Are You Ready?
Homeward Bound Re-Entry Handbook
This Book is a guide dedicated to helping individuals who are currently incarcerated transition back into society upon their release. To order a copy of this book for your Loved one or for yourself please use the order form below. All proceeds are used to send this book to individuals who will be released from incarceration at no cost to them. Thank you in advance for purchasing this book.
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Are You READY?
“Are you READY?”
My Heart’s cry as I begin this book… “Search me Lord and see if there be any unclear thing in me. Create in me a clean heart and renew in me a right Spirit. Order My Steps Dear Lord as I write these words to my friend. Guide my words, thoughts, motives and actions as I begin this journey with the one reading this book written under your inspiration. Allow me to be a conduit for your thoughts, words & your agape Love as I express your desires for each person that reads these books. Thank you Lord for allowing me to be a part of something so important. A labor of Love in a mission field that others may never know, led by the word of God that says in Hebrews 13:3 3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. My Lord, I thank you.” First, let me introduce myself. I am Your Sister Soldier & please know that I will be fighting for you in the Spirit through this journey we are about to begin. My name is Mrs. Shawna Sheffield, wife of Pastor Marvin Sheffield and mother to many. I want you to know that I am here for you. The words that come to you in this book are from my heart, inspired by the Holy Ghost, because not only do I want you to succeed but God wants you to succeed as well in breaking the cycle of recidivism in your life. This book will be based on both Biblical and actual life experience. It is meant to not only help you safely and successfully transition back into society, but also to help you reach your life goals & grow spiritually. Every man and woman in prison that truly seeks to succeed comes out with a list of goals that they have had in their minds since they began their journey behind bars. I have been called by God not only to write this handbook but also to be a guide and will be here for you through this new chapter of your life. Now, let's get started.
My first questions to you is: "Are you READY for change?" & "Are you READY to reach your goals and succeed in your new life?" “Are you READY to grow Spiritually and have a closer walk with Our Lord Jesus?” Was your answer YES? Ok then, let's look at truly being READY.
1. Realize you are Free.
2. Evaluate your surroundings and yourself.
3. Adjust to Society and your new life.
4. Determine your direction. (Cross-Roads decision)
5. Yield to the guidance and calling of God on your life as you move forward in your new journey.
Now, I ask you again... & "Are you READY?" Don't worry ... if your answer is “I'm not sure” or “No” this
time, don’t worry. We are going to get READY together. Here we go...
"Realize You Are Free”
It is the last day of your sentence and today is the day you are about to walk out those gates. You are excited, and you are telling the ones you have grown close to over the years in prison goodbye and they are wishing you luck and telling you & "Hey... Never come back here again." Your "family" that you have grown used to in prison is now wishing you farewell. On the outside you are saying Man, I'm never coming back here! Telling them you will see them on the other side, but truth be told you have a tinge of fear and anxiety that is buried deep down inside that you can't speak about because you don't want to feel weak. So, you fight it and try not to think about it or God forbid voice it to anyone, but you and the devil know it's there. Listen, I know it is there as well, but we will keep it a secret for now and work through it one step at a time as we walk through this journey together. Ok? Ok. As you are saying your farewells and your partners are coming by to speak and wish you well, you hear your name and those long-awaited words called out, & "Pack It Up". Little do they know you have been packed up for weeks awaiting this moment. You have your heart and mind set to walk out those gates into the arms of your family members and hold them tight with no restraints or anyone saying you can't do that. You feel excited and scared and happy and sad all at once. Excited and happy at the thought of being outside the gates, away from the life that has been & "normal" to you for years knowing that you can now work on getting your life together in the free world. Scared and sad because the reality of freedom is setting in and all that you have known as & "normal" for all these years is about to be gone. All the people that you have had in your life for all these years that have become & "family" to you are now going to be left to live in this place that you are free from, but are you free? Then the thoughts that you have suppressed for months come... & "Will I be able to do this?" "I don't want to let these guys down that have helped me so much." & "what if I fail and let my family down on the outside?" "Will my Mama still love me for real after what happened?" & "Will my children accept me after all of this?" and many more thoughts that you try to contain as you walk out the gates. As you gather your belongings and you walk through the doors of the dorm with a guard leading you to the holding area that you will transition from inmate to civilian in, your mind races and you try to hold it together mentally and emotionally. You are lead into a room where you find a bundle of clothing and shoes that your family has provided for you to wear home. Just as Joseph did in Genesis 41:14 which says: "Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh". Joseph changed his clothing before he left the prison when he was called before Pharaoh, He called for a change of clothing before he stepped into his new life... You are now putting on your new clothing because prison blues do not fit in your new life, but in the back of your mind, where are you? Your clothing is changing to suit your new life, but your mind is where the real transition from inmate to civilian happens and trust me... this will not happen in this little room where you change your clothing. This is a process that will happen over the upcoming weeks, months and even in some cases years to come. Just as when you came into prison your mind had to adjust so you could survive in the new environment of prison life. Now your walk will call for the renewing of your mind, so you can adjust to your new Freedom. In the Bible, in Romans 12:2 it says, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God". This transformation happens as you walk in submission to the will of God for your life daily. It is a choice we all make. Just as Paul said, "I die daily" in 1 Corinthians 15:31. He is talking about spiritual death to sin and this world. We must make choices every day in our walk to die out to the flesh as is says in Galatians 5:24: "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." We must choose daily to walk the good walk, but we will touch on this more later. Right now, let's get you out these gates.
As you take off the prison clothes and begin to lay them aside as you have done a million times during your sentence you realize that this will be the last time you have to undress unwillingly in front of someone and be searched. Then you are allowed to begin to put on the new clothing that your family has provided for you. As each piece of the clothes go on they feel different than what you are used to. They smell different and look different. The transformation is beginning. In your mind you feel excitement begin to overtake the fear and sadness momentarily. Then you are escorted out to the gate. You walk that long walk and look at to see your family members waiting. Your loved ones are excited to see you and trying to contain their excitement as to not violate any rules of the facility, but you can see them visibly excited to see you coming out to meet them. As you exit the gates and walk or run to them your feel safe for a moment lost in their embrace. Then you walk to the car. As you get in you begin to notice the smells and feeling of the car. The surroundings and the air are different than what you have been in for years. There will be perfume and air freshener in the car. What is normal to your loved one is now overtaking you and may become overwhelming. For a moment it may feel like sensory overload. It may feel like your brain is exploding with the "newness" of it all. I say newness because it is new to your brain again to smell these things. The feel of the seats in the car and even the sights of the outside world are all brand new to you again. Your eyes and mind are taking in sights you have not seen for years. Your ears are hearing sounds of music in the car radio that you have not heard at that volume for years. Even your skin taking in the feeling of the AC in the car is no longer normal to you. Your mind is taking this all in. Now as you read this you might be saying... "man it's not that serious." But please know that when you face this experience you will look back on this and say "Oh, ok. Now I understand". On that car ride home, you're going to realize that everything is different, and it may become overwhelming. Just remember that it is ok to express to someone close to you how you are feeling. The person that comes to pick you up may be your closest person, or it may be someone from the facility. If you feel comfortable, express how you are feeling. Express your excitement or fears. Saying it out loud will actually help more than you know. Acknowledging your feelings about the changes you are feeling will help. Once you arrive at your home, transition house or work release facility there will be new things to experience. Make sure that you are open to these new experiences and if you feel overwhelmed, don't hesitate to express your feelings in a nice way and if you are able to do so, express them before they are to the point of being overwhelming.
Upon arriving at home keep in mind that your family is excited to see you. There may be a gathering of family members or a party to be held in your honor. This is going to be exciting. Please keep in mind that your family is not going to be aware of how overwhelming this may be for you. All they know is that you are home, they love you, they need to hug you and touch you and feel that you are ok. The sounds of your new environment will be loud and different from what you are used to. People will crowd you in excitement of seeing you not realizing that you are not used to being that close to other human beings. In your mind you know they love you, so you try to endure the touches that your skin is not used to & you try to manage the noise without visibly becoming overwhelmed by it as to not upset your family. At this point you quickly gone from not being touched at all in a positive way & trying your best to stay off everyone's radar to now being the center of attention and being physically touched more than you have the entire time you were incarcerated. It will feel like you are having anxiety. You may feel the spirit of fear come over you at times. I have spoken with some people that have gone through this transition that said the fear came in waves. Not that anyone was doing anything wrong to them, it was just that they were so unaccustomed to the physical touch of another human being that their body was super sensitive, and it overwhelmed their senses. Sensory overload is what this is called. Don't feel bad if you experience this. It is a normal reaction when you go through this change. Not only will you be experiencing physical changes, but you will also be experiencing mental and emotional changes as well. Your mind will be on high alert still because you have not adjusted to the "freedom" that you are walking in now. You are used to someone telling you where to go, when to go, what to do, when to shower, when to use the bathroom, when to eat and even when to sleep. Now you have stepped from that atmosphere of total control to an atmosphere of chaos.
You will find yourself hearing the question, & "Are you ok?" more times than you know how to answer. You want to say & "No”, but you say "yes" to avoid upsetting anyone that is asking. During this process you will find Yourself answering this question your will most likely have flashbacks to your time in prison. As your mind goes there you will feel yourself try to push away the thoughts as to not taint the moments you are experiencing at that time. However, I ask you as your Sister to please eventually talk to someone and share these memories. They are a part of you and what you have been through. They will be there until you work through them. I suggest the sooner the better, but this must be done at your own pace. So, we will come back to this subject later. Just know that I suggest talking about it because I know the importance of
getting it out. The longer you hold it in the more it will eat at you and block your progress. I came to the reality a long time ago that God can never give you more of your future than you give Him of your past. So, when you are ready... We will leave that right there for now.
As this day goes on and you are slow down your thoughts will be running wild. As you find yourself laying down for the night and your mind goes to your & "normal" routine take a moment to reflect on the events of the day and process them. Take a moment if you can, and write down in your journal the events of today, how they made you feel. What made you happy, what made you sad, what brought fear to you and why.
Capture this day so that as you move forward you can look back on it and see how far you have come. It may seem silly now, but you will realize later that your Sister Soldier was right. Until you find someone you trust to bring out your feelings and thought as you go through your days, your journal will be your best friend, and writing down will help you later… there will be a “test” and you will need these notes. It is important to get your feelings and thoughts out even if it is to write them down or pray and tell them to God. So, after you write the day out in your journal, even if it is a few lines, Talk to God and remember to thank him for keeping you and helping you through this day. Now, Day 1 is done. I am proud of you. You made it and you did very good. I just know you did. So now get some rest ... we have a big day tomorrow. I'll be there waiting for you.
Journal Entry for Day 1:
“Evaluate Yourself and Your Surroundings”
Well, hello again my friend. I pray you are well today and strong in the Lord Jesus, because HE alone is our true source of strength. I pray you are ready to walk into this journey fully equipped and READY. Now, let’s talk about your plan. What? You are not sure what your plans are? Oh, ok… I’m glad you have goals. That’s good. Let’s start there. The first thing I want you to do on Day 2 is write down your goals. Capture where you are now, where you want to be in six months, one year, and five years. I know this sounds silly, but again, please trust me. You will use this later to help you stay focused. The devil will be busy in trying to get you off track. Staying on track with these goals is very important for your success. When hard times come, and they will, you will be able to go back to this list and draw power and strength to stay on track or if needed, get back on track. So, let’s write some things down. This will be our lion with the honey comb in it just like in the book of Judges 14:8-9 when Samson returned to the lion’s carcass that he killed, and the bees had built a hive full of honey. He ate the honey and gained strength from it, and he also took honey to his family, feeding not only himself but his family as well. We will return to this list for strength in the future after strong battles rage against us in the spirit. We will have this hidden treasure of honey to strengthen us. So, let’s get started.
Take this time to write down some goals and where you want to go in your new life. The goals can be anything from finding a church, getting a job, buying a phone, buying a new outfit, or saving money to buy a vehicle and get your own home. Make these goals full of both any immediate needs or desires and a foundation for your future to stand on. Ok, take some time and write down what comes to mind. Use the space below as a guide but remember you can come back to these pages later and add to or revise what you write here. It is a starting point. You will have many goals in life from this point forward, and this simple but powerful formula will be a foundation to return to and give you a structure to build on in the future as your goals and desires in life change. Now, let’s get started.
Now, let’s take a moment to determine what you already have to assist you in obtaining these immediate goals. Do you have financial resources to purchase things you have listed here? Do you know where to begin to search for resources to find a job or a home church if they are on your list? Let’s brainstorm as to what you will need and what you have readily available to you. Make a list below of resources and materials you will need and that you have available to work with that will help you reach these immediate goals. Keep in mind the scripture in Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, this man began to build, and was not able to finish.
Weigh the cost. List resources & materials readily available to you now that will help reach these goals:
Now let’s look at where you want to be in six months & in one year. As you write this list, don’t focus on he immediate goals nor the things that you don’t have yet. See yourself successful and having all that you need in your immediate needs. See yourself six months & one year from now after meeting all your immediate goals and where you want to be in six months & on that last day of this first year. What do you want to have accomplished during this first six months & first year? Think about it for a moment then write out your goals that you wish to have already accomplished by the six months & one-year mark. Ask yourself the question, “where do I want to be in six months & one year?” This will help you with your walk more than you realize. As you go through this first year you will be able to look back on where you want to be at the end of the first six months & the first year and keep you focused on your goals. You can also come back during this first year and add more goals to this list if you wish to. As your life changes directions, you can also change your goals, BUT never give up on your goals. Add to them if you wish but never turn back from them. Set your mind and heart now that you WILL reach these goals and then begin this journey to reach them. Now, let’s get started.
Where do you see yourself in Six months?
What resources or materials will you need to have to be able to reach these goals? Ask yourself this question so you can securely lay the foundation to meet these goals more easily. Remember to weigh
Where do you see yourself in one year?
Remember to weight the cost so you will have a firm foundation. What will you need to reach these one-year goals?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hey, don’t get tired now. I know this is hard work and it is working parts of your brain and emotions that you may not have worked with in years. Listen to your Sister for a minute. I am here. I truly understand. As you write this you will begin to hear those voices from the past and from others in your mind. I hear them myself at times. “Why waste time on this mess?” “You need to get a job now.” “You need to go see your boy. He can hook you up with a resource.” Well, this is where we need to sit down and talk about these voices and the avenues they will take you down. During your time of incarceration, I am sure you spent many nights thinking back on what you could have done differently that would have kept you out of the situation you ended up in. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not naïve to the fact that many that read this will see prison as a point of salvation and say, “I would have never changed if I had not come here”. I agree with you and take nothing from that. However, this is the point where you must evaluate not only yourself but your surroundings as well. That includes the Spiritual surroundings that are in your mind.
The devil only has three weapons. The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. These areas of temptation are what make us fall if we give in to them. Remember that the mind is the devil’s battleground to fight us. He can do no more than we allow him to do. The lust of the eyes is that first look. The thought comes, and we look. “hmmm… that’s nice” we say to our self. Or “Yeah man, I need to call them.” The lust of the flesh is that second look. After you get that first thought from the devil that caused the first look, the devil will whisper again. That causes the lust of the flesh if we give in and take that second look. We say to our self, “Man, that is really nice” or “Yeah, they can give me the hook up on a job and some money. They owe me anyway”. And in this second look our heart is turned. At this point the pride of life comes. (mind you, at this point the devil has stopped whispering and it is all us.) We say to ourselves, “man, I’m have made it through this sentence and I’m home now… I deserve that. I’m going to get that.” Or we tell our self, “Man, this is too much. All this work takes too long. My Boy owes me that money anyway. I have a “right” to it. I’m bout to get this money and get these goals done”. Not realizing the plot of the enemy has just been laid in your life to destroy you and put you right back in captivity. Please keep in mind that the Bible says in Proverbs 16:18 18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Please listen to your Sister, stay focused and don’t allow the voices of the enemy and the voices from your “old life” bring you to the point of pride of life and cause you to fall. “Easy money” is not always good money and the “easy way out” most times leads to destruction. Trust me when I say I speak from experience on this subject. The fight is real, and we are in a war for our souls. Stay focused and fight the good fight. It will be worth It all in the end. So, let’s stay focused. As a matter of fact, now that we are on this subject of evaluating your surroundings let’s talk about this a little more. Sit for a minute and ask yourself the hard questions. Let’s face this and be real with ourselves. It’s time to be free for real so let’s face the hard questions and get fully released from the past. Let’s lay a true foundation to stand on as we walk into the future. Ask yourself these questions and answer yourself honestly. No one has to know your answers but you and God, but they must be asked. So, let’s face this together. Ask yourself the following, keeping in mind that God can never give you more of your future than you give Him of your past.:
Are you READY? If so, here we go. Now, ask yourself, “How did I end up incarcerated? What TRULY
lead me here?”
Now let’s come a little closer to the present. The next question we need to focus on pertains to your current situation because we want to avoid influences that will have you back in a state of incarceration. Since we are facing the past and healing from that initial hurt or situation that brought us to a place of destruction and brought about the relationships and circumstances that caused the most recent situation
the question “Who was around me that influenced me in my decisions?” needs to be asked. So, let’s address that now. Also, in asking this question to yourself, capture your feelings and thoughts on how those individuals would affect your future. Remember these answers are between you and God. So, you can be honest with yourself and Him. I can attest to the fact that you are safe with Him. What? You don’t
want to hurt anyone’s feelings? Well, I can understand that. But this is about you. Who looks out for your feelings and needs? Who will be there if you end up back in prison? I know that is harsh and I sound mean, but you are my main focus so please forgive me if I sound mean, but I care about your future. I am your sister and I will not let you walk into a situation that will be harmful without standing straight up in you
face and telling you it will hurt you. So now, if you are not mad with me… let’s get this part done. Trust me, you do need to write it down. You will NEED to remember this part in the upcoming weeks. Please trust me on this one. You are not incarcerated now, and they will expect you to be the “old you” but you are a new creature in Christ. Born again. New Person. You must stand firm in that. Your future depends
So now, again, “Who was around me that influenced me in my decisions?” Also, “How would being around them now affect my future?”
“Who and what can I surround myself with now that will push me to reach my goals?”
“How do I truly avoid repeating my past?”
Now that the hard part is over, and you have evaluated yourself and your surroundings it’s time to begin your journey to reaching these goals. So, let’s get started. Oh wait, did I mention that this world is a lot different than it was when you went in? Yes, it is. The spiritual warfare is a lot different out here than what you were used to inside. So, before we start this day, let’s say a prayer and ask our Father to help
us in our walk today. Listen, I also want to tell you something. I am very proud of you. I know this chapter was not easy, but if you truly worked it and answered the call, it will be worth it in the end. In the days, months and years to come as you look back on this book and find yourself not knowing what direction to take, you will be able to return to the hidden treasures in your honeycomb from what you wrote here. My words are here but your words hold the power you will need. I am proud of you. I believe in you. I know you can reach every goal you have written here. Now, believe in yourself and let’s get moving. I’ll be here when you need me. Just pick up this book and you will hear my voice. Most than that, remember to pick The Book… The Bible and hear God’s voice in His love letter to you. He is our true source of strength and all that we are doing here hinges on His presence and his voice in our life. Remember, without Him we can do nothing, but Through Him we can do all things.
“Adjust to Society and Your New life”
Hello, My Friend, I am glad you have made it this far in your journey into Freedom. During these first few days, weeks and in some cases months, things will change very quickly from day to day for you. Decisions will have to be made fast. Don't let the pressure get to you. Please remember to take time to pray and weigh the cost before making any decisions that affect the direction of your life. Tell whoever's asking you about these decisions that you need a moment to pray. Let God lead you. Listen for His voice in everything. Trust me when I say, taking a moment now to pray and seek direction will benefit you in the long run. Think about it this way, if you take a day to process what is being asked of you, what will that one day matter in five years? Also, if anyone is asking you to do something that can't wait one day, it might not be on the up and up. Just be mindful of your surroundings and associations. Reflect back on Chapter Two's notes if you need to for guidance in this area.
Now, let’s take a few minutes to talk about where you have just come from and where you are going. This change from incarceration to "freedom" will at times involve culture shock. Let's talk about where you have come from and that statement will become a little clearer in your mind.
During the years you were incarcerated you had to adjust your life to being told when, where and what to do at all times. You were told when to get up, when to lay down, where to be, when to be there, when to eat, when to sleep, when to shower and even at times when you were allowed to use the restroom. If you didn't follow these rules you were in danger of punishment or worse, retaliation. Not just from guards but in some cases from fellow inmates. Wait, let’s talk about that word for a moment. During my involvement with DOC I have noticed a very prejudicial way of thinking among the guards or CO's as they are referred to. During your time of incarceration, you were no longer known by your name. You were referred to as "inmate". You were recognized and tracked by your DC#, and at times never called your name nor allowed to even feel like a human anymore. This environment on the inside became the "norm" to you. Your life was governed by rules, strongly enforced guidelines, loud voices and hateful words that were driven by the mood, life experiences and attitudes of the CO's. Depending on how their day was going, it effected your whole life. Not just your day but your whole life could be changed in an instant by their actions. So, you governed yourself accordingly in order to survive. You became very accustomed to being told who, what, where, when and how you were to live, move, breath and act. This influenced not only your physical walk but your mentality as well. Whether you realize it or not it effected how you even saw yourself to a degree. Now that you are "home", the atmosphere has changed, and you are no longer under the rule of a CO. The first day you find yourself looking to ask permission to do the simple things like go outside, eat, sleep or lay down. You find your mind saying oh, I have to wait until 3pm to take my shower because that's when they open the showers up. Or I will have to wait to call "so and so" because the phones don't come on until 2pm. At first when you are released, and you are handed a cell phone and said here call your Mom or Dad, or call "so and so" it may be overwhelming and even promote a touch of fear at first. Your mind will feel excited at the thought of using a cell phone which was illegal inside, but as you dial the numbers you begin to relax a little. Depending on how long you were inside you may not know how to use a cell phone and have to ask for assistance. Don't worry about that. Ask anyway. You will learn. Don't feel ashamed or shut down because the small things are hard to you. In a month you will be working a smart phone like you created it. As the day goes on and you begin to greet your family and friends as we covered in Chapter 1 you will be physically hugged and touched by a lot of people. This is something you are not used to. This is part of the culture shock. When your mind and body are not used to something it may promote fear and in some cases even panic. Depending on what you endured on the inside, physical touch can be overwhelming. Mentally as well as physically. Your mind may flash back to certain incidents, but also your skin itself may be sensitive to touch as it has been so long since you were physically touched in a kind way. Try not to be upset by these feelings that will come. As a matter of fact, if you become over whelmed step away from everyone and take a break. There is no shame in it. Whatever is going to help you feel comfortable in these first few days that is not going to harm you in the long run, then I suggest you try to do it. Now, don't take that as a license to sin or go out and get drunk or something stupid. Refer to Chapter 1 please. Whatever it takes, does not encompass "everything". Let's move forward. I know you get the picture.
As we move into the first few weeks you will deal with emotions you may not be used to. Everything will be exciting and new again. You will slowly transition from someone else having total control over you into a place where you slowly begin to realize that you are free to move and do on your own. You go from being gripped by fear at the thought of not asking permission to slowly just getting up and going in the fridge or making a call. I know as you read this you are saying, "wow, that is a little extreme don't you think?" Well, to some it may seem extreme, but truthfully, no it is not. I have seen this process happen over and over. If handled right the person would meet their goal of transitioning back in and becoming stable and staying out of prison. Some rush these first small steps and think, "I got this. I don't need to move slow." and they end up in trouble. I don't want that for you. I am sure you don't either. So even if you end up not needing all these tiny details please read it anyway so your mind is prepared IF it happens to you. Also, please remember to use the tools you built for yourself in Chapter 2 to help when you get overwhelmed. They will come in handy during these next few weeks.
As you move along through the days you will see a lot of things begin to open up to you. Remember to follow your goals and notes in Chapter 2. When you get more comfortable in your walk and you are out in the public looking for work or maybe even by now, working you will feel "freedom" begin to come into your mind and your body. Your mind will have adjusted a little more to the way things are in the world around you. Please remember to still be aware of your surroundings. God will give you wisdom and understanding so walk in it. After you become more comfortable and you are more accustomed to the outside world, you will begin to feel more open to some things. You will be going more places, driving and moving around alone. You may even find yourself coming in contact with people from your past. Please remember chapter 2. I know I keep saying that because when you face this part of your walk you will need it. You will understand more when you are standing here. Your mind will begin to open up and you will feel more free as each day passes. You will go from scared to more without permission to understanding that you can move without asking. this is a very liberating time and will be very exciting. Enjoy this adjustment. It will be a part of your foundation that will help you build your future and stand strong when trouble tries to come your way. Remember during this time to stay close to your closest, most trusted friend or family member. Learn to confide in them and talk about your feelings. If you have not gotten to that level of trust yet with anyone, then journal your feelings and experiences. I know it may sound silly, but you will thank me later. Trust me. It will come in handy later, and always remember to talk to God before you lay down at night. Empty your soul to him and allow him to help you rest and start the next day. These are the foundational building blocks that will help you reach your goals and stand strong in your walk. They will be what keeps your mind right when faced with the "hard decisions". I know that you can do this. Don't doubt yourself or get lazy about this. You are worth the effort. You are worth this fight. You can do it. Remember, you can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens you. So, trust Him and hold fast to his word. You will be fine. So, as you move through these weeks of all new experiences capture as much as you can in your journal and hide it away in your heart, so you can go back to it when you need to.
"Determine your direction"
Well, My Friend, I am thankful you are still on this journey with me. I know at this point you are like WOW. She is serious about this “journey” thing. Well, yes, I am. Our life is a journey. It can either be a good journey or a bad journey depending on what path we chose to take. Our life is full of choices and so is the Word of God. Each choice we make in life shapes our future. Decisions about jobs, relationships, our walk with God. All of these things shape our future. It says in the Bible in Deuteronomy 30:19-20 19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: 20That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. These words in the middle of the scripture “I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing” these are choices. We can choose which path we want to take. Our walk with God is a walk of free will. He wants us to love him freely just as He loves us. He loves us so much so that he died for us even before we were born. His choices shaped our future as well. Now, He asks us to make those same choices that will shape our life in a good way, a Godly way. He even gives us free will when it comes to serving him. He is a gentleman and will never force us to serve him because he wants us to love him and walk with him of our own free will. He gives us a choice. Just like in Joshua 24:15 15And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. He leaves the choice up to us. He even gives us promises for making the right choices and warnings against making the wrong choices. Just like in 2 Peter 1:10-11 10Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Word is also clear when it says in Proverbs 15:19 19The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain. This gives examples of two different “ways” we can go. The choice is still left up to us after the warning or information is given as to the outcome. There are many more examples in the Bible of times that God shows us more than one path, and then offers us a choice. These are only a few. However, these examples are just like in our life today. We are faced every day with choices. During this time in your journey, you will be faced with very big choices. The difference right now is the choices you will face will be coupled with your emotional state of just being released from incarceration. Going from an environment of total control into a place where you have total freedom to choose what you want to do but, please remember that even though you have total freedom to choose you are not free from any consequences that may stem from those choices. Especially if you are still in a program or on probation or parole. Every decision is important from this day forward. Every decision shapes or has the potential to shape your future and your freedom. Please keep that in mind as you walk into these upcoming weeks.
As we move into the weeks to come you will still be facing some emotional situations that stem from your time in incarceration. You will find yourself still hearing those voices from “inside” in the back of your mind. That spirit of fear will still try to creep up on you as you do something new or for the first time again after your release. Just please keep in mind that this is not real. However, I do want to caution you because there will come a day where you get to the point that you truly realize you are free from prison and the control the guards had over you there. This is a very important and dangerous point when you reach it. This is what I call the Cross-Roads. The feeling of total freedom is good, however there is a spirit that comes over you at this point that say, “man, forget this, I am free I can do whatever I want to.” Your emotions will explode with this feeling and these thoughts come to you and you will feel very impowered. You will feel free and strong. Like you can conquer the world, and nothing can touch you. You will wake up that morning and say, wow. What am I scared of here. There is no guard. There is no prison. “Man, I’m bout to do whatever I want today. Ain’t no body gonna tell me what to do. I’m free. I deserve to have some fun.” Now, please stop right here and think back in the earlier chapters where we talked about the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Well, I am sure over these past few weeks there have been people that came to you with offers of fast money, sex (yes, I said it, it’s a reality we need to face.), going out to clubs and even drugs and drinking. (D&D is what I refer to Drugs and Drinking as which also equals Destruction and Damnation.) Over these weeks however, you have resisted because you still had self-restraint due to the adjustment of coming into a new world of “freedom”. My Brother, My Sister, please listen. This is one of the most vital points in re-entry. The moment you have this experience you are faced with the “pride of life”. This is a spirit and we are in spiritual warfare. Please stop and sit down. Read over what you have accomplished and what you want to accomplish. Study why you have exercised self-restraint. It wasn’t truly because you were in fear of the guards. It wasn’t truly because you were mentally still in prison. That played a part but inside you WANT to do it right this time and stay out of prison. This time you want to make things right in your life and reach your goals. That is why this chapter is very important and this moment is very important, because when this feeling of “freedom” comes over you and you realize that you can do anything you are faced with the biggest choice of our journey so far. The choice is, “Do I go out and do WHATEVER I want to, or do I choose to stand strong and stay the course I have set for myself? Not the course prison set for me or law enforcement set for me or my family set for me but the course I SET FOR MYSELF.” Whatever the choice is you make today will shape the rest of your life. Yes, it is that serious. One time will hurt. Just once does make a difference. Just once can send you back. That is the reality of it. The truth is odds are people expect this choice to be a bad one and for you to go back. I say this because reality is society will always see you as a criminal. Even if you were innocent of the crime you did time for, society will always view you as a criminal. Yes, you served your time. Yes, you paid your debt to society but in the eyes of some, unfortunately you will always be a “bad person”. I’m sorry. Please know that I would never say things to hurt you on purpose. I love you. That is why I am saying this. I WANT you to succeed. You must understand that. I want you to survive this transition and come out on the other side solid and standing on your own, so you can live the rest of your life beating the odds, but I also love you enough to bring reality to the forefront. Your decisions can and will change your future for the good or the bad. That is reality. I know I am talking really personal and I know you are probably saying, how can this woman say she loves me and wants me to succeed. She doesn’t even know me. Well, you are right, I may not know you personally, but I know my husband who is currently in prison and I know my son who is currently in prison. I also know my grandson who was in prison and came home to me. I helped him walk through these steps. I know many brothers in the Lord who I helped walk through these steps. I know my sisters in the Lord that have come out of incarceration and I helped them walk through these steps and I have seen some of them make it and stand up to become self-supporting and successful, but I have also seen some of them make rash, bad decision and end up back in prison. However, whether they made it and stayed out or they didn’t quiet get it right and went back, it never changed my love for them and through them I can truly say I love every one that will read this book because you are my brothers and sister too. God has given me a love for you that surpasses everything even if we have never seen each other in person or even met. I love you. I am proud of you and I KNOW you will make the right decision. You can do this. You are better than society says you are and you can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you.
So now, let’s face this feeling of “total freedom” that can either make US or break us. This is what I call the “maker-breaker” point in your journey home. It will either make your or break you. When this feeling comes to you. Stop. Realize you are free because you are, however, recognize the power of that freedom. Either you will rule that power, or it will rule you. Evaluate yourself and your surroundings. Adjust your thinking to a point of How will this day, this moment, this decision affect my future. Then let’s move through this cross road of decision. I pray that you make the right decisions today. This day will feel different and ever day after today you will walk in a new-found power. Either it will be a power of “I don’t care what comes, I’m going to please the flesh and have what I want now.” Or it will be a power of self-restraint imposed upon yourself for the protection of your future that says, “I am worth more than instant gratification and pleasure. I am worth more than the world says I am. I am what God says I am. I am more than a conquer. I am victorious through Jesus Christ and I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. I want my future and I want my Freedom.” Either you will control the power of freedom or it will control you. I pray you with this battle against your “self” because this is the hardest part of this spiritual battle. Killing the flesh that wants everything it’s way, right here and right now. I know you can do it. I have confidence in you. I will be here waiting for you when this day is done. Be strong and keep your mind on your future as this day passes. Remember to capture how you are feeling so you can go back to this point and get honey from this lion I KNOW you will conquer today. I have faith in you. I will see you on the other side.
“Yield to the guidance and calling of God”
Well, I am happy to see you on this page. I am smiling because I knew you would make it. However, even if you didn’t and you are still on this page, let’s move forward and pray that God will help us recover from that decision. The Bible says, “When I fall I shall arise.” God knew we would make bad choices at times that is why He put that scripture in there. He didn’t say, IF I fall… He said WHEN I fall, I shall Arise. So, if your decisions were not so good yesterday, get up, brush yourself off, pray and ask God to forgive anything that may have happened that was against him, and let’s move forward. If you passed this test let’s celebrate! I’m proud of you! Then, after the victory dance let’s get up, brush yourself off, pray and THANK GOD for guiding you and helping you be strong and let’s move forward. Either way we have a new day ahead of us. So, we have work to do. I love you and I am proud of you no matter what. I know that today will be a good day.
I want to talk to you in this chapter about your Spiritual walk because it is vital to survival that you have a strong walk with the Lord Jesus as you move forward with your life. I know that a lot of times when people are incarcerated they “find Jesus”, or so it is said. Well, please know that Jesus knew you before He even said, “Let there be light.” He said in his word that He knew you before he formed the foundation of the earth. It is just at times our lives are so fast and we get so caught up in things that the devil has used to distract us from what God has for us, that it takes being set aside and made to sit still for us to actually hear God. He is talking all the time, it is up to us as to how much we slow down and allow our self to hear His voice. In this process of trying to hear God’s voice, the devil will put things in our path to distract us and try to silence the voice of God in our lives. You see, at birth every ounce of spiritual potential that we have is breathed into us with that first breath that God blows into our lungs. All of heaven rejoices at the potential that is put into us and all of hell takes notice of that spiritual potential and says, “oh, wait. We have to kill this one right now. If they ever realize the fullness of spiritual potential in them, they will cause serious damage to the kingdom of hell.” So, from that first breath you have two things on you. One the finger print of God which puts the call on your life to fulfill all that is entailed in that Spiritual potential breathed into you, and two you have a target from hell to stop you from reaching the fullness of that potential. All the demons in hell see you in the fullness of your walk just like all the angels of heaven see you. This is because demons were once angels, but they were cast out of heaven with Lucifer, now known as satan. The devil. They hear God’s voice just like heavenly angels do. So, when that potential to be a Prophet, a Preacher, a Teacher of the gospel, a soul winner, a prayer warrior, an intercessor or any one that has great faith is breathed into you at that first breath hell and all the demons in it fear you. Just be aware that hell fights what it fears most. So, these seemingly unplanned and ungodly events in your life that brought you to a point of incarceration were of the grand design of hell. Mind you however, hell can only tempt us and provide avenues of choice. It is our free will that rules. So, in our past when ideas of evil or avenues of evil were presented, yes, that was hell knocking but our decision to answer that knock on the door of our life and walk through it, opened the path for incarceration. However, now God has given you another chance, and what the devil meant for evil God is turning around for good. If it took incarceration for you to realize your spiritual potential with God, then count it all joy just like the Bible says in James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. This time in your life may have been meant by hell for your destruction but GOD who is rich in mercy has turned it around for your good. He will keep you in these days, weeks, and years to come. HE will shape the future for you IF you allow HIM to. So as you move forward, please remember to stand on that firm foundation you have found in the Lord Jesus during your time of separation with Him. Call on that relationship with Jesus that has kept you all this time. Look to he hills from whence cometh your help in times of trouble as you walk forward. Remember, you can do all things through Christ, who strengthens you. You are able to do this. Just keep our Lord Jesus first in all things. He will direct your steps and keep you. Yield your heart to him and your life. Paul said In 1 Corinthians 15:31 31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our LORD, I die daily. This is not a natural death he is speaking of. It is a death to his human will. In killing his flesh or his human will Paul was saying he was allowing God's will to be done in his life. This is where we become like Jesus. Just as Jesus prayed in the garden before he drank the cup taking our sins upon himself, Father no my will but thy will be done. If we are to be close to Jesus, if we are to be like him, we too must die to our flesh and our human will. Allowing God's will to be done in our life. This to some seems a hard thing to do. However, in reality it is a very easy thing. When we release our human will to his will we have right to stand on the scripture that says he will work all things together for the good to them that love him and are called according to HIS PURPOSE. That means his will. We are all called, the true question is "who will yield?" Now, I put this question to you. As we walk into our future together, will you yield your will to his and allow God's will to be done in your life? If so and you are ready, then let's go. This adventure will be amazing as we walk with Him. I will be here for you if you need me but remember that God is always with you. Our faithful friend who never leaves us nor forsakes us.
With this I will leave you in the hands of the Lord. I bless you and I ask God to watch between me and thee until we meet again. Please be safe and remember that your Sister Soldier is out here and she cares for your soul.
The Beginning… 😊
My Dear Friend,
Our Journey with God never ends. As you go through your walk with Him I pray you will refer back to this little book and celebrate the victories you have had as you Walked with Jesus. Please continue to write this book by adding your victories, testimonies and dreams here. Maybe one day we can sit around in heaven and you can tell me all about them. I know I will love seeing you there. 😊
Sincerely Your Sister Soldier,
Mrs. Shawna Sheffield