February 17, 2013
Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
Letter #265: Five Years Down
Just a few days from now, February 27, marks five years that I’ve been in prison, and May 13th will mark the “10 years left” point, placing me essentially at the ⅓ of-the-way-done point. These milestones are opportunities to reflect on the journey taken thus far and to look ahead at the journey that yet remains. (And whine from the back seat, “Are we there yet?”)
I took a day trip with my brother, Brian, once to visit a family who lived near farmland. It rained that day, and on our way home, I spotted a massive, 50-yard long puddle alongside the farm road we were on.
Puddles and me have a beautiful history together, and I couldn’t resist this one. I gunned the engine and hit the edge of the gravel road, into the muddy puddle, over Brian’s protests. Wow, it was awesome, shooting high above my vehicle’s roof and painting the side brown. I had to have more. I hit the brakes, turned around and shot across the road into the puddle, coating the underbelly and driver’s side of my GMC Safari (which sounds better than “mini-van”). Now we were facing the wrong direction, so I had to go through it one more time, I explained to Brian, whose fun side and practical side were in conflict with each other.
I was driving, so into the puddle we went a third time. What a rush! And then, the smell hit us, pouring through the vents and overwhelming us with the putrid smell of rotting fruit. Rotting fruit that had been hiding in the muddy ditch and now painted the wheel wells and underside of the van. Rolling the windows down didn’t help, and it was miles and miles before we could breathe normally.
My family is stuck in the minivan of my life journey again, it seems, and those smells can get overwhelming. Are we there, yet?
My first year in prison was all about facing the 15 years, learning the system, and coping with the drastic change of it all. The food, the people, the schedule, the hours and hours of nothing; all became familiar to me, became a part of me. I lived for the weekly visits from family.
The next year, I became more involved in not only chapel services where I played piano, but also with yard Bible Studies, a yard quartet, leading the church choir, and my first classes at Harvest Bible University.
In my third year, I was moved to a different prison with visits available only every-other-weekend, so I saw my family much less. I started the yard Bible Study and facilitated it for the nine months I was there, meeting for the first hour of yard, three times a week. I learned how much I love leading, especially because I could make sure every man could have a turn presenting a lesson, a scripture, or a prayer. I led worship on Sundays in the chapel and played piano, grooming several guys to lead worship as well.
Two years ago, I was sent to Arizona, and I love it here. The staff treat us so well, and I have 7 a.m.–10 p.m. access to phones, which allows me to keep in touch with my family whenever I want. I get visits once a month still—what a sacrificial drive of 12 hours it is!—and I am even more blessed at this new facility, where I’ve been for a year and a half now.
Though my involvement at the church has changed from worship leader/pianist to simply joyful attendee, I love being led by guys I trained. This is the Body of Christ! My focus is outside the church, where I get to work with guys who need so much; whether it is through the public speaking class, the business classes, or the community choir, I get to help meet basic needs and speak truth into lives. My devotional life, prayer life, and alone time with God get me through the stench of the journey. We’re almost there.