Stories

The Wait

By Goddy with Dave Franco, courtesy linkbooklegacies.com

Three years is a long time hold onto a dream that isn’t coming true—especially when the dream is to have a baby. You see, babies are everywhere; in your building, down your street, in the park, on the TV, on billboards, in the stores, in frames on coworker’s desks, in the comments of well-meaning relatives…There are babies, babies and more babies in every direction—constant reminders that what should happen naturally for your wife and you, simply isn’t.

But why?

It’s not as if we were hoping for something out of the ordinary. We were a healthy couple, normal in every way—living God’s prescribed arrangement for such a blessing. Why shouldn’t we conceive?  Why everybody else and not us?

That is why I took particular interest when at a church in my neighborhood in London I saw the pastor showing his new daughter to the congregation. All the people came around to give the baby a squeeze and a kiss while the pastor beamed. That’s when I heard someone say that the baby was adopted. It took me aback. I never considered that someone would beam so brightly over a child that wasn’t biologically his. Of course it makes sense that the pastor would, but at the moment, it just surprised me.

I went home to my wife, Pamela, and told her all about it. And the more we talked, the more excited we became—adoption felt right. It took me back to when I was a little boy in Nigeria, when I was allowed to go to a school in another part of the country, how so many people adopted me along the way to help me get through.

“All we have to do is adopt a baby and we’ll have one—just like that?” Pamela asked spryly. It all seemed too delicious for words. The waiting and worry would soon be over. We could start a family right away. “I think it wouldn’t take me hardly any time to come to love an adopted baby,” she said with excitement. We hadn’t felt that light in a long time.       

And so, we entered the British adoption process with the joyous anticipation of having a baby soon.

But we had no idea.

Pamela and I had to provide a bank vault’s-worth of documentation to prove our financial and emotional stability now and in the future. We had to have our home inspected and ultimately remodeled. We were required to write an exhaustive story of our lives. We were endlessly interviewed at the agency offices. We had to produce our relatives to be interviewed, even distant family. We had to stand before an adoption panel akin to a court jury. We were given a battery of physical exams with every component of our bodies scrutinized. We had to take a plethora of parenting courses. We even had to sign a contract stating that we agreed to be on contraception—no pregnancies during the process would be tolerated.

We had spent thousands of dollars on our home renovation and countless hours accommodating the adoption office’s requests and requirements, and three agonizing years later, we still didn’t have a baby to call our own. And now God was asking for a level of patience we weren’t sure we had to endure this bureaucratic crawl.

Lord, why the excruciating waiting?

Finally, the call came. The adoption office informed us that we would be certified soon. We were elated. Any moment now, we would begin the process of choosing children to be ours and bear our name. That is why what happened next seemed like a plot point from someone else’s story. Pamela’s company, where she had a remarkable job, was assigning her to an office in the U.S.

Lord, no.

All we could do was hope for a good bit of timing where the relocation process would take so long that we could secure a child before the papers to move us to the U.S. would be finalized. But the finalization took longer than we anticipated and now the race was on to see which would happen first.

They ended up happening at the same time. Just as we were about to have our dream come true—the dream we had waited six years for—our relocation papers were completed. If we were to agree to go, we would not have the time to begin the viewing process of children. Yet, strangely, both of us felt an odd peace about getting on that plane.

So, in a move that seemed to defy logic, a move that others thought was crazy, we agreed to leave the UK for the states, and simply didn’t allow ourselves to look at the faces of the children that kept arriving in the mail—it was far too painful. “I believe God’s perfect child for us is in America,” I told Pamela. “Besides, to trust God with the unknown always leads to blessing.”

In a way, even we couldn’t believe what we were doing.

In the states, we entered the Foster to Adopt system and began the process all over again. We were initially relieved to find that the Americans were not nearly as fussy as the British; the process was far more straightforward. But every decision and review took forever; weeks, even months. It was unbearable.

Lord, why so long?

Finally, two years later, we got word that we were certified. We cautiously rejoiced. Could it really be that we would finally get our child?

Not long after, we received a phone call from the agency saying that a social worker had been reading our file and felt that three little sisters that she worked with would be perfect for us and us for them.

Did she say three?

“We have no plans to suddenly have a houseful of five,” Pamela told them. “We are not interested in multiple children.”  In a move that must have been orchestrated by God, the social worker insisted we go into the offices to see the girls’ profiles before ruling it out. And so we did.

We walked in. We were handed the pictures. That was all it took. One look and we immediately felt our pulse quicken—as if the reason for the eight-year wait was now in our trembling hands. The girls were beautiful, like angels, and fun-loving, and by all accounts, they were children of high character. I couldn’t take my eyes off the middle one with the mischievous glare. I was smitten. Pamela was too.

The agency that handled the girls’ case was a nine-hour drive away in Northern California. We drove through the night to arrive at the agency office at noon the next day to show our commitment. The agency was impressed.

But unbeknownst to us, the Foster mother wouldn’t allow us to see the girls. Feeling terribly let down, we were asked to return in two weeks. It was a miserable nine-hour drive home and an excruciating fourteen days. So many things could go wrong to wipe away this opportunity. We held on tightly to God and His goodness and tenderhearted ways.

Two weeks later we again drove through the night to arrive at the agency office by 9:00 a.m. This time the girls were ready. We were so excited to meet them we could hardly contain ourselves.

When we were introduced to the girls, it was almost as if it was a reunion. All of us were so overjoyed to see each other. We spent two days together even staying in a hotel room for the night. It was a glorious success. The connection we fantasized about was in full bloom in each of their faces. The girls even began calling us mom and dad. As we watched the girls play, our faces hurt from smiling.

I called the agency, told them of our time together, how we felt and asked if we could just sign the papers and take the girls home. But the agency insisted they had more red tape to clear and finalizing to do. “We’ll have to meet with our directors, then there’s all the paper work to file, and there could even be visitations,” they insisted. “It could take weeks, maybe up to six.”

Six weeks?

With so much excitement coursing through our veins, and after eight years of waiting, the idea of six more weeks felt like a jail sentence.

As we dropped off the girls at the agency, the tears flowed freely. It was an awful parting, as if parting with ourselves. The ride home was a quiet torture as we drove away from our girls. There were more sniffles than words.

Lord, please. Step in. Give us our girls and give us strength in the waiting.

Just hours after arriving home, we received a phone call from the agency. “The girls’ social worker said they have done nothing but talk about you since you left,” the woman from the agency said. “Since there seems to be such eagerness on both sides, we have reconsidered. You can come and take the girls. Can you be here tomorrow by noon?”

***

In the year since, we have learned that God’s plan is always worth the wait, evidenced by the way we feel as we watch our three daughters run through our house, or watch TV together, or get cozied up in their beds waiting for mom and dad to come in and say a prayer. They are us and we are them. When we worried and questioned, God’s seeming nonsensical plan was leading us to this extraordinary completion we feel today. These are our daughters. He is faithful even when we are not—maybe especially when we are not.

2 Timothy 2:13 …if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself (NIV).

Postscript: Goddy and Pamela learned that at on the day they agreed to move to the United States, their three girls were entered into the Foster system.

Posted by Dave Franco with

THE TRUTH ABOUT WINTER

By Kim Lawrence with Dave Franco, courtesy linkbooklegacies.com

AS THE EMTS REMOVED ME FROM THE AMBULANCE, I slowly shook my head as I cried tears of disbelief. They would soon be wheeling me into Scripps Mercy, and I would be admitted as a mentally ill patient.  

           I couldn’t believe it had come to this.

           It began when I felt a wave of depression come over me. My dad had died months earlier and I experienced a deep sadness, but finally, it went away, and I seemed to be doing much better. But then it returned, only this time all of the sadness was heavier, darker, and more severe. I wondered if the loss of my dad was somehow circling back. Ultimately, I was diagnosed as clinically depressed. Whether my dad had died or not, it appeared that depression was going to find me one way or another.

           Over the years, and with the help of medication, I was able to bounce back from bouts of depression, but as they returned, it seemed they were getting worse, until the depression draped over me like I had pulled six feet of earth upon my body. It was smothering. I was weak. I could barely stand to take a shower. I was almost helpless to pull myself out of bed, and I would lay face first, and just cry out to God to take it away from me, or at the very least, let me feel that he wasn’t so far away from my reach.

           What else could explain the acute desperation I felt? I would call out for anything from God to indicate that He was with me—even the slightest sound of His voice. But anything I asked of Him was not granted. I couldn’t understand it. I was His child and I knew well His power and never-ending love. What could I have possibly done to bring this upon me?

           The isolation that comes with depression is awful. You can hardly bear the thought of being in the presence of others where you have to keep up a false demeanor that you aren’t dying inside. The only thing worse is if your friends might figure out how sick you are and show you pity. No, being with others is too much to bear, and yet, being alone is its own hell. There is no winning.

           Church proved to be a very lonely place. I would walk in with so much hope that God could meet me there but, of course, nobody knows you’re suffering and you really don’t trust that if you reveal your problem, that you won’t be looked upon a little differently. So you stay quiet and suffer alone.

           Finally, however, I allowed myself to be in the presence of some girlfriends from church. I was deep in the abyss of another bout, and my hangdog demeanor dragged me to an all time low. It disturbed them terribly to see me that way.

           They gathered around me, saying they had never seen anything like it. I was like a woman melting away. They touched me, and hugged me, and prayed mighty prayers for me while I sat there and wept uncontrollably. Later that day, after seeing a few medical professionals, a doctor told me that I needed to get to Scripps Mercy, to begin the process of getting better under the watchful eye of professionals who deal with the mentally ill.

         Me? Mentally ill?

         The shame of being in a mental ward was agonizing. But I was just desperate enough to do it—so I allowed the EMTs to wheel me in there, despondent face, red eyes and all. What embarrassment I felt. But I had had enough. It had been 14 years since the battle with depression began, and so I said yes to the shame in exchange for any relief they could offer. If I had to be thought of as a freak to get some treatment, I was ready.

           The next morning, when I woke up in Mercy, I found that my nightmare was a reality. The people I feared I was most like were out on the floor; the shock treatment patients, people talking to themselves. I couldn’t believe that this is where I found myself.

           Later that morning, my husband came to be with me, and so did my friends. It was so wonderful to see them and, in a way, sit exposed and known, and then loved even so. There is freedom in that.

           But when my pastor and his wife showed up, it was particularly moving. He prayed with me, and all of us, and as he was leaving he leaned over me and spoke these words: Don’t forget in the dark what God has shown you in the light.

           It gave me hope. I had been given God’s word in the light. Now, in the dark, it was time to submerge into it.

          I began to pour over the Psalms of David and that is when a picture began to emerge. King David, Israel’s greatest King, the anointed of God, suffered from depression. What else can make sense of the constant crying out for God to save him from his deep emotional pain. “I am worn out from my groaning,” David wrote. “All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” (Psalm 6:6)

          Suddenly, God had come to me in a way that I had been hoping for. He gave me Himself by giving me someone to commiserate with; someone who had walked a mile in my shoes. King David was my brother in arms. I wasn’t alone.

          Between David, Paul and even the sadness that Jesus felt in the Garden of Gesthemane, I began to see that where I was trying to call God into my sadness, He was there all the while.

          I took my own depleted state, and I searched for something that expressed the exact opposite. I found and memorized David’s words in Psalm 34:1-6:

          I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. 3 O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. 4 I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

           Finally, I was starting to feel stronger, more connected to our Savior in a way I hadn’t before. God was with me all along. He is with us even in the silence.

          That was 10 years ago. I still battle with depression today. But instead of feeling lost and at my wit’s end, I feel certain that God allows the pain and adversity to bring us closer to Him. Winter may bring a desolate barren land, but just below the surface, a world of growth and activity proves that God is busy preparing for spring.

          He is near in the suffering.

POSTSCRIPT:

On the day that I allowed myself to expose my depression to my friends, three life-saving things happened in the next 24-hour period that are essential for every depression sufferer. First, like I finally did by letting myself be admitted to Scripps Mercy, I admitted that I had a problem. Second, the body of Christ came around me, loved and didn’t judge me. And third, I adhered to the Word of God in a way that I hadn’t before. If spoken and prayed, the Word pokes through the dark clouds to leave holes where the sun can be seen. On some days it’s enough to get you through the night. With persistence, it is enough to give you hope for a lifetime.

Posted by Dave Franco with

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