Following God’s Plan: The Conaway’s Story

November 6, 2018

Fifteen years ago, after an awkward blind date, if someone had told Michael and Lacey Conaway that one day they would be sitting on their front porch in Columbus, Mississippi at 7:45 a.m., drinking coffee and discussing the logistics of the day for life with eight children – they would have laughed out loud and said, “No way! That’s crazy…” but it’s funny how the Lord has a way of shaking things up and turning chaos into beauty.

Thankfully, Michael and Lacey’s second date went much better than their first, and eventually the two seminary students fell in love, got married, settled down in a small town in Oklahoma and were blessed with three children.

Michael worked as a youth minister for 13 years and Lacey as a Nurse Practitioner. They became involved in the lives of the children in their youth group and discovered that many of them had difficult home lives. Lacey would tell Michael, only half-joking, that she wanted to take all the kids home and provide a happier, healthier life of stability for them.

In May of 2017, Lacey received what she considered, a humorous email from her sister saying she had found the perfect new job for Lacey and Michael as houseparents at Palmer Home. One of the perks of the job was that it came with an enormous house in a beautiful gated community…and potentially six to eight additional children!  Although the Conaways were looking for career changes at the time, the opportunity seemed like a bit of a stretch, given that it was two states and 530 miles away from their home in Oklahoma.

For the next several months, the Conaways continued looking for new career opportunities, but everything that appeared promising eventually fell through. The couple continued to pray for the Lord to guide and lead them in their next steps, and although He remained quiet, they waited patiently on Him and His timing.

In February of 2018 Lacey gave a second thought to the houseparent opportunity.

“What if we actually did this?” she asked Michael.

He was open to the idea and they sent in their resumes two days later. They heard back from Palmer Home within 24 hours, had a phone interview a week later, and flew out to Columbus for an in-person interview a month later.

“God opens doors and closes doors,” Lacey said. “There was a time when He was awfully quiet, but when He closes all the doors and then one opens, you pay attention.”

After their interviews, it became clear to the Conaways that the Lord was indeed leading them to become houseparents at Palmer Home for Children.

“When God calls you to do something, you can either move into it even though it’s scary and unknown, and in doing so you can move into the fullness of it and enjoy being in His will – or you can choose not to listen and stay where things are safe and known, but miss out on all that He has for you,” said Lacey.

The Conaways didn’t want to miss out on the fullness of being in God’s will for them, so they answered His call, packed up a U-Haul with their belongings, three kids, and their dog, and moved into a cottage at Palmer Home for Children in June of 2018.

It’s been an amazing adventure of learning, loving, praying, and growing. The Conaway family has grown significantly since moving to Palmer Home – gaining five new children once arriving on campus. Michael and Lacey love and cherish the five teenage boys in their home and delight in nurturing them, teaching them, and most of all, loving them on a daily basis in a hundred little ways.

Lacey laughs as she talks about her new normal of cooking for five growing teenage boys.

“They sure know how to eat,” she said. “I basically double every recipe and still end up making grilled cheese or quesadillas for kids at the end of the night.”

All of the cooking isn’t entirely her responsibility though. There are certain aspects of cooking the boys enjoy and she appreciates their willingness to help in the kitchen from time to time.

“They like to grill and they want to be the ones to prep the meat, season it, and grill it,” Lacey said. “One night I received a call asking if we could take in a baby girl for a few nights, and within 30 minutes someone was carrying a crib into my house. I asked the boys if they would be willing to help with dinner and before I knew it, they whipped up burgers to grill for dinner that night.”

Michael and Lacey are finding their rhythm and building relationships with their new teenagers on a daily basis. They marvel at how quickly their family and their hearts have expanded to include five new children.

“We understand that we have a shorter time frame with these boys under our roof given that they are all high school and college-aged,” Michael said. “We want to prepare them for the real world with practical skills like cooking, laundry, budgeting, and the importance of a good work ethic, but more than that, like any parent, we want them to be successful and to know they are deeply loved and valued.”

Michael leads a weekly Bible study with the boys on Thursday nights; they are currently doing a study on purity and invited some older girls from other cottages to join them.

“Our goal isn’t so much to affect how our children, all eight of them, behave; we want to affect who they are,” said Michael. “Just like how our relationship with God isn’t about following a set of rules, but instead it’s about really knowing Him and allowing Him to change us from the inside out – that’s what we’re about.”