Have you ever considered this?

My heart tells me to see these women differently. To Keep believing, keep hoping, and keep loving. As the famous Avatar movie would say, “I see you”. And this is how I choose to see women described as immoral, indiscreet, and irritating.

When I see a young woman dressed in a short skirt, a tight, low-cut t-shirt labeled “Too Hot to Care”. I don’t see a child I want to reprimand and explain proper attire to. I see a little girl who is crying out for direction. She has followed the wrong role models and has had no one protecting her morality. She wants attention. She is LONELY.

When I see a woman tightly wound with a chip on her shoulder. She snaps at the waitress. Her food is too cold, too hot, and all kinds of wrong. She glares at the man next to her while he shudders inwardly and tiptoes around her drama stage. I don’t see intolerance, and contention. I see a woman who is SCARED. She is scared to love. She is scared to be loved and pushes everyone away to protect herself.

When I see a woman flirting with a married man. She charms him. She knows exactly what to do and say. A wink, a smile, a lick of the lips. I don’t see a predator. I see an empty soul who has never known what it’s like to be truly loved. The darkness inside envelopes her. She is LOST.

When I see a woman who drinks excessively, smokes, and hangs around the bar pretending she is not crushing on the bartender. Nightly, she abuses her body. She is filling her life with unfulfillable things. She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know how to find herself. I want to take her hand and let her know, there is so much more to life. She seeks FULFILLMENT.

When I see a woman having sex with a different man every night. She can’t commit, nor does she want to. It’s just sex. It doesn’t mean anything. She is fine on her own. It’s better this way. I don’t see a heartless user. I see a woman who has never loved deeply. The love that lifts, turns, and softens. My heart breaks for what she is missing. I want to knock down the walls so she can FEEL.

When I see a woman with an abusive mate. She cowers, she begs, she pleads. She is a trooper at keeping the peace and doing what is expected. I don’t see her weak will. I see a woman who doesn’t know her worth. She doesn’t think she deserves anything better than what she has. She needs to know how precious she truly is. She has VALUE.

When I see a woman with perfect porcelain skin, eyes without wrinkles, and a firm, fit body. She wears designer clothes. She drives a Cadillac. She has everything she needs, and other women envy her, or worship her. Inside, her heart beats like mine, her blood flows through her veins. Her mind thinks and feels just like I do. She is NOT all put together. She is NOT perfect. She is tired. She has no true friends. She bears the upkeep on her back and it weighs two tons. She wishes to relax but her needs and subsistence drive her tirelessly. If only her life could stop. If only she could just let go, and be. She wants to DIE because that would be easier than her life. I want her to know there is vitality that is not attainable through any means, but is joy filled without any appointments. She needs serenity and ACCEPTANCE.

When I see a woman dirty and shuffling. She wears plastic bags on her feet. She carries all her worldly possessions in her handbag with one unbroken strap. She doesn’t have a place she calls home. She lives where her legs will take her and where a light burns bright for her. I don’t see a helpless bum. I see a woman with great grit and determination. She lives proudly in the worst of situations. She is a SURVIVOR.

When I see a young woman bucking the system. She is trouble – fighting, lying, hating. She never does the right thing. Always does the opposite of what is expected. She is conniving and manipulative. I consider the possibility of her turmoil is from abuse. A verbally abusive mother. A controlling Father. Maybe, an unsuspecting neighbor sexually abused her as a child and NO ONE KNOWS. She didn’t tell. She is ANGRY and violated. She wants to strike out at the world. I ACHE for her. Not only is she incredibly tormented but she bears the pain on her own. How twisted and buried it must be. That child is crying inside and needs to be comforted. She needs to know, it wasn’t her fault. She is BLAMELESS.

When I see a woman jealous and hateful. She gossips and gets great pleasure in demeaning her fellow sister. She despises the happiness of others and will think nothing of a cutting remark. I don’t see a bitch. I see a woman terribly unhappy. She is void of empathy. She is withering from lack of light. She is in DARKNESS.

When I see a woman standing on a street corner. She is Looking out from hard eyes, and tough skin. She sways when she walks but she can fight when she needs to, or run. She has been beaten bloody. She has been stoned out of her mind. She has been violated, and torn until she is scarred and broken. Her life is the streets. Waiting for that twenty she can shoot up her veins. I don’t see a hooker junkie. I see a child whose mother abandoned her at age two. I see a lost, frightened little girl, who cried out for her Daddy and received beatings instead. She got lost in the system. No one cared for her. No one raised her. No one loved her. Not then. Not now. Not ever. I see a life that could miraculously change. A change so dramatic when she stood up to tell her story every ear would hear and be astounded. I see someone who God could use. She is SOMEBODY.

When I see a woman all dressed in black. She has black nail polish and hair. She wears chains and nose rings. She has a neck tattoo just above her lace trimmed collar. She is quiet and broody. People tend to give her a wide berth and confused glances. I don’t see a mental case. I see an artistic creation locked inside, lacking the freedom to express her needs and desires. She is passionate, complex, and terribly misunderstood. I want to unlock her chains. I want her to know she can live as uniquely as God made her. She is FREE.

When I see a woman struck down by illness. She has battled fiercely and lost. She is worn out. She has seen every doctor, tried every prescription. She has been betrayed by her body, by her mind. She wishes for well-being but only ends up sicker and sadder. With each failed treatment, depression sets in. Pain ensues. It’s a downward spiral of despair. Her life stops as she is only able to do so much in her weakened state. She loses her family, her job, her will. I don’t see a hypochondriac. I see a woman desperate for faith. I see a woman who needs to know she can be supernaturally healed, if only she will believe it. She is WHOLE.

When I see a woman using foul language. She swears with the best of them, dropping F-bombs, like hydros, hitting targets left and right. I don’t see desecration. I see a woman who watched their week old infant son take his last breath in her arms. I see a woman who was good and proper her whole life, until she had to dig deep to find the strength to survive burying  her baby. Her anguish expelled on her lips in short fiery bursts. I would curse too. She MISSES her son. She will always miss him. She HURTS.

You don’t know what ANYONE is going through, or how they got to that point, or where they came from. You don’t know, nor may you ever know. One thing is for sure, there is SOME story. Maybe it’s not any of the above. Maybe it’s not even close. But what if you considered the possibility, and instead of judging, held them deeply with compassion.

Fill yourself up with all the love in your soul and beam it towards these women. SEE THEM. It’s easy to reject what we don’t understand. It’s so hard to embrace when we do.

I humbly ask you, LOVE them. Just love them anyway. That is true unfading beauty.

Timeless Angels

Operation Christmas Child landed at Pantego Bible Church a few weeks ago. Proudly, Jason, Molly, Bridget, Sydney and I, all participated. Yes, that’s right, one box per person. One child per person.

Bridget picked a 14yr old boy. Don’t ask me why. I gave her the choices and this three year old did not even hesitate. She wanted a “big” boy. And we shopped for “big” boy’s box. Tell me that’s not adorable.

Molly wanted a girl her age, so she could easily pick things that she would like. She got lots of wonderful little gifts for her five year old girl. Her box was the only one we couldn’t quite close the lid on. Heh!

Sydney picked a 10-14 year old girl. Her box had the most room it. Huh. Heeeeey, she forgot like underwear and stuff. Don’t worry I added to it.

Jason picked a 5-9 year old boy. Yes, he got to gift vicariously. The little trucks, coloring book, and even a baseball. He took such care to pack it all in. He definitely spent the most time finding exactly what he wanted for his little boy.

I picked a little girl 2-4 yrs old (of course). I think I packed the most expensive thing out of all the boxes. I wedged an electronic phone. It talks, it beeps, it rings. It even like says the alphabet backwards – okay forwards. What I’m trying to say is….It was a super cool toy.

Jason didn’t realize I had stuck that in there until he was checking the receipt (and why it was so expensive). Oops. In my defense, I offered to pay him back, and he declined.

Five boxes later, we had our Christmas Children shopped for. ALL of us were involved in the shopping, packing, and dropping at the Church. It was wonderful. The stage was overflowing with boxes. They let us know on collection Sunday, over 1,190 boxes were received. Wow! That is a lot of far away children having a very Merry Christmas.


Our boxes.

The last weekend in November also began the Oakcrest Angel tree. Oakcrest is a family crisis Church in the hood of Kennedale Texas. It is nestled back behind a porn shop, a strip joint, and a liquor store. Surrounding the Church you are likely to find prostitutes, drug dealers, ex-cons, and addicts. And let’s not forget – their children.

If you’ve ever attended Oakcrest, you understand. It’s not about organized religion. It’s about a place where they have nothing, absolutely nothing, and yet they still rejoice. Their hearts rejoice, and their spirits soar in hope. Pure, undiluted hope – or at least – the pursuit of it.

Oakcrest has a clothing shop, and a soup kitchen on Monday nights. On that night, a hot meal is served by volunteers, paid for by monetary donations from the Monday night Church service (the attendees being mostly these same people). After the service, a box of groceries is handed out to needy families for the week. So they can eat. Let that sink in for a moment. So they can eat.

I found my humble gratitude at Oakcrest. I saw what little they grasped in their hands, and how happy they were to have it. I saw their struggles, and pain in their faces, yet they still shined. I saw crumpled bills gently placed in the offering plate. I saw true life in those that desire just to be, in a better place, than where they were before.

The children that surrounded them, that loved them, that needed them. Precious lives, so deserving of gifts. So deserving of kindness from a stranger. Much like Operation Christmas Child, but on a much smaller scale.

The Oakcrest Angel tree represents these children. They are the recipients of the humble hearted who adopt them. Last year, I worked that tree – tirelessly. No one was adopting. The economy went to the dumps, and there wasn’t money to spend. So many were just trying to give to their own children. They could not even consider another child.

I could see these children in my mind’s eye. I knew them. I had read their applications. I knew the size of family they came from. If they had a Dad in prison, or not. I hurt for them, and by gosh, I wanted them to have a Christmas. They deserved something. Unashamedly, I became a salesman in my Church lobby. Yeah.

“See that one there, well HE has a brother. His tag is over here. Could you do both?”

“I personally know this kid, he is fourteen. He lives in a single parent home. He has it rough. He is great kid. Can’t you just take him? Just this one?”

“Look some of these kids have on their wish/toy list COAT. Can’t you just adopt them, so they can have a coat for Christmas?”

It was HARD. Every week went this way until the last Sunday. We had ten Angels left. I could have just sat on the floor and cried. Instead, I sent out A MILLION texts, begging. After my mad texting, three were left. I took one more (I already had three), the group leader took one, and Jason (via text) took the last little Angel. He had already taken one the week before. My last plea worked.

What a relief! ALL were adopted. ALL would have Christmas. ALL of them, for just one night, could forget their worries, and problems. For one night, they could be merry. They could be children.

One year later, the Oakcrest family tree has been up in the Church lobby for two weeks. One more Sunday of adoptions left (next Sunday), and there were 11 tags left on the tree at 12 noon this past Sunday. At 1215pm, after second service, I watched my Mom snatch the last Oakcrest Angel tag off the tree. Oh my heart. Instead of down to the wire, an ENTIRE Sunday remains with no Angels left. There were even people still walking up to the tree looking for a tag, to be told – they are all adopted. We have no more.

Heartfelt hugs, and cheers all around.

You see the Sunday before (the 1st Sunday of the lobby tree), I pulled twenty tags – YES TWENTY – to send to my sister in Houston. Last year, she heard me talk about these kids, and these families. She remembered how I begged, pleaded, shopped, bagged and delivered (all with a BROKEN right hand). She remembered, and she saved up $1,000.00 to give twenty of these kids a Christmas.


Angel tags from the Oakcrest Tree for my sister

When you figure out which ones are the Angels, the kids, or the ones adopting them, please let me know. Because I have no idea.