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.
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