In a small town in Iowa, Angie lay curled in her bed, trying to block out the sound of her parents fighting in the living room. The screaming and crying resounded off the walls of their modest home, and every now and then, Angie would hear something shatter. Her father was drunk again. Angie’s heart pounded with fear even though her big brothers were down the hall. She tried praying the prayer her mother had taught her: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. But nothing helped; the whirlwind of anger and violence kept spinning.
When will this end? Angie wondered. How can I stop this madness?
SUPERPOWER AND ADDICTION
Angie’s parents divorced when she was 11, and that brought some tranquility to her home life—at least with her mom. Her father remarried and continued his alcohol-fueled rages. Angie’s mother remarried a man who became a source of encouragement to Angie—but his love wasn’t enough to fill the void left by her father.
Angie says she dabbled in drugs, drank a little, and sought affirmation from boys—which resulted in a prom-night pregnancy. Angie was shocked. She had big plans for a different kind of future; she was going to have a career helping people. Giving up the baby for adoption seemed like the right choice. However, eight months along in her pregnancy, Angie changed her mind. She gave birth to a son she named Jamie, enrolled in community college classes, and started working full time at a restaurant.
Life felt overwhelming—until Angie tried meth.
“It was like all my concerns, all my struggles, were answered—like I could manage everything,” she recalls. “I was losing [my pregnancy] weight. I could go to work. I could do my schoolwork. It gave me energy—I was Superwoman.”
At first, Angie only snorted meth on the weekends or when she had a big paper due. She loved the sense of control it gave her. But as time went on, occasional use became addiction. Once again, Angie found herself powerless. She had started nursing school but dropped out during her internship because life became unmanageable. At first, she worked as a bartender and a waitress, but as addiction took over, she could no longer hold down a job.
Eight years after the birth of Jamie, Angie had another son. She married the baby’s father—but after six months, they went their separate ways. Five years later, Angie had a third child—a daughter she named Faith—with a boyfriend, Travis. She stopped using drugs during her pregnancy, but the hiatus didn’t last long.
“Travis was manufacturing meth,” Angie says, “and I had postpartum depression. Then my stepdad passed away—I had never lost anybody close to me before. I just didn’t know how to deal with that.”
Angie sought relief the way she had been finding it for years: in meth. It wasn’t long before she was as entangled as ever. She and Travis broke up, and a year later, Travis was arrested, tried, and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
LOVE FROM CHURCH LADIES
The first time the church ladies knocked on Angie’s door, Angie didn’t know what to think. She had never heard of Prison Fellowship Angel Tree®, which brings gifts to children in the name of their incarcerated parent. And she certainly didn’t want her messy home or her drug use to be fuel for judgment by strangers.
“I was a little apprehensive because of the mind frame that I was in, the world that I was entertaining,” Angie says. “But they were so caring and so kind.”
The women knew Angie’s children because the kids attended the church’s Awana discipleship program. Angie didn’t care about religion, but she let the children go because transportation was provided, and she welcomed the break from watching them. Four-year-old Faith had told the church ladies about her daddy in prison, and they made sure he received an Angel Tree application.
“They came over and brought a box of food,” Angie recalls. “They brought gifts for Faith. They had asked her what she liked, and she told them, and they were able to provide her with some gifts through Angel Tree on behalf of her dad.”
In retrospect, Angie says that the love of those women planted seeds in her heart.
Four-year-old Faith had told the church ladies about her daddy in prison, and they made sure he received an Angel Tree application.
LOSS AND CHAOS
When Angie’s father died in 2008, she felt cheated. She had wanted him to take responsibility for the ways he hurt her and the family—to say “I love you” or “I’m sorry.” But he never did, and with his death, that hope was gone as well. Three months later, Angie’s mother died. They had been distant in recent years because of Angie’s drug use, and Angie was crushed that there was no more time to heal their relationship.
“Then, April 29, 2009, there was a knock at my door, and I had a federal warrant for my arrest,” Angie says. “I was hauled down to Cedar Rapids, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is happening?’ I wasn’t even able to consciously think about what was going on in my life—but there was so much, I thought I was going to lose my mind.”
Booked on conspiracy to manufacture meth, Angie spent the first two weeks sleeping around the clock. When she woke up, she took stock of her situation.
I don’t have any drugs, Angie thought. I don’t have my parents. I don’t know where my kids are. I don’t know how much time I’m going to get.
Once again, life felt chaotic and hopeless, spinning out of control.
'What if it’s true? What if there really is a hope and a future, and that is the plan?'
UNEXPECTED PEN PALS AND THE WORD OF GOD
One day, the correctional officers came around and announced that a Bible study was about to start. Angie had no interest in studying the Bible, but leaving her cell sounded good—so she went. She didn’t understand much of what was said, but the leader made her feel welcome.
And that week, Angie received her first letter.
Three women from a church in Angie’s small town had read about her indictment in the local paper. One had a grandson who played baseball with Angie’s son, Brady, and they wanted Angie to know they were praying for her.
That’s kind of weird, Angie thought. She tucked the letter away and didn’t think much more about it. But a week and a half later, another one arrived. This time, it was from just one of the women, Judy. It was warm and conversational, and it included a Bible verse. Angie had never met Judy and didn’t understand why she would take the time to write—but the letters kept coming.
When her Bible study leader gave Angie an Inside Journal Life Recovery Bible, she deposited it in her bin of belongings without opening it. But when she saw the Bible verse in Judy’s next letter, she dug it back out to find Judy’s verse, hungry to know more:
“'For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (Jer. 29:11, NIV).
Angie read the verse over and over again. Then she read the passages that came before and after it. It didn’t seem to make sense, given her circumstances. But then Angie thought, What if it’s true? What if there really is a hope and a future, and that is the plan?
For the first time in as long as she could remember, Angie was overcome with a sense of peace.
DOUBLE ANGEL TREE
Back home, Angie’s children were struggling. Brady’s father had taken custody of him, but 21-year-old Jamie was left to care for his 7-year-old sister. He worked hard as a car salesman, but it was difficult to make ends meet.
“Even though the kids were able to manage throughout the year, when Christmas came around, it was a lot harder for them,” Angie says. “The stress was multiplied.”
Remembering what a blessing Angel Tree had been in the past, Angie signed up. And that year—and for four more after that—Faith received gifts on behalf of each of her incarcerated parents. One year, the church volunteers brought her a poster of her favorite singer, as well as a children’s Bible that she has to this day. The churches that served Faith and Jamie brought food as well.
“The combination of it all was just so valuable,” Angie says. “I can’t thank God enough for that… They were being taken care of.”
Remembering what a blessing Angel Tree had been in the past, Angie signed up.
COMPANIONS WHILE INSIDE
Eventually, Angie wrote back to Judy, and their correspondence lasted throughout Angie’s five-year prison sentence. Angie was transferred from one county jail to another and then moved between two federal correctional facilities.
“She found me everywhere I went,” Angie says. “She is my guardian angel. She has helped me grow in my faith and trust in God. She didn’t have to choose me. She never left me.”
Angie had consistent contact with someone else while she was in prison: Travis, Faith’s father. He was still incarcerated as well, but because they shared a child, they were allowed to email each other daily. Angie was hurt by some of Travis’ past actions—but she was grateful to have a friend who knew her so well and also knew how to navigate prison life. Travis would calm her down when she got stressed or overwhelmed.
Eventually, Angie transferred to an in-prison residential drug abuse program. There she learned how to process her anger, grief, guilt, and shame.
She also made an important friend, Ms. Hunter.
“The lady that God chose to be my bunkie was an elderly lady who spoke God’s Word with confidence,” Angie says.
“She was a very devoted Christian. She was placed in my life on purpose. I was able to learn and grow.”
A NEW CHAPTER
Angie was released in 2012, just a month and a half after Travis. They were assigned to different jurisdictions, but after a while Angie was able to change hers, and they lived in the same sober home. Angie and Travis were married in 2015.
Angie feels a strong calling to support those in the same place she once was. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and human services and then an addictions counseling graduate certificate. Angie became a licensed drug and alcohol counselor in 2018 and now helps people dealing with substance abuse disorder at Beauterre Recovery Institute. She has also written a book about her life, Hope Dealer (A Way Out), and she frequently speaks at conferences and churches, sharing her story of hope and restoration. However, Angie says her favorite speaking engagement was at a women’s prison.
“I understand the women,” she says. “I felt kind of at home there with them.”
Angie wouldn’t have chosen prison—but she believes God used it to bring her a peace she would not have found otherwise. She recalls a moment behind bars when she was listening to the Rascal Flatts song, I Won’t Let Go, on her little prison radio. As she walked the yard and listened, she sensed God’s heart for her through the lyrics: I will stand by you / I will help you through ... I will hold you tight / And I won't let you fall.
“That was such a profound song for me,” Angie says. “I one hundred percent believe that God sucked me out of my environment and sat me down, so He got my full attention. I believe that He wasn’t going to let me go, and that He did have plans to give me a hope and a future.”
Angie wouldn’t have chosen prison—but she believes God used it to bring her a peace she would not have found otherwise.