I grew up in Oregon with two of the most wonderful, loving parents – Duke and Beverly Ricketts. I had always known I was adopted; I can’t remember ever not knowing. It was never a big deal. I was never treated any differently by anyone in my family or extended family. If anything, I always felt being adopted was something quite special. After all, I was chosen. I was truly wanted. I was a special gift from God to my parents and my parents were God’s precious gift to me. Wow. I guess I never really understood how amazing and wonderful that truly was until I grew older, had my own children, and experienced life.
Last year, God started me down an interesting path, though I didn’t realize it at the time.
In January, my friend, Janey Rose, who has adopted two children herself, asked me to come speak to a bible study group she was leading. It was a study written by an adoptive mom. All the women in the group had adopted at least one child. Janey wanted me to come, tell my story and have them ask me questions. I couldn’t imagine what I would have to say that these moms would be interested in, but I finally agreed. Well, I had the most wonderful time. I told them about my completely normal existence. I listened to their stories and realized they all wanted what I’m sure my parents had wanted: to have their children grow up knowing how deeply they are loved. It was such a fulfilling experience for me… I was excited to tell my parents.
When I told them what I had done, they were so interested to hear what I had to say. You see, while I had grown up knowing I was adopted, it was never something we had ever truly discussed. We had never talked about my feelings about it. They are my family, my everything, but they didn’t know how wonderful I felt about being adopted. This little bible study group had just brought I new level of admiration and appreciation to my family. It brought out wonderful dialog and expressions of love.
Throughout the years, many have asked me, “Do you want to find your real parents”? Hmmm, “real.” Yes, “real” is the term most use without even really thinking about it. I would simply answer, “No, my parents are my real parents.” To me, the rest was just biology. This is my family. How blessed I have been with this family!
Over the course of the year, I had also been thrilled that my mom and I seemed to be getting closer than we had ever been. I had always been a “daddy’s girl”; into my sports, a tomboy, if you will. Mom had tried to teach me to cook and sew. While I picked up some of it over the years, I really wasn’t connecting completely with my mom like I had started to last year.
In late July, I was at home, in Mom and Dad’s house with some friends of ours. They were looking at some of our old pictures on the walls. My friend, Jennifer, commented that she just could not figure out the whole “resemblance thing.” She kept at it, so I told her that I was adopted. She felt bad, but I asked, “Why?” It wasn’t a secret; it had just never come up in our conversations. My girls, who were 5 and 7 years old, heard the whole exchange. Over the next week or two, they asked a lot of questions about this adoption deal. They were trying to figure it all out.
And then it came. The phone call. It was August 10th,8:00 in the evening. My husband, my girls and I were all hanging out together. It was someone from the State of Oregon, the Human Services Division. My birthmother was searching for me. My birthmother. The woman who gave birth to me wanted to find me. I was positively stunned.
I needed time to think. I needed time to feel… I was so numb. I didn’t feel myself. I was so emotional. Suddenly, my life was different. I was afraid, but my wonderful mother-in-law, Marianne Gowen, had asked that I not make my decision based on fear. She was so right. The last several months peaked in my thoughts. I knew it, I just felt it. This was from God. All the signs, these last several months, pointing me to this door. I had to open it and walk through.
I took a week to get back to the state. Another week to turn-in the paperwork. The next day, another call from the state. “Here is her information.“ I had it. I had never been curious before, and now I had the key to finding out so much more! I waited for her to call me. It was a short couple of hours. My life changed!
Our first conversation was pretty basic. Where do you live, are you married, do you have any kids. A few other things. But what’s that? I share blood with a sister and a brother! Wow, this is unbelievable!
On September 2, 2004, I met her, Baxter Billson Shelfer, the woman who gave me life. This wasn’t just biology anymore. This was an incredibly unselfish woman who chose to give me a better life. This was a living, breathing, God-loving soul who gave me the most incredible gift I could have ever imagined.
God had carefully prepared the way for me. He waited until we were all in the places we are today. Ben, Baxter’s husband of 35 years; Scott, my new brother; and Spencer, my new sister; and actually everyone surrounding the situation has been welcoming and loving, with arms wide open. This has been a dream.
This has done nothing but enrich our lives. God has given us all the ability to love endlessly. The more we love, the more that comes back to us. It’s true. We now have more people to love and that love us. My daughters have more people to love them, unconditionally. As a parent, I could ask for nothing more!
Although this has been a rough road on my dad, I see how God is working on him. Prayers are helping him come to grips with these new people in my life. Mom, well, Mom has been nothing but wonderful and supportive. She feels incredible gratitude for the special gift she was given. My life was placed in her hands. Wow. It’s hard to put into words all the emotion that follows that. I’ll just leave with thank you. Thank you Baxter, thank you Mom and Dad, thank you Almightly Father God for this incredible gift of life you gave to me.