I got off probation April 28th 2020 and it is a huge victory. I remember imagining what age I would be when I got out of the system. How good it would feel, and how much of my life I would still have left.
COVID-19 forced quarantine on the world, and made the achievement of completing my sentence underwhelming. In my solitude I began to see that the wolf inside had not died as I had thought, it was just sleeping until I had real freedom. Not having work to occupy me, I noticed the temptation of this new freedom begin to grow. I have committed crimes involving disguises to hide my identity. Cameras and eye witnesses are a significant variable in decision making. Wearing a mask gets too much attention.... at least it used to. I know I am not the only person to have such ideas cross their mind. Sadly I am a person who has experience, so the difference between fantasy and well-thought plans are less obvious than most.
The temptation was great, despite risk of losing everything God has blessed me with in addition to disappointing everyone who has believed in me. Everything I have done to rebuild my life suddenly felt somewhat worthless and began feeling like no meaningful achievement. It felt as if everything was simply a boring consolation prize instead of prized gifts from God. My relationship with Jesus is strong, but that doesn't mean things don't get brutally difficult. It is impossible to turn away from God significantly after all the dramatic things he has done. How wrong these thoughts were was obvious. It did not stop them or their pull, and after prayer and scripture God put it on my heart to “Know thyself.”
It was extremely difficult to take a deep look at my entire life and dig up things long buried. (I don't suggest people do this unless necessary.) I think all criminals look at things like rules and empathy as simply challenges to overcome in achieving your goal. Power was the goal, how else do you define taking what you want and doing what you want, when you want? You feel powerful. Jesus taught me how wrong this understanding of life is, even if I've been that way my entire life.
During this time I was praying for help. God provided two close friends reaching out that I had not spoken to in 15-20 years. To hear how their memories of things are just as wild and unbelievable as my own, was a blessing. A blessing to know my memory is as sharp as I thought. It was also a curse to know my memory is as sharp as I thought. Memory is supposedly quite unreliable, so trying to recreate the story of your life risks inaccuracy without other perspectives. To my friends Ben, Conor, Brian, Eric, Andy, and my little brother, we have had some crazy adventures and I appreciate your help in understanding it all.
I praise The Lord that I know who I am, and roughly why. We should all be aware of our nature, surprise attacks are dangerous. Jesus is powerful enough to take even the worst of us, and use attributes grown in darkness to be used in the light.
I grew up with both parents. My parents are amazing people, they just did not agree on money, religion, parenting style, or a whole lot. They were polar opposites. Dad is cold, wicked smart, hates the bible, and flew Cobra helicopters in Vietnam. My mom was a hippy/catholic who is unabashedly silly and loving. They loved us and each other in their own way. They did the best they could and carry burdens from their childhood. I know this may sound silly to some, but I hope you realize I am intensely serious…. If you make a human with another person, do not fight around that child or insult the other parent. It has an underestimated effect. You are 50% mom and 50% dad so if mom and dad tear each other apart, it tears that child apart to a small degree. Sometimes it will fracture something within. A fracture like that will manifest itself in many unique ways. Everyone has flaws and they make us who we are, some are just more destructive than others.
I understand now we are all broken, all handicapped. Maybe God forgives us for all the garbage we engage in stemming from what we are born into, so essentially everything. Choosing to continue down that road has little consequence to us. It is the next generation and other people who truly suffer from our bad decisions. I do not want to perpetuate anymore pain.
There is a peace and deep confidence after such a journey inward. I think a lot of children engage in criminal activity but some are just better at hiding it. I look back and see a smart and capable kid that did not consider himself smart or capable. He felt smart and capable,when doing something malicious and maintaining anonymity. and finding friends who were not scared of I see a kid that doesn't care if his actions end life, and hasn't most of his life.
I see God was with me my entire life. With so many moments where catastrophe was invited, then narrowly avoided, God must exist and be intimately involved. My friends would agree for the most part. Statistically speaking God is the only way my life makes sense, no one is that lucky or that capable. If you look hard enough at your life I would bet you can say the same. I think you would agree God is there and really the only logical answer to something so complex. I almost got away with the casinos, but sooner or later your luck reverses. Eventually the opposition gets lucky and God finally lets you fall. I thank God for it though, and likely never would have met Jesus without being broken.
God will only let you fall if he has a plan to give you a more abundant life than the one lost. It is not an easy path to take but the story behind Miniature Masonry embodies my road to redemption, from a life in my chosen perdition. I know if you have lived dangerously, have regret, or suffered severe loss you will relate to my story. If you cannot appreciate the courage it takes to share my life with the world please know your opinion means nothing to me, this is for only those that take something positive from this crazy life I have lived and God has redeemed.
I graduated from the University of Montana with a Bachelor's in accounting with high honors. I got a Master's in Business (MBA) after. I learned a ton but it was in 2011 after the financial crash and jobs were slim. I loved a girl whom I had been with for years, and ultimately got into hard drugs with her around this time. That was the beginning of the end.
It was roughly four and a half years later, April 28, 2015 I was arrested for taking money from casinos they did not want to give. 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 gave me a book called "God's promises." I had never opened that book, it just sat on my bookshelf for years. I hated the bible like my father, respected God with immense faith like my mom and her parents. I justified myself by saying it had been translated so many times there cannot be anything divine in there. Christians don't even agree with each other, what idiot would believe that stuff? This attitude is heavily reinforced today. My senior quote was actually "It is better to rule 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. 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 when I did similar stuff long before touching drugs. In jail that crushing weight made suicide a gentle, comfortable thought, like a Syren's beautiful song.
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. It changed the entire trajectory of my life, a few simple words when I was finally broken and humbled enough to receive it. This is also how I know the power of scripture.
I began working out regularly, (as much as you can in a maximum-security county jail) and started going to church. The pastors Cory and Nate 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. These questions have been improved over the years and are the good fight defense tactics today. I will continue improving good fight tactics to defend my faith. It is a way that appreciates the other perspective instead of discrediting it. Using secular logic to explain to non-believers why we believe, is and will be a powerful tool.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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..... 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 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 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 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 (kind of do now), 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 at the bottom of the founder 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 with this joke. As I was driving, I got a call through messenger from Mason and answered it relieved and pissed, but it was his sister Mallory in tears. They were super close, so she accessed his account to get a hold of me. Then things got fuzzy, I did not fully comprehend he was gone and still drove to his house, hoping to punch him in the stomach. Part of me knew that he was really gone. Even to this day it still doesn't fully reconcile, I don't know if it ever will.
I do know Mason is in heaven, probably playing cards with Grandma. He turned to drugs because he hated being gay, and after he accepted who he was, could love himself and others easily. God wants us to love ourselves so we can adequately love other people.
As a Christian I know this is a fiercely unpopular opinion, but I have to share it. Mason was born gay. He would have pretended to be straight if he was capable. God would not want anyone to shamefully hate themselves for the way they were born so...... Mason being able to love himself allowed Jesus to use him to change the trajectory of my life, and ultimately lead to this company. As a Christian I can never understand how people judge others without invitation and without an attempt to understand the other side. "Seek first to understand, then be understood" isn't what we are doing. We should be terrified of diminishing Jesus' loving image .
If you are going to deal with non-believers, pretend you are the opposition looking for ammunition against Christianity beforehand. You will gain a greater understanding of your opponent that is advantageous in battle; or you will see your opponent as the lost child they are. A lost child that is getting yelled at while desperately looking for their father and has just as much a right to Jesus as anyone else.
As a Christian I follow Jesus and make sure my actions exhibit love and are self-sacrificing not selfish. I could never condone homosexuality after researching it's sin identification, but I definitely can't condemn it either. If I condemn all homosexuality, I indirectly condemn everyone it involves including family and friends. If you condemn all homosexuality you condemn Mason and thus me for having been his best friend and appreciating him for being the way he was. I have seen guys who are straight out here but are gay when they are incarcerated. This is certainly sin and a hedonistic abomination. Saying that a person like that is the same as Mason, is offensive. I also find it offensive that someone who could be straight, chooses not to be. Mason would have loved to be given that opportunity, and suffered a life of drugs and self destruction because he didn't have it.
I hated how the world just seemed to keep going after his death and 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. We did a memorial for him here and his hometown in Port Angeles, WA. Mason and I had gotten permission from probation to take a trip together to see his family, we were to leave a week after he died. He was finally ready to tell the people he loved most he was gay, and I truly hope my friendship helped facilitate him getting there. His soul was truly beautiful after he was able to love himself.
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 an epic failure but I wouldn’t let it die. I decided I had to make the kits and sell the finished product.
I thought if I sold enough finished pieces it would build some interest in the kits, but knew quickly that was not going to happen. The kits are not easy or quickly accomplished. Out of frustration I decided to go make some out of a single rock for fun. It would be faster. 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, I increased my price. As my price increased my craftsmanship improved. After a couple months 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, from what I have come from, than her. Her deep conversations and brutally honest opinions are sorely missed.
It is a true blessing to do something you love, something you enjoy for a living. 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 so much. 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, people, and pain Miniature Masonry emerged.
I refuse to shy away from being a Christian but 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, but ultimately worrying about what other people think is an excuse for cowardice.
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. As a small business it is not easy and scary at times, but with God on my side I can handle whatever comes. Somehow I have gotten this far and know very few would have. This is as true for your story, as mine. So tell the world who your rock is, and smile at any adversity because they obviously don't know Jesus very well.
Business has been great. I have bought a larger vehicle with cash, tools to make things easier, and have money to invest and play with. I am off probation, have good credit, and am saving for a house. Unfortunately finding a partner that is my equal is difficult at my age, especially with such a checkered past. I hope I delete this part and put how awesome my wife is sooner than later. Life alone is not easy but better than life with the wrong person.
Living right is not easy, especially after tasting the forbidden for so long. I am certainly not perfect, but a relationship with Jesus is the only way to turn a dark past and the weight of heavy memories, into something good. Jesus makes it very clear LOVE is the most important thing to do, and we should be self-sacrificing. Standing exposed to the world by sharing this feels uncomfortable, a testimony is fiercely private and is usually only shared with a special few for a reason. I hope you see the sacrifice in sharing it with the world. Luckily my flaws are nothing new, I have been called "crazy", "psycho", and "Looney" my entire life. I might be, but if you run from your past.... you never stop running. I am a different man creating different types of memories and they are beautiful because Jesus helped make them.
I hope sharing my story provides something gainful, without the cost of having lived it. I hope the cost is not lost on you either, such a life carries a hurt difficult to describe. Your life carries a hurt entirely your own as well, no one else will completely understand. This same unique hurt we all carry has molded us, our strengths and weaknesses. Our hurt does not define us. We can always make better decisions today, and Jesus helps define which decisions need review.
I praise God for all of it, all it cost and all the suffering because it lead me to where I am today. I have seen a life of sin and the hell it brings, I have seen a life with God and pieces of heaven on earth. I know which one I want more of. Having said that, if I die tomorrow and God decides to return me to nonexistence.... I will smile because He has given me more than I deserve already, expecting heaven as well feels greedy.
The traumatized are unpredictable, because we know we can survive. There is strength even in brokenness. I want to be the best version of Christian I can be, that is unquestionably loving and self-sacrificing.
Jesus is my rock and I am not ashamed of it. Anyone who thinks poorly of Jesus, obviously doesn't know Jesus very well. Our country is losing sight of Him, and we as Christians should refuse to accept that as inevitable. Part of that is not being scared to wear Him across our chest. Jesus is love and self-sacrifice, He is perfect...... and we should die trying to be.