This article is part of an ongoing series looking at what puts caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. Today we’re exploring challenges and opportunities for caregivers whose gift is for creativity.
Creativity is a wonderful gift! It is a particularly valued gift in special needs families, especially when an injection of new ideas and fresh energy is needed. Creative caregivers can be such a tremendous help in a family where there is great need for solving problems, finding new approaches to long-standing challenges, livening up tedious routines, spicing up the food menu, identifying new motivators for therapies, re-designing a home or room for unique functionality, making an old toy fun again and so much more.
I remember a time when our daughter Carly who has Angelman Syndrome was very young and not sleeping at night. She had been wreaking havoc with everything in her bedroom. She was pulling clothes out of dresser drawers, pulling down items in the closet and frequently stripping her bed of its linens. One night we awoke to loud crashing and found her standing at the window wildly banging the blinds and very much at risk of falling through her second story bedroom window at any moment!
The middle of the night was not our best hour for creativity but the situation demanded a fast solution. Within a few minutes, my husband, Larry, had found some scrap wood in the garage and nailed it over the window until we could figure out a more attractive and permanent fix. A few days later, my parents were in town and all four of us very creative adults were gathered in Carly’s room brainstorming everything from bedding solutions to window construction. It was a moment of both grief and deep appreciation. While Larry and I experienced the sorrow of having our lives turned upside down in great detail, we also had those poignant opportunities to connect with my parents whose hearts and minds were deeply invested in helping our family thrive.
We are all made in the image of God who is, by very nature, creative. The Creator of the heavens and the earth, and everything in it, is the Source of all good gifts. If you are someone particularly blessed with the good gift of creativity, let it shine!
Creativity can be a joyful and comforting outlet for the expressive caregiver. It can be a precious escape from pressing challenges and a way to move toward God when someone is yearning to tangibly experience a sense of His presence and power. Scriptures show that songs comforted both the creator and others. For example, King David’s poetic prayers brought him close to God (Psalm 23) and his music soothed the tormented Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23).
Creativity can ease a caregiver through boredom. Rearranging furniture, re-painting a bedroom, testing a new menu item, thinking of new activities during the long days of illness or the limitations of Covid can be exciting assignments right up the alley of the creative members of your family. It can also be a delight to a loved one who is bored, restless, discouraged or needing some fresh perspective in the grueling routines of their own disabilities.
What fun siblings can have when they share a craft or bake together! I’ll never forget when one of Carly’s sisters helped her choose pantry items and stir them together for a snack one afternoon. We have a treasured picture of Carly wearing an apron, holding a spoon and getting ready to grab a mouthful of her special “trail mix.” It was a challenging experience to keep Carly focused but that few minutes sharing a spontaneous new activity was a precious boost of morale and self-esteem for them both.
Your intention to bless others with your creative energies is greatly appreciated. But you may not always receive a positive reaction from your stressed and stretched family about your ideas and projects. Unfortunately, family members who are weary or exhausted may feel overwhelmed by new ideas or change.
If you encounter hesitation or pushback for your creative ideas, some perspective is helpful. First, resist taking the reaction of others personally. Have compassion for how ideas, any ideas from anybody, may be making others feel. This will help you to be patient. Consider, for example, that a pragmatic family member may be thinking you have a great idea but it’s going to cost more than what is affordable. Another family member may be thinking about how much energy it will take to implement it. Moms or the primary caregiver, in particular, may be resistant to trying something new if it feels like someone is judging their own major investment of effort. On the other hand, there may simply be concern for protecting the person with special needs from change and all of its associated adjustments.
Don’t give up. Your family needs what you have to offer. They may just need time to absorb your ideas. There will also be times when an idea still needs some refining.
Take your creative visions to God asking Him to clarify for you the timing or ways for sharing your ideas or projects. Ask God to show you what should be pursued and what should be released for another time, or things that need to be dismissed altogether.
Creative minds are often busy minds. Most creative people will have no shortage of ideas or visions for future projects. Your Pinterest boards and hook books may be very full. In fact, you may find yourself vulnerable to having too many “irons in the fire.” You may even find yourself starting to feel pressure to keep up with your own creative juices. You’ll experience greater peace when you develop a lifestyle of being still with Jesus, asking Him to move you toward those specific efforts that hold the greatest potential for Kingdom fruit.
It will also help you to examine what motivates your creative energies. For many, there is a driving need to feel known. There may also be a desire to express something on behalf of others. Feeling understand and pleasing people are powerful influencers. You may appreciate being acknowledged for your talents. It is gratifying to see the beauty or helpfulness of something you’ve created too. Expressiveness can also be a form of release, like popping the cork on a pressure-filled bottle. Unfortunately, that release may involve negative consequences for others. Many will be blessed when you are driven and empowered by the Holy Spirit rather than controlled simply by your own passions or flesh.
If you are not adequately meeting specific needs in your soul — following your unique strengths and calling — you are likely to end up feeling things like anxiety, disappointment, frustration or ongoing restlessness. You might lean into creative endeavors as a way of finding inner healing or escape from pain. But when your projects become an attempt to run from pain or anesthetize things like confusion and doubt, there is vulnerability to replacing a healthy pursuit of God with sin.
Take time to pray. Ask God what is driving your expressiveness. Repent of any sin and ask Jesus to purify your heart. Lean into godly ways of expressing yourself and serving others with your talents. Then enjoy the ripples of God’s handiwork through your gift. Understanding the factors that influence you and learning to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit will lead to deeper satisfaction and the fulfillment of Kingdom purposes.
When your creativity is a form of worship by way of engaging your gifts to express love to God and others, it will energize you and bring an abundance of incomparable blessings!
TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY ENJOYING CREATIVITY EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
If being creative or expressive energizes you…
- Seek a role on the caregiving team that optimizes your gifts for things like designing the activity calendar, developing a motivating curriculum for home-based learning, facilitating artistic activities, decorating for birthdays/holidays, overseeing home and bedroom modifications/remodeling/adaptations, leading cooking or baking projects
- Process your own grief and feelings about the situation artistically (e.g., journal, blog, music, dance, poetry, painting, baking)
- Initiate conversations and activities that keep atmosphere, perspectives and ideas flowing and fresh (e.g., birthday parties, vacations, staycations)
- Alternate between tasks and people
- Plan opportunities for spontaneity and teambuilding
- Learn to balance personal catharsis with being servant-hearted like Jesus
The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement for expressive caregivers:
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts.He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
1 Timothy 4:14
Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you.
The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.
Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Glorious Creator, your faithfulness is my shield! Thank you for breathing life and love into Your children. Your imprint on me is generous with creativity. You call me Your masterpiece. You compare me to a beautiful poem. It’s exciting for me to imagine all the ways You inspire me to express visions, ideas, feelings and dreams. Hold me in Your grip while we enjoy the freedoms of a creative life. Slow down my racing ideas when they control me or have negative consequences for others. Show me how to serve others with my gifts and glorify Your great name. Let the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart and the work of my hands be pleasing to you, Lord. Cause my gifts to be an instrument of healing to many. Amen
Tell us in the comments how your family experiences the blessings of creativity!
Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.