But in the middle of the night last night, it was different.
Maybe the bad dream sounds silly to most, but to me it was so real and actually scary. In my dream I was driving down the freeway with all the kids in the suburban. We got to the exit where I needed to turn off to get to my sister-in-law's house. It's the last exit before the freeway goes into the neighboring state. I turned on my blinker to get off the exit, and started to turn the wheel, but it wouldn't budge. The car would not turn to get off the freeway. I tried slowing down to give myself more time to get off, but the break pedal wouldn't work either and we continued to cruise in a straight line down the freeway. I started to panic and try to figure out what was wrong with our car. Then I realized that if I didn't figure it out soon, we'd be headed into another state.
I really started to panic, knowing that I am on probation and I'm not aloud to leave the state without permission from a probation officer. No matter what I did, the car would not slow down or turn. Soon I passed the welcome sign into the next state and my heart started to race.
I sat straight up in my bed, breathing heavy and my heart pounding. Waking up did not help - I'm in jail! My mind played tricks on me trying to wake up from a dream and thinking I was still in one. When I fully woke up to realize what was going on, it was a relief. (Waking up in jail should never be a relief.)
Just like I teach my kids, I rolled over and said a prayer. I felt a warm comfort overcome me. Despite my pounding heart, my knack for sleeping returned and I slept the rest of the night.
In the mornings, its' peaceful. The couple of girls that stay up with me after breakfast either read or watch TV with it turned down quiet. It's the only time there's news on the TV - any hint of what's going on, on the outside. The single detail that's most different in the morning is the language. There's no yelling, no crude music, no cussing. (I'm talking 1000s of F-bombs on a given day) If there were a time to feel the spirit the best and recharge in jail, it's in the morning. That's my time to read scriptures, journal, just hear myself think before the chaos starts.
One by one, girls started waking up. I don't know what made it so different today or why I noticed, but there was a change. I can't say when it happened. Was it yesterday? When I got here? Was it something Rachel said to the others? There were hours that went by this morning - with everyone awake - and I didn't hear a single f-word. Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal, but when I'm trying so hard to do what the Lord wants me to do, the language detracts from that. It reminded me of Hilary Weeks' rice experiment. I taught about it for our family night years ago and it's a lesson I've always remembered.
If that's what it does to rice, imagine what happens to our minds, our bodies, and our spirits depending on the language we use. So for a few hours today, I soaked it in and appreciated the calmness.
Rachel and I sat together this afternoon and evening making friendship bracelets. I made a ring for me since it bothers me that I can't wear my wedding ring in here. A couple of the girls have made me friendship rings, but they get twisted and stretched out wearing them in here week after week. Now I am making a matching friendship bracelet (in the manliest camo colors I could find) for Jason, just for fun. He'll know I think of him while I'm in here.
As Rachel and I sat together, we listened to some of the girls tease one girl about being 'so old' and still want to start a family when she gets out. (She's 30.) I asked Rachel how old was 'too old' for her to want to start a family. She was thoughtful for a little while, tying her strings. Then she stopped and said, "I think this time it's now or never. I need to be healthy by the time I get out." She's on a 2 year countdown to make that happen. We were quiet for a while, working on our projects. Then she started singing a familiar song. One I have sung for my kids a million times.
I am a child of God,
And He has sent me here.
Has given me an earthly home,
With parents kind and dear.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me.
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do,
To live with Him someday.
My heart was so soft for her, hearing these words come from her mouth. I stopped my tying and said, "I didn't know you knew that song!"
She tilted her head kind of thoughtfully and said, "My mom used to sing it to me when I was little. I still sing it in my head sometimes. Or when I was Robin's roommate - she wanted me to sing her a bedtime song a couple times so I sang her that one."
Like the verse said that I came across a couple days ago, "He shall turn the heart of the fathers (or mothers) to the children, and heart of the children to their fathers (or mothers)..." What Rachel's mom taught her such a long time ago - she still remembers. Through so much heartache and trial - she remembers.
So many emotions flooded me. I wanted to cry and reach out and hug her. We're not aloud to hug, so instead I felt this warm feeling of the Holy Ghost around us, and I hoped Rachel felt it too. I also had a pit in my stomach at the same time, of what I hope for Rachel. I want her to be successful and have a family some day like she hopes for. I want her to pass on that song and sing to her own baby. All I could say is, "I hope you know how that song makes me feel." She didn't look up. She just half-smiled and said, "I know."
It's all I can do. I can share myself. I can share my faith. My love for them. The Savior's love for them. But I can't make them change. That's up to them. Sometimes I just want to fast forward life and see how it all turns out. I want to know - did they feel what I did while I was with them? Did it make a difference? Was it enough to help at all? I have such high hopes for these girls that have become friends. It would be nice to live in La-La-Land and think they will get out, remain clean, and live happily ever after. But the truth is that it's scary out there for them. There are 'so called' friends on the outs. Dealers. They know where to go to find it. This is their safe place. This is the roof over their heads, the clothes on their backs, and food in their bellies. They are safe from themselves and from the temptations. But it's no way to live, having their agency taken away. They aren't free to make their own choices. I so badly want them to progress, but I can't make it happen. That has to be their choice. It's easy to get down in here and think, "Am I even making a difference? Is this whole awful situation for no reason?"
My week-day highlight - MAIL! I opened the envelopes at the table, gave my envelopes back, and then took my stack and went to my cell to read them. To pick a favorite would be unfair because each one is such a treasure to me. Who takes the time to hand write letters anymore in the day of email, Facebook, and Skype?
There was one from my mom that I especially liked and had a good laugh about. I showed it to my Bunkie, but somehow she didn't think it was as funny as I did.
|My mom said she found this on the floor at the Fed Ex office - it just jumped out at her with my name on it. ha ha!|
There was one card in my stack of mail that caught me off guard and I got emotional. I was glad to be in my cell alone when I opened it. It was from another mom, who I don't even know. In her card, she included a picture of her sweet family. I have gotten mail in here from people I don't know, but it was the family picture that pulled me in. Real, live faces staring back at me. She shared in heartfelt detail how she has been touched by reading the blog and how well she relates to me. She said she finds strength in how I have dealt with my situation. Full color in a blank cell. While I sit in here and wonder if I matter - if what I'm doing and by sharing myself is enough to help someone else - tears ran down my cheeks as I read how I have been an inspiration to her. In my lonely, frustrating time, she was an inspiration to me. A complete stranger. Another mom that's doing the same dishes and laundry and kid stuff that I do - could reach out and give me a boost. I wanted to squeeze her and let her know that she matters. In all the day to day things - she matters! When it seems like sitting down to take time out of her busy life to write to an inmate she doesn't even know - She. Matters! While kids climb through her feet and the laundry doesn't fold itself and dinner may be late getting on the table. She matters! I have to think that God smiled down on the two of us and the connection we have made, being a strength to each other. Me from a jail cell and her from a house of little kids.
It is no accident that after I read this card and saw the picture of a real, live face that had been positively affected, that I opened the next devotional from another friend of mine. With it, she included a 4x6 printed picture with the quote, "Never Postpone a Prompting," by Thomas S. Monson.
Oh how true! The family picture I received is a perfect illustration. This mom I don't know had a good thought - the light of Christ - to do something that would be uplifting. Maybe she wrote to me because she wanted me to know how she felt. Maybe she knew it would be encouragement to me. Whatever her reason - she followed through on that thought (that prompting). So many times I have things pop into my head or something touch me and I think, "Oh, I'm supposed to do that because....." but the truth is, I have no idea what the reasoning God has for me in doing something. This mom could not have possibly known the state of mind I would be in when I got her card - wondering if I matter, and if what I'm doing is making a difference. God did know. He knew what I would need and He used the Holy Ghost to influence a girl I had never met, to inspire me to keep going. Keep trying. Keep sharing. And to help me to know that I. Matter.
I'm pretty sure that what I wrote back to her on my loose leaf notebook paper in jail flex-pen ink was not as big of an impact as what she sent me. It was not full color. It was not grand or exciting to look at, but it came from my heart as I expressed my gratitude. Someday I hope to meet her in real life.
I have finished the next step today in The Plan of Salvation - Earth Life.
The purpose of this life has 4 parts
1- Gain a body for our spirit (which we receive at birth)
2- Be tested and tried
3- Learn about Christ, accept Him as our Savior, be baptized, and more
4- Endure to the end
The 1st purpose is exciting. A body! The birth of a baby! Hooray!
The 2nd purpose - not so exciting to me. Being tested means there's hard parts of life. There's temptations and trials. Making the right decisions. Growing our patience. Understanding God's plan for us, and then following that plan. I'm sure I'm not the only one who doesn't want to obey sometimes. (I mean, making the choice to go to jail, wrongfully accused, is not exactly fun.) God knew there would be times that we wouldn't obey - and lots of times we'd make mistakes. He didn't want that to keep us from returning to Him, so He sent Jesus Christ to pay for all those mistakes, if we would take His name upon us and accept Him as our Savior. He also sent Jesus Christ to give us someone to help us. He knows the sadness, the disappointment, the frustration, how hard it is - because he came to earth also to receive a body and be tested. "I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me."
The 3rd purpose -
Mathew 11:29 - "Learn of me"
Mark 10:39 - Be baptized
Acts 22:16 - Be baptized to wash away sins
Acts 10:48 - Baptism as a commandment
Moroni 7:34 - Repent, come to Christ, be baptized, and be saved
The 4th Purpose -
Mark 13:13 - But he that endure to the end, the same shall be saved
Enduring may be the hardest part. Just plugging along. Trying hard. Keep on keeping on.
It helps to know that when I sit by these girls - in stripes - at metal tables that are bolted to the cement floor - that they are here on this earth doing the exact same thing I'm doing. They are here on this earth with a body to be tested and try to overcome temptations.
The grouchy lady in line behind me at the grocery store. Yup, here on earth with a body to try to overcome her grouchiness and pass this earthly test.
The guy that passed me on the freeway and then cut me off. Here on earth with a body to overcome trials.
My child who sits at the table, frustrated over having to do homework. Here on earth with a body to overcome those trials.
It gives me a sense of being brothers and sisters. We are all on this earth together. At one point, we all understood that we would come to earth, receive bodies, and try like crazy to get back to our Father in Heaven. Some have forgotten that that was the plan. So it makes sense to me that I should try to do all I can to help those around me - be a light, do whatever I can to help them overcome those trials, be there to cry with or remind them why they are doing what they are doing - and why it's so darn hard sometimes.
And sometimes when I feel down or frustrated and it gets to be too much - then I am reminded that there are others on this earth to also help me - to be a light to me - to sing me a song as we make friendship bracelets; or send me a card in jail - and remind me why it's hard and how to get through it. It's because it will be worth it. And I hope we can make it and all sit down and relax together, knowing how hard we worked to lift each other, make better choices, and link arms to make it back.