A forever family
At first glance, it looks like any other Friday morning. Joshua and Jeralee Redmon are awake early and move around the house quietly to avoid waking their three foster children. They make some coffee in the kitchen, but there are subtle signs that this Friday is not like any other. There’s an air of anticipated excitement. Jeralee cannot stop smiling.
Jeralee looks over at Joshua, “Well, should we wake them?” Joshua nods, and they head into the bedroom to rouse 3-year-old Ayden and 2-year-old Cheyenne.
Today is adoption day. After fostering 11 children in three years, Joshua and Jeralee are adopting all three of their current foster children: two siblings who were placed through Buckner and a 6-month-old baby through a private adoption.
“We are so thrilled,” Jeralee says. “It’s almost like a dream, because we never thought we would be here. It’s always another foster family who’s adopting. Now, all of a sudden, it’s the Redmons who are adopting.”
It’s been a long journey, but one Joshua and Jeralee wouldn’t trade because through the tears, trials and joy, they discovered their calling.
As most young married couples do, Joshua and Jeralee had a plan. They married in December 2006 and moved from New Mexico to Dallas for Joshua to attend seminary. They always knew they wanted children and even had the desire for adoption, but they thought that would happen down the road after having a few biological children.
However, God quickly shut one door after another that turned their plans upside down. Joshua didn’t get into seminary and in the next few years, he and Jeralee moved several times between the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and Temple working different jobs. It was during this time they realized they were infertile.
“The Lord didn’t gift us with biological kids and so we struggled with that, and that was a real struggle,” Jeralee says. “It’s hard on a mother’s heart to say I cannot give birth to a child. That’s a hard place to come from.”
“There was a lot of struggle and a lot of battle in that,” Joshua adds. “But we surrendered it to him and allowed God to start moving in our hearts and show us exactly what we were supposed to do.”
In 2011, Joshua resigned from his job as a youth pastor in Temple, and he and Jeralee lived with a friend while they sought direction from God.
“We kept being drawn to Ft. Worth again,” Jeralee says. “So we said, ‘Lord, if you want us to move back to Ft. Worth, you will need to provide a house and a job.’ Within two days, he provided a house free of rent. Right after that, Joshua’s old job called back and said, ‘If you’re looking for a job, we’ll offer it.’ So we had a house and a job so we said, ‘OK, Lord, I guess we’ll go.’”
Their new home had an extra bedroom and Joshua and Jeralee felt God had a reason for providing a larger house than they needed. They asked God to reveal how they should use the extra space and felt God was pushing them toward foster care.
They went to an informational meeting at Buckner not knowing how foster care worked. After the meeting, they both felt sure foster care was the next step for their family, but their first placement in September 2011 was difficult.
“We went in with the foster-to-adopt intent,” Jeralee says. “That was our illusion, that it was very easy to adopt out of foster care because that’s what it makes it sound like.”
They attached very quickly to their foster child assuming they would adopt him, but after nine months, he returned to live with his aunt.
“We probably attached harder to him than to any others we had,” Joshua says. “He was the hardest one to let go.”
Jeralee admits they almost quit foster care after their first child returned home, but God began working on their hearts and helped them understand that foster care is not just an outlet to expand their family, but a ministry of providing a safe and encouraging living environment for children in need.
“It’s a calling,” Joshua says of why they continued to foster. “I’ve been in and out of the ministry for the past 13 years, and I would say this is one of the most difficult things I have done, yet one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”
“Even though it gets incredibly hard,” Jeralee adds, “even though it’s tough, even though loss is huge on our end and the biological family – loss is an awful, awful thing in foster care – that doesn’t mean it’s time to quit, and it doesn’t mean it’s time to close our door because the Lord has made it so clear so many times that this is what we’re supposed to do.”
Ayden and Cheyenne yawn and give sleepy smiles as Jeralee and Joshua carry them to the breakfast table. When they bow their heads to pray, they shut their eyes tight and clasp their hands in their laps.
Jeralee brings them bowls of oatmeal and peach slices as Cheyenne crawls into Joshua’s lap. “I want to sit with Daddy,” she confidently declares.
“Do you know what today is?” Jeralee asks as she sits next to Ayden. Ayden studies Jeralee’s face and then exclaims, “We see God?” A ripple of laughter echoes through the kitchen as Jeralee responds, “Well, God will be there for sure, but today we’re going to court for your adoption.”
Cheyenne begins to pout when she doesn’t get her juice box right away, but Joshua leans close to her ear and whispers as he hugs her. Cheyenne’s eyes are focused and concentrated on listening to Joshua. Slowly, the tears cease and she calmly and politely asks Jeralee for her drink. Jeralee hands her the juice box with a smile.
“Cheyenne, you can wear your new shoes today,” Jeralee tells her. Cheyenne’s eyes sparkle as she exclaims over the prospect of new attire.
Behind the Redmons on the opposite wall, there is a circle of 11 framed photos, each one of a different child. In the middle of the photos, painted on the wall is a simple phrase: “Every child is a story yet to be told.”
At first, no one thought Ayden’s and Cheyenne’s story would include this moment, sitting at the breakfast table hours from adoption.
After housing eight foster children in a two-year span, Joshua and Jeralee were accustomed to the system. They welcomed a child into their home and at some point the child would leave. The Redmons understood their calling to be foster parents, but their desire to adopt never went away.
“I remember sitting on the kitchen floor crying and saying, ‘Lord, why not? Why can’t we adopt?’” Jeralee says. “‘You put this desire in our hearts, so why not? We would love, love, love to adopt, and we’re OK if we don’t get to, but could this be the year we get to meet our forever child?’”
Ayden was 21 months old and Cheyenne was 8 months old when they were first placed with the Redmons. They were siblings from a difficult home life, but Joshua and Jeralee were not given the impression that adoption would be an option. The caseworker was forthright about their biological parents’ resolve never to relinquish their rights.
Still, Joshua and Jeralee prayed for their forever child. On Thanksgiving in 2013, Jeralee’s family told her they knew someone who was pregnant and looking for a couple to adopt her child. They asked if they would be interested. The Redmons agreed to pray about it.
“We prayed about it, and we told God that if he wanted this baby to come, then he’ll bring her here,” Jeralee says. “And I left it at that. I’m not calling anybody, and I’m not pushing anybody.”
Jeralee admits they got wrapped up in their life and forgot about the conversation until February when they got a call saying the baby was born and asking if they were still interested in adopting her. Joshua and Jeralee immediately drove to New Mexico and two weeks later came home with Abby Mae and paperwork beginning the adoption process.
One week later, Abby Mae was hospitalized for failure to thrive, because she couldn’t keep any food down. During Abby Mae’s hospitalization, Ayden’s and Cheyenne’s case went to mediation. The caseworkers kept insisting that the parents would not relinquish their rights, but Joshua and Jeralee had peace that God’s will would be done regardless of the outcome.
“I told the caseworkers that we serve a really big God and if they’re supposed to go home, then they will go home and there is a reason and a right plan for them,” Jeralee says. “But if the Lord wants the parents to relinquish their rights, then they will relinquish at mediation.”
Jeralee says she still remembers how shocked the caseworker was when she called to tell them Ayden’s and Cheyenne’s parents relinquished their rights, but Jeralee was calm through it all. All she could say was, “We serve a really big God.”
As Jeralee does Cheyenne’s hair, Joshua helps Ayden get dressed. Ayden walks up to Jeralee’s mother and show off his new boots.
“You look so handsome, Ayden,” Jeralee says. Ayden looks her straight in the eye and with a coy smile he says, “Yes.”
“He is so cute,” Jeralee says, “and that is something that gets him in trouble because he is handsome. He knows it too.”
But he is also compassionate and tenderhearted. Joshua calls him Mr. Sensitive. He always wants to help, whether it’s caring for his sisters or helping with the chores. He also wants to mimic Joshua in style and actions, wearing camo and tucking his boots over his pants. Even when Joshua isn’t home, Ayden wants to watch hunting videos so he’s ready to go out with him.
But Ayden isn’t the only one who admires Joshua. Jeralee finishes dressing Cheyenne and adds a special necklace. Cheyenne looks down at it and smiles bright. “I have to show Daddy,” she says. She races over to Joshua to show off her ornament.
“She’s daddy’s princess,” Joshua says. “And every time I get home, she screams and gets so excited.”
“She’s also a fireball and so animated,” Jeralee adds with a laugh. “But I love that fire in her. I love her fighter personality.”
It’s a personality she has needed. At 9 months old, Cheyenne needed a major cranial surgery, and it was after her surgery in the hospital when she began walking.
“That’s when I knew she was going to be strong-willed,” Jeralee says. “And now she can talk and she tells us what she thinks, but she is also really sweet and loves her dolls and taking care of the baby.”
Jeralee picks up Abby Mae, deftly dressing her and adding a headband as a finishing touch. “I think she’s going to be another Cheyenne,” she says. “She’s just so active, but she doesn’t cry a whole lot and sleeps good. She’s tiny and fierce – both our girls are fighters.”
“My favorite thing about Abby Mae is when I feed her,” Joshua adds. “She likes to sit here and run her fingers through my beard. For me, it’s a connection thing. She recognizes it, and it’s like a comfort for her.”
With the children all dressed and ready to go, the Redmons and a few of their extended family circle and hold hands to pray before leaving for the courthouse. Jeralee’s brother thanks God for giving them this day of adoption, for bringing these children into their lives, and he asks God to continue blessing them as they grow together as a family.
Jeralee says “amen” and looks up. She’s calm, collected and serene. This is the day she prayed for, but adopting all three kids in one day almost didn’t happen.
Because Abby Mae was a private adoption, the process toward adoption day was much quicker and more straightforward than Ayden’s and Cheyenne’s. They just needed to have Abby Mae in their home for six months before the adoption could be finalized in court. Early on, they scheduled her final court appearance for Friday, Aug. 29.
At first, it appeared as though Ayden’s and Cheyenne’s adoption would take place after Abby Mae’s, but when the Redmons found out they could have an August date, they requested the same day as Abby Mae’s.
However, the adoptions had to be completed in different counties. Finalizing all three on the same day meant they would have an extremely long day, filled with traveling from one courthouse to the other, but for the Redmons, it was worth it.
About a week before the adoption though, there was a scheduling conflict; the courts scheduled both adoptions at the same time. The caseworkers tried to move one of the adoptions to a later time, but it wasn’t working out, and it looked like the best solution was to move Abby Mae’s adoption to another day.
But then the caseworkers decided to see if they could transfer Abby Mae’s adoption to the same county as Ayden’s and Cheyenne’s. They warned Joshua and Jeralee that this was hard to do and unlikely to happen, but they were going to try. Joshua and Jeralee approached this bump as they did with every other thing in life – they prayed about it and trusted that God’s plan would be accomplished.
The day before the adoptions, they got approval to have all three adoptions take place in one day, at the same time, in the same courthouse. Jeralee says even the lawyer was shocked that this happened, but she could only respond with, “Only God.”
At the courthouse, the actual adoption process is quick and easy. The judge confirms that Joshua and Jeralee have done the pre-court paperwork and procedures and then asks them individually if they understand from this day on, they will be the rightful parents of these children and must assume all responsibility as awarded to a biological parent. With giant smiles, Joshua and Jeralee affirm they want that role.
Less than 30 minutes after walking in the courthouse, the Redmons leave a family of five.
“Ayden, you’re adopted,” Jeralee told him. “You’re going to be with us forever and ever.” Ayden added with a smile, “and never, never leave.”
They arrive home and tuck the sleeping Abby Mae in her crib. Jeralee prepares lunch for Ayden and Cheyenne. Afterwards, Jeralee holds Ayden on the couch while Joshua cuddles next to her with Cheyenne. Both children slowly fall asleep and Joshua and Jeralee continue to hold their children.
“I think back to when I prayed that this be the year we meet our forever child, and the Lord said, ‘Let me introduce you to your forever children,’” Jeralee shakes her head in awe. “Amazing!”
Aimee Freston is the print publications editor for Buckner International. She can be reached at afreston[at]buckner[dot]org. Photography accompanying this story by Kelsi Williamson.