Mothers

love you forever

When you scraped a knee or got hurt as a kid, who did you run to? When you were sick, who did you turn to for sympathy? When you were hungry and needed something to eat or clothes that needed to be washed, who did you ask? Who is the first person you would say Hi to if you made it in front of a television camera? If you haven’t guessed it by now, the answer for all of these questions is “Mom.”

How important are Moms? In my opinion they are one of the most important people on the face of the earth. Everyone needs a Mom. They are the nurturers, caretakers, and caregivers of the family. The Moms I know, including my Mom, give 110% when it comes to being a Mom. They will do anything for their family and make incredible sacrifices. We all have a Mom or have had a Mom. Most of us know our mothers pretty well. From day one they have been with us every step of the way. Their love is unconditional, and cannot be denied.

I love my Mom very much. She has shown her love and support for me at all times, especially these last 6+ years while dealing with the judicial system and while I’ve been in prison. Was she disappointed in the choices I made that put me in prison? Absolutely! She was very hurt. But she forgave me, and continues to love me. It seems like she works non-stop in dealing with judges and attorneys in trying to get me released and back home. She never gives up, and won’t stop until I’m free. I’m very thankful and appreciative of her. I’ve never once heard her complain. If I ask her for help, she does it with open arms. A phrase she would pin up to each of our bulletin boards growing up was, “No matter how I’m acting on the outside, I keep loving you on the inside.” She is a leader, a role model, and an inspirer. I strive to be like her.

Growing up, I think she spent 24 hours a day in the van, driving all four of her kids to and from the countless number of activities we participated in. And yet, she still found time to cook dinner for us at night. Her relaxing time of the day was spent quizzing us for upcoming tests before we went to bed. And unless someone was deathly ill, she made sure the entire family would attend the 8am church service, followed by Sunday School, which she taught as well. And every morning before anyone else got up, she would spend her time with God. She always put God first, and still does today.

My Mom is the best because no matter what I do, how I act, what I say, or where I am, her love for me will never fail. She loves me unconditionally. The words of a song she used to sing to me while reading a book when I was a kid goes like this:

I’ll love you forever   I’ll like you for always

As long as you are living   My baby you will be.

Mom, I couldn’t ask for a better Mom. You are definitely one of a kind. You are loving, caring, forgiving, helping, nurturing, guiding, protecting, supportive, kind, gentle, encouraging, uplifting, motivating, trusting, and faithful. Thanks for all you do and for helping me grow into the Godly man you wanted me to be. Words will never be able to express how much you mean to me. Mom, I’ll love you forever and always. Happy Mother’s Day! Wish I could celebrate with you.

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I Will Remember

When the other inmates are asked what is one thing that they will remember most about prison when they leave this place, their common response is “Nothing. I don’t ever want to think of this place, what I did to get here, or even the judicial system ever again. I want to sweep it under the rug and move on with my life.”

I always find that a little shocking……because if they are ever going to learn from their mistakes, they are going to have to remember where they’ve been and remember what they went through to change their way of thinking, their behavior, and their lives.

When I’m asked that same question, my response is not of the ordinary. I always tell others that I’ll remember that I made a difference to a vast number of people I crossed paths with…..from officers, to inmates, even to family and friends. My time is not and has not been wasted. I chose to put forth the effort to better my life and to help better other lives as well.

I will remember everything about the number of walls and fences I’ve been behind.

I will remember the sleepless and stressful nights.

I will remember each of my cellies, their names, their habits, likes, dislikes, and what kind of person they were.

I will remember the fights I saw and the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah I lived in.

I will remember the chow hall food and the commissary lines.

I will remember the visitors who came to visit and the quick 15 minute phone calls I made to my loved ones.

I will remember the 17 cents hourly wage and the 25 cents I earned to officiate volleyball matches.

I will remember the laughs, the cries, the smiles and the angry times that came upon me.

I will remember the sports leagues and the prize bags won for competitions.

I will remember the popcorn and snow-cones that were given out during the summer holidays.

I will remember the days we could not leave the unit or even the cell, except to use the bathroom.

I will remember the court rooms, attorneys, prosecutors, and judges.

I will remember the orange jump suits, khaki uniforms, and grey workout clothes.

I will remember the inmates that made an impact on me and the ones I led to Christ and will see again someday in heaven.

I will remember the crime I did that put me here for the past five years and counting.

I will remember getting arrested.

I will remember the first day and night in jail.

I will remember entering prison for the first time.

I will remember the death threats and going to “the hole” for protection.

I will remember the people I hurt by my actions.

I remember. I remember. I remember.

I also remember God’s hedge of protection around me 24 hours a day. I remember surrendering my life wholeheartedly to God. I remember breaking down and crying out to Him. I remember the peace He poured upon me. I remember the prayers I sent up to Him and the answers He gave me. And I remember the forgiveness He bestowed upon me.

I remember. I remember. I remember.

To be honest, I would not have asked for a better life. In my 38 years on this earth, this prison experience has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. God got my attention. He hit me across the face when He disciplined me. He grabbed me by the collar and told me to change my ways.

And I listened. God came back into my life again. I put Him first. I’m doing His work and leading His ministry right where He has me. I am that light in this dark place. I have that joy. I have that happiness. I have that love.

That is why I’ll remember everything about this prison sentence. Prison has made me into what and who I am today. Coming to prison was not part of God’s plan. But transforming me, molding me, and using me to further His kingdom while I was in prison was part of His plan. And for that I will always remember.

Last Minute Decision

decision

It was the summer before my freshman year in high school. I was at the weeklong soccer camp hosted for all incoming freshman hosted by my future high school. It was open to all those interested in trying out for the high school soccer team before school started. I had been playing soccer since I was in Kindergarten. I know making the team would be tough with the amount of future freshmen at the camp, but had confidence that I could make it. Ever since I was five years old, I had thoroughly enjoyed the sport and was eager to play at a more competitive level and represent my high school.

The weeklong soccer camp was a blast. I met many of my future classmates. And, of course, I had an eye out on my competition. I came from a private Middle School, so I did not know many of the athletes who were feeding in from the public middle schools in the area. But I was welcomed quickly by most everyone. By the last four days of the camp, I had made a few friends, and hung out with and talked to them more frequently than others. During one of our breaks on the last day of camp, one of the guys I was talking to told me that he decided that high school soccer was not for him and that he was thinking of playing water-polo instead. I was like, “Water polo? What is that?” He also told me he was worried about making the soccer team, and that due to the lack of students that play water-polo, everyone who tried out made the team.

After a week of soccer and checking out the talent level, I knew I was a shoe-in to make the freshman team. But when the camp ended, the conversation I had about water polo would not leave my head. Although I did swim a few summers on the local swim team, I knew nothing about the sport. It did sound fun. Plus, it was a lot cooler than running around sweating for hours on end. But soccer was my sport. I loved it, and was going to try out for the team when August came around (it was only June at the time of the soccer camp).

The rest of the summer went on as normal. Soccer was not on my mind, neither was water polo. I was playing baseball and enjoying my summer at the Lake. As the school year got closer, I was getting nervous about entering a high school with 600+ students in my freshman class. It was a huge change for me, coming from a private school with only 16 kids in my 8th grade graduating class.

About a week before soccer tryouts, though, I guess I needed to add more change to my life. After playing soccer for nine years on various indoor and outdoor teams, I called it quits. And for some odd reason unknown to me still today, I decided to play water polo. I shocked everyone, including myself. I did not try out for soccer and made the decision to try out for the water polo team.

As the season progressed, I did not regret my decision for one minute. I absolutely loved the sport, and became the starting varsity goaltender all four years in high school, with a number of records that still stand today. Was it a God thing? Was it the Holy Spirit prompting me and leading me down the path God wanted me to go? After playing soccer since Kindergarten and thoroughly enjoying every minute of it, today I still don’t understand why I chose to play water polo at the last minute. I made the choice and God made good out of it. I was glad I followed the promptings I felt when I made the decision.

How many of you have ever done something and aren’t quite sure why you did it? How many of you feel you’ve been nudged by the Holy Spirit to step out of your comfort zone and do something you would not ordinarily do? I’m sure most of you can. God does give us the free will to make our own choices. But He most definitely helps us along and persuades us to follow His path with the decisions we made, especially when we pray about it. He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Even if it means stepping away from something you love and enjoy and can’t pinpoint why you did it, He knows the reason. It’s all part of His wonder and magnificent plan, and it’s all good!

A Little Something to Think About

My life these past 37 years has been quite the roller coaster ride. I’ve had many ups and downs, good times and bad times, happy times and sad times. I’ve made great decisions and poor choices, had many successes and failures, and lots of dreams and regrets. But when I think of my life as a book that has already been written, I’m even more moved. It makes me wonder how I can ever despair or question God, how I can ever lose my trust that He will answer my prayers, how I can ever fear or worry. If God knows me by name, if He knows me by touch, if He knows the number of days ordained for me on this earth, if He wrote the book of my life and knows what will happen on all future pages, if He can see around corners and over hills and knows what’s coming……..what is there ever to fear?

Yet, I do sometimes, and He knows it. I fear and worry and cry out and question…..and He understands because He knit my personality in just this way. He gave me a questioning mind, an emotional heart, a cautious spirit. And He’s not finished with me yet.

He’s still sculpting, still editing, still knitting….and when I let Him mold me in that special way, when I succumb to His loving, skillful, strong, and sometimes harsh fingers, I become more like His image. I begin to take on the features of my Creator, the one who knows me by name, the one who took on human flesh because something had to be done about my sins. Someone’s blood had to be shed. Someone had to die. I was that precious to Him.

On Easter Sunday, think about what God is doing in your life, and remember that He made all things possible through His Son who willingly died a most gruesome death for you, for me, for us. Each of us has decided our course in life by the free will God gave us, but the Lord knows each and every step. He truly sees what is in my heart, and everything about me. He knows when I sit and when I get out of bed in the morning. He knows what I’m thinking every second of the day. He knows when I go to work and when I come home. He knows exactly how I live. Even before a word is on my tongue, He knows all about it. He is all around me – behind, in front, and on the side. I’m amazed at how well He knows me! It’s more than I’ll ever understand.

While I am here on earth, I am both a work in progress and already made whole because of the cross. I am a child of the risen King who will wrestle with the flesh. I’ll win some and lose some, but it can never change how Christ sees me because the cross was enough. Even through my fears and doubts, I rest in the fact that Christ remains in me. I am living proof that He can carry you through anything. And if this is the journey I had to take to truly know Jesus and understand who I am because of His grace, then I wouldn’t change a thing.

He makes no mistakes. He has no regrets. He is never surprised. I am thankful that I am a child of the one true King, Jesus Christ.

one true king

Buzzer Beaters

buzzer

With 4.3 seconds to go and Missouri up by one, UCLA called for their final timeout. It was the second round of the 1995 NCAA basketball tournament. UCLA was the #1 seed and the overall favorite to win the tournament, while Mizzou was the eighth seed and a huge underdog. It was a back and forth game from the beginning, with a lead by either team not more than five points. But with 4.3 seconds to go and my team up by one, UCLA had to go the full length of the court to win the game.

I was so nervous. I don’t think I left the couch the entire game. But I was also very excited because there was a good chance Mizzou was going to advance to the Sweet 16. I knew it would be very tough to go the full length of the court in under five seconds while getting off a decent shot.

As the timeout ended and the ten players dispersed onto the court, UCLA set up for their final play. I thought to myself, “This is it. Don’t get scared now.” As the ref handed the inbounder the ball, Tyus Edney, UCLA’s point guard, did a quick V-cut by his defender to get open. He received the pass and started dribbling down the full length of the court, around the Missouri Tiger’s defense. He passed half court with two seconds to go. As he neared the basket with only a few tenths on the clock, 6’1“ Mizzou player Derek Grimm stood between him and the basket. Edney knew he had to get that shot off to have a chance to win the game. With Grimm in the way and Edney ten feet to the right of the basket, he threw up an off balance fade-away shot over the outstretched Grimm.

As I watched the final play unfold, it felt like an eternity. But all it took was exactly 4.3 seconds for the ball to go through the basket and UCLA to win the game. Game over. I was so disappointed. It looked like an impossible shot. Miraculously, it went in. Mizzou was eliminated from the tournament, and UCLA went on to win the National Championship.

And it’s that time of year again – March Madness – when the best 68 Division I college basketball teams compete to be crowned National Champions. In my opinion, it’s one of the best sporting events of the year. By the time this blog gets posted, opening weekend will be finished, buzzer beaters and upsets will have occurred, and there will be only sixteen teams remaining.

I can’t say I have ever made a game winning shot in my lifetime or ever been on a team when the final shot determined the game. However, I did coach a girls’ Middle School basketball team that scored a basket with no time remaining to send the game into overtime. That was pretty exciting. I actually did a blog on that game a few years ago. But buzzer beaters are hard to come by, let alone ever getting a chance to win the game on a last shot.

I’ve been locked up for five years now. I’m looking for that last second, buzzer beater miracle to allow me to be set free. I eagerly wait for my release paperwork to be approved at the last minute. Time is ticking away. God’s timing is perfect. He is never late, hardly ever early, but always right on time. He is definitely teaching my family and me patience through all of this. As a basketball player waits for the perfect time and an opening to take that last second shot, God is waiting for that perfect opportunity, that last second buzzer beater, to free me. Please pray for me as I wait.

Apology

Every Friday and Saturday night the Recreation Department issues a new release movie that can be seen on every television throughout every unit in the prison. The Rec Department does their best to purchase the newest released PG-13 or less movies. (The compound doesn’t allow R rated movies to be shown). Because of this special treat I’ve stayed up to date on most of the new movies that have come out during the past five years.

This past weekend the movie “The Shack” was shown. This move is based on the book by Paul Young that was written in the early 2000’s. I wasn’t much of a reader before coming to prison so when my Mom handed me this book and told me to read it on my flight to Las Vegas one summer, I gave her the smile and nod and said “OK” just to make her happy. I actually had no intention of reading it because I was so excited about the trip. But God had other plans that day, as my flight was delayed for eight hours. During the eight hours I read and read and read. I couldn’t put the book down. I was hooked. It was that good. I finished the entire book just before landing. I’ve since read it about four to five times. It is faith based and has an amazing story and message. If you’ve never read the book or have never seen the movie, I highly recommend it. Both are great stories.

There are a wide variety of faith based topics in the book and movie. But the topic that intrigues me the most is forgiveness. For me, the hardest thing about being in prison is not knowing if I’ve ever been forgiven by the ones I have hurt the most by the terrible choices I made……one family in particular. It’s been over six years since the truth came out about my actions and I still don’t know today if that one particular family I hurt has ever forgiven me. I pray that they have, but if not, I pray that this blog somehow stumbles across their desk or email so that they will know how truly sorry I am.

After watching “The Shack” this past weekend, God put it on my heart to write an apology to the family I hurt over six years ago. No names need to be mentioned as they know who they are. This blog is actually specifically written for you today and I hope you get a chance to read it.

I pray your hearts are open to my heartfelt sincerity. From the bottom of my heart I am sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt I caused all of you and could still be causing you today. I am sorry for being such a terrible friend, role model, and a poor example as a Christian. It bothers me tremendously knowing that I have hurt you all.  I know that everything has not been all right these past six years even if you act like it is, and that because of me you hurt to the core. I can only imagine the pain I have caused you. My actions brought devastation to your family. I was wrong. I am so sorry. There are no words that will ever be able to express my true sincerity. But I am truly sorry. I wish I could take back what I did. But, unfortunately, I can’t, and I will have to live with the consequences for the rest of my life. I deserve this punishment. I know that. Do I deserve your forgiveness? Absolutely not! You all have every right to be upset and angry with me forever. I don’t even deserve God’s forgiveness, but thankfully, God has shown me grace and mercy and has forgiven me and has wiped my slate clean. I’ve learned that forgiveness is a process, a daily choice, not just a one-time decision and it’s with you every day of your life. Forgiveness doesn’t take away the wrong done to your family, but I pray you all find it in your heart to forgive me. I am truly sorry, and pray you can accept this apology. I pray for all of you and hope all is well, and that God is using you daily to bring glory to His Kingdom. Will you please forgive me?

Bucks in the Brush

It was on this day February 28 seven years ago that my Grandpa passed away. I can still remember the day so vividly, receiving a telephone call from my Mom telling me that he no longer was with us. It was a sad day, but also a day of rejoicing, knowing that he was in heaven experiencing no more pain in his new body. How I look foGrandpa (2)rward to that day when I’ll be reunited with him again.

As I look back on our time together memories that stick out in my mind are all the weekends from 6th through 12th grades when he took me deer hunting. Every trip was always different, but so much fun. We would usually hunt on a piece of land that was located near the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. Because of the location we would make a weekend out of it, staying at my grandparents’ lake house. My two uncles and cousin usually came with us as well. The night before the first hunting day of the season, we would load ourselves up with unlimited peeled shrimp for dinner. You could say it was a tradition of ours. We wouldn’t do much the night before as we had to get up early in order to be at our deer stands by 5am. So we usually went to bed at a decent hour to get plenty of sleep.

For some reason I usually was too excited for the morning to come and it took me forever to fall asleep. And the only year we didn’t sleep at my grandparents’ lake house but at a hotel instead, I think I might have gotten only one hour of sleep those nights, due to my Grandpa’s incredibly loud snoring. Yes, I shared a room with him that year. I tell you that he could blow the roof off a house with his snoring. I’m not sure how you did it, Grandma, sharing a bed with him for 60+ years! Never again did I share a hotel room with him. And since my grandpa loved to eat, we usually ate breakfast at a 24 hour diner very early in the morning before we headed out to hunt.

Unfortunately, the seven years that he took me hunting, I only got one deer; my cousin and uncle only one as well. I never witnessed my Grandpa killing one at all. Even though he never shot one, he was truly happy being in his element in the woods. And his face was beaming when my cousin and I killed our first deer on a snowy November morning within minutes of each other. He was so proud when he taught us how to field dress our first deer.

I loved the deer stands he built that could seat six comfortably. I guess you could call them tree houses, not tree stands. He would always build it big enough so that he could lay down flat and still have room for movement. Maybe that’s why he never got a deer during those years because he was always sleeping! The stand would have a bench, walls, and a roof. Some years, depending on the temperature, he would bring a battery run space heater to keep himself warm. To say the least he went all out, and loved every minute of it.

Whittling was one of his favorite things to do as well. He would come up with a project each year and finish it to completion during the two weekends of the deer season. His stand looked like a beaver was living there, chewing it to pieces, with wood chips all over the ground. Whittling knives is what he perfected the most. I wonder if there are still those knives sitting around the house today?

And then his favorite saying during the season was “Bucks in the brush!” All of us had our own walkie-talkies to communicate with during the day as our stands were usually a decent distance apart. Once every few hours my Grandpa would get on the walkie-talkie and say, “Bucks in the brush!” just because he wanted to. Even though I never witnessed him in person saying it, I’m sure he had a smile on his face each and every time at the thought of us getting ready for a kill as a deer came toward us. We were on alert as he said those words.

Deer hunting with my Grandpa is something I’ll never forget. There were wonderful memories and great times. I’m honored to be taught by such a knowledgeable man on how to shoot, hunt, and field dress a deer…..someone who also taught me to fear a gun and the safety of using one at all times. I’m also honored to be related to a man who had such a positive character, influence and role model to many, not just me. He was a man of integrity who was faithful to his wife, his family and friends. He impacted his family, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, co-workers, friends, church people and everyone he came to know. He truly made a difference for the better in my life. I can’t wait to see him again someday!