Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Book Review: Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson

Sometimes we struggle as parents. We have a child we just can't figure out. We arrive at the end of each day simply exhausted from managing that child's needs while still caring for other children. We don't know what is going on, but we know that this child is different, and we just don't know how to parent them. Different: The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him is the story of another family following God through difficulties and diagnoses.
I have always looked up to Sally Clarkson. I've read all her books. I knew that her youngest daughter had severe asthma as a young child, but I didn't know that her youngest son struggled with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, learning disabilities, and a series of other disorders with letter labels. I didn't know how hard her journey was, and I admit there were times I whispered to myself that she just didn't understand how hard it was for those of us who didn't have such perfect children. I was wrong. Sally and her son Nathan have been through more than I have with any of my children.

I've been working my way through Different slowly, just savoring the encouragement Sally and Nathan give while they share their journey openly in this book. Each chapter has a section written by Nathan, and a section written by Sally. It is their shared journey, each telling the story from their own perspectives.

My copy of this book is battered from being toted around in the car, and it even suffered an unfortunate water incident. Although I don't have any children with as many challenges as Nathan faces, I do have children who walk to their own beat. Whether they just don't learn the same way their siblings did, or they struggle with anxiety and struggle to maintain emotional control, they're different.

I often feel like I'm just not capable, knowledgeable, strong enough or calm enough to successfully parent the nine children God has given me. Sally's (and Nathan's words) were just so uplifting. God has put each of these children into our family for a purpose, He has a plan for each of them, and He will equip me to raise them, and them to succeed.

The main things I took away from this book are to pray for and with your child, to pour out life-giving words of blessing and encouragement on your child, and to focus on their hearts. Look at their hearts, their motives, and their hopes - not just the immediate actions of that day. Know your children, and believe God has a unique plan for them. Tell them that!! Point them back to God regularly.

If you're struggling to understand a child who God has created to be either very different from you, different from your other children, or different from most people around you - this book is full of encouragement and hope. No, it doesn't have a cure. It's not about that. It's about working with your child to develop the gifts God has given them, and to believe that their differences are good. I highly recommend Different! This battered copy has earned its place on my shelf, right next to Sally's other mothering books.

April E.

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