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)

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