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Tell Us Your Ideas!

We’re in the very early stages of planning a virtual event (probably a fundraiser with a concert) to happen during late January or February 2021. Our first meeting to begin dreaming and planning is scheduled for next Monday night on Zoom —

Monday, August 17th at 7:30 pm.

Would you consider coming to this meeting to help us dream and plan?

Everyone is welcome to come learn more and share ideas. Of course, we’ll also be needing volunteers to help make the event happen. So, even if you don’t attend the meeting, please let us know if you’d like to be involved. And watch WRIM newsletters for updates. (Subscribe on our website.)

Please tell us your perspectives about how to make a virtual event fun and meaningful. Share your ideas here in the comments, email us or join the meeting for some fun fellowship too. If you want the Zoom link, message us at info@walkrightin.org.

Thank you for helping us make the most of ministry during “Covid times” and beyond!

Resource Corner: Highlights on Love, Loving and Good-byes

Walk Right In Ministries is excited to welcome guest blogger, Claire Krantz, who is launching our new Resource Corner. She’ll be sharing reviews, ideas and recommendations about books, music and movies of interest to special needs families. Today, Claire introduces herself and talks about resources that have caught her heart and attention this summer.

I (Claire) am a freelance writer and obsessive reader in the Twin Cities Metro area. Growing up in a small town with few things to do, my sisters and I would ride our bikes to the library across town every day to check out backpacks full of books (neither the frequency nor volume is hyperbole). 

My interest in books is less about what’s popular and more about what they might teach me. From the wonder of a magical land to how to be a better ally and advocate, my reading tastes span eras and genres.

Much of what I read and write flow out of a deep investment in accessibility and inclusion. My involvement in YoungLife Capernaum and work as a personal caregiver for an adult with developmental disabilities provide a unique lens through which I can see a book, no matter the subject. 

As a result of my diverse interests and experiences, I’ve become a reliable source for quirky and creative book reviews that make all types of literature fun and accessible. You can find me on Instagram @readingwithcb .

Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families

Jolene Philo takes Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages and sheds great insight, clarity, and ease in applying them to care for your family in Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families. Adapting the love languages (which are acts of service, gifts, quality time, (non-sexual) physical touch, and words of affirmation) to serve families with children with special needs seemed like common sense to me but I didn’t know how much I needed some things to be said, or rather read. We learn how to love spouses, self-advocate for our own care, support families closely and from afar, and understand that every child, diagnosis, and way to love is different. The partnership between Gary and Jolene talks about letting us off the hook when life gets overwhelming and explains ways to support others in simple terms. This is a book I find myself sharing snippets from and will continually turn to for guidance. My friends with special needs have taught me that disabilities are a gift and whether or not you can see them, they all are worth loving. My friends with special needs have reminded me that every person is worthy of love. Disabilities stretch our appreciation of how unique each person is and that loving each other well is a gift.”

Note: Watch Lisa’s interview with Jolene from the July 23rd episode of Real Talk Livestream.

God Only Knows

God Only Knows is one of my favorite songs! The first time I heard this song by For King & Country I instantly thought of my friends with special needs. Many feel lonely or misunderstood. I love them and I long to be with them when it is safe again. But regardless of my capacity to love and see them, our Father does it over and over and time again without tiring. There is a kind of love that God only knows. There is an eternal love that God only knows. I am reminded that Jesus is the only one who satisfies our souls and knows every single need whether we can communicate it or not. This song gives me rest. This song gives me peace. I pray that I remain moved to tears every time I hear this song.

The Goodbye Book

Grief is never easy or fun to talk about no matter the circumstance so when I saw The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr, I found myself pausing. Eye-catching, colorful, and sweetly illustrated, this book is full of simple words to explain complex emotions. Read aloud or alone, I think this book can help anyone process and identify what they really feel. 


Claire Krantz is a blogger, reader, hiker, camper, game-player, puzzle nut, music fan and general lover-of-people. She speaks in exclamations points — which is her friends’ way of saying she exudes cheer, encouragement, hope and fun. She grew up and lives in the Midwest where she is personally and professionally dedicated to living among friends of all abilities and celebrating God’s unique and purposeful design of every person.

Follow more of Claire’s reading adventures on Instagram @readingwithcb.

Four Essentials for a World-Changing Church

Not every church has the resources for a special needs ministry. It’s not always the best time to launch a new outreach program either. I get that. But it’s not about programs.

It’s about the ministry of the Gospel. It’s about God’s call on the church to see people, to really see them, and to love them, in word and deed, with the best news they’ve ever experienced. It is to be about reaching the lost, building one another up in faith, extending Christ’s grace to all, furthering Kingdom things, reflecting the image of God to the world and keeping our eyes on eternity — all without discrimination or exception.

Did you know that people affected by disabilities (and their families) are considered to be the largest unreached group of people in the world? Yes, that includes the United States of America. A recent 2018 CDC prevalence study reported that 1 in 6 U.S. children has some type of disability (e.g., autism, speech impairment, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, Down Syndrome). And 56% of these families say they have kept their child from religious activities due to a lack of support (Whitehead, AL. Religion and Disability. 2018).

The demographic of our churches should reflect the demographics of the communities surrounding us. Consider this: according to that 2018 CDC prevalence study, 1 in 59 U.S. children has an autism diagnosis. Does 1 of every 59 children in your kids’ program at your church have autism? If not, why not?

Man in Wheelchair.jpg

Pragmatically, it’s difficult for any church to respond to the prolific, intense, complex and long term needs around us. God is unconcerned with pragmatism. Rather, nothing is too complicated for God. Do we really believe that His strength is perfect and that He will reveal His power in the weaknesses at our church? This is a test of our trust and the lengths we will go to prove what we really value.

You may be surprised to know that I’m not necessarily advocating for a program. I’m proposing that this is foremost about culture. It’s about the values we, as leaders, nurture into our churches. If the church is to be Christ-like and world-shaping, we need to be leaders and pioneers in loving all of God’s people, not lagging far behind our schools and social service organizations in how we respond to the needs around us.

We also don’t get a “pass” for being churches with a passion for certain people groups at the exclusion of those have disabilities. I know churches who are trying to speak into the hearts of millennials, others who have a passion for the homeless, some who have launched a Chinese church in the suburbs and so forth. But guess what? There are people with disabilities who are millennials. And homeless people may have disabilities or mental health difficulties. And disabilities affect every nationality and ethnicity.

Whether you ever have a “special needs program” at your church or not, I invite you to consider these essentials for every Christian leader.

BE IN TOUCH

Understand the specific questions and doubts that friends in your congregation are dealing with. Get close to those people in your congregation who are affected in any way by disability and let them help you develop eyes to see inside their world. Explore their perspectives about life, love and faith as you can’t know from your own situation alone. This will inform and broaden your teaching. If even one family is wrestling with what God has to say about their particular situation, there are likely others doing the same (e.g., their friends, extended family, others in their small group Bible study).

A crisis in your congregation like a newborn diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder can actually be an opportunity for the whole body to make new discoveries about God together. And your leadership can make quite a difference. So be in touch with the stories that are resonating among your members. You can provide reassurances of God’s power and a biblical worldview based on God’s promises, all while promoting and affirming their efforts to pull together in community as the “hands and feet of Jesus” to each other. A galvanized congregation will mature in faith as they do life together.

Being a church that is in-touch and welcoming also means using inclusive language in your sermons and prayers. When you pray, include references to issues that affect the aging as well as those who face physical and developmental challenges. For example, when praying for unity in the church, talk about every tribe, tongue and ability. When you share anecdotal stories and give illustrative examples, use examples involving disability. Thank God for how uniqueness in the families of your church creates a living picture of the coming Kingdom!

EDUCATE

Everyone in the church needs to understand God’s values about human worth and dignity. With a degree of regularity, please teach biblical truth about things like disability and suffering. These should be dealt with as both separate topics but interrelated topics. Preach a steady diet of God’s promises to those who experience disability, mental health difficulty, aging, chronic illness and traumatic injury. Don’t avoid conversations about healing prayer but don’t make it all about that either. People who struggle need reassurance of the basics but they crave answers to their deeper questions, doubts and fears.

CAST VISION

Help your congregation gain perspective about God’s un-discriminating heart. Emphasize that God’s promises are available to all who seek Him. Regularly remind your church of what God values as it relates to disability and suffering. Examples of biblical values include:

  • All people matter to God.
  • God is not limited by complicated circumstances.
  • Suffering and weakness don’t negate the value of life.
  • Suffering allows us to give and receive expressions of God’s grace, goodness and power.
  • God is generally more interested in changing people than changing their circumstances.
  • Our culture hates inconvenience but Jesus welcomed interruptions as opportunities.
  • God will always surprise us and do more than we ask or imagine.

MODEL THE GOSPEL

People see how or if you greet members and guests with special needs. They listen to whether you ever reference God’s good design during the baptism of a child with Down Syndrome. They notice if you are afraid to teach about healing. They will cringe during the service when a child with autism blurts out a distracting noise if you appear to be uncomfortable. People take signals from leaders they respect and respond accordingly. They will act graciously when you respond with warmth and mercy. They are inspired when they hear your passion about God’s creativity in how He designs us. They reconsider ways of including people with special needs when they see that you value every person as indispensable to your church family.

“In proactive pastoral ministry…more is needed than preaching and teaching. Pastors must seek to model healthy attitudes,” says John Kilner, in his book Why the Church Needs Bioethics. He urges us leaders to “celebrate the mysteries of the faith, to recognize the reality of unanswered and incompletely answered questions, to acknowledge the reality of doubt and struggle…encourage an atmosphere of mutual care in which the people of God travel together in faith, along with all their doubts and fears and questions, through the valley of the shadow of death.”

Most special needs ministries begin when people in a church recognize someone in their body is hurting and they begin reaching out organically with that one person or family. Initially, there is usually no particular fanfare and nobody is rushing to build an extensive program with a sensory room, refined Buddy system and quarterly respite night. But the healthiest churches do catch broader vision from simple caring experiences and become more intentional about serving more people and families, especially when they are supported and encouraged by their leadership.

As your church embraces people with disabilities and their families, there will be fruit. And that fruit will be visible. Some others may come. Does that possibility of growth scare you? Most of us have prayed with some angst that we don’t have the resources to support a disability program. God will stretch your church to catch up to His heart. Eventually, there may be need for more organization, formality or infrastructure. But that time will be clear and God will be faithful.

Every single church that claims Christ as their own has certain opportunities and responsibilities to welcome and engage with people who have disabilities. It’s not about whether we have special needs programs or not. It’s about making the love of Christ and the message of the Gospel accessible and generously shared with all people.

This article first appeared March 2019 in the Church 4 Every Child blog of Key Ministry. It is reprinted with permission.


Lisa Jamieson is the author of books and Bible studies including the Finding Glory series of resources and the children’s book Jesus, Let’s Talk. She is co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries and founder of the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection. Lisa and her husband, Larry, have been married 32 years and have three grown daughters. Their daughter, Carly, has Angelman Syndrome and lives at home with them in Maple Grove, Minnesota.

BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 3): Seven Ways to Energize & Refresh Your Special Needs Family

This is the final installment in a three-part BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES for special needs families. I hope you’ll have a chance to go back and readPart 1 and Part 2.

I also discussed this subject of Managing Morale in special needs families during a 60-minute interview with Stephen “Doc” Hunsley MD, founder of SOAR Special Needs. You can watch that episode of “Talk with Doc” here.

You can read all kinds of books and blog articles about boosting morale. You could invest a lot of time in trial-and-error mode, testing ideas but feeling a mounting pressure or disappointment when some things don’t work as well as you hoped.

I want to help you skip past as much of that exertion and discouragement as possible. As I’ve said several times in this series, responding to the real root of what is undermining morale will give your family the most positive traction much more quickly and effectively.

So, as you prayerfully ponder these seven ways to energize and refresh your special needs family, I want to ask you to keep the unique and individualized needs of your family at the front of your mind. Home in on an area below that most closely addresses the roots of anxiety or discouragement. Here are some examples:

If someone is struggling with all the things out of their control, it should help to review the scriptures and tips under “Anchor Your Worth and Competence in Christ.”

If someone is struggling mentally, their mood is quite likely to begin shifting when they “Saturate Your Mind with Truth.”

If someone is feeling isolation fatigue, they will benefit from a strategic look at “Connect in Community.”

For those who tend to be more emotionally oriented, look closely at “Change Your Scenery.”

If things just don’t feel fair, read the noted scriptures carefully under “Remember that God is Just.”

If you’re feeling stuck or trapped, there is potential for great refreshment within the whole family when you “Take a Step of Faith” together!

If you’re simply exhausted, you’ll find a creative and collaborative effort to “Rest” pays off generously.

Now let’s really dig in to where the rubber hits the road!

Saturate Your Mind with Truth

PROVERBS 23:7 | 2 CORINTHIANS 10:5 | PHILLIPIANS 4:8

This is critical area of opportunity for people who spend a lot of time thinking or who tend to be deep thinkers. Renewing your mind with truth is a powerful mood shifter when you are vulnerable to things like fear, doubt, confusion, shame, guilt, discouragement and burnout. The scriptures (especially those listed above) will help keep your mind focused on God’s Kingdom meaning and purpose in things like suffering and waiting. When thoughts are spiraling, God’s Word is a calming anchor.

Connect in Community

HEBREWS 10:25 | 2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-5 | ROMANS 3:10,23 | JAMES 5:16

This one is BIG! No matter who we are, we all need relationships. But we don’t all need them to the same degree. Be careful about lumping people into categories like “introverts” and “extroverts.” Those labels can mislead. It is usually more helpful to think specifically about the kinds of connections different people need. Do you enjoy casual connections, want mostly deeper relationships — or both? (I’ll elaborate on these below.) It’s also important to factor in what is needed compared to what is actually expressed. For example, some people actually have a great need for relationships but don’t really show it. They may rarely initiate connections. And since they don’t express their need, people get confused or pull away.

There are very generally two kinds of connections and we don’t all need both.

  • Casual Connections — If someone in your household is missing being out and about during quarantine or needs to feel connected in the broader community, they could be the best person to do the grocery shopping. Encourage them to turn on LIVE radio and TV shows. Invite them to sit with a group around a socially distanced bonfire or play virtual games. It has helped our daughter Carly to be part of Zoom dance parties. And she’s been learning to throw dice while playing Zoom Farkle with her friend and cousins.
  • Deep Relationships — Some people need relationships where they can connect on a more intimate or emotional level. These are the kinds of relationships where there is an exchange of love, affection and appreciation. Whether it involves several or just a few people, these are the people in your household who look to close friends, family members, their church fellowship and a counsellor for a warm sense of belonging. When something like caregiving or the quarantine limits these deeper connections, it’s absolutely essential to find ways of adapting and accommodating the need. People with higher needs in this area may find it helpful to snuggle with a pet, cuddle with loved one, get creative about how to have a date, go for a walk holding hands with your partner, watch shows about relationships or read character-driven stories. They will want to play the kinds of games that rely on conversation. It should not be surprising that this person will run from a game of Chess but (all irony intended) thoroughly enjoy the game Pandemic! This type of person may even enjoy hanging out with a friend on Zoom while they both do a puzzle or craft and sip a cold beverage. You may want to give these family members permission to sit out on the driveway for social distancing conversations or spend more time on the phone.  

Change Your Scenery

HEBREWS 11:8 | ACTS 22:7 | PSALM 40:2

This is a helpful tip for shifting anyone’s mood but especially people who tend to be more creative or connected to their emotions. Those who “feel everything” or who feel things more intensely will benefit greatly from moving their body or moving the furniture! Back in April, we rearranged our family room and we love it. A couple weeks later, we we changed around our deck furniture and added new plants. All of that was so simple and has been like a breath of fresh air that keeps paying daily dividends.

When you need to boost mom’s morale, let her go take a shower. Some dads love and teenagers love to mow the lawn to get some alone time or listen to their music. It could be the change of atmosphere that is lifting their spirits. Try using paper plates, eating outside or sitting at a different table. You can invite your most creative child to build a fancy table setting. The point is to switch up the routine. Light a candle, read a different kind of book (choose a different genre), change your clothes, cut your hair, buy new sheets for your bed or bring some flowers in from outside.

Anchor Your Worth & Competence In Christ

ISAIAH 54:10 | PHILLIPIANS 4:13 | 2 CORINTHIANS 3:5

It is not at all unusual for caregivers and parents to struggle with feeling like they are doing enough for their loved one with special needs. They lament not having bandwidth to balance the needs of multiple children. Children perceive pressure to measure up too. We’re all tempted to measure our own worth in this world by what we contribute or some privately created standard of “quality.” Ultimately, our confidence can only grow from having our identity firmly rooted in Christ not in what role we play in our family, church, workplace or community. Our value to God isn’t based in our efforts. We’re saved by our faith alone. If you struggle with feeling like you don’t measure up or worry about what others think of you, remember that perceptions can be far from reality.

Remember God is Just

ACTS 17:31 | 1 JOHN 1:9 | PSALM 58:10-11

God’s word speaks loudly about His promise of justice. Ask God to reassure you by showing you meaning and purpose in your challenges as well as your future hope. If someone is really struggling in this area, a good devotional on biblical justice or the sovereignty of God is likely to be very encouraging.

Take A Step in Faith

PROVERBS 3:5-6 | 1 CORINTHIANS 2:5 | 2 CORINTHIANS 5:7 | EPHESIANS 2:10

Do you want to see your encouragement to grow, enthusiasm about life to be restored in your family or faith to blossom in someone you love? Start with one simple response to a sense of godly prompting.

Pray together asking God to show you one way He wants you to take action, then walk it out as a family. Few things create as much excitement as seeing God reveal his presence, power and goodness in response to our faith and obedience. Our circumstances are complicated and when we look too far ahead, we get overwhelmed.

Our special needs families will find encouragement in taking one step at a time while holding plans loosely and anticipating the surprises of God’s love.

Rest

EXODUS 14:14 | EPHESIANS 3:20-21

Oh, how often morale in our family wanes because we are plain bone tired and simply don’t listen to our body. I think special needs families can run on fumes so often they start to forget how exhausted they are. Overwhelm starts to feel normal.

We underestimate the transformative effects of a power nap or a shower. Or we resist resting because we’re afraid that once we stop, we’ll never be able to go again. We see complex needs and circumstances in front of us and assume full responsibility for fixing problems, finding cures, optimizing developmental potential and finding comfort for pain while also doing all the same things the neighbors do like maintaining the house and cars.

May I suggest, quit trying harder and just draw nearer to God. Give yourself a “time out” with Jesus. It sounds simplistic and super spiritual. But what if God really does love your family even more than you do? What if he really is sovereign and trustworthy? What if “taking a Sabbath rest” was really an option? Maybe it won’t be a whole day or look like the kind of rest your neighbor gets, but your family needs to cooperate with each other to get some breaks.

Take some deep breaths. It could literally help to go blow bubbles with the kids. Assign some things to a routine (e.g., Taco Tuesday, Friday Pizza night, Saturday take-out). Set a schedule so rest can be anticipated. Burdens are eased by knowing when a break is coming, even if it’s a short one or a couple of weeks away. Collaborate about decisions as much as possible.

You’ll probably have to ask for help more often. Open up your “closed system.” It is quite possible that step of faith God is whispering to you is, “ask for help, My child.” You don’t need to feel guilty about teaching siblings ways of helping either. Teamwork is not just about disability but about being part of a family. Don’t abuse anyone but learn to cooperate and complement each other. Don’t rob God of opportunity to create blessing through your community.

Do you hear in all of this an invitation to experience freedom?
I sure hope so!

The process of learning about each other and how to love each other better is the grand adventure of life, after all. Be patient with yourselves and enjoy the freedom you have to make new discoveries. No one needs to make comparisons or shame themselves for not being “that parent” who does all the fanciest, funnest things either. When it comes to building morale, a little goes a long way — and it goes a long way fast — when we hit the root needs in a targeted way.

These are powerful tools you can give your children, friends. As parents cooperate in marriage and learn to lead their dynamic family in ways that celebrate individuality, they model healthy and godly relationships. This is the essence of self-care that simultaneously complements how we care for others. Our children will thrive in future life and relationships when they learn this kind of self-care and servant-hearted relationship with others.


LISA JAMIESON is a licensed pastoral counsellor, certified Christian temperament therapist and caregiver coach. She is co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries where she serves as a special needs family advocate. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Her books and Bible studies include “Finding Glory in the Thorns” and the picture book “Jesus, Let’s Talk.”

BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 2): Developing A Complementary System

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at five ways to “keep the Light on” in special needs families. We explored things that drain energy and tend to trigger discouragement or conflict in a special needs household. In that article, we looked at spiritual fundamentals for a robust and positive family system. I hope you’ll have a chance to go back and read BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE (Part 1 of 2): Five Ways to Keep the Light On for background that leads into this second part in the series.

I also discussed this subject of Managing Morale in special needs families during a 60-minute interview with Stephen “Doc” Hunsley MD, founder of SOAR Special Needs. You can watch that episode of “Talk with Doc” here.

Now let’s dig in to Part 2 of the series.


Do you know how incredibly unique and valuable you are? God’s imprint on each of us is vastly different. And you are quite a masterpiece, according to your Creator! Here’s how David tells it:

Psalm 139:16-18
You made the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

We are not just delicately woven in our physical body. We are also complex in mind and spirit. The COVID-19 quarantine has made many of us more aware of needs like these:

  • Longing for connection with other people
  • Craving time alone to recharge
  • Missing a fuller schedule
  • Wishing we could sleep more or read another book
  • Thinking deeply and spending a lot of time doing it
  • Feeling deeply (but not always expressing it well)
  • Dissatisfied until we get stuff checked off our to-do list
  • Wanting to give or receive expressions of affection, attention, appreciation, affirmation

In fact, I’ve been embarrassed and ashamed by how needy and self-centered I am at times, especially during this COVID season! In some ways though, this quarantine-induced understanding and awareness could prove very helpful. It reveals areas where we tend to be vulnerable. It can give us clues about what we need to do in order to stay healthy and satisfied. For example, isolation intensifies anxiety for someone who needs a lot of connection with people. If that person stays attentive to their need for certain kinds of connection and finds healthy, satisfying ways to do it, they will stay energized and maintain a more positive outlook.

Darkening moods and interpersonal conflict are typically a response to inadequately met needs. Whatever your unique needs and degrees of expressing them are, that is where you’ll find powerful clues about what keeps your batteries charged or what will re-energize you and build positive momentum within your mind, body and spirit. The same is true for each person in your home — uniquely so.

We all have strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities to sin. Each of us is a work in progress. We are not perfect humans but we hope to be generally be headed in the direction of personal growth. Thanks be to God, there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus. But there certainly is opportunity and responsibility to grow as a disciple and representative of the Kingdom. Learning how to be attentive to our needs and other’s (by staying in tune with the Holy Spirit) and asking God to help us complement each other’s uniqueness (with a servant’s heart) makes us more like Jesus. It also builds morale in our homes.

Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

There are seven areas of opportunity to boost energy levels, encouragement and refreshment in your special needs family.

I’ll be writing in more detail about each of these areas in Part 3 of this series.

In the meantime, it’s important to know that you’ll get the most efficient and powerful morale boost by focusing your attention in one of these areas for each person. Pray about which area is most likely to address the true root need they have. For example, if you’ve noticed that your husband’s spirits have become low, consider what his root need may be then explore ways to cooperate with each other to meet mutual needs in a balanced way. Sometimes that means sacrificially taking turns. Ideally, this is a very cooperative process.

The other day at my house, we encountered an opportunity just like this. There was growing friction between me and my husband, Larry. The tension was getting expressed by one of us (who I won’t implicate here) as impatience and a critical tone. The other (who I won’t throw under the bus) was retreating from communication and resisting expressions of affection.

We could argue all day long about who started it and who was “right.” But the truth is, each of us had some core needs that weren’t getting adequately met. The quarantine was wreaking havoc that week. We were in a valley needing the ebb to meet the flow in a more positive way. By re-examining the list below, we recognized an opportunity to collaborate that would re-energize and encourage both of us. Larry watched a TV show with Carly that didn’t interest me while I gave myself a pedicure. Ninety minutes later, the momentum had already begun to shift to a more positive tone. In this case, he sacrificed more because he was on duty with Carly and had faced a couple of interruptions. But later that night, I gave him a neck and shoulder massage.

Balance. Compromise. Cooperation. Teamwork.

Morale is highest when we are a complementary system!


LISA JAMIESON is a licensed pastoral counsellor, certified Christian temperament therapist and caregiver coach. She is co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries where she serves as a special needs family advocate. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Her books and Bible studies include “Finding Glory in the Thorns” and the picture book “Jesus, Let’s Talk.”

BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 1): Five Ways to Keep the Light On

Families affected by special needs are well acquainted with the ebb and flow of discouragement, conflict and fatigue. Quarantine and current events are adding further stress to our family dynamics, including mental and emotional health. Just like our immune systems needs a boost of vitamin C when illness threatens, we need both proactive and responsive help for threats to our family’s morale.

In this series, we’re exploring targeted ways to bring a speedy delivery of fun, energy and hope to your doorstep! Our hope is to show the way to experience an extra strength, extended-release dose of spiritual and practical encouragement.

First off, I just want to acknowledge that families impacted by disability and other special needs can find life intense and rather complicated. Thankfully, there is a richness to life and relationships that comes through the way God has uniquely woven us into our families as well. Still, we encounter many days and situations that feel very heavy. We never know when a crisis may arise and plans are regularly thwarted. Each person in the family has times when their mood darkens. And when they do, one person’s mood can ripple through the entire household.

What are the things that seem to trigger heaviness in your heart or home?

Perhaps you’ll relate to some of these examples:
The repetitive and tedious nature of daily cares (e.g., bowel regimen, housekeeping issues created by disability such as laundry)
Seeing our child self harm
Medical crisis
Comparison to others
Feelings of isolation or being invisible
Reminders of lost dreams
Battles for a better IEP or other rights (e.g., health insurance)
Seeing areas where our child is falling behind
Feeling inadequate as a caregiver or parent
Feeling trapped, stuck or hopeless
Disappointment from a sibling who can’t play or demands attention
Resentment of a spouse who gets to go to work and escape
Guilt within a spouse who needs to work and isn’t able to help more at home
Disconnection from spouse, community or others
Pressure to make decisions
Grieving (a diagnosis or lack of diagnosis)

People use various words to describe the dark moods or conflict that creep in on the heels of such triggers.

anger, hurt feelings, defensiveness or hyper-sensitivity, discouragement/hopelessness, anxiety, grief, depression, exhaustion, lack of motivation, loneliness

Families who tend to be resilient within the ups and downs of the household atmosphere are those who are proactive in caring for each other and also responsive to clues that stress is mounting. They learn to be attentive to each other, communicate often and recognize areas of vulnerability to shifting moods. They make an effort to understand each other’s most typical triggers and cooperate with each other in making sure root needs get met — before the valley of the shadow looms large.

It’s a process and no family is going to handle the ebbs and flows perfectly. But we can learn to find a balanced family system that softens the shadows and reduces their frequency.

Proverbs 27:12
A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.
The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

5 Ways to Keep the Light On

John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

What can help keep the Light on within your special needs family?

  1. Pay Attention to Where Your Identity Rests
    If you are someone who loves and follows Jesus, you are a child of God (John 1:12-13). That is who you are first and that is where your identity is anchored. Disability doesn’t define you. The beginning and end of your calling and your empowerment comes from your Creator. You are part of a special needs family but that is secondary to being part of God’s family.

    Children who grow up with solid reassurance about where they stand in that broader spiritual family will have their most powerful tool for thriving through their teens and early adulthood. As each person matures, wrestles and lives through ages and seasons of self-discovery, there is delightful freedom in knowing that their core place of “home” rests safely with God. Within that anchoring identity, each person has God’s permission and encouragement to explore their roles, opportunities and contributions in the big wide world. Resist giving disability, complex medical needs or mental health difficulties all the power over the tone of the household or mindset of the family system. You are more — individually and together — than any diagnosis.
  2. Maintain Safe, Open & Positive Communication
    Make your home and family a safe space for ongoing and proactive conversations about what is creating dissatisfaction, restlessness or grief. Resist the spirit of criticism (1 Corinthians 13:1 and Philippians 4:8). Most special needs families also benefit by seeking counseling.

  3. Give & Receive Forgiveness
    Do some regular self-examination. Not a single one of us is perfect (Romans 3:10 & Romans 3:23). Confess weakness, repent of sins and become more aware of God’s unique imprint on your soul. God will help you see yourself realistically and as His masterpiece (Psalm 139:23-24) and he promises to bring a refreshing into your life when you humble yourself and repent (Acts 3:19-20, James 5:16).

  4. Appreciate that Each and Every Individual is God’s Work of Art
    God masterfully designed every person in your family with unique needs, ways of thinking, ways of feeling, ways of relating to others, passions, talents and spiritual gifts (Ephesians 2:10). Prayerfully study your family members to develop understanding, appreciation, compassion and respect for their precious value. Aim to identify ways you can live together that are complementary and show a balanced, servant-hearted regard for each person in the family.

  5. Rest On the One Constant in Your Chaos—God
    God’s character and promises never to change. He remainsthe same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). His nearness, faithfulness, sufficiency and perspective are completely dependable for us.

In Part 2 we’ll be exploring ways to cooperate with each other to meet mutual needs in a balanced and complementary way. We each have our own strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Learning how to be attentive to each person’s needs and honor each other’s uniqueness builds morale in our homes. Read BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 2): Developing a Complementary System.

Then in Part 3, we will look at seven practical and biblical ways to get energized and refreshed. Read BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 3): Seven Ways to Energize & Refresh Your Special Needs Family.

I discussed this subject of Managing Morale in special needs families during a 60-minute interview with Stephen “Doc” Hunsley MD, founder of SOAR Special Needs. You can watch that episode of “Talk with Doc” here.


LISA JAMIESON is a licensed pastoral counsellor, certified Christian temperament therapist and caregiver coach. She is co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries where she serves as a special needs family advocate. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Her books and Bible studies include “Finding Glory in the Thorns” and the picture book “Jesus, Let’s Talk.”