The nightmare began late one afternoon when my 8-year-old son, Ricky, called me at work. In a voice filled with panic, he said, "Mom ... Lisa's not here!" His 15-year-old sister, Lisa, watched him after school every day until I arrived home from work. Lisa always acted responsibly. I trusted her completely.
"Check her bedroom," I quickly suggested. "She's probably studying in there."
"I already did. She's not there." His voice started trembling. "And Mom, her TV and stereo and phone are gone, and her clothes are all over the place," he said, sobbing.
"Its okay, Ricky," I said, trying to sound reassuring. "Just stay where you are. I'll be right home."
As I sped home, anxious thoughts filled my head. Nothing like this has ever happened before! Lisa is always so dependable. Where is she? Has she run away? Why?
Once in the house, I immediately called the police, but they said they couldn't do anything until she had been missing for 24 hours.
Exasperated, I called her friends. One friend said she saw her leave school early. What's going on? I wondered. This is so unlike Lisa!
Trembling from head to foot, I called Mary, my prayer partner. "Let's pray," she said, then immediately asked God to protect Lisa and lead her safely home. Mary asked God to carry me through this ordeal and to fill me with His peace.
I called my husband, Jeff, at work. Shocked at the news, he came right home and called Lisa's friends—probing for clues as to her whereabouts. No one knew anything. He drove through the neighborhood, hoping to find something that would lead him to her. He scoured the area, but to no avail. Lisa had simply disappeared.
After 24 hours and no word from Lisa, we filed a Missing Person's Report. Fearful thoughts plagued my mind. Is she dead or alive? Whom is she with? Is she safe? Why hasn't she called? The questions raced through my mind, tearing at my gut.
I cried out to God. "Lord, please help me! Please quiet my emotions and give me the emotional strength I need to get through this nightmare. Ricky needs me, too. I can't have a nervous breakdown now! Please help me, God."
At once, an incredible peace enveloped me, relaxing my nerves and calming my stormy emotions. I remained in that tranquil state for the next two weeks. Although my precious daughter remained missing, God miraculously kept me in perfect peace. I went to work, prepared meals, and did the household chores. All the while, my soul rested in God.
Two and a half weeks after Lisa's disappearance, the phone rang in the middle of the night. Jeff jumped out of bed to answer it. Instantly awake, I listened to his end of the conversation.
"You did? ... When? ... Is she all right? ... Where is she? ... I'll be right over!"
My heart raced as he hurriedly explained the police had found Lisa and were holding her at the station. "The officer told me she's pretty shaken up," he said. "They picked her up downtown, soliciting in front of a hotel. Just stay calm," he said, pulling on his jeans. "Stay calm until we can get all the facts. I'll be back soon."
After he left I called Mary. "The police found Lisa," I said. "Jeff just left to get her. They picked her up in front of a hotel, soliciting! Oh, Mary," I sobbed, "Why did she do this?"
"I don't know," Mary said, "but God does. Let's pray." She first thanked God for Lisa's safe return then asked Him to bring truth, repentance, peace, love, and forgiveness to our home. She thanked Him for answering our prayer, and by the time she said, "Amen," I was calm again.
When I heard Jeff's car pull in the driveway, I stood at the door waiting for them to come in. Lisa wore a very short mini-skirt, a low-cut blouse, and heavy makeup—totally unlike her. Although shocked by her appearance, I gave her a big hug.
"I'm so sorry, Mom," she sobbed, "so sorry." Her body shook from head to foot ... and my heart went out to her.
"Do you want to talk?" I asked.
She sighed and hung her head as a tear rolled down her cheek.
"Who were you with?" I asked, looking for an opener.
"Dennis," she said simply.
"A guy I met awhile ago. I didn't tell you about him because I knew you wouldn't like him."
You're not kidding! I thought, but bit my tongue. Instead, I asked, "Why did you run away with him?"
"Because I'm pregnant," she said, as another tear trickled from her eye.
I was totally unprepared for that. Pregnant!!! My stomach knotted. "Is the baby his?"
"Yes, but I would never marry that creep," she sobbed. "He promised to take care of me - yeah, right! He took all my stuff and sold it for drugs. Then he locked me in a room with no heat and only let me out to cook for him and his stupid friends! They were all taking drugs, but I didn't take any. I was so scared, Mom. I just kept reading my Bible."
"Yeah." She stopped crying for a minute, thoughtful. "When I packed my clothes to leave, my Bible fell off the closet shelf, so I threw it in the suitcase."
"Thank You, Lord," I silently prayed.
"When Dennis came into the room to check on me, I'd read the Bible to him. He actually starting listening, and I thought he might let me go home. However, tonight he barged into my room, threw some clothes at me, and said, 'Put these on... and put on a lot of makeup. You have to earn your keep now!'"
Lisa sobbed on my shoulder for a minute before continuing. "Dennis and two other guys made me get in a car. They had guns, Mom, and I was so scared!" She blew her nose. "They drove to a hotel and told me to stand at the front door and act like a prostitute. They told me if someone acted interested, to bring him back to the car and they would take care of the rest. They pointed their guns at me and told me if I ran away they'd kill me. All I could do was pray, Mom.
"I got out of the car and walked toward the hotel. Before I made it to the front door, a police car pulled up. The officer rolled down his window and I yelled, 'Please help me!' He jumped out of the car, grabbed my arm, and pushed me in the police car. The police asked me some questions then drove me to our police station." She closed her eyes and sobbed. "Oh Mom ... I'm so, so sorry!"
"I know you are," I said, stroking her hair. "And I forgive you. We prayed God would protect you and bring you safely home. He answered our prayer."
Lisa was home and alive. For that I was grateful. Nevertheless, we still needed to work through her other issues. First, I took her for a physical exam, which confirmed no drugs in her system. Next, we filed charges so the police would begin searching for Dennis. Another medical exam confirmed Lisa's pregnancy, and an ultrasound revealed she carried a baby girl.
Wanting to protect her and the baby, we sent her to live with my parents. Weekdays she attended a school for unwed mothers. Once a week she met with a crisis pregnancy counselor, who encouraged her to place the baby for adoption because of her age and lack of support from the biological father. Lisa wanted to keep her baby and opposed any talk of adoption.
I saw the importance of letting the baby be placed in a mature, two-parent home. I strongly encouraged Lisa to consider adoption, explaining the difficulties in raising a child as a single parent especially with no support from the father. However, Lisa stubbornly refused to bend. In fact, she quit talking to me altogether.
I decided to concentrate my efforts on prayer, asking God to touch Lisa's heart and change her mind. In the meantime, I continued loving Lisa, despite her coldness.
Her due date drew closer, but still she wouldn't budge in her decision. Then, just two weeks before her due date, she conceded. After her counseling session that day she surprised me by saying, "I guess adoption would be best for the baby."
I hugged her. "I know this is very hard for you," I said, "and I'm sad, too. But it is the best option."
Later that day I called her counselor to thank her for leading Lisa to this decision. She described how Lisa suddenly "saw the light" and unselfishly decided adoption would be best for the baby. We hung up, and I thanked God for touching her heart.
The adoption agency encouraged us to bond with the baby by holding her after birth at the hospital. The adoption counselor advised, "It will be easier to let go of the baby if you've first held onto her."
As I held that precious baby girl, my heart overflowed with love. I prayed, asking God to keep her in His care throughout her lifetime and to somehow let her know that Lisa loved her enough to let go.
Lisa held the baby, too, crying all the while. I knew the tears were necessary; she needed to grieve to heal.
Four years later, Lisa and her wonderful husband, Jack, brought my new granddaughter, Gail, home from the hospital. I believe God blessed Lisa for her unselfish decision to place her first baby for adoption.
When I look at Gail, who is now a teenager, I know I will always be a grateful mom and grandma. God worked all things together for good (Romans 8:28), and He did it in a way that was best for all of us.