Originally published Thursday, 30 May 2013.
A few years ago, I received unexpected news that my cousin from Arizona (let's call her Marie) was going to prison. Though we haven't had a relationship in prior years, I was still saddened by the news.
I don't know the extent of her crime or how long she was sentenced - maybe it's just part of my nature to not keep record of wrong. Personally, I've made a lot of mistakes in my life and thankfully loved ones still support me.
Luke 6:37 tells us not to judge others. "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." (NIV)
Last year during the holidays, I could feel God pulling at my heart. "Send Marie a Christmas card. Let her know that she is loved."
In good faith I began to write a letter and Christmas card to my cousin in prison. Part of me was nervous about how it would be received. Would she think that I was "pushing Jesus" on her or that I was just trying to make myself look better for a good deed? None of these were true, of course. I was genuinely interested in building a relationship if possible.
Marie received my letter and replied with great appreciation. She explained her new found faith in Jesus and everything she was learning. We began sending each other scripture, words of encouragement, family updates, and pictures.
God began pulling at my heart again. Was I following His will? Is this what God had in mind?
Once again, I stepped out in faith and sent a printed blog post (Delight In the Trial) to Marie while wondering how it would be received. Her response took several weeks but the message was indescribable.
Marie's letter stated abundant thanks for sharing the story that God gave me through that particular blog post. She explained that some women have lost hope and don't have anyone on the outside. The story was shared with multiple women that needed encouragement and was also read at her church in the prison. Marie had even requested more stories and articles.
My heart burst with thankfulness and amazement. I cried tears of joy and humbleness.
It was then that I realized something very important. Despite the hardships and trials that we go through, God can use it to bring hope and healing to those that need it most.
I don't write to feel good about myself, I write to share God's encouragement through the stories He has given me.
It deeply touched my heart to know that when God told me to write to my cousin that He intended to use it to bless more than just a relationship between us. I am in awe of His power. When we catch a glimpse of God's purpose, it makes the pain and trials worth it.
God is moving and it feels amazing to know that none of this would be possible without His power and Spirit. I don't know what He plans to do with my outside involvement with the prisoners, but I look forward to seeing what He does with it.
My advice to you... follow what God places on your heart and do it faithfully. The Lord will bless you for following His commands.
Hebrews 11:6 says, "And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him." (NLV)
If you are interested in sharing your story or any other resources with the women in Arizona State Prison, please contact me directly at WordsByMara@gmail.com. Thank you and God bless!
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