Maybe, while I'm pregnant, I shouldn't be allowed to go out in public. Just a thought. There are times when it can be a little awkward for other people. Yesterday was a good example.

I wrote about how Chinua and I are grounded, and have had our licenses suspended until we can pay fines that we owe for tickets. Well, yesterday was my big day to go and represent myself before the Humboldt Superior Court, and basically beg for forgiveness for the speeding ticket that I received over two years ago. I felt a little nervous about it, since I've never been to court before, and even my immigration hearing was like a cozy little chit chat in my new Vietnamese best friend's cozy little office. (He became my new best friend after granting me permanent residence on the spot.) I asked Chinny what he thought court would be like. His thoughts were that it wouldn't be like anything on TV, and that it would probably not even be held in a courtroom. What he said made me think of a cozy little discussion with the judge and a secretary, soon to become my new best friends after the judge dissolved my charges and sent me on my way with a blessing and an admiring word for what a sweet person I was.

This is what actually happened. The court proceedings happened in a large room filled with church-type chairs, (you know, the padded ones) after about sixty other people and I waited in the hallway for the judge to show up from his lunch break. The judge, who was a good-natured and humorous old fellow in a robe, sat at the far corner of the room at his bench, which was guarded from people who had potential grudges by four more padded chairs, facing backwards. This, he said, was to give him time to pull out his gun should anyone rush toward him with a hand grenade, at which time, he said, the rest of us should duck. Putting the chairs there was a wise move, since, uncharacteristically, in the courthouse there was absolutely no security. (I've faced much tighter security at the main Post Office, in San Francisco.) This is Humboldt County, after all.

The Judge read us our rights. He also told us that if any of our cell phones went off a large man with a large stick would come and take them away. Then he proceeded to call us up in alphabetical order to plead our cases in front of everyone. I started to shake a little. Several people had names that started with letters preceding F. Everyone pleaded guilty to their charges, the Judge would ask them if they could pay their fines that day, and they would say: yes. The most common cases were teenagers with speeding tickets who approached the bench with their parents, pleaded guilty, and had their parents pay for their tickets. I started to sweat. I could see that there was not really going to be an opportunity for me to tell the judge about my life, my kids, my low income, my volunteer work, and various other things designed to get me out of paying the ticket. My plan was backfiring. I realized I would never be able to drive again.

Finally he called me. I waddled up to the bench in a last-ditch effort for sympathy, then pleaded guilty to the charges. The judge pointed out that the charges were from 2003, for the benefit of the humour of the court. He was nice enough to take the fine down to only $360, and to say that the cop must have really been scraping the bottom of the barrel to fine me for not having proof of registration in the car (since they have it on their computer system). As he started to question me about whether I could pay, I started to break down. I actually started weeping. This is when it got embarrassing, as I stood sobbing before the entire room of people. The judge started looking a little alarmed, advised me to find 360 friends to give me a dollar, and then dismissed me.

I cried all the way to the clerk's office, as I went to talk to them about payment options. I cried the whole time I was standing in line. I just couldn't stop the tears. Once a pregnant woman is weeping, it takes a whole lot to get her to stop. All I could think was that I was never going to be able to drive again. I was very, very sad. When I got to the counter, I was still crying. The man on the other side looked a little alarmed, just like the judge. I told him I was unable to pay, and he said he would get me set up with a payment plan. Then, he said the magic words. He told me that once a payment plan was established, they would send a "case closed" message to the DMV, and they would work on restoring my license. My tears started to dry up. The man patted me on the hand and told me it would be okay.

So, all of this brings me to something I have been thinking about for a really long time. It's about the courts of God. I'm not really talking about the courts in the courtroom sense, but in the royal, Kingly sense. Yesterday I felt humiliated, admitting my stupid mistake in not paying a two-year-old fine and admitting my inability to pay. (I have to say, though, that it is the only speeding ticket I've ever received. I really don't speed, I promise.) But in the courts of God, I have a voice. Meditating on this has changed my life. I know that I can walk into the courts of the Most High and make my requests known, and He hears me, not just as some pregnant lady who somehow made it into His courtroom, but as His daughter, His friend. An Heir. Do you see how reviving that is? Everyone wants to be heard. To have a voice. Before Majesty, we do. He inclines His ear to hear us. When I am humiliated, all I have to do is remember that I have a place in the courts of God. And He hears me.

This is what I pondered as I drove home with Elena. The white stripes on the road ran alongside us and the river popped in and out of view, wandering beside the highway, crossing underneath, and disappearing into the distance, only to flash back into view around the next curve.