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 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 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, licensed 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, licensed 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: Feeling Valued and Competent

This is the third article in a series exploring what puts family caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. Today’s focus is on how caregivers experience refreshment through affirmation, appreciation, respect and a sense of competence.

If you are a caregiver in a family impacted by special needs, you have a full plate! My hunch is that you feel a lot of pressure to juggle quite a few plates, in fact. Some of that pressure comes from the circumstances themselves. And sometimes there is pressure from others. Very often, caregivers experience an inner tension from their own expectations too.

I want to encourage you to have compassion on yourself (1 John 2:1-2). You don’t need to carry the whole load and you don’t need to carry it all perfectly. Sometimes you’ll long for things from others that you legitimately need but they are not capable of providing. You won’t always feel the things you should. Your responses aren’t always healthy or helpful either. You are human. You have weaknesses and you will fall short of God’s standard. That’s why you need Him! In fact, if you do your job too well, your spouse, your children and others may quit looking to Almighty God for their help too. After all, if their needs are getting perfectly met, they won’t think they need anyone else!

Whether or not the people in your world effectively tell you so, you are highly valued. You are an “essential worker.” I recently learned to use that phrase in referring to myself. I am a full-time home care provider for Carly who has Angelman Syndrome. She requires round-the-clock attention that includes developmental support and medical care. In the phases for implementing the Covid-19 vaccinations in my state of Minnesota, I am considered an “essential healthcare provider.” It may seem trivial, but it felt very validating to see myself and my husband acknowledged in that very first category.

Personally, I appreciate knowing my efforts are valued and that my sacrifices are respected. Since Carly is non-verbal, I’m delighted by her hugs and smiles. On some rare occasions, she will even clap in appreciation for a meal I prepared or because she likes how I brushed her teeth. Most of the time, however, the burden for keeping me bolstered with encouragement falls on other family members. For example, Carly has a sleep disorder that is tremendously complicated and resistant to medications. When I’ve been awake throughout a long night with her, it is very helpful to begin the day with affection from my family. I feel so valued when my husband greets me at breakfast with a long, empathetic hug and a simple word of appreciation for the rest I’ve relinquished. It also encourages me when one of my daughters simply asks, “how much sleep did you get last night, mom?” and then responds with “I’m sorry” when she hears it was a long night.

These kinds of things move me toward my “sweet spot” and help me get through an exhausting day.

We may not like to admit how important things like validation, encouragement and feeling appreciated are to us. It doesn’t seem very Christ-like to depend on the affections of others to keep our spirits boosted. But let’s be honest, we all have some degree of need to feel known, understood, respected, affirmed and reassured of our worth.

Our needs are not necessarily unbiblical. God wonderfully and uniquely created each of us with a body, mind and spirit (Psalm 139:13-14). Each of us has strengths (1 Corinthians 12:4) and weaknesses (Romans 3:23). Both are necessary. Our strengths are a gift to others. Our weaknesses keep us humble and dependent on God. They are a way for God to put His own perfection on display (Isaiah 40:29, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Hebrews 11:34, ).

It is not weakness to need affection. God made us relational beings. The exchange of affection is essential for maintaining satisfactory relationships. The Apostle Paul found great encouragement from others. In Romans 1:12, he wrote, When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. Strong emotional ties are accomplished by sharing feelings of love, appreciation and affirmation. We can learn from the example in the New Testament letters. These apostles not only prayed for God’s people but also told them so through encouraging words (Ephesians 1:15–23, Philippians 1:3–11, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 2 Timothy 1:3, Philemon 1:4–7, 3 John 2).

What is weakness is relying too heavily on others to keep us feeling affirmed. That weakness can lead us into sin if we start trying to get the need met in ungodly or unhealthy ways. God insists on being our first love. But He doesn’t deny us the exchange of love with others. In fact, he insists on it.

Matthew 22:37-38
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. 
A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

You don’t need to apologize for needing encouragement. In fact, sometimes you’ll need to be direct with others and ask for it. Don’t expect people to read your mind and intuitively know what bolsters you. Educate your community about what encourages you then leave it to God to shape and refine them. Have compassion when people are slow learners!

The world will always fall short of meeting our needs to feel valued and protected. Loving relationships are a gift from God but they will always leave us incompletely satisfied. Only intimacy with God is completely satisfying. Only Jesus completely understands our longings and will interpret them for us (Romans 8:26-27).

Friend, God’s advocacy for you is without fail (John 14:15-21).

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY KNOWING YOUR TRUE VALUE COMES FROM BEING A CHILD OF THE ONE TRUE GOD

If you’re fueled by receiving affirmation, appreciation and affection

  • Explain your need for more positive feedback to those you are close to
  • Spend time with people who are expressive and encourage you toward a godly life
  • Acknowledge expressions of love and appreciation from others with words of gratitude
  • Remember you are valued by the loved one(s) you serve (even if they don’t express it well)
  • Learn not to be jealous of time and attention your deep relationships spend with others
  • Recognize when you are feeling rejected and renew your mind with truth about your value as God’s son/daughter
  • Cultivate intimacy with Jesus to meet your deepest needs for love and security


Some people are more sensitive than others to feeling like they are being criticized or if their competence feels questioned. Most people will be more sensitive to feeling inadequate or rejected when they are stressed or exhausted too. And since many caregivers experience significant fatigue and pressure, is it any wonder that we can be vulnerable to perceiving disappointment from others even when it isn’t really there?

Here are some tips for those times when you may feel inadequate, incompetent or criticized

  • Get clear information about what is needed and expected of you
  • Focus your responsibilities in areas where you feel familiar or confident
  • Establish respectful boundaries where you feel pressure to perform outside of your capabilities (consider delegating, ask for time to grow and then learn something new about the care responsibilities)
  • Find areas where there is freedom to work at your own pace
  • Learn to be more direct in expressing your needs
  • Learn to deal constructively with anger
  • Develop trust in the Holy Spirit to equip you for every good work and be perfect in your weaknesses
  • Learn to trust God with your life and your future to reduce fears of unknown


The Bible offers an abundance of encouragement and reassurance for caregivers. Here are some examples I hope will be of help to you:

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

Hebrews 10:24-25
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Colossians 3:23
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Psalm 94:19
When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Ephesians 3:18-19
May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Lord Jesus, I confess that I am hungry to feel loved. I need reassurances that I am seen, known and valued. Forgive me when I misplace my focus on worldly things and expect too much from others. Above all, I am Your beloved child. I need reminding how much You love me. Thank you for loving me unconditionally to the point of death. I also want to thank you for the gift of my community and loved ones. Help us to love each other well. Show me how to be an encourager and teach me how to humbly receive what others have to offer me. Most of all, I am refreshed and energized to persevere in caring for my loved ones when I trust Your unfailing love for me. Amen

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


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, licensed 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.

Join us for Reach Night and learn more about resources for families with special needs!

Tips for Caregivers Energized by Connectedness

This post is the latest installment in a developing series for caregivers. We’re exploring what helps us find our “sweet spots” in the family that cares for one another amidst the challenges of disability. We hope today’s article encourages you and offers tips that help optimize your strengths.

The life of a caregiver can be socially isolating for a variety of reasons. And limited socialization has unique impact from one person to another. Some people simply don’t need a lot of interaction with people. Others have great need to feel loved, cared for and valued. One person may be grateful for weekly conversations with staff at the therapy clinic. A different person may be satisfied going weeks without so much as a trip to the grocery store or have little need to interact with neighbors while on a walk around the block.

Ultimately, the spectrum is broad and varied in terms of our needs and expressiveness in relationships. But this fact remains. Caregivers who thrive in community but do not experience adequate and consistent connectedness or associations are likely to struggle with energy levels, moodiness, discouragement, anxiety and unfulfilled longings to feel valued.

Here’s the good news! Intentionally cultivating community will keep your spirits refreshed and will energize you to care for your loved ones from a position of strength.

It can be very helpful to understand that not all connectedness or socialization is equal. It is simply not as straightforward as being introverted or extroverted. Our unique needs and capacities for relationships are actually quite complex and nuanced, aren’t they?

Consider these examples and questions:

You may be a caregiver who appreciates generous amounts of solitude but needs to feel seen and known by people.

You could be that person who enjoys getting to know something about almost everyone you meet.

Are you someone who likes to feel some personal connection to your child’s teacher, para, therapists or physicians? Do you know you mail carrier’s first name?

Do you feel deeply the sting of rejection when a relationship is strained? Or do you rather easily move on to a new friendship if a relationship isn’t satisfying?

Are you very selective about who you relate to? Upon walking into a crowded room, do you quickly scan faces to find the people you have interest in connecting with and move quickly past everyone else?

Do you tend to be understated in communication and hope people will intuitively understand you? If you are one of those caregivers who isn’t particularly expressive, you may feel forgotten or sense that someone is taking advantage of you.

As you ponder the nature of your own needs for community and relationships, consider how these tips may help you function from a place of strength.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS

If you’re energized by a sense of CASUAL CONNECTEDNESS in your broader community, here are some guiding tips for you:

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that allows you to be among people as much as possible (e.g., take your loved one to appointments, do the grocery shopping, run errands, go for walks together, attend sporting events such as Special Olympics, volunteer to help with a fundraiser)
  • Identify people willing to connect spontaneously when you’re feeling isolated, lonely or disconnected
  • Listen to talk radio or podcasts if forced to be away from people for long periods of time
  • Put yourself in situations where you can interact with people when performing mundane duties (e.g., talk to a friend on speaker phone)
  • Complete a task before indulging in pleasures
  • Learn to deal with anger constructively and in ways that are pleasing to God

If you are energized by CONNECTING DEEPLY in your close relationships, here are some guiding scriptures and tips for you:

  • Serve your family and caregiving team with frequent expressions of love, affection, appreciation and affirmation
  • Maintain adequate pacing of rest and refreshment
  • Keep fun activities, social dates and respite on the calendar so you can look forward to them on hard days
  • Recognize your tendency to fill life with activities that bring attention to you or make you feel valued
  • Learn to deal with intense emotions constructively and in ways that are pleasing to God
  • Ask questions and learn about what matters to the people you care about
  • Ask God to grow your bond with the person who has extra needs
  • Develop intimacy with Jesus to meet your deepest needs for love and security
  • Learn to experience a tangible sense of God’s nearness though prayer, scripture and worship music when feeling afraid or lonely

The Bible offers our best plumbline and an abundance of help for relationships.

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

Proverbs 14:10
Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy.

Colossians 3:23
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

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

Ephesians 4:26-27
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”
Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 
for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

John 15:13
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Lord Jesus, You created me for community. Even still, relationships are complicated. I am prone to disappointment when it comes to experiencing satisfying community. Search me and know my anxious thoughts. Just as my body needs food to survive, my soul needs to connect with others in meaningful ways. Lead me to grow in connections that matter from a Kingdom perspective. Help me to be intentional, strategic, humble and prayerful about who I associate with and how I develop deeper relationships. Help me to communicate my needs clearly. Show me how to love and encourage others well. In Jesus’ name, I ask you to provide adequate and satisfying community for me and for my family. We need practical help, a sense of inclusion, emotional support and places of belonging. AMEN

At Walk Right In Ministries, we pay close attention to people’s unique needs and capacities for relationships. We understand how important it is for caregivers and families impacted by special needs to cultivate community that is practically helpful and emotionally satisfying. We look to Christian temperament theology in helping families build their “tribe.” If you would like to explore God’s unique imprint on you and grow in intimacy with Him and others, please reach out.


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, licensed 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.

8 Marriage Strengthening Practices for Couples Parenting a Child with Special Needs

This month, we’re celebrating loving families and the legacy we can leave our children about love in marriage. Marriage is challenging, at times, even in the best of circumstances. When there is the added complication of circumstances like disability, medical concerns, traumatic injury, a mental health issue or some other special need, a marriage can become neglected or strained. Here are some practices — yes, things we can work at together, over time — that will help strengthen any marriage. But these are particularly powerful points of focus for the family impacted by special needs.

CELEBRATE EACH OTHER

God strengthens our marriages when we regularly express gratitude for each other and His faithfulness.
Romans 12:10 | 2 Corinthians 4:7-8 | 1 Peter 4:8 | 1 Thessalonians 5:11

BE  A  SAFE  SPACE

Cultivate safe relationship for processing individual and family grief.
Psalm 34:18 | Psalm 77 | Proverbs 21:9 | Proverbs 21:19 | Proverbs 21:23 | Romans 12:15-16

KEEP  CLEAN  SLATES

Our marriage is strengthened when we practice repentance and forgiveness.
Matthew 5:24 | Ephesians 4:2-3 | Ephesians 4:32 | Colossians 3:13-14 | Romans 14:13 | James 5:16

COMFORT  EACH  OTHER

We will enjoy the ripples of God’s all-consuming comfort through God’s design for marriage.
2 Samuel 12:24 | Proverbs 11:25-26 | Proverbs 14:10 | 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 | Philippians 4:13

COOPERATE WITH GOD

God lovingly refines each of us as we cooperate with Him.
Proverbs 24:29 | Ephesians 4:31-32 | Ephesians 5:28 | 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 | 2 Corinthians 3:5 |
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 | James 4:6

CATCH A  VISION

Having a Kingdom perspective about disability, suffering and redemption will enable us to embrace our challenges as opportunity.
Jeremiah 29:1-14 | 1 Peter 5:6-9 | Ephesians 3:20-21 | 2 Peter 3:9

BE  A TEAM

God wants to align our marriage with His heart for community.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 | Matthew 11:10 | 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 | Galatians 6:2 | 1 John 4:7-12

KNOW  WHOSE  YOU  ARE

We thrive when our personal and family identities are centered on being children of God, not on being a family with special needs.
Matthew 19:26 | John 1:12-13 | Romans 8:14, 16-17 | 2 Corinthians 3:5

Ask God the questions below in prayer. Begin some conversation exploring the questions with your spouse. You might look at one practice each week. Read the scriptures together and ask for God’s fresh insights, breakthrough in troubled areas, and refreshment to come to your family through your ongoing practice of each area.

  1. In which of these areas are we strongest?
  2. Which of these principles are hard for us? Why?
  3. Which one of these principles shows us our greatest opportunity to grow?
  4. How might our marriage be richer and stronger if we practice that principle?

At Walk Right In Ministries, we are praying for marriages. May every person who reads these practices be encouraged and empowered by the Holy Spirit to experience hope and growth — with each other and with Almighty God.

Larry and Lisa Jamieson, co-founders of Walk Right In Ministries, shared a candid reflection on these practices in their own marriage at the Wonderfully Made Conference (fall 2020). You can watch that on YouTube for more information, encouragement and inspiration.

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.

1 PETER 4:8

Please contact us if you would like specific, personal prayer. Our dedicated Prayer Team will hold your need confidentially in prayer.

If it could help you to talk with a caregiver consultant or professional counsellor, please let us know. We hope you will fill out the Interest Form or contact us online.

NOTE: Until fall 2021, you can also get the Wonderfully Made 2020 Conference VIP subscription to be able to watch ALL of the presentations shared at the virtual conference last fall. Learn more and get your subscription at wonderfullymadeKC.com

Communication: The Avenue to Connection

I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about open communication in caregiving families and explicitly communicating our needs to those around us. As I was writing that blog, so many more thoughts flooded my mind about the importance of communication. There are so many simple things that we overlook as we try to connect with those around us. And isn’t our ultimate goal for connection?

Let me start by saying, I am not writing these blogs because I am good at communication. In fact, it’s probably more accurate to say that I’m writing these blogs because I’m often bad at it. But I guess when you hit a wall enough times, you eventually learn how to climb over it. 

Connection is a two-way street and we all know it takes two to tango. However, we only have power over our own personal behavior and growth. So, that is what my blogs will be focused on. I want to share on what each of us can do individually to make ourselves more available for connection.

One of the keys to a good relationship in any area of our lives is communication. It sounds elementary, but if we take a good look, many of the problems we have in our relationships come from a lack of good communication. As much as we all would like to believe we are experts at this and it’s everyone else’s problem [cough cough], let me suggest that we can always keep growing in this area. 

We have to learn to communicate because communication is an avenue towards connection. And our ultimate goal is connection!

If you want people to cross the line to connect with you, you might start by crossing the line to connect with them. The easiest way to connect is to be the first one to reach out the hand. 

I understand that this can require some vulnerability, especially if the relationship is already strained. But the way I see it, you have a choice. You can live disconnected from those you long to be connected with most, or you can take baby steps to change and build connection.

Connection has to be built and maintained. 

Have you ever been a part of a team at work, school, or church where you were assigned to a task with others and felt so connected to those people you were with that the task itself became simple? On the opposite spectrum, have you found yourself on a team that felt completely disconnected? Did you find it difficult to even want to do the task itself because of the team didn’t seem connected? 

I’m convinced you can do almost anything if you feel connected. 

As special needs families, we have no choice but to become a team. When that team feels connected, navigating the day-to-day care needs and high stress moments becomes a much lighter task. However, when that team feels disconnected, the day to day can start to feel very heavy. 

Let me emphasize a truth we all know in our hearts, but sometimes forget. 

We were not made to do life alone. 

Or another way to say it: We were not made to do life feeling alone.

So what if we made it our goal this year to become better connected at all costs? What if we took this time, while many of us are stuck in our homes, to reconnect with those right in front of us — to make protecting and cultivating connection within our families a higher priority than anything else?

My upcoming blogs will be dedicated to this subject, because I believe that the only way to thrive is to live connected! 

I hope that you’ll find helpful tools in my series and from all the writers contributing to the Walk Right In Ministries blogs. We hope something of our own stories, experiences, tips and encouragement will spur you on. I hope you’ll be inspired to rekindle connectedness with those around you and even think creatively about making some new connections! Time spent working on this is never wasted. I think we can come out of this most interesting season of our lives learning more about ourselves and creating new pathways to better things.

Let me encourage you. If you are discouraged reading this because of the state of some relationship(s) in your life, let me tell you something. No relationship or situation is too far gone. Connection can require intentionality, forgiveness and patience. But it is never too late to start building something together. The key is just to start!

So let’s start together. 

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

ISAIAH 43:18-19

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.

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.