I'm Jessica Lauren - a wedding photographer for happy couples who are stoked about their wedding day! I couldn't be more thrilled that you stopped by! This is where I share bits and pieces of my passionate heart, spontaneous adventures, and pretty pictures of my rad clients! Feel free to grab a cup of coffee and stay awhile! xoxo
I hesitated writing this post awhile now for a multitude of reasons, but recently the Lord began to speak to my heart and change my perspective. You see, I wholeheartedly believe we are held accountable for what we know. My eyes have been opened to a world I didn’t even know existed not too long ago. And I believe I’m responsible to share these things that have radically changed my life.
Two years ago today I didn’t think a thing about people in prison. And if I did, it was something along the lines of, “Well they obviously deserve to be there. Don’t do stupid things and you won’t end up in prison.” I was the *queen* of a walk it off, suck-it-up-buttercup mentality.
One year ago today, I was beginning to step into this new world that was completely foreign and somewhat frightening to me.
Summer of 2016, I began praying for two specific things. A mentor – someone who could walk alongside me and speak truth with and over me; and opportunities to get outside of my comfort zone. I was fully aware that I was living in a bubble. I’ve lived a good life, with parents who loved me, encouraged me to pursue big dreams and opportunities, a roof over my head and food on the table. Most of the people in my circles have lived relatively similar lives. But I knew that this wasn’t reality for everyone. So I began to pray.
August came around, and long story short – I photographed headshots for a woman named Jayne Patton, we chit-chatted afterwards about life, big dreams and Jesus – and the next day I received a text from her asking if I would be interested in doing something super out there and crazy: prison ministry.
And from that moment my heart was launched in a direction I never could have fathomed.
The Lord began to answer my prayer two-fold, a friendship with Jayne, someone that passionately loved Jesus that was a few seasons ahead of me; and pulling me completely outside of my protected bubble and into the world of air-locked doors and body alarms.
And my heart began to change. Because walking into that prison meant seeing people – seeing faces – seeing stories. Seeing REAL LIVES of people who never dreamt of spending years – if not decades, behind bars.
Friends, nobody grows up with aspirations to land in a prison cell. When you’re in high school and think it’s cool to play around with drugs because everyone else is doing it – you don’t see the life that is enslaved to the very thing that is destroying you. You would never think you’d end up murdering someone because you’re too high to know what’s going on.
Yet it happens faster than you’d ever think.
I don’t know what it’s like to be sold by my own father into prostitution and turn to drugs and alcohol because you literally don’t know how else to cope. I don’t know what it’s like to be beaten – day in – day out – and finally one day snap because you’ve had enough.
It’s a messy world, friends – but it’s messy because we are broken. And these women that I see every Monday are PEOPLE. People with dreams and aspirations and goals. Moms with kiddos waiting for them at home. Women who feel worthless because that’s exactly what our world says about them.
But I believe Jesus says something different.
I believe Jesus looks at them and says, “Daughter, you are SEEN. You are KNOWN. And you can be FORGIVEN.” Because freedom doesn’t always look like getting out from behind bars. Some of us are in prisons of our own making, as Jayne always says. Enslaved to the approval of others, addicted to belonging, to food, to success – the list is endless.
We all struggle. We all mess up. It’s just that some of our struggles are legal and some aren’t.
I’m not making an excuse for illegal behavior – heck, I’d be the first person to say that there have to be consequences for our actions. But what I am saying is this – 99% of the time there is more to the story. That abuser was most likely abused. That alcoholic was in such a pit of despair that they didn’t know where else to turn.
My heart has been absolutely WRECKED by the brokenness of our world but absolutely transformed by the truth that Jesus changes lives.
And there is something incredibly humbling about watching women – all wearing the same khaki pants and white tennis shoes – in a maximum security prison in the middle of a corn field – sing “Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me. Let me be singing, when the evening comes. Bless the Lord, Oh my soul”
Broken. Wounded. Devastated. Yet hopeful.
My prayer for you today is that you wouldn’t be like me two years ago. That your conversation and your heart would begin to change. Because friends – we are one text away from getting in an accident that kills someone – and ending up in that place ourselves. We are no better.
And we are responsible for what we know.