I got into my locker to grab my cup and spork for the routine breakfast trade for new ones. Pam got out of bed and said, "Man, I don't know if it was your presence or what - it probably was. I slept better than I ever have last night!" I thanked her for the nice compliment, and told her I was glad she slept so well. This morning, as I made my way down to breakfast and heard all the toilets flushing, I am glad to have a Bunkie that waits for me to leave the cell before she uses the bathroom. It's the little things really. :-) Another week of doing the 'Bunkie shuffle' and planning around when to use the bathroom.
The girls are all more relaxed in here this time around (or is it me?) and there doesn't seem to be all the drama and loudness that has been here before. I think it's the dynamic of the girls that are here and it's such a relief.
I was so glad to see Rachel still here when I got here yesterday, and she was glad to see me. One of the first things I asked her was, "Are you getting them all ready for the talent show?" She smiled her original Rachel smile, which warms me all by itself. She doesn't show her teeth very often, but when a genuine smile slips out, it lights up her whole face. She laughed at me, but admitted that they've been talking about it and she 'warned' some of them I would be expecting a talent show. I think the idea is growing on her if she's mentioning it to the other girls.
Was it Rachel that prompted another girl to share her artwork with me? She is a fantastic artist using the limited supplies we have in here. I'm amazed at the shading with a jail flex-pencil that brings her art to life. Wild animals are her favorite to draw. She's trying to perfect portraits. It's definitely a God-given talent she has and she admitted that she doesn't keep much of her own artwork. She gives most of it away. It's just another reminder of the goodness within each person in here. It's in there, it just has to be brought out. She's not selfish with her talent, but willing to share it with others. Every person has something they are good at. It's just finding it and magnifying those talents that's the hard part.
It gave me purpose to reading scriptures this afternoon. I re-read Mathew 25 about the parable of the talents. The servant that was given 5 talents, used them and multiplied them into 10 talents. The servant who was given 2 talents also doubled his and came up with 4. The servant that was given only one talent hid his up and was ashamed when his Lord asked what he had done with his.
Was this servant, who was given one talent, embarrassed that he wasn't good at lots of things like the others? Was he scared to use the talent, with the possibility of loosing what was given to him? Either way, I don't think he saw his potential, nor did he have the confidence to explore the options. I think about these girls - and others on the outs - that just need a little confidence. A little push. A little encouragement to go out and use what talent they have. I don't know what this artist in here could do with her talent on the outs, but I know she'll never realize her full potential if she doesn't try. It gives me renewed dedication to encourage those around me and not to be critical when they are trying new things. It's not up to me to decide whether they have enough time or space or energy or money to try what they want to do with their talents. If we are trying, then the Lord will provide a way.
So after all this thinking and reading, I'm excited for a talent show. It may or may not be this week, but it will happen. Of all places, this seems to be the hardest place to share and explore what a person is good at. If they can do it here, they can do it anywhere. I've started noticing all the little hidden talents that go on in here. The drawing. Dancing. Crochet. Hair-do's. Singing. It's sad to me that all this talent goes unused. Nobody has tapped into it and brought out the best. Or they have just chosen not to on their own.
I think about how much time I spend encouraging my own kids in their activities to find what they are good at. Basketball, piano, helping others, scouts, soccer, compassion, music, drawing, science, and more. I want them to feel and understand their worth and have the confidence to share whatever talents God has given them to bless those around them. It's crazy with 5, but completely worth it! If I've done my part and encouraged them, and they still choose not to develop themselves, then that will be between each of them and God. I have to hand it over to Him after I've done all I can do.
We got a fun surprise today - a lady from Mountain Life church came to visit. She plans to start a Monday night Bible Study group, to add to the Sunday morning worship service and the Tuesday night Bible Study that the local churches put on. They also have someone that comes every other Wednesday to lead AA. I'm so excited for these girls to have something productive to do. The lady that came traveled an hour to be here. She had silky, blond hair and wore a cross around her neck. Her voice was soft and had a soothing rhythm to it. She introduced herself as Sarah. She started off right away with the very best thing she could have said, "I have never been in your shoes, but I have felt the need to come and be of service to you." For someone to say that from the general public to a room full of inmates was profound. It's being completely honest (yes, she hasn't been in their shoes), and she was opening herself up to be completely humble. These are women that have stolen, lied, cheated, used, and manipulated those around them. Not generally someone you want to openly serve and risk also being lied to, cheated on, or used. But Sarah carried with her a feeling - the light of Christ. She did not judge. She simply put herself out there and was willing to serve.
At this first meeting, she didn't even realize what that service would look like, but she was willing to act. It makes me teary to even recount it. So many times it's so much easier if we know what God's plan is for us. If we know what He wants from us, we feel safe. Secure. It's predictable. We know what to expect. But sometimes He asks us to serve and we don't know how it will work out, or what to say, or who to help. For Sarah, coming to a room full of inmates, asking them how she could serve, was not the world's way of doing things. It was God's way. If we just move and act, He will provide the way. It takes faith and sometimes it's scary. For Sarah, it led her to a room full of inmates who desperately need something more in their life.
She pulled out a paper and pen and asked us each to write our name and IDOC number down. My first thought - if she is actually going to pass that pen around, it will get taken. It was a real pen. Not a thin, flimsy, flexible plastic like the ones that we use that give us hand cramps - but a real, hard plastic pen. I watched as it was passed around the table. I felt a duty already to make sure that that pen made it all the way around and back to Sarah. I watched as the first two inmates looked at it and gripped it in their hands, feeling the sturdiness as they wrote their names. By the time it got to the third inmate, she said what everyone else had been thinking, "It's a REAL pen guys!" We all laughed in agreement. Everyone around the table had noticed - everyone except Sarah. She looked confused until an inmate showed Sarah what we use to write with. After it was pointed out, I didn't worry about it being taken. Now that it was out in the open that there was a real pen in the room, it would be less likely to disappear.
I wrote my name, but I haven't memorized my IDOC number. I'm supposed to write it on my outgoing mail, but can never remember it. Or maybe it's that I choose not to. I have to look it up every month when I send off a money order for my probation 'cost of supervision' on the outs. I have to look it up to fill out my monthly report to turn in to my probation officer. It's just not a number I choose to remember. My mind is full of birthdates of my kids, how much they weighed when they were born, our bank account balance, our social security numbers, and the scores of the kids' last basketball games. Who wants to mess with remembering an IDOC number they have no use for? I passed along the paper and real pen to the next inmate to sign in. In the end, the pen made it safely back to Sarah.
It's funny that the most ordinary objects are such novelties around here. It reminds me of the time one of the guards came in with the lunch girls to monitor them passing out our meal. The guard's cell phone started ringing from inside his shirt pocket. Every girl in the room perked up at the sound and several of them immediately yelled, "Cell Phone!" The guard's face got red and he quickly pushed the hush button on it. Just the brief sound of it had made the girls so happy!
Sarah's visit was short and direct. The girls gave ideas of what they wanted to learn. They tossed around ideas of getting their GEDs, tutoring, another AA class, and a Bible Study by Joyce Meyers. They narrowed down their ideas and then Sarah left, ready with some ideas of ways to serve for next week.
By late this evening between the time of pill call and lights out, the girls were telling spooky stories. It was all fun and games until they told a real one - about the inmate that hung himself in cell 3 a couple years ago. The girls swore that the metal on the top bunk bed seems colder than any other place in the cell block. The poor young girl that is assigned to that bed was completely freaked out. If it wasn't bad enough to be in jail, the other girls assured her that this guy Levi haunts 'his bed.' Rachel piped up and suggested she just become friends with the ghost of Levi the way Sister did when she was assigned to the top bunk.
I had had enough of the ghost stories and decided to turn in for the night, but now I look at my cell differently now. The hooks we hang our coats on bend down with the weight of even 2 coats hung on the same hook. Suicide prevention. The rods that our cell curtain hang from in the doorway are tension rods that give with too much weight. Again, suicide prevention. No hooks on the inside of the lockers. The girls aren't aloud to have even the shortest laces in their approved slippers. They are strict about hanging anything in the doorways, from the bed, or locker. I never stopped to think about all the ways the inmates are kept safe from themselves.
With that, I worked some more of my Plan of Salvation. IT's what's given me hope and direction and a huge dose of perspective through our 3 1/2 year trial. Robin has helped me a little here and there, but Tuck has asked a lot of questions about it too, so I think I'll make her one. No whipping out my copy machine. I can pay $1 or something to have it copied, or I can do it by hand.
I just know how much comfort I get in this plan that God has for us. It's not just the here and now. Not just jail time. Not just from the time we are born until we die. It started way before that. And it has no end. It's hard to comprehend, in our lives of beginning and ending - that there is no end.
I have completed the pre-earth life section in the drawing of my Plan of Salvation called
We lived before this life as spirits.
We lived with God and Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah 1:5 says, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee."
Job 38 Asks the question, "Where was I when the earth was created?"
Revelation 12:7-12 and Abraham 3:12-28 talks about the war in Heaven. As spirits, each of us were given a choice to either follow Christ's plan or Satan's plan. Because we are here on earth and have bodies, it shows that we chose Christ's plan. We have the free agency to choose between good and evil. And because God knew we would make mistakes, He provided a Savior for us. 1/3 of those spirits we were with before this life chose to follow Satan's plan. They were cast out and could not receive bodies.
I can't say how many times and how many conversations I have had in here that I have felt that I knew these girls before this life. Could I really have sat with them? Could we have made promises to help each other get back? Were we close friends before this life? Did we stand together when we decided we would choose Christ's plan and come here to get bodies? Could we be a strength for each other? Did I agree to come to jail, to find them at any cost, and help them back on the road to a successful life? Did they also agree that they would be a strength and friend to me when I found myself in such a scary, unfamiliar place as jail is? I know without a doubt that I lived before I came to this earth. Being here is the next step in that plan.