Hi Bonnie – welcome to the blog and thank you so much for coming to share your story today. How did you come to faith in Jesus?
The summer of my sixth-grade year, I attended a church camp and while singing Kum Ba Ya around the campfire, I accepted Christ into my life. I felt a warmth and a joyful spirit come over me, and I knew God would watch over me from then on.
You have written a book called ‘Test of Faith: Surviving my Daughter’s Life Sentence’. Can you tell us about Lacey’s story?
Lacey was 35 when she was arrested on a murder for hire charge. Her husband was having an affair, and his girlfriend was killed. Fingers pointed to my daughter. She was out on bail for 18 months before she went to trial. She was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. Life without parole is a death sentence if you think about it. You live out your life in prison.
Lacey’s life sentence impacted not only you and Lacey, but also your grandchildren, husband and wider family. Can you share about how this has affected you as individuals and as a family unit?
When Lacey was sent to prison, my entire belief system—in God, in all things good—evaporated. How could the God I believed in not answer my prayers or my daughter’s prayers? Lacey had accepted Christ into her life about a year before she was convicted.
I fell into a dark depression and cocooned myself in our bedroom to keep from facing people I knew. My husband and I rarely communicated. We didn’t know how to console each other. The court had handed down the life without parole sentence and there was little we could do.
Six months after Lacey went to prison her two preteen children came to live with us. That was my saving grace. I had to pull myself out of my funk, at least when they were around. After they’d go to school, I’d cocoon again until they came home. I began to function normally little by little.
You write about questioning how you raised Lacey and feelings of mom-guilt. What questions went through your mind during the ordeal? How did you overcome this?
I think every time something happens to our children, we turn that mom guilt finger to ourselves. What did I do wrong? What could I have done better? Did I not show enough love to her when she younger? Did I not pray correctly? I should have realized sooner how dire her situation was and we should have lawyered up and not allowed her to give a statement. Those questions still plague me but I’ve been able to see some blessings come out of our chaos.
You share about how you never used to like to ask for help, but were put in circumstances where having the support was needed and appreciated. Why was asking for help difficult for you at first? What have been the blessings that have arisen from asking for help?
Before this situation, I always felt that if I had to ask for help, that signalled that I was incompetent or inept or lacking in some way. I prided myself that I could find a solution to any problem. I love to research, and though it might take a few days, I could always find the solution. Lacey’s situation was out of my realm of problem solving.
A month after Lacey was arrested and her mug shot was plastered on the TV news and newspapers, I was on my knees praying in childlike pose. Please God help me! When I arose, God guided me to my computer where I composed an email to our friends asking them to join us on the courtroom benches during pretrial appearances. We were blessed by many friends surrounding us during those times, and their support continues today. I believe this was one of God’s greatest blessings in our time of need.
Nature can be a wonderful way to see God’s glory on display and you spent a lot of time observing the beauty around you throughout the trials. How did being in nature help you through?
Nature has always calmed me. Whether I’m sitting alone on my deck watching the hummingbirds flit between my feeders or I’m floating lazily in my kayak on a quiet lake watching turtles basking in the sun, I can calm myself and find peace. I can marvel at God’s glorious sunsets and know that He is still part of the world. I can feel that maybe He will still come through for us.
In what ways did Lacey’s verdict challenge your faith?
When the verdict came back guilty, I felt forgotten by God. I had prayed faithfully, and He didn’t answer my prayers for an innocent verdict. I was heartsick. How could I continue to pray when I felt betrayed by Him?
How did Jesus sustain you during the journey and how does your faith in Him continue to do so today?
When I look back over the nine years Lacey has been in prison, I am able to see answered prayers. When our grandchildren came to live with us, we had a purpose to keep our homelife stable. They are 19 & 22 now and are adulting well. I asked for safety for Lacey in prison and she has been surrounded by other inmates who believe in God also. I believe God guided me to write my memoir to help others going through desperation, but while writing it, I was able to let go of my angst and find blessings in the midst.
You are a fellow writer and have returned to writing after a 35-year hiatus – welcome back! How did you come back to writing? What has writing the book meant to you?
Thank you! I had attended a dream building seminar and during a session, one of the questions was – What was your dream as a child? Mine was to become a writer. I set an intention to get back to writing within the year, and I was fortunate enough to connect to an awesome writing retreat where I began purging my story onto the page. Seeing my book in final printed and bound form felt like the culmination of God again answering my prayers.
Your story has connected you with others in similar situations. What has been their response to your book?
I have been amazed by how many acquaintances have children or friends in prison. They have connected with me via Facebook and have also written notes. They appreciate reading that someone else has travelled their road. We all have rough patches in our lives and if we can lighten someone else’s load, then maybe that is part of God’s plan.
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
I have a website where you find purchase links for my book ‘Test of Faith: Surviving My Daughter’s Life Sentence’ – BonnieSHirst.com
Facebook – Bonnie S. Hirst author
My book is available on Amazon and Indie Book Stores.
Bonnie S. Hirst is the author of “Test of Faith: Surviving My Daughter’s Life Sentence” (She Writes Press, Sept. 24, 2019). She loves feel-good movies and stories with happy endings. After a 35-year hiatus from writing during which time she was busy being a mom and grandma, she is enjoying connecting with other writers. When life tries to shorten her stride, she prays, cries, talks with her guardian angels, reads self-help books, and writes. She can often be found kayaking on a calm mountain lake.