I didn’t know it at the time, but the day I met Jolene Philo in 2011 was the beginning of a long writing journey that ultimately led to a contract with a literary agent and most recently a contract with a publishing house for my first book.
Jolene and I meet at Panera to eat yummy food, drink yummy drinks and talk all things writing. She has been an invaluable mentor in my life, and I am thrilled that she agreed to write a guest post here at Life Reconstructed.
My body was physically reconstructed which led to a life reconstructed that includes much more than just the physical. But you don’t have to undergo a mastectomy to be faced with a life in need of reconstruction. Jolene talks today about reconstructing life in the midst of raising children with special needs.
By: Jolene Philo
Lightbulb moments have been few and far between in my life. My most amazing one came about in January of 2017 when a friend sent an email.
“Hey Jolene, when are you going to write the special needs version of the love languages book?”
She asked a good question. I was the author of 5 books for caregiving parents based on my experiences with our son who was born with a life-threatening medical condition, and my father fought multiple sclerosis throughout my childhood. Even so my friend’s idea had never occurred to me. Perhaps my inability to see the obvious explains the dearth of lightbulb moments I’ve entertained.
My friend prompted me to email my agent, who emailed the acquisitions editor at Moody, the publishing house for the love languages books. Several months later Dr. Chapman and I signed a contract to write Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages for Parents Raising Children with Disabilities.
While researching and writing the book, I interviewed more than 40 caregiving parents about how they use the love languages to reconstruct their relationships with their spouses and their children, both those with special needs and those without. Their stories are the heart of this book. I was astounded by the creative ways they have developed to adapt the love languages to meet the needs of every member of the family. They shared inexpensive and easy ways for spouses to use the love languages. They offered guidance about how to discover the love language of a child with limited communication skills. They stressed the importance of intentionally using the love languages with typical siblings, and they had advice about how to share their kids’ love languages with educational and medical professionals.
Their stories told of lives reconstructed out of hardship, changed dreams, and unexpected joy. They reminded me of my own life story–
- a constantly changing childhood as Dad’s disease sent him from workforce to wheelchair, from a sickroom in our home to a nursing home
- my mother’s love and determination that rose above our circumstances and my father’s unfailing sense of humor
- our newborn son’s diagnosis and transfer to a hospital hundreds of miles away
- my husband’s faithful love that never wavers toward me and our children
The older I get, the more clearly I see how the hard work of reconstruction prepared me for a second career as a writer. Because my life has been repeatedly rebuilt, I can now encourage others undergoing their own reconstruction. Never in a million years did I think I would write Sharing Love Abundantly with Dr. Chapman. But reconstruction has a way of building upon what we already have to reach what we can’t yet see.
All that to say, I hope this post is leading you to one of those rare lightbulb moments. I hope lightbulb moments help you view your hardships, changed dreams, and unexpected joys in a new light. I hope they encourage you to build upon past experiences to reach a future full of unseen possibilities.
Lightbulb moments have done that for me.
They can do it for you.
Watch for them.
Jolene Philo is the author of the Different Dream series for parents of kids with special needs. She speaks at parenting and special needs conferences around the country. She’s also the creator and host of the Different Dream website. Sharing Love Abundantly With Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages® for Parents Raising Children with Disabilities, which she co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman. It was released in August of 2019 and is available at local bookstores, their bookstore website, and at Amazon. You can find her on Twitter at @JolenePhilo and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DifferentDream.