First Fruits and Surprises

Jon and Sylvia Flint have an inspiring and challenging story for us all. They have been faithful prayer partners, cheerleaders, and monthly donors supporting Walk Right In Ministries for many years. Their generous partnership may have started out as simple compassion but it has grown for surprising reasons over the years.

We’re thankful they shared their story, and thankful you are taking time to read it. God’s ways are ever-increasingly powerful and meaningful, when we step out in faith to follow His promptings.

It was many years ago when we decided that we needed to financially give back to God much more than we had been doing. We were giving far less than the ten percent tithe that many churches and pastors promote. Something or Someone inside of us kept whispering that we should do more.

And so we began.

As we approached the ten percent goal of such gifts, we began to understand that said number was not the roof of the “giving house” but rather the floor. And God really didn’t just want our left over “10% plus” income. He preferred the “first fruit” (Exodus 23:16, Deuteronomy 14:22).

At the same time, we were beginning to understand that we couldn’t out-give God.  Every time we would increase our giving, additional funds seemed to mysteriously appear. Where before this learning we had been living from paycheck to paycheck, we were beginning to have enough money to do things beyond basics and not have to call the bank to see if our check would bounce.

As we gave funds to typical non-profit groups, we noted that the whole world began to be in touch with us. We didn’t realize how much mail one person or family unit could receive each day. It seemed that the total group of non-profits keeping in touch with us was collectively spending more money on stamps than we were providing the few that we were supporting. We quickly realized that we needed to decide on those we were going to support and advise the others to look elsewhere. We did the first very quickly but they, the non-profits, didn’t keep their part of our one-sided bargain. To this day, we throw away so much unasked for mail from non-profits that we bemoan the wasted money we see going through our mail box.

Enter “Walk Right In Ministries!”

We’ve known Lisa & Larry Jamieson for more years than any of us would like to admit to. They’re members of our greater family. Larry is Jon’s nephew. We attended their wedding. We rejoiced as their children were born. We  watched from afar as their youngest was born even as something seemed different from the norm. We prayed with and for them as they struggled to determine what was going on with her and what support was available to help them through the different difficulties they had with Carly.

It was obvious that there wasn’t much of a support system for families like theirs. Yet, rather than sit and complain at what was happening to them, they chose to begin to be active and build a support system, not just for their situation but for the situations of many families who have special needs.

We must admit that we waited a bit to see if this ministry was for real or just a passing fad. It didn’t take long to realize that they were in this for the long haul. And it was also obvious that monies provided were going to be put to good use – not frivolously. These folks are the same “off camera” as they are “on!”

As time went on, we increased our financial support and watched as God used it through Walk Right In Ministries and, at the same time, God provided us with more to be shared with others.

Of course, as is the case in so many other places in our lives, God was already preparing the way in our personal lives.

Several years later we received the privilege of having a special needs great granddaughter (Cambria, pictured here) born into our immediate family. She lives here in our town.

It’s been a great sense of comfort to know that Walk Right In Ministries is available as quickly as a phone call. Even as they may not directly know the answer to the various questions we have, they have many contacts that can help with the support needed.

Earlier we said that you can’t out-give God. We should not limit our understanding of the gifts we receive to the financial world. The comfort and peace we feel in knowing that there is a whole community of help, available as needed, is far greater than any monetary gift we are able to provide.

People insure so many things in their lives and yet, too often, they ignore the most important parts of that life until it’s too late to receive help.

Come and join many others who have insured what is often thought to be the uninsurable – finding help and support in times of intense need.

There is help out there. If someone can only tell us where. Look to Walk Right In Ministries.




Contact us to RSVP for Reach Night and get all the details!

Life Is Enriched by Relying on the Almighty Refiner

We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9

Caregiving has forever changed me. In some beautiful, cherished ways and in some ways I’m not at all proud of too. I’m sure there are more than a few here who can relate. It’s always a rich discussion when we get to this principle during the online discipleship group I lead.

 

Principle #3: God lovingly refines us as we cooperate with Him.

In recent blogs, I’ve written about grief and lament — and how uniquely that is experienced by families affected by disability. Part of this life we’re living involves learning to suffer well. Does that statement sound strange? What might it mean or look like to “suffer well?”

“Suffering well” includes allowing God to refine us through challenges.

I believe we honor God and experience richer lives when we let life refine us — shape us for the better. The scary things is, the Almighty Refiner might choose to use a furnace of very high heat. The fires of life can make us terribly uncomfortable. Our human nature will be to resist the fire. But there are gifts and opportunities there.

Life’s shaping and purifying process makes life so much richer. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know that.

Being refined by God means to stop resisting things that aren’t going our way. Stop. Did you catch that? Speaking to myself here: quit resisting all the heat, my friend. Consider that God’s priority is to inject His presence —love, care, vision, and purposes — into the situation rather than just fixing things with His power. Whatever circumstances you’re in, no matter how intense they feel, regardless of how long they seem to drag on, even when pain seems pointless, and we feel hopelessly stuck — God is there.

God doesn’t leave us to burn and He doesn’t leave us alone.

God was in the fire with Daniel.

“Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted.
“I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed!
And the fourth looks like a god!”

Daniel 3:25

Consider that God’s priority is to inject His presence — love, care, vision, and purposes — into the situation rather than just fixing things with His power.

If we receive God’s presence and power, He will form our character while teaching us to love Him more and love others like Christ loves. And that’s just the beginning of the gifts He’ll unfold.

God will use the heat in our lives to refine others around us too. That could be our spouse. It is often our children. Certainly, God is using the fiery furnace of our lives with disability to refine the broader community too. Our neighborhoods are watching. Our churches see (even when they don’t seem to be looking).

It can be tempting to grow bitter when we feel like we are the only ones allowing the fires of our special situation refine us. I’ve pounded on God’s chest a time or two feeling unheard, unseen, uncared for by Him or someone else. He further refines me by teaching me to be more patient, and trust Him in using his kindness to lead others to repentance.

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 2:4 (emphasis mine)

That’s just one lesson I’ve been learning that I attribute to being a special needs mom. I don’t get to define the pace of someone else’s growth.

There are so many many lessons! Here are just a few more of them in a nutshell. Perhaps sharing them will inspire you. It helps hold me accountable to remembering God is faithful to teach me and give me grace, that’s for sure.

Accept that we are all in process.
You, me, our spouses, our children, our friends, our churches, our extended families. All are sinners who fall short. All are acceptable to God when we repent and turn to the Lord. Each of us who believes in Jesus and trusts Him as Lord is in an ever-increasing process of becoming like Him. That is called sanctification. And God alone authors that process for each of us who love Him. I don’t author anybody’s sanctification (even my own), nor do you.

  • Suffering transforms us into Christ-likeness (Philippians 3:10) and that’s our highest calling.
  • Suffering cultivates our dependence on God (Luke 9:23).
  • We learn compassion for others (Philippians 2:5-8).
  • We ascribe to new values and develop eternal perspective (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) even to the point of holding onto life and death differently.

Extend compassion, grace and forgiveness toward yourself and others.
Growth is a process. Grief is a process. Faith is a process. It can help to recognize that the ugliest parts of us are most apparent at home and in our closest relationships. (I believe it was author Gary Chapman who said that marriage is the mirror showing us what is worst about us.) Yes, those we live with are often the “mirror” showing us who we really are.

Expect everything from God and little from each other.
This is a broken world and every person faces weakness and vulnerability. With God, there is victory over sin and death, as well as strength in weakness. We can learn to play to each other’s strengths. We can’t let our circumstances have too much power — but we can let them have power to trigger opportunities that nothing else could trigger.

Understand where your true soul cravings are coming from.
We can’t expect to get our greatest fulfillment from our children or spouse, or our circumstances. That’s a set-up for disappointment. Our spirit is designed to crave GOD. So, only deepening our walk with Him will truly satisfy us and energize us for a life that really breathes!

I want that so much. I want a life that breathes life. A life that multiplies life and love is joy. It is a privilege. And that is what growth looks like. I hope I’m growing. Don’t you? I don’t want to be the same person next year that I was this year. Do you?

The human soul was designed to aspire growth. The Creator is the author of all growth. Leaning into a life that cooperates with Him — even when it stings of disability’s fires — is a rich adventure, in so many ways deeply satisfying.

QUESTIONS FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION

In what ways have you seen God strengthen or purify you (your faith, your character, your mindsets) as a result of challenges, special needs, or some other “fire” in your life?

Have you felt vulnerable to thinking certain prayers aren’t being answered because you haven’t learned enough or changed enough? Talk to Jesus about those feelings and let Him show you the truth.

How does the idea of being held in the gentle hand of the Almighty Refiner give you comfort, peace, or hope? 


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. She leads a weekly online discussion group welcoming caregivers in families living with disability. Lisa and her husband, Larry, are co-founders of Walk Right In Ministries, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. They live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome.


We use one Bible principle as the theme for each week’s discussion during Real Talk Connect. Please consider joining us any Tuesday at 2 pm Central! Drop in for richly encouraging connection in a casual setting.

Contact us for the Zoom link, the complete list of Bible principles and all the FAQs about Real Talk Connect!

We Bolster Each Other’s Faith

God delights in any faith we can offer Him with our aspiration to grow. But adversity can test our faith. Oh, how being a caregiver for a child with disabilities has tested my own faith!

The testing of your faith produces perseverance.
JAMES 1:3

Growing in faith is triggered by various things: prayer, reading scripture, seeing God’s power displayed around us (in nature, in people’s lives, in our ability to do things beyond our own capabilities, etc.). For many of us, growing in faith comes by doing life alongside others who want to grow too.

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
PROVERBS 27:17

There have been several defining moments for me in discovering that my growing personal connection with God has power to influence the faith of others and the depth of my relationships with them. I want to share a personal example here in hopes that it will help you catch a vision for the power and potential there is in sharing your own faith story, when opportune moments present.

It was about this time of year in 2009, and I was sitting in a cafe waiting to meet a woman I did not know. She had contacted me after reading my family’s story in the newspaper. I was a little nervous. I was also feeling humbled realizing that someone might have been moved enough by something of our story to actually ask for a personal meeting. I felt very self-conscious. I now had a somewhat recognizable face. She would find me. Meanwhile I peeked around the room knowing only that I was meeting a mom who had two children in serious pain.

I prayed. I wasn’t sure what this woman wanted from me and I was quite certain I had very limited resources to help. Silently, I asked God to put His words and wisdom and protection over me.

Two and a half hours later, we hugged and cried and thanked each other for things like transparency, courage and shared faith. Even though we both started that meeting feeling unsure about what might happen, God made much of the little each of us brought to the table. This was a mom whose heart was broken over a disease her two teenagers carried, over the burden of chronic pain they endured (that she had tried to fix for over two very long years) and over the toll it was taking on her family.

I listened. I teared up a couple of times. I struggled not knowing what to say and felt  overwhelmingly inadequate. Once, I prayed out loud for a moment (when I sensed a desperation in both of us for more of God). A few times I tried to answer questions based simply on my own discoveries from God’s Word. Once or twice, I interjected words of affirmation as I sat there recognizing myself in her story. I was inspired by her endurance but ached seeing how lost and bitter she felt.

So maybe you understand why I was shocked when we stood after all of this and she hugged me, then looked me square in the eye before making a profound statement:

“I have heard the things you said to me about God a thousand times before. I’ve heard them from my pastors. I’ve heard them from friends. But I never received them like I did today. I guess I needed to hear them from a mom who knows my kind of pain. You know what it’s like to watch your child in pain and be able to do nothing to fix it. I guess you have a credibility with me that I needed today. For the first time in a very long time, I’m not angry with God. I feel hope. I can do this and God is near. I cannot thank you enough.”

YOU will be the one to encourage and inspire
some people toward greater intimacy with God
with an influence no one else will have.

Well, let me tell you. That moment was a marvelous gift to me. That moment assured me once again that God shakes the earth when we let our lives and our faith intersect with others. He doesn’t need my story or yours published in a book, a newspaper or a blog to make an impact. God provides platforms every day in clinic waiting rooms, on golf courses, in grocery aisles, in coffee shops, at water coolers, in classrooms, around dinner tables, in bedrooms, in dance and soccer carpools, on hiking trails, in campus hallways—you name the venue. There is great power in resonance.

Our own unique platforms and moments of opportunity will reveal themselves unexpectedly. We need to be ready to toss seeds of encouragement, hope and life into soil that is soft and ready to be tilled.

We must keep asking God to publish Himself in our lives as well as on our hearts and lips with things like compassion, enthusiasm, humility, expectancy, generosity, transparency, authenticity, vulnerability and a focus on Christ.

“May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach men your decrees.”  Psalm 119:171

This post is an adapted from my book Living Your Glory Story. An electronic copy is available for download in the WRIM Shop.


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 alongside families living with disability.

Your Story Matters

Each of us needs to know that we matter to God.

It is a gift to receive reassurances, now and then, about our value. And it is inspiring to hear from others about how God makes a big Kingdom deal out of our seemingly insignificant personal lives.

As we turn pages to a new year, in seasons of change and transition, or when life feels like a wilderness, each of us appreciates encouragement that our life matters somehow in the broader scheme of things.

I love to read. I don’t get much time for it but various things about reading make a powerful soul-fueler for me. Biographies and autobiographies, in particular, are a favorite genre of mine. I get important encouragement and inspiration from hearing how others have found faith in Jesus, endured adversity, persevered when life was a slog, learned new things, helped others, and had fun along the way.

In her book, Singing in the Dark, award-winning Christian music artist Ginny Owens helps readers understand the background of some incredible songs and she invites us to write our own prayers of worship, lament, and longing.

Ginny has been blind since she was three years old. She intimately understands how our lives write a story. Hers, like each of ours, is a story where joys and sorrows mingle. Hers, like each of ours, finds it places of resonance where someone recognizes a connection and finds themselves encouraged by something about Ginny’s experiences. How could she possibly have known as a young girl that God would give her a platform to lead hundreds of thousands of people around the world through darkness to see the Light of Christ?

Few of us can imagine that kind of impact will come from just living our lives.

RELATED: What is the parable of your life?

I am mother to three grown daughters. Our youngest, Carly, is 23 years old but remains entirely dependent on others for her care. All day. And almost all night long. My story has become integrally woven with hers. Together, our stories are even more integrally woven with God’s.

When I read Ginny’s book last year, I was inspired to start writing poetry again as part of my daily worship. Although I wrote several songs as a child and teen, I hadn’t written prose or lyrics for decades. It was refreshing to me to experience this prayerful process in a new season.

One of those poems came easily. It emerged from my passion for sharing life together with others based on the simplicity of following Jesus into the world in whatever circumstances we find ourselves living.

I’ll Follow You With My Story
by Lisa Jamieson

You put me in a family
Chosen to leave Your mark
But something has derailed me
Now confused, I’m in the dark

I’ve stumbled time and time again
Looking for more love
Disappointed by a world of hurt
Left only to look above

I tried so hard to look for you
Resented the absence of your touch
The world dealt me a blessing 
Of each one’s little, You made much

In the harsh and weary days and nights
My soul has languished low 
Yet now I’m growing confident
That a story You still sow

You are the Story Maker
My faith and purpose lifted
Not by my efforts or earning 
But by You simply gifted

As my tale is woven
My eyes catch Your vision
When Your cross was raised, and earth was split
My happy ending given

With each new day I’m strengthened
By no deed of my own
But simply as I stumble 
Within Your arms I’ve grown

The enemy may taunt me
Tension will remain
Life’s bitter cup will tempt me
I will wait for release from pain

All degree of patience 
Will surely bring reward
As all delay is purposed 
Confirmed and graced by Sword 

I see the pace of healing now
Your ever-present hand
I’ll follow You with my story
Into the hungry land

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would one day be a special needs mom, let alone an advocate and pastor, working and doing life alongside families living with disability.

“You don’t always get to choose your circumstances, but you do get to choose the story your life tells.”

GINNY OWENS

Today’s culture seems fascinated with story. But there’s an essential distinction to recognize. We are part of God’s story. His story is first. Our story within His is what gives our story its real value. Our story within His story is what packs ours with power and Kingdom-sized fruit.

It matters Who we’re following when we go out into the world with ourselves. Because the ultimate Spirit coming across in our message must be Love. Oh! How challenging it can be to move myself out of the way and let Love lead!

When I ask God, “break my heart for what breaks Yours,” (lyric from the Hosanna! Song) He changes my heart. He changes the motivations and directions through which my personal story unfolds.

PLAYLIST IDEA: Hosanna! (Hillsong UNITED version)

When Jesus said, “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men,” (Matthew 4:19), he was essentially saying, “Let me make a new kind of person out of you. I’ll show you how to be moved by LOVE. I’ll teach you how to bring My love to every other life You encounter.”

Oh, God, make it so!

Oswald Chambers says in My Utmost of His Highest (October 18 devotion), “Our Lord told us how our love for Him is to exhibit itself when He asked, ‘Do you love Me?’ (John 21:17). And then He said, ‘Feed My sheep.’ In effect, He said, ‘Identify yourself with My interests in other people,’ not, ‘Identify Me with your interests in other people.’”

Yes, friend, your story matters so very much — to many — and it is power in God’s hand. Follow Jesus into the world with it!

“The Goal is not for us to go out and make sure that the whole world knows who we are and what we do. The goal is to do what He’s called us to do in the place and the moment where we are.”

GINNY OWENS

GET GINNY’s BOOK AND MUSIC: Singing in the Dark book and accompanying music EP

WEAR THE MESSAGE WITH US! Your Story Matters – follow Jesus into the world with it

PLAYLIST IDEA: Follow You (Leeland with Brandon Heath)


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 alongside families living with disability.


An Uncomfortable Family Update

Good heavens, this is not how I expected to title my first blog of 2022! Yet, alas, I’m online today for some “real talk” with friends who will “get it.”

Our daughter Carly is 23 and has Angelman Syndrome. Her needs are complex and relentless. We have been extremely fortunate that she receives government benefits that include county waiver funding. In other words, we have budget to hire caregiver support and respite staff. But having funds available has, for a long time, not equated to finding people who actually want a job.

As a result, we have been significantly and desperately understaffed for most of the last four years. This is a common reality for families hit by the ongoing crisis of a nationwide caregiver shortage. (Caregiver shortages reached an extreme crisis in the US long before the pandemic of 2020. And the situation has only worsened since then.)

I can’t entirely complain. We’ve had a remarkable situation compared to most. The one staff person we currently have has been working full-time weekdays with Carly since soon after she completed her public education and transition program almost 3 years ago. She has become a dear family friend.

Covid POD girls 2020

During the summers and when Covid shut down universities, we had extra help from a second long-time team member who came back to work while studying remotely. Still, Carly’s needs are 24/7 and our ongoing efforts to recruit support (paid or volunteer) has been accompanied by the sound of crickets. Virtually no response to ads at all for years.

Throughout this time, we have been questioning a lot of things about how our lives and ministry need to change if these circumstances don’t change. Again, it’s been very hard to hear or discern what God would have us do. We pray repeatedly:

Lord, show us the next best step.

The lives of families like ours (consumed by disability issues) can be messy and chronically strained. We are constantly learning how to experience God’s presence, purpose and peace while simultaneously living in the midst of challenges that pull us toward our wits end. We’re left, daily, with questions about how to endure the moment and the future.

Now what?

Last week, we received news that threw our family into a whirlwind of learning a deeper trust in God—yet again. Carly’s amazing weekday caregiver is getting married at the end of this month. With many upcoming changes in her life, she is going to transition from full time to part time.

I will confess, Larry and I are struggling on several levels and trying to sort out what to do next. We are discouraged, angry (with God mostly), confused, tired, and overwhelmed. Circumstances like this trigger grief, fear, frustration, fatigue, hurts and hopes along with gratitude and lots of questions.

What are we doing about this?

The short answer is, “we don’t know yet.”

The longer answer is this: while we know more every day about God’s promises and character, we still know very little about His ways.

We are waiting on Him while we pray (a lot). We are also trying to give each other space to grieve and process; have lots of heart-to-heart conversations; journal about many feelings, thoughts, ideas, resonating scriptures; ask for counsel from WRIM’s Board of Directors and friends; learn from others who have walked this road ahead of us in wise and godly ways; keep our minds saturated with truth and gratitude; experiment with solutions; anticipate the surprises of God’s love (they will keep coming); continue pursuing a myriad of recruiting strategies; take space to breathe and slow down (it’s helpful and hopefully only temporary to put an autoreply on my email indicating adjusted office hours); the list goes on and on.

In any case, we will hope for the best, but plan for the worst-case scenario. You might say that motto is a matter of survival around here.

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

2 Chronicles 20:12

How can you pray for us?

We surely do invite you to pray with us. And as you do, please pray for other families impacted by disability as well. Anything you might pray for the Jamieson’s will quite likely be a prayer countless others around you need lifted faithfully before God too.

Thank you for praying with us for…

  • God’s generous, timely, and well-fit provision of care support for Carly
  • Carly’s adjustment to changes in schedule and people — inner peace for her as the Holy Spirit communicates uniquely with our precious daughter
  • That Larry and I would respond to all of this with trust, peace, hope, wisdom, discernment, and patience
  • That God would give Larry and I supernatural spaces of time, energy and health in caring for and enjoying life with Carly
  • Quality sleep for all three of us
  • Clarity about priorities, discipline in scaling back, trust in and cooperation with the Almighty Gardener who will prune us well (at least until we have more staff on board and trained, and possibly beyond that too)
  • 2022 planning as it relates to personal life and WRIM ministry affairs given the staffing dynamics and the labor market
  • Careful listening to how God may want to use this current adversity to guide our hearts and lives, both in the short-term and the long-term — learning to yield to Jesus’ easy yoke in new ways
  • Peace and trust in Jesus for our two oldest daughters — Alex and Erin — who live outside the home while caring so deeply about what is happening here

Friends, we need to plead with heaven together for families, ministries, and churches in this respect. There is an adversary hard at work trying to steal momentum in disability ministry on many fronts and around the world. Still, what the enemy means for evil, God uses for good (Genesis 50:20). Always. I know we can trust that.

You can trust that, too.

I can already see the Gardener doing some painful but valuable pruning. Lord knows, we have prayed for clarity about priorities for so long and now we are finding some by being forced into certain decisions while taking others on sheer faith. My family will be working on that “one step of faith at a time” mindset and prayer. 

Since I blogged recently about having worship playlists, I’ve been asked about songs I’m listening to. I can tell you that the new Homecoming LIVE album has been on repeat at our house for weeks. And Kristene DiMarco’s Wherever You Lead has been the voice of my depths with Jesus the last several days.

LISTEN to the official Homecoming album playlist (Bethel Music) here.

THANK YOU, friends! Larry and I find great comfort in knowing we are never alone in this. Jesus is our ever-present Advocate and Companion. But He has also given us this community — a profound gift!

“The joy of God’s people is not determined by their struggles but by their future destiny.”

Jon Collins of The Bible Project

Let’s talk about it.

If you’d like to join me and a few other family caregivers in exploring how to thrive with biblical life principles while wrestling with troubled waters of a special needs family, join us in this safe space we’ve created for such discussions.


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.

Pivotal Markers in My Faith History for 2021

I’m excited to reflect with you today on a year-end tradition I enjoy. Every December, I ask God to show me scriptures that defined, repositioned or grew my faith and relationships in that year.

There are certain Bible verses that developed relevance for me in specific seasons of relationships and circumstances. For example, I wrote my first worship song around Hebrews 11:1 shortly after I made a personal decision to follow Jesus when I was 14 years old. Last spring, I started writing poetry again. It became like a prayer language for me as the summer went on. Now I’m looking forward to exploring that side of my mind, heart and relationships with Jesus more in 2022.

I use these two guiding questions:

What key scriptures were pivotal in your faith history for 2021?

What are some intimately memorable ways God has spoken into your life this past year?

God will never stop speaking to us through His Word — as long as we expose ourselves to it.

It is the same with my word. 
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
Isaiah 55:11

A lot of personal history can be packed into certain scriptures. Since the pandemic started in 2020, this verse has taken on a whole new level of meaning for me:

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

Oh, how many times I have prayed rather desperately, “Lord, I don’t know what to do. But my eyes are on You!” And so here is another that means a whole lot more after some confusing times this year:

O our God, won’t you stop them?
We are powerless against this mighty army
that is about to attack us.
We do not know what to do,
but we are looking to you for help.”
2 Chronicles 20:12

Below are more verses that reflect pivotal moments in my life and faith during 2021. I would love to hear how you will remember hearing God speak to you in 2021 too.

Psalm 139:1-10
O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.

Genesis 40:23
Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer, however, forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.

Psalm 23:5
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.

Job 38:1
Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind.

1 Kings 19:11-15
…the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind…the Lord was not in the earthquake…the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper…And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Romans 8:35, 37-39
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These verses reflect intimate lessons God has poured into me at timely moments. They offer historical context that I will carry with me for my lifetime. They represent a sort of private conversation I feel I’ve had with the Lord this year. I’m so grateful to have the kind of relationship with Jesus that produces memories that will continue to influence me as His growing disciple on this side of heaven.  

I hope you’ll write me or comment below and share a verse or two that tell the story of your faith history for this year!


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.


Jesus Makes Much of Our Little at Christmas

Are you experiencing some underlying exhaustion while preparing to make joyful new Christmas memories?

Larry and I love the Christmas season! Yet we are coming into festivities with some battle fatigue and frayed nerves from parenting our daughter with disabilities. We have been short on respite for months while sleep, behavior, and health issues have also been challenging.

A recent doctor appointment offered yet another affirming but sigh-triggering report. Carly’s specialist kindly said, “You guys know just what to do and you do a really good job it. Unfortunately, this is a very complicated condition and there are few effective ways to treat it. The methods we would typically try will not be an option for Carly because of her developmental issues and limited communication abilities.” Fortunately, this physician also had some new suggestions to try in hopes of bringing us all some relief. We’re working the process.

In the meantime, we will very gladly push through weariness for the benefits this festive family season brings.

Such can be the life when parenting a child with complex health issues or developmental disabilities. Parents can find themselves dealing with a lot of trial-and-error, feeling very inadequate to help. Sometimes, we simply have very little to offer our big situations.

We need God to multiply our efforts and the fruit of those efforts the way he did for Jesus and his disciples!

That evening the disciples came to Jesus and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”
“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered. 
“Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!
Matthew 14:15-21

This passage isn’t just about the multiplication of food. It is about God multiplying the limited physical and emotional resources Jesus had at hand.

The placement of this story in Matthew’s fourteenth chapter is interesting. It reports one of Jesus’ most well-known miracles, but it immediately follows a significant moment in Jesus personal life. It is a moment of deep grief, and it can easily get lost. Yet it carries a helpful and inspiring message for us who have been called by God to care for others when we ourselves feel weak or depleted. 

“As soon as Jesus heard the news (about John the Baptist’s death), he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
Matthew 14:13-14

Jesus wanted to be by himself. He had lost a dear friend and cousin. He likely felt somewhat responsible for John’s death too. Grief is exhausting. Possibly He needed rest. He may have wanted to find a safe space to express his raw emotions. Surely, He would also pray.

Despite Jesus’ desire to get away from the crowds, He tapped into two things that empowered Him to serve beyond himself:

God’s Indwelling Power
and
Compassion

Jesus was often motivated by compassion (Matthew 15:32, Mark 6:34, Luke 7:13). We can ask God to give us a vision to care for others that is moved by compassion too. We also have the Holy Spirit in us to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 
Hebrews 4:14-16

When the many needs of our families and a busy holiday season are pressing in like a “huge crowd,” we may desperately want to set some boundaries, find rest, even grieve some disappointments. Periods of separation in a quiet place are fair, appropriate and necessary. Jesus frequently modeled boundaries and rest. But He also shows us there will be times to engage with the needs of others, even when it is very hard. Even when we may rather be somewhere else.

And He will supply.

The God of compassion — the One who fills all things with Himself (Ephesians 4:10) — will fill you with His comfort and mercy to extend to those in your care.

He will make much of your little.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 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.
Philippians 4:13, 19

RELATED: A Prayer for Minimized Losses and Multiplied Gains


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.


Worship Playlists for Caregiving Parents

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:19

I hear a lot of parents raising children with disabilities say that worship music is a go-to for them when it comes to soul care. That should be no surprise given that it’s easy to turn on a song and continue with the daily art of multi-tasking our self care or soul care while simultaneously caring for others.

Music is accessible. It doesn’t rely on anyone else and takes little or no money to make it happen. It strikes an emotional chord, points us to Jesus, connects us to history, stirs a sense of nostalgia, and often has deeply therapeutic effect.

I am a caregiver with a demanding and complicated life. So, probably like you, I understand the frequent and desperate need for encouragement, peace, hope and strength. Finding healthy and godly ways to stay fueled up is so important to me! I also come from generations of music lovers and song writers.

My grandmother couldn’t read a note of music but played by ear and could make a piano or organ (and anyone nearby) dance! Her son (my dad) taught me to play guitar when I was five years old and, around that same time, completely refurbished an abandoned piano full of critters, a nest, and loads of dust that was sitting in an airplane hanger so mom could get me and my sister started in lessons.

I was writing songs at nine years old, the same age our daughter Erin later started composing.

Though Erin did learn to read music, she plays by ear like her great grandmother. She won a national songwriting competition when she was sixteen and has cut two EPs in the last few years. Our daughter Alex also plays beautifully and Carly, who is not verbal with Angelman Syndrome, finds her own unique voice in our piano room.

Carly and her friend Emily performing a duet.

My husband Larry grew up with music too. He played multiple instruments in high school when his band director figured out he was flexible, willing, and a quick learner. Truly, our whole family cherishes music and frequently bonds with each other and our Lord through songs from a wide variety of genres.

The Christmas season is so near and some favorite music traditions are about to erupt around here. I usually hold off playing carols until right after Thanksgiving because Larry teasingly prefers it but I have already been able to sneak in some practice and he hasn’t rolled his eyes even once.

Music is more than just entertainment, isn’t it? It is nourishment for our souls. It soothes the melancholy and moves a hardened heart toward joy and laughter too. In desperate times, lonely moments, and when experiencing inexpressible joy, our hearts often hang on the threads of a melody or lyric. There are too many times to count when a tune comforted or strengthened me through impossibly difficult seasons. Some terrific ideas, perspectives or inspiration have also come to me while I’ve been listening to music.

Sometimes I just want quiet. But there are many times when I am very intentional to locate one or more songs on a specific theme for a clear purpose. For example, the song I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe delivers a healthy dose of reassurance when my husband is out of town and the full weight of caregiving responsibility is on me.

I have spoken with many other caregiving parents and special siblings who have favorite go-to music too. We tend to create mental playlists to help direct — or redirect, as the case may be — our mind and thoughts to helpful places.

So, we’ve been sharing playlists behind the scenes in the WRIM community lately. And it seemed like a fun and/or helpful opportunity to make this a more public effort and build our playlists together. After all, we understand each other and tend to know what will resonate and ease each other’s burdens.

I’ll start us off but I hope you’ll chime in with comments about what ministers to your own soul!

For many of us, music is more than just entertainment. It is nourishment for our souls.

NEEDING COMFORT Playlist

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, confused, discouraged, these are songs that have made their way to my playlists.

Some Current Faves

A Couple of Highlights from My Past Playlists

NEEDING STRENGTH Playlist

When I have needed a boost of confidence or reassurance that God is present, powerful and good lately, these have been some of my go-to worship songs.

Some Current Faves

A Couple of Highlights from My Past Playlists

NEEDING REMINDER THAT JESUS LOVES ME (and I LOVE HIM) Playlist

We can’t sing too often about the great love of God. I may already feel confident of it and just want to bring praise. But sometimes I just need to declare truth myself and let the Holy Spirit grow assurance into me in that supernatural way God works.

Some Current Faves

A Couple of Highlights from My Past Playlists

What songs are on your recent or past playlists? Let’s share encouragement by pointing each other to inspiring content. It would be helpful and fun to see you share your personal faves in the comments below!

RELATED: Real Talk Livestream Christmas with Regie Hamm (music performance and interview with Lisa)


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.

WRIM Welcomes Deb Gustafson to the Ministry Team!

Walk Right In Ministries is thrilled to welcome Deb Gustafson to our ministry team! She will be serving the WRIM community through administrative support and special projects. Her passion is to ensure people have what they need to succeed. She understands that each of us comes with a unique story and loves to watch how God uses our stories for His glory and purpose. As we introduce Deb today, we’ve asked her to tell you some of her own story and explain how she came to share in this ministry.

The Gustafson Family (left to right): Elise, Deb, Finn, Brad, and Hope.

Deb, we’re very excited to get to know you! Please tell us about your beautiful family. 

I’m very excited to be joining the team at WRIM. My husband, Brad and I have been married 20 years (on 8/18/21). We both grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota and were high school sweethearts. We have 3 kids – Elise (15), Hope (13), & Finn (11) and our goldendoodle, Willow. I’ve spent the last 20+ years working as an office administrator, 15 of those years from home. In addition to that role, I’ve also been blessed with the opportunity to stay home and raise our three kids, one of which I also homeschool. I also love spending time with my family and being outside in nature at our cabin.

How did you first learn about WRIM? 

I first learned about WRIM three or four years ago when a mutual friend took our two daughters, Elise and Hope, to Jammin’ Pie Fest after church one Sunday. Both girls came home super excited to share about the pies they taste-tested, the backyard dancing, and the gift bag they took home with them. Yet that wasn’t all. The thing that stood out in my mind was how they both described how friendly and kind everyone was to them, with the bonus of getting to meet Peyton’s friend Carly. 

Then shortly after that experience, we had the opportunity to watch Lisa in a video at church share about disability ministry. It was captivating and remarkable to see how the team at WRIM comes alongside families/caretakers of kids with disabilities in such a supportive and caring manner. After the video, our family was able to participate in worship with Carly and her family. You could see the WRIM vision in action throughout each member of the Jamieson family. It was an absolute gift to everyone in the room.

Willow Gustafson

What drew you to this position and community? 

Our oldest daughter Elise was diagnosed with Autism & Tourette’s during her elementary years. We found that doing school in a brick-and-mortar setting was not a good fit for her and pulled her out in 5th grade. Throughout the process of the doctor visits, therapies, school plans, meltdowns, and tears, we discovered that we couldn’t do this type of parenting alone.

God continued to show up in amazing ways to help us through each step of the process. We were able to connect with other families going through similar experiences and God blessed us with a support system that we didn’t even know we needed. This helped us all stop just surviving and start thriving.

Fast forward to today. Each summer I plan out a homeschool schedule for Elise. When I realized that she would be turning 16 this fall, it got me thinking about ways I could create a class to help her learn about different passions in addition to learning some basic job skills. When I got stuck in my planning, I decided to jump over to Facebook to do some mindless scrolling.

As I was scrolling social media, a post for a Virtual Ministry Assistant caught my eye. My first thought was, I wonder if that’s something that Elise would like to do? Then I realized that I actually knew of the business (WRIM), and a little bit about the person behind that post and her heart for others. I didn’t reach out immediately, but I did take a screen shot and saved it just in case.

As the night went on, and the planning for school continued, I kept feeling this nudging to just reach out and ask more about it for my daughter. This is not my typical response to Facebook posts. So, I knew that this was the beginning of something and that I needed to respond. What I didn’t realize in that moment, was that it was an invitation from God into something new for me.

Over the course of three weeks, that nudging turned into gathering information, reflecting, reading, praying, and lots of conversations. I couldn’t get enough. I also kept pondering all of the excuses that came to my mind of reasons why I shouldn’t do this. And yet, every devotional and prayer time was interwoven with messages of “Fix your eyes on Me, I have so much more for you.”

Those thoughts of doubt turned into thoughts of what if God is calling me into something new and uncomfortable for His purpose and plan?

It’s easy for me to get stuck in the familiar and comfortable place of my own life and inner walls, but I don’t think that’s what God wants for me. He’s calling me into a new community to help support other people in similar situations, just like He showed up for me when I needed the same support 10 years ago.

The verse that keeps resonating in me is Isaiah 30:21.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

And here begins the new journey!

What are you most excited about in your role on the ministry team at WRIM? 

I love learning new things and supporting people along their life journey. Each of us comes with a unique story and I love to watch how God uses every part of our story for His glory and purpose.


Will you help us welcome Deb with a celebration of greetings and encouragement? You can send her a direct message here.

What God Accelerates While We Wait

We’re celebrating Carly’s 23rd birthday in 2 weeks. When you have a child with disabilities, birthdays trigger an odd mix of thoughts, emotions, and memories. I find myself experiencing awe and wonder about what God has done in her life and ours for more than two decades. At the same time, I still have moments and seasons of raw emotion — when fears, frustrations and sleep deprivation maintain an unwelcome grip.

Parenting Carly has been like living in a long series of waiting seasons. She wasn’t diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome until she was 2-and-a-half years old. Yet her challenges were increasingly obvious and numerous starting just a few hours after she was born. Those were long and confusing days before explanations came. Still, waiting seasons continued. I struggled for a while to feel bonded with her the way a mom connects with her child. I sometimes waited for friends or family to understand and empathize. I’ve waited for wisdom in decisions about things like medication, therapies, and even meaningful birthday gifts. I’ve waited for help. I’ve prayed for healing. I’ve waited for church to be easier for my family.

Lisa and Carly posing during rehearsal at Darby's Dancers

I’ve also waited for God to change me. Sometimes a new mindset is needed, or a better way of responding to my challenges. I’d really like to be shaken loose of unhealthy habits and selfishness. So many times, I have taken a deep breath and said simply, “I don’t know what to do, Lord, but my eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 12:20).

I suspect most parents have sighed a similar prayer at least once.

RELATED: When Our Trust Meets Borders

The truth is Carly’s situation has accelerated my spiritual maturity and enriched my life in a host of ways. For example, disability slowed me down to appreciate things I may have missed. It completely shifted many of my values. It gave me a more realistic self-image. It exponentially grew my compassion and grace toward others. Living at the end of my rope has taught me how to rely on God and really trust Him. Even when I only have a mustard seed of faith to offer.

The apostles said to the Lord,
“Show us how to increase our faith.”

Luke 17:5

The Covid-19 pandemic has been an accelerating event too. For all that has been stolen and broken this year, there have also been some important wins. In many ways, we get to choose what long-term impact it will have on us. This has been part of conversations in disability ministry leadership circles lately too. Consider this example. The church that started 2020 with a 3-year plan for offering online services suddenly found a way to make it happen within 3 weeks. Countless families who had been isolated by disability for a long time could suddenly worship at home. And they received new empathy for their dilemmas.

Now we’ve all been stuck in a waiting season for more than a year. And while warmer weather and vaccines are bringing a sense of hope, many are still languishing in ambiguity about the future. There are some choices to make. This year has invited us to be changed. I hope you’ll allow it to be an accelerating event that moves you toward a life surrendered to God and in richer relationships with others. We’re all in process. We’re not perfected until heaven. But we can choose progress in the midst of everything that keeps us stuck. Because of Jesus, it is possible to be simultaneously both vulnerable and victorious.

I will celebrate Mother’s Day and then Carly’s birthday, caught between all the awe and what’s still raw. I hope you can join me in appreciating that living in this balance is the very thing that keeps us humbly in the sweet grip of our Savior.

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

Colossians 2:6-7

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.