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.

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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. 

My Childhood Memory of a Sunken Old Pier


When I was 9 years old, we rented a house on the southern shore of Lake Ontario for the summer while my dad was on a work assignment in Canada. Among my many treasured memories of that season, I often think about swimming with my sister and our friends off that rugged beach. There was so much to explore.

Thirty Mile Creek trickled right through our back yard offering wriggling smelt to watch and rock dams to build. About 100 yards off in one direction on the beach was an abandoned cement pump house where farmers gathered lake water for the surrounding orchards of peaches, pears and cherries. (Did I mention what an idyllic location this was, like right from the scenes of a nostalgic movie?) Its roof provided a warm and flat spot for our beach towels — a private hideaway from parents for a picnic and giggles while sun tanning.

Just a few yards in the other direction about 50 feet off shore were the remains of an old shipping pier used in the early 1800s. Since the top of that pier lay just a few inches under the water’s surface, you couldn’t see it from the shore unless the waves were very high or the water was perfectly calm. In between high swells, the water dipped low enough to reveal just enough of that worn pier (or at least a ripple in the water) so we could spot our destination and swim out to it. Once we were in the water though, we had to swim blind — just feeling around with our arms and legs for that fun resting spot where we would sit and sometimes linger for hours. It could get exhausting treading water and trying to be the first one to find it. It was also a bit eerie to swim around not knowing the moment when your body would bump the slimy edge of that ancient (150-year-old), algae-covered relic. Among our favorite games to play out there was like a snowball fight. It involved pulling clumps of soft, mossy algae off the surface of the sunken old block of cement and tossing it at each other. It would stick to your target’s skin quite nicely actually.

Despite the fierce competition, we had a common understanding. If one person always stayed on the pier, then we wouldn’t lose sight of it and everyone swimming in various directions would always know the quickest way back to our safe place. We’d take turns being that person who stayed close to our “moorings” but, make no mistake, it was very helpful to keep at least one person grounded on that foundation. If not for that, it could get exhausting (truth-be-told, even dangerous) trying to find it again, especially if the waters were rough.

What a fun reminder of good times and precious friends this is! And the spiritual metaphor is not missed on me today as I’ve been reminiscing on the heels of sharing this quote to Facebook a few days ago:
 

“One of the most encouraging examples of friendship in the Bible is
that of Saul’s son Jonathan with David. On one occasion when David was in great trouble,
we read that Jonathan went to meet him ‘and helped him to find strength in God’ (1 Samuel 23:16).
Friends that do that for us are very precious.”

(from Zeal without Burnout by Christopher Ash)
 

Christian friendship has often been an important place for me to find a “mooring” of sorts. Especially when the waves of adversity were rough in my life or when I was flailing around trying to find God in the deeps of my circumstances where the way to safety was hard to see. Throughout much of my life, I’ve been privileged to have friends who cheered me on and showed me the way back to the Foundation. Sometimes we hang out there together and other times one of us has to hold on tight and call out to the rest, “come this way!” Often, it’s just plain fun resting in that anchoring place with each other. Other times it’s hard work not getting knocked off by the waves or slimed by the craziness around us. But always there has been something so satisfying about clinging to our Rock and Refuge together.

Christian community is a beautiful thing. It’s an essential resource for staying grounded and safe in faith. It’s a fun place to grow and make new discoveries about the Rock, the foundation of our faith, Jesus. Avoiding connection to others who are clinging to the Rock is dangerous. Treading water alone or trying to duck and hide under the waves to avoid getting slimed ultimately gets us in trouble.
 

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm,
for God can be trusted to keep his promise.
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.
Hebrews 10:23-25

On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:7-8

“Beware!” I sometimes remind myself.  Friendship, at times, has distracted me from God Himself and offered an illusion of security. To be sure, friends often sustain us but they can’t ultimately save us. Only the solid, reliable refuge of Jesus saves and satisfies us to the uttermost. I love swimming out in the deeps of life experiencing grand adventures together but we will all ultimately wear out without a dependable resting place. Let’s enjoy the full greatness of friendship as only possible within community that is moored to The Rock of Ages!

Accessibility Summit 2017 in Washington, DC

Celebrating its 17th year in March 2017, the Accessibility Summit is a national conference designed to offer a broad range of information and resources to individuals, families and caregivers, faith-based organizations, educators, and other professionals impacted by disability. There will be 40 workshops and over 60 disability-related exhibitors. Saundra Adams and Joni Eareckson Tada are guest speakers.  Registration has just opened and early bird discounts and group discounts are available. 

Walk Right In Ministries is privileged to be sharing a workshop too. Larry and Lisa Jamieson have presented at the conference in years past, sometimes individually and sometimes as a couple. In 2017, Lisa will have the unique opportunity to present with their two oldest daughters, Alex and Erin. Information about their workshop is shared below for those who have interest and for those who are willing to pray for us. (We are very grateful for your prayers!) Check the Summit website for a complete listing of workshops, exhibitors and speakers.

PARENTING SPECIAL SIBLINGSThis interactive session opens a dialogue about the challenges, disappointments, advantages and opportunities of being a sibling in a family affected by disability. It is led by Lisa Jamieson, the mother of three adult children and author of Finding Glory in the Thorns. Lisa is joined by her adult daughters Alex and Erin who share candid perspectives about growing up with a sibling who has Angelman Syndrome which involves chronic health issues and severe developmental disabilities. Discussion topics will include sibling conflict, balancing attention, grief processing, dealing with social stigmas and misunderstanding, family vacations and managing stress. Participants will leave encouraged with basic principles and numerous practical ideas about how to enjoy more victories and deeper graces despite the reality of weaknesses in every family. 

Presenters: Lisa Jamieson, Erin Jamieson, Alex Jamieson
Theme Verse:  2 CORINTHIANS 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

Lisa Jamieson is a national speaker, author, consultant and advocate who serves as Executive Director of Walk Right In Ministries and leads Minnesota’s Disability Ministry Connection. Her books include Finding Glory in the Thorns and Living Your Glory Story. She is also creator of the Finding Glory small group curriculum, a favorite of caregivers and others wanting Christ-centered discussion through challenges. Lisa and husband Larry have three adult daughters. Her daughter, Carly, has Angelman Syndrome and lives at home. Their story has been featured on Words to Live By, 100 Huntley Street and My Refuge Radio Belize. 

Alex Jamieson is a senior audit assistant at Deloitte (Minneapolis). Active in her church and as a community soccer coach, Alex also volunteers with Walk Right In Ministries as an occasional speaker and regular encourager to families experiencing special needs. She is the oldest sibling to a sister who has Angelman Syndrome. During her high school years, Alex worked as a personal care assistant and has since become a strong advocate for her sister Carly and others who experience disabilities. In her blog “Authentically Alex,” she reflects on a range of topics from setting goals to dealing with life’s transitions. 

Erin Jamieson is a singer-songwriter and worship leader. Her songwriting, blogging, and speaking is often inspired by challenges and insights experienced growing up in a family affected by disability. The title cut from her debut EP Without the Dark is featured in the movie Season of Miracles about a baseball player with autism. Erin is a senior at Belmont University in Nashville where she recently performed in the 2017 Christian Showcase. Her latest release No Dream Too Big is available on NoiseTrade. Erin’s youngest sister has Angelman Syndrome.

Please share about this conference with your own friends, family and church leaders. You can forward this post and share the link on social media.
Thank you – we hope to see you there!

God Changes Lives & Enriches Churches when We Fully Engage with Each Other

Families impacted by disability often feel isolated. And church must be the place where they belong, where they are encouraged, where they find hope and healing.

There are a growing number of churches that are being intentional about caring for and fully engaging with people who have atypical lives. These churches are doing more than just “being nice” to people with special needs. They are actually engaging in life with each other. They are resisting fears. They are stepping in faith despite concerns about being over-stretched. They are taking risks to be engaging. They are discovering that God changes lives and enriches churches when they care for and include each other, especially when life gets the most challenging.  

Accessibility isn’t just about ramps, elevators, special seating in the sanctuary and gluten free communion. The church—and Jesus most of all—needs to be emotionally and spritually accessible to all people. And that involves more than just being greeted nicely by an usher. 

Jesus was much more than just NICE to people. He fully engaged with them—their questions and their pain. He cared that people experienced belonging in His family and wanted them to feel assured they had tremendous value. Very often, Jesus physically reached out and actually touched hurting people. In fact, Jesus spent a lot of time hanging out with people who were on the fringes, the hurting, the weak, the weary, the “different,” the ill, the disabled, the unpopular, the unglamorous and those who were seeking hope (even when they weren’t really sure where to look). 

What Jesus always did was engage in love and his foremost concern was and still always is for us to BELONG with Him and to have HEALTHY SOULS.