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When I Didn't Get the Family I Dreamed Of

My husband and I didn't marry until we were nearly 31. As soon as we were settled financially we began working on having a family. After several months of not conceiving we turned to adoption.

Infertility is extremely heartbreaking, but God graciously led us through it. Yes, we shed tears, but from the very beginning He prepared our hearts for this possibility.

Within the first few weeks of trying to conceive, I either read or heard three stories of women who had dealt with infertility. I thought, "God are you trying to tell me something?" As I listened to women share how difficult it was for them to handle the news of friends and family members who had become pregnant, I prayed, "Lord, don't let me be like that. Help me to rejoice with those who rejoice." And He did!

At that time we were involved in a small church of maybe 100 people, where seven other couples were also having difficulty conceiving. The Lord told me to pray these couples get pregnant. That way when they got pregnant, I would be excited for an answer to my prayers. You know what? Every one of those couples did eventually get pregnant. And I was able to truly rejoice with them.

We, however, never did get pregnant. The five children we raised were all adopted from eastern European orphanages. They came with overloaded baggage, irreparable foundations, and the inability to attach. The years we had them at home were filled with horrendous behaviors. Again, I had innumerable opportunities to commiserate about the family I never got. By the grace of God alone, I did not.

You see, in my late twenties I had grown angry at God when He didn't give me a man to love. I felt I could no long trust God with my deepest longings. As a result, I knew what it felt like to have a wall between God and me. Once that wall came down, I decided I never wanted another one.

It was a battle at times to not resent God's will for me as a mom. Usually, I just didn't let my mind go there. But one day I told my counselor, "I think I need to have a funeral for the children I never got." He encouraged me to do so. I never did—it was enough for me to just recognize the need.

If we are going to remain content in God's plan for our lives, there will be times we have to bury our dearest dreams and trust that some day we will witness a resurrection.

So here I sit today, my children are all grown with their own families. Much of their inability to attached has healed as they've had their own children. Some of my children are rock solid in the Lord. Another just bought his own home. Most of them are moving forward in life beautifully.

Contentment is the only way to parent at our best. When we parent out of fear, envy, guilt, or a sense of failure or inadequacy, we (unintentionally) sew discord in our children's hearts. But when we parent out of contentment, we sew peace and joy and confidence. We have to choose—every day—to be grateful for what God has given us and to trust that His plans are perfect.

How did I stay content when I didn't get the family I dreamed of? Well, I wasn't always successful, that's for sure. But as I sought God's heart on a regular basis, He helped me to …

  • refuse bitterness

  • surrender my dreams

  • pray for others to get what I didn't have

  • thank Him when they did

  • and trust Him no matter what


Cheri Johnson calls herself a SAFE mom: Step/Adoptive/Foster/or Every other kind of mom to non biological children. She's a mother to five children all adopted from Russia in 1997 and 2000. Many days she wanted to run away. She felt alone, misunderstood, and beaten down. Yet, God took the painful, confusing, and scary times and turned them into wholeness, beauty, and treasures. She now shares her pearls—gems grown from the grit of parenting—on her blog ( and Facebook page (

In addition to her five children, she's also married to her loving husband, Bob, who shares with her the joys of ten (and counting) grandchildren. They live in St. Paul, MN.

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