What is Justice and how is it really “served”?

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I have been pretty silent on my blog the last couple months.

A lot has been going on but putting it in to words has been beyond my ability. They say grief is a cycle and that you don’t just grieve one thing.

Its called secondary grief.

It’s grieving the loss of the dreams you may have carried for years of a reconciliation some day, its grieving the fact that you will never see that person again here on earth, it’s processing through the guilt of things said or left unsaid.

On Dec. 23rd, the man who helped kill my husband Phillip was sentenced.

22 years in prison…

I can’t help but feel a heaviness and deep sadness,

however it is not over what most people would assume to be normal.

My heaviness is the thought that the two men that did this will be in prison for the majority of their lives. Most would say that this is justice.

To some it is and that is all.

Having been behind bars and facing 25 years myself,

I can tell you that justice is SO much more.

I remember visiting Phillip in prison at one point and I remember the “boy” that sat beside me trying so hard to be a man. He was so young when he went in and he had to become this tough, bad ass person that talked all mean and rough. Yet I remember the love he had for his mother, the tenderness he always showed to her. Prison didn’t make him better, it didn’t teach a young boy how to live a better life or rehabilitate him to understand how to be sorry for the actions that got him there or how to help others.

Instead it taught Phillip a code that was unattainable in real life.

It taught him hate for others that didn’t agree with him, his lifestyle or his choices. It taught him that if you disagreed with his actions you were a betrayer.

I believe that Phillip had a heart and desire to help others. I just know from experience that until you let God in to heal the broken pieces of your heart the pain of the past and things “instilled” in you continually play out in your life.

The prison system, typically, is not a place where people actually see what they have done, identify that it was wrong and strive to become a better person.

So is it really justice?

The life that those young men knew was over the night that they chose to kill Phillip. It makes me sad that there is yet another set of families that will have to spend the next 20 some years going to visit their loved ones… if the family lasts that long.

And I know there will be those who may read this and

say at least their family still gets to see them.

I get that… I really do. More than you will ever know.

This Christmas I can’t help but think of the pastor that talked to Phillip the day before he was killed. I can’t help but think of the change that went on in Phillips heart for him to have even set foot in the church. And I can’t help but think of what Phillip would say when it came to yet another person going to prison.

I know that in this world if a life is taken that there is a system in place that decides what will happen to the person that took that life.

I just wish that in this process of justice that these men’s hearts would be softened to the reality of it all.

I pray that prison would not harden them.

I wish that they would take the time given to them and seek to become better not bitter.

I pray that they would know that no matter what they did they are loved by the God that created them.

I wish that they would take that knowledge and change the world that they are finding themselves in for the next 20 years.

I believe that Phillip would want them to know grace, love and mercy even if it was while they served their time.

That would be the best justice that I could ever imagine.

The definition of Justice according to Dictionary.com had two very good interpretations:

  1. judgment of persons or causes by judicial process

    or

  2. the quality of being just; righteousness,

    equitableness, or moral rightness:

I know that the men have to go before the first definition of justice and they have.

My hope, prayers and desire is that through their time that was given to them that they would truly learn, live out and strive for the second definition!

This Christmas Eve I wish I could tell both men about the reason for the season. I wish I could share 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 with them and have it sink deep down in their hearts creating a change that no prison system could take away.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

I don’t have this down in my life. I make mistakes, I lash out at the ones I love, I forget or wish that I didn’t have to communicate my thoughts, feelings and hurts in a healthy way. Yet through it all I wish I could continually grasp how much Christ loves me, how gracious God is when I stumble and fall, and how the Holy Spirit in me renews me into His righteousness when I fail.

I want the grieving to be over because it is exhausting. Yet I know it is better to work out the process than to just tell myself time will heal it and attempt to move on. I know that I have to work through all these emotions so that I am not stuck in my own prison while these men serve their time.

God wants that for us all and I know that Phillip is up in Heaven wanting the best justice of all.

Hearts who turn to Jesus.

Minds that seek heavenly good instead of our own ways.

And Souls that trust God to work all things for good.

Lies that I believed about God

The lies I believed about God

As you grow up from a child to an adult many things can shape your view of life in general and also what you believe to be true about religion and God. The people in your life play a huge part of shaping what you will believe as truth. If their views of God and life are distorted it goes with our saying that your views will most likely be tainted.

I grew up in a newly Christian home that was based on many lies, secrets and law. My mom was always told that our business as a family was no one elses business and you were to never let anything “out of the bag” because others would view you in a bad light. The problem with that view was that nothing was ever done with the dysfunction and it just left the family members to sit around and gossip about each other instead of actually seeking to help each other.

As a child I would view these things when the aunts got together to visit. One aunt wouldn’t be there so they were the topic of discussion. They would sit there and bash anything and everything that they felt was going wrong in this aunts life but never try and help her to see the problem or help her. When that aunt was present and another one gone then they became the topic of discussion. I remember my mom sitting out there until every aunt went to bed, making sure she was the last one to bed so they could not or would not talk about her. I then followed in her footsteps as I got older and was invited to sit in on the aunts/ grandma’s adult “discussions”. By then it began to include the cousins and what they were doing to mess up their lives.

In this instant, my young mind came to the conclusion that NO ONE was trustwrothy, not even God. If he was trustworthy then why would he give me a family that hurt each other so much? Even as a young child I saw the harmful effects that gossip caused and knew that if family did that to each other then no one was safe.

Another example as a child that I see shaped my view of God was in my relationship with my father. My father was a great provider for our family. He worked a job that he absolutely hated for 30some years just to put food on the table for us, a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. He was affectionate at times but it was usually when he wanted something. If you did something wrong you then had to earn your standing back with him over time. He tried to buy our love as children and that confused me very much. After he “bought” our love he would remind us of all the things that he has done for us and provided for my siblings and I. It was always conditional and our faces were rubbed in it to remind us that he was the one that could give and take away. He had my sister and I convinced that my mother was emotionally unstable, unfit and treated him horribly.

My view of God then became that God was a conditional, easily angered if not obeyed, provide for your needs, some of your wants but then would remind you of this when you did something wrong or worse would take it away from you kind of God. Again this type of God could not be trusted but was feared wondering if I could please Him enough to keep his love and affection.

My mom used to tell me a story of how every Sunday when they would give an alter call in childrens church I would go forward to get saved. We laugh about it now but tonight I want to weep because even as a child, I yearned for a God that would love and accept me unconditionally. I was so scared that I may have done something to sin against God during the week and not be in right standing with Him, like I so easily messed up and became out of my earthly fathers love so often.

I have written before about my childhood illness and how that affected from age 6-12 years. Honestly the aftermath of those years played out into not only junior high and high school but my early adult years and now. During the illness I gained a large amount of weight very quickly and let me tell you that children are so cruel… though I am sure you know this already as you may still have scarres that remain from things said to you whether you were too skinny, too fat, too short, too tall or anything else in between that someone could use to put you down and hurt you. I know the wound is probably still there because as a child we are never told how to let it go… other than to scream back “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!!”

FALSE!!!

It says in Proverbs 18:21

Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

The tongue can speak words that bring life or death.

Those who love to talk must be ready to accept what it brings.

So my view of God was that He would not be my protector. My view was that He was this distant old man up in heaven that couldn’t even stop mean children from saying such hurtful things. I believed I some how deserved what the kids said about me, my weight and who I was. If I wasn’t so horrible then God would love me unconditionallly and protect me from the words spoken that pierced my child like heart with each word. I learned to beat kids to the punch line and put myself down first. That really made them gawk, not knowing what to say in response!

Again with the sickness, we had prayed for healing more times that I can even remember or count. It never happened. I was told by those people that as a child I must not have enough faith…

Again this tainted my view of God and how it says in the bible that He sent Jesus to heal us. Yet again I internalized this thinking that there was something I did wrong or could have done better to earn his favor and healing.

Lastly for tonight is the lie that I believed that other people were allowed to touch my body as a child in inappopriate ways and that this was ok. Even though in my heart and mind it did not feel right, as a child you come to the point where you wonder if what you think is right and wrong is totally wrong because these people in your life wouldn’t deliberately hurt you would they?? I was so disillusioned that my early pre-teen and teenage years were filled with such anger, rage and a deep desire to be loved, even if it was just one person.

Again this lie that I believed was that God did not care about what was happening to me and that this was just the way that people showed love and affection. If you loved a boy then you let him touch you in places because then it showed them you cared. This is such a lie from the pit of hell and the sad thing is that there are so many women in the world today that this has happened to and think the same thing.

What I am learning is the truth of who God is…

God is my perfect heavenly father that loves to give His children good gifts!

James 1:17

Everything good comes from God. Every perfect gift is from him. These good gifts come down from the Father who made all the lights in the sky. But God never changes like the shadows from those lights. He is always the same.

Also from the verse above.. He is never changing! HE is the same yesterday today and forever!!

I also know that He was there when I was in pain, sad, angry, hurt and alone…

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous.

Do not fear or be in dread of them,

for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.

He will not leave you or forsake you.”

I know that my name means “beloved” and that is no coincidence!

Romans 9:25

As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”

I know that there is nothing that I can do to make God love me more than He already does!

Romans 5:8

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I know that I am saved by grace and that nothing I could do could make God love me less or more.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves;

it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.

And above all, I know that God can redeem those years that I believed lies and walked in darkness.

Psalm 31:5

Into Your hand I entrust my spirit;

You redeem me, Lord, God of truth.

So when I start to go back to those old lies that I believed as a child I can now read this and continue to learn from God’s word who His real character is. The more that I learn about His character the more I will walk in the righteousness that He has already bestowed upon each and every person who believes on His name!

Proof of God answering prayers!

Proof of God answering prayers!

*** I wrote this blog October of 2010. I had just a few months before moved down to South Carolina. It was such a challenging time in SC but God really prepared me for this next season in my life during that time. My prayers have been answered as I re-read this blog and I want people to see that when we put our faith, hope and trust in God and ultimately His Son Jesus, who died to take away my sins, then we have the promise that He will not leave us or forsake us but will finish the work that He has begun in us!!
Im so thankful that I wrote this out and can re-read it at this important time in my life! I hope and pray it touches someone else’s life also!

When is the past really the past??

Gods Redemptive Love!
Since I have recently moved to South Carolina I have had many struggles and God has been working in my life a lot. I am learning more and more what this verse means in my life…”Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”Wow! I had written those words in my missions support letter for India in 2008 and they still have soooooooo much meaning in my life even today!I have been struggling with a past that is never quite in the past. Though I know I am forgiven and free in Jesus name according to society I am still a felon…. this may come as a surprise to some that know me and yet others who have walked the path of life with me know that it was a very rebellious sad time in my life! I have tried to hide it many times as people who don’t understand where I came from have tried to use it against me… but I am sick of hiding!

God can not be glorified if I hide my light… my story…. can He?

Luke 8:16
“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

When I was 19 years old, I was a wayward rebellious young woman that was looking for love and acceptance in all the wrong places. I was with a drug dealing ex-boyfriend when he and his friend carried out an armed robbery against 3 gentlemen that I had been acquainted with. Due to the men knowing me, I was then arrest the next day. I spent 108 days in the county jail, 90 days in prison and on probation for 2 years after the incident.

At that time in Waterloo, Iowa the DA personally told my court appointed lawyer that he was going to make an example of me to the people. He was going to show what happens when a white woman gets taken advantage of by a black man running from the law,  a Chicago thug.
(For those of you reading I mean no disrespect to anyone’s color, race or any thing… this was the DA’s words not my own.)
The District Attorney stated that this was happening too much in Waterloo.  His plan was going to send a message to any overweight white women who dated men of color and/or questionable character so that they knew that the DA’s office would no longer be lenient towards these women.
I surrendered my life back to God in a solitary confinement cell on my 104 day in jail. I cried out to God and told him I was so sorry for rebelling and told Him that I surrendered all. Four days later God provided a miracle and I was able to get out on pre-trial release.When first arrested, my charge was 1st degree Armed Robbery. The guys that I had been with told me that they would have alibis and I would be the one going down for this. Twenty-five years of my life! The charge carried a 22 year mandatory  I knew that I couldn’t get myself out of this. Though I was not the one holding the gun to the guys heads I was still in the wrong place at the wrong time.
God was so gracious and saw my repentant heart. The day that I got out of jail I attended a small group that had been praying for me during my time in jail. They were an encouragement and support to me.God accomplished so much in my life during this pre-trial release so when I met with my lawyer and he told me what the DA was offering for a plea bargain I was so mad and hurt. The DA’s plea bargain was what they call a 90 day shock with a sentence that added up to 25 years, theft 1st, burglary 2nd and Extortion. If at any time during this “shock” period I did anything to get in trouble or responded the wrong way to an inmate that attempted to cause problems I would then have to serve the full term of 25 years.I questioned God… Why do I have to go back?! I have changed my life!And His still small voice said, ” I know and I am proud of you. There are consequences to actions though and I am not finished with this. I have more for you to learn…”So knowing I was in God’s hands I willingly submitted to the plea bargain and turned myself back over to the Waterloo Police Department. During intake, a deputy officer asked if I had considered running during the time between court and when I had to surrender myself? I looked at him puzzled as if he had asked the strangest question ever.

I replied, “No! They would just catch me and then I wouldn’t get just the 90 days but the 25 years when they caught me!”
He just laughed. A few days into my intake I found out why he had laughed…. No one that anyone knew of had EVER actually gotten their 90 days. Either they messed it up for themselves or if they had truly changed someone else that was incarcerated would attempt to mess it up for them. My next miracle was that not only was I granted my 90 days but a judge ruled that I could get out 2 weeks early due to my mom’s persistence and hard work! During this whole ordeal my mom was my biggest cheerleader! She was my bull dog when it came to hounding my lawyer and she was my biggest prayer warrior!As Paul would say…”But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”I have spent the last 10 years changing my life and working hard to be a better person. I have volunteered in India at an orphanage, worked at a not-for-profit assisting individuals with disabilities and volunteered in many various aspects. I have soooooo many people who could attest to all the changes my life has produced over the past 10 years.I had paid my “debt” to society when I completed the jail/ prison/ probation and restitution however I find in my life a constant struggle and feeling that the past is never the past. Any time that I look for employment that would better my life and build up my resume my back ground comes back to haunt me. I dream of the day that I can go into an interview confident that the past is just that, the past, and a future employer will look at the great things I have accomplished wanting me to complete their company with my skills..

The government wonders why the recidivism rate is out of control! People are never truly given a second chance by society or employers but even years later still has a shadow over their head of past mistakes!

My dream job would be to advocate for people who have a past that they may not be proud of, a God who has changed their lives completely and a hope for a future they can be proud of!
I am currently job hunting as I have recently relocated to Columbia, South Carolina and every turn I make I am getting turned down for a job based solely on my background check and finger printing. I had been offered a position as a supervisor in a house for UCP ( United Cerebral Palsy) and knew that it would be a great fit for me to be able to take the things I had learned for the last 2 years of employment working with people with disabilities. Yet due to me not having a valid SC Drivers license and not being able to successfully pass a background and fingerprinting they retracted their offer and didn’t even allow a chance for explanation on my part. In NY State I was cleared by the OMRDD (Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities) and given a chance to prove myself worthy to be a part of the agency The ARC of Steuben… however this new company down here would not even budge or consider the life changes I have made.SO…..I have created a petition by emailing the Governor of Iowa, the US Government and any one else that can help in my cause to have a mistake that happened 10 years ago no longer hinder my future!I want to be able to be an example of God’s amazing grace, love, protection and favor… I want to be able to be an encouragement to others who may not have a perfect past to know that there is a God who loves them so much He sent His only Son to die for their sins!

There has got to be a hope and a future for people who look in their past and wonder how there could possibly be any hope!

These experiences have been a constant thorn yet I know that just like the first verse I put on here states that my sufferings are not in vain but they have brought about a character and a hope that I would not have had if I had not been through all the trials. Not to give room or permission to sin but to know that God is a God of redemption and love!

Letter to “Mini-me”

A sweet encouraging woman responded to my blog post

Sensitive material- Read with Caution and Grace.

In her comment she said a profound thing that I had never even thought about…

 “You made the statement that you wanted your readers to know that you’re not an innocent person.I too, felt that way for many years. Though I wasn’t raped, I was molested by my stepfather, who was really a daddy to me.

I remember when I was going through counseling, that my counselor made the comment that he had stolen my innocence, and I straight up told her that I had NEVER been innocent. I really felt that way, until the Lord began to speak to me and show me something different. Beloved, even though you may have had sex prior to this occurrence, you were still INNOCENT.

One of the scriptures that I clung to (ok – I still cling to it, as there are a lot of missing memories still) is found in Psalm 51:6 – Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. (NASB) My friend, so many times those of us who have been victimized blame ourselves for what happened, but that only creates more damage to our soul and spirit. In order to receive complete healing and deliverance, you must know and acknowledge the truth.

For some crazy reason, it’s always easier for us to blame ourselves for what happened, than it is to place the blame where it belongs. It is good for us to acknowledge what we did wrong, confess it, repent and move on with our lives. But we must also step back and look at what happened to us through someone else’s eyes. Beloved, go back and re-read your story, only don’t look at yourself, imagine that this is your daughter’s story, or a friend’s story. How would you respond to that child or friend? What comfort would you offer that person? Do you find that you have more compassion for others than for yourself? Then, after you think of it, write a response to yourself (you don’t have to publish it if you don’t want to, but do write the response) as though you were your daughter, your friend, or even a complete stranger.”

 

Tears streamed down my face as I read the words that she wrote I knew that she was right, that God had given her the words that he knew would touch my heart and help me to continue the healing process. You see my name means Beloved… whether she knew that or not God did. And God knows how I have struggled with the meaning of my name. I have loved it and yet not felt worthy of the name for to many years of my life.

My mind repeatedly goes to the past and the “I wish I hadn’t done that…”, “I wish that had been the only time..”, “I wish I didn’t have such a messed up life..”,  “I wish I could change that..” and “I wish I didn’t feel this way.” But life can’t be lived with “I wishes” and “What if’s”

It is my life, it is my past and I want to be free!

Cheryl mentioned in her comment that I had made sure everyone knew I wasn’t innocent and that this statement wasn’t true. She said that I was being to hard on myself and she challenged me to write a response to my post as if it was my daughter, a friend or even a complete stranger.

I couldn’t imagine it happening to my daughter at this point because I would probably want to go out and find the prick and cut off his pecker!

So what would I say?

What would I say to myself? The young me that just couldn’t seem to find love no matter how hard she looked….

I would tell her I’m sorry! I would tell her that from childhood what others said about her was wrong! I would tell her that she is not fat, stupid, ugly, unlovable, obstinate, annoying, rebellious,  or hateful. What others said were all lies and you believed them because it was all you were hearing and I’m sorry!

You truly are beautiful and have a wonderful spirit that loves others and seeks to find the best in others even when they don’t deserve it! You discerned when things were not right and for that you were shunned by your father unless you took his manipulative side. You so desired his love, attention and affection but you only got it when you were doing things according to him. I’m sorry!

People touched you in ways that they never should have and I want you to know its not your fault! It is not healthy or a correct way to show love and you grew up thinking that by letting others touch you that it showed them you cared for them and loved them. These people are to blame for this and it is ok to be angry with them. Just try not to take it out on the ones that truly love you and help you, like your mom! She would give anything to take away the pain that you are feeling because she has been there too. She just doesn’t know how to tell you because you always lash out at her. She will be your biggest cheerleader and help you through the most painful experience in your life! This experience is what will bring you back to God the most and he will show you miracles that will truly change your world!

I also want you to know that God loves you! All those times you went in Sunday school and  got “saved”, He knows! He has held you in his arms and weeps for you and the injustices that were done to you. It was not His plan, His doing or His will for your life. God gave people a free will and sometimes bad people inflict their will on people.

But know this, God wants to restore those years and give you back your joy! All you have to do is give it all to Him! Give Him each and every injustice, each and every time you were taken advantage of and each face that did you wrong and lay it at the foot of the cross! There is a man named Jesus that died for you before you were even thought of by humans. He knew that you would need a savior! He knew that you would need a friend! You know Jesus, He held your heart from a young age and He will always love you no matter what happens!

Mini Me please know that I love you!

I am sorry that I have held all of this against you for far to long!

I am learning to take the things I grew up thinking were truths and accessing them to see for sure if they hold up to God and His word. Unfortunately most of the things I grew up learning and thinking are very, very flawed! But I am growing, I am forgiving, and I am feeling freer with each passing day!

It is a struggle to let people in, I know, but mini-me let them in! Even if they end up hurting you in the end, not all of them will! And you will find some amazing friends that will help you down your journey, they will cry with you, they will hold you and encourage you to continue the fight! Please tell them when you are weak so they can pray for you because we can’t do it on our own no matter how much we wish we could! God didn’t make us to do life alone but to come together in a healthy and wholesome way. Mini-me, don’t hold people at arms length and only show them so much because you are afraid of what they might think! God brought them into your life for a reason and as long as you are not finding the friends that you had previously that just took advantage of you and wanted to party with you then you will find good people that God ordains to be in your life.

And most importantly… that night in the hotel, the other times that you said no and the guys didn’t listen to you or grant you your request to stop and let you go… It is not your fault! I’m so sorry that I put you in those places because I was rebelling against everything in my life. I’m so sorry that I blamed your naivety and thirst for love for why these things happened. They were bad men who took advantage of you because they saw something good in you and wanted to exploit it, crush it and kill it! Its what the Devil does best but he has failed with you because you never allowed yourself to be crushed, just bruised, you lived through these horrible things and have come out on the other side!

Mini-me… not all men are bad! Let God direct your steps and trust Him in this area of your life.  I know that you are afraid to let yourself love because you don’t want to go through the same things again but you are taking the right steps to healing. You are seeking after God and His will for your life. God has protected you from so much and these last 5 years have been lonely but it has been the best thing for you. To do things on your own because its been to long since arms have encircled you and held you only leads to the pain and heartache from before. One night in the arms of a stranger is not worth the leaps and bounds you have come down the path of healing! Its not worth it!

So Mini-me… Please know that you are loved, you are precious and you are free! You are a fighter and I know you are tired. I know that you don’t know what to fight against or for anymore! Let God fight for you! Give it all to Him and watch life unfold!

Love you more than mostest!!

Good ‘Ole Boy Judges in South Carolina

So I have never used my blog as a platform to rant and rave about the injustices of the justice system but I am going to do it today!

We got a call from my brother yesterday who lives in Columbia, SC and he was asking for prayer and our thoughts to go with him as he went to court yesterday.

Before I go into the facts of the court and why he was there let me just tell you a little bit about my brother. He is 23 years old and has lived on his own since he was 18 years old. He put himself through Jamestown Community College where he took their sound system tech program. He then got a scholarship to Columbia International University for Biblical Studies and got two years of college for the price of one because they saw his ambition and drive to put himself through the community college without any student loans.

When he moved down to South Carolina he got involved in Young Life, a program that goes into local schools and mentors teens. Each volunteer “staff” member is required to take a group of teens under their wing and mentor them through the difficult years of high school. Jon, my brother, has taken this mission very seriously! When he started he knew that he would only be at CIU for 2 years because he had already taken 2 years in New York. This hasn’t kept him from keeping the promise of seeing these guys he mentors through until the head off to college. He spends his evenings doing Young Life events Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and usually most Saturdays.

He has a passion for music! My brothers ultimate dream would be to have a recording studio in Israel and have that be his ministry. He loves making songs on his computer with his recording programs and he is very talented at it. He has always had a heart for worship as well and always been involved in whatever church he’s going to’s worship team. This commitment takes up his Thursday nights and all morning on Sundays.

All of the above is just volunteering things that he does. He does not get paid for any of it and frankly it takes a lot of his time but also his money. He takes the guys out to eat when they call him with problems so that they have a safe environment to talk to him about problems or things going on in their lives. He spends gas money picking each one up to take them to movies, sporting events or whatever other thing the guys come up with that they want to do. He would never tell you that he resents all the time and money that he spends on the guys because he does it out of unconditional love. He doesn’t see them as a burden because he is thankful for 2 guys when he was in high school that took him and his guy friends under their wings and mentored them. Even me as his over protective sister used to get mad at him and tell him the boys, who come from many different home lives, mostly broken homes, were taking advantage of him and his generosity.

My brother is very quiet, shy and reserved. Volunteering for Young Life has brought him out of his shell and given him the confidence he has needed. Jon is not a big talker and he sometimes dislikes this about himself. He feels that he doesn’t always know what to say or get upset about things that are not right. He would say that sometimes he wished he was just a little more like his hot headed sister who seemed to him to know exactly what to say in circumstances. I would laugh and tell him I always wished I was more like him! He may not say a lot but when he does speak its profound and people listen!

My brother not only does all of this volunteer work but he has a “day” job too! He is a supervisor for one of the work crews for Superior Landscaping. He goes to work most mornings as early as 5:30-6am depending on the time of year and usually wouldn’t get home until late in the afternoon. His days would consist of mowing, hedge-trimming, and all that goes with landscaping jobs! I remember how one summer Jon had poison ivy for the whole summer! His body was very susceptible to it and while most people would find a job that wouldn’t put themselves in contact with something of this nature, Jon plugged away, caked on ointment, and did his job like a trooper! He is totally loyal and would stand by you in the eye of a hurricane if he thought that’s what you would need!

All of the above is just to give you a picture of the amazing man that my brother is so you can fully understand the injustice that played out yesterday…

On October 31st at around rush hour traffic my brother was coming home from work and thinking about all that he needed to get done before he took his mentor guys trick or treating. As he was coming around the curve known to many South Carolinian’s as “Malfunction Junction”  something happened and he ended up in a fender bender with the car ahead of him. As they pulled over to assess the damage  Im sure my brothers heart was squeezing with the realization that he had not reinstated his insurance after he let it lapse several months before.

I had been living down there with him and while Jon was laid off last winter, I was working at a furniture store. In February as I was coming back from a trip to my sisters I got a call from the owner telling me that it wasn’t going to work out for me to work there. I asked for an explanation as to why and he had said he hoped that I wouldn’t need an explanation  Hello?!? I had just gotten them a 3000$ sale the day before and they thought I wouldn’t care to know why I wouldn’t be working there…. But I digress…

My brother and I were not only living paycheck to paycheck but we were coming up short in every aspect. Several times I went to the food bank so that we would have a meal for the next couple weeks. It was a very challenging time for the both of us and unannounced  to me my brother let his insurance go so that we could pay the other bills. Im sure in his mind he justified it as he was a good driver and  hadn’t gotten in an accident yet so what would it hurt to go a month or two without insurance until we got back on our feet.

Well his month or two turned into several more than that when you have a schedule as crazy as my brothers. He just could never get enough time during the day time hours to  call the insurance company as typically its not just a short 5-10 minute conversation that you can have during a break at work.

As he steps out of the car to assess the damage he doesn’t know what to do… Should I tell the people I just hit that I let my insurance lapse?? They look at both cars and realize that my brothers car took the brunt of the damage with their car only sustaining a few minor scratches and their license plate being dented. When the cops arrive they of course ask for insurance information and being the honest and upstanding person that my brother is he tries to explain that he had let his lapse. The police immediately tell him they are impounding his car, issuing him a ticket for no insurance and for driving to fast for the conditions.

Of course my brother doesn’t tell my mom or me any of this till the day of court!

Now up north in the small town of Bath, when you have to go to traffic court you represent yourself and get a chance to explain things to the judge and possibly ask for a reduction. I guess in the south it is guilty until proven innocent and you don’t get to plead your case… its either guilty or not guilty.

When my brother went before the judge and explained what happened and why he was without insurance, the judge looked at him and asked Jon, “Have you taken any drugs or drank anything in the past 24 hours that would keep you from understanding what’s going on here?”

My brother who hasn’t done even the slightest thing even close to drugs and gets loopy with just one benadryl, looked at him shocked. He told the judge no that he had definitely not taken anything or drank and just wanted to plead his case and see if there was anyway to get it reduced and his license reinstated.

The judges response was to tell my brother that his license was going to be suspended!

What judge would do that??

I could understand someone who was constantly in and out of his court for various charges and violations but my brother has had maybe one ticket on his record since he started driving when he was 17 years old! I just can’t believe a judge who would completely disregard someone who was pleading their case and ask them what drugs they were on or what they had been drinking!

My brother knew that he was guilty and was explaining that finance wise it would help if the fine could be reduced.

Was it because he wasn’t judicially savvy enough to know exactly what to ask for?

Was it because he didn’t know that he had the right to request a reduction based on his income?

What is wrong with this country when we penalize the very people that are working so hard to make it a better place?

Don’t get me wrong… There should be consequences for my brother and his actions but making him pay over 400$ and suspend his license so that he can’t get to work?

How is that helping society?

My brother in Israel on a school trip in 2010