It wasn’t a normal place to have Bible study,
but I couldn’t wait to spend time with her again talking about God and the Bible.
Tammy, an inmate who shared both my name and a life filled with loss, would be walking into the make-shirt church service soon; and I stood waiting with other women from our church who had come to share a little love with women who need to be reminded that God is with them……….even behind the doors of a jail cell.
Fresh words of hope marked in my Bible, I was eager to share the only way I had truly overcome my own pain.
As I saw her in the line of women wearing orange scrubs,
I noticed a small smile on her face.
Her empty eyes seemed more alive.
Just last week she had told me that she was so tired she wished she could fall asleep and not wake up again.
Just last week she had said, “Every day I feel like I lose something else.”
Relief swept over me as I realized something had changed in the past seven days.
I wasn’t expecting to hear the words she said into my ear, though.
As we hugged, my heart was overwhelmed as I heard her say,
“I read your book this week.  
I wrote down so many things I was feeling. 
I especially loved your story about the toothpaste.  
That’s exactly how I feel.”
On the inside my body was collapsing with the thought of how my emptiness after losing Nick was somehow helping a woman who had lost her entire future.  I was overwhelmed with the reality that God’s faithfulness and the words of my own testimony had not only helped me overcome my own heartache but were now helping another Tammy overcome her own deep sadness.
 I remembered the toothpaste story and how the day I took the picture of my nearly empty tube I had felt just like it.
Squeezed and squeezed until nothing was left, but still trying to give just a little more to whoever asked of me.
I remembered thinking that with God’s help I could surely keep giving even when I felt empty.  And I remembered writing those words through tears.
I also remembered that a woman from our church group had bought one of my books as a gift for a different inmate about a month ago, and I realized she must have shared this book with Tammy.
But in that split second all I could do was smile and tell her how much she had been on my mind all week and happy I was to see her with a smile.
Later in the evening, I shared Revelation 12 with Tammy and the other women from her cell.
We talked about how the devil wants to defeat them,
but how we have the power to overcome him by the blood of Jesus and our faithfulness in sharing the word of their testimony.
Jackie shared about how the Word of God needs to be like food to our soul, and Lucy and Ruthie shared about how we are called to be lights to the world.
We even sang, “This Little Light of Mine,” with the girls, and I was amazed how many of them had learned this song as little girls but had somehow wandered away from the Light somewhere along the way in life.  Their faces seemed to shine as they sang the words again as broken women.
As I think about Tammy and so many other women who will wake this morning feeling far from victorious as they sit on metal bunk beds surrounded by cinder block walls,
I am reminded that nothing can separate them from the love of God.
I am reminded of the poem another inmate wrote and shared with us last week, and how this poem affirms that God is with them every step of their journey.
Keisha, the author of the poem, gave me permission last night to share her words with all of you.
She’ll be leaving our county jail soon and heading to prison for an undetermined amount of time,
but I believe she will leave a changed person.
I believe she will leave empowered to be the woman God has always longed for her to be.
As you read Keisha’s words, think about how God has worked in your own life over the past twelve months and how He longs to work in your life every single day.
No matter what you find yourself up against, whether it’s grief, financial struggles, marriage problems, parenting struggles, or even conviction because of past mistakes, know that God loves you, He walks every road with you, and He longs to transform you from the inside out……………….every single day all year long for as long as you walk on this earth.
He is a life-changer, and
He will use any setting to do His work.
Listen to how He has worked in Keisha’s life over the past twelve months.
Twelve Months of Jail
by Keisha Owens
On the first month of jail, the God Lord gave to me
Pain and regret and bouts of misery.
On the second month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
Painful acceptance that I’m no longer free.
On the third month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
The ability to learn that He is what I need.
On the fourth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
A group of great women who brought me to my knees.
On the fifth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
A peace in this place.  I faced it with grace.
On the sixth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
Hope and encouragement from those I thought had strayed.
On the seventh month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
Sanity and faith when my spirits began to sway.
On the eighth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
Courage and patience when it seemed never ending.
On the ninth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
The willingness to fight when my future lost it’s light.
On the tenth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
This place to call “home,” where you’re never all alone.
On the eleventh month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
Fear and relief that I may soon be free to leave.
On the twelfth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
Trust in myself – I believe I will not fail.
The twelve months of jail have taught me so much.
I know it seems odd. I think it was luck.
God put me in here to show me His love.
(Please keep Tammy and Keisha and all men and women serving time for past mistakes in your daily prayers.  God loves them with an unconditional, never-changing, eternal love; and only God can use jail to set people free.)