The Life We Never Expected:
Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs
In my humble opinion, EVERYONE needs to read The Life We Never Expected.
As the book says it is about “surviving and thriving, spiritually when something goes horribly wrong”. Andrew and Rachel Wilson are parents to two children with regressive autism. Each takes turns telling aspects of their story. We hear them express their heartbreak, their outrage, their fatigue, and their confusion. We also hear them express their confidence, their faith, and their strength.
The Life We Never Expected is very straightforward. Two young people get married and dream of a life and family together. They have their first child and all seems going as they expected. Then things just do not seem to be right with their son. They come to learn that he has regressive autism. They struggle with it, but life goes on. They have their second child, a girl. They hope and dream, expecting that she will not have the struggles that her brother does. They are wrong. All hopes and dreams are dashed.
The story does not end there – rather it begins there. Andrew and Rachel each express the sorrow, confusion, and frustration they feel from one day to the next.What I find impressive is how the Wilson’s framed their troubles in the greater context of a world governed by a loving and understanding Creator. No one would deny that this family has been handed a large dose of difficulty. They show, with the love and support of the Heavenly Father, that they can handle these difficulties. This couple shows us that even while being confident in God, there are days we are just not going to be confident in ourselves.
So much of our world looks at it as a punishment when things do not go as expected. Christians, while leaning on God, can have a tendency to also blame God because their expectations of protection and blessings do not match with the realities of life. The scriptures do not reflect this concept. The Psalms are an excellent example of how one can be questioning God, going through terrible grief, not knowing what to do – but always knowing that God is there to manage it all.
In my opinion, the best take away from The Life We Never Expected is the realization that it is OK to grieve. Even though we know to expect difficulties in this life, we do not enter into parenting EXPECTING to have a child that is not complete and fully functional. Giving ourselves the freedom to grieve over these difficulties can remove the burden of carrying that grief inside along with all the other emotions that will come in as life moves forward. It is OK to be angry. It is OK to be sad. It is OK to admit that you do not know why this happened. You do not have to have all the answers. Your job is to do the best you can with the situation you are in, bring glory to God through the doing, and let Him work out the details.
I am not a parent to a special needs child. However, this book opened my eyes to see that any of the difficulties parents face NEED to be met with the concepts shared by Andrew and Rachel. They reminded me that my path as a Christian, who is also a parent, is one that should be drawn with God and heaven as the reward at the end of the road. Keeping the context of the daily battles, heartaches, triumphs, and worries within the idea that ALL of this plays toward bringing glory to Him. As Rachel points out, “…God is the storyteller, not me”. We do not know how all these things will play out. What we do know, because of our faith that gives that certain hope in eternity, is that a perfect heaven awaits us. I find that comforting, don’t you? God will make all things new.
After reading this book I was refreshed, I was humbled, and I was thankful. I was refreshed in the reminder to only take on the burdens that belong to me and leave off the ones that do not. I was humbled because I realized the arrogance that I hold when I insist on needing to know why something happens and exactly how I can correct it. What I see as the needed correction may not be the correction God intends. I was thankful to read scripture with the reminder that God comes first, He has my best interest in mind, and I am loved. In the day-to-day doing of things I forget to focus on those facts.
As I said in the beginning, I believe everyone could benefit by reading The Life We Never Expected. I do not agree with everything theologically, but with the overarching premise I do wholeheartedly agree. If you are single but have friends with children – this book can help you to better understand what they go through. If their children are special needs children, it can help you even more to be empathetic. If you are one who is caring for anyone with special needs – a child, a parent, charges in your care in your profession as a caregiver – this book can help you to remember to deal with your emotions that come from caring for them. Everyone needs to know that difficult circumstances are going to drain you. It is not a failing on your part that you get tired. You need to regenerate so you can continue to give. This book, in my mind, reminds us of all those things. Above all, this book reminds us that these things are all a part of LIFE that God has set in motion, He is in charge of the final outcome, and we are here for the ride-along. We will see it all “in the sweet by and by” as the song says. We do not need to know now.
I encourage you to get a copy of The Life We Never Expected. Read it, then share it with someone else.
UPDATE: We have a winner! The winner is being contacted. Thank you for participating in our first book review giveaway!
Would you like to win a copy of The Life We Never Expected?
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The Giveaway closes at midnight on July 12th 2016 (Central time). Winner will be contacted on July 13th.
Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
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