Imagine attending a beautiful dinner party with a group of friends. Your host appears with gifts for each of you. They're small tennis ball shaped orbs wrapped delicately with a bow on top. As each of your friends opens their gift, they light up in delight at a delicious chocolate orange. Twenty perfectly segmented slices of smooth chocolaty goodness. Then you open yours. It's an actual orange. Messy to eat, irregular slices, and different than everyone else's. No one recognizes that yours is different as they enjoy their end-of-meal treat.
This is one of the opening stories in Andrew & Rachel Wilson's book The Life We Never Expected. When they found out that both of their children had special needs, their dreams were turned upside down. Even though they cherished their children, they struggled with the loss of hope for the life that they had expected to live. Their gift was different from what everyone else received. It was a challenge to receive it with grace.
While I don't have a child with severe disabilities like this, the words of this book struck a deep chord within my soul. I'm living a life I never expected, and I've been struggling with how to even process the grief I feel.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Our Generation is Soft When it Comes to Suffering
If you asked our parents or grandparents what suffering means, they might tell you stories of World Wars or Great Depressions. The suffering that they faced in those times shaped how they viewed the world. Andrew Wilson asserts, "It's like the less we have suffered the less equipped we are to deal with it." I wholeheartedly agree.
I recently lost my sister, a mother of five, due to the miscalculation of a drunk driver. His choice impacted my world in a deep and profound way. My best friend is gone. And yet, I see refugees running from war torn homes, neighborhoods full of people fearing for their lives on a daily basis, and loved ones struggling with life-long illnesses ravaging their bodies. While I know that you can't compare suffering, I realize that I was not expecting this life.
I was not expecting to not be able to sit and talk for hours with my sister.
I was not expecting to have to attend her children's graduations without her.
I was not expecting to not get to say goodbye.
Rachel's wise words comforted my soul:
But the Lord is my shepherd. I really do believe that. And for some reason, my shepherd has led me to this field rather than to that one.
If the Lord has me here, His grace is sufficient to keep me standing even when I think I can't
Fighting for Joy Through Cycles of Progress and Regression
I walk around seemingly put together. If you were a stranger, you might never expect that just under the surface lies a delicate door holding back a flood of emotions. My pain is pretty raw, and some days I feel like it will never go away. Most people around me have moved on. It's my new normal, yet nothing about it seems normal. Even though time does heal, it will never change the facts of my new life. How should I respond?
Andrew and Rachel walk through their five strategies for processing the unexpected: weeping, worshiping, waiting, witnessing, and breathe. As we trust the Captain of the journey to redeem the story that He started so many years ago, we'll have good days and bad days. While I want to make the sad things untrue, I know that it is God's job to do this. Rachel states:
It's only when I find my place in the giant story that God is writing and come to terms with its twists and turns that I can lean back in the knowledge that it is my Father's job to redeem, or make right, all things—not only in our nuclear family but in every single thing that the curse of sin has touched or tarnished.
What a beautiful perspective on the power of God to truly redeem the story. God brings about a new normal in our life here on Earth, but He's not letting the story end in tragedy. It ends in triumph!
Who should read this book?
If you're in the midst of struggling with the exhaustion and heartache of dealing with children who have special needs, this book will shepherd your soul into sweet surrender. They transparently share their own story, with all of their flaws and shortcomings. They're real, and that is what is so beautiful about their wisdom. They understand pain.
Their experience transcends the idea of parenting children with special needs. It speaks to loss, disillusionment, and lamentations. Yet it doesn't end there. The Wilsons lead their readers to hope, contentment, and joy. If your heart is in need of healing, you need to read this book.
You can find The Life We Never Expected on Amazon. Make sure to enter to win a copy of this book. It really is a soul satisfying read as it is scripture saturated.
Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): 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.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.