Singing in prison – observations during my time as a volunteer in a women’s prison

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photoEight pins

Four needles

This is the number of items the ladies at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women are allotted for the weekly quilting program. Eight pins, four needles, no more, no less. Lose them or forget where you placed them, things get VERY awkward and tense. Panic ensues.

20140624-131947-47987294.jpgI volunteer at the prison twice a month and help the ladies create simple quilts and pillows by hand. I first learned about this program through my church, (The Summit Church’s) initiative to bring the gospel to the prison.

Inmate Overcrowding StaffOne woman I have grown quite fond of is “Sally” (not her real name). With a scheduled release date of early August, Sally is probably in her mid-30’s. She greets me with an easy smile and wears her chalky mint uniform as well as one can. The hint of mascara (or the prison equivalent) makes her face youthful, dare I say pretty. Sally’s nimble fingers are a stark contrast from most of her peers. Their hands often shake and have nerves such that they can’t focus on pulling thread through a needle consistently.

Sally remembers my name which is also unique. Last week, another inmate “Erin” needed some help and yelled, “Lady!” even though I had told her my name only minutes before and we’ve spent time talking on several occasions.

Sally’s quilts are among the best constructed. The lines on her fabric are straight; the stitching of similar distance and shape. I wonder if Sally realizes her potential, I see glimpses of victory in her life.

Honestly I find it hard to even imagine Sally committing a crime. She has such a gentle countenance.

And yet, there she is.

Seal_of_the_North_Carolina_Department_of_Correction.svgSoon she will be released from prison. Sally will no longer be told what to do. Her pockets won’t be inspected. She can then use scissors that really work and buy her own fabrics and notions. She will be able to come and go as she pleases with only a few limitations according to rules given by her probation officer.

Heck, Sally can even fancy to sport an underwire bra upon her release if she so chooses. Based on my observations, if I were released from prison, it would be my first purchase. Supportive undergarments are strictly forbidden in prison but trust me, VERY desperately needed.

We sat on the carpet in the special programs room. Instead of volunteer and inmate, it was like two friends crafting together. Straightening and stretching her quilt top, I offered some assistance though Sally really didn’t need it.

A little later on, while helping another inmate, a song came on the radio. I heard Sally singing. “My God is awesome. He can move mountains. Keep me through the valley. Hide me from the rain. My God is awesome. Heals me when I’m broken. Strength when I’ve been weakened. Forever He will reign…”

I perked up and pondered. Could I be singing this song if I were in prison?20140624-131950-47990080.jpg

“Do you like this song?” I inquired, partly surprised to hear someone in prison knowing the lyrics. I hear this song frequently at church and almost always lift my hands in praise. I guess it surprised me to hear a woman in prison singing these words so freely.

20140624-131952-47992382.jpgShe looked at me and with a gentle Southern twang said, “I do.”

Each time I visit, I fight every temptation to never return. The buzz of the prison doors unlock to let me in is like a lightening bolt going through my body every time. It rattles me to the core. Even so, I’m not deterred. I’m not there on my own strength.

This is the video that I saw at church which first peaked my interest. The Lord spoke to my heart. http://www.summitrdu.com/about/stories/

These are two videos of men who are involved in prison ministry and experiencing transformed lives!

As I consider my own struggles and pain, Sally comes to mind and so does God’s Word. Romans 5:3-5

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about all of this! Leave a comment, it encourages my soul!

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Getting on the good foot, eventually

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photo 1photo 11photo 10 I awoke Sunday morning with the remembrance of a dream.

Have you ever done that? Had a dream that surprises or stirs you?

I’ve dreamt many strange things. Just before the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia, I dreamt it just a few days before. I stood in horror watching it on tv and told the Hubs that I had those exact images in my sleep just a few days before.

But on Sunday, I dreamt of something ordinary. Something I miss and that must have spilled into my subconscious.

I dreamt of wearing TWO shoes. One on the left foot and get this,

the other on the right – (did that image just give you chills???)

Though I’m certain many of my previous dreams have included me in footwear, I overlooked their significance until today.

Weird how the mind works. Fascinating how things once commonplace become important when they are gone even if it’s only temporarily.

I had foot surgery the day after Christmas. For many years, orthopedic screws in my right foot have caused me problems. It was a more complicated surgery than expected because one of the screws was deeply lodged in my foot and the doctor had to bore two deep holes in my foot to extricate it. Interestingly, one of the screws was loose which probably only proves the theory that many have held for a long time.

And then I developed a shin splint which further impeded my ability to move forward.  Why I was downright churlish when the doctor had the gall to insist on further restricting my mobility!

My tendency is to hurry out of a place of waiting but crud muffins, that’s my reality. Am I the only one who just wants to be over and done with a struggle? Of course not!

Here are the doctor’s orders.

SLOW DOWN! – I’m not used to being still. I’m a busy girl, things to do, people to see, places to go. Forced to move at almost a snail’s pace is challenging. Possibly this is a message for me even after I’m healed.

STAY OFF YOUR FOOT! – If I am foolish enough to walk on my foot without protection, I could break my foot and make matters worse. I might need to ease back into normal activity. I’m wondering if God wants me to do less and abide more.

IT’S GOING TO TAKE TIME! – I’m still learning that healing of the mind, heart and hoof require patience and perseverance. I can’t rush through the recovery but I can do a lot to impede it.

photo 12I know that I will be back in two shoes, Lord willing, by mid-February. I will savor that thrilling return of a simple pleasure. Driving a car, riding a bike, going on a walk, oh how I will cherish those moments!

What lessons have you learned in times of suffering? What have you taken for granted in terms of your health that you now appreciate more than ever? I’ve got about four more weeks of recovery, I’d love to hear! When you easily stroll from one place to the other, give thanks, friends!

Rhymes with “witch” – a daughter-in-law’s journey

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A tender-hearted olive shoot and grandson

A tender-hearted olive shoot and grandson

Under his breath, he muttered the word that rhymes with witch but starts with a “B.”

Only one person heard it

My youngest son

We were going to a wedding in Indiana

I was in the passenger seat, clueless, in a celebration dress

Quite honestly, I was being silly

It had been a stressful day.

But after the nuptials, on the way back to the hotel,

My youngest olive shoot says he’s in massive pain

Really sick, violently ill

We go to urgent care because Ike’s abdomen is cramping

And that’s when I learn the burden he had been carrying

Of course he felt sick to his stomach!

I mean what do you say or do when your grandpa calls your mom a cuss word and you’re the only one who hears it???

That incident happened three years ago and I’d be lying if I told you this didn’t create a rift between him (not my son, of course!) and me. I knew we couldn’t confront him about disrespecting me and putting our teenage son in a very awkward position. So we have sucked it up.

But I have kept my distance not to be hurt again. Plus I haven’t wanted my sons to feel that kind of slicing pain.

"Heavenly Father, sustain us all during this time of great suffering."

“Heavenly Father, sustain us all during this time of great suffering.”

But now here we are

The man has a brain disease

And he needs me.

So does my husband.

I can only do this because of Jesus.

Left to my own selfish abilities, I would have given up. I bruise easily.

But through Christ and with some distance and education behind me, I think that moment was just another sign that there has been a growing problem.

And that man who called me the word that rhymes with witch but starts with the letter “B.”

Guess what I’m calling him now more than I ever have done in my over 25 years of marriage?

I’m calling him

Dad ❤