In this special episode, co-hosts Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber speak with Jamie Patrick, biological mom of two and foster and adoptive mom to many, on surrendering expectations of family to God. Hear how the Patrick family grew beyond their expectations, and discover how you can help fostering and adoptive families in your church.
For more on foster care and adoption, visit sendrelief.org/foster-care-adoption.
Announcer: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years or you’re just getting started, we’re here to support and encourage you along the way, and, now, your hosts, Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.
Tera Melber: Psalm 68:6 says that God sets the lonely in families, and we know that that happens differently for every family who decides to jump into adoption or foster care. Today, we are super excited to have our dear friend, Jamie Patrick, join us all the way from Denver, Colorado to share a bit of her story about foster care and adoption. Thanks, Jamie, for joining us today.
Jamie Patrick: Oh, yeah. It’s my pleasure, actually. I love sharing the story.
Tera Melber: Awesome. Well, Jamie, why don’t you start and tell us a bit about your family.
Jamie Patrick: Okay, so Lange and I, my husband and I got married really young, and began our ministry life together and God gave us two children, a boy and a girl.
Tera Melber: The perfect American family.
Jamie Patrick: Completely. We thought that we were finished. Mostly because our little girl was quite feisty. She’d throw plates in restaurants and screech and all of that. So we decided we were done. We had a very successful ministry life I guess you would say, in many people’s eyes. And we’re just trucking right along, and around the time that God directed our hearts to a different place of ministry, the Lord just really began dealing with me about the fact that I had not ever really consulted with him about the size of the family that he would like for me to have.
Jamie Patrick: Just through some various circumstances, and conversations with Lange, we began to pray about whether or not God would have us to try to have another baby. And right away, along came Jonathan, and there’s a huge gap in age between Justin and Jaylynn, our oldest two. They are now 21, almost 22 and 19. And then our Jonathan is 11. The amazing thing about what God did with Jonathan, was Jonathan has Down’s syndrome. And that was obviously a huge surprise to us, and there was definitely grieving and seeking God in all of that. Just because I felt like I had kind of given God the range in that little compartmentalized part of my life that was kind of off limits to him, and then he gives me a child that very well could potentially be with us the rest of our lives, and in our home.
Jamie Patrick: At this point we don’t necessarily think that’s going to be the case, but God just used Jonathan to radically shape us. We are completely different people now because of him. And that’s a whole other story, but after Jonathan was born, when the doctor handed us Jonathan, and I held him for the first time, he said, “You need to have another baby as soon as possible.”
Tera Melber: Oh wow.
Lynette Ezell: Oh wow.
Jamie Patrick: Which obviously, just the pains of childbirth in and of itself, I was like, “you’re crazy.”
Tera Melber: You’re obviously a man.
Jamie Patrick: Yeah, he was. But God even used that to plant that little seed in my heart. There’s a lot of benefits to having, when you have a child with special needs, there’s a lot of benefit to having a sibling close in age. Particularly for kids with Down’s syndrome, because that kid becomes their coach and their encourager and their playmate and so, that was something that Lange and I just kind of kept on the table with the Lord. He had already shown us that his plans were completely different than what we thought they would be, so and about a little less than two years later, along came Jacqueline, and part of that whole process with becoming pregnant again and all was just the possibility that there’s more of a possibility that you will have a child with special needs after you’ve already given birth to one.
Jamie Patrick: So that was another level of surrender and just another layer I think, just ugly in my heart that God had to peel away, because he was just continuing to remind that his plans are completely different than ours, but so much better. You know, if we’re willing to give him complete control. Just as a review now, we have almost 22, Justin, 19, Jaylynn, Jonathan’s now 11, today. And Jacqueline’s nine. So we kind of had two different families going on. Boy, girl and boy, girl.
Jamie Patrick: Well, Jonathan, after Jacqueline was born, he was about two when she was born, he became very very sick. So again, I guess the prosperity gospel that we hear often, was just kind chucked out the window at that point, because we were doing the best we could to do what God was calling us to do, and it just seemed like we were walking into more and more conflict and suffering. But even through all of that, just the way God used that to grow me, and I always say that having grown up in church and ministry and things like that, I knew that … I knew a lot of Bible verses. I knew a lot of songs. I knew a lot of things about God, but in those moments of intense just struggle and grieving, God brought those truths that were in my heart back to my mind and just used those to comfort me.
Jamie Patrick: So the one thing I tell people now, not only do I know with my head that what God says is true and that he does provide peace in intense hardship, I know it with my heart, because I’ve actually experienced it. So, on this side of all of that, I see how God used all that to grow us. So we had four at that point, and, you know, full house.
Lynette Ezell: And you know, I was living there beside you, and my daughters babysat for you, and so I kind of thought you had a full house.
Jamie Patrick: Well, we did. We had a lot going on. There’s just a lot that comes with parenting a child with special needs, and Jonathan was requiring a lot of therapy and doctor’s appointments and things like that, so around about that time, just through friends like you guys, and people’s lives that we were observing, the word adoption was in front of us constantly, just because of the culture we’re living in, the place that we were living in, and at that point international adoption was really just a big topic, and Lange and I, we talked a lot and prayed a lot about how God would have us care for orphans and widows, because obviously it’s very clearly laid out in scripture that that’s a form of obedience. So for a few years our job and role that we felt like God has called us to was really just to help others who were trying to adopt. So, we would help with fundraisers and families in our church and encourage them along the way, but in my heart of hearts, I just really believed that God was calling us to do something more in that area.
Jamie Patrick: And I kind of kept bringing it back to Lange, my husband, and it’s neat, because he wasn’t ready yet, he was praying with me about it, and I remember you guys even telling me, just continue to pray about it because God works in everything and the timing is going to be just right. So I really did just continue to give it to the Lord, and just said, “God I trust you.”
Jamie Patrick: So, about I guess a few years into just praying about it, years. Lange came to me, he was at a school in Louisville talking to someone about a Christmas program we were going to be doing where we going to do an outreach to some families in that local school, and that guy, the principal there, he was not a believer. Just began to share with Lange about some of the needs represented in that particular school, and started talking Lange about foster care.
Lynette Ezell: Oh wow.
Tera Melber: Oh wow.
Jamie Patrick: And how some of the teachers in this school had kind of fallen in love with these children who were from just awful situations, and actually these non-believing people were taking these children into their homes, he was just sharing openly with Lange about this incredible need for families to be willing to take these children who were in our community and love them and care for them, and provide for them.
Jamie Patrick: So, I didn’t know that was happening. I’m home praying, thinking were going to be adopting from another country, and Lange came home to dinner that night and ate dinner, and at that point we had that sweet spot where our older kids were teenagers, and they could watch the little ones.
Tera Melber: Glory days.
Jamie Patrick: Oh, yeah. After dinner Lange said, “We need to go for a walk.” Which usually meant there was something he needed to lay on me, so we go walking, and he starts unpacking to me that he believes that we need to start praying about foster care within our own community. And to be honest with you, I was not there. For whatever reason, that whole thing just was really scary to me. And again, another layer of God just taking off fear, which is not of him. You know, scripture makes that clear.
Jamie Patrick: So we begin praying about fostering. And through a variety of circumstances, we kind of did some looking online, and decided we would start going to the classes there in Louisville, one step at a time. We said we’ll go to one class, and you have to go through training and various things like that.
Jamie Patrick: First we went to an information session. Then we started attending the classes. And I have to say, they do their very best in those training classes through the state to scare you to death. They try to tell you every single possible scenario about the child or children that might be placed in your home. And I remember walking away from those Saturday sessions, and thinking how would anybody be compelled to do this aside from a calling from God.
Jamie Patrick: And even some Saturdays, I remember one week in particular, I thought, sitting there, because of the things that they were talking about, that I just kept thinking, “Lange’s going to say no way.” We’re going to walk away today. There’s no way we can do this. We were the oddballs in the class. We already had a large family, we had a child with special needs, and people kind of looked crossways at us, like why are you doing this? But we were honestly just trying to walk in obedience to what we believed God was calling us to do. Which is unique for every single person, every single family, every single situation.
Jamie Patrick: So we got all the way to the end of the training, and at that point you’re assigned a caseworker, and you begin preparing your home for a possible placement. And I remember the lady that came in, they look at your home, and check everything out. There’s several things you have to do to put in place. I just remember she was very skeptical of us. I think just because she was trying to figure out why in the world would these people want to put another child in their home when they have so much going on.
Jamie Patrick: And we just kind of were able to share our story with her and what was compelling us to do this, and that we believed that God was calling us to this, and when we got done, I remember sitting in our living room, she kind of teared up a little bit actually, and she said, “Where are more families like yours? We need families like this.”
Lynette Ezell: Oh, that’s beautiful.
Jamie Patrick: She said, “The hardest part of my job,” she said, “is trying to find families that I really feel confident to place these children who are so fragile, to place them in a safe spot.” And she said, “Unfortunately there’s such a great need, we have to turn blind eyes sometimes to things that we would rather not, just because we don’t have a place to put these kids.” And God even used that to again, just confirm to us this is what I have for you right now. So we signed the paperwork, and began the waiting process for the placement.
Lynette Ezell: Well, and you said you had some fear going into it, Jamie, and I think that’s where a lot of people are. They’re afraid of these kids, they’re afraid to get hurt by foster care, they’re afraid of when the kids leave. Tara and I hear that all the time. And I know we’re called to absorb their pain and help them carry it, but at what point do you think that your fear just started to get in line with what God had called you to do?
Jamie Patrick: You know, I honestly have to say that there were moments of intense fear throughout the entire process. To be honest with you, the one thing Lange and I said often to people is, “Your call is really what sustains you in those moments.”
Tera Melber: That’s so true.
Jamie Patrick: And I just believe you have to be so confident that this is what God’s called you to do, that when those moments of intense hardship or suffering, or just fear because of the unknown things that overwhelm you, first of all you have to remember that God is not a God of fear. That is not of him. Scripture says in Timothy God gives us a spirit of power and love and a sound mind. And I think a lot of times I had to self-talk.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, for sure.
Jamie Patrick: I had to talk to myself. Talk to God more than listen to myself and listen to all those voice, because to be honest, our extended family who loved the Lord were even like, “What are you guys doing?” It’s just completely out of the box. And you have to know that people are not always going to understand, and that’s why, I think your walk with God is just so crucial through all of that because, even now, our family doesn’t look like a lot of other families and there are times that our children don’t act like typical children. And in those moments of even humiliation, I have to go back to the call, and the fact that beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is what God led us to do as a family.
Jamie Patrick: And he doesn’t promise ease, and he doesn’t promise a carefree life. Lange and I say God has used so many situations in our life to draw us closer to him, but I don’t think he’s finished. It’s like you do one thing, and you think you surrender it all, but then God gives you another task. And I just think it’s something where you constantly have to be seeking him and just be so so sure as a couple that this is what God’s called you to do. Because that is what will sustain you.
Tera Melber: I think that’s such a good word because I feel like there are times in our life that we think that we have surrendered so much that we should be able to coast. And coasting … you’re not called to coast. And Lynette and I often talk about, we’re going to be army crawling across the finish line. Seriously.
Lynette Ezell: Oh my gosh I’m so tired.
Jamie Patrick: Exactly.
Lynette Ezell: And being confident in what God’s called you to do doesn’t mean you have answers.
Tera Melber: Exactly.
Lynette Ezell: And I think so many times we want the answers, oh okay Lord, we’ll do it but we’ll have an easy child, or he will fit right into our home from day one, or-
Tera Melber: The birth parents will get their act together and it will be a great reunification. Or the birth parents won’t get their act together and we’ll get to parent this child forever.
Lynette Ezell: Yeah.
Tera Melber: It’s always something in your head.
Lynette Ezell: It’s a lot more messy than that. So you get your first call then, I guess when you’re approved you get your first call. What’d that look like?
Jamie Patrick: Yes, so over the course of a few months, you have to be in town to be able to receive a child, and you never, you don’t know when the call’s going to come in, and I remember well, we got one call while we were out of state, and we couldn’t take the child, and I remember grieving about that, just because I felt like, you know. And then God reminded me again, “I’ve got another one for you.”
Jamie Patrick: And then a couple months later … Well, one thing that’s important to know about our family, at that time in Kentucky, I don’t know what the laws are now, but the maximum number of children you could have in your home, including biological children was five if you were to foster. And so we already had four children of our own, so that really kind of limited how many calls we would get. Because often in foster care it’s a sibling group, that you’re called to take care of. But we could only take one. So that limited some of the calls we were getting.
Jamie Patrick: We got another call for another little boy, and Lange was out of town, and I got the call, went through the process, and you have to say yes or no in the moment. And I said, “Well, I’ve got to call my husband and see if he’s okay with this.” So I got off the phone, talked to Lange. He was great with it, called back, and they’d already placed him with another family.
Tera Melber: In the Lord’s timing.
Jamie Patrick: Which interestingly enough, yeah, that actually several months later I found out that little boy was placed with a family that was at another campus of our church. And I got to meet him. Isn’t that crazy?
Tera Melber: That is crazy.
Jamie Patrick: Yeah, so those first two calls. And then, let’s see. I’m trying to think back exactly to how I went down. The call for our little one that we have now, came in on a Wednesday afternoon and, this is an interesting piece of the puzzle, our oldest son Justin, because we have such wide range of ages in our home, our oldest son Justin had actually just left to go live with a church planter for a semester. He was taking a gap year between high school and college, and he left on a Saturday and the following Wednesday afternoon, I got a call.
Jamie Patrick: So one left the nest and God brought another in.
Lynette Ezell: He does that quite often. Yes.
Jamie Patrick: Yes he does. So the call came from my social worker, which doesn’t always happen, and she said “I’ve got a little one here that I want to tell you about,” she said, “I think that he would be a really good fit for your family.” And for months we had been praying about the call and who the child would be. And I just remember our little ones Jonathan and Jacqueline kept calling it the child, because we didn’t know if it was going to be a boy of a girl or how old they would be or anything about them. So she said, and the first thing she said is she said, “I know this will be a little bit confusing for you,” she said, “but his name is Jonathan.” And she said, “I know everyone in your family has J names.” Which is crazy. Obviously, again, we weren’t expecting to have so many kids when we started that madness. But she said, “You have a child named Jonathan.” And I’m thinking, yes I do.
Jamie Patrick: And the cool thing about that and the amazing thing in all of that is our older son Jonathan who has Down’s Syndrome, we chose his name because we knew that he was going to have Down’s Syndrome. We knew that this was something God had called us to, and the name Jonathan means “God has given.” Or “gift of God.” So when my social worker told me on the phone, this little baby’s name’s Jonathan, I just felt like God reached into the car and was like, “Hello, this is for you.” And I started crying on the phone again with this caseworker who at this point I think thinks that we’re insane. “Oh yeah,” I said, “That means God has given.” I said, “I think this might be the call for us.”
Jamie Patrick: So he was nine months old. The charge was neglect. And at that point, and this happens often, we knew nothing about him other than that. He had been taken into care from a hospital the night before, and was actually at Home of the Innocent, which is a place for children who are terminally ill. But they were just keeping him there until they could find a family for him. So, I immediately said yes. Texted my older children and called my husband and said, “Hey, we got one.”
Lynette Ezell: The child.
Jamie Patrick: The child. And his name is Jonathan, which was unbelievable and so, but that’s all I knew. So, immediately had to go buy a car seat because I didn’t have a car seat that would fit a child that age. And took off downtown to go meet this little one. Not knowing anything about what he looked like, anything about him.
Jamie Patrick: And I remember when I walked in, I had to wait down front, and again I think, just because this had been such a completely out of the ordinary, out of the box thing for our family, and something that we just knew that God was calling us to, I was just paying constantly. Like, Lord, and feeling very self-aware, like what is this going to be like?
Jamie Patrick: Anyway, one of the nurses walked down, and she had him in her arms, and I remember the first thing I thought was how adorable he was, which is really sweet, because when they’re not biologically yours, you can totally brag on how cute they are, because I had nothing to do with it.
Lynette Ezell: Yeah, I’ve enjoyed that in life.
Jamie Patrick: Yeah, and she handed him over to me, and he had on a onesie that they had put on him, and I said, “So what formula does he need?” And she’s like, “I have no idea?” And I was like, “Does he have any food allergies?” And she was like, “We don’t know anything.” She said, “We think that he’s almost 10 months old. And we know that his name is Jonathan and other than that, that’s all we know, so here you go.” And she handed him to me. And I walked out with this little baby.
Jamie Patrick: And i remembered, I looked, the onesie was a 24 months, and he was nine months old, and I thought, “Well, that’s no good. That can’t be the right size.” No shoes, no socks, no diapers. No formula. Nothing. And we get in the car, and I just remember I put him in his little car seat and looked over at him, and he grins at me with the sweetest little smile. And off we went. Not knowing what tomorrow would hold, or the next week, or if he would sleep that night. Or any of that.
Jamie Patrick: But it was just an amazing experience, and on this side of it, obviously, which is often how God works, I completely see his hand in all of that. Just the way that our children loved him and obviously he had some significant delays when he came into our home, but even the knowledge that God had given me because of our older Jonathan, who had needed so many therapies. There were a lot of things that were intuitive to me just to help little Jonathan, JC, learn and get stronger.
Jamie Patrick: He was almost 10 months old and he couldn’t sit up. He didn’t understand anything about bearing weight on his legs. He could roll and he could laugh. He was very ticklish. And he would not make eye contact with any of us. Which we weren’t exactly sure why. And one thing about foster care is you do take them to see a pediatrician within 24 to 48 hours for a full on, you know, exam. Which we did. And that first pediatrician actually gave me, she was kind of an alarmist I guess, and she told me several things that she thought were wrong with him physically that ended up not being the case. But that was also another huge blow that I think foster families need to be prepared for because when you walk into a pediatrician’s office with a child, especially one that’s been neglected, there’s going to be a lot of flags there.
Tera Melber: Right.
Jamie Patrick: And because there’s not really a lot of medical history, you just need to know that they’re probably going to lay everything out there for you that could be. And we’ve walked that road a lot just because of our older Jonathan and all the situations with him. And again, it’s just another level of trust that God calls us to. The day I left the pediatrician’s office, I cried all the way home. I called Lange, and I said “You know, I’m not really crying for me right now, I’m crying for him, because I don’t really feel like anybody has really cried for him.” He didn’t ask for all of this and he’s just a baby. He in many ways doesn’t deserve all of this. And I just believe through all of this, every season of our life and even where we are now, God continues to call us into the unknown. Just like Abraham. Going into a place where I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s next. And that’s okay. Because God does know.
Jamie Patrick: And i just believe that he has continued to take my hands when I’m willing and lead me. Sometimes he drags me. But, you know, and sometimes I think I’ve even tried to run ahead of him. Even with this whole adoption thing. But man, it’s so neat to look back and see his sovereign hand at work in every detail in out lives.
Lynette Ezell: And so did you still have two Jonathans in the home? How was resolved? I’m dying here.
Jamie Patrick: So this is funny. So, the caseworker was trying to help me work through that. Because there are rules, and things about that, because the whole goal, which they tell you all the time with foster care, is reunification. And they said, “If you start using a different name for him, and then he’s reunified with his birth family, that’s going to make it very difficult for him.” But at that point we didn’t know his middle name. We knew his last name, and she said, “You could call him by his initials,” which would be JK, which is just kidding.
Jamie Patrick: So we decided that we weren’t going to do that. So, finally she was like, “Look, you’ve got so many Js in your house, just come up with another J name and we’ll figure it out later.” So we kind of worked through that for a few days but I had read, one of my favorite missionaries in history is Adoniram Judson. And I just remember that in his book, at one point he had to send his children back to America, because it was just such horrible circumstances where they were. And God called him to do that just so that he could further the ministry that God had called him to.
Jamie Patrick: And somewhere in all of that I just felt like the calling that God has placed on our lives, because one of the biggest hurdles we had to jump through was God, in foster care, so much attention is directed to these children that you’re caring for, and you may feel like you’re neglecting your biological children in the process. Because they have a lot of additional needs often. And that was one of the things Lange and I talked a lot about was just capacity. Like, can we handle another child that will have special needs of some sort?
Jamie Patrick: And in all of that I think in just reading through Adoniram Judson’s story, I was just drawn to that name, Judson, and it fit with our family. I felt like it was part Judd’s story. So we started calling him Judson, Judd. J-U-D-D. Is his name. And when we adopted him his middle name is Lange, because that’s my husband’s name, and none of our other children carry his namesake, but because of the beauty of adoption and the picture that I think it presents of the gospel, and you know, we just felt like that was perfect for him, because he was rescued much in the same way that we’ve been rescued.
Lynette Ezell: Jamie, that’s just a beautiful story, and we’ve just loved getting to do ministry with you all, and just your call to go out to Colorado and help with a NAM church plant out there. And just how supportive you all have been. Just to do life alongside you guys has been a blessing. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of your story, and so we would love it if you have time today, to just hang tight and we’re going to end here, and we’re going to pick up with you when we come back. How’s that sound?
Jamie Patrick: That’s great. Yeah. I’d be glad to do that.
Announcer: You have been listening to the Adopting and Fostering Home, a resource of the North American Mission Board. For more information about today’s podcast and other relevant resources, visit sendrelief.org.