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.

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!

My life in a nutshell

I grew up in what I thought was a Christian home. My mom had a radical life transformation and saving grace experience when I was very little so from that time on we were in the church any time the doors were open. My extended family didn’t understand my mom’s life change and made it very hard growing up. Any move we made that they didn’t consider very “christian” like they were the first to tell us how messed up we were. I rebelled against this a lot growing up. When I was in highschool I went to a concert where I first learned about Compassion International and India. I instantly had a heart and love for India, the woman and children. I knew that I wanted to go over there! I was able to graduate early and in 1998 went to a Youth With a Mission DTS and then spent just short of 2 months in India! It was an overwhelming, heartbreaking and wonderful experience! Being young and in love with the idea of being a missionary like Amy Carmichael my time was spent very affected by what my thoughts were about missionaries and thinking that I was supposed to be there for the rest of my life like all the other missionaries you hear about growing up. I didn’t know what to do with all of the poverty and sadness.
When I came back to America they attempted to “debrief” us and prepare us for reentry into our old lives. Nothing could prepare me! All of my friends had plans and were heading off to college and I had not done anything to plan for my time after India. I found a job and decided I wouldn’t waste money going to college when I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I started hanging out with friends that I worked with and they got me into smoking, drinking and eventually drugs. I was rebelling against everything that I had learned or been shown because I didn’t understand a God that would let people in America be born with so much and others in India with nothing. I was angry with Him and didn’t know how to fix my anger. My way of dealing with the anger and dysfunction that was going on in my home life was drugs and alcohol. I ended up meeting this drug dealer and thinking my life would be problem free as far as providing for myself because he had money. It turns out he wasn’t a very good drug dealer and smoked more than he sold. I was financially in a pinch when my grandparents wanted payment for the car they had sold to me. I also owed rent to the girl I was living with and I had nothing.
To make a long story short I got myself very mixed up with all the wrong things and ended up being an accomplice to my ex boyfriend when him and his friend did an armed robbery. I was picked up at my job and was taken to jail. I spent 108 days in jail and eventually I would spend 90 days in prison. During my time in jail, God got a hold of me and thanks to my mom who was my advocate and fighter I was able to get a reduced sentence. I didn’t snitch on my ex or his friend even though that would have been the easy thing to do. I knew that when they told me the night it all went down that they would have alibis and knew where my family lived I was looking at the whole sentence… 25 years in prison with a 22 year mandatory! God saw my heart and how I surrendered my life to Him and I believe He worked a miracle on my behalf. I will always give Him the glory because there was no way that I should have been freed.
I was mandated to a drug and alcohol program for my pre-trail release and I started at Pathways outpatient group sessions and did a Celebrate Recovery program through the church I had gotten involved in. I will tell you that it wasn’t the counselor that they assigned me to that was fresh out of college with all her cheerleader friend pictures up in her office that helped me… how could she relate when she was probably still out on Friday nights with her college buddies living it up?! No it was the group counselor who happened to be the Director of the program that helped me the most. It was him because he was a recovered alcoholic! He knew where I was or had been and could effectively help me through the process because he had been there! He asked our group to do an assignment per say.. We were to pick 2 people in our lives that were 5 years older than us… 1 that was clean and living an upstanding life and another that was still using. He told us that it was up to us what life we wanted because no matter what time goes by and you end up being whatever person you choose 5 years from then.
I won’t tell you from that point on I was right on track and lived a problem free life. It is hard to break dysfunctional thinking that you never even know is dysfunctional. You see my mom never told us that she was living in an abusive marriage for 31 years until I found myself fleeing my abusive marriage in 2007. I was so shocked, angry and relieved! It finally helped me to see why I continued to walk into negative relationships thinking that there would be different results but I didn’t have a correct view or what love should and shouldn’t be. It helped me to see that it wasn’t all me. I could begin to see what I had grown up learning as normal for what it truly was and begin the process of finding God’s truth instead.
In 2008, I was able to go and volunteer at an orphanage in India for 6 months. This time helped the healing process! I was able to take my focus off of myself for a time and pour out love on these sweet kids that had absolutely nothing. I could take the time to process and work through the hard things. I got to help the housemothers with the infants and toddlers, teach art classes to the school age children, minister to the women staying in the women’s shelter and help in the office correcting documentation to proper English. It was a life changing experience and I haven’t been the same since!
So now it is almost 2013! It has been a challenging couple years but I have learned so much!
I would love to be able to be a part of an organization that I can not only pour myself into but one that can also continue to help me grow and dig deeper in my relationship with the Lord. I need mentoring and have really struggled to find a church or organization that is willing to invest in me. They sure want volunteers and people to serve but are not willing to fill those people pouring themselves out back up like they should. I desire that, long for that and plead with God on a daily basis for Him to place me somewhere that would do just that!

Romans 5:1-11

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

(Italics and bold mine to emphasis what it meant to me!)

You can never be to far gone for the saving grace, love and mercy that Jesus died to show you! My life is living proof of that!

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