Tag Archives: picture it & write

Cleanse Me

This story is for the Picture it and Write! blogging challenge… 

What follows is a story very loosely based on the women that I’ve ministered to. The woman in this story is not based on any particular one, but rather on many.  Also, the “church woman” in this story is not me. She is only a reflection of the woman I would like to be. God doesn’t call Christians to stay within the four walls of a building they call “church.” Rather, He calls Christians to be the church, and to go and minister to people where they are… in the malls… on the streets… in the bars… in the crack houses… not in condemnation, but in love, sharing His love for the lost.

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Photo Courtesy of: Picture it & Write!

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

I felt so dirty as I soaked in the tub. I laid there so long, the bubbles were all but gone. I had scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed… and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get rid of the stench of having sex with all those men. “Oh God!” I whimpered as I slid down in the tub, placing my feet on the wall, in an attempt to hide my private parts that I no longer wanted to see… those parts that I had sold to four men last night for $80.

For some reason, my “career” left me feeling… filthy today. I was almost okay with it until that church woman had shown up. What was a church woman doing out on the streets, anyway? Didn’t she know how unsafe that was? But this lady was different from any church woman I’d ever met before.

When she drove up next to me, rolling her window down, asking how much I charged, I figured she was just into women. The woman agreed to pay the price, so I got into the car with her. It was a nice car, white with black leather seats. “Are you cold?” she asked, as I nodded. I was freezing because I wasn’t wearing much, in order to attract business. She turned the heat in the car up, and then she turned a seat warmer on. Oh man! This was luxury. “Are you hungry?” the woman asked.

I looked at her suspiciously. “I’m out here to earn a living, not spend my money on food,” I replied.

She laughed joyfully, and said, “If you’re hungry, it’s my treat, and don’t worry. I’ll pay for your time as well.” I looked at her closely, trying to figure her out. “Well?” she asked again. “Are you hungry?” I was about to answer her, when my stomach growled and answered for me.

“Great, we’ll have to go to Denny’s, because they’re the only restaurant open at this time of night,” she said cheerfully. I studied her as she drove us to Denny’s. She was different from most of my clients — I mean besides the fact that she’s a woman. Most of my clients are sort of dark and creepy, you know? But she seemed like she was full of light and really happy. She seemed like she should be in a home with a family, not on the streets late at night picking up hookers.

When we got to Denny’s, she requested a booth in the back. I walked behind her, observing her blue jeans, and a sparkly purple top that seemed to flow as she walked. She was really very small. She looked like a tiny angel with her top flowing as she walked.

After we placed our order, she leaned forward with her hand out and said, “My name’s Joy.” I shook her hand, shaking my head. Tricks normally like anonymity. “And you are?” her bluish gray eyes seemed to peer into my soul as she waited for my answer.

“I’m Julie,” I found myself answering. Now what’s up with that? I never shared my real name with my johns, but it just slipped out without me meaning to let it slip.

She smiled warmly at me and said, “Julie, I didn’t pick you up to have sex with you. I want to talk with you, then I’ll pay you when we’re done talking, okay?” I looked closely at her, not quite sure what was going down.

“Oookay,” I replied, looking at this little woman as though she was crazy.

My look didn’t seem to faze her in the least, as she continued, “The Lord says that He’s heard the cries of your heart, and He knows how desperate you are to get enough money to pay your rent and show that you can support your son, so you can get him back from the foster home he’s in.”

My jaw dropped and my heart started pounding. “Who told you that? And who are you really?” I blurted out fearfully.

“I told you, I’m Joy, and the Lord told me that He’s heard your cries, and He loves you and wants to help you, but you’ve been running from Him for years, Julie, when all He wants to do is help you.” She took a sip of her soda, as I sat there trying to digest what she was saying.

“What do you want?” My heart felt like it could jump right out of my chest it was beating so hard.

“Nothing,” she replied, “but God wants your heart. He said that if you will delight yourself in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart.” I stared at her dumbly.

“How old is your son?” she asked, and I found myself opening up and sharing that Troy was almost four, and that he was a special child. He has Downes Syndrome. She listened with tears in her eyes as I shared all of the trips we had made to the hospital when he was first born, because his little heart was so weak. I told her that I had been married to a lying, cheating loser.

She put her hand on top of mine, telling me how sorry she was for my pain, and I couldn’t help it… tears began to run down my face, and the next thing I knew, I was sobbing like my heart was breaking all over again, and you know what? I think it really was, only this time, I wasn’t by myself, and this woman seemed to care more about my pain than my own mother did.

I told her how my ex had gone into a rage the last night I saw him, when we argued about his other woman, and how Troy kept crying. I told her how Billy kept yelling and screaming so loud that the neighbors called the police. And then he slapped Troy’s mouth, causing him to cry even harder.

Then the police showed up, and when they saw that someone had hit Troy, it was Billy’s word against mine, and we were both arrested for child abuse. They took my baby away from me. I had no money, and no one who cared enough about me to bail me out, so I stayed in jail until the trial. Billy and I both were found guilty of child abuse, and I spent the next year in jail.

When I got out of jail, I had nothing. I had no home to go to, and no job, because no one wants to hire an ex-felon, especially one who’s been found guilty of child abuse… “So I became a working girl,” I finished, looking at her, stunned to see tears rolling down her cheeks. This woman who didn’t know me seemed to care more about me than my own family ever did.

“Julie,” she spoke softly through her tears. “I’d like to help you, if you’ll let me. My church has a home for women who have been through hard times. While they live there, we mentor them, teaching them how to care for themselves and their children. We help those who are interested get their GED, and if they’ve already completed high school, we help them get into the local community college so they can get a good job when they graduate. We also work hand in hand with social services, and many women who have lost their children to the foster care system, are able to reclaim them once they’ve been in our program for six months. Would you be interested?”

I broke down. I couldn’t believe her kindness. I couldn’t believe that God would love me enough to send this woman into my life. I accepted her offer, and I’m gonna drain this water and scrub myself once more. Then I’m gonna go downstairs to meet the rest of the women and children who live in this home. And in six months, I will bring my little Troy here.

© 2013
Cheryl A. Showers

Don’t Judge Me – Love Me

Judge Me

This is a post for the Picture it & Write Blogging Challenge at Ermiliablog!
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“What are you looking at?” she snarled, when she saw me staring at her. I couldn’t help it. She was just a little girl — she couldn’t have been more than eleven or twelve, but she was hard as nails. The bitterness and hatred that sparked in her eyes broke my heart. I knew her, all to well, and now, my challenge was to reach her before it was too late.

“Oh Lord,” I silently prayed, please don’t let it be too late for her. “Give me the wisdom I need to reach her, Father, before it is too late.”

“Well?” she brazenly demanded. “I asked you a question.”

I smiled at her, and answered her question. “You know very well what I’m looking at, or should I say who I’m looking at? I’m looking at you. Are you Candi?”

Giving me a hard look, she took a deep, exaggerated drag from her cigarette, then slowly exhaled the smoke from her nostrils before she answered me, “Who wants to know?” she replied, as she flicked some ashes on the ground.

I couldn’t help myself. I burst into laughter as I walked up to her and took the cigarette out of her hand, dropping it to the ground and stamping it out. “I’m Jenny,” I replied as she gave me a dirty look. “Don’t you know those things are bad for you?”

“Who cares? Why did you do that? Those things are expensive, you know!” Fire was flashing from her blue eyes, and if looks could kill, I wouldn’t be here now.

“I care,” I replied, looking her right in the eye. “That’s why I’m here. We need to talk.” The other children, presumably her brother and sister were staring at us with eyes as wide as saucers. 

“Why should I talk to you? I don’t even know you,” she replied angrily, crossing her arms in front of her chest and stomping her foot on the dirt road. Her unkempt blonde hair flashed in the sunlight, as she shook her head at me.

I bent over, until I was eye to eye with her, and I told her why she should talk to me. “You need to talk to me, because I’m here to help you. You need to talk to me, because you want to protect your brother and sister, but you can’t do it alone. You need to talk to me, because I’m probably the only one who doesn’t think you’re just a brat. You need to talk to me, because I care about you and your brother and sister, and I want to help you.”

As I was speaking to her, I saw fear flash across her face briefly, before she quickly hid it behind that hard, cold mask she was wearing. “Why do you want to help me?” Candi asked, looking me up and down. Not for the first time, I wished that my job didn’t require me to dress as a professional, in my navy blue pant suit, with a white shell, and a pair of bright red shoes. My auburn hair was tied back from my face with a red scarf, which completed the outfit. It would have made my job as a social worker so much easier, if I could have worn my faded jeans and a tank top, so that children like Candi could relate to me better.

“Candi,” I responded, “I want to help you, because just a few years ago, I was a lot like you.” She eyed me in disbelief, as I continued. “Look, kid, don’t let these fancy clothes fool you. I didn’t always have nice clothes. I didn’t always have a home either, and when I did have that home, I wished I didn’t have to live there. Living on the streets was better than living with my mom and all of her boyfriends, ya’ know?”

I could see her guard beginning to drop a little, and after instructing her brother and sister to go ahead and continue playing without her, she followed me over to my car, and joined me as I sat on the hood. “So what do you want to know?” she whispered as we sat side by side.

Turning so that I could see her face, I softly replied, “I need to know everything. Listen, I don’t want to hurt you or get you in any trouble. I just want to help. I need to help you. Do you want to know why I studied to be a social worker, Candi?” Her big blue eyes focused on mine as she nodded, and I continued, “I wanted to be a social worker so that I could rescue girls and boys like you, girls and boys who were like me when I was your age.”

Candi nodded, and gulping, she asked, “Did your dad ever –?” She looked away, struggling to get the words out, but terrified of what might happen if she spoke them out loud. 

Taking her hand in mine, I lifted Candi’s chin up so that she could see my face, as I nodded yes to her question. I didn’t try to force her to speak, because I knew that she was almost ready, and if I tried to push her or rush her, she might never speak those words out loud. “Do you have a brother or sister?” she asked me.

I nodded, and replied, “I have a little sister, like you do.”

“Did your dad ever… ever… did he ever do that to your sister?” a lone tear slid down her cheek.

“I don’t know for sure. I only know that I tried to protect her, but we never talked about it, ya’ know?” She nodded her head.

“I think my dad is… is… I think he’s going to hurt Reba if I don’t stop him.” She looked earnestly into my face, as the tears began to flow freely, leaving a dirty wet trail down her cheeks. I took my scarf off and handed it to her so she could dry her tears and blow her nose. I never think to bring tissues with me, but the scarf could be replaced. My heart ached to see her pain, but I knew that I couldn’t hold her yet. She wasn’t ready to be held yet. 

“Can you help us?” she whispered softly.

“I can,” I answered with all seriousness, “but you have to tell me everything.” Haltingly, over the next forty-five minutes, Candi shared the torment that she had endured at the hands of her father. Such things should never be.

After she shared her story with me, I explained that the police would be here shortly, and she and her brother and sister would be removed from their home, and placed in foster care. I told her that I would do my best to keep them all together, but there would be no guarantees. Then, we called her brother and sister to come to us, so that we could prepare them for the change that was about to occur in their lives.

Throughout the entire process, I couldn’t help but admire this woman-child. She was old beyond her years, comforting and caring for her brother and sister, as though she was their mother. I felt confident that given the right environment and the right set of circumstances, this young woman would not only survive her tumultuous childhood, she would thrive and overcome the pain of her past. 

“Lord,” I silently prayed, as the police arrived, and I loaded the children into my car, “watch over these beautiful children, and give them the chance that they deserve. Set them free, Father from the pain and the sorrow that has been inflicted on them. In Jesus’ name, let them know peace.”

I chose the foster family to care for these children. I knew them personally, and they were good, caring people… the people who had once cared for me not so long ago, and raised me as though I was their own child.

Do you see that little girl in the picture? Don’t judge her — love her!

© 2013
Cheryl A. Showers