The best thing you can give children next to good habits, are good memories.

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A Little Think

Mom... What Did You Look Like?

"What did Oma look like when she was a mom?" my six-year-old grandson, James, asked his mom! We had fun with that one! It would be pretty hard for James to identify me in a lineup of 70's and 80's pictures, so his mom tried to explain that I'm still a "mom." It's a life sentence of which I'm proud, from which I've learned priceless lessons and to which I'm committed to the nines.

Not every mom feels that way and we all have our moments, but how will your kids remember you as a mom? It's never too late to improve their vision, no matter how many improvements you wished you'd made! I have some "if onlys" that surface now and then. I was drawn to a recent news story about a mom with a hidden past. Marie Walsh contends she was put in prison for a drug crime she did not commit. She served time with hardened inmates and guards who threatened her. Once when her grandfather visited her, he realized the horror of what lay ahead. He told her she must get out of there. She did and into his getaway vehicle she left town with a few dollars.

As a fugitive, she married. She even told her husband she had a shady past but gave no details. They had three children and a good family life. No one knew she was wanted by the law until officers came to their upscale Southern California home 30 years later. At this point in the story, the question for me becomes what did mommy look like when she was in prison? It grabs me because in grad school I worked in an Illinois Department of Corrections minimum-security institution, housing youthful offenders. At the time I was a middle-school counselor (earning my "PhT," which according to my colleagues, meant "Putting Husband Through" grad school). I've focused on families, especially women and children all my adult life. The plight of youth is not a new concept. The Bible says, "Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to Your love remember me, for You are good, O LORD (Psalm 25:7).

I was privileged to serve on the Board of Trustees of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois. One of their initiatives is to engage with lawmakers to change laws and policy for incarcerated youth, who are often locked up with older offenders and, as a result, are the worse of for it. So I get it -- this fugitive's grandfather's decision and her family saying goodbye. I'm not taking a stand here on the right or wrong of any of this. In fact, it's an easy jump to "What did Oma look like when she was in prison?" I was in prison literally. I've gone back to visit inmates and to lead staff seminars. But what about the prisons I've been thrown into either by my own choices or those of others? Yeah, what about those?

Marie Walsh had completed 14 months of a 10-year prison sentence for a heroin deal when she fled in 1976. Her "normal" new life on the West Coast was turned upside down in April 2008 with her arrest. She says now, about beating the system, "I escaped it for a while and built a life against the odds, and was snatched away from it." She has since spent 13 more months in prison. To break free initially, she scaled a 20-foot, barbed-wire fence at the prison known as DeHoCo. Once over the side, she began running. "If they shot at me, I wanted them to kill me. I was not going back," she writes. Her mom gave her some money and she caught a ride with friends to the West Coast. "Somewhere between the cornfields of the Midwest and the western Rockies, Susan LeFevre ceased to exist," she wrote.
She used her middle name, Marie, took the last name Day, played it straight and lived for new possibilities. She met and married Alan Walsh. Their children are 18, 23 and 25. His only clue about how serious her past occurred when he took her back to Michigan to see her dying mother. She refused to return for the funeral.

Her children's lives "exploded," when they found out, Walsh says. She wants her book to reveal the harshness of drug sentencing and to help change juvenile treatment objectives. She hopes to return to a normal post-fugitive life.

It's not unusual for us to bury the secrets of our past, hoping they won't come back to haunt us. Who wants the world to know our secrets? The problem is secrets can imprison us. We don't have to come clean on Facebook to lay the burden down. If it's a legal matter, we own up one way. If it's a relationship issue, another.

"There, but for the grace of God go I!" I'm a sinner like Marie, just with a different track record. My grandson may not be able to identify my pictures from years ago, but God can pick me out of a lineup at any age. As committed as I am to mothering, it's nothing compared to God's commitment to those who call on His Name. No matter our worst choices, our worst dilemmas, He scales the fence in our behalf. It's what He did on Good Friday and what Christ broke free from on Easter! Even death could not hold Him down.

Technically, we're all fugitives because we're all guilty of sin. Whether we admit it or not, we're on the run from the judgment of a just God. The reason we may as well fess up is because His Love forgives anything and everything we confess and repent. We're on His Facebook, with all of it out there, whether anyone else knows or not. He knows it, and He wants to bring us back to the good and fulfilling life He's planned for us.

This sets us up to be awesome moms and daughters! It's always "Welcome back!" with God. We just pass that unconditional love on to our kids. We can only guess to what extent God protected Marie in prison and on the run. He does not look the other way when we offend Him, but He does hold open His arms for us to come back. Moms need the open arms of Jesus to be strengthened to hold and lovingly guide their children.

The title of Marie's book is Tale of Two Lives; The Susan LeFevre Fugitive Story. I'll read it. But for now I'm enjoying the forgiven life and passing that on to my kids! Have a little think about it!

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