When my husband and I became the parents of a little girl with special needs, we didn’t have time to read books about cerebral palsy, join a support group or seek resources to help us raise her. For one, we were too busy feeding, encouraging and taking care of our daughter, Ruth. For another, Dana and I both worked and were raising three other young children.
Most of what we learned, we discovered on the fly simply by doing it. However, I have since stumbled upon several organizations and books that would have provided light for our journey. One such book, just released this week, is Common Man, Extraordinary Call (Kregel, 2019), by Jeff Davidson with his wife, Becky Davidson, which provides fathers of children with special needs with brotherly advice and spiritual encouragement to support their families.
Like many parents, when Jeff and his wife discovered that they were expecting, Jeff Davidson dreamed of all the things he’d enjoy doing with their son. “We were going to be the dynamic duo,” Davidson writes. “I would coach his Little League baseball team… We would play basketball together and go on great adventures.” Only the Davidson’s son, Jon Alex, had developmental delays and was later diagnosed with autism, cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
Jeff Davidson honestly shares how he initially dealt with his disappointment: by rejecting his son and hiding from his family by busying himself with work and other distractions. “I was angry at life and furious with God,” says Davidson. That changed one evening, when the author pushed little Jon Alex, who is nonverbal, in a swing and discovered that he could make his son laugh. While sharing his experiences, Davidson talks about the stages of grief he walked through as well as his journey of accepting the call to raise his son.
“Your ultimate mission is this,” writes Davidson, who uses military imagery throughout his book. “Embrace your child with special needs exactly as God created him or her. Love your child unconditionally and passionately, with all your heart.” Once Davidson learned to do this, he was able to embrace Jon Alex’s differences, accept his challenges and truly love him.
Not only did Jeff Davidson learn to accept and love Jon Alex, who is now 21, he and his wife Becky founded the Tennessee nonprofit, Rising Above Ministries, which supports and encourages parents of children with additional needs. Sadly, while his book was in production, Jeff Davidson, who struggled with chronic health issues, passed away. But his words and legacy live on in the message he shared.
Included in the book are stories from other fathers of children with special needs, letters from Jeff’s wife, Becky, a discussion guide and a list of resources. If there’s anything I learned from my own journey parenting a child with special needs, it is that we were never meant to walk alone. In the hard years after the unexpected death of our dear little Ruth, one of the people who walked beside me was Jeff’s sister, Susan Shipsey, who works at The Mustard Seed Bookstore in Bath, Maine, where the Davidsons’ book is sold. Stop by for a wonderful resource and meet another great encourager, no extra charge.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. The Backward Easter Egg Hunt, the second book in her Lantern Hill Farm picture-book series, is available for preorder now. Connect at www.meadowrue.com