BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 3): Seven Ways to Energize & Refresh Your Special Needs Family

This is the final installment in a three-part BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES for special needs families. I hope you’ll have a chance to go back and readPart 1 and Part 2.

I also discussed this subject of Managing Morale in special needs families during a 60-minute interview with Stephen “Doc” Hunsley MD, founder of SOAR Special Needs. You can watch that episode of “Talk with Doc” here.

You can read all kinds of books and blog articles about boosting morale. You could invest a lot of time in trial-and-error mode, testing ideas but feeling a mounting pressure or disappointment when some things don’t work as well as you hoped.

I want to help you skip past as much of that exertion and discouragement as possible. As I’ve said several times in this series, responding to the real root of what is undermining morale will give your family the most positive traction much more quickly and effectively.

So, as you prayerfully ponder these seven ways to energize and refresh your special needs family, I want to ask you to keep the unique and individualized needs of your family at the front of your mind. Home in on an area below that most closely addresses the roots of anxiety or discouragement. Here are some examples:

If someone is struggling with all the things out of their control, it should help to review the scriptures and tips under “Anchor Your Worth and Competence in Christ.”

If someone is struggling mentally, their mood is quite likely to begin shifting when they “Saturate Your Mind with Truth.”

If someone is feeling isolation fatigue, they will benefit from a strategic look at “Connect in Community.”

For those who tend to be more emotionally oriented, look closely at “Change Your Scenery.”

If things just don’t feel fair, read the noted scriptures carefully under “Remember that God is Just.”

If you’re feeling stuck or trapped, there is potential for great refreshment within the whole family when you “Take a Step of Faith” together!

If you’re simply exhausted, you’ll find a creative and collaborative effort to “Rest” pays off generously.

Now let’s really dig in to where the rubber hits the road!

Saturate Your Mind with Truth

PROVERBS 23:7 | 2 CORINTHIANS 10:5 | PHILLIPIANS 4:8

This is critical area of opportunity for people who spend a lot of time thinking or who tend to be deep thinkers. Renewing your mind with truth is a powerful mood shifter when you are vulnerable to things like fear, doubt, confusion, shame, guilt, discouragement and burnout. The scriptures (especially those listed above) will help keep your mind focused on God’s Kingdom meaning and purpose in things like suffering and waiting. When thoughts are spiraling, God’s Word is a calming anchor.

Connect in Community

HEBREWS 10:25 | 2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-5 | ROMANS 3:10,23 | JAMES 5:16

This one is BIG! No matter who we are, we all need relationships. But we don’t all need them to the same degree. Be careful about lumping people into categories like “introverts” and “extroverts.” Those labels can mislead. It is usually more helpful to think specifically about the kinds of connections different people need. Do you enjoy casual connections, want mostly deeper relationships — or both? (I’ll elaborate on these below.) It’s also important to factor in what is needed compared to what is actually expressed. For example, some people actually have a great need for relationships but don’t really show it. They may rarely initiate connections. And since they don’t express their need, people get confused or pull away.

There are very generally two kinds of connections and we don’t all need both.

  • Casual Connections — If someone in your household is missing being out and about during quarantine or needs to feel connected in the broader community, they could be the best person to do the grocery shopping. Encourage them to turn on LIVE radio and TV shows. Invite them to sit with a group around a socially distanced bonfire or play virtual games. It has helped our daughter Carly to be part of Zoom dance parties. And she’s been learning to throw dice while playing Zoom Farkle with her friend and cousins.
  • Deep Relationships — Some people need relationships where they can connect on a more intimate or emotional level. These are the kinds of relationships where there is an exchange of love, affection and appreciation. Whether it involves several or just a few people, these are the people in your household who look to close friends, family members, their church fellowship and a counsellor for a warm sense of belonging. When something like caregiving or the quarantine limits these deeper connections, it’s absolutely essential to find ways of adapting and accommodating the need. People with higher needs in this area may find it helpful to snuggle with a pet, cuddle with loved one, get creative about how to have a date, go for a walk holding hands with your partner, watch shows about relationships or read character-driven stories. They will want to play the kinds of games that rely on conversation. It should not be surprising that this person will run from a game of Chess but (all irony intended) thoroughly enjoy the game Pandemic! This type of person may even enjoy hanging out with a friend on Zoom while they both do a puzzle or craft and sip a cold beverage. You may want to give these family members permission to sit out on the driveway for social distancing conversations or spend more time on the phone.  

Change Your Scenery

HEBREWS 11:8 | ACTS 22:7 | PSALM 40:2

This is a helpful tip for shifting anyone’s mood but especially people who tend to be more creative or connected to their emotions. Those who “feel everything” or who feel things more intensely will benefit greatly from moving their body or moving the furniture! Back in April, we rearranged our family room and we love it. A couple weeks later, we we changed around our deck furniture and added new plants. All of that was so simple and has been like a breath of fresh air that keeps paying daily dividends.

When you need to boost mom’s morale, let her go take a shower. Some dads love and teenagers love to mow the lawn to get some alone time or listen to their music. It could be the change of atmosphere that is lifting their spirits. Try using paper plates, eating outside or sitting at a different table. You can invite your most creative child to build a fancy table setting. The point is to switch up the routine. Light a candle, read a different kind of book (choose a different genre), change your clothes, cut your hair, buy new sheets for your bed or bring some flowers in from outside.

Anchor Your Worth & Competence In Christ

ISAIAH 54:10 | PHILLIPIANS 4:13 | 2 CORINTHIANS 3:5

It is not at all unusual for caregivers and parents to struggle with feeling like they are doing enough for their loved one with special needs. They lament not having bandwidth to balance the needs of multiple children. Children perceive pressure to measure up too. We’re all tempted to measure our own worth in this world by what we contribute or some privately created standard of “quality.” Ultimately, our confidence can only grow from having our identity firmly rooted in Christ not in what role we play in our family, church, workplace or community. Our value to God isn’t based in our efforts. We’re saved by our faith alone. If you struggle with feeling like you don’t measure up or worry about what others think of you, remember that perceptions can be far from reality.

Remember God is Just

ACTS 17:31 | 1 JOHN 1:9 | PSALM 58:10-11

God’s word speaks loudly about His promise of justice. Ask God to reassure you by showing you meaning and purpose in your challenges as well as your future hope. If someone is really struggling in this area, a good devotional on biblical justice or the sovereignty of God is likely to be very encouraging.

Take A Step in Faith

PROVERBS 3:5-6 | 1 CORINTHIANS 2:5 | 2 CORINTHIANS 5:7 | EPHESIANS 2:10

Do you want to see your encouragement to grow, enthusiasm about life to be restored in your family or faith to blossom in someone you love? Start with one simple response to a sense of godly prompting.

Pray together asking God to show you one way He wants you to take action, then walk it out as a family. Few things create as much excitement as seeing God reveal his presence, power and goodness in response to our faith and obedience. Our circumstances are complicated and when we look too far ahead, we get overwhelmed.

Our special needs families will find encouragement in taking one step at a time while holding plans loosely and anticipating the surprises of God’s love.

Rest

EXODUS 14:14 | EPHESIANS 3:20-21

Oh, how often morale in our family wanes because we are plain bone tired and simply don’t listen to our body. I think special needs families can run on fumes so often they start to forget how exhausted they are. Overwhelm starts to feel normal.

We underestimate the transformative effects of a power nap or a shower. Or we resist resting because we’re afraid that once we stop, we’ll never be able to go again. We see complex needs and circumstances in front of us and assume full responsibility for fixing problems, finding cures, optimizing developmental potential and finding comfort for pain while also doing all the same things the neighbors do like maintaining the house and cars.

May I suggest, quit trying harder and just draw nearer to God. Give yourself a “time out” with Jesus. It sounds simplistic and super spiritual. But what if God really does love your family even more than you do? What if he really is sovereign and trustworthy? What if “taking a Sabbath rest” was really an option? Maybe it won’t be a whole day or look like the kind of rest your neighbor gets, but your family needs to cooperate with each other to get some breaks.

Take some deep breaths. It could literally help to go blow bubbles with the kids. Assign some things to a routine (e.g., Taco Tuesday, Friday Pizza night, Saturday take-out). Set a schedule so rest can be anticipated. Burdens are eased by knowing when a break is coming, even if it’s a short one or a couple of weeks away. Collaborate about decisions as much as possible.

You’ll probably have to ask for help more often. Open up your “closed system.” It is quite possible that step of faith God is whispering to you is, “ask for help, My child.” You don’t need to feel guilty about teaching siblings ways of helping either. Teamwork is not just about disability but about being part of a family. Don’t abuse anyone but learn to cooperate and complement each other. Don’t rob God of opportunity to create blessing through your community.

Do you hear in all of this an invitation to experience freedom?
I sure hope so!

The process of learning about each other and how to love each other better is the grand adventure of life, after all. Be patient with yourselves and enjoy the freedom you have to make new discoveries. No one needs to make comparisons or shame themselves for not being “that parent” who does all the fanciest, funnest things either. When it comes to building morale, a little goes a long way — and it goes a long way fast — when we hit the root needs in a targeted way.

These are powerful tools you can give your children, friends. As parents cooperate in marriage and learn to lead their dynamic family in ways that celebrate individuality, they model healthy and godly relationships. This is the essence of self-care that simultaneously complements how we care for others. Our children will thrive in future life and relationships when they learn this kind of self-care and servant-hearted relationship with others.


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

BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 2): Developing A Complementary System

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at five ways to “keep the Light on” in special needs families. We explored things that drain energy and tend to trigger discouragement or conflict in a special needs household. In that article, we looked at spiritual fundamentals for a robust and positive family system. I hope you’ll have a chance to go back and read BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE (Part 1 of 2): Five Ways to Keep the Light On for background that leads into this second part in the series.

I also discussed this subject of Managing Morale in special needs families during a 60-minute interview with Stephen “Doc” Hunsley MD, founder of SOAR Special Needs. You can watch that episode of “Talk with Doc” here.

Now let’s dig in to Part 2 of the series.


Do you know how incredibly unique and valuable you are? God’s imprint on each of us is vastly different. And you are quite a masterpiece, according to your Creator! Here’s how David tells it:

Psalm 139:16-18
You made the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

We are not just delicately woven in our physical body. We are also complex in mind and spirit. The COVID-19 quarantine has made many of us more aware of needs like these:

  • Longing for connection with other people
  • Craving time alone to recharge
  • Missing a fuller schedule
  • Wishing we could sleep more or read another book
  • Thinking deeply and spending a lot of time doing it
  • Feeling deeply (but not always expressing it well)
  • Dissatisfied until we get stuff checked off our to-do list
  • Wanting to give or receive expressions of affection, attention, appreciation, affirmation

In fact, I’ve been embarrassed and ashamed by how needy and self-centered I am at times, especially during this COVID season! In some ways though, this quarantine-induced understanding and awareness could prove very helpful. It reveals areas where we tend to be vulnerable. It can give us clues about what we need to do in order to stay healthy and satisfied. For example, isolation intensifies anxiety for someone who needs a lot of connection with people. If that person stays attentive to their need for certain kinds of connection and finds healthy, satisfying ways to do it, they will stay energized and maintain a more positive outlook.

Darkening moods and interpersonal conflict are typically a response to inadequately met needs. Whatever your unique needs and degrees of expressing them are, that is where you’ll find powerful clues about what keeps your batteries charged or what will re-energize you and build positive momentum within your mind, body and spirit. The same is true for each person in your home — uniquely so.

We all have strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities to sin. Each of us is a work in progress. We are not perfect humans but we hope to be generally be headed in the direction of personal growth. Thanks be to God, there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus. But there certainly is opportunity and responsibility to grow as a disciple and representative of the Kingdom. Learning how to be attentive to our needs and other’s (by staying in tune with the Holy Spirit) and asking God to help us complement each other’s uniqueness (with a servant’s heart) makes us more like Jesus. It also builds morale in our homes.

Psalm 139:23-24
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.

There are seven areas of opportunity to boost energy levels, encouragement and refreshment in your special needs family.

I’ll be writing in more detail about each of these areas in Part 3 of this series.

In the meantime, it’s important to know that you’ll get the most efficient and powerful morale boost by focusing your attention in one of these areas for each person. Pray about which area is most likely to address the true root need they have. For example, if you’ve noticed that your husband’s spirits have become low, consider what his root need may be then explore ways to cooperate with each other to meet mutual needs in a balanced way. Sometimes that means sacrificially taking turns. Ideally, this is a very cooperative process.

The other day at my house, we encountered an opportunity just like this. There was growing friction between me and my husband, Larry. The tension was getting expressed by one of us (who I won’t implicate here) as impatience and a critical tone. The other (who I won’t throw under the bus) was retreating from communication and resisting expressions of affection.

We could argue all day long about who started it and who was “right.” But the truth is, each of us had some core needs that weren’t getting adequately met. The quarantine was wreaking havoc that week. We were in a valley needing the ebb to meet the flow in a more positive way. By re-examining the list below, we recognized an opportunity to collaborate that would re-energize and encourage both of us. Larry watched a TV show with Carly that didn’t interest me while I gave myself a pedicure. Ninety minutes later, the momentum had already begun to shift to a more positive tone. In this case, he sacrificed more because he was on duty with Carly and had faced a couple of interruptions. But later that night, I gave him a neck and shoulder massage.

Balance. Compromise. Cooperation. Teamwork.

Morale is highest when we are a complementary system!


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

BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 1): Five Ways to Keep the Light On

Families affected by special needs are well acquainted with the ebb and flow of discouragement, conflict and fatigue. Quarantine and current events are adding further stress to our family dynamics, including mental and emotional health. Just like our immune systems needs a boost of vitamin C when illness threatens, we need both proactive and responsive help for threats to our family’s morale.

In this series, we’re exploring targeted ways to bring a speedy delivery of fun, energy and hope to your doorstep! Our hope is to show the way to experience an extra strength, extended-release dose of spiritual and practical encouragement.

First off, I just want to acknowledge that families impacted by disability and other special needs can find life intense and rather complicated. Thankfully, there is a richness to life and relationships that comes through the way God has uniquely woven us into our families as well. Still, we encounter many days and situations that feel very heavy. We never know when a crisis may arise and plans are regularly thwarted. Each person in the family has times when their mood darkens. And when they do, one person’s mood can ripple through the entire household.

What are the things that seem to trigger heaviness in your heart or home?

Perhaps you’ll relate to some of these examples:
The repetitive and tedious nature of daily cares (e.g., bowel regimen, housekeeping issues created by disability such as laundry)
Seeing our child self harm
Medical crisis
Comparison to others
Feelings of isolation or being invisible
Reminders of lost dreams
Battles for a better IEP or other rights (e.g., health insurance)
Seeing areas where our child is falling behind
Feeling inadequate as a caregiver or parent
Feeling trapped, stuck or hopeless
Disappointment from a sibling who can’t play or demands attention
Resentment of a spouse who gets to go to work and escape
Guilt within a spouse who needs to work and isn’t able to help more at home
Disconnection from spouse, community or others
Pressure to make decisions
Grieving (a diagnosis or lack of diagnosis)

People use various words to describe the dark moods or conflict that creep in on the heels of such triggers.

anger, hurt feelings, defensiveness or hyper-sensitivity, discouragement/hopelessness, anxiety, grief, depression, exhaustion, lack of motivation, loneliness

Families who tend to be resilient within the ups and downs of the household atmosphere are those who are proactive in caring for each other and also responsive to clues that stress is mounting. They learn to be attentive to each other, communicate often and recognize areas of vulnerability to shifting moods. They make an effort to understand each other’s most typical triggers and cooperate with each other in making sure root needs get met — before the valley of the shadow looms large.

It’s a process and no family is going to handle the ebbs and flows perfectly. But we can learn to find a balanced family system that softens the shadows and reduces their frequency.

Proverbs 27:12
A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.
The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

5 Ways to Keep the Light On

John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

What can help keep the Light on within your special needs family?

  1. Pay Attention to Where Your Identity Rests
    If you are someone who loves and follows Jesus, you are a child of God (John 1:12-13). That is who you are first and that is where your identity is anchored. Disability doesn’t define you. The beginning and end of your calling and your empowerment comes from your Creator. You are part of a special needs family but that is secondary to being part of God’s family.

    Children who grow up with solid reassurance about where they stand in that broader spiritual family will have their most powerful tool for thriving through their teens and early adulthood. As each person matures, wrestles and lives through ages and seasons of self-discovery, there is delightful freedom in knowing that their core place of “home” rests safely with God. Within that anchoring identity, each person has God’s permission and encouragement to explore their roles, opportunities and contributions in the big wide world. Resist giving disability, complex medical needs or mental health difficulties all the power over the tone of the household or mindset of the family system. You are more — individually and together — than any diagnosis.
  2. Maintain Safe, Open & Positive Communication
    Make your home and family a safe space for ongoing and proactive conversations about what is creating dissatisfaction, restlessness or grief. Resist the spirit of criticism (1 Corinthians 13:1 and Philippians 4:8). Most special needs families also benefit by seeking counseling.

  3. Give & Receive Forgiveness
    Do some regular self-examination. Not a single one of us is perfect (Romans 3:10 & Romans 3:23). Confess weakness, repent of sins and become more aware of God’s unique imprint on your soul. God will help you see yourself realistically and as His masterpiece (Psalm 139:23-24) and he promises to bring a refreshing into your life when you humble yourself and repent (Acts 3:19-20, James 5:16).

  4. Appreciate that Each and Every Individual is God’s Work of Art
    God masterfully designed every person in your family with unique needs, ways of thinking, ways of feeling, ways of relating to others, passions, talents and spiritual gifts (Ephesians 2:10). Prayerfully study your family members to develop understanding, appreciation, compassion and respect for their precious value. Aim to identify ways you can live together that are complementary and show a balanced, servant-hearted regard for each person in the family.

  5. Rest On the One Constant in Your Chaos—God
    God’s character and promises never to change. He remainsthe same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). His nearness, faithfulness, sufficiency and perspective are completely dependable for us.

In Part 2 we’ll be exploring ways to cooperate with each other to meet mutual needs in a balanced and complementary way. We each have our own strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Learning how to be attentive to each person’s needs and honor each other’s uniqueness builds morale in our homes. Read BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 2): Developing a Complementary System.

Then in Part 3, we will look at seven practical and biblical ways to get energized and refreshed. Read BOOSTING FAMILY MORALE SERIES (Part 3): Seven Ways to Energize & Refresh Your Special Needs Family.

I discussed this subject of Managing Morale in special needs families during a 60-minute interview with Stephen “Doc” Hunsley MD, founder of SOAR Special Needs. You can watch that episode of “Talk with Doc” here.


LISA JAMIESON is a licensed pastoral counsellor, certified Christian temperament therapist and caregiver coach. She is co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries where she serves as a special needs family advocate. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Her 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. 🙂

Family Update from the Jamieson “Cocoon”

In a general sense, our family is doing quite well. We have been learning to cooperatively “cocoon” during the COVID-19 crisis. That means we’re trying to be attentive to our own personal needs, sensitive and respectful toward each other’s needs, protective and compassionate about of each person’s unique vulnerabilities and just generally trying to make the most of this unprecedented time. 

We’re trying to build bonds rather than allow the challenges to undermine them. This is not to suggest that we are always doing this well. But we are trying. For all the things competing for top of the priority lists, this idea of being an encouragement to one another has been at the top of ours. And it’s helpful to have a vision for some purpose in this surreal time. #CooperativeCocooning has been a helpful goal for the Jamiesons. (Read Lisa’s article on Cooperative Cocooning.)

We actually have more help right now with our daughter Carly than we’ve had since early August 2019. In addition to Carly’s usual full-time caregiver-friend (paid staff), one of the women who worked with her until college started last fall is wanting to work now that she’s back home studying online. We are tremendously grateful that our two respite providers are considered “essential” by our Governor and that they’re willing to strictly self-isolate for an indefinite period of time. Honestly, I would be out of my mind right now without them but mostly because Carly would be out of her mind without them. 

But there’s more to it than their just being essential for Carly’s wellbeing and my personal sanity. We view Carly’s respite staff as part of this family and ministry team. We are so grateful they feel the same way. These women work behind the scenes enabling me to do what I do every day. And they are fueled by the same passion we have to see the lives of special needs families worldwide enriched by a community sharing faith in Jesus Christ. God bless them!

For all the things competing for top of the priority lists, this idea of being an encouragement to one another has been at the top of ours.
#CooperativeCocooning

Carly is gradually adjusting to the new routines. She and I are actually on Day 24 because we were home alone for several days at the beginning of this while Larry was traveling for work and Carly’s staff support was on vacation. Those first two weeks were awful. Now that we’re learning a new groove, we’ve found it very helpful to arrange our quarantine days in ways that mirror the former routines as much as possible. For example, as the girls can no longer head to the gym shortly after lunch every day, I try to break from work and join them in the family room at 2 pm when a group of students and alumni from our daughters’ former high school do a workout on Zoom. 

Each day has it’s very difficult moments, particularly when trying to manage Carly’s outbursts of anxiety, restlessness and confusion. She is used to being on the GO! She does not like this boring lifestyle one single bit. It’s affecting her disposition (rather violent at times) and her sleep. 

Since Larry and I both work from home, this season has been “business as usual” in many respects. But some things have needed extra attention in the areas where we serve. My counseling ministry and special needs family outreach demands more creativity and time during this season. Larry is working extra hours on a team helping navigate the implications of the virus both logistically and financially. Short nights and stressful bedtime routines with Carly add strain. 

Our prayer requests may be very similar in nature to yours:

  • Continued health and protection for our family. Larry and Carly are both in the high-risk group for the virus. Our daughter Erin lives near the northern California hotspot and remains in lockdown with three roommates. Our daughter Alex lives alone in a Twin Cities area condo where she has been working virtually since early March. She is holding to strict isolation standards so she can be backup care for Carly and visit us every week or two.
  • Adequate socialization for Carly and her caregivers. Carly’s weekday support worker needs a fair amount of adult conversation and deep connection so working with non-verbal Carly alone all day and going home to an introverted roommate at night means we are working harder here to complement and cooperate with each other’s needs.
  • Anxiety management  (creativity). We are adapting new activities to meet needs within the limitations and keep Carly as content as possible.
  • Sleep. Enough said.

Friends, let’s pray with and for each other!

Lord, develop in each of us more patience, perseverance, trust, hope, kindness and gentleness. Comfort us in fears and grief that comes in waves during this pandemic season. Remind us that you are fully accessible and that we can intimately share our hearts with you in every single moment — the ugly moments and the precious ones. Would you multiply the precious moments, Lord Jesus? We need You to protect and provide. Yet in sickness and in health, You are faithful. May Your sovereign purposes prevail. We want to rest in that peace. 

Thank you that learning to slow down and focus on our relationships is a gift we can receive in the midst of this season. Teach us how to be attentive and compassionate about each other’s needs and cooperate with each other to meet those needs as adequately as possible in the circumstances. Help us to seek You first and things or people of the world second. Teach us to value Kingdom things above all else, putting our hopes, expectations and disappointments in Your perspective. Energize us by the power of Your Holy Spirit to think and reach outside of ourselves. Help each person in our quarantine “cocoons” to offer their lives as a spiritual sacrifice for one another without putting too much responsibility on any one person to meet the needs of another. 

O God, please make the precious lessons of this season grow deep and long roots in all of our lives! Above all else, teach us to love you and love each other well. 

Amen

This Pandemic Season Prayer shared by Walk Right In Ministries earlier last month has also been a source of encouragement and connection for many.

You all — our WRIM community of friends and partners — are constantly on my mind and prayers. Our Board and Prayer Team just received one of the longest updates ever in our history and we consider it great privilege to pray together for all of you!

How are you fairing with the stay-at-home orders? These are tricky days for most, extremely stressful for many and actually somewhat gratifying for others. I would love to hear how your family is doing and what is working for you as you try to adapt to these pandemic circumstances. Please drop me a note at lisa@walkrightin.org or ask to schedule a video conference.

You can also read more about Cooperative Cocooning here.


Lisa Jamieson is an international speaker, author, caregiver advocate and licensed pastoral counsellor. Her passion is spurring special needs families toward growing intimacy with Jesus and thriving relationships with each other. She is co-founder and executive director of Walk Right In Ministries and leads the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection. Lisa is a member of the Sarasota Academy of Christian Counseling certified in Christian temperament therapy. Her books and Bible studies include Jesus, Let’s Talk which was inspired by her daughter, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Lisa and her husband, Larry, have been married for 31 years and have three grown daughters.

Cooperative Cocooning

This pandemic season is creating a unique opportunity for intimate bonding with those we are closest to in life. Sure, it doesn’t always look or feel like creating sweet memories together. Bonding doesn’t always come easily in our home, that’s for sure! But our family is benefiting from learning to prioritize encouragement and cooperation. And I think — I pray — that a lot of us will look back and see that something very special happened in the grand scheme of this season.

Last week, we took some time out of quarantine tedium to play with friends on Facebook. Carly and Claire joined me for a Real Talk livestream we called “Pandemic Edition #1.” We sure had fun making some trail mix, playing a couple of online games with viewers and exploring what it looks like to “cocoon” well. The following notes share highlights from that conversation.


Thriving families have compassion for each other’s unique needs and they learn to cultivate a cooperative environment in their home.

  • Stress, anxiety, fear, fatigue, burnout and breakdown are minimized when we pay attention to each other’s unique needs for casual relationships, emotional connectedness, task orientation, control and decision-making. (For us, this includes paying attention to the family’s needs but also care support staff with Carly as well.)
  • Not everyone expresses their needs as openly or clearly as others. That doesn’t mean the needs don’t exist. The ways and degrees in which we express our needs to others can be influenced by our own natural inclinations but also by how we were raised, how safe we feel to speak up or whether we’re trying to protect others from others from more demands. Some of us simply aren’t that self-aware. And children are often not mature enough to know how to articulate what they are feeling or needing. In a cooperative environment, we are attentive to one another and help each other recognize and meet needs in healthy, God-honoring ways.
  • It’s not all about bonding and attachment to each other though. For many living in close confinement, there will be a need to learn/teach healthy detachment too. It’s okay for someone to take a break and go shut a door for a little while.

There are tremendous benefits in being intentional about caring for the soul needs of each person in your pandemic season cocoon. Why am I using the term “cocoon?” Cocooning is a term often used by adopting families for a period of seclusion they hold after an adoption. It allows for bonding while also protecting the immune system of an international child who isn’t yet vaccinated and wasn’t necessarily born to a mom with immunities to the various things someone might be exposed to in our country.

Cocooning is a term often used by adopting families for a period of seclusion they hold after an adoption. It allows for bonding while also protecting the immune system.

We all have our own unique soul needs. I used to read Psalm 139 with the focus of my attention on the way God had woven my body in a physical way. But God’s words took on deeper meaning when I considered that my “delicate” or “inward” parts included the way I think, how deeply I feel things, the way I express myself, the degrees to which I find fulfillment in tasks — all the complexities of my soul.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

When God calls us His masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10), He means every detail about who we are is His handiwork. That includes our physical anatomy as well as our soul. Our soul craves communion with Him yet we chase things of the world to fill our needs. In quarantine season, in caregiving season, in any season when the needs of our soul are strained, we need Jesus most of all. But Jesus has compassion for us and gives us gifts out of the world to reveal His intimate understanding and value of us too.

These are some general areas where we each have our own unique degrees of need:

  • SOCIALIZATION or how we are satisfied in relationships includes two very different layers of social-emotional need.
    • Inclusion — a sense of casual association and connectedness
    • Affection — a sense of emotional connection within deeper relationships that is expressed through words (e.g., appreciation, affirmation) physical touch (e.g., hugs, snuggling, holding hands), gifts, acts of service and more
  • TASK ORIENTATION is not everybody’s genius. Staying focused or disciplined with accountability or inspiration can be tremendously challenging for some. For others (and I’m talking about me here), the “almighty task rules!” One inclination is not better than the other, just different.
    • A few people are appreciating that there are fewer distractions so they can tackle their lists and even catch up on some things around the house. (Take advantage of your natural household project managers and use this time to develop administrative skills in younger children.)
    • It will help some people to alternate between tasks and social activities, avoiding a focus on one or the other for long periods of time.
    • Some will find it helpful to complete tasks when they are connected with some social component.
  • CONTROL & DECISION-MAKING responsibilities may be shifting considerably during this quarantine season.
    • Logistics (groceries, healthcare, germ management, household clutter) must be managed differently for now.
    • Circumstances out of control may incline some people to overcompensate with substitutes. For example, a tidy house can create an illusion of control when everything else feels like chaos. A purged closet may refresh and energize the person whose heart is heavy with worry.
    • Pacing time in new ways will be energizing for some and exhausting for others. A slower pace can be very satisfying or will trigger anxiety in those who enjoy being busy.
    • Changing your environment can be a way to lift spirits. For example, rearrange the family room furniture, let the kids change around their bedrooms, use special plates for dinner, have a crazy hair day or purge some toys and clothing into “junk” and “share” boxes.
    • Giving each other plenty of choices. (For our daughter with special needs, this means pulling out neglected laminated photos, objects and iPad apps like GoTalk Now.) This can feel freeing and empowering when so many of our circumstances feel out of control. But some people feel overwhelmed by needing to make decisions. Perhaps you are someone who likes to share decision-making responsibilities. Doing so alone triggers anxiety or frustration. Collaborate on decisions as spouses or family whenever you can.

Just like having physical needs (body), God created us with mental and intellectual capacities (mind), and also emotional and spiritual needs (spirit). None of these needs is bad or wrong. But if our needs don’t get met, we tend to sink into our weaknesses and experience things like anxiety, depression, exhaustion and even sin.

We thrive when we learn to let Jesus fulfill the desires of our hearts more than anything or anyone else. As our Creator, He knows us intimately and He only gives good gifts to His children. After that, we can enjoy His generous gifts from the world in healthy, godly ways. And that includes living in cooperative and complementary ways with others.

Psalm 38:9
You know what I long for, Lord;
    you hear my every sigh.

Matthew 6:33
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, 
and all these things will be added to you.

Around here, we’re trying to be attentive to what each other needs and have each other’s backs. That starts with praying for each other and then includes examples like these:

  • Giving each other permission to express and satisfy soul needs (harder for kids and some temperaments)
  • Inviting each other to rest or take personal time (private places, dedicated time)
  • Leaving a bedroom or office door open or shut (or putting a sign on the doorknob) showing kids/others when interruptions are welcome and when they are not
  • Defining or redefining roles and responsibilities according to how each person is most energized
  • Making our home a safe space to process things like grief and disappointment
  • Trying to call out the positives at least four times as often as we correct/coach/redirect
  • Learning cooperation and teamwork but relying on Jesus first and foremost (which also prevents us from putting unreasonable demands on each other)

In a cooperative environment, we are attentive to one another and help each other recognize and meet needs in healthy, God-honoring ways. #CooperativeCocooning

These verses have been so helpful to me in the last several days:

Psalm 94:19
When the cares of my heart are many,
    your consolations cheer my soul.

Psalm 139:23-24
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.

Here are some more specific things that are working for me and my family:

  • Keeping track of my own thinking patterns and paying attention to shifts in my mood so I can take my thoughts captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)
  • Listening to LIVE broadcasts that keep me feeling connected in the world
  • Having LIVE conversations that connect me emotionally to those I care deeply about (Note: turn-taking chat apps meet a different need than live conversations on the phone, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, etc.)
  • Finding a person who gives me energy and spending a few minutes chatting
  • Texting in group chats with extended family who are geographically separated
  • Pacing my breaks (and what I do with those breaks)
  • Baking with Carly or playing a game
  • Going for a drive (sometimes getting gas or car wash)
  • Taking a prolonged shower or bath
  • Rearranging furniture or moving to a different room from time to time (change of environment)
  • Putting out some decorations for Easter or spring (you could make some new ones too!)
  • Building a fort
  • Getting off the couch and having a dance party
  • Spring cleaning
  • Playing favorite games (egg hunt)
  • Planning and doing a special project (We’re hoping to surprise our neighbors’ kids with an Easter Egg Hunt blessing. Hopefully, they won’t read this blog until Easter Monday!)

We thrive when we learn to let Jesus fulfill the desires of our souls more than anything or anyone else. After that, we can enjoy His generous gifts from the world in healthy, godly ways. And that includes living in cooperative and complementary ways with others.

What’s working for you?

Tell us in the comments of this post about how your family is trying to make the best of this highly remarkable experience of life.

During this season of social distancing, we can learn rest in Jesus most of all but also meet each other’s soul needs in ways that are complementary and cooperative too.


You can watch Pandemic Edition #1 of REAL TALK livestream here.

Lisa Jamieson is an international speaker, author, caregiver advocate and licensed pastoral counsellor. Her passion is spurring special needs families toward growing intimacy with Jesus and thriving relationships with each other. She is co-founder and executive director of Walk Right In Ministries and leads the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection. Lisa is a member of the Sarasota Academy of Christian Counseling certified in Christian temperament therapy. Her books and Bible studies include Jesus, Let’s Talk which was inspired by her daughter, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Lisa and her husband, Larry, have been married for 31 years and have three grown daughters.