Roxanne grew up a wanderer, and not exactly by choice.
She and her sister raised themselves while their mother struggled with a heroin addiction. As a pre-teen, Roxanne started acting out in school and skipping classes. Soon she was shipped off to live with her aunt and uncle in California. A few years later, she returned to Arizona.
Then the partying started.
"I was single, 18, doing whatever I liked, living the party life," says Roxanne. Then Roxanne had her first child at age 21. A year or so after her child was born, she made a choice she would later regret: trying meth for the first time. It wasn't long before she was hooked.
As Roxanne's meth use turned regular, every part of her life fell into chaos. She became a vagrant—no place was home for very long. She would go to jail and get put on probation, all while bearing children she couldn't care for.
"I ended up running from the law for half my life. ... I never had my kids for long," Roxanne admits. "I would have them, and soon, someone else was taking care of them."
'I was single, 18, doing whatever I liked, living the party life.'
THE HARD ROAD
In 2011, Roxanne went to prison for the first time for stealing a car and drug possession. The second time was for selling dangerous narcotics in 2014. During that second sentence, she gave birth to one of her sons, who was taken in by someone Roxanne knew on the outside.
"My family wanted nothing to do with me at that point," Roxanne explains, "and I got to where I said, 'You know what, God might be the only way I can get through this. Nobody else wants me.'"
Roxanne discovered new life through the Prison Fellowship Academy®. She began to dig up the hurts she had buried deep inside herself. She discovered answers to questions about her own identity and purpose. "I had put so much behind me that never was healed, because I thought I could forget about it and let it disappear," says Roxanne. "And I needed that healing process, but I never allowed myself to go through that, because I would use drugs to cover up the pain."
With a sigh of relief, Roxanne adds, "I knew that the only way for me to get my life where I want to be, and to get my children back, I needed to do this. I felt like a new person when I finished it. A whole new me."
'I got to where I said, 'You know what, God might be the only way I can get through this. Nobody else wants me.''
BRIDGING THE GAP
Although she was separated from her children, Roxanne still managed to remind them how much she loved them. At her church in prison, she heard about Angel Tree®, a program of Prison Fellowship® that delivers gifts to children on behalf of their incarcerated parents. She signed them up three years in a row, every Christmas she spent in prison.
Even though her children were living away from her—and away from each other, in different homes—Angel Tree created a connection Roxanne never imagined possible. Eleven-year-old Nathaniel still remembers the year he received clothes and sports equipment. The best part was knowing the gifts were from his mom.
"The best part was that they were receiving joy," says Roxanne. "[Nathaniel] remembers when I was gone. I know it was hard for him, having me away, so just knowing he received something, and surprising him with it, and that I was thinking of him—it's amazing."
'Nathaniel remembers when I was gone. I know it was hard for him, having me away, so just knowing he received something, and surprising him with it, and that I was thinking of him—it's amazing.'
A MOTHER’S NEW HOPE
Now, Roxanne is released, living and working near Phoenix, saving up money to buy a home, and restoring relationships with family—including DJ, the baby she welcomed in prison, who is now living with her again. And while life isn't easy, Roxanne's freedom in Christ gives her hope to keep moving forward.
"I just got through those first months remembering everything that I learned," Roxanne shares. God's been teaching me patience, especially as a mom. I got two of [my children] back. ... [My fiancé and I] are learning to be parents, learning responsibility."
Roxanne will never forget how her life changed in prison: "God has really healed wounds."
'God's been teaching me patience, especially as a mom.'