Portia’s trailer (6:23)
Portia’s Full Interview (19:47)
I spent four and a half years in federal prison for real estate fraud. My children grew up without me, my marriage withstood the difference, and it stripped away so much of who I thought I was.
It was summertime when I arrived at the federal prison in Waseca Minnesota. I found a place under a tree in the rec yard that would become my sanctuary. I spent a lot of time under that tree. I went to work early, and stayed late, so I could go outside and feel connected to God.
One morning as I thought about my children growing up without me the pain seemed more than I could bare. I was so far away from home, and the distance seemed overwhelming! As I got up to leave, one of my co- workers asked to talk to me, “Portia, maybe you are feeling weak right now; but I see your incredible strength. I know you are struggling, and I want you to know that you are not alone, you were never alone. We love you. I’ve been praying for you, and there are people who love you, and want you to succeed, both in heaven and on earth.”
Her words comforted my soul. I needed to know that God was mindful of me.
She pointed to a planter that was nearby and said, “Aren’t these flowers beautiful? You know they have to die each year so they can be re- born.”
My tears were flowing freely.
“You will get through this, and someday you will teach people how to go through their own re-birth, because you will have already experienced it. You are in a good place to help others, embrace it.”
I thought about my co-workers words all afternoon. I admired her, she was a disciplined woman, a great writer, and communicator. She ran around the track every morning in steel toed boots. Maybe she was a little eccentric; but her strength and willingness to serve others was inspiring.
Later that day while I was sitting in the commissary, I remembered a dream I had while I was in the county jail before I was sentenced. I felt vulnerable and scared and thought I could hear my children’s voices. I knew they needed me, and I was terrified to leave them. I remembered the dream differently; I saw it from a new perspective. My children were fine, I could hear their voices, and they were happy. They took turns calling out to me. My oldest daughter Shelby said, “Mom needs us, but she won’t let us help her. I’m going to send CJ in to get her.”
I could see myself sitting in a jail cell alone and I wouldn’t leave. My youngest daughter, CJ walked in and grabbed my hand, “Come on mom, let’s go, we’re all waiting for you.” CJ giggled, which is one of my favorite sounds, and we walked out together. I was free!
I could see that I had choices. I could choose to use my time wisely, I could choose to serve others, I could choose to be a positive and uplifting influence in my children’s lives, I could choose my response to the situation I was in, and I could choose to be free on the inside.
That evening when I went to the cafeteria to eat dinner, I noticed a woman who was mopping the floor was staring at me. I smiled at her, and she said, “You’re glowing!”
She was Hispanic, English was her second language, and I wasn’t sure if I heard her right. I said, “I’m new to this compound, my name is Portia.”
“Your face is glowing friend, I can see the light all around you. God will bless you when you leave prison because you’re here for us.”
It was a strange comment; but strange things happen quite often in prison, so I thanked her and went on my way.
The next morning there was a cool breeze as I walked around the track. The sky was blue, and the trees seemed to dance with color. I felt peace as I thought about my children, I felt honored to be their mother. I noticed beauty in the simple things around me.
I said a prayer:
Father, I am willing to let go of everything I am. I don’t have much to give; but everything I thought I was and everything I wanted to be is yours if you will have it. I know you love me, and I believe in miracles. I want to be a new woman, please heal me.
That was the day I was re-born..
I’ve been home for three years now, and God has given me beauty for ashes.
I want people to know that there’s always hope. The best is yet to come.
My business card
Visit my website: https://portialouder.com/