A Christmas Letter to Mom

holly-leaves-with-berries-hiHey Mom!

Merry Christmas! By the time you get this, you’ll be in Colorado, and the entire family will be gathered for gifts, food and togetherness, except me. This is not the first holiday that I’ve been away, but there is a chance it could be the last big holiday. I know your heart aches at times like this, as mine does, too. And as much as I want to be hitting the slopes with you guys this Christmas or getting aggravated playing Aggravation, or even a little touch football, God has me placed in this specific prison for a purpose and a reason. No, God did not want me here, nor does He ever want anyone to come to prison. I put myself here for the choices I made. Choices that you did not raise me to make, choices that are out of my character and not who I am as a person, and choices I embarrassed my family, friends, and my God.

This is not your fault, Mom, and don’t ever think it was. I had an amazing childhood and a wonderful upbringing. You and Dad raised me to be a man of God, not a prison inmate. You did so much for me growing up. You sacrificed your time and finances to make me become the man God wanted me to be. Unfortunately, I failed. I gave in to the sinful and the materialistic lifestyle. I was selfish, uncaring, and thought only of myself. I know I told you this before, but, Mom, I am truly sorry. I’m sorry for failing you as a son. In a million years I would never have seen myself serving time in a federal prison. I was surrounded by so many great friends and family members, so many role models and mentors, and so many caring and loving people. An inmate with a number is not who I am. I am a Christian, a man of God, a son with amazing parents. God said that all things WILL work for good for those who love Him. And I truly believe this.

Mom, I know you worry about me all the time. And you probably will even if I tell you not to. But honestly, there is nothing to worry about. I am in good hands. God is in complete control of my life and has me right in the palm of His hands. Remember the “Footprints” poem I read at sentencing? There is only one set of prints right now in my life, and that is God’s. I don’t ever want to not be carried again. I can’t say I enjoy prison (even though I can make this place fun HA!) but this is where I need to be right now in my life. I am perfectly safe in here and am surrounded by good people. Even though there aren’t a whole lot of Christians here, it’s a good mission field to be in. God uses me each and every day to reach out to someone, whether it be an encouraging word, a smile, or a word of advice. Mom, if you could see me in here, you would see a different person. I’m told other inmates recognize it right away, and tell me they want what I have. All I do is say “I’ve got Jesus inside me.” Sometimes that opens the door for more discussion. I feel great and do love my life right now. If I love my life now, I can only imagine how much I’m really going to love life when I leave these fences. It’s funny, before prison, I worried about so many things: my job, if I’m ever going to be married, money. Nowadays, the only thing I worry about is if I’m going to be able to fall asleep tonight surrounded by a room full of snorers!!! You laugh, but it’s so true.

Mom, there’s no need to worry about my future. God has the perfect job lined up for me, the perfect wife for me, and the perfect life for me. God is the definition of perfect. And I know with God as my centerpiece, my life will be perfect. I know it’s hard for you to be happy at family celebrations. So hopefully if I tell you that I’m happy it’ll ease your stress. Because truthfully, I am happy. I’m happy that I have such loving and supporting family and friends. I’m happy that I’m healthy and able. I’m happy for my strong relationship with Jesus. And I’m happy for the sacrifice and scars Jesus endured for me so that I can have eternal life someday.

I remember when I was in college, I had to put my portfolio together, and I titled it “The Great Adventure.” I wouldn’t necessarily call this experience “great”, but I would call it an adventure. And this specific adventure is teaching me so much about life and me as a person. It truly is molding me and transforming me into a spiritual leader, a man of God, and a servant for others. My life is not at the end of the road. In my opinion it has just begun. The first 35 years of my life have been training for what is ahead for me. I guess you can say it has taken a little longer than most to figure out! But my adventure is starting, and I cannot wait to see what it entails.

Mom, you have been the best mother I ever could have asked for. You are definitely irreplaceable. You have been with me every step of the way, and I’m thankful for that. The love and support you give me daily probably outnumbers the love and support all the other inmates in here have combined. It is that high! I know this ordeal has been hard for you, but the end is in sight. Continue to put your trust in our faithful Creator. He will not leave you nor forsake you. He is holding on to you and me and will not let go. The future of the Perino family is a bright one. Just continue to look up. During this holiday season, continue to pour out your love to our entire family. Love one another as God loves us.

Mom, once again, thank you for the mother you are. Keep smiling. This is just a bump in the road. The best is yet to come. I love and miss you! Merry Christmas!

Love, Craig

Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Proverbs 31:29

Merry Christmas

Shining Light

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining – they just shine.”                   D. L. Moody

light

Praying that Christians everywhere, no matter where they are, to let their lights shine during these dark days!

Christmas blessings to you and your family!

Graduation Day

futureOn Tuesday, December 1st I graduated from the 9-month intensive Residential Drug Abuse Program, also known as RDAP. The program consisted of drug and alcohol treatment for five days a week for nine straight months. At times it really dragged on, especially during the Texas summer months, and seemed very similar to the 5th grade DARE program many schools use. But other days the time moved quickly. It was a program on bettering one’s life, and making positive changes in it. Overall, it was a good program and something I was glad to be part of. A few weeks before graduation I was asked to be a speaker at the graduation program and it didn’t take long for me to accept the honor. This blog is my speech given on that day.

Good afternoon, community and guests. I want to thank you all for selecting me to speak on behalf of the 2015 RDAP graduating class. It is quite an honor. I want to begin by reading a short story called All the Difference in the World. The story goes as follows:

Every Sunday morning I take a light jog around a park near my home. There’s a lake located in one corner of the park. Each time I jog by this lake I see the same elderly woman sitting at the water’s edge with a small metal cage sitting beside her. This past Sunday my curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped jogging and walked over to her. As I got closer, I realized that the metal cage was a small trap. There were three turtles, unharmed, slowly walking around the base of the trap. She had a fourth turtle in her lap that she was carefully scrubbing with a spongy brush.

“Hello” I said,” I see you here every Sunday morning. If you don’t mind my nosiness, I’d love to know what you’re doing with these turtles.”  She smiled. “I’m cleaning off their shells,” she replied. “Anything on a turtle’s shell, like algae or scum, reduces the turtle’s ability to absorb heat and impedes its ability to swim. It can also corrode and weaken the shell over time.

“WOW! That’s really nice” I explained. She went on and said, “I spend a couple of hours each Sunday morning, relaxing by this lake and helping these little guys out. It’s my own way of making a difference.”

“But don’t most freshwater turtles live their whole lives with algae and scum hanging from their shells?” I asked. ” Yes, sadly they do,” she replied.

I scratched my head. “Well then, don’t you think your time could be better spent? I mean, I think your efforts are kind and all, but there are fresh water turtles living in lakes all around the world. And 99% of these turtles don’t have kind people like you to help them clean off their shells. So, no offense…but how exactly are your localized efforts here truly making a difference?” The woman giggled aloud. She then looked down at the turtle in her lap, scrubbed off the last piece of algae from its shell and said, “Well, if this little guy could talk, he’d tell you I just made all the difference in the world.”

We stand here today on the verge of the future. It’s not a distant reality anymore. It begins here. It begins today. We began this RDAP program as troubled individuals, but we’re leaving as changed men. We’ve completed this program that will serve as the platform we use to launch ourselves into our futures. Some of us will eventually to into the work force; others will pursue their college dreams, and some will even own their own business, but each of us will travel our own path.

No matter where we go or what we do, there are challenges ahead of us. What I’m asking from each of you, and from myself, is to meet those challenges straight on with your head held high and your heart wide open. It’s not enough to simply try to get by in life…. that doesn’t move the world forward. You must try to excel in everything you do; strive for excellence in every task, large or small.

 When I was younger and very ambitious, my goal was to make a difference in the world, and if not the world, at least the small community of people I was a part of. Unfortunately, I decided to go down the wrong path and made some bad choices. As I stand here today after 9 months of RDAP I realize the only thing I can change is myself.  I realize that if long ago I had worked on changing myself, I could have made an impact on everyone in my sphere of influence.

Although it may not be easy to see, every accomplishment you achieve is added to the world’s accomplishments. Your individual successes benefit society as a whole because when you succeed you lighten the burden on others. When you succeed you are in a position to give rather than take. To make a positive change requires lasting commitment; lasting commitment requires goals, goals require action. Action requires a positive attitude to change your life, and the option to change your life requires work. It all boils down to doing what you can with what you have and where you are, and a difference will be made. People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Imagine if every individual lived up to his or her own potential. Think about how amazing that would be, and how much better the world would be. Now imagine if just half of those individuals lived up to their potential, then the world would still be an awesome place. If even a quarter of those individuals worked to make their lives successful, they could still make amazing contributions to society. As I look around at all of us here, we may not have the power to change the entire world, but we do have the power to try to achieve it for ourselves. My challenge to each of you is to do all that you can to reach your full potential. If each one of us did that, just imagine the effect that would have. The future is truly in our hands, so let’s make the most of it. You can change your part of the world for the better, just as the woman in the story did for a few turtles.

In conclusion, Jeremiah 29:11 says it best “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future.”

May God continue to bless each of you in your life journey.  Thank you and congratulations.