We read to know that we are not alone.”
– William Nicholson, Shadowlands
If this is true of the general population, it is especially true of special needs parents. No other role has made me feel more alone that being a special needs mom. I have found company along the way however. Not only among people who have become dear friends, but deep within the pages of books. Here are several of my favorites.
Disability and the Sovereign Goodness of God by John Piper
Start here. This book is available as a free download. It is not written and organized as a typical book, but rather a compilation of sermons on the theology of disability as well as, one man’s amazing transformation as the result his son’s disability.
Focusing on John Chapter 9, Piper emphasizes how the disciples want to know why a man was born blind–just the same as how we want to know why bad things happen. Jesus answers, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The answer Jesus gives has nothing to do with the cause–what we as humans do or don’t do–the answer has everything to do with God’s greater purposes.
The Power of the Powerless by Christopher De Vinck
This is a powerful story told by a man whose brother was severely disabled. Chris’ brother Oliver was blind, mute, and “didn’t have the strength to lift his head or the intelligence to learn anything.” Yet he had the power to touch the lives of the masses, including some of great influence like Ronald Reagan. This book is based off an article Chris published in the Wall Street Journal in 1985. It includes the original article as well as four interviews Chris conducted with other families affected by disabilities. His stories illustrate beautifully how, “God uses the weak things of this world to shame the strong.” (1 Cor 1:27)
The Road to Daybreak by Henri Nouwen
Henri Nouwen was teaching at Harvard when he felt the calling to leave the intellectual world behind and enter the world of living among the disabled. He moved to the L’Arche community of Daybreak in Tornoto. As a priest, he ministered to these special individuals in many ways; however, he would say they were the ones who ministered to him. Henri was one of my favorite authors long before Nathan was born. His writings of his time at the L’Arche communities have, in turn, greatly ministered to me.
Adam: God’s Beloved by Henri Nouwen
Adam is the story of Henri’s relationship with one of the disabled community members of L’Arche. Adam was completely dependent upon others for his care. Henri shares the specific ways Adam taught him:
Being is more important than doing.
The heart is more important than the mind.
Doing things together is more important than doing things alone.
Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier
Stanley Hauerwas is a theologian who collaborates with Jean Vanier, the founder of the worldwide L’Arche communities. This book is rather academic and had me thinking about disability, vulnerability and weakness in ways I never had before.
from Amazon: The authors’ explorations shed light on what it means to be human and how we are to live. The robust voice of Hauerwas and the gentle words of Vanier offer a synergy of ideas that, if listened to carefully, will lead the church to a fresh practicing of peace, love and friendship. This invigorating conversation is for everyday Christians who desire to live faithfully in a world that is violent and broken.
Grace without Margins by Deana Boggess This book holds an extra special place in my heart. It was written by my son’s kindergarten teacher. It is filled full of real-life examples of how to extend love and grace to people with special needs. It is written especially for those in special needs ministry, but everyone can learn something from this book. Deana did a beautiful job of weaving together her personal story with real, practical ways to serve the marginalized.
The Child Who Never Grew by Pearl Buck
Published in 1950 by award winning author of The Good Earth, Pearl Buck tells her own story of having a child with disabilities. This is an incredibly honest book, especially for the time period in which it was written. There was a whole different set of societal expectations for parents of children with special needs back then. Buck’s worldview is quite different from mine, however I found myself agreeing with much of what she said about the emotions of having a child with disabilities. Buck dealt with some hard stuff in a refreshingly honest way.
The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities by Kathleen Bolduec
from Amazon: In The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities, Bolduc uses the metaphor of the mosaic to life as parents of children with disabilities. How do you rearrange the fragmented and chaotic pieces of your family into a perfectly whole and beautiful work of art? Readers are walked through the process using the spiritual disciplines to help you recognize Gods presence in your life and regain the balance we all need.
I appreciated the diverse stories represented in this book and the application Bolduec incorporated at the end of each chapter. This is a book that I like to revisit periodically.
Wrestling with an Angel by my husbandory Lucas
I appreciate this story written from the perspective of a husband and father. It’s told with such vulnerability and strength all at the same time.
from Amazon: Wrestling with an Angel is about tragedy and laughter and pain and joy. It is about faith and grace and endurance and God’s unfailing, loving wisdom daily being worked out in each of our lives, whatever the nature or extent of our difficulties. Here is a book that may explain faith to you in ways you never quite grasped, through a life few of us can relate to. When it is all done, we come away better able to live as Christ calls us to live.
Love Walked Among Us by Paul Miller
Based on the cover you wouldn’t think this book is about disability, but trust me this man gets it. He has a grown daughter with autism who has taught him to love like Jesus. Love Walked Among Us takes you through the book of John and shows the great love and compassion of Christ.
from Amazon: The book investigates such questions as: How do you love someone when you get no love in return, only withdrawal or ingratitude? How do you love without being trapped or used by another person? How do you love when you have your own problems? When do you take care of yourself? When you are compassionate, people use you, but when you are honest, people get angry―so how do you love with both compassion and honesty?
In every way, Jesus’ life exemplifies the full potential of what we were intended to be. And the better we know Him, the more we will be drawn to follow His perfect example.
I also recommend A Praying Life by Paul Miller, which also includes some stories of his daughter with autism.
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My book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, is now available on Amazon!
Also be sure to check out my list of Favorite Books on Disability!