I helped Jason get the kids ready and out the door for church, sad that they would all be sitting in a pew without me. I held it together. Two full weeks with my family in between jail time is just not long enough, but I'm planning around Spring Break. I feel like I barely got back in the swing of home and now I'm off again. I grabbed the few things I can take in with me - socks, underwear, long johns, and a white t-shirt, and then headed out the door. I can do this!
Instead of pouting during the 2 hours of driving time, I turned up Hilary Weeks in the speakers and tried to refocus my energy and think about my purpose in this situation. I noticed the fading admission stamp from yesterday's basketball game on the back of my hand. It's strange really - the transformation and mind shift that happens in 2 hours, going from full time wife and mom to jail inmate. It's taken me until this 4th time, but I'm getting better at it.
Today, I listened to Hilary sing Brave over and over and over again. And over one more time. And then sat in my car in the parking lot of the jail and listened to it one more time before I gathered my courage to check in.
To my readers - I have shared this song/video before. I am thankful to this girls camp group that put it together and posted it on YouTube so that I have a link to share the song with you. I'd love for you to be distracted from the video while you listen to it this time around. You can feel how I felt, sitting in my car headed in to jail - or better yet, keep in mind whatever trial you are going through right now. And then listen to the song. And then listen to it again if it's helpful. "Heaven will be there beside you," as the lyrics go.
Booking. Not my favorite. At all. I'm much more comfortable once I'm in stripes, although regular clothes would be my ideal. Blessing #1 - At least the guard on duty didn't put the lice chemical in my hair.
I carried my things, walking in front of the guard, to the common area with 2 heavy metal doors shutting behind us as we walked to remind me again where I'm at. I was pointed to a cell on the top tier on the far right. I would have to walk up the stairs, and then past every other cell to get to mine. The walk was long, wondering who my roommate would be. She's been in my prayers continually, so I trust that she is who I am supposed to spend the next 7 days with, but it's still makes me nervous.
She was sleeping on her bottom bunk when I walked in, so I tried to quietly set down my bed roll, bag of clothes, and pillow. No one tries to be quiet in here when someone is sleeping, but at my house, if a kid wakes a sleeping baby, they've got the jobs that I was going to do while the baby slept. To me, waking a sleeping Bunkie is even more crucial! I wasn't quiet enough and she rolled over and popped out of bed, wondering who was in her cell. Her face had chiseled features and her hair was a cut like a girl from the Dukes of Hazards. I told her I was sorry for waking her and introduced myself. Then I stuck out my hand to shake hers. As soon as my hand went out, I realized that's another thing they don't do in jail. Too late, so I kept it out there - kind of as a truce for waking her up. She accepted my handshake and introduced herself as Pam. I noticed the books at the foot of her bed all had something to do with spirituality and finding God; I breathed a sigh of relief.
A lot of times I'm surprised who's reading books like that when I find they are searching. Sometimes it's obvious, but lots of times it's not. The girls continue to draw the line in here between religion and spirituality. Over the time I've spent here, a lot of the girls would consider themselves spiritual. Not many consider themselves religious. In my eyes, I'm thankful that they realize they are spiritual. They have spirits that make them alive, that part of them that lived with God before they came to this earth. They acknowledge there's a God. t's a start to understanding their potential. Some of them are afraid to go any further than that. Is it the commitment to one religion? The label each religion gets? Being dedicated to just one? They haven't found what they are looking for? It's intriguing to me. I sensed Pam was the same - spiritual, but not religious.
I made my bed and organized my few belongings in the empty locker. Each time I start the week here, I am faced with the same blank locker. By the end of the week, it's covered with cards, pictures, and letters. The start of the week always is a little humbling to start out on my own without the visual support. There's always that thought of "What if I don't get any mail this week?"
I walked back down the stairs to the common area to figure out who is still here. Robin is back from C-block where she was working in the kitchen. She seemed happy to see me as she sat down at the metal table to chat. She jokingly told me that she got 'voted off the island,' meaning the kitchen girls weren't happy having her there. She always has a positive way to look at things.
I asked her if she ever got a clergy visit like she had hoped for. Before I left, I had explained the process to one of the other girls that was curious as to how I was getting visits from a bishop. I told the girl to put a kite in (paperwork) to request it. She passed the info on to Robin and they both received visits while I was gone - and Robin said she was visited by my brother-in-law! Robin has had two clergy visits since I've been gone in two weeks and they give her reading assignments each time. She was full of thoughts and questions and the answers she's finding linking the Bible to the Book of Mormon. It makes my heart happy that there is a way for her to progress. Not that the men that visit can make her progress, but that they are there to help her along the way as she's ready. I would have been happy to hear that anyone was getting individual clergy visits - from any denomination, but to know that my friends and family from church in this little town are the ones reaching out... Well, it's a whole new level of tenderness.
I met a new girl today. She's different than anyone I've met in here. Since 'religion' is so different from 'spirituality' to most of them, I've connected to them that way. This girl was different. Everyone here knows I'm 'Mormon,' and more of them than I can remember, have connections to the same religion. Maybe I was nieve, but before I started out on this journey, I thought 'the kind of people' I went to church with (which sounds completely stereotypical now that I've been through what I have) led one kind of lifestyle, while those of other religions lived another, and then non-believers lived another. Now I know that people can't be lumped into groups like that. I've been thrown in with some of the most amazing women that are in the process of overcoming challenges - just like me. Religion aside. All daughters of God. And He doesn't have 'favorites.'
There's no separating my spirituality - and my religion - from who I am. I know that it has offered me answers, a deeper connection to God than I had before, stronger faith, and much-needed perspective when I have needed it most. I would never force it on anyone, but there is a deep desire to share the treasure I have found. If someone found a way to get free tickets to Disneyland - supposedly the happiest place on earth - wouldn't they share the good news with their friends? I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have thought about the standards we are asked to hold and how those standards and commandments prevent so much of the heartache I have seen in here. No one is perfect. Not me. Not the girl sitting at the table next to me in jail. And not the lady sitting next to me in church. We're all on a path to better ourselves.
With that thought, it's struck me that so many of these girls have had associations and connections with the LDS church. Jen, the one who openly told me, "I'm not looking to become Mormon or anything, I just have questions..." had an uncle that was a member of the LDS church. Another girl in here worked for Desert Industries, the thrift store associated with the LDS church. It was the only place that would hire a person with her record. They offered her a budget to shop for work clothes in the store, assigned her a mentor, supported her probation requirements, and laid out a plan with her to pay for 1/2 of her schooling to become a dental hygienist. Robin's dad regularly attends the LDS church and talks with Robin about what he's learning. Another girl had friends growing up that were LDS and she went to church with them a couple times. Rachel's family comes from an LDS background. My nieve thoughts of feeling 'seperate' from the world have been completely wrong. These are the people that are just out of reach.
So back to the new girl I met today that has me thinking. I will call her Tuck. She was completely open about being LDS herself - the first to go beyond spiritual, and talk religion. I sat by her for mealtime today. She blessed her food, as many of the girls do in here. I love not being the only one that does, as it was in the beginning. Robin has hooked her up with clergy visits also and Tuck told me at the table while we were eating, "Robin said once you got here, we'd have clergy visits every week." She's a short girl that talks all. the. time. That's what makes her Tuck and I love her for it already.
She's explained her family dynamics and how much she misses everyone at home. She has a little boy that's being raised by her Mom. She said she really struggled growing up, wanting to live the standards of what her family taught her, but also wanting to do her own thing and she admitted there's some rebellion in her, which has landed her here. She said she doesn't feel that rebellion so much anymore. The one thing that made the biggest difference was when she felt her heart change toward her family. She felt that her family would love her no matter what decisions she made. Her mom didn't tell her how to fix her life - but would love her no matter what. She says all that rebellion has faded away. Of course, she's still in here, away from her temptations while she continues to get healthy. She's been in and out of jail and I think about the strength her family is to her. I wonder how her mom continues to do what she does - emotionally supporting Tuck while she's in jail, raising her grandson, being the glue to their family. She must be a strong woman and I bet she was prepared before this life to take on what she has. I hope she has heaven's help in doing what she does.
I'm going to sleep tonight feeling good - even in stripes - even on the top bunk with the light in my face. It doesn't mean that I don't wonder how my family is doing, what went on in their day, or how their week will go. Those things are always on my mind. It just means that I'm ready to be used how God can use me. If it's not with them, then I'm ready for whatever else He has in store for me. I'm ready to listen. I'm ready to obey. The other times it has taken me a day or two to get in the swing of things, to pull myself out of the negativity and 'poor me.' I'm ready to jump into this week with two feet, feeling that heaven is right beside me!
I think it's going to be a good week... Like Hilary sings, "It's a good day, to have a good day!"