Thursday, May 10, 2012

I was in jail...

Some of you know a month ago I was in jail.  I spent 3 ½ days in jail.  It would probably shock some of you to learn I enjoyed every second I spent there; and I’m thankful God sent me there.

I was not alone, I was there as part of the Kairos MS team, with one big goal in mind, to bring God’s love into the lives of these women inside the prison.  That simple was our mission, to bring God’s love.

As anyone would guess, I had my own prejudices and fears before going in.  After all, these women are in there for committing a crime.  But as the time grew near, I found my fears and prejudices were changing.  I wasn’t afraid of getting hurt while in jail, I was afraid that I would get in the way, that I would allow my humanity to overshadow what God was trying to do thru me. 

I was blessed to go as part of an incredible group of volunteers who are passionate about this ministry and who were willing to share their experiences with me.  So I figured, if they continue to serve, it must be a pretty great experience, right?   
To say I was blown away by it would be an understatement.  There simply are no words that can express the experience.  I spent 3 ½ days inside a prison, laughing, crying, sharing with inmates and loved every second.   When the weekend came to an end, I was sad.  There were good byes and there were tears.

Since I left the prison, I have thought about my sisters in Christ that are inside CMCF.  I wonder how they are doing, what their life has been like since their Kairos weekend.  Some of their faces pop into my head more often than the others.  I figured God is telling me I need to pray for them individually.  So I usually stop and pray. 

I learned during my weekend in prison we are all just one bad decision away from being in jail.  Just one.  We have all made bad choices in the past.  Some could have landed us there, in jail, alongside these women.  We were blessed to have someone in our lives “who knew better”; who watched over us and directed us.  Some of these women didn’t.  But hopefully now they have Christ.  And with Him by their side, they can do anything.
Christ was there that weekend.  Only He could take my prejudices and turn them into love.  His love.  I hugged these women and felt His love pass from me to these women.  Going into this weekend, I didn’t know what crimes any of these women had committed.  I honestly didn’t care to know.  They have sinned and their sins are public, and out there for the world to know.  But we are all sinners, and all of our sins are the same in God’s eyes.  Christ died for their sins just as He did for mine.

Since I left the prison, I have found out what their offenses were.  And you know what?  It hasn’t changed my experience, or the way I feel about these women.  They are His daughters too.  He loves them as He loves me.  And they are worthy of my prayers too. Each has a place in my prayers and my heart.

I’m so thankful God called me to serve Him inside that prison, on that weekend, to those women.  So incredibly thankful for the opportunity and for the blessing.  I ask, next time you are praying, pray for the inmates inside CMCF, pray for the Kairos volunteers, and for all those who minister for those inside prison walls. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sorpresas te da la vida...

Life will surprise you.  Yes indeed!

Most of my adult life, I've heard women say "I've been dreaming of my wedding day since I was a little girl", or "when I was a kid, I knew what kind of wedding I wanted", etc, etc.  You get the idea.

I wasn't one of those girls.  I never dreamed of my wedding day.  NEVER.  Never wondered what it would be like to walk down the aisle, dressed in a white gown, with a veil on my head and with a handsome man waiting for me at the altar.  I didn't daydream of the day prince charming would come and sweep me off my feet, and we'd ride together into the sunset.  Not once.

Maybe you are wondering what kind of childhood I had. Was I a tomboy?  Am I missing the girl gene that makes the other girls dream of prince charming?  Maybe the answer is yes to both.  I never liked dolls, never in my almost 40 years owned a Barbie.  Never wanted one, not even as a kid.  One of my earliest memories is asking my mom for a Tonka Truck for Christmas.  Yes, you read that right, a Tonka truck.  It may seem odd, specially when I grew up surrounded by four sisters.  I still remember how happy I was to find a green Tonka jeep under the tree that year. 

Don't get me wrong, I liked boys growing up.  I had crushes and swooned if one of them looked my way.  But from there to dreaming they would one day be my chosen beloved, that was a leap I never made.  That stayed with me until college.  My friends, those who knew me when my last time was still Gutierrez, will probably tell you I was very adamant about one thing :  No marriage, and No kids.

Of course, I never took into account that a handsome man would sweep me off my feet, and that I would find myself married at the young age of 26.  Or that I would find myself the mother of three kids.

I'm glad life surprised me, and brought my way the 4 people who share my house.  They are pretty awesome folks, and definitely love me enough to put up with me all the time.  I have my best friend under the same roof, and three amazing little beings who remind me every day I have a purpose in life. I would not trade them for the world.

The other day I read a statement from a mom who said she missed being pregnant and missed breastfeeding.  It made me wonder if I'm really missing that gene I mentioned earlier.  I don't miss my pregnancies.  I love my children, and I'm glad I was able to give them life but I did not enjoy any part of the pregnancy.  I didn't like having to carry 30+ extra pounds, not to mention the extra fat I accumulated eating for 2, and 3 people at once.  I do not miss having to sleep on my side, or my back, when my favorite position is sleeping on my belly.  I do not miss having to lay in bed for weeks to give the boys more incubation time.  I don't miss the extra swelling of hands, feet, and face, sleepless nights, not to mention the heartburn.  I simply don't. 

I wonder if those women had the perfect pregnancies, and that's why they miss it.  If they did, good for them.  I'm glad all that is over and done. 

I'm a huge advocate for breastfeeding.  I am lucky enough to be part of a culture where breastfeeding is not only encouraged, but expected.  I don't miss breastfeeding though.  Even though I tried it with both pregnancies, it was difficult for me.  Not to go into details, but it made me feel inadequate as a woman and a mother.  Thank God for the lactation consultant who told me I could bond with my twins as I bottlefed them, just as I did when I breastfed them.  I know many women out there successfully do it, I wasn't one of them.  My experience wasn't what I anticipated, so I don't miss it.

When my firstborn was on her way, I wondered if I was made to be mom.  I didn't fit the typical idea of what a mom should be.  I had a career and all intention to keep it after she was born.  What if I didn't have any maternal instinct? What if I didn't love this new person instantly?

I have learned in the last ten years that being a mom is about building a relationship with this new person.  Candace and I had to get to know each other, and become the mother and daughter we are today.  Yes, I loved her from day one and would have died for her (and still would!) but I am reminded often she is her own person.  Not an extension of me.  Not an accessory.  She is her own being, and she deserves to be respected as such.  The same is true of my boys. 

I am not the perfect mother.  There are many times, after they are in bed, and I climbed (exhausted!) into mine, when I wonder if I am doing a good job. Am I raising human beings who will go out into the world and make a difference in some way?  There are many times when I feel as a bad mom.

I look at these kids, at the amazing people they are, how kind, loving, and caring they are; and I think maybe I don't have to do anything other than provide an environment where they can thrive.  They were made to be amazing, loving creatures; that's not my creation.  Maybe all I have to do is love them, guide them, and watch them grow.

La vida esta llena de sorpresas...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Are you kidding me?

You know, I like my job.  I enjoy what I do, and most days I actually like the people I work with.  But every now and then I'm left wondering what the f*** is wrong with people these days.  Why can't people simply do their job?

I work in state government, and yes I have heard every comment imaginable about how lazy state employees are, how "easy" we have it, etc.  The majority of the people in this agency don't fit in the stereotype that's out there, most of us (yes, I'm including myself here) are willing to go above and beyond to do what we were hired to do.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact the majority of the people here are scientists and engineers.  I honestly do not know.

Most of the time, I haven't cared if the person in the office next door was snoring while I was buried under a pile of reports, they simply weren't my problem.  Their job performance didn't affect mine, so I could not care less if they didn't do anything.  Did it aggravate me? It most certainly did, just not enough to leave me reaching  for the antiacids.

Well, now I'm responsible for other people's job performance.  Don't get me wrong, I like telling people what to do.  My siblings probably would tell you I was born to boss people around.
I don't mind telling people something needs to get done.  But I dislike having to tell someone to do something over, and over, and over, and over, and over...  I repeat myself plenty at home, I don't want to go to work and have to do the same thing I do with my kids.

Why is it so difficult to simply do what's expected?  I don't understand.  Is it lack of work ethic?  Do they know no better, or do they simply don't give a rat's behind?

I've had to spend some time asking myself if I'm expecting too much from people.  Am I asking they do things the way I would do them, or just asking that they do them?
Maybe it's a little of both.

I expect that when I, the supervisor, ask you, the employee to do something, that you'll at least look me in the eyes as I explain it to you and give me the respect I deserve. Not because I'm the boss, but because I'm a person and not a piece of furniture.

I'm not perfect.  I am loud and speak my mind more often than I should.  I'm sure my former (and probably current) supervisor would say I can be opinionated and stubborn.  I'm also sure none of them would say I've ever done "just enough" to get by at any job I've had.