Good Grief!

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with each other.
Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people.
And don’t think you know it all!
Romans 12:15-16

Ouch! The first part of that passage may be familiar to you. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Being a compassionate and empathetic person means celebrating and mourning alongside others. Hopefully, that is a rather natural response for most of us. The “living in harmony” part is obviously more challenging, but still a worthy and reasonable goal. It’s that second half of the passage that stings for those of us who can feel like we are living extraordinary lives.

I have a confession to make. Since becoming the parent of a child with complex and extremely challenging needs, I have grown bitter when people cannot really understand certain things about “real” life because their lives are so “ordinary” compared to mine. That is a form of pride.

I admit to resenting people who fail to come alongside families like mine when they are trying to work through ranging emotions — grief included — that often come with a difficult diagnosis. This includes processing the ever-unfolding layers of realization that the diagnosis has turned their lives in a whirlwind of complex logistics and feelings.

For all the joy and richness my daughter, Carly, brings to my life, her daily (and nightly) needs wring me out emotionally. Sometimes there is a deep grief that feels too much to bear.

Each person in my family has experienced grief in their own ways and times too. We try to make room for each other to work through those feelings without feeling judged or edited. (Note to self: it is not helpful to tell others how you think they should feel.)

Our aim, as a family, has been to live according to this biblical principle:

We’re called to create safe spaces for processing individual and family grief.

RELATED: Siblings Needing Safe Spaces to Process Life

Here are some examples of situations that have triggered a cascade of emotions for me. When boiled down to the root of those feelings, I would say there is grief. You can probably relate your own list of grief triggers if you are the parent, spouse, sibling or grandparent of someone with disabilities or a chronic health condition.

  • On that Sunday morning, just one week after Mother’s Day in 1998, I sat on the edge of my bathtub sobbing. Our 5-day-old baby Carly had been screaming tears, literally since the moment she was born. When a serious diaper rash erupted that day, it was clearer than ever that she was in some miserable pain. We were all exhausted. I wanted to be at the worship service holding my newborn and celebrating with our church family. I felt robbed of that long-awaited joy. But, more than that, I felt an agony of grief and fear realizing that my child was in unrelenting pain and there seemed to be nothing I could do to fix it for her.
  • On October 10th of 2000, Carly’s neurologist phoned to share results of a genetic study that confirmed Carly had Angelman Syndrome. I felt everything from relief in finally knowing to confusion about all that was now unknown about her future, and ours. I felt overwhelmed and afraid. I groaned in the sorrow that a life-long, unexpected and extremely challenging journey was ahead, for all of us.
  • As our oldest daughter neared high school graduation, I spent the spring listening to other moms lamenting what would be next for them with an empty house. My sorrow and resentment swelled because I could not anticipate the same flexibility, spontaneity, and new adventures their lives would bring. I was angry with them for taking their freedom for granted.
  • At our godson’s wedding, Carly made disruptive noises and grew physically restless. Soon, I had to leave the sanctuary with her. I grieved missing his vows to his wife. I was disappointed I couldn’t hold my husband’s hand while we remembered our own vows. I sorrowed that we would need to hire help with Carly on future days when each of her sisters would get married.
  • It is frustrating to miss out on holiday game nights when family or friends gather because someone needs to keep Carly safe, entertained, or in her bedtime routine. I grieve then too.
  • I lament the interruptions and limitations that Carly’s needs bring to my time and energy for sex with my husband.
  • On the last day(s) of vacations, there is often a sense of weariness and resentment that simmers with thoughts of returning home to the daily slog of caregiving.
  • It hurts to miss out on having the kind of social life or traveling lifestyle I imagined having as a middle-aged adult or “empty nester.”

Triggers can become “holy moments.”

I am very thankful that, in time, God transforms many of my grief-triggering experiences into “holy moments.” That discovery process unfolds like this.

First, I have to lay bare what is raw in my heart to God in prayer. For me, that usually takes the form of prayer journaling with my Bible open to listen (read) for God’s voice in the conversation. It might involve curling up in a chair or lying face down on the floor listening to a worship song of surrender too. Then I try to respectfully but transparently share what I am thinking and feeling within the context of a safe relationship (e.g., mentor, counsellor, caregiver discussion group).

That kind of processing becomes an especially sweet gift when the result is deeper bonding with my spouse, one of my children, an extended family member or a friend.

Certainly, there can be catharsis in the simple act of talking things out. But there is so much more to healthy, biblical processing than that. Safe, respectful, and open conversations present opportunities to learn from others’ perspectives, feel less alone, resonate with each other, encourage each other, and sometimes even remind a loved one about where our ultimate hope and comfort come from.

For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me. Psalm 38:17

Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. Psalm 31:9

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

We don’t grieve without hope. Romans 8:18

Grief has masqueraders.

Grief is real. And it not necessarily bad. Nor should we rush ourselves through it. In fact, we should be careful and intentional about taking time to process it fully in healthy and godly ways. If we don’t, those intense emotions will come out sideways. And things are likely to get really messy, really fast.

Feelings of grief can masquerade in various responses. Unprocessed grief can look like explosive anger, obsessive and/or compulsive behaviors, excessive need for control, jealousy bitterness, resentment, withdrawal from relationships or hiding, depression, anxiety, hopelessness, guilt, fear, and a myriad of other responses that range from vulnerability and weakness to outright sin.

We are created with emotions that reflect the image of God — yes, our Almighty has emotions too. We need only look to the life of Jesus to see that.

Read how Max Lucado explores Jesus’ time of prayer and grief at Gethsemane:

“We’ve never seen Christ like this. Never heard such screams from his voice or seen such horror in his eyes. And never before has he told us:
‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.’ (Mark 14:34)

How is such emotion explained? What is Jesus fearing?
Christ feared the cup of suffering.

Jesus: The God Who Knows My Name by Max Lucado

Jesus understands our grief.

Nonetheless, He ultimately submitted to the cross with holy love saying, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Luke 22:42)

When we see Jesus at the cross, we recognize the sacrifice and atonement he made for our sins. But it is in the garden of Gethsemane that we see a depth of Jesus’ emotions. And we feel them with him.

Jesus understands our desperation.

Here’s some really good news…

GRIEF & JOY CAN BE EXPERIENCED SIMULTANEOUSLY

In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
2 Corinthians 6:4-10


QUESTIONS FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION
  • King David expressed his emotions honestly with God. (Read Psalm 73 for a great example of authentic, God-honoring grief!)
    Can you describe your pain and when you feel it most deeply?
  • What grief triggers have you or a family member experienced recently?
  • What is helpful to you when you are feeling emotional?
  • Has God given you a “holy moment” in the midst of your sadness or fear recently?

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.


I hope you’ll consider joining us some time for Real Talk Connect. Caregivers from many backgrounds meet every Tuesday at 2 pm Central on Zoom. We use one Bible principle as the theme for each week’s discussion. Today’s blog was based on one of those principles — We’re called to create safe spaces for processing individual and family grief.

Drop in for richly encouraging connection in a casual setting. Contact us for the Zoom link, the complete list of Bible principles as well as all the FAQs about Real Talk Connect!

What’s With All the Dandelions?

Dead dandelions have intrigued me for as long as I can remember. But a new layer of inspiration emerged from them for me a few years ago. What is it about a nuisance, worn-out weed that is so fascinating, you may wonder?

For some odd reason, there has always been something mesmerizing about the delicate way those seeds set up on a tender stem like a tiny cloud, vulnerable to the slightest breeze or bump from a bare toe. It doesn’t take much to contaminate an entire lawn, along with neighboring yards near and far, with abundant bursts of yellow dandelions.

Moms receive a yellow handful…then quietly sweep nostalgic tears away with the back of their wrists.

There’s a compulsive part of me that wants to capture those seeds in a garbage bag before they do their contagious, dirty work. Yet, my eyes rest on them for a moment while I consider the mysterious mind of a Creator who must have a sense of humor. This prolific weed triggers such paradoxical reactions from people.

The very young romanticize the pretty yellow flowers. In first grade, a boy named Harry handed me just such a bouquet and asked me to marry him! (The humor is not lost on me that I later married a man name Larry.) Moms receive a yellow handful, no matter how limp, with big smiles then quietly sweep nostalgic tears away with the back of their wrists. On the other hand, if you’re older and the one holding the credit card, those bright golden gems may just represent embarrassment with the neighbors and an expensive trip to the home improvement store for herbicide.

One day a couple of years ago, I was given a very personal perspective about the dandelion. I had spent part of a morning sharing my heart about disability ministry with the staff of a church. They listened. I explained some things. They asked a couple of questions. I answered. I sensed a degree of sympathy in the room but people were pretty quiet.

I walked out wondering whether my message brought any real clarity to the issues or had any empowering influence at all. Had I overwhelmed them? Had my opportunity to foster a vision among leaders been overshadowed again by my personal passions as a parent of a child with special needs?

Maybe you’ve been there. Something about your life experience put a passion in you. But when you talk about it, you wrestle with presenting it in a winsome and compelling way rather than putting people on the defensive or causing them to feel overwhelmed, intimidate, or even offended.

I walk that line all the time.

I wear the hat of an advocate, often speaking on behalf caregivers and families affected by special needs. But I am also one of those caregiving parents. Our youngest child has radically shaped my world views and life course. Such a significant life experience is bound to flavor many of my thoughts, passions, conversations and relationships.

So, what about that room full of church leaders? Had God used our time together for anything of value? I wondered.

“I’m sure that telling your story feels futile sometimes. But let me assure you, it is not lost on anyone.”

Shortly after I stepped out of the room, two pastors from the meeting met me in the hallway. Both had words of encouragement that have stuck with me. And I believe their encouragement was meant for you too. I’m going to share it here and ask that you let yourself receive it.

Please receive it deeply.

I’ll paraphrase. One of the pastors began, “Sometimes you may feel like your message is falling on deaf ears. You may sense apathy or resistance. I’m sure that telling your story feels futile sometimes. But let me assure you, it is not lost on anyone.”

He went on to explain how, during my presentation at the meeting, he had seen a dandelion in his mind’s eye. He sensed that God wanted to encourage me with a comparison. “You may feel like a lot of your dreams and your story are dead or done. But I sense that God is about to blow across all of that with fresh life. Like when a dead dandelion gets carried away in the wind, the seeds of your story are going to blow far and wide with a powerful gust of the Holy Spirit. God is going to use those seeds to bring life to new places. And it’s going to be beautiful!”

This word of encouragement is based in a promise from scripture about the nature of how God works:

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” John 12:24

Oh, friends — let’s pray and trust this to be true!

He said, “The seeds of your story are going to blow far and wide with a powerful gust of the Holy Spirit. God is going to use those seeds to bring life to new places.
And it’s going to be beautiful.”

When we seem to have experienced a total loss or hit a dead end, what seed might be there? What harvest may come? Only the Lord knows. But what an adventure it can be to hang in readiness for the winds of the Holy Spirit to blow across our lives!

Just as Jesus’ death initially seemed like a senseless loss, ultimate purposes were served. I want to affirm and encourage you who are living in patient perseverance. Your situation may often feel invisible, unimportant, or unappreciated by others but it does not go missed by God. He breathes new life out of every place of weakness, brokenness, disappointment, dead dream, and lost hope.

Walk Right In Ministries aims to be a community — though often far-flung in the virtual sense —  where we get to know each other and grow together. We pray for multiplication here. Multiplication of love. Multiplication of faith. Multiplication in any way God wants to bring fruit from the seeds of each individual’s unique story.

There are stories to share and new adventures to be lived as God weaves the intersections of our lives for Divine purposes.

Thank you for pausing with me to watch the clouds part and the deep waters get stopped upstream (check out Joshua 3).

Though we may be stumbling through life sometimes, let’s step out in faith — together.

This article first appeared at LisaJamieson.org in February 2018.


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.

Miraculous Preservation

A common concern among caregivers, especially parents of children who have disabilities, is what will happen to our children if they outlive us. And as middle age comes, depending on the degree of toll in caregiving and other life circumstances, we caregivers tend to fear that our bodies may wear our long before we actually die. What then?

And so we pray a lot. As we’re able, we do some planning. Having an estate plan in place offers some peace of mind as does doing lots of documentation for those who will be inheriting the caregiving responsibilities. Our family has had many conversations about this and those are always very reassuring as well. But at the day’s end, when my body is aching and I’m weary to the bone (as they say), I’m left with taking it all to the Lord in prayer and begging him to preserve and protect my husband and I for as long has He possibly will!

Today I was reading the accounts of a missionary who travelled a ship between England and China in the 1930s. The ship’s route took them through the Red Sea with full views of the desert places where the Exodus occurred. Audrey Johnson’s pondering jumped off the page at me with reassurance that God’s capacity to preserve and protect His children is not limited by our physical bodies and minds.  

Audrey wrote:

Probably no one who reads Exodus can fully enter into that miracle of absolute dependence upon our faithful God who revealed Himself so clearly that throughout Israelite history and Psalms this miraculous preservation and protection was never forgotten. Think for instance of Deuteronomy 29:5 (which says): 

“For forty years God has led you through the wilderness, yet your clothes haven’t become old, and your shoes haven’t worn out” (TLB).

Audrey Wetherell Johnson

I want to remember this verse and the underlying promise it carries for our family too. Nothing has changed about God, His promises or His abilities. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday as He is today and forever. His character, power, goodness and accessibility remains as certain for me as it was for Moses. In fact, it’s even better because I (we) have access to God through the indwelling Holy Spirit!  

The very same God who so faithfully cared for the people of Israel makes the same kind of promise to me. His protection may look differently than I’m expecting but it remains dependable and will surprise me in the best of ways.

Whether you are a fellow sojourner down the caregiving road with me or someone who just needs reassurance, let us be confident of this — God is creatively preparing all kinds of “miraculous preservation” for us and for those we love.

Jeremiah 29:10-13
This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord.”


This post was inspired by the book Created for Commitment by A. Wetherell Johnson, founder of Bible Study Fellowship.

Christmas Worship Like the First Time (Part 2)

One definition of worship is “to express reverence or adoration of someone or some thing.” By this definition we have all been guilty, at one time or another, of showing more affection, appreciation and priority for other people, places, objects and activities in our lives than we have shown toward God Himself.

Jesus knew that true children of God would make it their priority to follow Him into the world proclaiming the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:57-62). People who are awakened to the joy of their salvation want everything about their lives to reflect the One who has rescued them.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:7-14

Jesus Himself often told people to go tell their friends and family what God had done for them (Mark 5:18-20, Luke 8:39). But there were also many times when Jesus didn’t specifically instruct someone to go and tell. They just did. They did because they were so moved by Jesus’ compassion toward them and His power of transformation in their lives that they couldn’t stop talking about Him! And the passion of their testimony paired with the evidence seen in their renovated lives caused people to be amazed and worship God (Mark 2:11-12).

Oh, that our enthusiasm and gratitude would overflow as worship (Psalm 23:5, Romans 15:13, 2 Corinthians 4:15, 2 Corinthians 8:2, 2 Corinthians 9:12, Colossians 2:7)!

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9

Lifting our eyes to see God and then giving voice to what we see is worship. What we see and say about God will also lead other people to worship.

This reflection on worship is excerpted from “Living Your Glory Story” available at Amazon and the Walk Right In Ministries store.  Copyright © 2013 Walk Right In Ministries. All rights reserved.


Jamieson’s “Toughest Struggles” Interview Re-Airs


A couple of years ago, Larry and I were invited to do an interview with WORDS TO LIVE BY RADIO. We shared about how we experienced God in the early years of Carly’s life when disability was devastatingly new and we struggled to ask for help so Carly might thrive. That episode is re-airing again this coming weekend, Saturday and Sunday, September 13 & 14

I hope it’s encouraging to you. Please join us in praying that God will use this once again to reach into things like broken heartedness, hopelessness and loneliness. 

To learn where you can hear the interview on a station in your area, call 616-974-2210 with your zip code handy or just visit this link — http://words.net/2010/06/04/finding-hope-in-one-of-life’s-toughest-struggles-–-larry-lisa’s-story/

For more of the story about those early years, read Finding Glory in the Thorns — the book about how Carly, her family and the community surrounding them experienced love, hope and unexpected miracles in the midst of shared struggles.  Finding Glory in the Thorns and the small group curriculum Finding Glory Group Discussion Guide are both available at the Walk Right In Ministries store and Amazon. Finding Glory in the Thorns is also available for your eReader on Kindle, Nook and iBook (Apple).  

Madelyn’s Glory Story “Today’s Tests are Tomorrow’s Testimonies”

Today’s Glory Story comes from Madelyn who has just been given an overwhelming cancer diagnosis but the gift of a great sense of God’s purpose. She is embracing what lies ahead in a way that is refreshing and profoundly inspiring to me. Many times over the years, I’ve wondered how I would respond if a doctor gave me such news. Have you wondered the same? Since both of my parents are survivors of aggressive forms of cancer, the possibility of receiving that kind of report seems too real sometimes but, thankfully, so does the hope of leading a thriving life after God’s merciful miracles of healing and protection.
 
Madelyn’s story reminds us that we need not—must not—be afraid of adversity. Hope rises out of adversity because we live on God’s sure promises and can always anticipate the surprises of His love.  
 
I’m 63 years old and have been married for 42 years. Mike and I have one stepson, two sons, two daughters-in-law and three granddaughters. I have been physically active most of my life playing tennis, quilting, roller blading, riding bike, etc.
 
On December 18, 2013, my husband took me to urgent care. I’d had three days of high fever, chest pain, and coughing with what we thought was the flu. When the nurses took my blood pressure it was 89/54 so the doctor insisted I go to an emergency room by ambulance. I was immediately given IV fluids, an array of tests and then, despite my resistance, a CT scan.
 
The ER doctor explained that I had a large mass growing on my tailbone and he suspected cancer. I was given an MRI and more blood draws to confirm this. Hospital staff said that I must have had angels bring me to the hospital, as most tests would never have shown this tumor. My pain was in my chest and not in the lower areas of my body. The ER doctor just felt “led” to request the CT scan of the pelvis! (Of course we know it was the Holy Spirit guiding him.)
 
I was given the oncologist’s contact information and told to call in the morning. We met within a few days and a biopsy confirmed plasmacytoma. Then I had a bone marrow biopsy that confirmed multiple myeloma as well. Mike and I have been in shock because the oncologist said this has been growing in me for a couple of years. I’ve had very little pain and thought my lower back pain was from too much tennis!
 
I’m sharing the details about how I came to find this out because both Mike and I realized it wasn’t us making the decisions and guiding the doctors—it was God! We’ve had tears, disbelief, and lots of questions. We are gaining wisdom about cancer and medical issues that neither one of us ever wanted to learn. But because I know that God is in this life with us, and as I see how He has directed and orchestrated what we couldn’t have thought to do, then I know God is in the rest of this battle called cancer too.
 
Madelyn has already started radiation and chemotherapy. And God is already breathing life into her testimony. Consider this excerpt from a letter she shared with family and friends just a couple of days ago:
 
I had asked the Lord to provide hands that need holding and for me to give comfort to others as I began this journey. Today I recognized a man from Trilogy in the chair across the room from me. I went over to him…he and his wife used to live right behind our house in Trilogy. He has lung cancer in both lungs. He said that if this series of chemo doesn’t work, they’ve given him several months to live. Please add this couple (I used to play tennis with the wife) to your prayers.
 
I got to hold both of their hands and tell them that the Lord is with them and will provide them with healing and hope however that should happen. They said they believed that too. Their daughter also has cancer!
 
I see how God has provided for me this opportunity to serve Him, praise Him, and be a witness even when life seems to have handed me a “rough road to walk.” …Isn’t God faithful!?!
 
The verses that I am reading and praying are from Philippians 4:4-9:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
 
I’m looking ahead and not behind me for today’s tests are tomorrow’s testimonies.
 
Madelyn told me yesterday, I’m actually excited to see the opportunities that lie ahead of us in all this! I feel a new boldness yet gentleness about who God is and how I am His dearly loved child! I am looking to Jesus Christ who is the author and perfecter of our faith.”
 
One of Madelyn’s family members who has struggled with addiction is encountering God too. She shared her excitement with me saying, “It is absolutely God who is at work in the lives and hearts of the people all around me through getting this cancer! So many things are happening that I can hardly take it all in! Praise and honor to God who provided the way of salvation in Christ Jesus!”
 
WOW. This wife, mother and grandmother is being called out to unknown waters but she knows Whose child she is and her encouragement comes from knowing God is already doing marvelous things with her story. Though her experiences are fresh and raw right now, her heart is fully yielded to God’s ways and purposes. She and her family will need our prayers.
 
 
HEAVENLY FATHER, thank you for showing us how intimately powerful You are in the details of our lives. Thank you for showing us Your mighty hand in Madelyn’s proper diagnosis. Please use her experience to soften and strengthen many in relationship toward You. According to your will, we ask for a miracle of complete healing in Jesus’ name! Put the spotlight on Your power and compassion so that doubters are reassured and skeptics can’t help but turn toward You. Thank you for being Madelyn’s strength, comfort, guide and shield. Let her not be shaken, Lord, and equip he for every good work according to the riches she has in Christ. Give her family peace and joy as they walk through this together. Surround them with supporters who will stand with them as practical and prayerful helpmates. We rest in Your faithfulness, Oh Lord!  AMEN

Recapping the Summit

Larry and I returned from the 2013 Accessibility Summit on Sunday night and I’ve been anxious to give an update and express our gratitude ever since!  It’s always hard to believe so much can happen in just a couple of days.  Frankly, I’m still processing it all.  God is doing beautiful things within the broad community of people serving in disability ministry and we’re especially grateful right now for friends at McLean Bible Church who host this annual conference attended by almost 600 people.  Our experiences shared today are representative of many similar stories from hundreds of folks who are planting seeds and reaping harvests of encouragement, insight and soul-saving work.  
God is always faithful and we had the privilege of seeing that in so many ways before, during and since the conference.
  • We were sent off with the great personal encouragement of notes from our prayer team — so empowering and comforting.
  • Just before leaving we found out our dear friends Kirk Stoa and daughter Jana were in DC so dinner was arranged and we spent our first night treated by really fun fellowship and a fabulous meal.  We received that as a personal touch from God Himself who knew just what would kick off our trip perfectly.
  • A group of special needs moms who have been using the Finding Glory small group curriculum asked to meet us for breakfast on Friday. During our rich conversation and prayer time, they shared that one of the moms in their group had left the church for another religion after her child was born with disabilities.  These women invited her to participate in their group and then as they all shared Glory Stories the last week, this woman gave her testimony.  As a result of their study and fellowship together, she’s come to full faith in Jesus Christ and caught God’s vision for His good purposes in her challenges! Well done ladies!
  • God answered many prayers as it relates to the keynote speakers this year who gave hope-filled messages and proclaimed Christ clearly.  Clay Dyer, professional bass fisherman born without legs and only part of one arm was a firecracker of energy.  Emily Colson (daughter of Chuck Colson and author of the beautiful book Dancing with Max) was fabulous.  We had the opportunity to meet her a the leader’s lunch.  She’s down-to-earth, courageous, inspiring and delightful!
  • Larry gave his presentation “The Importance of Special Dads” to a packed room of men and a couple of women.  The strong male turnout alone was a huge answer to the prayers of conference organizers who share our heart to engage and spur on dads who are faced with the enormous challenge of leading their special needs families.  Larry shared very helpful insights and generated powerful discussion among participants.  Of course, he kept them laughing too.  I was so proud and blessed to see Him in his elemenand know that I get to be one his love spills out on every day.  I’m very excited to see how God is going to increasingly use CLC Christian Leadership Concepts to develop men in all areas of their lives.
  • There were hundreds of visitors who came by our exhibit and so many hungry for prayer and encouragement. It was gratifying to serve that way and to meet many with a strong interest in using the Finding Glory small group curriculum in their churches.  I believe we sold over 30 copies of Finding Glory in the Thorns and at least that many FG Discussion Guides. One church in Houston, TX is starting their group this spring and bought 12 study packages.  Another woman came by the table to tell us their group is currently on Lesson 4 and one of the participants just accepted Christ as Savior and Lord!
  • God is opening eyes and hearts about the need to care for those who are in caregiving roles as well as the often forgotten/lost group of people experiencing mental health issues.  We were thankful to see there is growing sensitivity to the demanding role of caring for aging parents too.  We are increasingly hearing about churches using the Finding Glory curriculum for “Caregiver Support Groups.”
  • God gave insights and resources to church leaders wanting to do better reaching out to special families. I had the privilege of being a panelist for a session with these folks serving alongside Joe and Cindi Ferrini (FamilyLife speakers and authors of Unexpected Journey), Karen Jackson (director of Faith Inclusion Network), and Jolene Philo (author of Different Dream Parenting).  I know God stretched and encouraged all of us during that conversation.
  • We got to exhibit right beside our friends Nathan and Laurie Chuba from Virginia.  We met them at the Summit last year and Laurie immediately volunteered to serve on the Walk Right In Ministries Intercessory Prayer Team.  What a joy and privilege to share those hours with them and then finish the weekend with a wonderful prayer time with them.
  • Larry and I had a quick day afterwards to sleep in and play a little including part of an Orioles game and some sunshine before heading back to “Narnia.” (For those who don’t know, they had 13 inches of snow while we were gone and school for two of our daughters was cancelled.  Prom pictures were taken from a snow drift just for posterity!)
  • Carly was very well cared for by my folks while we were away and grand memories were made as Erin experienced her senior prom surrounded by her grandparents, both sisters and many friends.  Praise God everyone stayed safe and healthy.
I was hoping to keep this recap of Glory Stories shorter but there really is SO much to tell and I believe God wants all of us regularly putting His power and presence on display (Psalm 20:7, 34:2, 96:2-3).  So thank you for indulging me, for praying with us, and for helping others to know that God is very much alive and His Word is active among us!  Save the date now for the next Accessibility Summit coming April 4-5, 2014.
And whenever you have a Glory Story of your own to share, will you please let us know?  Our Intercessory Prayer Team loves to celebrate and sometimes it’s appropriate that we share those stories for powerful encouragement at this Blog.
May God bless you today.  Please keep praying for the growth of disability ministry in the Church, for people experiencing disabilities, for caregivers and their families and that God would be made known throughout all of this stretched and courageous community of precious people!  
We’re very grateful for the opportunity to walk with you in Christ.

Prayerfully Pondering Life, Loss & Newtown

In the past few days (particularly in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, CT), I have found it helpful to chew on these quotes and verses about life and loss.  I pray that it may be helpful to you also as you take your own heart and mind to the feet of Jesus for comfort, strength and wisdom.

The world needed a suffering Sovereign. Mere suffering would not do. Mere sovereignty would not do. The one is not strong enough to save; the other is not weak enough to sympathize.”  From How Does Jesus Come to Newtown? by Pastor John Piper. 

“We were talking about the shooting and how it is devastating. They reminded me of all the babies America kills daily in women’s wombs, yet we do not mourn over that.”  From my friend Nathan Haugen. 

 “The life that we live falls short of the life God gave us.”  From Tis More Blessed to Receive 12.16.12 by Pastor Dan Johnson.

***


Romans 3:23

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 


John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

John 14:1

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

John 1:12

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

Matthew 19:14

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

1 John 4:12

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

1 Peter 3:13-14

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.

Luke 2:10-11

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”


***

I am empowered and comforted to FEAR NOT! No matter what circumstances surround us, God stands in authority and is the suffering Sovereign.

Hebrews 4:15-16

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.