When Adoption Became Our Next Yes

For as long as I have understood what adoption was, I have known it to be a beautiful thing.

I had a family friend who was adopted and her parents always talked about it openly, about how they waited for her and felt so grateful that God had chosen them to be her parents. As I grew older and closer to the age where I would be a mother myself, I sat in small groups and Bible studies with women who shared their desire to adopt one day. I knew it was a good thing, but I only saw it happen from two angles: the infertile couple who was able to become parents through adoption, or the couple who acted on a longing that God had planted deeply in their hearts.

But in the last two years God has done a great work in my family. We finalized an adoption in June, and my husband and I do not fit either of these profiles. One of the many things I have been reminded of on our journey is that God does not fit into a box, and the way he works in my family can be totally different than someone else’s, and it can still be good.

In the last two years God has done a great work in my family.

Our journey towards adoption was more like a series of “yeses” and a process of obedience. We weren’t anticipating that our progression of “yeses” would end with us having “twins” who are not the same race, and yet, here I am, as a mama with two kindergarten children who are in the same class. One is black and one is white.

My husband and I are neither the infertile couple nor the couple that had a strong desire to adopt. We had three children, and believed fully that our family was “complete.” My husband even described our youngest son after he was born as “the child who completed our family.”

Our story actually began many years ago as we watched someone important to us have some deeply personal struggles that gave us great heartache for the children involved. We were in the thick of the messiness of that situation when our church started talking a lot about the need for foster parents and the importance of caring for orphans and vulnerable children. For us, it was never a situation that we had to think or pray much about. We didn’t have to be convinced about the importance of children having stability or the negative effects that parental choices can have on a child. I wouldn’t say that it was an easy yes, but it was a very obvious one for us.

We attended one informational meeting about foster care and filled out the initial paperwork before we even left the room. We started telling our family and friends and did all of the things that are required to become licensed foster parents. A question we got, nearly every single time we talked about it, was, “So are you hoping that you will get to adopt?” And for us it was very clear: we didn’t feel like God was calling us to adopt. We felt like God was calling us to provide stability to children for a season of their lives.

We didn’t feel like God was calling us to adopt. We felt like God was calling us to provide stability to children for a season of their lives.

In some ways, I think that made it easier for us. Most people think the greatest difficult of being a foster parent is letting the child go. This is the number one reason we hear from people for why they could never be foster parents, and yet that was not our struggle. It didn’t mean it would be easy, but the specific tug on our hearts was to be a bridge – a stable thing over a deep valley that could safely take a child from Point A to Point B, from neglectful parents to forever parents, or from struggling parents to now healthy and able parents. In fact, the temporary aspect actually made it less scary for me. I felt like I could do anything for a season.

The first important yes on our journey was to be foster parents. The second important yes was when we agreed to foster a little girl; she, in many ways, defied all logic about the type of child that we were best equipped to care for. Bringing her in disrupted the birth order in our home. Our youngest two biological children are only 18 months apart, and her birthday was between theirs. We had four children less than four years apart in our home, and three who were practically the same age yet had completely different life experiences. Her story was complicated and not straight-forward. She was old enough to have clear memories and be able to speak about them in a way that our other young children understood. It was difficult. And messy.

The hard days were incredibly hard. The enormity of protecting her and loving her well while also protecting and loving my other children well was more than I was prepared for. I wanted to give her everything she needed, and yet there was a constant tension of also giving my other children everything they needed. We knew she was precious and deserved to be in a home that could give her all the love and shade and stability that she needed. So we prayed and prayed for that family.

We prayed that God would help us to be a stable bridge for her until the caseworkers could identify that forever family that would be standing on the other side. It was very obvious to us that we couldn’t be her forever family. That wasn’t what God had called us to. She needed to be in a home without so many kids her age so that she could get more individual attention. We honestly didn’t pray much about whether or not we should be that family, because the “no” seemed very obvious.

God reminded me that he doesn’t fit into a box, that not every adoption story is the end result of a longing that has always been there. Sometimes, adoption is just the next yes.

Eventually God changed our hearts, even though we weren’t asking him to. He exposed the illusion of control I had with my biological children. He helped me appreciate the beauty of my utter dependence on him to love and parent all of my children well. And he reminded me that he doesn’t fit into a box and not every adoption story is the end result of a longing that has always been there. Sometimes, adoption is just the next yes.

There are details of our story that those in our closest circle know well. The beautiful love story that we like to hear is the one where a family saw an orphan child and just knew immediately in their hearts that she was supposed to theirs forever. There isn’t anything warm and fuzzy about a story that says we were her foster parents for a year before we decided to adopt. We knew she would not return to her birth parents long before we knew that we would be her forever parents, and that doesn’t make a lot of people feel warm and fuzzy.

God had to move us through a series of yeses and to a place of dependence before we could fully open our hands and believe that he would equip and lead us and provide for us. It took time for us to know that he was doing this, not just for a short season, but for forever.

I struggled for awhile to believe that our adoption story could be beautiful. I felt guilty that I didn’t have that gut instinct that just “knew” from the beginning. In fact, we only said yes to being her foster parents because we believed it was temporary. And that’s actually a part of why our story is redemptive – because it wasn’t just her life and her heart that was changed, it was ours as well. It didn’t fit the mold that I had for adoption, but it changed her life, and it changed mine too.


Natalie Patterson

Natalie is a mom of four who enjoys writing whenever she can find a few quiet minutes. She is passionate about foster care and adoption and loves connecting with women who are in the trenches of this hard and beautiful calling. Coffee, college football, and guacamole are a few of her favorite things. Natalie attends our Spartanburg campus.