To fully grasp the magnitude of God’s provision and a glimpse into His perfect timing, we have to start our adoption journey at the beginning. I was first introduced to Harvey, my sweet husband, in May of my senior year in high school. We met at wedding events when his brother married my cousin. We never saw each other again until the happily married couple hatched a plan to “set up” their respective relatives living in Dallas and Fort Worth. We were married exactly 18 years after our initial introduction. I had lived another lifetime waiting on the man God chose for me.
We bought a house on the lake with a huge backyard and prepared to fill it with children. And the children came – nieces, nephews, neighborhood kids, cousins, countless youth groups and on and on! Our home was always full of kids and we loved our role as everyone’s favorite aunt and uncle. When we didn’t have children of our own, we simply embraced the children God brought to our home with an occasional conversation about adoption.
On Father’s Day 2013, the message at church truly convicted Harvey when the pastor said, “Men are called to be fathers to the fatherless.” This time the conversation about adoption turned into a goal, but we didn’t know how to get started. I challenged Harvey that if we were going to do this, he would need to lead the charge. In God’s perfect timing, Harvey had started a Bible study a few weeks earlier and the leader was a veteran foster parent. He guided us through the process and ultimately, his wife actually found our children for us. He challenged us to approach adoption as God’s mandate to care for the orphans and be willing to accept whatever children He chose for us. Any challenges the children would have would be God’s fight, we would just need to be willing participants. He would provide. We decided that day to join the fight to restore God’s plan in a child’s life, one that includes a mother and a father.
The process of adoption is a lengthy one – mountains of paperwork, interviews, inspections, rules, regulations and training, but don’t be intimidated – God has this, too. God faithfully provided neighbors and friends to encourage us throughout the process. Harvey and I both have four siblings each, so it was important for us to adopt siblings. We hoped for a boy and a girl around 10 to 12, but we surrendered our hearts to anything (and I mean anything) God had for us.
We went from meeting our casework to having kids in our house in two months. We knew the second our friend sent us Madison and Frankie’s profile that they were our kids. Their profile page describing the family they were looking for practically described us and our home. And the section describing Madison and Frankie was exactly the desires of our hearts! They loved the outdoors, animals, fishing, swimming, sports, arts and crafts, games and puzzles, and so much more.
After surviving some nerve-wracking logistics, we met the kids and their wonderful foster home on Oct. 3 of last year. My heart almost stopped when I saw them walking across the yard. After studying the photographs and paperwork countless times, I was face to face with my real life, breathing children and they were absolutely beautiful – my heart was racing and I was so nervous. When the foster mom introduced us as Mom and Dad to the kids, I just about fainted. She is a wonderful loving soul who has fostered 50 plus kids and told me, “We don’t waste time here. You are their Mom!”
The kids moved in with us on Oct. 17, 2014. Our hearts swelled with love for these kids as we brought them home. They are amazing kids – smart, adorable, loveable, cuddly, funny, athletic, talented, friendly, helpful, sweet and on and on! We had a lot to do when they moved in: getting them settled in their rooms. Introducing them to the dogs. Meeting the neighbors. Taking them to our church. Enrolling them in school. Buying clothes and school supplies. Whew! We were exhausted and that was just week one! We were firsttime parents at 46 and 50 who were accustomed to our double income, self-employed lifestyle filled with very little structure and a lot of flexible time. Have you quit laughing yet? I grew up on a working farm and ranch, and I can honestly say I have never worked this hard in my life.
The first six months of adoption is basically a probation period where both parties can back out for any reason. Harvey and I committed from the beginning that we would not back out for any reason. As we adjusted into routines, we started making our list of firsts: first football game, birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, 100 days, etc. These were times of much joy and laughter. Every day we learned more about each other and more about being a family. We had to learn favorite colors, food preferences, shoes sizes, hopes and fears, shower or bath, mayo or mustard, etc.
And just like any other family, we each have our hurts, habits and hang-ups. Our children are from a very hard place. They have experienced many traumas in their young years, but they have an incredible resilience and have persevered through many challenges. We try to remember that all adoption is born out of a loss, and our children grieve their many losses. For our kids we equate moving to our home to moving to India – our home is like a foreign country for them: we speak differently, our culture is different, our food, clothing, smells – all different, even our touch is different. One of the first lessons we learned in training was that there are not enough trips to Disneyland to make up for all of the pain these kids have experienced. It will take time, patience, resources and therapeutic parenting skills – and yes, the God Most High!
We officially and legally became a forever family on May 28, 2015 surrounded by so many friends and family. They represented the warriors God sent us to fight through the early months when times were tough. They represented the many phone calls that came at just the right moment, the meals that were delivered the first three weeks we had the kids, they were the ones that prayed and laughed and cried with us. They rejoiced in our progress and always encouraged us to persevere. We went through some rough patches in the spring and my Women in the Word group prayed me through it. It’s hard to convince a child that when you say forever you mean it, when no one else has ever done it. They were consumed with fear that the adoption would never be finalized. Trust comes hard for these kids, but we take it one little step at a time. Once the adoption papers were signed, an indescribable peace passed through our family and we are doing so much better every day.
These are my children! Born of my heart! But still flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone! I love them with all that I have and I could not ask for more! And yes, I would do it all over again!
– Lacye Ratliff