This morning when I was reading scriptures my mind began to wander. I used to think it was a bad thing when my mind would wander when I read from the scriptures. Then I learned that God may be using that time to communicate with me... The thoughts I feel are His messages to me. I spend plenty of time praying to Him, but how often do I sit and listen and feel his answers to me? Today my mind wandered to the parable of the lost sheep. Christ was willing to leave the whole flock of 99 sheep to go after the 1 that was lost. I sat at the metal table wearing my stripes in the quiet of the morning in a chilly jail with my books open, but not really reading. Just feeling... and listening to what I felt. I felt very strongly that I am in the middle of a lot of girls that are hurting. They have caused a lot of pain. And hurt people closest to them. With a lot of regret. They are the lost sheep. No, not the lost sheep. His lost sheep. Is it strange for me to write that I feel honored to be in jail? I'm still scared. I still don't sleep great at night. I still don't let many emotions show. But I can't explain the feeling of protection I have here. I feel the Holy Ghost so strong. Maybe it's the physical power of prayers from others? Maybe it's the positive thoughts and good vibes? Maybe it's the love of my Savior? I still don't understand my purpose here, but I'm settling into the routine of things and learning about these girls. I have no doubt that inspiration will come when I'm ready to receive it. So that's what I pray for... I don't know what these girls need, but God does. He knows their needs, their hurts, their temptations, and also their strengths, their loves, their wants. And if He feels confident enough in me to allow me to be here, then the least I can do is open my mouth and show these girls the love that He feels for them.
There was drama in here this morning when the guards came to wake up 2 of the girls and take them out. It was after breakfast, but before 7:00 am headcount. At count there was only 10 of us, rather than 13. Listening to the girls, I learned that Brother was out doing laundry, so we were all accounted for. It did cross my mind that someone had escaped, although I don't know how that would happen. But the girls were worred about the 2 that were pulled out. The officers came back in and cleaned out a bunch of stuff out of their cells. There went the rest of my quiet time for the morning! After a while they brought the girls back in and then heard the guards talking to one of the guy inmates out in the hall. Appearantly one of the girls left her coat in the common area over night and one of the guards took it and found a note from one of the guy inmates. I'm so naïve, I have no idea how they can pass notes between inmates in a different cell block! The girls got a bunch of 'privileges' taken away. No more phone calls. No commissary. No library privileges. (I learned later that anywhere there's an area that both the male and female inmates visit, notes can be passed... The library and outside were the most common.) They talked about their 'boyfriends' on the other side of the wall, hoping for a glimpse of them as they walk by the window to pass by outside or to the library or even an outside visitor. Some of the guards are strict about closing all the windows before the girls and guys have a chance to see each other.
Today Dolly and I talked quite a bit. She shared her frustrations in being here. She said she was going along just fine at another facility, and then 2 weeks ago they uprooted her and transferred her here. This jail was full when they transferred her, so she spent 2 days in a holding cell all by herself without anything to do. I've been in that holding cell when they booked me. It's like being in one of our cells without being able to get out. She said she spent a lot of time bawling in there, wondering why she would be transferred here when it's already full, and being bored out of her mind. As I heard her talk, I knew that during the weeks before I came, I was praying specifically for someone in jail to 'show me the ropes.' She was that person - the answer to my prayers. She let me borrow her shampoo and conditioner to wash the lice chemical out of my hair, she lent me her pen and paper so I could journal until I had my own. She fills me in on what to expect and gives me someone to sit by when we eat meals. She has given me a friend, even as close as the cell right next to me, to ask questions that I'm too scared to ask anyone else. She tells me who's who and what to look out for.
Still frustrated, she told me at that point, "I still don't know why they have transferred me here!" I blurted out, "I know exactly why... Because I was praying for a friend. Someone to show me the ropes. I needed you here." She looked at me for a minute and I blinked back my tears - my first emotions that have been shown in 3 of some of the longest days of my life. She wasn't as good at blinking back tears. She tilted her head and slowly said, "Thank you." I explained to her why I needed her here right now and how she has been a help to me. (Who knew in all my self-sufficient pride, I would need another inmate?!)
I can connect to her in more ways than she knows. There have been so many times in the past three years that I also questioned "Why am I here? What's my purpose for going through all this hard stuff?" Just as I needed an answer to my prayers for a friend 'on the inside,' maybe I can also be an answer to someone else's prayer. That is a good place to be! Now, I'm not so naïve to think that these girls don't just 'say things' to manipulate or get something out of someone. But I also have to let go of those judgements to an extent. I can't constantly question motives. I'll leave that judging up to God and rely on the Holy Ghost to warn me.
It sparked a good conversation between Dolly and I. She said she has missed her family a lot. At Thanksgiving they have a tradition where they go around the table and say what they are thankful for. She sent her 'thankful moments' home in a letter to be read at the dinner table.
Dolly said she'd really like to go back to church when she gets out. Then she looked down at her arms of tattoos and said, "But people at church don't really look like this, do they? What would people say if I really showed up at church?" I told her about a girl named Al Fox, who goes by the nickname The Tattooed Mormon. I summarized Al's story of how she does just that - she goes to church each Sunday - with arms covered in tattoos - with a smile on her face. She speaks to crowds to motivate them not to judge others. It's not encouraged for LDS people to have tattoos, but if we are practicing Christian behavior, then we won't think twice to include someone new - tattoos or not. Man, my thinking has changed already since my scary experience at Probation Orientation! My prayers were for the future day when Dolly would find the courage to step inside a church building again. I hope she feels the love of her Savior through the people there. I hope she feels welcomed with open arms. I prayed for God to send words to the mouths of those people that they will know how to respond to her and help her know she is loved by Him!
Tonight we watched Bonnie and Clyde all together. It's the first time, other than meal time, that all of us have been in the common area at one time, to agree on something to do together. I don't really watch TV, nor did I have an interest in Bonnie and Clyde, but everyone else was so excited about this made-for-TV-movie, and I didn't have much else to do, so I found an uncomfortable metal seat at one of the tables to watch. On the first commercial, Brother stood up and randomly started counting us. She said, "Aww look! Everyone is here! We're all together!" She got a little sappy about everyone being gathered together to agree on a movie to watch. No bickering about what was on TV or if it is too loud or who had a turn to watch what they wanted already. Funny that she would notice and actually do a head count. About that time I turned around to Karen and said, "This is pretty much like Family Night, right?!" She laughed and said, "Ya, the Adam's Family!" We had a good laugh. Man, it feels good to laugh. Feeling emotion again. And realize that these girls are no different than anyone else in wanting to feel included - part of a family - something bigger than themselves - unity - togetherness - instilled by Heavenly Father. It comes in a strange form sitting in jail all watching Bonnie and Clyde together, but it fills a need that we all crave. For some of them, jail is the best place to find it. The movie continued after the commercial and the girls hooped and hollered, rooting for Bonnie and Clyde to make their escapes. I just laugh inside. This has got to be the strangest mission ever!
This evening I read a quote from The Miracle of Forgiveness that really got me thinking. Spencer W. Kimball writes, "There is a prevalent, perhaps subconscious, feeling that the Lord designed repentance only for those who commit murder or adultery or theft or other heinous crimes. This of course is not so. If we are humble and desirous of living the gospel we will come to think of repentance as applying to everything we do in life, whether it be spiritual or temporal in nature. repentance is for every soul who has not yet reached perfection."
I had to read it and re-read it a few times. It's something I've known, but maybe not applied as well as I could. I have spent the last 3 years 'proving' my innocence. Stating that I have done nothing wrong. Over and over again. I have done nothing wrong. Although it's true - I am innoscent of what I have been charged of - I am not perfect. I am human. If I am willing to work for the relationship I want with God, then there's some minor things that have slipped past me without repenting of. For me, it's not repenting of bad things I have done, but more about repenting and setting myself up to do better in the good things I have not done. I am not always diligent in my scripture study. I forget to start my day with prayer. I lack patience with my kids on occasion. I am not as organized as I could be. I choose to eat food that's not always the best for me. It's nothing close to 'murder or adultery or theft' like Spenser W. Kimball writes about, but it's those things I could do better at that I can apply repentance to. For that thought, I am thankful. 3 years is a long time to continue to say, "I have done nothing wrong," when I am human. I make mistakes. I get my priorities mixed up. I get forgetful. And I am thankful for a God that hears and understands and makes it possible for me to do better.
I know I will be judged for what I know. I will be held accountable for that. The girls in here will also be judged for what they know individually. I am thankful that God holds us each to our own level of accountability. It wouldn't be fair for me to be held accountable for what they know, nor for them to be held accountable for what I know.
Today the guards brought in mail! They don't deliver mail on the weekends. I wasn't really expecting anything since I've only been here for the weekend, and I didn't really know the process for mail to tell my family before I came in. I got mail anyway! My Mom and Grandma both sent me mail - postmarked the day I left, of course. They are so on the ball! I needed encouragement. I needed my family - without feeling like they are here with me. I couldn't see my Mom's or my Grandma's face, but I held a card with their handwriting. Mail filled that need. A few of the other girls got letters too.
In my Mom's letter was a small card the size of a business card that she wrote a message. The message paired with my Mom's familiar handwriting brought a strong reminder,
"Only God can turn
A TEST into a TESTimony,
A MESS into a MESSage,
A TRIAL into a TRIumph!"
This small card remained on the inside of my locker for the entire time I served. I wish I had a picture of it to post, but I passed the card on to another deserving inmate at the end of my sentence before I left.
Today marks 17 days until Christmas. My Christmas card is not written yet. So I tried to start writing it tonight. How exactly do I start writing a Christmas card after the year we have had?
Can I summarize our basketball and soccer seasons, piano lessons, therapy progress, and hunting trips without mentioning all the hard stuff? A lot of our friends have been following our progress, but a lot don't know anything.
However, on my To Do List in here, I need to get approved for crochet hooks asap. It may save my sanity to have something new to learn and something to create! There's a few of these girls that have said they will teach me to crochet, so I just need to get my own supplies sent in. It's better than sleeping and watching whatever they decide to watch on TV.
There's a specific process for everything in here. Like I learned when I was booked in here, I couldn't bring my own books or scriptures. They have to be sent in brand new from Amazon or another online store. There's a list of things we can ask to be approved to have. Among the list is shower shoes, crochet hooks, yarn, a blanket of our own, a small rug, pictures no bigger than 5x7, a cd player, cd's, and a few other things. I'm turning in my request for hooks, yarn, a blanket so maybe when I'm out in between I can buy them online to be sent in. The other girls have to call family or friends to have them send items in. Most of them feel really bad about asking people on the outs to buy them things. I don't think those on the outs understand how much we go without in here.
There is also a list of items we can buy on store commissary. The guards go once a week to the store to fill our requests. I had no idea it was such a process to get a hold of some cheap Suave shampoo and conditioner! I've also requested hot chocolate mix. A girl has to have some chocolate to make it through this place! I've also learned that with shampoo and conditioner I get 'free' secret tape. The girls use the labels off the bottles to tape pictures up on their walls or to tape string to the table to make friendship bracelets. Every single item they get in here is saved and repurposed. No wonder Martha Stewart did so well in jail! If she can do it, I can totally take it on!
One last side note from my day: Last year a harvested corn field by our house accidently caught fire. It spread up over the hill toward us and threatened our house. The farmer that owns the field called in the other farmers in the area to disc a line in the field around our house to create a fire barrier. The fire fighters evacuated our house and we had to stand and wait to see what the fire would do. There was smoke damage, but the farmers saved most of our property! As I was cleaning my cell late this morning, I heard a familiar voice come over the TV. I had to stick my head out to see if it was really him. My neighbor that had called in for help to save our house was on a potato commercial! I have never been so excited for a familiar voice! A reminder of a little bit of normal!
In the process of cleaning our home of smoke damage, women from church came to collect all our smoke-smelling-laundry - clean and dirty - to wash at their own homes and return it once our house and been professionally cleaned. In the rush to get everything out of the house, I remember being so embarrassed thinking someone had our underwear and whites at their house to wash.
This jail experience has beat the humility of that experience. Today was laundry day. Brother is the head laundry worker. Although she's the 'guy' of the group, she's really good at keeping everyone's sizes straight, keeping us stocked with clean stripes every other day, and pressing the guard's uniforms for the next shift. I have been hesitant to drop my mesh bag of whites in the laundry though. I got the courage up to talk to her when she was alone. I told her she could just wash and dry my whites and leave them in the mesh bag for me to fold. Oh no, that isn't the way she does things. Brother brought me back my pile of whites washed with bleach, dried, and all folded in a nice, neat pile. All I could do was laugh to myself. Tonight I will thank God for clean laundry, however that humbling blessing is supposed to come! 3 days down. 6 more to go before I get a break to return to my family and rejuvenate for my next week in jail!