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?