Journey of Faith

The great job search

I thought I had a game plan coming home. I was told that I could renew my insurance license, I figured I’d need to take some continuing education, and all would be well with the world. I also had a plan to re-start doing consulting work that I had begun right before going back to jail to finish my sentence. I spent time while incarcerated to start taking business classes. I was excited about it, but it turned out to be nothing more than lessons in how to use Microsoft office products. I took the course for a few months, then ended up leaving to go to SCI Phoenix. When I returned from that mess, the classes were all on hold and the teacher left for another position elsewhere. When you take classes, you get paid for those as well as your job or general population pay. When I originally started the classes there, I was working in the chapel library. My job was to keep the library clean, organized, check books in and out. I also worked the sound system on Sundays or during other events that needed the sound system to be operated. Once, Charlie Batch, retired from the Pittsburgh Steelers came to speak at SCI Cambridge Springs. I had met him before during a charity basketball game. I talked to him for a while, and he actually remembered the event. He’s a great guy and does a lot of charity work for the area he grew up in near Pittsburgh. When I came home, it became evident quickly that getting my insurance license back wasn’t going to be as easy as it was explained to me. They wanted me to pay to take a pre-licensing class that cost just under $400. Money I really didn’t have or want to spend at the time. It was suggested that since I have a record, that I complete the application to be pre-screened for approval. The way this is set up, it leads you to believe that if you complete this paperwork, give them everything they need in order to review your case that they will then let you know if they would approve your or not to obtain a license. I thought, this is great! I completed it and waited and waited. I finally decided to follow up with them. I was then advised that they were waiting on me to take this pre-licensing class. I said Well what is the purpose of taking the pre-screening part? I’m not paying that kind of money to only be denied. It’s a money racket, it really is! I then talked to the head of the agency that handles most of the continuing education for insurance. He suggested that I wait about a year and decide if I still wanted to try. I honestly, had pretty much moved on from this endeavor and started taking online courses to maximize the knowledge I already had relating to digital marketing. I knew that I was growing to love it, and it was a completely new chapter for me in my career. My husband was worried because insurance had been long time career for me. I was willing to take the chance. I was applying to jobs on average 5-10 times a day to several online employment websites. The days ticked by and I’d either get no response, a typical “thank you for applying, but..”, or I’d get a request for some off the wall interview. Scammers are now using these websites to try to prey on people trying to find honest work. Some were easy to pick out, others would want you to download weird messaging apps. As the time went out, it became very discouraging. I could only keep praying and telling the Lord that I believed in his plan. If you’ve been following my blog, I posted earlier about Katie Souza. How reading her books really spoke to me and changed how I looked at some things. I was applying for jobs the one night and there it was, Katie Souza Ministries was hiring for a position that was perfect for me. I applied immediately. I included in my cover letter that I had a record and how her ministry really helped me get through my ordeal. Several weeks went by and I was contacted by another firm that I had interviewed for previously. I really liked this position and enjoyed my interview that I had with them. Our move to our new home was coming up quickly. Our realtor did everything she could for us to make sure that I could be present during this one. The day she called us to tell us that she was not only able to move the location, but she was also able to move the date up ahead of schedule. That very same day, I receive a job offer from the company that I had met with and really liked. I started shortly after we moved into our new home. I needed time to be able to unpack and find my desk, organize my office and my house. A few days later, I opened my email to see that Katie Souza wanted to interview me. My heart jumped out of my chest. I was so excited that I didn’t know what to do. I prayed about it, I talked to my husband and mom about it. Something in my gut wasn’t right. This isn’t the job that the Lord provided to me. The job that I thought was my “dream job”. I could feel that it wasn’t right. The Lord kept reminding me of a sermon that I heard from Michael Todd. Michael Todd is the Pastor of Transformation Church and also appears on TBN. I loved watching his programs during my incarceration. I was glued to the tv listening to him and hanging on every word. The sermon that the Lord kept reminding me of was Michael Todd telling everyone how his dream was to produce music, to be famous and the eventually the Lord convicted his heart and said that was Mike’s dream but not the Lord’s. The Lord told him that he never consulted with him about what his plans were for Mike. We need to consult with the Lord in all of our plans. We can’t go ahead of him, not included him, then get mad at him when things don’t work out. We then expect him to clean up our mess we made or say, Lord where are you? I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, so I really try to go to the Lord with everything. The hardest part a lot of times is waiting for his response.

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Journey of Faith

You’ve been paroled

I looked down at the paperwork and there it was, the words I’ve been waiting for all this time. The Lord never fails and he told me I was going home. My excitement was clouded with confusion however. I now had to read my conditions of parole. I noticed the normal things like no drugs or alcohol, no contact with the victims or families. Then it hit me like a sucker punch, the one Last blow that could be handed to me. I was being told that I wasn’t allowed to live in, travel to or through the county that I grew up in. I had lived there 95% of my life. Our home was there, my family, my husband and kids. My parents and grandmother. This still doesn’t set well with friends and even businesses that had grown to know us. I can’t even return to my church. All of these people were looking forward to seeing me and spending time with me. Everyone who has and continues to support us. I however wasn’t in complete shock. I mentally prepared for this as much as possible. I had three home plan options going in to this meeting and this wasn’t part of the plan, however. I had to remind myself that God’s plans are not our own. I had to trust in him like I had been this entire time. I just looked at the parole agent and said, “But that’s where I live, I grew up there and I own a home there.” She the look on her face looked like I felt. I could tell that she truly didn’t want to share this news with me. Most of the staff had grown to know me and wanted to see me go home. When I was being transferred to Phoenix, the one officer stopped me and said, “I’m so happy for you that you are going there and getting out of here.” After years of seeing things that I’m sure they have seen, they know who needs to stay and who needs to go. The parole lady explained my options to me and told me to get back to her as soon as possible so that they could get me out of there. If I didn’t have any options, then I could always go to a center operated by the DOC. They are free and run by the state. It gives you a landing place to go to in situations where you don’t have a home plan. You could also go to a paid “halfway house”. I went back to my unit holding the best news an inmate could ever receive, and yet I had this cloud looming over my head. I walked in my room and told my roommates what happened. They were excited for me and tried to stay positive. They said, “Jodie, you know that God will figure this out for you. It’ll be ok!” I really loved my roommates. Heather and Pam where the best. We got each other through a lot over the time we were together. When we got moved to another unit unexpectedly, we asked the Unit Manager if we could be put back together when we returned. We knew that wasn’t going to be an issue because none of us caused any problems. We were all just grateful when we finally did move back to our unit after a month and a half of “living in exile”. That’s how it felt to all of us. The other unit wasn’t happy that we encroached on their space. The funny thing is, I landed in a great room,, and the girls in there didn’t want me to leave. I’m not trying to brag, but this happened a lot. Even in county, my one bunkie went around telling everying that “she had the best bunkie”. Another roommate wouldn’t tell anyone who I was and made people keep guessing because she didn’t want to share me lol. It was a joke and nothing serious to worry about. It was a compliment. When I was in this other unit, I ended up having to move to a different room. Someone in another room was caught stealing and the other roommates kicked her out. Yeah, it can happen. You can say that staff is in charge, but there is truth to the saying that “the inmates run the asylum”. When you aren’t liked, especially if you steal, you will not be wanted. When we moved, I literally saw one girl, get rejected at every room she was told to go to. She had a bad reputation for stealing and no one was going to put up with her. They blocked the doorway and would not let her in. Rules are fairly simple in prison, mind your own business, don’t steal, repay your debts if you borrow and don’t, I mean don’t try to steal or look at someone else’s girlfriend! I’m not gay so all of these rules were fine with me. I also don’t steal and I rarely had to borrow from somone. Borrowing could be expensive depending on what you needed. People loved to “sell” the e-cigarettes. The price for those was 2 for 1. So, when you borrowed 1, you had to pay them back with 2. I heard that Shug, that I mentioned in a previous post sold hers 3 for 1. People paid it too, and I bet they paid her back! I saw people get stopped on walks, I saw people get screamed at out windows at people that owed debts. I saw people grab commissary bags out of someone’s hand when they returned from shopping because they owed debts. Don’t mess with not repaying debt. People seem to forget who they are dealing with in there. There’s also a rule from the DOC that lending, and borrowing isn’t allowed. So it’s actually not allowed, but it does occur. Unfortunately, it’s a necessity sometimes. When you order commissary, you wait 2 weeks at Cambridge for your next order. That’s not h elpful when you need a Tums today. So having great roommates is extremely important. They are your temporary family. They are the usually the people who know you best while you’re there. I was lucky enough to always have great ones. I was especially glad to have Heather and Pam during this time. I know needed to get on the phone and call home. I needed to explain to my husband and Mom that I had good news and bad.

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Journey of Faith

A church service like no other

When I first went to jail, church in county was pretty much held in the same manner as any other church service. We’d go in and there was singing and then the actual service. They would give the invitation at the end for whoever wanted to be saved to come forward. As I then went upstate and started going to church at SCI Muncy, I was somewhat disappointed. Apparently once you were classified, the services got better. In classification (aka blues) however, it seemed like all we would do is go in and watch a video. Don’t get me wrong, the videos were ok, but it wasn’t the same. After arriving at SCI Cambridge, it was time to finally experience church after months of waiting. I signed up, had my Bible in hand and I even had plans to meet my friend Sue there. I walked in and I was overcome by the Holy Spirit. I just cried and cried I was so happy to be in the presence of the Lord. The place was packed from top to bottom, wall to wall. We were singing and clapping, worshiping as loud as we could. They probably heard us miles away. The pastor was the sweetest lady. Her name is Reverend Smith. We all called her Reverend Nettie. This lady was the nicest person and would give us the most profound messages. As I continued to attend the church services, it was funny to see new people show up and their reactions to what was taking place. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. It was the only Protestant service offered, other than attending Bible studies. The “experience” started before you even reached the building itself. During the summer months, the door would be open to the auditorium. The thumping of the music, the singing, clapping of hands could be heard outside. The sound intensified as you walked up the steps and approached the room. Pre-covid these services would be packed. After we were allowed to return, only a certain number of inmates were allowed from a cohort group. The energy was not the same. During these services the Pastor would invite the Holy Spirit to come. She would also bind anything unholy and cast it out. This auditorium was used by everyone for anything, so it wasn’t just a church. The worship and the inviting of the Holy Spirit turned into many being overcome by the Holy Spirit. I think we all have felt overtaken by the Holy Spirit or felt his presence. This was something that I have never seen in my entire life of going to church. These ladies were falling out, speaking in tongues, screaming, hollering, crying, laughing. When new folks would come to the service the looks on their faces were that of utter disbelief. Some would never come back. Others returned and ignored it; some I think came to be nosey. The first time I ever experienced speaking in tongues, I was in middle school. I went to a friend’s home to spend the night. Her mom was having a prayer meeting. They started speaking in tongues, I was so confused and went home and told my mom what happened. We didn’t do that at our church. I thought it was some sort of satanic worship the carrying on that was occurring. After going to the services while incarcerated, I decided to do some reading. The best place to do that is in the Bible since that’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I wanted to know if this speaking in tongues was possible for real.

To understand who the Holy Spirit is we need to first look back at John 15: 26-27. This is when Jesus is preparing the disciples for his death. Jesus says, “26 “I will send you the Helper[a] from the Father. The Helper is the Spirit of truth[b] who comes from the Father. When he comes, he will tell about me. 27 And you will tell people about me too, because you have been with me from the beginning.” After Jesus dies, the disciples and others are then in the Upper Room in the book of Acts, Chapter 2. They are all mourning the death of their friend and teacher. Acts 2:1-4, (When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.). They didn’t really understand what was happening. Peter went out and the people outside thought they were drunk. (Acts 2:5-11). Peter, the one who denied Jesus 3 times prior gets up and addresses the crowd. He tells them, “Look they aren’t drunk it’s only 9am.” He explains that God said that he would pour out his Spirit on all people. (Acts 2:17-21) “17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’[c]” So, he said ALL PEOPLE, not just the disciples. Not just the folks there that day. This was prophesied in Joel 2:28-32 before it even happened. Do you have the Holy Spirit? Paul teaches us that we receive the Holy Spirit as soon as we become Christians. 1 Corinthians 12:13 says, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” Romans 8:9 tells us that if a person does not possess the Holy Spirit, he or she does not belong to Christ: “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Ephesians 1:13-14 teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the seal of salvation for all those who believe: “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” So I ask again, do you have the Holy Spirit?