Jason Faircloth is a prominent pastor in Atlanta, one of the best. His church is growing, he is doing well. He knows what he believes and strictly carries it out, never minding feelings that may get hurt in the meantime, even to his family. Every night he prays his runaway daughter, Hannah, will return home. And then, tragedy hits him. When Jason loses everything he held dear and near to him and even what he thought he rightfully should have is withheld from him, he goes on a search for something he thinks is tangible, but in reality, he is searching for his soul. He searches deep within himself for what is really important to God, what truths he can believe about God and the how behind the why’s. His search takes him all over the world and through dangerous places, getting him into trouble he had no intention of getting into. Will he find what he seeks? Or does he have to lose himself to find himself?
This book will challenge you like it did me, to examine the important things in life. It shows some of the problems in our churches that even though they are doing well, can have many issues. It deals with forgiveness, healing even when you cannot make what you did right. This is a really good book, well written and I have half a dozen people already I wish I could buy a copy for!! This is a book that will get you thinking. – Martha
***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***
PART 1: 1971-1972
Jason cleared his throat. His wife knew what was coming next, and the pain within her rose again. At every evening meal for the last five hundred and fifteen days he had prayed aloud for their daughter, always working his way slowly through the prayer, emphasizing each word as if to prove his sincerity.
“0 God,” he said tonight, “wherever Hannah might be right now, we ask that she’ll know your protection. Thank you for watching over her. And thank you even more that one day you’ll honor our faith and bring her home.”
He paused, as if to arrest the Almighty’s attention, then continued with a faltering voice. “Just-just make it soon. We miss her… ”
LYING ON THE living room couch, Hannah Freedman proudly realized once again that she was the reason Cody had emerged from his loneliness. He was absolutely consumed by her-and the thought was enthralling. Admiring her diamond-studded wedding band, she gratified herself with the reminder that Cody always treated her like a princess, as if by royal decree she had somehow granted him a new life.
At this very moment, alone in their suburban Miami home, she could feel his infatuation. It lingered in every room, echoing in the easy recall of Cody’s loving words and embraces.
Hannah turned heavily upon her side, the baby in her womb preventing her from rolling all the way over onto her stomach. She smiled. It was like a fairy tale. She and Cody had met only ten months ago-she a runaway, not yet eighteen; and he a well-bred, 25 year-old professional. Now they were together forever. How could it be real? How could they have it so good?
She reached over her head, retrieving from behind her a framed photograph of Cody that sat alone on the end table. The picture had been taken only weeks before she met him. It was the same handsome face, the same green-eyed, ash-blond man who was now her husband-but he had been so different then. There was a smile on the face, but it was hiding a sense of loss that had governed his life ever since the death of his parents in a plane crash two years earlier. From that seemingly unshakable disorientation, she had rescued him. Likewise, Cody had taken her from a miserable existence and placed her on a lofty pedestal of fulfillment beyond her wildest dreams.
Her spirit soared with gratefulness as she pressed the photograph to her chest. Lost in blissful thoughts, she relived for the thousandth time the nonstop passion of the last ten months. First, the explosive romance-the instant chemistry, like gunpowder contacting fire. Then came the unplanned but welcomed pregnancy, followed by the exchange of wedding vows seven and a half months ago. Every day had been glorious. If she could live all of it over, she would not change a single detail.
A wall clock across the room began to chime the hour, and Hannah closed her eyes and stilled her thoughts to listen: Four o’clock. It was four o’clock, Friday afternoon, December 15th. The “Christmas spirit” with its commercialism was in full swing-and she, Hannah Freedman, had everything in life a woman ever dreamed of: a large and beautiful home, a flaming love life, and emotional security. In only forty minutes her lover would be home from a day’s work at his veterinary clinic, ready for their usual early and intimate dinner together. And in only fourteen days, according to the doctor’s calculations, she and Cody would cuddle their first child.
She lifted the photograph and contentedly stared through tears at Cody’s picture. For the first time in her eighteen years, she knew what it was to live and to love.
She slowly reached over her head and carefully returned the photograph to its place. She contemplated getting up from the couch. But due to an early morning burst of energy she had already put in a full day of cleaning house and baking Christmas cookies, and the work had left her exhausted. Her small frame, now carrying an extra twenty-six pounds, simply refused to rise.
AT 4:40, CODY came in the back door. He slipped quickly through the kitchen, moving his six-foot-three, 170-pound athletic body with the fluidity of a cat, and began singing: “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to live with a blue-eyed Georgia girl, hey!”
On the living room couch Hannah awoke from her light sleep, and broke into a smile as Cody continued singing heartily off-key: “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to love my blue-eyed Georgia girl!”
When Cody poked his head around the corner, Hannah was applauding. “Coe,” she said, extending tired but inviting arms, “you can love this blue-eyed Georgia girl anytime you want to.”
Like a moth to a flame, Cody was drawn into her arms. Kneeling on the plush gray carpet beside her, he kissed her full, moist lips as if he had been starving for her for weeks. When he finally withdrew, he looked into her eyes and said with intensity, “Hannah, you’re so beautiful-even when you’re tired”
So often before he had told her she was beautiful-and had never stopped, even after her pregnancy began showing. Spreading her arms playfully like wings, Hannah nodded toward her body. “You like it, huh?”
Cody smiled his reply, then ran his fingers slowly through her long, thick auburn hair. “Hannah,” he moaned in earnest, “I’m missing you, bad.”
“How much?” she asked with delight.
“You really want to know?”
Cody grinned. “Well, I’ll tell you. I accidentally gave overdoses of antibiotics to four different dogs today and killed them all,” he joked, “simply because I couldn’t get my mind off you. All I’ve done today is dream about being with you.”
Feeling aroused, Hannah slowly pulled him into another fiery kiss.
It took every ounce of self-control Cody could muster to keep from going further. When Hannah finally released him, he fell reluctantly to the floor and stretched out on his back. “Just you wait,” he said with gusto, “till we’re able to be together again. I’m going to make it unforgettable.”
Hannah laughed seductively. “Are you sure you can hold out until then?”
With surprise, she watched Cody’s mood turn sober. He rose to kneel beside her again, and took her hands in his. “Hannah, if I had to, I’d be willing to wait the rest of my life for you.”
There was no doubt in Hannah’s mind that he meant every word. She felt his sincerity as certainly as if it were rain pouring down on her. Instinctively she pulled him into another tight embrace.
Cody, she confided in his ear, this will be the best Christmas I’ve ever had. And the reason is you
AFTER DINNER Cody raved as Hannah placed the tray of Christmas cookies on the dining room table beside him. “Better looking than Mother’s used to be,” he said. Taking a bite, he nodded, “And every bit as good!”
An LP of instrumental Christmas music was playing softly in the background. Hannah sat down to hear Cody finish telling her about his day: setting a German shepherd’s broken leg, diagnosing an old tomcat that was refusing to eat, bobtailing a four-day old boxer, and giving an array of shots.
“And Mrs. Gravitt brought in her Dalmatian again,” he said, then paused.
“And?” Hannah asked.
“And it should be the last time!” he smiled with satisfaction. “He’s fully recovered, and Mrs. Gravitt is as happy as any client I’ve ever had.”
“She should be,” Hannah reassured him. “That dog was nearly dead two months ago when she first brought him to you. It was a miracle anyone could save him. But what can I say? You’re the best!”
“Well, maybe not the best
But…”Cody tucked his thumbs beneath imaginary suspenders, in a mocking pose of greatness. They both erupted into laughter.
“Say,” he said after finishing another cookie, “I called Reed’s Travel Agency this morning. They promised they could reserve the cabin-“
Before he could complete the sentence, he saw Hannah suddenly gasp for breath, tense in her chair, then let out a low groan. Cody was immediately face to face with her, gripping her shoulders. “Are you all right?” he demanded.
She finally began breathing, then looked him in the eye and gave the most surprisingly beautiful smile he had ever seen. “I think so… I… uh… yeah, I’m okay,” she answered. “My water just broke.” She could feel the warm fluid puddling around her buttocks and running down her leg. For a moment she was embarrassed, but the feeling was quickly overcome by an acute surge of pain.
Still trying to figure out what to do, Cody saw Hannah tense again. He gripped her hand in silence, stunned by the piercing hurt locked on her face.
Several seconds later, Hannah relaxed and took a deep breath. “I’m not positive,” she said, “but if that was my first contraction, we may be mommy and daddy two weeks earlier than we thought.”
Elated, Cody held her in a big hug and said, “Can you believe it?” He started dancing around the table. “We’re going to be a family!” he shouted, as Hannah laughed.
THEIR CELEBRATION was soon tempered by the quickly recurring pains, and the rush to leave for the hospital. Within twenty-five minutes from the time Hannah’s water had broken, she was seated beside Cody in their Ford station wagon. He was timing her contractions, which now came at less than three-minute intervals. The quickly paced labor pains, coming so soon, made Cody nervous. He tried to relax, but it was all so new. And this was his wife, his baby.
This is happening too fast, he thought, calculating that the trip to the hospital would normally take twenty-five to thirty minutes. This time, he decided, it would have to be less than twenty. No stranger to speeding, he was confident he could meet the challenge.
He glanced at his wristwatch-5:51-just as they were leaving their residential area and approaching the nearest main road. One look ahead quickly confirmed a rising worry: It was rush hour. Traffic on the main road was packed, moving at only a fraction of the normal speed.
For the first time, Cody felt panic. To hide it, he forced a grin and said to Hannah, I love adventure, but this is a little too much of the good stuff.
She smiled briefly, before yielding to the start of yet another contraction.
Soon the eruptions of pain were less than two minutes apart. Hannah bravely fought back. Everything’s under control, she kept telling herself. Be strong, be strong. Impossible as it seemed, each contraction hurt worse than the last, worse than anything she had ever felt in her life.
“Just hang in there, babe,” Cody said. “I’ll get you there.”
The line of cars crept forward to an intersection which he realized was approximately their halfway point to the hospital. The flow of traffic halted again as he saw the same set of stoplights change to red for the second time. With mounting fear he looked at his watch: 6:16.
Suddenly, Hannah leaned forward, grabbed the dashboard with both hands, and screamed. Cody reached out and touched her shoulder. He was now almost beside himself with panic. “Are you going to make it?”
When her pain had passed its peak, she found her breath and shot back, “I don’t know… Just hurry!”
He knew then what he had to do. And on impulse, as if the adrenaline surging through him had switched on a machine, he did it.
Trying to take charge of this desperate situation, he lurched the station wagon out of their traffic lane. Sounding his horn and flashing his headlights, he charged through the intersection and down the avenue, straddling the middle line.
Hannah did little more than flinch. The thought of how crazy it all seemed flashed in and out of her mind.
“I’ll get you there,” she heard Cody say again.