Brittany prayed God would grant her favor during her sentencing, and He did ... by sending her to prison.
Early exposure to methamphetamine led Brittany down a dark path of drugs and crime. Although she tried to better herself on her own, she was caught in a cycle of addiction. The following is an excerpt from a speech Brittany gave at her graduation from the Prison Fellowship Academy®. Located in select prisons across the country, the Academy takes men and women through a holistic life transformation, where they are guided by Prison Fellowship® staff and volunteers to lead lives of purpose and productivity inside and outside of prison.
This excerpt has been edited for clarity and length.
THE POWER IN YOUR STORY
By Brittany of Shakopee
When my boyfriend became dangerous, I moved back home with my mom. … Things were going really great for a while. Then I started sneaking around again, skipping work, and I relapsed. I quickly blew through my savings, so I started stealing bank account information from total strangers. I printed checks and manipulated people to cash them for me.
When I got to jail, it shouldn't have been a surprise that everyone [forgot] about me or [left] me in on a $500 bail, but it tore me up inside. My perception of society, friendships, and even myself was so distorted. I spent some time in segregation and still found no peace.
About a week before [my] sentencing, I asked God to reveal Himself to me. I went to a church service [at the jail], and the word they preached was "hope." I felt undeniable peace for the first time.
The pastor prayed with me afterward and asked God for favor on my sentencing hearing. Here I am in prison, and I do believe it is because of God's favor.
Prison would set the stage for the rest of my life.
After her sentencing, Brittany was incarcerated at Shakopee, where she joined the Academy. Brittany found everyone "so warm and welcoming."
"I just cried because this [wasn't] what I thought prison would be like at all," she says.
But like many who enroll in the Academy, Brittany had bad habits and false perceptions to unlearn. That process wasn't easy. During her second quarter with the Academy, Brittany was sent to segregation for disorderly conduct.
A SECOND CHANCE
As with any commitment to change, you actually have to apply yourself—not just listen and do your homework—but actually practice your tools and think.
I was so angry [when I was sent to segregation]. I thought I completely blew it, but my Academy teachers gave me grace and accepted my apologies. It was a long couple of weeks, and not the best way to spend my birthday, but I got out and was patient until I could get back in my programming.
The first day of my first quarter back in [the Academy], I had to make another choice: Am I going to breeze by, or do I actually want my life to be different and mean something?
I chose the latter.
THE POWER IN YOUR STORY
[Academy] Class 27 became some of the best friends I've ever had. Proverbs 17:17 says, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother (or sister) is born for a time of adversity." It took us a while to get to know each other, but eventually we started becoming vulnerable with one another and gaining strength from each woman's story.
One of biggest things that I've taken away from this program is the power in your story. In Celebrate Recovery, Ms. Hale told us this huge truth: the enemy uses our secrets to blind us with shame. Our regrets, hurts, and secrets all lose their power over us when we talk about them with someone else.
Night terrors, abuse, and the guilt I carried for the things I've done were all too big to deal with on my own. One by one, I shared a secret that I kept buried in my heart, and it wasn't easy. I heard the enemy telling me that I was embarrassing myself, but I still felt encouraged to keep going.
I'm no longer afraid of my past. Revelation 12:11 says, "They triumphed over him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony."
All the trauma and guilt that I've experienced doesn't keep me in bondage anymore. Actually, God redeems everything, and my story is going to help me connect to women I meet in life that need hope and support. He will use me to bless them in ways that would be harder if we had nothing in common.
I get so much out of all these classes. I had some faulty core beliefs; I still work on reframing these as they come and line them up with the truth of God. I learned how to grieve. I have a plan on how to start paying my debt. I'm still working really hard on overcoming offenses when they come, staying in the will of God, and obeying Him when He nudges me to do something.
In addition to all [these] tools, I got to really discover myself here. I've come to appreciate being an introvert. I never had a hunger for knowledge, and now much of my time is spent reading books and writing. I learned that I can be a leader. I enjoy being a tutor and encouraging others.
I surprise myself with all the things I'm actually capable of doing.
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