October 31 tradition


After years of angst about Halloween—how to avoid it, connect with townspeople through it, inoculate it, renounce it, blah blah blah, what was I so worked up about?—we’ve finally found a family tradition that we love.

On the thirty-first of October, we welcome friends who might otherwise be alone that night—mostly the unmarried women we love the most, sometimes a wife whose husband is working. When we invite them ahead of time, we don’t call it a Halloween party or a non-Halloween party. We say “Come over Monday night for hot drinks and puzzles and games.”


We plan fun snacks like soft pretzels or caramel apples or spiced cider or hot chocolate—often something we can make together—and we fill our house with light and warmth and Jesus.

We get out ginormous puzzles and work till we finish them.


Our children talk too much in the glow of all that adult attention, and sometimes my snacks are a bit floppy, like the year the caramel ran off the apples, but we enjoy them together—snacks, children, flops, all of the above—and we soak in the laughter and light.

It’s a tradition I can live with.


Search “Halloween” on this blog if you want to find three previous posts on the subject when my friend Janelle and I were brainstorming back in 2012. I don’t have the heart to add the links right now.

The beautiful mug pictured above was created by White Hill Pottery, the puzzle was created by Anthony Kleem, and everything else was created by Jesus.

Of lost doors


I dreamed I saw her again

Her sweet little grin

Her sister hung back and wouldn’t touch me

But she came to my arms

And snuggled

And smiled

I held her

And when I woke there was a pit of darkness in my heart

That will not go away, still

And no matter what I am doing

There is crying in my heart

That does not show.

I am dying


I hate writing of loss

Because the tamest and wildest descriptions

Are equally true and equally ridiculous


There is a house near mine

Stately and serene

It had a pale blue chipped door

Like the blush of morning

And the soft, soft skin of an old woman’s hand

And the tender ageless hope of a robin’s egg.

I have loved it for years

Looked and longed and loved

The owners are renovating the house to sell

And one day they got out their paints

Their pretty, tasteful paints and made the door


Red. It is not chipped anymore, and it needed to be

Chipped and crackling and the palest blue


Why did I not think to photograph it while I could?

An old door on an old house is an unspeakably beautiful thing and

It is gone clean out of the world


On their birthday I obsess, full of regret and fear

Because we loved them, we loved them

But we could not keep them

We said we could not adopt them

Because of what it was doing to our family

Because the needs

Never ended

And we were never enough

And all six children deserved more of us

The twins deserved a home with less, and more

We stayed in the story and helped bond them with amazing pre-adoptive parents

Some days I know we did right

And some days the guilt and fear choke me


On their birthday

I want to bake their cake, want to see their morning faces bright and new

Want to make the homemade soup they loved

And suddenly I find myself sobbing because of the thing that hurts the most

I cannot remember how Twin B said soup


I am foolish, sobbing over a silly little bit

But that is the thing about


You do not lose once and then remember losing

You lose and lose, and go on losing

You lose the first birthday and the first Christmas and the first memory you cannot pull back

And maybe if you forget too much it will be like

They were never



Several hours later, I hear it in my mind

She said zthoop—a perfectly irresistible lisp that made me fill her bowl again.

I laugh in the middle of my crying and am grateful for this memory

For a photograph of what is gone



The girls are gone and the door is gone and sometimes we cry


Choose life

How many of us do you think will have the chance to speak timely words to a mother dithering on the edge of her pro-life / pro-choice decision? One in a hundred? Less than that?

I cannot tell. But I know this: Every day, my words and actions to everyone around me vote for life — or they do not. I can talk until the day dawns about the evils of abortion, but what am I doing?


Sometimes I assume that being pro-life means I have to volunteer at my local crisis pregnancy center, march in Washington D.C, or become a foster parent. The Lord in his infinite wisdom and great sense of humor has led me on a couple of those paths—but it’s not really what I’m talking about. I am asking myself not if I am pro- the pro-life movement, but if I am pro-life. All life.

When was the last time I held a child to give his mom a break?

How do I respond to the screaming child (and her frazzled mother) in the next aisle of the grocery store?

On Sundays, do I watch the circus on the bench in front of me* with a frown? a smirk? or active compassion?

*Theoretically speaking. Usually I am the circus. Sometimes I’m the frazzled mother in the next aisle too: Come bring me coffee.

Am I warming my own children with love?

Am I willing to love a child who is not mine? my Sunday school student? my nephew? my runny-nosed neighbor kid?

What comes out of my mouth when I hear that Mrs. Seven Babies In About As Many Years is expecting her eighth?

Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
How have I enabled? What have I done?

Every time I celebrate a child, I am helping his mother to love him.

Every time I give her what she needs from me most—my T.I.M.E—I am helping her to keep him.

I may not meet the frightened expectant mother contemplating abortion, but every expectant mother, every overwhelmed mother, carries fears I cannot see. She needs to hear these words:

You’ve got this. I am so happy for you. I will be here to help.

That’s all I have to say.

How has your load been lightened by the people around you? How have you lightened the load for others?

Roe v. Wade, and the lullabye my mother taught me

Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9

Confession: I’m not sure if I am reading all the dark stories on purpose, or if I am being unconsciously drawn to them because of where my heart is, or if I am walking with purpose through divine literary appointments.

It is difficult to write of abortion without being either gruesome or weepy. But if anyone has a right to try, it is Norma McCorvey. You may not know her by that name—she was called Jane Roe in the famous 1970’s legal case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in all fifty states.

She wrote I Am Roe in 1994 to celebrate abortion rights and to tell her life story, stripped of the lies on which her case was built. She wrote Won By Love only three years later, to recant her earlier beliefs and give glory to Jesus for healing and forgiving her.

I just read both. They are painful books, the first full of stories of abuse and despair, and the second uncovering the horrors of the pro-choice world. But they also made things clearer to me.

  • They clarified both sides of the abortion issue—why people fight for this right, and why they fight against it.
  • They clarified my own commitment to the holiness of human life, from conception on—and my commitment to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
  • They even clarified my own childhood, and the memories I have of my mother’s concern about abortion.

Roe v. Wade was decided in the first months of my mom’s married life. In the late eighties and early nineties when the legal battle resurfaced, she listened to Tilly by Frank Peretti, with tears dripping off her face. And she taught her children to sing a song called Lullabye for the Unborn.

Reading Norma McCorvey’s story reminded me of the song, and so I searched for it. I found the lyrics, just as I remembered them, but what I really wanted was a link to someone performing the music. I could not find one anywhere online—and so I decided to sing it myself.

I was more frightened than I look.

I wanted to sing it without mistakes, but I couldn’t.

And I offer it because Mr. Johnson’s message is worth hearing, even 36 years after he wrote it, and because all babies deserve life.

This post contains affiliate links.

If you could say one thing to the frightened mother of an unborn child, what would it be?

More tomorrow

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Here’s the rest of what I have to say. It’s short.

I once said that what government does cannot heal your world. (You didn’t take much notice of it because that was the day I also said what you eat cannot heal your world.) I said, “Please consider the gospel you preach. There is no cure for human suffering except the one found in the person of Jesus and his final redemption.”

Don’t even think I’m saying that a government shouldn’t do all the good it can… that’s what it’s there for. It should protect the innocent and defend the poor and strike terror to the evil. But why would the people of God look to it for ultimate restoration? Human ideas aren’t that good.


I’ve seen Christians put their hope in godly politicians, only to see those shining leaders stumble and severely disappoint; and I’ve seen Christians attack ungodly politicians, who were selected by the Lord for such a time as this.

Our times are in his hands.

The utopias and dystopias, whatever their faults, were important books for the warnings they offered. They are important again this season, as America lunges and churns and gouges its way toward a Presidential election unlike any other—and yet so very like. Sometimes the American political scene looks to me like a golden chamber pot—expensive, sure; fascinating, you bet; but who would like to claim it? Anyone? Anyone?

Please remember. The biggest question is not “Mr. Trump or Ms. Clinton?”

The biggest question is “Who heals the nations?

If what the government does cannot completely heal the world (and by that I mean solve every human problem, rescue every lost child, and change the hearts of people to make us truly good and truly happy), then what the government does cannot completely destroy the world either—however damaging/ dangerous/ selfish/ alarming/ horrible the fallout of its policies may be. It just can’t. It can’t turn good into evil, stop the sweet work of the Holy Spirit, or make the earth forget its Redeemer.

If you are in Christ, you belong to a kingdom that transcends political and temporal lines, and places your hope in a person, not in a place or a policy. There is always hope, because JESUS.

Because there is one perfect person in the world, one scaldingly good man who laid down his life for his enemies and walked through suffering and rose radiant with eternal life, we can live here too, and he will keep transforming us into his kind of people.

Our hope is in him, world without end. Amen.