April 3, 2016
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #429: April Fool on Me
The last three years I’ve enjoyed the fun challenge of trying to make whatever cellie I had at the time believe that, on April 1st, the powers that be at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had determined that it was time for him to pack up and leave. I do only one prank (well, one per person, if I do more than one at all) on April Fool’s Day each year. I’m very particular that it not be mean-spirited, excessive, costly for the recipient, or go on and on. I’m also not a fan of lying all day long, covered up with a simple “April Fool’s!” at the end. Little rules that work for me, anyway. My typically short-term cellies made this particular prank rather easy, since they were expecting to need to leave someday soon anyway. My official-looking paperwork made going back to California six months early seem somehow plausible, a possibility they each faced with brave disappointment.
This year would need to be different, I determined early on. My current cellie, Richie, was in my pod (and a good friend) last year when I pulled the most elaborate version of the “transpack your belongings now” prank on my then-cellie, Duffy, getting staff involved. I couldn’t do anything related to that, especially since Richie still has a few years left. He’d never believe it. I put off planning what I’d do, determined I’d just find something the day of to make him feel loved in a very “see, I pranked you because I love you” kind of way.
April 1st dawned like every other Friday morning, and I prepared to go to our band room to play piano and keyboards for the rap and R&B bands and coach the vocalists. Just after seven o’clock, the inmate clerk who works for our pod staff told me through my cell door that I was on the transpack list and that I needed to pack up all of my belongings and bring them downstairs within the next two hours.
HA! Very funny, whoever you are that put him up to this. You can neither prank nor fool the only guy I know who religiously observes April Fool’s Day as if he is an Old Testament Levitical priest on a High Holy Day. I simply smiled, told the gentleman “thank you,” and told Richie that I wasn’t gonna pack a single thing.
At the first unlock, around 7:30, before heading to the band room, I checked with our no-nonsense (read: never in a good mood) Correctional Counselor whose office is in our pod. He confirmed that yes, indeed, I am on a transfer list, set to leave La Palma Correctional Center, my home for these past five years, sometime this coming week. He made it clear that I had less than two hours to pack and bring my stuff to him.
When I’d first been told that I would be transferred out of state to an Arizona facility, I wasn’t thrilled. The semi-weekly visits and ease of such visits for my family seemed to be the biggest blessing in my world. I didn’t want to give that up. I was comfortable, leading worship services and yard Bible Studies. The lawyer sent to reassure me did a poor job of it, saying I’d be back within two years, due to the “contract expiring.” I told him that I was fully aware that contracts can be renewed. Now here I was, out of state slightly longer than those promised two years. In total between the two Arizona facilities I was housed at, I’ve been out of state over five-and-a-half years. And I want to stay. Well, that is, I wanted to stay. I loved it here. I saw God at work here. Why would I want to leave an active work of God? I wanted to stay, but only as long as God wanted me to stay here. This I have learned.
Throughout my life, between each major life-change, especially between major shifts in ministry focus, I didn’t want the change, yet God was faithful to nudge me out of my comfort zone into where He wanted me to be. I sensed this was exactly what He was doing with me. It isn’t exactly fun to anticipate, since I have so very much to be grateful for here: I work for the most incredible staff members, I get to accompany the most incredible music volunteer (and dear sister in Christ), I’m seeing amazing growth and results from the music program, and I have all-day access to my family via the phones in my pod (some prisons have the phones on the yard). And I’m not thrilled with the prospect of the very real possibility that I will be placed into a dorm-style environment to serve out my remaining seven years. No privacy. Unfriendly California guards. God, grant me grace!
However, I have a real peace. I’m determined to not complain about anything. I firmly believe God doesn’t need any help deciding what to do with my life, and thus He knows what is best. The sooner I am able to look forward to that, the better. The way I see it, He must have much for me to do where I’m going, since He’s pulling me out of a setting where I’ve had many initiatives granted and responsibilities to fulfill. I even came to the quick agreement with my Heavenly Father that even if it seems once I get where I’m going that I will have nothing positive to initiate, no great ministry to be a part of, and no way that I can see why He moved me, I will still praise Him, thanking Him, for He does all things well.
Now to get back to packing. The staff gave me until Monday, since I have six boxes of stuff to reduce down to two, and that’s no joke. So, California, here I come! Get ready for BIG things, in Jesus’ Name!