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The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs

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Sometimes you end up living the life you never expected. When Andrew and Rachel found out that one, and then both, of their children had severe autism, their world was turned on its head. This is a book about surviving, and thriving, when something goes horribly wrong. It is a mixture of their story and God's story, and the way in which his has shaped theirs. With clarity an Sometimes you end up living the life you never expected. When Andrew and Rachel found out that one, and then both, of their children had severe autism, their world was turned on its head. This is a book about surviving, and thriving, when something goes horribly wrong. It is a mixture of their story and God's story, and the way in which his has shaped theirs. With clarity and biblical insight, they share their experience of grief and worship, struggle and hope. As well as reflecting on the specific challenges of raising children with special needs, they speak to broader questions as well: the problem of suffering, building a marriage under pressure, fighting for joy and trusting in the goodness of God. This is not just a book for families and friends of special needs children, but for all who have been thrown a curve ball in life, and need to know how to lament, worship, pray and hope.


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Sometimes you end up living the life you never expected. When Andrew and Rachel found out that one, and then both, of their children had severe autism, their world was turned on its head. This is a book about surviving, and thriving, when something goes horribly wrong. It is a mixture of their story and God's story, and the way in which his has shaped theirs. With clarity an Sometimes you end up living the life you never expected. When Andrew and Rachel found out that one, and then both, of their children had severe autism, their world was turned on its head. This is a book about surviving, and thriving, when something goes horribly wrong. It is a mixture of their story and God's story, and the way in which his has shaped theirs. With clarity and biblical insight, they share their experience of grief and worship, struggle and hope. As well as reflecting on the specific challenges of raising children with special needs, they speak to broader questions as well: the problem of suffering, building a marriage under pressure, fighting for joy and trusting in the goodness of God. This is not just a book for families and friends of special needs children, but for all who have been thrown a curve ball in life, and need to know how to lament, worship, pray and hope.

30 review for The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs

  1. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    You don't have to have a child with special needs to benefit from The Life We Never Expected. Though the focal point of the book is the authors' experiences parenting two young children with Autism, anyone who has ever wondered (or pleaded), "Why, Lord?" in the wake of hardship will find refreshment and comfort in its pages. I hope prospective readers of this book won't be put off by the critical review written by a fellow Goodreads user named "Chris," which has, unfortunately, garnered the top p You don't have to have a child with special needs to benefit from The Life We Never Expected. Though the focal point of the book is the authors' experiences parenting two young children with Autism, anyone who has ever wondered (or pleaded), "Why, Lord?" in the wake of hardship will find refreshment and comfort in its pages. I hope prospective readers of this book won't be put off by the critical review written by a fellow Goodreads user named "Chris," which has, unfortunately, garnered the top position as of today. After finishing and enjoying this book, I read Chris's review carefully, and, while I appreciate his engagement with the book and his alternative view, I found his assessment of the Wilsons to be uncharitable, paradoxical, and potentially informed by personal bias. He begins his review by sharing his distaste for the authors' religious affiliation, and I suspect that distaste, at least in part, prejudiced him against the Wilsons from the start. Yes, the authors are honest about the ways in which they've been taxed mentally, physically, and spiritually by the challenge of raising two young children with Autism, and, while their love for their children is clearly evident, they don't view an Austism diagnosis as something to celebrate. To suggest that the Wilsons are somehow callous toward their children because they lament their children's disability is disingenuous and rather a low blow. What parent wouldn't be broken (and in their weaker moments, angered) by the prospect that their child may suffer serious developmental delays and other health complications and perhaps never enjoy many of the daily simple pleasures healthy individuals take for granted? The authors believe that this world is not as it should be, and their hearts are aggrieved because of that. I don't see how this makes them "vacuous and selfish" parents. (Meanwhile, our world increasingly puts pressure on pregnant women to abort foetuses who are discovered to have serious medical conditions like Down's Syndrome, and it's people like the Wilsons who contend that every person, regardless of what they can or cannot do, is God's image-bearer and is, therefore, worthy of respect, protection, and dignity.) After reading Chris's review, I couldn't help but ask myself, "Are we talking about the same book, the same people?" Selfish, crass, vacuous, terrible? These are not the words I believe most readers of this book would reach for when describing the Wilsons. Chris lambasts the Wilsons for never contending with the "misery and difficulty suffered by their children who have to live with a very difficult neurological disorder for which there is no cure and which makes life very frightening and difficult to cope with." But then he turns around and criticizes them for lamenting their children's diagnoses and for longing for healing in their lives: "[Their] children aren't freaks or misfits and they are fine as they are. Created perfectly and loved by God." If Autism causes so much suffering in the lives of children diagnosed with it, as Chris rightly points out, how are those children then "fine as they are" and "perfectly" created, as he says? Are the Wilsons bad parents for not celebrating and rejoicing over the fact that both of their children have "difficult neurological disorders?" Is it not understandable that a diagnosis of Autism would cause a parent to suffer in more ways than one? Is a mother necessarily a bad parent simply because she honestly shares the ways in which life is uniquely challenging when parenting children with special needs? I empathized with the Wilsons' situation and never once perceived them as selfish. To the contrary, their heartfelt humility and long-suffering put me in my place on more than one occasion. I also feel that, in a small way, I have a better understanding of what it means, and what it costs, to parent a child with special needs, and I'm thankful for that. At the end of the day, if one is looking for reasons to dislike a book, those reasons will never be in short supply. If taken a face value and read with a spirit of openness, however, this book has a lot to offer readers, especially Christian ones. (This book was written for Christians, after all.)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kendra Fletcher

    I am the mom of a son who caught a nasty virus when he was 7 weeks old and which left 6 holes in his brain. But I am also the mom of 7 kids with developmentally "healthy" brains, so dealing with all of the grief, issues, altered parenting paradigms, paperwork, and the uncertain future of a child with special needs has been like the wave that takes you under after an afternoon of calm seas. Reading The Life We Never Expected did several important things for me: - Reading and pondering each section I am the mom of a son who caught a nasty virus when he was 7 weeks old and which left 6 holes in his brain. But I am also the mom of 7 kids with developmentally "healthy" brains, so dealing with all of the grief, issues, altered parenting paradigms, paperwork, and the uncertain future of a child with special needs has been like the wave that takes you under after an afternoon of calm seas. Reading The Life We Never Expected did several important things for me: - Reading and pondering each section slowly, I grasped that my concerns and experiences were neither isolated nor unique. There's a great big world of special needs warriors out there. - In light of that knowledge, my resolve to see our churches fully embrace our brothers and sisters raising or living with special needs has heightened. The church in America, in general, does this poorly. We cast a blind eye and marginalize families fighting the hardest fight. In fact, I recently spoke at a conference and a group of moms parenting kids with special needs approached me, one by one, to tell me that they no longer go to church. The attempt and effort is too costly and the church, by way of a myriad of responses (from a lack of resources to shunning a noisy special needs teen from worship) has made it a feat not worth attempting. The Wilsons don't really camp on this aspect of raising kids with special needs, but I couldn't shake that reality from my head the entire time I was reading. They talk about the importance of living in community and the humility it takes to accept help, but what if you have an unwilling community with no access to a better one? Pray. God is faithful to give us what we need, which they communicate well and leads me to... - God has this. He was not surprised when our son slipped into a coma and weathered all that He did. He knows the future, and there is grace there, too.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    One of my best friends is a Christian and he gave me a copy of this book as I have a child with special needs. This book has been written by two members of a network of evangelical, charismatic churches known as 'Newfrontiers' I am not a fan of these churches, particularly their complementarian approach however since my friend gave me the book as a gift I felt obliged to give it a go. The authors (a married couple) have two young children with Autism. The book is marketed as a guide for Christian One of my best friends is a Christian and he gave me a copy of this book as I have a child with special needs. This book has been written by two members of a network of evangelical, charismatic churches known as 'Newfrontiers' I am not a fan of these churches, particularly their complementarian approach however since my friend gave me the book as a gift I felt obliged to give it a go. The authors (a married couple) have two young children with Autism. The book is marketed as a guide for Christian parents living with children who have special needs with particular emphasis being on relying on God's love, guidance and, of course, your church community. Whereas there is nothing wrong with these ideas in themselves (in fact, they are great ideas if you are inclined to believe in God) the way they are put across is absolutely, mortifyingly terrible. Let's begin with practical information and the 'good' things about the book. The book is short at 152 pages long and I got through it within two days. The layout is simple and so is the message. It is not difficult to understand what this book is saying which makes it very accessible. Also, as mentioned earlier, the basic idea for the book is sound; lean on God in times of distress and trouble (not exactly original advice but there you go) Now the bad; the couple who wrote the book seem to view their children less as two beautiful individuals who deserve their unwavering, unconditional love and support and more like two child-shaped mill stones around their necks dragging them into the abyss of self pity and cries of 'Why God? Why?!' The authors spend a good deal of the book effectively complaining that it is really really hard looking after two children with Autism but they accept what is obviously a challenge sent by God. They complain endlessly about how very difficult and stressful it is for them and how, at times, it makes their lives unbearable whilst simultaneously disregarding and ignoring any misery and difficulty suffered by their children who have to live with a very difficult neurological disorder for which there is no cure and which makes life very frightening and difficult to cope with. The authors literally make no mention of how it must make their children feel. From reading the book I felt overwhelming pity not for the parents but for the poor children; that their parents are so vacuous and selfish. The book made me angry because of the authors attitudes. There are so many dreadful parts of the book it's hard to know what to highlight. A particularly awful chapter was when the father decided to compare having Autistic children with receiving a real orange instead of a chocolate orange at a dinner party. To quote 'You've been given an orange. Not a chocolate orange; an actual orange. Eleven segments of erratically sized, pith-covered segments, with surprisingly large pips in annoying places, requiring a degree in engineering in order to peel it properly...You pause to reflect. There's nothing wrong with oranges; you say to yourself...But your heart sinks, all the same. An orange was not what you expected...not only that but it wasn't what you wanted' Just imagine how that mans poor children will feel when they get old enough to read that. It's a ridiculous comparison anyway. "Basically Son, you're like a shit dessert at a dinner party that no-one wants, sorry" His wife isn't any better. She wrote a new updated version of 'The Beatitudes' a famous part of Jesus Christ's 'Sermon on the Mount' just for people with special needs (because the original doesn't apply to them, right?) 'Blessed are the autistic, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the tube-fed, for they will be comforted' No, I'm not kidding. It really is that crass. Frequently. The book goes on like this with both authors complaining about how all their aspirations for their children are gone because of autism. They write about how much they've wept over it. Again it is all about self pity with these two. In one chapter they mention the importance of thinking of others instead of yourself and I nearly died from a sudden overdose of irony. Perhaps the worst part of this awful stain of a book was the subject of healing. Now I knew this would come up sooner or later as I know Newfrontiers is the kind of church big on 'laying on hands' but when the subject did rear its ugly head I was shocked by the way the author seems to view his own children; as something to be fixed. He talks about different types of Christians and how they view faith healing and he uses a Winnie the Pooh analogy. This could be for simplicity or it could be because the guy has the imagination of an ameba. Either way it's daft. 'We have Tigger-types who bounce around insisting that God will always heal us if we just have enough certainty that he will, and we have Eeyore-types who mope around mumbling that disabilities are just part of the way things are, and asking God to heal us is a waste of time. Being a Winnie-the-Pooh type in the middle, believing that God wants to heal but trusting him when he doesn't, can be exhausting. The Tigger-types make you feel guilty; the Eeyore-types make you feel grumpy. And you're still the one with the disabled child' It's difficult to describe the anger I felt when I read this offensive tripe. This conceited, awful person wrote this about his own children. The disgust and disappointment that his children weren't fixed by God practically drips off the paper. This is how he views his own children; like some broken laptop he's returned to Argos 'There's obviously been a mistake, my children are DISABLED God. Please fix them and return them ASAP so I can have an easier life" It seems to have never crossed his simple mind that God created and loves those children for who they are. Autism isn't leprosy or cancer or some other disease to be cured of. His children aren't freaks or misfits and they are fine as they are. Created perfectly and loved by God. Believe me when I say I could go on giving examples. The whole 152 pages are full of this type of nonsense. Oh one last thing I forgot to mention in the 'positive' section. If you have children with special needs and you are having a down day and feel like a bad parent just have a quick read through this book. I guarantee when you realise there are parents out there like these two you'll realise you aren't so bad after all.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Manchester

    This year, in the midst of all my heroes publishing new books, I would've swore that my favorite books this year would be from one of these popular men and women, but once again I've been blindsided by a truly remarkable book. "The Life We Never Expected" might be the book I recommend for new parents, struggling parents, or just parents in general from now on. While our experiences and kids are amazingly different (none of mine are special needs), I found a couple who understood me and that seem This year, in the midst of all my heroes publishing new books, I would've swore that my favorite books this year would be from one of these popular men and women, but once again I've been blindsided by a truly remarkable book. "The Life We Never Expected" might be the book I recommend for new parents, struggling parents, or just parents in general from now on. While our experiences and kids are amazingly different (none of mine are special needs), I found a couple who understood me and that seemed to understand my wife's struggles as well. I cried, I laughed, I was encouraged, I was broken. Being firstmost a book for special needs parents, the book is thankfully divided up into five repeating sections (weep, worship, waiting, witnessing, and breathe). I am grateful for these rotating & repeating sections. It kept the book balanced and not too heavy or happy. I also loved how Andrew and Rachel take turns writing the different sections and take turns as they repeat writing others (though Andrew never *does* do a Breathe section. WHY DON'T YOU BREATHE, ANDREW?! lol). My wife is about to start reading this book and I'm overjoyed for that. I'm truly grateful for this book. The book is also a quick read too. Grateful for that as well. Parenting doesn't leave too much time. :)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I can’t thank God enough for this book and its authors.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Janelle Garrett

    My husband picked this up shortly after our first son got diagnosed with autism. I refused to read it initially, mainly because I couldn’t handle what I knew was going to be an emotional roller coaster. But when our second son started to regress and show signs of being even more autistic than his older brother, I became desperate enough to read it in spite of how hard I knew it would be. I’m mostly glad I did:) The authors did us the service of writing in the midst their struggle. This takes cour My husband picked this up shortly after our first son got diagnosed with autism. I refused to read it initially, mainly because I couldn’t handle what I knew was going to be an emotional roller coaster. But when our second son started to regress and show signs of being even more autistic than his older brother, I became desperate enough to read it in spite of how hard I knew it would be. I’m mostly glad I did:) The authors did us the service of writing in the midst their struggle. This takes courage, for a myriad of reasons. But what struck me was their willingness to say “Yeah, we don’t really know what we are doing. But God is good and we trust him.” It’s exactly what I need to hear. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I have two special needs kids. And so are they. The isolation I feel at being in a place that literally NO ONE will understand unless they have experienced it too, diminished, if only by a little bit. There were only a couple things I disagreed with, but that’s to be expected. There’s no manual for how to raise autistic kids simply because no autistic child is the same. I’m grateful this was clear in this book from the outset. My disagreements were mostly theological, but it certainly didn’t detract from the immense help I received from reading this book. I highly suggest parents of special needs children read this, especially if they’re a Christian.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Flora

    Insightful for anyone who feels life is not quite what they expected This is a wonderful, honest and spiritually focused book reflecting on the challenges and spiritual formation that this couple experience through bringing up two children with special needs. However, I would recommend it to anyone who has ever felt a bit knocked off balance by life's curve balls. Insightful for anyone who feels life is not quite what they expected This is a wonderful, honest and spiritually focused book reflecting on the challenges and spiritual formation that this couple experience through bringing up two children with special needs. However, I would recommend it to anyone who has ever felt a bit knocked off balance by life's curve balls.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I read this book to hopefully better understand the lives of several friends and acquaintances who have children with various special needs, but I also found spiritual encouragement for my own journey.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    This is a book I am sure I could have benefited from when my daughter was first diagnosed with autism. Andrew and Rachel Wilson, who have two children diagnosed with regressive autism, discuss fighting for joy, thriving in the midst of trials, grief, healing, prayer, and more. Through it all, they point readers to Christ, the One who promises to make all things new. If you are a parent of a special needs child, this is a great book to pick up. It is a book of short reflections that reveal the rea This is a book I am sure I could have benefited from when my daughter was first diagnosed with autism. Andrew and Rachel Wilson, who have two children diagnosed with regressive autism, discuss fighting for joy, thriving in the midst of trials, grief, healing, prayer, and more. Through it all, they point readers to Christ, the One who promises to make all things new. If you are a parent of a special needs child, this is a great book to pick up. It is a book of short reflections that reveal the real thoughts and real feelings of the authors. They use their own experiences to help others process the various stages that come with parenting a special needs child. BUT... even if you don't have a child with a disability, this book can be good for you, too! It is actually good for ANYONE, because it covers things like loss, hope, contentment, and joy. Plus, the chapters are short and easy to read, which is a good thing for all of us busy people.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

    Best book I read in 2017. Sweet meditation on the gospel in the face of suffering. I would recommend it to every Christian, not just those who have children with disabilities.

  11. 4 out of 5

    James McIntosh Jr.

    NOTE: This was originally posted to a blog I used to run on 7/8/16. Although not all of us, including myself, have children with special needs, we probably know someone who does or have worked with such people at some point. Through these experiences, we learn how challenging it can be to care for a person with special needs, but also how fantastic such a person can be. They see the world in such a different and sometimes refreshing way. In their book The Life We Never Expected, British couple Andr NOTE: This was originally posted to a blog I used to run on 7/8/16. Although not all of us, including myself, have children with special needs, we probably know someone who does or have worked with such people at some point. Through these experiences, we learn how challenging it can be to care for a person with special needs, but also how fantastic such a person can be. They see the world in such a different and sometimes refreshing way. In their book The Life We Never Expected, British couple Andrew and Rachel Wilson highlight both ends of the spectrum. They acknowledge the difficulties and disappointments of having two autistic children, but also the joys and the lessons learned. This book is a quick and easy read, but by no means shallow. The authors share some fantastic concepts that they support with passages from the Bible and from other people. In fact, the whole structure of the book is based on Psalm 130. These concepts go beyond raising special needs children and touch everyone who may be suffering or struggling with something, and that is exactly what the authors intended. There were several sections that especially spoke to me, but a couple that stuck with me were "Individualitis and the Dung Gate" (Andrew and Rachel have very interesting and often amusing writing styles) and "Daydreaming about Eternity." In the former, Andrew talks about how he and many others suffer from a disease called individualitis. Each of us thinks it's all about "me" when it should be about the Church as a whole. In the latter, Andrew talks about the glories and the changes that will come over the world and his children in the future. I have found similar thoughts to bring great joy to my soul, especially lately after the death of my uncle. So I highly recommend you pick up The Life We Never Expected and read it. There will be something for you in it. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    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 t 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeanie

    The heart will always look to rejoice in something beyond itself, so rather than trying to squash desire, we should instead look to satisfy it. It is what you call fighting for your joy in all circumstances. Rachel & Andrew Wilson have been given the ministry of parenthood to two autistic children. It is in this ministry they have learned the contrast of grief and joy, victory and defeat, and that the dreams may not come true instead turn into something greater. They have faced the pain head on w The heart will always look to rejoice in something beyond itself, so rather than trying to squash desire, we should instead look to satisfy it. It is what you call fighting for your joy in all circumstances. Rachel & Andrew Wilson have been given the ministry of parenthood to two autistic children. It is in this ministry they have learned the contrast of grief and joy, victory and defeat, and that the dreams may not come true instead turn into something greater. They have faced the pain head on without explaining it away and in doing so they have been able to process their distress in ways that actually fit with the realities that they experience. They have laid out the process in cycles. Weeping/Worshiping/Waiting/Witnessing. Each in their own words have laid out their hearts in a vulnerable way that bring them closer to the heart of God. Just come to Jesus just as you are for everything you need. I appreciated the gospel in these reflections because it is never about what I can do but what Jesus has done. It is not passive but a fight of never giving up on hope. What children can teach you is amazing and worth it all! A Special Thank You to Crossway and Netgalley for the ARC and the opportunity to post an honest review.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Libby Chapman

    This is a very difficult book to review. I found it helpful in some ways but felt parts of it were clumsy and bordering on offensive. I think the authors meant well, and I did learn more about trusting God and thankfulness. I’m grateful for this. I recognise that this book represents one couple’s attempts to grieve and eventually thrive in their situation, and that their children have a high level of support needs (or, as the book calls it, “severe autism”). It would be devastating to watch your This is a very difficult book to review. I found it helpful in some ways but felt parts of it were clumsy and bordering on offensive. I think the authors meant well, and I did learn more about trusting God and thankfulness. I’m grateful for this. I recognise that this book represents one couple’s attempts to grieve and eventually thrive in their situation, and that their children have a high level of support needs (or, as the book calls it, “severe autism”). It would be devastating to watch your child go backwards. However, I cannot put autism in a category like cancer - something to be cured. I know if I read this as an adult with autism I would be furious. Parents of children with special needs may certainly need to grieve, and certainly don’t wish their children to suffer. However, there is power and beauty in trying to embrace an understanding and promotion of neurodiversity. This may sound like a woolly thing to say, but I say this as a parent of a child with SEN, as I seek to move on to celebrating my child instead of feeling shame or sorrow. As a Christ follower I believe my child is wonderfully made. I wish this book could have been more understanding of the children themselves, instead of comparing them with an orange you never really wanted.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Tyson

    This was a short easy read. It was interesting to hear the stories from the Wilson family so that I could learn more about what it’s like to have children with special needs. I don’t have any direct family members with special needs, so it was helpful to have a small window inside of their world. I think people with special needs children would enjoy this book more and be able to overlook the formatting and writing choices. I gave it three stars because it read like a collection of essays rather This was a short easy read. It was interesting to hear the stories from the Wilson family so that I could learn more about what it’s like to have children with special needs. I don’t have any direct family members with special needs, so it was helpful to have a small window inside of their world. I think people with special needs children would enjoy this book more and be able to overlook the formatting and writing choices. I gave it three stars because it read like a collection of essays rather than a cohesive body of work. Also, it didn’t seem that Rachel and Andrew were always on the same page—which is to be expected because they are different people... none the less i would have like more cohesion in this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Maybe it’s strange that I love this book so much since I do not have children with special needs, but I think it’s a book that could be helpful to anyone who has experienced a large shift in what they’d expected for their life, or has friends who have, or who might one day—so basically everyone. Also, the Wilsons are excellent writers. I re-read this book after just two years, and I suspect I’ll read it again someday.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    Superb. Best book on suffering I've read. Clear, honest and lots of excellent points. Not academic. Superb. Best book on suffering I've read. Clear, honest and lots of excellent points. Not academic.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeanineitsme

    Have you ever wondered just what it would be like to raise an autistic child? How about two? How would you measure your faith if it were tested daily? I have been reading a book about two parents that gave birth to two wonderful children who ended up being autistic. The parents, Andrew and Rachel share insightful details of how they have learned in the day to day to keep their eyes focused on the Lord and continue to praise Him in the rain. So many things I took for granted until I saw just how Have you ever wondered just what it would be like to raise an autistic child? How about two? How would you measure your faith if it were tested daily? I have been reading a book about two parents that gave birth to two wonderful children who ended up being autistic. The parents, Andrew and Rachel share insightful details of how they have learned in the day to day to keep their eyes focused on the Lord and continue to praise Him in the rain. So many things I took for granted until I saw just how blessed I am. My daughter was learning disabled and it was a labor of love to raise her. I knew that others didn’t have the same cross to bear as I did, but I recognized that there were many others whose walk was much more difficult than mine. I learned over and over just how much grace and mercy God doles out on a daily basis. Andrew and Rachel have bared their hearts in this book. Sharing how many different ways they used their experiences with their two children, even in the midst of trials, to bring home a message not only of salvation, but of continued devotion to their relationship with Christ. I felt the love of God reaching through the pages to touch my heart. I love that they never once said “Look at me. Aren’t I a great person for telling you my story!” Their attitude was one of humility, giving all credit to God for all the ways He provided for them. I would recommend this to anyone to read. It’s not just for parents of autistic children. I think the message is one that we all could stand to hear.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Reid

    Andrew and Rachael write a series of short chapters (blogs?) organized into five cycles of five categories: WEEPING WORSHIPING WAITING WITNESSING BREATHE The book and their chapters was a deepening eye-opener to how hard life can be and most often is, for those affected by disability. In their case, they have a son and a daughter both with autism and a number of other disabilities. "Life is tough. I am so sorry." is a good response to those relating their new normal. On page 121 there is an insightful Andrew and Rachael write a series of short chapters (blogs?) organized into five cycles of five categories: WEEPING WORSHIPING WAITING WITNESSING BREATHE The book and their chapters was a deepening eye-opener to how hard life can be and most often is, for those affected by disability. In their case, they have a son and a daughter both with autism and a number of other disabilities. "Life is tough. I am so sorry." is a good response to those relating their new normal. On page 121 there is an insightful chart with five concentric circles: Circle One: SURVIVAL ZONE - the smallest center circle is all black with white capital letters I appreciated the honesty and the transparency as well as the insight as they push on by God's grace. Circle Two: "STAYING ALIVE" - Essential appoints - Eating (what ever you can find or scavenge) - Spending what's needed - Occasional washing of family members - Coffee - Staying married - HELP GOD! - Essential communication - Sleeping (in shifts) Circle Three: "STAYING SANE" - Communicating with family and friends - Being at church activities - Remembering birthdays - Replying to text messages - Budgeting a bit - Reading instantly helpful, short Bible passages - Going on dates - Circle Four: "STORING UP" - Tackling behaviors in children - Serving the church - Investing in friendships - Reassessing priorities - Cleaning the fridge! - Planning for the future (holidays, vacations, etc) - Engaging in social activities - Exercising and dieting - Reading the Bible and Christian books, praying

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cbarrett

    The Life We Never Expected is one of the most applicable books on suffering I’ve read. It does not deal with suffering, difficulties, or unmet expectations in an abstract way. Because each chapter and topic is tied directly to their children’s autism the book takes on a very concrete element that can be tied more easily to the particular issue the reader might be experiencing. Their love for their children comes across even in their acknowledgment of the difficulties of caring for them. The expr The Life We Never Expected is one of the most applicable books on suffering I’ve read. It does not deal with suffering, difficulties, or unmet expectations in an abstract way. Because each chapter and topic is tied directly to their children’s autism the book takes on a very concrete element that can be tied more easily to the particular issue the reader might be experiencing. Their love for their children comes across even in their acknowledgment of the difficulties of caring for them. The expressions of struggle do not undermine or contradict the acceptance and joy they have for and in their children. Questions of expectations, frustrations of unanswered prayers, feelings of helplessness are laid out clearly; as well as the hope of the gospel and the grace of God. The book addresses the strain that difficulties (in this case children with special needs) places on a marriage. There is a lot of need for self-sacrifice and learning to flex and adapt. One of Rachel’s great lines, “In the end, because we refused to let our marriage go, we had to agree to let a lot of other stuff go.” While children with special needs forms the backdrop of the book, The Life We Never Expected is a book about how to think, live, and speak in the midst of any kind of suffering or trying ordeal. Much in this life is not what we expected. There is a reason for that. And it is not because God is has failed to be good. Both Andrew and Rachel write well and have much wisdom. Highly recommend.

  21. 4 out of 5

    The Book Girl

    The heart will always look to rejoice in something beyond itself, so rather than trying to squash desire, we should instead look to satisfy it. It is what you call fighting for your joy in all circumstances. The Life We Never Expected was a beautifully painful book for me to read. You can tell that the authors Rachel & Andrew Wilson are blessed with a wonderful gift of being able to be parents. They are great at the ministry of parenthood. They are parents of two autistic children. I don't have a The heart will always look to rejoice in something beyond itself, so rather than trying to squash desire, we should instead look to satisfy it. It is what you call fighting for your joy in all circumstances. The Life We Never Expected was a beautifully painful book for me to read. You can tell that the authors Rachel & Andrew Wilson are blessed with a wonderful gift of being able to be parents. They are great at the ministry of parenthood. They are parents of two autistic children. I don't have autistic children but I know people who do and know it can really be a challenge and struggle. It is so worth it though. In this book, we witness stories of their successes, grief, joy, defeat, and victories on their parenthood journey. They are bound and determined to turn this into something great and give all the glory to God. They have faced the pain, not shoved nor explained it away. They have been able to see their distress in ways I can only learn from. It isn't just their words they have your reflect on. They keep the gospel in their teachings and reflections because God is the only one we can lean on. The Life We Never Expected was such a true title, but ultimately all our lives are unexpected. I am thankful for the words expressed in this book. Disclaimer: I received this book from Crossway and the authors in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Eleni Brooks

    Wow. This book has been on my TBR list for a while. I borrowed it from a mum at church who has a child with autism. My brother has mild autism and I used to volunteer at an SEN school so I have an interest in and passion for individuals with disabilities. This book is about more than just disabilities though. It’s about disappointment, suffering and lamenting. Don’t be put off by the title and think it’s not for you; the Wilson’s particular sufferings are a means to an end when it comes to the mes Wow. This book has been on my TBR list for a while. I borrowed it from a mum at church who has a child with autism. My brother has mild autism and I used to volunteer at an SEN school so I have an interest in and passion for individuals with disabilities. This book is about more than just disabilities though. It’s about disappointment, suffering and lamenting. Don’t be put off by the title and think it’s not for you; the Wilson’s particular sufferings are a means to an end when it comes to the message of the book. I already have a mental list of friends I want to recommend this too and none of them have disabled children. The biblical and theological insights alongside the Wilsons vulnerably shared story make for an easy read, I devoured this in a couple of hours but I know I will read it again. I wanted to underline so much that I think it will be easier to just reread it every few months to remind myself. In terms of the structure of the book it begins with a chapter on Psalm 103 which explores the psalms framework - Weeping, Worshipping, Waiting and Witnessing. The book then contains four “cycles” where these four topics are looked at accompanied by four “And Breathe” chapters. The four cycles and the short chapters make it easy to read over a long period of time or easy to read in a few hours like I did. Not sure what else there is to say. It’s a fab book. 10/10.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    An excellent, honest and humble account of parenting two children with autism. This is not written after battling and overcoming. This is written in the heat of the battle with loose ends aplenty, unanswered questions and unresolved issues. The one exception to that was the brief reference to marriage pressures where I would have like to have heard more and seen slightly less sense of having resolved the tension - but delighted they have worked it through at this stage. It is a book written by p An excellent, honest and humble account of parenting two children with autism. This is not written after battling and overcoming. This is written in the heat of the battle with loose ends aplenty, unanswered questions and unresolved issues. The one exception to that was the brief reference to marriage pressures where I would have like to have heard more and seen slightly less sense of having resolved the tension - but delighted they have worked it through at this stage. It is a book written by people of faith and there is honesty about the resultant struggles as well as the encouragements that faith in a loving God has brought. And they repeatedly remind us that their experience is their experience, not universal, not applicable and a model for everyone. They are humble enough and wise enough not to overplay their story and in the gratitude and recognition they heap on others they underscore how dependent they are. As a parent of a special needs child now in her 30s I found this moving, stimulating and insightful.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    A lot of the special needs literature out there is written by been there, done that, seasoned parents and professionals. Which is totally fine and definitely helpful. But sometimes, especially for someone like me who is brand new to this walk of life, you desperately want to hear from someone who is in the trenches with you. At that's exactly what this book is. Andrew and Rachel have two young autistic children, and while they don't know everything there is to know about special needs or parentin A lot of the special needs literature out there is written by been there, done that, seasoned parents and professionals. Which is totally fine and definitely helpful. But sometimes, especially for someone like me who is brand new to this walk of life, you desperately want to hear from someone who is in the trenches with you. At that's exactly what this book is. Andrew and Rachel have two young autistic children, and while they don't know everything there is to know about special needs or parenting they do have a beautiful outlook on the hope, grief, loss, love, and all of the other challenges and feelings that come with special needs parenting. Their faith is contagious and their focus on eternity has helped me shift my perspective. The chapters are short which are perfect for when you just need small bursts of encouragement throughout the day. This is great read for anyone who is going through something tough (doesn't have to be special needs related) and wants to feel a little less alone and lot closer to God.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jenni Jex

    I picked this book up thinking it would be interesting to read about another family's experience in the early years of discovering your child has special needs. I was happily surprised to read that the authors write from the experience of parenting children with autism, as that is one of my son's diagnosis'. I related to much of their emotions through grieving the death of dreams as well as their day to day experiences. This book focuses on our spiritual journey through caring for our kids with I picked this book up thinking it would be interesting to read about another family's experience in the early years of discovering your child has special needs. I was happily surprised to read that the authors write from the experience of parenting children with autism, as that is one of my son's diagnosis'. I related to much of their emotions through grieving the death of dreams as well as their day to day experiences. This book focuses on our spiritual journey through caring for our kids with special needs. I especially found the chapters on fighting for joy and daydreaming about eternity to be helpful for my soul. Suffering produces hope. And this is just light momentary affliction when compared to the weight of the glory that is to come! This book is a good reorientation to the perspective Jesus calls us to have as special needs parents. I will need to pick it up again when battling discouragement or self-pity.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tori Samar

    While I'm not the parent of a child with special needs, I know several who are, and this book made me think of one young couple in particular whose daughter started down the road of regressive autism a couple years ago. As it turns out, they told me this is an excellent book when they found out I received it as a Christmas Eve gift last night. Having finished the book this morning, I agree. It is both honest and hopeful. The Wilsons love their children just as they are, but they are also up fron While I'm not the parent of a child with special needs, I know several who are, and this book made me think of one young couple in particular whose daughter started down the road of regressive autism a couple years ago. As it turns out, they told me this is an excellent book when they found out I received it as a Christmas Eve gift last night. Having finished the book this morning, I agree. It is both honest and hopeful. The Wilsons love their children just as they are, but they are also up front about their very real struggles, both as parents and as believers. While their experience cannot and should not be applied to everyone else's situation, whether you are the parent of a child with special needs or just a person who is suffering for any reason, you can find plenty of truth and encouragement within these pages.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    The one point that really hit home and I took away was reading Matthew 25:40.. "whatever you do for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do for me.." I also like Rachel wanted to 'do' something in the mission field and thought that was bringing glory to God. My eyes have been opened to how I have my own little field, that what seems like an endless sacrifice day after day, is actually a perfume poured out for Him. Andrew likens the story of him receiving an orange to other friends The one point that really hit home and I took away was reading Matthew 25:40.. "whatever you do for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do for me.." I also like Rachel wanted to 'do' something in the mission field and thought that was bringing glory to God. My eyes have been opened to how I have my own little field, that what seems like an endless sacrifice day after day, is actually a perfume poured out for Him. Andrew likens the story of him receiving an orange to other friends around the table getting a chocolate orange. Being a special needs family is like that. Its thinking that we have come up short. That our friends have life so much richer than us. When God had a special plan all along. We are truly blessed. We have the 'least of these'. I will forever look at my own four children differently now: 2 of them are autistic and another has Asperger's ADHD.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    The subtitle is a very good description of what this book is about. When the authors were grappling with how to "survive and thrive" in the midst of parenting two children with regressive autism, one of whom also had seizures, they looked for a book to encourage them, especially in the spiritual part of their lives. Not finding it, they wrote it themselves. Their story and honesty was enlightening and helpful to me. Though I do not have children or grandchildren with special needs, I have close The subtitle is a very good description of what this book is about. When the authors were grappling with how to "survive and thrive" in the midst of parenting two children with regressive autism, one of whom also had seizures, they looked for a book to encourage them, especially in the spiritual part of their lives. Not finding it, they wrote it themselves. Their story and honesty was enlightening and helpful to me. Though I do not have children or grandchildren with special needs, I have close friends who do. And the lessons of empathy and hopefulness carry over to heartbreak of many other types. 4.5 stars! I hope this wise couple write more as their journey continues.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    A friend recommended this book and since my son was recently diagnosed with autism, I was eager to read it. I thought the book was honest, easy to read, very authentic in sharing what it can be like to parent a child with autism, and was helpful in affirming many of the emotions and challenges that accompany loving someone with autism. However, I don't think I was quite the right reader for this book. I found myself skimming much of the text because the authors are devout Christians and the book A friend recommended this book and since my son was recently diagnosed with autism, I was eager to read it. I thought the book was honest, easy to read, very authentic in sharing what it can be like to parent a child with autism, and was helpful in affirming many of the emotions and challenges that accompany loving someone with autism. However, I don't think I was quite the right reader for this book. I found myself skimming much of the text because the authors are devout Christians and the book contains a lot of scripture and references to the Bible. I think that if you love someone with special needs and are devoutly religious, this might be a great book for you.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Madelle

    While this small but powerful book is framed around the experiences of the Wilsons, Andrew and Rachel, as they parent two profoundly autistic children, it is more than just a book about raising children with special needs. It is a book for everyone, discussing the joys, hopes, challenges, grief of life, lament, and faithfulness of God in our lives through every circumstance. It is beautifully written and draws the reader into a closer relationship with the Lord. I will reread this little book. T While this small but powerful book is framed around the experiences of the Wilsons, Andrew and Rachel, as they parent two profoundly autistic children, it is more than just a book about raising children with special needs. It is a book for everyone, discussing the joys, hopes, challenges, grief of life, lament, and faithfulness of God in our lives through every circumstance. It is beautifully written and draws the reader into a closer relationship with the Lord. I will reread this little book. The chapters are alternately written by Andrew and Rachel as they each share their unique perspective in this family.

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