The Smile of a Disposable Woman

marginalized women

A smile may be the most costly gift a woman has to offer.

I recently scribbled a message in a birthday card for a delightful young lady celebrating her 24th birthday. The cover was ornate, drawn by a friend, and the inside was filled with well wishes and love. The birthday girl spent her big day in jail. And given her charge, she may pass all of her remaining birthdays there.

I don’t know the circumstances of her life or the details surrounding the event that landed her in an orange jumpsuit. What I know of her is that she seems shy with bright eyes and a radiant smile. She is most often tucked in the fold of two older inmates I am especially fond of. We hug and cry and laugh and shoot straight and recite Scripture together each Sunday morning. All three are sitting under the heaviest of charges.


To the world, these ladies – with their mug shots and rap sheets – are disposable.

Most of the time I think, “It’s no wonder they are here. It’s absolutely no wonder…” And I even ponder, “Are we – to some degree – responsible? How have we reached down to the sector of disadvantage and loved like Jesus?”  I’m not talking about episodes of charity; I’m talking about a commitment to deliverance.

This is the same weight I hauled back from Kenya. I was despondent for two months after my return. I was heartbroken by the likelihood that I would return to my middle class white girl ignorance. And I did. Mainly because I didn’t know what to do. How to be different in a world that defines hardship as having a PC instead of a Mac.

The problem is too big, I thought.

There isn’t enough money, I reasoned. Or enough time


But if I am honest I don’t think those excuses are going to hold water when we answer for our lives.

Something inside of me is broken for marginalized women. Disposable women. But my thing doesn’t have to be your thing.

God cares about orphans and widowsprisoners and the poor, the oppressed, the abused and the mourning. Pick one.

And I don’t think we get to throw money at an issue and feel released. Because if money were the answer, the wealthiest people in our society would be the healthiest. And that just isn’t so.

If we want to make a difference, we have to get out where it’s scary. And raw. And beautiful.

Jesus fought for the fringe.

He ministered to those in the margin.

He dignified the disposable.


So as we wade into the the holiday season of gratitude and joy and peace, I’d like to suggest some ideas for a different kind of Christmas. The kind that might afford a smile to a disposable woman.

Buy Christmas gifts from organizations helping others. We’re going to spend the money anyway….why not choose gifts that directly benefit the disadvantaged?

  • Thistle Farms is a residential program in Nashville for those surviving abuse, addiction, trafficking, and prostitution. My daughter’s teachers are receiving candles poured and wicked by the ladies who benefit from this program. They sell an assortment of cool gift items, and my new favorite tee, “Love Heals,” came from TF.
  • Punjammies are on my own Santa list; they are pajama bottoms made by women in India who have escaped trafficking. Sudara also carries fun tees for girls, mamas, and dudes. And all purchases help keep women out of the sex trade.
  • This article highlights other brands fighting trafficking.
  • And if you are local to the lower part of SC, I direct you to De Baz in Hartsville. Your purchases can help empower women in Ethiopia, help fight poverty in Guatemala, support families in Ecuador, and provide income and safe work environments for women in Nepal – just to name a few.

de baz

de baz

de baz

Create a plan for getting involved as a family. Have a date night or family meeting at Starbucks – with red cups in hand – and discuss your passions and opportunities, do research and plan a next step.

  • Come alongside someone barely scrapping out an existence. Not so much where you supply Thanksgiving dinner and an overwhelming load of gifts. But where you invite them to your table. On a regular basis. A single mom. A teen mom. A struggling young couple. A widow. A divorced father. Get involved in their lives for the long haul. Build real relationships that provide legitimate support.
  • Get involved in the education of someone fighting for a chance. Education is a subversive attack on poverty.
  • Jump in at your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen and invest in people there on a regular basis. Hang out there on Tuesday nights and love them well. Help them make connections with job opportunities. Prepare and share a meal with them. Locals, Whosoever Community Church would love to have you there building relationships, especially since resident numbers will spike with the colder temperatures.

beautiful smile

PS. If this is going to be a difficult holiday season, I double dog strongly encourage you to dive in to helping someone else. On some of my darkest days of depression, I forced myself – quite unwillingly – to get up and help someone outside of my family. It is medicine.

Send some dollars outside of the US to help efforts abroad and to tender your heart for the world. There are tons of organizations doing great work all over the globe; you’ll encounter no shortage there. I personally know the world changer, Rachel Keefe, and know her to be an amazing steward of God’s call on her life. If you choose to donate, you will enable her to continue doing ministry – loving on beautiful kiddos in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. You can best follow her heart and her journey on Facebook.

vietnamese smiling

And I know the final point is a jarring conclusion to this list but, to me, it’s so in line with the heart of this post.

Please stop supporting the porn industry. Porn addiction has become a quiet epidemic. Even in the church. Among men and women. My words are saturated in nothing but love and grace. My own sin is great. Ladies, I know you abhor the clutch this addiction has on you, but it will not fill the emptiness gnawing your insides.

Porn is sex trade.

Fellas, the girl on your screen is being sold. You are the buyer. I am aware that its an addictive tool used by Satan to dismantle your faith, to trap you in secrets and shame. But there’s also more at stake. There is no chance that in the little girl’s heart that still beats beneath the charade she likes what she’s doing. There was a juncture in her life where she felt she had no other choice. Even if it was when she was five and somebody decided her innocence was theirs for the taking.

Please do whatever it takes to be free. For your sake and hers.



Jesus fought for the fringe.

He ministered to those in the margin.

He dignified the disposable.

[Beautiful images: Rafa Puertahimadri 48Geraint RowlandAdam CohnRakesh JVCiaoHoVee]
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  1. Jodi
    November 10, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Cookie, I am so right there with you on this whole thing. God opened my eyes to the plight of women and girls worldwide (and right here in my own backyard) in 2010-2011. I haven’t been the same since my little suburban, privileged bubble was burst, and I thank God for it. Thank you for using your platform and your gifts to serve those living in the margins. So grateful for what you do. God bless you!

    • Cookie Cawthon
      November 10, 2015 at 7:35 pm

      Jodi, the gratitude is so reciprocal! Such respect for your efforts…keep pressing forward. I love all that you and Amirah are doing!

      • Jodi
        November 11, 2015 at 10:28 am

        A book you might love, Cookie…Half the Church, by Carolyn Custis James. I read this along with Half the Sky by Nick Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn. These books were the one- two punch that changed the trajectory of my life. Could not close those books and go back to my comfortable suburban bubble. I recently saw somewhere that your calling (or at least part of it) is that thing you’re doing that it would break your heart to give up. My heart breaks constantly for exploited/trafficked women & girls, but it would be irrevocably broken if I had to walk away from doing some small part to come alongside them. Your words in this post and your heart for these women sure resonate with mine. So grateful.

        • Cookie Cawthon
          November 11, 2015 at 12:11 pm

          I’m adding these books to my Christmas list, and I love the truth about our broken hearts…

          • Jodi
            November 19, 2015 at 3:10 pm

            I don’t think you’ll regret the time spent reading those books, Cookie. Let me know what you think!

  2. Lynn Thow
    Lynn ThowReply
    November 10, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    Thank you, Cookie. This truly spoke to my heart in many ways. I know I could use this kind of medicine in my life.
    Love ya lots!!

    • Cookie Cawthon
      November 10, 2015 at 8:21 pm

      Lynn, you are beautiful in every way. Big love!

  3. Kelli McGregor
    Kelli McGregorReply
    November 11, 2015 at 4:55 am

    So glad you shared this, and provided info about businesses supporting work of those trying to escape poverty and trafficking. My heart was so heavy regarding the issue of poverty and how to help. I knew throwing money at it wasn’t the answer.

    Then I found a book called “When Helping Hurts”. It talked about our 1st world views and how there are times we need to give to meet immediate needs, but that to truly attack poverty is more of a dedication to be with people for a longer period of time….to help them understand God, his values, and how to apply those principles to help themselves, and when you should be helper, and when you should allow the community of those need to be the helper.

    It was a very deep, but common sense book about attacking poverty from the view of Christianity, and you are very right on point with your efforts. Time, dedication, and education is a much harder and costly commitment to make (not to mention complex) than just giving, but it’s the answer.

    Thank you for sharing, and providing ideas for how we can can be a part of the solution, and for the work you do with inmates. What a blessing.

    • Cookie Cawthon
      November 11, 2015 at 9:18 am

      Kelli, I love this. I certainly feel like I am just growing into my burden and finding ways to be involved from where I am. Social media gives us such a rich forum for sharing ways to dig in and make a difference. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  4. Meredith
    November 11, 2015 at 8:25 am

    This is so good. I love your servant heart Cookie Cawthon! Thanks for this- will be helping out this year to someone who needs it❤️

    • Cookie Cawthon
      November 11, 2015 at 9:13 am

      Meredith, you have one of the most gorgeous hearts for giving that I’ve ever seen!

  5. Liz
    November 11, 2015 at 11:32 am

    This is why I cry, argue, stress, and put everything I can into my special needs kids. This is why I put in hours into my cub scout troop of underprivileged boys. I couldn’t put it better. Something in me is broken for my poor, hurting, beautiful children. I try to put God’s love in every interaction with them. I will remember this article next time I’m having a rough day and just want to give up.

    • Cookie Cawthon
      November 11, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      Liz, you keep after it. You are making such a huge difference – even if you never get to see it on this side. Thank you for loving in the margin!

  6. Sherri Owens
    Sherri OwensReply
    November 12, 2015 at 7:56 am

    I really enjoyed this devotion. It has made me think about a few things.

    • Cookie Cawthon
      November 12, 2015 at 7:59 am

      Thank you for reading, Sherri! My hope was to provide some ideas for how to get involved. I have had the desire in the past but had not idea how to become a part of the solution. Have a great day!

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