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.
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.