Back in May, I thought the summer of 2020 could benefit from an injection of fun — and prayer. It was pandemic season, after all, and people all over the world were still hunkered down amidst activity limitations and social restrictions. I found myself whispering exasperated questions to God at all hours of the day. And I wondered if others were doing this too. I wanted to know more about how others pray — people of all ages, abilities, nations and circumstances — especially when we are unable to gather in man of our usual ways.
So, I checked in with team members at Walk Right In Ministries about the idea of a summer contest about prayer. It was thought that my book Jesus, Let’s Talk could give some inspiration. Everyone agreed a contest could spur some sharing and be a fun way to create a sense of community. It would be something absolutely anyone could do and it would be as simple as a short post on social media.
We invited people to write to us, draw a picture or record a short video explaining how you like to experience prayer. Some were sent directly to my email and others posted directly on social media using the hashtag #JesusLetsTalkContest.
Responses came from people of all generations and diverse experiences.
One mom wrote, “We’ve tried to teach our kids to start every prayer with the many things they’re grateful for. Hopefully, it puts the rest of the prayer into perspective.”
An older gentleman isolated in an assisted living facility did a crossword puzzle this summer revealing a family around a campfire. It reminded him of a story to share about his own experience with prayer. He wrote, “When I was young, I learned about Jesus. When I got bigger and went to church in Sioux Falls years ago, I went to a group that would meet after church and have campfires. When I sit around the campfire, I think about what Jesus went through. When I am lonesome, I think about God or Christ. It’s a different world since the Covid. Praying at the campfire reminds me that (Jesus understands what I’m going through too).”
I was inspired and I hope these highlights encourage you too.
We have selected three stories from June, July and August and each of those featured friends is receiving a gift card from Walk Right In Ministries. It has been a fun and simple way for us to thank people for encouraging others with their own experiences.
We want to thank everyone who took time to share a story. It was very encouraging to me reading about how you talk to Jesus. I had fun reading comments on social media too. When one of our winners posted her video, friends encouraged her saying things like, “You are such a good friend! (I’m) praying for you too.”
I know the Bible tells us that prayer is sometimes supposed to be private. But it is also shows that prayers is to be shared sometimes too.
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Acts 1:14
“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:19-20
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
With so few opportunities for worship together in our churches these days, this summer’s prayer sharing felt to us like fellowship and a community of worship among friends here at Walk Right In Ministries. We are so thankful for that.
“I am glad I can pray whenever I want. I am home all day alone but NEVER really alone. I have someone to talk to all day. I pray my gratefulness when I look outside and see birds and clouds. I pray a lot about our world when I am holding my cross at night. Every morning I kiss my cross and thank Jesus for another day. It is a gift to me. When I listen to my Christian music, I pray out loud.
When my tears flow, I look up at the clouds and know I must persevere as I know pain and suffering will end in heaven. Sometimes all I can do is say, ‘I love you’ and ‘thank you for memories of beautiful moments.’ Saying ‘I love you, God’ is a simple prayer but, oh, how he loves to hear this!
It is easier to pray when things are good and I know how difficult it can be to pray when you are suffering. We need to love others and be grateful.”
Judy Markson posted a photo with her granddaughters.
“Jesus, Let’s Talk was in a stack of books I read when June and Esme were over last Tuesday. They knew a couple of the signs already and we had a sweet conversation about the kids in the pictures.”
Congratulations to our winners and thanks to all who participated!
Did you know there’s a fun contest happening this summer for readers of Lisa’s book Jesus, Let’s Talk? This is for people of all ages and stages of life — the young and young-at-heart! You could even do it together. (Our June winners were a grandma and two of her granddaughters.)
To enter, all you need to do is tell us about a place you like to pray or person you like to bewithwhen you talk to God. Here are some ideas about ways you could share…
Draw it in a picture
Write a short story (even a couple of sentences is enough!)
Record a short video of yourself telling us about (or showing us) a place you like to be when you talk to God
It’s okay to have a parent, caregiver or friend help out.
Here’s all you need to do to enter:
Post your story or artwork on your own Facebook page or Instagram and use this hashtag:
At the end of August, we’ll be selecting another person/family/group to receive a fun treat in the mail.
Winners get a choice of gift card (e.g., Target, Dairy Queen or Jimmy Johns).
We know your experience will inspire others so we’re excited to help you share stories and artwork!
We’re in the very early stages of planning a virtual event (probably a fundraiser with a concert) to happen during late January or February 2021. Our first meeting to begin dreaming and planning is scheduled for next Monday night on Zoom —
Monday, August 17th at 7:30 pm.
Would you consider coming to this meeting to help us dream and plan?
Everyone is welcome to come learn more and share ideas. Of course, we’ll also be needing volunteers to help make the event happen. So, even if you don’t attend the meeting, please let us know if you’d like to be involved. And watch WRIM newsletters for updates. (Subscribe on our website.)
Please tell us your perspectives about how to make a virtual event fun and meaningful. Share your ideas here in the comments, email us or join the meeting for some fun fellowship too. If you want the Zoom link, message us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for helping us make the most of ministry during “Covid times” and beyond!
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
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.
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.
A few months ago, I posted this statement on Facebook:
This got a reaction.
Most people who responded were caregivers themselves. They resonated deeply with the sentiments I expressed. The rest of those who responded were encouraging friends whose comments usually indicated that they were praying for me.
I was grateful for the prayers but even more moved by the hunger among caregivers to feel noticed and heard. Since so many caregivers practically begged me to get this word about their (our) chronic stress out more broadly (on their behalf), I posted again the next day with a very personal and rather lengthy explanation about my own chronic stress and why I talk about it the way I do.
I wasn’t expecting to post it, yet again, on my blog. But subsequent conversations suggest it deserves one more share. So here goes…
WHY DO I SHARE WHAT I SHARE? AND WHEN I DON’T SHARE, WHY NOT?
There are a variety of reactions I encounter whenever I talk about how chronic stress is affecting my family and others in intense or complicated, often long-term circumstances.
Obviously, not every reaction is helpful to a family like ours. But trust me, I understand most people are well-meaning and I’m very hesitant to criticize any reaction — I mostly appreciate ANY reaction (except apathy). Larry and I don’t expect perfection in understanding. But we do hope people at least care. And try. And we hope people won’t over-simplify what we are experiencing. That feels like invalidation of something that is very big and very real for us.
Some people want to better understand this so I’m going to try and explain more about it today and I’m going to be pretty transparent.
I know that I’ll be articulating perspectives that are not just my own because I’ve had emotional discussions with others about this very issue. One of those conversations was as recent as this morning when a friend called me from another state about the post I shared yesterday.
Yup. This hit some nerves.
When we don’t talk about our challenges very often, it is not uncommon for people to think that all is well. Some others who have some idea that life is always hard over here at the Jamiesons think we are just trying to keep a “stiff upper lip” or are wanting to be self-sufficient in our challenges. Some people believe we are trying to be “missional” in an effort to “look” put together with the power of God.
Seriously, we’re not trying to hide anything or even prove to anybody that “God’s got this.”
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly hope my life points people to Jesus and shows that God is fully able, accessible and worthy to be praised. Because He most certainly is. I don’t know how anybody lives through a crisis like this without a relationship with Jesus Christ. But that’s not what underlies my philosophy (or for lack of better word, strategy) for deciding when and how to share the inner realities of my situation.
Of course we hope people will somehow see Jesus in us — whether through how He meets us in our challenges or for any other reason! Don’t we all want to see evidence that the living God is real? But the way I express my stress publically is way more selfish than that. Larry and I are, first and foremost, trying to live in a way that helps us thrive as individuals, a couple and a family. In the process. We just want to live within relationships that are REAL.
I gave up trying to tough things out a long time ago. I do just exactly what I have to do every day to survive and thrive. So, trying to look “good” or more “Christian” is far from the reality for me and Larry. We always want to be authentic with people and we highly value people who are willing to be real with us. In truth, there are a whole host of reasons why I talk about our specific challenges or overwhelm rather infrequently compared to how often we are actually struggling. For today, it’s important to me that you know WHY. God seems to have prompted me to just lay it out here for whoever cares.
“I don’t want to look normal for your benefit. I want it for me. So even though taking a shower, fixing my hair and putting on a cute, comfy outfit to go out in public takes the alignment of stars at my house and risks masking a reality about how much I need your prayers, help and friendship — I’m going to risk it.”
So, in no particular order, these are just a few of the reasons why I personally don’t talk often or widely about the specifics of my personal stress…
I’m not always in touch with the reality of how extremely stressed out I am.
I function on autopilot a lot.
I don’t want people feeling sorry for me.
I have all the same stresses everybody else does and would really like those to be recognized as part of who I am too.
A whole lot of people would rather just believe that “it’s all good” over here.
Some people just want to cheer me up.
Some people tell me, “you deserve to feel sorry for yourself.” This isn’t helpful for me. I appreciate the attempt at empathy but I don’t believe this is right thinking and it is rarely helpful for me to go to that place.
I spend a lot of my daily energy trying to pace my energies and emotions. That means I have to spend proportionately high amounts of time with Jesus and in prayer. Since my physical body is increasingly deteriorating due to Carly’s 24/7 cares, my age, long years without adequate sleep, etc., I have to give some priority to taking care of me as best I can (which is never really enough). I need more naps than the average person because I spend a lot of time awake at night. I need to serve others. It’s a great outlet for me — gives me a sense of purpose and keeps me from feeling consumed with my own challenges. Needless to say, all of that doesn’t leave a lot of time left over for complaining and explaining.
Sometimes I’m just plain tired of explaining.
I don’t like people dismissing me as a “drama queen.”
I get tired of feeling like I have to be one of the world’s “teachers.”
I weary of the disappointment of trying to build understanding and having my hopes and needs for resonance dashed when people don’t “get it.”
I don’t want to get my hopes up that someone will care (reach out) only to be disappointed.
When my situation is most overwhelming, I feel unable to explain my situation or emotions. My mind and heart feel too complicated to explain. So, if I feel able say anything at all, I just try to articulate even one thing I know people can pray about or help with. But that can give the impression that just one thing is weighing on me. (Yet, rest assured, whatever I am saying out loud is probably just the tip of the iceberg with lots more behind it.)
It helps keep me out of depression and those woe-is-me places if I focus on what is going well and what I’m grateful for.
Focusing on Carly’s strengths gives her the best shot of reaching her potential.
Focusing on Carly’s strengths (instead of why she’s making things hard for me) feels more respectful to her.
Any time I talk about how hard it is caring for Carly, I risk undermining our ability to ever find or hire respite helpers (because people think they won’t be able to handle it).
I don’t want to worry my family.
I don’t want people to quit sharing their own concerns with me because they feel badly that their own issues may seem insignificant next to mine.
I often feel misunderstood and since I’ve been misunderstood a lot in my life, I avoid that pain.
I don’t want to feel analyzed.
I get tired of talking about the same thing. Being “that person.” Sounding like a broken record.
When you boil it all down, this is probably the biggest reason why you don’t regularly hear about or see the degree of my stress:
I WANT TO LOOK AND FEEL AS NORMAL AS POSSIBLE.
I don’t want to look normal for your benefit. I want it for me. So even though taking a shower, fixing my hair and putting on a cute, comfy outfit to go out in public takes the alignment of stars at my house and risks masking a reality about how much I need your prayers, help and friendship — I’m going to risk it. Because for a couple of hours, I’m happy to be clean and out in a “normal” world feeling like a “normal” human being with a “normal” life. Any illusion is for me. Not for you.
And here’s one more thought for you to chew on. If I wrote about this regularly, many of you would have stopped reading my posts a long time ago. You’d be too overwhelmed, irritated, or numb. My perpetual drip of whining would wear you down and lose its oomph. (For some people, it already has. They’re not even curious and are no longer reading this right now.)
So, consider this “rant” my way of trying to get your attention and urge you to remember there are friends around you struggling mightily with chronic hard stuff — whether or not they look like it or sound like it. Please don’t check out on them, whether they are good at how they handle their communication or not. (Doing this well is hard and even harder when you’re stressed out and/or sleep deprived.)
Thank you for listening. I’ll write again soon.
But not too soon.
NOTE: This blog is a repost from an “Open Letter” Lisa shared on Facebook in April 2017.
Maria Palomino recently spent a few hours helping to update and organize the Lending Library list for Walk Right In Ministries. As she worked, we had fun chatting about the value of certain books and it was interesting for me to learn which books caught her personal interest. Since she’s a young adult, I was particularly impressed by her eagerness to learn and inspired by her hunger to grow in faith.
One book in particular was intriguing to Maria so she asked to check it out and read it. Not long after, it led her to an opportunity for ministry.
I have been a Christian ever since I was 12 years old, however I never thoroughly dove into the scientific and archeological evidence regarding what I believe, or how to argue for the validity of the Bible. So when I noticed the book Surprised By Faithby Don Byerly in the WRIM Lending Library, I was intrigued. I knew that when I was done reading this book, I would need to share it, specifically with those who are consumed by questioning Christianity and the Bible as being absolute truth in comparison to other religions and texts.
I actually ended up using this book for my English project and presented the information in front of my class. The student teacher came up to me afterwards and told me he was a Christian as well. Coincidentally, we both had Hebrew tattoos on our left arms! Anyway, the minute that I finished the book, God placed on my heart the name of a friend of mine who was going through exactly the same kind of questioning. I texted his dad right away and encouraged him to get his son to read Surprised By Faith as part of his homeschool curriculum. He ordered it right away, read it himself, and then passed it on to his son who is still finishing it.
I have faith that the Lord will use this book as a vehicle to expand His kingdom and I am excited to hear back from my friend!
It is a privilege to see how God used Maria’s service to this ministry by providing her with an opportunity to encourage a friend in his faith!
Thank you, Maria, for enthusiastically and courageously sharing this story which helps us to see the presence, power and goodness of God among us.
To learn more about what is available in the Walk Right In Ministries Lending Library and find out how to borrow these FREE and valuable resources, contact us at email@example.com for a complete listing and our simple lending process.
Families impacted by disability often feel isolated. And church must be the place where they belong, where they are encouraged, where they find hope and healing. There are a growing number of churches that are being intentional about caring for and fully engaging with people who have atypical lives. These churches are doing more than just “being nice” to people with special needs. They are actually engaging in life with each other. They are resisting fears. They are stepping in faith despite concerns about being over-stretched. They are taking risks to be engaging. They are discovering that God changes lives and enriches churches when they care for and include each other, especially when life gets the most challenging. Accessibility isn’t just about ramps, elevators, special seating in the sanctuary and gluten free communion. The church—and Jesus most of all—needs to be emotionally and spritually accessible to all people. And that involves more than just being greeted nicely by an usher. Jesus was much more than just NICE to people. He fully engaged with them—their questions and their pain. He cared that people experienced belonging in His family and wanted them to feel assured they had tremendous value. Very often, Jesus physically reached out and actually touched hurting people. In fact, Jesus spent a lot of time hanging out with people who were on the fringes, the hurting, the weak, the weary, the “different,” the ill, the disabled, the unpopular, the unglamorous and those who were seeking hope (even when they weren’t really sure where to look). What Jesus always did was engage in love and his foremost concern was and still always is for us to BELONG with Him and to have HEALTHY SOULS.
History resonates. Paul was anxious to meet up with his friend Timothy and enjoy an extended visit with old friends in Corinth. He had every intention of spending some quality, unrushed time with them even though there were plenty of other things competing for his time and attention. For example, prolonged stays in Ephesus and Macedonia kept Paul from his visit to Corinth for well over a year.
Do you ever feel like that? You want to go hang with friends or pursue some dream that excites you while there are other pressing matters all around? I sure relate!And it can be hard sometimes to discern which of those “pressing matters” are actually as important as I think they are. Sometimes I feel like it’s moment-by-moment battle to discern what to do next, where I should make some intentional decisions about priorities and when I simply need to press in and make the best of circumstances out of my control. Paul seemed to be a master at all of this kind of discernment and submission. He recognized a ripe opportunity right in front of him and was willing to wait a little longer to see his friends so that he could do the “great work” right where he was and resist moving on too quickly.
Earlier this year when I was reading Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, this verse from 1 Corinthians 16:9 literally jumped off the page at me. Let me take a moment to tell you why.
Since the beginning of Walk Right In Ministries (8 years this month), we have periodically asked the question: “Does God want this to be a ministry specific to people with disabilities or is He really moving us into a broad place to serve people facing a wide range of life challenges?” Our missions was clear (to help people connect and grow in Christ-centered community) and our general audience was clear (people feeling lonely or isolated and often existing on the fringes of the church).What was not always clear is to what degree God wanted our “audience” to be targeted and in what specific ways He wanted to us to reach out.
Probably like most of you, I have wrestled with these questions in my personal life as well. So when I read this verse and considered Paul’s situation, I got excited. I found great personal encouragement and felt it offered clarity for this current season of ministry. Immediately, I sensed this was a direct and timely Word for Walk Right In Ministries. We discussed it during a Board meeting and agreed the scripture was to be received as reassurance of our existing vision, plans and activities as well as exhortation to release concerns about whether we were becoming too narrowly focused. So what that looks like today is that we are pouring our energies in three areas:
1.Programs, services and resources that strengthen caregivers and families experiencing special needs
2.Fostering inclusive communities that reflect the kind of atmosphere of belonging Jesus loves
3.Equipping and encouraging leaders in disability and special needs ministry
I had been entertaining anxiety about missing His call. Instead, He was reaffirming our call and refining the vision for Walk Right In Ministries.It was as if God Himself put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Lisa, it’s all good. Your wholehearted commitment is well placed right where it is!” As I thought about areas of this ministry where there has been growing momentum—areas like the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection, Jammin’ Pie Fest, one-to-one coaching, public advocacy and speaking opportunities—I had been tempted to see the growing focus on the special needs community and feel restless. Yet God’s voice was clear: “Stay put. I understand you feel like you are leaning into a stiff wind. Progress seems slow and you face obstacles at many turns but I am in the midst of it all doing a great work. Look straight ahead through this door I’ve thrown wide open for you! Stay attentive to Me and the time will be equally clear, if and when I want you to throw your net in a different direction.”
Please pray for Walk Right In Ministries. These are exciting days. We are busy and we are focused. We sense God’s presence, power and good fruit is steadily growing where He has carefully placed us in positions of influence. Yet we hold plans loosely with the understanding that the Holy Spirit is dynamic and brilliant. We are anticipating surprises in 2017 and are already seeing some sweet ones on their way. Scroll to the end of this post for an announcement about COOL NEWS! for 2017.
How about you?
When was the last time you wrestled with God about whether you are fulfilling your purpose or correctly hearing His call? Perhaps you’re making it too complicated when God has actually put a wide open door right in front of you.
Do you ever look around at what others are doing and feel guilty or envious? Consider that God doesn’t want you to experience pressure. He wants to give you joy in knowing He has appointed you for something unique and He wants you to experience the kind of spiritual rest that comes from simply embracing the doors He is opening right in front of you every day.
Is this the time of year when you will begin wondering about how to invest yourself in 2017? We’re praying for you to have eyes to see and ears to hear when new doors open.
What obstacles or opponents are you facing that may be tempting you to change directions when, in fact, God wants you to run straight ahead and trust Him to do a great work despite those challenges? If there is repentance to be done, do it. If there is forgiveness to be offered or reconciliation to be sought, extend it and seek it (whether it is received or not). To what extent might the very things that are challenging you right now (e.g., health crisis, stretched finances, strained relationships, job dissatisfaction) are actually part of what God is using to make your effectiveness more significant?
Does this Thanksgiving and Christmas season bring any “open doors” to your mind? What opportunities may be right in front of you where your involvement could produce a great effect?
What joy lies before us when we embrace our current situations for all they are worth and trust God to cause tremendous Kingdom impact!
Lord Jesus, thank you for answering when we prayerfully wrestle with You. Your encouragement to embrace our circumstances as opportunities is challenging at times but an exciting reminder that life can be a wonderful adventure.Thank you for appointing us right into life and relationships where we can make a Kingdom difference. Help us to follow you faithfully and enthusiastically, without grumbling or succumbing to doubt. Increase our clarity and confidence so that we live, love and serve without reservation and in full trust that you will bring it all to great effect! AMEN
I have been invited, along with my two oldest daughters Alex and Erin, to present a workshop titled “Parenting Special Siblings” at the 2017 Accessibility Summit in Washington DC. More information will be available when the full workshop schedule is announced in early December. Until then, here is the low-down on what we will be offering:
Parenting Special Siblings
This interactive session opens a dialogue about the challenges, disappointments, advantages and opportunities of being a sibling in a family affected by disability. It is led by Lisa Jamieson, the mother of three adult children and author of Finding Glory in the Thorns. Lisa is joined by her adult daughters Alex and Erin who share candid perspectives about growing up with a sibling who has Angelman Syndrome which involves chronic health issues and severe developmental disabilities. Discussion topics will include sibling conflict, balancing attention, grief processing, dealing with social stigmas and misunderstanding, family vacations and managing stress. Participants will leave encouraged with basic principles and numerous practical ideas about how to enjoy more victories and deeper graces despite the reality of weaknesses in every family.
Presenters: Lisa Jamieson, Erin Jamieson, Alex Jamieson
Theme Verse: 2 CORINTHIANS 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Lisa Jamieson is a national speaker, author, consultant and advocate who serves as executive director at Walk Right In Ministries and leads Minnesota’s Disability Ministry Connection. Her books include Finding Glory in the Thorns and Living Your Glory Story. She is also creator of the Finding Glory small group curriculum, a favorite of caregivers and others wanting Christ-centered discussion through challenges. Lisa and husband Larry have three adult daughters. Carly lives at home with Angelman Syndrome. Their story has been featured on Words to Live By, 100 Huntley Street and My Refuge Radio Belize.
Alex Jamieson is a senior audit assistant at Deloitte (Minneapolis). Active in her church and as a community soccer coach, Alex also volunteers with Walk Right In Ministries as an occasional speaker and regular encourager to families experiencing special needs. She is the oldest sibling to a sister who has Angelman syndrome. During her high school years, Alex worked as a personal care assistant and has since become a strong advocate for her sister Carly and others who experience disabilities. In her blog “Authentically Alex,” she reflects on a range of topics from setting goals to dealing with life’s transitions.
Erin Jamieson is a singer-songwriter and worship leader. Her songwriting, blogging and speaking is often inspired by challenges and insights experienced growing up in a family affected by disability. The title cut from her debut EP Without the Dark is featured in the movie Season of Miracles about a baseball player with autism. Erin is a senior at Belmont University in Nashville where she recently performed in the 2017 Christian Showcase. Her latest release No Dream Too Big is available on NoiseTrade. Erin’s youngest sister has Angelman Syndrome.
Jammin’ Pie Fest 2016 was another grand success.The sweet tastes, sounds and community spirit were a smash hit again this year. Over 200 people and 75 different families experienced a colorful fall afternoon out on the lawn with friends, family, live music and 53 delicious homemade pies!
Walk Right In Ministries is tremendously grateful for the fun memories and encouraging stories coming out of Jammin’ Pie Fest 2016. Hours of volunteer effort, donations and prayers make a powerful difference for festival guests. We want to extend deep gratitude to our music artists Regie Hamm and Family Three as well as our generous sponsors Cub Foods, Schuler Shoes and Degree of Honor Insurance. Special thanks also goes to our many many gift card and service donors including AMG Photography who captured the heart of this special day so well. All of this collaboration keeps the event FREE while making support and encouragement accessible to many. Jammin’ Pie Fest is always a beautiful community experience. A diverse group of individuals and families are refreshed and that is especially true for those who are stretched, sometimes isolated and needing hope amidst life challenges. We hope Jammin’ Pie Fest serves as an inspiration and model for what all communities can look like. Let’s consider how, throughout the year, we can continue embracing each other, growing in faith and experiencing the adventure of life together!
NOTE: Our event photographer, AMG Photography, has a special offer for Twin Cities area individuals and families who experience special needs. Visit https://amgphoto.smugmug.com for session information and enjoy many more memories!