Jesus Makes Much of Our Little at Christmas

Are you experiencing some underlying exhaustion while preparing to make joyful new Christmas memories?

Larry and I love the Christmas season! Yet we are coming into festivities with some battle fatigue and frayed nerves from parenting our daughter with disabilities. We have been short on respite for months while sleep, behavior, and health issues have also been challenging.

A recent doctor appointment offered yet another affirming but sigh-triggering report. Carly’s specialist kindly said, “You guys know just what to do and you do a really good job it. Unfortunately, this is a very complicated condition and there are few effective ways to treat it. The methods we would typically try will not be an option for Carly because of her developmental issues and limited communication abilities.” Fortunately, this physician also had some new suggestions to try in hopes of bringing us all some relief. We’re working the process.

In the meantime, we will very gladly push through weariness for the benefits this festive family season brings.

Such can be the life when parenting a child with complex health issues or developmental disabilities. Parents can find themselves dealing with a lot of trial-and-error, feeling very inadequate to help. Sometimes, we simply have very little to offer our big situations.

We need God to multiply our efforts and the fruit of those efforts the way he did for Jesus and his disciples!

That evening the disciples came to Jesus and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”
“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered. 
“Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!
Matthew 14:15-21

This passage isn’t just about the multiplication of food. It is about God multiplying the limited physical and emotional resources Jesus had at hand.

The placement of this story in Matthew’s fourteenth chapter is interesting. It reports one of Jesus’ most well-known miracles, but it immediately follows a significant moment in Jesus personal life. It is a moment of deep grief, and it can easily get lost. Yet it carries a helpful and inspiring message for us who have been called by God to care for others when we ourselves feel weak or depleted. 

“As soon as Jesus heard the news (about John the Baptist’s death), he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
Matthew 14:13-14

Jesus wanted to be by himself. He had lost a dear friend and cousin. He likely felt somewhat responsible for John’s death too. Grief is exhausting. Possibly He needed rest. He may have wanted to find a safe space to express his raw emotions. Surely, He would also pray.

Despite Jesus’ desire to get away from the crowds, He tapped into two things that empowered Him to serve beyond himself:

God’s Indwelling Power
and
Compassion

Jesus was often motivated by compassion (Matthew 15:32, Mark 6:34, Luke 7:13). We can ask God to give us a vision to care for others that is moved by compassion too. We also have the Holy Spirit in us to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 
Hebrews 4:14-16

When the many needs of our families and a busy holiday season are pressing in like a “huge crowd,” we may desperately want to set some boundaries, find rest, even grieve some disappointments. Periods of separation in a quiet place are fair, appropriate and necessary. Jesus frequently modeled boundaries and rest. But He also shows us there will be times to engage with the needs of others, even when it is very hard. Even when we may rather be somewhere else.

And He will supply.

The God of compassion — the One who fills all things with Himself (Ephesians 4:10) — will fill you with His comfort and mercy to extend to those in your care.

He will make much of your little.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 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.
Philippians 4:13, 19

RELATED: A Prayer for Minimized Losses and Multiplied Gains


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.


27 Gift Ideas for the Family Living with Disability

The holiday season is near. It is a time of year when stress, social isolation, and grief can weigh on caregivers and their families. Each family member — parent, grandparent, child with disabilities, sibling — is uniquely impacted by the disability issues involved.

Let me admit from personal experience that families like mine can be hard to know how to help. My own family realizes that our situation feels complicated to us and sometimes even more intimidating to our friends or family who desire to help. We often don’t know how to let others support us.

My hope is that those people who genuinely desire to love and serve a caregiving family will prayerfully read this whole article then take a step toward that family in any way at all that they may feel prompted. Because your step matters. It makes a difference. It can change the trajectory of someone’s day. It can stir confidence. It grows their sense of belonging. It builds their hope.

Have you wondered what kinds of gifts would bless a family facing a complex or long term caregiving scenario?

Consider the priceless and profound gift of encouragement. It is a gift that fits the whole family. While there are many kinds of physical gifts that would also benefit a family living with disability or other special needs — gift cards for groceries, gas, clothing, and restaurants being top of the list for many — the gift of encouragement is often the one thing that is most irreplaceable and far-reaching in its benefits.

You may assume that the caregivers in your life hear affirming, life-giving words often. That is probably less true than it seems. People may think warm, positive, admiring thoughts but most of those thoughts are not spoken out loud. Just think, for a moment, about how often you admire or appreciate someone compared to how often you actually voice those words of affirmation to them.

Proverbs 16:24
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Your words are powerful. Your spoken words are powerful, and your written words are powerful. Someone can re-read and savor your email or handwritten note for days and weeks. A heartfelt and specific sentence or two from you may be stuck to their mirror or refrigerator and spur them through unseen dark days for years to come.

So, whether you make a phone call, visit a friend, or write a note, let this list offer some inspiration as you prayerfully and generously share the love of Jesus during this cherished season — and beyond!

  • Be the initiator of conversations, meetings, and other touchpoints (e.g., occassional text messages). Caregivers are often required to be the coordinator of extreme logistics and most will appreciate your reaching out with perseverance and willingness to be the coordinator of connections.
  • Make a phone (or FaceTime or Zoom or other virtual) call just to say hello, check in, and express love.
  • Send a text, write an email, handwrite a note, or create some other tangible type greeting.
  • Schedule a visit — it may be easiest for caregivers to have you come to them. They may prefer to have the break away from home by meeting you for coffee yet and logistics of making that happen may be more difficult that it seems. Never be afraid to ask if you can come their way or meet in their own home.
  • Acknowledge the caregiver’s unique strengths.
  • Honor the caregiver’s steps of faith.
  • Point out areas where caregiving team (family) works well together.
  • Maintain a gentle and warm tone of voice.
  • Show appreciation for the primary caregiver’s efforts to lead and empower the disabled person’s support team and family.
  • Show appreciation for each employed person(s)’ efforts to provide for the family financially.
  • Affirm the value of the primary breadwinner’s role.
    NOTE: Primary breadwinners will commonly experience guilt for having the opportunity to “escape” the demands of caregiving for large periods of time. They may also find it hard to experience a satisfying grief process because their time and mind must so often be focused elsewhere.
  • Affirm caregivers’ efforts to take care of themselves and each other.
  • Validate the caregiver’s need for rest.
    NOTE: Be sensitive to the fact that taking breaks is nearly impossible for some caregivers. Many find it difficult to give themselves permission to take breaks. Those caregivers may greatly appreciate knowing that you esteem them for finding ways to rest and making it a priority. They may also appreciate a collaborator who will help them “think outside the box” about ways they can get some respite — whether very short breaks or longer ones.
  • Encourage caregiver self-advocacy and healthy boundaries.
  • Don’t make the caregiver feel analyzed or evaluated (especially when he/she is trying to self-advocate).
  • Express your admiration for specific ways the family members “have each other’s backs.”
  • Give caregivers permission to grieve. Honor each person’s unique grief process.
  • Ask the caregiver how you can pray for their situation and relationships.
  • Pray with the caregiver. Write out a prayer to share or tell them how you pray for them and their family. Be specific.
  • Validate the stabilizing impact their faith has on them and their family.
  • Acknowledge the caregiver’s stress.
  • Acknowledge that each family member has their own unique concerns.
  • Ask questions about the parent’s goals and vision for their child. Empathize when that may be unclear/confusing/ambiguous.
  • Call out (name) and affirm whatever seems clear about the caregiver’s vision. (This can help them stay focused too.)
  • Remind the caregiver of ways God has been faithful to them/their child/their family.
  • Reassure the caregiver about where you stand in offering practical help. Be clear and direct. Don’t over promise; be true to your word.
    NOTE: It can be hard for caregivers to know where you stand in supporting their family. Supportive family members may want to help but feel inadequate or intimidated. Your hesitation may be interpreted as lack of interest or rejection. It can be unsettling for people who don’t know how to interpret the dynamics of the situation. Give grace and communicate as clearly as you can within the boundaries of your privacy and limitations.
  • Invite caregivers into safe spaces to express their anger and hurt.
  • Whenever possible, let the caregiver have the last word.

Now, just in case twenty-seven ideas wasn’t inspiration enough, there are 100+ More Ways to Support Caregivers by Sharing the Care offered by the Alzheimer’s Association and applicable to a broad range of family situations.

Thank you for taking time to prayerfully consider ways you can come alongside a friend or family facing this season with challenges.

RELATED: Christmas Music to a Special Needs Parent’s Ears

RELATED: Tips for Caregivers on Feeling Valued and Competent


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.

Worship Playlists for Caregiving Parents

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:19

I hear a lot of parents raising children with disabilities say that worship music is a go-to for them when it comes to soul care. That should be no surprise given that it’s easy to turn on a song and continue with the daily art of multi-tasking our self care or soul care while simultaneously caring for others.

Music is accessible. It doesn’t rely on anyone else and takes little or no money to make it happen. It strikes an emotional chord, points us to Jesus, connects us to history, stirs a sense of nostalgia, and often has deeply therapeutic effect.

I am a caregiver with a demanding and complicated life. So, probably like you, I understand the frequent and desperate need for encouragement, peace, hope and strength. Finding healthy and godly ways to stay fueled up is so important to me! I also come from generations of music lovers and song writers.

My grandmother couldn’t read a note of music but played by ear and could make a piano or organ (and anyone nearby) dance! Her son (my dad) taught me to play guitar when I was five years old and, around that same time, completely refurbished an abandoned piano full of critters, a nest, and loads of dust that was sitting in an airplane hanger so mom could get me and my sister started in lessons.

I was writing songs at nine years old, the same age our daughter Erin later started composing.

Though Erin did learn to read music, she plays by ear like her great grandmother. She won a national songwriting competition when she was sixteen and has cut two EPs in the last few years. Our daughter Alex also plays beautifully and Carly, who is not verbal with Angelman Syndrome, finds her own unique voice in our piano room.

Carly and her friend Emily performing a duet.

My husband Larry grew up with music too. He played multiple instruments in high school when his band director figured out he was flexible, willing, and a quick learner. Truly, our whole family cherishes music and frequently bonds with each other and our Lord through songs from a wide variety of genres.

The Christmas season is so near and some favorite music traditions are about to erupt around here. I usually hold off playing carols until right after Thanksgiving because Larry teasingly prefers it but I have already been able to sneak in some practice and he hasn’t rolled his eyes even once.

Music is more than just entertainment, isn’t it? It is nourishment for our souls. It soothes the melancholy and moves a hardened heart toward joy and laughter too. In desperate times, lonely moments, and when experiencing inexpressible joy, our hearts often hang on the threads of a melody or lyric. There are too many times to count when a tune comforted or strengthened me through impossibly difficult seasons. Some terrific ideas, perspectives or inspiration have also come to me while I’ve been listening to music.

Sometimes I just want quiet. But there are many times when I am very intentional to locate one or more songs on a specific theme for a clear purpose. For example, the song I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe delivers a healthy dose of reassurance when my husband is out of town and the full weight of caregiving responsibility is on me.

I have spoken with many other caregiving parents and special siblings who have favorite go-to music too. We tend to create mental playlists to help direct — or redirect, as the case may be — our mind and thoughts to helpful places.

So, we’ve been sharing playlists behind the scenes in the WRIM community lately. And it seemed like a fun and/or helpful opportunity to make this a more public effort and build our playlists together. After all, we understand each other and tend to know what will resonate and ease each other’s burdens.

I’ll start us off but I hope you’ll chime in with comments about what ministers to your own soul!

For many of us, music is more than just entertainment. It is nourishment for our souls.

NEEDING COMFORT Playlist

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, confused, discouraged, these are songs that have made their way to my playlists.

Some Current Faves

A Couple of Highlights from My Past Playlists

NEEDING STRENGTH Playlist

When I have needed a boost of confidence or reassurance that God is present, powerful and good lately, these have been some of my go-to worship songs.

Some Current Faves

A Couple of Highlights from My Past Playlists

NEEDING REMINDER THAT JESUS LOVES ME (and I LOVE HIM) Playlist

We can’t sing too often about the great love of God. I may already feel confident of it and just want to bring praise. But sometimes I just need to declare truth myself and let the Holy Spirit grow assurance into me in that supernatural way God works.

Some Current Faves

A Couple of Highlights from My Past Playlists

What songs are on your recent or past playlists? Let’s share encouragement by pointing each other to inspiring content. It would be helpful and fun to see you share your personal faves in the comments below!

RELATED: Real Talk Livestream Christmas with Regie Hamm (music performance and interview with Lisa)


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.

How Is the Atmosphere of Your Heart?

Isaiah 60:19
“No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the LORD your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

When we put up our tree and decorations earlier this month, I went to bed thinking about how much I love light! The next morning, I opened my devotional and was immediately pointed to this verse. It got me thinking about why I pay so much attention to lighting.

As the seasons change in our home, I often adjust the lights. Candles get changed to seasonal colors, floor lamps move to a different corner, lower wattage bulbs are put in strategic places, the fireplace and fire pit get used. Even motion-sensitive night lights find special spots.

I’ve been known to follow my husband around turning lights off before he’s ready to be done with them too. As you might imagine, he doesn’t always appreciate that! I’m learning.

I’m frequently thinking about optimizing the function of each light source. But I’m particularly passionate about establishing atmosphere. My moods are often influenced by things like the colors, orderliness (or lack thereof) and lighting around me.

I just love creating atmosphere!

I love to see people enjoying a beautiful atmosphere too. Atmosphere helps to shape moods, flavors conversations and guides our point of focus. I always like to put a small battery-operated candle in the stable of our manger scene to draw attention to the display in our hallway at Christmastime.

So, as I carefully set lights in their places for Christmas this year and then read this verse a few hours later, I got to thinking about how the light of God’s presence changes the atmosphere of my heart and life!

Unfortunately, things in my heart and mind are not always light and bright during the holidays. Caregiver fatigue is among the things that I let influence my mood.

I want to be more dependent on God to define and refine the atmosphere of my heart and life. I want to be so filled by and reflective of His light, character, presence and peace in me that I don’t rely so much on things or people in this world to keep me out of heavy moods and the darkness of sin.

Jesus came to light up our world, after all!

“He is a light to reveal God to the nations!”

Luke‬ ‭2:32

God is everything we need. We won’t always have a friend or a spouse, a parent or that favorite self-care option. Apparently, we won’t even have the sun or the moon forever. But we will, always and forever, have Jesus to keep the atmosphere of our hearts and lives lit. 

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

John 8:12

Holy Spirit, I need nothing but YOU to establish or shift atmosphere in my life. Emmanuel, please light up my heart in an increasingly personal and intimate relationship between us. Help me carry the glow of Your presence and power within me into the people and spaces around me this week and in the coming year. Thank you for pouring light, love, joy, peace and hope into the atmosphere of our lives!


Lisa Jamieson

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

Open Communication: The Currency of Love in Caregiving Families

My family has learned that we communicate a lot nonverbally. Carly, my sister who has Angelman Syndrome, is (for the most part) nonverbal. So we’ve learned to read the people and situations around us without needing to say much. The problem with that is that we often find ourselves frustrated and even resentful when the people around us are not “reading” what we are not saying.

Hear this loud and clear. It is okay to have needs and to express them. 

Did you hear me? It’s okay. It’s good. 

We were created to need each other. And that is a blessing! 

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.

Galatians 2:18

Caring for one another’s needs is a currency by which we exchange love! If you are a caregiver, you know this full well! We show the one we are caring for that we love them by taking care of their needs! But how do we take that currency of love to all the relationships around us and also let people love us?

As special needs families, we spend much of our lives putting aside our own needs for the more pressing needs of our family member. There is something very beautiful and even noble about the ability to do that for someone else. What an act of service and love!

However, if we completely neglect our own needs, we will slowly wear down our own ability to care well for the very one(s) we are trying to protect. 

We can tend to neglect what is going on inside of ourselves in favor of what we have to do to care for others. Then we allow moments of stress to give us permission to unleash all of the negative emotions we’ve got stored up in there. But if we can process our emotions as they come, not every stressful situation will feel like the sky is falling. 

I’m as guilty of this as anyone. But I’m learning. If you can catch your emotions early, take time to process them and evaluate what you need before the pent up emotions start creating negative behavior, anger and even resentment towards the people around you (i.e. your family), you’ll find you have much healthier and satisfying interactions them. In turn, you’ll enjoy much better relationships long term. To me, that’s well worth the effort of knowing myself and my emotions — giving them the time of day when they need it!

The best thing you can do for your sibling, parents, kids, family members and friends is to practice self-awareness and be proactive in communicating. There is enormous positive potential in sharing your own needs and asking others to share what they need. Especially in a season where most of us are experiencing more time in close quarters with those around us than ever, it’s important to learn tools for communicating well so everyone remains in good spirits!

There is enormous positive potential in sharing your own needs and asking others to share what they need.

We need practice being aware of our own needs and then learn good ways to communicate those needs.

“I’m so busy today, I’m never going to get everything done.” 

“You never wash the dishes!” 

“I wish the laundry would just wash itself!”

Believe it or not, these are not the best ways to ask for help. In fact, they’re not asking at all. Statements like this may feel like an obvious hint to those around us about what we need. But they don’t actually give effective information about how we would like to be helped! In fact, they can even communicate criticism or disappointment in others and their lack of ability to meet our needs. You’ve essentially told your loved one, even if inadvertently, that they have already lost the battle in trying to help you or love you.

Why would they try now?

We can allow moments of stress to give us permission to unleash all of the negative emotions we’ve got stored up in there. But if we can process our emotions as they come, not every stressful situation will feel like the sky is falling. 

How do we take the currency of love to all the relationships around us and also let people love us?

Let me clarify that it is totally okay to express frustrations and disappointments to your loved ones. However, it is important to check our own motives as we do so that we are not trying to send a subtle message behind our words. (We’re all guilty of it, I promise). 

  1. Ask yourself what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way.
  2. Ask yourself what would make it better or how others around you can help.
    (This sounds simple, but for most of us this is actually very difficult and might take a little soul searching, but trust me, it’s worth it.)
  3. Directly ask those around you for what you need! 

It sounds profoundly simple, I know. And it is. But once you start thinking about it, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll notice yourself trying to give subliminal messages to those around you without actually saying what you really want or need. 

I know, I know, it feels like cheating if you have to ask for it — even selfish! But the truth is, we are asking a lot of the people around us if we are expecting them to read our minds. We are caregivers! We know how to help the person we are caring for. Possibly the people we know least how to help are our other family members — and yes, ourselves

If you’ve ever been in school, you know the best kind of test is an open book test. When we expect our loved ones to know what we are asking for without us outright saying it, we are asking them to take a test on a textbook they’ve never read! The reality is, they don’t know what you need because your needs are as unique as you are.

Let’s do ourselves and our loved ones a favor this Holiday season (and all year round). Let’s give each other the gift of the answer key to us.

Let’s give each other the information we need to win in relationship with one another! 


Erin is a singer-songwriter and worship leader. Her songwriting, blogging, and speaking is often inspired by challenges and insights she experienced growing up in a family affected by disability. Erin serves with Walk Right In Ministries speaking on special sibling issues and assisting with social media. She has also served frequently in her community and home church as a worship leader.

Erin earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Songwriting at Belmont University in Nashville and currently lives in California where she completed three years of study at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Her latest CD Come Alive (released 2018) and is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, YouTube and other streaming services.

Find out more at www.erinjamieson.com.

Resource Corner: Tools for a Listening Season

Hello, hello my friends! As we make the final stretch toward Christmas, I wanted to share some tips, tricks and listening tools that are helping me through exhaustion and loneliness. They might seem simple but they have been game changers for me.

Start your day with the Lord — through a worship playlist.

I have not been sleeping well. Families impacted by disability and other special needs will surely understand this. For the past couple weeks the glaring alarm clock has become the bane of my existence. When I succumb back into sleep (I’m trying to get up on the first alarm!), I’ve started to play my worship playlist so I wake up to it four minutes later. It has really helped me start the day in a better mood and grounds me into the day to come.

Upon listening to the songs on my list throughout my morning routine, I’m realizing how deeply personal the songs are to my prayer life and relationship with Christ. And in my relationships with others too. I’ve been praying about what has hurt me and what I take to the Lord every day.

I have searched for songs that speak into those things. I’m finding that the words of others can be borrowed for a time to help heal and shape some of my deepest hurts. Some songs included, but not absolutely limited to, are Holy Water by We The Kingdom, Good Good Father by Housefires, Hallelujah Even Here by Lydia Laird and Whole Heart by Hillsong United.

While I know introspection and worship can be deeply personal, this music has been a fun and interesting way for me to be reminded daily of the goodness of God. I’d love to hear some of your favorite songs that help get you through the day!

Set intentional time aside with the Lord.

I’ve had the Holy Bible app downloaded on my phone for has long as I’ve had a smartphone. But I recently discovered a whole new way to use it. I may be late to the party but I usually use it to look up scripture when I’m creating an Instagram post or when I’m trying to think of a new email signature. Little did I know that they have hundreds of devotionals!

You can browse the numerous categories they have or you can search by keyword. It can read the content to you alongside any task you tackle in the day (much like listening to an audiobook or your favorite podcast). I’ve added a video below to show you how to find a study you like and how fast it can be.

The app also provides interactive bible study stories for our friends who are young and young at heart. The devotionals can range from just a few days to several months long. It will keep track of your progress and even send you reminders everyday if you want it to. You can do studies privately or with friends to keep each other accountable. And you can save plans for later if you stumble on one that looks intriguing but you’re not ready to get started.

Sometimes I get so intimidated by guilt or obligation to do my quiet times and therefore don’t do them. This has made it easy to commit and make space in my day.

Lighten up and laugh with others.

Since this month’s Resource Corner seems to be all about listening, I think I’ll round it out with the Mama Bear Podcast. Sean and Mary Susan McConnell adopted their daughter Abiella, who has cerebral palsy and microcephaly. As the host of the show, Mary Susan shares any and all stories of their lives.

Upon bring Abi home, Mary Susan was pursuing her Masters in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment and has since completed her Doctorate in Special Education. She is one smart mama and is so raw and real I believe that I am friends with her when I am listening to her stories. She brings intimate insight into struggles and solutions that only a special parent would know and she makes this big world feel so much simpler when she talks about Abi and the joy she feels and brings.

One of my favorite episodes is #108 where Mary Susan and Sean talk about the parenting goals they did and did not meet in 2019 and what they want to accomplish in 2020. Another one that caught my attention is #82 as Mary Susan shares a list of ten tiny things that can help in the chaos. I found it to be extremely encouraging and inspiring.

The McConnell’s make me laugh a lot I look forward to her new weekly episodes.

As we celebrate Christmas and enjoy listening to the sounds of the season, we can be assured that God hears us too. Jesus came. He knows our heart cries and our needs intimately. And He came to offer us the best of all possible gifts on the ultimate of all rescue missions.

Lo’ He is with us always — from manger babe to risen King!


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.

A Sibling’s Perspective On Visiting Home for Christmas

I think I can speak for all of us when I say the last year has been riddled with difficult decisions and the experience of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. There have been very few (if any) easy solutions in this season of life. It’s overwhelming to say the least. There are so many layers to the ways this pandemic has affected each of us.

For me, when the shelter in place was ordered in my state back in March of this year, it marked an unexpected and abrupt ending to my last year of ministry school. It was a frustrating and disappointing loss. My family had planned a trip to California for my graduation complete with a caregiver for my sister Carly so we could all enjoy ourselves through the festivities. (Carly is 22 years old and has Angelman Syndrome.) I certainly missed the opportunity to celebrate such a monumental moment alongside my family whom I hadn’t seen since Christmas 2019.

Of course at that point in time, none of us knew the extent to which this pandemic would encroach on our plans, and our lives.

I knew when I moved across the country from my family that there would be times we would have to go long periods of time without seeing one another. But I never imagined having such a barrier between my family and me. I never imagined a world where I would have to protect my sister by staying away from her.

Erin (left) and Carly (right) enjoying the snuggle-hug we all love.

For most of the fall it looked like I wouldn’t be coming home for the holidays this year. Trying to navigate travel and figuring out how to adequately quarantine and protect my family while limiting my time away from my commitments back in California was a feat.

I never imagined a world where I would have to protect my sister by staying away from her.

For better or worse, the lockdowns in my state actually allowed me the flexibility to come home for the holidays. However, in order to limit travel, coming home for Thanksgiving meant staying through the New Year—a break I would have been used to in my college years, but a long time to be away from your own home when you’re 25 years old.

Bittersweet. It’s all bittersweet. Opportunities borne out of frustrating circumstances.

One of the gifts of being away for long periods of time is that I come back seeing things from a different perspective. I’ve been able to encourage my parents and Carly’s caregiver by sharing progress I see that they don’t always fully recognize when they are with her every day. It’s also hard to see, up close, the ways this pandemic has challenged them all. Carly is extremely adventurous and social. It is heartbreaking to see her working so hard to cope with the changes and navigate what is going on. I have been encouraged to see her doing so well despite how immensely difficult this season must be for her.

One of the gifts of being away for long periods of time is that I come back seeing things from a different perspective.

Carly’s favorite times seem to be when everyone is together. I know that my presence brings a certain amount of peace to Carly. But I also know the confusion and grief she will feel when I again leave for another unknown period of time.

Through it all, I am feeling so thankful to get to be with my family this Holiday season, knowing it could easily have gone differently.

As a sister, it’s wonderful to know that bringing myself back into Carly’s world can bring some normalcy and joy to this chaotic season of her life.

And I know that some Carly snuggles will do me worlds of good too.


Erin is a singer-songwriter and worship leader. Her songwriting, blogging, and speaking is often inspired by challenges and insights she experienced growing up in a family affected by disability. Erin serves with Walk Right In Ministries speaking on special sibling issues and assisting with social media. She has also served frequently in her community and home church as a worship leader. Erin earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Songwriting at Belmont University in Nashville and currently lives in California where she completed three years of study at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Her latest CD Come Alive (released 2018) and is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, YouTube and other streaming services.

Find out more at www.erinjamieson.com.

Christmas Music to a Special Needs Parent’s Ears

Philippians 2:4
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

“How are you really doing?”

Oh, how I love to be asked that question, in that way!

On a regular basis, I hear words of longing expressed by parents caring for children with special needs. There is an aching to have their bittersweet situation acknowledged. They need to be overtly asked. And they need to know the person asking really does want to know the answer — that they’re not simply throwing out a casual greeting or just trying to be polite.

For me it’s like a warm hug to be asked for a personal update, and about my family’s wellbeing. To be honest, people didn’t ask very often before Covid-19. In the midst of these prolonged weeks and months of pandemic isolation (and lack of hugs), they ask even less. Yet Covid has intensified the need to be asked.

I’ll admit, I haven’t always made it easy for people to ask. Sometimes I overshare. Sometimes people assume the answer and skip the question. Sometimes my situation is complicated and intimidates or overwhelms people. They feel lost about how to help. What they don’t seem to understand is that I don’t expect anyone to fix or change our situation. What I need most is to feel heard, seen and cared about.

Does this surprise you? Does it seem strange to you that no one is asking? Have you felt the distance too? After all, we’re all Covid-weary. We’re all struggling to think outside of our own heads and needs these days, aren’t we? Maybe we think we already know the answer to the question. Picking up the phone, coordinating a video call or meandering into a room on the House Party app should be simple enough. Yet, most of us are on autopilot or in “survival mode” trying to make the most of days that look very different than we expected or hoped.

In years past, I had one friend who asked the question another way. We would go for a walk together once a month or so and she would say, “how is your heart?” I would chuckle at the predictability of it but felt grateful it reflected the heart of someone who really cared to slow down and listen to my answer.

I had a telehealth visit earlier this fall as I’ve been recovering from an Achilles injury. My doctor who appreciates my broader life situation started the visit asking about more than just my leg. Her “how are you doing?” was intended broadly and she responded warmly to my long sigh. She smiled knowingly and explained that another of her patients replied to that question earlier in the day saying, “we’re Covid fine.” We both laughed and nodded knowingly. We might all use the phrase “Covid fine” at this point. Life isn’t terrific, that’s for sure. But we seem to be getting by somehow. There are good days and hard days, holy moments and horrible moments.

As my own family limps along toward Christmas creating ways to adapt, enjoy and appreciate the meaning of life along the way, we are also experiencing waves of grief. The grief has little or nothing to do with Covid actually, or even the loss of a loved one. It is just the typical chronic experience of sorrow we feel around the holidays because of how disability impacts activities and fellowship for us at this time of year.

Triggers are everywhere and often come up unexpectedly. I used to grieve every time I pulled out the Christmas stockings because I couldn’t hang them where I wanted them on the fireplace mantel because they were a safety hazard to Carly. Thankfully, I’ve grown to love them hanging along the stairway railing in our front entryway. But there are plenty of other triggers of grief ranging from disappointment that a simple church service, family game night or puzzle time needs to be carefully orchestrated like some major production.

These days, “how are you doing?” feels like a rhetorical question. Still, it helps to talk about it. Most of us benefit from having our grief feelings articulated and acknowledged.

Grief needs space to breathe.

Entering into deeper conversations can be hard. There might be tears. Emotions tend to be messy when they ooze out sideways, so it’s better to give them room to breathe in a safe and regular way. (I wrote a couple of years ago about creating safe spaces to process life, especially with special siblings.)

My prayer in these early days of December is already for something very simple. I’m asking the Lord to sink deep into our souls this lesson about slowing down and paying attention to each other. There may be no greater gift to share this year.

May our relationships become richer by resisting assumptions, courageously and intentionally entering into conversations, and taking time to really listen to each other. I’ve been reminded that I need to be more direct with my loved ones about what I need and hope for this year (not expecting them to read my mind or between the lines of my words). I’m also asking the Lord to help me listen to the spirit of what others are saying and not be distracted by the tone of their voice or their choice of words. Many of us are under a lot of stress right now. Our messages aren’t always coming across the way we want them to or even the way we think they are.

For Christmas 2020, we’ll need more grace for others and for ourselves.

Let’s give each other the gift of heart-reaching conversations. That will be music to our ears this holiday season.

Colossians 3:12
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.


Next week, Walk Right In Ministries has a musical Christmas treat for you. We’re going to do a Real Talk Livestream featuring Christmas music with Regie Hamm. He’ll read an excerpt from his Christmas story One Silent Night and share personal stories from life as a special needs dad. We hope you’ll feel pampered in the resonance and enjoy some literal music for your ears.

We’ll also take questions LIVE in the Facebook comments as well as ahead of time and privately via email to info@walkrightin.org or Instant Messenger.

Find us here on Thursday, December 10th at Noon (CDT).

Regie Hamm is an author, blogger, hit songwriter, artist, and producer who has penned over twenty #1 hits, earned multiple Grammy and Dove nominations, and won SESAC’s Songwriter of the Year award four times. His solo-written song “Time Of My Life” (sung by 2008 American Idol winner David Cook) stayed at #1 for four months on the pop charts. The amazing story is chronicled in his book, Angels & Idols.

Regie has written for Clay Aiken, Backstreet Boys, Rascal Flatts, Jaci Velasquez, Rebecca St. James, Mercy Me, Clay Cross, Gaither Vocal Band, Point of Grace, Mark Schultz, Bob Carlisle, Dallas Holm, Joy Williams, Avalon and more!

Regie and Yolanda’s have two adopted children. Their daughter Bella was born in China and adopted in 2003, then later diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome.

Join us on the 10th — this will be fun!

Merry Christmas, Friends!

During this holy season of Christmas, 
Walk Right In Ministries thanks you 
for bringing hope and resources to people experiencing challenges like disability, mental health struggles, aging, caregiving and chronic illness.  
 
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.”  
Psalm 39:7
 

Christmas Cookies & Caregiver Connectedness

I made two batches of Christmas cookies yesterday and found myself reminiscing over how the process makes me feel connected to loved ones of Christmases past. For example, I remembered the special way my grandma stored her cookies. She kept them in tins on the floor of her front coat closet. The cookies stayed cold there because she had a mail slot in the wall that let the winter chill leak inside. I shuddered to go in there but the reward was worth a hundred shivers! As I flipped through old cookbooks, I found a note from 1994 showing we made 75 dozen cookies that year. Four families gathered with our little ones for a whole afternoon and made nine different kinds. As the kids got older, we got even more productive but the pizza bill in the evenings also got quite a bit larger.

Sweet discovery in my cookbook. Our oldest daughter would have been almost 2 years old.

Baking, in general, makes me feel more connected to my roots. As I considered which traditional cookies to make this Christmas and imagined the similarities of my process to other women in my family, I found myself cherishing those relationships and generations.

I also thought of friends. One of my girlfriends made a traditional British cookie. It was only her third Christmas in the US at the time. Another friend used salt in place of sugar in a recipe one year and we still laugh about those first confused bites of recognition. Another friend made huge monster cookies when the rest of us were making dainty and fancy Christmas morsels. She grew up on a farm with six kids. I’m sure that situation played a significant part in forming her family’s tradition. It was fun to see our unique histories reflected in the variety when everything got plated up.

The way I feel connected to my fellow bakers during cookie baking is much like the connection I feel to other special needs moms at holiday time.

When my stressors are high because Carly’s routines are out of whack or when family games are interrupted by a diaper catastrophe, I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself. Holidays have a way of shining a spotlight on the many ways my life is vastly different — more complicated and more demanding — than it is for most of those around me. I long for more freedom to experience the ease and spontaneous joys of festive seasons. And those thoughts can make me feel emotional, depressed, frustrated, guilty and different or isolated from the rest of the world.

Reality is I am not alone. There is a world full of special needs parents who know a great deal about challenges just like mine. They are in their own homes, often feeling very alone amidst the merriment too. That’s why one of my favorite go-to verses during holidays and vacations is 1 Peter 5:8-11. I am comforted that others understand my challenges and I find great reassurance that God is a warrior advocate for me.

Cast all your anxieties on God, because he cares for you. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up and resist him. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on your faith in Jesus Christ. The suffering won’t last. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are! — will have you put together and on your feet for good. God has you on a firm foundation.

He holds dominion and He gets the last word. Yes, he does.

1 Peter 5:8-11 (paraphrased)

Friends, let’s praise God we are interconnected around the world and through the generations! I’ll be praying for you while I bake.