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.

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.

  • 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.

Resource Corner: An Insightful Surprise and Two Delights for Kids

Claire Krantz is back this month to share a new Resource Corner. She’s offering reviews, ideas and recommendations about books, music and movies of interest to special needs families. Claire recently pulled some books from Walk Right In Ministries’ Lending Library and found some surprises for herself and the Church as well as a couple of favorites for kids.

Follow @readingwithcb on Instagram.

Mental Health and the Church

As I’ve been reflecting on this book and thumbing through the borrowed pages, I am struck by the enormous dream Dr. Grcevich invites us to envision with him. In being trained in general and child psychiatry, Dr. Grcevich stands in the gap for the families he treats as well as the church he serves.

I thought the medical jargon and statistics would be too much for me but they complemented each other nicely and seemed much less intimidating since they were spread throughout each chapter. While sharing but not focusing on those things, Dr. Grcevich shows his heart and longing for what the Kingdom could look like on this side of Heaven.

Mental Health and the Church is a book to learn more about serving a community on both the large scale of the church but also a small scale in our homes as well. There were many things I could share with you but with the fear of becoming too long winded, I will leave you with this striking quote:

“Who might Jesus bring to faith if the people in your church resolve to work together to remove whatever obstacles are getting in the way for many of your friends and neighbors who need to experience Jesus?”

Dr. Stephen Grcevich, Mental Health and the Church

God’s Very Good Idea

Lisa recently bought this book for Carly at an Usborne Books online party and shared it with me. We were both intrigued and expectant by the premise — that all people are created by God with celebrated purpose. We assumed the story would represent people of different kinds and colors and hoped it would also represent people with special needs.

I just say, this book is so sweet! Trillia J. Newbell essentially shares the gospel through colorful and representative artwork. God’s Very Good Idea always comes true when He creates his children. Each and every one with purpose, on purpose.

My one thought upon finishing it was that I wish there was as much inclusive language as there was illustration. It would be easy enough though, while you’re reading with a child, to add your own narrative about more people God wants in His family. Adding specific diagnosis or characteristics would be a fun way to engage young and young at heart people.

The Jesus Storybook Bible

I’ll be the first to say that I tend to complicate the gospel but each and every story in this book is condensed and still has the depth and clarity of my own NIV bible. One of my favorite things that makes this bible different is that Jesus is the center and ending every time. Sally Lloyd-Jones has written The Jesus Storybook Bible to be simple.

Occasionally the pages are oriented from left to right but other require you to flip the book sideways. Small differences like that have kept me engaged and it is so fun to flip through. I sometimes get lost in the history and sheer length of the Old Testament but circling the story back around to God and the Rescue Plan makes things less daunting and much easier to understand.

Referencing this special book has been helpful to me when it’s my turn to share the Club Talk (devotions) as a leader with Young Life Capernaum. No matter what actual or developmental age a person may be, this Bible helps us all see Jesus’ presence throughout history, from the very beginning to the end of time.

Image of the Jesus Storybook Bible

Claire Krantz is a blogger, reader, hiker, camper, game-player, puzzle nut, music fan and general lover-of-people. She speaks in exclamations points — which is her friends’ way of saying she exudes cheer, encouragement, hope and fun. She grew up and lives in the Midwest where she is personally and professionally dedicated to living among friends of all abilities and celebrating God’s unique and purposeful design of every person. 

Follow more of Claire’s reading adventures on Instagram @readingwithcb.