“Stories of a Prisoner’s Wife”

(Editor’s Note: Diane’s last post was back in August. Diane has had a rough time, as you will read, but her testimony is powerful, compelling, and is something we can all learn from.)

Entry 25 by Diane S.

Eight and a Half Months

I thought I knew this path would be hard.
I knew nothing.
When you think something will be hard and then it is infinitely more difficult than you ever imagined…that will knock you flat on your face. If you aren’t careful there is nothing to catch you, not even Jesus if you choose to not let him.
It’s been around 6 months since I have written an entry here. They have not been a pretty 6 months.
Somehow I got lost, and when I say lost, I mean LOST….total darkness. I stopped going to church. I stopped reading my bible. I stopped praying. I stopped talking to most all of my friends. I even stopped attempting to have a relationship with Jesus. I told Chris I wanted to separate at the end of August and in mid-November I told him I was done & didn’t want to be married to him anymore. I stopped wearing my wedding rings. I got our matching tattoo covered up by a new tattoo. I didn’t visit him from the end of July until January 23. I packed up all his stuff & everything that was “us” and put it away in boxes. I even stopped opening his letters at all for a few months. I stopped contact with Chris’ son. I could go on I am sure, but you probably get the idea.
Everything that was the past was packed away in boxes or the darkest places of mind and heart.
I’m not sure exactly why I had this meltdown of sorts, other than the situation was overwhelming & I just couldn’t cope. Maybe I thought if I walked away the holidays wouldn’t be so hard. Maybe I thought if I ignored it, it would go away. Maybe I thought if I walked away from God I wouldn’t feel so strongly that I knew giving up on my marriage and my husband was NOT what God was telling me to do. Maybe I thought if I gave up I wouldn’t be judged so harshly; people wouldn’t think I was crazy.
I was trying to find happy, trying to find joy, trying to find a way to cope. Nothing I had done until that point had worked so I think I thought if I went in the complete opposite direction and changed everything maybe I would find what I was desperately searching for. The months of May-August were so hard, so sad, so depressing. I broke. I couldn’t cope. I was tired of the looks, I was tired of the comments, I was tired of trying to explain why I was standing by Chris. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, broken, bruised….the list could go on for a while.
I ran. I shut it all out, turned it all off and pretended it was the right choice. It worked for a while.
Sort of.
I still talked to Chris twice a week. I wrote occasionally. I sent books, sermons, photos, etc. in the mail to him but far less frequently. He took the news that I didn’t want to be married much, much better than I thought he would. He wasn’t angry. He was hurt, but not angry. He wrote me letters of bible verses and devotionals when he knew I didn’t want to get a letter from him about just life. He prayed for me, not for our marriage, but for me. He told me over and over that what he wanted most was for me to get back to Jesus and even if our marriage didn’t work out he still prayed for me to reconcile with Jesus. He called twice a week. We talked but hardly ever about us. He didn’t push me. I didn’t say ‘I love you’ or ‘I miss you’ at the end of calls. From Aug-Jan every single time we hung up he said “I love you, have a good day tomorrow.” Every time…even though I never said it back. That is a difficult thing to do, tell someone something even though you know their silence is going to break your heart every single time. He refused to give up on me, on us or on God. I don’t know what the conversations were like that he had with God during those times, but I don’t think they were angry. Somehow, and I don’t understand how, he stayed strong, he stayed faithful, and most importantly the old Chris never showed up.
I know the old Chris very well, I am just learning about the new one.
The old Chris would not have handled things the way the new Chris has in the last 5-6 months. I fully expected the old Chris to show up and validate my reasons for walking away & giving up. I just knew he was going to prove my point that he really hadn’t changed and it was all just talk…like it had always been in the past. Promises that would be broken & words that didn’t mean anything.
The old Chris never showed up. The new Chris was strong and steadfast. This was different. This was unexpected.
Sometime close to the end of December/first of January my heart started softening. I noticed that I looked forward to calls again. I missed him. God started pulling me back towards him. He kept whispering to me. He didn’t just let me go silently. I went to church a couple of times. I read the bible a little. I started praying again. I started bible journaling. God kept whispering, ‘Trust me, I know what I am doing, I can make beautiful things out of ashes, I am with you, I won’t leave you, I will carry through this, trust me.’ Now, I’ve always been one who never really understood what people meant when they said “God told them” but I understand that now. I have never been able to say that I have clearly heard God tell me something, until now.
I told Chris I wanted to come visit, he had been wanting me to since November but didn’t push me. His birthday was January 23 and I decided that was the weekend I was going to visit. I knew that once I saw him face to face my thoughts of walking away would be gone. That is probably why I didn’t go from August – December…. knew I couldn’t really walk away but I also knew as long as I stayed away I could continue thinking that I could.
I love him with all my heart, even the pieces that are broken. He made mistakes, I made mistakes. It’s not going to be an easy journey and I don’t know what the future holds for us. I do know that all the hard things haven’t gone away. I do know that just because the last 4-5 months happened it doesn’t suddenly make this easy and make all the doubts & fears go away. They are all still there. I know that choosing this path again will be just as hard as it has been and there will be things harder than I can imagine in the future.
I only know a few things at this point:
• I love Chris despite these current circumstances
• God CAN make beautiful things from ashes & I am trusting him to do that
• I am not giving up
• Somehow over the last few terrible months I have found forgiveness for Chris and that is a huge step
• God is on our side and will not fail us
• This, for whatever reason, is His plan for us

I know my choice is one most will not understand. I know my choice is one that others in my position may not be able to make. I’ve heard people say that sometimes what convicts one person doesn’t even have an effect on another person. An example is I have a very good friend who is heavily convicted about getting a tattoo. She would like one very much, but God has put a conviction in her heart about it. Me on the other hand, I have 3 and at least 2 more planned. I don’t have the same conviction or feelings about that she does. I’m learning that is how God and the Bible work, God works in everyone differently. God has put conviction in my heart regarding my marriage. I didn’t realize what it was in the beginning but after the last few months of this never going away, always being there, always nagging at me…I understand it for what it is.

This is my conviction: If I walk away from this marriage & give up, I am saying that I do not trust God to make something beautiful from this. I am saying I don’t trust him to deliver us through this struggle. I am saying that my plan is better and I know what is best.

As I said, not everyone that has been through a situation like mine has had or will have this same type of conviction. Others may choose different paths & God may work differently in their storms. I do know that God is telling me this, it’s not just something I have come up with to validate my choice…because let’s be honest, if I was going to come up with something to validate a choice I would have validated my choice to leave and divorce Chris. God has put this in my heart, He has put this in mind, He has even put in my dreams a few times since I am REALLY stubborn and tried to ignore it. I have no idea if that makes sense to anyone and I know there will be people, a lot of them, that say I am just one of those crazy evangelical Christian types that are just too blind or naive to see what the situation really is. Maybe, but I don’t think so. I think there is a lot to be recognized from the fact that I tried to distance myself from church, prayer, God and everything related; yet still even during those times God never let this conviction leave my heart no matter how much I wanted to and tried to ignore it.

So that is your update on how A Prisoner’s Wife is doing 8 and half months into a journey harder than I could have ever imagined. I’m not sure if I am better or worse than I was from the last post I made in August 2015. I do know I’ve learned a lot since then.

I also know I smile more and cry a lot less.

I’ve (we’ve) chosen not to make big news of the fact that I have decided to fight & not give up. The cheers from friends and family when they found out I was giving up were loud, even the ones who supposedly supported me staying were cheering when I said I wasn’t.

It’s funny how that works. There was only one person that pulled me aside and told me I needed to spend much time in prayer and probably even fast before I made a final decision. Everyone told me how strong I was and how proud they were of me for getting out. Everyone told me how they never really liked Chris anyway and always thought he was a mistake for me…needless to say my circle has become quite small, very small.

We decided it was best for me to just continue on without making a big deal about it. The scrutiny was part of why I ran and shut down. I felt like everyone expected something from me, the responsibility I felt was enormous. In an effort to avoid that, there won’t be any major announcements telling everyone the status of our marriage. No one I know will read this blog post, they only read what I wrote in the past because I linked it on Facebook, which I won’t be doing now. We also decided that I am not going to start wearing my wedding ring again, at least not the one that matches his. Our rings are unique and if I put it back on there will be scrutiny and judging that is immediate. I will wear a ring on that finger, just not my wedding band….at least for a while.

I know that sounds like I am hiding things or not being truthful, and I suppose that may be true. However, I go back to what I’ve said since this journey began…if you haven’t walked this path, you really have no idea. Even if you think you have an idea, you do not. If there is one thing I can be certain about, it is the last two sentences I just wrote. Truthfully, the only people that really need to know our marriage status is Jesus, Chris and I…no one else matters.

And because for a time I did let others matter, I almost walked away and gave up.

These verses are very popular verses, coffee cup verses if you will. I usually don’t like the coffee cup verses too much and try to refrain from posting or quoting them because they are taken out of context a lot and misused/overused in today’s society.

But, these two verses give me hope and I cling to them often because they are, after all, God’s promises.

Romans 8:28
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

“The Inconvenience Of Obedience”

When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”  Psalm 94:18-19 ESV

“The Prisoner’s Wife” has been rather quiet lately. I emailed her and asked her about that. I have been concerned over the ‘tone’ of her last couple of entries. While she never fails to mention that her strength (what strength she does have) comes from God, I am sure you all have noticed the struggle she faces.

Hers is not an easy road to travel. Of course, there are those who are pretty vocal about how much easier her road would be if she were to divorce her husband. It seems there are those who criticize her decisions and doubt her faith. She feels isolated and is surrounded by negativity, criticism, and doubt.

Diane’s husband, Chris, accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior before going to prison. There is not a fragment of doubt in my mind that his conversion is seen by many as being a ‘conversion of convenience.’ That is how we often view the awakening of individuals who only come to Christ after screwing up big time. Frequently, the ‘conversion’ is characterized as simply using God to try to make consequences for our actions less than they might be.

I have no doubt this happens, but who are we to judge the sincerity of someone else’s repentance and pleas to God for forgiveness? Diane loves her husband and believes he is sincere. His actions to date would indicate this is so. If they can each hold onto their faith in the face of what they have to deal with now, and will have to deal with for several years to come, God will bless them in profound ways. It takes patience, it takes perseverance, it takes…..well, it takes faith. And it takes standing up to those who would badger and bully them into denying that which they know in their heart is the right thing to do.

But how does one stand up to others when there are so many ‘others?’ Where does the ability come from to keep ‘looking up’ when so many are looking down on you and what they believe are your misguided choices?

Diane’s ability has come from God, but her silence speaks volumes to the negative pressures of the world in which she is forced to live as a result of the choices made by her husband.

As I have written many times, quite frequently, the ones who are truly punished and imprisoned in a world of unfair treatment and bleak prospects are the ones who are left behind in the ‘free’ world. Most people do not understand that incarceration can be one of the most freeing experiences on the planet, especially when one is incarcerated in federal prison in this country.

Of course the ‘freedom’ prison provides can be exercised in both positive, as well as negative, ways.

In my case, prison gave me the freedom to grow in my relationship with God, to search my heart for the root causes of my 40 year journey through sin and willful disobedience to Him, to develop an idea of how I could put my failures and negative experiences to use in a positive manner, and to prepare for a new life lived in a new way, with new purpose.

Obviously, prison also gives individuals the freedom to pursue criminal, anti-social, or racist enterprises and behaviors. The prison experience can be used to demonstrate that absolutely nothing has changed and the behavior of the individual in question will be the same, or worse, upon release as it was when they arrived.

In other words, prison is a lot like life on the outside. We can choose how to experience it.

There is a big, big difference, though. In prison, all outside influences, pressures, and worries, can easily be dismissed, forgotten, pushed out of our minds, and ignored. We are safe from harassment from bill collectors in there, we are safe from the day-to-day challenges of having enough money, having enough time, having enough hands, having enough patience.

In prison, we simply choose the outcome we desire, and then use the time we have to work towards that outcome.

Diane has chosen her outcome. That was the easy part. Unfortunately it gets constantly, irritatingly, and faith-shakingly complicated from that point forward. She faces new challenges to her faith, her intelligence, her confidence, and her happiness on a daily basis.

And for making the choice she has made, I admire her. My heart goes out to her and I wish I could offer something more tangible than the admonition to simply keep on trusting God. She is being obedient to God and sometimes obedience can be very inconvenient.

But seriously, that is all any of us can really ever do that has any meaning. And while sometimes it doesn’t seem to make sense, or do any good, a great and wonderful reward awaits those who always have their eyes on the Cross.

I encourage all of you to encourage Diane. She needs your support. She needs to hear your voices urge her on to a glorious finish to her race.

I pray for her, and for all who stay on the course God sets for them, rather than wavering and bowing to ‘conventional wisdom.’

God bless you all, and may the Giver of all life provide a special blessing to His daughter, Diane Shellhart.


“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

Entry 24

By Diane S.

Fitting In.

“One of these is not like the others.”

That’s usually me.

I have never been one who really fit in. I can’t really think of one time in my life where I have felt like I have actually fit in, at least, not when I was being true to myself anyway. There were are few times when I fit in with the “mean girls” at work because I pretended to be someone I wasn’t. At the time it seemed fun, but looking back I am very ashamed that I lost myself and did what was thought to be cool. There was a time when I fit in with the fun “party” crowd for about 6 months which was the single most self-destructive 6 months in my entire life. The ONLY reason really bad things didn’t come out of those 6 months is because even then, before I relied on and truly knew my Savior, He was protecting me; saving me to use me for His purpose in the future.

I am forever grateful for that.

I look back on those times and now see that every time I tried to fit in somewhere I didn’t truly belong I hurt other people in way or another. Fitting in doesn’t really seem to be my thing, it has never been natural for me. It’s much the same today.

I just don’t fit in.

Most days at this point in my life I think it’s worse than ever before. I find myself feeling like the odd one out in almost every scenario I find myself in lately. At church, at Sunday School, Bible study, work, at home, the occasional dinner with friends….everywhere.

That is not to say there aren’t a bunch of amazing, uplifting, empowering people surrounding me at all those places; because there are. People I have grown to love and appreciate. People who love me, encourage me and support me, but even in the middle of all that, I feel alone.

I feel like I just don’t fit in.

No one can relate to my life and that leaves me feeling left out, lonely and you guessed it, like I just don’t fit in. My life isn’t like everyone else’s around me. I don’t have kids, a husband at home, a home of my own, dinners to make, lunches to pack, carpools to coordinate, sports practices to take kids to, financial means to just go out to grab dinner impromptu or pick up a new outfit just because.

When I’m in settings like I mention above more often than not I am the one who is just quiet. I just listen as all the other wives and mothers talk about the busy weeks past and the busy week to come, but I have nothing to add to the conversations. Usually the only time I speak up is when someone asks for prayers and I chime in at that time for a brief minute. It’s not their fault, I think on some inner level I am envious of their lives because I know that mine will never take that path now. My life consists of waiting on letters, writing letters, waiting on phone calls, planning and saving for the next visit, trying to keep my head above water, making myself get out of bed every day to face another exhausting day and trying to balance the endless suggestions & opinions of what people think I should be doing.

This will be my life for the foreseeable future as far as I can tell with my human eyes anyway.

I just don’t fit in, anywhere really. Where does a prisoner’s wife fit in? Anywhere? I feel like people are talking about me when I am not around (and actually know some that are). Expressing how shocked they are that I am still married to someone who is in prison for 8 years…especially for the reasons Chris is. Saying how concerned they are for my well-being and how much better off I’d be if I just threw in the towel. Sometimes walking to a room is deafening because of all the things I think people are thinking about me when they see me. I don’t know if they are really thinking that, my guess would be some are and some aren’t.

All of that is further complicated by the life-long struggle I have had with depression and anxiety. My life would be a struggle of trying to fit in and not feel lonely regardless of my current circumstances. If I did have kids, a husband was at home, a home of my own, dinners to make, lunches to pack, carpools to coordinate, sports practices to take kids to, financial means to just go out to grab dinner impromptu or pick up a new outfit just because I’d still struggle to fit in just because that is the nature of depression and anxiety.

If you take my current circumstances, add in depression and anxiety then you get me. Someone who feels forever hopeless. Someone who feels that I will never be able to be in a setting around other people and truly feel at ease, comfortable and feel like I fit in. It’s discouraging & there is some very heavy guilt that comes along with all those feelings.

Lately my Bible has been heavy when I pick up.

I know it’s because of the constant guilt I feel that I can’t seem to find any joy lately. I know the answers that I need and yearn for are in that Bible but I don’t pick it up to find them. I pray, sort of, but I feel guilty about that too. I feel like all I do lately is tell God how much help I need and beg Him to deliver me. I don’t think I have been paying attention and thanking him for what he is doing right now in my life. I feel guilty because I can’t say a prayer that comes from a truly thankful place in my heart. So lately I haven’t prayed much which makes me feel even guiltier and more alone.

There is one place I know I fit in…Jesus’ embrace and rest…and I can’t even seem to get myself there. I don’t know how to get myself there. I should know, any good Christian would know, but I have prayed all the things I think I should. I have talked to God like He was sitting in the seat next to me, but I just don’t feel like He is hearing me. I have confessed sins buried far deep in my heart that were a wall between me and Jesus. Yet something still feels missing and I can’t figure it out. I feel like I am missing my “aha” moment. I feel like I am missing God and that somehow I am keeping myself from fitting into His plan for me.

That’s where this week has brought me. I just can’t seem to fit in anywhere, I can’t seem to find my place. I can’t seem to figure out what steps God is asking me to take. I don’t even need to know the whole path, I just can’t seem to figure out the first steps at this point.

I can take comfort in the verse below. Jesus told us a long while ago we wouldn’t fit in and the world would hate us. I feel like that perfectly sums up the last week or two for me.

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. – John 15:19

“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

Entry 23

By Diane S.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.Hebrews 4:13


Being honest with yourself is sometimes very difficult.

This week I have found myself in places I never wanted to go. It’s easier to not think about some things, to pretend they don’t exist, or that they aren’t true.

Unfortunately, eventually you get to a point where you can’t ignore them. You have to deal with them or they just become a constant nagging; a wall separating you from Jesus. When you start praying for God to reveal the messes and the wickedness you have in your heart, you better be ready because I’ve learned the answers you get can be hard. The things you wish you could just keep hiding are suddenly right there in front of you, waiting to be dealt with.

That is a very hard thing to wrap your head around.

Your deepest darkest secrets; your fears; your troubles; your true heart…God knows it ALL. Even if you don’t tell Him, He knows, so what is the point of pretending or hiding? It doesn’t get you anywhere, it’s just something that separates you from your Creator. It eats at your soul, at your heart, and at your mind.

There is so much more freedom in being honest with God and with yourself.

That is where I have been for the last month & even though it’s been painful, I am grateful. Very grateful. The fact is that I can’t build my future until I truly embrace my past, my husband’s past, ask for forgiveness and repent.

So that is what I have done or what I am working on doing anyway.

It’s interesting how much you can learn about yourself when God starts working in your life this way. Over the last month there have been two very important situations that have weighed on my heart that God has guided me through. It has been a painful and heartbreaking month, but it’s also been a healing and freeing one. The last week has been one of the hardest weeks I have had since my husband entered FCI Oakdale. There is a song that has lyrics that say “break my heart for what breaks yours” and I fully understand those words now. I was completely broken for two days and it was painful, the first day I didn’t get out of bed for an entire day. The second day I cried the entire day. It was the only way; I know that God had to bring me to that place and through those places for healing and peace.

I am grateful.

It was hard and it was painful but it was worth it. I don’t think I have ever experienced God’s grace and mercy in such intimate ways as I have over the last few weeks.

God’s not done with me yet. I can’t imagine all the things He has yet to reveal to me & all the sinful things I do that break His heart that I don’t even realize.  My prayer won’t change, even though I know how difficult the answers to those prayers can be, I will still be praying for God to reveal the things in my heart that are dark, wicked and breaking His heart.

It’s where healing begins, at least for me it has been.

There is freedom that only Christ can give when you pray this way and embrace the answers God gives you, no matter what those answers may be. You start realizing that the bitterness you have tried to mask in your heart is breaking away.  If you see someone who hurt you in the past you no longer feel like walking up to them and punching them in the face (I’m guilty of this).

Instead, you truly pray for those people. You pray God works in their lives. You pray for their healing. The old saying “hurt people, hurt people” – I believe is true. Those who are hurt tend to hurt others. I now pray for those people and I truly mean it. My heart really does hurt for those people in my past that have caused me so much hurt but have, themselves, been victims of hurtful situations. I can say with honesty and conviction that I pray for God to soften their hearts and bring them near to Him, to heal their past scars, to give them a future and hope.

Honesty is hard, especially when God is the one revealing the honesty to you.  You can’t run from that….well you can try but you’ll end up like Jonah in the belly of the whale for a few days until you decide God is right. Of course you won’t actually get eaten by a big fish (unless you go to NC and get attacked by the sharks), but hopefully you get my point.

You simply cannot run or hide from God. Ultimately, He will win the battle because God never stops pursuing his children.

So why fight it? It only leaves you exhausted and at the foot of the cross asking for help. There is so much freedom in the honesty God can bring you if ask Him for His help.

I am learning to be free…and it’s a good feeling.

I am learning to be honest with God and myself…and that’s a good feeling too.

“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

Entry 22

By Diane S.

It will end…

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever.  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”   2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Eventually this season of my life will be over and Chris will be out of jail.  It will not last forever, there isn’t anything on this earth that is forever.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”   Isaiah 40:8

I tell myself this a lot…it’s not forever, it’s just 8 years.  Some days that is a good encouragement, other days thinking about 8 years cripples me.

I spent 4th of July weekend visiting my husband. It was my 3rd visit. A couple of people told me how terrible and sad it was that I was spending my 4th of July weekend at a prison instead of doing fun things like cooking out or swimming. I can see their point, but my mind doesn’t think like that. I was thankful I was spending my 4th at a prison talking, sitting and holding hands with my husband instead of going to put flowers on a grave. I couldn’t help but think of all the wives of fallen soldiers who would spend that day visiting graves and wishing their husbands were still with them while I was sitting in prison visiting with my husband because their husbands fought for the freedom for me to be able to do that. I’m not sure if my mind should work that way, but I’m okay with it because if I keep in that perspective I can deal with everything much better.  My nightmare will end, but those women visiting graves have no end until they leave this earthly life for a better eternity.

Like I said, I don’t know if that is the right way to think about this but it gets me through.

The 3rd visit was the best to date. I enjoyed the visit. Saturday I visited by myself, just my husband and I for 6 hours….well just us and the 100 other people in the visiting room. It is strange how everyone else in a big room like that can just disappear and it really does feel like it’s just the two of us. The first time I visited I wondered if I would ever be able to feel that way in the visiting room, I am happy to report that two months in and it has already become easier. The end of the visit on both days did not end in tears. The drive home wasn’t filled with tears. The following days were not filled with depression and darkness.

It was easier and at this point I guess that is all I can really ask for.

My husband is doing well. He has tested for his GED and I’m sure he passed that test. He has made “friends”, if you ever really do make friends in jail. He has found that he likes ramen noodles. He likes instant coffee. He uses mackerels to “buy” things from other inmates, like if he runs out of Dr. Pepper before his next commissary day, he “buys” one for a mackerel from someone who has some. I am never surprised by things he tells me. The saying that necessity is the mother of invention probably originated from a prisoner; it is quite interesting the things that can be made and figured out when you have limited resources. Things like using the top of a Comet can for a cheese grater or using the razor blade from a shaving razor and a magnet for a knife. I am never bored by his stories. He doesn’t enjoy his life but he doesn’t hate it from what I can tell. He hides it well if he does but I truly don’t think he is miserable. I am not miserable either, most days. I am getting better at finding joy, even if it is in very small doses some days. Chris seems to be settling in for the most part. He calls often, we write often but not as much as the first month which worries me a little. We are only two months in and we already write every other day or so instead of every day. I guess it’s all part of finding a ‘new normal’ but it worries me. What if it keeps falling off and eventually we stop all together?

I pray that we don’t become distant; I pray that we become closer. Closer to each other, and closer to God.

We are still so new to this journey, we haven’t seen any real difficulty yet, I imagine.  I know there are much harder things in my future, but I also know that one day this chapter will in fact end.  It won’t last forever.

One of my favorite ‘truths’ is something Tim Tebow said after a football game a few years ago:

“I don’t know what my future holds but I do know WHO holds my future.”

And really, that’s enough for me.

“Giving A Voice To The Victims – The Voices Of Disappointment And Anger”

“Shame and dishonor were his flags, and self loathing was his constant companion.”     – James Lee Burke; “Feast Day of Fools”

“Remember it is a sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”                               – James 4:17 NLT

(Editor’s Note: This was first posted here on “TOC” May 17, 2012. I believe that it is totally appropriate in light of the posts of these last 2 months. I remember each of the situations I recounted in the story, and still feel exactly the same way. We must change the way we conduct the business of correcting bad behavior.  God bless you all. Tony)

Many of us serving prison sentences for not using our freedom in a way that honors ourselves and our families have foolishly – and selfishly – exposed those we love to the same shame and dishonor we have branded ourselves with. We have also made them victims of the sins we have committed, while at the same time making them unwilling and unwitting accomplices to our crimes.

In addition, we have forced them to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden for our wrongdoing through simple guilt by association. While we languish in the purgatory of prison, their lives continue in the real world. While our lives are held in a static state of suspended animation, their lives move forward on a daily basis. While many of us try to explain our behavior to ourselves, our families are left trying to explain it to the world in which they live.

A great many men I meet have strong family support. While some have lost everything and everyone that used to make up their former lives in freedom, many more still have their families and friends solidly behind them offering words of encouragement and support.

They are to be commended for that and we who are the recipients of the genuine goodness of their hearts should all take note that the debt we owe them can more than likely never completely be repaid.

While they function unwaveringly as brave defenders of our tarnished honor and smile encouragingly for us, let those of us who are blessed enough to have individuals who are that strong fighting on our behalf, never forget that we have disappointed them. We have let down those who love us; those who need to look up to us; those who reach for us when they are uncertain, afraid, need help making a major decision or just tying a shoe.

In many cases, anger accompanies the disappointment, but far too often the anger is kept from those of us whose behavior triggered it in the first place. The consideration for the feelings of those locked out of society’s sight is another attempt by those who love us to “protect” us and to try to shield us from unpleasant realities that we created.

While this is a touching display of the lengths to which love will go, this is not what is needed.

What is needed is for those who are disappointed and angry to make sure that the one who causes them to feel this way is aware of it. Of course the offender must also be reassured that he is still loved and still supported. But the negative emotions created must not be borne only by the incidental victims.

What is needed is for those incarcerated to reflect on the disappointment and anger they have caused in others and use it ‘as a catalyst for change within themselves. This will ensure that whatever caused them to violate the trust of their loved ones and the laws of society will not be repeated.

What is needed is for society to recognize that the system we use to punish those who commit transgressions against it also punishes everyone who is a part of that individual’s life, so we must exercise caution that the prosecution of an individual does not become the persecution of a family, as is so very often the case.

What is needed are prosecutors and judges who see not just the offender but the twenty-year-old daughter of that offender who takes an overdose of drugs or alcohol and lays down on the side of the road in what turns out to be a suicide attempt that is foiled. Her pain over what is happening to a father she loves momentarily overwhelms her, and this is how she reacts to his absence. (This happened to the daughter of someone I was incarcerated with.)

What is needed is an awareness that another young woman was successful in the taking of her own life because she felt the stigma and restrictions placed upon her father by the sex offender registry were hers to bear as well and the burden proved to be too great. (This I read about in the paper.)

What is needed is for society to hear the cries, see the tears and share the pain of a young girl whose father is in prison and cannot attend her school play to share in her moment of happiness and view her in the spotlight of recognition. (This happened to a friend of mine’s daughter.)

What is needed is for society to experience the anguish of a loving grandmother who closes her letter with “I’m starting to cry now so I’d better end this letter.” (I read these words written to another inmate.)

This, the most powerful nation on earth, must understand that locking up millions of individuals has a profound effect on tens of millions of innocent lives. There are better ways of dealing with non-violent offenders than locking them away and perhaps the citizens of this country should demand this from their elected officials.

This, the most powerful nation on earth, must understand that a year taken from a family can never be given back, so it is incumbent upon society – in the interest of true justice – to find other ways of correcting behavior.

The handing out of multiple year sentences for non-violent offences as if the years were a handful of Halloween candy must stop.

God Himself no longer visits the sins of the fathers on future generations.

Just who do we think we are to do exactly that?

“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

Twenty One

Numbness & Obligation

Those two words sum up where I am right now.

I’ve just been in a “blah” state the last week or two. I haven’t really been able to figure out why. There hasn’t been much emotion in anything I’ve done. I’ve done things because I know I am supposed to. There hasn’t been any joy or happiness or anything for me in the last couple of weeks. I don’t really find enjoyment in anything.

I’m just numb.

All my feelings seem to be numb, even the hurt the last week or so. It’s all just numb, all the feeling is gone. Numb isn’t a good feeling. I’d rather feel pain because if I don’t feel the pain then I can’t feel the joy. I’m not numb to just the bad stuff, I seem to be numb to all of it.

I’ve said prayers but they feel empty. I say them out of obligation because I know I am supposed to. I mean them, but there isn’t emotion attached to them. I read my Bible daily but lately they are just words and don’t stir my heart. I go to church and Bible studies, but my mind isn’t focused. I give but it’s not with a cheerful heart, it’s because the Bible tells me I’m supposed to. I do it because I feel like if I don’t do it then my financial situation will spiral further down and if I give to God then it’s okay for me to ask for His help in my situation. I know it doesn’t work like that but when you are in a mindset of obligation rather than cheerful and joyful it’s kind of how you think. Somewhere along the beginning of this journey my heart for God has gotten muddied. My heart has become more a heart of obligation rather than a soft heart full of joy and cheerfulness and I don’t like it at all.

This was from my devotional  last Friday:

“God is not fooled by good behavior that springs from a hard heart. Obeying Him with an unwilling spirit may achieve His purpose, but we lose the joy of our reward. Perhaps the Lord has called you to serve Him in a way that is personally challenging. As you commit to following His will, pray also for a soft heart. You will find peace and blessing in doing the work if you follow Him without hesitation.”

That day, God revealed to me that I have become this way. I didn’t figure it out on my own, He showed me. I am not sure how to fix it, but I have been praying about it.

It wasn’t until last night that God revealed to me that I have also become numb. I have become numb to God. I have become numb to my husband. I have become numb to my family. I realized last night that I am un-interested in the daily phone calls lately. I don’t think I wrote but maybe 4 letters last week, I was writing one, sometimes two every day. I wanted to write, I thought about it, but then I just didn’t. It’s kind of like praying has been. I want to pray, I want to say meaningful prayers but they just aren’t.  I don’t really feel anything. I don’t feel sad, I don’t feel joy, I don’t feel excitement, I don’t even feel worry,  I don’t feel a real-connection to God lately, I don’t feel emotionally connected to my husband,.   Our conversations are so, un-personal. I am not even sure if that is the right word.  You just can’t really talk to someone in 6-7 minutes a day especially when you know that every minute on the phone is costing money & taking minutes from his ‘minute bank’. I am so concerned that we will talk too much that he will run out of minutes before the end of the month that when we do talk I am hurried to get off the phone.

How much sense does that make?  NONE.

It’s a perplexing place to be, probably not an unexpected place to be, but perplexing for sure.  I know there are many stages of this new journey that I will go through.  After all, we are not even 2 months into this thing yet and we have an awfully long way to go. I am sure there are many more things I will feel and experience before I get to a place where I can function at a normal capacity emotionally.

I’m not necessarily doing badly right now. I don’t spend my days crying lately. I just don’t feel much of anything. I’m not sure how to explain it. I am numb and I am not feeling overwhelming emotions of love but I know my love for Jesus and my love for my husband is still very deep and real in my heart. Maybe feeling numb is a defense mechanism of my heart. My husband has hurt me a lot and I have no doubt that is probably where the numb feelings are coming from. It’s easier to not feel than to hurt, but it’s not a good way to be. I know God hasn’t hurt me. He is not capable of hurting His children, but in my human form it feels very painful and it’s hard to not feel like He is hurting me. I seem to have become somewhat numb towards God too. I know he has a higher purpose and I know it will end up for good, but right now it just feels like hurt.

And I am very tired of hurt

God revealed these couple of things to me over the last few days. I’m so thankful He did, too. If I hadn’t been listening I could have missed what he was telling me. I would continue to drift along in obligation and numbness and eventually I’d look up and be so far away from God I’d wonder how I’d ever get back. Lately I feel pretty far from Him, but it does make me feel a little better because even if I am not feeling a strong connection right now there has to be something there because I was able to recognize what he was showing me about myself over the last few days.

I can now make a conscious effort to change and I can pray for God to help me through these things.


“The Privilege Of Knowing The Prisoner’s Wife”

One Through Twenty: Tony’s Take

by Tony Casson

“Raw” is the title of Eddie Murphy’s 1987 stand-up act. It was very aptly named.

But ‘raw’ is also how I would describe what we have all been privileged to read from the moment Diane Shellhart began taking us along on her journey starting on May 11 here in these “Chronicles”. What we have all witnessed has been very raw: raw emotion; raw feelings; raw pain; raw honesty; raw doubts; raw truth.

The difficulties of the individual trials we each face are an inescapable truth; an integral component of our lives here on earth. But to share the impact of those trials and reveal our fears, our weaknesses, our shame, our pain, and our faith in a public forum such as this is admirable, and we should all be grateful to Diane and humbled by her words. We should be thankful and encouraged. We should hold her up to others as an example of what we can endure when we look to God for our strength, our comfort, and our answers.

All it took for Eddie Murphy to be ‘raw’ was a filthy mouth and a desire to shock his audience. For Diane, it takes a strength she often indicates she doesn’t think she has. That strength is always there, though, and she always credits God with giving it to her. Eddie Murphy has no idea what ‘raw’ means, but Diane does.

For my part, I am honored she allows me to try to help her share her incredible story. She could have chosen to start her own blog, or to just remain silent completely and suffer in her silence. I pray God gives her the understanding that her words help others. Maybe not a significant portion of the population, but her words do help people.

They help me.

They help reinforce my resolve to do something to change “America’s Culture Of Incarceration”. Her words provide me with reasons to praise God, and opportunities to pray for others. The words she writes with an honesty that often brings tears to my eyes help me to think less of myself and more about other people.

Do they help you, too?

If they do, please let her know. Comment here. Encourage her. Email her directly at d.shellhart@yahoo.com.

My take on the first 20 of Diane’s posts is that it is a privilege to know her, even if it is only through her powerfully written words.

What’s yours?

“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”


By Diane S.


I often wonder lately if this is really my life. I caught myself the other night, while lying on my bed writing Chris a letter, thinking about the facts of my current situation. I can’t seem to shake the overwhelming sense of failure these facts bring about.

I am married. My husband is in jail. My husband will be in jail for 8 years. Sexual immorality put him in jail. I live with my parents. I am 33. I am severely overweight/obese. I am unhappy at this point in my life. I will never have a child of my own. I have no savings account. I live paycheck to paycheck. I cannot afford to live independently.

Those are facts, not just things I think about on days when I struggle with my depression and anxiety. They are facts, unarguable facts. And like I said, they make me feel like a failure and bring about immense sadness deep in my soul that is not healed yet. I don’t know if it’s even begun to heal. Some days just seeing a happy family out eating together rips the wounds wide open again and it’s clear that the healing is very far away.

I see people around me my age who have happy relationships, happy marriages, have kids or are pregnant, and are going on summer vacations. They are living their lives and loving God. They look and seem happy…at least on the outside…at least on the ‘highlight reel’ that we see on social media. I don’t get on social media all that often lately, it just hurts.

I want happiness with my husband. I want to be a normal family with a house, and a yard, and a barbecue grill. I want to be able to have my dog and not be a burden on anyone. I want to post happy pictures on Facebook from random things we do over the weekend.

I’ll never have any of that again.

I covet what others seem to have. It’s wrong. I shouldn’t. It’s sinful. But I struggle.

Every bit of what I just wrote is ridiculous, yet I struggle every day. None of that stuff matters. That stuff is just stuff here on earth. Joy isn’t found in any of that, none of it. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t change my eternity yet it is controlling my present and holding me in a miserable place. I finally fully understand why “Thou shalt not Covet” is one of the Ten Commandments.

Coveting is so crippling and steals my focus from God. It pulls me away and I drift away from God, ever so slowly, but then I wake up on days like this morning and feel like it’s been weeks since I had a real conversation with God. Of course, it really hasn’t been weeks, it hasn’t even been days.

Still, when I woke up this morning it felt like God was a million miles away from me. I have been reading my Bible every day. I have been saying prayers every day, but I am not sure if they have truly been from the heart. Sometimes it feels like they just bounce off the ceiling; like they go unheard. I know they don’t, but sometimes it feels like it.

I skipped church yesterday. Satan tells me I don’t fit in there and yesterday he won.

Everyone has a husband and kids. I have a job, a husband in jail, a step-son with me every other weekend and a bed at my mom’s. I just don’t have a lot in common with the women who are raising kids daily, have husbands, houses and playdates. It’s hard for me, with my social anxiety and depression, to be in a group setting at all. I almost always feel like I don’t belong in any group setting.

Whether it’s true or not, I always feel that way.

I usually always sit in the back, in the corner if I can, and am mostly quiet. I feel like the outcast in almost all situations lately and it’s not because people make me feel that way, my friends are amazing.

It just so happens I am always the “extra” person in a group, the person who doesn’t have anyone.

No one is there to understand the absolutely ridiculous random thoughts that sometime escape my head. No one is there to break the ice and get the conversation going so I can jump in seamlessly. My husband used to do those things for me.

Everything is harder without him.

I don’t see how I will ever be happy or be able to accept this new life. I know God sees it, but I can’t right now. After the next 8.5 years, then what? What will life be like then? I know I am only supposed to think about today because the overall picture breaks me. Today I can’t keep my thoughts from the future. Our marriage wasn’t perfect before all this. How will it be after it? Will it go back to the way it was prior to the end of 2013, when all of this started? Those weren’t great times either.

I’d be silly to think that just getting out of prison will make the rest of our lives blissful. It won’t.

To be very honest, our entire 7 years together has been hard. There have been good and bad times, and the bad were really rough. There always seemed to be something testing my trust and making me question his love for me. I don’t know why I never left in the earlier years. Well yes I do, because even then God was preparing for this storm. That is another reason I know I am where he wants me to be. Sometimes I think trust is like a mirror and once shattered you will never get it back together without some cracks….but then I know my God is a reconciler and redeemer so we have a shot at this. I have told more than one person that I truly believe that part of God’s reason for this is because he knew it was the only way our marriage could be saved. There is a very good chance had things kept on the path they were before the end of 2013 we would be divorced.

As you can see the last few days have been hard. I have doubted almost every decision I have made and questioned God daily. Is this really where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing?

It is.

I know it is, but that doesn’t make the doubts stay away and the hard days any easier. All I know is that I do not like this current situation at all. In fact I may hate it. But I love God and I trust His plan even though it hurts me so much right now. That love and trust is enough to get me through the next hour. After that hour, I’ll work on the next one.

This is another of my favorite songs, the lyrics are so very true:



“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”


by Diane S.                                                                                                      Written: June 16, 2015

Visit: Two

Another visit.

Another heart breaking good-bye.

Another long drive home with entirely too much time to think.

Another terrible night and day of complete brokenness.

Will it ever get easier? Part of me wants to believe that it will; part of me believes it never will. It was Thursday after the weekend of my first visit before I began to function as a somewhat normal human. This week it’s Tuesday and I am functioning (mostly) again. Sunday night was awful, Monday until about mid-afternoon was terrible and then the despair started lifting a little. After sleeping for 12 hours last night I feel much more capable of handling this day.

So maybe it will get easier. I’ll pray for that. It may get easier but it will never be right; leaving him there isn’t right.

It will never be right and it will never be ok.

Visit two was…interesting. It was raining on Saturday morning when we had to get in line. There is no cover and you stand outside in the rain. The BOP gets in no hurry to process visitors to help get them out of the rain. You stand and wait, just like on a sunny day. I was completely ill-prepared and we didn’t have umbrellas. Luckily I am from the south and we improvise pretty well so we bought a box of trash bags at the last gas station before you turn onto East Whatley road and made our own ponchos.

This brought on the first of two meltdowns of my 12 year old. He was absolutely adamant that he was not going to wear a trash bag with a hole ripped out for his face to keep him from getting wet. He didn’t want to look stupid. He lost that argument and a small meltdown ensued. Luckily my mother-in-law was there with me and she is wonderful at calming him down. It never got to crisis level and I am thankful for that.

I know that standing in line outside in the rain looking at a prison complex with huge fences and razor wire all around and knowing that your dad is inside there isn’t an easy thing to grasp.

I also know that the meltdown was just triggered by the “poncho” situation but the real emotion spilling down his cheeks was something much more than just having to wear a trash bag poncho. Note to self, buy umbrellas to avoid situation next time

We survived that ordeal and we stood in line in our trash bag ponchos. We stood in line until 9:15 that morning. We were sure we wouldn’t make it in before 10am count, but we did. However the inmates didn’t make into the visiting room until after count so we sat in the visiting room for about an hour waiting for Chris to get in there. I was thankful though, because we were out of the rain.

I met a very nice woman in line Saturday morning and I sat by her during the hour we waited for the inmates while we were in the visiting room waiting for count to clear so they could come in. We talked and I found out they are on year 7 of a 12 year stay. I talked with her son and her grandchildren. That woman and her son gave me hope. It was very encouraging to see them and talk with them. I loved talking to her son and hear him talk about his dad in conversations very normally like his dad was there as part of his life every day. This kid loved Elvis and was telling me all kinds of things about Elvis and he would say “my dad told me” or “my dad” about every other sentence. It made my heart full to know that this journey can be done. Marriages can survive, children can still thrive and have a relationship with their dad. I am sure they have hard days & their walk isn’t easy but they provided hope and encouragement for me that day and I am thankful God put them around me for me to see my ‘bread crumbs’ for the day.

The check-in process was much the same and as smooth as the last time I visited. I am thankful for the team we had Saturday doing visitor check-in because the team on Sunday wasn’t cooperative. We decided that when we got into the visiting room we would sit on the opposite side of the room and my mother in law would sit in the regular spot they have been sitting for a few weeks now. If you read my last entry you know that we surprised him and he had no idea his son and I were there. We waited until he sat down with his mom and then we walked around and stood in front of him.

This was an interesting part for me.

I wanted and was expecting a movie type reaction, you know when someone gets a good surprise in a movie and it’s just a great reaction with some tears and huge hugs, etc. Yea, not so much….that didn’t happen. He looked at his son and then at me, with what I can only describe as shock and all he said was “what are ya’ll doing here?” I don’t think I’ve ever left someone completely speechless but that was the case.

Shocked and speechless.

It was a good 15 seconds before it sank in and hugged either of us. I wasn’t sure if he was happy we were there or not. It was about half an hour before I could finally tell he was thrilled to see us.

That was the highlight of Saturday, the visit was filled with questions from his son, chatting about all kinds of things, and of course the ever important vending machine selections.

Saturday night we made a trip to Walmart to buy umbrellas since the forecast called for more rain on Sunday and I didn’t want a replay of the trash bag poncho meltdown again Sunday morning. Apparently things to keep you from getting wet in the rain are triggers for meltdowns from my 12 year old. There was another meltdown in Walmart over a $5 umbrella Saturday night. Again, I know it was much more than the umbrella. That is just what triggered all the emotions of the day. My mother in law was with me again at Walmart and I am was grateful. In the end he did get the $5 umbrella because after that my heart was just broken and it’s just a $5 umbrella. He was much better Sunday after a decent night’s sleep and more sleep on the way to visit Sunday morning.

Sunday was a good day.

We got a first class lesson on how different things can be day to day at visitor check in. The team on Sunday wasn’t so great, I just kept telling Michael our only goal here is to get into the visiting room to see Chris, so we would do whatever they asked. Even if they weren’t nice to us we were going to be nice and gracious to them. Sunday the rules were no sleeveless tops/dresses even if you had a sweater over it. That has never been the rule before; I had to go change. You could not chew gum. Ladies that always bring in lip gloss couldn’t. The same bracelet I have worn each time I visited (including the day before) wasn’t allowed on Sunday. I keep a small piece of paper in my clear change purse with my car tag number on it and my husband’s inmate number on it since you have to have that for paperwork and they made me throw that way Sunday.

Sunday was definitely different.

I said after my first visit that I don’t know how anyone could follow the rules 100% since they change daily. It appears it is fairly normal for things to change.

Sunday was a good day, it was a good visit. I think we all enjoyed it.

Until we had to say goodbye, I hate that part. It’s the worst part. It breaks me. Every time. I have to leave the prison and drive 7.5 hours back to Tennessee. It’s a hard and sad drive each time. I cry a lot on those drives. On this drive looking over at my 12 year old asleep in the passenger seat completely exhausted on his way back from visiting his dad in prison was almost more than I could bear. He is 12, he should be sleeping on the way back from summer vacations or trips over the road with his dad in his 18 wheeler. He should not be sleeping on his way back from visiting his dad in prison.

This will be the next 8 years of our life.