Kelley Chose the “Yes” of Faith

As every mom has, I have been faced with some difficult decisions. And with five children, three with special needs, one might say my faith has been flexed. Several early life experiences contributed to my learning to be a caregiver and advocate. One season in my life presented extraordinary challenge to the trust I have in my Savior. 

As the oldest child in my family, I developed a nurturing protective spirit with my siblings. I also grew up with a father who was a veterinarian. He gave me perspective of the emotions and dilemmas I would later face as an adult.

By the time I was ten years old, I was feeding and caring for five orphan dairy calves. I would arrive at the dairy with my father, and the farmer would announce that an orphan calf would cost too much to feed out. This was completely unacceptable to me. So, I would commence pleading with my father to let me care for the calf. Usually, we had a baby calf in the floorboard of my dad’s truck on the trip back to the clinic. My mom would roll her eyes and sigh, “not another one.”

My father would talk to me about anatomy, chemistry, and critical thinking. I remember watching him do exploratory surgery on his patient, working out loud through his process of elimination. This instilled a passion for research and learning. My core values expanded to include a wider view of the world and, by the age of 10, I had simultaneously experienced a spiritual awakening.

I married young at the age of 20. I had my first child a year and half later. We welcomed our second child twenty-one months after that. My husband was working at a wonderful church as a youth pastor. We owned our first home and we all enjoyed good health. I’ve come to appreciate the saying,” health is wealth.” We found out we were, unexpectedly, having another baby.

When our third child, Conley, was born, we immediately knew something was very wrong. He was not breathing. Nurses and doctors worked feverishly to save him. It was almost as if it was happening to someone else. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. For the first time in my 24 years, I was completely helpless and terrified.

I remember finally going to meet Conley the next day. Tears fell uncontrollably as I stared at this infant with tubes and monitors. I lived at the Dallas Ronald McDonald House for three and a half months, seeing our older children on weekends. I knew my life had forever changed in the blink of an eye. 

Tears fell uncontrollably as I stared at this infant with tubes and monitors.

Conley went on to require frequent hospitalizations and over twenty-five surgeries and procedures. I wrestled hard, asking God “Why?”

I underwent a procedure to ensure our family was complete. However, God had other plans. Almost eight years later, I discovered I was pregnant with our fourth child.

About eighteen weeks into my pregnancy, we learned there were major complications. I was pressed to have an abortion. The influences and morals instilled in me could not justify an abortion. I deeply believed that God, like a maestro, was creatively composing every life event.

Much like during the nightmare of Conley’s birth, our fourth son, Camron’s, birth required the immediate work of a medical team to save his life.

For the next five months, I lived in a hotel in San Antonio across from the hospital. We had moved to Austin a month prior so Conley could attend Texas School for the Deaf. My husband lived in Austin and commuted to work in San Antonio. I stayed at a hotel in San Antonio with our older sons, to allow them to finish their school year. I vividly remember the day I found out Camron’s diagnosis and prognosis. It was grim. He was profoundly deaf and blind with a feeding tube and tracheostomy at age three weeks.

As I left the hospital and approached the bus stop, I sat on the bench watching the buses come and go. I was mapping out my plan to step in front of a bus.

As my spirit warred inside of me I finally acknowledged and grasped the promise of an inherently good God. Just like Job, God blessed the later part of Job’s life more than the first. He said, will you still love me through these circumstances? Job’s response in faith was “Yes.”

I chose “Yes” that day.

I have learned through these experiences that God is the Maestro of my life. Sometimes he calls me to rest. Other times I am called to action. In all things I understand He is the center of every life event, and only He understands the intricacies of my ultimate purpose.

God continues to connect the dots in my life, through advocacy, service, and community. One of my favorite Bible verses, encompasses both my spiritual and world view:

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

Colossians 3:23

RELATED: Community Story (Camron’s Birthday)


Kelley Cagle, beautiful woman and writer

Kelley Cagle is a freelance writer and special needs advocate with a passion for mentoring young moms who have children with special needs. Kelley shares from her own experience as the parent of children with disabilities. Kelley has five sons. Two of her children have CHARGE Syndrome, a micro deletion affecting a multiple body systems and organs. Both boys are deaf-blind and on the Autism spectrum. Kelley and her husband Chris have been married over 26 years and live in Texas with their two youngest boys.

Kelley’s husband, Chris, shares a Community Story celebrating life, faith and fellowship.

Special Needs Dad Shares Hope for a Redeemed Life

Our guest writer today is Ken Atkins, a man who grew up in the pleasant surroundings of a small North Texas dairy farm during the late 1950s. From there, he wandered through a career that included schoolteacher, newspaper writer and editor, advertising executive and construction sales. When his son Danny was born in 1992, Ken faced the life-changing reality that Danny would require full-time care for his entire life. Ken’s journey meandered through the early days of doubt and discovery about Danny’s neurological and related medical issues, over the hills and valleys of a parents’ worst fears and highest hopes, past the financial and marital issues that eventually crushed his family, and into the deep pit of lifelong struggles with alcohol and relationship addiction.

But Ken’s story doesn’t end there. Read on as Ken shares how he found transformational hope and life-saving tools in taking one step of faith at a time.


“I am a grateful follower of Jesus Christ who has been redeemed from a life of alcohol abuse.”

For nearly eight years now, that is how I have introduced myself to the small group of other men I meet with each week in Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery, also known as “CR,” is a Christ-centered, 12 step recovery program for anyone — men and women — struggling with hurt, pain or addiction of any kind. It is a program that changed my life and the lives of my two children.

But if our introduction is meant to give others a quick glimpse into the truth of who we really are, I probably should amend it to:

“Hi, my name is Ken, and I am a grateful follower of Jesus Christ raising a son with Angelman Syndrome. I have been redeemed by a loving Savior and have experienced the joy of being forced into a world that I am totally unequipped to manage on my own.”

My son, Danny, recently celebrated his 29th birthday, but developmentally he is basically a happy, healthy 2-year-old. He can’t speak or walk unassisted. He is incontinent and his basic needs must be met by someone else, which would be me, at least 95 percent of the time. Danny has been my constant companion through career changes, divorce, bankruptcy, a couple of major relocations and more emotional roller coaster rides than any amusement park.

Danny sat next to me through many of my recovery meetings. This is fitting since he was the only person in the room or the truck as I fought my single-parent battles for years with a Bible in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other.

Stock Photo: Pick-up truck parked in Wildlifepark Dulmen, Germany.

Step One in Celebrate Recovery, as well as in Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery programs with slight wording variations, is this:

“We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

One of the first and hardest lessons many parents of children with special needs learn after we get the news that our child has some physical, neurological or development issue for which there is no cure or even successful therapy, is that we are powerless. Initial attempts at denial include thoughts like: the diagnosis isn’t correct, we can fix this, we just need to look harder and do more, and God wouldn’t do this to our family. Eventually these arguments lose their sway to the preponderance of evidence that we must adjust all our thinking, hopes, plans, and dreams to this new reality.

RELATED RESOURCE: Discovery Your Course for Life, One Step at a Time by Ron Keller.

By the time we give up on our denial, we often do so out of sheer exhaustion and the depletion of our finances, if not our hope. Only then do we admit that our addictions, compulsions, or other problematic behaviors — like trying to “fix” our kids, or clinging to control over their lives, or unfettered devotion to our family’s dreams and traditions — are a greater threat to the emotional and spiritual well-being of ourselves and our children (including those without special needs) than whatever lifelong diagnosis we are confronting.

Only with that admission can our healing begin. Because only then are we ready to take the next steps in the recovery process where we come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore our lives to normal. It’s a new normal, to be sure. But at least it is our normal. Only then can we make the decision to turn our lives and our families, over to the care of God.

Ken coaching Danny and their adapted baseball team.

One of the many truths I have learned in Celebrate Recovery is that any addiction or compulsive behavior has its root in the same sinful place—pride. We believe that we can (and should) handle any challenge in our own strength. We think we have a God-given right to live our lives on our terms. Whether it is a drinking problem, or uncontrollable rage, or soul-shattering depression, or the physical and mental exhaustion of caring for a child with special needs, we are tempted to believe these are our issues and we can handle them.

But it was never meant to be that way.

God didn’t give us these challenges to show us how strong we are, but to show us our dependence on His strength and His faithfulness. We are entirely dependent on God to meet the special needs of our child, and our own special needs in the process. We get the joy and the honor to have a front row seat to what He can do in all our lives.

There is a saying on t-shirts at many church camps that we should, “Let Go and Let God.” In recovery, and in my life as a parent of a special needs son, I have found this message being worked out again and again.

God has blessed me and my son in many ways these past 29 years. But before He could do what He wanted to do, I had to quit trying so hard to do what I could not do.

Psalm 107:13-15
They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.


Ken Atkins is the author of Silent Son, the story of how God turned one man’s mess into a life-giving message through his non-verbal son, Danny. Ken has been serving in Celebrate Recovery ministry leadership for more than five years. He leads men through the 12 Steps that have given him the tools and support he needed to face the challenges of raising a son with special needs. Ken and Danny enjoy multi-generational living in Newport News, Virginia, with Ken’s daughter and son-in-law.

Tips for Caregivers About Expressing Help and Encouragement

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

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

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

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

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

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

DISCOVER your Love Language® by taking an online quiz.

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

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

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

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

Teenager problems – Mother comforts her troubled teenage daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compassion blossoms from places of understanding.

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

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

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

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

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

RELATED: Tips for Caregivers: Feeling Valued and Competent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa Jamieson

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

The Secret to Thriving, Not Surviving

It was a quiet morning at the oceanfront hotel where we were staying at Virginia Beach. The breeze off of the Atlantic Ocean gently combed the beach grass. Families of birds chased the retreating waves, their footprints too light to make any impression in the sand. I walked alongside the beach, taking in the overcast grey sky blending into the waves. The beach approached a peninsula, promising a view that would surely not disappoint.

As the beach rounded the corner, another expanse of beach came into view with the same grey watercolor. I kept on walking. The horizon continued to taunt me as I walked closer to the end of this beach segment, followed by another bay of sand to trudge through. I kept my eye on the next corner. But each corner rounded to a similar scene. It seemed to be never-ending. It was beautiful, but it was also the same view no matter the number of steps I took. 

This walk felt like my life — a “Groundhog Day” of caring for my disabled daughter. There are beautiful moments. But most days are focused on each step without seeing the view. We are dealing with many of the same issues that we have dealt with for a long time. Only now, we are older. And my daughter is now bigger. It is becoming more physically challenging to keep up. Our patience has grown greater. Our wisdom has grown deeper. But our fatigue has grown more real as well. 

On my walk, I was looking for the beauty around the corner. I wanted the AHA! moment that would allow every grain of sand in my shoe to be worth the gritty journey. But each turn of the corner proved to be more of the same.

A vertebra "shell" found on Virginia Hampton Beach
A vertebra “shell” found on Virginia Hampton Beach

Chronic suffering is being trapped in a never-ending cycle of the same. We all have a painful thorn in our side that does not let up — an unanswered prayer, a salt-wound relationship that never heals, a broken heart that cannot ever be whole, a dream we must mourn. The reality is this broken world is marred by loss. 

I want to thrive in loss. Just survival is not enough for me.

I want a thri-vival

So how do we answer the deep aching feeling that there must be more? 

For the Christian, there is more. 

The only way to understand the intersection of a suffering mankind and a good God is to interpret this life through the lens of eternity. 

The only way to find purpose in our suffering is to know that our lives exist for more than this world. The more we accept decay — and, for that matter, learn to embrace it — the more we become thrivers rather than just survivors.

Decay is everywhere.

When I was walking this beach with the repetitive view, I finally looked down. Shells, seaweed, and abandoned nettings were peppered amongst the sand. All were carcasses of life that once was. The beach is a battlefield littered with the remains of an ocean ambushing its prey. What is one’s child’s playground is the cemetery of mollusks. What is one woman’s treasured pearl is the oyster’s expulsion of waste. What is one family’s treasured keepsake of vacation, is the skeleton of a conch.

Decay co-exists with beauty.

In fact, decay is required. For the beauty that emerges from decay is richer, more fruitful, and lasts forever. Like the compost that enriches the growth of a garden, decay, disability, and death are the fertilizers of a richer beauty to come. Yet decay occurs at the same time that flowers bloom. Beauty and pain can be enwrapped in the same moment.

There is no better example of this paradox of beauty and pain than the cross. The cross is the intersection of many contrasts — injustice and justice, death and life, hatred and love, grief and celebration. When Jesus died on the cross, He did more than punch a ticket to heaven. Purposeful suffering was exemplified. 

Still, living the joy of the cross on a daily basis is not easy. Especially in the mundane everyday struggles of motherhood or caring for the disabled, suffering can feel purposeless and never-ending. We can be deceived into hopelessness if we allow emotions to overshadow truth. The energy needed for everyday surviving makes thriving seem impossible. When the days of survival mode stretch into weeks, months, and years, we must learn how to thrive in the pit. So how do we seek thri-vival?

  1. To thrive means that we change our expectations about decay. Our decay is not unique to our generation and decay will continue until this world belongs to Jesus again. We can certainly point out the decay of others, but we are often unaware of our own decay. We expect progression, not regression. And yet our society, many of our relationships, and our own bodies are fighting the natural decay that comes from the fall of man. We would like to believe that we are always getting better, but in reality, we ourselves are not immune to entropy. As our bodies and minds age, our ability to process our worlds is also dampened. But one day, this decay, too, will lead to eternal beauty. And decay will not exist in heavenly realms.
  • To thrive means we recognize our need for rescue. Grace covers our sin, for our salvation. But sanctification requires us to embrace pit-dwelling. He gives our feet a place to stand between each rung on the daily climb. This state of dependence is uncomfortable and yet necessary for our trust in God’s goodness to grow. The Gospel is lived daily in our lives when we are in a state of dependence. For our need for a Savior is often when we are at the end of ourselves. 
  • To thrive means we learn to abide in Jesus daily. We rely on His mercies to be new every morning and enough for today’s trials. We humble ourselves to be a servant rather than the source. Abiding in Jesus is trusting Him to fill in the cracks daily. Abiding involves constant connection with our Source of strength. We are emptied continuously so that He can fill us continuously. And we must ask for help. Ask for His wisdom. Ask for eyes to see His care for us. Ask for a heart of praise. And these one-second prayers build our relationship with Jesus and help us see the treasures in each exhausting step. We must sit under the Bible as a servant and not stand over the Bible as a critic. As we learn of God’s plan for the decay of this world, our souls are comforted and reassured that He has an ultimate plan for redemption. 

That is thri-vival — where pain and beauty co-exist. It is possible to be a thriver and not only a survivor. To thrive is to abide with Jesus. Because when we look only at ourselves and our circumstances, the decay is discouraging. But when we look at the cross, decay is defeated. It is in the daily struggle of chronic Christian suffering that we learn to abide. We learn to trust in the One who carries us from birth to death to eternal life. God alone sustains us.

Our walk on the beach becomes about Him, not about us nor the view that we think we deserve. 

The walk to heaven is more pleasant when we let go of the “should be” and “should not be.”  We will stop walking for the purpose of the view. We will walk because we are called to walk. And then we will start to see the treasures in every step. We will expect decay in this world rather than be disappointed by it. And one day, at the vantage point of heaven, we will look down at all of the faded footprints in the sand and we will understand why. The deepest sinking sand will be the sweetest places we thrived as we learned to abide in Christ.

This is the hope of the Christian in chronic suffering: There is more. And for today, He is enough.

“Listen to me, house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been sustained from the womb, carried along since birth. I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you. I will bear and rescue you.”

Isaiah 46:3-4

Rachelle Keng is a physician practicing Obstetrics & Gynecology in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she lives with her husband Michael and their two daughters. She cares deeply for people and has a passion for writing about her reflections on life and faith. Rachelle’s oldest daughter has Angelman Syndrome. Her experiences as a special needs mom are often the inspiration for her writing.

One Mom’s Unexpected Call

Today’s guest post comes from a woman who has discovered our life’s purposes often take time to unfold. Although Kelley sensed promptings from God from a very early age, she was well into her parenting years before her calling became clear. Truly, Kelley was created with unique gifts then put in a family and circumstances that have shaped and equipped her for something very specific and important. Today, with remarkable perseverance and purpose, Kelley is walking out her faith in unexpected and beautiful ways!


Philippians 3:12-14
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.

I grew up in a Christian home with Christian parents and grandparents. One Sunday morning during church the pastor spoke about Jesus fishing with the disciples. He described how Jesus calls us to be fishers of men. For the first time in my life, I simultaneously became aware of my sin and salvation. I invited Jesus into my life that day at the tender age of 9 years old. My journey with the Savior had begun.

I am inquisitive by nature. And my desire to learn propelled me closer to Christ. After my life-changing experience with Jesus, my siblings and cousins took notice. I was overjoyed to be able to lead my siblings to Jesus as well.

I continued to explore trust, faith and perseverance.

Shortly after I started high school, I came face to face with my need for an intimate daily walk with My Lord and Savior. I stepped into deeper waters realizing Jesus longed for me to trust Him in every facet of life.

In the years that followed, I leaned into our youth ministry at church and became a leader within the student ministry. During my sophomore year in high school, I was voted into a peer leadership role at my high school. I was invited to serve our high school’s peer assistance leadership (PAL) group.

During that time with PALS, my responsibilities included weekly visits and special outings with life skills and special needs classes. Up until then, my experience with service revolved around rehabilitating animals.

Kelley and one of her beloved dogs.

Growing up a veterinarian’s daughter allowed me to be front and center to the elation when animals were born, as well as the grief during times of loss. I developed a strong heart for service.

God used my father to teach me how to react during varied scenarios of medical emergencies. Often, while my father worked feverishly on a sick or dying animal, God was nurturing an empathetic heart in me to soothe and comfort hurting people. Dad also taught me the importance of discussing medical procedures and anatomy with accuracy and correct pronunciation. Little could either of us have known then, how God would use that training in His bigger plan.

God always invites us to join Him. He doesn’t pressure us. He doesn’t manipulate us. By the end of my senior year in high school, I felt God was clearly calling me to serve. He was busy bringing things together in my life, giving clues about direction and lining up circumstances to guide me. Still, I had no clear or direct leading as to what type of ministry I was called into.

I fell in love with my future husband at age 17. We met at church and quickly knew our future would be together. I shared this calling with Chris and we began to pray together. One Sunday in the spring of 1993, I surrendered to the calling in my heart in an official way. You see, that day, I trusted my Savior, walked an aisle in my church, and prayed a prayer for ‘Special Service’.

Fast forward 28 years. I have two special needs children. We have five sons, two of whom have CHARGE syndrome.

My sister recently reminded me of that public profession of service I made that Sunday in 1993. She sent me a church bulletin that read, “Kelley Weatherly surrenders to special service.”


I realized the special service God had in mind was very different from what I had imagined. To be honest, my idea of special service was much more glamorous!

My Heavenly Father has always bent his ear down to listen to me. His hand has always been outstretched. As a parent of two deaf-blind children, the word sight is equivocal to trust. I trust Christ to lead as I cannot see. He is my intervenor, interpreter, and advocate. I’ve experienced deep grief and pain. But his faithfulness is unwavering.

Today I can say without a doubt — “Yes!” — He called me to special service.

God called me to the highest honor: being a momma.

God makes all things good in its time. My journey to fulfilling His calling has been difficult. However, I have embraced this charge to serve my very special needs children with honor, joy and humility.

1 Peter 4:10-11
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.


Kelley Cagle is a freelance writer and special needs advocate with a passion for mentoring young moms who have children with special needs. Kelley shares from her own experience as the parent of two children with disabilities. Kelley has five sons. Two of her children have CHARGE Syndrome, a micro deletion affecting a multiple body systems and organs. Both boys are deaf-blind and on the Autism spectrum. Kelley and her husband Chris have been married over 26 years and live in Texas with their two youngest boys.


Tap Your Caregiver Strengths

I am a full-time caregiving mom for an adult daughter with severe-profound developmental disabilities and complex health issues. Family caregivers like me understand that self-care can feel daunting, even impossible much of the time. A nap is rare for most. A pedicure, while offering a sweet pampering pick-me-up, doesn’t have far-reaching impact.

I get up every day with more than an aching back and sore forearms. I start each day like every other parent caring for a loved one who has disabilities or mental health concerns. Those caring for an aging parent our spouse understand too. We all have desperate needs to keep up our energy, feel competent, provide safe and efficient care, remain loving and compassionate, fight fears, feel a sense of control over our circumstances, get satisfying socialization, balance attention to each loved one in our lives, do adequate self-care and generally stay encouraged.

Caregivers don’t need to live at the end of their rope! There is a way to stay energized and effective.

REFUEL

Caregivers must explore with great intention how we get energized right down to our soul. Many popular self-care tips are little more than “Band-Aids” with relatively short-term effect on a person’s capacity to serve sacrificially, let alone for the long haul. Caregivers with sustained, long-term energy pay attention to nourishing themselves in body, mind and spirit. Psalm 139 is a wonderful reminder that each of us is complex and unique, beautifully woven by the hand and heart of Almighty God. Christian temperament therapy has been one of the most valuable and transformative tools God has used to help my own family understand and appreciate God’s imprint on us. Caregivers can learn to fuel their souls in very personal, targeted and efficient ways. The process of fueling up helps us optimize our strengths, recognize areas of weakness and vulnerability, identify ways to cooperate with others and ultimately lean into the power of Jesus.

REASSESS

Caregivers are spurred on by having a vision. Do you have a sense of why God has called you to such a situation? God’s Word is rich with truth about His sovereign goodness in disability and reasons for asking us to take care of each other. We benefit from understanding our role on a team that includes God and others. We also need a well-fitting “yoke” and we need to wear it right alongside our Supreme Apprentice — Jesus. A prayerful look at Matthew 11:28-29 gives clues about how to walk in our strengths as caregivers:

Am I really carrying the “burdens” that are meant for me?

Am I carrying these responsibilities in the way that God means for me to carry them?

REPENT

Sin creates a sense of burden and fatigue. No caregiver needs any extra weight! I love the promise of Acts 3:19-20 that offers me a refreshing when I repent of my sin. Every caregiver has his/her own habits and hang-ups that hinder our connection with God and the fruitful potential of our life. I’ll be the first to admit that my caregiver stress can make me vulnerable to sinning. I am not my best self when I don’t pay attention to fueling my soul in godly ways. Psalm 139:23-24 reminds me to take an honest assessment of myself. Second Corinthians 12:9 reassures me that God’s strength is perfect, enough for me and fully accessible to me.

REORIENT

A strong and fruitful caregiver organizes time and priorities around God’s values, their own sweet spots (gifts, talents, experience and temperament strengths) and God’s calling (His unique design and purpose for each of us). Verses like Exodus 14:14, John 15, Acts 17:25 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 assure us that God wants to take care of caregivers. We must keep circling our wagons (or wheelchairs, walkers and adapted bikes) around Jesus Christ.

Learning to find our strengths as caregivers is a process. Learning to stay in a sustained groove of energy, effectiveness and sense of purpose is a life-long commitment. We are works-in-progress, after all. The opportunity in that process is to develop a precious intimacy with God and others. God is patient with us and delights in the adventure of our “growing up” with Him. We need to have compassion and patience with ourselves. We must also develop compassion and patience with others around us who are trying to learn their own sweet spots on the team.

Here are some ways to tap your strengths if you are someone who gets energy from doing tasks and thinking about ways to be efficient…

Check out several other practical tips for caregivers who want to optimize their role and stay energized on the caregiving team. (Click the download button below.) Use this downloadable file as a springboard for discussion with your family about how to keep each other energized and satisfied.

One of my conference presentations on this subject is also available to watch on YouTube here.

If you are a strained caregiver, let me assure you that there is hope. There are opportunities and great purposes in what you do. You will be imperfect but God redeems sins and weakness while empowering us with His Holy Spirit. He is able to create much out of nothing. He will remain trustworthy in our atypical lives even when we are doubting. Your mustard seed of faith is enough for Him. God wants you to experience peace — body, mind and spirit — and He will meet you with power right now and forever.

Psalm 73:25-26
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever.


Walk Right In Ministries can help you or someone you care about to tap their caregiving potential.

  • Read the multi-part series on Tips for Caregivers by searching “sweet spots” on this blog.
  • Learn about God’s imprint on you, your needs and your purpose with a temperament therapist who is certified through the National Christian Counselors Association (NCCA) or the Sarasota Academy of Christian Counseling (SACC). WRIM’s own Lisa Jamieson is certified with SACC and a licensed pastoral counsellor.
  • Work with a licensed pastoral counselor to help your family understand areas of unique strength, weakness and vulnerability. We can help you identify causes of things like anxiety, anger, exhaustion, depression, fear and resentment through scripture, prayer and tools that help explain God’s unique role and purpose for you.
  • Get involved in our peer support group for family caregivers.
  • Explore practical strategies (e.g., ways to build your “tribe” of support, growing as God’s disciple). Reach out for WRIM’s caregiver consulting services.

Write us at info@walkrightin.org or fill out our online Interest Form.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the Joshua reset model God showed me.

REAFFIRM IDENTITY Joshua 5:2-7

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

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

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

REST Joshua 5:8

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

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

CELEBRATE Joshua 5:9-10

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

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

FUEL UP Joshua 5:11-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch Reset: A Seasonal Necessity for Special Needs Families.


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

Vision that Energizes Caregivers

Life’s challenges seem to cry out as problems to be fixed. Those cries never seems louder than when we ourselves or a loved one is facing limitations, obstacles or hurts. God is our Supreme Fixer. But His approach to “fixing” things is always more creative and economical than our own.

Consider the maple tree. Sap flowing in the spring could seem bad — almost as if the tree is bleeding or under some great pressure. If we didn’t know how to tap the sweetness of the syrup, we might naively run to plug up the leaks! But the flow of that sap is actually good for the tree. And it’s great on my waffles!

I’m not “making lemons out of lemonade” when I say that challenges in life are full of opportunities that bring good to us and to others too.

Caregiving for our daughter Carly is intensely hard for me in some ways. I “leak” tears. Sometimes it’s so hard that I might as well be bleeding. Under the emotional overwhelm of certain pain and death, Jesus actually sweat blood (Luke 22:44). I have argued with God suggesting “I was not made for this!” I try to wiggle out of some responsibilities or just put them off. On many an occasion, I delay taking Carly to the restroom because snuggling with her on the couch is all the energy I can muster. But then the price is paid when a toileting accident creates an extra load of laundry.

There is a way to optimize our strengths in the caregiving role and get an adequate dose of rest. I know this because I’ve seen personal and family progress in over the two-plus decades with Carly. I’ve discovered some keys behind that progress by observing what works well in my family and others I serve in ministry —and what does not. I’m learning it is possible to find a caregiving groove.

Finding our groove starts with being intentional about our strategies as well as fully aware that God has designed each of us carefully, lovingly and purposefully. God is in the process of empowering me, Carly, my family and our circumstances for something valuable in His Kingdom. This is true for you too.

We need to be strategic and fully aware that God’s design for each individual person and circumstance is generously loving, creative, powerful and purposeful.

Each person on the caregiving team is unique. For example, some need a lot of interaction with people while others want fewer relationships but desire to connect more deeply in those relationships. Some caregivers draw energy from accomplishing the tasks and household chores at hand while others need time for deep thinking. Some are very good decision makers. Some are very independent and need space to serve alone. Others prefer to serve alongside others and work collaboratively. Some work well under pressure. Others are exhausted just thinking about deadlines. Some are leaders, some are followers. When it comes to caregiving, you might say, “It takes all kinds.”

There are no “good” or “bad” types of people in terms of how our souls are wired to thrive and contribute. Every one of us has different talents, passions and temperaments. Each of us is abundantly unique and wonderfully made. God calls us His masterpieces (Ephesians 3:10). In fact, by the creative hand of God, each of us has purpose and beauty.

We will spend a lifetime learning to understand and appreciate how the handiwork of God is woven into us. Being a caregiver puts us on a fast track, urgently needing to learn these things. Living and loving well involves discovering our strengths and how to lean harder into Jesus in areas of weakness. To be sure, every single one of us faces sin, weakness and times of hopelessness. There will be times when we are at our wits end. When the Apostle Paul faced that scenario, he said it was “so that he would learn to rely on God rather than himself.”

2 Corinthians 1:8-9
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.

Surely one of the reasons God allows us to see and feel our own limits — to come desperately to the end of our ropes — is to teach us how to experience Him more deeply. Another of His reasons is to put His perfection on display through interventions (I’ll call them miracles) in ways the are obviously His doing, not our own. I am rarely more encouraged by God or reassured of His power than when I’m at the end of my own rope and then see something Divine happen. God nearness is tangible to me when something unfolds well and unexpectedly despite my feeling helpless and powerless.

Every parent caring for a child with disabilities knows what it feels like to have complicated and insurmountable demands on our natural strengths and capacities. Every family caregiving team has felt stretched beyond themselves at times. There isn’t always an escape from the circumstances — a way to take a break or get help around the corner.

It is possible to find your caregiving groove.

In order to thrive in life and relationships, we must ask God to demonstrate His power in our weakness and teach us how to optimize our strengths. The prayer of serenity helps me put this in helpful perspective: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

We won’t always have the benefit of serving only in ways that come naturally or most easily for us. There will always be times when sacrificial cooperation is needed. There will always be times when God’s revelation of strength will be very obvious.

These can be some helpful focusing questions:

  • How did God design me for this?
    Read Psalm 139 slowly out loud asking God to show you what you have to offer.
  • Are the responsibilities I am carrying, really the ones I am called to carry?
    Read John 15:1-4 slowly out loud asking Him to give you discernment about priorities, obligations and opportunities in your particular situation and current season.  
  • What does God’s sovereignty look like in your current situation?
    Read the following verses slowly out loud: Colossians 1:16-17, Philippians 3:20-21 and Hebrews 12:12-13. Ask God to reassure you of opportunities for blessings in your situation.

Learning to be attentive is a process. We need to have compassion for ourselves and trust God to hold us securely in His love and grace. As we patiently persevere in finding our best role on the caregiving team, we can also release and empower others into theirs. No one person is the savior or rescuer of the person with disabilities. Only God can do that.

God Works Through Community

God does some of His most beautiful and transformative work in community. He may even use dire circumstances to show others around us that there is a great need to rally troops. When family caregivers keep their weariness private, they may be obstructing a work God is wanting the community to do. The needs and opportunities must be visible and known. That means caregiving families may need to be more transparent and vulnerable before God releases power in the form of help from others.

When my own church, family or friends have not responded to my family’s need for help, it has either been because we failed to make our needs known or because they have failed to step up to God’s call. Very often, it is a combination of both.

“It takes all kinds.”

It serves families well to explore the division of labor from time to time. The implication is that responsibilities are meant to be shared. No one person can or should pull the load alone. The weight feels lighter when it’s carried from a place of strength and partnership. Cooperation and delegation are essential to the resilience of each caregiver. Sometimes the partnership comes from within the family but it often includes many from outside the household too. In any case, everyone wins by learning to optimize their own special role on the caregiving team, cooperate with others and remain attentive to the Holy Spirit. We can trust God to keep shaping and molding us — individually and as a team — in responding to the needs around us.

Caregivers don’t need to live at the end of their rope. The way we stay energized and effective requires a lifestyle of attentiveness to God. Jesus is our Source for purpose, confidence, reassurance and hope. When we keep going to Jesus to fuel our soul and align our lives with His design, the Holy Spirit equips and empowers us to live generously in love and service beyond ourselves.

RELATED: Lisa’s “sweet spots” series offers more energy-building, life-giving ideas about how to optimize roles on the caregiving team.


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

22 Years of Trail Mix

I’m not a trail mix fan. Never have been. I still only tolerate raisins and just started showing enthusiasm for dried fruit a couple of years ago. I prefer my snacks separated into their own bowls. But the last 22 years are a trail mix of emotions and memories for me. And for all the ways and times my mind, body and spirit have been thrown into chaos since Carly was born on this day in 1998, I’m profoundly grateful for the rich texture and depth of flavor she brings to our collective lives.

Carly was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome at two-and-a-half years old.

Carly is a woman who will test the limits of your wits and then move in to give the most generous and satisfying hug you’ve ever received. Her smile lights up a room. Her grin assures you there is much on her mind. Her laughter is infectious. Her high-decibel scream warrants ear protection. When she’s hurting, she’s a puzzle to help. When she’s aggravated, she’s strong as a horse. When she has energy to burn, she’ll use every inch of her small frame to knock you down and wrestle on the rug. When there’s food around, her arms seem many and long. Forever curious, even nosey at times, she’s been affectionately called a “seizer of opportunity!” She’s a sneaky rascal and fiercely stubborn. That curiosity and energy serve her well. A dance party with Carly finishes out any day perfectly. She pours music and praise from her soul. I have huge respect for her perseverance. She’s exploded my own faith and expectations on a number of occasions. For all the times we have to ask her to “just wait” while using a full body block to keep her from tearing into something or knocking something down, I don’t know anyone who would be so patient as she is.

We’re celebrating Carly’s 22nd birthday today. Larry and I were married at 22 so this number throws another few layers of nostalgia and emotion to all the feels. We had an epic dance party that night. We’re going to have another one tonight with all three of our incredible daughters and a bunch of other loved ones. They will join us virtually on something called Zoom. Yes, it’s an epic year, isn’t it?

When I shake the bowl of my feelings today, the ones that quickly rise to the surface are pride, gratitude, hope and joy.

Happy birthday, Carly! We’ll try to give you gifts you love. But, truly, YOU ARE THE GIFT.

1 Thessalonians 3:9
How we thank God for you!
Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. 



NOTE: Carly’s oldest sister is the one helping Carly make trail mix in the featured photo. Rest assured, that is a sweet moment I was happy to watch them have together. But I had no interest at all in eating the snack with them. Even without the raisins, I’m not interested, thanks. 🙂

A Picture of Easter

Our friend Joel Warne of Wellspring Life Resources is sharing an Easter reflection here today. Larry and I have been grateful beneficiaries of and ministry partners with Wellspring Life Resources for over twenty years. When I was a young wife and mom, Joel’s book Soul Craving was a most influential resource in helping me know Jesus more intimately and tangibly. Wellspring offers a range of spiritual renewal services for both leaders and lay people across the country including live events, small group resources and counseling. Their ministry calls our hungry hearts toward a more rich and transforming daily experience of God.  We’re very thankful Joel shared this poignant and true message of hope with our readers for Easter 2020.


The comedian George Carlin once quipped that he was so shocked by what he found the day he entered this world that he couldn’t speak for two years!

Ha! It is a shocking world, especially during these remarkable days when ominous forces seem active overtime to rock things precious to us.

Ancient faiths around the world right now are urging hope, optimism and courage to act toward a positive future as the most healing and authentic responses to the uncertainties we all face.

At this Easter time of year Christian churches view this hope through the lens of Jesus of Nazareth’s story. It embodies the cyclical human journey from happiness and plenty, through unexpected loss and despair, toward the possibility of new and surprising resurrections.

May I offer a picture of Easter?

Our granddaughter was born at home by way of a pool birth. Our daughter and son-in-law are modern parents so invited their other girls, ages six and eight, to be in on the experience. The 8-year old reflected and concluded, “No, I’ll listen at the door.” The six-year old, who wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up and loves all things biological declared, “I’m there!”

Everything went great. Downstairs we got word after the birth that both baby and mom were healthy and happy. We were still congratulating ourselves when an alarm came from the room—the baby’s breathing rate had suddenly soared dangerously high. After laying peacefully with our daughter in the warm birthing pool our new granddaughter had been given into the arms of an assistant while her mother transferred to a bed. Separated from mom, the baby’s breathing rate rocketed into hazardous territory.

An anxious half hour later came relieving news that the baby was ok. The midwife had done something wise and beautiful. To bring our new granddaughter’s breathing back to a safe level she placed her naked body skin-to-skin on her mom’s chest. Slowly, the baby’s breathing entered the rhythm of her loving mother. Lying there, in intimate caring contact with her mom, our granddaughter relaxed into a serene calm.

Let me offer you that picture—the image of the threatened, vulnerable child held skin-to-skin at the breast of the loving parent. The protective embrace, the child snuggling into its natural home, the restoring shared rhythm.

This is the invitation of Easter.

Lots of us are breathing fast these days. Heart rates are high too. There is a feeling of vulnerability as our ordinary supports and controls prove less and less certain. Easter is about leaning in, skin-to-skin, with a loving Parent. It’s a decision of the will—repeated again and again—to entrust things into a caring embrace.

What can we entrust?

  • Our fears and uncertainties: Fear is a failure of imagination. It chases itself in a closed loop, a hamster wheel circle. Easter-trust releases our fears and uncertainties into the reality of a bigger story and opens our world to an invasion of help and provision from the outside.
  • Our preferences and fantasies: An ancient wisdom wisely counsels, “Be with God in what is.” That is, make peace with your real life with all its pluses and minuses. Stop kicking against it. Relax trustingly into your real situation today. This makes space for Easter’s renewing force to surprise you with unanticipated solutions.
  • Our losses: physical and financial, plans and dreams, even precious lost loved ones. At the heart of Easter is the idea of Resurrection, the conviction that in each painful dying is buried a hidden kernel of life ready to unexpectedly grow up again, often in new forms more profound and fruitful than the original. It’s hard to release our painful losses, yet we are not releasing them into a dark abyss, but into loving and powerful Hands that return them to us in a new form—as personal healing and rich new possibilities.

Certain narratives have been given us to provide our hearts and minds a framework that resonates and works in a world like ours, in times like these.

The Easter story is a narrative supreme.

Easter is about leaning in, skin-to-skin, with a loving Parent. It’s a decision of the will—repeated again and again—to entrust things into a caring embrace.

If we can find courage to relax our losses, fears and preferences into a caring Hand more capable than ours we discover the Easter surprise—new life invades tombs! Into every painful death, collapse, calamity or puzzling defeat, God has preceded us with an Easter resurrection, poised and ready, full of relief, keen to be born.

Copyright 2020, Joel Warne, WellSpring Life Resources
Permission to forward, post or reprint is given by the author.
WellRefreshed.com


For more than 35 years Joel has led leader and lay retreats, workshops, and groups around the theme of ordinary people moving toward a more intimate daily experience of God. As a spiritual director and co-founder of WellSpring Life Resources, Joel has written and published spiritual formation curricula used across the country.

Joel is a graduate of Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, MN. His special love for Christian ministry leaders is expressed through pastor and leader retreats that both comfort and challenge leaders in their call. His many years in the corporate world before co-founding WellSpring in 1999 with his wife, Gerri, a Temperament Therapist, give him lots of insight into the challenges and joys of ordinary people in their journey with God.