Sunday, January 25, 2015

#58 - Jail Relationships (Journal Entries from February 7-8, 2014)

I'm trying to finish up 'souveniers' for the kids for the week.  I learned to crochet bows, so I made a few for my girls's hair.  A crochet lizard for Sawyr.  A crochet snake for Walker.  A crochet phone cover for Hunter (Rachel even helped me stitch a Nike sign on it).  I don't expect big responses from them, but atleast they will know I was thinking of them. 


I have gotten to know a really amazing lady, Kris.  Her three kids are almost all grown and gone.  When she was little she got really sick with a high fever and she lost 95% of her hearing.  One of her probation requirements a year ago was to see a doctor to see what could be done.  They decided to put a cochlear implant in and in the past year her brain has learned to hear again!  She said she was amazed at the sounds of birds, how loud semi-trucks are, and the beautiful sound of music.  Out of habit she still reads lips, but her speech has improved so much too!  She wears her heart on her sleeve and cries almost daily over her family that she desperately misses.  Her husband makes the 3 hour drive a couple times a week for visitation, and she talks to someone from her family every morning and every night.  It makes me wonder how in the world an addiction could come between her and her family.  They are so supportive though of her getting healthy and know this jail time is just a step toward having her home.


The other extreme... They've had some problems and Sister got sent to The Hole yesterday.  No one really knows why, but she came back twice today since they needed room for new arrests.  I'm not into all the drama, but the girls expect me to know what's going on since I stay up in the mornings.  It has been so quiet without her here, but once she came back, the noise level also went up. 

We were filled in later after she went back to The Hole.  She was caught talking to her boyfriend on the phone in the other pod.  She called her mom.  Then her boyfriend called her mom on a different phone.  Her mom flip-flopped the phones so they could talk through receivers.  I completely do not understand the relationships that go on in here. 

Tonight I sat by her and the conversation turned to her tattoos.  I'm intrigued and she's willing to share stories for all of them - 100's of details all up and down her legs, arms, and hands that all mean something.  Some are beautiful art and some are morbid and scary.  Rachel piped in and asked what she's gonna do when she gets old and wrinkley.  Sister said, "Ya, I know I'll look like a melted bag of skittles and I'm okay with that.  I don't know any 80 year olds that are still hot looking anyway."  It's the little things that make me smile.  She didn't cuss even once during the whole conversation.  That detail didn't go unnoticed. 


The girls can't get enough of the show Locked Up.  You'd think living the show would be enough, but they love to hear other people's stories, watch other jail set ups, hear updates of fellow inmates.  It's a whole culture to know and understand where they are coming from.  One I never thought I'd be a part of or even have a glimpse into. 

Locked Up focused on satan worshipers and I was about to get up and find something else to do in my cell when one of the girls said, "If the devil said he could get me out and give me a better life on the outside, I'd sell my soul to the devil."  I let that statement sit, however uncomfortable, in the pit of my stomach.  Three years ago I would never be having a conversation with a girl like this.  Jail would have been the last place I would think of being.  Heck, last month this was the girl I avoided even asking for a pillow from the laundry because she intimidated me.  Calling someone out on selling their soul to the devil would have been completely out of the question!  Sitting across from her at the metal table, the words spilled out, "What if Jesus Christ did the same?"  She kept staring at the TV like she didn't hear me.  I kept my eyes on her, knowing she was uncomfortable answering.  She glanced my way and shrugged it off, then said, "People have been telling me that for years.  If Christ himself came down to me, then I would believe it." 

It made me sick to my stomach.  It wasn't her that made me sick.  It was the absence of faith.  No hope.  So directionless that this place in jail is her best bet.  Basic necessities are 'enough' for her.  My whole being, my faith, my personality, my strength comes from Him.  How can two people sit so close to each other and feel so completely different?!  How could I help her feel His love for her?  The verse popped in my head, (there are those) "who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it."  I looked it up later. 

"For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it-"   

Here I sat face to face with one of God's daughters who has been so deceived and hurt, has given in to temptation, and fed her pleasures, that she believes there's no hope.  I wanted to scoop her up and take her on a walk of the life she could have by following Christ.  A life where there are so many more options then 'Do I choose to go outside or not?' and 'What book from the library do I read again?'  He opens up possibilities if we obey and follow the commandments. 


I worked on the Plan of Salvation drawing with Robin some more today.  And had more good gospel conversation with Jen.  I joked with Rachel about getting these girls ready for the talent show when I come back.  She's softening to the idea.  There are still those that have the hots for others in here, but they aren't as explicit about it.  There are still those that are crude, but lots of times they apologize.  My heart hurts that I have to leave them and I hope they are here when I get back.  I never forced them or asked them to change.  It's just happened.   

Tonight the girls watched a movie of a guy that dies of heroin while I read in my cell.  It's the icing on the cake and I'm officially ready to head out.  I feel drained.  I'm ready to be home.  I give everything I have emotionally and spiritually when I come.  I'm happy to share what I have.  And now I desperately need a recharge.

Funny that the recharge comes in the form of doing my own 10 loads of laundry a week, cooking for a family of 7, and wrangling them all into a pew for church.  That chaos can not come fast enough!  Rachel braided my hair and I'm counting down the hours until they call me out. 

Someday soon...
I'll turn the light off when I sleep.
I won't wear orange crocs to breakfast.
I'll check my own mail and get to be the first to read it.
Have cold water to drink - with ice.
I'll eat when I'm hungry, not just at 6, 12, and 6.

And someday soon I'll pray for these women from the comfort of my own home - and probably even miss them. 


The question has come more than once.  My bunkie, Rachel, and even a few girls I wouldn't think would care.  "When are you coming back?"  I've tried not to think about it.  I won't get much of a break at home this time since I'm trying to plan around Spring Break, so I'm shooting to be back again the end of the month - fitting 2 weeks into February and less time in March.  Who plans jail time around their kids' spring break?!  I really have tried to embrace this trial and give this jail experience my all, but it is exhausting to keep a positive attitude in such a negative place.  However hard it is, I have been true to myself and true to my God that has blessed me with this trial.  To leave this place with that in mind feels so good. 

I was called over the loudspeaker and packed out my things.  He was professional.  Stern as usual.  By the time I worked my way backward out of booking and was back in my street clothes, the guard was relaxed and told me, "Have a nice day."  Yes, thank you.  I think I will! 

My mom was there to pick me up with Piper, Walker and Bryer.  We stopped at McDonald's where I couldn't decide between all the options on the menu - so different than the 'take it or leave it' menu options for my week.  After canned veggies all week, I chose a lush, green salad and enjoyed the giggles of some of my favorite little people!  Bryer wouldn't leave my lap and kept saying, "Mom!...(giggle) Mom....(giggle) Mom!" 

Braided hair, complements of Rachel


2 weeks is not long enough to recharge and spend with my family.  I want to stay longer.  I want to cook our dinner and wake up to my own alarm clock to wake up kids for school and when I get out of bed, I want my feet to hit carpet.  As good as this life feels, as I drive to basketball practices or head out to help at the school, I catch myself wondering how Rachel is doing in jail or if Robin and the same girls will be there when I get back. 

Back to normal life - taking a therapy class to understand Bryer's body better, supporting someone else's fundraiser, help at school, basketball games, calling on equipment for Bryer that hasn't come yet.  And in the middle of it all, I wonder again about the girls in jail that are being transferred in and out.  I wash the dishes and think of them.  I do laundry and think of them.  The songs on the radio have different meaning.  My prayers have different meaning.  I am forever changed. 

I feel so overwhelmed with gratitude for those who have cared for my family while I have been away.  I know that laundry and dishes and cooking and homework and practice schedules are all hectic with 5 kids.  Jason would be overwhelmed by himself trying to swing it all and working.  Throw in therapy and Bryer's needs on top of that.  What person would take all that on without it being their own kids?  Our extended families and friends - that's who! 

We have been incredibly blessed with therapists for Bryer that are the best of the best.  I don't worry about her back sliding while I'm gone and know that for 12 hours a week she's getting the 1-on-1 therapy she needs.  They are on top of things, and one therapist even cried with my mother-in-law when she picked Bryer up this week.  This is hard for all involved, not just me.  It eases the stress of leaving my family to know they are so well taken care of.  But then what else would I expect when we sit in the palm of God's protective hand?  It's no accident that we have found these particular people in our life.     

I love normal, everyday moments with my kids and simple fun with a cardboard box!


I had a moment today that I just wanted to soak it all in and save it up in a bottle.  It's a blessing that God has used the extended family we have to protect our kids from the negative effects of all this.  With Hunter being our oldest, he remembers the most from the beginning.  He remembers Bryer being in the hospital, the social workers, Bryer in foster care, and living with Grandma and Grandpa.  But today I saw a 13 year old young man in church clothes in the kitchen, being resourceful and productive making deer jerkey from a deer he shot himself.  I thank God for His protection and for preserving our family!   

I clicked on my internet today and there was a news article with a picture of a local woman in orange jail attire, going for sentencing.  Three years ago I would have noticed her frizzy hair, washed out face, and depressed body language.  Today, I realized that (even when you appear before the judge) there are no hair products to help you look your best, no make-up to hide imperfections, very little sunlight to help your body create a healthy glow, and now I know what a depressing place she walked out of to come before the judge.  My heart went out to her.  Pull through lady.  Pull. Through!  Find your potential in there.  God wants so much more for your life!  I'll be back in soon enough, reminding myself of the same thing. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

#57 - The 1 in 99 in Jail (Journal Entries from Feb. 5-6, 2014)

During my morning reading, I had the idea to create an outline activity for my family about God's plan for us - The Plan of Salvation.  I've been working on finding scriptures that focus on the 3 parts -

Where we came from,
Why we're here, and
Where we're going after this life. 

I still don't have a Bible of my own, so I've been borrowing Robin's to use along with my Book of Mormon.  I'm not meaning to be nosy, but a person can learn a lot by reading through someone else's scriptures.  She's got footnotes, underlines, cross referencing, notes in the margins.  She created make-do tabs from jail materials to mark each of the books of the Bible using scotch tape and tiny pieces of paper sticking off the edge of the pages so she could easily turn to what she was looking for.   What better person to help me create this activity?  I tried not to bombard her with my idea and ask for her help as soon as she woke up.  Still groggy and maybe not fully understanding what she was agreeing to, she said she'd be happy to help!

These aren't Robin's scriptures, but they look very similar.  Thanks to my friend Ja'Nette for a shot of hers from when she also served time. 

I went to work and asked Robin questions along the way.  Finally by this afternoon she was curious about seeing it, so I showed her what I had so far.  I expected her to be more excited and I was disappointed when she wasn't.  She's been influenced by her Dad, who attends The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  She is so diligent about studying things out.  My first week in here, I told her to let me know if she had any questions - thinking, "How much really could she know from being in here?"  I completely underestimated her!  All the questions she asked me I had to go home and look up!  Another blessing that I am here a week at a time and have time away to recharge and find answers for her. 


When the doctor came to take appointments with the inmates, Rachel was called out.  I knew what she was about to do would be hard and I hoped she would find the strength she would need.  She has been in my constant thoughts as I watch the good she is able to do with they way she communicates with the other inmates.  She has had a hard time with some things in here (really, who wouldn't?) and she decided to ask the doctor about what help he could be.  After hearing her symptoms, he offered her the best prescription to help put her at ease.  Normally speaking, that drug would have been fine... For anyone else.  But on the outs, Rachel knew this particular prescription was one of her weaknesses.  It had been one of the medications she started using that led to others, having a cascading effect on her life.  By the end of the appointment, she dug up the courage she needed and walked out of that office without a prescription.  As she related it to me later, I couldn't find enough words to explain how proud I was of her.  She has been sucked into addiction.  But today - with the temptation right out there in front of her - completely legal and legit, even in jail - she denied it.  She. Denied. Weakness.  It's not to say it is the only time she'll be confronted with it, or that she won't slip and fall, but today is what matters and what I hope she celebrates.   

All it takes is one step.  One time to change.  That first step is the hardest.  Especially when those around, even those with authority, think it would be okay.  I'm so glad Rachel stayed true to that small voice inside her, which consequently speaks volumes about her courage, personality, and what she is able to overcome.  I wanted to reach out and squeeze her, but we're not supposed to touch in here. 


Today they were slow handing out mail.   I was anxious to receive mine, as was everyone else hoping for some piece of the outside to hoard in their cell or to share with those who cared to listen.  There was a guard working today that I knew from church.  The first time he was working while I was here, he waved at me, just being friendly - like if you saw someone you know at the store.  A couple girls caught a glimpse of it, shot a look at me, back at him.  I ignored it, but Rachel teased me later about bumping knuckles with the guards.  I laughed and shrugged it off.  Honestly, the guards are the ones that pop up on my Facebook as "People you may know,"  not the inmates.  It's a hard line to walk between staying true to who I am and hoping to have an influence in here, hoping they don't think I am better than them.  I have never felt better than them, but I'm afraid of the impression they get. 

When mail came, there was a whole handful.  I was ecstatic to see so much, as was everyone else.  Like usual, they read off the inmates name, had them pick up their mail, open it and give the envelope back to the guard.  And like every other day, I wanted to clap as each inmate was announced.  I feel bad for those that don't get mail.  They got through half the handful and then said, "That's it.  The rest is for you," motioning to me.  With the rest of the girls, wide-eyed and hopeful, I seriously wanted to crawl in a hole with my 20 letters.  I wanted to tell the guard, "Just hand the rest of them out to those that didn't get mail."  One of the girls sat down by me as I took each letter or card out of it's envelope, wrote the address on the back of the letter, and then handed the pile of envelopes back to the guard.  I didn't know if I should sit at the table to read it all and share or if I should go back to my cell so I wasn't perceived as showing off.  She sat next to me and said, "Is it your birthday or something?"  Rachel heard her from across the room.  Always ready to jump at the chance to help me stand out as the example, she said, "Nope, she just has a lot of people that love her!"  I know Rachel was being sincere, but it made me want to hide.  Why have I been so blessed while others are the other extreme? 

This evening I spent more time in my cell.  Not because I was scared or shy or feeling yucky.  I stayed in there because I felt such deep sadness for those that don't get mail.  Those that don't have support on the outs.  Those that wait days and weeks for a single envelope.  Those that have to stay here a lot longer than I do, yet go without support.  Those who left broken relationships, empty promises, and families craving normal on the outside. 

For the first time, I didn't look through my mail right away.  I didn't read it over and over and over.  I sat on my bed and pretended to read my book and wiped away my tears.  I was glad to have the cell to myself.  If I could share my support somehow - if I could give each of these girls what I have, I would gladly do it.  If I could share with them the happiness I enjoy for 3 weeks out of the month when I'm not here, if it would make a difference, I would. 

When I finally felt like pulling it together to read through my mail, I said a prayer first.  The feeling I got at the end of my prayer was comfort that there is enough to go around.  My pile of mail was not taken from them to give to me.  It is my support and it is okay to feel supported by it.  As I read through the mail, more comfort came in a card from a good friend of mine from high school.  She wrote, "You'll have the rest of your life to see the incredible things that come out of all this!"  My eyes filled with tears.  I read it again and again.  "You'll have the rest of your life to see the incredible things that come out of all this!"  I soaked it all in.  In my deep feelings of wanting to crawl in a hole and come out when it was time to leave, God answered my prayers through the card from my friend.  The words from one of my favorite hymns came to my mind.  "Because I have been given much." 


There's a few new girls here, with new personalities and new habits.  In nearly 3 weeks that I have been here, I have yet to see anyone work out.  These new girls walk the pod - back and forth, back and forth.  They kind of remind me of the tigers at the zoo.  They aren't free though like the 2 deer I saw this morning out at break through the chain link fence.  I have to give it to them.  No excuses of limited space, lack of equipment, or clean workout clothes.  They do wall squats and pushups and walk back and forth the 50 foot length of jail in front of the cell doors that's nicknamed Main Street. 

One of these girls I feel drawn to for some reason.  As nice as it was to feel like I had an impact on the group as a whole at Bible study last night, I continually have an awareness of each individual girl.  The more meaningful conversations come 1-on-1.  I think about the parable Christ told of the lost sheep.  In Luke of the Bible, he says, "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?  And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost."  Each one of these girls, and me in some instances, has been one of those lost sheep. 

We have a picture hanging in our house of Christ with the lost sheep.  I have looked in the background at the herd of the rest of the sheep.  It's a picture I have stopped to look at every so often - sometimes I feel like part of the 99, and sometimes I feel like that 1.  I feel so grateful that He's willing to single me out and know what I need.  Now I hope He will translate that need and use me in here. 

Jen is one of the ones that walks Main Street.  She's also the one that ended up with the article I talked about at Bible Study.  After her workout and shower tonight, she sat down next to me at one of the metal tables.  Combing through her wet hair and watching TV, I could tell something was up.  I don't care to watch what's on TV, but I've learned that being in the common area makes me available.  On a commercial, Jen put her brush down and point-blankly asked me, "How do we feel the Holy Ghost?"  I smiled at her and quickly gathered my thoughts.  "Sometimes it's a feeling in my heart when I know something is right, or goose bumps down my legs when I hear something powerful, or a thought that comes to my mind exactly when I need it." 

She was thoughtful for a minute.  She responded, "Ya, like last night when we were at Bible Study and you were talking about that article about God giving us more than we can handle so we will lean on Him.  That's the feeling I had."  Then she quickly backtracked with, "I'm not going to become Mormon or anything, I just like to learn about all religions."  I validated her.  Truth is, I'm not here to convert anyone.  I would just love it if they could feel the sincere, unconditional love that comes from our Savior.  I just feel blessed to help them feel it.  I only feel a smidgeon of the emotion that He must feel for them.  I pointed out how right it is of her to want to learn about all religions.  There's a genuine desire there to know where she belongs in this world with all kinds of religions.  I was at that place once.  I wouldn't take back the growth for anything in understanding it for myself.  Our conversation ended with her asking if I would read part of Revelations with her tomorrow.  She said she's at a part she's gotten to before, but she's been scared of it and really unsure of the meaning behind it. 

Seriously?!  Experiences don't happen often enough in real life - that two Christians from different faiths - can sit down, read together, and discuss truths of the Bible without any pre-notions of who is right and who is wrong and who is trying to convince who!  I would go to jail 10 times over for experiences like this!  (Wait, did I say that out loud?!)  I love that some of these girls are looking for truth.  They crave direction and assurance. 

(For the sake of continuity of the blog, fast forward to the next day's discussion...)

Jen came to ask if now was a good time to read.  We sat together and took turns reading Revelations about 7 seals in a big book and horses and other symbols that stood for different things.  I made a chart of the 7 seals, which we both agreed represented the 7 time periods of the earth.  The first seal is represented by a white horse, so we talked about what white means - pure, clean, untouched, and how God's church was in the beginning.  The second seal was represented by a red horse with blood and power that meant persecution.  We read through until we got to the 6th seal and talked about signs of the times and what it's like now.  They even mention blood moons, which is a current event today.  Now is the time before the 7th seal will be opened and Christ will come again.  It was so good to learn right along with Jen - and feel that confirming, goose-bump, warm-heart feeling of the Holy Ghost. 


One of the girls who has been here a while was cruising around on a laundry cart, helping a new inmate get settled with all her things.  I watched her push off with her foot and then ride the cart a few feet, sure that the guards would see her on the monitor and put a stop to it over the intercom.  After one push off, she got a little too crazy and crashed into one of the metal tables.  She hopped off, looked at me in a dramatic way with her head tilted and said, "Oops, forgot to pay my car insurance.  All State.  Are you in good hands?"  I don't know why I thought it was so funny.  Yes, I do know why.  Because Jason represents AllState in our agency.  I've been in here too long. 


Today the captain came in with the kitchen girls while they handed out lunch.  We see him every so often, but lots of times I think he's working and doesn't come in.  Today he made an announcement - if anyone needs a Bible, put in a kite for it (handwritten request) and he will make sure it gets to them.  I smiled at the open invitation.  It made me thankful all over again for those that run this jail and the goodness they stand for.  I've never seen them as 'bad guys' like some of the girls do, but I let it bother me that they would perceive me that way - being as I'm in jail and all. 


I have a good friend that has been faithful at sending me uplifting messages on a near-daily basis.  Today's message was timely. 

"Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?" 

The article outlined 9 attributes of the Savior.  Sometimes it's too easy to think He just lived a spotless life and forget that He had pains and temptations of His own.  He was betrayed by his friends, lied to, lost love ones, and felt the literal weight of the world on His shoulders.  I felt prompted again to follow His example - especially in this jail - right here, right now, when it's not easy.   

1. He looked for the one in need.
2. He listened w/o criticism.
3. He often gave anonymously.
4. He understood and acknowledged grief or disease.
5. He followed up with the sufferer.
6. He served when and where it was needed.
7. His love motivated others to do better and to turn towards God.
8. He not only forgave sins, forgave sinners, but he also forgave those who mistreated him.
9. He helped regardless of the seriousness of sin.  He didn't judge. 

I will be judged for this trial.  I want it to be a good outcome, and following Christ's example is the sure way.  I also found a verse in Mosiah today that fits how I feel.  "Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just."  I know all too well that the judgments of man are not just.  It's not fair that I'm here being kept from my family


Tonight the girls on the cleaning crew had to clean up one of the booking rooms after an addict in detox spit food everywhere, urinated all over the room, and had thrown up on the floor.  As much as I have wanted a job in here to pass time, it makes me thankful that they have denied me my third request, since I'm only here for a week at a time.  I still have to make an effort so they won't have a reason to deny me 'good time' and 5 days off my sentence for being a good inmate. 


I kind of thought it would happen sometime with me coming and going.  Today a girl approached me with a favor.  She said I could turn her down if I wanted to and she wouldn't hold it against me.  She asked if I would be willing to mail a letter for her on the outs.  Everything we write in here gets read by the guards before it's sent out.  I didn't even have to think about it.  I told her I was working toward Good Time so that I could get 5 days off my sentence.  She pressed, asking again if I would.  I just had to give her The Look.  That same look when my kids ask to do something they know they can't.  Guess she had a mom like that too.  She understood and that was that.  It feels good to do the right thing.  Who knows who she wanted to write to that couldn't be read by the guards. 


I ended my night with a group prayer with some of the other girls that invited me to join.  It's neat to hear a public prayer said by these girls - to hear what they pray for, what they hope for, who they ask for protection over, and feel their faith.  They are aside of their addictions, their temptations, their struggles.  They have been stripped of everything.  And all that's left for many of them is God.  Maybe it seems lonely with only 1 person rooting for them, but as the scripture goes, if God be for you, who could be against you?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

#56 - I'm Walking on Sunshine - in Jail (Journal Entries From February 4, 2014)

In all my years of playing sports, I don't ever remember a time yelling a cheer with my team that said, "Don't miss the ball!"  It's always,
"Hit the ball!"  or
"Score a run." or
"Get an out." 
"Attack the basket."

We never yelled what we shouldn't do, but always what we should do.  It wasn't until college softball that our coach told about a scientific study they did on the way people's brains interpret words.  Our minds remember the statement - not the negative of that statement.  "Don't miss the ball" would translate to our brains as "Miss the ball."  The statement, "Don't let them score" would translate "Let them score."  A better phrase would be "Get an out" or "Stop the ball." 

So it made sense as I took parenting classes, and then later taught classes, that we should also tell our kids what we want them to do - not what we don't want them to do.  "Don't jump on the bed," translated to the brain disobedience and more jumping.  Instead, I tried to train myself to say, "If you want to jump, you can jump on the floor, the trampoline, or outside."  The same goes for "Don't eat junk food." The brain interprets, "Eat junk food." 

I just found it funny that there's a sign on the wall that says,

It kind of makes me laugh to think about it.  These girls fight over the volume of the TV, the guys getting a longer break than us, the guard that's on duty, what's for lunch, who gets to watch what on TV and for how long, how old or cold the coffee is, who got more coffee than someone else, when they are bringing mail in, who sat in whose chair, who hit on who, why someone gets paid .10 more an hour for a jail job over someone else, and the list goes on and on and on.  And it makes sense.  One, because there's not really a whole lot to do in here anyway except create drama - but also because maybe their brains read Drama Drama Drama on the sign every time they look at it. 

Sometime today the sign disappeared.  It wasn't me, I swear (even though it has crossed my mind).  And I don't think it was any of the other girls in the pod.  One of the guards noticed and commented that it wasn't there.  I'd like to say it became more calm in here, but I can't really tell a difference.  I did get a laugh out of the whole situation and the girls all trying to figure out who took it down - like that was the crystal ball that kept everything together in here. 


Today is a good day - because the laundry girls brought me matching stripes.  It means they are evenly worn on both knees, the stripes of my bottoms and the stripes of my shirt are equally faded (which counts as matching), and they are even the right size.  Inmates don't get this treatment from the inmates in laundry until they have been here a while.  By the time girls are here for a while, they've learned to hoard stripes so they can have a collection to choose from.  It basically equates to a full walk-in closet of varying levels of faded stripes to choose from.  :-)  I don't even have to hoard stripes to get matching ones.  I'll count my outfit of stripes as a blessing for the day. 

I also braided a headband from my orange and white variegated crochet yarn.  I think my orange headband compliments my orange undershirt and crocs nicely against my black and white stripes.  Glad to know I will have coordinating accessories for visitors tonight.  :-) 


Today I was browsing books in the jail library.  I noticed another girl grabbing random books off the shelf one by one and flipping through the pages - not like she was looking at the book, but what was in the book.  It kind of intrigued me.  I know she definitely wasn't looking for a book to read (even though she settled for a couple magazines) and I'm pretty sure I'm too nieve to know why she was flipping pages strangely.  (I learned later that she was expecting a note from her 'boyfriend' from the other cell block.)

While I was in the library, I found a whole series of old Readers Digest books.  They were dusty on top so I know they haven't been read in a while.  I took one off the shelf and took the dust jacket off of it.  I knew it!  These are the vintage books I've been eyeing on Pinterest!  I've checked every thrift store I go into, looking for these books - mostly for the classic, vintage covers than actually what's written on the pages.  I've had hopes of cutting them into letters to spell something significant, but have yet to find even one.  Now there's a whole shelf of them - locked up in jail! 

Seriously?!  Who would have thought I'd have to come to jail to find this treasure?!  My wheels are turning on what I can offer the jail when I check out.  If I can't have my camera to document this adventure, then my souvenirs of crochet hats, flowers, headbands, and maybe - just maybe - vintage books will have to do. 

Maybe someone in another circumstance wouldn't want to remember their experience here.  I am thankful to see this as it is - an opportunity to do good, to look for the positive, to be a light.  Between me and God, we both know I shouldn't be here.  And between He and I - I also know this is where He can use me.  I want to keep that feeling with me all the time.  It feels so good to be doing what God would have me do. 


I sat by one of the new girls today and watched as she doodled.  My eyes couldn't understand in the beginning what she was drawing, but it was obvious that her pen was confident in what she was creating.  It amazes me that a few strokes of a pen can turn into an actual picture with depth and feeling.  Hers turned into a strong eagle head with determined eyes.  I commented on her talent, knowing she knew I was watching her.  Then I turned to Rachel and said, "I think we should have a talent show!"  She looked right at me, broke into a smile - and then laughed in my face.  I said, "No, I'm serious!  Look at this girl.  She had artistic talent that no one would ever guess.  Who knows what other talents are in here?"  She shook her head at me, didn't laugh quite as hard, and then got up to go back to her cell.  I'm not leaving it alone.  Sometime before I check out of here for good, we are going to have a talent show!  I don't know what my talent is yet, but I'm gonna find something. 


One of the girls who has been here a while got devastating news today.  She had her annual mammogram (yes, those still happen, even in jail) and they found a lump the size of a walnut.  They will take her for a biopsy in the near future to see if it's something to worry about.  I never thought about what it's like when these girls have to go to the doctor.  Rachel said they are handcuffed, chained at the feet, and marched into the local clinic in our tiny town to have whatever tests done they need.  Every week the doctor comes in to the jail and takes appointments for simple things, and to adjust prescriptions.  But for the more serious medical needs, they are escorted to the clinic.  I can't imagine the humiliation - and then for this girl to have found a lump.  I offered a prayer for her that she will have strength and courage through the next little bit until they can give her more information about what to expect.  It's not like she can come back to her cell and hop on Wikipedia and research what to expect.  Instead she paces and organizes her papers over and over and tries to sleep her worry away.   


The question came today.  I'd been thinking of it since the last time I was here.  "What exactly do you believe?"  I stumbled at first and felt like I spit and sputtered for too long.  Be brave.  Be brave.  How do you explain the single most important thing in your life in the 30 second window that people give you around here before their mind wonders to something else?  I pulled myself together and answered, "I believe that God has a plan for us.  I believe that we lived with God before we came to this earth, that we came here to be tested to see how we could prove ourselves to live with Him again."

Jessica had a couple questions after that and didn't really understand how we are tested.  Her demeanor has been rough, strong, and kind of pushy.  She's one that doesn't realize if she's said something offending or hurt someone's feelings.  She walks with a tough-girl stance and she's let's whatever is floating around in her head come flying out of her mouth without a second thought.  When she asked what exactly I believe, I didn't know if she was seriously wanting to know or if those were words that just fell out of her head without knowing if she wanted a real answer. 

Tonight, she felt different.  She softened.  She showed remorse.  She told about how she has struggled so much with the temptation of all kinds of drugs.  One night she felt especially vulnerable, which she explained is never a good thing for an addict.  That's when she said she has to have something to cover that feeling or fill that hole.  She said that night, she got out her Bible instead of turning to drugs.  She read from midnight until 5 am.  Her temptation passed that night.  She continued to pray to God that things would get better.  She went to church - all by herself - without friends or family - because most of who she associated with were not good influences. 

Then 3 weeks later, she was getting high again.  She sobbed as she let that vulnerable side show again, feeling like God had given up on her.  She felt like she let herself and God down by giving in.  It's hard in that moment to know what to say to someone.  I pointed out all the good I saw in her.  She knew where to turn for strength and power over temptation - she read her Bible for 5 hours until the temptation passed.  She showed extreme courage to go against her friends and family to attend church and try to form a stronger relationship with God.  When we are on the right track, isn't that when Satan wants to sneak in the worst?  It's not that God gave up on her at all.  He was always right there.  But something came between them.  Satan is sneaky.  He doesn't pull up in a noisy train, screech to a stop, and make a big hoopla about hopping on this ride that will lead to eternal destruction.  He pulls up in something shiny.  Fancy.  Tempting.  He looks appealing to us.  He's sneaky as he tempts us and if we're not careful, we give in.  Maybe just once.  And then twice.  We justify why it's okay and make excuses. 

But if we are really listening, there's a still small voice that will help us.  The Holy Ghost puts thoughts, strength, ideas, confidence into our minds that will help us see the truth to that fancy, appealing temptation.  It may be the last time it comes, or it may come again.  The truth is, that the more we listen and follow those good things, the easier it is to see the temptation for what it is and gain strength against it. 


My mail today was powerful.  Cards, typed letters, hand written notes, newspaper articles, and pictures.  Most from people I know, but a few from those I don't.  I have read each of them enough times that if someone read me the first few words from each letter, I would know who it was from.  I have tried to set them all up in my locker, but there's not room for all of them.  I shared some of the landscape pictures with some of the other girls.  Full color is so needed in here.  Why keep all this good stuff for myself?  I highlighted one of the church articles a friend sent in and gave it to another inmate.  She read it and asked if she could keep it to read again.  My friends on the outs have no idea what a strength they are to those in here.  I am thankful to be able to pass along the goodness. 

I went to Bible Study tonight.  Individual girls talked a lot at the beginning.  And cried a lot.  And felt broken a lot.  A couple of them witnessed to each other their simple testimonies of what they know to be true of trials and how the Savior fits in.  There was a lull in the conversation.  The pastor said, "Keep going, you're doing great!"  I realized we weren't going to get to our Bible study of "Your Life in Christ," but the conversation was much more meaningful and applicable.  There was an awkward silence and then one of the girls said, "All I know is that God doesn't give you more than you can handle."  It was the catch-all phrase that someone always says when someone is having a tough time.  The title of one of the articles I just received in the mail popped into my head.  I had a thought to bring it to Bible study, but I didn't.  Now I know I should have.  It was titled "God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle: I Guarantee It.

The other girls all shook their heads and agreed with the comment that God doesn't give us more than we can handle.  I silently objected, but didn't think it was the right time to stand contrary with emotions so raw.  Then I felt that "Be Brave, Be Bold" feeling.  And there was still awkward silence. 
And more awkward silence. 
I felt like the pastor knew there was something waiting to be said and he was patient to let it happen.  Finally I spoke up.  "Actually, I think He does give us more than we can handle.  He doesn't expect us to handle hard trials all by ourselves."  I looked around the table, wondering what I was getting myself into - with the full attention of a room full of inmates, going contrary to what they all just agreed with, and a pastor from another church kicked back in his chair that seemed so comfortable with the situation - like he knew this was the way it was all supposed to play out from the beginning of his lesson. 

I shared with them the article I received today.  There's not a verse of scripture that says He won't give us more than we can handle.  The verse, I paraphrased, actually says "Those that are heavy laden, come to me.  I will give you rest."  I explained what a yoke is between 2 cows - to help them share the load together - and how our Savior tells us to take his yoke upon us.  If we do it by ourselves, we will fail.  If we try to be strong and think that we can do this because God doesn't give us more than we can handle, we will break.  I only know, because I would have broken a long time ago.  Like a single cow trying to pull the whole load by itself, it's just not meant to happen.  Sometimes maybe He purposely gives us more than we can handle - not because He wants to break us, but because He wants us to turn to Him, to realize, and accept Christ's help - "Take my yoke upon you," he tells us. 

I felt like I should take a seat after I spilled my heart on the table for everyone to decide if they agreed, but I was already sitting.  So I waited.  It was quiet for what felt like a long time, but it probably wasn't.  The girl across from me was the first to agree.  Then a few others commented about how that makes a lot more sense.  There were more tears shared.  Shortly after, the pastor thanked me and closed our Bible study with prayer and my heart stopped pounding so loud.  We walked back to the pod, and filed back into the common area and girls split off to their cells to return their Bible study books and Bibles to their lockers.  Rachel saw all the red eyes and flustered faces.  She whispered to me, "What'd you guys do in there tonight?!"  I just shrugged my shoulders, smiled at her, and invited her to come next time.  Three inmates asked to read my article.  It got passed around and ended up in the hands where it belonged all along - with a girl who needed the message the most that it carried.  I could tell she didn't want to return it to me, so I offered it to her.  She acted like she just received a trip to Disneyland.  (Actually, if she can learn to apply the message, it's better than a trip to Disneyland!)

I am thankful for the author of the article who was willing to relate her own heartache.  I am thankful for my good friend on the outs who read the article, felt the prompting to send it to me, and then most importantly - acted on it.  She was able to touch a roomful of inmates today that needed to know that Christ is real and He's there and ready to take this long walk of recovery with them - that it is more than they can handle alone, but that He's ready to take part of the load.  I am thankful for my own experiences in the past 3 years that relate that I haven't done this alone. 

To round out my day, I had 6 visitors come to talk with me through the thick glass and a phone on their ear - including my brother-in-law who is the closest thing to my wonderful husband that I can see in here.  That glass could not contain the goodness they stand for on the outs.  After our visit, I felt like walking on clouds back to the pod.  I won't lie, I kind of wanted to do a cartwheel down the hall.  Now who wouldn't want to go to jail with the day I've had here?!  I'm headed to bed feeling so blessed tonight. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

#55 - Be Brave! (February 2-3, 2014)

Ding, ding, ding, ding.  Breakfast in 5 minutes!  And then like clockwork, the infamous phrase entered my mind... "Wake up and be different."  Push back my covers and start another day in stripes. 

I expected it to get easier to adjust to life on the inside, but it still takes me a day or two to settle in and figure out my place and wind down from super-speed-mom-mode to slow-motion-inmate-mode.  Yesterday was not a good day for me emotionally.  But today...  I will wake up and be different.  As I bowed my head to say my breakfast prayer - the only one at my table once again - the words came to me 'Be Bold.'

So I prayed for that too.

Couldn't it be enough to just endure this?  But then I have to also 'wake up and be different' and now I'm being asked to also 'Be bold?'  Good thing I prayed for God's help.  The boldness is not coming out of me on it's own!


I look forward to church - even in jail.  It's not my usual Sunday worship, but God is God.  Prayer is prayer.  Worship music is still worship music.  There were 10 at church today - the most I've seen.  I'm not one that sticks out anymore as being religious.  We discussed Ephesians 6 in the Bible about the armor of God.  I kind of laughed when we started in.  I kind of wanted to stop the pastor in charge and give him the link to The Briar Effect blog and tell him all about my journal entires that I just post-dated to come out today.  The Armor of God.  You can't ask (and work) to be prepared, have Him suit you up, and then expect to glide through life without a battle to use your armor.  The good news is that the armor is there and it's very real for me.  It's real through the people that help Jason take care of our kids while I'm gone or trade me dinners to feed my family.  It's real when I read the scriptures and find answers or inspiration to me, here and now.  The armor is real by the mail that comes that buoys me up.  The armor is real in the soft comfort I feel even though I'm in a tough place.  The armor is real when I have visitors that will take time from their busy day to each, individually take a few minutes to come see me through the glass and hear each other's voices through a phone.  The armor is real when I get promptings like 'Wake up and be different' and 'Be bold.'  The armor is real when I can literally, physically feel prayers of others on the outside being wrapped around me as I sit in a cold jail cell.  It's real.  It's real.  It's real!

We discussed the specifics of the armor of God.  It consists of the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness (which covers the heart), feet shod with peace (the direction to go), the shield of faith (movable and adjustable to battle Satan's arrows), the helmet of salvation (to protect our minds), and the sword of the Spirit.

I envisioned a piece of art I had seen at a bookstore not too long ago and wished I had a copy of it for each of the girls here.  I have tried hard to see them how God sees them - to try to think about what it was like before this life - to find a way to show them the purpose of trials.  I'm not perfect by any means.  I have a lot of work on.  But I am thankful that He gives me armor anyway, in all my imperfection - to protect my body and my spirit from the influences in here.  I had so much to apply to the lesson as the pastor taught, but I didn't say much during the lesson.

As we moved through the church service, the pastor offered communion.  He explained, "Now it's your choice if you take it.  If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, and you are currently not living in sin, then you are welcome to partake."

I felt uneasy.  These 2 statements are true.  I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.  And I am not currently living in sin.  Everything that was said in the communion prayer after that was true also.  The pastor passed around little cups of juice and tiny crackers.  It was a great thing to witness - the girls around the full table taking communion and the feeling of a new beginning.

I passed on that opportunity, as awkward as it felt.  When I was baptized I made a covenant - a promise between me and God - that I would sustain the Priesthood authority that has been restored to the earth.  With that comes my own 'communion,' which we call the sacrament.  It's blessed and offered every Sunday by those who have been given that authority from God.  It's a way to renew those promises between God and me.

I caught a couple of glances my way as I passed on the opportunity.  The thoughts of 'What do they think of me?' came to my mind and I was sure they thought I had either not accepted Christ or that I am living in sin.  Instead of implying thoughts into their heads, I decided to hope for a way to explain myself, if that time came.  Who knew 'being brave' would consist of being different enough to not take the communion? 


There are times I think this must be like a really bad movie about girls camp, but then something happens that reminds me - nope, not girls camp.  This is jail.  Like today when I was on my top bunk, laying on my side reading, and my bunkie sat down on the toilet without any warning.  Yup,  now I'm officially in jail.  I rolled over the other way to give her privacy, even though she obviously didn't need it.  Later she asked if I could leave the room so she could use the bathroom.  She kind of laughed and said, she felt like a little kid saying, "Mommy, I have to go poop."  I laughed with her and said, "That's funny, because now I feel right at home."  Sometimes I just have to shake my head and laugh.  This too shall pass.  This too shall pass.


I read a blog post while I was out that opened my eyes.  It was written by my friend, Martha, and titled "Did you hear that?"  She talks about the scenario of mom of a new baby coming to playgroup.  The other moms ask her how she is feeling and how labor was, but too quickly they all start adding their own birthing stories and comparing and outdoing one another.  The new, tired mom that worked so hard to get her and her baby dressed cute, to be on time, and to share this incredible first time experience of birth - is left in the dust since her single, miraculous experience doesn't compare to the others.

It's been really intriguing to me to watch how these girls interact in here.  A lot of them will ask a question, but it's usually to offer their own take - not to really hear the answer of the others.  I've watched them try to out-do each other with how bad family life is, the charges that got them in here, their rundowns with the cops, high speed chases, the drugs they've done, and lots more.  In all their trying to out-do each other, they forget that those things aren't good things.  It becomes a matter of pride as to who is the 'worst' criminal. 

I've re-inspected my own conversations.  I'm not trying to out-do anyone in a negative way in here, but do I really listen when people are talking, or am I thinking about how I relate to them or a similar experience I've had?  Can I let them relish in their success or give them a compliment at overcoming something - or do I compare or relate my own experiences?  It's more of a struggle then I thought. 

I've decided that jail is the best place to practice.  I don't really care to share much of my outside life in here anyway.  It's been fun practice to just ask questions - and these girls love to talk!  I just keep the questions coming and they keep the stories going.  There's one person in here I have a hard time 'practicing' on.  Rachel.  She's hard because she communicates this same way and does it so naturally.  She's all about validating people and what's being said - not jumping in to offer her opinion or relate her own experience.  She doesn't try to out do or compare.  She will stop a whole group discussion to single someone's comment out and call everyone's attention to it.  It makes them feel validated - special - a real individual with experiences and thoughts and feelings.  It usually doesn't last long, but I love to watch her example in action. 


I'm getting a better feel for each of the guards this time around.  They each have their own quirks that they don't like.  One gets after girls for not having beds made, one keeps a check on the number of books and magazines we have in our cells, one questions the number of sheets or clothes an inmate has (yes, some hoard sheets and stripes), another doesn't like toothpaste on the walls to hang things up.  One guard singled me out today to say hi.  He's not been very friendly to anyone here, so I thought it was funny.  Sometimes I wonder if they read the blog. 


Tonight we got a huge surprise...  Pizza for dinner for the Super Bowl!  To me, pizza wasn't a huge deal, but to these girls that have been in here a lot longer than I have, it was their lucky day!  They were squealing and bouncing around like little girls.  One girl at my table took a big, cheesy bite and with her mouth still half full she said, "I swear, this is not even like jail in here!"  I laughed out loud.  I wanted to say, "Oh no, this is still jail alright.  If you haven't noticed, we have to have someone unlock every door for us, we can't go outside, we wait in line for our food, and let them serve us whatever they make.  We all wear stripes and orange crocs.  We have limited times to use the phone and then it costs .50/minute.  Our coats fall off the hooks with too much weight - wouldn't want someone hanging themselves from them.  Our beds and all the furniture is bolted to the walls or floor.  I don't know what kind of pizza joint you go to, but this is still jail!"  I didn't say it, but I wanted to.  I'll let her just enjoy sitting in her pizza parlor for the Super Bowl. 


I got a nice compliment from one of the other girls today.  I was reading at one of the metal tables and a few of the other girls were watching music videos on TV.  A song came on and she said, "Hey Krissi, this is your song!"  She wan't normally one to talk to me.  I looked around, half thinking she was talking to someone else.  She went on, "Ya, it's your song.  Listen to it.  This is totally your song!"  I looked up to watch these awkward people dancing around, looking out of place - but doing it so happily and singing... "BE BRAVE!"  Had she heard what was in my head this morning?  Yup, that's my song.  I laughed.  I will never be able to hear this song on the radio again without visualizing this trip to jail - and how happy I have been this time around. 

"Show me how big your brave is!" 
"Let the words fall out.  Honestly, I wanna see you be brave!" 
OK, here we go...  I'm ready for the next level of this jail business.  Don't just be different. 
Be brave! 
Be. Brave. 



I have a new pep in my step.  I'm gonna check this place off my list and know I didn't just survive, but I embraced every opportunity and relationship here. 

This morning I was the only one to go out to break.  There was 2 inches of new snow - so I grabbed a snow shovel and scooped a big ol' peace sign in the snow to take up the whole rec yard.  I laughed, kind of hoping the guards could see my creation on the monitor.

As I scooped, I thought about all those little snowflakes that it took to make my creation.  Maybe we feel the same way.  A lot of those flakes got scooped up and thrown out.  It's the times we feel scooped up and thrown out that God is able to create something wonderful out of us.  It makes me wish everyone got the chance to experience this jail adventure.   

I finished scooping the rest of the concrete pad, shoveling through my peace sign also, but it served its purpose and gave me something to do and gave me a little sweat on my forehead too. 


I sat across from another girl today and played Yahtzee this afternoon.  When we started, I thought it was a good way to pass time.  But as we laughed and I watched her eyes throughout the game - really watched her eyes - I thought... 

Never again in my lifetime will I get this experience again.  I will never get to mingle with inmates. 

I have been reading a book called My Name Used to Be Muhammond about a muslim that was imprisoned and converted to Christianity.  While this man talked to a former muslim leader who was also imprisoned, he said, "He didn't hold that against me.  Nor did I judge him for his past.  I guess that is only one of the redeeming qualities of prison life.  It forces you to overlook people's flaws and find ways to accept and befriend people you would otherwise shun." 

Oh man, that is so good! 

It forces you... to overlook people's flaws... and find ways to accept and befriend people you would otherwise shun.


I was reading on my top bunk and Netty was tidying up her bottom bunk when I said, "Netty, let's go home."  Folding her blanket, kind of thoughtlessly in her black woman accent she said, "I'm game!"  Then she looked up at me with her dark, worn face.  Her hair braided tight to her head, with her black rimmed glasses and her face cracked a smile.  She said, "Do you think I would fit in your pocket?  (giggle) Like a little mouse?"  We had a chuckle together at the thought. 

Home could mean my house 2 hours away - but it could mean our Heavenly home.  Man, I would love to scoop Netty up in my pocket and make sure she made it back there!  She told me awful things that happened to her in the ghetto as a girl... Later, how she caught her husband cheating on her... How she lost people that were closest to her...  Too much heartache to bear...  And she turned to drugs.  She shared the love she has for her two grown girls... Her love of God and faith in Him despite all that she's been through.  She's quiet, but to the point.  She doesn't talk often, but when she does people listen. 

I asked her what she wants to do when she gets out.  Her first response - Get some plant starts and grow something.  She also wants to go back to working at a restaurant.  She's content with a Jack in the Box or a Quizno's job.  Bless her heart for being so content.  I just wanted to hug her and tell her there's so much more out there for her though!  So bad as I want to scoop her up and make sure we both make it back to our heavenly home.  I want her to see her potential.  Not as an addict or victim or inmate.  But understanding her potential as God's spirit daughter.  Her life and her choices have limited her understanding of what she can become. 

Never again will I get this chance to share and listen and validate and help them feel God's love for them. 

I told her, "Netty, I'm curious with what God's plan is for your life."  Sounding discouraged she said, "I don't know, but I hope it's good."  God's plan doesn't just happen.  It takes our own sweat, tears, mistakes, repentance, and turning to Him and trusting Him.  Even in jail.  Especially in the toughest circumstances.  No matter how hard.  Know He is in charge and He'll calm the storm from the inside out.