Being in prison is teaching me to love others in a whole new way. When I first arrived here at FCI Dublin, I realized that there were women here for violent crimes and crimes against children that quite honestly made me sick. As I have prayed to see the good in others our Father in Heaven has provided me with unique opportunities to see these women through his eyes, with all of their divine potential. My judgments have been swept away, and I see the face of God in each one of them. We have such limited perspective without the love of our Father in Heaven.
There have been times this month that I have ached to be home. To sit in the silence of my own home at night and look at our Christmas tree, or feel the goodness of my children. I miss the peace and love of our community, and would give anything to go to Temple Square and look at the lights or hear the beautiful music. Each week on Sunday we have LDS volunteers that come into the prison and share the Gospel with us. I have come to love and depend on these good people, and know that they are a lifeline from our Father in Heaven. Last Sunday they brought in a special bell choir and shared the most beautiful musical performance with us. It was sacred to sit in our little non-denominational chapel together in humble circumstances. Our small group of LDS sisters and many other women not of our faith attended and we were united in a sweet spirit of love and charity.
The spirit was so incredible as we were reminded of the humble circumstances two thousand years ago that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to earth in. The King of Kings spent his time with sinners, just like us. I was deeply humbled by these thoughts and everyone felt it! For just a moment we weren’t prisoners, we were all children of our Father In Heaven and as I looked around the room I saw many women that I know from the compound. One of them is serving a life sentence and had tears streaming down her cheeks. I sat next to a young LDS girl, who just started serving a 25 year sentence. She has Multiple Sclerosis, and is so fragile that sometimes I think she’s going to break. The poor thing had chewed her fingernails into a bloody mess. It is painful at times to witness the suffering of others.
Last week was challenging for me! A few of my new neighbors got wind that I don’t like living next to women who have sex regularly and fight all the time. The group decided to teach me a lesson and used our count time to do it. Count time is hard for me already because of some of the trauma issues I’ve experienced. The women were all in their rooms so the little gang had a captive audience and they took full advantage of the opportunity. Shortly after the officers passed by the heckling began. At first it was just loud and vulgar, but quickly progressed into threats of violence and loud, hateful laughter. The ringleader made fun of me and degraded me in any way she could think of, and did a great job of rallying the other inmates. The fun culminated for them in hanging up signs making fun of me and letting me know that the cops didn’t care what they did. Any attempt I made to tell on them would only end in violence. I think what hurt the most was several of the women I thought were my friends had joined in. One of my roommates was scared to talk to me for several days afterward. The noise went on for about 20 minutes until we were cleared from count and I was literally sick to my stomach. It’s not the first time I have been in the presence of evil spirits, but it still scared me and left me extremely shaken up. The Armenian and Mama Dukes came over to enjoy themselves at my expense and admired the signs that were put up and as I walked out of my room with my head held high the Armenian spit on the ground as a sign of disrespect.
I left the unit as soon as I could to go walk on the track, and when I got outside I burst into tears. I cried out to my Father in Heaven, “Please help me, I’m scared, and hurt. I don’t want to do this anymore, it’s not fair and I can’t go on!” I walked for a while and felt better because I knew that I would be okay. I have temple garments and a Book of Mormon, I am protected! I walked back into the unit and made it through the next few count times that included more heckling and laughter and I felt hurt by the whole ordeal. It is easy to let hurt and fear turn into anger in prison. If you don’t humble yourself and turn to our Father in Heaven, these feelings will destroy your peace. Mother Teresa said, “We need to be willing to except humiliations for Christ, that is what humility is.”
Fortunately, Monday our LDS volunteers came unexpectedly for family home evening and I was able to receive a Priesthood blessing. The lesson our volunteers brought centered on charity, the pure love of Christ. They focused on how much easier it is to love others when they are being nice to us, or when we have something to gain from them. Our Savior loved others even as he was crucified. Those who mocked him and eventually killed him were in his prayer as he said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Our volunteers also talked about Joseph of Egypt. “Joseph knew who he was and he trusted his Father in Heaven. It didn’t matter what was done to him or how horrible his circumstances were, he knew the Lord would provide a way for him to rise above the injustice.” I loved the lesson! When it was time for me to receive a blessing I felt our volunteer lay his hands on my head, and with Priesthood power and authority, he promised me the protection I was in need of. I was told to love my fellow inmates and turn to my Father in Heaven through fasting and prayer.
How grateful I am for the gospel of Jesus Christ! I remember when our son Jace came home from his mission and said, ” Mom, I thought I was going to go to Wisconsin and change everything! Instead Wisconsin changed me. Wisconsin will always be sacred ground to me.” Today I know that Dublin, California will always be sacred ground to me, the growth I am experiencing is refining me and making me into the woman I came to earth to be