Standing By: Parenting a Criminal Well

I have six children, some call that half a dozen.  My husband would say, six of one, half dozen of another.  Standing by them has always been pretty easy for me.  I am not one of those gushy, obnoxious mothers. You know the type, one of those moms that thinks her children can do no wrong.

I have always been of the mindset, I have pretty awesome kids.  And, just like me, they are capable of anything, good, bad, and highly questionable.  Honestly, I have seen the best of them and the worst of them.  I have been stark raving mad, beaming with adoration, and hysterical in police custody for possession of an illegal narcotic – one that was left in my minivan by one of my darlings. (Sorry you have to buy the book to hear that story.)  


No, parenting is not for the faint of heart, standing by and parenting a criminal, well… that is what us mommas and daddies do.  

And I have exposed much of my folly as a parent and human in my writing.  My favorite part of that journey has been my unraveling.  I have grown in wisdom I had not known prior to my parenting and writing experiences.  For instance, always ask for a lawyer, keep snacks in your purse, and dress in layers. Police stations are maddening in their climate control.  

Maybe that is part of the interrogation process.  

But, of the wisdom gleaned from standing by my children through thick and thin, the hard part wasn’t still loving them, it was realizing that my children’s folly didn’t impact how my Father in Heaven loved me.  That was a difficult study.  For years I clung to the belief that if my kids were “good,” I did a good job as a mother and God was pleased with me.  If my child or six-pack were “bad,” I caused their fall, and God was displeased with me.  

Standing by my children has not even been an issue, standing on the truth about my God and how He felt about me, that was the hard part.  

If you know me, you know I have a love for true crime television. I never aspire to be the subject of such programming, but I thoroughly enjoy some Keith Morrison and popcorn on a Sunday afternoon.  Goodness, that man has a voice like butter and can make any homicide sound like poetry.  

Recently, while house hunting, a seller’s real estate agent said to me, “I told the owners you were a Christian author, they said to tell you that buried under the slab of this house is a…”  Unable to contain my excitement, I yelped, “A BODY!?! IS THERE A BODY BURIED UNDER THIS HOUSE???”  

“No…” he said, “A bible, there is a bible under the foundation.” 

In hindsight, that did make more sense.  

standing by

I digress.  The point is, I know a lot about standing by my kids, loving Jesus, wordsmithing, pie making, and how and where to hide a body.  Dig deep. I am not sure of the exact statistic, but most murderers are caught because of the shallow grave.  You’ve got to keep digging, you have come this far.  Finish what you started and do it right the first time.  

In the many hours, I have logged watching serial killers get caught and justice be derailed, I am always most struck by the parents of criminals, they do not falter.  You can hear all the evidence against their child.  They may even admit to their child’s guilt, but there they sit in court behind them, rubbing their child’s shoulders, whispering encouragement, and loving well.  

And I am undone by this.  In our humanness, we parent from the depth of our animal souls.

 Even lousy parents, who very well may be the reason their child fell so far from decency, even those mommas seem to be dressed and ready for the hearing.  

Recently, after a Dateline marathon on a Sunday afternoon, that is what I was left with.  If we, in our brokenness are still capable of believing and adoring our babies, even while they stand before us in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs, wouldn’t our Father in Heaven be at least this good?  

Honestly, if in our disappointment and fear, when we feel all is lost and somethings will never, ever be the same, we are capable of ignoring the obvious and loving from the core of us, would our Father God not be capable of at least the same?  

Yes, I submit, yes, and more. 

We are part of this family.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we are invited to His side of the courtroom.  We are seated with His good council.  He is standing by, not to ignore the natural consequences of our mistakes or crimes, but to support and love us.  And, to speak up for us on our behalf.  Keith Morrison may ask the hard questions, “He was holding the murder weapon?  His DNA was all over the crime scene?  How can you deny this?”

And all the mommas clutch their hearts and sob, standing by even in the wake of blood evidence.  

The jury is out and there the parent sits, parenting their criminal the best they know how.  

In my book, Well, Girl I have a favorite section about our judgment and the God who stands in our corner, it reads: 

Imagine yourself, curled up on the hard, dry ground. Tears stain your face. Your heart is slamming in your chest and echoing in your ears. All around you are your accusers, and yes, some of them share your face, for you are your harshest critic. They hold heavy, smooth stones. Many of the stones are tinted with the blood of the victim from the last stoning. 

This spot, this is where your prosecutors will deliver blow after blow to your body with the weighty rocks they clutch, this spot is one of terror. Your folly, the thing you hate most about yourself, is the thing that will magnify the bashes. 

And He steps into the circle of your doom. 

You dare not look up. 

You see His sandaled feet and the cuff of His well-worn robe. It is dusty and tattered from the miles you safely assume He has walked to come to this place, the place of your demise. The clarity of His question, the authority with which He speaks, is chilling. “Whoever among you is without sin, you cast the first stone.”  Without moving your downcast face, you peek to your right and left, your accusers are dropping their stones. You see the stones fall, you see the dust erupt about them, and you hear your dejected assassins mumbling under their breath. 

They will not be pummeling you, you have been spared. 

Still paralyzed by a shaky reality, you shiver at the feet of your Savior. He holds His hand out for you to stand. You are visibly traumatized and place your trembling hand in His. It is warm, calloused, and you are moved to your core by the touch. He draws you to your feet. He is tall, you are looking up at this unbelievably gentle hero. His brown eyes hold a purity you have not known, and you question your ability to understand Him or the grace He now offers you. Still, you do know Him. Salty tears burn your eyes, one escapes and runs down your cheek, tracing its way through the dust on your face. You are desperate to look away, for He is so good and you… you are the worst. Undeniably, you are suspended in a stare that you cannot break. 

He speaks, “Who is here to accuse you?

All of your accusers are gone. 

Your parched lips part and your voice is brittle from the near miss, from your throat, you muster the sounds, “no one?” 

No one can change His mind about you.  Nothing you have done can separate you from His love.  He won’t miss a moment of your trial, no matter how awful the evidence is.  


Now, is this cause to continue in our criminal ways? Well, we are not crack crazed teenagers, but certainly, we are stubborn.  Still, He is standing by.  

I have not cornered the market on perfect parenting.  Standing by my children is an ability I cannot fathom neglecting.  Certainly, He loves better than I, definitely He would never leave or forsake me.  No, I do not have any children currently incarcerated.  Yes, the title of this post may have been misleading.  But it is a tool of my trade, as a mother and an author.  Reel them in with enticing words, grab their attention with the threat of murder, and then lavish love all over them.  

See, I made you look – and I reminded you, no one is here to accuse you and you are parented well.  

Now, here is my apple pie recipe.  

Jesus be all over you.  Love, J