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. 

1 comment:

  1. You have discovered the secret to a successful life. When you are obsessed with fighting poverty, fighting world hunger, and fighting war, you attract more poverty, hunger, and war. The key is to let it go and focus on what you want, not what you don't want. If you don't want it, you are calling the forces of more not wanting that exact thing in your life.

    Eliseo Weinstein @ JR's Bail Bonds