I would like to share with you some of the things I have experienced from right before the trial up until now, along with some of my thoughts regarding these experiences. I hope these examples will give you a sense of who Mariel is, even if you have never met her. If you go to her church, or live in her community, or are following her story online, and you are wondering if you can support someone convicted of assault - I hope this will help you. She is a convicted felon and the sweetest person I have come to know. I believe she has been honest through this entire process.
I met Mariel several years ago at church. This past spring I started taking walks with Mariel and a couple of other moms, and all of our children. I started getting to know Mariel. I have gotten to know even more of who she is through attending the trial and prayer meetings regarding her current circumstances.
There was a prayer meeting for Mariel before her trial. At this meeting she prayed for the salvation of all the children of the parents who were there. She couldn’t remember all of my childrens’ names. I couldn’t remember all of hers either. We were new friends. A couple of days later, I attended the first day of her trial. There were no seats left, so a friend and I sat in the front row where Mariel was seated by herself. My friend started talking to Mariel, and I grabbed Mariel’s hand to let her know that I was there to support her. During this time Mariel asked me how all of my children were. She made sure to use all of their names, letting me know she remembers their names now. I was left surprised. Mariel asked about my children in a courtroom while she waited for a trial to begin that could separate her from her own children for a very long time. I was also surprised by her prayers at that meeting. Mostly they were prayers focused on others. They were prayers for childrens’ salvation and prayers for the healing of a specific child. At a time like this I would have been thinking primarily, if not solely, about my own needs. I remember Mariel saying at that prayer meeting, “Whatever happens, I will be okay, because I have Christ.” I don’t believe Mariel said these things because her situation isn’t scary. I don’t believe she said them because it hasn’t been painful. I believe she said them because her faith is strong and her concern for others is constant.
I was able to attend about half of the trial. When there were breaks in the proceedings, Mariel and people who were there to support her, would meet in a small room outside the courtroom. It was in this room that people would pray, sing songs about God, and talk about how things were going. Mariel would often pray, request that we sing a song, or share her thoughts with us. During one of these times Mariel shared something that was on her heart. As closely as I can remember this is what she said: September 22nd did not surprise God. I have not always liked my place in all of this, but if I hadn’t been with the baby, then he would have been with his mom, and she would have been the one on trial, and he really needs his mom right now. She wants him to get the care that he needs, and that is the care of his mother. It is clear to me that Mariel loves this baby. She prays for him and is excited when she hears that his condition is improving. She picked out a hymn for him, just as she did for her own children, and she would sing it to him before naptime. I have heard her call him amazing. She has said that she doesn’t know what God is doing here in this past year, but that he could have a million different things he’s doing that we don’t see. That the stage is bigger than we see. She has told herself that yes, it looks awful, but hope in God.
In the middle of August, I overheard Mariel talking about her distress because she could not help a friend by watching her children. She wanted to help, but knew with everything going on it wouldn’t be wise. She said something to this effect: If you can’t depend on a fellow Christian, who can you depend on? She was communicating her desire to help. I told her she had the best excuse ever for saying no. It seems to me that Mariel thinks uniquely. She greatly wants to meet the needs of those around her.
Shortly after her desire to help this friend, I was at Mariel’s house and my three-year-old left his bunny there. This is the bunny he sleeps with every night. I told her we all love this bunny. I contacted her, and she said she had the bunny. The plan was to pick him up in the morning. While bunny was away, I got messages on my phone from Mariel with pictures of bunny and notes to my three-year-old. The first message had a picture of bunny in a bunk bed with another stuffed animal all tucked in. The note below the picture read: “Bunny is safe and sound and we found a bed for him and a friend for his pajama party. We sang him a hymn and he went to sleep.” There was another picture of bunny leaning over cupcakes and this note read: “Before bed we found Bunny trying to eat a cupcake. We gave him carrots instead so he’s healthy for going home tomorrow.” Of course my kids loved this, and actually I did too. It was endearing and so sweet. These are all little things I heard and observed, but they seem to be representing big things about Mariel that others have shared. They represent her gentleness, her kindness, her love for others, her uniqueness, and her heart for children.
One night my husband and I were talking about the trial and everything I had been observing. He said something that really stuck with me. He said, “If she’s lying she would have to be the best actress of all time.” He was right. I think if you knew her, if you observed her going through this, and heard her speak from her heart--you’d see her as trustworthy and amazing. Mariel has said that she liked her life more private. And now that her life is being made public--what I see is something rare, something beautiful.
I know how this situation with the trial can look to someone on the other side. I think I can understand that. I’m just trying to share what it looks like on this side. The longer this is drawn out, the more we see of Mariel, of who God made her to be. On this side, I realize that many could not shine so brightly in such a dark place.