We recently started a self forgiveness support group at the prison, and decided to write a letter to ourselves and share it with the group this week. The women in the group thought I should share the letter on my blog, so here it is:)

Dear Portia,

I’m going to start this letter on a positive note. There are a few certainties: You are a beloved daughter of the most high God, and He has a plan for you. You are a mother, and a queen, and have a perfect father; you are the child of a king! Your life has been hard; you have made mistakes, and suffered the consequences. You have always known who you are, so why has it been so hard to live up to that? You are the oldest of 7 children; you are loyal, and willing to fight to the bitter end to protect those you love. Maybe you have been misguided in your fight, but your heart is good. You are a hard worker, and see obstacles as stepping stones. People would say: “When life gives you lemons you make lemonade.” But life happened fast for you. By the time you were 21 years old you had two children, and still didn’t have a stable home or marriage to rear them with. The guilt and shame of bad decisions led you to prescription drugs, where you found comfort in a bottle of percocet, and a reprieve from your suffering. The first time you took a pill the pain in your heart subsided, and you thought you found the answer. The next several years were filled with more bad decisions, and more pain for your children. A thought that still cuts you to the very core! How can someone who loves her children so much make decisions that bring so much pain? One night you came home late after a long night of partying and found your 9 year old son in the living room of your parents home waiting for you. He was sick with fever, and had been crying for hours wanting only you. Your mom said, “How can you do this! All he wants is you, why isn’t that enough for you?” That night your heart broke. You laid on the floor of your parents basement sickened by your mistakes, you were racked with pain, and promised you would make things right.

You fought hard going to recovery meetings. You married a good man, and the two of you built a life together. Chad was the guy that did everything right, and you knew you were lucky to find him. But something inside you said, “I’m not good enough. I’ve made too many mistakes, and he shouldn’t have to settle for someone as blemished as I am.”You build a successful business; you always paid the bills, you didn’t want your husband to have to settle for less. The time came when life was good enough to have more children, with a booming business, and a pretty good marriage you jumped in head first. The business grew, more children came, and life was good; but there was still something inside of you that said: “Is it good enough?” About that time the relapse came, I won’t go into all the gory details, only to say it was a perfect storm: Prescription drugs, real estate, pride, and insecurity. Your drive, and relentless spirit poured fuel on the fire, and you were off to the races.

When the locals complained that you were buying up all the deals in town, it didn’t even faze you. Didn’t they know what you were fighting for? When the feds showed up you were concerned, but not enough to stop. You weren’t just fighting to prove something anymore, now you were fighting to protect everything you had! Your husbands credit, your marriage, and your photography business to start with; to say nothing about your husbands good name. People depended on you, how could you quit? On top of that they wanted to put you in prison, and you just had a new baby. Remember that day? The day the feds showed up and told your husband he would have to choose; that he would have to decide if he would stand by you and risk being indicted, or work with the feds and walk away. You were standing on the porch of your home with a 3 month old child; it seemed they wanted everything. No, failure was not an option! You would go to the death before you would surrender! And to the death you went, in a tiny cement cell were heaven and hell combined, and you begged for mercy. 10 days of fear, not knowing when it would end, or what would come next. To say you know your limitations now would be an understatement! As bad as that was, and it was bad! There was still more to come. You plead guilty for sure, it was your life, your sanity, or a guilty plea; that was the choice! When confronted you stood in a courtroom with tears streaming down your cheeks and said whatever was required. You gave up! Who knows, maybe giving up was what you needed to do all along?

Then came your sentencing: standing in the courtroom surrounded by those you loved most; knowing what was coming, and wanting only to comfort your little ones. That day was hard, but it would still get harder. Driving away from your children has to be one of the hardest days? Tears streaming down CJ’s cheeks, Sadie’s friends having to pull her away because she was sobbing. Things a mother should never go though! Here you are now, a woman in prison, a promise made to those you love: That no matter what you will make them proud; that no matter what you won’t ever give up! It’s a different fight today; a fight to face the truth, a fight to walk through the pain, and a fight to be vulnerable in my weaknesses. Maybe the hardest part is the fight to forgive myself? I made a decision when I came to prison that I wouldn’t let prison take the good inside of me, that I would leave prison amazing. I knew I could decide how this ends, and I didn’t want to be a victim of circumstance. Yes I want justice, but I want happiness more! I have laid down my weapons of war, and I’m willing to be humble. I am a woman who loves her children, who loves her husband, who loves her community, and will do anything to make it right. I am a daughter of the most high God, and I am learning more each day who I really am. This is only the beginning. This is the second act, and the second act is amazing! As a friend of mine recently said: “Maybe we are the lucky ones? How many people have everything burned to the ground and live to tell about it? How many people get the glorious opportunity to rise from these ashes?” My answer is: “I do!”

Be kind to yourself Portia, maybe today your heart hurts, but your day will come, and it will be glorious. Remember who you are. You are a good person who made a mistake, a woman of faith, a peaceful warrior. When you get discouraged look back at the Goliath’s you have already overcome, and know you are the child of a King.