As our family has been living this adoption adventure and as we have been preparing and learning what it means to have a child with special needs, I was thankful when Crossway published The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs by Andrew and Rachel Wilson.
This book takes you into the lives (it feels like you are experiencing life as they do in real time) of parents learning to process and live with the unexpected special needs of their two children, both with regressive autism. It is a frank account of this difficulties, the unknowns and the faithful trust they have in Christ and his plan for their lives. Nothing is easy about their story but they have an outlook defined by a hope in their Savior that is certainly a model for others.
The chapters are brief reflections that help you form a pattern for processing circumstances and the challenges of providing and caring for special needs children. There are some practical bits and wisdom to share with family and friends that I think are tremendously valuable.
The Life We Never Expected’s value is in the way the Wilson’s have pulled the curtain back and let you see their messy, difficult and seemingly joyful lives. It would be a great help to those close to special needs families or those just given a diagnosis that they don’t know how to process and plan for. And the focus on trusting in God in the midst of it all can encourage us all. As Rachel says, things might be rough and unplanned, “But God is the Captain. He is the navigator, mapmaker, and expert. He sets our course and knows where the land is. In light of that, my continued attempts to reclaim control of the ship are strikingly ridiculous.”
While I think this book is a solid help for families with unexpected (given the title) special needs in children, I wasn’t keen as an adoptive parent that chose a special needs child to be part of our family. It seemed like the reality of special needs was all suffering and hardship and clearly not something you would choose. I know it was not the Wilson’s intention to come across this way but I would caution those that grab the book for this reason. They get to a good place with trusting in God’s plan but you have to wade through their process of coming to terms along the way.