We’re Having a Baby

Positive.

The line was faint. But it was there.

“Thank you Lord.”

I did my best to maintain a poker face as I made my way back to the table where my Beloved sat. I wondered what he was thinking, what he was feeling.

He rose from his chair, moving slowly around the table to pull out mine. His eyes desperately sought the result. Putting an arm around him, I kissed him gently, and through an unmistakable smile whispered, “We’re having a baby.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes.”

He repeated the question a couple more times. Finally receiving it, he began to shout “Hallelujah. Yes. Thank You, God!”

Like most married couples, we very much wanted to have children together. He stepped in without hesitation to father the two children I already had. I love watching him interact with our boys. We still wanted to have our own. We prayed diligently for this.

Our current and temporary circumstances make it incredibly difficult to give it a good effort. In our 760 days of marriage we have spent 13 of those in private.

We are thankful for each one.

After each one we hoped, prayed, and waited. Each one hurt a little deeper.

Through the pain we trusted God and His perfect plan for our lives. If another addition wasn’t part of those plans, we determined to joyfully find contentment in the love and favor we’d received in each other and the boys.

During our eleventh private day together, we were notified that there was an emergency in our family. Torn to pieces I left early. By the grace of God, and mercy of the staff at the facility we were able to reschedule our visit for three weeks later. This unexpected visit was Gods awesome provision. Sweet redemption.

His love didn’t stop there. The following Sunday at church I entered into worship with the rest of the body. Almost immediately I heard the still small voice whisper, “Psalm 127.” Nothing else. I took a mental note and continued on in worship. “Psalm 127” persisted. Diligence is a characteristic God has been working in me recently. Perfect practice.

I sat down, picked up my bible and read. I wasn’t familiar with that particular Psalm. Immediately I was encouraged. It was verse three that I couldn’t seem to get past. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” I read it over and over, receiving it for myself. I began thanking God. I read the rest of the Psalm and rose again in worship.

I was looking forward to sharing the Word with Jacob who would be calling later that evening.

That weekend my sister was up from Florida. I had the privilege of hosting her. Sunday was her final day here. I’d invited the rest of our siblings and their families to come spend the day.

My house and heart were full.

My brother-in-law heard me tell my husband and was interested in hearing also. I told them about worship, and brought the bible out to my sister who read it aloud. Just before she got to verse three, I declared in front of my family, “This is what I am claiming!” Suddenly I had a room of witnesses.

It would be another two weeks before a test could confirm the Word.

I believed in my heart, but throughout the following week my mind had its doubts. When I found myself listening to my mind, I began to pray and give thanks.

“Father, thank You. I am so happy to be having this child. Though I hurt that Jacob won’t be here to experience the fullness of this pregnancy with me, I am so thankful that I will be experiencing every single moment with you. I dedicate this child to You, God.”

The following Sunday at church God poured out more love and confirmation. My Pastor announced we would be having a baby dedication. He led that dedication with the reading of Psalm 127.

A few days later the test confirmed everything my loving Father already had.

We’re having a baby!

 

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Finally the Bride

My body was shaking. I couldn’t tell if it was nerves, or the cool late April air filling the van. I rolled over towards the driver seat to see my sister sleeping well. I didn’t want to disturb her. She was doing so much already.

I wasn’t nervous to marry Jacob. I was nervous that I wouldn’t get to marry him.

At Attica Correctional it always seemed that the guards did all they could to deter visitors from coming. Their shallow mentality was that we were no better than the “animals” they caged. Their disrespect and mistreatment didn’t stop with the prisoners, but rippled out to us who dared love them.

Morning came quickly. The bus from New York City pulled up to the gate, indicating that the facility van was soon to follow. My sister was now awake and I began to prepare her for what was ahead.

As the van pulled up, we jumped out to stand in front of our vehicle.

“Regular visit or wedding?” the driver asked.

“Both, I am wedding and she is regular,” I said as I pointed to my sister.

I received number one, and Cassie would be called as number two for regular visits. She, along with my mother in law, Liz, would be our witnesses. Only three visitors were allowed at a table with each prisoner. The boys and I would be maximum for our table. Cassie and Liz would sit with one of Jacob’s dearest friends. I was excited for Cassie to meet him and hear his incredible story.

We boarded the van as soon as we were given our numbers. We waited as the driver finished handing them out. The van filled quickly with women in curlers and pajamas, wanting to be the first in the bathroom to use the mirrors for their hair and makeup.

Once unloaded at the visitor center, we made our way inside. There was a rush to the counter to get visitor passes. Each pass corresponded with the number we had previously been given in the parking lot. We filled in the name of the prisoner we were visiting, their DIN number (or state name), as well as our name, address, and signature. With Liz still not there, my sister filled in as much as she could.

The civilian working behind the desk was notorious for being rude and showing her power in incredulous ways. I was always sure to be kind and respectful. She joyfully disclosed that her time on staff was coming to an end, making her final days even more difficult than before.

“Wedding people, you have until 8:30 to be back in this visiting center, or you won’t be getting married today” she said.

Looking at the clock and then to my sister, we dashed out the door to catch the van back to the parking lot. I would have about a half hour to prepare for my wedding.

I was highly favored to be able to drive down the road two minutes to a dear friends house. She was also a wife of a prisoner, and previously married inside Attica’s walls. She knew exactly what I was enduring. She kindly opened her home to myself, my boys, my sisters, and my aunt to help me get ready and share in that experience. Her hospitality was enormous, even offering breakfast.

I tried to not get anxious about the small amount of time I had to get dressed. We were as efficient as possible, getting my hair and makeup done at the same time. My sisters helped get the boys dressed and ready, while I finished the last-minute touches, including the special jewelry Jacob had a fellow prisoner make specifically for the occasion.

I made sure to stop and take a few pictures with my amazing family, before racing back to the facility.

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling

We would have to be careful driving back, the Attica police were notorious for setting up speed traps every weekend just outside the prison. It was nearly 8:30. We parked once again in the lot we had spent the night in .We waited eagerly for the van to pick us back up. It was the only way to get back there. The gunners in the watch towers would shoot any “trespasser” who tried to walk or drive in themselves.

I looked around the people mingling in the parking lot as they waited their turn for processing. I was looking for my mother in law. I did not see her. I hoped she was in the visitor center.

The van finally made its way to pick us up. The visitor center was now crowded with several women waiting to get married, their children and witnesses, all the people from the NYC bus, and regular visitors who had driven themselves.

I immediately began to look for Jacobs mom, as well as his best friend, Antonio, who had come from NYC, to take part in our special day. They both were coming from the hotel where we all celebrated the night before. Antonio was once behind the walls with my husband. After twenty-two years of wrongful incarceration he was exonerated with DNA evidence. This was his first time back. He was exceptionally calm and brave to be facing that place, but now as a free man. It meant a lot that he was doing that in solidarity and love for us.

I located them towards the back of the center. Antonio, who arrived after the bus,  had a high visit number. He wouldn’t be processed for hours.

I went over towards the front of the center to wait for our call. I kept looking in my hands to be sure I had all I would need; the ring, the receipt to prove it was $150 or less, my driver’s license, the boys birth certificates, the money for the justice of the peace, the money for our vending machine lunch, and money for pictures. Now, it was hurry up and wait. And wait we did, for at least an hour.

My nerves began to creep up as the clock approached 9:30. Our paperwork specified that all those getting married should be in the visiting room by 10:00, and ceremonies would begin promptly.

Finally the first call for processing came, for regular visits. I was slightly frustrated and anxious to make it to my husband, and regular visits were getting precedence.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, regular visits only,” called the woman at the desk. She held the visitor passes that we’d previously completed in her hands. I gave my sister instruction, to grab the ticket and make her way to the van, which would then drive them to the facility entrance for further processing.

It wouldn’t be that simple. As my sister reached for the pass, the agitated woman said, “This isn’t all the way filled out. Who didn’t sign it?”  Liz explained that she wasn’t there when it was filled out, but she is here now, and can sign it.

“No, you’ll go to the end of the line.”

The end of the line was nearly in to the hundreds at this point. That would mean they would be processed by noon, if they were lucky.

Liz calmly and reasonably negotiated, apologizing for the inconvenience, and asked for mercy, which fell on a hardened heart and deaf ears. She refused. I stepped in, begging, explaining that I was getting married today and these were our witnesses. I began to exclaim that my sister and I had slept in the parking lot since a little after midnight. She wasn’t moved. The other visitors began to get agitated that the van was being held up.

I walked away to grab Antonio for further intervention. His intervention was to calm me down, and pray with and for me. Before I knew it, I heard “Thank you, God bless you,” coming from my mother in law. My two witnesses glimpsed back at me, Liz with a look of reassurance, and my sister with a mix of sadness and anger. She couldn’t believe the incident that just occurred.

I thanked God, and came back to a spirit of peace, understanding that the enemy was only trying to steal my joy and rob me of the tremendous blessing of marriage. I prayed earnestly for years for my husband. In Jacob, God had given me more than I asked or imagined, which is why I call him my Ephesians 3:20. Our union was drawing near, and the enemy was working harder.

Finally, “1, 2, 3,  weddings only.”

That was me. Almost there. I grabbed the boys and loaded the van.

I stood waiting to be called for processing with another woman about to get married. She was waiting for a call from the Sergeant to see if they were going to allow her visit. She had three children with her, which would put them over maximum capacity at the table. The only exception was if the youngest child was under one, they could be considered a “lap child.” Her youngest was less than a month over one year old. I prayed with her, and asked the Lord to move in her favor.

“Rouse” the guard at the desk called. It was my turn.

“Stand against the wall and look at the blue dot” the officer commanded, “no smiling.” They were taking my photo to send through their data base, making sure I had no outstanding warrants. Once I was cleared there I would make my way to the metal detector.

“Shoes and anything with metal in the tray,” said the officer who began sifting through my belongings.

“Once inside you’ll stop at the package room and drop off the ring and receipt.”

After getting our hands stamped we made our way through the heavy steel doors. I took one glance back to the woman waiting with her children, encouraging her to keep the faith. I hoped with all hope I would soon see her inside.

The package room was right outside the visiting room. I had stopped there many times picking up packages my husband sent home with me. I rang the bell once. The guard behind the window took the ring, and reviewed the receipt.

“You can’t have this ring, it is more than $100” he said.

“My paperwork says anything up to $150” I rebutted.

“I don’t think so, but I will inquire” he said as he began to close the window. “Take your pass and go to the visiting room.”

Feeling nearly defeated I turned and walked to the visiting room. I handed my pass to the guard at the desk who would assign us a table. My sister and Liz were already seated. My sister, looking at my face looked back at me with the same frustration and pain she could see all over me. The morning had been so trying.

A day that was to be filled with joy had so far been filled with trial and tribulation. I felt so discouraged.

I walked over to where they sat, even though I could be terminated for “cross-visiting” and explained how I may not be able to give my husband the ring I had bought him. Ready to cry, I walked over and sat down at our assigned table waiting for my groom.

Every time I heard the familiar clicking of the prisoner door, I turned to see if it was opening for me. A few clicks later, the most beautiful man God ever created stepped out from behind the short wall. His immediate smile melted every frustration away. HE was why I was there. His love made it worth it all. I didn’t care if there was no ring. I didn’t care that I was in a prison visiting room about to get married.

Dressed in a white, perfectly ironed shirt, he wrapped his strong arms around me. I looked in his big brown eyes, reminding myself that in mere moments I would legally call him Husband.

This was the man God made specifically for me to love for all of eternity. No matter what the morning circumstances were, I remembered my high favor.

 

 

 

 

The Bride to be

I tried to remain calm as the clock ticked closer to midnight. I wondered if this was how every bride felt the night before her wedding, or was it just the prison bride? 

My siblings and I sat in the hallway of the hotel snorting with laughter. Just about every room on that first floor wing occupied a family member, new and old. I was so grateful they were all there to support Jacob and I with their unconditional love. 

The lines outside the facility would begin forming at midnight, as they did every weekend. With several weddings taking place, it was bound to be worse. I wanted all the time I could get with my husband on our wedding day. With processing taking hours, I would need to be one of the first in line.

Around midnight my sister Cassie and I began to load her van with everything we would need the following morning. 

Making one final stop to the room where my boys slept with their Aunt Peanut, I kissed them gently. I would see them in the morning.

My sister drove the fifteen miles to the castle that stood lit up like a city in the dark. There was only one other visitor parked before us.

We both looked at the barb wire, gun towers, and cement wall that was my wedding destination. Attica Correctional Facility, home of the deadliest prison riot. A massacre that shed so much blood it was likely still in the water. 

It certainly wasn’t the beach, or country setting I had always dreamed of. But, behind those walls lay a man, locked in a cell barely larger than he, who exceeded all my dreams. I wondered if he was sleeping. What was he thinking? I imagined he had everything out, ironed, and ready to go. Probably asking the same questions I was.

I whispered, hoping the wind would carry my message to him, “I’m here. I can’t wait to marry you today. I love you.” 

I closed my eyes, dimming the lights that filled the parking lot. I pulled the blanket to my chin, curling up in the passenger seat to sleep, though I wouldn’t get much. 

Last Attican Love Letter

The mailbox had become one of my favorite sources of communication back in the latter part of 2014 and into 2015. It still is. I’ve always loved getting mail, not bills of course, but letters and cards. But when I began communicating with Jacob directly, I was eagerly at the mailbox everyday, sending and receiving intimate letters that quickly revealed depths of great love.

When I say intimate I don’t mean in a sexual way. I am talking about letters that opened the bleeding hearts we both had. We revealed secrets, shame, dreams, and joys. I loved exploring this man’s heart and mind, until I realized, I love HIM! All of him.

This man has faithfully written me almost every single day since we began communicating in June, 2014. I have two boot boxes full of his letters. They are in chronological order to boot. (I like my puns intended. 😉 )

Jacob and I have toyed with the idea of posting some bits of our love letters on the blog. If you read the blog, thank you, you are aware that Jacob was put on draft and transferred out of Attica. He wrote his last letter inside of those walls on December 14th, sending it out the following morning as he departed.

I want to share bits of that letter with you, our awesome readers, to set you up for his piece describing his transit out of the facility where we met, fell in love, and married. Sadly, one of the most horrific places in NYS will forever remain sentimental in more ways than one to us.

“Dear Firefly,

I love you so much.

Exactly eight years and thirteen days ago I entered these prison walls. I was twenty-one, and scared to death. But I had faith in a God who promised to protect me from all danger. He did that and so much more. Like Joseph in captivity, God made me to prosper. I met His greatest gift in here, and married her-you, my lovely firefly.

Now, in just under a day I’ll be leaving this place, to a temporary place until the Lord brings me home to you and our sons. I’m excited to go on this journey, to finally show my commitment in full to us and our marriage. I love you Samantha, and I am for you.

You told me to record all my thoughts and feelings on this move for you, so I will try.

I had about two hours to sort through all of my property and see what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to get rid of. Everything that I wanted to keep had to be marked down on a form called an ‘I-64 form’ and then had to be thrown into four white draft bags, which are as wide as a waste bucket and as tall as a normal garbage bag.

It was hard trying to downsize to that degree. Seeing my bag of wrappers from treats you sent me was hard. 😦 It almost made me cry. Then I gave my tv and typewriter away. Then some books, shirts, blankets, and a sheet. I brought the important stuff. Omar helped me get most of the things into my bags. I was thankful for that.

When I was done packing up I cleaned this place up and then got a quick shower. I’ve been in this cell since 2pm.

So, how am I feeling? Really excited. It’s like a new journey. A new adventure! I pray the Lord prepares a place He desires for me there. I pray it is where we hope for. I haven’t left this place in so many years. It will be good to see the open road, cars, trees, animals. I’d love to see some deer. Maybe even a few dogs and cats.

I’m sad at some of the people I’ll be leaving behind. But, many good, close friends have left me from here, so it’s part of the process. I’ve written about ten guys goodbye notes. There’s a lot of memories here. I’ve never been in one place for this long in my life. I’m ready to go. I won’t miss the atmosphere that is Attica.

I am free and forever will be. Never will I become institutionalized.

…This is the last letter I’ll be writing you from Attica. I love you firefly! With all my heart.

May the Lord watch between you and me while we are absent one from another, and may the peace of Christ be with you always my love. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

All my love,

your loving, faithful, committed Husband.

 

Approved

For fifteen months my wife and I have endured a separation most couples never have to. We have not shared a single moment alone. There was no honeymoon. After six months of being legally married we could apply for the privilege. That was in the form of the Family Reunion Program. A program offered by corrections to strengthen family ties. During this time the Lord’s grace kept us.

It happened on a Thursday. The humidity was suffocating. I waited for the 10:30am departure to the electric gate. This is where prisoners go to pick up packages sent from home. You also meet with different staff in the guidance unit. That’s where I was headed.

I had been placed on a new counselors case load, and scheduled to meet her that day. The call to go came at 10:45. In quiet lines, the other inmates and I marched down the sticky corridors that led to A-Block. Our sneakers and boots lifting from the cement floors sounded like someone was peeling off a piece of tape repeatedly. Some men carried green net bags to put their packages in, others toted folders of paperwork to share with their counselors. I had a pen and a half of an envelope I used to scribble down a few notes that I wanted to discuss.

Six of us split as we were waved through the gate by an officer who didn’t seem interested at all in carrying out his duties. He sat at a podium outfitted as a desk. The Buffalo news crossword puzzle in front of him. A plastic soda bottle with a small amount of brown liquid was in his hand. Every few moments he brought it to his mouth and spit more of the liquid out.

The officer grabbed our passes without acknowledging our presence, then directed some to the right and the others to a holding pen on the left. I was sent to the pen to wait on the counselor to escort me back to the office.

Just sitting in that area is draining. Dozens of people converse at one time about some of the most bizarre topics. That day was different. There were only three men waiting, and were all spread out, staring  off into the blank whiteness of the walls.

Two men entered in just after me, speaking quietly to one another. The taller of the two had a red beard down to his chest and a long ponytail. His companion was short, stocky, and years younger.

“I mean I’m in here for that too, but it wasn’t a minor. He’s a pedophile for crying out loud, ” the taller one said, as he looked up and scanned around the room. His associate nodded, but didn’t make direct eye contact with anyone, as if he had a secret to hide. The two continued their conversation in the back, away from the ears of the rest of us.

A few moments passed and the steel doors slid open. Standing on the other side was a woman with blonde hair descending just past her ears. The first year counselor took me back to a wing with a dead-end. There were rooms on each side of the hallway resembling rows of cubicles with higher walls, and doors with plexiglass windows.

Her office seemed meager. A bulletin board was screwed on the wall with posters of exotic vistas; white sand beaches, waterfalls, and thick green forests. There were shelves full of binders, and one filing cabinet on the back wall. All in easy accessibility of her squeaky wheeled chair. There was a hole in the back wall no wider than a sheet of paper. It looked into a brightly lit larger room with more filing cabinets and desks. It reminded me of a drive-up window at a fast food restaurant.

She asked me a series of questions in relation to my safety in the facility. We spoke about my program needs and what I had accomplished over the years. We even set a couple of goals on my case plan. When I saw an opening I asked about the status of my application for FRP. I prepared myself for the usual answer of, “It’s still being processed.”

She typed something into her computer, then mentioned I had been approved since November 2015. I quickly brushed it off and explained that was when my application was sent to Albany for review. She offered to ask the coordinator of the program. Stunned by this generous offer I shook my head yes.

Leaping from her seat she told me to follow her. We made our way to another claustrophobic cubical. “I have a guy here who wants to know the status of his FRP application.”

After hearing my name the coordinators hands went up as if relieved. She picked up a form from her desk and began explaining to me that I had been approved.

Every ounce of me lit up. I sat elated as she told me the next steps my family and I had to do to complete the process. I shook my head in agreement to everything she said, excited to finally make it this far.

I must have floated back to the block. A weight had been lifted and all I could do was thank God. When I arrived back I was able to call my wife and deliver the great news.

We were finally approved.

 

Finally Free

“I’m afraid God. I’m afraid I’ve made a mistake. I’m afraid to trust. I’m afraid to completely break down the walls. I’m afraid God.”

Escaping the comfortable grips of my air mattress I determined to not “waste my wilderness.” I packed up my thrift store-bought nine west with my morning essentials, slinging it over both shoulders as a makeshift backpack. Snatching up my water bottle I made my way to the hiking trail.

Stepping into the shade of the woods was like stepping into a new world. Everything seemed more alive. Including myself. I was desperate to reach the small community of modern-day caves half way down the trail. Tree branches had been intricately woven to create a tent like structure. One of the caves was constructed around two boulders that made up its walls. This one was my favorite.

On top of its walls was where I met with God.

Taking a panoramic, I envisioned fierce zombie wars with my boys. I could see Caleb running toward them, slaying as many as he could with his sword. Deegan, hiding low in his cave, shot the ones Caleb missed. Jacob, head of the tribe, shouted protective exhortations.

It hurt to acknowledge the deep desires within my heart.

Better to practice contentment.

Deeply inhaling the fragrance of pure organic freshness, I began to unpack my bible, journal, and devotion. My fearful heart led me here and was still begging for acknowledgment and resolution.

“He’s not faithful to you. He’s a con man,” so many warned.

Logical enough. So I listened. I reasoned. I contemplated. Pulling my cell out of the middle pocket of my mock backpack, I checked the time. His counselor would be in. One call and peace could be restored.

Fear winning.

I committed ahead of time complete honesty to my husband no matter what answers I received. Staring down at the phone in my hand I heard a gentle whisper, “free indeed.” I immediately remembered the altar call at our healing service at my home church four days prior. The Holy Spirit spoke freedom over me.

I am free indeed! A gentle nudge of truth in the quiet of creation.

It was Him and I.

Yet so much fear.

What does one have to do with the other?

Looking up toward the brightest of all spotlights, I sat on Gods stage and made a choice

“You, God. I want You to speak to my heart what is true.”

“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done marvelous things! Do not be afraid…” Joel 2:21-22

Without my permission bursts of water streamed down my smiling cheeks. Spreading my arms like a soaring eagle I rejoiced, “I’m sorry. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. Yes! I say Yes, I say Yes, I say Yes.”

Freedom.

This marriage, as difficult the path, is MY GIFT. Every part.

Beautiful purpose. Crazy journey. Incredible love.

There is no fear in love. (1 John 4:18) There is no freedom in fear.

I am free indeed.

I never made the call. I confessed all to my battle buddy. His patient, humble heart forgave me and peace was restored.

I didn’t return to my tent the same. There was a change.

A break.

A renewed steadfast Spirit within me.

I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

Singing through smiles I made my way to the last morning major class of writers conference. Finding it difficult to focus, I gave thanks. The week had been highly insightful, inspirational, and informative. I wasn’t ready to leave, though I was looking forward to start practicing all I’d learned, or at least some of it.

Taking advantage of my lunch break I began tearing down the tent. Video game sounds suddenly filled the air. My husband was calling.

“Hello” I said.

“Hi baby girl, how are you? How was class?”

I gave a quick recap and inquired about his meeting with his new counselor.

“It was good. The usual six month review. But, I had to make a major decision.”

I stopped in my tracks, “What do you mean?”

“I had to choose between three dates.” He said.

The only thing I could muster was, “Shut the front door!”

Laughing with the love of a husband, MY husband, he promised sincerity.

Our much-anticipated honeymoon was approved by the State of New York.

Tears and laughter once again burst out of me. The conclusion of my amazing week in Montrose concluded alongside the painfully dry season of physical intimacy with my husband.

My newlywed.

Freedom.

We have the joy of counting down once again. It is exciting to imagine what our first private moments will be like.

Perfecting our love. Growing deeper.

Worshipping God.

 

Like My Big Bro

Thomas was like a big brother to me. I fulfilled the counter role very well, annoying him every chance I got. When I’d get under his skin he’d retaliate in a humble manner that was disarming, but his words would hit your core.

He always tried to steer me in the right direction in life and my spiritual journey. It was only right when I had gotten engaged I go to him for some sound advice.

My search for guidance was very specific. This amazing woman had two, young, wonderful boys. Not yet having any children of my own I had become very focused on how to become a great step-father. I sat down with Thomas and asked the questions straight out, “What must I do to become a great step-dad?”

Thomas is a genuine brother, and an experienced step-father. I’ve had the privilege of meeting two of his children and saw the impact he had in their lives. They both adored this man, with no regard for his sentence of twenty-five years to life for murder.

He wasn’t a father who could physically be at the big games, graduations, or there when they received their first broken hearts. He read about them in letters, and saw pictures of those magic moments, always cheering and encouraging them on from his space inside Attica Prison.

Witnessing his ability to so dramatically influence those tender lives from the inside out, I was confident he had answers I needed.

My brother could be somewhat long-winded at times, as many wise men can be, but this time it was simple. “To be a good step-father you have to take the ‘step’ out of it and love them like they are your own.”

The words as he spoke them sounded poetic. There was no elaboration necessary.

That truth struck my nervous heart, but loving an extension of my soon to be wife would come easily.

Becoming a father is quite the call. It requires tremendous patience, the ability to be creative, and able to handle criticism. It requires sacrifice and time- just about all of it. I have learned to become supportive more than ever before.

I was nervous because I had no example of how to be a father, mine had been mostly absent. I’ve lived with a fear that I would make the same mistakes my father did. I didn’t want to be present but absent emotionally. I want to be able to support my family financially. I often pray that God blesses me with a selfless heart so that I have the ability to place my wife and children’s needs before my own.

After all, true JOY is…Jesus, Others, Yourself

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