Life Handed Me a Lemon. I Squeezed the Life Out of it!

Say Whaaaaat? Where are we going with this, you might ask. Well, many of us have had situations in life that have been less than sweet. In fact, some have been downright sour! Reflect back on such a period in your life, if you have been one of those recipients. How did you handle that time? Did you gain or lose from it? (not just materially). How did you make out emotionally? Did you do things to offset the impact or change the results? Or was it totally out of your control to manage?

These are definitely some tough questions. Yet, the answers from some who have had to adjust to situations less than favorable, could prove helpful to many.  Here is the story of how one person handled a curb ball in his life.

Quinn Harrett had a rough start to his teenage life. In his early teens, he became a product of a broken family. An unfortunate event that left him and his sister to find their own way. So, they set out on a journey that no longer had the support of a competent parent or guardian; they were like fish out of water.

 

Prior to losing the safety net of a stable and somewhat functional home, Quinn had not been a rebellious son. He and his sister Paige came up pretty sheltered in a closely-knitted suburban community in south Georgia. Their friends were all from the same stock. They were afforded an upper-middle-class existence with level footing in both the community and the Church. Once the big ‘D’ process started, the sands of time began to shift things; that which was not held down suddenly began to cave in and suck down every occupant with it. Quinn learned to adjust quickly to life on his own. Pretty much on his own terms.

 

Well, let’s see what that looked like. Ughh! The divorce wasn’t so ugly to him. He didn’t experience any drama because he was whisked away to the big city of New York with relatives he hardly knew. What an experience that was. There he was treated ‘less than’ by cousins and others; to them he was a country bumpkin. Funny how people make others feel inferior because their city happens to be smaller than theirs. Even funnier, Quinn learned years later that those who teased him were for decades just eking out a living in New York… with strong dependence on the taxpayers.

 

Quinn found it easy to dismiss them though. He had his whole life ahead of him once he returned to Georgia. His 2 month stay in New York just happened to be in the summer so he did not skip a beat when it was time to start school. Seeing Paige again gave him an incentive to be a good example. The challenges they both faced living in a new area were starting a new school district, finding new friends, and learning how to survive the mean streets.

 

The streets bested him, though. He dropped out of school in the 10th grade and decided to wing it on the wages as a short order cook in a fast-food joint. In the early seventies, he was able to get a small apartment off of what he earned. But early on, it became obvious that he did not possess the financial skills he needed to be a responsible adult. He didn’t budget, he didn’t pay his bills, and he didn’t file taxes. Ughh! Didn’t take long for Quinn’s world to crumble.

In the midst of the downturn, he acquainted himself with new friends. They were cool. They smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, did drugs, and other things. Wasn’t long before Quinn engaged in petty criminal activities, the other things. He learned about being responsible when he landed in jail and faced a sentence of more than ten years. So much for being an example for Paige who was, so far, untouched by the cruel streets and still had a chance at home with a broken parent.

Family wasn’t interested in helping Quinn at this point; being of legal age to be tried as a adult, and without proper representation, he received the maximum sentence for his crime. Trying to gain proper footing in a broken world as a teen, he failed miserably. Or so it seemed. Suddenly carted off to the ‘Big House’ Quinn found himself surrounded by hardened criminals. As a newbie, the quarters were more bearable than he had expected and the food wasn’t bad. Unlike the movies he’d seen. During the orientation process, everyone around him were newbies… so, there was an automatic bonding that took place. Everyone had each other’s back. Literally!

 

One day, there Quinn was on a top bunk in his quad, hands behind his head looking to the ceiling trying to make sense of it all. His thoughts took him back to his childhood. Looking in retrospect, how pleasant things were. Life was good not knowing the dark side. Playing in the streets of the community was safe. Not once having to think of bad elements coming into his world. It was okay to be a kid; no pressure to be an adult. Even being churched wasn’t bad, now that he thought about it. So much of what gave him his worldview came from the principles he’d learned in Sunday School. Still, God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost wasn’t so clear. Kind of mystical characters. (especially the Holy Ghost)

“… If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Yet, as he reflected that day behind prison walls, Quinn wrote down a short prayer on a blank leaf of his Bible that journeyed with him there. Perhaps thinking God would get the message if it was near to His own words. He asked God to give him a chance to sing in church again, to live his life in a way He would be proud of him, to try once again to be a good example to others. The moment he penned those words a thought entered his mind.

“I can do one of two things; I can serve this time or I can let this time serve me.”

You see, Quinn had recently learned that he could finish his education in prison, plus he could learn a trade or go to college all on the government’s dime! Quinn’s words stayed with him throughout his life from that day to this. He learned early that there is hope in every situation. Perspective plays a big part. Some see the glass half empty when others see it half full. With this new feeling of hope for the future even behind bars, he began to map out a plan. Little did he know that God was lighting his way.

Once he was cleared for the population inside, he spent much of his leisure time in the fully-equipped library. He found a huge GED study manual and began studying math, English and science. Nothing else. He believed if he strengthened his knowledge in those subjects he would be ready to take the test for his diploma. In less than three weeks he felt ready. Quinn was down for the next scheduled exam. Lo, and behold he passed and got his diploma! This one achievement led Quinn to believe that he was on the road to making himself a better person. He immediately enrolled in courses left and right.

His schedule: Each morning he went to a business class. In the afternoon he went off campus to study Architectural Drafting & Graphic Arts, and at night he went to Georgia Military College right on the prison grounds! The time was truly serving him. He received certifications, honors, awards and even praise from the authorities. Quinn was labeled a model inmate. Being as busy as he was, he had little time to get with the wrong group and get in trouble. Time went by quickly, too!

In less than three years Quinn was given an early review to be determined if he was ready to rehabilitate back into society. He fast tracked to the rehabilitation center in middle Georgia, got a great job, saved money and in less than a year was released. So much happened in between this time. The God he prayed to four years prior had become more of a reality to him in daily life. He saw clearly that God’s hand guided him throughout his journey. Jesus, whom he learned about in his church days of yesteryear, he had since accepted as his Savior and Lord of his life.

PSALM 46:10

To Quinn, the God of the Bible is exactly who He says He is. The route it took for him to find this out could very well be a different route others have taken. However, the lessons might prove similar. Prison made Quinn be still, take note of his life, and remember the God of his youth. No matter the lot given to each of us in life, God’s careful eye is on those whose heart is, even in the least bit, inclined to Him.  The whirlwind effects of a broken home resulted in him feeling his way through; doing life his way until one day he fell hard.  Quinn’s God-moment was at the ‘Big House’ on that top bunk. But what exactly led him to that moment?

 

 

 

He thought of his beginnings as a child, living securely, going to church regularly, being free, having a sense of the existence of a God who would listen to him. Yes. This was a good place to start. From the beginning. 

Quinn did one-third of the time he was given to serve for his crime. Paying his penalty and receiving all the benefits afforded him, he returned to society a new man. He continues to this day to trust in God. He has learned to help others by sharing the gospel and giving his testimony of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.

Quinn’s sister, Paige finished school and got her diploma. Afterwards, she committed her life to work hard to afford the things she desired. She died of cancer at the age of 62. Paige finished well. Repenting and seeking God’s forgiveness, she put her trust in Jesus and passed with peace in her heart that she was accepted into the beloved. 

You or someone you know might have had a rough beginning in life, in many cases, through no fault of their own. Remind them of the goodness and mercy of God. When life puts the squeeze on you, or hands you a lemon, squeeze back. Squeeze the life out of it! Make it work for you. As some say, “make lemonade.” God’s Word says He will make it work for your good.

Just remember to always be “A-Peeling” and always keep the Lord as your “Main Squeeze”

 

 

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