"Letters from Inside" is a blog series featuring incarcerated women at Minnesota Correctional Facility–Shakopee, where Prison Fellowship® runs one of its Academies. Over the coming months, you will hear perspectives from women who are not only serving time for crimes but are now trying to live their lives for Jesus behind bars.
For more "Letters from Inside," click here.
'AM I REALLY LEAVING?'
The day I was locked up, I told myself, "Emily, you're not leaving any time soon." So, I decided to change my life to be a better person for when I would get out. That was five years ago and I am now walking out these doors to work release, and it doesn't even feel real.
There [have] been so many emotions. I'm scared, then anxious, then excited, then lost—well, you get the point. Sometimes I feel like my head's going to explode! I know it's normal, but I can't let [the emotions] sink my boat. Philippians 4:6-7 has helped me to stand on God's truth in the midst of chaos when I need peace of mind:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
The things I struggle with entering back in society are …
- Starting all over
- Finding healthy friendships
- Being single and staying pure
- Finding a job
- Setting boundaries and sticking to my guns about them
- What I want to eat—I'm so used to just eating what [the prison staff] gives me!
Will I follow God's will? What's my future going to look like?
Well, thank the Lord, Prison Fellowship Academy™ provides us a mentor in the last six months of our incarceration. My mentor is amazing! She comes once a week willingly and faithfully to walk by my side. My mentor and I have talked about the many struggles I have [with reentry], and she has given me guidance, insight, courage, and hope that I will overcome the many struggles I have.
The cool thing about my mentor is I get to take her with me for my first six months [on the outside] to help me. Yeah! Thank you, Jesus!*
A FIRM FOUNDATION
Moving beyond these gates, my main focus is going to be my foundation. I've created a strong foundation [in God] while being incarcerated, but it has not yet been tested in the real world. I know that with Jesus as the center of my life, He will give me the strength to continue in this next chapter of my life.
I will find a church and Bible study, with healthy people who can offer support and guidance. And I will enjoy life at its fullest.
I am walking out of here with God, my family, and my church family. You would think I wouldn't feel alone, but I do. I know that feeling will eventually change. I keep reminding myself God is always going to be by my side.
Gosh, I wish I could see you face to face, God.
I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up, and I'm 26 now. But I do know this—I want God to write His story on my heart.
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps."
(Proverbs 16:9, NLT)
P.S. I think I want pizza when I get out ... or waffles.
*In some states, the law forbids former prisoners from having contact with mentors they have had during their incarceration.
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