8 Truths About Disability & Relationships

The Bible provides many anchoring truths to guide us and spur us on in life. Caregiving families see those truths tested with extraordinary perspective. We also get to see — up close — how a foundation in certain truths stirs our compassion for each other, bolsters our sense of purpose in suffering, and reassures us that each person in our family is celebrated by God.

Each and every one of us is one hundred percent unique,
purposed for God’s kingdom,
and made for belonging.

Consider how our lives would be transformed if we really believed this one thing about ourselves and each other!

Let’s take a closer look at this foundational belief through the lens of eight truths about disability and relationships. By transforming the way we think, God’s truth has power to shape the way we live. By shaping the way we live, God’s equips us to cope with challenge or crisis. As we learn to cope — by the power of the Holy Spirit — we thrive in relationships with God and others.

God's good design is reflected in every person.

God’s good design is reflected in every person.

The fingerprints of God are on every person and circumstance. No matter how complex, senseless or hopeless a situation looks, every person has value and carries the image and power of Christ in them with the potential to contribute God-purposed things to this world.

Exodus 4:11
Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?

Psalm 139:13-15
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Suffering and weakness do not negate the value of life.

Suffering and weakness do not negate the value of life. 

Our culture hates inconvenience. Jesus welcomed interruptions and weaknesses as Divine opportunities. His value system is quite unlike the world’s. We worship knowledge and intelligence. God values wisdom over knowledge, and character over intelligence.

Our personal worth, our value to God, even the degree of our sin are not dependent on our abilities or anything we can earn. That means we are completely free of responsibility to earn God’s favor. All that God requires of us is faith. Even faith that is metaphorically as small as a mustard seed — one of the smallest seeds in the plant kingdom— is enough for Him.

Romans 3:23
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Ephesians 2:8-9
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

1 Corinthians 12:22
The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.

God is not limited by anything.

God is not limited by anything.

Issues that are so complicated for us are really very simple to God.

We scratch our heads (or pull our hair) over suffering that seems senseless. We wrestle with dilemmas about everything from medical ethics to school services to whether to accept governmental disability benefits. We train ourselves in different ways to pray for healing that might be more effective. We wait, often for a very long time, for answers to our questions and God’s response in areas where we are powerless.

In his book, Why the Church Needs Bioethics, John F. Kilner offers relatable encouragement, “Godly waiting reorients human beings from demanding that God perform, to prayerfully declaring that God’s character is holy, good, just, full of mercy, abounding in grace, and the source of all comfort. God’s gifts are good, both to desire and receive. The human heart tends to strive stubbornly for its wishes rather than rest in the contentment that flows from acknowledging God’s faithful blessings.”

Isaiah 45:7
I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Jeremiah 32:27
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

Disability frees a person to multiply grace.

Disability frees a person to multiply grace.

The culture values self, comfort, happiness, ease and an entitlement mentality. We feel no one deserves to suffer. Yet suffering positions us to give and receive unique and good gifts from our Heavenly Father and each other.

Disabilities help us appreciate different values like slowing down and unconditional love. The world teaches self-reliance. The Bible teaches God-reliance. There are times when the hardships of disability stretch us to trust God more. Over time, we become increasingly reassured of His faithfulness. We learn how freeing it is to surrender our weaknesses to the God of the universe!

Those who are most dependent are most freely used by God as a means for grace. My daughter with Angelman Syndrome is not limited by the need to work eight hours and tend to a home. She is entirely available to bring joy and love to others in a way that is profound and unique to her.  She teaches us humility in caregiving. She shows us how to persevere despite external obstacles and internal limitations — hers, and our own. She gives us a living picture of God’s unconditional love and challenges us to love one another well.

I must admit, my husband and I have often wished we could protect Carly’s siblings and others from the “burden” of her care. Yet we are reminded that the promise of God’s grace is just as much opportunity for them as it has been for us. 

James 1:2-4
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

God is first and foremost concerned with our hearts.

God is first and foremost concerned with our hearts.

Disability, suffering, and weakness remind us of the severity — and very broad reach — of the impact of Adam’s sin. We see in Mark 2:5 that God is generally more interested in changing people than changing their circumstances.

Mark 2:5
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Our relationship to God and others is what matters most to Him. And God will use whatever method he needs to in order to accomplish that intimacy. This means that God’s response to our requests for healing, to our weaknesses and sin, and to all of our concerns in life, always begins and ends with how our circumstances work to shift our focus and affections toward Him and then others.

Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to love God and love each other. We were told to carry our crosses instead of seeking our own comfort or happiness. Suffering makes us long more for heaven and less for the world. It encourages a Kingdom perspective. Others will see that God Himself is our treasure.

God desires to restore us to right relationship with Him and others.

God desires to restore us to right relationship with Him and others.

God loves us even before we love Him. He created us and wants to be intimately near to us. Our lives will not be untroubled, but they will be deeply satisfying and life-giving when our choices, attitudes and beliefs drive us toward God rather than away from Him. Until we choose to receive the generous love Jesus offers, we will miss out on the richness of life and relationships.

In his book Disability and the Sovereign Goodness of God, John Piper offers this challenge: “The truth is that suffering can only have ultimate meaning in relation to God. Jesus says that the purpose of blindness is to put the work of God on display. This means that for our suffering to have ultimate meaning, God must be supremely valuable to us. More valuable than health and life. Many things in the Bible make no sense until God becomes your supreme value.”

Romans 8:26-28
We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

1 John 4:19
We love each other because he loved us first.

If you are ready for a reset in your relationship with Jesus, watch here.

God transforms people and churches when we engage with each other through the adverse circumstances of our lives.

God transforms people and churches when we engage with each other through the adverse circumstances of our lives.

Christ-following families living with disability know the transforming power of doing life together in diverse community. Our own families are a picture of this on the smallest scale. Imagine what the family of God would look like if we learned to live out that same kind of community on a large, Kingdom-minded scale!

It is really really important for leaders in the Church to recognize and embrace this truth too. Individuals and families impacted by disability need to know they belong. As the Church, we need to get engaged with each other amidst challenges. But we don’t do this just because we are really nice people. We need to get involved in messy lives because God tells us to, because Jesus showed us how to, and because the Word promises that God will glorify Himself and give good gifts through unique people and unusual circumstances.

Godly communities make the compassion and truth of Jesus easily accessible to all who seek it.

Godly communities make the compassion and truth of Jesus easily accessible to all who seek it.

Making church and church programs accessible is a matter of eternal salvation for any person. This certainly includes people with disabilities and their families.

We have an opportunity to defend life. This opportunity has nothing to do with anyone’s ability. It has everything to do with making the Good News of Jesus known to all. Jesus is the Giver of life and the Way to life. He is the Giver of all good gifts. He witholds no good thing from those who walk in faith (Psalm 84:11). We are called to follow in that Way — to walk in that Light.

1 John 1:5-7
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Of this we can be sure:

God made each of us for a purpose and is going to help us in that purpose.


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A Robust Support System Requires Asking for Help

1 John 5:14
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

Many caregiving families are hesitant to ask for help because they don’t want to lose their privacy, their sense of control, or their pride. If we’re honest, many of us aren’t even sure what we need or how to ask. Even more, we’re not confident people will respond. Fear of rejection is a debilitating condition that impacts the whole family.

“I don’t like to ask for help.”
“Asking people to help me makes me feel very vulnerable.”
“I’m a private person. I would rather not have strangers coming into my home.”
“I don’t want to be too needy.”
“What if nobody responds?”


These are all common and understandable sentiments. All of us in families facing disability or other complex situations understand the dilemma. Asking for help can be so painful. The proverbial saying feels so true about our helpers — we can’t live with them, and we can’t live without them. For a myriad of reasons, we’ll wind ourselves up with stress at night trying to figure out a way to thrive without needing to rely on anyone else.

Those with a robust system of supports say the costs are worth the benefits.

When we weigh the costs of trying to go it alone, our perspective is usually worth reconsidering. Play it out for a moment. What might life look like for you or other family members in 10, 20, or 30 years if you don’t start right now getting better at asking for help?

The consequences of avoiding it range from inadvertent neglect of relationships and imbalanced attention toward siblings to distanced relationships with grandchildren, exhausted and depressed spouses, and radically decreased earning potential for the breadwinner(s) in the home.

And that’s not all.

When we don’t yield to God’s prompting about asking for help, we get in His way. And it’s never a good idea to get in the way of what God is doing within and around us!

My friend, John Knight, shared this good word in his blog many years ago encouraging special needs parents to move out of God’s way and leave the opportunities wide open for community engagement to develop.

“God calls some to extraordinary acts of love and service.
And if they’re not given a way to express that, they become really really unhappy.
So, we need to stop being afraid of taking advantage.
We need to stop saying to ourselves, ‘someone needs it worse than me.’
We need to not let the enemy win.”

What happens if you put out the call for help but hear crickets? That was my husband, Larry, asked himself over twenty years ago when we were starting to recognize the significance of our daughter Carly’s needs.

RELATED: Carly’s Thanksgiving Story

We learned that it was simply going to require an act of trust — vulnerable trust. If it was truly God’s prompting that we ask for help, He would provide. He would do it in His way and timing. We’ve experienced seasons of remarkable, overwhelming help. And there have been prolonged seasons of painfully listening to crickets.

Over the years, we keep learning that when the response is less than satisfying to us, we should not necessarily receive that as a sign we have done something wrong or that God wasn’t answering.

When the answer we receive from God seems to be “no” or “wait,” it may be about someone else altogether. While He is stretching our patience muscles, it can be about something much broader than our situation. His purposes and ways almost always have to do with many more people than just you and me. For example, if our asking isn’t met with positive response, it may be that someone needs to see the need going unmet. It may be that someone — maybe even many someones — are not being obedient to their own call.

God will meet you with comfort and strength in the waiting season while others are sluggish or stuck in their sin. It’s hard to understand that process and it can feel like rejection. The sting on our hearts is understandable to God. We can ask Him to meet that need too.

If necessary, continue to wait. And don’t quit asking when the Lord prompts you to announce fresh reminders about your needs.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Medical professionals told us Carly was unlikely to ever walk independently. In this photo, she is leading friends on a half-mile walk in the park during the Angelman Syndrome Foundation’s annual Walk in 2009.

Learn the Art of Delegation

You can’t assume people know that you need help or understand how they can contribute. Most care teams with robust support have learned to be bold and courageous about seeking help. They have learned to delegate. Delegation is an art, not a science. Ultimately, you’ll need to admit that you are powerless and need God’s help with circumstances, relationships, responsibilities, emotional health, and finding encouragement.

You can recruit help among friends, family, neighbors, church members. Recognize that your situation may tug the heart of people close to you but also be intimidating to them. They will probably need training. Sometimes that “training” starts weeks or even years ahead of time. It often begins by a person observing how you interact with your loved one in the natural course of doing life together. Allow people to hang around you, asking questions in their own way and time.

RELATED: “Let Me Know How I Can Help!” (This Will, Because They Won’t)

Build a List

In the meantime, make a list of tasks you’re unable to get to. Keep the list handy for when friends or family do offer to help.

Recognize that you may perceive rejection where it doesn’t exist at all. It is extremely common for caregivers to misinterpret the reasons why they are not getting the help they need or hope for.

RELATED: Defining Roles Can Encourage and Empower Parent Caregivers

His purposes and ways almost always have to do with many more people than just you and me.

Plan for the Worst Days

In between the really hard days, you may feel reasonably confident that you and your family can remain healthy and on track. But that is very difficult without support. Be careful about letting the good days lure you into complacency about cultivating healthy systems and robust resources. Enjoy those great days but plan for the worst days.

Your family will benefit greatly by being proactive in this area. Use the energy you have in those stronger times to be intentional and forward-thinking about how to foster the kinds of supports you’ll need when the harder moments or seasons come.

RELATED: 8 Habits of Caregivers with a Robust Support System

Give Invitations Without Obligation

I have learned one very valuable lesson from one of my own adult daughters who has been learning things through relationships in the national Sibling Leadership Network. Those who grew up with a sibling who had disabilities or other special needs explain that they want invitations to participate without the sense of obligation. Many appreciate offers to be included but they want to maintain their sense of autonomy while making their own decisions about how they get involved.

In her book, Same Lake Different Boat, Stephanie Hubach shares how Joseph, son of Abraham, maintained a proper perspective about the role of people in his life:

“Joseph’s God-centered focus did not preclude his asking for assistance from others. After Joseph revealed the dream of the chief cup bearer, he said to him, “When all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison” (Gen. 40:14). Joseph was not afraid to ask for help. Yet Joseph was not demanding. How can we tell? If Joseph’s comments after the revelation of the dream had not been an earnest request but a demand, he would have exhibited an incredibly negative attitude toward the chief cup bearer upon his release — and it would likely have been included in the narrative. Instead, Joseph’s God-reliance allowed him to have a proper perspective of people. He could be vulnerable and ask for help, but he knew his ultimate Helper was God himself.”

This invitation-without-obligation approach to asking for help offers valuable insight for many situations. When you make needs humbly and enthusiastically known without attaching them to expectations, you are more likely to get genuine support that is more effective, long-lasting and satisfying for everyone.

Accept Imperfection

It is almost always true — some help, even imperfect help, is better than no help. Parents are a child’s first caregiver and God uniquely equips every parent to provide for their children’s needs in certain ways that no one else can. Still, no parent can be everything their child needs. In our own weaknesses, we need God’s help, and we need support from others.

It is even true that our children benefit from having a community of support around them. One of the great gifts we can give our child with special needs, is a circle-of-support that develops and evolves around them for a lifetime of community.

It is hard to trust God as we release some responsibilities to others. They won’t always get it right. And with our vulnerable children, we tend to feel everything needs to be as close to “right” for them as humanly possible, all of the time. But if we were everything our child needed, they wouldn’t need God. And we should want them to learn their need for God.

Part of asking for help is learning to have compassion for ourselves in weakness. Let us also have compassion for others and give them reasonable space to “learn the ropes.”

Get Out and Live!

Yes, go out and live! Take some risks and trust that God will bring fruit from your investment in bravery. Find places, people and activities that inject some fun and joy into your life. Then let God knit and weave some of those connections you make for future purposes.

Remember, however, that friends and mentors don’t replace professionals where certain expertise is essential. This may include a financial advisor, personal counselor, marriage counselor, pastor, caregiver/peer discussion group, grief group, support group specific to a diagnosis, or other special interest or affinity group.

Examples of affinity groups that have greatly benefitted our family have included the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics, National Association for Child Development, Key Ministry, Joni and Friends, our church, and, the Real Talk Connect group that I lead.

Siblings of someone with special needs can benefit from check-ins from a school social worker or participation in Sibshops. Seeking professional help for yourself and your family is common among thriving families impacted by disability.

Learn how to tap into respite and financial resources through your state or county’s Department of Health and Human Services as well.

The National Organization for Rare Disorders offers a Rare Caregiver Respite Program designed to give back to caregivers—the parent, spouse, family member, or significant other—of a child or adult living with a rare disorder. The program provides financial assistance to enable the caregiver a well-deserved break. Learn more about this opportunity here

Keep cultivating your friendships. We all need one or more close friends who will receive help and encouragement from us, and who will reciprocate that care and concern. This is someone you can call and say, “I’m feeling low today. I need some encouragement.” With a trusted friend, you might say, “Remind me why I do this and how I’m good at it.”

We need to develop a lifestyle that includes both giving and receiving. But at the end of the day, the world will always fall short of fully satisfying our cries for help.

Only God can do that.

Matthew 6:33
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.


Lisa Jamieson, co-founder Walk Right In Ministries

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.


8 Habits of Caregivers with a Robust Support System graphic
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8 Habits of Caregivers with a Robust Support System

A strong and healthy support system is crucial for caregivers. Robust supports will reduce stress and positively impact physical health as well as mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. In a great many cases, a strong support system even impacts a family’s financial health by ensuring a caregiver’s employability outside the home.

You may feel confident that you and your family can remain healthy and on track. But that is very difficult without support. Be careful about letting the good days lure you into complacency about cultivating healthy systems and robust resources. You will benefit greatly by being proactive in this area. Use the energy you have in those stronger days to be intentional and forward-thinking about how to foster the kinds of supports you’ll need for the harder days.

Caregivers can develop habits that optimize their social supports which include emotional, practical, informational, and attitudinal resources. Those you find listed here are meant to empower you, not intimidate you. After all, we’re all in a work in process.

Healthy momentum should be the goal, not perfection. Think of these habits as a guide rather than a destination. They aim at helping caregivers maintain satisfying progress and keep from getting stuck on the often arduous and lonely road of caring for a loved one with disabilities, medically complex conditions, mental health concerns or other special needs.

  1. Approach caregiver fatigue with a proactive mindset.
    When a loved one has disabilities or complex medical needs, caregivers tend to become very aware of their limitations, weaknesses, and weariness. Effective caregivers recognize they are vulnerable to battle fatigue and they work to stay ahead of it. They are intentional and strategic about cultivating a network of prayerful and supportive warriors.

  2. Maintain a clear sense of purpose.
    Identifying your purpose in being a caregiver will help you stay focused on your goals, be reminded of your value to others, enable you to remain compassionate, give you a reason to persevere, reassure you that there are brighter days ahead, and relieve you of guilt and fear about cultivating support.

  3. Know your unique strengths and learn how to stay in the groove of those strengths.
    Did you know there are things about you that make you uniquely equipped to care for others very well? A simple reflection on Psalm 139 quickly reveals that you are God’s work of art. Caregiving is a drain on your energy and will threaten your reserves. Just as your body needs fuel to stay alive and energized, your soul needs nourishment too. By recognizing and accepting you have certain strengths as well as areas of limitation and vulnerability, you can help you optimize those strengths and learn healthy, godly ways to stay out of the weeds of your weaknesses. It can also provide clues about opportunity areas for bolstering your support system with complementary strengths.

    RELATED: Check out our blog series about finding your caregiver “sweet spots.”

  4. Ask for help.
    You can’t assume people know that you need help or understand how they can contribute. Most caregivers with robust support have learned to be bold and courageous about seeking help. They have learned to delegate through clear and direct invitations.

    I learned a valuable lesson from one of my own adult daughters. She is involved with the national Sibling Leadership Network and explains that siblings want invitations to participate without any sense of obligation. When you make needs humbly and enthusiastically known without attaching them to expectations, those who offer to help can do so with genuine desire. Their commitment could be more long-lasting and more deeply satisfying for everyone.

    Ultimately, you’ll need to admit that you are powerless and need God’s help with circumstances, relationships, responsibilities, emotional health, and finding encouragement. In a future post, I’ll share more about how you can recruit help among friends, family, neighbors, church members, and professionals.

  5. Cultivate a cooperative environment.
    As a team is required, God also equips everyone on the team with unique ways and capacities for interacting with the others. Aim to optimize the strengths and capacities of each person within an atmosphere that features cooperation, compromise, and compassion. This will enhance motivation, build self-esteem, and bring personal and shared satisfaction.

    RELATED: Boosting Family Morale: Developing a Complementary System.

  6. Find your personal pace for an adequate rhythm of respite.
    Caregivers typically have very little discretionary time and few are able to get all the breaks they need. But some degree of adequate rest is essential for everyone. Your proactive mindset helps you learn to grab every opportunity for down time. But spontaneous moments of rest may rarely come. So, having planned breaks on the calendar can be powerful in helping you pace yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Knowing something is out there on the horizon may be just the thing to get your through a particularly hard moment, day, or week. I’ll explore specific examples and ideas for your inspiration in a future post.

  7. Share everything with Jesus.
    Pray without ceasing and don’t be afraid to show your raw emotions with God. Open your heart and mind to the Lord. Explore your hopes, dreams, sorrows, disappointment, needs, challenges, failures, gratitude, joys, and pleasures. Everything. Sometimes there won’t even be words for the groaning of your soul. The Israelites understood this (Exodus 2:23). King David understood this (Psalm 13). God understands too. Be assured, words are not necessary. God hears our groans and sees us (Exodus 2:24-25). His help and hope are deeply personal (Romans 8:22-27).

  8. Adopt low expectations of the world — and out-of-this-world expectations of God.
    Managing expectations is a constant tension for caregivers. Even when your expectations are in balance, you will simultaneously feel confidently equipped for your responsibilities while utterly reliant on God (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). Only God is completely trustworthy and perfectly capable of meeting your needs. The people and things of this world can be a great blessing from the Lord but those provisions will always fall short of being enough. On some level, people will always disappoint you because you were made to need God most of all. Your ultimate hope and rest are in Jesus (Galatians 6:7-8).

The more you learn to walk in these habits, the stronger you will be against symptoms of battle fatigue. We’ll be exploring more about these habits in upcoming posts. I hope you’ll come back often, reflect, share your own “best practices”, and grow with us.

If you’re needing extra confidence, encouragement, or tools to assist you in finding your groove, please reach out for professional help. Consider caregiver consulting or professional counseling for personalized care.

Walk Right In Ministries is available to help you with education, consulting services, counseling, and referrals to meaningful resources. Our team collaborates with a broad network of local and national organizations dedicated to strengthening churches, communities, and families when disabilities are involved. Fill out the Interest Form or visit us at WalkRightIn.org to learn more.

RELATED: Flourishing Families with Matt Mooney.


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.

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.

Tell Us Your Ideas!

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

Monday, August 17th at 7:30 pm.

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

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

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

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

Family Update from the Jamieson “Cocoon”

In a general sense, our family is doing quite well. We have been learning to cooperatively “cocoon” during the COVID-19 crisis. That means we’re trying to be attentive to our own personal needs, sensitive and respectful toward each other’s needs, protective and compassionate about of each person’s unique vulnerabilities and just generally trying to make the most of this unprecedented time. 

We’re trying to build bonds rather than allow the challenges to undermine them. This is not to suggest that we are always doing this well. But we are trying. For all the things competing for top of the priority lists, this idea of being an encouragement to one another has been at the top of ours. And it’s helpful to have a vision for some purpose in this surreal time. #CooperativeCocooning has been a helpful goal for the Jamiesons. (Read Lisa’s article on Cooperative Cocooning.)

We actually have more help right now with our daughter Carly than we’ve had since early August 2019. In addition to Carly’s usual full-time caregiver-friend (paid staff), one of the women who worked with her until college started last fall is wanting to work now that she’s back home studying online. We are tremendously grateful that our two respite providers are considered “essential” by our Governor and that they’re willing to strictly self-isolate for an indefinite period of time. Honestly, I would be out of my mind right now without them but mostly because Carly would be out of her mind without them. 

But there’s more to it than their just being essential for Carly’s wellbeing and my personal sanity. We view Carly’s respite staff as part of this family and ministry team. We are so grateful they feel the same way. These women work behind the scenes enabling me to do what I do every day. And they are fueled by the same passion we have to see the lives of special needs families worldwide enriched by a community sharing faith in Jesus Christ. God bless them!

For all the things competing for top of the priority lists, this idea of being an encouragement to one another has been at the top of ours.
#CooperativeCocooning

Carly is gradually adjusting to the new routines. She and I are actually on Day 24 because we were home alone for several days at the beginning of this while Larry was traveling for work and Carly’s staff support was on vacation. Those first two weeks were awful. Now that we’re learning a new groove, we’ve found it very helpful to arrange our quarantine days in ways that mirror the former routines as much as possible. For example, as the girls can no longer head to the gym shortly after lunch every day, I try to break from work and join them in the family room at 2 pm when a group of students and alumni from our daughters’ former high school do a workout on Zoom. 

Each day has it’s very difficult moments, particularly when trying to manage Carly’s outbursts of anxiety, restlessness and confusion. She is used to being on the GO! She does not like this boring lifestyle one single bit. It’s affecting her disposition (rather violent at times) and her sleep. 

Since Larry and I both work from home, this season has been “business as usual” in many respects. But some things have needed extra attention in the areas where we serve. My counseling ministry and special needs family outreach demands more creativity and time during this season. Larry is working extra hours on a team helping navigate the implications of the virus both logistically and financially. Short nights and stressful bedtime routines with Carly add strain. 

Our prayer requests may be very similar in nature to yours:

  • Continued health and protection for our family. Larry and Carly are both in the high-risk group for the virus. Our daughter Erin lives near the northern California hotspot and remains in lockdown with three roommates. Our daughter Alex lives alone in a Twin Cities area condo where she has been working virtually since early March. She is holding to strict isolation standards so she can be backup care for Carly and visit us every week or two.
  • Adequate socialization for Carly and her caregivers. Carly’s weekday support worker needs a fair amount of adult conversation and deep connection so working with non-verbal Carly alone all day and going home to an introverted roommate at night means we are working harder here to complement and cooperate with each other’s needs.
  • Anxiety management  (creativity). We are adapting new activities to meet needs within the limitations and keep Carly as content as possible.
  • Sleep. Enough said.

Friends, let’s pray with and for each other!

Lord, develop in each of us more patience, perseverance, trust, hope, kindness and gentleness. Comfort us in fears and grief that comes in waves during this pandemic season. Remind us that you are fully accessible and that we can intimately share our hearts with you in every single moment — the ugly moments and the precious ones. Would you multiply the precious moments, Lord Jesus? We need You to protect and provide. Yet in sickness and in health, You are faithful. May Your sovereign purposes prevail. We want to rest in that peace. 

Thank you that learning to slow down and focus on our relationships is a gift we can receive in the midst of this season. Teach us how to be attentive and compassionate about each other’s needs and cooperate with each other to meet those needs as adequately as possible in the circumstances. Help us to seek You first and things or people of the world second. Teach us to value Kingdom things above all else, putting our hopes, expectations and disappointments in Your perspective. Energize us by the power of Your Holy Spirit to think and reach outside of ourselves. Help each person in our quarantine “cocoons” to offer their lives as a spiritual sacrifice for one another without putting too much responsibility on any one person to meet the needs of another. 

O God, please make the precious lessons of this season grow deep and long roots in all of our lives! Above all else, teach us to love you and love each other well. 

Amen

This Pandemic Season Prayer shared by Walk Right In Ministries earlier last month has also been a source of encouragement and connection for many.

You all — our WRIM community of friends and partners — are constantly on my mind and prayers. Our Board and Prayer Team just received one of the longest updates ever in our history and we consider it great privilege to pray together for all of you!

How are you fairing with the stay-at-home orders? These are tricky days for most, extremely stressful for many and actually somewhat gratifying for others. I would love to hear how your family is doing and what is working for you as you try to adapt to these pandemic circumstances. Please drop me a note at lisa@walkrightin.org or ask to schedule a video conference.

You can also read more about Cooperative Cocooning here.


Lisa Jamieson is an international speaker, author, caregiver advocate and licensed pastoral counsellor. Her passion is spurring special needs families toward growing intimacy with Jesus and thriving relationships with each other. She is co-founder and executive director of Walk Right In Ministries and leads the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection. Lisa is a member of the Sarasota Academy of Christian Counseling certified in Christian temperament therapy. Her books and Bible studies include Jesus, Let’s Talk which was inspired by her daughter, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Lisa and her husband, Larry, have been married for 31 years and have three grown daughters.

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.

Life-Building Connections Amidst Challenges

Life challenges can take many forms — disability, chronic illness, caregiving for an aging parent or special needs child, strained or broken relationships, divorce, addiction, depression, unemployment, the loss of a loved one, and financial struggles. Issues can be complex and the journey may be long. Many experience confusion, anger, doubt, fear, or loneliness. Meanwhile, our society compels us to “muscle” through challenges but often leaves us feeling generally alone or overwhelmed.

Despite life’s painful seasons you can discover an adventure, right in the midst of adversity.

Thriving in challenges is possible with Christ-centered community and one-to-one friendships as well as personal study of the Bible and prayer. And while a strong and tenacious support system is critical, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is essential. READ MORE about this essential foundation.

Walk Right In Ministries considers it one of life’s blessed privileges to come alongside struggling people who are wanting to grow and thrive on their journeys toward solutions, strength, contentment and joy. We want to help you identify resources and build connection strategies that fit your personal circumstances and unique temperament needs.

CONNECT THROUGH COMMUNITY 

Walk Right In Ministries helps people find and be part of fruitfully supportive communities. There are supportive communities for virtually any type of life challenge. Links to some wonderful opportunities are included throughout this article.

It is important to remain active in a Bible-believing church where you can be regularly involved with others who will “rejoice with you when you rejoice and mourn with you when you mourn” (see Romans 12:15). However, we understand that the Church does not always know how to effectively support families experiencing disability and other kinds of crisis. We are thankful for a growing number of organizations making it a priority to learn about how to help in this important and complex area of ministry.

We hope you are already experiencing fruitful and grace-filled connection in a church home. Unfortunately, many churches are still learning how to help families with special needs experience belonging. If this is the case for you or your family, we want to encourage you to be patiently persistent in helping educate your church about including people with diverse backgrounds and various abilities.

If, however, you are struggling in this area, and feel it may be time to look for a new church home, please pray and reach out for help. Our friends at Joni & Friends as well as Key Ministry are working hard and fruitfully to help people in situations like yours to find supportive churches. Walk Right In Ministries is ready to pray with you and do what we can to help you initiate a search process. We want to encourage you in developing a more effective spiritual community.

Support Groups are another way to get connected and grow. Biblically-based support group resources are available with a variety of themes so you can find one that fits your own particular need. If you are experiencing any of these concerns, consider some resources we can recommend:

Finding Glory Groups are a valued resource for those needing a guide to follow for their support group. Whether you know a church small group, book club or group of special needs moms, dads, couples, or siblings who want to explore life challenges together, utilizing the Finding Glory Group Discussion Guide is a bible-based curriculum that is flexible for these kinds of gatherings. The six-session format is easily self led and offers a variety of discussion questions so that groups can reconvene and repeat a cycle of sessions after the first round, if they desire to do so. If you are someone who wants to understand God’s answers to tough questions, know you have value in the Divine Plan, be encouraged on your journey and grow with others along the way, then a Finding Glory Group is for you! Learn more about Finding Glory Groups HERE.

CONNECT IN ONE-TO-ONE DISCIPLESHIP

Be encouraged to develop friendships where you can share joys and struggles safely, be inspired and challenged, and experience the power of prayer.

  • WALKING PARTNERS— We encourage you to cultivate one or two close relationships where Christ is central to your conversation. Walk shoulder-to-shoulder with one another listening, encouraging, exhorting and empowering. (If you are married, please be cautioned to develop only same-sex Walking Partner relationships.)
  • TEMPERAMENT COUNSELING— We encourage individuals and couples who are facing life-altering circumstances to find a professional Christian counselor who is certified in Temperament Counseling through the Sarasota Academy of Christian Counseling(SACC). Prayerful use of the temperament tool in the counseling process can help you get to the heart of your needs quickly so you make efficient and effective progress towards healing, encouragement, hope, personal growth, and answers.
  • FINANCIAL COACHING— If debt or financial challenges are part of your situation, please explore the resources at Crown Financial Ministries.

Particularly if you are facing a crisis situation or are feeling very alone, we encourage you to ask your pastor or a church leader for guidance in finding a support group, professional counselor or crisis help.

CONNECT THROUGH PERSONAL STUDY

At Walk Right In Ministries we believe that prayerful reading of the Bible is our best source of interaction with God — our supreme and final authority on faith and life. There is true hope within the pages of the Bible. We want you to be encouraged in daily reading and study of the Bible recognizing the opportunity that it is to grow in your personal relationship with God, develop God’s perspective of suffering and discover peace that surpasses understanding.

There are many organizations who are making it their mission to help connect and engage people with God’s Word. Here are just a few nationally-recognized options we value highly for study and online daily devotions:

Joni and Friends

Key Ministry

Desiring God

Bible Study Fellowship

Community Bible Studies

Precepts

CONNECT IN PRAYER

At Walk Right In Ministries, we passionately believe in the power of prayer. Everything we do at Walk Right In Ministries is covered by and trusted to prayer. We offer prayer workshops and take prayer requests from around the world.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
JAMES 5:16

Be assured that God hears you and delights in connecting with you in a deeply personal way. The Psalms are a ready example and source of inspiration when we don’t know what to say to God. (If you need help getting started, read Psalm 6, Psalm 42, and Psalm 73 for some wonderful prayers!) God understands our aching, longing and groaning, even when we don’t know what to pray.

 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
ROMANS 8:26

We are very excited about one of our newest resources on prayer, a children’s book called Jesus, Let’s Talk that released in 2018! It offers a delightfully visual exploration of basic prayers to help children, early readers, and people with developmental differences enjoy the sweet basics of conversation with Jesus. The book also highlights key prayer words using American Sign Language. At Walk Right In Minisitries, we champion faith in Jesus that is initiated and fostered within the family.

We want you to feel assured that you, too, are covered in prayer. Let our Prayer Team come alongside you to pray for courage, hope and victory! Contact us at info@walkrightin.org.

Another prayer resource we like to recommend is the Autism Strategic Prayer Network (designed with autism in mind but very broadly applicable to other diagnoses). Explore Children of Destiny for more information.

COMMUNITY: God Works through Intersections

Many of us walk through life trying to look “put together” while internally craving connection with others in deeper and more meaningful ways. We thrive in relationships based on things like love, integrity, transparency, commitment, respectful challenge and grace. Getting “real” with others isn’t easy but it’s important.

Incredible things can happen when our lives authentically intersect with others. Ideas are exchanged, support is given, love grows, a tangible expression of God is realized. In fact, the Bible says that a loving community gives us a picture of what God is like!

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
1 JOHN 4:12

Fifteen years ago, Walk Right In Ministries founders Larry and Lisa Jamieson were just beginning to appreciate the power of a Christ-centered community. They had seen individuals, couples and families come together into healthier, stronger and more satisfying experiences of life and God when they were connecting with others who shared their desire to grow in faith and relationships. Since they had been carried through a storm in their marriage by a small group of Bible Study friends, Larry and Lisa understood the value of prayer, encouragement and accountability on a deeply personal level. A couple of years later, their daughter Carly was born with severe disabilities and they were on the receiving end of a remarkable expression of practical help and prayer.

Unfortunately, they were also discovering that such Christ-centered, supportive communities were rare, particularly for families facing a crisis. It was troubling to meet more and more people struggling to maintain strong marriages, face adversity with hope, and experience friendships where Biblical support and prayer were central to the relationship. The Jamiesons are frequently heard saying, “the communities we’ve been part of have been remarkable but Jesus would NOT want our experience to be remarkable — He would want this to be common-place!”

At Walk Right In Ministries, we understand this two-fold challenge:

  • Christ-centered support communities are frequently unavailable or inadequate to meet people’s needs, particularly when those needs involve disability, chronic health issues or caregiving
  • Hurting people find it very difficult to reach out and ask for help in ways that empower others to respond

Walk Right In Ministries is working to build bridges among people as well as between those people and the Living God. We want to encourage you and connect you towards fellowship, churches and support communities that will help you grow in Christ and thrive in life.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
HEBREWS 10:24-25

To hear more of the Jamieson’s story about how God can use community, watch their interview on 100 Huntley Street and read Finding Glory in the Thorns.

Carly’s Thanksgiving Story

Carly Jamieson took her first steps when she was 3 1/2 years old. That came after years of stress and tears because her sensory issues were so severe that she couldn’t even tolerate being held in her parent’s arms for feedings until she was 9 months old.

At 2 1/2 years old, Carly started having seizures and was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder involving a deleted portion of her 15th maternal chromosome. Despite the fact that Carly faced a grim prognosis and had been experiencing significant developmental delays, a sleep disorder, feeding problems, and seizures, a miracle story of community and a child’s potential was unfolding.

For over three years, sixty volunteers surrounded Carly’s family with help and prayer. That support set a foundation for amazing progress that continues bearing fruit in many ways yet today.

The heartwarming story of God’s love through that community during those early years of Carly’s life is told in the book Finding Glory in the Thorns.

That story was also the inspiration behind Christ-centered support groups that utilize the Finding Glory Group Discussion Guide.

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Click HERE to find the complete Finding Glory collection of books at Amazon.

Today, Carly’s tolerance for touching things shows itself in the contagious affection, frequent hugs and exuberant smiles that are much more typical of someone withBut  Angelman Syndrome. She’s a little “rascal” with a great sense of humor. She loves music, dance parties, sitting beside her sisters at the piano, jumping, swimming, and helper her caregivers make pumpkin waffles. The quality of her gait is remarkable considering her prognosis and she sporadically uses a small handful of word approximations. She has twice walked over a mile in the Angelman Syndrome Foundation annual fundraiser walk with her mom, dad, two sisters, and many friends.

That baby who would not be held now snuggles with precious bear hugs and even sometimes says, “I love you.”

Carly is a gift!

We invite you to watch Carly’s Thanksgiving Story — an adventure tale that God is still unfolding.

What is Angelman Syndrome? 

Angelman Syndrome (AS) is the result of an abnormality of the 15th maternal chromosome. Individuals with AS have global developmental delay and cognitive disabilities. They rarely develop any speech but everyone benefits from learning to listen in new ways to what they have to say. 

People with Angelman Syndrome usually have unique behaviors and generally happy personalities. Most individuals with AS will experience seizures. Many also experience sleep and feeding challenges. The majority learn to walk but usually have balance and movement disorders. A normal lifespan can be expected.

Angelman Syndrome is very frequently mis-diagnosed as autism or cerebral palsy. 

With strong supports, people with AS can thrive surrounded by friends and loved ones engaging in meaningful activities and sharing their unique perspectives. 

ln a medical breakthrough, Dr. Edwin Weeber cured Angelman Syndrome in a laboratory mouse. Because AS affects one single gene it is much easier to understand than other neurological disorders like autism and Alzheimers’ disease. Funding for research has more potential than ever as researchers grow closer to making a treatment available for humans. 

Visit the Angelman Syndrome Foundation and the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics for more information.