When it doesn’t go like you thought

Recently my husband and I were asked a question by someone we had just met. We paused for a minute and looked at each other as we pondered whether we should give the neatly-packaged answer or the honest answer. We chose the honest answer, even though it was a little awkward for our new friend.

I think sometimes as believers we are tempted to do the opposite of that – to respond in a socially or politically correct way, or in the way which we think others expect us to. Admittedly, I have felt that struggle as a foster parent. I long to be a voice and an advocate for the orphan; I want to encourage others to be a part of this solution, and I’m not always certain that brutal honesty is the best way to go about it. I have concerns that honesty might scare people away.

But yet I know that obedience is a discipline – a heart issue – and has nothing to do with warm fuzzies. So in the spirit of transparency and vulnerability, my husband and I have sought to raise awareness about the huge need for foster care while also being very truthful about the difficulties.

When we were waiting to become licensed, I read a lot of books about foster care. One in particular was a real “feel good.” It was full of success stories and life change with happy endings. Those stories are important and redemptive and definitely serve a purpose. But if you go into foster care with the expectation that your story will look that way, you may end up disappointed. That book motivated me to move, but it did not prepare me for the stress and the tears and the questions of whether or not we are doing the right thing by our own children.

Fostering has been hard. Dealing with a broken system and overworked, underpaid workers with a huge turnover rate requires lots of patience. Learning how to parent a child who is the same age as your children but who lacks the foundation that you’ve given your own is very challenging. Realizing that you’ve missed a big moment in the life of one of your biological kids because you are too busy dealing with an issue with the other child will leave you with a lot of questions about how well you are balancing things.

Sometimes you give and  sacrifice, but you don’t get to put it all in a neatly wrapped packaged, tuck it away on your shelf, and look at that season with a smile.

And then, we are learning, sometimes it doesn’t come with the happy ending that you envisioned. Sometimes you give and  sacrifice, but you don’t get to put it all in a neatly wrapped packaged, tuck it away on your shelf, and look at that season with a smile. It’s not always like the Olympic athlete who sacrifices a lot but gets to see his gold medal. There are times when you are left with more questions than warm feelings.



But, God. But orphans. But Jesus came and gave a whole lot for me when it didn’t always make sense. And I don’t fit into a neatly-wrapped packaged success story box, either. But I’m not sure that God’s plan for my children is a life of comfort where they are shielded from the realities of our broken world.

The reality we have had to face as we have entered into orphan care is that our obedience cannot be connected to feelings. If we ignored the need and the call we have felt on our lives, then we would quit. The feelings of wanting to change the world didn’t carry us very far once reality set in. I don’t like discomfort. I hate love and loss. I hate when things don’t feel settled. I hate unknowns. But I love Jesus.

Our obedience cannot be connected to feelings.

In my life, this idea of difficult obedience is playing out as I choose to keep living in the hard. But it can translate to many areas of engaging the world. So what does this look like for you? Where do you need to step forward in obedience regardless of how it feels? Are you able to live in that tension? Is God worth your yes? Is your neighbor worth your yes? Is an orphan worth your yes?

-Natalie Patterson, foster mom