If you have a loved one in prison, then you know how much it can turn your life upside down.

Author and speaker Carol Kent has been there and shares from her personal experience after receiving the news that her son, Jason, would be incarcerated for life without parole on first-degree murder charges. She offers encouragement from her book Waiting Together.

Throughout this painful journey, Carol has learned the importance of remaining thankful in all circumstances.

“I have a lot to be thankful for; my son is living for Jesus instead of being depressed or becoming cynical, that’s a lot to be thankful for. I keep my own gratitude list, that’s one of the ways I hold onto hope.”

Whether you have a loved one who is incarcerated or not, making a gratitude list is an important thing to do.

“It works whether you have a loved one behind bars, or whether you’re just having an average day to day life and you’re not experiencing a lot of pain right now. Choosing to be thankful changes everything and the Bible says, ‘In everything give thanks.’”

Carol reflects on how difficult this journey has been for her at times, especially around the holidays.

“I remember one Christmas week, I was walking in my neighborhood and I noticed are a lot of cars in a driveway. I happened to just glance in the front big window and they were having a reunion with lots of people gathering around a table. I had the stroke of mad jealousy like, ‘They get to have their family around their Christmas table, and I’m going to the prison to visit my son on Christmas Day, eating out of vending machines.’”

“I find that if you can quickly take that jealousy and say, ‘Oh Lord, forgive me. Help me to be thankful for what I can be thankful for. Thank you that I can be at the prison on Christmas.’”

No matter how difficult our circumstances may be, we still have an opportunity to bring hope and healing to other people. Carol tells us about an encounter she had while visiting her son in prison on Christmas Day.

“I was there on a Christmas Day in the ladies room, in one of the stalls, when a woman came in. She was hyperventilating…she was cussing; she was sobbing and she said, ‘I hate this place; I hate these people, I think I’m having a nervous breakdown.’”

“The old me would have come out, I would have quoted my 5 best verses on suffering, I would have prayed over her and said, ‘You’ll be fine.’ But the new broken me was weeping before I ever left that stall.”

“That day I did not quote my Bible verses, I did not say my prayer; instead I put my arms around a complete stranger and two women, who did not even know each other’s first names, cried together; each feeling the other’s grief. I finally spoke up I said, ‘I know this pain, my boy is here. I’m so sorry about what’s happened to your family.’

Carol was able to walk alongside this woman, in the midst of her pain, and provide her with the message of hope in Jesus Christ.

“I am learning that we need to be like Jesus, before we can ever talk to people seriously about our Jesus. That has been very important lesson that has come to me out of this journey.”

Highlight: Thankfulness

Hope for families of prisoners