The Prostitutes Christmas
Nicole was back in the backseat of her mom's Fiat. She loved it back there because it was small. Grownups always ask why it even has a back seat and other unpleasant things about the car. These comments didn't make sense to her. She loved the little back seat. It was like having her very own little basket to ride in. It wasn't easy to see out the window but there usually wasn't anything outside on the street she wanted to see.
It was just a couple days before Thanksgiving so she was twisted to one side looking for Christmas lights.
"There's one." Nicole's mother said, shaking her head. "Mr. Rice would put his lights up over Labor Day if he could."
"I think they are pretty." Nicole said, watching them as they disappeared from view as her mother drove on.
Excited by finding one house with Christmas lights, Nicole continued to search for more. From the street a pedestrian would not see enough of Nicole's face to even recognize her, but Nicole could see out just fine.
"Do you think it will snow today?" Nicole asked. The Christmas spirit was settling in fast and Nicole was ready for some snow. Christmas light always looked better in the snow.
"No, honey." Nicole's mother replied with a roll of her eyes, which Nicole didn't see. "It's 48 degrees outside, that's not even close to freezing."
"Are you sure, it seems a lot colder than that." Nicole continued.
"It feels like that because you didn't put on the longs sleeve shirt I told you to put on." She pointed out.
Nicole didn't listen. She continued to comb the passing houses for lights. They pulled up to a stop light and stopped, where Nicole saw a lady she thought she knew. As she was trying to remember where she had seen her before, her mother's friend Aunt Joyce pointed her out. "I can't believe she would leave her house in an outfit like that. Those pants must be painted on and I can't even begin to figure out how she gets them off and on. Why, if she bent over right now, we would get an eye full of un-holiness. That girl needs to change her ways. Not that it would do any good, I hear she has AIDS."
Nicole's voice made Aunt Joyce jump. Caught up in the moment she forgot Nicole was in the car.
"This one is all yours mommy." Aunt Joyce said looking at Nicole's mother.
Nicole saw the glare her mother gave Aunt Joyce. She was obviously not happy Aunt Joyce had brought up this subject.
"It's a disease that some people get. There isn't a medicine to help them or cure it. So once they get it, they have it until they pass away."
"Is it catchy?" Nicole asked with a genuine concern. "Could I catch it if she coughed on me?"
"I don't know but you need to stay away from her just in case," Aunt Joyce interjected.
"Um, I don't think so, Nicole." Her mother said. "It's more of a sickness that comes from touching."
"Yeah, sinful touching." Aunt Joyce said under her breath. Nicole heard her. She thought about the statement as the light turned green and they drove away.
"Isn't there something we can do to help her? We should pray for her. God can heal anything. It sounds like leopard seed. Jesus healed that all the time." Nicole told her mother. Aunt Joyce and her mother were silent.
"Remember when the blind man was healed? Jesus forgave him which caused the healing or something like that. Doesn't Jesus do that anymore?" Nicole asked.
"That was a different type of sin." Aunt Joyce defended herself.
"So there are people Jesus doesn't love because of their sin?" Nicole asked. Nicole knew that wasn't true, but Aunt Joyce was forcing her to question what she knew.
"That's not what I said." Aunt Joyce said. "Will you please explain to your daughter, she can't understand because she is too young."
"I'm not sure she is wrong." Nicole's mother replied.
"She's only eleven." Aunt Joyce said. "I shouldn't have to explain such a simple thing to you. She would have been stoned in the Old Testament. God made the rules, I am just trying to follow them."
"Would you throw the first stone?" Nicole said with a little bit of anger.
"That's enough, Nicole." Her mother warned.
Nicole knew the tone and looked out the window again. The lights had lost their glow. She did not even notice most of them as they finished their drive to church.
They climbed out of the car and headed into the family life center. Today was the day the church was giving out food to the needy. Nicole let bitterness take over her. Even at eleven, she knew that her Aunt Joyce was not doing this ministry for the right reasons. Through her own words Nicole had seen her heart. It wasn't just today. It was many occasions. Today it was just the day it all came clear. This was the, "It." She really didn't care about the people. Yet she came month after month volunteering in this awesome outreach. Nicole knew there was a verse in the Bible that had to do with doing things without love. She was going to look it up when she got home. Better yet, her mom had a Bible app on her phone.
"Mom, let me see your phone, please. I want to look up something." Nicole asked.
"Not now, we have too much work to do. Go to the kitchen and get ready to help serve." Her mother said.
Nicole was soon caught up in the day, as she gathered the dirty plates after people had eaten. The hostile thoughts came rushing back as they all climbed back in the Fiat to head home.
'How could her Aunt be so uncaring?' Somehow every negative word her Aunt ever said came to mind. The thoughts were making her sick.
Once she got home she was determined to find a verse to prove that her Aunt Joyce was wrong. She grabbed her tablet and started looking up 'without love' verses.
Nicole soon found the power of God's Word in a new way. As she sought after verses to show how wrong her Aunt had been, she found a verse that showed her how wrong she had been. This would be a lesson she would never forget. The Word of God is living and the Holy Spirit guides us through it. In many cases he guides us in a way, and with a message we did not expect. Each time it is exactly what we need to hear.
There it was in 1 Peter 3:8-9.
‘Now finally, all of you should be like- minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing.’ (HCSB)
The verses were off to a great start. That is until she got into verse nine. Nicole didn't want to be evil towards her aunt, but she knew that was where she was headed. Her feelings were in turmoil with a hint of hate. Even before she started to make excuses for her feelings, the Holy Spirit reminded her that God did not give her what she deserved for her mistakes, so she shouldn't give others what they deserve.
Nicole closed her bible app and switched to a game. Her mind was blank. She didn't know what to do, but she wanted to help that woman more than ever.
'Miss Thomas,' Nicole remembered. She wasn't a hundred present sure, but for some reason, that was the only name that seemed to fit.
'What could she need or want for Christmas?' Nicole wondered. For the next few days she tried to figure out what she could do.
"Mom, what does Miss Thomas need most?" Nicole asked.
Her mother had no idea who she was asking about. This caused her to pause. She held the milk jug and the open door to the refrigerator. "Who is Miss Thomas?"
"She's the woman that used to go to church that has AIDS." Nicole answered after a sip of milk. "I want to help her. I can't stop thinking about how Jesus came to save people like her. It seems that she needs Jesus as much as anyone I know."
"You sweet girl, I believe you are right. She needs Jesus. But I am not sure there is anything we can do." She responded as she closed the door. "She has needs that are beyond what we can do."
"But Jesus says that nothing is impossible with God's help." Nicole stated.
Her mother was now stumped. She had no idea how to respond. There wasn’t a parenting class, to prepare for this type of questioning.
"I search my bible for an answer, for what I need to do. Just like you always tell me to do." Nicole started. "First John 4 told me to love others and if I don't love then Jesus isn't in my heart. I know Jesus is in my heart and I want him to stay. So I know I need to show her love. But everyone I talk to says not to. Mommy, why are there so many people at church that say it's wrong to love people like Miss Thomas. Then there are people like Aunt Joyce that work in outreach ministries but don't actually love any of them. See here in 1 Corinthians 13:3
'And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor,
and if I give my body in order to boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.' (HCSB)
I know I'm only eleven, but I want to do what Jesus tells us to do. I just do know how to give her love."
Her mother was still speechless. All she could think to say was, "that's something we need to pray about." She turned to start washing the dishes.
"That's what I was hoping you'd say." Nicole surprised her mother by grabbing her arm. Nicole took her at her word, and wasn't going to wait until later. She knew her mother meant well, but she also knew a promise to pray didn't mean together, if at all. Her mother turned with a laugh and grabbed Nicole's hands.
"Okay, let pray."
They prayed and paused for an answer. There was no flash of light or booming voice. No answer came in any form. Nicole was disappointed. She was so sure God was going to hand her the answer. A disappointed frown grew across her face as she left the kitchen.
"What can I do?" She asked herself.
Nicole got her tablet out and decided she would make a list. She thought about all kinds of things, but then thought to herself, 'what would make me smile?' The Holy Spirit was speaking to her.
After thirty minutes she had a list that looked promising.
Basket of chocolates
Starbucks gift card
Fudge covered Oreos
Her list made her hungry, so she headed back into the kitchen.
"Mom, do we have any brownies. I really need a brownie." Nicole looked through the cupboard, hoping to find a yummy bite to eat.
"We don't, but we could make some if you want." Her mother replied.
Nicole's tummy growled in anticipation, as they began to get out everything they would need.
"Can we make a double batch? I want to share them with Miss Thomas." Nicole asked.
"That's a good idea. We can do that."
Nicole smiled the whole time, as the thought of making Miss Thomas smile. There is nothing funnier than sharing Jesus' love. As they mixed and added ingredients Nicole wondered if Miss Thomas ever had amazing times like this with her own mother.
“Do you think Miss Thomas ever made brownies with her mother when she was small?” Nicole asked.
"That's a good question. I do not know." Nicole's mother said.
Later that day, all the brownies were finished and plated. Nicole picked out the best six brownies for Miss Thomas. She wrapped them in the red plastic wrap and tied it up with a red and green ribbon. It was a beautiful.
"Mommy, can we go deliver them now?" Nicole asked with excitement.
"I am not sure where she lives. I wouldn't know where to look." She replied.
"But she needs them while they are still warm. Can we at least drive back to the corner we saw her on earlier? She may live near there." Nicole pleaded.
Her mother didn't think there was any chance they would find her, but she needed to stop at the store anyway. She would take a small detour on the way, then go to the store when they don’t find her.
"Come on let's see if she is out." Nicole's mother said. Her faith was not driving her actions. She was actually hoping not to see her. As they turned on to Grove Street, a fear of actually finding her began to build. If she was still on that same corner, it would be for only one reason. She will not want to see anyone from the church. She will get mad and make an awful scene, because we are keeping business away. As she thought about the possible reaction of Miss Thomas, she began to debate whether she should allow Nicole to be in this doomed situation. In her mind, she could see no good outcome for this trip. She decided to abort the mission. She turned into a parking lot to turn around.
"Nicole, I think we should..." Nicole's mother started.
"There she is!" Nicole yelled.
This startled her mother causing her to hit the brakes. The car slowed and threw them both forward.
"She's right over there." Nicole pointed. "I just knew we'd find her. God doesn't lie. He told me we'd find her and there she is."
Nicole's mother found herself in a place where she would have preferred God had stayed quiet. She took a deep breath and told herself, "If God is in this it will be fine." She almost believed it. She turned the car in Miss Thomas's direction. She was in the best possible spot. She was on the sidewalk that ran in front on the drug store' parking lot. This allowed the small family outreach team to park right next to her.
Miss Thomas wasn't alone. She was standing there with another women similarly dressed. Both women turned as the car stopped behind them. Because the car was not being driven by a single man, they lost interest instantly. They did not see the young girl hop out of the with a tray of brownies.
"Miss Thomas, is that you?" Nicole asked.
Both women turned around to this sweet little voice.
"Miss Thomas? Girl, she has you pegged wrong. Miss Thomas? That's the funniest thing I have heard in a long time girl." She was laughing at her friend. "Little girl I think you have the wrong Ho. There is nothing Miss about this one. This is Sugar Smacks. You need to get back in yo’ ride and go on home to your fancy crib and bake some cookies or something. We do not have time for you. We are trying to work here."
Nicole didn't know how they were working, but she didn't let the anger in the other lady's voice stop her. "Miss Thomas, I baked you some brownies." She held out the tray as an offering. Miss Thomas didn't move a muscle, she just stared in disbelief at his little girl. "Here, they are for you. Free. Jesus told me to show you love."
"Jesus sent you?" Miss Thomas said sarcastically. "You have got to be kidding me. God talked to you and told you to find me?" She turned away, not accepting the tray.
Her friend was still laughing. The thing her friend couldn't see and didn't know, was God had been talking to her as well. Nicole would learn later that God always sends his Spirit into every situation, prior to sending us in. The role of the Holy Spirit is too often over looked. Our success comes only when we follow the Holy Spirit into the situation in need of a miracle. This day Nicole would see her first miracle.
"Yes he did." Nicole said. "Like I read in Luke 19; Jesus came to save the lost. I felt like he was saying to me that you have been lost and he misses you. I wanted to do something so you would know Jesus still loves you. I couldn't do much, but my mommy and me made some brownies for you." She held out the tray again. "These are for you."
"Whatch you want from me kid?" Miss Thomas asked. "I got nothin' to give you. I wouldn't if I did." She still grabbed the tray. "But if you want me to have them, I guess I will just take them."
Nicole ignored the tone of her voice and grinned from ear to ear, finding victory in the find and delivery. "Okay, enjoy the brownies and please come back to church again. Bye bye."
"You need to keep a better eye on your kid. She is walking on dangerous ground when she walks on us." Miss Thomas.
Her friend was speechless. She just stared at Nicole.
Nicole and her mother got back in the car and drove off.
"Gimme some of those brownies, MISS Thomas."
Nicole's mother felt a bit dumb and even more like a failure. She wish she had said something. Her mind was blank. All she could do was stand there and listen to her daughter speak in faith. She also wondered why God hadn't been speaking to her. Again she felt bad for not listening better during prayer. All she got out as they walked back to the car was, "it was good to see you again." She hoped it was over. She guessed it was now that the brownies were delivered. Certainly, Miss Thomas would never show up. It was a waist of breath to ask someone like her. There she was casting prejudgment again. She condemned herself as she drove home. She forgot all about the store.
The next Sunday, Pastor Matt taught out of Isaiah 6. It was about Isaiah telling God he would go, after he was humbled. "Here I am send me." He went because the sinful world is lost and someone had to tell them about salvation. Nicole's mother began to cry. Her little girl had told God the same thing in her own way. She had been right all the time. Memphis was a lost and sinful place. Someone had to tell the people salvation is possible. She couldn't just leave it up to her daughter.
After the message, she started to leave the sanctuary when to her surprise Miss Thomas was headed towards the door just ahead of them.
"Mommy, there she is!" Nicole yelled.
Nicole grabbed her mother's sleeve and pulled her mother towards the door. Her mother was stopped by Mrs. Carter, who wanted to ask a silly question about an event four months away.
"Ugh," Nicole said loud enough for her mother to hear. This got a scolding look from her mother.
By the time they made it to the parking lot, Miss Thomas was nowhere to be seen. Nicole's mother was sure that Nicole was going to make a big scene about letting her get away. Once again she was overwhelmed by a negative view on the situation. She was ready to stop Nicole at the first word.
"Mommy, she came, she came!" Nicole shouted.
Her mother was trying to quiet her, but the words she heard were unexpected. Her own words became muddled and blurred.
"God doesn't lie!” She continued to exclaim.
Her mother wasn't sure how to react. Her daughter's response didn't make any sense. Why was she so happy? The Devil was doing his best to distract her from the truth of the miracle that had just taken place. This wasn't the first time Nicole said, "God doesn't lie." She believed the Bible just like God had talked to her directly. A smidgen of jealousy crept in her heart. She wished she had faith like that; faith like a child. The Devil's efforts were washed away as the Holy Spirit revealed a truth. Faith like a child is what Jesus had talked about. Miracles happen when we have simple unquestioning faith. Nicole didn't doubt or come up with excuses, she just believed.
This wasn't the first her daughter had taught her something about faith. It probably wouldn't be the last. She wished once again that she could keep her mind from talking herself out of believing. She took a deep breath and forced herself to think about the situation in Nicole's way.
Miss Thomas had come to church and not merely by coincidence. Nicole had not preached to her or gave a great speech. She simple gave a tray of brownies and a smile. It was simple but it worked. She thought about all the times she had over complicated situations until the results didn't turnout nearly the way she had planned. Simplify and show love. There was a new excitement building in her heart as they drove home.
Just before they pulled into their driveway, Nicole's mother said. "This is just the beginning. I think we can get a pretty good care package for Miss Thomas and even her friend we saw her with."
"I was just thinking the same thing." Nicole shouted with excitement from the back seat. Her dad parked the car with a smile, he knew this was going to be a Christmas full of miracles.
The days to follow we're amazing. Mother and daughter backed cookies and more brownies. They also convinced five other ladies to help.
The Christmas presents filled two trucks.
Two fleece blankets
Four DVD movies
Cookies and brownies
Stationary with flowers
Two Christmas sweaters.
Nicole thought the socks were silly. They were just plain white socks, and she hated plain. Why would anyone buy white socks when Walmart has rainbow knee socks?
The ladies planned a Christmas party after Sunday's service the Sunday before Christmas Day. This time they were ready. Nicole and her mother didn't go to her normal pew. They sat in the very back so Miss Thomas couldn't get away. It was crowded back there, but when she walked in Nicole motioned for her to sit with them. They all squeezed in and began to sing in worship. Nicole looked up at Miss Thomas and listened to her voice. "You have a beautiful voice." Nicole whispered. Miss Thomas smiled.
"Come on, Miss Thomas. We are going to our house for a party and we want you to join us." Nicole said pulling her towards the door. She wasn't sure what was going on, but followed along.
"Wait a minute, where are we going?" Miss Thomas asked.
Nicole's mother took over. "We would like to invite you and a friend to a Christmas party we are having today."
"You don't want me." She said as a matter of fact.
"Actually we do. The party is in your honor. Just like Jesus came to earth just for you, we are having this party just for you. We also need to pick up your friend. I don't know her name but she was with you in the parking lot when Nicole gave you the brownies." Nicole's mother explained.
Miss Thomas wanted to run. She wanted to get away from these crazy church people. The last thing she needed was another lecture, and she was right in that. She already knew the choices she had made. She knew the wrongs she had done. She knew very well, the consequences of these choices. She did not need a finger pointing church hypocrite that lives in denial of their own sin. Church people with no love in their words or actions tell her about Jesus and sin. She felt like a Ebenezer with each Merry Christmas. The words of the proud hurt whether they are spelled out that way or not.
Yet there was something different about the way this woman talked to her. The way she pleaded with her to join them. Could it be there was genuine love in her voice?
She wasn't sure. She hadn't heard love in a voice in such a long time. Not since her mother was killed in a robbery when she was twelve. Her six years in foster care gave her little love. When the love was their, she rejected it out of anger and fear.
"Come on, you can ride with us." Nicole's mother encouraged. "I brought the minivan. We can come back and get your car later."
Miss Thomas wasn't sure what was happening, but she found herself in a minivan headed to who knows where.
Nicole's excitement came out of her mouth. "I am so glad you are riding with us. We have some good food waiting on us. Mommy and me cooked all day yesterday. We have meatballs, mashed potatoes, cheese and crackers, banana pudding, finger sandwiches, pimento cheese and chicken salad. I don't know why they call it chicken salad, because it isn't a salad. There isn't any lettuce and you don't put dressing on it. I think it would be horrible if I put French dressing on a chicken salad sandwich. They really need to change the name. I would call them chicken celery sandwiches." She continued to talk the whole drive.
Nicole's mothers had to talk over top of Nicole's dissertation, which didn't slowdown. "What is your friend’s name?"
"Your friends name is the same as yours?"
"No, my name is Tina. You don't have to call me Miss Thomas. My friend is Sandy. I don't think she will come with us."
"It is worth trying." Nicole's mother said cheerfully. "Where do you think she is? Can you call her and tell her we'll pick her up?"
Tina did and was a little surprised at her answer.
"If those old white women want to give me stuff, I'll take it. But they are not going to change me. But I could go for some meatballs." Sandy told her friend.
"We made brownies too. That is my favorite." Nicole said. "Have you ever baked brownies?"
"My mother and I used to make them when I was about your age." Tina said quietly remembering the smell of her mother and the kitchen. "But that was a long time ago."
"Are you going to see your mother for Christmas?" Nicole asked.
"Does she live far away?"
"Does she live here in Appletown?"
"Well where does she live, she has to live somewhere."
"She doesn't what?" Nicole asked confused by her answer.
"I am so sorry." Nicole's mother said. "Did she pass recently?"
"No, I was twelve. She was killed by a robber for eighteen dollars." The thought still stung Tina.
"Oh dear, that is horrible. I am so sorry."
"There's nothing you could have done." Tina said.
"Where did you go?" She asked. "Did your dad raise you?"
"No, I don't know my dad. I lived with my Aunt."
"I guess that was good."
"Not really. She didn't want me around. But I am done with her now." Tina said defiantly."
Nicole remained silent during this part of the conversation. She was eleven. She didn't know what she would do without her mother. She loved her aunt Joyce, but living with her would be terrible.
The day was a success. For the first time many of the ladies from the church saw Tina and women like her in a different light. Seeing someone on the street corner only, makes it easy to judge. Then once you learn how they ended up in that position, you can't help but change your view. Our view on people is too often blurred by our own experiences and prejudgments. Once we see even a glimpse of their journey, our hearts and our eye are opened to a truth only Jesus could see. Prayer and reading God's word is our only defense against blurred vision. We also have to want to see people the way Jesus sees them. Jesus loves them for a reason and so should we. Jesus weeps for them and so should we.
As the ladies got to know the two once unacceptable women, their hearts melted. Jesus' presence was strong and his love was flowing. The warmth of his love was the only thing better than the warmed up brownies and ice cream.
The last lesson to this story is how to measure success.
Success could have been the first delivery of brownies only. This was a huge step for Nicole in her journey to share God's love.
Success could have been both women accepting Christ as Savior and going into the ministry.
Success is not measurable on a scale. Each situation is different and has different lessons God wants us to learn. We will not always know what the end goal is our even the end result. The important thing is that we do what the Holy Spirit is telling us to do regardless of what we see or don't see.
In this case, Sandy was true to her word. She gladly took her gifts and left, never to enter their church again. This leads to another important note. Her rejecting the love of Jesus was nobody’s fault. It is up to each person to decide. We can't decide for them. Thousands of people rejected Jesus, even some of the ones he healed directly with his own hand. Not everyone will turn to Jesus, but we should still share his love regardless.
Tina on the other hand, came back to church the following week. After hearing the Pastor Matt's message from Luke 19:10, (I am not going to tell you what it says. I want you to pull your own Bible out and read it and accept what the Holy Spirit will tell you.) She went to the altar and accepted Jesus as her Savior. It took a couple years for all the healing to take place in Tina's life. It all started with a tray of brownies and a child-like faith.
Who has God put on your heart?
Pray for God to open your eyes.
John 4:10; “if you knew what I have to give.” HCSB
Proverbs 22:9; A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” HCSB