The story behind Miniature Masonry is long so I will put the main points here and you can read more if you would like.
1. Graduated college then got into drugs
2. Was arrested facing serious time
3. Turned to God
4. Met Cory and Mason
5. Released from jail after over a year
6. Cory teaches me to craft stone
7. Mason shows me I need to do more with my life
8. God gives me Miniature Masonry
9. Mason is killed
10. I grow closer to my church
11. Miniature Masonry evolves
12. I become my own boss
The story behind Miniature Masonry is long, both beautiful and ugly, and outside telling people in person this will be the first time I have put it in writing. I hid it in the website because I don't feel ready to make it known to all, but hope you can see God's love within it.
I graduated from the University of Montana with a Bachelor's in accounting and a Master's in Business (MBA). I learned a ton but ultimately ended up getting into hard drugs with a woman I loved after graduation.
It was roughly four and a half years later, April 28, 2015 I was arrested for robbing casinos all over the state of Montana. I had used fake payout tickets. My max sentence was 450 years, $1,500,000 in fines. Below is an excerpt from my paperwork.
When I was first arrested, I slept for almost two weeks, getting up for meals and yard/library once or twice. When I was around 9 years old my Grandma sent me a book called "God's promises." I had never opened that book, it just sat on my bookshelf for years. I did not want to read scripture, justifying myself by saying it had been translated so many times there cannot be anything divine in there. My senior quote was actually "It is better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven."
After sleeping for so long I couldn't sleep anymore and was forced to face what my life had become. It was a TERRIBLE feeling, I believe that must be what hell feels like, complete despair and hopelessness, like God was gone and the weight of everything I had done is crushing me. I did so many wicked things, the casinos are what landed me in jail but the worst things I was never caught for. Your soul gets calloused after doing enough bad things and after a while it is as if you have no soul left, no sense of right and wrong. The only thing stopping you from doing something are the odds of getting away with it and how badly you want to do it. Even today I sometimes feel the weight of things I did back then, lines crossed you never come back from entirely. That life leaves scars on your body, your heart, and your soul, but Jesus gives such memories purpose. Sure drugs were a factor, but I cannot blame them for what I have done. I slept and ate regularly, used enough drugs to maintain, and know the evil within was ultimately why I made such decisions. In jail that crushing weight made suicide a gentle, comfortable thought, like a Siren's beautiful voice.
At my lowest point I finally opened that book Grandma wanted me to have years and years ago, and in it was a scripture that changed everything. 2 Corinthians 4:9 "Cast down, but not destroyed" and it felt as if God was telling me I am cast down and have fallen so far, but I am not destroyed and can come back from it. The specific thought was to rise like a phoenix, and I had this image of a burning bird soaring high into the sky. I did not share that with anyone, it still sounds corny to me, until years later. I did not know the story of the phoenix, to be honest I thought he was on fire because he got too close to the sun, but the image put in my head meant something else. I also did not share that scripture with anyone, other than my Grandma through a letter from jail. I did not want anyone's judgment or opinion to dilute this experience between me and God because I know it would not mean to them what it meant to me.
I began working out regularly, (as much as you can in a maximum-security county jail) and started going to church. The pastors in Ravalli County are Cory Gusaas and Nate Luibrand and are a powerful team. They do not separate themselves from us inmates, instead treat us as fellow sinners and give guidance in how to build a relationship with Jesus from love and understanding. With so much free time I was able to read the bible, build a strong relationship with God, and ask fellow inmates who did not believe, tough questions.
My favorite question, I still ask today;
Me: Do you pray?
Me: Why not? What is the cost of a prayer?
Them: I don't know.
Me: The cost is a thought, your most abundant resource in this life. Now what is the potential reward of a prayer?
Me: Infinite, the possible reward is God answers.
Personally I don't know why someone would not take a chance He is listening. This life is difficult and I personally want every advantage possible. I also know God will be there if someone takes a small step of faith and tries to communicate, and sometimes when we are in a hopeless situation is when we finally put our pride aside and reach out.
I also argue that life simply makes more sense with God in it. A lot of people believe that belief is for the stupid and weak, I argue that it takes immense strength to look for and follow God, especially this day and age. There is a logical principle known as Occam's razor, where all things being equal the right answer to a question is the simplest answer. The simplest answer is the answer that involves the least number of assumptions.
God doesn't exist, assumptions for this to be true: The world and universe came into existence somehow, the earth can sustain life and continues to by chance, life was started on the planet somehow, simple life evolved into millions of complex forms of life, humans become self aware and unlike anything else. You are here simply because you exist, and are but a speck of cosmic dust in an impossible-to-comprehend universe.
God does exist, assumptions: God made everything and is beyond our comprehension. God sent His son to show us how to live and how much He loves us.
What is crazy is that God WANTS you to have a choice. You will never prove without any doubt he doesn't exist. I will never be able to prove without any doubt he does exist, but I choose to err on the side of caution He does.
After six months a man named Mason Skerbeck was arrested with $250,000 of meth and heroin, and soon became one of my best friends. Mason was gay but did not admit it, ultimately it was tough to say he was for sure. We spent all day every day watching TV and playing poker, so you could tell after enough time. My ex had not written or visited me once, which did spades for my self-esteem after nine years together. The money from the casinos benefited her more than me, but it was ultimately easier accepting I was dead to her. My head was shaved, and I had a massive beard when Mason first got there. Eventually he convinced me to change my hairstyle to the way I have it now, and through his genuine compliments and critiques helped me begin loving myself.
I was in county for a total of 13 months, 389 days. During that time my grandma (not the one that got me the book) passed away, and my aunt, uncle, and cousin were murdered in Spokane. Not being able to attend the funerals of these loved ones was a brutal reality and powerless feeling. I was not there for my family, but praise God I have good relationships with the surviving family now.
After some time the first plea offered was 16 felonies with a 40 year sentence, 20 suspended, so 20 years in prison. Months later the second plea was a 20 year sentence, 10 suspended, so 10 years in prison. There was no way I would agree to that. If I took it to trial, I would likely have won all but one county's charges. Powell county, the city of Deer Lodge, they had me dead to rights. The law of large numbers states they would get lucky eventually. My attorney said the trial would be weeks long and afterward the court would not go easy on me for any charges I was found guilty of. I had been praying for a deferred sentence (if I complete probation without infractions it is removed from my record) and was hopeful God would come through. I took a risk and signed an open plea for the 8 felonies, saying "I am guilty, do with me as you will."
Ultimately at sentencing they said a deferred sentence is for a crime, not a crime spree, and by the grace of God I got five years of probation. It was certainly better than the 450 max I was initially facing! I was released from jail to the streets, after over a year not seeing trees or grass, focusing on anything more than 30 feet away, wearing anything other than orange, turning a door handle or flipping a light switch. It was an intense experience, overwhelming for sure.
The minister from jail Cory Gusaas owns a high-end stone masonry company and put me to work right after I got out. I didn't know what the choke was on a saw, had to sit down one scaffold frame high due to fear of heights, and often laid down from physical exhaustion during the day. It was not easy work, but I learned how to work and how to craft stone. My Grandma and I grew close during and after jail, I went to Wenatchee, WA where she lived and was baptized by her church in the Columbia River. I felt that being baptized with her was right since it was her spark that lit my fire.
I reopened my facebook after about a year to connect with guys I did time with to see how they are and have someone to hang out with. I found Mason on there and he sent me a number to call him at. He had just gotten out of pre-release and I was leaving Costco about to dial his number when no joke he smacks me on the back and says he recognized me from behind because of my "funny ears." I didn't even realize I had "funny ears," but a crazy way to link up after around 10 months apart!
Me and Mace hung out a lot, he was such an amazing friend. He taught me how to dress, look good, and feel confident about who I am. We had fun doing anything from walking to the gas station and having a foot race, to eating at fancy restaurants looking sharp, like a couple of high-class guys hanging out. He always got a kick out of girls that would check him out more than me. His intelligence and social awareness made sure conversation was never dull. We had gotten permission from probation to hang out together, he was all about following the rules and living right, and not letting our past define us. He was happy and full of love, anyone that knew him got to experience that. Being his best friend, I was truly blessed to spend as much time with him as I did.
One night I told Mason I had relapsed since I got out. Mason DUG IN, this was a major issue we needed to get to the bottom off. He had come from addiction and been able to be sober and happy and wanted to help me get there. It was a five plus hour conversation on his porch, with too many cigarettes smoked. Ultimately Mason said there was some deeper underlying issue that lead to my relapse. We had deep conversations about my past, loneliness, and even our friendship. He told me how much I meant to him and how much it would hurt him if I got locked up again. In my arrogance I never thought that I could lose him, he was living right and nothing could make him waver from his path. By the end of the conversation he got me to realize the reason why I don't care enough about my life to keep drugs out. The reason I was so discontent is that I have a Master's degree and I am doing stone masonry. I didn't see myself rising to a management position for Cory or going off and starting my own masonry company, and with my felonies a solid job where I can use my potential is highly unlikely. I remember feeling a weight lifted off my shoulders as I drove home, I now knew the problem that needed to be solved and felt hope.
The next morning, I was driving to a job 40 minutes from my place and prayed to God for an idea that was simple, would not take a lot of money to start, and something I could sell online. God gave me Miniature Masonry, which was little do-it-yourself stone masonry kits. A lot of people had immense interest in stone masonry but no means to experience it, so a kit with miniature trowel, mortar, rock chips, and a chiseling system would give them the ability to do so. I thought it was great, Mason thought it was great and loved the name, we even began a little rock wall together a couple weeks later (The photo you clicked to get to this page). We had a lot of fun and I thought about how much fun other people would have. Mason and I had fun doing anything, even in jail, so really what we found entertaining together was not a good indicator of what others would.
That following week I wrote the the guide that was going to be included, so Mason could review it that weekend. After it was done, I was lying in bed when my friend Tony called me and said Mason had been killed. I thought it was a joke because we played some stupid jokes on each other feeding off how much we meant to each other, like ignoring calls and texts for a day or two, or saying we are getting arrested, stupid stuff. I looked on facebook and saw a bunch of people had messaged me because no one had my phone number, I called all of them and no one answered. I started to unravel but kept it together, decided to drive to his house to punch him in the stomach for going so far. As I was driving, I got a call through messenger from him and answered it saying he was in deep shit, but it was his sister Mallory in tears. They were close close so she accessed his account to get a hold of me. Then things got fuzzy, I did not fully comprehend he was gone but still knew that he was. I built him a cross of stone as a memorial where he was killed. He was walking home from work and hit by a man running late to work, and it was ruled a total accident.
I did a memorial for him here and his hometown in Port Angeles, WA. We had gotten permission from probation to take a trip together to see his family, we were to leave a week after he died. I went on the trip in honor of him, brought his family his stuff and got to spend time with them. It was nice to grieve with them and spend time with people feeling the same loss. After I began the drive home, I tried to break down the wall and really cry but it did not come. It did not really hit me until weeks later after I went back to work and tried to return to normal. It was at that time the significance he had held in my life was fully realized, and his loss fully felt. It was rough. Sometimes we don’t fully appreciate what things are until they are gone forever.
Me and Mason's beautiful sister Mallory (rockin his shades) and me under a freezing waterfall on a hike near Port Angeles, WA
I had signed up for a small group through my church but never attended it, I just constantly got emails about it. I had originally signed up in hopes of meeting a girl because the church is so large it is hard to get to know people at church. The vacuum Mason had left was tearing me apart, having someone that fully loves you no matter what you say or do, that you can be completely honest with is powerful, and so painful to be robbed of. In a moment of frustration and despair I joined a group of strangers and was able to talk about Mason. After several gatherings I finally told them of my past, which made them think no less of me and lead to some powerful relationships. I regard them now as "my church family."
As time went on, I pursued miniature masonry again, using Mason’s memory to latch onto it like a dog with a bone. I gave kits away to friends and family. One of the kits was a veneer picture frame that everyone loved, but no one wanted to do the work to make. I made no sales online and no one actually completed a kit. It was a failure but I wouldn’t let it die. I decided I would make the kits and sell the finished product. I thought if I sold enough it would build some interest in the kits, but after attempting to make one decided it was simply taking too long for what I could sell it for. Out of frustration I decided to go make one out of a single rock for fun. I made two and brought them to show off to my church family. They told me to sell them at the farmer's market in Missoula. I made more than just the frames and decided to price everything as low as I could. As sales increased, if they increased, I would increase the price. That was May 2018, and after more and more interest my time and table space could only be allocated to what was selling. After a month my side hustle income started to compete with my hourly income, and I began trying to get days off to spend on Miniature Masonry instead of stone masonry. After a few more weeks I talked to my boss about switching to part time and he ultimately said I should go after Miniature Masonry full time. He is a great man that put me to work right out of jail, taught me how to craft stone, and has continued to help Miniature Masonry when he can. My Grandma has been an unwavering champion for the new Trevor since jail. No one has made me feel prouder of the man I have become, and what I have come from, than her. May she rest in peace by God's side.
God has certainly been blessing the company. I get a ton of joy from creating the products. Some of it certainly sucks, but eventually you get to see God's majesty in the beauty of the stone, and then have people love them as much as I do. The company slogan is "God-given natural beauty" because God made the rocks beautiful and if you know my story.... by some crazy set of circumstances I learned how to craft stone, Mason showed me I need to use my potential and stay sober, then God gave me the idea that began Miniature Masonry. At craft shows I refuse to shy away from being a Christian and it is difficult sometimes. My Grandma got me to buy some shirts that say "Jesus is my rock" to wear at shows. I have rocks with crosses cut into them saying the same thing, so it is very fitting. There is certainly a stigma attached to Jesus and it is tough not knowing if it will cost me sales. Sometimes it is disheartening to get that judgmental look from people. Ultimately I owe all my success to God, and if they had any idea what I have been through, who I used to be, what I have done, and what He pulled me from, I don't think they would judge so easily.
People loving the work and fellow Christians complimenting me on my boldness are always a blessing. Even on the days where sales are mediocre, awesome interactions with people make the day worthwhile. There are fewer and fewer bad days as I learn and grow from the things that did not seem to work out. As a small business it is not easy and scary at times, but with God on my side I can handle whatever comes and know if I do my best the outcome is ultimately in His hands. But failure has not happened yet. I have bought a larger vehicle, tools to make things easier, and ever improving on my process and product quality, Debt free. I am still repairing my credit and have restitution in addition to plenty of other expenses from the old life. You would think the IRS would at least give me a break for my decisions before jail, like felon reintegration or some crap, nope. The weight of current bills + past bills has made things tough since I was released. With Miniature Masonry being a full time gig I have been catching up, paying off, and further repairing from my fall. In August 2019 I did over $14,000 in sales. Praise The Lord!
It was not until I had done Miniature Masonry full time a little while and felt it was actually succeeding, that I had the strength to share the scripture "Cast down but not destroyed" with others. That image to rise like a phoenix always popped in my head when I said it, but I was not ready to share that part. I did not think the story of the phoenix would fit and thus would not mean to someone else what it meant to me. As I get further and further from the man I was, and realize I really am not destroyed, I grow more confident in sharing that moment God showed me I can change the trajectory of my life. April 3, 2019, almost 4 years later, I finally felt strong enough to look up the story of the phoenix. I am at a place that no matter what the story is to everyone else, the things I have been through and what God has done it would not make a difference to me.
The Phoenix was a big beautiful bird, that built its own funeral pyre and decided to destroy itself. After setting itself aflame and turning into ash, out of that destruction it transforms into a bigger and far more formidable bird. I think that is beautiful and feel like an idiot for not looking it up sooner.
Living right is not easy. God is the only way I can maintain. Ultimately you have to decide to be the same person or become a new one. Seeing that God is there and has been there through all of my wickedness, made me realize that those mistakes can have purpose, as long as I learn from them. Either be dead to selfishness, using drugs, and the hell that brings, or stay in that hell. Living right is far less entertaining, but so much more rewarding. It is difficult because the most dangerous times are boredom, so I stay busy with the company or church. It gets easier with time as you walk with God in your life. You reap what you sow. So if you plant good seed now it will take time to see the harvest, and in the meantime you are reaping the bad. I have not seen the end of all the bad seed sown, but I have seen some amazing harvests of the good and thank God so so much.