Sunday, September 18, 2011

CA Highway Patrol


I'm just sitting at the kitchen table, sipping cold coffee and working on a PowerPoint presentation for the Child Sponsorship Program.

In some ways, I feel like I'm back in college... putting together picture, video, music, etc. late at night like this. The football game is on in the other room, with casualties on the couch, proof of a busy weekend.

The Pumpkin Festival was spectacular this week. Just perfect weather, and numbers estimating in the 60,000 range attended on one of the days. And the best part was, there was no rain on our parade.

I enjoyed my usual pleasures: an elephant ear, an apple cider slush, pumpkin ice cream, and of course my favorite dinner of pork chop, nachos and cheese, and pumpkin pie every single night.

Every year, our church makes a home-cooked dinner for the carnival workers and serves them on Tuesday night (before the festival kicks off), and I was able to attend and take some pictures. I really enjoyed it!

Meanwhile, I currently feel like a train hit me. Not exaggerating. I tackled the 2-mile "fun run" yesterday (all by myself-- my nephews ditched me). My dad ran the 10K and since we all start at the same line, I jogged with him for about 2 minutes before we parted ways onto our separate routes. There were many others I knew who ran.

I ran last year, too. This year seemed to go by really well and I actually prefer running by myself. I can set my own pace and not feel pressured by whoever is beside me.

Anyway, I felt great after the run but not so great when I woke up this morning. I could barely walk and my neck and upper back feels like someone threw bricks at it last night while I was asleep. Nonetheless, I pulled off my 2 miles yesterday and received a "how to run properly" lesson today from my dad: Just remember, "California Highway Patrol," which equates to "Chest up, Hips out, and Push off with your toes..."

My mom told me that if my abs/ribs area hurts, it means I ran right. So there is a positive to all this pain.

Needless to say, next year I may just train a few weeks in advance. You know, maybe run a mile a couple weeks beforehand or something. :) Who knows, perhaps one year I will try the 10K?

My aunt and uncle are in town from Arizona. So tomorrow, I was invited to go with them and my parents to the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. I am a little excited, because I quite enjoy museums and it will be a fun way to spend my Monday. Of course, it had to occur on my busiest day in terms of meetings, so Kristi is being kind enough to take on of my order sessions while I'm gone. The rest of the week looks pretty busy with quite a few shoots and a continued effort to keep up with all of our editing before we kick off our next several weddings.

Well... I need to keep working on this volunteer project. Then it's the couch for me tonight. We also have other relatives in town so none of the bedrooms are available... and this is my weekend off of work, so I get the basement :) but I must say, the couch we have down there is pretty comfortable. I can't complain.

If I make it to the couch before midnight tonight, it will be a miracle...

Love you all!


Sunday, September 04, 2011

Going to Jail

Today I went to jail.

I frequent there... about once a month. Fortunately, after being there for about an hour, I get to walk right back out and go on with my life.

But each time I go, I learn something new. My perspective changes just a little. My mind is renewed. I am more thankful, and my picture of life is more clear.

To offer just a small amount of background, about 2 years ago, my heart was moved to become involved with the jail ministry in our church. I have always had a desire to touch those who are in broken circumstances, and the Lord showed me a way to do it. I knew up front that this would be a stretching experience. And it is. But each time I am stretched, I learn more about God, about His character, about trusting, and about His love.

When I am scheduled, I prepare a lesson and go early on Sunday mornings, ready to meet whoever wants to attend church. There can be anywhere from 1 group of 2 ladies to 2 groups of 6 ladies. We pray together, we read the Bible together, we discuss, and we share prayer requests. An older lady in our church usually accompanies me, and I love her support and wisdom.

I have heard so many stories. I have seen women moved to tears, at their most broken state of addiction. I have seen mothers locked away for months without their children, and daughters spending weeks away from their families. I have seen the emptiness of alcoholism and drug abuse. I have seen ladies who reach out with desperate trust in God as their court dates approach, unaware of the outcome and its consequences.

Today, for the very first time, I visited a girl in solitary confinement. It was shocking. She was locked away in a small room with a bed and a toilet. When we arrived, she was just waking up, and her eyes were foggy with sleep. Her face was covered in acne, and her hair a tousled mess. Depression was in the air.

The door separated us from her. We could only see her through a tiny panel of window, and we spoke through a small open slit. We talked to her for a few minutes and then we said a prayer with her.

She had been there for 3 months for a minor infraction.
My heart ached for her.

"Anytime you get low this week," my cohort said, "Just remember that we are praying for you."

The power of prayer has never been so meaningful to me. I know I will not forget to pray for her.

Then we left.

As we walked out, out into daylight, out into freedom, I said, "It makes me thankful..."

She nodded, agreeing, "Thankful for my upbringing," I finished.

"Thankful for parents and a family and a church that taught you the Truth," she added.

"Exactly. Because if I didn't have that, who's to say I wouldn't be where they are?"

I thought more about it on the way home.

I thought about why God chose for some of us to grow up in a loving, Christian environment, and why some of us grew up in a dysfunctional family with widespread sin. Having been handed such a wonderful example, I am, of course, responsible for a lot more.

But what of those who do only what they know... and what they know is drinking, drugs, and sex?

The more I visit jail, the more I see it as a haven of rest-- a second chance. God's way of taking these women and stopping them in their tracks and turning them toward the Light.

And their brokenness, their lessons learned, their ability to look at life with a renewed hope does more for me than they will ever know.

My conclusion was that while I may have had the better upbringing... without them and their steps of faith up out of the pit... we wouldn't have the chance to see God's glory at its best.

The more life I live, the more I understand God's purpose behind broken events-- a sudden death, a terminal illness, an orphan child, a jailed victim... the things of life we, as humans, have such a hard time "understanding." Whether one is put into such a circumstance in innocence or due to consequences, it is in and through those situations that God is most glorified and people are touched. And what is life, if God is not glorified?


Love you all!