Defining Roles Can Encourage and Empower Parent Caregivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tiredness after household duties.

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

RELATED: 8 Habits of Caregivers with a Robust Support System

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

Banner using icons to illustrate SWOT Analysis concept.

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

Examples of Responsibilities In the Caregiving Household

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lisa Jamieson, co-founder Walk Right In Ministries

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

Tips for Caregivers About Leading and Following

In this ongoing series exploring caregiver “sweet spots,” we’re looking at the challenges and opportunities experienced when caring for a loved one with disabilities or other special needs. Today’s focus is on appreciating the roles of leaders and followers. A strong team embraces the strengths of both.

The famous Fixer Upper couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines, are both strong leaders. Yet Chip readily admits that he and his wife are vastly different in almost every way. In fact, he is heard in many interviews explaining that the early days of working together were not always easy for them until they learned how to “stay in their own lanes.”

In his book Capital Gains: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff, he says “It’s just human nature for couples to turn their insecurities and animosities against each other during life’s more challenging seasons.” He credits the successes in their marriage and business to their faith in Jesus and learning to appreciate and give freedom to each of them to embrace their individual strengths.

When family members are caring for a loved one with disabilities or other special needs, the household runs, in many ways, like a small business. There are daily needs for logistics management, ordering supplies, doing paperwork, tag-teaming or scheduling help in shifts and maintaining morale.

Any strong business needs both leaders and followers. That includes inspiring visionaries, tough-minded decision-makers and loyal partners who will dependably implement responsibilities and enforce policies. In my own family, we are gifted with a delightful combination of gifted servant leaders. But we’ll be the first to admit that we can step on each other’s toes from time to time.

Now that my husband, Larry, and I share our “empty nest” with Carly, we have developed a sort of rhythm about how we tag-team her cares. So when one of Carly’s adult sisters visits or we all go on a vacation together, we’re grateful for help but there can be confusion about who is in charge as everyone is eager to relieve each other of responsibilities. Having so many “cooks in the kitchen” can interrupt the usual rhythm. Those situations benefit from open conversation and intentional planning about how to navigate the evolving situation.

Our daughter has reminded us on several occasions that we need to allow others more freedom to find their own approaches to certain aspects of Carly’s care. Although Larry and I, as the parents and primary caregivers, often find the most efficient methods, efficiency is not always the most important thing. So when new people come to the team or one of Carly’s sisters comes home to visit and steps in to help, we are learning to step away and trust them to navigate certain aspects of their own ways and rhythms together. As you might imagine, we have often ended up discovering some wonderful new ideas from observing their process rather than trying to micro-manage them.

A leader will need to lead. A servant-hearted contributor may appreciate clear expectations but desire great independence to implement the plan with a sense of freedom from authority.

My family has learned we have some vulnerabilities during times of change or transition. For example, Larry and I sometimes experience conflict when he returns from business travel. His job takes him out of town one week every month so I fly solo with Carly. I may try something new, especially if I’m trying to cope without extra help nearby. During those times, I hone in on an independent mode that is hard to shake when he gets back home. Unfortunately, I have not always communicated those ideas with sensitivity. Larry can feel, and rightly so, criticized or judged when I announce that I’ve found a “new and better way.” Re-establishing our usual collaborative approach takes some careful attention.

Travel away from home for holidays is another time when Carly’s routine is ripe for change. The changes may be driven by a need to manage without support staff or cope without the usual home modifications and conveniences. But sometimes those stretched periods lead to an improved approach and the adjustments become more permanent. The benefits of those adjustments are maximized when we communicate about them well with each other as a team.

It takes people with varied talents, passions and perspectives to make a strong team. Each contributor will have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Charismatic leaders have capacity for great accomplishments and to be powerful inspiration to others. But the measure of their “greatness” will rely on things like their moral code, humility, kindness and ability to control their temper.

Valuable to any caregiving team is a leader who is confident, tough-minded and visionary. They will be admired for their ability to take on responsibilities and rally a team around a project. Their challenge can be remembering that people themselves are not projects. In their weakness, leaders can be overly selective about which needs they prefer to prioritize and who they choose to align with on the team. They can become easily frustrated, even hot-tempered or cruel, when unable to motivate others to follow them.

Those who are happy to follow the lead of others may be servant hearted and eager to please. You can expect them to be extremely loyal and dependable. They will also be your strongest policy enforcers. Even if they are quite independent, they would be very willing to take on responsibilities as long as decision-making can be shared.

Without a sense of collaboration, those who are servant-hearted can become anxious or insecure. Their challenges can include becoming fearful when left alone and resentful when they don’t feel appreciated. In an atmosphere of freedom, supportiveness and affirmation, the caregiver whose nature is to serve will always go the extra mile for your family and play a key role on your loved one’s “dream team.”

RELATED: Tips for the Caregiver Who Is Very Independent

It helps all members of the caregiving team to clearly identify the big picture goals and keep them prominent in their mindset. For example, the leader who focuses on training their child with special needs towards independence may parent harshly unless their ultimate goal is to maintain a spirit of loving connectedness to their child. Similarly, a caregiver whose goal is to make everyone around them happy through their service will eventually grow resentful unless their ultimate goal is to serve God and experience their validation from knowing they are, above all else, God’s beloved child.   

Clear and open communication among care team contributors is always important in forging a strong and healthy caregiving team. This is particularly true when family members are leading passionately or serving with fierce loyalty. Each must learn to cooperate with the other’s strengths having humility and compassion in weakness.

The combination of emotionally and spiritually healthy leaders and followers on a caregiving team is a powerful gift! The family will thrive by appreciating each other’s strengths and gracefully holding each other accountable to sharing collaborative and godly goals.

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

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY GRACIOUSLY EMBRACING YOUR OWN LANE

If you are energized by leading and inspiring others

  • Be involved with setting goals, planning, making decisions, delegating responsibilities, supervising and motivating the caregiver support team
  • Offer to be the point-person in situations that require persuasion (e.g., insurance companies, funding sources) and optimism
  • Learn to be a servant-leader who is attentive to needs and respects others’ rights, feelings, thoughts, plans
  • Learn to motivate others without manipulating or dominating them (never use threats, anger, force or violence)
  • Delegate obligations where others could be encouraged and helpful (e.g., research)
  • Invest time and energy in activities your loved one enjoys (e.g., adaptive bike, swimming, wresting/roughhousing, cooking, hiking, fishing)
  • Learn to give much-needed recognition for the contributions and accomplishments of others
  • Learn to look to God in your own needs for recognition and approval

If you are naturally inspired to serve fiercely

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that surrounds you with healthy, wise and kind people to guide and help you
  • Use your servant-heartedness and intuitiveness to meet needs around you
  • Be direct about your own needs, preferences and boundaries
  • Find people who will collaborate with you in decision-making and respect your values
  • Maintain your individuality and a clear sense of your purpose on the team
  • Learn to seek Jesus for comfort and support when others are reliant on you

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

Psalm 139:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Ephesians 4:26-27
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

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

Luke 9:23-25
Then Jesus said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”

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

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.”

Lord Jesus, you are so wise and creative in the ways that you have put my family together. Our circumstances are so complex and challenging yet You are intimately aware of it all. You know just what we need. Your timing and ways are trustworthy. I see that You are teaching us how to live more cooperatively and generously in love and compassion for each other. I confess that I have, at times, felt things like pride and resentment about my role in our caregiving family. Help me to recognize and affirm the value of others in my family. Help me to see what I’m good at and what inspires me too. Show me how those things are valuable to my loved one with special needs but also to my whole family. Teach me how to engage my gifts in ways that pour Your love into my family. As I lead others, humble me to love and serve You as my supreme Leader and Lord (you are not my personal assistant). As I follow the lead of others, humble me to serve with healthy boundaries and with genuine cheerfulness too. Amen

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


Lisa Jamieson

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

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

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

CELEBRATE EACH OTHER

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

BE  A  SAFE  SPACE

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

KEEP  CLEAN  SLATES

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

COMFORT  EACH  OTHER

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

COOPERATE WITH GOD

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

CATCH A  VISION

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

BE  A TEAM

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

KNOW  WHOSE  YOU  ARE

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 PETER 4:8

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

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

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

Open Communication: The Currency of Love in Caregiving Families

My family has learned that we communicate a lot nonverbally. Carly, my sister who has Angelman Syndrome, is (for the most part) nonverbal. So we’ve learned to read the people and situations around us without needing to say much. The problem with that is that we often find ourselves frustrated and even resentful when the people around us are not “reading” what we are not saying.

Hear this loud and clear. It is okay to have needs and to express them. 

Did you hear me? It’s okay. It’s good. 

We were created to need each other. And that is a blessing! 

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.

Galatians 2:18

Caring for one another’s needs is a currency by which we exchange love! If you are a caregiver, you know this full well! We show the one we are caring for that we love them by taking care of their needs! But how do we take that currency of love to all the relationships around us and also let people love us?

As special needs families, we spend much of our lives putting aside our own needs for the more pressing needs of our family member. There is something very beautiful and even noble about the ability to do that for someone else. What an act of service and love!

However, if we completely neglect our own needs, we will slowly wear down our own ability to care well for the very one(s) we are trying to protect. 

We can tend to neglect what is going on inside of ourselves in favor of what we have to do to care for others. Then we allow moments of stress to give us permission to unleash all of the negative emotions we’ve got stored up in there. But if we can process our emotions as they come, not every stressful situation will feel like the sky is falling. 

I’m as guilty of this as anyone. But I’m learning. If you can catch your emotions early, take time to process them and evaluate what you need before the pent up emotions start creating negative behavior, anger and even resentment towards the people around you (i.e. your family), you’ll find you have much healthier and satisfying interactions them. In turn, you’ll enjoy much better relationships long term. To me, that’s well worth the effort of knowing myself and my emotions — giving them the time of day when they need it!

The best thing you can do for your sibling, parents, kids, family members and friends is to practice self-awareness and be proactive in communicating. There is enormous positive potential in sharing your own needs and asking others to share what they need. Especially in a season where most of us are experiencing more time in close quarters with those around us than ever, it’s important to learn tools for communicating well so everyone remains in good spirits!

There is enormous positive potential in sharing your own needs and asking others to share what they need.

We need practice being aware of our own needs and then learn good ways to communicate those needs.

“I’m so busy today, I’m never going to get everything done.” 

“You never wash the dishes!” 

“I wish the laundry would just wash itself!”

Believe it or not, these are not the best ways to ask for help. In fact, they’re not asking at all. Statements like this may feel like an obvious hint to those around us about what we need. But they don’t actually give effective information about how we would like to be helped! In fact, they can even communicate criticism or disappointment in others and their lack of ability to meet our needs. You’ve essentially told your loved one, even if inadvertently, that they have already lost the battle in trying to help you or love you.

Why would they try now?

We can allow moments of stress to give us permission to unleash all of the negative emotions we’ve got stored up in there. But if we can process our emotions as they come, not every stressful situation will feel like the sky is falling. 

How do we take the currency of love to all the relationships around us and also let people love us?

Let me clarify that it is totally okay to express frustrations and disappointments to your loved ones. However, it is important to check our own motives as we do so that we are not trying to send a subtle message behind our words. (We’re all guilty of it, I promise). 

  1. Ask yourself what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way.
  2. Ask yourself what would make it better or how others around you can help.
    (This sounds simple, but for most of us this is actually very difficult and might take a little soul searching, but trust me, it’s worth it.)
  3. Directly ask those around you for what you need! 

It sounds profoundly simple, I know. And it is. But once you start thinking about it, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll notice yourself trying to give subliminal messages to those around you without actually saying what you really want or need. 

I know, I know, it feels like cheating if you have to ask for it — even selfish! But the truth is, we are asking a lot of the people around us if we are expecting them to read our minds. We are caregivers! We know how to help the person we are caring for. Possibly the people we know least how to help are our other family members — and yes, ourselves

If you’ve ever been in school, you know the best kind of test is an open book test. When we expect our loved ones to know what we are asking for without us outright saying it, we are asking them to take a test on a textbook they’ve never read! The reality is, they don’t know what you need because your needs are as unique as you are.

Let’s do ourselves and our loved ones a favor this Holiday season (and all year round). Let’s give each other the gift of the answer key to us.

Let’s give each other the information we need to win in relationship with one another! 


Erin is a singer-songwriter and worship leader. Her songwriting, blogging, and speaking is often inspired by challenges and insights she experienced growing up in a family affected by disability. Erin serves with Walk Right In Ministries speaking on special sibling issues and assisting with social media. She has also served frequently in her community and home church as a worship leader.

Erin earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Songwriting at Belmont University in Nashville and currently lives in California where she completed three years of study at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Her latest CD Come Alive (released 2018) and is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, YouTube and other streaming services.

Find out more at www.erinjamieson.com.

Sometimes I Beg, “Make It Stop!”

How bad is the morale at your house these days? If people are going a little nutty behind your front door, then they are much like the folks here at my house. We’re restless from quarantine. We’re overwhelmed by news and social media. Like most of you, we’re trying to learn new things and make the best of circumstances. But it sure can be exhausting.

My own heart cries out for relief. But this season has been especially hard on our daughter Carly. She is 22 years old with Angelman Syndrome. The last few months have brought her great confusion, boredom, loneliness and frustration. Bless her heart, she is learning to adapt. But she continues to have episodes of negative behavior and her sleep has been more irregular than usual. That means mom, dad and respite staff are tired too and frequently finding ourselves at the end of a rope.

Trying to manage Carly’s anxiety and keep her caregivers content can feel like another full-time job for me. I’ll admit to great impatience in this area because I’m a mom who needs a lot of independence and solitude. I believe I may even be inclined to take on more projects than I should sometimes because they feel like justifiable excuses to escape the weight of certain responsibilities. I confess to sometimes avoiding my role as caregiver and consistently pulling my weight in managing morale at my house. Because I have a servant-hearted husband, I can inadvertently take advantage.

Of course, each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. So it’s always a good idea to shape roles and tag-team responsibilities according to what best fits each person’s strengths. Still, we have to pay close attention to honoring each other’s needs and energy levels with partnership and grace. Larry and I work at being a complement to each other. But when tensions start to rise, we have to go back to the basics — understanding and cooperating with the unique needs that each person has in this caregiving family.

The road to relief and carrying lighter burdens starts with having a clear and accurate diagnosis of our own unique needs. Each of us needs to recognize, “What is the root of my longing?”

It’s tempting to blame the quarantine for everything. No doubt, we all want it to be over! Yet, in truth, it’s not necessarily that we’re longing so much for the end of quarantine but that we have deep inner hungers for things like:

  • More freedom, control or space
  • More “real” connections to people
  • More interesting things to do
  • Times for quiet and times rich with activity

With or without a quarantine, Carly needs these kinds of things in varying degrees. We all do. Now, the isolation and limitations have heightened our existing sensitivities. This season can actually be an opportunity to become more self aware — as well as more aware of the core needs of others.

Proverbs 13:12
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

At our house, we are regularly seeking ways to help each other tend to their soul’s longings. It requires more creativity but we are discovering that it is often possible to find reasonably satisfying ways of feeding our soul cravings despite the limitations.

Moms and dads can help kids develop awareness of their true longings too. What a powerful life skill we give them when we do this! These two things lie at the heart of effective self care:

  • Learn to take the longings of your soul to Jesus and experience His presence, power and goodness.
  • Identify healthy ways to meet your deepest needs so you don’t start seeking harmful/sinful ways of “medicating” those longings.

My husband and I keep learning how helpful it is to study our family and learn what uniquely energizes each of us. Here are some examples that God has opened our eyes to see:

  • Carly calms considerably when she can crawl into her dad’s lap and listen to a specific music playlist he created for her.
  • Carly likes to be busy with frequently changing activities so we’re finding ways to keep her schedule satisfying and we’ve updated her visual calendar to show new images we didn’t feature on her calendar prior to quarantine (Zoom meetings, Farkle games, Dance parties, car wash, etc.)
  • Larry feels more valued and confident when we speak words of appreciation and affection into him.
  • I recharge when I have permission and opportunity to retreat by myself to read a book, take a bath or watch tv for about 90 minutes.
  • Our sense of isolation or tendencies to feel invisible are best fought through serving others, connecting with friends and family on Zoom or FaceTime, playing games together (even virtually with friends), going for a walk or weeding the garden while on the phone with a friend, worshipping via livestream with our church family.
  • Friction between Larry and I is often defused by creating adequate opportunities for intimacy.

Friends, our families are well led when mom and dad are well fed. When we work together in creating an environment that adequately complements each person’s deepest needs, we all thrive.

Be encouraged. It’s a process. My family is not perfect but we’re making progress. More and more often, I feel like the wind is at my back spurring us forward rather than blowing hard on my face and chest. Instead of feeling heartsick from leaning into the pressures of quarantine, heavy news and caregiving, I’m becoming a more intentional and creative caregiver. Honestly, this season is finally making me more reliant on Jesus than on myself.

This season is giving me a more realistic view of my limitations, boundaries, needs and dreams while growing me into the person I’ve always wanted to be — someone who is more trusting of Jesus’ power and concern for us.

2 Corinthians 3:16-18
But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.


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.”

Barb’s Glory Story

This story brought me to happy tears — and, after a snowy day in April, I must say that happy tears were not at all the kind of tears anyone expected from me today!  Find out how God whispered sweet EVERYTHINGS to Barb.
It was the summer of 2009.  We had been living in Omaha, Nebraska for about one year.  It would take only fifty more years to equal the number we had been in Minnesota. Sigh.It was humid outside. I’d gained weight. Even my wedding ring had gotten tight. It seemed like I was taking it off every day and putting it by the computer or on the window ledge. 

Finally, fall was in the air. There was a smile on my face and a new spring in my step—except I couldn’t find my ring.  I must have set it down some place different. But where? 

I had looked everywhere—the bathroom, kitchen drawers, the pockets in all my clothes (including winter coats unworn since March), my car and basement shelves.  There was only one conclusion. It is lost.  More than likely, while in one of my multi-tasking runs through the house, I had put the ring in my hand to place it in my ring dish but also picked up a tissue or scrap of paper along the way. I had thrown my ring in the garbage bin with the trash in my hand. One would think I could remember the contents of my hand for more than 30 seconds. But it must be.

Every time I considered the lost ring, my heart would sink and I would feel sadness deep in my stomach.  How could I have been so distracted? 

As the days went by, my hubby was so comforting.  “It will be okay,” he would say, “we can get you a new ring.”  But I don’t want a new ring. I want the ring that is identical to his—the one that reminds me WE MATCH.  Part of me just did not want to have a new ring made.

I’ll just go to Wal-Mart and get a thin gold band.
That will serve the purpose.
It will be fine.

Months and years passed. I had a peace about the ring. But every few years I would find myself looking behind the books in the curio or feeling in the pocket of a long unworn sweater to see if it just might be there. It never was. Still, my heart would whisper a prayer to the Lord asking if He would help me find my ring.

I know it is probably in the city dump miles away, but You are a God of miracles, Lord—both big and small. I know You’re capable.

My husband went through a health issue in December of 2013 and it reminded us just how precious our lives and marriage really are. We talked about getting new matching rings.  We decided to find a jeweler in Omaha and pick out a new design. “Let’s do that by our next anniversary in October,” we agreed. How fun!

In March of 2014, I was in Hendersonville, North Carolina, training with RTF International.  My husband was at home with our son and while I had very busy days, I had a few hours each night to soak in the Lord’s presence and rest.  About five days into my trip I got a call from my husband. 

He started the conversation with, “You will never guess what I have in my pocket.” 

The excitement in his voice was palpable so I said, “I have no idea but you better tell me RIGHT NOW!” 

“I have your wedding ring,” he said.

What? He went out and bought new ones without me? As my thoughts raced, I questioned him.

“Nope. I have your original wedding ring,” he said (and I could see his grin in my mind’s eye).

But how? Where? Oh, praise You Jesus! 

So he told me the rest of the story:

The financial secretary at our church works in the office with the copy machine.  She had to move the copier to get at something (and that is no small task). When she did, she noticed a gold wedding band on the floor.  She went to the Office Manager and explained that she had just found a ring and she didn’t know who it belonged to. Inscribed inside were a verse (Ecclesiastes 4:12) and a date (10-14-83).  After a quick peek at the church database both exclaimed, “That’s Pastor Bruce’s anniversary date!”  Within minutes it was in his pocket.

After my husband finished explaining what had happened, we chatted about God’s amazing faithfulness and we both sensed this was a very special gift to us from our Abba Father.  After I hung up the phone, I was resting in bed and thanking the Lord for His great care and love for me. 

As I prayed and sang scripture, I sensed the Lord speaking to me saying, “My daughter, you were right to release your ring to me and to go on with the plans and purposes I had for you.  But you were also right to never give up expecting me to answer your request and believing that I would give you those things that you desire so deeply.” 

I wept.  I wept for His love for me. I wept for his favor towards me. And most of all I wept because this whisper was not just about my ring—it was about me. It was about Bruce. It was about our marriage. It was about our son. It was about our ministry. It was about our future.

Though one person may be overpowered by another, two people can resist one opponent. A triple-braided rope is not easily broken. Ecclesiasties 4:12 (GW)  

How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Ephesians 1:3-6 (MSG)  

For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:12 (NIV)  

Look here. I have made you a part of Me, written you on the palms of My hands. Isaiah 49:16 (VOICE)

One Mom’s Glory Story

The following Glory Story was shared by a mom of several young children who is walking through an unwanted divorce with courage, faith and hope.  In spite of her daily challenges and fatigue, she is choosing joy and lives by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in her.  Please join me in praising God for this example of His power and presence in our day-to-day lives. And while you’re at it, pray for this hurting but rejoicing family.

On Friday afternoon I received a 49 page divorce decree which my attorney called “the most complicated decree he has seen in his career.” Unfortunately, the most important part (the separate parenting plan) was missing and is expected tomorrow. 

Despite how unwanted, challenging and overwhelming all of this is, I wanted to tell you how I’m being encouraged by “God moments.” When I went to bed Thursday night, I peeked at the devotional title for the next morning.  It was titled, “With You To the End.” That gave me hope that my prayers for the decree to come in by Friday would be answered.  

When I woke up Friday and read the morning’s devotional, it was more than perfect. It was based on John 14:16-17 (CEV), “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”  Even more fitting, I went on to read Matthew 28:20 (MSG): “I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”   

This morning (Sunday), on the way to church, my kids and I had not had a good morning.  To top it off, we were running late and I got stopped by the long light at the intersection next to church.  As I sat staring at the church, I glanced at the church marquee which read the words from — you guessed it — MATTHEW 28:20!  I laughed and smiled all the way into the building. 

God is GREAT all the time, but especially when He gives those “subtle” reminders right when you need them.  

Where does that nagging ache in your marriage come from?

A few months ago I read another wonderful book about marriage.  I haven’t been blogging much lately but ran across my notes and couldn’t help but feel God’s timing might be in my posting something on the topic of marriage today. It’s my prayer that some of our readers be encouraged, spurred on and empowered by these wonderful truths from Gary Thomas as I’ve paraphrased from Sacred Marriage.
Don’t be surprised when you become disillusioned by your spouse. He/she was never intended to fully satisfy you. The marriage relationship was designed to point us to our need for Christ and form us into His image.
God delighted in giving us an exclusive relationship to enjoy with our spouse BUT, in order for that relationship to thrive, it is essential that God remain at the center of our hearts. Our ultimate fulfillment comes from God and the marriage relationship is just added blessing — not the other way around.

“As odd as it may sound, I have discovered in my own life that my satisfaction or dissatisfaction with my marriage has far more to do with my relationship to God than it does with my relationship to (my spouse). When my heart grows cold toward my God, my other relationships suffer, so if I sense a burgeoning alienation from, or lack of affection toward, my wife, the first place I look is how I’m doing with the Lord. (My spouse) is, quite literally, my God-thermometer.” (Sacred Marriage, p. 237)

PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Read Genesis 2:18 and Genesis 2:24 and thank God for the holy (though imperfect) union of your marriage.  Every time your spouse disappoints you this week, pray this prayer:
“That’s why I need you, O God!”


Taylor’s Wedding Day!

Our family has been on the road this week.  First we were in North Carolina at the Gideon Media Arts Conference & Film Festival (more on that in a future post) and then we re-packed the family and headed to Wisconsin for a weekend of wedding festivities with some of our dearest friends.  We’ve been singing Russ Taff songs from 1990 and reminiscing fondly.  (I know, sappy us.)  
Early in our marriage, we shared a friendship with another young couple who started their family two years ahead of us.  Much of what Larry and I learned about how to help our marriage thrive and parent well we learned right alongside these precious friends who became like a brother and sister to us.  We fell in love with their daughter Taylor, the firstborn of our collective offspring, and delighted in exploring our early parenting dreams vicariously through her.  Over the years, all of their children became “like our own” so much so that we have often referred to Taylor as “our first child.”  We’re overwhelmed with the idea that we’re now celebrating her wedding and a whole new family!
For a bridal shower gift I made Taylor a recipe scrapbook featuring some of our favorite foods and recipes from those years growing up together.  The last page is titled “Recipe for A Thriving Marriage.” It seemed worthwhile to share that “recipe” publically today.  I am praying this is a tool God uses to help shape and strengthen many marriages.

Dedicated to Joel and Taylor Barclay, married August 18, 2012.
Recipe for A Thriving Marriage
For better and for worse, the most profound challenges of your life will be intimately woven
 within your most treasured relationship — your marriage.  And it will be entirely worth it!
Embrace challenges as an adventure.
Make room for beauty to be birthed out of struggles.  Fight dissention with the warfare of intimacy.  Move toward each other when you are hurt.  Resist the inclination to cope with pain by getting angry, pulling away or holding a grudge.  Pursuing God together amidst adversity will be the greatest adventure of your life!
Make memories and celebrate often.
Cultivate a pervasive spirit of gratitude in your home.  Talk often about all that is good and sacred about your relationship.  Put pictures in your bedroom that remind you of your favorite times together.  Be intentional about making new memories.  Laugh. Smile. Dance. Be silly. And then laugh some more.
Encourage and respect each other.
Look out for each other.  Look for ways to make each other happy, even when it comes at personal cost.  Plot to make your spouse laugh.  Give shout-outs for each other both privately and publicly.  Make sure your spouse gets recreational time. Plan unforgettable romantic experiences. 
Allow your marriage to make you holy.
Marriage tends to put a mirror on your sin revealing your most sensitive areas and selfishness.  That means grace and forgiveness must be the well from which you draw every day.  Be willing to receive correction from your spouse. Be the kind of person that makes your spouse better.  Since life as a Christian involves a process of sanctification (becoming more and more like Christ), let your marriage, even what’s most difficult about it, increasingly draw you into the image of the living God.  Be happy but don’t make that your goal.  The covenant of marriage is more about your holiness than your happiness.  God-centered marriage does a transforming work.  It creates a picture for the world to see of what reconciliation between Christ (the Bridegroom) and the Church (His bride) looks like. 
Pray together.
Prayer keeps your eyes on eternity.  Having a Kingdom perspective increases your contentment, shapes your character, keeps you from rationalizing sin, and empowers your loving.  Understand that some things about your marriage will not change short of Divine intervention.  Enjoy your intimacy as a form of worship.  You show your love of God by loving your spouse well. 
Align your hearts with God’s heart for family.
Don’t expect to get your life’s greatest fulfillment from your marriage or marriage partner.  Your spirit was designed to crave God so only God can perfectly fill that ache in your soul.  Resist every temptation to love your children more than your spouse. Love God more than your spouse.  Your love for God will spill over onto your marriage and make it delightfully precious.  Your investment in your marriage will overflow into your parenting and create the most gorgeous fruit you will taste this side of heaven.
Written by Lisa Jamieson. Inspired by “Sacred Marriage” (Gary Thomas) and “Thriving Despite A Difficult Marriage” (Michael Misja).

It’s Marriage Prayer Friday!

Let’s pray our marriages into the Christmas season!
A prayer for your own marriage—
IMMANUEL, thank you for revealing Yourself to us and demonstrating Your nearness. During this Christmas season, I ask that you would break through any obstacles in my marriage that keep me and my spouse from experiencing the season with joy as a family. By the power of Your Spirit, please stop the crazy patterns of things like neglect, complacency, criticism, ingratitude, disrespect and lack of healthy boundaries in my marriage. Strengthen our commitment to grace and help both of us to honor, not abuse, each other’s expressions of grace. Increase our capacity for tenderness towards each other. Help us in other practical ways too, Lord. For example, help us to laugh more, express gratitude more, invest more in the relationship, and maintain a Kingdom perspective when we are tempted to sin, be discouraged or get stuck in minutia.  Show us how to experience freedom and joy in our marriage, Lord, so that no day is a grind but every day is an adventure of anticipation in seeing Your presence at work among us.  AMEN
Something to pray for a friend’s marriage—
IMMANUEL, thank you for revealing Yourself to us and demonstrating Your nearness. During this Christmas season, I ask that you would break through any obstacles in the marriage of these friends I love — obstacles that keep them from experiencing the season with joy as a family. By the power of Your Spirit, please stop the crazy patterns of things like neglect, complacency, criticism, ingratitude, disrespect and lack of healthy boundaries in their marriage. Strengthen their commitment to grace and help both of them to honor, not abuse, each other’s expressions of grace. Increase their capacity for tenderness towards each other. Help them in other practical ways too, Lord. For example, help them to laugh more, express gratitude more, invest more in their relationship, and maintain a Kingdom perspective when they are tempted to sin, be discouraged or get stuck in minutia.  Show them how to experience freedom and joy in their marriage, Lord, so that no day is a grind for them but every day is an adventure of anticipation in seeing Your presence at work among them.  AMEN