Larry Campbell

When we returned home, coming in through the back door that day in May 2008, I felt it before I saw it. I crossed through both the kitchen and the dining room, and when I got to the living room, my stomach flipped. The front door stood wide open, sunshine streaming in from the porch. The door’s lock mechanism was on the floor all the way across the room.

“Something’s wrong,” I said to the girls. “Go back outside.”

I called the police from the back yard. Two officers arrived in minutes, and I assured them we hadn’t been inside the house long—just long enough to see the open front door and the missing lock.

“We’ll have a look around,” the first one said. “Stay out here.”

The officers disappeared inside our house.

“We’ll go back in soon,” I said to the girls. “First, let’s see who can run fastest across the yard.”

Minutes later, one of the officers called to us from the back door.

“You can come in now. It’s all clear,” he said, pulling out his notepad. “Take a look, and let us know if anything’s gone.”

I passed from room to room, checking the house. Nothing. Not even a mess—other than our own—was left behind.

“It looks okay,” I said.

“Dexter was hiding under your bed, Mama,” Ricka said, holding the trembling dog in her arms.

One of the officers jotted some notes on his pad and then gave me his card. Then I watched our sense of security walk down our front steps and drive off in a police car.

I called Husband who was at the airport ready to board a flight for a three-day trip to Amsterdam. I told him about our afternoon surprise.

“Can you come home?” I said.

“I can’t get out of the trip at this point.”

“Not even if you tell them someone kicked in your front door today?”


I sighed. “Okay.”

“You’ll be all right.”

I paced while I talked with him, and then I noticed something. “I can’t believe it.”


“I guess I only locked the lock on the doorknob when we left earlier—not the deadbolt. I usually lock both.”

“Good. Then you can deadbolt the door tonight. I’ll replace the lock when I get home.”

“And another thing. The glass on the door is covered with fingerprints.”

“Well, we have kids.”

“And there are prints shaped like parentheses. Like someone cupped his eyes to see in.”

“I’ll deal with it when I get home. Don’t wipe them off.”


“Let’s all sleep together in my bed,” I said to the girls that night. “It’ll be fun.”

The four of us slid under the covers. The girls snuggled down inside my arms and drifted off when the excitement of the “sleepover” melted away. I turned off the bedside lamps and steadied my breathing. In spite of the company, I felt alone in the dark.

In the shadow of His wings.

My ears perked up at the sound of each passing car, each horn in the distance. I stared at the ceiling, my eyes wide and unblinking.

I will lie down and sleep in peace for You alone make me dwell in safety. Safety.


The next day, the girls and I talked about the intruder.

“Maybe Dexter was barking so loud it scared him away,” Dicka said.

“Maybe so.”

“I bet he saw an angel in our living room, got scared, and ran off,” Ricka said.

“It’s very possible.”


When Husband returned from his work trip, he inspected the front door. He picked up the phone and dialed.

“We need someone to come over and dust for prints,” he said. “How soon could that happen?”

The cast of “CSI: Minneapolis” was at our front door within the hour. Exhaling male bravado, the men muscled their suitcases inside the porch and snapped them open. They swirled their brushes around on the glass of our front door—inside and out—and examined the doorknob with a magnifying glass.

Husband got a phone call from the police a few days later.

“Do you know a Larry Campbell?”

“No,” Husband said.

“That’s the name of the guy from the prints on your door. Sixteen-year-old. Doesn’t live in your neighborhood.”

The girls prayed for Larry Campbell that night. And every night after that for several years.


Two months after the break-in, a salesman came to our door peddling security systems. I listened to his pitch. So did Husband. We liked what we heard and agreed to the protection plan.

“Do you get tips from the police and then market these systems to people who’ve had recent break-ins?” I said.

“No,” the man said with a chuckle. “But that’s a good idea.”

We ate our dinner at the dining room table while the man installed a keypad on the wall a few feet from us. I wondered if it would make any difference. Brian, the previous homeowner, had staked a sign for a security company into the soil of the front garden when his family lived in our house. We hadn’t activated the system—just left the sign there as a scarecrow. But it was a tin lie, backed by nothing. And Larry Campbell hadn’t noticed—or cared.

The idea of paying for safety now felt ludicrous. As if we could hold our lives in our own hands and trust a system—managed by humans—to bring us security. While we agreed to the protection, I knew I couldn’t rely on it or even on Husband—away so often for work—to protect us. I could only trust the One.

And in the shadow of His wings alone was the only place I’d ever find safety.


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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.