August 2011

Don’t begin at the end. Start the story here.

Over the next few weeks, God began to wreck our hearts for our little Haven. Our home wasn’t home without her here…even though at that point she’d never been here yet. It amazed me that I could miss someone that I barely knew. The “what if?” questions continued to roll through our minds, and we continued testing the waters to see what was next.

Grandmother allowed us to take Haven on some brief “adventures” as we called them: an afternoon at our house (the dog loved the new toy), a family dinner for Austin’s birthday (his request: “I get to hold her the whole time”), a frozen yogurt run (I became her new best friend because that baby got all the FroYo she wanted).

In early May we were with our small group updating them on the latest developments, when Grandmother called me. A situation had come up and Haven needed a place to go…now. Could we meet her somewhere? So we did. We left small group briefly and met her in a gas station parking lot. Suddenly we had a new household resident and a ton of new questions: what’s our role in this? How long is she with us? Do we have any strained peas in our house?

After a couple of weeks of Haven living with us, we sat down with Grandmother and her attorney and started talking about our next steps. Grandmother believed that adoption was the best move. I struggled between being a daddy (wanting this little girl to be a part of our family) and a pastor (wanting to see reconciliation with the birth parents if at all possible). But we all soon realized that the best thing for Haven was to pursue the adoption.

Before we pulled the trigger, we sat down with our boys and talked through all the details. We’d kept them in the loop from day one because this wasn’t a decision for two people, but for five. At a family meeting we told them, “Everybody has a voice, everybody has a vote, and if your vote is ‘no,’ we put the brakes on this.” We made them state their case one at a time, but each of them said, “She belongs here. She’s ours. We have to do this.”

And for the next couple of months, we saw God do miraculous things and fling open every door that we came to. I can honestly say that in my 26 years as a believer, I’ve never seen him extend such grace so quickly in so many details. He answered prayers we didn’t know to pray yet. In everything from home studies to attorneys to friends providing diapers and formula, there wasn’t one Haven need that wasn’t met.

This was obviously our first trip down the adoption path, so I was grateful for more experienced friends who kept pointing us to God’s timing and reminding us “This isn’t normal.” We were finishing an adoption on a baby we didn’t know in March. We’d see friends at church and around town who would do a double take and say, “Who’s the kid?!” One of our son’s school friends asked him: “Hey, did you know your parents are carrying around a brown baby?” Our parents planned last minute trips to North Carolina to meet their future granddaughter. And our house gradually began to look like a Pepto Bismol bottle had exploded in it…pink everywhere.

In late July we received word that the birth mom and dad had signed over parental consent. This is another blog post for another day, but suffice it to say that this was bittersweet for us. Yes, we cleared a major hurdle for Haven, but our hearts broke for them. Regardless of our joy, we couldn’t begin to imagine their sorrow. And while we haven’t met them, we love them. We pray for them. We desire God’s best for them. We’re thankful for the heart-wrenching decision that they made, and we want to be good stewards of the sacred trust we’ve been given.

And that’s it. That’s the high points of our adoption journey so far. There’s much more to be said and probably an entire book that could be written, but my wife / chief editor told me to wrap up the story or face the wrath of bored and/or impatient readers. (You can thank her when you see her.)

Obviously there’s more to be covered: how our family has changed, what God has taught us, and how we’re adjusting to life with baby dolls and pink tutus. You’d better believe I’ll be writing on all those topics in the days to come, but for now, this is our story.

We are so grateful for the avalanche of kindness and support we’ve received from you since this news went public. I’m saving every email, blog comment, note, and tweet so that Haven can one day understand and appreciate the world she’s been adopted into. Not the Franks family…but the world the Franks family lives in: a network of college roommates and high school teachers and church families and small groups and overseas church planters and co-workers and grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles…you’re our family. You’re her family. And we’re grateful for you.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

This is her "I know I just did something wrong, but how can you be mad at me?" face.

This is what a whipped man looks like.

New? Get started here.

In March of this year we got together with our friends the Sterlings for a long-awaited lunch that we’d rescheduled approximately 142 times. They were the family that had originally sparked our idea to foster, and we needed to eat Blue Bell ice cream and unload our frustration at not being able to do what we felt like God was telling us to do.

The Sterlings were in their typical encouraging form, and affirmed our decision to put things on hold until we could (a) get a bigger house or (b) get an overnight visit from the Extra Closet & Bedroom Fairy. I remember telling Gary, “We’re willing to help a child, and we want to, but unless God drops something out of the sky, it’s just not gonna happen.”

(You know how this turns out.)

Two weeks later, Gary called me at home while Merriem was at a meeting at school. “You remember that conversation a couple of weeks ago?” he said. “I think God might have just dropped something out of the sky.”

Gary talked, and I furiously scribbled down notes: Little girl. Eight months old. Grandmother raising her. Considering adoption. Looking for a Christian family. And then: “I hope you don’t mind, but I told her about you guys, and she wants you to call her.”

The next hour was an excruciating wait for Merriem to get home. When she arrived, I sat her down and gave her the news, and we agreed to make the call and explore the situation. Talking to Grandmother yielded more notes. More questions. More heart-in-my-throat moments. Merriem was whispering more questions for me to ask, the most notable one being, “Can we meet her?”

And so we did. A few days later we met Haven for the first time. As we sat in Grandmother’s living room, I played with this angel in pajamas who kept herself occupied by pulling off my glasses and checking out the three big boys we’d brought with us. And I told Grandmother, “We don’t know what God is doing here. We don’t know if we’re the family that’s supposed to be sitting here. All I can tell you is that we want what’s best for this baby, and we want to be a resource to you for as long as you have this baby.”

And we walked away.

I walked out of that house honestly not knowing what was next. Not knowing what I should be feeling, and not even sure how I really was feeling. The next few days meant lots of prayers, lots of conversations, lots of questions. But we went back. And back. And back. Again and again, we found ourselves in Grandmother’s living room, being knit with the little girl who would eventually become our daughter.

to be continued

Haven's first birthday party. Apparently it was a pink tutu theme.

If you’re one of those who only reads blogs on company time, (a) shame on you, and (b) check out yesterday’s post first.

Like all good stories, our adoption story began years ago. When I was a kid, I knew exactly two people who were adopted. They were our preacher’s kids and some of my best friends (when we weren’t getting into fistfights in the back yard of the church). I met adopted friend #3 a few years later. Mike was my college roommate and now is one of my oldest friends. (I mean that literally. You should see the gray hair.)

But even then, adoption was more novelty than normal. It wasn’t weird, it was just…different. And certainly not in my future.

Fast forward to 2009-ish. The Franks Baby-O-Matic had long since made it’s last industrial run. We had three great boys nicknamed Eeney, Meeny, and Miney…and we didn’t want no Mo. But still, everywhere we turned there were friends – mostly within the Summit – who were adopting. Whether they realized it or not, we were being encouraged, mentored, and coached by families like the Atwoods, Moores, Coalsons, FlemingsYoungsPearsons, Sterlings, Treeces, Forrests, Allisons, Whitts, Hanlons, Aulls, McGees, and countless others who either had or were in the process of fostering or adopting.

Now the “different” wasn’t so different. And Merriem and I began asking the “what if?” question quite a bit.

What if we could help a child?

What if we added to our family?

What if we trusted God and just did this thing?

The catch was, nobody else knew we were asking the “what if?” questions. The way I figured, if no one knew that we were asking it, no one could judge us when we ignored it. (I’m pretty dang spiritual like that.)

In summer of 2010, the Summit officially launched its Orphan Care Ministry. Now there was no ignoring it; we had to face the question and figure out once and for all what we were going to do. We showed up at the interest meeting trying to be as incognito as possible. “Nothing to see here, just a Summit staff member, hanging out at a Summit event. Move it along, folks…”

We listened to story after story as my heart pounded out of my chest. Up until that point we’d been assuming we would do an international adoption. I figured there had to be a group discount since all of our church friends seemed to adopt in bulk from overseas. But something didn’t stick with us and the international route. Don’t get me wrong, we love international adoptions. But that seemed to be the story God had for other families, not for us.

And then a couple of friends stood up and talked about their journey with the foster care system, and how they’d fostered over 20 kids (and went on to adopt two of them). As Gary and Aundrea spoke, everything clicked. My very impatient soul loved the idea of not waiting two to three years, but to be able to bring a child (or many!) into our home within a few months.

And so we began the paperwork process to become foster parents. Lots of paperwork. We had to report everything from why we wanted to foster to what flavor ice cream our third grade art teacher liked. And about halfway through the ream of paper, it hit us:

We can’t foster a kid.

It seems that our house is too small and our kids are too plentiful to bring a fourth one into the mix. There’s a matrix I can’t possibly explain which basically says Age Difference of Your Current Siblings x Age & Gender Difference of Foster Child ÷ Square Footage of Your House = North Carolina Says Thanks But No Thanks.

And so we waited. Frustrated, I put the half-completed papers on the shelf. And they sat there for weeks. Months. Through Christmas and into the new year.

They sat there until a springtime lunch turned into a divine appointment.

to be continued

[Yes, I realize you tuned in for the pictures, not the prequel. Here’s one to get you by. This is Haven and her first tea set. I’ve drank gallons of imaginary tea over the last couple of weeks, just like a doting daddy should.]

(That ginormous right hand is mine, not hers.)

Thanks for tuning in for a rare Sunday blog post. Our family made a big announcement to our church family this morning, and we just couldn’t wait until Monday to share the news with you.


Brace yourself…

It’s a girl!

That’s right. The testosterone-heavy Franks family has added a bit o’ estrogen to the mix. The parents who were halfway to an empty nest have started over. And we couldn’t be more thrilled about it. Please say hello to my brand new baby girl, Haven Franks:

As some of you know, we are at the end of a very fast (and in some ways, very surprising) adoption process. Haven came to live with us back in May when she was eight months old. The last few months have been a whirlwind as we began adoption proceedings, worked through all of the necessary conversations, prayer, and paperwork, and learned how to reincorporate the phrase “poopy diaper” into our household.

Throughout that time, we’ve had to keep a slightly tight lid on this news, for obvious reasons. But today we’re excited to go public with the news and introduce you to our daughter.

(She’s a beauty, ain’t she?)

Haven turned one a couple of weeks ago, and our lives have been wrecked in a very good way by her entry into our home and our call to adopt her. I’ve always heard that adoption will allow you to see the Gospel in a whole new light, and that has most certainly been the case.

This week I’ll be unpacking Haven’s story and our adoption journey here on the blog, and I’d invite you to read along as we celebrate a little slice of what God has accomplished.

Oh, and there will be pictures. Lots of cute pictures. A category five hurricane of cuteness, if you will.

See you guys tomorrow for part one of Haven’s story. I gotta go kiss on my daughter.

There’s big news coming ’round these parts on Sunday. Huge. Ginormous.

Nope, I’m not going to be on the next American Idol (especially after my “Unchained Melody” remix didn’t wow them at tryouts).

Nope, I’m not running for political office. Heck, I can’t even run after the ice cream truck (but you should’ve seen me back in the day).

Nope, I will not be releasing a copy of my recently-surfaced Southeastern Seminary ID, circa 2001, which caused my First Impressions director Aaron Coalson to say, “If your hair looked like that, you should be thankful you’re going bald” (but I might be announcing that he’s looking for a new job).

Instead, I’ll be sharing some news that we’re pretty dang stoked about. Thrilled, even. And I want you, my Connective Tissue blog family, to hear it from me. (Connective Tissue is the title of this blog. Pay attention, blog family.)

So tune in on Sunday for a rare weekend post. The big news gets delivered at half past high noon. (That’s 12:30 PM EST, for those of you who didn’t grow up under a ten gallon hat.)

I gotta tell ya, I feel a little cheated today.

On Tuesday the East Coast experienced its first earthquake in decades. It was the talk of the town, the trending topic on Twitter, the leading story on the evening news…

…and I missed it.

Twenty of us from the Summit’s staff were in a meeting on campus when we started getting messages from people in the next building over. Our phones lit up exactly like that scene in that movie where something big happened somewhere else and everybody’s phones lit up while they were in a meeting. (Or at least that’s how I like to replay it in my head.) We were 100 yards from a building that shook and people that freaked out, and we didn’t feel a thing.

That night, I pacified myself with replays of captured video from the moment of the quake. “LOOK AT THAT, KIDS!” I screamed. “THAT LAMP IS DEFINITELY SWAYING!” I sat in abject horror as film crews from around the world flocked to the home of a southern Virginia woman who had a picture frame fall off the wall. (I still get choked up just thinking about it.)

If there’s going to be an earthquake that close to me, I don’t want to read about it, I want to experience it. Not the barricade-yourself-under-your-desk and write-your-Social-Security-number-on-your-arm-so-they-can-identify-you-when-they-find-you kind of experience, but the experience where years later you can tell your grandkids about the ‘Quake of ’11 and how you definitely remember seeing the ripples in your water glass.

Here’s my point (yes, I have one). I fear that the same thing happens in our church every single weekend. There are people who are inches away from the epicenter of the movement, but they never get swept up in it. I’m talking about those who are simple spectators but not participants. Those who take a seat but never take an opportunity to serve.

It takes hundreds of volunteers to pull off a weekend worship service at the Summit. And what we’ve found is that it’s about so much more than pouring coffee or holding babies (or doing both at the same time because we’re that good). It’s about paving the way for the Gospel.

This Saturday you have an opportunity to put yourself at the epicenter. We’re hosting Frontline at all of our campuses where you can find out more about our Production, Summit Kids, Worship, and First Impressions teams. You’ll move from someone who hears the stories to someone who participates in the stories.

Be a part of the movement. Feel the earth move.

It’ll be something to tell your grandkids about.

If you’re a pastor, no doubt you say “please” a lot.

“Would you please help out in the nursery?”

“Can you please consider switching services to make room for guests?”

“Please don’t tell anyone you saw me kicking my dog after that sermon on anger didn’t go so well.”

Pastors are good at “please.” I’ve learned to say it a lot myself, especially when the stakes are high and the needs are vast. But what we often fail in is the “thank you.” We reel ’em in, get ’em to do what we’ve asked, but neglect to follow up with our gratitude.

A thank you lets your volunteers know that their contribution was noticed, needed, and appreciated.

A thank you gives you an opportunity to give specific points of encouragement.

A thank you gives the volunteer an opportunity to give you feedback on their experience.

A thank you can be individual – a handwritten note, a phone call, a personal conversation, or it can be more corporate – a volunteer party, gift cards for your team, or the lead pastor’s encouragement from the stage.

A thank you is a no-brainer, and it’s vital for future involvement. That’s not the end-game of the thank you…in other words, you’re not using it as a manipulative tool to get more out of someone…but gratitude does tend to breed retention.

It’s a time-worn but true phrase: What gets rewarded gets repeated.* If you reward with gratitude, your volunteers will rise to the next occasion.


*I can’t remember who said that originally. John Maxwell? Andy Stanley? Ivan Pavlov? Someone please look that up and get back to me. Thank you.


I’m a sucker for lots of sappy stuff. Hallmark commercials? They get me every time. Bridge to Terabithia? Cried like a baby. And every once in a while, some of those America’s Funniest Home Videos aren’t as much funny as they are just…



You’ll have to watch for yourself. I have to go blow my nose.

What am I amped about lately? This. One HUGE service that the Summit is hosting at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. This is a rare time in the history of the Summit where all of our peeps will be together for one service. It’ll be like none other.

(Well, you know. Until sometime in the future when we do it again. Then it’ll be like some other. But for now…)

As you can imagine, a service at a ballpark will be a bit…different. All-star worship band? We’ll have it. Bunch o’ baptisms on the baseline? Yep. Childcare in the VIP suites? Certainly. Wool E. Bull making a cameo appearance with his go cart and hot dog gun, firing J.D. Greear’s giggling offspring into the crowd?

Well…you’ll just have to show up to find out.

So how do you step up to the plate? How do you make sure this service is a home run? How do you make sure all your bases are covered? And most importantly, how do you stop the baseball-related puns?!? Here’s how:

  • Invite like crazy. We’re designing this experience for non-churched people. The environment will be electric, the gospel will be clearly shared, and people will have a chance to respond in baptism. Grab a stack of inviter cards this weekend and pass those suckers out.
  • Pray like crazy. This is a huge deal with hundreds of details and lots to accomplish. Pray for the leaders of the event as we come down to the last few weeks.
  • Serve like crazy. We need an army of volunteers to pull this off: folks to set up & tear down, folks to greet guests, folks to counsel baptismal candidates, folks to help with seating…you name it, we need it. See a list of all the teams and sign up here.
More news will be coming in the days ahead. Keep up with it all at

For the last four days I’ve been a man on his own. My sons are traveling cross country with their grandparents in an RV (National Lampoon movie, anyone?) and Merriem is in the deep south taking care of her grandmother, who’s having mobility issues (Hoveround commercial, anyone?).

That leaves me in the house by myself. Well, myself and my stupid dog, who is too lazy to wake up and realize that I’m here. So she’s no good.

There are huge benefits to this deal. The house is quiet. It’s stayed pretty clean – I produce very little trash and all of my dishes are the frozen dinner variety. I can read when I want, I can write when I want, I can eat whatever I want (like a quart of Edy’s Espresso Chip ice cream…don’t judge me). And stuff stays exactly where I put it. For four days, I’ve known where the dog’s leash is. That’s never happened before, and it’s a great feeling.

But there’s a huge downside to being suddenly single. Yes, the house is quiet, but it’s too quiet. I need more than my couple of phone calls a day to my wife and a few texts to my boys. The novelty of frozen dinners only lasts so long (you’re not fooling anyone, Chicken Parmesan Now With Larger Portions, everybody knows you’re merely a nugget.). And don’t get me started on yard work. That’s why we genetically engineered three sons – so I’d never have to mow again.


After four days, I’ve concluded that I’ve been alone for long enough, thank you. I’m ready to get my family back (that happens later today). I’m ready to get our crazy insane schedule back. I’m ready to get the mess back.

It works the same way in our Christian life. Can you do it on your own? Yep. Get yourself a big ol’ study Bible and a halfway decent TV preacher, and you can ride this train all the way to heaven. It’s neat. It’s tidy. It’ll work.

But it’s boring. And it’s not good.

We were meant to do life together. We were meant to get our hands dirty in the lives of others. We were meant to get arm in arm and head down the road of spiritual maturity together.

At our church, we do that in small groups. At yours, it might be through Sunday School or community projects or some other means. But whatever you do in life, do it together. Don’t do it alone.

That’ll leave you with a feeling that’s emptier than my carton of Edy’s.