A Year to Remember

2014-2015As I reflect back on the year 2014, here is what transpired.

  • Spent the month of January and first part of February at a County Dentention Center serving my County/Federal sentence. My sentence actually began on March 22, 2013.
  • Spent three weeks in February at the Federal Transfer Center, waiting to be assigned to a federal prison.
  • Survived a few short days in March at a medium security federal prison before placing myself in protective custody due to threats on my life.
  • Spent 159 days in “the hole” at that same federal prison.
  • Spent one night in August at the Federal Transfer Center waiting to be transferred to a new prison.
  • Arrived August 31, 2015 at the low security federal prison where I am at this moment.

Four federal prisons, one county jail, six different cell mates and many miles on an airplane and bus. How was your 2014? Was it all you hoped for and more? Were you able to take time to travel the country and enjoy the scenery like I was? For me, this was a definitely a year of many changes, challenges and new faces. It was a year of ups and downs. It was a year I put my trust in God more than ever. It was a year my faith-life and relationship with God grew to an all time high.

Entering a new prison is like going into the depths of hell. No, I don’t know exactly what hell is like; I’m sure it’s much worse! But when I entered the medium security prison I was surrounded by murderers, liars, thieves, and drug dealers. The book of Revelations in the Bible describes who will be found in hell. The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderous, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic acts, the idolators, and the liars- their place will be in the lake of burning sulfur. Rev 21:8

That place felt like hell to me, but the good thing was that God was walking along side me the entire time. He was my shield and protector. Even though I walk the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me, Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

When I was in the hole on those dark nights, He was my comforter. Praise be to the God and Farther of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion, and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When I traveled from prison to prison, He was my guide and leader. He never left me. All I had to do was reach out my hand and He would take hold of it and lead me the right way. As the year progressed my life seemed to get better and better. God has placed me at an amazing compound where I can enjoy the benefits of His love. He called me out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

The year started off uncertain and scary, but as my faith-life grew, the year kept getting better and better.  Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7.

And now we are in a brand new year. 2015 has started off great so far. The time absolutely flies by. I’m surrounded by guys that get along together, a great full time job which I enjoy (making 17 cents an hour,,,,I know you are jealous HA!), a great room and roommate, a loving family and friends that I talk to quite often, a bed with two pillows, and a God who is loving, comforting and protecting. Life is truly good right now! If life is great now; I can only imagine what life will be like when I’m free. And I can only imagine what life will be like in heaven!

May God be with you and bless you all this upcoming year. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us . Ephesians 3:20

Advertisements

Mom’s Angle – Looking Around

This is the second post written by my mom, with my permission. First article “Looking Back” was posted on November 2, 2014.

SMILE! Say Cheese!! We all do it. We smile. We act like everything is OK. We appear to be happy. We go through the motions of day to day living. But inside, we are hurting and in pain. Have you been there?  Have you faked a smile, faked a happiness that you don’t smile-cheesehave? I have. Oh, there are been wonderful moments of joy the past three years……the birth of grandbabies, the wedding of a son, a husband being released from a long stay in the hospital, visiting kids and grandkids. But there is always that ache in the pit of my stomach that wants to hide from it all. I carry on publicly because I have to, but sometimes I feel like life has stopped on the inside.

Yes, my son did this to us. Not intentionally, of course. Life is unpredictable and Satan tries to destroy our sense of purpose. It is a spiritual battle we are all in – for the rest of our lives. Satan prowls around like a roaring lion and wants to wreak havoc on God’s people. Where has God been for the past three years? We know God never creates evil, but He does permit it. He sometimes permits tragedies, but He will never allow Satan to triumph. Good day, bad days. God is in all the days, even when we feel like He is missing.

As parents, we couldn’t DO anything to help our son. We had never felt so needy in our lives. We knew nothing about legal help. There were astronomical legal fees which required us to figure out where to get the money. We could not telephone Craig and had no way of knowing how he was doing physically and mentally. I hated what we were experiencing.

In order to see our son we could only visit one day a week, for a short 30-minute visit. And the visit was through Plexiglass, talking on a telephone. We touched through glass and had so much to say in such a short period of time. But that’s all we were allowed. And because it was a 7-hr drive, our visits were few.

The most devastating day since the ordeal began was the day he telephoned me after being transported to a medium security prison. “If you don’t hear from me in a while, it’s because I placed myself in solitary confinement. They are coming after me to kill me.” No mother ever wants to hear those words from her son. He had only arrived at this place 3 days before and was trying to find his place in the system, but there were gangs who wanted to show their power over a college educated white man. So they made it known he had better watch himself. Obviously, it scared Craig who was not a street-wise person, who just wanted to get through the days, months and years in a quiet responsible way. The only way to be safe at this place was to ask to be placed in the Special Housing Unit – solitary confinement. While in solitary confinement he was allowed one telephone call per month. He had no window in his cell. He was truly in a place where he did not know day from night. After receiving that phone call we immediately sent out an email to our prayer warriors asking for prayers for Craig’s safety. We contacted Craig’s attorney, who basically said he was through with the case and could do nothing. What? We paid you over $150,000 for this? You did us absolutely no good, Mr. Attorney, in the courtroom or out of it. How do you sleep at night?

We did not hear from Craig for three weeks and assumed he was at least safe – albeit in solitary confinement. Finally, he called us and we were relieved to hear that no harm came to him. Now he was stuck in solitary until they decided to move him to a different location. He could not go back to the main compound at this place or his life would be in danger. So we began praying for a new place, a place where Craig could make the best of his situation, a low security prison where he would be safe.

After hearing from him, we needed to know if he was truly OK, so we drove eight hours for an hour visit. We had to wear certain clothes, went through a metal detector, were searched and patted down, had a special dye wiped on our hands, taken through numerous metal doors. This place was surrounded by many layers of concrete walls, along with razor wire. It made me sick to my stomach to walk into this place. However, we were able to hug and touch him when we finally saw him; the time went by too quickly. He was doing all right…..spent his time reading and writing and praying. He was in solitary confinement for five months, not going outside one time during those five months. Three meals were brought to him each day and given to him through the small door in the cell. He had two different cellmates during this time, both of whom he witnessed to and encouraged in their faith walk. God had a plan, not the kind we would have chosen, but one that was best for Craig. He had Craig’s best interest in mind, even when it didn’t seem like it. As a mother, I knew he was at least safe in solitary confinement, but concerned about his mental state. If you ask Craig now about those five months, he will indicate that he is grateful for that time. He learned to focus on God’s Word and spent hours and hours studying and praying…..like a personal retreat.

After five months our prayers were answered. Craig was sent to a low security facility where he is now.  Craig not only survives at this place, he thrives!  God is all over Craig.  His life was turned upside down. But when God is in the middle of your life, evil becomes good. He will make good out of this mess Craig has brought on himself.

Needless to say, it has been a long, expensive, and discouraging three years. As I look around and see how far we have come, I have found joy, peace and gratitude for this crisis.  It was a gift that brought my son closer to the Lord than he ever was, a gift that brought me closer to the Lord than I ever was. The crisis removed the fakery. Oh, I still fake a smile sometimes when I don’t really feel like smiling. But the crisis ripped away the sham that made people think we had it all together, that we were the perfect family. No one, absolutely no one, has it all together. Even those who look like they do are going through something…..you can bet on that!

The last three years have been spent mostly in waiting….waiting for updates from the attorney, waiting in line for visitation, waiting for another court date, waiting for a phone call from Craig since we cannot initiate any calls, waiting to physically touch him without a Plexiglas window between us, waiting on a sign from God that He was aware of our situation. You, too, may be in the waiting room. Maybe it’s the stress of a child’s disability, the death of a spouse or loved one, a divorce, financial struggles, loss of a job, unexpected diagnosis from the doctor, an accident that causes permanent physical challenges, adult parents who need assisted living. This is NOT the time to grow bitter or angry. This IS the time to practice thankfulness. No matter what, be thankful. While you wait, God works. God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him.  We can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:28  To wait means to not assume the worse, worry, fret, or take control. Waiting is to stay focused on God through prayer and believe.  Someday the story will say: all is good. Believe that God is at work in ways you cannot see. I could hear God speaking to me, “You are not alone, Linda. I see your son and I love him more than you do. Keep holding on to hope.” God can say the same to you. He is with you in the middle of your mess and He does not call you a loser or a failure. He has your back and He has your front. The storm is raging, gossip is being heard, the circumstances may appear grim, but He goes through it with us and that gives us the hope we need.

There have been many days where I have woken up terrified and confused and wondered where God was. Our crisis has made us turn to God in our lowest moments. In one moment in time, everything about our future changed. Our carefully developed plan for our family took a U-turn. We wanted to spend our retirement years traveling and enjoying our children and grandchildren. But that’s not the way it has been. Everything we have done for the past three years in regards to this situation was unfamiliar territory…… uncomfortable and undesired. Courtrooms and visiting rooms are like being in a foreign land where we didn’t belong. But there was no going back. We could not change what had happened to us, but we could decide how we would live our lives in the middle of it. So we choose to hope rather than despair, to trust rather than give up. Our faith has sustained us. Faith is putting one foot in front of the other no matter how dark and confusing the journey. It’s the moment-by-moment choices that prove you’re taking God at His Word.

People have turned their backs on Craig; they have judged him and criticized him. Those things hurt me, too. I cannot control what others think about my son, but as the song says, I can “let it go.”  I know God is in charge; He is omnipresent and omnipotent. Why didn’t He answer our prayers when we were screaming out for charges to be dropped against Craig? And why doesn’t He do something now to bring our son home? We were baffled at what seemed like silence from God when we were in constant prayer for our son. I don’t understand why my prayers were not answered the way I wanted. But I do believe that God has a better plan and so I trust Him. Even when I’m tempted to question God for what He has allowed to happen in our lives, I know He loves each of us. So we relinquish our control over this complicated situation and move forward in life. We have let it go. You must let your situation go also.

As I look around today, I see that God has been faithful. He has not responded in the way we have asked, but He has been with us and with Craig each step of the process. As I look around today, we’re doing OK. We’re not happy our son is in a federal prison. But we are proud of the man he has proven to be. He is remorseful, strong, courageous, bold in his faith, a forgiver, filled with optimism, confident, a hard worker, honest, responsible, kind, compassionate, has a sense of humor, excited about life, easy-going, compassionate, humble and devoted to his friends and family.  He is someone I want to be like. You see, I see Jesus in my son. And what mother doesn’t want to see that! For that I am truly grateful!

God, I release to you what I cannot control. I give you my pains, my hurts, my struggles. I hold my life and the lives of my family with open hands and give them to You. Take us and do what Your will is. Take Craig and use him in ways we cannot even imagine. I trust in You, Lord, and in the miracles you are going to show us!!

All In A Day

Office+Mate+Wall+ClockYou may be curious as to what a typical day in a Federal Prison is like. Every level of prison is different. During the past 3 years I have spent time in a county jail, a federal detention center, a medium security prison, solitary confinement, and now a minimum security prison. Each one is different from the other; each one is a place you do not want to go to. But the minimum prison I am living now is one I can tolerate. We don’t have bars on our cells. We don’t even have cells, but are assigned rooms with doors. My room is a two-man room, shared with a 66-yr-old man. It is similar to a college dorm room but smaller. Inside the room you will find a bunk bed, four six-foot tall lockers, a huge bulletin board, a table, and two chairs. We also have a four foot by five foot window that faces the highway, and a huge water tower. After being in a solitary confinement cell and not seeing the sun for five months, the room I have now is like heaven to me. It’s a cozy room and I enjoy the peace and quiet of it. There are no loud obscenities yelled at all hours of the night; there are no screams and arguments between inmates. It is a room shared by civilized adults who are making the best of where they are.

My weekday mornings begin at 6:30am, (I sleep in on the weekends till about nine) and meet my friend Garrett for breakfast. Both work and class start at 7:30am. I only have a few more weeks of class left, and then will start work at 7:30am. After my two hours of class time, I work in the education department until lunch at 11:30am. I do an assortment of jobs for the department, such as arranging bulletin boards, cleaning classrooms, making copies, etc. After lunch, I report   back to work at 1:00pm. During my 90 minutes of lunch break I am able to spend an hour of alone time in my room. This is my quiet time with God. It’s always a great time for study and prayer. I encourage all of you, if you don’t already, to set aside time during each day to have a quiet time with God. I know God would love that.  This is something I wish I would have started years ago. We have a tendency to only seek God when we are in trouble, but by spending time with Him during good times, it may help keep you from trouble!

From 1pm to 3pm I’m back at work again, doing whatever assignments are given to me. After work I usually go back to my room and nap, read, write, or do a word puzzle. Then it’s dinner time, followed by working out, running, playing sports, or attending another class. At 8:30pm the compound closes and everyone has to be back to their assigned housing units for the night. This is the time I usually read, watch television or play cards until midnight, and then go to bed.

Of course, not every day is exactly the same, but most are very similar. I also try to make time for playing guitar, going to the chapel services, prayer groups, and other special events that are organized. The days absolutely fly by. On the weekends we have more freedom to do what we want, when we want. Each day we also have the option of going to the chow hall to eat or not. Some people like to “cook” in their rooms with what they buy at commissary. And let me tell you, I’ve learned how to make some crazy food with the limited amount of supplies and food we have. My roommate can make a cheesecake and apple pie that compares to what you would buy at a bakery, while only using coffee creamer, lemon juice, water, apples and cookies. It’s pretty impressive what people come up with. Can’t wait to cook a meal for you all someday!!

Overall, I feel very comfortable at this place. I truly believe God has placed me in this prison for a reason. I make every effort to surround myself with positive and uplifting people. I do my best to make God’s light shine through me. I don’t know exactly how much time I have left. But I do know I’m not going to waste any days. I feel I am happier and less stressful now than I have been in a long time. It seems like most days I’m learning new things about life and about myself. Yes, I’m 34 years young, and have a long life ahead of me yet. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for me these next few years in prison and especially when I get out. It’s all good!!!

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

P.S. Mail is still one of the best parts of my day, so feel free to send me a note and I’ll write back to you. And, as always, your continued prayers are certainly appreciated.