Wasted Time

11 (2)

This week I am posting a poem that has been around awhile and was written by an inmate. This poem doesn’t originate from anyone that I know, but most behind bars can identify with it.

The time that I’ve wasted is my biggest regret,

Spent in these places I will never forget.

Just sitting and thinking about the things that I’ve done,

The crying, the laughing, the hurt and the fun.

Now it’s me and my hard driven guilt

Behind a wall of emptiness I allowed to be built.

I’m trapped in my body, just wanting to run

Back to my youth with its laughter and fun.

But the chase is over and there’s no place to hide

Everything is gone, including my pride.

With reality suddenly right in my face

I’m scared, alone and stuck in this place.

Now memories of the past flash through my head

And the pain is obvious by the tears that I shed.

I ask myself why and where I went wrong.

I guess I was weak when I should have been strong.

Living for the drugs and the wings I had grown,

My feelings were lost, afraid to be shown.

As I look at my past it’s so easy to see.

The fear that I had, afraid to be me.

I pretend to be rugged, so fast and so cool

When actually lost like a blinded old fool.

I’m getting too old for this tiresome game

Of acting real hard with no sense of shame.

It’s time that I change and get on with my life,

Fulfilling my dreams for a family and wife.

What my future will hold I really don’t know,

But the years that I’ve wasted are starting to show.

I just live for the day when I’ll get a new start

And the dreams I still hold deep in my heart.

I hope I can make it; I at least have to try,

Because I’m headed toward death and I don’t want to die.


I encourage men to not look at their incarceration as wasted time, telling them that instead this should be a learning time. A time in which God is using to mold and shape real men of God. Though many would agree with me, the words in this poem still reflect how many of the incarcerated feel! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what brings hope to all those who are incarcerated and we as Christians need to go behind the bars of prison to share this Good News!

CHHS Student Encourages Others Through Story of Forgiveness

Tristan Ziannis, left, and her mother Kelly have been sharing their family's story of forgiveness in public lately to help others coping with similar circumstances. (For the Reporter/Dawn Harrison)

This story was written by Emily Sparacino and published on May 2 in the Shelby County Reporter and it highlights the family of a formerly incarcerated man. This well written story is one of love and forgiveness and is well worth reading. I recently did a podcast with Kelly Ziannis which will be shared next month on this website as well as on Itunes, Stitcher Radio, and Soundcloud at “Detention to Redemption.

Chelsea High School senior Tristan Ziannis has been particularly busy the last few months with school, softball and preparations for college in the fall.

Ziannis, 17, is nearing the end of both her impressive career with the Lady Hornets and her time as a student at CHHS. Like her classmates, she has plenty of excuses to keep her extracurricular activities to a minimum as graduation approaches.

But Ziannis has been far from selfish with her time outside of the classroom and away from the softball field lately. Extenuating circumstances with family members have landed Ziannis in a supportive role, and recently, she started speaking publicly about some of the experiences that have shaped her childhood and changed her family.

Ziannis said she hopes her story helps others who are facing similar circumstances.

Trials and time

Kelly Ziannis, Tristan’s mother, was 4 years old when Kelly’s father moved out of their home.

His life began unraveling when he returned from the Korean War, and alcohol and other factors surfaced.

“Things got worse after he came back from war,” Kelly said.

When Kelly was Tristan’s age, her father went to prison for murder.

“I testified against him,” Kelly said. “That kind of broke our relationship for quite some time.”

Kelly moved on with her life and eventually had her only daughter, Tristan.

She allowed Tristan to speak with her grandfather on the phone, and Tristan was well aware of the circumstances that led to his incarceration.

“She understood what he did at an early age,” Kelly said.

They sent him clippings of newspaper articles about Tristan’s softball games periodically, and he and Tristan spent much time talking about “ball and God,” Kelly said.

“I talked to him a lot on the phone,” Tristan said.

Then, after one of Kelly’s nephews died in a car accident, Tristan asked her mother if they could visit her grandfather in prison.

“I had never taken her to see him,” Kelly said of Tristan, who was 7 at the time. “She asked me to take her to prison to meet her Papi. I asked her why, and she said he was sad, too, and he needed a hug.”

Kelly agreed, and 10 years after last seeing him at the trial, Kelly took Tristan to the St. Clair Correctional Facility for what would be an emotional meeting.

Without having seen him in person before, Tristan ran straight to her grandfather and hugged him.

“He cried, and I had never seen him cry,” Kelly said. “At that point on, my forgiveness (for him) started then. He got saved the next day. He said that she (Tristan) was forgiveness in its purest form.”

Letting go

Kelly’s mother moved in with her and Tristan about five years ago to recuperate from shoulder replacement surgery.

She has always been involved in Tristan’s life and is a fixture at the softball field, affectionately known by Tristan’s teammates as “Nana.”

“My mom has been a godsend, a rock,” Kelly said.

In September 2015, Kelly’s father called them and said his cancer from a decade ago was back. At 81       years old, serving a life without parole sentence, he declined to undergo treatment.

Two weeks later, Kelly’s mother had a massive stroke.

In the weeks and months after, when they weren’t at work or school, Kelly and Tristan split their time between her mother and father, logging several more visits with him in the prison infirmary before he died in mid­February.

Tristan described the last visits as “family times” during which she gained a strong sense of the man he  was apart from his shackles and tainted past.

“I actually really liked him. He was really smart,” Tristan said. “He was very sweet. I liked him more than I expected.”

Kelly said the news of her father’s illness solidified her love and forgiveness for him.

“When I got that phone call, the one thing that was there is I knew I loved him,” she said. “We took an    entire lifetime and crammed it into five months, and that was for her (Tristan) and for me. She never gave up on him.”

Kelly’s mother also granted him forgiveness in the process.

“They talked on the phone, and he apologized, and they said they loved one another,” Kelly said of her    parents. “I had never heard that in my life, and neither had she.”

A platform worth sharing

Several weeks ago, Tristan seized an opportunity to share her story with children and adults at Village     Springs Baptist Church in Remlap.

Pastor Glenn Bynum, who works in prison ministry and knew Kelly’s father, invited Tristan and Kelly to     speak to others –particularly children  that might be grappling with issues related to a family member in prison.

Tristan’s approach to talking about her grandfather is open and honest.

“It’s never been anything that I hide,” she said. “I think some people are more particular about it and don’t want to say anything. You shouldn’t want to keep it a secret because it is what it is.”

Although the entry process and security checks for visitors at the prison can be scary for someone who has never been, Tristan said she would have regretted not visiting her grandfather.

She also talked about forgiveness as a means to having a positive relationship with someone in the same situation.

“Don’t be discouraged,” she said. “I think forgiving is big. You can’t change it, and they can’t change it either.

“I don’t like holding onto things. If you hold onto it, you’ll miss out on something.”

Tristan and Kelly recently participated in a podcast called “Detention to Redemption,” and hope to continue sharing their experiences through different outlets in the future.

Tristan’s plans after graduation May 24 are to start at Southern Union State Community College in August and eventually transfer to Auburn University. She wants to work in family counseling, she said.

“She’s very successful,” Kelly said of Tristan. “I don’t know what we did to raise her right, but I’ll take it.”

The Empty Chairs at the Table. A message to Children from the Father.

table and chairs

This was written by a Father to his children while he currently is incarcerated at the prison I serve at.

“If we could know tomorrow, then maybe we would avoid today’s mistakes…”

Some things we do in life end up taking away from others far more that we can ever know. On the day I was arrested,(02-06-2000) I ended up taking someone away from two families. One family lost a Daughter to heaven, while the other family lost a Son to incarceration. That day innocent children were left without a Mother and a Father. That day, siblings were forced to accept the loss of a Sister and a Brother, and in that moment both families had an empty chair at the table.

No matter what happened to bring about these tragedies, saying “I’m sorry” will never be enough, and serving a prison sentence of any length won’t ever reverse the time. I think it should be said that our outcomes on that tragic day could have been easily reversed. Then it would be her writing this article from a prison cell, while my family would have lost a Son to hell. I say hell because I did not know Jesus as my Savior back then; either way, both families would still have an empty chair at their tables.

Unfortunately, once things were set in motion there was no option for a good outcome, and we obviously did not considered those that would suffer due to our absences. On that day, hate, vengeance, and grief were automatically inflamed. And as you can imagine, the details of the incident really don’t matter to a mother who is forced to grieve the loss of a Daughter. This pain has no ear and Christian forgiveness has no place when the death of our dear children is before us. I imagine how the Heavenly Father must have felt when His Son Jesus was crucified.

In 1991, my Mother suffered and died, and as a result I blame and even hated God for taking her. So I know how the children feel in having me to blame for them not having a Mom, but trying to explain self-defense to a child is pointless after a Mother’s funeral. In 2010, while I was still in prison, my Daughter was killed in a car accident. Describing the agony is beyond me, but now I know how the parents feel… God help us all because in the heart of this man there was no answer for the pain.

And let us not forget about the physically abused child that knows her Father, her so called protector, cannot help her because he is locked away. For that child there is no hope and no comfort. And what of that Son who, while seeking a Father’s guidance, is instead deceived by an uncaring father figure. For him there is no understanding of why he was abandoned or how he will recover.

Over time, we grow up still holding fast to our own misfortunes and issues that stem from the empty chairs at the table. Consequently, some have been driven closer to each other and some have been driven apart; some became inwardly bitter while others became outwardly better. For some, the empty chair will never be filled, and for some it was never really empty. This is because those who are absent remain present in their hearts.

For my part in all of this, I say “I wish it would have never happened.” Even if I were acquitted at trial or even released some day from prison I will still wish it would have never came to having to choose between my life and hers. It was never my intent that any parent, sibling, or child would have to suffer even one moment due to my actions. Therefore, in the name of Jesus, I say “I am deeply and sincerely sorry to both families for my part in the empty chairs at your tables.”

In closing I would ask that you consider this: forgiveness is more for you then for those you extend it to, but extend it we must… extend it we must.

The Pain Of Those Suffering In Father-Absent Homes

Wednesday evening at our inmate service in the chapel, an older man shared that he had recently received a newsletter from his hometown. When he opened it up on the inside was a graduation picture of his 16 year old daughter. He shared that it had been 15 years since he had last seen and spoken to her. This proud daddy with tears in his eyes shared how much he loved her and with the help of a friend had penned a song. He picked up the guitar and begun to sing these words…

I saw your picture in the paper with that sweet angelic smile
It made so many memories go flooding through my mind
If I could just turn back the time and do it all again
I wouldn’t make the same mistakes that I made back then.

I know you often wondered why it all turned out this way
And if I had the chance I still don’t know what I could even say
But there’s just one question that burns in my heart still, is can you forgive.

I know just saying I’m sorry doesn’t take your pain away
Nor does it change how I walked out on that lonely April day
I can’t even imagine all the heartache you have felt
What I wouldn’t give if I could just take it on myself.

I’d gladly take every ounce of pain that I know you must feel
But sometimes there are wounds so deep that only God can heal
But there’s just one question that burns in my heart still, is can you forgive.

I know Jesus forgives me for all my sin
But I know that don’t take away the things I did
I’m not asking you to promise that you can love me still
But one thing I need to know, is can you forgive.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America, one out of three, live in biological father-absent homes. Many times I think we tend to forget the hurt these children must feel as their fathers are stripped away from their homes. Statistics say that children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. Approximately forty-six percent of jail inmates had a previously incarcerated family member. One-fifth experienced a father in prison or jail. Children living in father-absent homes are twice as likely to repeat a grade in school. A study of 1,977 children age 3 and older living with a residential father or father figure found that children living with married biological parents had significantly fewer externalizing and internalizing behavioral problems. The U.S. currently has the World’s highest incarceration rate, 500 prisoners per 100000 residents, or about 1.6 million … Men make up 90 percent of the prison and local jail population.
Let’s pray for the children of those incarcerated!!