Monday, September 27, 2010

The Old is Gone!

It hasn’t been an easy 37 months. So much uncertainty faced me when I walked out the doors of Taft Correctional Institution in August of 2007. Unable to even comprehend what my life was going to be like, at times during my last months of incarceration, I wondered whether I would end up living under a freeway overpass. Or perhaps I would become one of the many panhandlers seeking a hand-out at the top of the off-ramp holding my “Hungry and need food. Anything will help. God bless you” cardboard sign. While it never ended up that badly for me, it hasn’t turned out as I expected either.

At times, it seems like a little sign has floated over the top of me with arrows pointing, saying “ex-felon”. There are some things that I just can’t seem to get past. A few weeks ago I was laying on the couch on a Sunday afternoon after playing a round of golf with some friends when I was interrupted by a rapping on the front door of my home…a fifth wheel trailer. As I opened the door, I was greeted by a deputy sheriff. For a second, my heart seemed to skip a beat. Then he kindly asked me for my name and then ID that could verify it. He was simply doing his job…confirming that I was living where I said I am. A small thing…but certainly not an everyday occurrence for most of us.

As a result of the uncertainty of my life, I’ve been hesitant to move forward as quickly as I probably could. Still facing up to 23 more months of supervision, there are some things that are difficult to arrange. A simple trip out of state…even for a day requires at least two weeks of advance notice to get the proper permission. A trip out of the country is out of the question. Moving into an apartment complex or a condo community isn’t possible because of the restrictions that I still face. For the past three years, I’ve worn the prison issue glasses that I had on when I was released because money is tight, and frankly they still worked.

But the last month has brought a great deal of change in my life. For reasons that I can’t really articulate, I made the decision that “enough is enough”. While I don’t exactly have control over my life, I choose to move forward. A trip to the optometrist resulted in new glasses. Not a significant change in my appearance on the outside, but a gargantuan impact on how I see myself from the inside. They were the last “moniker” that I wore from my incarceration. There are no more visible external reminders of that dark period of my life.

The change didn’t stop there. I love antiques and every opportunity I have, I will visit an antique shop or mall and usually walk out with some little treasure. Many of the items, I give away. I buy them because they are unique and they represent a different time…maybe a better time. About a month ago, my sister Deb suggested (perhaps in jest) that I should get a business license and open a shop, or at least become a dealer. The idea resonated deeply within me and it has turned into a reality. Three weeks ago, I applied for the business license and became a small business owner. Angelwings Antiques was born. Scripture teaches us that in Christ, we are a new creation…that the old is gone and the new has come. Through God’s grace, I’ve become “that” new creation. But now I’ve become a new creation in a different way as well. While I will always be an “ex-felon”, I’ve chosen to become more. I’m a business owner and a construction company manager. I’m a singer in the church choir and a Sunday school teacher. I’m a loving brother, a loving ex-husband and a good friend. That old label is gone…a new label has come.

Photo by Mark


Deb Shucka said...

The deep and healed truth of this shines from the screen. I can feel your acceptance and surrender (both things I still struggle with) and I know Angelwings Antiques is the result of that. BTW, my suggestion was no jest - nor was the one about the house, the one where you live on the top floor, above your shop.

I'm so thrilled to get to be a part of your new venture. I'm so blessed to call you brother and friend. I love you.

Janna Qualman said...

I'm here from Deb's. You're brave and you're wonderful, and I wish you nothing but the best.

I'd also love to look through your antiques. I love them so!

Lilith said...

I read your sister's blog. I have a son who was released from prison in June. He still struggles with life but he's slowly making progress, reclaiming his life.

He's much younger and much less articulate, so thank you for a glimpse into some of what he must be feeling.

Suzy said...

Leave all the old trappings behind. They are just that- traps we have all fallen into.

Congrats on your new business! Have Deb "nudge" you about a web site!

All the best,