Writer, business woman, lay minister...mother, daughter, wife, friend...with a past and a future. This is my story. This is our story. This blog is the compilation of my experiences and the women I meet in the ministry. It is our gift to you.
*Names may be changed to preserve the confidentiality of the work we do. The facts of their experiences will not be altered. I hope to be honest, unbiased and clear; however, this blog is not a politically correct place. This blog will be used to glorify God, spread the Good News of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and to encourage other believers in their own walk.
She helps out in the chapel, during classes and works a job that starts at 3:45 am. She still smiles though. She feels the love of God and she knows that something inside has stilled her spirit. She's been working on a journal to document her journey and she has kept all the workbooks that she's finished. She's read them and re-read them.
She's an inmate.
She's been talking to a church member from her home town for two years now waiting for her parole answer to come back a "yes". She has a place to go and people ready to help her with all the challenges she will face. She is scared but she knows this time she's found a key she's never had before. She has someone, a Christian mentor, a woman willing to take her in, a plan with a real support system.
She's in love with God and she's learning to give her testimony. She turns red every time she does but filled with the Holy Spirit she's finding the boldness God gives to glorify Him. She's not waiting anymore. She's serving God by telling her story long before she gets out but she's counting the days. Even the Warden will miss her; everyone has come to know her as a true warrior for God and model inmate. Her behavior and demeanor has changed over time and she even sees the difference and wonders at where her patience and kindness is coming from.
She doesn't recognize herself. She's not the girl off the street. She's not the one turning tricks for a fix. She's strong and yet quiet. She reads and studies and is ready to take on the task of discipling others. She is ready. She has friends. She has a family that she hasn't met yet.
God's got her.
She is quiet the day she's released. She even cries because she feels she's leaving people behind, people who need her. She looks at the woman taking her back to her county and hometown but to a neighborhood she's never been. It's a Friday and all she can think is "Why can't this be Sunday, I need to praise God right now!" and then she remembers what she was taught, she can praise Him minute by minute, alone in her heart and she smiles and the car rolls on.
God's got her.
When she gets to church, she's introduced to the pastor and his wife, women in the women's ministry and other members of the congregation her mentor knows. Her head spins as they all hug and smile at her. They aren't making fun of her or talking about her, they are anxious to hear her testimony and how God worked in her life. They want her to attend their bible study, it started a couple weeks ago but they'd love her to join them. She smiles as everyone sings praise songs and she feels strangely at home.
God's got her.
Someone in the congregation has some home repair work they need done and they offer her the opportunity to earn some money until she finds something full time. She paints a couple of bedrooms and gets to know them. They like her and she likes them. She works hard and remembers that passage about working as though working unto the Lord and she does. They watch her hard work and her meticulous skill. They tell some friends and another church members mentions his home decorating and repair business. It takes a few weeks but they offer her a job and she immediately says yes. She took classes on simple home repair, landscaping and painting interior and exterior work. She has the skill.
And God's got her.
It takes some time but slowly she saves money and another church member helps her find a car she can afford and her mentor takes her to get her drivers license. She's working and meeting once a month with her parole officer. Her PO is impressed with her progress and asks, "How is it you are doing so well?"
She's carried her bible almost everywhere they would allow her. She's read it each morning and night. She's faithfully attended each church service and bible study offered. She's brought others to Christ and accepted Him as her Lord and Savior. She's one of the most outspoken evangelists and she can quote more scripture than she can phone numbers she used to know by heart.
She's an inmate.
She doesn't wear her best navy blue dress and heels, pearl earrings and necklace. She doesn't curl her hair just so and check her makeup before walking into the big church on the corner, with the towering maple tree providing shade over the small playground fenced to the side of the chapel.
She wears white; white shirt, white pants, white tennis shoes if she's lucky. She carries a small print King James Version Bible she tries so hard to understand. She sings with her hands held high and tears flow as she stands in the presence of God and the church members who have come in to preach this Sunday.
Finally she knows what she's never slowed down enough to consider. God is real. He loves her and works in her life. She's behind bars, she believes, because God rescued her from herself. She talks about God at her work assignment and she lives in the faith based dorm. She wants a life different from anything she's ever known. She wants to live like the those that visit and teach. She wants to do so well outside that she can come back in to talk about the hope God provides.
Then she gets her answer. She has a release date and her head spins. She knows that in a few short weeks she will need to find a place to go. She starts making lists. Things to do that will make sure she's never here again. She has to find a church and she has to keep reading her Bible and she has to find a half way house because going home isn't safe or healthy. But she wants her children back and she wants a job that will support her and her children.
She gets a "yes" from a Christian transitional housing program and she's praising God that she has a place to go. She reads all about it and how they have Bible studies and church attendance and weekly service projects! Oh she wants to serve God! Besides this wonderful news she remembers all those classes she's taken so she has a lot to share with someone. She's taken so many classes and she's gotten a dozen certificates to show her parole officer how hard she's worked.
Those certificates don't overshadow those boxes on the applications; "have you ever been convicted of a felony?"
And the day she's released she is picked up by the housing coordinator and she tells her that she just wants to see her family for one night and get some of her clothes and things. The coordinator has seen this before and explains how its in her best interest to just take a night or two in the housing unit to prepare herself for her reunification with family and friends. She tries to give her best excuse and then says "I'm feeling really pressured now, I just want to see my family." And she is free, so the coordinator does as asked all the while knowing it would be the last time the coordinator saw this one until the next time she walks into a prison classroom.
She decided to go to a friend instead of a program. She decided to return home or to the place she was when she was arrested because they would take her back. Oh the programs she heard about sounded great while she was in jail but she reads the restrictions and the rules and she doesn't need that again. She just got out of jail and she doesn't need all that again. She can find a church and she can praise God and she will keep reading her Bible and pray when things get tough.
Things are tough and she starts thinking, "I can do this." She forgets its God who does the battle for us. She forgets to ask God for help this morning and the next. And she doesn't open her Bible to remind her of what she learned. She has too much on her plate to take the time to do that. Besides, would she get so many no's if God were really on her side, and she starts believing the enemy. He's there telling her all about how God left her and forgot about her because her life is tough, tougher than she thought it would be this time because she has God.
Oh she went to church at first and to a recovery program there too but no one noticed her or even said hello. She did find someone who'd sign off on her parole paper that she attended the mandatory meetings as long as she'd sign off on theirs. That was something. But it wasn't God and it wasn't the focus on the Bible she remembered in prison. Things were different now. The God of the prison didn't seem to be the same God of the outside.
She still prayed and she still wanted to believe all would be well. She would find a good job and she would have a great house and a pretty car soon. She was "standing on this" because someone told her to speak her desires over her life and her God would not forsake her. But it wasn't happening, at least not fast enough and that church family everyone talked about in all those classes, where were they?
There was a family she knew that would take her in and things would feel right again. So she went back there, and did just one line and had a couple beers before she set out to pick up a stack of applications. She felt like she could conquer the world! A friend lent her a car to go to an interview but the inspection sticker was expired and she hadn't quite gotten her driver's license renewed yet and the lights behind her let's her know she's got a problem and suddenly, in the heat of the moment she cried out to God, the one she put aside for a while.
this time, when she takes those classes, she'll talk more about what brought her here and it's just a parole revocation. And she'll make better choices because she wants to stop this cycle and she cries and sobs through her story and she asks each and every teacher that comes in, "Do you know of any good programs I can go to after I get out?"
She's praying to God and she's learning to hear His voice. She's different than the other girls in her class because she's got it this time, she's finally gets it, she's going to make it and God's got her back.