By Mary Giraldo
Every new year it seems the inevitable happens, reflections of the year passed and thoughts of the new year to come. As 2017 approached, I found myself not only reflecting on one year passed but several. I’ve always known that the best thing to come out of my dad’s arrest 12 years ago was mine and his relationship with Christ. Had that not happened when it did, I’m not sure how I would have navigated the hardships of parenting, struggles of marriage and MS and cancer diagnoses. In my moments of weakness and despair I was always reminded that His strength is made perfect in me (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I can recall a time when I engaged in a back and forth discussion with God about how I appreciate His confidence in my strength and fight, but I was tired of it all and I truly was not as strong as He thought. As you can imagine I didn’t win that argument. My struggles did not go away, but every day God gave me just what I needed when I needed it.
Through the years I’ve learned that our loving God would not allow my hurt to be in vain. I’ve come to learn that every trial and struggle has been used as part of His bigger plan for my life; He was strengthening and refining me for His work, to set forth and do exceedingly and abundantly more than I could hope for or imagine.
Every so often I’d hear God leading me to prison ministry and I’d tell Him politely, “no thank you, that’s not what I was thinking”. I felt very comfortable in our relationship to tell Him no, knowing He’d still love me; after all He’d come to expect it.
I am constantly praying for His will in my life to be done, that I would listen to His still, small voice calling me out to move further than just being a wife and mother. James 1:22, says But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, I was listening for His voice and His leading, but that’s where it would end. I’d twist and turn in any way possible to avoid the uncomfortable paths that He was clearly setting before me; fear kept me from moving forward and simply saying yes.
And then the day came, I took His hand and finally said yes. Our very own GFC Hope Rising is the prison ministry that God led me to. Almost two years ago when my dad was released and we picked him up from Hardee Correctional, I never thought I’d step foot back on prison grounds, but in October I found myself face to face with the tall barbed wire fences once again. The opportunity arose to teach classes at Hernando Correctional, an all women’s prison. This was my moment and like Peter, Jesus wouldn’t be able to show me I too could walk on water with Him. God had been preparing me for such a time as this.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned through the hardships in my life is perspective. When you’re diagnosed with what is perceived to be incurable or when physical freedom is stripped from you, looking at things from God’s perspective gives you the hope for brighter days ahead even when sorrow and despair fill your days. The laughter and joy my family were still able to maintain during our prison visits and the smiles that greet me when I show up to teach a class at Hernando Correctional remind me of what I‘ve already learned; joy is possible in the darkness, God’s hope is very real and most importantly God truly can work ALL things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Prison ministry was certainly never a part of my plans, but I’m so glad I said yes to God’s plans and let Him do what He does best and take the lead.
What conversations with God have you been avoiding? What will your “yes” be this year?