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Book Review: A Different Dream for My Child

August 29, 2010

I love meeting the people operating in the unique world where special needs intersects with faith.  One of the inspiring individuals I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with is Jolene Philo.  Jolene is a super gifted writer, a woman of refreshing spiritual depth and the of a mother child who began his life as a medical emergency.  Jolene has capitalized on her life experiences, her gifts and her calling to pen the book:

A Different Dream for My Child (Discovery House 2009).

Who Benefits: This book is a practical tool benefitting

  • Parents of children in the midst of a life-altering medical diagnosis.
  • Lay ministers, church staff members and friends called to step into the lives of such a family.

There are no easy words to offer the parents of a child in the midst of crisis.  And one thing I’ve learned since writing on special needs topics is that few things are less appreciated than easy answers or the people who give them.  This book does a really good job of stepping inside the mind of a parent at the epicenter of spiritual and emotional peril.  In one section Philo takes on “What’s Your Greatest Fear?” by offering the different questions a family is wrestling through depending on the immediate state of their child’s prognosis.  Whether the reader is a person called to minister to a family in crisis or the parents themselves, the book offers sound Biblical guidance that lead a reader to a peace  that only their faith in Christ can offer.  The “hope” offered in this book is authentic and not manufactured, lacing each chapter with small nuggets of practical wisdom and rich spiritual nourishment.  As I read this book I wished it had been available to me years earlier when I experienced a family crisis (even though my story did not involve my child or a medical emergency).  The book acknowledges the theologically hard questions while prompting the reader to grow in the midst of the earthly pain.

Why I like this book: I think I like this book largely because of what it is not. This book is not one mother’s story.  It does not emotionally drain the reader.   It does not offer false hope or simple clichés.  It does not leave the reader feeling empty.  It does not require a day of devoted reading.

People in the midst of grief have short attention spans and very little emotional availability.  Philo wrote this book recognizing that parents in peril are grieving.  Most chapters are three pages long and help the reader deal with one small (but nearly always significant) issue they are facing on their journey.  The chapters do not require the reader to know all the intricate details of another family’s experience (a mistake that other books too often make).  Instead, Philo uses a brief but impactful snapshot into another family’s story in order to affirm the reader and illustrate a Scriptural truth.

The book’s content: The book is divided into six labeled sections, each with approximately ten three-page chapters (“devotion” may more appropriately describe the small chapters):

1)      Diagnosis

2)      Hospital Life

3)      Juggling Two Worlds

4)      Long-Term Health Conditions

5)      Losing a Child

6)      Raising a Survivor

The book is set up in a way that a reader (minister or parent) can quickly access the chapters that pertain to a specific situation.  Each chapter introduces its content with the Bible verse that serves as the basis for the truth it addresses.  And while the book is unapologetically Christian, it is written in a gentle tone and recognizing that the reader may be wrestling with God’s place in their life.

For more on the book A Different Dream for My Child see http://www.differentdream.com/.

–          Amy Fenton Lee

From → Resources

8 Comments
  1. This sounds really good – it’s hard to find books that look into God’s word and apply it directly to special needs families. Thanks for sharing this one!

  2. Amy,

    Thanks for the wonderful review. I appreciate your help spreading word of the book to parents raising kids with special needs and church staff or lay workers looking for resources to recommend.

    Jolene

  3. Trish – Yes, definite need for more material that offers no easy answers and allows the reader to wrestle some with God.

    Jolene – Thank you for providing a great resource. I think this book belongs on the bookshelf of anyone in the position of providing pastoral care (including children’s pastors b/c of the subject matter). I also think it would make a great place inside a church provided care basket to take a family who is living in a hospital waiting room.

  4. Amy,

    Thanks for reviewing Jolene’s book. She’s a good friend, a good writer, and very sensitive to families with special needs. I have read the book and given it away already (as a Children’s and Family Pastor) to a family in our church with a child with special needs.

    Excellent idea to have it available to give as a pastoral care aid to those who have a child who is hospitalized.

    Thanks for posting, and good to hear your helpful interview on Ministry to Children.

  5. Thanks Craig –

    Glad you heard/saw the Ministry-to-children.com podcast. Tony Kummer was incredibly gracious to provide some publicity and airtime to this blog and the issue of special needs and church.

    Thanks for your comments on A Different Dream for My Child. I thought the book was outstanding and glad to know that it is being used as you share.

  6. Hey Craig,

    Fancy meeting you here. I’m so glad you found Amy’s blog. It’s a wonderful resource for pastors. Hope all is well with you.

  7. Vicki permalink

    Thanks for the review, I would really like to read this book and am so glad I found your site. Mother of a special needs teen and auntie to special needs as well🙂

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