Friday, September 4, 2009

Jail Mail

Mark leaves for work around noon. The house becomes quiet; leaving me with the whir of the air conditioner and an occasional car passing by our house. I stare at stacks of letters from women in prison; ones asking for our "orange" bible and others whom correspond with me regularly. They are the women I refer to as my "jail mail". I love their letters. They inspire me, keep me focused on God and remind me of where I came. Mostly though they are my friends, long distance, that I get to know word by word and letter by letter. I get to unwrap their uniqueness with each new post to me. It's like a gift. When God sends a new gift my way, I rip open the package (the envelope) and devour it and anxiously sit down to respond. Then I wait by the mail box for their return!

When I sat in WILCO all those six months I think I can count on two hands the number of letters I received from family and friends. I didn't sit up during mail call because my name was seldom called. After a while you just accept that your family is letting you fall as low as you must, you don't wait for their encouragement because it is not forthcoming. Women walk around the pod sharing letters and pictures and cards. They smile and laugh and cry as they read their gifts from the outside. I sit on my bunk, aware of the aloneness. I make excuses why my children aren't writing. I remind anyone who asks that my family have turned their backs on me. My lack of letters is a measure of my aloneness. It's part of my punishment.

As women are released they promise to write. They never do. As they pull chain* others promise to write them once they are released, they won't forget. They always do.

I got out and made those same promises but God put something on my heart that said I could not let these women down. After about a month outside, I got on the computer, looked up the status of the women I made promises to, found them at their TDC sites and wrote to them. Some wrote back. Others did not. Others wrote back months later thanking me for not forgetting them. Each one said they could not believe I remembered. I knew how much jail mail meant and I wanted to honor my promise.

God honors His promise to us each morning as we wake. He honors His promise each time we find a nugget of gratitude in our hearts for He puts that nugget there so we can feel His love. Through me, God shows His love letter by letter that no one is forgotten.

Jail mail is more than a letter to a friend, it is a letter from God. As I write each letter I ask God to write the words He would have that woman hear and I hope I follow His direction. And in each letter God reveals a new lesson or truth to me. It is a gift exchange of sorts; from woman to woman sent by God.

I love my jail mail. God talks to me and He talks to them as I write. Sometimes I think it's the most important part of my job.

*"Pull chain" is the jailhouse term used to describe the transfer from one facility to another within the jail or prison system.

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