Tips for Caregivers Concerned About Maintaining Their Energy Reserves

This is the sixth article in a series exploring what puts family caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. Today we’re exploring some challenges and opportunities for caregivers who prefer life at a slow, steady and relatively predictable pace.

Caregiving requires a lot of energy. It can be challenging to maintain the mental and emotional reserves for the normal activities of daily living. Many situations are physically demanding as well. In some cases, there may be little margin for the kinds of activities or rest that refuel the caregiver whose energy level generally runs on the low side. If that’s you, I think you’ll find encouraging tips = here to understand and optimize your unique strengths.

Frankly, some people seem to want a slower paced life even when there are no extra demands. If you are one of these people, your “dream day” might include going to work, sitting at a desk working through your tasks (even tasks others might consider tedious), going home for a nap, eating dinner, taking another nap, watching some television and then heading to bed for the night. You may watch in wonder — or even feel intimidated — when others fill their discretionary time with things like hiking, crafts, sports, shopping and hobbies. You may feel guilty about “pulling your weight” with caregiver chores like laundry, meal prep and housecleaning but find doing the family bookkeeping comes rather easily.

Are you someone who tends to work at a slow pace or frequently worries about running out of steam? Perhaps others have expressed frustration about your making your fair share of the sacrifices. That may be because you feel that every bit of energy you extend is a sacrifice. You may feel like life takes far more effort than you have to offer.

Here’s an important fact to consider: your fear about running out of energy may be far closer to perception than reality. In fact, believing that you may completely run out of “gas” at some point could be negatively impacting your relationships while robbing you of a joy and satisfaction in doing some things you really would enjoy. Becoming more willing to make sacrifices can reduce your hidden fears, build your self-esteem and enhance your relationships.

The truth is, you have some wonderful passions, a great love for people and a profound capacity for efficiency all wrapped up in a calm, easy-going package! In your strengths, you’ll have a conservative, practical and peace-loving nature that uniquely equips you with valuable problem-solving skills and an uncanny ability to mediate tense situations. You could be your spouse’s best friend at an IEP meeting, transition planning meeting or care coordination conference.

You can be a tremendous advocate for your loved ones. You may see and respond to problems and injustices with an uncanny instinct for improving quality of life for others. Your voice and purposeful involvement are a powerful force and will help you stay energized when you’re otherwise tempted to sleep your life away. Be aware, however, that you may feel angry and anxious when others are not taking action where you see the need to make things better. Your frustration will be greatly reduced when you learn to give others permission to be imperfect.

When it’s time to make decisions, you may appreciate finding someone trustworthy to share in that process with you. And release yourself to make imperfect choices along the way toward satisfying conclusions. You may need to share more information than what comes naturally for you so that others can understand your thought process, perspectives and ideas. But discussing the options and coming to mutual agreement with your spouse or loved ones will be pleasing for everyone.

If you’re worried about being blamed or criticized when decisions don’t turn out well, you may benefit from approaching more decisions from a mindset of safety and encouragement. For example, you might agree to say, “Let’s give this new therapy a try. If it doesn’t work, we can always try a different approach.”

Logical persuasion and positive reinforcement can be very motivating for you. So it can be helpful to you and your family if you stay open to conversations about how detailed caregiving responsibilities need to be implemented. It will also help your family to know how important it is for you to hear that your contributions are recognized and valued. You may not think you need this, but you likely do. You may be inclined to dismiss those positive vibes from others rather than allowing yourself a moment to soak in the caring and loving words others are offering. In actuality, you will greatly benefit from staying attentive and receptive to affirming feedback and appreciation. (Consider reading my previous article in this series called Tips for Caregivers: Feeling Valued and Competent.)

Be aware that when you are feeling stressed, pressured, or inconvenienced, you may be very difficult to be around. Your family, friends and co-workers may struggle to find peace anywhere around you during those times. In frustration or resentment, you may be inclined to procrastinate, be indecisive, and be difficult to motivate. You may also be hurtful to others with your verbal defenses.

To stay in a positive groove, it will help to maintain a moderate amount of independence, alternate frequently between task-oriented responsibilities and people-oriented activities, be clear and direct in communication, and learn how to use your skills in persuasion for godly causes.

Your family longs for your involvement — not just because more hands make lighter work but because they genuinely enjoy your presence. You have so much to offer and your peaceful spirit is always appreciated in the room. You will benefit from staying engaged with others. So, be encouraged to join the family for a trip to the park, table games, movie night and a weekend getaway. Linger at the dinner table and take part in the conversations (without adding your sarcastic comments).

When you take initiative to stay engaged with your loved ones and community, you will discover the power that well-paced and positive socialization has to energize you.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS

If you tend to be laid back or need a lot of rest

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that maximizes your natural motivations and mutual interests with the person who has extra needs (e.g., reading books, watching movies, going for car rides, listening to music)
  • Frequently alternate time between doing task-oriented things and spending time with people
  • Take frequent breaks, even short ones, to rest your mind and body
  • Ensure for yourself an adequate balance of work, exercise, diet and relaxation
  • Maintain a clear definition of your value and purpose on the team
  • Learn to recognize Jesus’ promptings and follow Him one step at a time


The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement.

Proverbs 21:2-4
People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart. The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices. Haughty eyes, a proud heart, and evil actions are all sin.

Psalm 19:12-14
How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
    Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
    Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
    and innocent of great sin.

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Ephesians 4:22-24
Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Hebrews 12:11
No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Psalm 37:6
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

1 Thessalonians 5:11
So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Philippians 4:19
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Lord Jesus, thank you for showing me that my peace-loving ways are valuable to those around me. You have given me an important ability to see different points of view and help my family come together around common goals. I do confess, however, that sometimes I can be stubborn and inflexible. I feel exhausted and afraid I’ll never have enough wisdom or the energy that others need from me. I need your help. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to courageously and sacrificially invest in my family. Teach me to notice your promptings and follow you in faith, one step at a time. Amen

To learn more about tapping into your strengths as a caregiver, you can also watch one of my conference presentations on the subject at YouTube.

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


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, licensed 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.


One Mom’s Unexpected Call

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


Philippians 3:12-14
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

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

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

I continued to explore trust, faith and perseverance.

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

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

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

Kelley and one of her beloved dogs.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


When God Calls Us Back To Something Forgotten

Inspiration often comes from unexpected places. Sometimes it comes through friends, family or even strangers. Other times it comes straight from God Himself. That’s the lesson guest-blogger Maureen Pranghofer is sharing on our blog today.

Have you ever created something and then totally forgotten about it? Well, what causes that? It might be that someone destroyed the masterpiece you’ve just painted, written or baked. It might be that there was a pandemic which interrupted everything. And it might be that the thing you created wasn’t born out of your ideas but someone else’s.

That’s what happened to me about 7 years ago. My totally well-meaning step mom kept saying, “You should write a book.” She wouldn’t stop. For some reason she thought growing up legally blind and with a bone disease would make a good story.

Paul, Maureen and Walter Pranghofer celebrating Christmas 2020 in their home.

Finally, I’d had enough. To get her off my back, I wrote an autobiography of my childhood called Driving in Squares. My step mom and dad made sure that the formatting looked okay, made a cover for it, and coil bound it. When I visited them in Tucson, we gave about 10 copies away to people they both knew.

I said when I got home. “That episode in my life story is done.”

Sometimes, though, when we think we’re done with something God has other ideas.

I recently asked my friend Elizabeth to come over and help clean off some shelves. We sorted through things and threw piles of junk away. She was picking up each book and CD and telling me what it was. As I responded to her descriptions, off each item went into the “keep” or “toss” bin.

“Driving in Squares” she said.

“What?” I asked. I didn’t remember ever buying a book called that. Then I remembered what it was and told Elizabeth I was surprised I had a copy of the book.

“Can I read it?” she asked. “Sure” I said.

When she brought it back six months later I held it and wondered if I should toss it. Then I set it down by my computer.

Six weeks later I got an email from my father who said, “Just to relax, I like reading your book. I’ve read it about four times. When are you going to write the next one?”

“The next one”, I thought. I haven’t ever done anything with this one!

My dad reminded me that at the end of the Driving in Squares book I’d said there would be a sequel.

And somehow, that’s how I’ve found myself in this New Year, consumed with thoughts about writing.     

Isn’t it amazing how from just mundane chores like cleaning off a shelf you can find yourself with desires that are new and changed? My writing only because I was bothered by what I perceived as nagging by my stepmom is evolving into something beautiful. And God is the only One who can bring about those surprising events that turn us around to where we find ourselves moving forward.

In 2021, we can be picking up what we had once forgotten. It may take us to new and fresh places we never imagined!

If you’d like to read my little book Driving in Squares, email me at maureensmusic@comcast.net. Let me know the name and address where you’d like it shipped. Also let me know if you’d like it in a hard copy or pdf file. Happy New Year!


Maureen was born legally blind and with a rare bone disease. Neither has ever slowed her down. She is a songwriter, author, speaker, music therapist and brailleist who also tests websites for accessibility. Since the mid 90’s, Maureen has run her own business called Braille It where she produces material in Braille for a variety of customers.

Maureen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music Therapy and has worked as a therapist with terminally ill children, the elderly and those dealing with addiction. She has also done intake work at a rehabilitation center.

Pranghofer’s children’s book, Ally’s Busy Day: The Story of a Service Dog, is available on Amazon along with her music which includes numerous recordings. You’ll find her blogs The Walter Report and Maureen’s Musings at Maureen’s Facebook page.

Maureen lives with her husband Paul and service dog Walter in Golden Valley MN.

Tap Your Caregiver Strengths

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

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

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

REFUEL

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

REASSESS

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

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

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

REPENT

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

REORIENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the Joshua reset model God showed me.

REAFFIRM IDENTITY Joshua 5:2-7

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

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

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

REST Joshua 5:8

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

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

CELEBRATE Joshua 5:9-10

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

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

FUEL UP Joshua 5:11-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch Reset: A Seasonal Necessity for Special Needs Families.


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

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.”

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.”

Best Practices of Refreshed Special Needs Moms

I like to feel rested. My most satisfying days end with projects checked off my list and at least 7 hours of sleep. (And, hopefully, those are consecutive, uninterrupted hours.) But most days come and go with a lot of caregiving, emails with our daughter’s case manager, disability-related paperwork, medications organized, and the desperate need for a long winter’s nap! I know you relate.

The truth is, most people don’t get enough rest or true refreshment in their lives. Special-needs parents get even less. Lots less. I’m a special-needs mom to a young adult woman with significant needs and dependencies, so I’m going to share from a mom’s perspective. Dads are right here too.

Stick with me for a minute while I play out a metaphor.

Source: 123rf

Imagine you’re a hiker with a bottle of water and 2 hours of walking, climbing and extraordinary views ahead of you. It’s hot but bearable. No specific obstacles are anticipated. Then you suddenly turn your ankle on a loose stone and go down. At first, you think it’s simple a sprain. You expect to rest a moment and then walk it off. But your ankle swells quickly and begins to throb mightily. After a painful weight-bearing test, you get nervous about whether you can make the walk back to your car safely on your own. Sensing you have only four more hours of daylight, you gather your wits and will yourself to walk. Unfortunately, frequent breaks to regroup keep your progress painstakingly slow and your water supply is running low. You wonder why you didn’t save more, in case your adventure grew prolonged. You’re weary with regrets. Fear sets in as sunset comes and goes without another hiker in sight. The parking lot is still far off. Your worries of rattle snakes, hairy spiders and eerie bats is growing and you’re feeling hauntingly alone. You drop back to the ground and realize you’ve gotten lost in the dark. To make matters worse, your water straw is now sucking air. That reservoir of refreshment seemed so much bigger a few hours ago than it does now!

Are you with me? That “hike” I described sounds like our journey through special needs parenting, doesn’t it? We’re walking life’s road with great awareness that there is beauty and excitement in the adventure but it comes with frequent setbacks that include danger, fear, confusion, overwhelm, and a host of other surprises. If you’re like me, you need ways to recharge your physical batteries, replenish your emotional reserves, and “rehydrate” your soul.

Finding time to rest and engage in effective, personalized refreshment strategies is not easy.

I find it’s helpful to start by asking myself a hard question. It’s the root question, really.

Do I trust God enough to prioritize my rest? Or do I think I need to press on hard because “if I don’t do it, who will” or “what awful or inferior thing might happen if I don’t get this or that done for my special needs child?” Friends, this kind of thinking reflects our pride and our lack of trust in God to be our ultimate Supply. After all, this is the same God who commanded the Israelites to rest on the seventh day and just trust Him. God provided exactly what they needed for food each day, but only enough for one day at a time. Anything extra spoiled overnight so they needed to trust Him for each new day. And on the seventh day, there was an exception to His pattern. He preserved a second day’s supply of food (which they prepared the day before) and gave them the opportunity for rest. God’s people honored Him best on that day by trusting Him for every necessary provision (even their very freedom) and reflecting on His faithfulness.

The caregiver in me is nourished by several things as I try to make rest a regular part of my diet. It has also helped me to recognize that I may not be able to indulge in long, slow swallows of refreshment very often but I won’t stay healthy or safe without adequate pauses for steady “sips of hydration.” It’s taken time to learn what works for me — what needs to be on my list and how I need to pace my rations. If you don’t yet know what works for you, let me encourage you to prayerfully ponder it and do some experimenting.

When I observe special needs moms who make self-care a priority, I’m always empowered with ideas and renewed commitment. Perhaps this list might confirm your own approaches or inspire some new ways for you to stay equipped for the trail ahead.

Ways to Stay Equipped for the Trail Ahead

Take 30-minute power naps. Now don’t roll your eyes. Impossible as it seems, this may be the single most helpful thing you can do for yourself and your family. That’s right, for your family. Taking a nap is not a self-indulgent thing. It is another way to serve your family. A 20-30-minute investment will give you a huge bang for your buck! Ideally, allow yourself 10 minutes to wind down then 20 minutes to sleep.

Tackle high-stress tasks promptly and when your energy is most fresh. 

Recognize that the “perfect” IEP is not the ultimate end-goal for your child.

Release yourself from the weight of responsibility to find every “best specialist” or “best therapist” or “best teacher” or “best special education program” or “best everything” in town.Briefly ask questions or research online but cover it with prayer and then trust God to point you in helpful and productive directions. When the situation doesn’t seem ideal, remember that God is perfect strength in our weakness and will work out every single situation for His good purposes.

Know what triggers your personal stress then ask God to help you discern when to take action and when to let go of what is out of your control.

Choose healthy ways to pamper yourself. It may require getting a couple hours of help from a spouse, older child, parent, neighbor, friend, or church volunteer to make this happen. This may seem improbable but it is a worthy effort to seek such support with the same vigor you put into advocating for your child. Get a pedicure, soak in the bathtub or have coffee/tea with a friend. Watch a fun movie while snuggled up with your child or spouse. Gather up the family and take a short field trip somewhere fun and different than the usual routine like bowling, a wildlife museum, aquarium, or theme park. Plan a staycation day with your family or spouse. (There are times when it is appropriate and necessary to do this with your typical children but arrange care for your child with special needs to stay home.) Eat enough protein and veggies. It helps me to focus on putting more good things in my life rather than thinking about denying myself the more indulgent treats.

Don’t let guilt and unforgiveness fester. Confess your sins quickly. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. Ask your loved ones for forgiveness and grace. Give them the same. Seek the empowering Holy Spirit for help to live well and trust God to be the strength in your weakness.

Develop a practice of gratitude and reject a critical spirit.

Get counsel for chronic grief. It’s real. Find constructive ways to talk about it. Seek out friends and professionals who will empathize and guide you biblically.

Tackle household clutter as proactively as possible. However, be on guard about giving a tidy house too much power.

Saturate your mind with the truths and promises of God’s word.  Thankfully, there are many wonderful devotionals specifically for special needs parents these days. Check out Key Ministry’s Family Resource page for ideas. One of my mainstay tools is simply a good Bible reading app with a scheduled devotional. (YouVersion is my app of choice.) And I like that I can reset the calendar when I get behind on daily readings. No guilt here!

Prayerfully establish and protect boundaries, especially as it relates to interruptions and difficult relationships.

Do one unique thing each day to serve or encourage another person. This can be as simple as a Facebook comment or as involved as modeling generosity with your children by preparing a meal or cookies together for a struggling neighbor. Generosity and kindness are terrific energizers.

Do a daily review, thanking God for all meaningful connections, activities, results and happy surprises.

Finally, whatever is on our uniquely personal lists, there are two non-negotiable and reliably effective “best practices.” These are irreplaceable for any person seeking true and lasting refreshment, special needs mom being no exception.

Repent of sin and trust God.

Acts 3:19-20 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.

Drink deeply from the well of intimate relationship with Jesus. 

John 4:14 “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”


Best Practices of Refreshed Special Needs Moms by Lisa Jamieson first appeared February 21, 2019 on Patheos.com.

Lisa Jamieson is the author of books and Bible studies including theFinding Glory series of resources and the new children’s book Jesus, Let’s Talk. She is co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries and leads the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection. Lisa and her husband, Larry, have been married 30 years and have three grown daughters. Their daughter, Carly, has Angelman Syndrome and lives at home with them in Maple Grove, Minnesota.