She spoke quietly, dry-eyed, of being molested by uncles, beaten by a live-in boyfriend, of living on the edge of poverty on the edge of the world. Each story revealed another reason her too-tiny body was aged beyond her years, leaving her like a mangled wild flower clinging to life in a shallow crack. But none of the stories seemed to upset her. It was all she knew.

Until she reached down to the bottom of her years, and pulled up the memory from when she was 6, when the world should have still been a playground. She described the day the carving of her life slipped and the chisel nearly broke her. It was the day her mother said, “I am going,” and she turned and walked away, never to return.


‘Can a mother forget the child at her breast?’ the ancient words ask. Yes, she can, is the destroying answer.

It was the story of when she was 6 that melted this tough woman and brought tears out of the flat eyes because there’s no sting like being left behind, rejected.

IMG_1151“I feel so…abandoned…” texts another friend when her husband separates. The screen silence screams the void. What is the answer? How does one fill this terrible black hole that touches all of us at one point or another? How do we keep on living…alone?

‘Men will always fail,’ I type back, breath held. 

‘Always. People will always fail us.’ I remember my pastor looking directly into my eyes at a young age and telling this truth so I would know it. Because divorce or death, fatigue of patience or painful words, forgetfully or accidentally or purposefully—people will fail. We are all broken and we all break others.

‘But Jesus…’ I start to text back but hesitate. Can a story change by the arrival of the Hero? Can the curse of the ages of humanity be solved by one Man’s appearance? Can that black hole of the soul—the one that is eternally alone—be filled?

DSC_0321‘He’s the only One who will never leave. Never fail. 

The only One who can truly love,’ I hit send.

The Jesus of John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much He gave His only Son, Jesus, that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life.” That’s the only One who has conquered death and outright selfish sin so He’s the only One who can love and love and love—without fail.

I suddenly can’t type fast enough. It sounds trite—too easy of a solution—yet I’ve seen it and I’ve known it. 

And it wasn’t an easy solution for Jesus. In a cosmic clash of the powers of the universe, God gave Himself up as the sacrifice. Justice demanded punishment for all the hurt, the evil, the sins. Mercy gave Himself to take the punishment. Jesus gave up all the glory and power of the throne of all the world, to become a human baby. 

He came to be with us. But he was hated, hunted down, rejected, despised, disrespected, misunderstood, wrongly accused—and crucified. 

He lived a life that was always loving, always self-less, always perfect, but then took on the sin of all. He died for all. He loves you. He chose you. He wants to be with you in everything.

“But God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”—Romans 5:8

The only response required is acceptance. He is offering a place in the family. We have to decide if we are willing to be adopted. We have to be willing to let go of our filthy rags, and He will help us put on new clothes. 

It’s that simple. 

It’s that hard.

I continue to pray for my abandoned friends. I continue to pray for all of us to rest in the unfailing love of God, no matter how abandoned we feel.


5 Minutes in the Life of Piper

A puppy’s days are busy…

  1. Be taken outside to go potty. Don’t go potty.  Chase leaves, bite leash, roll in something suspicious and smelly. Eat a stick. This is the ticket back inside. thumbnail
  2. Run to Christmas tree. Pull off ornament. Play chase until they catch you and take it away. Run to the backside of tree. Drink water from the bucket. Get pulled out by tail. Snatch light string on way out and tip entire tree until someone shrieks. Get told no and sent away.
  3. Come back to steal bow off package.
  4. Wake up old dog by jumping on him. Start him barking and chasing you.
  5. Sit down for one–blessed–minute–to fool everyone.
  6. Jump into person’s lap, simultaneously spilling tea, ripping book, and proving you can jump that high.DSC_0127
  7. Run to door. They have to take you out.
  8. Don’t go potty. Pad through puddles to get really wet. Find dry worms and eat them. Person will get grossed out and take you back inside.
  9. Go to Christmas tree and pee on presents.
  10. Repeat.




Don’t Know What You Got

I leaned over to help my old comrade, unaware the sniper crept closer. My elderly Mastiff’s feet were sliding out from under him on the wood floor, so I bent over to steady his back end. The sniper–a 7-month old Bulldog female–spied the open target of my face.

Forty pounds of front-loaded springing muscle, genetically-engineered solid forehead (or was it forward-thrust jaw and snaggle tooth?) and all the puppy energy of every being in her body smacked my front tooth. And chipped it.

The old adage is so cliche it’s a 70’s song: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” I’ve always had great, no-braces, dentist-complimented teeth. Now I was ready for Halloween as a backwoods redneck. Or a hockey player.

Funny, eh? We don’t even realize how much we treasure things until we are whining and crying over losing them. I dread exercise until my back seizes and I wish I could just walk. I long for 10 minutes minus pawing kids, until they suddenly outgrow Mom-hugs. I think nothing of sleeping in my bed until I go camping. The list goes on…

Is it even possible to be aware of all the blessings of the moment?

Last year, we went to a favorite restaurant to celebrate our twin boys’ 18th birthday. Asking for a table for 5 stung my throat a moment. My husband was about to deploy, the boys about to graduate and leave for a summer job and then college. We wouldn’t be a table of 5 for awhile, and even then, it would be different.

I’m sure the meal was good, though maybe salty from swallowed tears. The conversation skirted the storm on the horizon. I remember laughter. I remember gratitude. I remember being aware; stepping out of self as if in an outer-body experience and most of all…just not wanting it to end. I wanted to never push away from that table.

Annie Dillard writes of the self-awareness she learned to recognize as a child: “How much noticing could I permit myself without driving myself round the bend? Too much noticing and I was too self-conscious to live; I trapped and paralyzed myself, and dragged my friends down with me, so we couldn’t meet each other’s eyes, my own loud awareness damning us both. Too little noticing, though–I would risk much to avoid this–and I would miss the whole show. I would wake on my deathbed and say, What was that?”

I suppose we’re not made to live in that consciousness. Like not having multi-faceted eyes, we can’t possibly realize all the miracles we can be grateful for just to breathe this breath right now. Most of us would probably be incapacitated by seeing Elisha’s angel army.

But some moments seize you, pull you into God’s-eye view. You hold your breath, afraid the scene will pop like a bubble. Time doesn’t stop but it doesn’t matter because for that glimpse you are outside of time. You enter a holy place.

I pray for more of those moments.

Rise of the Heroes

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” —Fred Rogers

Grey the sky.

Grey the waves.

Grey the beach.

Grey the village homes clustered on the beach edge, trying not to be lost to the wind and sea.

Grey the fuzzy images on the TV that morning, jumping back and forth before suddenly showing towers collapsing in the grey, grey clouds of dust.

The Alaskan village, small in number, was still extensive in connections. Daughters, nephews, cousins were studying in New York City, visiting, working. The families headed to the church to pray.

The phone lines shut down. The planes, Unalakleet’s life line to the world, were grounded. But the natives were used to being cut off and to living with tragedy. They returned to their work as the end of salmon season, the closing of a crab opener, the processing of yesterday’s beluga harvest wouldn’t wait for mourning.

And so did I. Being one who focuses on today more than long-term and who avoids conflict at all cost, I was content. We were safe in a forgotten part of the world. I put my twin baby boys in their Carhart overalls, rubber boots past their knees, green anoraks and we went out to splash in the puddles and help pick berries.

But my husband paced the town like a fenced in guard dog. The former Marine turned National Guard Chaplain tried repeatedly to get ahold of his unit, asked everyone what news they had, checked the airport for possible schedules. 

When he had previously toyed with going active duty after seminary, I dismissed him. “It’s all fun and games until there’s a war!” Now, here was war. Instead of feeling blessed to be safe with his family, he was ignited.

“I can’t find out who’s getting called up,” he said while passing by us. “Come play!” I urged, and then pleaded, “Explain this to me.”

“I need to know who is going where and who is talking to those boys before they face hell,” he turned, then turned back, “And no one comes into my back yard, gives us a black eye, and gets away with it!”

There are willing heroes, and reluctant servants. September 11th pulled me into the last category and changed our family’s path, probably for generations. It was clear this was what God equipped my husband to do. A few months later, with a prayer and a signature, my boys became sons of a soldier.

As we immersed into this culture of heroes, I learned quickly the George Orwell quote, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” While my gut churned with, ‘Why mine?’ my chin lifted with “Yes, mine does the dirty work.” At a ceremony before his first deployment, I was pulling those toddler boys out from under the bleachers when we heard the war cry of a thousand warriors. It sears your soul.

I found myself surrounded by strong women who kissed their husbands goodbye and then got up the next morning. They built playgrounds, bought houses, figured out repairs, turned off the news, turned to their children with a smile.

Our children learned this too. As my boys emulated warriors, I worried. Maybe I shouldn’t be yelling “fight for it!” from the hockey rink stands. Maybe I should have taken away their toy guns, drugged them up to calm them down, downplayed their father’s honor, made them play golf, read them more fairytales and less history.

“Will you help me make a ghillie suit?” my boy asked. And so we sewed loops of dull yarn to a hooded vest so he could blend into the weeds while playing with his friends.

I prayed for a way to hide my baby boy in the reeds.

The infamous Spartan 300 weren’t chosen for their strength. They were chosen for their mothers. So goes the theory Steven Pressfield puts forth in Warrior Ethos. If the mothers caved at the inevitable death of their sons, all would be lost in the war for the whole society.

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things,” said British philosopher John Stewart Mill. “The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

One percent of our society will fight in our armed services. The majority of their children will go on to enlist or marry military members.





Some things are worth fighting for

Most never will

–Read the tattooed forearm of a young soldier eating at my dinner table one night.

I realized in growing my boys into the young men I wanted them to be, I was signing their enlistment papers. So I strapped the ghillie suit on my boy, checked it for weakness, looked him in the eye and said with the Spartan women, “Come back with your shield or on it.”

This September 11th, 18 years later, I have three in uniform. Those baby boys tried returning to the grey waters of Alaska, wrestling with the waves and wind to pull the silver salmon from the sea. But the following summer they stripped down to be rebuilt as a soldier.


We went to their graduations from Basic Training, gasping at the soldiers standing before us, even if the uniform was still a little big. Their dad, in an arm sling from reconstructive shoulder surgery from carrying too heavy of burdens, ping-ponged with me between pride and concern. 

When we were driving back on post with our baby-bald, too skinny private, the greying gate guard peered in to lock eyes with him. “You got this torch, son?”

“Yes, sir.”



Rest Area Ahead

Busy busy busy busy

How are you? ‘Busy!’ we reply, with a sigh and shoulder shrug to emphasize exhaustion.

But you know what? Secretly, we sort of like it. Because being busy in our culture means we are important. As a friend of mine once said, she has to be ‘useful,’ like on Thomas the Train, because the conductor throws away engines that aren’t useful onto the scrap heap.

We value our days based on how many things we’ve accomplished. Got our list checked off, it’s a good day. Couldn’t do anything at all because the baby was sick and wanted held? Not a good day. We value our days for work done, and our years, and our lives.

We answer a question about our self, our being–how are you?–with a description of our activities.

We become human-doings, not human-beings.

The military thrives on this principle—prove your worth by listing off what you’ve accomplished to get promoted. I’m frequently jealous of my husband’s OER. I’d like to be recognized for all my line items and have the stamp of approval—above mass!

I was at a farewell coffee recently and heard myself say to the ladies, ‘oh, you will be missed, you do so much for us!’ The words went bitter in my mouth. These ladies were friends. I wasn’t going to miss them just because now I’d have to help in the nursery and clean up after potluck. I was going to miss them because they are beautiful images of God. They were fun to be with. They cried with me over my childrens’ struggles. They prayed with me over our husbands. That’s why I was going to miss them.

We teach this to our children too. They quickly learn that to be important is to be busy. We model a life of being overwhelmed. Another friend of mine pointed out she doesn’t want her daughter thinking motherhood is stressful and miserable. Do we model that?

Tim Hansel cut to the quick in the book “When I Relax I Feel Guilty”: “Our prayer life becomes only a time to ask God to do things for us, so that we can be better workers for him. The purpose and privilege of simply ‘knowing him and enjoying him forever’ is considered unproductive. Our marriages slide quietly into what we can do for each other—the husband becoming a lawn mower and garbage remover, and the wife only keeping the house clean and the kids quiet. Children’s usefulness is unclear, and in a culture infatuated with practicality, kids begin to see themselves as worthless. Friends are recognized as opportunities, and therefore a justifiable expenditure of time. And religion becomes a pattern of rules and regulations, a system that helps us tidy up our behavior, somewhat like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic…”

Perhaps it would help us to take a good hard look at why we are so busy. 

—Do I need to control things? Am I not letting others help or take over because I want it done my way? Or am I afraid of failure if things aren’t done to perfection?

—Do I base my self-worth on what I can accomplish?

—Am I trying to please people?

—Am I more interested in rules than relationships? Do I help out at chapel so I don’t have to talk to people? Do I keep the house spotless, working late into the night, so I don’t have to be intimate with my husband?

Honestly, being busy is killing us, body and spirit. May we have the courage to do a gut-check on how busy the Lord would have us be.

The Truth About Lies

“No, it’s fine.” The words were meant to be flippant, but they fell hard—hammered into stone.

I was the youngest in a youth group of 3 girls. As far as I knew these two were the only other committed Christians in my school, in my small town and I desperately wanted to be a part. If a little playing the clown, taking some teasing was the entrance fee, I’d pay. In the classic annoying little sister tale, I earned the nickname off my last name, “Spacey Stacey.”

Sometimes it is hard to recognize that you are choosing a path.

One girl’s conscience was pricked, perhaps by her parents when she got home. She called to see if I was o.k.; if this new identity bothered me.

With a sideways glance at my mom, I pulled the phone’s cord to the end, reaching as much privacy as I could and then fidgeted with its tightening coils. 

Sometimes you don’t realize you are bowing to an idol.

Half-truths. White lies we call them, trying to deceive ourselves about our lies. And our culture seemingly needs this tension belt to run. Somehow it’s too hard to say, “Yes, it bothers me, but I don’t want to jeopardize our friendship.” 

The horse country in Gulliver’s Travels was incredulous that man would use language to deceive, “For he argued thus: that the use of speech was to make us understand one another, and to receive information of facts; now if anyone said the thing which was not, these ends were defeated.” 

“Do not lie,” the ancient scriptures say clearly, authoritatively, with finality. It’s part of the “love your neighbor as yourself,” second-greatest command.

And again in Colossians, it says you used to walk in the life that had filthy language and deceit, but you have taken off your old self.

I wonder about that new life. I wonder what it will be like in heaven when the truth we say to others will not hurt them. I wonder if the truth said to us will not wound us. 

It’s hard to imagine. 

Our culture holds relationships together with little white lies: “No, you don’t look fat. Yes, I’m so glad you called. I’d love to do that.”

Could we truly be set free by truth—hard, ugly truth that we feel in this fallen world?

How’s it going?

Oh, I’m fine.

How’s work?

Oh, fine.

How does your kid like school?

Oh, fine—fine—fine

Someday the truth will set us free. But do I have the courage to pull that thread until it completely unravels and leaves me naked?

Or for now do I continue to say, ‘It’s fine.’

I learned early some of the many places we don’t expose ourselves. While I went on to have a pretty good relationship with those high school girls, it took a lot longer to build intimacy as I was still locked in the self-imposed prison of pretending to be whatever I thought they wanted. 

So decades later, when a friend texted to ask a favor, it sent me into a familiar tail-spin. What she was asking for would require a couple of hours from me—later that day. I very badly wanted to help, but to do so would have disrupted a lot of things. Once again I was faced with a choice between the truth and hiding. I felt forced to put the relationship in jeopardy and tell her, ‘I can’t.’

Blessed are the peacemakers, not so much the people-pleasers.

Days later, she texted for advice on an issue. I was shocked to see the words “I know I can trust your thoughts, that you will tell me the truth.” Our friendship continued, and went deeper because I quit hiding.

The Lord will honor the truth, spoken gently, in love. True friendships and true community can only thrive when the truth is spoken. Telling the truth will move you from a people-pleaser to a God-pleasing peacemaker. Ask Him to correct your little white lies today. 

If You Want to Raise a Pro

Too often, we leave childrearing to survival and hope with little purposeful intention of what end goal we are trying to achieve. Some out-right leave it to chance in the form of ‘letting the child decide.’ We undervalue how much influence a parent has on every aspect of a child. So who are you trying to raise? An athlete? An artist? A Christian?

If you want to raise a professional athlete, it helps if the parents are themselves athletes to set the tone early. Start immediately with a healthy diet and exercise in the form of play. Make strengthening fun. Help children learn to set goals and rewards for accomplishing them. Display quotes of great athletes. Honor the Olympians. Spend your money on going to games.

If you want to raise an artist, start early by surrounding the child with colors, textures, shapes. Let children see you practice and try all kinds of mediums. Host artists for dinner and discuss traditions and treads. Whisper dreams of showing in great galleries into the child’s ear. Reward all efforts.

If you want to raise a Christian, surround the child with those who are practicing. Tell them the stories before they can speak. Pray continuously and let them hear it. Place verses on the walls. Teach them to turn to the Bible in all situations. Honor the pastors and pray the child will give their life to service. Balance all these activities with discipline from love. Fill their minds with songs. Discuss teachings at meals, while driving in cars, before bed time. Make certain child sees parent practicing tenants such as forgiveness, generosity, caring for the poor, loving all.

A Glimpse of Greater Things

I step out to the front of my car with my brain and vision blinded with the day’s—the life’s—to-do list when I see a large dragonfly lying on the pavement of my car port. Apparently my bully SUV stunned it. I wait a beat to see if it can pull itself together. When it doesn’t move, I reach for its long metallic-blue tail, but as soon as I grasp, it flexes between my fingers and the wings whir into action. It lifts a little, but the head falls off and dangles from a strand. I drop it immediately. 

I see no way to help. But I haven’t the heart to finish the job either. Step on the head? Seems a shame to crush the perfect body. So I leave it lying on the concrete, head off to one side, wings tilting and twitching.

Experts believe dragonflies can see more colors than we can. Three to ten times the light-sensitive opsins in their eyes open a whole new rainbow we cannot fathom. Couple that with 30,000 facets in their compound eyes, called ommatidia (wonder what poor sap intern had to count those?), creates a vision unimaginable to our veiled sight.

I wonder if this is what John struggled to describe when he glimpsed the glory of the heavens: “a rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.”

“Have you seen?” the Lord asks Job; the answer being we can’t possibly. We’re again staring at only the shadows on the cave wall. The whole truth would blind and paralyze. And so we have to trust the One who can.

The next morning I step out into the new air and see the dragonfly. Its head has dried back in place. The clear, stained-glass window wings froze into a rigid crisp. The thousands of facets in the eyes gone flat dull. As I turn it over, its six arms are folded up and crossed, as in prayer.

To My Little Sis Who Is Trying To Be Good

Ah My Dear Little Sister,

So, while you slept, everyone else snuck out to a party.

Probably because you don’t swear.

And while you try to make a joke out of it, you still chide them about cheating.

You didn’t go into that store with them.

You out-right lecture them about the hazards of vaping.

When they tell you how far they’ve gone, you can’t hide the shock.

So you slept. Slept on a bed of innocence and woke to a clear conscience; no hangover; and unafraid of arrests or suspensions from school.

But there is a sting there. You were left-out. Not trusted. Not invited.

No one wants to be the goody-two shoes.

And this is your circle of friends, your youth group.

No one wants to be the goody-two shoes amongst a bunch of goody-two shoes.

It is lonely holding to standards, striving for holiness. Very few are on the path.

But I am so proud of you. And so is your Father. His rewards are beyond a good night’s sleep, a clean record. Hold fast. Inspire others to His best.

But in this garden of innocence a new threat slithers. Oh Sweetheart, it s a much harder demon to see, to catch, to destroy. Self-righteousness will poison everything good you have achieved. Remember? Jesus unleashed his harshest words on the goody-two shoes, the leaders of the church. While they outwardly did all the right things, their hearts swelled with pride. Ugly, festering, deadly pride.

It’s nearly impossible to hide self-righteous pride. It destroys relationships and leaves you truly alone. It undermines all the good you worked for. It simmers on hate–not love.

Consider your Jesus. How did the absolutely, completely, faultlessly, eternally perfect One still make the worst of the worst want to be near Him?

It was love. Love for them. Compassion for how deceived they were.

While it’s good to cheer them on to be kind to the new kid, to be truthful with their parents, to turn down the phone pics, it’s best to love them. Show them how to love the Lord. Display to them how much He loves them.

You are not alone, Little Sis. Carry one with a joyful heart.

To My Lonely Lil Sis, Lean In–

My Dear Little Sister,

Feels like you’re always the second best friend, eh? The one good enough to do things with until someone else shows up. I know. They forget to invite you. They have their secret stories, and somehow the joke is just too hard to explain.

You run through all the possible reasons why, but maybe it’s just because you’re not like them. You really want to be friends, but you don’t understand or enjoy half the things they say. You’re just not into the party looking at fashion pics on phones. Doing nails feels like such a waste of time. And you have no interest in the cheer team.

But you’re willing to make sacrifices, to try. So you hide who you are. You try not to say too loudly you’d prefer DQ over Sonics. You shrug and give your go-to word—‘whatever.’ You’ll never admit you’re staying home because you just want to read.

And you hide your gifts too. It’s just not cool to be the smartest one. Just avoid all conversations about your amazing SAT scores.

Yes, the harder it gets, the harder you try. And that backfires too. The hurt comes out in a joke barb that’s just a little too strong. You come home feeling you were too loud—too much. Or you try being quiet, and then you never get a word in. And you come home feeling like no one even knew you were there. You wonder when you move if anyone really notices.

So the Friday nights are spent at home with little sister and her friends and the term old maid haunts you long before you’re marrying age.

Hang on, little Sis. A time and place will come when suddenly you fit, where your gifts are respected, where people think you’re funny and life just isn’t so hard.

Until then, learn the lesson now.

Cuz you’re going to need it. We all do. Because no matter how much we sacrifice to the idol of relationship, we will all be alone at some time. The day will come when friends all have to work on your birthday and mom and dad are too far away. Husbands deploy. Kids get busy with their own things. Death does part.

Loneliness comes for all, even the one who has given everything to not be alone. They may be the desperate of all, for sometimes, they are alone when surrounded by people.

People try all kinds of pacifiers to avoid loneliness. None of them end well.

So you must learn to lean in. Lean in to the God who created You because He loves to talk to you. Lean in to the Jesus who also knew loneliness and abandonment. Learn to converse with the Creator of your soul with the familiarity of a soul-mate. Lean into the presence that is with you always.

Make Psalm 146 yours. Don’t trust in a prince to come, but lean into the Prince who came. When you feel like the foreigner, the prisoner, the orphan, consider the faithfulness of the One who regulates the tides, who turns the stars, who sends the seasons.

Lean in, and then reach out. If you turn your face from the crowd everyone is clamoring to be a part of, you’ll find other flowers on the wall—and they’re beautiful. There’s always someone who needs a friend.

People will always, always, always fail you, Lil Sis.

Lean in to the God who never will.