Fox Richardson: People who may be just like me or know someone just like me, maybe they’re concerned about whether they’ll ever get their lives together, or maybe they are concerned about whether they’ll make it through the hardship. That’s what I think is most powerful about this untold story.
Believing God’s Got Our Future in His Hands: Fox and Rob Richardson & Tanya Rad – Episode #341
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. When we make plans for the future, we often want God to sign on the dotted line and agree to everything we’ve laid out. Yet when those plans fail, we find ourselves turning to God as a last resort. And as our guests this week will attest, He is faithful to lead us back to a path that we’re meant to follow, whether we realized it or not.
Our guests this week may have had a few missteps in the story of their lives, but they’ve seen what happens when they have no other choice but to rely on God for their future. Fox and Rob Richardson, a couple from Shreveport, Louisiana, open up about the act of desperation that led to their incarceration, and what happened to their lives and the lives of their family in the process. Tanya Rad is the author of The Sunshine Mind and host of KIIS FM’s On Air with Ryan Seacrest. She shares about the crippling anxiety she experienced over fear of the future, and how putting her trust in God allowed her to find peace in the midst of the unknown.
Let’s start with Fox and Rob’s story.
Rob Richardson: We are Fox and Rob Richardson. We are a formerly incarcerated couple who spent more than twenty-one years behind bars before receiving clemency in 2018 from our current governor. Once we got out of prison, one of our biggest takeaways was that to be free is to free others. We started a ministry, and our first initiative of the ministry was participatory defense. We teach legal awareness as a best form of defense to our justice-involved [people].
“To be free is to free others.” – Rob Richardson
Fox: My full name is Sybil Fox Richardson. And our mission in Rich Family Ministries is to save lives and laws through love. So that has been our work. We have been married for twenty-five years and have six sons between us. We work between Shreveport, Louisiana, and New Orleans, Louisiana, spreading the Word.
A Life-Changing Act Driven By Desperation
Fox: We are high school sweethearts. We met at sixteen years old.
Rob: And April 24th of 1997, we had made a decision to get married. Within just a couple of weeks, we were closing on our first home. After that, just weeks later, we were closing on what became the property of our first business. We had all of what we thought we needed in order to springboard us into the next phase of our life.
We had a funder identified, we found ourselves excited, only to find out that the investor had decided to pull out on us.
Fox: There are moments you think you’ve got everything all figured out and that life is moving in the direction that you dreamed of, and then in just one second, everything changes for you. Not only was the investor no longer willing to support the dream, the dream home we bought started having problems, a leaking roof and a cracked foundation. Our son went to the hospital with undiagnosed seizures. The university where I was teaching decided they would dismantle the division that I was in, and I was out of the job. Everything that could have gone wrong in that moment—as soon as we got everything in place, it all fell apart. And that led us into a spiral of desperation and hopelessness.
“There are moments you think you’ve got everything all figured out and that life is moving in the direction that you dreamed of, and then in just one second, everything changes for you. ” – Fox Richardson
Rob: In that moment of desperation, we lost our way.
Fox: And tried to regain financial solvency for ourselves by taking the money we needed from a bank.
Rob: From the moment that I heard the judge render a sentence of sixty years for my role in the robbery, a certain numbness kind of came over me at that moment. And honestly, I think that numbness kind of continued throughout the whole of my experience, because seemingly every moment that followed was just as traumatic.
The Senate’s investigation said that I should go to a boot camp program for six months, and then after that, spend some time on supervised parole. But the judge deviated away from that recommendation and handed out a sixty-year sentence, and he placed his findings on the fact that he felt that I was the oldest of the three of us, and that I should have known better. I wrestled with those words for some time to come, the fact that I “should have” known better. And as simple as those words are, that realization came to me in that moment.
I’ve been blessed with a lot of things coming into this life. And the knowledge that this action was not the right action is something that should have been simple for me to conceive even before commission of the crime. But it didn’t happen that way. And I started to realize that what was happening to me was something far greater than any of what was on the surface.
Facing a New Reality: Years of Prison Time
Rob: I entered the prison walls of Angola with a sixty-year sentence in what was characterized as the bloodiest penitentiary in America. And in that moment, I was afraid, but I wasn’t scared. Because I believed that there was something operating inside of me and around me that would guide me and protect me and keep me safe.
“I believed that there was something that was operating inside of me and around me that would guide me and protect me and keep me safe.” – Rob Richardson
I woke up every day in a positive state of mind because if I was going to filter this experience through any lens, it had to be through one of positivity, and not one of negativity. Because I knew that in order for me to ever return back to my family, to ever one day see myself on the other side of prison walls, then I was going to have to move in a certain kind of way inside of the prison. And it had to be through positive energy. It had to be through God.
I said in that moment, “This prison is not a place that I’m going to die,” even though my life would have ended long before the sentence was over.
Fox: After they sentenced Rob to sixty years in prison, I took a plea deal for two seven-year sentences and one five-year sentence. My journey was just being able to forgive myself.
My first night in prison, I was on suicide watch. They told me I was looking at 297 years, that Rob and I had gotten ourselves into so much trouble. The laws in Louisiana are designed to give you the maximum amount of time for mini transgressions. And so here I am in this cell, in this room, and I’m realizing how much is ahead of me. And in that moment, I really had to consider whether I was better off dead or alive.
I lay there in that room that was nothing—no window, no clock, no people, no sound. There was nothing in that space but me and God. I heard a sound there that has been the sound that continues to this day to take me through my journey, no matter how hard it gets for me. And that was the sound of my heart pumping, involuntarily, the blood through my veins. And I said to myself in that moment, “God, if I’m still here, it’s for a reason. You created this life. I did not create this life. And if You have given it to me, even with the decisions—the foul decisions I have made—I am going to see this through.”
“God, if I’m still here, it’s for a reason. You created this life. I did not create this life. And if you have given it to me, even with the decisions—the foul decisions I have made—I am going to see this through.” – Fox Richardson
And Rob called one day, and he said to me, “If we don’t forgive ourselves, there’s no way we’re ever going to be able to get our confidence back and fix this.” And it was the moment that I needed to understand that it was okay to forgive me.
The Richardsons Put Their Family Back Together
Fox: I got out on good time. My mother took on all four of our children in my absence when Rob had been sentenced and then I had been sentenced. The day I was released, the very next morning, we are up at 3:00 in the morning, and I’ve got the four beautiful boys all cleaned up and groomed. And we drove five hours away so that I could take them to see their father. This would be the first time that our family would be together since I had left for prison in 2000. And that day, I was able to put my family back together again.
I had learned that family is everything and everything is family. We thought that if we did these actions, this will against God to salvage what we thought was important, if we only had the money that we thought we needed for our family, then everything would be okay. And on that very day that we made that decision, it was very clear to me that we were never going to get it all. We had it all already. We had love and each other. And nothing in this life is going to top that.
“Family is everything and everything is family. . . . We had love and each other. And nothing in this life is going to top that.” – Fox Richardson
We’ve just been going ever since, knowing that failure was not an option for us. Too many sacrifices have been made for us for us to give up. And that’s what I was intentional about doing. Me from the outside, working with our children, from their position of continuing to believe and love and trust their parents. And my husband, who worked from the inside, refusing to never give up himself.
Rob: The moment I was released, it rivals the day that Fox and I married one another in terms of the excitement and elation and joy and victory I felt over a moment. I mean, it was just all in one gulf of a moment. I walked out of the prison, and I heard Fox screaming from the other side, yelling to the top of her lungs with just a cry of victory, a cry of relief.
How God Sets Us Free From the Inside Out
Fox: Incarceration was our challenge. There was no point in our journey that Rob and I were not willing to fully accept responsibility for what we had done.
Rob: We even pled guilty to the charges at the onset.
Fox: And I think that long before Rob and I ever got outside of prison, God had set us free on the inside. I think the ultimate goal for Rob and I, when we understand that to be free is to free others, our constant prayer has been that God will allow us to use our voices to continue to enlighten people.
“I think that long before Rob and I ever got outside of prison, God had set us free on the inside.” – Fox Richardson
Rob: Over my incarceration, daily devotionals were almost like conversation starters with me and God. At least that’s how I approached them on a day-to-day basis. I know what it’s like to see your hardships, because you know that through hardship, it is reflective of God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s promise, you know, that after difficulty comes ease. God knows we’ve been in some difficult moments. And to know that because we stayed the course, because we trust and we continued to believe throughout, God, true to His Word, delivered us from our setbacks.
Fox: Jesus Listens, January 27th:
You are a God of both intricate detail and overflowing abundance. When I entrust the details of my life to You, I’m often surprised by how thoroughly You answer my petitions. The biblical instruction to pray continually helps me feel free to bring You all my requests. And I’ve found that the more I pray— with a hopeful, watchful attitude—the more answers I receive. Best of all, my faith is strengthened as I see how precisely You respond to my specific prayers.
I rejoice that You are infinite in all Your ways! Because abundance is at the very heart of who You are, I don’t need to fear that You will run out of resources. I can come to You in joyful expectation of receiving all I need—and sometimes much more!
I’m so grateful for the bountiful blessings You shower on me! Even the hardships in my life can be viewed as Your blessings—they train me in perseverance, transforming me and preparing me for heaven. So I come to You with open hands and heart, ready to receive all that You have for me.
In Your great Name, Jesus,
Now that hits close to home.
Narrator: To learn more about Fox and Rob Richardson, visit www.foxandrob.com, and be sure to check out their book, Time: The Untold Story of the Love That Held Us Together When Incarceration Kept Us Apart, releasing February 7th.
Stay tuned to Tanya Rad’s story after a brief message.
When We’re Looking for Hope, Jesus Listens
Sometimes life can be really stressful, whether it’s personal difficulties or world issues that make us feel overwhelmed. When we’re looking for hope and connection amid struggle, God is still there, ready for us to turn to him in prayer.
That’s why Sarah Young wrote Jesus Listens: to deliver a message of peace, love and hope to her readers every day. Jesus Listens is a 365-day prayer devotional with short, heartfelt prayers based on scripture, written to deepen your relationship with God.
Narrator: Our next guest is podcast host and author of The Sunshine Mind, Tanya Rad. Looking back on the seasons of her young life, Tanya can see where specific circumstances—though difficult at the time—were exactly where God wanted her. And now, she’s using lessons from those tough days to help others find small joys in all of their days.
Tanya Rad: My name is Tanya Rad. I work for the On Air with Ryan Seacrest morning show. It’s a local show in Los Angeles that’s also syndicated across the country. I have a podcast, and I am a puppy mom and Jesus lover.
I grew up in a Serbian Orthodox church. But I never really had a relationship with God at that time. You know, it was more of a formality that I would just go to church. When you’re a kid, you just do what your parents do, and so I didn’t really have a relationship with God until later on in life, like in my twenties.
But I always had a very positive, sunny kind of personality. I was the bubbly one in high school. I kind of was just friends with everybody. And I always did things just a little bit different than the norm.
What’s actually really crazy is it took a breakup in my early twenties that led me to my relationship with God. This breakup shook me. I thought I was going to marry this man. I had all the plans for our future laid out. And so when that relationship came crashing down, I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know what I wanted. I did not know how to stand on my own two feet. It literally brought me to my knees.
I’ll never forget it because Jason Kennedy—he was working at E! News at the time—he saw me in the hallway crying every day, and did not know that I was crying about a breakup, but came over to me and invited me to a Bible study that he was having. And I had tried everything else at that point, so I was like, Why not try a Bible study, you know? And it was so crazy because in that moment at that Bible study, I had felt so seen and heard and connected. And that is ultimately what led me to go back to that Bible study.
I made some friends that will be my friends for life, and it ultimately led me to finding my church and my community. It’s crazy because that breakup that really brought me to my knees helped me really figure out who I was, who Tanya is, what she wants, what her passions are, what she can do, what I’m capable of.
Facing Anxiety Over the Future
I knew I wanted to be in the music industry. I just didn’t know in what way, shape, or form that would come out. And when I got this job at On Air with Ryan Seacrest, it was such a full-circle moment because KIIS FM was everything to me, it was my childhood. And so to be in that spot now, when I meet listeners and they express that they live life with me, it’s such a weird thing because I just remember doing that when I was younger. So it’s pretty crazy. Obviously, it was a lot of divine intervention in my life.
I was always go, go, go. I was so career-focused. I was driven. I was passionate. I was loving life. And I didn’t realize until the pandemic hit and I was forced to slow down and I had to stop and be in my thoughts—that’s when a lot of the stress and anxiety crept up. For me, it was stress about the future. What is life going to look like? What’s my life going to look like? Like, I’ve always been able to have goals and kind of just move forward in those. And then when the pandemic hit and life kind of stopped for everybody, it brought a lot of emotions and anxiety out in me, but it also gave me this amazing opportunity to face these feelings head on and really take the time that I needed to figure out where this anxiety was coming from or where the stress was coming from. And ultimately, what gets me out of these moments of anxiety and stress is knowing there is always this bigger picture that God has. He knows the plans He has for me. And those plans fulfill the desires of my heart.
“What gets me out of these moments of anxiety and stress is knowing there is always this bigger picture that God has. He knows the plans He has for me.” – Tanya Rad
In moments when it’s really hard to trust Him, like when I was laid off at my first job and when there are moments of heartbreak, it’s hard to trust God’s plan. But in time, I’ve always seen His work in my life. Whenever I do find myself getting stressed or anxious about things, I always come back to that notion of like, God’s got me. It’s in His timing. I wish it was happening right now. It’s not happening right now. So I just have to wait. I have to be patient. And that’s kind of how I deal with those things.
“Whenever I do find myself getting stressed or anxious about things, I always kind of ultimately come back to that notion of like, God’s got me. It’s in His timing. “ – Tanya Rad
The Little Things that Bring Us Joy
I go into work every single morning, and I flicker the lights on and off. I say, “Good morning, everyone.” And I sing a song, and I make it a thing, you know? It’s like I literally bring the light in. There’s these quirky, random things you can do throughout your day to really put a smile on your face, put a smile on other people’s faces. It’s not always in these unattainable things that we see.
I make my bed, I kind of hop out of bed, and I try to kind of start the day off on the right foot. I’ll either put on worship music or sing. I turn the lights on, I light a candle. I really make my morning routine special and happy. I also think it’s really important to put my feet—like my actual bare feet—on the earth. I know it sounds really silly, but I feel like there’s this grounding feeling about it. I sing out loud. I put a smile on my face. I say hi to strangers. I engage in conversation.
It takes me double the amount of time to run any of my errands because I just talk to people, you know? I look up and smile at people, and I engage in conversation. I think that we’ve lost that so much because we’re all just so busy going about our day. So I try to do that more.
Tanya Finds Community in Music
Music has been such a driving force for me. I feel like as a teenager, it made me feel less alone. To me, hearing people sing about feelings I was having, I was like, Oh, if this girl feels that way, then it’s not weird that I’m feeling this way. So to me, music was always community. And so it’s cool to kind of be able to create that now as an adult in my own way, creating a sense of community where people feel less alone or they feel like their feelings are valid. So it’s kind of cool because music was always that for me. And now I can be that vessel for other people.
I think that we were created to be in community. I think the biggest problem right now—and I know specifically for younger women—is everybody feels very alone right now. And with everything that’s going on with social media and just this perception of perfection, I think that we’ve become very self-obsessed and self-involved. And that’s not how we were created to be. We were meant to be in community and helping others.
“We were meant to be in community and helping others.” – Tanya Rad
And I think that when you try to keep up with everything you’re seeing on social media, you know, you’re buying the expensive bag that everybody’s holding or you want to take the expensive trip that everybody’s going on and you’re not making the money, I think there’s a warped sense of reality where we’re wanting to do things that we don’t necessarily have the money for.
We’re living beyond our means. And again, that’s not going to give you a peaceful life. And so I really like to focus on finding joy in the mundane. I talk about that a lot. You don’t have to go on a fancy, expensive vacation to have a happy day. You know what I mean? You can find joy in the little things. Everything is about the life you want versus the life you actually have. That is your reality. And I think that finding joy in your reality is what leads to a peaceful, happy life.
“I think that finding joy in your reality is what leads to a peaceful, happy life.” – Tanya Rad
If you’d like to hear more stories about God’s timing, check out our interview with Tim Brown.
Next Week: Terry Bradshaw
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we talk with Hall of Fame pro football legend and co-host of the NFL on Fox, Terry Bradshaw. Terry shares stories of his childhood, his days in football, and his recent bout with not just one, but two cancers, and how he’s found peace by putting his faith in God.
Terry Bradshaw: The only thing that’s ever going to bring us total peace is going to be the assurance that God sent Jesus as our Savior. And if we believe in Him, we have eternal life, and the devil can’t mess with us. He messes with us enough. All we have to do is say, “God, help me. God, protect me.”