Friends, I’m crazy excited about this post! Our guest poster, Cheryl Long from The Long Way To Go, shares an amazing testimony about following the promptings God lays on our hearts even when (or maybe, especially when) it’s completely out of your comfort zone. She’s an amazing writer, and I’m sure you will be as drawn in as I was! But enough from me, on to this amazing post.
How Letters to a Convict Changed My Life
Deciding to Write to a Murderer
I didn’t want to write that letter. Sitting there at the table, pen suspended above the lined paper, I tried to think of what to say. What does one write to a murderer?
All wrapped up in my own sheltered life of homeschooling and raising children, I had just given birth to my 7th child and was settling into a routine when I learned of the woman on trial.
I don’t normally get caught up in drama. In fact, we didn’t have television or newspaper, but a neighbor was kind enough to save his papers for fire-starters, as we heated with wood. Crinkling the paper that chilly winter morning, I noticed the headlines. The story caught my attention because the woman in question was the mom of many children who was on trial for intentionally driving the wrong way on a one-way highway which resulted in the deaths of 7 people, including four of her children that were in the car with her that day.
During the days leading up to the trial, our neighbor faithfully delivered the newspaper, though I never asked. I felt compassion for all the families of the survivors and figured the woman, who was believed to have been suicidal, would get what she deserved: life in prison.
The first day of the trial a large photo appeared of the woman being led into the courtroom and below the picture were some harsh words quoted by the wife and mother of the victims in the other vehicle: “(she) deserves to burn in hell for what she did.” The lady was obviously responding out of deep pain and grief, but I began to consider that if this is the only exposure to Christianity the woman on trial experienced, she was doomed.
The First Letter
As the trial progressed, I began to sense the Lord prompting me to write to the woman. At first I behaved like Moses, with all my excuses. Finally, I relented.
It was not easy writing that first letter, but I did manage to convey “God loves you just as much as He loves anyone else”. I went on to tell her about forgiveness through Jesus Christ. I hadn’t planned to sign my name but then wondered if she might need a Bible.
Finally I took the letter to the post office mailbox. As I let go of the envelope this question rang clearly in my mind:
“ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?!”
I laughed at my silly melodrama and drove away, believing I had completed my assignment. Several weeks later I found a letter in my mailbox that I never imagined would be there. My hands trembled as I opened the letter and read her words that brought tears to my eyes. “I need a friend like you in my life. Will you continue writing me, please?”
“ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?!”
Deciding to Keep Writing
I was more than a bit nervous about this whole thing. First of all, I was still somewhat of a babe in Christ (four years saved at the time). What could this woman possibly learn from me?
Then there were the naysayers. As I shared this information with others, I came under condemnation. Some believed that I should not be writing to a convicted killer (she had been found guilty and sentenced to 215 years in prison without parole). Others believed I was not “qualified” for this assignment. In my heart I knew that was the truth.
My letter writing ministry to this woman was a tedious endeavor. Each hand-written letter took a minimum of three mornings to compose. I couldn’t even begin the letter until I’d immersed myself in prayer and pleaded with the Lord to speak to her through me. I knew in my heart this woman didn’t need to hear from me, but rather from the One Who made her and loved her.
Day two consisted of writing the rough draft, and on day three I would polish the final letter and decorate it with stickers and drawings. A friend wisely encouraged me to copy each letter before sending it off and so I would traipse to the office supply down the street to make a copy. I am so glad I took this advice because today I have 14 years of recorded memories as I’ve shared precious moments from my life with my friend.
My heart’s desire was to minister to this woman, but I wasn’t prepared for how my own life would be affected.
“ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?!”
How It Changed Both of Us
I would think about her several times a day, wondering what she was doing and how she was feeling. I would be doing some ordinary task, such as cooking dinner or bathing a child and I would think “She doesn’t get to do this.” I would say a silent prayer for my friend.
Sometimes I would be singing a song of praise to the Lord and wish I could teach it to my friend. Then there were times when I would think about her situation and my heart would spill down my cheeks.
There were those other moments though when my heart would leap for joy when I read her letters and saw how much she was growing in Christ.
I sensed that the Lord desired to strengthen her through our relationship, but what I hadn’t considered was how He would transform my heart and grow me as well.
I began to understand a bit of what was meant by “Are you ready for this?!”
The Lord was drawing me into a deeper level of intimacy with Himself as I became more dependent upon Him. He was conquering areas of pride in me and teaching me about His unconditional love and acceptance.
I was learning to appreciate my own blessed life rather than grumbling when things didn’t go my way. Holding my babies seemed a privilege and honor to me. Even cleaning house and doing laundry for my family were seen from a fresh perspective.
All because I was willing to obey the Lord and reach out to a broken woman.
“Yes Lord; I AM ready for this!”
Cheryl Long is a disciple of Jesus since 1997 and is married to Terry. She has been practicing the art of mothering for 31 years and three boys and eight girls call her “Mom.”
Her passions include writing and ministering to women. She blogs alongside five of her daughters at The Long Way to Go, a fun site for moms and daughters which focuses on topics such as courtship, purity, and preparing for marriage, as well as mentoring and mothering. You can find her on Google + and Pinterest.
If you are interested in sharing your testimony, won’t you consider guest posting for The Unabashed Woman series, check out this post on the submission guidelines.
And, as always, go love well, friend.
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