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.

A little post about my blog

When I started blogging, well – quite frankly – I didn’t know what I was doing. I had experience with ONE blogger and that was it. All other blogs were new to me and as foreign as Lithuania. So I tried to model that blog, but make it my own. Ya know? I really fumbled that. At that time, I didn’t know what my blog was about. I didn’t know what I wanted out of it. One thing was for sure, I just wanted to represent me.

The other thing I knew was – I thought I could blog. Hence the URL (above) youthinkyoucanblog (after so you think you can dance, but so was taken- right?). When I began to write, many things came out. My original header was of the mountain peak in Utah outside Salt Lake City. My title was – Just this side of a God Breathed mountain top. I could practically smell the fresh air when I read that. But it also pointed out to me – I’m not ON the God breathed mountain top. I am to the side of it, because I will never be perfect. I am just me. The beauty of God’s work is not lost on me. The mountains, the oceans, the sunsets, and the plains. Truth is, we are all just to the side of any amazing portrait God has painted. To be just to the side and possibly breathed on? Well (maybe I was overthinking it), but I didn’t feel my blog was worthy enough. Scratch that, I didn’t feel it represented what I wanted. A mountain is incredible to look at but what about relate to? I didn’t want my blog to be an unreachable peak.

As time went on, I changed it again. I don’t know. I made many mistakes in my life. Even some of my first blogs have more negativity than I’d like. I’d like to think I’ve grown and reached beyond some of those issues. I have. I’d like to think, my blog wasn’t just about what I was next to or what wonder I would gaze upon, but about everything – from past to present. The good, and the bad. The growing, and the learning. The lessons, and the risks.

One thing I knew for certain was that I blogged about life. And the second thing I blogged most about – was love. And if you know me at all, you know I can’t live life and love without great laughter. It’s usually at myself. Because I’m a goof, a dork, and just all around a crack up. Doesn’t seem to matter if anyone else gets it, since it sends me over the edge of hysterics. The wise old saying that goes,

“Happy is the man who can laugh at himself, for he will never cease to be amused.”
— Unknown

Yeah, that one. That’s me. A constant source of entertainment and delight. I can’t help it. I was the youngest of four. I got lost in the shuffle. I had to entertain myself and I did. With pennies, with M & M’s, straws anything I could pretend were people. They were usually skating. Couple skate and one picked someone out of the line on the wall, usually they were favoring the girl with the pom poms on her skates, but I digress….

I thought LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH. That’s me! Then I realized, it’s a present thing with me. Not just doing it one time, but my life is a constant flow of it. Living, Loving, Laughing…..

The NAME of my blog was born. Wait, I should say the permanent name of my blog was born. And no, it doesn’t match my URL. But I sorta like that. It keeps me grounded to the fact of WHY I started. Because I could. To WHY I continue. Because my life means something and I want to record those moments, and those memories from my heart and soul. Not just for me, but for my family. And maybe to help someone else out, by inspiring or just being real.

I’d like think in the last 100 posts in the last seven months – my blogging has evolved. I am more experienced. Creativity bloomed. And most importantly, I learned to let my guard down and reach out. I comment. I link. I join. Not because I want a gazillion followers who hang on my every word. Not at all. Actually, it’s because I am enamored by the bloggers out there. I am fascinated. I love to connect. I love to meet. I would spend all day reading about their lives if I could. It wouldn’t matter to me if they returned the favor or not.

Of course, if they did, then I might actually get to know them which would be super ideal because that is my ultimate goal. To know you. I have seen God put very significant people in my life. I know they are there for a reason. I wouldn’t have met them otherwise.

It is truly amazing. Like I said in my about me, I am just happy to be here. I hope you are too.

This post was previously written a few weeks ago. My daughter Sydney and I are currently at Camp Hoblitzelle for a womens retreat. I HEART iPhone. This is a great campground. We are in a hotel room type building. Our room holds three other women besides us, another mom and her two daughters. I can’t wait to take pictures out here. It’s incredibly gorgeous. I’m looking forward to talks and walks with Sydney as well. Although, I may not agree with everything presented and talked about here……I have great people to openly discuss and hear different sides in peaceful ways. I have uplifting women all around me. For now, I bid you adeiu from the chilly countryside, wishing you the best weekend ever. Enjoy!

A day in the Park, A day in the Life

I realize it’s NaNoWriMo time. I should be building on my measly 1,610 words, I wrote on day one which was still short by fifty-seven words of the daily goal. Sigh. I should be writing to make up for that and taking advantage of my day off to jump ahead of the pack. (all of my writing buddies have more words than me – including my daughter) But I have come to realize, that sometimes, I don’t have a say in what I want to write or should write. Sometimes my heart is in my fingers, my soul urges me to tell the story, and all I can do is follow that lead.

My lead was encouraged by Pastor David Daniels’ revisit to the Down and Out series at Pantego Bible Church from last February. He actually rode with a Police Officer in charge of doing a homeless count for 2009. He met and heard many of the stories of homeless people. There were several videos made. Their stories got to the gut of it. The disadvantaged, the substance abusers, and the ones that rise above it all – against all odds – to have a home after all.

It is truly a heart wrenching story of LOVE MERCY. Their strength, and daily perseverance brings me to tears. I realize it’s something some of us do not understand, and something some of us understand all too well. Whichever side of the fence you are on, you can’t help but be moved.

A lot of people wonder why they don’t just get I.D’s., get jobs, use government help – which most of them do. What they don’t realize is, if you don’t have a SSN number or birth certificate – there is NO getting an I.D. None period. If you don’t have an I.D. you can’t get a job. And contrary to popular belief, most of these people do not WANT help. They WANT to live on their own, survive on their own, and make it on their own. They have pride just like you and I. There is no difference, they are human beings made in God’s image. What makes them different is their circumstance.

A circumstance that could happen to you or to me. I was this close to falling into an endless, irreversible cycle of drug addiction. One of the worst ones – METH. This didn’t happen when I was too young to know any better. This happened as an adult in my early thirties. It pains me to think how close I was to losing everything and being on the street. It’s painful to admit, even today, but it’s true. It’s part of my past, it’s part of who I am, and why I am.

I have compassion for them. I have a glimpse of their world. I know how easily it can unravel. And I’m not saying I know, that’s not what I’m saying at all. My period was a year, year and half, theirs are decades. I don’t know anything. It’s hard, harder than imaginable.

Sunday, a friend from Facebook and Christian Mingle came to Texas to visit her daughter and new baby grandson. In July when he was born, she had planned to visit me and the Church, but unexpectedly had to return to Florida. She promised to return and visit one day again.

That day happened to be this Sunday. She called and I gave her directions to the Church to meet her in the lobby. It was a wonderful connection. She is as dear and genuine in person as she has been online. She is a very heartfelt, and beautiful. Her daughter and grandson were absolutely precious. What a gift it was to meet them, embrace them, and cuddle that precious baby boy. It was the highlight of my day.

Pastor Daniels summarized the Down and Out series, highlighting the specific messages. The true stories of the Down and Out brings tears, heartache, and tremendous hope. Hope for a new understanding, for an awakened passion, and for my friend because her other daughter is homeless, and under the oppression of substance abuse.

I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine the pain of that. What stood out the most was Pastor Daniels saying, for some, you can’t help them. You can be there for them. You can love them, but they are on their own journey with God.

It brought her great comfort to hear this. It brought her peace where their wasn’t any before. It was a message she so desperately needed to hear. A message of LOVE MERCY to a mother who traveled over 1,000 miles to hear it.

My visit of LOVE MERCY happened a few short weeks ago. I was invited by a friend to be part of Feed by Grace ministry, which is a division of Unity Park near downtown Fort Worth.

unity park bball ct

Unity Park is a fenced in area, with trees, picnic tables, and the above pictured basket ball court. The homeless can come to relax, be entertained, have coffee or Gatorade during certain operating hours. There is a small one room concrete building that houses an even smaller kitchen and bathroom. This is where I gathered with many volunteers for a women’s spa day. A very special engagement.

nailstationtable setting

spainvite
This event was by invitation only. The director had selected twenty-five deserving women that needed some pampering. Not that they aren’t ALL deserving, they are, but there were only so many spots.

I volunteered to work the nail station. Heck, I LOVE a manicure. It’s nice to be spoiled. To give that to these ladies was sure to be a blessing. Most of them had never had a manicure before. Other volunteers arranged the lunch, and drinks. Also, a paraffin hand waxing station was designated. Three teenage boys arrived to be waiters. They were dressed sharply in nice shirts, ties, and slack – complete with a white towel over their arm.

These ladies were not just being given lunch. They were being offered the royal treatment. An afternoon of sheer pleasure and escape from all their worries. This was the similar to an Academy Award event. White table cloths, center pieces, waiters, and gratification awaited them.

The first woman’s hands, I took in mine was named Beverly. I couldn’t begin to guess her age but she told me she had three children in their forties that lived in Tulsa. I would have pegged her about sixty-five. She was a small woman, mostly skin and bones, but there nothing frail about her. She was tough. She was strong, wise, and determined.

She told me her story as I caressed her weathered hands. Her pride beamed as she described her grown children. Her brow furrowed as she detailed beating breast cancer, becoming a survivor, and to find out the cancer had returned. She was in crisis once again with her head held high. She said she was going to get an apartment. She was going to get on her feet, but would not undergo chemo again. If this was her time, well then, she was ready.

I buffed a black spot on her nail, where she said a door had shut on her finger, as the black lifted away, she watched the stain disappear, her pleasure radiated. I smoothed the ridges, soaked the cuticle, trimmed, and polished her fingertips. She smiled when we finished, her nails had never been treated so well before. One last squeeze and she went back to the tables covered in cloth to await lunch. Her courage in the face of her situation astounded me, humbled me even.

Three more times, I talked, treated and tried to offer these homeless women a shred of love. The only kind I could offer, my service. Every one of them was sweet and grateful. They felt like princesses. After the nail station, two more volunteers were offering hand massages. Then they could move on to the hand waxing.

At first, some of the women thought hand waxing was the plucking of hair. We advised them it was actually much more pleasurable, some were brave enough to try it. I helped peel the wax from their hands. The exclaimed in glee as they felt their hands transformed to silk. The first thing they would do was touch their face, rubbing their soft hands on their skin, eyes closing in enjoyment. Such a small thing, yet so indulging, and so beautiful to behold.

Lunch was served by the handsome young boys. The women thought they looked like soap stars. They were star struck as they bashfully accepted a plate of food, a glass of tea, and a dessert. Giggling like school girls and shying their eyes away. It was sweet.

As the luncheon came to an end, a woman behind me stood up. In front of twenty-five women and ten volunteers she told her story of being homeless, losing her children due to drug abuse, getting herself rehabilitated, getting her kids back and learning to live and work again. Then she sang from her heart, a lullaby, written by her mother when she was a small child.

The room was silent as her voice lifted and carried, all the pain, the heartbreak, and the sheer will for a better life, lifted and touched every soul. When she finished, thunderous clapping erupted, tears were wiped away. She bared herself for all to see, in order for other women to have strength. She told her story for them to rise up and be champions. What an impact.

They were pampered for now, but back to the street they would go. To sell their bodies, or to miss their babies, or to look for shelter, or a bath, to an abusive husband or mate, and even to that addiction if they have one. Maybe this ounce of compassion could sustain them for a brief while.

Before the luncheon closed, Feed by Grace director had one more surprise for the ladies. She brought out hand knit hats and scarves, all unique, all made with a hue of brilliant color. Knitted by a group of women that pray over each thread. Women who selflessly offer their talent for a strangers warmth and comfort.

The ladies were told the hats and scarves were prayed over as a covering for them this winter. Hence the hat to cover their head and the scarves to wrap around them. A covering of protection from the cold. A covering of love and prayer. They also handed out purses filled with kits of useful things for a street person. Items we would trash, they treasure.
bag gifts

Lastly was the prayer locket. A silver chain hugging a heart that opens, inside you can put prayers, close the locket and wear it on your chest. Faith, love, and mercy – they can hold in their hand. Something beautiful to fill their every aspiration.

prayer locket
My beautiful friend Beverly as she saw her heart locket.

As they departed, I hugged every neck I could. I tried to touch them as they had touched me. I held them tightly and prayed for strength and energy and heart to go forth with them. The woman that sang her song, I told her keep singing and keep telling her story. It would change lives, just keep shining.

Some people might say what a blessing I AM. To those people, I would say – the blessing was ALL MINE. I will never forget that day, not one second. I look forward to future outings with the down and out. I hope to continue in this mission as much as I can.

You might think, WOW , I wish I was like you. But listen, I am an ordinary person. A single mom with little resource. My only resource I can give is my heart, my time, and my service. If you knit, look for those opportunities, blankets, scarves, and hats. If you can serve, find those places that need a hand. They are all AROUND you. Ask God to open your eyes to them. You will be amazed and blessed beyond measure.

Lastly, seek your compassion every day. Don’t shy away from what you don’t understand. Open your heart and receive. It will uplift your life.

1 Timothy 6:18 (Contemporary English Version)

18 Instruct them to do as many good deeds as they can and to help everyone. Remind the rich to be generous and share what they have