Jason and I were talking when I was home the last time and he said he has had lots of discussions, especially in college with his teammates, about meaningful, eternal things. He left those discussions feeling so good, and then he'd ask them the next week about what they talked about and they would say, "Oh ya, that. I haven't really thought much about it." I try to remember his experience when I talk to the girls in here. Maybe it's more for me to grow than for them.
Pam and I got to know each other better today. We both go to the Bible study group together and it's a chance to see a different side to the girls they don't usually show in the pod. She had asked for us to keep her son in our prayers as he transitions back into society. When we got back to the cell, she shared more of her family dynamics and it made my heart ache for her. She asked about me and pointed out the family picture I have on the side of my locker. It's one of the first things I see when I wake up in the morning and one of the last things I look at before bed at night, and one of the few items I have in here that I think about a lot throughout the day. She commented on what a beautiful family we have. After hearing about the heartache of her family, I didn't want to tell her about mine. I wanted to add her to the list of people to take home with me.
I know, I get it. These girls have done bad things. They have broken the law. I get that they can be manipulative. They lie and cheat. They weasel their way into and out of situations. I'm not so nieve to think I can fix that. But what I do see is the guilt, the pain, the weight that they carry - or some of them atleast... Those that are truly sorry for what they have done. Some sincerely want to change and don't know how.
I am amazed at the conversations of God in here. People on the outs do not talk about God as frequently as they do in here. Many on the outs have not hit rock bottom either, with nowhere to go but up. Is that the level we have to sink before we look outside ourselves and want something more, spiritually speaking? Many of these ladies have accepted Christ as their Savior and call themselves Christians. I'm so glad they have that beginning and foundation! But that's what it is - a beginning. I'm glad it's not my job to judge their hearts and know where they stand with God. At the same time, I want them to have what I have. I want them to know that when it gets overwhelming, when it gets scary, when it gets to be too much - that He is there. Not just as a quick fix to say, "I hand my life over to you and now I'm saved, so I can do what I please, without consequenses." I want them to know that there is unseen strength in making the right choices. It takes effort and work and like any strong relationship, it's not easy.
We had Bible Study tonight and talked about living obediently. One girl commented that she so badly wants to live a 'normal' life, but she doesn't know what 'God's normal' is. She said she turns back because she gets scared and just wants her comfort zone. Don't we all? Sometimes change is hard. It's painful. No one likes to be told they are not doing the right thing. That's what being humble is. Turning our pride and habits and 'comfort zone' over to God and accepting a new way. A better way. His way.
It made me thankful for a clear cut set of standards. Honestly, there's not a minute that has gone by in the past year that I have not needed my Savior right here beside me. To have the privilege and feel Him near, I must be willing to live a certain way. Drugs would change my judgment on things and come between us, so I chose a long, long time ago that I wouldn't. I have thought about that simple decision made in a 4th grade classroom and now I see how much heartache it prevented. Other things that would come between me and the direct influence of my Savior - Pornography. Lying. Adultary. Stealing. These are things the world sees the direct consequences of and many realize they are negative influences. But what about living the next step? Getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercise, trying to be at my best.
I'm sitting here. In jail. With girls that crossed one of those lines and couldn't or wouldn't turn back.
It gives me courage to live my standards with renewed confidence, seeing the other side. It also makes me not want to even get close to that line. Right now, I have my free agency to make choices as I want. Once these girls get tangled up in the snare of drugs, alcohol, and stealing, they have lost their free agency. The drug runs their choices. Not them.
Now I just get a short amount of time to spend with them while they are separated from those temptations, those trials, those things that pull them in. I wonder a lot about my purpose is here. What tools can I give them that will last them for when they are back out there? How can I share the love that Christ has for them? Not a fleeting moment of His love, but to crave His love like I do.
A lot of these girls really like one of the songs they play on the VH1 channel in here. It's the saddest song, but I suppose many of them relate. There's not a girl in here that has not made a comment about how they relate to this song. For some it has been the story of their whole life - relationship after relationship. For others, it's just been certain relationships that have ended this way. It has a hopeless, give-up, depressing message.
Contrast that song with the one I listened to that reminds me so much of Jason. I've heard Jason sing it around the house, but I've been too busy listening to Hilary Weeks that I hadn't heard the radio version much.
Sometimes I wonder if Jason knew what he was getting into when he decided to marry me. I've had time to reflect on our relationship and growth while I've been in here. I have thought back to our first months being married and how grouchy I was toward him. It was very natural for me to want to be a mom when I grew up. I knew what that consisted of and what to expect and how to magnify that job. A baby needs fed, burped, changed, snuggled, sang to, read to. A basic outline. What I didn't understand was how to be a wife. He was a full grown, different human being. He could take care of himself. I loved him, but I didn't really know how to magnify my job as a wife. We struggled in our first year as I tried to figure out what a wife was supposed to be like. He tried his very best to keep me happy. After being married almost a year, we found out we would be expecting a baby and things seemed to get better from there as I settled into a new role that I was more comfortable with. Growing another human being seemed so much more natural to me than being a wife.
As I have sat here with all the time in the world to reflect, I have found myself in tears at the huge amount of love my husband has for me. He has trusted me through this whole ordeal. That trust did not just form on the day that Bryer went to the hospital. It had been molded and tested for over 10 years of growing together as a couple. Had this single event been the deciding factor, our marriage would have crumbled. We have learned to grow together, trust each other, give not 50/50, but 100% each so that there's always an overlap for what we're willing to do for each other. We've learned to put each other first and to make time for each other. It hasn't been easy between doctor appointments, attorney meetings, providing for, and running a household of 7.
It wasn't until lately that I have questioned, "What would have happened if Jason didn't believe me?" The thought honestly never crossed my mind. Had he not, this whole story would have taken a different turn a long time ago. With Jason's support came his family's support, which was desperately needed. Community support. Our kids remaining solid in our sturdy family. With Jason's support came a harder case for Health and Welfare to fight. It was suggested at one point after Health and Welfare took the kids that Jason and I split homes so he could at least have them, instead of the foster care system. While I was busy thinking of how to support my family from a different house, Jason was insisting that he stand by me. He said that we will take whatever they throw at us - together. Not separate. No matter what logic or attorneys or the justice system says would help our case, he stood by me. He reminded me that we are bigger together than we are apart.
As we struggled to keep our family together and get Bryer back, our stake president came to Jason and asked if he needed to be released from his high demanding responsibility as bishop of our church ward. His response was, "Our family has received so many blessings. I don't know a bishop anywhere that would ask to be released from that. If you feel that the Lord would have me be released, then I am fine with that." He continued to serve for another year and a half until just before we moved to a different area. He put others in our congregation ahead of himself. He thoroughly enjoyed serving others in that capacity. Faithful men like my husband are blessings in their families.
When we were in the thick of the Health and Welfare battle, we received a nasty, hurtful anonymous letter in the mail. The writer was accusatory, hateful, and relentless at how we were going about things when this was 'all our fault.' I crumbled. And cried. And felt hurt that someone would have such opinions about us. Jason was the one that reminded me again that this person obviously does not know us and what this person thinks of us has no value. Jason was the one to patch my heart. When I took Bryer to the grocery store in our small town, I often wondered if the person who wrote the letter was shopping too, or if that person also had a kid at school with our kids. Jason's words echoed every time - that this person's opinions of us have no value.
In the beginning of our marriage, it used to bug me that Jason never showed much excitement - birthday gifts, Christmas presents, good news. He was so even-keel that it was hard to get a reaction out of him. I am the opposite and the littlest things will make me giggle with delight or be a cause for celebration. I cry at commercials and songs on the radio. I teased him about his lack of extreme emotion. Now I know that the trait of staying grounded, unable to be excited by every little thing, is something we have needed in this trial of ours. He has been the rock I could lean on, the logical force in meetings with the attorneys, the calm, collected one to hold us together when I wanted to fall apart.
When Jason and I were given the choice between going to trial without our expert witnesses (with a possible outcome of 20 years in jail) or accepting the Alford plea and a possible 180 days, it was a hard decision. 20 years is a long time. We went to the temple together to pray about it. In the end, he trusted me. He trusted my relationship with God enough to say, "Whatever you feel we should do, I will support you 100%."
He was volunteering for a possible 20 years without his wife by his side and 5 kids to take care of - if that's what I felt the Lord wanted for us. Either way he was volunteering for at least 180 days of full time work, 5 kids, a little girl with special needs, on top of practices, meal prep, homework, baths, and housework. Yet he said, "I will support you 100%." My heart is humble. I don't know what I have done to deserve such a husband.
He worries so much each time I have to leave for jail. It was all he could do to drive me up here the one time and watch me walk into the lobby. It was too much emotionally to come with me. Part of being willing to give 100% is accepting those limitations. I am not mad or upset in the least. As much as I would love for him to come visit me, I don't want him to have that memory implanted of seeing me through a window in stripes, talking through the phone and being recorded. I'm okay protecting him from that. Jail is not the ideal place to show emotions - no matter what side of the glass you are on.
Many people have said what a blessing I have been in sharing my story. But the real blessing is the faithful, strong man that has stood as my rock. Today I was playing solitaire when a song came on VH1 that the girls were watching. I didn't pay much attention to it, but once the chorus played for the first time, I realized it was a song Jason has sung around the house. Listening to the words in here made me melt into a puddle. I listened to the song, tears streaming down my face, and then made it back to my cell to grab a roll of toilet paper, my journal, and crawl up on my bed to write. God picked this guy out just for me. Just for this trial. Who would have known that after just 11 days of dating, God would answer my prayer without a doubt, that this was the guy for me?
(I'm sharing this classier version of the song than the one that was featured on VH1 in jail.)
When I had been Rachel's Bunkie, she had asked about Jason's reaction to everything and how things were when I got home from jail after the first time. I told her that we sat and talked on the couch for hours after the kids were in bed. She said she could never imagine what it would be like to be in a relationship like that. My heart hurt for her. Everyone should experience a successful marriage. I can't speak for those that live with abuse or drug issues. But I wish every marriage could feel what it's like to stick together through sweat and tears and hard times, feeling confidence in each other and doing what it takes to stick it out together. No matter what!
I hope that someday Rachel gets that opportunity and I hope she snatches it up and runs with it. I hope she gives it her all and doesn't look back. I hope there's a guy out there that can appreciate all she's been through and will embrace her past along with her. I hope someday she gets the chance to rock the role of motherhood. Because she will! She will be awesome if she can realize her potential.
She told me one time, "Your life seems like a fairytale to me." I kind of wanted to laugh. What kind of fairytale rips kids out of their homes and sends an innocent mom to jail? I'll own it and make it my own, knowing the full blessings that I have on the outs, and understanding the big picture. A fairytale is what you make of it I guess. Good things come to those that are faithful.
Mail came today. And I was caught sleeping. How embarrassing! I have it in my head that moms are not supposed to take naps. And part of me feels a little guilty knowing what's going on at home while I'm in here with the chance to take a nap. The guard brought my mail to me, rather than waiting for me to make it downstairs to pick it up. He reached up to my top bunk to hand them to me, careful not to step foot inside the cell. Then he started to walk away. I said, "Don't you want the envelopes back?" He shot me a smile. "I'm not worried about your envelopes. I'll pick them up on my next rounds." I looked at Pam and she looked at me and shrugged her shoulders and raised her eyebrows. Envelopes are a big deal. People hide things in the creases and put drugs on the back of the stamps. To say he didn't need my envelopes back right away was such a huge vote of trust!
I got mail from 4 different states, and from 6 people I don't even know. I am so deeply touched that people would take time out of their busy lives to sit down and write a letter to someone they don't know. They have no idea what a strength it is to me to read and re-read their cards, letters, and the fun things they send - crossword puzzles, comics, poems. They are doing what the Savior would do if He were here. They are His hands.
Among my mail, was the first letters from my kids!
An jail-approved contraption to keep me busy... One of the reasons why I love this oldest kid of mine!
No little girl should have to draw a picture for her mom in jail, but this one made my day! I especially love the detail of the lock on the jail, the guard keeping watch, and Piper in the upper right hand corner with her jump rope.
I've been looking forward to this day for a while. 25 days down. It seems like a lifetime and the blink of an eye all at the same time. Today marks the day I can turn in the paperwork to request Good Time. I have read the rule book a dozen times, making sure there wasn't any part of the requirements that I didn't meet. I've applied for a job each time I've been here - and been turned down each time. Being denied the jobs of jail seamstress and jail janitor at .30/hour was actually a low for me. Not many are denied those positions. I even saved my denial paperwork so I had proof that I had tried to get a job, in case they questioned it. There's no word document or spell check for what I have hand written. I wrote it out in my journal to make sure it was just right.
I am requesting good time to allow 5 days off my sentence of 42 days, bringing the total to 37.
The inmate rulebook states, "Every county inmate serving a jail sentence who has a good record as a prisoner and who performs the task assigned to him/her in an orderly and peaceful manner, shall upon the recommendation of the Sheriff and the Judge, be allowed five (5) days off their sentence for each thirty (30) days sentenced. Housing fees must be paid in full before good time is allowed."
I fit the description of a county inmate serving a jail sentence in this jail. I have a good record as a prisoner. Although I have requested a jail responsibility each week I have been here, none has been assigned to me as I am considered 'temporary.' I have kept my cell clean and participated in the cell block cleaning on my assigned days. I have also shoveled snow multiple times in the rec yard as well as cleaning up candy wrappers in the yard that were not mine, but felt that was the right thing to do in keeping our area tidy. The snow and candy wrappers were not required responsibilities and done on a completely volunteer basis. I have been an orderly and peaceful inmate. My housing fees have also been paid in full.
Part of me wanted to attach my job denial paperwork and the receipt that showed my housing had been paid in full. Too many college papers I've had to site sources, I guess. Now I wait...
Yesterday new stripes were brought in. So after I showered, I put on the new clothes and realized the pants were a size too small. As I left the shower area and made it back to my cell, a couple of the girls noticed. I said, "Ya, real funny joke Christine!" She's the one in laundry and has the cochlear implant. In her muted, hearing-impared vocals, she laughed and promised that she didn't do it on purpose. She said she'd get me new ones when she went to laundry again.
On the way up the stairs to my cell, one of the girls (who happens to come from Vegas) whistled and said she had a few dance moves to teach me in pants like that. If this had happened the first week, I would have been mortified! I laughed right along with her and said, "Danielle, I don't want to know any of the dance moves you have in store for me!" I hung out in my cell until new pants were delivered, finding the sense of humor in it all.
The next step in the Plan of Salvation is Birth. Anyone who has held a newborn baby can feel the special spirit they have, fresh from God's presence. For many parents it's 9 months of planning, shopping, preparing, and learning before the baby comes. But I would guess that God takes a lot more care than just 9 months in preparing the family for one of His spirit children to join an earthly family. I have thought about how we were prepared for Bryer before we even knew what was coming. He sent her to a family who is patient, who loves to learn, to a mom who craves studying child development, to a dad who plays an active role with his kids, and as the youngest of 5 siblings to give her plenty of people in her face to help her grow and learn.
I would guess that God put an equal amount of thought and preparation into sending each of these girls to the families He has. I have thought about the revelation and Heavenly help a mother can receive. Each of these girls' moms are entitled to that. Of course it's easier to receive that revelation if they are close to God. He wants these girls to succeed. He wants them to return to Him. I have thought about the way these girls talk about their moms and the great respect they have for those that have tried their very best to raise them the right way. That's not all lost!
I don't understand why someone like Crystal would be sent to a family and have to work her way through the foster care system her whole life. I do know that God doesn't leave us helpless. There is always a way to be better. Always someone He will send to help us. Like it says in the book of John, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."
A couple of my favorite moments from today....
I sat at a table making friendship bracelets with Rachel and Christine. We talked, laughed, and shared inside jokes. It was like we were long lost friends being reunited. I would have never, ever in a million years thought I would find these memories in jail. It was another one of those moments that time seemed to stand still and I wanted to soak it all in and hope both of these girls make it. I want to see them succeed. I watched their genuine smiles and listened to their laughter and wanted to stop time and help them remember how good it feels to be clean and sober.
Then tonight ended with our regular group prayer right after the med cart left. The girls have expected me to lead the prayer, which I am happy to do, but I also love to hear what they have to say when they talk to God. Tonight I called on Crystal to say the prayer. I loved the phrase she used, "peace in the pod." A couple others also commented about it after the prayer was done, which made Crystal feel good. Tuck had some gospel questions so she came to ask me and we got out our scriptures and read tonight together. These stripes I wear cannot contain my excitement for being here and doing what I'm doing. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything - except maybe 5 days off my sentence to be with my family, who I am missing like CRAZY! :-)