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.

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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!