Learning To Love The Life You Didn’t Choose

Summer Reading

I’m thrilled to tell you about this next pick in my summer reading series, because over this past year, I’ve been asking God why life isn’t fair. I’ve questioned Him about my circumstances, and even mourned over things that have changed in my life. But I  have found that I can still say “yay God”, even in the midst of change and disappointment. Not because life is always good, but because our God is.  So I can certainly relate to the title and the topic of Melanie’s new book, and maybe you can too.

Read Melanie’s words below, and be encouraged. Then leave a comment on my blog expressing your commitment and desire to learn to find joy even when life isn’t going the way you  had planned, and you just might win a free copy of It’s Not Fair!


I have a confession. (You don’t know me, so it feels weird that some random stranger is confessing something to you right off the bat, like “Whoa, slow down, New Girl, and leave the confessing stuff for later in the relationship.” But I sally forth.)

When I started writing my new book, It’s Not Fair: Learning to Love the Life You Didn’t Choose, I thought I was going to share about how I learned to love my life and YOU CAN TOO! But this was a total lie. Which I discovered when my life kinda fell apart all over again. I realized that learning to love our lives isn’t a box that we check when we’ve accomplished it, and then we move on to greener pastures and happy trails and frolicking in the Land of No More Problems.

Learning to love the life you didn’t choose takes, well, a lifetime.

After five grueling years of infertility, we finally had our wrinkly red raisin preemie and settled down in a land of golf carts and capri pants. And then more chronic pain and infertility hit. We moved into the world of adoption and a new cycle of waiting and loss and waiting and loss. Finally, after twelve years of building our family through the hard sludge of, well, let’s call it character development, we thought, “Okay. Here we are. We have our kiddos and now the fun begins.”

That’s about when I decided to write a book about how awesome everything is. Maybe you’ve heard the formula:

  1. Life was bad.
  2. God fixed my problems.
  3. Everything is great. Yay God.

My book outline was adorable. [insert hysterical laughter] Then the diagnoses started rolling in, and we were left with labels like “autism,” “mental illness,” “ADHD,” and “trauma.” As our expectations for what parenting would look like cracked and shattered once again, I sat amidst the shards and mourned my airbrushed image of what I thought my life would be.

Maybe you’ve experienced the death of a dream. You saw your life going one way, your career heading down a path, your education, your relationships, your health, your whatever, following a certain trajectory, but instead, you find yourself several counties over from where you thought you’d end up. Maybe you thought you’d be married by now. Maybe you thought you’d still be married now. Maybe you’ve had a diagnosis rock your world.

I’m really sorry.

I wanted a safe place where we could talk about this stuff, so I made one for us. I want to sit with you and talk about it honestly, without annoying platitudes or the “perfect” Christian responses. It’s okay to throw stuff and tell God you’re mad and don’t understand. It’s okay to sit in the questions.

This is a book about dealing with the death of a dream and shuffling forward anyway. We’ll do it together, and we’ll laugh along the way, and maybe we don’t have to wait for our lives to be all figured out before we decide to find joy right where we are.

Life can be broken and hard and you can have scars and love it anyway. Yay God.  ~ Melanie Dale, It’s Not Fair


headshotMelanie Dale is a minivan mama and total weirdo who stinks at small talk. Her laugh is a combination honk-snort, and it’s so bad that people have moved away from her in the movie theater. She adores sci-fi and superheroes and is terrified of Pinterest. Author of Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends and It’s Not Fair: Learning to Love the Life You Didn’t Choose, she’s also a contributor for Coffee+Crumbs and an advocate for Children’s HopeChest. Her writing has been featured on Parenting.com, Scary Mommy, Working Mother Magazine, Deadspin’s Adequate Man, Ann Voskamp’s A Holy Experience, and Today’s Christian Woman, and she’s a panelist for MomsEveryday TV. Living in the Atlanta area, she enjoys recording her podcast, Lighten Up with Melanie Dale, and blogging at Unexpected.org

Links to find Melanie:

Instagram: https://instagram.com/unexpectedmel/?hl=en

Facebook: https://facebook.com/unexpectedmel

Twitter: https://twitter.com/UnexpectedMel?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

Blog: https://unexpected.org/

Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/lighten-up-with-melanie-dale/id1102252426



Leave a comment on my blog expressing your commitment and desire to learn to find joy even when life isn’t going the way you  had planned. Winner selected next week!

To purchase It’s Not Fair, CLICK HERE – and check out the free stuff you get when you order before August 16th!

A note from Melanie: We can survive hard things and even thrive while doing it. We can sur-thrive. I’ve made a Sur-Thrival Kit filled with silly coloring pages and my favorite easy recipes for when you don’t have the bandwidth for anything else, and I’m giving it to you for free when you email your receipt for It’s Not Fair to unexpectedmel (at) unexpected.org (available till August 16).

Trailer video: https://youtube.com/watch?v=mfBitlJq7iw


  1. Tracye Sheffield on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 8:34 am

    My life has totally taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. I had “the perfect life”….husband, career, 2 kids. Then, this all changed to being laid off, divorce, seeing my kids on a part time basis, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, home foreclosure and car repossessed. Fast forward to today… I’m basically homeless, but my second ex-husband has taken me in and we live in an apartment, I spend my days indoors watching tv, doing online internet surveys to make a little money, coloring and then Bible time. No, I didn’t choose this life, but I know I need to learn to accept my situation and find a way to make the most of it. I need to learn to love the life I didn’t choose. Thanks for having this blog and giving people a chance to share.

    • Melanie Dale on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      Tracye, I’m so sorry. I see you. I’m with you. Praying for you now.

      • Tracye Sheffield on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 4:55 pm

        Thank you so much Melanie…I really appreciate that! Hopefully I will be able to order your book some time this month. I can’t wait to read it!

  2. Narda Gallagher on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 8:51 am

    I was having a difficult day yesterday, because it hit me that God is not giving me what I want :
    Family. Communication. Love flowing.
    None estranged from the other.
    I began thinking I may never have it.

    I woke today, feeling different.
    I haven’t decided to give up hope, as I did yesterday.
    I’ve decided to hope in the midst of pain.
    God IS my ONLY HOPE.

    With that hope, I’ll allow myself to feel joy.
    Life is so very different than I thought it would be.

    Maybe your book will help me.
    Maybe it’ll help our daughter, too.
    She just had a physically painful miscarriage, because of abnormalities in her uterus.

    Now her physical pain is gone, but she’s aching over her loss.

    Doctors are trying to figure out a way to fix her physical problem.
    She’s trying to survive.
    She knows her God is good, yet this is so difficult.

    I plan to share the book, and your blog, with her.

    • Melanie Dale on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      “I’ve decided to hope in the midst of pain.” Narda, this is powerful. Praying for your daughter now.

  3. Bonnie on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 9:27 am

    This is what I’m struggling with. I thought I’d have a home & husband for my children & grandchildren to come visit. 20 years later, the husband decided to leave me, our kids & God. Now, health problems have taken my occupation away & healing has not come. Two of my grands live thousands of miles away & there are difficulties with the Mom of my other grand. I fight self-pity & sadness that life isn’t what I thought it would be.

    • Melanie Dale on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      Bonnie, I’m sorry. I’ve had those days where I’ve fought self-pity and sadness (okay, honestly, many many days). Praying for you now.

  4. Mary Ann Bell on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Wow, as I opened this up this morning. This book I need to read. I really want to know how to feel joy when my life is upside down. And yes crying and being mad and letting God know all about it. Then feeling guilty because knowing I shouldn’t feel this way. Wanting and needing answers today, now not tomorrow. But I won’t give up!

    • Melanie Dale on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 4:41 pm

      Mary Ann, as much as a stranger on the internet can speak into your life, let me proclaim FREEDOM over your feelings of guilt. God can handle all of your emotions. My pathway to joy winds through letting God know ALL about my feelings first. Only then can I get to trust and hope. He sees you. He’s not afraid of your feelings. He’s not surprised by them. Praying for you now.

  5. Linda C on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 10:02 am

    I can relate…..adoption, diagnoses, struggles left and right, but God has followed us through and is working overtime to help us continue to grow in Him and as a family. Would love to read the book, soon. Will have to see if I win, or can work it into the budget. Thank you for reaching out in your vulnerability to encourage others.

    • Melanie Dale on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      Linda, it’s so good to meet another woman who can relate, although I’m sorry that it’s our struggles that bring us together! But they so often do, and I’m grateful for that. Praying for you now.

  6. Paige on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 10:07 am

    This is exactly where I am. I struggle with dreams and desires I’ve prayed over and over with a longing I can’t control. And now… its all too late. Maybe God said no. So what do I do with that? The Bible says if we trust him and delight in him, he will give us the desires of our heart. And my desires were good things! Staying home with my boys. Having a little girl to be best friends with into adulthood like I am with my mom. Writing a book. Having a best friend. Going on vacations with said friends and her family. So what do I do with the broken? Satan tells me that I wouldn’t be a good stay at home mom which is why God puts me at work. Satan says I wouldn’t be a good girl mom, so God didn’t give me one. Satan says I couldn’t handle the stress of writing a book. That I’m not as good a writer as I thought I maybe could be. And I believe. I lean into the commentary and own it. Working boy mom to the core. Not creative. Not an entrepreneur. Can only handle menial tasks at work or will have a meltdown (well, that’s actually happened). I love Jesus and I choose daily to trust God knows best. So I stuff the dreams down and stop asking why. But this topic keeps popping back up. And maybe its not just me.

    • Melanie Dale on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      Paige, I’m joining you in praying for the longing inside of you.

  7. Carol on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 10:48 am

    I would like to have this book. So many things in my life that seem to not be fair, but I know that God has a plan in all the mess. He is a good God!

    • Melanie Dale on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 4:58 pm

      Yes he is, Carol, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel that way!

  8. Deana on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Shame on me for thinking that my life ‘should have been different’. God has blessed me so much. I have a husband of 34 years, 3 grown daughters (our youngest has Down Syndrome), 2 sons-in-law, and 7 grandchildren. I’ve been at my current job over 27 years and look forward to retirement in +/- 5 years, along with my husband. I became a follower of Christ when I was a little girl and was raised in a godly, Christian home. I met a man while I was in college who had a similar upbringing and a large family. We got married and have been ‘living the dream’ ever since…not sure who’s dream it is/was, though! As a little girl, I had always wanted to get married, have children, be a stay-at-home mom, and just “be there” for my family. The first two items on the list happened, but not the rest…not really. We couldn’t afford to live on only my husband’s income, so I’ve had to work for all but 2 years of our marriage. That verse in II Timothy(I think that’s where it is) about being content … it haunts me whenever I start having a pity party for myself. God, help me to be grateful, and especially to BE CONTENT. He’s in control and He’s got this!!

  9. Kristen on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Reading in general is a good thing, and your book is one I have added to my list. Sure things haven’t always gone as I had hoped but am finally, today at least, feeling like I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. We have endured a couple very challenging years with one of our teenage sons. I choose to believe things happen to teach me (I didn’t have the perfect children as I had planned) and am confident I can use our situation to help someone else. Our family went through this for a reason. I don’t understand it but we survived. There is a plan. Again, I don’t understand it but I want and need to accept it. I look forward to this read. Thank you.

  10. Marissa Richards on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Wow, this hit home like a tone of bricks!! My life has never been easy. I grew up not feeling loved or appreciated ever. Abandoned by my birth mother and abused by my step mom and later on by my daughter’s father. I was left with a longing to be loved and accepted. I developed a good, solid relationship with God and just when I thought I had finally crossed over, depression kicked in! All the feelings of self doubt, abandonment and unworthiness came back like the great flood when God cleansed the earth!! The husband I diligently prayed for and the relationship that I so desired with my children were in ruins. I thought, how could I love God and still be depressed, really!! After all, I was thought, prayer changes things. I still believe that but there must be some practical tools that could assist me on my life’s journey. Unfortunately, these are messages that pastors refuse to preach about. It’s not popular!! There are many people in church right now hemorrhaging, and no one knows. I was that person. I stopped going to my church. I was disillusioned, disappointed and down right mad at God. (by the way, this is the first time I’ve ever said this statement out loud or in a public forum)! Yikes!! Here I am today, trying to pick up the pieces of my life. My husband and I are on the brink of separation after 21 years and I look at my life and ask God, is this it? Is this what I was created for? Where is the life I prayed for that you promised me, God? I dotted every I, crossed every T, prayed diligently, gave to the church, volunteered, etc. In the midst of all this confusion I am trying to find joy. I found a new church and good christian counseling; with a renewed faith in God I am taking it one day at a time. My circumstances haven’t changed but my outlook has. I don’t know what God has in store for my life but I’m learning to trust and lean on Him once more. It’s not easy but by faith, I’m getting there.

    Walking by Faith, one second at a time……

  11. Christi on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    When the life you chose is interrupted by something that the world and even the church considers to be a “skeleton in the closet” and the Pastor criticizes you for asking for “an unspoken prayer request ” , you quickly learn it is just you and the Lord- He is sufficient but it gets very lonely, especially when the problem comes and goes for 40 years. Add in sick parents to care for, 2 rebellious teens ( 2 children born with undiagnosable medical problems so that was a long trial)and just recently the death of one grown son. Things in this book sound very good- hope someone gets it and puts it in our church’s library so I can read it.

  12. Lorri on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Just where I am. Asking why haven’t things turned out the way the “should”, the way I expected them to….

  13. Vonnie Kronk on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    This is me exactly! The cover even looks like me cuz my left leg is messed up from my brain injury that I had in 2007 from an accident. I had so many things going for me & now I can’t work or drive so life is a daily struggle just doing little things & I think I need some good books to read to encourage me

  14. Pam Ridgell on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    I am trying to just live but it is not the life I wanted to end like it has. After 27 years of marriage my husband (My Soul Mate) passed away from lung cancer. He was a non smoker and it was a non curable, aggressive cancer. We had our 27th anniversary on the April 17 and he passed away and left me on April 23, 2015. I struggle everyday to keep going. I just don’t know how to love my life now. I try each day but at the end of the day I go home to an empty house. It has been over a year now but this is the hardest thing I have ever endured in my life and I have had other hard thing in my life like finding my mom dead on the floor when I came to her house years ago. He made me promise him that I would keep living after he was gone so I try to keep that promise. It is just so hard. I don’t even know where to begin to love my life anymore.

  15. Holly on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Definitely where I am at. Loss of dreams (and about everything else) leaves only God but “Why?” been my favorite question since very little. Divorce got me out of abusive marriage, but ex left me in debt. Had always wanted to be a mother, but couldn’t have children and while now understand why, still struggle at times, especially since can’t even work with children anymore. Mostly home bound and broke. Waiting for disability hearing (tentatively in Sept) but that too is totally in God’s hands. Started writing children’s books, but can’t write or be on computer more than half an hour and can’t afford to get them published. However, God has promised not just barely surviving, but Hope and a Future. Our God is faithful even when we can’t see it until after the fact.

  16. Tami on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    I’ve been having a pity party for myself for a long time but these last 2 weeks I have felt so hopeless. My husband of 23 years is still an alcoholic – angry, bitter, obsessive/compulsive, a hoarder, procrastinator, etc – his health is deteriorating from drinking 30+ years, our 18 year old daughter (our only child) left home this summer and I don’t know where she is, our house is literally falling apart – the ceiling has caved in 2 rooms because our roof leaks whenever it rains. We have one toilet in the house that we flush using a bucket of water – since January 2008. (The bathroom floor was caving in so we turned off the water to the toilet so it would stop leaking). Frost forms on our outside walls in the winter since there is no insulation. No one is able to visit because I am too embarrassed. I feel so lonely and jealous of others. I have fear and anxiety when I think of what the future will bring. I read my Bible every day and write out Scripture on note cards. I’m trying to fill my mind with God’s promises. It is such a daily battle. I would really love to read this book.

  17. Jackie Smith on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    I would love to read this book. Just returned from doctor with news I did not expect. I may live rest of my life with pain and get more unable to walk each day.
    Thanks for your giveaway.

  18. Nancy M in NJ on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Thank you for the chance to win Melanie’s book. God Bless You, and all those posting their thoughts here. Praying for us all.

  19. Stacey S. on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Wow! What an inspiration to read all the postings today. I have been struggling with stuff going on in my life too. Comforting to know I am not alone in this. What a perfect book to read for such a time as this!

  20. Suzy on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    Gosh, as I read through the comments I realize so many of us, believers, are hurting. I’ve been facing health, financial, work, family issues. My life has been a bit of a soap opera and truthfully I am exhausted. I’ve been really struggling the past couple of weeks. I can’t seem to get out of this funk. I’ve just can’t seem to express what all is wrong. But I feel really lonely. Crazy sad. Guilty. I know this isn’t God’s will for me… But do t know what to do. First time in. Y life that I have felt this way. I do t like me right now.

  21. Monica A. on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    All I ever wanted was to be a wife and mother. I FINALLY got married when I was 37 and had my son at 38. He was diagnosed with autism at age 3. Shortly after, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my father passed away unexpectedly. My mother passed away also 2 years later and I have no family except my husband and son. My husband’s family is not very supportive and they live clear across the country. My husband has been out of work off and on for the past 3 years. Life hasn’t turned out the way I’d hoped, but somehow God has provided for us. I’m so grateful for that, but I still feel sad sometimes. I know that things could be worse and I try to keep thinking positively.

  22. Lori A. on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    Sounds like a good book. Would love to win.

  23. Lillie Sommers on Friday, August 5, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    I would love to win this book!

    I am struggling with infertility and growing up wanted nothing more than to be a stay at home wife and mother. Now I am the working spouse with no children, can’t afford adoption…

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the other ladies who posted as my life doesn’t seem to be so bad in comparison.

    Thank you!

  24. Pamela =) on Saturday, August 6, 2016 at 8:35 am

    This book would be a blessing. As we continue on in our infertility I could feel my heart sink when you describe unexpected diagnoses–it laid bare a fear I didn’t even know was there–what if once we have children, we’re not enough? What if we don’t do well? What if our love isn’t enough? God is awesome and merciful and I know He continues with us on this incredibly difficult road of building a family. It just hurts. And it’s hard. And I don’t have the answers. Thanks for listening. ♡

  25. Linda on Saturday, August 6, 2016 at 9:36 am

    I would love a copy of this book. One of the difficult topics I face when people ask me about my faith in Jesus Christ is explaining that God is good always, even in difficult times. Many people I know claim that God can’t be real when there is so much pain in the world. This book seems like it would have information and ideas that would help me explain how God is good, in all circumstances. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

  26. Diana Rockwell on Saturday, August 6, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    I need to read your book. I have accepted my life but it was derailed in the very beginning. Choices have been made and now I have chosen to live with those choices for 46 years. I am in the last third of my life looking at retirement and change for me. What is next? Blessings Diana

  27. Jill B. on Sunday, August 7, 2016 at 1:01 am

    Man, we know life isn’t fair but we’re still surprised when it isn’t. I have been dealing with my own junk lately related to being a pastor’s wife and the hard calling to a place where I’ve had 7 1/2 years of character development. Help me, Jesus, learn to accept what you have for me and don’t without fighting you about it. ~sigh~

  28. ANN SOUZA on Saturday, August 13, 2016 at 4:29 pm


Subscribe to Tracie’s Blog

Subscribe today to stay connected with Tracie and receive her Ebook for free, 10 Tips for Handling Change Well in Your New Season, which will inspire and guide you on navigating transition seasons in the best way for maintaining peace and happiness!
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.
Headshot Flipped 2

Tracie Miles is a bestselling author and the Director of COMPEL Training with Proverbs 31 Ministries.  She helps women grow stronger in their faith, pursue the life of purpose God designed them for and live a life of peace, joy and happiness despite their circumstances.

Tracie's Books