I first noticed Dixie from the back of a crowded job training classroom. She was middle-aged, but it was clear her years had been hard ones. Her long hair was an unkempt chemical shade of faded orange, except for four inches of shocking silvery-gray roots. While her face bore the stamp of hardship, her eyes were kind.
Each week Dixie seemed more hopeful and resolute. She was a promising student, with a certain hope and openness to change. She always came prepared and seemed glad to learn.
I soon learned that Dixie, who was about to finish an associate’s degree, was living in a camper without water or electricity; personal grooming was either not available or not a priority. Maybe both. All things considered, it was understandable. But I knew it wasn’t going to help her get a job.
Cut and Color
Hoping she would not be insulted or ashamed, I offered to help her look her best for job interviews. When she began to cry, I feared I had said the wrong thing. But to my relief, they were tears of thankfulness, not shame or anger. She did want help, so I took her to my stylist, Marsha, who generously worked with Dixie’s hair several times — for free.
It’s amazing what a cut and color can do. Everyone at the salon agreed Dixie looked years younger, and finally her appearance matched her hopeful countenance. Dixie was on a journey to something better, and she had just taken another step.
As I drove way out to the country to take her home that day, Dixie told me her story. It wasn’t the down-and-out story of being disadvantaged or bootstrap-pulling, self-help I expected. Instead, she told me how she met Christ through a Bible study.
It had changed everything for her.
Dixie said she had always believed in God, but like many people, she only prayed when things got rough and desperate. As she admitted her shame, a tear trickled down her cheek. I told her we all begin seeking God with our hands out. And on a daily basis we tend to ignore Him, forget to make time and abandon following Him. I reminded her God is the God of each day and every detail, not just a vending machine used to get blessings. Spiritual sight begins when we move beyond our own perspective and see life from God’s desires.
Though Dixie had been on food stamps for years, her voice broke when she described her former ungrateful attitude for God’s provision. Hot tears of regret streaked her face. But now, she said, she eats nothing without first giving thanks for the food that comes from the hand of God Himself, not the government.
I wondered if Dixie knew how pleasing to God she is, how proud He is of her? I wished she didn’t feel such pain for her sin, but I knew we must all go through that process. It is at that point of brokenness that God comes in and changes our lives. Blessed are those who mourn, who see their desperate need for a Savior.
The Turning Point
Dixie had a lot of bad decisions in her past and lived with some tough consequences. Though her husband had been abusive and in jail, she didn’t blame him for her circumstances.
“It’s my fault — all of it. I can blame no one else. I have left God out of my life for all of my life,” said Dixie. She told me God came anyway to help her more than she could have imagined, and she didn’t think she deserved it.
Then she told me about the day she lost it.
It had rained and flooded her tent, and that was it. She sat in the rain, crying out to God, saying she thought she could endure living like that, but she couldn’t. Repenting of her life away from God, she turned her problems over to Him. She committed to daily prayer and church attendance. God became the God of her everyday.
The farther we drove into the country, I noticed large cotton fields flanking the road, beautiful and white, ready for harvest under a blue Alabama sky. Her pop-up camper sat in a row of dilapidated trailers, surrounded by trash, car parts and ugly little dogs. Life’s consequences can be hard. But God is there too.
Dixie was grateful for new hair and for people helping her turn her life around. She rightly gave credit to God; she realized it was Him working through us to get her back on track. When I said goodbye, in my heart I knew I had seen God work mightily in a life. Dixie still has a long way to go, but she is not alone. It was an awesome privilege to watch God build a life from ashes.
On the way home, I stopped and walked into the white cotton fields and prayed. I took the pictures featured in this story, and I couldn’t help but notice the message: The fields are white unto harvest, but the workers are few. I’m not the only worker in the field — now Dixie is too. You don’t need new hair or an interview for this job. The fields are ready for harvest.