The Waiting: The True Story of a Lost Child, a Lifetime of Longing, and a Miracle for a Mother Who Never Gave Up

The Waiting: The True Story of a Lost Child, a Lifetime of Longing, and a Miracle for a Mother Who Never Gave Up

The Waiting: The True Story of a Lost Child, a Lifetime of Longing, and a Miracle for a Mother Who Never Gave Up

The Waiting: The True Story of a Lost Child, a Lifetime of Longing, and a Miracle for a Mother Who Never Gave Up


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Now with a new afterword! A five star–reviewed, unforgettable story that bestselling author Homer Hickam calls “one of the most eloquent, moving, irresistible true stories” he’s ever read. The Waiting will touch your heart and make you believe in love’s enduring legacy, as well as the power of prayer.

In 1928, 16-year-old Minka was on a picnic in the woods when she was assaulted and raped. And suddenly this innocent farm girl—who still thought the stork brought babies—was pregnant. The story that follows has been almost a hundred years in the making. After a lifetime of separation, Minka whispered an impossible prayer for the first time: Lord, I’d like to see Betty Jane before I die. What happened next was a miracle. Written by Cathy LaGrow (Minka’s granddaughter), The Waiting brings three generations of this most unusual family together over the course of a century in a story of faith that triumphs, forgiveness that sets us free, and love that never forgets. (As seen on The Today Show.)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496403278
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 04/01/2015
Pages: 344
Sales rank: 336,447
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Cathy LaGrow learned in 2006 the secret her grandmother Minka Disbrow had been carrying for almost eighty years — that she’d given up a baby, “Betty Jane,” for adoption long ago. Cathy’s mother, Dianna, is Minka’s second child, born nearly eighteen years after Betty Jane. Cathy is author of the blog Windows and Paper Walls and has been published in Chicken Soup for the New Mom’s Soul. She and her husband, Dan, have two sons and live in Oregon, where Cathy is often found in the kitchen baking or curled up in a chair reading. The Waiting is her debut book.

Cindy Coloma is a best-selling author who has published numerous nonfiction books and twelve novels, including Beautiful, Song of the Brokenhearted (with coauthor Sheila Walsh), and The Salt Garden (named one of Library Journal’s Best Books 2004). She has collaborated as a writer with high-profile media personalities, political figures, and international singers/speakers. Cindy lives with her husband and five children in Redding, California.

Read an Excerpt

the waiting

The true story of a lost child, a lifetime of longing, and a miracle for a mother who never gave up

By CATHY LaGROW, Cindy Coloma

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2014 Cathy LaGrow
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4143-9190-8



Four and a half hours before her life would change forever, Minka stood in a dusty parking lot, twisting her handkerchief as she willed her family to hurry up. If they took much longer, she might just pick up her ankle-length skirts and run all the way home.

Her stepfather, Honus, leaned against the black side of the family's milk truck, blocking out the white D in Sunnyside Dairy, his hands jammed into the pockets of his summer suit. It was not yet noon, but the air was already thick and hot. Around them, engines loosely clattered as men cranked up Model Ts. Women called out good-byes to one another and gathered children before climbing inside their cars.

Minka's sister, Jane, and their mother were still on the circular brick steps of Zion Lutheran Church, visiting with friends. On any other Sunday Minka might have lingered too, joining in conversations if she felt bold enough, speaking whichever language was being used—English, German, or Dutch. The church community, largely made up of immigrants, had finally voted ten months earlier to conduct all services and business meetings in English, but once they were outside, people's native tongues were loosed.

Today, Minka had fidgeted through the entire service. She couldn't wait to get back home.

Minka DeYoung was sixteen years old, taller than average and as thin and straight as a stalk of wheat. Her fine brown hair was cut in a loose bob and pinned back on one side with a frilly ribbon. Her gaze was lively and intelligent, though she often ducked her head bashfully and, like other people who fought shyness, had a habit of holding herself very still in public. Minka knew her nose and ears were too large for her face; she didn't realize her delicate cheekbones were beautiful. She was always careful not to draw attention to her hands, which had been damaged long ago.

Honus removed his fedora, but rather than fan his face with it, he held it in both hands and squinted at the pale sky, watching a thrush flap its way to the top of the church's steeple.

Minka glanced toward the church. Her mother had moved to the bottom of the steps, but Jane was still deep in conversation, leaning close to her friend Jette and smiling about something. Minka wished they'd hurry.

This afternoon was the event she'd been waiting for and thinking about for weeks: her sewing class picnic at Scatterwood Lake. Back home, a new dress waited on a hanger, freshly pressed. She would put on just the right jewelry and redo her hair, and then, for a few hours at least, she'd be like a normal teenaged girl, not a full-time worker who split her time between the family dairy and a meatpacking plant.

But Minka couldn't do a thing until her mother and Jane hurried up.

One row over, a car rolled by, carrying a banker from First National. Its paint was an exquisite dark blue, shiny enough to reflect trees. Minka's eyes followed it. She loved beautiful things, even if they weren't hers.

Honus nodded to the banker behind the wheel. The man returned the gesture.

"Dat is one of de new Fords, called Model A," Honus said to Minka.

"Are they better? Than the tin lizzies?" Minka asked. She usually managed to contain all the questions that popped into her head when adults were talking—she'd been raised with perfect manners, after all—but excitement about the picnic loosened her propriety with her stepfather.

"Dey are supposed to haf a ride ... not so bumpy. Dey are fast. But also duur ... expensive, I think." Think came out sounding like sink. Like Minka's mother, Jennie, who'd sailed to America just months before Minka was born, Honus had emigrated from Holland. He would speak with a thick Dutch accent all his life.

They watched the car turn onto Jay Street and disappear. So many things had changed in the decade since the Great War ended. There was still a hitching post on the other side of the church building, and some farmers came to church by horse and buggy. Minka remembered when that was the only transportation anyone had.

A few years back, she and her siblings had gone to a picture show for the first time. As they'd watched people and scenery move silently across the white cloth screen, her mouth had dropped open and stayed that way until her tongue dried out and she'd had to swallow painfully. Jane and John, always quick to tease their sister, hadn't so much as nudged her. They too had been staring, goggle-eyed.

Every month seemed to bring a new innovation. Most homes in Aberdeen, South Dakota, now boasted electric lights indoors, and a few had a newfangled mechanical box for cold food storage, an improvement over root cellars, so long as the toxic chemicals used for cooling didn't spill onto human skin. There were radios in living rooms, and skirt hems that ended more than twelve daring inches above the ground.

Honus's house had an indoor bathroom, a luxury to which Minka and her family had quickly—and gratefully—grown accustomed. Before moving in with him, they'd lived for twelve years at Uncle's farm on the prairie, where Jennie worked as housekeeper and conditions were more primitive. Three years ago when Uncle retired, Honus Vander Zee came calling, and shortly thereafter, with no announcement or fanfare, Jennie had gotten married.

The marriage gave Jennie's children a permanent home, but it upended the only life they'd known. Honus was starting up a new dairy and needed strong workers, and he believed that high school was "for city kids who haf nothing else to do." When each DeYoung child reached the age of fourteen, he or she was put to work milking cows full-time. Minka's older brother, John, soon escaped to the navy.

In the parking lot, Honus cleared his throat.

"It will be a hot day." He looked at his hat, eased it through his hands. "Hotter den yesterday, maybe."

"Yes, sir." Minka lifted her arms away from her body. She didn't want to start sweating in her church dress. During the sermon the sanctuary had rippled with a sea of paper fans, and Minka had kept shifting on the hard wooden bench, thinking of her new dress, the waiting lake, the hours of freedom in front of her. She couldn't resist bringing it up. "Maybe it'll be cooler by the lake this afternoon. At the picnic."

"Ja, maybe."

Minka didn't know that her mother had convinced him to let her go. Honus hadn't married until he was nearly thirty-five years old, and young women were a mystery to him. Raised in Europe, he had absorbed the austere attitudes of a different century regarding children, work, and rewards. From his perspective, duty trumped pleasure—and there was plenty to be done at the farm every single day. Any time away created more work that needed making up.

Sometimes on warm Saturday evenings after milking chores, Honus would lean through the kitchen doorway and say in his quiet way, "Come go for a drive." Since bedtime came early at the dairy, there wasn't time to freshen up or change out of work overalls. Minka and Jane climbed into the stuffy back of the milk truck, and Honus drove them and Jennie to the ice cream shop in town. After buying one malted shake in a tin canister and requesting four paper straws, Honus brought it to the truck and passed the shake around. When they'd each had an equal number of sips and the last bit of ice cream was gone, Honus returned the canister and drove home. To him, such an impractical treat—likely more than he'd gotten as a boy—was enough.

As clusters of the congregation moved toward vehicles, Minka spotted girls from her sewing group. She watched the friends wave to one another before climbing into their cars.

Across the parking lot, Minka overheard a girl named Dorothy call out to a friend, Clara. "We will get you in an hour!" Dorothy slammed the door to the already-rumbling Model T.

Minka clenched her fists and blew air into her cheeks. Her eyes jumped to Mom and Jane, who had yet to move, and then up to Honus, still leaning contentedly against the side of the milk truck. He usually didn't allow dawdling; despite Reverend Kraushaar's sermons about the Sabbath, there was work to do every day of the week. But Honus merely glanced at Minka, deflating the hope that he'd wave her mother and sister away from the church steps.

Though every day of her life was consumed with heavy labor, work had never bothered Minka. Her bony frame masked a surprising stamina. Often, the longer she worked, the more invigorated she felt. She knew that her natural gifts were physical, and she was proud of them. Maybe she couldn't light up a room just by walking into it, like Jane, but she could work as long and accomplish as much as anyone she knew, including adults.

It was the loss of her education that scraped at Minka's spirit. She'd been raised poor but with self-respect. Even as a child, running barefoot in the summer dirt at a farm that wasn't her family's own, she'd carried herself with a sense of dignity, had felt as worthy and capable as any other girl. Now, at sixteen, Minka felt ashamed. What if milking cows was all she was good for—what if an uneducated milkmaid was all people would ever see when they looked at her?

This afternoon's picnic would allow her to once again feel "as good as." Her heart pounded, partly from nerves, partly from excitement. Perhaps if her mother and Honus saw that today's outing didn't affect her work, she'd occasionally be allowed to go on future adventures.

Finally, here came Jane across the field. Her arm was linked through her mother's, and she leaned against her, giggling about something. Jennie was smiling. In this pressing heat, they moved slowly. Minka wanted to drag them forward. She turned and opened the truck's back door. Its metal handle was hot to the touch, and the hinges squealed. As she climbed up, she banged her knee on the wooden crates that served as seats, and her handkerchief fluttered onto the metal floor. She'd been twisting the cloth so anxiously that it looked like a wrung-out chicken's neck.

* * *

Minka stood at the mirror in her mother's bedroom, trying on strands of necklaces. Despite growing up on a hardscrabble farm, she'd always loved pretty jewelry. Jennie had brought some simple accessories from Holland many years ago, and Minka had often capered around Uncle's house wearing every strand she could find, all draped together around her neck. Jane and John had nicknamed her "Gypsy."

Jane wasn't calling her sister names today. Minka's younger sibling had been trying not to sulk ever since they'd arrived home from church. With excitement such a rare commodity in their lives, the sisters nearly always shared it; the night before, Jane had volunteered to help Minka bake cookies for the big event.

But Jane was the charming "baby" of the family, unaccustomed to standing in the shadows, and now the sharing of joy stretched taut. Minka's new dress was the best item in their shared closet. Only Minka would be going on the picnic. Jane's steps had been heavy and a pout had crimped her pretty lips as she changed into work clothes for her usual afternoon of chores.

The summer sewing class was made up of girls from Zion Lutheran. Although store windows now overflowed with finished goods, from ready-made clothes to canned food to toiletry items, sewing was still an expected skill for a future housewife. Like most farmers, the Vander Zees took care of their own animals, grew and preserved their own food, performed their own mechanical repairs, made their own soap and clothes.

Jennie sewed skillfully and would have made a fine teacher if she'd had time, but she was too busy with chores. So Minka went off to sewing class, where she demonstrated an innate creativity and quick skill that surprised and pleased her. She produced the most immaculate stitches in the group—she'd heard her teacher praising her work to Jennie. Minka loved the feel of new fabric in her hands. Sometimes, while doing chores or riding in the car, she daydreamed of expensive silk in bright colors, falling like water over her shoulders and resting perfectly against her thin hips.

For this first dress Minka had chosen a modern shift pattern with a dropped waist in a fetching green-and-white cotton. She couldn't resist adding a decoration: an apple-and-leaf appliqué, cut from a contrasting fabric and stitched below her left shoulder. Compared to this fresh style, even her best church dress seemed dowdy.

As Minka fastened a strand of beads behind her neck, Jennie came through the doorway. She covered her mouth when she saw her daughter, her quietest and most diligent child. The mirror reflected the woman Minka would soon become.

"Je ziet er mooi uit," she murmured. You look so pretty. Then, louder: "You are a fine seamstress, Minnie."

Minka savored the compliments. Since babyhood, her pretty sister had always been the center of attention. Minka was happiest out of the spotlight, but sometimes when she watched Jane fling herself into their mother's lap, she longed to do the same. In a household marked by Dutch reserve, compliments were few and physical touch came only to those who demanded it. Minka was too shy—and too stubborn, really—to demand anything.

"Dey are picking you up here?" Jennie asked, crossing the room to lift Minka's overalls from the bedstead.

"Yes, Mom." Minka pushed at the bottom of her hair. She'd dampened it in the bathroom and attempted to make some finger waves, but it had dried too quickly in this heat and now looked straggly. She supposed the other girls would have the same problem today.

"And you be back in time for de milking, ja?" That chore commenced at five o'clock at both ends of the day, and the cows' full udders wouldn't wait, picnic or no.

"Yes, Mom, that's what they said."

Jennie bent and wiped the tops of Minka's shoes, then set them where Minka could slip into them. The clunky leather shoes would make her feet sweat, but they would have to do. Mary Janes did not come in a large-enough size for Minka. Jennie's children had inherited a scattering of oversized genes from some unknown branch of the family tree—John would eventually stand well over six feet, much taller than his father had been. And at a time when most girls' feet were a dainty size 4 or 4.5, Minka's were twice that big.

Minka's hands were large too, although that was not the reason she made a concerted effort to hide them. She was most bothered by their disfigurement. Daily hours of milking had taken a toll, but the real damage had been done when she was a small girl. At Uncle's, out of necessity, children had been put to work as soon as they could walk in a straight line. John helped with the horses and out in the fields, while Jane loved to hang close to her mother's skirt, doing chores underfoot. As the oldest and strongest girl, Minka took on the most arduous household work. She toted buckets of water, hauled pails of animal feed, and lifted bulky sheaves of wheat at threshing time. Minka volunteered for these tasks, relishing the nod or smile from Jennie as she did so. It made her happy to help her busy mother. But by the time she was thirteen, Minka's fingers were permanently deformed, the bones bent inward at the ends where her tiny joints had grasped and lifted a thousand heavy handles.

Through the open window a noisy engine signaled the arrival of Minka's ride. She glanced in the mirror once more, automatically pushing her hands into her sides so the folds of fabric obscured them. She was giddy enough to let a vain thought cross her mind: She had never looked better. She spun and hurried toward the kitchen, where her dinner basket waited.

"Don't forget these," Jane called after her. She held out the cookie tin. After the whole batch had cooled last night, Jane had chosen the twenty most perfect cookies, enough to share with all the girls and chaperones. Minka had stacked and restacked them onto two big cloth napkins, which she neatly tied up and placed in the tin.

"Danke." Minka had nearly rushed out without the treats.

"Tell them I helped," Jane said, looking wistfully at the package. And Minka—even though this was her special day, and even though she'd spent her whole life on the sidelines watching Jane accept easier chores and more praise—felt sorry that her little sister couldn't come along.

* * *

On the road to Scatterwood Lake, large plumes of airborne dirt billowed behind the caravan of vehicles. The cars trailed one another at quarter-mile distances to avoid being completely engulfed in dust.


Excerpted from the waiting by CATHY LaGROW, Cindy Coloma. Copyright © 2014 Cathy LaGrow. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Tricia Goyer

The Waiting is a story of a life conceived from one horrible act and a mother’s love. Minka chose the best for her daughter, only to discover a family that was greater than she ever imagined. The beauty of this story is that it’s about an ordinary life, yet an extraordinary love. As someone who met my own birth father at age twenty-eight—and who has adopted three children—I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Families are created in different ways, but The Waiting reminds us that love conquers heartache and that the smallest flame of hope can lead to answered prayers. I highly recommend this book!

Travis Thrasher

An amazing story that proves God hears our prayers and does sometimes give us the desires of our hearts. Written with heartfelt, poetic prose, The Waiting will move you as you read about this unlikeliest of reunions.

Homer Hickam

I found The Waiting to be one of the most eloquent, moving, irresistible true stories I have ever read. It begins with a sudden and terrible crime against a completely innocent schoolgirl that could have sentenced her to a life of tragedy. But Minka was no ordinary girl. After giving up the child the crime caused her to have, she began to search and wait for decades for the moment she knew somehow had to come—the moment when she would at last be reunited with her daughter. Authors Cathy LaGrow and Cindy Coloma, with the help of the families involved, have eloquently captured this magnificent story of tragedy overcome by love, hope, and perseverance. Most readers will discover, as I did, that as the pages turn, they will shed more than a few tears but they will also find their faith in humanity restored and their hearts more than a little bit lighter.

Karen Spears Zacharias

The Waiting is a story of a life conceived from one horrible act and a mother’s love. Minka chose the best for her daughter, only to discover a family that was greater than she ever imagined. The beauty of this story is that it’s about an ordinary life, yet an extraordinary love. As someone who met my own birth father at age twenty-eight—and who has adopted three children—I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Families are created in different ways, but The Waiting reminds us that love conquers heartache and that the smallest flame of hope can lead to answered prayers. I highly recommend this book!

Billy Coffey

The Waiting will engross you. It is a powerful story of love and fulfillment, told with amazing detail and sparkling prose. Rarely has a book moved me so completely.

Lisa Wiehl

A poignant story, masterfully told with heart. Minka’s journey comes to light in this beautiful work. And it is a story to be treasured.

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