I realized something recently.

An only child, I grew up always longing for a sibling. I have wonderful memories of aunts and uncles and cousins getting together regularly for reunions. The warmth of family, and that wonderful feeling of acceptance were always extremely important to me. As I grew older, any opportunities I had to experience family gatherings also gave me those “warm fuzzies.” But life goes on, people die, and families go their own ways. Today I live far away from many of those I would love to spend more time with, and holidays are often lonely or lacking.

I now attend a weekly bible study at the local prison. Many of the men there are very lonely. They feel isolated. Some of them have no one at all outside those walls.

Most of my friends celebrate holidays with their own families. Many times, I have been invited to join them, but…it just isn’t the same. This past week, following a particularly moving bible study, I realized something. Prison ministry has become for me an opportunity to connect with other lonely individuals. There I feel my presence alone is making a difference. The men attending the service warmly welcome the volunteers. Discussions reveal men who have studied the bible a great deal more than I have, and their comments are often quite open, revealing both insights and emotions one would not expect to find in supposedly “tough” men. These men make me feel as though I have been blessed with a room full of brothers – and I love it! They joke with me. They’re serious with me. And I feel like I could be their sister.

Some of my friends don’t understand my reasons for going there. Why would I want to be among criminals? Am I not afraid?  In an odd way, their bleak existence day after day, has shown me things I have otherwise taken for granted. Their openness has made me feel accepted. Their gratitude for my presence and time there is all I need. Their thoughts and the emotions they share are bonuses. In them, I have found family…and for them, I will be forever grateful.

Taking the Good

I have a friend who has found it difficult to fit in within her community.

True, she comes from a “tougher” background than I myself have known. And yes, she swears a bit too much. But she wears her heart on her sleeve, easily hurt by offhand remarks. Her tough exterior is merely that. She likes to have fun, and to make people laugh. She works hard.

She is also very “real.” She says what she thinks and calls a situation as she sees it. Perhaps people react negatively to her because she says what other people only allow themselves to think. Recently, she told me that she thinks of me as a mentor. Mentor? Really? I hadn’t seen that one coming! But she is my friend. Sometimes she draws me out of myself when few others can.

Anyway, her recent struggles have caused me to look at my own life. I’ve been very blessed. Certainly, losing my dad when I was a teen was very hard. And yes, there were issues resulting from that I had to work through. And, of course, there were jobs I didn’t love. Somehow, I guess I have always kept what was good, and let go of the rest. I am fortunate that there was a lot of good going around when I was young! It pulled me through some more difficult times later on. There were special people along the way who made such an impression upon me that I, in essence, brought them with me. At one point, I also challenged myself to begin making choices because I realized that I had, until then, been doing what others expected of me. I learned who I was, decided that I kind of liked that person, and moved forward in life becoming that person.

My friend likes who she is. She is in the process of defining herself, I think. It is indeed a process. It doesn’t happen all at once. When you figure out who you are, what and who you respect, and what your purpose is in this world, happiness and satisfaction come a great deal more easily. Being able to look at “the bigger picture” helps to put our own small part of it into perspective.

How have life circumstances affected you, and where do you fit, in the grand scheme of life?


The Mystery of Moments You Thought Didn’t Matter

Sometimes it is easier to see the value of experience by looking backwards.

I have had many jobs – so many that it has been a long standing joke among my closest friends. In fact, one of the best Christmas presents I ever received was a small urn with “Ashes of Old Bosses” written on its side. (I kept it at home…never quite having the nerve to place it on my desk at work!) Laughing aside, although I always felt I was struggling to find something “meaningful” that would “make a difference” in the lives of others, I can now look back and see how each of my experiences prepared me for others that came later.

In high school, the steps in geometry for completing a hypothesis totally baffled me. When I worked in a sheltered workshop, I realized that individuals with various disabilities could indeed do similar jobs, but different adaptations had to be made for each individual. In later years, when I was involved in monitoring contracts for state services, I finally understood how each step had significant importance when you were contracting for specific services.

When the supervisor for my job as an aide in a hospital social service office provided little direction or supervision to me as a new worker, I was left to discover pieces of information on my own. In one case, I learned that a woman who had been in a car accident and who had come into the hospital without identification had crossed the border from Canada, and that she had a mental health history. A later position allowed me to do some investigative work for an insurance agency, and by the time I worked in Protective Services, I knew how to gather and document important information, and I loved it. Today I am not afraid to embark upon new challenges to locate information.

Isn’t it interesting that all of my “wandering” from job to job was really preparing me for things in my future? Isn’t it amazing that my search for meaning and to make a difference was really being shaped from the start, including books that I read as a youth? Yes, I believe God knew exactly what He was doing when He created each of us, and I believe that this holds true for everyone. Yes, we make choices, but each choice shapes us for things to come. What an awesome God to have such individualized plans for each of us! Can you tell where God has been leading you?


I am an only child. Since childhood I have wanted a brother or sister. I’ve often thought how cool it would be to discover that I had a half-brother or half-sister somewhere on this planet. Well, it has recently dawned on me that I have indeed discovered numerous brothers and sisters!

I try to attend a weekly bible study at the local prison. The group consists of about 40 men from Level I. It is a different experience for me, having attended only a very few bible studies in my life. These men know Scripture, are eager to learn more, and seem to have a desire to really participate and grow from their experience. There is fellowship in this group. I have seen true caring for one another, as well as concern over world events. These men see hope at the end of their tunnels. They are looking forward to a future outside of prison. It appears to me that they have learned from, and grown, from their time behind the barbed wire.

Whenever one or more are scheduled to “ride out” for release or transfer, there is a laying on of hands, and prayers are said over each of them by the other inmates and volunteers. Recently there were three who were due to “ride out.” While I haven’t been attending for all that long, it was apparent that these men had been strong examples within the group. The impact they had had on fellow prisoners was evident by tears on the faces of many. One of them told me he considered this group to be his family because he didn’t have anyone else. I think he was the saddest to be leaving.

It just may be that I appreciate this weekly experience more than they do! There, I find men who want to worship together, who are not afraid to let others know that they care, or hurt, or are troubled. They are not embarrassed to speak up and say what they think, and they pray beautiful prayers spontaneously. I have been privileged to hear their testimonies, and to hear them quote Scripture from memory, ingrained deeply within many of them. They ask how volunteers’ concerns,situations, and needs have progressd. They care. It is an uplifting group of which I am proud to be a part.

I’m delighted to realize that the prayer I had for so many years has really been answered. I have been blessed with a bundle of brothers and sisters…and for that, I am and will be eternally grateful!