Friday, October 5, 2012

Jailbird


The officer behind the desk today is the friendly guy. (There's only one.) It's as good a sign as you can hope for at jail. He asks Silas about Charles and laughs over my ancient Old Navy flats with their secret metal arch supports as he runs them through the machine again.

I pick up the receiver and there she is, her face as lovely as ever. She's there in her "reds" since she's a model citizen, so she stands in front of the video camera, twirls. Her cheeks flush as she tells me about her extra privileges; her, shining red in a wide sea of beige.

She swears like a sailor then says she went to a prayer meeting last night. The church ladies put their hands on her forehead and prayed for her headache. It didn't go away.

I hardly know this girl.

Her letters land in my box, tiny hearts floating above the "i"s and "j"s. We've mutually concluded that it must have been God who led me to her front stoop just 10 days before her world stopped turning.

I'd walked out that night excited about everything I saw in her in the small span of 30 minutes. It was enough. I gave her my number as I walked out the door. I watched her punch it in knowing she'd probably never call me.

We had no idea what was coming.

So here I am, her only friend. Her only visitor in almost two months. I'm the only return address and the only cash on her books for envelopes and a sports bra. She's got no one who can help. No one else sitting on the other side of the monitor.

Here's the understatement of the century: I never thought I'd see the inside of a jail.

My only frame of reference was some kind of ridiculous 1980's movie. Or maybe Shawshank Redemption. I saw myself walking down a cinder-block hall, tattooed men reaching through the bars, howling, leering. Spitting? Maybe.

Uh yeah, I watched too much TV in my younger years. (Also, single toothpicks are not whittled down from a giant oak tree, as Woody the Woodpecker would have me believe. You're welcome.)

So jail isn't what I imagined. It's just a big room full of telephones with screens. There's also a bank of vending machines that turn my smallest child into a frothing maniac. 

It's not as scary as I imagined. But it's every bit as lonely. It's maxed out with hurting people; kids without Dad or Mommy, women scrapping for less than what they deserve, men with tattooed necks whose blue eyes cast darkness like a line.

I hurt for my friends living on the inside. I miss 'em. Every week, they send me back out to the world with a smile and I'm so thankful, all the time, every day, that God gave them to me.

It seems futile to try to fix their kind of problems, so I just tell her she's smart and beautiful. I tell him that the God who made the world and him can handle a plea deal. I talk in the present tense and nudge them to dream a little about what comes next.

It never feels like enough.

It always feels a little unfair that they fill me up while I'm there.

It's exhausting and I fight the lie that I don't have time.

Because the truth is, none of it is haphazard. I fell into them for a reason.

So I go.



37 comments:

  1. Wow. It sounds like if someone told you a few years ago that God would use you in prison ministry you would have been "say what?" But it is exciting too, because God thinks so much bigger and outside of the lines than we could ever. Praying for you and those lives you touch.

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  2. P.S. I read several books that had people going to jail....talk about scared straight. I am terrified that I will accidentally break the law and be send to jail. Have you read "Monster"? It's a Young Adult book.

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  3. your heart inspires me. As simple and as grand as that.

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  4. My son was one of those boys once, on the other side of the bars. I wouldn't give up because of all those others that I saw there with no one to care....keep on believing.

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  5. I love that Silas and Charles are doing jail ministry with you. Simply amazing. I love how you and Cory are raising up your children in true Matthew 25 fashion. Kudos to you.

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  6. You continually amaze me. Love how God is using you and love that you listen. You are remarkable.

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  7. I love prison ministry but haven't been involved since Jim. He can't deal.

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  8. first of all, I love you and that your kiddos are right there with you - Jayci is the same way. Our stupid jail, however, refuses to let us in to see our kiddos! so annoying . . . Anyways, know that I'm praying for you and with you - and I get it. And I love that I get it and I know that you get it . . . so rare and such an unexpected blessing :-)

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  9. I love thee. You do brave things afraid.

    xxoo

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  10. I guarantee you are filling them up just as much as they are filling you. I love your heart.

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  11. I've never been in a jail before either. So proud of you for being there. For being that one friend. God is using you girl.

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  12. You have gone where very ,very few would go. Keep listening to your selfless heart, and keep teaching the children that going to jail to visit their friends is normal. Tune out those who would question your decision to follow in your Lord's footsteps. KEEP GOING!! And remember you are not going alone, Jesus is right there beside you, and He is smiling every step of the way.

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    1. Preach it Mama! You are an amazing, encouraging, model. I appreciate you.

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  13. I hope and pray every day that my brother, who has seen the inside of jail, falls into someone just like you, my friend. Keep fighting that lie of not enough time. It helps me believe that there could be someone like you for Todd.

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  14. that is going. thanks for obeying the call.

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  15. You're filling the rest of us up too. Hope you know that! This was beautiful.

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  16. you prod me on in mighty ways.

    kelly has led a few worship services before for death row. amazing experience. he said he's never seen people worship with such passion.

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    1. "Those who have been forgiven much,love much". We could take a lesson.

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  17. If only we all could get going and listen to the word! Get on down the road, get moving, get shaking we could do some great things~bless you my dear & them

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  18. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

    God BLESS you, Shannan.

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  19. Your words make me cry and then they make me smile. You always take me to another place in my mind but more importantly in my heart. Write on Flower Patch Farm Girl.....write on....

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  20. all that comes to mind is, "hands and feet of Jesus".
    you encourage me to take action today. not later, maybe or when(i think) God says.
    because He says, "NOW is the time."
    sadly, i waste so much of it. just GO.
    xoxo

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  21. I'm sitting here on my couch ,it's 4am and my little guy who has autism, has once again decided that this is the start of his day and mine. I whine and moan, how long can I endure theses early starts?.....then I read your post....thanks Shannon for "flippin my switch".Making me see the bigger picture.
    This tired old girl in rural Australia thanks you, you make me want to be better, do better.
    Much love to you and yours.
    Allison

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    1. Dear Allison, I'm just a fellow Flowerpatchfarmgirl blog follower reading this post 3-1/2 years after Shannan posted it, but your comment struck me. How brutally exhausting to have to start your day of parenting a child with autism at 4am. I hope his wakeup time has gotten more merciful in the past few years, and that you have found the strength, grace and encouragement you need to make it through each day. May the Lord show kindness to you and your son!

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  22. This brought tears to my eyes. Being the hands and feet of Jesus. Reminds me of how Edith Schaeffer writes about our lives being like a tapestry. We only see the "underside" with it's seemingly haphazard bits and threads criss-crossing and a tangled mess. But God is weaving together a beautiful tapestry. Only He can see the "right" side now. But one day we will also see it and know what he was weaving all along. Thank you for your words.

    Bekah



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  23. I bet your are a comfort. And, I hope God is or will be to them both someday.

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  24. Oh Shannan, my grandson is behind those walls, I pray you or someone as willing as you shares with him. Such a lonely place to be. You are going just as our God has asked. You are blessing the hungry, the thirsty and the rest in His name. What courage, what faith you possess and you are showing to your children. Stand Strong.

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  25. You remind me of the boy in the story throwing starfish back into the water. "It matters to this one." It really does. Let it be contagious, Lord. Amen.

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  26. This one brings conflicting and teary thoughts. My sweet daughter met a young man on her first venture away from home after graduation. He is from a broken home; a father in prison, a mother who doesn't and hasn't wanted him. He can be very manipulating and she was convinced to stray from her beliefs, she now has a beautiful baby girl. The young man is in jail and will be there for the next year or so. This whole situation has been scary, embarrassing and, at times, almost too much. I have been praying for him, for his salvation, and have thought about visiting but I really don't want him around our family and I think that might encourage him. I've also thought about writing but have hesitated for the same reason. I know we have been forgiven and granted grace and mercy and should extend these to others but am having a hard time. The contradictions of my heart breaking for his upbringing and not knowing Jesus versus his choices to hurt, steal, and lie are great. Thanks for this post and for letting me let some of these thoughts go. I am praying and doing my best to trust God in ALL things and to remember that HE can overcome ALL circumstances.

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  27. Beautiful post. I had my first jail visting experience in the last couple of years. It's a shock to the system, at first, those of us who never dreamed we'd be visiting anyone in jail. But I discovered something unexpected during this time. Suddenly, I felt ashamed that I'd never been to a jail before to visit an inmate. And after a lifetime of reading the Scriptures, I finally understood what Jesus meant in Matthew 25:34-40, when He talks about visiting those in prison. My experience gave me a new compassion for the people behind bars. Bless you for following your heart and going.

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  28. You Go with your little one in tow. So often I use them as my excuse to stay put. I hope you will write more about why they go too, why it is important for them to see, witness. Thanks

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  29. Thank you for this. Beautiful.

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