Tips for Caregivers About Expressing Help and Encouragement

This tenth and final article in our “sweet spots” series explores how uniquely each of us expresses help and encouragement within a family impacted by special needs.

Who doesn’t love a good cheerleader? We all need encouragement, in one form or another. It is essential nourishment for our souls. Just as our bodies become starved and will die when deprived of food or water, our souls will wither and dry up without confidence, inspiration or hope.

One of the many challenges in a caregiving family is that we are typically exhausted and can be rather needy of extra encouragement. On a regular basis, I hear from special needs caregivers and families who view themselves as “high maintenance” in this area. Many struggle with feeling guilty about being so dependent in this respect. Many simultaneously resent that their needs are accentuated by their circumstances. You may understand what it feels like to push down the ache in your soul and try to be satisfied with whatever help and hope comes your way.

The exchange of love and affection is a form of encouragement. In their book Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families, Gary Chapman and Jolene Philo suggest that “caregiving parents who know about and implement the love languages say they are a simple and effective way of filling a spouse’s love tank and reinforcing the glue that bonds them together.”  

Unfortunately, the isolating nature of caregiving can cause the emotional “love tanks” of special needs parents and other family members to run vulnerably low. This is even more true if the loved one needing care is non-verbal, requires intensive care or if anyone in the household is not being very expressive.

Surely there are countless ways to express love and bring encouragement. The Love Languages® are a powerful tool to help us. God’s Word tells us to keep on encouraging each other (Hebrews 10:24-25). But fatigue has profound influence on the tone, manner, and frequency of our communication. And we all know that words and expressiveness flow more freely among some of us than others.  

DISCOVER your Love Language® by taking an online quiz.

Expressiveness is an interesting thing. God’s design of each person is infinitely personal and always purposeful (Psalm 139). He creates every individual with their own temperament — their unique types and degrees of need as well as their own unique capacities for expressing their needs, thoughts, and feelings.

Someone may think or feel deeply while also expressing those things freely. Another may think or feel deeply yet not express those thoughts or emotions in similar proportion at all. And there is every combination in between.

God’s design of each person is infinitely personal and always purposeful.

What that means in this area of encouragement is that the exchange of encouragement, love and affection will not always feel equally or adequately reciprocated within a family. You may be generous with hugs for your family member. But do they receive them with the frequency that they actually need them? Is your capacity for giving them limited by how God created you to be or because your circumstances have you distracted? These are the kinds of questions worth sorting out. It matters where we draw our energies from.

Teenager problems – Mother comforts her troubled teenage daughter

To make things even more complicated, we don’t always express ourselves in alignment with the way God designed us. Various factors influence this. Consider just a couple of examples. You may have learned certain behaviors based on how you saw encouragement modeled by your parents. Or you may have developed an expressive personality because gregariousness was highly valued in your upbringing. You may have grown up among siblings where competition for attention influenced the choices you made about how you expressed yourself. You may have observed expressiveness handled poorly leading you to choose a more subdued way of behaving. You may have a friend, spouse or child whose need for “strokes” feels so demanding that you’ve started to pull away. Your own withdrawal or outbursts of emotion may leave you feeling defeated, ashamed, or frustrated.

Why is it important to understand these nuances about needs and expressiveness? Because compassion blossoms from places of understanding. Understanding your own degrees of need and expressiveness helps you develop compassion for yourself. It can help you to see your own strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities more clearly. Similarly, understanding the needs and degrees of expressiveness of those around you is also helpful. You can hold more reasonable expectations of others and feel even more appreciative when you recognize what sacrifices are being made to live and serve cooperatively. From compassion flow things like grace, patience, and respect.

The need for encouragement may be even more pronounced when someone is facing stresses like those involved in life challenges such as disability, health crisis, and financial strain. Personally, it means the world to me when someone spurs me on with encouragement, truth, and words of appreciation. And this is never truer than when I’m especially worn out, worried, lonely, or otherwise stretched by caring for my daughter.

When stressful situations erupt, the deepest needs of our souls will reveal themselves.

Are you one of those people who intuitively recognizes the needs and opportunities around you for bringing help or encouragement? Allow me to affirm the precious value of your gentle, tender-hearted spirit and generous ability to express things like empathy and support.

Be on guard, however, for that fact that a great capacity for serving and caring can make a person vulnerable to feeling taken advantage of, or taken for granted. It can be exhausting to be an encourager if you don’t feel that is reciprocated in some way. Being accommodating should not mean that your own needs are completely ignored. In any healthy family, even the caregiving family, no one person’s needs should dominate entirely. If this is an area of vulnerability for you, it will help to make sure you are voicing your needs clearly, directly and respectfully.

Self-advocacy skills can be challenging for some who are naturally servant-hearted. Make it a priority to find at least one person you can go to whenever you need a boost of confidence or be reminded of your great value.

RELATED: BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE: Seven Ways to Energize & Refresh Your Special Needs Family

When a cooperative environment is established in your home and within your caregiving team, each person is willing to develop understanding and compassion for each other. You’re able to appreciate that each person is unique and considered by God to be His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). You will also realize that each of us is in process. In other words, we’re not perfect yet. The caregiving team or family that lives cooperatively, learns to appreciate the special strengths that each person contributes and has compassion when anyone struggles with their weakness.

Compassion blossoms from places of understanding.

Be aware that some people in your caregiving circle may not appear to need a lot of encouragement or attention, when in fact they actually do. Pre-teen siblings, for example, may be maturing enough to appreciate that mom and dad are stretched thin and learn to seek affection in other places. Or they may act out with negative behavior because it seems to be the only way they will get their need for attention met.

Any of us can fall into similar patterns of negative, even ungodly, behavior in attempts to get the deepest needs of our souls met. When stressful situations erupt, the deepest needs of our soul will reveal themselves.

The reality is, the world will always fall short and disappoint us. We are all inherently selfish and struggle to live cooperatively with each other. We need God’s help.

Your Divine Cheerleader never ever gives up on you.
God has your back.

Your caregiving family will thrive when it features faithful encouragers while making God the primary Source. Seek the Lord for provision of the support you need to stay refreshed, motivated, and reminded that there is great purpose in your situation and role.

RELATED: Tips for Caregivers: Feeling Valued and Competent

As a cooperative and encouraging environment is cultivated in your home, everyone will find a growing sense of freedom and acceptance. You’ll be more compassionate and supportive in each other’s weaknesses. And each person will be celebrated for their own strengths.  

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY BEING SPECIFIC, GENEROUS AND GENUINE WITH YOUR EXPRESSIONS OF LOVE AND RESPECT

If you’re energized by giving encouragement or help to others…

  • Serve your family and caregiving team by frequently reminding them they are seen, valuable, loved and appreciated by you and by God
  • Pray for opportunities to give spiritual, emotional, or practical encouragement where it is needed
  • Avoid using encouragement or acts of service to manipulate others
  • Keep healthy internal boundaries while also being clear and direct about your own needs
  • Be specific with your words of love, affection, appreciation, and affirmation
  • Learn to be compassionate and patient with those who demand a great deal of attention
  • Help others learn to rely more on Jesus to feel loved and secure than on anyone else
  • Cultivate intimacy with Jesus to meet your own deepest needs for love and security

The Bible offers an abundance of guidance for people who are generous encourages or helpers:

Matthew 5:5
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:37
Just say a simple, “Yes, I will,” or “No, I won’t.” Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

John 5:44
No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.

2 Corinthians 9:7
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

Ephesians 3:12-19
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down deep into God’s love and keep you strong…then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving me the heart to serve my family and others. Your works are wonderful, and I know this well. I confess that sometimes I take on “yokes” that don’t belong to me or to me alone. I also resent when my burdens feel unequal to the load others are carrying. Help me to care for others as You call me to — no more and no less. Be my Source of comfort and strength so I don’t become weary or start to feel taken for granted by others. Show me how to express my own needs clearly and respectfully. Teach me if there be any impure motivations for my expressions of love and care. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit to be genuinely and generously compassionate. In Your mercy, Jesus, send more helpers and encouragers to my family so that our family can thrive and so that many will know You are alive, accessible, powerful, and good! Amen

Tell us in the comments what helping and encouraging looks like for you and in your family!

Send us your questions and join Lisa LIVE on Facebook April 15th!

Lisa Jamieson

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.

Tips for Caregivers Who Find it Refreshing to Get Organized

This is an ongoing series exploring what puts caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. In today’s post we’re exploring some challenges and opportunities for caregivers who are refreshed by getting organized. We’ll also look at what is different when being organized comes naturally compared to when it is a learned skill.

Some people learn to be well organized. Others are just born with the gift. In any case, having an effective organizer on the team of caregivers supporting your loved one and family is a valuable blessing.

There are numerous daily ways our caregiving household has benefited from serious organizational skills. I’ve included examples at the end of this article. You may laugh or cry at the absurd detail reflected in the list and photos. Or you may nod with respect. Many families raising children with disabilities will relate.

When I think of all the ways and times that organizational skills have been helpful to my own family in supporting Carly, my mind swirls with memories. My earliest recollection of bringing order to chaos involves feeding her during infancy. Because of Carly’s challenges with sucking, swallowing, reflux and being held (sensory issues), my husband, Larry, and I were forced to develop a feeding routine aimed at keeping her calm and thriving. This had to happen while also caring for two older children and maintaining the business we owned at the time. To say those days were hard is an understatement, but they were doable and tolerable, in large part, because we both had some natural abilities for creativity and organization. Without a doubt, we had the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to keep us persevering!

Thankfully, this is an area some have called my “genius.” There’s no denying organizational abilities seem to ooze from my blood. But the truth is, there is no shortage of organizational blood around here. Others in my family are also gifted organizers.

One example is worth taking time to explain. It powerfully illustrates how our daughter, Alex’s, organizing efforts led to our most enjoyable family Thanksgiving vacation to date. Holiday travel has been emotionally difficult for us. We manage well through the logistics of packing for Carly’s needs. But we have problems managing grief, frustration and resentment as those vacation days unfold. While the crew is wanting to play games, do puzzles, go for walks, watch movies and enjoy a glass of wine, each member of our immediate family is ever mindful of Carly’s needs. There is no escape from managing her sleepless nights, next hydration break, toileting needs, special meal prep, medication schedule, stress behaviors and boredom. We have all experienced some emotional burdens from this during vacations and holidays.

A couple of weeks before one Thanksgiving road trip, Alex approached me about creating a Carly care schedule for our week together. At that point, Alex was an adult working in a career that involved the daily use of spreadsheets. She already has a keen mind for organization but her mastery of spreadsheets has also become impressive. She kindly pointed out that Carly’s cares follow a clear routine of shifts at home that descend into spontaneous ambiguity when we’re on the road. Our family’s ability for tag-teaming has some obvious advantages but it leaves all of us feeling like we never really get a break.

Alex’s proposal aimed at ensuring there were defined compartments of time when each of us could anticipate being on and off “duty.” We agreed this would be a casual schedule adhered to in a relaxed way. For example, we didn’t define specific start and stop times for shifts. Instead, we simply identified who would have “lunch time on Tuesday” and who would take over for “afternoon” or “early afternoon” once lunch was finished.

It all started with identifying each person’s preferred shifts and breaks. She offered to create a spreadsheet and post it on the refrigerator for the duration of our visit. She also reminded me that Carly’s aunt and cousin have offered to help in the past but just weren’t sure what to do or how to do it. She said, “mom, we can just give them really short times of responsibility and a small list of ideas about what they can do with Carly when it’s their turn to be in charge.” I wish I could say I warmed to the idea immediately. It took a couple of days for me to envision how it could work but I got there.

When all was said and done, the rewards of Alex’s spreadsheet were too many to count!

WATCH: Family Systems and Holiday Gatherings

It must be said, Larry and I are exceedingly privileged and thankful to have adult daughters willing to partner with us in caregiving when we’re all together. I assure you, we don’t take it for granted. And I wasn’t always sure it would be that way. The countless reasons why grown siblings of someone with disabilities may want to avoid coming home for holidays, or at all, are material for plenty of other blogs.

WATCH: Parenting Special Siblings

One things is certain, being organized is a great asset in caring for our loved ones and in cultivating a higher quality of life for all of us.

Learned Behavior Is Not the Same As Natural Ability

As with so many skills, there is an important difference between learned behavior and natural ability. Those people who have the inborn capacity to be organized will not just be good at it, they will have significant need to employ the gift. They may even become more energized by activities involving putting things in order. If they are not given freedom and opportunity to bring order to situations and spaces, these folks will actually grow weary. They will tend to experience stress and become anxious. A natural-born organizer will shine in an environment where they have freedom to try their ideas. Most of their motivation will come from within.

On the other hand, someone with learned organization skills will be more inclined to see an organization project as a task to check off of a list or even a chore. They may have a heart to serve but not feel particularly motivated about something like problem solving or decluttering. They may appreciate a peaceful space and have the capability to tidy things up themselves but, given the chance to have someone else do the tiding for them, they would jump on it. When putting things in order is strictly a skill of necessity, a person can even become exhausted or overwhelmed, particularly if the pressures to organize remain prolonged, complex or unappreciated. To stay inspired, these caregivers will need steady doses of genuine encouragement and appreciation. Seeing rewards for their efforts will help keep them from giving up.

Sometimes, even the best of organizers will appear to procrastinate. The fact is, they may be taking extra time because they’re trying to figure out an ideal solution. The fear of implementing an inferior or imperfect solution may delay some organizers from tackling a project that feels complicated. A fear of appearing incompetent can be also debilitating.

It will be beneficial to understand specifically what may be hindering a person from employing their organizing skills. An intimidating project may need to be broken down into several smaller projects. It can help to address the easiest or most familiar aspects first. A highly relational person will be more motivated to tackle an organizing job if it is paired with something social. Fold laundry while chatting on the phone or purge a closet with a partner nearby to help in making decisions. Re-arrange the toys or room furnishings while listening to a podcast. Positive feedback will keep many project managers spurred on with confidence and a sense of value.

RELATED: Tips for Caregivers: Feeling Valued and Competent

The truth is, being in control can be a prominent motivator for organizing activities. Plenty of families appreciate having someone in their household who loves to keep the house tidy. Having a passion to keep the home orderly can be such a blessing to a family, most of the time. But it can be an obsessive need, for some people and at some times. In those cases, the organizer’s behavior can be problematic for the individual or family members.

I personally relate to this. There have been times when tidying things has created a sort of “illusion of control” for me when the rest of my life feels quite chaotic. At times, I have even used organizing to avoid doing other very important things, including stepping up to my responsibilities for Carly’s cares. It is important for me stay on guard for making an orderly home my idol. I may go to organizing things for comfort and quit seeking the the Holy Spirit as my primary Source of peace. In my strengths, the Holy Spirit guides and prompts my activities and priorities. In my weakness, the fixation with decluttering starts to control me.

Every caregiving household will benefit from the contributions of an organizer. If the knack for organizing isn’t particularly strong in your family, seek out a friend, volunteer from church or paid consultant to visit with periodically. A monthly, quarterly or annual consultation with a skilled organizer can breathe fresh life and encouragement into a caregiving situation.

Here’s another thought. If there are young children in your home, keep your eye out for hints of potential. Young siblings eager to help, be creative or solve problems may be little administrators in-the-making. Age shouldn’t limit anyone from sharing ideas about how to serve the family system. You may have a ripe opportunity to cultivate things like self-esteem, problem solving skills, confidence to experiment with ideas and hearts to serve.

TAP YOUR STRENGTHS AS AN ORGANIZER ON THE CAREGIVING TEAM

If being organized energizes you…

  • Seek responsibilities on the caregiving team that optimize your talent and capacity for things like medication management, housekeeping, record filing systems, rotating or re-sorting toys, maintaining therapeutic equipment, periodic closet and pantry purging, etc.
  • Facilitate discussions about routines and schedules that will keep everyone safe, efficient and well cared for
  • Help others find satisfying roles on the caregiving team (e.g., facilitate family/team meetings exploring the interests and strengths of each person)
  • Find a peaceful place in your home to be away from the pressures of the day and organize your thoughts (in cooperation with the needs of others)
  • Look for new opportunities for delegation
  • Express compassion toward those who aren’t as attentive to details as you are
  • Learn to seek Jesus in your priorities and strategies

The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement for the person who thirsts for an organized world:

1 Corinthians 3:11
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:16
He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

John 14:27
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

James 1:2-4
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Psalm 118:5
In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free.

Lord Jesus, you have given me a vision for order where there is disorder. The needs feel overwhelming at times and I don’t always feel personally equipped to meet them. I ask that You strengthen me where I am weak. Reveal Your strength in my weakness too. Raise up others around me and my loved ones to help too. Help my family to see ways where we can give organizational skills room to blossom. Use these gifts and abilities in our midst for godly purposes and to enrich the quality of life and relationships in our family. Amen

Send us your questions and join Lisa LIVE on Facebook April 15th!

Areas Requiring Organization in My Caregiving Home

  • Medications — Carly’s numerous medications and supplements involve medication organizer sleeves (pictured), a drawer in the fridge, a bread box on the kitchen counter, a kitchen drawer, a plastic box and first aid kit for traveling, a zippered cosmetic bag in her backpack, a special pouch in my own purse and a cupboard near her changing table.
  • Toys — We have systems for storing, cleaning, rotating. We have a toy basket in the car and special collection specifically for road trips.
  • Communication & Teaching Tools — Carly uses laminated photos to make activity choices and keep track of chores. Carly’s visual calendar has been a sanity-saver during the Covid pandemic!
  • Routines & Records — The number of checklists in our home is almost laughable. Lists line the inside of cupboard doors, hang on walls and pop up on our smart phones. We have lists of various sorts in the kitchen and primary bathroom: daily sleep log, seizure log, bowel tracking, medication changes, carpet/upholstery cleaning steps, outing idea list, behavior monitoring tool, and troubleshooting ideas for problematic behaviors. A 3-ring binder for all caregiving staff and family includes brief sections on hot topics such as Angelman Syndrome, her Health & Safety Plan, emergency contacts and seizure response information as well as time sheets, mileage forms and worker rights information for support staff.
  • Smartphone Photo Album — Several items are tagged in an album on each caregiver’s phone (e.g., family contact phone numbers, guardianship papers, current medication list, Carly’s state ID card, insurance cards, immunization record and Covid-19 vaccination card. I also keep a couple of videos there showing Carly’s current levels of function. These have been very handy during hospitalizations when I need to show medical staff what they can expect to see when Carly has recovered.
  • iCloud Folders — I’ve started keeping digital copies of important documents stored in a single place for Carly.
  • Incontinence Supplies — Carly’s bedroom and every bathroom in the house includes diapers (two kinds), wipes, disposable mattress pads, and more. We also keep emergency supplies in the car and her backpack.
  • Future Planning — This is an area that can trigger fear and stress, particularly for those who need to feel organized. In our household, there has been an ebb and flow about future planning. We’ve created and updated our wills at least twice in almost three decades of raising children. As the seasons of life unfold, Carly’s functionality matures and our financial situation evolves, preparing for Carly’s future and ours has also shifted and changed. It helps us to stay in touch with our attorney, check in with a financial planner and consult with other advisors along the way. We also work at maintaining open communication in our family about Carly’s future. Those conversations cover a gamut of subjects ranging from guardianship, social security and disability benefits to medical insurance and housing options. We have some dreams and plans but we tend to hold them loosely.


Tell us in the comments what or who helps you and your family stay organized!


Lisa Jamieson

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.

Tips for Caregivers About Leading and Following

In this ongoing series exploring caregiver “sweet spots,” we’re looking at the challenges and opportunities experienced when caring for a loved one with disabilities or other special needs. Today’s focus is on appreciating the roles of leaders and followers. A strong team embraces the strengths of both.

The famous Fixer Upper couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines, are both strong leaders. Yet Chip readily admits that he and his wife are vastly different in almost every way. In fact, he is heard in many interviews explaining that the early days of working together were not always easy for them until they learned how to “stay in their own lanes.”

In his book Capital Gains: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff, he says “It’s just human nature for couples to turn their insecurities and animosities against each other during life’s more challenging seasons.” He credits the successes in their marriage and business to their faith in Jesus and learning to appreciate and give freedom to each of them to embrace their individual strengths.

When family members are caring for a loved one with disabilities or other special needs, the household runs, in many ways, like a small business. There are daily needs for logistics management, ordering supplies, doing paperwork, tag-teaming or scheduling help in shifts and maintaining morale.

Any strong business needs both leaders and followers. That includes inspiring visionaries, tough-minded decision-makers and loyal partners who will dependably implement responsibilities and enforce policies. In my own family, we are gifted with a delightful combination of gifted servant leaders. But we’ll be the first to admit that we can step on each other’s toes from time to time.

Now that my husband, Larry, and I share our “empty nest” with Carly, we have developed a sort of rhythm about how we tag-team her cares. So when one of Carly’s adult sisters visits or we all go on a vacation together, we’re grateful for help but there can be confusion about who is in charge as everyone is eager to relieve each other of responsibilities. Having so many “cooks in the kitchen” can interrupt the usual rhythm. Those situations benefit from open conversation and intentional planning about how to navigate the evolving situation.

Our daughter has reminded us on several occasions that we need to allow others more freedom to find their own approaches to certain aspects of Carly’s care. Although Larry and I, as the parents and primary caregivers, often find the most efficient methods, efficiency is not always the most important thing. So when new people come to the team or one of Carly’s sisters comes home to visit and steps in to help, we are learning to step away and trust them to navigate certain aspects of their own ways and rhythms together. As you might imagine, we have often ended up discovering some wonderful new ideas from observing their process rather than trying to micro-manage them.

A leader will need to lead. A servant-hearted contributor may appreciate clear expectations but desire great independence to implement the plan with a sense of freedom from authority.

My family has learned we have some vulnerabilities during times of change or transition. For example, Larry and I sometimes experience conflict when he returns from business travel. His job takes him out of town one week every month so I fly solo with Carly. I may try something new, especially if I’m trying to cope without extra help nearby. During those times, I hone in on an independent mode that is hard to shake when he gets back home. Unfortunately, I have not always communicated those ideas with sensitivity. Larry can feel, and rightly so, criticized or judged when I announce that I’ve found a “new and better way.” Re-establishing our usual collaborative approach takes some careful attention.

Travel away from home for holidays is another time when Carly’s routine is ripe for change. The changes may be driven by a need to manage without support staff or cope without the usual home modifications and conveniences. But sometimes those stretched periods lead to an improved approach and the adjustments become more permanent. The benefits of those adjustments are maximized when we communicate about them well with each other as a team.

It takes people with varied talents, passions and perspectives to make a strong team. Each contributor will have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Charismatic leaders have capacity for great accomplishments and to be powerful inspiration to others. But the measure of their “greatness” will rely on things like their moral code, humility, kindness and ability to control their temper.

Valuable to any caregiving team is a leader who is confident, tough-minded and visionary. They will be admired for their ability to take on responsibilities and rally a team around a project. Their challenge can be remembering that people themselves are not projects. In their weakness, leaders can be overly selective about which needs they prefer to prioritize and who they choose to align with on the team. They can become easily frustrated, even hot-tempered or cruel, when unable to motivate others to follow them.

Those who are happy to follow the lead of others may be servant hearted and eager to please. You can expect them to be extremely loyal and dependable. They will also be your strongest policy enforcers. Even if they are quite independent, they would be very willing to take on responsibilities as long as decision-making can be shared.

Without a sense of collaboration, those who are servant-hearted can become anxious or insecure. Their challenges can include becoming fearful when left alone and resentful when they don’t feel appreciated. In an atmosphere of freedom, supportiveness and affirmation, the caregiver whose nature is to serve will always go the extra mile for your family and play a key role on your loved one’s “dream team.”

RELATED: Tips for the Caregiver Who Is Very Independent

It helps all members of the caregiving team to clearly identify the big picture goals and keep them prominent in their mindset. For example, the leader who focuses on training their child with special needs towards independence may parent harshly unless their ultimate goal is to maintain a spirit of loving connectedness to their child. Similarly, a caregiver whose goal is to make everyone around them happy through their service will eventually grow resentful unless their ultimate goal is to serve God and experience their validation from knowing they are, above all else, God’s beloved child.   

Clear and open communication among care team contributors is always important in forging a strong and healthy caregiving team. This is particularly true when family members are leading passionately or serving with fierce loyalty. Each must learn to cooperate with the other’s strengths having humility and compassion in weakness.

The combination of emotionally and spiritually healthy leaders and followers on a caregiving team is a powerful gift! The family will thrive by appreciating each other’s strengths and gracefully holding each other accountable to sharing collaborative and godly goals.

Send us your questions then join us LIVE on Facebook April 15th!

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY GRACIOUSLY EMBRACING YOUR OWN LANE

If you are energized by leading and inspiring others

  • Be involved with setting goals, planning, making decisions, delegating responsibilities, supervising and motivating the caregiver support team
  • Offer to be the point-person in situations that require persuasion (e.g., insurance companies, funding sources) and optimism
  • Learn to be a servant-leader who is attentive to needs and respects others’ rights, feelings, thoughts, plans
  • Learn to motivate others without manipulating or dominating them (never use threats, anger, force or violence)
  • Delegate obligations where others could be encouraged and helpful (e.g., research)
  • Invest time and energy in activities your loved one enjoys (e.g., adaptive bike, swimming, wresting/roughhousing, cooking, hiking, fishing)
  • Learn to give much-needed recognition for the contributions and accomplishments of others
  • Learn to look to God in your own needs for recognition and approval

If you are naturally inspired to serve fiercely

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that surrounds you with healthy, wise and kind people to guide and help you
  • Use your servant-heartedness and intuitiveness to meet needs around you
  • Be direct about your own needs, preferences and boundaries
  • Find people who will collaborate with you in decision-making and respect your values
  • Maintain your individuality and a clear sense of your purpose on the team
  • Learn to seek Jesus for comfort and support when others are reliant on you

The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement for leading and serving caregivers:

Psalm 139:
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.

Ephesians 4:26-27
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Matthew 5:5
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

Luke 9:23-25
Then Jesus said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”

Romans 12:10
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

2 Corinthians 9:7
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

Lord Jesus, you are so wise and creative in the ways that you have put my family together. Our circumstances are so complex and challenging yet You are intimately aware of it all. You know just what we need. Your timing and ways are trustworthy. I see that You are teaching us how to live more cooperatively and generously in love and compassion for each other. I confess that I have, at times, felt things like pride and resentment about my role in our caregiving family. Help me to recognize and affirm the value of others in my family. Help me to see what I’m good at and what inspires me too. Show me how those things are valuable to my loved one with special needs but also to my whole family. Teach me how to engage my gifts in ways that pour Your love into my family. As I lead others, humble me to love and serve You as my supreme Leader and Lord (you are not my personal assistant). As I follow the lead of others, humble me to serve with healthy boundaries and with genuine cheerfulness too. Amen

Tell us in the comments what works for you and your family!


Lisa Jamieson

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.

Tips to Help Creative Caregivers Find Their Sweet Spot

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.

Alex helping Carly stir trail mix.

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:

Ephesians 2:10
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.

Exodus 31:1-5
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!

Matthew 5:16
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.

Proverbs 18:21
The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.

Colossians 3:10
Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

Colossians 3:23
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

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.


Tips for Caregivers Concerned About Maintaining Their Energy Reserves

This is the sixth article in a series exploring what puts family caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. Today we’re exploring some challenges and opportunities for caregivers who prefer life at a slow, steady and relatively predictable pace.

Caregiving requires a lot of energy. It can be challenging to maintain the mental and emotional reserves for the normal activities of daily living. Many situations are physically demanding as well. In some cases, there may be little margin for the kinds of activities or rest that refuel the caregiver whose energy level generally runs on the low side. If that’s you, I think you’ll find encouraging tips = here to understand and optimize your unique strengths.

Frankly, some people seem to want a slower paced life even when there are no extra demands. If you are one of these people, your “dream day” might include going to work, sitting at a desk working through your tasks (even tasks others might consider tedious), going home for a nap, eating dinner, taking another nap, watching some television and then heading to bed for the night. You may watch in wonder — or even feel intimidated — when others fill their discretionary time with things like hiking, crafts, sports, shopping and hobbies. You may feel guilty about “pulling your weight” with caregiver chores like laundry, meal prep and housecleaning but find doing the family bookkeeping comes rather easily.

Are you someone who tends to work at a slow pace or frequently worries about running out of steam? Perhaps others have expressed frustration about your making your fair share of the sacrifices. That may be because you feel that every bit of energy you extend is a sacrifice. You may feel like life takes far more effort than you have to offer.

Here’s an important fact to consider: your fear about running out of energy may be far closer to perception than reality. In fact, believing that you may completely run out of “gas” at some point could be negatively impacting your relationships while robbing you of a joy and satisfaction in doing some things you really would enjoy. Becoming more willing to make sacrifices can reduce your hidden fears, build your self-esteem and enhance your relationships.

The truth is, you have some wonderful passions, a great love for people and a profound capacity for efficiency all wrapped up in a calm, easy-going package! In your strengths, you’ll have a conservative, practical and peace-loving nature that uniquely equips you with valuable problem-solving skills and an uncanny ability to mediate tense situations. You could be your spouse’s best friend at an IEP meeting, transition planning meeting or care coordination conference.

You can be a tremendous advocate for your loved ones. You may see and respond to problems and injustices with an uncanny instinct for improving quality of life for others. Your voice and purposeful involvement are a powerful force and will help you stay energized when you’re otherwise tempted to sleep your life away. Be aware, however, that you may feel angry and anxious when others are not taking action where you see the need to make things better. Your frustration will be greatly reduced when you learn to give others permission to be imperfect.

When it’s time to make decisions, you may appreciate finding someone trustworthy to share in that process with you. And release yourself to make imperfect choices along the way toward satisfying conclusions. You may need to share more information than what comes naturally for you so that others can understand your thought process, perspectives and ideas. But discussing the options and coming to mutual agreement with your spouse or loved ones will be pleasing for everyone.

If you’re worried about being blamed or criticized when decisions don’t turn out well, you may benefit from approaching more decisions from a mindset of safety and encouragement. For example, you might agree to say, “Let’s give this new therapy a try. If it doesn’t work, we can always try a different approach.”

Logical persuasion and positive reinforcement can be very motivating for you. So it can be helpful to you and your family if you stay open to conversations about how detailed caregiving responsibilities need to be implemented. It will also help your family to know how important it is for you to hear that your contributions are recognized and valued. You may not think you need this, but you likely do. You may be inclined to dismiss those positive vibes from others rather than allowing yourself a moment to soak in the caring and loving words others are offering. In actuality, you will greatly benefit from staying attentive and receptive to affirming feedback and appreciation. (Consider reading my previous article in this series called Tips for Caregivers: Feeling Valued and Competent.)

Be aware that when you are feeling stressed, pressured, or inconvenienced, you may be very difficult to be around. Your family, friends and co-workers may struggle to find peace anywhere around you during those times. In frustration or resentment, you may be inclined to procrastinate, be indecisive, and be difficult to motivate. You may also be hurtful to others with your verbal defenses.

To stay in a positive groove, it will help to maintain a moderate amount of independence, alternate frequently between task-oriented responsibilities and people-oriented activities, be clear and direct in communication, and learn how to use your skills in persuasion for godly causes.

Your family longs for your involvement — not just because more hands make lighter work but because they genuinely enjoy your presence. You have so much to offer and your peaceful spirit is always appreciated in the room. You will benefit from staying engaged with others. So, be encouraged to join the family for a trip to the park, table games, movie night and a weekend getaway. Linger at the dinner table and take part in the conversations (without adding your sarcastic comments).

When you take initiative to stay engaged with your loved ones and community, you will discover the power that well-paced and positive socialization has to energize you.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS

If you tend to be laid back or need a lot of rest

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that maximizes your natural motivations and mutual interests with the person who has extra needs (e.g., reading books, watching movies, going for car rides, listening to music)
  • Frequently alternate time between doing task-oriented things and spending time with people
  • Take frequent breaks, even short ones, to rest your mind and body
  • Ensure for yourself an adequate balance of work, exercise, diet and relaxation
  • Maintain a clear definition of your value and purpose on the team
  • Learn to recognize Jesus’ promptings and follow Him one step at a time


The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement.

Proverbs 21:2-4
People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart. The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices. Haughty eyes, a proud heart, and evil actions are all sin.

Psalm 19:12-14
How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
    Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
    Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
    and innocent of great sin.

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Ephesians 4:22-24
Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Hebrews 12:11
No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Psalm 37:6
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

1 Thessalonians 5:11
So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Philippians 4:19
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Lord Jesus, thank you for showing me that my peace-loving ways are valuable to those around me. You have given me an important ability to see different points of view and help my family come together around common goals. I do confess, however, that sometimes I can be stubborn and inflexible. I feel exhausted and afraid I’ll never have enough wisdom or the energy that others need from me. I need your help. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to courageously and sacrificially invest in my family. Teach me to notice your promptings and follow you in faith, one step at a time. Amen

To learn more about tapping into your strengths as a caregiver, you can also watch one of my conference presentations on the subject at YouTube.

Tell us in the comments what works for you and your family!


Lisa Jamieson

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.


Tips for the Caregiver Who Is Very Independent

Today we’re exploring some challenges and opportunities for caregivers who tend to be independent and are needed in some kind of caregiving role with a loved one. This is the fifth article in a series exploring what puts family caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting someone with special needs.

Independent people have wonderful potential to be very effective caregivers. Your strong decision-making abilities and great capacity to take on responsibilities will work to your advantage. You may, at times, feel like the schedules and needs of others are cramping your style. But, if you learn to make healthy adjustment in your attitude and behavior, anger won’t control you and your relationships will be enhanced.

Independent people don’t necessarily desire to have much control or influence over others. Some do. But many do not. Most of all, they don’t want someone else exerting too much influence over their life and circumstances.

If this describes you and you’re needed in a caregiving role, you may feel, at times a bit suffocated by the time and attention others need from you. You’re likely to struggle without adequate pacing of quiet time to spend time thinking thankful thoughts, doing your own thing and making your own decisions. Even if you genuinely desire to be of help, you may find yourself feeling robbed of freedoms, spontaneity and independent decision-making.

Don’t underestimate the value of well-placed breaks. Long periods without some amount of time to yourself is likely to put a strain on you. Your situation may not afford long or frequent breaks yet pauses from being responsible for others will go a long way toward keeping you refreshed. Work with family members and others who can contribute to sharing the cares so that you can develop an adequate rhythm of respite. Just knowing when your next break is coming is of help. A getaway on the calendar, simply a routine walk alone around the neighborhood or even time spent working in another job you enjoy will help you persevere.

Being a very independent person also means that you are self-motivated. Among your many strengths is the ability to gather and analyze the situation, come to conclusions and then respond according to what is needed. If you do happen to find yourself struggling with motivation, it will help to make sure you have sufficient and accurate information so you can draw your own conclusions and be confident in how you’ll respond. Ambiguity or lack of clear expectations can result in frustration and hesitation for someone who is independent. This can look like procrastination or stubbornness to others but will often have a great deal to do with your self-confidence.

All of us have strengths and weaknesses. It can be very helpful to recognize your vulnerabilities and learn how re-aligning with the Holy Spirit will move you back toward your strengths.

Your strong will can be both a strength and a weakness. For example, you will probably have a great desire to follow rules and procedures. You’re attentive to details and can be relied on to implement a quality care plan without a lot of supervision. In fact, you’re probably a good leader and very helpful in training new caregivers about the details and nuances in the realm of caregiving. However, you may have high expectations that others will learn quickly and implement those details perfectly. You may have no particular interest in controlling other people but you do want them to follow the rules and procedures put in place just as would be expected of everyone else on the team. You may not be aware that others feel a great deal of pressure to live up to your expectations because your expectations of yourself are even higher.

If you are experiencing a great deal of stress and anxiety, it will probably help you to learn that the lines of “right” and “wrong” may not be as black and white as they seem. Things that are unimportant to you or very important to you may be on a very different priority list for someone else. You will find your life and relationships to be richer when you work alongside others in collaboration rather than by exerting your own ideas and conclusions.

When working in areas that are familiar to you, you’ll be very efficient at those responsibilities. In fact, you may become so focused on working efficiently that you may sometimes forget to consider the thoughts and feelings of others. Being aware of this strong drive will help you to lean into the Holy Spirit for help in balancing efficiency with sensitivity.

If you are an independent caregiver, you will also find it helpful to be allowed to work at your own pace and in one steady shift that allows you to be efficient. Feeling pressured about external deadlines or the personal timelines of other people may trigger anxiety or frustration for you. Recognizing this can be very helpful since knowing what is triggering your reactions provides clues about how to pray for God’s strength as well as how to communicate clearly with others about what will help you stay in your strengths.

Be aware that people may perceive you as controlling even though you actually have little or no interest in holding power over others. It may be that your inflexibility, fear of failure and procrastination are impacting others in a way that makes them feel they’ve lost control. Even a few minutes alone every day can bring out your kinder and more flexible side. Cooperate with your team to give each other breaks for naps, hobbies, watching a movie, playing on a computer, going to work outside of the home or even doing nothing. These independent times will be powerful in rejuvenating you and making you much sweeter to be around.

It may surprise you to know that very independent people are often quite family oriented. You may have difficulty expressing your tender feelings around those you are closest to. In fact, your indirect behavior and sarcasm may be confusing to others. This can be especially true in families where there is a non-verbal person with disabilities. Your family may have become quite intuitive in their interactions with one another. However, body language, anger, tone of voice and seemingly critical words can often be misunderstood. It would be very helpful for your family to regularly “clear the air” with family meetings and conversations that foster clarity, repentance and forgiveness.

Things that tend to trigger stress and anger for you probably involve change, taking on responsibilities in areas where you feel unfamiliar or ill-equipped, feeling others don’t respect the things that are important to you, and frustration when others insist on the importance of things that don’t seem very important to you.

If you feel your competence is being questioned you may feel defensive, hurt or angry. It can be very helpful to ask God to show you what is real and what is perceived. More often than not, your concerns about what others think about your efforts are more imagined than real. While others may not tell you often or well enough, you are probably more valued than you realize. Your uncertainty about what others think about the quality of your work may be coming primarily from your own high expectations of yourself.

You’re likely challenged in the area of anger management. You may not even know that anger is problem for you. But members of your family and those who work closely with you probably do know. You may deny your angry feelings (or simply not recognize them as anger) unless or until you are intensely angry.

Caregivers who learn to deal constructively with their anger will find themselves much better able to cope with the tough issues of life and much more satisfied in their relationships. Anger does need to be expressed. But it needs to be expressed in healthy, godly ways.

The Holy Spirit promises to help us when we’re feeling weak. We are also promised to have our consciences wiped clean as we seek Jesus’ presence and trust Him (Hebrews 10:22).

As an independent person who is called to a role in supporting a loved one with special needs, you will find your sweet spot in that role by learning to deal with your anger constructively, give yourself and others the right to be imperfect, avoid holding grudges, continually forgive past mistakes, ensure for yourself some quiet time alone every day, develop routines that allow for you to be productive, keep focused on the positive side of life and make a point of expressing your tender feelings.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY DEVELOPING A COMPASSIONATE HEART

If you’re energized by being independent

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that prioritizes responsibilities in areas where you can control your own circumstances, time and decisions
  • Work together with loved ones to clearly define each person’s responsibilities in running an effective household
  • Develop a servant’s heart in your responsibilities
  • Be faithful to your own commitments without competing with others
  • Learn to show interest in what matters to others
  • Learn to be attentive and respectful to the needs and rights of others
  • Communicate daily with loved ones to keep from overstepping their boundaries
  • Create a safe space in your home where you can spend some time alone every day
  • Determine areas in your routines where you can take back some control
  • Learn to yield to Jesus’ authority first

The Bible offers an abundance of help and hope for people who are independent. If any of these verses seems especially encouraging to you, you might consider committing it to memory.

Philippians 4:19
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Romans 12:1b-2
This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Ephesians 4:26
“Don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.

Acts 3:19
Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.

Romans 2:4
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

Romans 12:10
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me just as I am. You are so wonderfully kind to me! You know full well how hard I work and how much I enjoy my rest. You have equipped me to be highly capable and to serve my loved ones loyally. You understand the pressures I feel too. I need your grace, strength and hope to carry me from one day to the next. Jesus, forgive me allowing ingratitude, impatience, pride and anger to control me. Praise God, I am not a slave to sin! I am free to trust your easy yoke and light burden. Teach me, more and more, how to love tenderly, serve faithfully and trust you fully. Help me to experience my deepest rest and satisfaction with You. Amen

Tell us in the comments what works for you and your family!


Lisa Jamieson

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.