Respite Rhythms (Part 2): How Much is Enough?

This post is part of an ongoing conversation here at the blog about the 8 Habits of Caregivers with a Robust Support System. We have been revisiting each of the habits with stories and tips on each one. Again today, we’ve been focusing specifically on Habit #6: Find your pace for an adequate rhythm of respite.

The goal of developing an adequate respite rhythm is to maintain reasonable health and well-being. A looming question then is:

How much respite is enough respite?  

Unfortunately, the intensity of caregiving required of some parents and family caregivers doesn’t allow for anything close to the ideal lifestyle we need or hope to enjoy. But some reasonable degree of rest and refreshment must be achieved. It’s a matter of physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational health for the caregiver as well as quality of life for a family and the one needing the aid of others.

Not every activity or respite strategy brings equal amounts of refreshment. And there is no quantifiable formula that equates to enough. I have a personal story that may serve to bring some perspective as you figure out your own unique and personalized rhythm. But before I share the story, allow me to encourage you to enjoy some experimenting. Managing respite is a skill to be honed. It’s a learning process that benefits from some trial-and-error in several key areas of life.

Create a list of activities that feel, to any degree, replenishing. Keep it handy (maybe a note in your phone) so you can add new ideas at any time. Consider asking your loved ones if they have noticed any specific activities that seem to energize you. Their answers may surprise you or enlighten your future choices.

Ask other family caregivers what would be on their lists too.

Don’t let tight finances keep you from discovering a creative approach. Just the other day my friend posted a photo on social media demonstrating how to set up a romantic tailgate picnic in the back of your care. That’s now on my To DO list!

We have the option to pace ourselves for the long-haul or to live our days in tension, fear of running out of steam, outright panic, at risk of injury or headed toward burnout. This requires some self-awareness and taking a close, honest look at our own areas of strength, limitation and vulnerability — accepting that each one of us is a combination of those.

Pay attention to what is really triggering your stress. If you simply lump all of your overwhelm into a single bucket called “stress,” you may not get to the root reason underlying your fatigue or anxiety.Stress builds for such a variety of reasons: lack of sleep, repressed grief, feeling unheard, control issues, lack of boundaries, perfectionism, and difficulty trusting God.

Pay attention to what is really triggering your stress.

We respond differently to people and situations when we are rested. Be intentional about noticing how you react to your responsibilities — emotionally and behaviorally — during the hours or days before to getting a break. Then pay equally close attention to how you react — internally and externally — during the hours and days after you return from a break. Taking an opportunity to step away brings perspective and allows for a reset.

When it comes to getting breaks from caregiving responsibilities, we often have to plan ahead and then hold our expectations loosely at our house. We try to make plans for breaks with some degree of regularity whether that respite looks like a nap in the middle of the day, time alone to organize thoughts, exercise to decompress, a few hours away for a haircut and errands, a lunch date, spontaneous or planned intimacy in the marriage bed, an overnight getaway, or a vacation.

Each of us needs enough time alone. We also need enough time as a couple, enough time with each of our children, and enough time as a family together. As our adult children have moved into independent lives, that family time is an extra gift but well worth praying for and being creative about.

A note about intimacy: Some couples need to experience sexual intimacy twice a week to maintain satisfying connection. Another couple may find that monthly is adequate for them. Marriage in a caregiving family will likely require many compromises and generous amounts of creativity.

Many years ago, I was away at a weekend scrapbooking retreat with friends. Many of those women were avid scrapbookers who spent a certain amount of time throughout the year working on their projects. For me, it was a once-a-year opportunity. I really needed the time with friends. But I desperately wanted time to sit in my own thoughts for a while too looking at pictures and being super-efficient about creating my albums. Finding my rhythm for a satisfying weekend was tricky.

Those women were creating such fun pages of memories. By the end of the weekend, they would finish 15 or 20 gorgeously detailed pages. Though I was both inspired, I chose another approach — fast and cheap!

Because efficiency is always my tendency and this was such rare time for me after Carly was born, I would go into the weekend hoping to finish at least one entire book filled with 40 pages or more. One year I completed two full books for my daughter Alex’s keepsakes — one book from birth to elementary school and one book reflecting her middle school years. I was on a mission!

The other ladies sometimes teased me for being so driven. And I’m sure I was prideful about it sometimes. I also got stuck at times, stalling out of my hyper-efficient rhythm. I would lean back in my chair and whine in frustration for all to hear. Oh, the grace those dear women had for me!

One day I expressed frustration that I wasn’t staying on pace with my productivity goals. A dear friend across the room called out the perfect words to get me going again. She said, “Remember Lisa, done is better than perfect!”

Everyone had a good laugh. Meanwhile, that was a precious reminder and encouragement to me. She understood. I didn’t have the luxury of getting too bogged down in details or too caught up in creative ideas (even though I absolutely love creativity and details). But the life I’ve been given has shifted my values and shown me I can be very happy with leaning into different priorities.

So, I pulled myself back up to my cutting table and got back to work producing at least four pages an hour through the rest of the weekend.

That phrase became a cheerful motto for future scrapbooking weekends. It also became a very helpful mindset when applied to life and other projects over the years. Most importantly, it has applied to taking breaks from caregiving. Larry and I have had to adapt too many romantic getaway plans to count over the years. But never once have we regretted pressing on with revisions and getting the break anyway, even if it seemed quite inferior from the original dream.

So, how much respite is enough respite?

When it comes to finding our respite rhythms, some is better than none, and DONE is better than perfect.

Philippians 4:11-13
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.

RELATED: Seven Ways to Energize & Refresh Your Special Needs Family

RELATED: Best Practices of Refreshed Special Needs Moms

WATCH: Flourishing Families with Matt Mooney.

RELATED: Can Caregivers Expect Something Out-of-this-World?

Watch for the final instalment in this 3-part mini-series coming next week — Respite Rhythms (Part 3): Pace Yourself! We’ve got a bunch of practical pacing tips coming so visit the blog again next week. We’d love to hear ideas from you too. Share them what’s been working for you in the comments or contact us privately.


Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families.

8 Truths About Disability & Relationships

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

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

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

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

God's good design is reflected in every person.

God’s good design is reflected in every person.

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

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

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

Suffering and weakness do not negate the value of life.

Suffering and weakness do not negate the value of life. 

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

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

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

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

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

God is not limited by anything.

God is not limited by anything.

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

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

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

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

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

Disability frees a person to multiply grace.

Disability frees a person to multiply grace.

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

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

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

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

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

God is first and foremost concerned with our hearts.

God is first and foremost concerned with our hearts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of this we can be sure:

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


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Defining Roles Can Encourage and Empower Parent Caregivers

Helping a group of people find agreeable plans is right in my husband’s wheelhouse.

Many years ago, Larry was attending one of Carly’s IEP planning meetings at her school. It was the first time he had participated directly in the special education annual planning process, and I was very eager for him to see how those conversations unfolded. You see, those “team” meetings were tense and stressful for me. I never really felt like an equal voice on that team, despite being Carly’s parent. And though I had passionate perspectives about what goals and objectives were documented on Carly’s IEP, I usually left those meetings feeling dismissed and defensive, wondering if I was crazy.

Am I being unreasonable?
Will they ever see Carly’s potential as we do or
am I just a biased mom who is just seeing what I want to see?
Are my expectations fair?

I felt very alone in that room every spring and the situation seemed worse every year. So, I asked Larry to take time off work and come with me. He was willing to come but was unconvinced that he could add any value. I can no longer recall specifics. But I remember him saying something like, “I don’t know half of what you know about all of this stuff. And I fully support you in whatever you think is best. I can’t imagine there’s anything I would have to add.”

What happened that day was unexpected and transformative in how we valued each other and approached our caregiver-parent roles from that point onward. You see, Larry sat quietly listening during that meeting. He didn’t say much at all. But at a couple of points when there seemed to be misunderstanding or impasse, he spoke briefly and gently, with pointed clarity. He affirmed my perspective, restated the goals as he understood them (brought the conversation out of the weeds), and reassured everyone that Carly deserved our collective accountability.

The room fell silent for a moment and the tone shifted. Suddenly, I felt like they were taking us more seriously. The veiled pushback also slowed, and we heard fewer excuses like, “parents often observe levels of function at home that their children simply don’t display at school.”

I could have resented Larry’s influence in that day (frustrated that I couldn’t accomplish that on my own), but I actually fell in love with him all over again, appreciating his gift for mediating conversations and rallying people around common vision.

Conversation in the car on the way home revealed how frustrated Larry had been recognizing all the politics and agendas I had been dealing with for years. I felt very validated. He had also noticed how his presence alone combined with a few choice words made an important difference. He committed right then and there to attend every IEP meeting he could after that. He never missed one.

All these years later, we have both found our places in various other areas on the home team. That is to say, each of us has settled into our sweet spots as teammates in caring for Carly. For example, he keeps Carly busy wrestling or snuggling by the tv while I make dinner. Afterwards, he washes dishes while I hang out with Carly. We discuss things like budgets and health plans, but he maintains most of the paperwork and spreadsheets for her SSI, insurance, and waiver. I focus on writing the narrative portions of annual plans and guardianship confirmations.

Dad cleaning kitchen while mom reads book with child on couch.

It isn’t about whether we are pulling equal weight or that the number of hours either of us puts into the process is comparable. It is about how we are learning to leverage and optimize our own unique strengths, talents, capacities and perspectives to ensure the Carly, our marriage, and our family thrive.

It’s not like we have achieved perfection — not by a long shot! But a good process is underway. In some ways, we have fallen into our roles naturally or intuitively. In other ways, we have had to be more intentional. In any case, we have some clarity of understanding about how each of us adds value now. And, though we’ve been sufferably slow to grow in this area, we’re getting better at overtly expressing appreciation to each other more regularly too.

We are also trying to stay alert to how and when adjustments are needed. We’re both willing to step into the other person’s role, when necessary, and have each other’s back. So, when one of us is sick, for example, we know what the essential things are and how to step into each other’s shoes for a short period of time. And we know what is not essential and can be left for a time when circumstances “normalize” again. God forbid we need to translate this strategy to a long-term situation, we have some general confidence that either of us would have a foundational strategy from which to build. For sure, a whole lot of new building would have to happen (tremendous support would be needed if either of us ended up having to do this without the other) but having common understanding about the essential basics gives some powerful peace of mind. Beyond that, we must simply pray.  

Tiredness after household duties.

How the roles play out in your situation will not look like ours. You have your own unique skillset and temperament. So does your spouse. So do any other people collaborating in caring for your child or loved one. It will be richly satisfying, faith-building and rewarding for everyone when you agree to explore the array of needs involved and discover each other’s sweet spots.

RELATED: 8 Habits of Caregivers with a Robust Support System

You and your team may benefit from a traditional SWOT analysis. Periodically review the division of labor in your home in these categories: S=Strengths, W=Weaknesses, O=Opportunities, and T=Threats.

Banner using icons to illustrate SWOT Analysis concept.

Such a review may help clarify roles, validate or affirm team members for their contributions, highlight gaps in coverage, reveal needs for fluidity, identify needs for more delegation or collaboration, support healthier boundaries, confirm why someone is needing more rest, and bring greater respect to those whose contributions are more indirect but no less valuable (e.g., someone serving as the “primary breadwinner” outside the home).

Examples of Responsibilities In the Caregiving Household

Note: This is certainly not an exhaustive list. And these items are listed in no order of importance or priority.

  • Monitor health and wellbeing
  • Manage medications
  • Manage and coach behaviors
  • Oversee, assist or implement bowel/bladder regimen
  • Oversee, assist or implement feeding program (This may include special diet, special feeding supports, NG tube, G-J tube, and other extra prep needs.)
  • Plan and prepare meals
  • Shop for the household (food, clothes, etc.)
  • Monitor daily/hourly nutrition and hydration
  • Provide support during night wakings
  • Plan and coordinate schedules which may include medical and dental appointments, therapies, school activities, caregiver support staffing, volunteers
  • Research medical/developmental conditions, therapies, programs
  • Attend IEP or 504 Plan meetings and provide input on documentation
  • Implement or oversee curriculum and/or therapies and/or vocational-rehab program
  • Maintain an orderly home including medical and incontinence supplies, adapted equipment, toy hygiene/rotations, etc.
  • Maintaining housekeeping including extra soils created by the disability situation (e.g., messy eating far exceeding typical developmental stages, behaviors that may include pantry invasion)
  • Wash and fold laundry which can involve upholstery, protective pads, frequent bedding changes, etc.
  • Put out trash including diaper pails, sharps containers, and excess medication disposal
  • Mend, sew, or purchase adapted clothing
  • Fill water softener and change furnace filters
  • Pay bills, balance the checkbook, audit finances (bank account balances, credit cards), do/coordinate taxes
  • Hire/train/supervise nursing staff, PCAs, and paid caregiver support staff
  • Recruit/train/coordinate/supervise unpaid volunteers
  • Share in parenting and discipline (which can include the involvement of behavior therapists/coaches)
  • Complete regular paperwork for schools, doctor appointments, therapies, church, state/county
  • Organize/maintain documentation (e.g., guardianship/conservatorship applications and annual renewals, wills, disability/social security receipts, IEPs, 504 Plan, medical records, waiver/grant/respite budgets)
  • Tend the yard and gardens (e.g., mowing, shovel, weeding)
  • Complete or arrange household repairs and/or modifications (e.g., grab bars, ramps)
  • Maintain vehicles which may include adaptations for wheelchairs, youth car seats, seat protectors, handicapped license plates

Does seeing this extensive list grow your awareness and appreciation for all that goes into caring for your child, grandchild, sibling or friend? Does it intimidate or overwhelm you? Does it trigger resentment or a spirit of competition in your family as you reflect on why you may carry an unbalanced portion of the responsibility? Can you give your team a pat on the back upon remembering the many responsibilities you are juggling together?

It is about how we are learning to leverage and optimize our own unique strengths, talents, capacities and perspectives to ensure the Carly, our marriage, and our family thrives.

It is my prayer that the list will empower you to embrace opportunities. Invite conversations about how to adjust for a more balanced system that optimizes individual and family strengths. Also, let it be an experience of receiving reassurances from God that fill your emotional, physical, mental and spiritual fuel tanks. Let God be your utmost Anchor of encouragement and strength so you can serve generously and even sacrificially but cheerfully.

Ephesians 3:16
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.

I hope this post can be a springboard for greater appreciation, empathy, and compassion — for yourself and others. I hope it helps you recognize that your ultimate strength comes from Jesus.

Tell us in the comments about what helps you and your caregiving team. Is the list missing something? What have you been learning from your role as a caregiver? What encourages you as you love and serve your family?


Lisa Jamieson, co-founder Walk Right In Ministries

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families.

A Father’s Day Tribute

It’s Father’s Day this weekend and I have a warning: I’m not going to be buying you a greeting card. I’m learning that my own words are important to you. I want my words to speak loudly to your soul—in positive ways that strengthen your spirit. I’m learning that a steady dose of personalized appreciation and encouragement from me is essential. I’m realizing that I can find more and better ways to express how much I value you. And I want to teach our kids to do that too.

I am thankful…

  • You don’t try to be just like all the other dads. I’m sure it’s tempting to compare yourself with others who might seem to be doing it better. I compare myself to other moms sometimes too. If there are any comparisons, I want other people to inspire us, not drag us down.
  • You are learning to be yourself. It makes my heart glad that you are uniquely you. And you are well-equipped to be the dad our children need.
  • You provide for your family. Beyond the ways you contribute financially, you also fix things, help make things, play games, wrestle on the floor with the kids, share ideas and perspectives, speak reason, plan adventures and make us laugh.
  • You fill a role that I cannot. While I may spearhead things like the IEP, your voice in those meetings still matters too. While I often run point on things like therapies and grocery shopping, your oversight on car, yard work and home maintenance eases my mind! I’m grateful we can keep working to optimize our personal strengths on this crazy team.
  • There are many ways you make me feel supported. I promise to call those out in specific ways more often, because I want to encourage you and reassure you of my appreciation. I feel less alone on this special needs journey and more like part of a team because of you.
  • You bring a sense of stability to our chaos.

I’m sorry…

  • Sometimes I have fought harder for a great IEP than I have for a strong, healthy relationship with you. Our children need that. We all need that.
  • Sometimes I resent the opportunities you have outside of caregiving. I don’t want you to feel guilty about that. I’m just being honest.
  • I don’t always cooperate with your efforts to lead and serve our family. I want to give you space and freedom to lead from your own strengths and style. I hope you’ll cooperate with mine, too. I pray that our individual roles in this family will not be in competition, but complementary.
  • For those times when my actions and words—or lack of words—have discouraged you.

Please forgive me.

Photo credit: Nathan Anderson on Unsplash.com.
Photo credit: Nathan Anderson on Unsplash.com.

I understand…

  • It’s hard for you to stay engaged. By the nature of your work and needs for your own self-care, your time at home can be limited.
  • You didn’t come into fatherhood with role models for what it looks like to be a special needs parent. Your own dad wasn’t perfect, either.

I hope you…

  • Grow increasingly confident and energized as a father—just do YOU!
  • Feel safe to be yourself with us—to share your grief, weaknesses, fears, disappointments, hopes and dreams. Even if we can’t “fix” them, we can honor each other in the process of life. I value knowing your heart.
  • Find connections with more dads who understand the road you are on, as someone with a child who has special needs. Just as I am building friendships with other special needs moms, I am learning there are men all around the world walking in shoes like yours and they want like-minded friends, too.
  • Keep learning with me. There are too many things for just one person to know and understand about how to help our child(ren) thrive. Our two perspectives are better than one when it comes to understanding a diagnosis, navigating our medical complexities, evaluating therapy options, implementing a special diet, budgeting for special needs and home modifications, advocating for a fair and inclusive education and keeping on top of insurance matters along with all the regular matters of the day.
  • Join with me to find better ways of tag-teaming on caregiving, so each of us has adequate opportunities for self-care.
  • Find regular encouragement. And I hope more of that will come through me and your family.

I am looking forward to another year of parenting with you. Your partnership matters and I know we are the team our child(ren) needs. No matter our circumstances, we get to laugh together, cry together, try new things, experience new adventures, learn from each other, forgive each other (over and over again, as each of us is in-process) and grow stronger as the unique family that we are. None of us is perfect. We’re a work-in-progress. And that process finds positive momentum when we stick together.

You are deeply loved. Yes, the kids and I love you! For sure we do. This Father’s Day, we are committed to trying harder to express that to you on the daily. We want to get better at telling you very specifically why we love and appreciate you so much. Thank you for being patient with us.

I love you and thank God for you.

This article first appeared on the Key Ministry blog in June 2020.


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.

Tips for Caregivers About Expressing Help and Encouragement

This tenth and final article in our “sweet spots” series explores how uniquely each of us expresses help and encouragement within a family impacted by special needs.

Who doesn’t love a good cheerleader? We all need encouragement, in one form or another. It is essential nourishment for our souls. Just as our bodies become starved and will die when deprived of food or water, our souls will wither and dry up without confidence, inspiration or hope.

One of the many challenges in a caregiving family is that we are typically exhausted and can be rather needy of extra encouragement. On a regular basis, I hear from special needs caregivers and families who view themselves as “high maintenance” in this area. Many struggle with feeling guilty about being so dependent in this respect. Many simultaneously resent that their needs are accentuated by their circumstances. You may understand what it feels like to push down the ache in your soul and try to be satisfied with whatever help and hope comes your way.

The exchange of love and affection is a form of encouragement. In their book Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families, Gary Chapman and Jolene Philo suggest that “caregiving parents who know about and implement the love languages say they are a simple and effective way of filling a spouse’s love tank and reinforcing the glue that bonds them together.”  

Unfortunately, the isolating nature of caregiving can cause the emotional “love tanks” of special needs parents and other family members to run vulnerably low. This is even more true if the loved one needing care is non-verbal, requires intensive care or if anyone in the household is not being very expressive.

Surely there are countless ways to express love and bring encouragement. The Love Languages® are a powerful tool to help us. God’s Word tells us to keep on encouraging each other (Hebrews 10:24-25). But fatigue has profound influence on the tone, manner, and frequency of our communication. And we all know that words and expressiveness flow more freely among some of us than others.  

DISCOVER your Love Language® by taking an online quiz.

Expressiveness is an interesting thing. God’s design of each person is infinitely personal and always purposeful (Psalm 139). He creates every individual with their own temperament — their unique types and degrees of need as well as their own unique capacities for expressing their needs, thoughts, and feelings.

Someone may think or feel deeply while also expressing those things freely. Another may think or feel deeply yet not express those thoughts or emotions in similar proportion at all. And there is every combination in between.

God’s design of each person is infinitely personal and always purposeful.

What that means in this area of encouragement is that the exchange of encouragement, love and affection will not always feel equally or adequately reciprocated within a family. You may be generous with hugs for your family member. But do they receive them with the frequency that they actually need them? Is your capacity for giving them limited by how God created you to be or because your circumstances have you distracted? These are the kinds of questions worth sorting out. It matters where we draw our energies from.

Teenager problems – Mother comforts her troubled teenage daughter

To make things even more complicated, we don’t always express ourselves in alignment with the way God designed us. Various factors influence this. Consider just a couple of examples. You may have learned certain behaviors based on how you saw encouragement modeled by your parents. Or you may have developed an expressive personality because gregariousness was highly valued in your upbringing. You may have grown up among siblings where competition for attention influenced the choices you made about how you expressed yourself. You may have observed expressiveness handled poorly leading you to choose a more subdued way of behaving. You may have a friend, spouse or child whose need for “strokes” feels so demanding that you’ve started to pull away. Your own withdrawal or outbursts of emotion may leave you feeling defeated, ashamed, or frustrated.

Why is it important to understand these nuances about needs and expressiveness? Because compassion blossoms from places of understanding. Understanding your own degrees of need and expressiveness helps you develop compassion for yourself. It can help you to see your own strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities more clearly. Similarly, understanding the needs and degrees of expressiveness of those around you is also helpful. You can hold more reasonable expectations of others and feel even more appreciative when you recognize what sacrifices are being made to live and serve cooperatively. From compassion flow things like grace, patience, and respect.

The need for encouragement may be even more pronounced when someone is facing stresses like those involved in life challenges such as disability, health crisis, and financial strain. Personally, it means the world to me when someone spurs me on with encouragement, truth, and words of appreciation. And this is never truer than when I’m especially worn out, worried, lonely, or otherwise stretched by caring for my daughter.

When stressful situations erupt, the deepest needs of our souls will reveal themselves.

Are you one of those people who intuitively recognizes the needs and opportunities around you for bringing help or encouragement? Allow me to affirm the precious value of your gentle, tender-hearted spirit and generous ability to express things like empathy and support.

Be on guard, however, for that fact that a great capacity for serving and caring can make a person vulnerable to feeling taken advantage of, or taken for granted. It can be exhausting to be an encourager if you don’t feel that is reciprocated in some way. Being accommodating should not mean that your own needs are completely ignored. In any healthy family, even the caregiving family, no one person’s needs should dominate entirely. If this is an area of vulnerability for you, it will help to make sure you are voicing your needs clearly, directly and respectfully.

Self-advocacy skills can be challenging for some who are naturally servant-hearted. Make it a priority to find at least one person you can go to whenever you need a boost of confidence or be reminded of your great value.

RELATED: BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE: Seven Ways to Energize & Refresh Your Special Needs Family

When a cooperative environment is established in your home and within your caregiving team, each person is willing to develop understanding and compassion for each other. You’re able to appreciate that each person is unique and considered by God to be His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). You will also realize that each of us is in process. In other words, we’re not perfect yet. The caregiving team or family that lives cooperatively, learns to appreciate the special strengths that each person contributes and has compassion when anyone struggles with their weakness.

Compassion blossoms from places of understanding.

Be aware that some people in your caregiving circle may not appear to need a lot of encouragement or attention, when in fact they actually do. Pre-teen siblings, for example, may be maturing enough to appreciate that mom and dad are stretched thin and learn to seek affection in other places. Or they may act out with negative behavior because it seems to be the only way they will get their need for attention met.

Any of us can fall into similar patterns of negative, even ungodly, behavior in attempts to get the deepest needs of our souls met. When stressful situations erupt, the deepest needs of our soul will reveal themselves.

The reality is, the world will always fall short and disappoint us. We are all inherently selfish and struggle to live cooperatively with each other. We need God’s help.

Your Divine Cheerleader never ever gives up on you.
God has your back.

Your caregiving family will thrive when it features faithful encouragers while making God the primary Source. Seek the Lord for provision of the support you need to stay refreshed, motivated, and reminded that there is great purpose in your situation and role.

RELATED: Tips for Caregivers: Feeling Valued and Competent

As a cooperative and encouraging environment is cultivated in your home, everyone will find a growing sense of freedom and acceptance. You’ll be more compassionate and supportive in each other’s weaknesses. And each person will be celebrated for their own strengths.  

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY BEING SPECIFIC, GENEROUS AND GENUINE WITH YOUR EXPRESSIONS OF LOVE AND RESPECT

If you’re energized by giving encouragement or help to others…

  • Serve your family and caregiving team by frequently reminding them they are seen, valuable, loved and appreciated by you and by God
  • Pray for opportunities to give spiritual, emotional, or practical encouragement where it is needed
  • Avoid using encouragement or acts of service to manipulate others
  • Keep healthy internal boundaries while also being clear and direct about your own needs
  • Be specific with your words of love, affection, appreciation, and affirmation
  • Learn to be compassionate and patient with those who demand a great deal of attention
  • Help others learn to rely more on Jesus to feel loved and secure than on anyone else
  • Cultivate intimacy with Jesus to meet your own deepest needs for love and security

The Bible offers an abundance of guidance for people who are generous encourages or helpers:

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

Matthew 5:37
Just say a simple, “Yes, I will,” or “No, I won’t.” Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

John 5:44
No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.

2 Corinthians 9:7
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

Ephesians 3:12-19
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down deep into God’s love and keep you strong…then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving me the heart to serve my family and others. Your works are wonderful, and I know this well. I confess that sometimes I take on “yokes” that don’t belong to me or to me alone. I also resent when my burdens feel unequal to the load others are carrying. Help me to care for others as You call me to — no more and no less. Be my Source of comfort and strength so I don’t become weary or start to feel taken for granted by others. Show me how to express my own needs clearly and respectfully. Teach me if there be any impure motivations for my expressions of love and care. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit to be genuinely and generously compassionate. In Your mercy, Jesus, send more helpers and encouragers to my family so that our family can thrive and so that many will know You are alive, accessible, powerful, and good! Amen

Tell us in the comments what helping and encouraging looks like for you and in your family!

Send us your questions and join Lisa LIVE on Facebook April 15th!

Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families.

Tips to Help Creative Caregivers Find Their Sweet Spot

This article is part of an ongoing series looking at what puts caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. Today we’re exploring challenges and opportunities for caregivers whose gift is for creativity.

Creativity is a wonderful gift! It is a particularly valued gift in special needs families, especially when an injection of new ideas and fresh energy is needed. Creative caregivers can be such a tremendous help in a family where there is great need for solving problems, finding new approaches to long-standing challenges, livening up tedious routines, spicing up the food menu, identifying new motivators for therapies, re-designing a home or room for unique functionality, making an old toy fun again and so much more.

I remember a time when our daughter Carly who has Angelman Syndrome was very young and not sleeping at night. She had been wreaking havoc with everything in her bedroom. She was pulling clothes out of dresser drawers, pulling down items in the closet and frequently stripping her bed of its linens. One night we awoke to loud crashing and found her standing at the window wildly banging the blinds and very much at risk of falling through her second story bedroom window at any moment!

The middle of the night was not our best hour for creativity but the situation demanded a fast solution. Within a few minutes, my husband, Larry, had found some scrap wood in the garage and nailed it over the window until we could figure out a more attractive and permanent fix. A few days later, my parents were in town and all four of us very creative adults were gathered in Carly’s room brainstorming everything from bedding solutions to window construction. It was a moment of both grief and deep appreciation. While Larry and I experienced the sorrow of having our lives turned upside down in great detail, we also had those poignant opportunities to connect with my parents whose hearts and minds were deeply invested in helping our family thrive.

We are all made in the image of God who is, by very nature, creative. The Creator of the heavens and the earth, and everything in it, is the Source of all good gifts. If you are someone particularly blessed with the good gift of creativity, let it shine!

Creativity can be a joyful and comforting outlet for the expressive caregiver. It can be a precious escape from pressing challenges and a way to move toward God when someone is yearning to tangibly experience a sense of His presence and power. Scriptures show that songs comforted both the creator and others. For example, King David’s poetic prayers brought him close to God (Psalm 23) and his music soothed the tormented Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23).

Creativity can ease a caregiver through boredom. Rearranging furniture, re-painting a bedroom, testing a new menu item, thinking of new activities during the long days of illness or the limitations of Covid can be exciting assignments right up the alley of the creative members of your family. It can also be a delight to a loved one who is bored, restless, discouraged or needing some fresh perspective in the grueling routines of their own disabilities.

What fun siblings can have when they share a craft or bake together! I’ll never forget when one of Carly’s sisters helped her choose pantry items and stir them together for a snack one afternoon. We have a treasured picture of Carly wearing an apron, holding a spoon and getting ready to grab a mouthful of her special “trail mix.” It was a challenging experience to keep Carly focused but that few minutes sharing a spontaneous new activity was a precious boost of morale and self-esteem for them both.

Alex helping Carly stir trail mix.

Your intention to bless others with your creative energies is greatly appreciated. But you may not always receive a positive reaction from your stressed and stretched family about your ideas and projects. Unfortunately, family members who are weary or exhausted may feel overwhelmed by new ideas or change.

If you encounter hesitation or pushback for your creative ideas, some perspective is helpful. First, resist taking the reaction of others personally. Have compassion for how ideas, any ideas from anybody, may be making others feel. This will help you to be patient. Consider, for example, that a pragmatic family member may be thinking you have a great idea but it’s going to cost more than what is affordable. Another family member may be thinking about how much energy it will take to implement it. Moms or the primary caregiver, in particular, may be resistant to trying something new if it feels like someone is judging their own major investment of effort. On the other hand, there may simply be concern for protecting the person with special needs from change and all of its associated adjustments.

Don’t give up. Your family needs what you have to offer. They may just need time to absorb your ideas. There will also be times when an idea still needs some refining.

Take your creative visions to God asking Him to clarify for you the timing or ways for sharing your ideas or projects. Ask God to show you what should be pursued and what should be released for another time, or things that need to be dismissed altogether.

Creative minds are often busy minds. Most creative people will have no shortage of ideas or visions for future projects. Your Pinterest boards and hook books may be very full. In fact, you may find yourself vulnerable to having too many “irons in the fire.” You may even find yourself starting to feel pressure to keep up with your own creative juices. You’ll experience greater peace when you develop a lifestyle of being still with Jesus, asking Him to move you toward those specific efforts that hold the greatest potential for Kingdom fruit.

It will also help you to examine what motivates your creative energies. For many, there is a driving need to feel known. There may also be a desire to express something on behalf of others. Feeling understand and pleasing people are powerful influencers. You may appreciate being acknowledged for your talents. It is gratifying to see the beauty or helpfulness of something you’ve created too. Expressiveness can also be a form of release, like popping the cork on a pressure-filled bottle. Unfortunately, that release may involve negative consequences for others. Many will be blessed when you are driven and empowered by the Holy Spirit rather than controlled simply by your own passions or flesh.

If you are not adequately meeting specific needs in your soul — following your unique strengths and calling — you are likely to end up feeling things like anxiety, disappointment, frustration or ongoing restlessness. You might lean into creative endeavors as a way of finding inner healing or escape from pain. But when your projects become an attempt to run from pain or anesthetize things like confusion and doubt, there is vulnerability to replacing a healthy pursuit of God with sin.

Take time to pray. Ask God what is driving your expressiveness. Repent of any sin and ask Jesus to purify your heart. Lean into godly ways of expressing yourself and serving others with your talents. Then enjoy the ripples of God’s handiwork through your gift. Understanding the factors that influence you and learning to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit will lead to deeper satisfaction and the fulfillment of Kingdom purposes.

When your creativity is a form of worship by way of engaging your gifts to express love to God and others, it will energize you and bring an abundance of incomparable blessings!

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY ENJOYING CREATIVITY EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

If being creative or expressive energizes you…

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that optimizes your gifts for things like designing the activity calendar, developing a motivating curriculum for home-based learning, facilitating artistic activities, decorating for birthdays/holidays, overseeing home and bedroom modifications/remodeling/adaptations, leading cooking or baking projects
  • Process your own grief and feelings about the situation artistically (e.g., journal, blog, music, dance, poetry, painting, baking)
  • Initiate conversations and activities that keep atmosphere, perspectives and ideas flowing and fresh (e.g., birthday parties, vacations, staycations)
  • Alternate between tasks and people
  • Plan opportunities for spontaneity and teambuilding
  • Learn to balance personal catharsis with being servant-hearted like Jesus


The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement for expressive caregivers:

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Exodus 31:1-5
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts.He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

1 Timothy 4:14
Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you.

Proverbs 18:21
The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.

Colossians 3:10
Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

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

Glorious Creator, your faithfulness is my shield! Thank you for breathing life and love into Your children. Your imprint on me is generous with creativity. You call me Your masterpiece. You compare me to a beautiful poem. It’s exciting for me to imagine all the ways You inspire me to express visions, ideas, feelings and dreams. Hold me in Your grip while we enjoy the freedoms of a creative life. Slow down my racing ideas when they control me or have negative consequences for others. Show me how to serve others with my gifts and glorify Your great name. Let the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart and the work of my hands be pleasing to you, Lord. Cause my gifts to be an instrument of healing to many. Amen

Tell us in the comments how your family experiences the blessings of creativity!


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.


Tips for Caregivers Concerned About Maintaining Their Energy Reserves

This is the sixth article in a series exploring what puts family caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. Today we’re exploring some challenges and opportunities for caregivers who prefer life at a slow, steady and relatively predictable pace.

Caregiving requires a lot of energy. It can be challenging to maintain the mental and emotional reserves for the normal activities of daily living. Many situations are physically demanding as well. In some cases, there may be little margin for the kinds of activities or rest that refuel the caregiver whose energy level generally runs on the low side. If that’s you, I think you’ll find encouraging tips = here to understand and optimize your unique strengths.

Frankly, some people seem to want a slower paced life even when there are no extra demands. If you are one of these people, your “dream day” might include going to work, sitting at a desk working through your tasks (even tasks others might consider tedious), going home for a nap, eating dinner, taking another nap, watching some television and then heading to bed for the night. You may watch in wonder — or even feel intimidated — when others fill their discretionary time with things like hiking, crafts, sports, shopping and hobbies. You may feel guilty about “pulling your weight” with caregiver chores like laundry, meal prep and housecleaning but find doing the family bookkeeping comes rather easily.

Are you someone who tends to work at a slow pace or frequently worries about running out of steam? Perhaps others have expressed frustration about your making your fair share of the sacrifices. That may be because you feel that every bit of energy you extend is a sacrifice. You may feel like life takes far more effort than you have to offer.

Here’s an important fact to consider: your fear about running out of energy may be far closer to perception than reality. In fact, believing that you may completely run out of “gas” at some point could be negatively impacting your relationships while robbing you of a joy and satisfaction in doing some things you really would enjoy. Becoming more willing to make sacrifices can reduce your hidden fears, build your self-esteem and enhance your relationships.

The truth is, you have some wonderful passions, a great love for people and a profound capacity for efficiency all wrapped up in a calm, easy-going package! In your strengths, you’ll have a conservative, practical and peace-loving nature that uniquely equips you with valuable problem-solving skills and an uncanny ability to mediate tense situations. You could be your spouse’s best friend at an IEP meeting, transition planning meeting or care coordination conference.

You can be a tremendous advocate for your loved ones. You may see and respond to problems and injustices with an uncanny instinct for improving quality of life for others. Your voice and purposeful involvement are a powerful force and will help you stay energized when you’re otherwise tempted to sleep your life away. Be aware, however, that you may feel angry and anxious when others are not taking action where you see the need to make things better. Your frustration will be greatly reduced when you learn to give others permission to be imperfect.

When it’s time to make decisions, you may appreciate finding someone trustworthy to share in that process with you. And release yourself to make imperfect choices along the way toward satisfying conclusions. You may need to share more information than what comes naturally for you so that others can understand your thought process, perspectives and ideas. But discussing the options and coming to mutual agreement with your spouse or loved ones will be pleasing for everyone.

If you’re worried about being blamed or criticized when decisions don’t turn out well, you may benefit from approaching more decisions from a mindset of safety and encouragement. For example, you might agree to say, “Let’s give this new therapy a try. If it doesn’t work, we can always try a different approach.”

Logical persuasion and positive reinforcement can be very motivating for you. So it can be helpful to you and your family if you stay open to conversations about how detailed caregiving responsibilities need to be implemented. It will also help your family to know how important it is for you to hear that your contributions are recognized and valued. You may not think you need this, but you likely do. You may be inclined to dismiss those positive vibes from others rather than allowing yourself a moment to soak in the caring and loving words others are offering. In actuality, you will greatly benefit from staying attentive and receptive to affirming feedback and appreciation. (Consider reading my previous article in this series called Tips for Caregivers: Feeling Valued and Competent.)

Be aware that when you are feeling stressed, pressured, or inconvenienced, you may be very difficult to be around. Your family, friends and co-workers may struggle to find peace anywhere around you during those times. In frustration or resentment, you may be inclined to procrastinate, be indecisive, and be difficult to motivate. You may also be hurtful to others with your verbal defenses.

To stay in a positive groove, it will help to maintain a moderate amount of independence, alternate frequently between task-oriented responsibilities and people-oriented activities, be clear and direct in communication, and learn how to use your skills in persuasion for godly causes.

Your family longs for your involvement — not just because more hands make lighter work but because they genuinely enjoy your presence. You have so much to offer and your peaceful spirit is always appreciated in the room. You will benefit from staying engaged with others. So, be encouraged to join the family for a trip to the park, table games, movie night and a weekend getaway. Linger at the dinner table and take part in the conversations (without adding your sarcastic comments).

When you take initiative to stay engaged with your loved ones and community, you will discover the power that well-paced and positive socialization has to energize you.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS

If you tend to be laid back or need a lot of rest

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that maximizes your natural motivations and mutual interests with the person who has extra needs (e.g., reading books, watching movies, going for car rides, listening to music)
  • Frequently alternate time between doing task-oriented things and spending time with people
  • Take frequent breaks, even short ones, to rest your mind and body
  • Ensure for yourself an adequate balance of work, exercise, diet and relaxation
  • Maintain a clear definition of your value and purpose on the team
  • Learn to recognize Jesus’ promptings and follow Him one step at a time


The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement.

Proverbs 21:2-4
People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart. The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices. Haughty eyes, a proud heart, and evil actions are all sin.

Psalm 19:12-14
How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
    Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
    Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
    and innocent of great sin.

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Ephesians 4:22-24
Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Hebrews 12:11
No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Psalm 37:6
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

1 Thessalonians 5:11
So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Philippians 4:19
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Lord Jesus, thank you for showing me that my peace-loving ways are valuable to those around me. You have given me an important ability to see different points of view and help my family come together around common goals. I do confess, however, that sometimes I can be stubborn and inflexible. I feel exhausted and afraid I’ll never have enough wisdom or the energy that others need from me. I need your help. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to courageously and sacrificially invest in my family. Teach me to notice your promptings and follow you in faith, one step at a time. Amen

To learn more about tapping into your strengths as a caregiver, you can also watch one of my conference presentations on the subject at YouTube.

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


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.


Tips for the Caregiver Who Is Very Independent

Today we’re exploring some challenges and opportunities for caregivers who tend to be independent and are needed in some kind of caregiving role with a loved one. This is the fifth article in a series exploring what puts family caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting someone with special needs.

Independent people have wonderful potential to be very effective caregivers. Your strong decision-making abilities and great capacity to take on responsibilities will work to your advantage. You may, at times, feel like the schedules and needs of others are cramping your style. But, if you learn to make healthy adjustment in your attitude and behavior, anger won’t control you and your relationships will be enhanced.

Independent people don’t necessarily desire to have much control or influence over others. Some do. But many do not. Most of all, they don’t want someone else exerting too much influence over their life and circumstances.

If this describes you and you’re needed in a caregiving role, you may feel, at times a bit suffocated by the time and attention others need from you. You’re likely to struggle without adequate pacing of quiet time to spend time thinking thankful thoughts, doing your own thing and making your own decisions. Even if you genuinely desire to be of help, you may find yourself feeling robbed of freedoms, spontaneity and independent decision-making.

Don’t underestimate the value of well-placed breaks. Long periods without some amount of time to yourself is likely to put a strain on you. Your situation may not afford long or frequent breaks yet pauses from being responsible for others will go a long way toward keeping you refreshed. Work with family members and others who can contribute to sharing the cares so that you can develop an adequate rhythm of respite. Just knowing when your next break is coming is of help. A getaway on the calendar, simply a routine walk alone around the neighborhood or even time spent working in another job you enjoy will help you persevere.

Being a very independent person also means that you are self-motivated. Among your many strengths is the ability to gather and analyze the situation, come to conclusions and then respond according to what is needed. If you do happen to find yourself struggling with motivation, it will help to make sure you have sufficient and accurate information so you can draw your own conclusions and be confident in how you’ll respond. Ambiguity or lack of clear expectations can result in frustration and hesitation for someone who is independent. This can look like procrastination or stubbornness to others but will often have a great deal to do with your self-confidence.

All of us have strengths and weaknesses. It can be very helpful to recognize your vulnerabilities and learn how re-aligning with the Holy Spirit will move you back toward your strengths.

Your strong will can be both a strength and a weakness. For example, you will probably have a great desire to follow rules and procedures. You’re attentive to details and can be relied on to implement a quality care plan without a lot of supervision. In fact, you’re probably a good leader and very helpful in training new caregivers about the details and nuances in the realm of caregiving. However, you may have high expectations that others will learn quickly and implement those details perfectly. You may have no particular interest in controlling other people but you do want them to follow the rules and procedures put in place just as would be expected of everyone else on the team. You may not be aware that others feel a great deal of pressure to live up to your expectations because your expectations of yourself are even higher.

If you are experiencing a great deal of stress and anxiety, it will probably help you to learn that the lines of “right” and “wrong” may not be as black and white as they seem. Things that are unimportant to you or very important to you may be on a very different priority list for someone else. You will find your life and relationships to be richer when you work alongside others in collaboration rather than by exerting your own ideas and conclusions.

When working in areas that are familiar to you, you’ll be very efficient at those responsibilities. In fact, you may become so focused on working efficiently that you may sometimes forget to consider the thoughts and feelings of others. Being aware of this strong drive will help you to lean into the Holy Spirit for help in balancing efficiency with sensitivity.

If you are an independent caregiver, you will also find it helpful to be allowed to work at your own pace and in one steady shift that allows you to be efficient. Feeling pressured about external deadlines or the personal timelines of other people may trigger anxiety or frustration for you. Recognizing this can be very helpful since knowing what is triggering your reactions provides clues about how to pray for God’s strength as well as how to communicate clearly with others about what will help you stay in your strengths.

Be aware that people may perceive you as controlling even though you actually have little or no interest in holding power over others. It may be that your inflexibility, fear of failure and procrastination are impacting others in a way that makes them feel they’ve lost control. Even a few minutes alone every day can bring out your kinder and more flexible side. Cooperate with your team to give each other breaks for naps, hobbies, watching a movie, playing on a computer, going to work outside of the home or even doing nothing. These independent times will be powerful in rejuvenating you and making you much sweeter to be around.

It may surprise you to know that very independent people are often quite family oriented. You may have difficulty expressing your tender feelings around those you are closest to. In fact, your indirect behavior and sarcasm may be confusing to others. This can be especially true in families where there is a non-verbal person with disabilities. Your family may have become quite intuitive in their interactions with one another. However, body language, anger, tone of voice and seemingly critical words can often be misunderstood. It would be very helpful for your family to regularly “clear the air” with family meetings and conversations that foster clarity, repentance and forgiveness.

Things that tend to trigger stress and anger for you probably involve change, taking on responsibilities in areas where you feel unfamiliar or ill-equipped, feeling others don’t respect the things that are important to you, and frustration when others insist on the importance of things that don’t seem very important to you.

If you feel your competence is being questioned you may feel defensive, hurt or angry. It can be very helpful to ask God to show you what is real and what is perceived. More often than not, your concerns about what others think about your efforts are more imagined than real. While others may not tell you often or well enough, you are probably more valued than you realize. Your uncertainty about what others think about the quality of your work may be coming primarily from your own high expectations of yourself.

You’re likely challenged in the area of anger management. You may not even know that anger is problem for you. But members of your family and those who work closely with you probably do know. You may deny your angry feelings (or simply not recognize them as anger) unless or until you are intensely angry.

Caregivers who learn to deal constructively with their anger will find themselves much better able to cope with the tough issues of life and much more satisfied in their relationships. Anger does need to be expressed. But it needs to be expressed in healthy, godly ways.

The Holy Spirit promises to help us when we’re feeling weak. We are also promised to have our consciences wiped clean as we seek Jesus’ presence and trust Him (Hebrews 10:22).

As an independent person who is called to a role in supporting a loved one with special needs, you will find your sweet spot in that role by learning to deal with your anger constructively, give yourself and others the right to be imperfect, avoid holding grudges, continually forgive past mistakes, ensure for yourself some quiet time alone every day, develop routines that allow for you to be productive, keep focused on the positive side of life and make a point of expressing your tender feelings.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY DEVELOPING A COMPASSIONATE HEART

If you’re energized by being independent

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that prioritizes responsibilities in areas where you can control your own circumstances, time and decisions
  • Work together with loved ones to clearly define each person’s responsibilities in running an effective household
  • Develop a servant’s heart in your responsibilities
  • Be faithful to your own commitments without competing with others
  • Learn to show interest in what matters to others
  • Learn to be attentive and respectful to the needs and rights of others
  • Communicate daily with loved ones to keep from overstepping their boundaries
  • Create a safe space in your home where you can spend some time alone every day
  • Determine areas in your routines where you can take back some control
  • Learn to yield to Jesus’ authority first

The Bible offers an abundance of help and hope for people who are independent. If any of these verses seems especially encouraging to you, you might consider committing it to memory.

Philippians 4:19
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Romans 12:1b-2
This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Ephesians 4:26
“Don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.

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

Romans 2:4
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

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

Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me just as I am. You are so wonderfully kind to me! You know full well how hard I work and how much I enjoy my rest. You have equipped me to be highly capable and to serve my loved ones loyally. You understand the pressures I feel too. I need your grace, strength and hope to carry me from one day to the next. Jesus, forgive me allowing ingratitude, impatience, pride and anger to control me. Praise God, I am not a slave to sin! I am free to trust your easy yoke and light burden. Teach me, more and more, how to love tenderly, serve faithfully and trust you fully. Help me to experience my deepest rest and satisfaction with You. Amen

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


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.

Tips to Help Deep Thinking Caregivers Find Their Sweet Spots

This is the fourth article in a series exploring what puts family caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. Today we’re looking at some challenges and opportunities for caregivers who think deeply.

Do you have a thirst for knowledge? Do you have a strong capacity to thoughtfully weigh a variety of options when you’re at a crossroads? Perhaps you’re the one in the family who researches therapy and treatment options. Do you have a helpful critical eye when it comes to reviewing details on your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP)? When someone suggests it’s time to start thinking about guardianship or future planning for your loved one with special needs, are you already two steps ahead starting the file with background information?

I’m a thinker so I can appreciate the tension you may live in. Your thoughtful and pragmatic ideas are of great value to your complex family. But you may have trouble sleeping at night!

Deep thinking people have a wonderful coping tool built right into them by God. Their moods and anxiety can be shifted by their thinking process alone. But that means it’s important to stay on guard about the tone and focus of your thought life. A great motto from scripture for the deep thinker is found in Philippians 4:8, which says:

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

When you are raising a child with disabilities or caring for a loved one with complex needs, there is always plenty to think about. There are decisions to weigh, strategies to plan, causes to support, and perspectives to consider. It’s wonderful to have someone on the caregiving team who has the capacity for keen observation and analysis. You may even be energized by serving the caregiving team through a role of that nature. But you may also feel prone to anxiety if forced to bear this role alone or under pressures of deadlines.

If you’re someone who spends a lot of time “in your head,” try to have some quiet time alone for positive thinking every day. This may feel impossible for a caregiver whose attention is required without interruption. But if you understand how important those few minutes are toward keeping you in your sweet spot, you will prioritize finding a way.

Explain the significance of your need for this kind of intentional quit time to family and caregiving team members. As for help and creative ideas that will allow you to make it happen. Consider a cooperative exchange with someone who can trade responsible times with you so that each of you has opportunity to re-fuel your soul. Let me give you an example from my house. My husband will wrestle with our daughter for a few minutes or snuggle with her on the couch watching a movie so that I can take a break. Then he will do his workout while I give her a shower.

It can be difficult, at times, for deep thinking people to be at peace with themselves, others and even God. You may have high expectations, particularly of yourself. And you may see things clearly in ways that don’t always line up with how others see them. It may help you to meditate periodically on Psalm 51.

To live in your strengths, you will need to learn to make healthy attitude and behavior adjustments by the power of the Holy Spirit.

To stay in your sweet spot, you will also need to learn to deal constructively with anger. Yelling, screaming, hollering, throwing objects, hitting, being passive-aggressive and burying or denying your anger are all destructive responses.

You may find that one of your strengths is that you have the ability to analyze your way through anger. Once you recognize and admit your feelings, you’re able to think through the situation and come to a decision about how you are going to choose to move forward in a positive way. Be on guard, however. The longer you think about the situation, the more vulnerable you may be to becoming depressed, or growing even angrier. Be careful about isolating yourself when you’re angry. Reaching out to a close trusted friend for prayer and processing can help you avoid a negative spiral.

Friend, give yourself and others the right to be imperfect. Forgive yourself and others for mistakes. And talk through your disappointments with God in prayer. Forgiving doesn’t mean you have to move on like nothing ever happened. But it does mean choosing not to harbor negative feelings. Forgiveness and healing often involve a process of choosing, again and again, to forgive until the negative feelings are genuinely resolved.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY REMEMBERING, OFTEN, THE FAITHFUL WAYS OF GOD

If you tend to think deeply

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team where your keen observation and analytical skills are needed
  • Work toward an adequate balance of work, exercise, diet and relaxation
  • Learn to keep your mind more present in the activities and relationships of the moment (less on past and future)
  • Express appreciation to others frequently and specifically
  • Resist analysis and criticism that can feel discouraging to others
  • Release others and yourself from unreasonable expectations
  • Allow flexibility to work at your own pace whenever possible
  • Learn to slow down, letting your moods and thinking patterns rest with Jesus

Here are some tips if you are someone who tends to be pragmatic and well-reasoned in your thinking

  • Serve your family and caregiving team by contributing to conversations that involve decision-making and strategy planning (e.g., education/vocation transitions, guardianship roles, long term care)
  • Optimize your role as mediator and consensus builder in team discussions
  • Recognize that your passions for “the cause” may become a source of pride or inflexibility
  • Respect the rights, feelings, thoughts and plans of others
  • Help give voice to the value of varied perspectives
  • Learn to rely on Jesus to guide your own values, reasoning and humility

The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement for thoughtful people:

Philippians 4:8
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Galatians 5:16
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

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

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

1 Corinthians 13:12
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

1 Thessalonians 5:16
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

Proverbs 3:6
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Lord Jesus, take my mind to a quiet and content place with you. Make a way for me to have a daily routine that includes quiet time to let you fill my mind with truth and encouragement. When my thoughts are racing and my passions are strong, remind me of Your faithfulness. I am tremendously capable of the assignments you give me, only because your Holy Spirit fills me with power and wisdom. Yet I am easily discouraged and often stubborn. Show me how to live. Show me how to serve my family well. Teach me to have reasonable expectations of myself and others. My hope is best placed in You alone. Amen

Feel free to share the “Tap Your Caregiving Strengths” graphics in this article on your social media to encourage others. You can follow the entire “sweet spots” series here.

Tell us in the comments what helps you and your caring family!


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.


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Tips for Caregivers: Feeling Valued and Competent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.

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