Times were hard. I was now free from prison, but I was dirt poor and raising my three daughters alone, as their dad was still in prison and would be for many years. Living in a trailer in Beulah, Wyoming, under mammoth cottonwood trees alongside the Red Water River in winter was brutal. Frigid temperatures had frozen the water pipes under the trailer, so every drop had to be carried in from a well deep in the woods. I could barely keep the lights on and food on the table, and Christmas was coming—I wondered how I could provide even one gift for my precious little girls.
Yet, even as I wondered, I couldn't help but feel the peace and joy of Jesus' birth as I baked cookies and sang Christmas carols in our little home.
Just before I went to prison, I had given my heart to Jesus. The moment I surrendered, I felt an unexplainable joy, and I wondered where it came from. As I read my Bible, I found the answer in Philippians 4:7, (NLT):
"Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."
I began to understand that whether inside prison walls or outside, I was a daughter of the King, Jesus. My future, my hope, was now in Him and His plan for my life. Despite my daily circumstances, I was able to rejoice in the promises of God.
After my release, I continued my journey with Jesus, reading my Bible and asking for His care. I had found a great church, and I looked forward to taking my girls to the upcoming Christmas service. As we entered the church, I was met by ladies with big smiles. They said, "Annie, we have a surprise for you and your girls."
We stood before a beautiful Christmas tree, which they explained was an "Angel Tree." (Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree® program gives gifts to children with incarcerated parents). Under the tree were gifts with my daughters' names on them. Wide-eyed, they jumped for joy! God, through these ladies and Angel Tree, blessed us with a Christmas we would never forget.
From my days in prison long ago, to my days on staff with Prison Fellowship today, I know God has been with me through it all. He is also with you. His word says He has a plan for you. Where will He lead you on your journey with Him? Rejoice, it's gonna be good!
ABOUT ANNIE GOEBEL
Annie Goebel is the director of programs and special events at Prison Fellowship®.
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