LTLU: ‘Living The Life Unexpected’ – Blog Tour
Within every story of childlessness there is a line; a moment when you realise you need to do something with the hope you’ve been putting on hold for so many years. Hope is a funny thing because we’re all meant to have it, but as it says in Proverbs 13:12 ‘Hope deferred can make the heart sick.’ For me there were seasons in my pursuit of motherhood when my heart was very, very sick and there came a point when I knew something had to change. Drawing the line is scary, even thinking about drawing the line is scary and everyone’s line drawing moment is different and comes at a different time, but unfortunately for a lot of us it does need to happen. Of course there are always those stories of people who drew their line and then they found their partner for life or miraculously conceived and that’s amazing, but that small sliver of hope that if we stop thinking about what we long for then we might get it can’t be the reason why we draw the line. Also, I believe that the best stories that grow from that line drawing moment aren’t just found in that handful of classic fairy tale endings. The stories I love to hear are the ones told through the lives of those who have had the courage to start from scratch and decided to embrace a new life and Jody Day’s book ‘Living the Life Unexpected is a fantastic example of this painful but necessary and extremely hope-filled journey into the unknown.
‘Without hope, how was I meant to continue? What was there to look forward to? I mean, over the years, whenever I’d tried to talk about my fears about not becoming a mother, all I’d ever been told was, ‘Don’t give up hope… I heard this story…’ (you know the ones). And so I hadn’t. And yet still, there I was. What I didn’t yet understand was that giving up hope is actually really important. It’s the first (utterly excruciating) step to coming to terms with childlessness.’
For me, the decision to draw a line didn’t happen overnight, it was more of a slow awakening to the realisation that something needed to change. The number of years after my 6th miscarriage were slowly increasing, until I realised about 4 years after my last loss that this might not actually happen. Also, I was so very tired; my body was tired, my mind was tired and my soul was tired – I needed a rest. Now I’m not the most decisive person at the best of times and this season of letting go was no different, I’d still find myself occasionally caught back up in that monthly cycle of hope and despair, but I was no longer recording dates and anxiously analysing every twinge or change in my body. I also started to expand my vision and began to notice those who were living different lives and doing it well. At first I watched from a distance in awe of their confidence, but certain I wasn’t strong enough to do what they had done and jump into the life unexpected. I thought I’d grieved enough, but my cautious steps onto this new landscape brought with them more tears and more exhaustion, until one day I realised I was beginning to heal and I looked around and found myself in a spacious place with room to grow and explore and hope again.
We all want our lives to matter; it’s a desire that was placed on our hearts the moment we came into this world and as we grow up we begin to form an idea of what gives life value. We may think we made this list up all on our own, but our definition of a meaningful life will always be a mash-up of the many voices surrounding us. We can spend years hustling to inhabit the criteria we think makes our lives matter, but the truth is your life has always mattered. Your life has always mattered to God, without changing a single thing about yourself, you already matter. With every tentative step forward into this new life I realised the only way to stay sane was to decide which voices I was going to listen to and which ones I needed to tune out. There’s this bit in Hebrews about a great cloud of witnesses cheering on those who are running the race and I needed to find my cloud of witnesses. I needed voices who spoke truth and love and freedom to my soul. My cloud of witnesses is still growing, but it includes people from the Bible, friends, writers, Jesus, church leaders, St Brené Brown (of course) and then this new tribe I never knew existed; the tribe of those living the life unexpected which includes Saltwater and Honey, Rhythm of Hope, Gateway Women and of course my new friend Jody Day and this is why I asked her to write the forward to my new book (due out next week, you can pre-order on our website – shameless plug!). If you’ve ever heard Jody speak then you know how calmly and confidently she offers up a message from your future hope;
‘Your childless life isn’t a runner up prize to motherhood. It’s a different, messy, imperfect human experience to the one you signed up for, but no less valuable. And it can be as meaningful and fulfilling, just in different ways.’
The thought of a book about giving up on the hope of becoming a mother doesn’t sound like something you’d want to read, I know it took me a long time before I felt brave enough to even admit I needed a book like this without breaking down into a soggy mess on the floor. One friend described how her decision to let go of her dreams of being a mother made her feel like she was hanging off the bar of a trapeze, knowing that in order to grab the next bar and move forward, she had to let go of the one she was holding onto first. That fear of letting go is something I think we all feel when we realise we have to leave a dream behind, it’s especially scary because we’re stepping into a life we’d never given any thought to, Jody describes that moment like this;
‘Letting go of hope when you can’t see any other kind of hope ahead is terrifying, like swimming away from the shore in the dark without any idea when you’ll reach land again. Let this book be your lighthouse; let it be your hope in the dark. Those of us who’ve already made this trip are waiting for you on the other side, and many others are in the water alongside you, each feeling that they’re swimming alone. But you’re not alone. Welcome to your Tribe’
I wish there wasn’t a line and I wish I never had to draw one, but the uncomfortable reality is that as painful as drawing the line might be, it has the potential to lead you into a far more fulfilling and hopeful life than the one you’re in right now. Stepping into the unknown is scary and that’s why you need to find a tribe, you need to find your cloud of witnesses to cheer you on, you need the voices of those who have gone before to tell you everything is going to be okay. That’s why Saltwater and Honey, Gateway Women and retreat days like Rhythm of Hope exists. We’re here, ready to grab your hand and help lead you into the life unexpected.
A brand new 2nd edition of Jody’s book, fully revised with fresh perspectives for a new decade, is coming out on 19th March 2020, and I have a free, personally dedicated and signed copy to give away – check out our Facebook page to find out more!
Don’t worry if you miss out, there are over 25 copies up for grabs across the rest of the blog tour between now and 20th March, or by signing up for Jody’s free webinar on ‘Coping with Mother’s Day‘ on 14th March (I’ll also be joining in the conversation) for a chance to win.
If you’re in the UK, you can pre-order a copy of the book (paperback or ebook) here.