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

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

CELEBRATE EACH OTHER

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

BE  A  SAFE  SPACE

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

KEEP  CLEAN  SLATES

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

COMFORT  EACH  OTHER

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

COOPERATE WITH GOD

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

CATCH A  VISION

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

BE  A TEAM

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

KNOW  WHOSE  YOU  ARE

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 PETER 4:8

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

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

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

God’s Words: Rich with Meaning and History for Us

Psalm 16:11
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.

I have history with this verse.

My first recall of resonating with Psalm 16:11 goes back to 2009 when I was writing curriculum for a women’s conference where I was to speak four times throughout the weekend. The Lord used my circumstances at that time and my posture with Him during that season to ripen my heart to hear something deeply personal in the promise of Psalm 16:11. Then God grew fruit out of that for the benefit of about 130 other women as we explored the presence and voice of God for two days together. Ever since that time, there has been a spiritual “nostalgia” wrapped into that particular passage for me.

Several scriptures have developed relevance for me in specific seasons of relationships and circumstances throughout my life. For example, I wrote my first worship song around Hebrews 11:1 shortly after I made a personal decision to follow Jesus when I was 14 years old.

I know this is true for many of us. In the ministry work I do, I have had the privilege of hearing hundreds of stories from people around the world about how different scriptures have been personal and powerful for them. It’s common for people of faith to identify with certain verses at memorable moments for poignant reasons that only God could have stirred. After all, scripture is “alive and active” according to Hebrews 4:12.

God will never stop speaking to us through His Word.

John 1:1-5
In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Considering how much personal history can be packed in certain scriptures, that got me reflecting on this year. After all, 2020 was a remarkable year. And there are a handful of scriptures that stand out to me as having met me in remarkable ways this year. In some cases, God just kept threading themes into my conversations with others that would lead me back to related passages. In other times, God’s words came to me in big moments — moments packed with meaning, deep thoughts or large emotions. The intensity of 2020 and the nature of feeling sort of stalled out in time, tended to keep me circling my faith wagons around scriptural places of resonance, insight, comfort, anchoring truth and hope.

Creating an annual highlights list of scriptures can be an encouraging and
meaningful way to reflect on our personal history and faith stories.

These verses reflect recurring landing points or pivotal moments in my life and faith during 2020:

1 Peter 5:9
Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

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.

2 Cor 1:8-11
We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.

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

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Joshua 5 & 6 (especially 5:15)
The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” 

Note: I found a model in Joshua for an important reset in my life this year. If you’re interested, you can read that story here.

Luke 1:39-42
Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.

I now have a “history” with these verses that I will carry with me for my lifetime. They reflect intimate lessons God has poured into me. They represent a sort of private dialogue I feel I’ve had with Him during 2020.

I love that about the scriptures! As in any relationship, there are moments shared in a conversation that stick out in our minds and stay treasured in our memories. I’m so grateful to have the kind of relationship with Jesus that produces these kinds of memories and keeps influencing me as a disciple of Christ throughout my life!  

I have found it remarkably encouraging, inspiring and forward-pointing for me to reflect on these verses that have marked 2020 for me. The process itself was a powerful reassurance to me of God’s intimate presence, power and goodness in my life, particularly during some dark or complicated days.

I’m excited! I see a new and meaningful tradition starting here. I plan to spend some time every December from here on, asking God to show me those scriptures that defined, repositioned or grew my faith that year.

What scriptures are part of your faith history? What are some intimately memorable ways God has spoken into your life through His words this past year?

I would love to hear how you will remember hearing God speak to you in 2020. Please share in the comments or contact me through Walk Right In Ministries.


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

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.

FRIENDSHIP: The Foundation for Discipleship

Friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts. Having a trusted and encouraging friend to confide in during a time of crisis is particularly valuable. Yet for some people in the midst of challenges, the sense of loneliness and isolation can feel more overwhelming than the crisis itself. Sometimes we just need to talk with someone who “gets it.”

Walk Right In Ministries wants to support you in getting connected with someone who has “been in your shoes” but will do more than just empathize. Our prayer is that you are connected with someone who will pray with you and encourage you in your walk with God — the essential foundation for a life that truly thrives. We call friends like that “Walking Partners.”

A Walking Partner is someone who will cheer you on while helping you maintain a clear and biblical plum line against which to measure your relationships, choices, goals and dreams. You can get “social networking” and good mentoring in lots of places but Jesus-focused, disciple-growing kind of friendship like this is soul-reaching and can change lives for eternity. Walking Partners celebrate the Living God and will respectfully and lovingly share Him.

Sometimes a Walking Partner is like a “crisis coach.” You may simply need a note of encouragement from someone who has had an experience that resonates with yours. Perhaps an email or two may be enough to spur you on. On the other hand, you may appreciate meeting for coffee or going for a walk once in a while.

We believe that professional counselors would be needed in far fewer circumstances if more Christians lived out their calling to be disciples — in a lifestyle of walking shoulder-to-shoulder with one another listening, encouraging, exhorting and empowering in relationships where Christ is central to the conversation.

Walk Right In Ministries is privileged to collaborate with other like-minded individuals and organizations to help equip disciples and connect hurting people with Christ-centered support. If you have interest in connecting with a Walking Partner or want to know more about partnership with Walk Right In Ministries, contact us at info@walkrightin.org .

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-4

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
ECCLESIASTES 4:9-12

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
PROVERBS 27:17

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
COLOSSIANS 3:16-17

Read more about the Walking Partner model.