Used by God
by Natalie (Neco) Haviland
Before I came to prison, I was blessed with two teenagers, a son, Kevin, who was 13, and a daughter Angel, who was 15 almost 16. I had just been blessed with a job at a Fortune 500 company. I couldn't believe that I got the position. I was a 40-year-old female, and I was to begin as a maintenance engineer for huge rockery just 5 miles from the new home I was building with Habitat for Humanity for my children. With my truck, and mini-van paid off, I would have doubled the house payment, and had it paid off in 10 years. My life was set. God's blessings were so abundant.
It was the fifth of May, Cinco De Mayo, and the county fair was in town. I took the kids to the fair, they had unlimited rides all day. I watched the shows, sipping wine whiling the kids enjoyed the rides and games. Later that evening, I was celebrating my set life with a few shots of tequila. It was after all, Cinco De Mayo, and I had so much to celebrate.
At some point in the evening, I blacked out, and woke up in jail. I was told that I had harmed my children in a drunken stupor. I needed no further information. I simply wanted to die. I thought I'd wrecked my van, and hurt people. I had no idea what I had done. All that mattered most was that I had harmed my children, and life no longer seemed worth living. In court I learned that I had slapped my daughter. Also earlier in the evening, I had thrown a beer bottle out from the front passenger seat to the back of the van, and it hit my son in the lip. He never said a word, so I had no idea it had even hit him until I was charged with the crime.
I further learned that since I had a prior felony offense from 1980 when I was eighteen, I was now facing the three strike law. The judge said that I was facing a minimum of 25 to life, as I had two felony charges. My daughter had already established a family to live with. She had wanted to live with this couple prior to this, but I had resisted because they were alcoholics, and atheists.
My son, however, was devastated at the situation. His father had passed away five years earlier, and with me leaving him, he was pretty much all alone. The church we had been attending did not support us in any way, since the Elder was the District Attorney who had filed the three strikes before he excused himself from the case.
Kevin went from one place to another, and he was eventually placed in temporary foster care. Shortly thereafter, he ran from the foster care home, and became homeless. Meanwhile, my life was falling apart. I was devastated and fearful for my son. I had no idea what might happen to him, or who might hurt him, or if he would turn to drugs, or worse. It was a nightmare that continued day after day, night after night. Kevin had met a lovely young girl named Courtney from school. He used to be a straight A student. He was kind of a quiet boy. He was athletic, and humorous. He never showed a lot of emotions, but he was very sensitive, and he enjoyed going to church, and paying the tithe, since he was the man of the house.
I begged God to watch over Kevin, for Him to make a way for him, to keep him safe, and to protect him from all of the bad people out there in the world. I could do nothing for Kevin, but pray. As for me, I had given up on life. It had been over a year, and I still faced life in prison. I had lost everything I had ever worked for. I had given away the truck, minivan, and everything I had owned. I knew I was going to get sentenced to life in prison, and I just flat out refused to serve it. I planned to take my life right there in the court room in front of the judge.
I did not understand how or why God would allow all of this to happen to me. Did I deserve this? Was I a bad mom? What purpose could this serve? What about Kevin? I know I am not a perfect Christian but I was trying my best by my God, and my family. Life in prison for a child abuser was too much for me to adsorb. I tried to take my life one morning. I told God that I was sorry, but I gotta go, but I survived the attempt. God was not going to let me out of this that easily.
My public defenders clerk came that day, and told me that I would not do life. They got me 15yrs at 85%. I was sentenced, and shipped quickly, and I was sent to a state mental hospital to stabilize me after my suicide attempt. They put me on Anti-depressant, and got me eating again, and so I started my new journey.
My sister has always been a stable source of information about the family for me. Having a phone number to call every week has been a treasured blessing. She would assure me that Kevin was doing well. She told me that Kevin was living with Courtney's family. A letter came one day from a woman I had never met. Her name is Tracy, and she wanted to let me know that Kevin was safe. She was Courtney’s mother, and though Kevin, and Courtney were in love, they agreed they would not engage in relations as long as he was in their home. Tracey allowed Kevin to move into her son's room, and treated him as one of her own. She was unable to enroll him in school, as he was on the run from the foster care system, and she had no legal authority to do so. She received no monetary compensation for caring for him, nor did she expect, or ask for anything from anyone. She only meant to bless me with the assurance that Kevin would be okay.
I sincerely admire this woman’s courage to allow a teenage boy into her home. As a mother of a teenage daughter, I was very protective, and cautious about such things. I had a young man once plead with me to allow him to stay in my home for a month so he could finish school when his family moved out of town. He was sixteen, and came from a dysfunctional home. It was heart breaking to say no. I felt my family’s safety was more important, however, I still wonder if I made the right decision.
Tracey did not know who Kevin really was when she made her decision to allow him to live in her home. That had to be God’s call in her heart to take a chance on a young man who needed someone to trust him.
God is so good! In the midst of my darkness, a light of hope. I know nothing of this woman's spirituality, her belief system, or her faith. What I do know is that she allowed God to use her to be a tremendous blessing to Kevin, and myself. With Kevin safe, I was able to focus on me. I still grieved my loss. I lost much, and I faced imminent danger as a convicted child abuser on the main yard, plus I would not parole till I was 53 years old. How would I start life over again at that age, and an ex-con?
I spent two and a half years in one on one psychotherapy, working through the depression! I have done hundreds of Bible studies, joined a faith based re-entry program, and am now a facilitator in the program. I tell myself that this is Bible College. I have much to learn, and much time to study. It has been nearly 10 years at the time of this writing. Kevin is now a man, married to Courtney. They have a two and a half year old son, and are happy well-adjusted apartment managers. God's hand has been on Kevin's life, and pulled him through. Thank you Jesus.
He was not allowed to visit me until he became an adult. So it was several years till I saw him. When he did come at the age of eighteen, I got to meet Courtney. She is the most lovely young woman I have ever met. I couldn't have asked for a better daughter-in-law. God did exceedingly above and beyond what I could ask for or imagine. Just like the Word says. I still have not met Tracey, however, I have kept her, and her husband Glen, in my heart, thoughts, and prayers all of these years. I am so grateful that they took a chance on a young boy, who needed a family and a home. Their investment paid off, and they now have a son in law, and a grandson.
They will also always have me to pray for them. I can never re-pay them for their kindness, but I sure can try. I have two years left, and upon release, I have a wonderful support system set in place. I am standing on the scripture that God will restore all the years that the locusts have eaten away. God will send people in my path who will provide all I need.
Meanwhile, I teach, I speak, I testify, and as you can see, I write. Thank you Jesus for all that I have, and all that I don't have.
Edify in the Church always,
Natalie (Neco) Haviland