Where do I even begin? So much to say. I think it’s going to take me a long time to really process what has happened in the last 10 days.
I have never shared this part of the story fully, so I will start with that.
Just under a year and a half ago, my daughter was arrested. The circumstances were extremely serious and she was potentially looking at a very long time in jail….possibly more that 30 years. The total number of charges was 28, with the most serious being attempted murder. I still, can hardly hear that or look at that sentence without feeling like I’ve been punched in the gut. It’s like living in an alternate universe.
On May 10, 2017, I had gotten a phone call on my cell at work around 2pm. I didn’t recognize the number and I was really busy so I didn’t answer. And I didn’t think another thing about it until I was walking out the door at the end of the day. As I stepped outside, I was looking at my phone and realized I had a voicemail. I got into my car and started listening to the message. It was 39 seconds long and it changed my life. As I heard my daughter sobbing, I pulled into the library parking lot and just sat there. I could barely understand what she said, but I understood enough and called the number back. The person who answered the phone was not my daughter. It was a woman with law enforcement and once I told her who I was, she said words that are seared in my memory.
“I’m so sorry I have to you this, but your daughter Miley has been arrested for second degree attempted homicide.”
I couldn’t even think. I immediately asked if the other person was okay. What she said, set the precedent for everything in my mind and heart from that point forward.
“What could have been a very, very harmful situation, was not. By some miracle, everyone is okay.”
We said a few more things back and forth….I couldn’t tell you now, what those things were. I hung up the phone and sat in my car, in that library parking lot, head in my hands, and wept. I couldn’t move. I don’t remember how long I sat there alone. Unable to breathe. Unable to process.
And then I heard a little whisper. “I’m in this. This is all me.”
Eventually, I somehow made my way home. In the next 24 hours, I learned more about the circumstances of her arrest. There are so many details I could share but all I’m going to say at this point, because of the freshness of the events in the last week, is that she attempted to steal a car and was interrupted. As she ran away, she was chased down. She had a gun and pulled it out when she was caught in a headlock. She fired that gun. Multiple times. There was a bullet in the chamber but the gun did not fire. The gun never fired. God put His finger in the end of that gun and saved a life. And in the process, saved my girls life.
He knew what would stop Miley in her tracks. He knew what was enough….and He knew what was too much. She had spiraled very rapidly into drugs and crime. In the span of less than two weeks, she accumulated 28 charges and now sat in jail with a $1 million dollar cash only bond. But God still knew.
In that moment, when I learned that there was a bullet in the chamber but the gun didn’t fire, I knew. I knew that the whisper I had heard was the Lord. He was in this. That gun told me from the very beginning that God had every little detail taken care of and I didn’t have to worry anymore. About anything. All those prayers that I had prayed over her, over all my children, came rushing to the surface and I knew that God was answering. The ocean I thought I would drown in, was becoming the very thing that would carry us to shore.
And God went to work….in fact, He’d already been working for a very long time….I just couldn’t see it yet. The first time I talked to her on the phone I gave her a scripture. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11. It was the only thing on my mind for her. I prayed it over her, I wrote it to her in letters, I talked to her about it on the phone….and I prayed it over her some more.
Miley sat in isolation in that jail cell for many weeks. There was no contact with other inmates other than through her cell door. She was let out of that cell for just 3 hours a day and only in the company of deputies. In that isolation, She took every other book out of her cell and began to read nothing but her bible. She began to write me letter after letter, telling me about how God was reaching down and encountering her broken, busted life. She was allowed 2 envelopes per week and would stuff multiple letters in each one….sometimes she would write 2 or 3 in the same day. I will keep those letters until the day that I die. They are a written record of a million little encounters….the became a single massive miracle. They are a written record of the love of God. He needed her to be right where she was and she knew it. He was transforming her and she kept saying yes. A weak yes is still a yes and she did it every day for 533 days.
And so we fast forward to October 2018. There had been more court appearances than I can count, plea deals and withdrawals, delay after delay. Her bond was still set at $1 million and trial was set to start 3 weeks before Christmas. And then it came. An offer for rehab and probation. No prison time. None. And on top of that, there was a possibility that she would be released for a few days before she had to report to rehab. I held my breath. On October 24th, 2018 we went to court for what was supposed to be a motions hearing for trial. It ended up being a plea hearing and subsequently a sentencing hearing. I have been to court more times in the last year and a half than I’d ever been in my life. This was like nothing I have ever experienced. When it was my turn to speak for the sentencing portion, I gathered my stack of letters from the last 18 months and I walked to the front. All I wanted was to bathe the room in the love of Jesus that Miley had discovered. I so desperately wanted Him to be seen. I wanted the credit for it all to go to Him, because it was all Him. These were my words….
More than 17 months ago, my daughter Miley could think of no one but herself. She was in deep pain and was making the worst decisions of her life to attempt to find freedom from all of the chaos inside of her. Today she is not that same person. This stack of letters are the words of a young woman’s stunning transformation over the last year and a half. Every word, in every letter is about recognizing and taking responsibility. They are not about feeling sorry for herself or blaming others. Today, She is thinking of and doing what is best for her son. Today She asks me how I’m doing…and listens. Today she is concerned that her sister and brothers are okay and happy. Today She worries about her dad and wants him to be happy. She is not perfect but she is forgiven. She was not that person nearly 18 months ago.
Today she is.
We are here on this day because of the choices Miley has made and in so many ways I am so sorry for that. But ultimately, I believe in the deepest part of me that we are here because of the kindness of Jesus. He loved Miley enough to stop her in her tracks. He loved her enough to save lives. He loved her enough to know what was enough. But God is funny like that. He is never about just one person. His reckless, unceasing, chase-you-down love is about everyone involved in this case. He died to save the lives of everyone in this room. All of you are valuable beyond what you can imagine and he loves you deeply.
He is working out the redemption of my family in the middle of this most painful process. He is making a tender, fiery warrior of out of Miley. Her story will change lives if she continues to choose this new path. Her own life and the dead and broken lives of countless others will be brought to life because of what God has already done and what he will continue to do in her. Isn’t that the best we could hope for?
I would like to thank Patrick for his hard work and his belief in Miley. I would like to thank the sheriffs deputies who do the thankless job of serving this community in a very difficult place like jail. I see you. Thank you for always being kind to me. Thank you, your honor for choosing the law and serving in a capacity most of us could not imagine. And most of all I thank JESUS Christ for saving a life destined for a cycle of deep darkness. Our lives will never be the same. Today We choose LIFE. Thank you for your time.
When her lawyer spoke, he talked of the change in her and how he has never said that kind of thing about a client of his. He talked of who she was at the beginning and who she is now. He said, “Her mom is religious, the victim is religious. I am not. But there is something else at work here. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
That did me in. I had so desired to be honoring to the Lord in this whole mess. And he was seeing what he had never seen before. He was seeing Jesus. There is nothing better.
The judge talked about how, in the 2 1/2 years she’s been on the bench, she’s never seen a court case like this. She talked about how all parties worked together to give Miley a future. She talked about how we all sat in the same rows and talked with one another. She talked about all of the support she was seeing for Miley in the courtroom. She talked about how it was a calm and peaceful environment. And she thanked us for that. And then she accepted the plea deal for my daughter and set her free.
For 4 days, I watched my daughter. I watched her interact with people. I watched her share her testimony. I watched her deal with conflict.
All the things that I expected were not there.
She wasn’t aggressive. She didn’t yell. She didn’t dismiss others feelings. She listened. She understood. She stood up for herself but she didn’t attack. She asked for what she needed. She was affectionate. She was peaceful. She was honest. She was respectful. She was confident in what Jesus had done in her. She knew that she would never have made it through except for Him. And she said so repeatedly.
And after not enough days (four), I drove her to Denver to begin her court required time in rehab.
What God has done is almost impossible to speak of with human words. He has completely changed a girl who hated herself and everyone around her. He has changed a person who was in utter darkness into one who just wants to give herself away to people. She just wants to love. She knows that He has called her to do and she has already begun. All she wants to do is speak His name. She wasted no time and said yes to the first opportunity.
So here is my encouragement for you. When your children start down a road that you cannot convince them to avoid. Stop. Realize that you cannot rescue them from the story that is meant to be their lives. You cannot rescue them from their testimony. You cannot stop the miracle that God is trying to do in their lives. I tried desperately to change her path. I saw the destruction coming and could not stop her. Her dad did everything he knew how to do….and still could not stop her. She went anyway. And it
was ugly and dark and desperate and broken. And look what God has done! Miley has exactly the story she was meant to have. She knows that there are people that will need her story. She may even find those people in rehab. At this point, who knows what God will do? She will be a world changer. Even if it is just one life….because, like me, like you, like all of us, she is one pebble thrown into a vast ocean….and the ripple reaches all the way to the shore.
Be a ripple.
And watch the miracles.