I Considered a Life Reset and Got the Reboot I Never Expected

In the late spring of 2020 when it started becoming clear that Covid quarantining wasn’t going to end soon, I started realizing a lifestyle reset was in order. It took several months and an untimely accident to shake me to my core and get my soul powered up for the long winter at home parenting an adult child who doesn’t understand why her world has so dramatically changed.

You know how it is when you restart your computer. The process is designed to clear errors and bring the system to normal condition in a controlled manner. My phone reminds me on a weekly basis to restart all of my devices. I’m told that a reset puts less stress on the hardware than power cycling because the power isn’t removed. How interesting!

I would really like my life to be cleared of errors and to feel like it’s working in an orderly manner. And, as this computer metaphor suggests, I would benefit from staying connected to my Power Source in the midst of transitions.

Life sure does benefit from a ‘restart’ now and again. Many of us try to reset our priorities on New Year’s Eve. A new schoolyear and birthdays are seen like fresh starts for many. Spiritually speaking, repentance gives us a chance to begin anew too.

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

2 Corinthians 5:17 
Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

I’ve been desperate for refreshing lately while asking God to protect some old stuff I actually did NOT want gone!

My 22-year-old daughter Carly has Angelman Syndrome and lives at home. Her anxiety and difficult behaviors have ebbed and flowed through degrees of troublesome to exhausting throughout the pandemic. She’s confused. She’s lonely. She’s bored. She needs more physical touch — lots more. Like you and me, she’s sick of it all. But she doesn’t have effective coping skills or communication abilities to give voice to her many feelings and needs. She’s destroying clothing (chewing collars and sleeves, literally ripping pajamas off at night and risking damage to her teeth on zippers). She’s having trouble going to sleep at night and staying asleep throughout. She gets agitated during the day without our creatively offering as many choices as possible on laminated photo cards. I fear the poor girls feels like she has no control over her world anymore. Last week she bit me twice — hard. This from the girl who hasn’t bit me more than two or three times in her whole life until now.

In the midst of navigating Carly’s needs, the usual household chores and several pressing work deadlines, my husband and I sat down to finish recording a presentation we were doing for the Wonderfully Made Conference. We wrapped up just before lunch one day back in September and I decided to eat a sandwich on our deck while catching up on a few emails. After that I was going to record another of my personal presentations.

It was in that moment of sunshine when our already sideways world turned completely upside down.

I spilled a full glass of orange juice on my laptop. Let’s just say that the past four weeks since that day have been deeply disappointing, stretching and eye-opening. The irony of the situation was not lost on me. The conference presentation I was going to record after lunch that day was titled, “RESET: A Seasonal Necessity for Special Needs Families.”

My original inspiration for the subject was the pandemic. Now I was living a metaphor that had me squirming deeply. It took me to my knees day after day while we waited for the data recovery specialist to bring news that my badly damaged hard drive was restored. A couple of weeks went by and the conference organizers were graciously waiting on me. But their window of flexibility was quickly narrowing. Other concerns and timelines were looming too.

One morning, I had a caregiver staffed with Carly for the day so I could get back to regrouping and trying to record my presentation from memory — without my notes or PowerPoint slides. I was tempted to throw down breakfast and head straight into the battle before me. I longed to take a cup of tea and my Bible to our deck as the warm fall days will soon be past. But that felt indulgent on a day when opportunity to “take the hill” was in front of me and I had help with Carly for a limited time.

Reluctantly taking a lesson from myself and many past talks I’ve given to countless others, I leaned into Jesus’ prompting to carry His lighter burden and go to the deck anyway. Against all my task-oriented leanings and self-reliant ways, I tried to yield to that still small voice that wooed me, “be still, Lisa.” One of the original verses I had planned to reference in the RESET talk was ringing in my ears, “Come to me…find rest for your soul.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

I sat down wondering where to open my Bible but got distracted. My mind wandered to Joshua 3 and 4. Those are favorite passages that inspired the naming of Walk Right In Ministries back in 2008. And they continue to be reminder and inspiration to me about walking in faith, one step at a time, and trusting God to show each next step as I trust Him and obey Him.

For a moment I got curious. What, specifically, happened right after the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River to the Promised Land? I could specifically recall. I knew that their lives of slavery and then wandering in the desert were followed by a period of many victories in battles that seemed insurmountable. But I couldn’t remember whether the Bible gave any specifics about the transition period between marking the Gilgal spot with a pile of rocks and then heading into that first battle.

Immediately, I had a sense that there could be clues in Joshua 5 or a powerful example of a God-style, God-sized, power-packed reset. What I found there was, in fact, a gold mine. Within about 15 minutes time, I had a roadmap and encouragement to step back into my life with peace and a renewed sense of empowerment. My fear was gone and my frustration was released. The sense of pressure I felt to dig into my projects no longer had a grip on me or my blood pressure. I felt like the soldiers walking quietly and patiently around Jericho simply waiting for the final blast of the horn. I wondered what walls God was planning to throw down when I had the chance to shout praise for His perfect timing and process on the road to my Promised Land.

That was a holy moment in my life. Reading Joshua 5 and 6 with a deep personal need and new perspective was just what I needed. I was no longer stuck and my process for a course correction was clear.

As a bonus, I had a brand new (and much better) outline for my presentation. What would have taken me a couple of days to rebuild, had been reestablished with fresh perspective and new fire (passion) in just minutes. Once again, the Divine irony.

Here is the Joshua reset model God showed me.

REAFFIRM IDENTITY Joshua 5:2-7

Remembering WHO and WHOSE they were was essential to claiming the promises and hope ahead. The only reason that circumcision mattered was because there was a promise on the other side.

We tend to let disability start to define us as individuals and a family. We can tend to give disability too much power over our grief, logistics, attitudes towards caregiving, etc.When one of our daughters once exclaimed in frustration many years ago, “We’re so high maintenance!” I knew we needed to review how we thought about disability in our family.

Romans 2:29 
True circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit.

REST Joshua 5:8

Before heading straight into battle, the Israelites spent time recovering and regrouping from everything behind them.

Getting adequate self-care feels impossible for many caregivers. We need to have compassion for ourselves in weakness and trust God while we fight for refreshment in mind, body and spirit. I fight as hard for sleep, respite, vacations, staycations and deep connections with loved ones as I ever did for Carly’s IEPs, quality medical care, therapies and healing.

CELEBRATE Joshua 5:9-10

God told them to roll away the shame of their slavery in Egypt. He knew that the Passover Feast (a celebration of God’s faithfulness) would restore their confidence in Him, boost their morale and bond them as an army of warriors for the battle ahead.

Our investment in celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and family reunions — despite how difficult that can be to make happen — is a way to cultivate appreciation and grace for each other while developing relational bonds. Those bonds will be valuable to us and our children’s future in ways we probably can’t fully understand now.

FUEL UP Joshua 5:11-12

The Israelites stopped eating the manna of the past and starting nourishing on the crops of Canaan (the Promised Land).

Ecclesiastes 7:10 
Don’t long for the “good old days,” for you don’t know whether they were any better than today.

We have to keep saturating our minds with God’s promises, our future hope. There is too much temptation to dwell on life’s ease before disability or fantasies about what the future would look like without it. Fueling up on gratitude and God’s promises helps me keep my goals and priorities in perspective. Effective soul care keeps me energized too. Our family has used Christian temperament therapy for almost 25 years to understand how God uniquely created each one of us. And that helps us learn to optimize our strengths, recognize our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and teaches us how to tap our full potential by leaning into the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

WALK IN ATTENTIVENESS TO GOD Joshua 5:13 to Joshua 6:21

The Israelites needed to pay attention to God every step of the way. As he walked toward his battlefield, Joshua asked God, “What do you want your servant to do? (Joshua 5:14-15) As God’s army of chosen people asked for His leadership, trusted His strategy, obeyed methodically and responded thoroughly, God made them strong.

Seeking God for guidance and help as a lifestyle impacts how we put supports in place and build teams (respite staff, volunteer helpers, medical providers, supports planners, church, IEPs, guardianship and wills, etc.). God is ready to help us handle crisis (illness/hospitalization, pandemic) and approach transitions (education, caregiving team, jobs) too.

Joshua and the Israelite army did not rush but walked methodically in faith and obedience (Joshua 6:3-5) trusting for the promise (Joshua 6:2). They had to be thorough in their obedient follow-through by destroying everything and not taking anything with them. All of the plunder was to be an offering to the Lord. (Joshua 6:17-21).

This day and this situation is not just about WHAT and WHOSE battles we fight but HOW we fight them.

Matthew 11:28-29  Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach youand you will find rest for your souls. 

I’m still unpacking the full meaning of Joshua’s reset model for my own march toward the promises of God. And I’m excited. I’m no longer stuck in regrets about the past or lamenting what is lacking yet today. I’ve captured the vision of my Israelite ancestors and I’m walking in freedom, anticipating the surprises of God’s love.

What can this look like for YOU?
What are your next steps toward the promises God has for you and your family?
What is on the other side of COVID, our marriage storm or disability?
What is on the other side of anything that is disabling you or your family?

Like Joshua, let’s stop right now and pray, “What do you want me to do?” and then worship God. Joshua worshipped by taking off his sandals and recognizing the holiness of that moment on the edge of promise (Joshua 5:15).

Recognize YOUR Holy Moment!
Walk closely with your God and let Him pave your way to His love.

Watch Reset: A Seasonal Necessity for Special Needs Families.


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

BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 3): Seven Ways to Energize & Refresh Your Special Needs Family

This is the final installment in a three-part BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES for special needs families. I hope you’ll have a chance to go back and readPart 1 and Part 2.

I also discussed this subject of Managing Morale in special needs families during a 60-minute interview with Stephen “Doc” Hunsley MD, founder of SOAR Special Needs. You can watch that episode of “Talk with Doc” here.

You can read all kinds of books and blog articles about boosting morale. You could invest a lot of time in trial-and-error mode, testing ideas but feeling a mounting pressure or disappointment when some things don’t work as well as you hoped.

I want to help you skip past as much of that exertion and discouragement as possible. As I’ve said several times in this series, responding to the real root of what is undermining morale will give your family the most positive traction much more quickly and effectively.

So, as you prayerfully ponder these seven ways to energize and refresh your special needs family, I want to ask you to keep the unique and individualized needs of your family at the front of your mind. Home in on an area below that most closely addresses the roots of anxiety or discouragement. Here are some examples:

If someone is struggling with all the things out of their control, it should help to review the scriptures and tips under “Anchor Your Worth and Competence in Christ.”

If someone is struggling mentally, their mood is quite likely to begin shifting when they “Saturate Your Mind with Truth.”

If someone is feeling isolation fatigue, they will benefit from a strategic look at “Connect in Community.”

For those who tend to be more emotionally oriented, look closely at “Change Your Scenery.”

If things just don’t feel fair, read the noted scriptures carefully under “Remember that God is Just.”

If you’re feeling stuck or trapped, there is potential for great refreshment within the whole family when you “Take a Step of Faith” together!

If you’re simply exhausted, you’ll find a creative and collaborative effort to “Rest” pays off generously.

Now let’s really dig in to where the rubber hits the road!

Saturate Your Mind with Truth

PROVERBS 23:7 | 2 CORINTHIANS 10:5 | PHILLIPIANS 4:8

This is critical area of opportunity for people who spend a lot of time thinking or who tend to be deep thinkers. Renewing your mind with truth is a powerful mood shifter when you are vulnerable to things like fear, doubt, confusion, shame, guilt, discouragement and burnout. The scriptures (especially those listed above) will help keep your mind focused on God’s Kingdom meaning and purpose in things like suffering and waiting. When thoughts are spiraling, God’s Word is a calming anchor.

Connect in Community

HEBREWS 10:25 | 2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-5 | ROMANS 3:10,23 | JAMES 5:16

This one is BIG! No matter who we are, we all need relationships. But we don’t all need them to the same degree. Be careful about lumping people into categories like “introverts” and “extroverts.” Those labels can mislead. It is usually more helpful to think specifically about the kinds of connections different people need. Do you enjoy casual connections, want mostly deeper relationships — or both? (I’ll elaborate on these below.) It’s also important to factor in what is needed compared to what is actually expressed. For example, some people actually have a great need for relationships but don’t really show it. They may rarely initiate connections. And since they don’t express their need, people get confused or pull away.

There are very generally two kinds of connections and we don’t all need both.

  • Casual Connections — If someone in your household is missing being out and about during quarantine or needs to feel connected in the broader community, they could be the best person to do the grocery shopping. Encourage them to turn on LIVE radio and TV shows. Invite them to sit with a group around a socially distanced bonfire or play virtual games. It has helped our daughter Carly to be part of Zoom dance parties. And she’s been learning to throw dice while playing Zoom Farkle with her friend and cousins.
  • Deep Relationships — Some people need relationships where they can connect on a more intimate or emotional level. These are the kinds of relationships where there is an exchange of love, affection and appreciation. Whether it involves several or just a few people, these are the people in your household who look to close friends, family members, their church fellowship and a counsellor for a warm sense of belonging. When something like caregiving or the quarantine limits these deeper connections, it’s absolutely essential to find ways of adapting and accommodating the need. People with higher needs in this area may find it helpful to snuggle with a pet, cuddle with loved one, get creative about how to have a date, go for a walk holding hands with your partner, watch shows about relationships or read character-driven stories. They will want to play the kinds of games that rely on conversation. It should not be surprising that this person will run from a game of Chess but (all irony intended) thoroughly enjoy the game Pandemic! This type of person may even enjoy hanging out with a friend on Zoom while they both do a puzzle or craft and sip a cold beverage. You may want to give these family members permission to sit out on the driveway for social distancing conversations or spend more time on the phone.  

Change Your Scenery

HEBREWS 11:8 | ACTS 22:7 | PSALM 40:2

This is a helpful tip for shifting anyone’s mood but especially people who tend to be more creative or connected to their emotions. Those who “feel everything” or who feel things more intensely will benefit greatly from moving their body or moving the furniture! Back in April, we rearranged our family room and we love it. A couple weeks later, we we changed around our deck furniture and added new plants. All of that was so simple and has been like a breath of fresh air that keeps paying daily dividends.

When you need to boost mom’s morale, let her go take a shower. Some dads love and teenagers love to mow the lawn to get some alone time or listen to their music. It could be the change of atmosphere that is lifting their spirits. Try using paper plates, eating outside or sitting at a different table. You can invite your most creative child to build a fancy table setting. The point is to switch up the routine. Light a candle, read a different kind of book (choose a different genre), change your clothes, cut your hair, buy new sheets for your bed or bring some flowers in from outside.

Anchor Your Worth & Competence In Christ

ISAIAH 54:10 | PHILLIPIANS 4:13 | 2 CORINTHIANS 3:5

It is not at all unusual for caregivers and parents to struggle with feeling like they are doing enough for their loved one with special needs. They lament not having bandwidth to balance the needs of multiple children. Children perceive pressure to measure up too. We’re all tempted to measure our own worth in this world by what we contribute or some privately created standard of “quality.” Ultimately, our confidence can only grow from having our identity firmly rooted in Christ not in what role we play in our family, church, workplace or community. Our value to God isn’t based in our efforts. We’re saved by our faith alone. If you struggle with feeling like you don’t measure up or worry about what others think of you, remember that perceptions can be far from reality.

Remember God is Just

ACTS 17:31 | 1 JOHN 1:9 | PSALM 58:10-11

God’s word speaks loudly about His promise of justice. Ask God to reassure you by showing you meaning and purpose in your challenges as well as your future hope. If someone is really struggling in this area, a good devotional on biblical justice or the sovereignty of God is likely to be very encouraging.

Take A Step in Faith

PROVERBS 3:5-6 | 1 CORINTHIANS 2:5 | 2 CORINTHIANS 5:7 | EPHESIANS 2:10

Do you want to see your encouragement to grow, enthusiasm about life to be restored in your family or faith to blossom in someone you love? Start with one simple response to a sense of godly prompting.

Pray together asking God to show you one way He wants you to take action, then walk it out as a family. Few things create as much excitement as seeing God reveal his presence, power and goodness in response to our faith and obedience. Our circumstances are complicated and when we look too far ahead, we get overwhelmed.

Our special needs families will find encouragement in taking one step at a time while holding plans loosely and anticipating the surprises of God’s love.

Rest

EXODUS 14:14 | EPHESIANS 3:20-21

Oh, how often morale in our family wanes because we are plain bone tired and simply don’t listen to our body. I think special needs families can run on fumes so often they start to forget how exhausted they are. Overwhelm starts to feel normal.

We underestimate the transformative effects of a power nap or a shower. Or we resist resting because we’re afraid that once we stop, we’ll never be able to go again. We see complex needs and circumstances in front of us and assume full responsibility for fixing problems, finding cures, optimizing developmental potential and finding comfort for pain while also doing all the same things the neighbors do like maintaining the house and cars.

May I suggest, quit trying harder and just draw nearer to God. Give yourself a “time out” with Jesus. It sounds simplistic and super spiritual. But what if God really does love your family even more than you do? What if he really is sovereign and trustworthy? What if “taking a Sabbath rest” was really an option? Maybe it won’t be a whole day or look like the kind of rest your neighbor gets, but your family needs to cooperate with each other to get some breaks.

Take some deep breaths. It could literally help to go blow bubbles with the kids. Assign some things to a routine (e.g., Taco Tuesday, Friday Pizza night, Saturday take-out). Set a schedule so rest can be anticipated. Burdens are eased by knowing when a break is coming, even if it’s a short one or a couple of weeks away. Collaborate about decisions as much as possible.

You’ll probably have to ask for help more often. Open up your “closed system.” It is quite possible that step of faith God is whispering to you is, “ask for help, My child.” You don’t need to feel guilty about teaching siblings ways of helping either. Teamwork is not just about disability but about being part of a family. Don’t abuse anyone but learn to cooperate and complement each other. Don’t rob God of opportunity to create blessing through your community.

Do you hear in all of this an invitation to experience freedom?
I sure hope so!

The process of learning about each other and how to love each other better is the grand adventure of life, after all. Be patient with yourselves and enjoy the freedom you have to make new discoveries. No one needs to make comparisons or shame themselves for not being “that parent” who does all the fanciest, funnest things either. When it comes to building morale, a little goes a long way — and it goes a long way fast — when we hit the root needs in a targeted way.

These are powerful tools you can give your children, friends. As parents cooperate in marriage and learn to lead their dynamic family in ways that celebrate individuality, they model healthy and godly relationships. This is the essence of self-care that simultaneously complements how we care for others. Our children will thrive in future life and relationships when they learn this kind of self-care and servant-hearted relationship with others.


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

BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 2): Developing A Complementary System

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at five ways to “keep the Light on” in special needs families. We explored things that drain energy and tend to trigger discouragement or conflict in a special needs household. In that article, we looked at spiritual fundamentals for a robust and positive family system. I hope you’ll have a chance to go back and read BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE (Part 1 of 2): Five Ways to Keep the Light On for background that leads into this second part in the series.

I also discussed this subject of Managing Morale in special needs families during a 60-minute interview with Stephen “Doc” Hunsley MD, founder of SOAR Special Needs. You can watch that episode of “Talk with Doc” here.

Now let’s dig in to Part 2 of the series.


Do you know how incredibly unique and valuable you are? God’s imprint on each of us is vastly different. And you are quite a masterpiece, according to your Creator! Here’s how David tells it:

Psalm 139:16-18
You made the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

We are not just delicately woven in our physical body. We are also complex in mind and spirit. The COVID-19 quarantine has made many of us more aware of needs like these:

  • Longing for connection with other people
  • Craving time alone to recharge
  • Missing a fuller schedule
  • Wishing we could sleep more or read another book
  • Thinking deeply and spending a lot of time doing it
  • Feeling deeply (but not always expressing it well)
  • Dissatisfied until we get stuff checked off our to-do list
  • Wanting to give or receive expressions of affection, attention, appreciation, affirmation

In fact, I’ve been embarrassed and ashamed by how needy and self-centered I am at times, especially during this COVID season! In some ways though, this quarantine-induced understanding and awareness could prove very helpful. It reveals areas where we tend to be vulnerable. It can give us clues about what we need to do in order to stay healthy and satisfied. For example, isolation intensifies anxiety for someone who needs a lot of connection with people. If that person stays attentive to their need for certain kinds of connection and finds healthy, satisfying ways to do it, they will stay energized and maintain a more positive outlook.

Darkening moods and interpersonal conflict are typically a response to inadequately met needs. Whatever your unique needs and degrees of expressing them are, that is where you’ll find powerful clues about what keeps your batteries charged or what will re-energize you and build positive momentum within your mind, body and spirit. The same is true for each person in your home — uniquely so.

We all have strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities to sin. Each of us is a work in progress. We are not perfect humans but we hope to be generally be headed in the direction of personal growth. Thanks be to God, there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus. But there certainly is opportunity and responsibility to grow as a disciple and representative of the Kingdom. Learning how to be attentive to our needs and other’s (by staying in tune with the Holy Spirit) and asking God to help us complement each other’s uniqueness (with a servant’s heart) makes us more like Jesus. It also builds morale in our homes.

Psalm 139:23-24
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.

There are seven areas of opportunity to boost energy levels, encouragement and refreshment in your special needs family.

I’ll be writing in more detail about each of these areas in Part 3 of this series.

In the meantime, it’s important to know that you’ll get the most efficient and powerful morale boost by focusing your attention in one of these areas for each person. Pray about which area is most likely to address the true root need they have. For example, if you’ve noticed that your husband’s spirits have become low, consider what his root need may be then explore ways to cooperate with each other to meet mutual needs in a balanced way. Sometimes that means sacrificially taking turns. Ideally, this is a very cooperative process.

The other day at my house, we encountered an opportunity just like this. There was growing friction between me and my husband, Larry. The tension was getting expressed by one of us (who I won’t implicate here) as impatience and a critical tone. The other (who I won’t throw under the bus) was retreating from communication and resisting expressions of affection.

We could argue all day long about who started it and who was “right.” But the truth is, each of us had some core needs that weren’t getting adequately met. The quarantine was wreaking havoc that week. We were in a valley needing the ebb to meet the flow in a more positive way. By re-examining the list below, we recognized an opportunity to collaborate that would re-energize and encourage both of us. Larry watched a TV show with Carly that didn’t interest me while I gave myself a pedicure. Ninety minutes later, the momentum had already begun to shift to a more positive tone. In this case, he sacrificed more because he was on duty with Carly and had faced a couple of interruptions. But later that night, I gave him a neck and shoulder massage.

Balance. Compromise. Cooperation. Teamwork.

Morale is highest when we are a complementary system!


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

BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 1): Five Ways to Keep the Light On

Families affected by special needs are well acquainted with the ebb and flow of discouragement, conflict and fatigue. Quarantine and current events are adding further stress to our family dynamics, including mental and emotional health. Just like our immune systems needs a boost of vitamin C when illness threatens, we need both proactive and responsive help for threats to our family’s morale.

In this series, we’re exploring targeted ways to bring a speedy delivery of fun, energy and hope to your doorstep! Our hope is to show the way to experience an extra strength, extended-release dose of spiritual and practical encouragement.

First off, I just want to acknowledge that families impacted by disability and other special needs can find life intense and rather complicated. Thankfully, there is a richness to life and relationships that comes through the way God has uniquely woven us into our families as well. Still, we encounter many days and situations that feel very heavy. We never know when a crisis may arise and plans are regularly thwarted. Each person in the family has times when their mood darkens. And when they do, one person’s mood can ripple through the entire household.

What are the things that seem to trigger heaviness in your heart or home?

Perhaps you’ll relate to some of these examples:
The repetitive and tedious nature of daily cares (e.g., bowel regimen, housekeeping issues created by disability such as laundry)
Seeing our child self harm
Medical crisis
Comparison to others
Feelings of isolation or being invisible
Reminders of lost dreams
Battles for a better IEP or other rights (e.g., health insurance)
Seeing areas where our child is falling behind
Feeling inadequate as a caregiver or parent
Feeling trapped, stuck or hopeless
Disappointment from a sibling who can’t play or demands attention
Resentment of a spouse who gets to go to work and escape
Guilt within a spouse who needs to work and isn’t able to help more at home
Disconnection from spouse, community or others
Pressure to make decisions
Grieving (a diagnosis or lack of diagnosis)

People use various words to describe the dark moods or conflict that creep in on the heels of such triggers.

anger, hurt feelings, defensiveness or hyper-sensitivity, discouragement/hopelessness, anxiety, grief, depression, exhaustion, lack of motivation, loneliness

Families who tend to be resilient within the ups and downs of the household atmosphere are those who are proactive in caring for each other and also responsive to clues that stress is mounting. They learn to be attentive to each other, communicate often and recognize areas of vulnerability to shifting moods. They make an effort to understand each other’s most typical triggers and cooperate with each other in making sure root needs get met — before the valley of the shadow looms large.

It’s a process and no family is going to handle the ebbs and flows perfectly. But we can learn to find a balanced family system that softens the shadows and reduces their frequency.

Proverbs 27:12
A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.
The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

5 Ways to Keep the Light On

John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

What can help keep the Light on within your special needs family?

  1. Pay Attention to Where Your Identity Rests
    If you are someone who loves and follows Jesus, you are a child of God (John 1:12-13). That is who you are first and that is where your identity is anchored. Disability doesn’t define you. The beginning and end of your calling and your empowerment comes from your Creator. You are part of a special needs family but that is secondary to being part of God’s family.

    Children who grow up with solid reassurance about where they stand in that broader spiritual family will have their most powerful tool for thriving through their teens and early adulthood. As each person matures, wrestles and lives through ages and seasons of self-discovery, there is delightful freedom in knowing that their core place of “home” rests safely with God. Within that anchoring identity, each person has God’s permission and encouragement to explore their roles, opportunities and contributions in the big wide world. Resist giving disability, complex medical needs or mental health difficulties all the power over the tone of the household or mindset of the family system. You are more — individually and together — than any diagnosis.
  2. Maintain Safe, Open & Positive Communication
    Make your home and family a safe space for ongoing and proactive conversations about what is creating dissatisfaction, restlessness or grief. Resist the spirit of criticism (1 Corinthians 13:1 and Philippians 4:8). Most special needs families also benefit by seeking counseling.

  3. Give & Receive Forgiveness
    Do some regular self-examination. Not a single one of us is perfect (Romans 3:10 & Romans 3:23). Confess weakness, repent of sins and become more aware of God’s unique imprint on your soul. God will help you see yourself realistically and as His masterpiece (Psalm 139:23-24) and he promises to bring a refreshing into your life when you humble yourself and repent (Acts 3:19-20, James 5:16).

  4. Appreciate that Each and Every Individual is God’s Work of Art
    God masterfully designed every person in your family with unique needs, ways of thinking, ways of feeling, ways of relating to others, passions, talents and spiritual gifts (Ephesians 2:10). Prayerfully study your family members to develop understanding, appreciation, compassion and respect for their precious value. Aim to identify ways you can live together that are complementary and show a balanced, servant-hearted regard for each person in the family.

  5. Rest On the One Constant in Your Chaos—God
    God’s character and promises never to change. He remainsthe same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). His nearness, faithfulness, sufficiency and perspective are completely dependable for us.

In Part 2 we’ll be exploring ways to cooperate with each other to meet mutual needs in a balanced and complementary way. We each have our own strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Learning how to be attentive to each person’s needs and honor each other’s uniqueness builds morale in our homes. Read BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 2): Developing a Complementary System.

Then in Part 3, we will look at seven practical and biblical ways to get energized and refreshed. Read BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 3): Seven Ways to Energize & Refresh Your Special Needs Family.

I discussed this subject of Managing Morale in special needs families during a 60-minute interview with Stephen “Doc” Hunsley MD, founder of SOAR Special Needs. You can watch that episode of “Talk with Doc” here.


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

Sometimes I Beg, “Make It Stop!”

How bad is the morale at your house these days? If people are going a little nutty behind your front door, then they are much like the folks here at my house. We’re restless from quarantine. We’re overwhelmed by news and social media. Like most of you, we’re trying to learn new things and make the best of circumstances. But it sure can be exhausting.

My own heart cries out for relief. But this season has been especially hard on our daughter Carly. She is 22 years old with Angelman Syndrome. The last few months have brought her great confusion, boredom, loneliness and frustration. Bless her heart, she is learning to adapt. But she continues to have episodes of negative behavior and her sleep has been more irregular than usual. That means mom, dad and respite staff are tired too and frequently finding ourselves at the end of a rope.

Trying to manage Carly’s anxiety and keep her caregivers content can feel like another full-time job for me. I’ll admit to great impatience in this area because I’m a mom who needs a lot of independence and solitude. I believe I may even be inclined to take on more projects than I should sometimes because they feel like justifiable excuses to escape the weight of certain responsibilities. I confess to sometimes avoiding my role as caregiver and consistently pulling my weight in managing morale at my house. Because I have a servant-hearted husband, I can inadvertently take advantage.

Of course, each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. So it’s always a good idea to shape roles and tag-team responsibilities according to what best fits each person’s strengths. Still, we have to pay close attention to honoring each other’s needs and energy levels with partnership and grace. Larry and I work at being a complement to each other. But when tensions start to rise, we have to go back to the basics — understanding and cooperating with the unique needs that each person has in this caregiving family.

The road to relief and carrying lighter burdens starts with having a clear and accurate diagnosis of our own unique needs. Each of us needs to recognize, “What is the root of my longing?”

It’s tempting to blame the quarantine for everything. No doubt, we all want it to be over! Yet, in truth, it’s not necessarily that we’re longing so much for the end of quarantine but that we have deep inner hungers for things like:

  • More freedom, control or space
  • More “real” connections to people
  • More interesting things to do
  • Times for quiet and times rich with activity

With or without a quarantine, Carly needs these kinds of things in varying degrees. We all do. Now, the isolation and limitations have heightened our existing sensitivities. This season can actually be an opportunity to become more self aware — as well as more aware of the core needs of others.

Proverbs 13:12
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

At our house, we are regularly seeking ways to help each other tend to their soul’s longings. It requires more creativity but we are discovering that it is often possible to find reasonably satisfying ways of feeding our soul cravings despite the limitations.

Moms and dads can help kids develop awareness of their true longings too. What a powerful life skill we give them when we do this! These two things lie at the heart of effective self care:

  • Learn to take the longings of your soul to Jesus and experience His presence, power and goodness.
  • Identify healthy ways to meet your deepest needs so you don’t start seeking harmful/sinful ways of “medicating” those longings.

My husband and I keep learning how helpful it is to study our family and learn what uniquely energizes each of us. Here are some examples that God has opened our eyes to see:

  • Carly calms considerably when she can crawl into her dad’s lap and listen to a specific music playlist he created for her.
  • Carly likes to be busy with frequently changing activities so we’re finding ways to keep her schedule satisfying and we’ve updated her visual calendar to show new images we didn’t feature on her calendar prior to quarantine (Zoom meetings, Farkle games, Dance parties, car wash, etc.)
  • Larry feels more valued and confident when we speak words of appreciation and affection into him.
  • I recharge when I have permission and opportunity to retreat by myself to read a book, take a bath or watch tv for about 90 minutes.
  • Our sense of isolation or tendencies to feel invisible are best fought through serving others, connecting with friends and family on Zoom or FaceTime, playing games together (even virtually with friends), going for a walk or weeding the garden while on the phone with a friend, worshipping via livestream with our church family.
  • Friction between Larry and I is often defused by creating adequate opportunities for intimacy.

Friends, our families are well led when mom and dad are well fed. When we work together in creating an environment that adequately complements each person’s deepest needs, we all thrive.

Be encouraged. It’s a process. My family is not perfect but we’re making progress. More and more often, I feel like the wind is at my back spurring us forward rather than blowing hard on my face and chest. Instead of feeling heartsick from leaning into the pressures of quarantine, heavy news and caregiving, I’m becoming a more intentional and creative caregiver. Honestly, this season is finally making me more reliant on Jesus than on myself.

This season is giving me a more realistic view of my limitations, boundaries, needs and dreams while growing me into the person I’ve always wanted to be — someone who is more trusting of Jesus’ power and concern for us.

2 Corinthians 3:16-18
But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.


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

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.