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.

Taking hold: Overcoming-my divorce(es)

OK. Time to dig down deep and pull up all the thick black crud buried deep down in the pit of my gut. Scrape away the residue and explain to you —my deepest darkest crime.

Not only being divorced ONCE. But to reprehensibly do it TWICE.

The shame is profound.

I have beat myself up over them, so many times, I have permanent bruises. I have HUGE indentations on my heart, that, one would call scars. No, I don’t think I will EVER forget the pain those created, nor will the pain of those divorces, ever truly be abolished. They will always remain intricately woven into my very being forever.

Have a I learned to live with them? Yes. Will I ever marry again? Yes. Have a I grown and learned from them? Yes. Would I be who I am today without them? No.

My divorces, explain who I am and why. They represent, an unchangeable, growth I had to endure.

First off, my life of divorce did not begin with my own divorce. It began with my mother’s divorce, before I was even born. My brother and sister have a different Dad. Then, my mom married my Dad, and my brother and I were born. Finally, she married my step dad when I was about 5yrs old. I was BORN into divorce. My life was swallowed up by it and produced from it.

My first marriage, I was very young. I met my first husband when I was 18, married him at 21, and had a baby daughter at 22. We were young and immature and barely starting our own lives. So, when things didn’t go EXACTLY as I wanted it, when my marriage faced many trials, and losses, I fled. I just checked out. It was easier to run than to work through the problems. What did it matter? I was a child of divorce and I survived. My child would survive. My life would survive.

The breakdown happened when I began conversing with a client. He was young, cute, and cool; something different, something new. I had a big crush. Rather than let it be that, a crush, and  just fun. I entertained the idea of a “relationship”. And that my friends,  knocked my marriage off the proverbial rails. Once the idea was entertained, I couldn’t keep my mind from it. And it was ALL I thought about. I pulled away from my husband and father of my child. I spent as much time away from him as I could. Hanging out with my crush and my single girlfriends. Frequently, we met out for drinks at pool bars or clubs in Deep Ellum. It gave me a distraction from the LOSSES I faced in my marriage.

The loss of life from losing pregnancy after pregnancy. The loss of a motherhood, that a husband, an emotionally challenged man, could not understand.  An unwillingness to work through it,  but rather just move on to someone else. I was 28yrs old. I’d like to say I really didn’t understand what I was doing, but rather, just imitated what I knew from my life experience. I’d LIKE to say that, but truth is, at any age, we know we can do better.

GRANTED, it was not ALL my fault. Yes, he was distant at times. He had stopped visiting my family with me. We had stopped doing things together. He was mesmerized by ESPN sports center which came on TWICE a night. He would take jobs out of town and be gone for a MONTH. I was taking care of a baby all by myself. I wasn’t happy. I was lonely. WHY, if I’m doing it all anyway, should I even bother? So I didn’t.

My marriage slipped through my fingers. The immediate bitterness and pain was enormous. What made it worse, I didn’t even want to TRY counseling. He was upset (understandably). I was defiant. I told myself I was doing him a favor. That he deserved someone that truly *loved* him. Man– what a crock. I destroyed a perfectly good marriage that could EASILY have been fixed. I ripped a baby’s father out of her life, and his, because I didn’t want to *work it out*. Instead, I chose to have fun with my new guy and my fun single friends.

Fun I had all right, barhopping, and carrying on when I didn’t have my daughter. I went to New Orleans with my crush. We hung out, drank, danced and clubbed. It was awesome. I was with who I wanted and it was a dream come true. In the long run? It was so NOT worth it.

He never committed. He couldn’t commit. Not to me anyway. I was great. I was a challenge. I wasn’t anything *serious*. How could I be? Didn’t I cheat on my marriage with him? Didn’t that make me untrustworthy from the get go?

He moved to Boise, Idaho the next year. I saw him one other time when I drove ALL the way to San Antonio while he was there on business. I keep in touch long enough to know he did eventually marry. I think he has two kids now. Point is, he never had my best interests at heart. If he did, he would have not pursued me either, out of respect for my marriage. Period.

In the meantime, I partied and partied and partied and partied and partied –it’s no wonder I didn’t die driving drunk thank you God– and partied and partied until, I met my 2nd husband in a bar Feb. 9 ,2001. I was 30yrs old.

He pretty much took possession of me right away. I was too nice to realize it. I was waaay too nice to catch all the red flags. He pretty much moved in right away. *why did I let him around my child? wasn’t he a stranger?* Needless to say, my judgment was on ice in a cooler of beer, and certainly not in my head. He told me the day after I met him, that he just got out of prison, not jail, PRISON. I thought he deserved a clean slate.

We had unbelievable chemistry. He spent every moment with me. His control was showering with me affection, and playing on my sympathies. He told me about his rough childhood. I felt bad for him. I just wanted to hold him and make his life better. I wanted to fix him. *I just knew I could*  He told me I was beautiful every single day.

We married one year later on our anniversary meet date, Feb. 9, 2002.  I felt out of this world, most of the time, until he had a bad day, which happened more and more because honestly? Bad luck followed him around. His attitude attracted many adversities.  I became distanced from my family. He wasn’t all that wonderful to them. He began to rage. We started using “recreational drugs” on the weekends. For him, I know it was to numb his pain inside. It didn’t work, he raged more.

But on rare days, when all was right in his world, that wonderfulness consumed me, and I lived for those days; those moments. I had to answer for everything. The wrong answer I was punished. This made me very careful about what I did and said. I never wanted him to preceive me as having a roving eye. I did not want to look or entertain ANY kind of other man idea. I learned that lesson already. But it didn’t matter, I was always under the microscope. One wrong move or decision that wasn’t up to his standard and he went OFF.

Life for me was a roller coaster. Constantly. I did everything I could to keep the peace. I kowtowed. I pleaded. I prayed for relief. I basically did everything I should have done in the first marriage but nothing worked. He was just adverse to being happy, helpless to help himself, and paranoid as all get out. Not to mention, so many other things that I just couldn’t FIX.

The drugs really affected our emotions. He could, after a few days on speed, go completely out of his mind. I was accused of cheating, taking trips with clients, bugging the house, and recording everything he said. He insisted I had two hard drives on my computer and would switch between the two while he walked up to hide my online “chats” with who knows who.

He broke that computer too many times to count, presumably, trying to find the hidden hard drive that didn’t exist. I was working from home.  I was so lucky I didn’t lose my job, which was the only means we had to live on. He was usually out of work or making very little money. Sleeping on the couch most of the day,  waking up long enough to turn the TV on loud, while I was talking to clients. I burned inside with the shame of it. The utter disrespect.

However, I didn’t want to be divorced again. I was determined NOT to repeat my first mistake. But I won’t lie, it was HELL.

One time, during an accusation, he knocked over a coffee table in front me, almost sending a splinter of wood through my eye. Another time, he was so angry he drove, recklessly, down a busy street screaming at me while I held my breath and waited for the crash that would probably kill me and leave my child motherless. It was the scariest and most hurtful time of my life. It was the DARKEST time of my life.

There were a few rays of light, that, were his good days. They were few and far between. He became more and more tortured inside. He constantly cycled; from begging me not leave him, to pushing me away, to being paranoid of his closure, to promising the world. I was dying. From the inside out. I thought I was crazy.

Crazy to live this way. Crazy NOT to leave. This new life affected my child too. My daughter turned ADHD. I would learn, later, that is a symptom of anxiety in children that go through a life change, like marriage, and moving to the other side of town. I thank GOD her Dad was there for her. He moved close to us. It saved her I just know it. She had some normalcy.

I did try to leave him. After a fierce blow up, I packed my car and my dog and I left. My daughter moved to her Dad’s. I actually moved in with my first husband’s mother and brother. That’s right, I moved in with my ex-mother-in-law. I was so grateful for her. She took me, and my black lab, Salem into her small house. I had no place else to go.

My second husbands mom had given us her house for our wedding present. She decided to sell it the day I left. She had never really given this house to us after all. At that point, in 2004, I knew my life was completely changed. I went from having my own place, all my bills paid off, money saved to marrying him and losing it all. As with anyone whose life is upside down,  I sought GOD and guidance.

I found it in The Bible and The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. I found it in my Uncle Bub, we had long talks nightly. His wife, of over twenty years, had left him. It careened his life a different direction. He didn’t take care for himself and lost his left leg and most of his right toes, to diabetes. He was in wheelchair for life. What happened to him, made me think twice about leaving my husband. I could see his pain and his heartache. It tore me up.

I, finally, talked to my second husband again after a month. I still loved him. He swore he would be better, change, get counseling, etc. I believed him (again). The Bible said to honor your husband, to love him, and to to not get a divorce. I truly thought I was doing the right thing. I thought it didn’t matter that he didn’t believe in God. I would do the “biblical” thing and abide by what The Bible said. I would submit to my husband and stand by his side til death.

For two more years, things did not change. The cycle continued, worse now, because he barely slept. He raged MORE. He began doing badly at work. I suspected he was doing drugs again but could never prove it. Maybe he was just bi-polar, a disorder I knew nothing about. By this time, we had a bought a house (my dream home). I was deeply in debt. For the first time in our marriage, I REQUIRED him to contribute to our living.

He never paid a thing before, but I could not pay a house payment, two car payments, all the utilities,  and raise a daughter. I needed him to financially survive, but he continued to bring home about $200.00 a week, which only paid for his GAS and food. He continued to do badly at work. It was financially devastating, the hardest time of my life. I loved my house and didn’t want to lose it. I didn’t want to move my daughter (again). I wanted him to get counseling, to get help, to find God even, to banish the demons that tormented him and made him sick. We tried a therapist. He made fun of him and disregarded him as a quack. We visited a Church. He squirmed in his seat, awkward, uncomfortable and never went back again.

Finally, I hit my breaking point. I came home on Monday night after volunteering, at Cook Childrens, in the NICU; my God place. I had my Cooks shirt on and my volunteer badge as I entered the kitchen. He looked me up and down, then hatefully barked, “What’s that red mark on your neck?” I answered warily,  “I don’t know”. I was exhausted from his constant dictate. Honestly? I have reddish skin. I scratch and get a mark but the way he looked at me, was like I did something BAD. It FLOORED me. My nephew DIED in that unit. Did he really think I would use it as an alibi? A cover story, while I went off and had an affair. SERIOUSLY? Do people really do that? And if so, HOW? The malice in his eyes struck me to the deepest part of who I was.

I was done.

It took me months to get out. I had no where to go and no money. I had no nearby relatives to stay with. I prayed and prayed and prayed. My heart wrenched over leaving my home; the one I paid every house payment on. In the end, it wasn’t worth the pain and the misery to be there. Each day, answers to my prayers were revealed in solutions, doorways , paths, directions, LIGHTS, oh the glorious, lights of hope and strength and a future BRIGHT not dark.

The day I moved, seventeen, dear friends showed up with trucks and trailers to move me, and my daughter, out of a four bedroom house in two hours. Praise God. It would not have been possible without their help. The most amazing thing was, I didn’t have friends married to him. He had alienated me, from them all, the last six years.

Strangest of all, it snowed in Texas that April. It wasn’t even a normal Texas snow, barely visible, with a flake here or there. It was actual SNOW. I can still see it, like a dream, floating down; sometimes slow, sometimes fast. HUGE white flakes of fluff, rarely EVER seen, particularly in April. It was astounding. To me, it was a sign from God. He was saying “it’s what I want for you”. He was saying –my struggles were over. The Angels were shaking their wings, as an ending turned to a beginning.

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you, ” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give hope and a future.”

Truly, my life renewed on that snowy day in April. I was healed of the verbal, and mental abuse –suffered six long years. I was cleansed of my guilt, co-dependency, and my undeserving nature. I was given in it’s place, goodness, gladness, heartfelt JOY, and LOVE. Oh the wonderful LOVE I found. Love from a savior that WILL pick you up at your lowest point and give you NEW life. A savior that is always there, whether you believe in him or not. A savior that doesn’t just give you any life, but a life he CHOSE for you. One of peace and worthiness in his amazing grace. I found in myself, a life deserving and forgiven.

I now understand why abused women stay with their abusers. I now understand how hard it is to fight drug addiction. I now understand so many things, God wanted me to know. Needed me to know.

It’s been over two years since that last April. Today, my heart is full. My soul is at peace. I am truly blessed with ALL that life has to offer. I lost two marriages, but gained two lives, myself and my daughters. We are free. We are saved.

1 Timothy 6:19
Take hold of the life that is truly life.

May you always know true love………………………and true life.
God doesn’t want you to hurt.

If you are in an abusive marriage, seek help. If you are not abused, maybe just not happy in your marriage, know that it can change. Ask God into it. Let him perform the miracle of healing and restoring. Anything is possible, but not if you give up.

Believe and take hold.