Tips for Caregivers Who Find it Refreshing to Get Organized

This is an ongoing series exploring what puts caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. In today’s post we’re exploring some challenges and opportunities for caregivers who are refreshed by getting organized. We’ll also look at what is different when being organized comes naturally compared to when it is a learned skill.

Some people learn to be well organized. Others are just born with the gift. In any case, having an effective organizer on the team of caregivers supporting your loved one and family is a valuable blessing.

There are numerous daily ways our caregiving household has benefited from serious organizational skills. I’ve included examples at the end of this article. You may laugh or cry at the absurd detail reflected in the list and photos. Or you may nod with respect. Many families raising children with disabilities will relate.

When I think of all the ways and times that organizational skills have been helpful to my own family in supporting Carly, my mind swirls with memories. My earliest recollection of bringing order to chaos involves feeding her during infancy. Because of Carly’s challenges with sucking, swallowing, reflux and being held (sensory issues), my husband, Larry, and I were forced to develop a feeding routine aimed at keeping her calm and thriving. This had to happen while also caring for two older children and maintaining the business we owned at the time. To say those days were hard is an understatement, but they were doable and tolerable, in large part, because we both had some natural abilities for creativity and organization. Without a doubt, we had the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to keep us persevering!

Thankfully, this is an area some have called my “genius.” There’s no denying organizational abilities seem to ooze from my blood. But the truth is, there is no shortage of organizational blood around here. Others in my family are also gifted organizers.

One example is worth taking time to explain. It powerfully illustrates how our daughter, Alex’s, organizing efforts led to our most enjoyable family Thanksgiving vacation to date. Holiday travel has been emotionally difficult for us. We manage well through the logistics of packing for Carly’s needs. But we have problems managing grief, frustration and resentment as those vacation days unfold. While the crew is wanting to play games, do puzzles, go for walks, watch movies and enjoy a glass of wine, each member of our immediate family is ever mindful of Carly’s needs. There is no escape from managing her sleepless nights, next hydration break, toileting needs, special meal prep, medication schedule, stress behaviors and boredom. We have all experienced some emotional burdens from this during vacations and holidays.

A couple of weeks before one Thanksgiving road trip, Alex approached me about creating a Carly care schedule for our week together. At that point, Alex was an adult working in a career that involved the daily use of spreadsheets. She already has a keen mind for organization but her mastery of spreadsheets has also become impressive. She kindly pointed out that Carly’s cares follow a clear routine of shifts at home that descend into spontaneous ambiguity when we’re on the road. Our family’s ability for tag-teaming has some obvious advantages but it leaves all of us feeling like we never really get a break.

Alex’s proposal aimed at ensuring there were defined compartments of time when each of us could anticipate being on and off “duty.” We agreed this would be a casual schedule adhered to in a relaxed way. For example, we didn’t define specific start and stop times for shifts. Instead, we simply identified who would have “lunch time on Tuesday” and who would take over for “afternoon” or “early afternoon” once lunch was finished.

It all started with identifying each person’s preferred shifts and breaks. She offered to create a spreadsheet and post it on the refrigerator for the duration of our visit. She also reminded me that Carly’s aunt and cousin have offered to help in the past but just weren’t sure what to do or how to do it. She said, “mom, we can just give them really short times of responsibility and a small list of ideas about what they can do with Carly when it’s their turn to be in charge.” I wish I could say I warmed to the idea immediately. It took a couple of days for me to envision how it could work but I got there.

When all was said and done, the rewards of Alex’s spreadsheet were too many to count!

WATCH: Family Systems and Holiday Gatherings

It must be said, Larry and I are exceedingly privileged and thankful to have adult daughters willing to partner with us in caregiving when we’re all together. I assure you, we don’t take it for granted. And I wasn’t always sure it would be that way. The countless reasons why grown siblings of someone with disabilities may want to avoid coming home for holidays, or at all, are material for plenty of other blogs.

WATCH: Parenting Special Siblings

One things is certain, being organized is a great asset in caring for our loved ones and in cultivating a higher quality of life for all of us.

Learned Behavior Is Not the Same As Natural Ability

As with so many skills, there is an important difference between learned behavior and natural ability. Those people who have the inborn capacity to be organized will not just be good at it, they will have significant need to employ the gift. They may even become more energized by activities involving putting things in order. If they are not given freedom and opportunity to bring order to situations and spaces, these folks will actually grow weary. They will tend to experience stress and become anxious. A natural-born organizer will shine in an environment where they have freedom to try their ideas. Most of their motivation will come from within.

On the other hand, someone with learned organization skills will be more inclined to see an organization project as a task to check off of a list or even a chore. They may have a heart to serve but not feel particularly motivated about something like problem solving or decluttering. They may appreciate a peaceful space and have the capability to tidy things up themselves but, given the chance to have someone else do the tiding for them, they would jump on it. When putting things in order is strictly a skill of necessity, a person can even become exhausted or overwhelmed, particularly if the pressures to organize remain prolonged, complex or unappreciated. To stay inspired, these caregivers will need steady doses of genuine encouragement and appreciation. Seeing rewards for their efforts will help keep them from giving up.

Sometimes, even the best of organizers will appear to procrastinate. The fact is, they may be taking extra time because they’re trying to figure out an ideal solution. The fear of implementing an inferior or imperfect solution may delay some organizers from tackling a project that feels complicated. A fear of appearing incompetent can be also debilitating.

It will be beneficial to understand specifically what may be hindering a person from employing their organizing skills. An intimidating project may need to be broken down into several smaller projects. It can help to address the easiest or most familiar aspects first. A highly relational person will be more motivated to tackle an organizing job if it is paired with something social. Fold laundry while chatting on the phone or purge a closet with a partner nearby to help in making decisions. Re-arrange the toys or room furnishings while listening to a podcast. Positive feedback will keep many project managers spurred on with confidence and a sense of value.

RELATED: Tips for Caregivers: Feeling Valued and Competent

The truth is, being in control can be a prominent motivator for organizing activities. Plenty of families appreciate having someone in their household who loves to keep the house tidy. Having a passion to keep the home orderly can be such a blessing to a family, most of the time. But it can be an obsessive need, for some people and at some times. In those cases, the organizer’s behavior can be problematic for the individual or family members.

I personally relate to this. There have been times when tidying things has created a sort of “illusion of control” for me when the rest of my life feels quite chaotic. At times, I have even used organizing to avoid doing other very important things, including stepping up to my responsibilities for Carly’s cares. It is important for me stay on guard for making an orderly home my idol. I may go to organizing things for comfort and quit seeking the the Holy Spirit as my primary Source of peace. In my strengths, the Holy Spirit guides and prompts my activities and priorities. In my weakness, the fixation with decluttering starts to control me.

Every caregiving household will benefit from the contributions of an organizer. If the knack for organizing isn’t particularly strong in your family, seek out a friend, volunteer from church or paid consultant to visit with periodically. A monthly, quarterly or annual consultation with a skilled organizer can breathe fresh life and encouragement into a caregiving situation.

Here’s another thought. If there are young children in your home, keep your eye out for hints of potential. Young siblings eager to help, be creative or solve problems may be little administrators in-the-making. Age shouldn’t limit anyone from sharing ideas about how to serve the family system. You may have a ripe opportunity to cultivate things like self-esteem, problem solving skills, confidence to experiment with ideas and hearts to serve.

TAP YOUR STRENGTHS AS AN ORGANIZER ON THE CAREGIVING TEAM

If being organized energizes you…

  • Seek responsibilities on the caregiving team that optimize your talent and capacity for things like medication management, housekeeping, record filing systems, rotating or re-sorting toys, maintaining therapeutic equipment, periodic closet and pantry purging, etc.
  • Facilitate discussions about routines and schedules that will keep everyone safe, efficient and well cared for
  • Help others find satisfying roles on the caregiving team (e.g., facilitate family/team meetings exploring the interests and strengths of each person)
  • Find a peaceful place in your home to be away from the pressures of the day and organize your thoughts (in cooperation with the needs of others)
  • Look for new opportunities for delegation
  • Express compassion toward those who aren’t as attentive to details as you are
  • Learn to seek Jesus in your priorities and strategies

The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement for the person who thirsts for an organized world:

1 Corinthians 3:11
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:16
He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

John 14:27
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

James 1:2-4
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Psalm 118:5
In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free.

Lord Jesus, you have given me a vision for order where there is disorder. The needs feel overwhelming at times and I don’t always feel personally equipped to meet them. I ask that You strengthen me where I am weak. Reveal Your strength in my weakness too. Raise up others around me and my loved ones to help too. Help my family to see ways where we can give organizational skills room to blossom. Use these gifts and abilities in our midst for godly purposes and to enrich the quality of life and relationships in our family. Amen

Send us your questions and join Lisa LIVE on Facebook April 15th!

Areas Requiring Organization in My Caregiving Home

  • Medications — Carly’s numerous medications and supplements involve medication organizer sleeves (pictured), a drawer in the fridge, a bread box on the kitchen counter, a kitchen drawer, a plastic box and first aid kit for traveling, a zippered cosmetic bag in her backpack, a special pouch in my own purse and a cupboard near her changing table.
  • Toys — We have systems for storing, cleaning, rotating. We have a toy basket in the car and special collection specifically for road trips.
  • Communication & Teaching Tools — Carly uses laminated photos to make activity choices and keep track of chores. Carly’s visual calendar has been a sanity-saver during the Covid pandemic!
  • Routines & Records — The number of checklists in our home is almost laughable. Lists line the inside of cupboard doors, hang on walls and pop up on our smart phones. We have lists of various sorts in the kitchen and primary bathroom: daily sleep log, seizure log, bowel tracking, medication changes, carpet/upholstery cleaning steps, outing idea list, behavior monitoring tool, and troubleshooting ideas for problematic behaviors. A 3-ring binder for all caregiving staff and family includes brief sections on hot topics such as Angelman Syndrome, her Health & Safety Plan, emergency contacts and seizure response information as well as time sheets, mileage forms and worker rights information for support staff.
  • Smartphone Photo Album — Several items are tagged in an album on each caregiver’s phone (e.g., family contact phone numbers, guardianship papers, current medication list, Carly’s state ID card, insurance cards, immunization record and Covid-19 vaccination card. I also keep a couple of videos there showing Carly’s current levels of function. These have been very handy during hospitalizations when I need to show medical staff what they can expect to see when Carly has recovered.
  • iCloud Folders — I’ve started keeping digital copies of important documents stored in a single place for Carly.
  • Incontinence Supplies — Carly’s bedroom and every bathroom in the house includes diapers (two kinds), wipes, disposable mattress pads, and more. We also keep emergency supplies in the car and her backpack.
  • Future Planning — This is an area that can trigger fear and stress, particularly for those who need to feel organized. In our household, there has been an ebb and flow about future planning. We’ve created and updated our wills at least twice in almost three decades of raising children. As the seasons of life unfold, Carly’s functionality matures and our financial situation evolves, preparing for Carly’s future and ours has also shifted and changed. It helps us to stay in touch with our attorney, check in with a financial planner and consult with other advisors along the way. We also work at maintaining open communication in our family about Carly’s future. Those conversations cover a gamut of subjects ranging from guardianship, social security and disability benefits to medical insurance and housing options. We have some dreams and plans but we tend to hold them loosely.


Tell us in the comments what or who helps you and your family stay organized!


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, 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.

Tips for Caregivers About Leading and Following

In this ongoing series exploring caregiver “sweet spots,” we’re looking at the challenges and opportunities experienced when caring for a loved one with disabilities or other special needs. Today’s focus is on appreciating the roles of leaders and followers. A strong team embraces the strengths of both.

The famous Fixer Upper couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines, are both strong leaders. Yet Chip readily admits that he and his wife are vastly different in almost every way. In fact, he is heard in many interviews explaining that the early days of working together were not always easy for them until they learned how to “stay in their own lanes.”

In his book Capital Gains: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff, he says “It’s just human nature for couples to turn their insecurities and animosities against each other during life’s more challenging seasons.” He credits the successes in their marriage and business to their faith in Jesus and learning to appreciate and give freedom to each of them to embrace their individual strengths.

When family members are caring for a loved one with disabilities or other special needs, the household runs, in many ways, like a small business. There are daily needs for logistics management, ordering supplies, doing paperwork, tag-teaming or scheduling help in shifts and maintaining morale.

Any strong business needs both leaders and followers. That includes inspiring visionaries, tough-minded decision-makers and loyal partners who will dependably implement responsibilities and enforce policies. In my own family, we are gifted with a delightful combination of gifted servant leaders. But we’ll be the first to admit that we can step on each other’s toes from time to time.

Now that my husband, Larry, and I share our “empty nest” with Carly, we have developed a sort of rhythm about how we tag-team her cares. So when one of Carly’s adult sisters visits or we all go on a vacation together, we’re grateful for help but there can be confusion about who is in charge as everyone is eager to relieve each other of responsibilities. Having so many “cooks in the kitchen” can interrupt the usual rhythm. Those situations benefit from open conversation and intentional planning about how to navigate the evolving situation.

Our daughter has reminded us on several occasions that we need to allow others more freedom to find their own approaches to certain aspects of Carly’s care. Although Larry and I, as the parents and primary caregivers, often find the most efficient methods, efficiency is not always the most important thing. So when new people come to the team or one of Carly’s sisters comes home to visit and steps in to help, we are learning to step away and trust them to navigate certain aspects of their own ways and rhythms together. As you might imagine, we have often ended up discovering some wonderful new ideas from observing their process rather than trying to micro-manage them.

A leader will need to lead. A servant-hearted contributor may appreciate clear expectations but desire great independence to implement the plan with a sense of freedom from authority.

My family has learned we have some vulnerabilities during times of change or transition. For example, Larry and I sometimes experience conflict when he returns from business travel. His job takes him out of town one week every month so I fly solo with Carly. I may try something new, especially if I’m trying to cope without extra help nearby. During those times, I hone in on an independent mode that is hard to shake when he gets back home. Unfortunately, I have not always communicated those ideas with sensitivity. Larry can feel, and rightly so, criticized or judged when I announce that I’ve found a “new and better way.” Re-establishing our usual collaborative approach takes some careful attention.

Travel away from home for holidays is another time when Carly’s routine is ripe for change. The changes may be driven by a need to manage without support staff or cope without the usual home modifications and conveniences. But sometimes those stretched periods lead to an improved approach and the adjustments become more permanent. The benefits of those adjustments are maximized when we communicate about them well with each other as a team.

It takes people with varied talents, passions and perspectives to make a strong team. Each contributor will have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Charismatic leaders have capacity for great accomplishments and to be powerful inspiration to others. But the measure of their “greatness” will rely on things like their moral code, humility, kindness and ability to control their temper.

Valuable to any caregiving team is a leader who is confident, tough-minded and visionary. They will be admired for their ability to take on responsibilities and rally a team around a project. Their challenge can be remembering that people themselves are not projects. In their weakness, leaders can be overly selective about which needs they prefer to prioritize and who they choose to align with on the team. They can become easily frustrated, even hot-tempered or cruel, when unable to motivate others to follow them.

Those who are happy to follow the lead of others may be servant hearted and eager to please. You can expect them to be extremely loyal and dependable. They will also be your strongest policy enforcers. Even if they are quite independent, they would be very willing to take on responsibilities as long as decision-making can be shared.

Without a sense of collaboration, those who are servant-hearted can become anxious or insecure. Their challenges can include becoming fearful when left alone and resentful when they don’t feel appreciated. In an atmosphere of freedom, supportiveness and affirmation, the caregiver whose nature is to serve will always go the extra mile for your family and play a key role on your loved one’s “dream team.”

RELATED: Tips for the Caregiver Who Is Very Independent

It helps all members of the caregiving team to clearly identify the big picture goals and keep them prominent in their mindset. For example, the leader who focuses on training their child with special needs towards independence may parent harshly unless their ultimate goal is to maintain a spirit of loving connectedness to their child. Similarly, a caregiver whose goal is to make everyone around them happy through their service will eventually grow resentful unless their ultimate goal is to serve God and experience their validation from knowing they are, above all else, God’s beloved child.   

Clear and open communication among care team contributors is always important in forging a strong and healthy caregiving team. This is particularly true when family members are leading passionately or serving with fierce loyalty. Each must learn to cooperate with the other’s strengths having humility and compassion in weakness.

The combination of emotionally and spiritually healthy leaders and followers on a caregiving team is a powerful gift! The family will thrive by appreciating each other’s strengths and gracefully holding each other accountable to sharing collaborative and godly goals.

Send us your questions then join us LIVE on Facebook April 15th!

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY GRACIOUSLY EMBRACING YOUR OWN LANE

If you are energized by leading and inspiring others

  • Be involved with setting goals, planning, making decisions, delegating responsibilities, supervising and motivating the caregiver support team
  • Offer to be the point-person in situations that require persuasion (e.g., insurance companies, funding sources) and optimism
  • Learn to be a servant-leader who is attentive to needs and respects others’ rights, feelings, thoughts, plans
  • Learn to motivate others without manipulating or dominating them (never use threats, anger, force or violence)
  • Delegate obligations where others could be encouraged and helpful (e.g., research)
  • Invest time and energy in activities your loved one enjoys (e.g., adaptive bike, swimming, wresting/roughhousing, cooking, hiking, fishing)
  • Learn to give much-needed recognition for the contributions and accomplishments of others
  • Learn to look to God in your own needs for recognition and approval

If you are naturally inspired to serve fiercely

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that surrounds you with healthy, wise and kind people to guide and help you
  • Use your servant-heartedness and intuitiveness to meet needs around you
  • Be direct about your own needs, preferences and boundaries
  • Find people who will collaborate with you in decision-making and respect your values
  • Maintain your individuality and a clear sense of your purpose on the team
  • Learn to seek Jesus for comfort and support when others are reliant on you

The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement for leading and serving caregivers:

Psalm 139:
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.

Ephesians 4:26-27
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Matthew 5:5
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

Luke 9:23-25
Then Jesus said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”

Romans 12:10
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

2 Corinthians 9:7
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

Lord Jesus, you are so wise and creative in the ways that you have put my family together. Our circumstances are so complex and challenging yet You are intimately aware of it all. You know just what we need. Your timing and ways are trustworthy. I see that You are teaching us how to live more cooperatively and generously in love and compassion for each other. I confess that I have, at times, felt things like pride and resentment about my role in our caregiving family. Help me to recognize and affirm the value of others in my family. Help me to see what I’m good at and what inspires me too. Show me how those things are valuable to my loved one with special needs but also to my whole family. Teach me how to engage my gifts in ways that pour Your love into my family. As I lead others, humble me to love and serve You as my supreme Leader and Lord (you are not my personal assistant). As I follow the lead of others, humble me to serve with healthy boundaries and with genuine cheerfulness too. Amen

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


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, 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.

Tips to Help Creative Caregivers Find Their Sweet Spot

This article is part of an ongoing series looking at what puts caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. Today we’re exploring challenges and opportunities for caregivers whose gift is for creativity.

Creativity is a wonderful gift! It is a particularly valued gift in special needs families, especially when an injection of new ideas and fresh energy is needed. Creative caregivers can be such a tremendous help in a family where there is great need for solving problems, finding new approaches to long-standing challenges, livening up tedious routines, spicing up the food menu, identifying new motivators for therapies, re-designing a home or room for unique functionality, making an old toy fun again and so much more.

I remember a time when our daughter Carly who has Angelman Syndrome was very young and not sleeping at night. She had been wreaking havoc with everything in her bedroom. She was pulling clothes out of dresser drawers, pulling down items in the closet and frequently stripping her bed of its linens. One night we awoke to loud crashing and found her standing at the window wildly banging the blinds and very much at risk of falling through her second story bedroom window at any moment!

The middle of the night was not our best hour for creativity but the situation demanded a fast solution. Within a few minutes, my husband, Larry, had found some scrap wood in the garage and nailed it over the window until we could figure out a more attractive and permanent fix. A few days later, my parents were in town and all four of us very creative adults were gathered in Carly’s room brainstorming everything from bedding solutions to window construction. It was a moment of both grief and deep appreciation. While Larry and I experienced the sorrow of having our lives turned upside down in great detail, we also had those poignant opportunities to connect with my parents whose hearts and minds were deeply invested in helping our family thrive.

We are all made in the image of God who is, by very nature, creative. The Creator of the heavens and the earth, and everything in it, is the Source of all good gifts. If you are someone particularly blessed with the good gift of creativity, let it shine!

Creativity can be a joyful and comforting outlet for the expressive caregiver. It can be a precious escape from pressing challenges and a way to move toward God when someone is yearning to tangibly experience a sense of His presence and power. Scriptures show that songs comforted both the creator and others. For example, King David’s poetic prayers brought him close to God (Psalm 23) and his music soothed the tormented Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23).

Creativity can ease a caregiver through boredom. Rearranging furniture, re-painting a bedroom, testing a new menu item, thinking of new activities during the long days of illness or the limitations of Covid can be exciting assignments right up the alley of the creative members of your family. It can also be a delight to a loved one who is bored, restless, discouraged or needing some fresh perspective in the grueling routines of their own disabilities.

What fun siblings can have when they share a craft or bake together! I’ll never forget when one of Carly’s sisters helped her choose pantry items and stir them together for a snack one afternoon. We have a treasured picture of Carly wearing an apron, holding a spoon and getting ready to grab a mouthful of her special “trail mix.” It was a challenging experience to keep Carly focused but that few minutes sharing a spontaneous new activity was a precious boost of morale and self-esteem for them both.

Alex helping Carly stir trail mix.

Your intention to bless others with your creative energies is greatly appreciated. But you may not always receive a positive reaction from your stressed and stretched family about your ideas and projects. Unfortunately, family members who are weary or exhausted may feel overwhelmed by new ideas or change.

If you encounter hesitation or pushback for your creative ideas, some perspective is helpful. First, resist taking the reaction of others personally. Have compassion for how ideas, any ideas from anybody, may be making others feel. This will help you to be patient. Consider, for example, that a pragmatic family member may be thinking you have a great idea but it’s going to cost more than what is affordable. Another family member may be thinking about how much energy it will take to implement it. Moms or the primary caregiver, in particular, may be resistant to trying something new if it feels like someone is judging their own major investment of effort. On the other hand, there may simply be concern for protecting the person with special needs from change and all of its associated adjustments.

Don’t give up. Your family needs what you have to offer. They may just need time to absorb your ideas. There will also be times when an idea still needs some refining.

Take your creative visions to God asking Him to clarify for you the timing or ways for sharing your ideas or projects. Ask God to show you what should be pursued and what should be released for another time, or things that need to be dismissed altogether.

Creative minds are often busy minds. Most creative people will have no shortage of ideas or visions for future projects. Your Pinterest boards and hook books may be very full. In fact, you may find yourself vulnerable to having too many “irons in the fire.” You may even find yourself starting to feel pressure to keep up with your own creative juices. You’ll experience greater peace when you develop a lifestyle of being still with Jesus, asking Him to move you toward those specific efforts that hold the greatest potential for Kingdom fruit.

It will also help you to examine what motivates your creative energies. For many, there is a driving need to feel known. There may also be a desire to express something on behalf of others. Feeling understand and pleasing people are powerful influencers. You may appreciate being acknowledged for your talents. It is gratifying to see the beauty or helpfulness of something you’ve created too. Expressiveness can also be a form of release, like popping the cork on a pressure-filled bottle. Unfortunately, that release may involve negative consequences for others. Many will be blessed when you are driven and empowered by the Holy Spirit rather than controlled simply by your own passions or flesh.

If you are not adequately meeting specific needs in your soul — following your unique strengths and calling — you are likely to end up feeling things like anxiety, disappointment, frustration or ongoing restlessness. You might lean into creative endeavors as a way of finding inner healing or escape from pain. But when your projects become an attempt to run from pain or anesthetize things like confusion and doubt, there is vulnerability to replacing a healthy pursuit of God with sin.

Take time to pray. Ask God what is driving your expressiveness. Repent of any sin and ask Jesus to purify your heart. Lean into godly ways of expressing yourself and serving others with your talents. Then enjoy the ripples of God’s handiwork through your gift. Understanding the factors that influence you and learning to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit will lead to deeper satisfaction and the fulfillment of Kingdom purposes.

When your creativity is a form of worship by way of engaging your gifts to express love to God and others, it will energize you and bring an abundance of incomparable blessings!

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY ENJOYING CREATIVITY EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

If being creative or expressive energizes you…

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that optimizes your gifts for things like designing the activity calendar, developing a motivating curriculum for home-based learning, facilitating artistic activities, decorating for birthdays/holidays, overseeing home and bedroom modifications/remodeling/adaptations, leading cooking or baking projects
  • Process your own grief and feelings about the situation artistically (e.g., journal, blog, music, dance, poetry, painting, baking)
  • Initiate conversations and activities that keep atmosphere, perspectives and ideas flowing and fresh (e.g., birthday parties, vacations, staycations)
  • Alternate between tasks and people
  • Plan opportunities for spontaneity and teambuilding
  • Learn to balance personal catharsis with being servant-hearted like Jesus


The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement for expressive caregivers:

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Exodus 31:1-5
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts.He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

1 Timothy 4:14
Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you.

Proverbs 18:21
The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.

Colossians 3:10
Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

Colossians 3:23
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Glorious Creator, your faithfulness is my shield! Thank you for breathing life and love into Your children. Your imprint on me is generous with creativity. You call me Your masterpiece. You compare me to a beautiful poem. It’s exciting for me to imagine all the ways You inspire me to express visions, ideas, feelings and dreams. Hold me in Your grip while we enjoy the freedoms of a creative life. Slow down my racing ideas when they control me or have negative consequences for others. Show me how to serve others with my gifts and glorify Your great name. Let the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart and the work of my hands be pleasing to you, Lord. Cause my gifts to be an instrument of healing to many. Amen

Tell us in the comments how your family experiences the blessings of creativity!


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, 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.


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.


Tips for the Caregiver Who Is Very Independent

Today we’re exploring some challenges and opportunities for caregivers who tend to be independent and are needed in some kind of caregiving role with a loved one. This is the fifth article in a series exploring what puts family caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting someone with special needs.

Independent people have wonderful potential to be very effective caregivers. Your strong decision-making abilities and great capacity to take on responsibilities will work to your advantage. You may, at times, feel like the schedules and needs of others are cramping your style. But, if you learn to make healthy adjustment in your attitude and behavior, anger won’t control you and your relationships will be enhanced.

Independent people don’t necessarily desire to have much control or influence over others. Some do. But many do not. Most of all, they don’t want someone else exerting too much influence over their life and circumstances.

If this describes you and you’re needed in a caregiving role, you may feel, at times a bit suffocated by the time and attention others need from you. You’re likely to struggle without adequate pacing of quiet time to spend time thinking thankful thoughts, doing your own thing and making your own decisions. Even if you genuinely desire to be of help, you may find yourself feeling robbed of freedoms, spontaneity and independent decision-making.

Don’t underestimate the value of well-placed breaks. Long periods without some amount of time to yourself is likely to put a strain on you. Your situation may not afford long or frequent breaks yet pauses from being responsible for others will go a long way toward keeping you refreshed. Work with family members and others who can contribute to sharing the cares so that you can develop an adequate rhythm of respite. Just knowing when your next break is coming is of help. A getaway on the calendar, simply a routine walk alone around the neighborhood or even time spent working in another job you enjoy will help you persevere.

Being a very independent person also means that you are self-motivated. Among your many strengths is the ability to gather and analyze the situation, come to conclusions and then respond according to what is needed. If you do happen to find yourself struggling with motivation, it will help to make sure you have sufficient and accurate information so you can draw your own conclusions and be confident in how you’ll respond. Ambiguity or lack of clear expectations can result in frustration and hesitation for someone who is independent. This can look like procrastination or stubbornness to others but will often have a great deal to do with your self-confidence.

All of us have strengths and weaknesses. It can be very helpful to recognize your vulnerabilities and learn how re-aligning with the Holy Spirit will move you back toward your strengths.

Your strong will can be both a strength and a weakness. For example, you will probably have a great desire to follow rules and procedures. You’re attentive to details and can be relied on to implement a quality care plan without a lot of supervision. In fact, you’re probably a good leader and very helpful in training new caregivers about the details and nuances in the realm of caregiving. However, you may have high expectations that others will learn quickly and implement those details perfectly. You may have no particular interest in controlling other people but you do want them to follow the rules and procedures put in place just as would be expected of everyone else on the team. You may not be aware that others feel a great deal of pressure to live up to your expectations because your expectations of yourself are even higher.

If you are experiencing a great deal of stress and anxiety, it will probably help you to learn that the lines of “right” and “wrong” may not be as black and white as they seem. Things that are unimportant to you or very important to you may be on a very different priority list for someone else. You will find your life and relationships to be richer when you work alongside others in collaboration rather than by exerting your own ideas and conclusions.

When working in areas that are familiar to you, you’ll be very efficient at those responsibilities. In fact, you may become so focused on working efficiently that you may sometimes forget to consider the thoughts and feelings of others. Being aware of this strong drive will help you to lean into the Holy Spirit for help in balancing efficiency with sensitivity.

If you are an independent caregiver, you will also find it helpful to be allowed to work at your own pace and in one steady shift that allows you to be efficient. Feeling pressured about external deadlines or the personal timelines of other people may trigger anxiety or frustration for you. Recognizing this can be very helpful since knowing what is triggering your reactions provides clues about how to pray for God’s strength as well as how to communicate clearly with others about what will help you stay in your strengths.

Be aware that people may perceive you as controlling even though you actually have little or no interest in holding power over others. It may be that your inflexibility, fear of failure and procrastination are impacting others in a way that makes them feel they’ve lost control. Even a few minutes alone every day can bring out your kinder and more flexible side. Cooperate with your team to give each other breaks for naps, hobbies, watching a movie, playing on a computer, going to work outside of the home or even doing nothing. These independent times will be powerful in rejuvenating you and making you much sweeter to be around.

It may surprise you to know that very independent people are often quite family oriented. You may have difficulty expressing your tender feelings around those you are closest to. In fact, your indirect behavior and sarcasm may be confusing to others. This can be especially true in families where there is a non-verbal person with disabilities. Your family may have become quite intuitive in their interactions with one another. However, body language, anger, tone of voice and seemingly critical words can often be misunderstood. It would be very helpful for your family to regularly “clear the air” with family meetings and conversations that foster clarity, repentance and forgiveness.

Things that tend to trigger stress and anger for you probably involve change, taking on responsibilities in areas where you feel unfamiliar or ill-equipped, feeling others don’t respect the things that are important to you, and frustration when others insist on the importance of things that don’t seem very important to you.

If you feel your competence is being questioned you may feel defensive, hurt or angry. It can be very helpful to ask God to show you what is real and what is perceived. More often than not, your concerns about what others think about your efforts are more imagined than real. While others may not tell you often or well enough, you are probably more valued than you realize. Your uncertainty about what others think about the quality of your work may be coming primarily from your own high expectations of yourself.

You’re likely challenged in the area of anger management. You may not even know that anger is problem for you. But members of your family and those who work closely with you probably do know. You may deny your angry feelings (or simply not recognize them as anger) unless or until you are intensely angry.

Caregivers who learn to deal constructively with their anger will find themselves much better able to cope with the tough issues of life and much more satisfied in their relationships. Anger does need to be expressed. But it needs to be expressed in healthy, godly ways.

The Holy Spirit promises to help us when we’re feeling weak. We are also promised to have our consciences wiped clean as we seek Jesus’ presence and trust Him (Hebrews 10:22).

As an independent person who is called to a role in supporting a loved one with special needs, you will find your sweet spot in that role by learning to deal with your anger constructively, give yourself and others the right to be imperfect, avoid holding grudges, continually forgive past mistakes, ensure for yourself some quiet time alone every day, develop routines that allow for you to be productive, keep focused on the positive side of life and make a point of expressing your tender feelings.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY DEVELOPING A COMPASSIONATE HEART

If you’re energized by being independent

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that prioritizes responsibilities in areas where you can control your own circumstances, time and decisions
  • Work together with loved ones to clearly define each person’s responsibilities in running an effective household
  • Develop a servant’s heart in your responsibilities
  • Be faithful to your own commitments without competing with others
  • Learn to show interest in what matters to others
  • Learn to be attentive and respectful to the needs and rights of others
  • Communicate daily with loved ones to keep from overstepping their boundaries
  • Create a safe space in your home where you can spend some time alone every day
  • Determine areas in your routines where you can take back some control
  • Learn to yield to Jesus’ authority first

The Bible offers an abundance of help and hope for people who are independent. If any of these verses seems especially encouraging to you, you might consider committing it to memory.

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.

Romans 12:1b-2
This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Ephesians 4:26
“Don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.

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

Romans 2:4
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

Romans 12:10
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me just as I am. You are so wonderfully kind to me! You know full well how hard I work and how much I enjoy my rest. You have equipped me to be highly capable and to serve my loved ones loyally. You understand the pressures I feel too. I need your grace, strength and hope to carry me from one day to the next. Jesus, forgive me allowing ingratitude, impatience, pride and anger to control me. Praise God, I am not a slave to sin! I am free to trust your easy yoke and light burden. Teach me, more and more, how to love tenderly, serve faithfully and trust you fully. Help me to experience my deepest rest and satisfaction with You. Amen

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.

When Lions Come, We Can Rely on Palace Training

When I was 7 years old, I was diagnosed with Ectodermal Dysplasia. I vividly remember driving to the University of Texas Health Science Center with my mother and father. I remember them telling my parents the diagnosis and prognosis. The tears rolled down my mother’s cheeks. I was terrified of the new unknown. I was told I had only developed 3 permanent teeth. Period. I began learning to follow my heavenly Father without knowing what the future would hold.

I’ll be honest, this part of my story is hard to tell. There are things about it that are extremely painful. But I want to share it because I see God’s ”palace training” in my life.

Yet, God has NOT given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and sound mind.

1 Timothy 1:7

The phrase “palace training,” evokes ideas of unfamiliar practices and experiences we are not privy to. Only the elite living in the palace are trained to reflect the honor and respect of their king or queen.

Moses is an example of someone God put into palace training. God had a plan for his people. But to accomplish this, He needed someone with specific training. Moses’ mother placed him in a basket at the river where Pharaoh’s daughter bathed. She trusted that Moses would be part of a greater plan God would bring into motion.

Moses was a Hebrew, being raised in a palace. He was being taught the rules and persuasions of a king who would, one day, free God’s people. God was providing palace training for the man He would use to bring about the Exodus — the leading of His Chosen people to freedom and promise. 

Navigating childhood and teenage years with a noticeable disability was difficult. I was accepted into a study program at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda Maryland. I spent most of my high school years enduring surgeries and procedures so I could have teeth. During the spring of my junior year in high school, I underwent the final surgery. It was excruciating. During my convalescence, I was homeschooled for three months.

Finally, the time came to place my prosthetic teeth. I looked in the mirror and began to cry. My gratitude was overwhelming. The healing was long and painful. As my body healed physically, God was working on a calling in my heart. I had no idea what would come, or where I would serve, but emphatically acknowledged His voice. 

I met my husband, Chris, in my junior year of high school. It was just months before my implant surgery. I was still wearing dentures. One night, he picked me up for dinner and a movie.

While we were eating, I realized he had a strange look on his face.

I asked him, “What is wrong?”

He replied,”Uhh….your tooth is gone.’ My front tooth had broken off of my denture and I hadn’t noticed.

I was mortified!

Later on, my husband told me he fell even more in love with me at that very moment. God had sent me a man that loved all of me —because of Whom I loved. 

When God takes us through palace training, the outcome is always meant to foster wisdom and courage. You see, God knew Chris and I would, one day, have two children with special needs.

God knew our children would endure countless surgeries, procedures and hospitalizations. God had prepared me, through palace training, to empathize and love these children with a honed personal experience.

It is true. I have wrestled mightily with God over the why of my special needs kids. Ultimately, I accepted the peace God brings in trusting Him even when.

Sometimes God sends a lion into our lives. Rest assured, that if he sends a lion, you will be equipped with the training to fight.

“The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

1 Samuel 17:37

In March 2016, I wrote the poem, The Lion Awaits. It is a testimony to God’s faithfulness in my life. The lions have come. But my Father has taught me well. He has trained me with strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

 THE  LION  AWAITS

The soul rejoices, day and night, to the peaceful presence of His strength and might.
We hear his voice in the soft still night.
“I have blessings untold,” the Messiah invites.
The heart beats out, ”the joy of the Lord is My Strength!”

An unknown test is silently delivered
         swiftly with one blow.

A soul screams, “Why? Have you forsaken me?”
The Father says, “I love you child. I let the lion come.”
The soul wails, “I will be destroyed!”
The Master soothes, “It is for your good.”
The soul fights and curses the lion.
Emmanuel says, “Stand up and face the lion, for I am with you!” 
The soul whimpers,” Why, my Lord do you stand far off?”
The Creator says, ”Stand firm that I may glory in the power of your endurance.”
“I am slain,” wept the soul!

The Redeemer said, “You must endure unbelievable pain to join me someday.”
The soul reverently surrenders, and tells the Healer,
         “When I despaired even of life, a whisper was heard.“

“You will have trouble, but I have overcome the world.”


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.

8 Marriage Strengthening Practices for Couples Parenting a Child with Special Needs

This month, we’re celebrating loving families and the legacy we can leave our children about love in marriage. Marriage is challenging, at times, even in the best of circumstances. When there is the added complication of circumstances like disability, medical concerns, traumatic injury, a mental health issue or some other special need, a marriage can become neglected or strained. Here are some practices — yes, things we can work at together, over time — that will help strengthen any marriage. But these are particularly powerful points of focus for the family impacted by special needs.

CELEBRATE EACH OTHER

God strengthens our marriages when we regularly express gratitude for each other and His faithfulness.
Romans 12:10 | 2 Corinthians 4:7-8 | 1 Peter 4:8 | 1 Thessalonians 5:11

BE  A  SAFE  SPACE

Cultivate safe relationship for processing individual and family grief.
Psalm 34:18 | Psalm 77 | Proverbs 21:9 | Proverbs 21:19 | Proverbs 21:23 | Romans 12:15-16

KEEP  CLEAN  SLATES

Our marriage is strengthened when we practice repentance and forgiveness.
Matthew 5:24 | Ephesians 4:2-3 | Ephesians 4:32 | Colossians 3:13-14 | Romans 14:13 | James 5:16

COMFORT  EACH  OTHER

We will enjoy the ripples of God’s all-consuming comfort through God’s design for marriage.
2 Samuel 12:24 | Proverbs 11:25-26 | Proverbs 14:10 | 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 | Philippians 4:13

COOPERATE WITH GOD

God lovingly refines each of us as we cooperate with Him.
Proverbs 24:29 | Ephesians 4:31-32 | Ephesians 5:28 | 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 | 2 Corinthians 3:5 |
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 | James 4:6

CATCH A  VISION

Having a Kingdom perspective about disability, suffering and redemption will enable us to embrace our challenges as opportunity.
Jeremiah 29:1-14 | 1 Peter 5:6-9 | Ephesians 3:20-21 | 2 Peter 3:9

BE  A TEAM

God wants to align our marriage with His heart for community.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 | Matthew 11:10 | 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 | Galatians 6:2 | 1 John 4:7-12

KNOW  WHOSE  YOU  ARE

We thrive when our personal and family identities are centered on being children of God, not on being a family with special needs.
Matthew 19:26 | John 1:12-13 | Romans 8:14, 16-17 | 2 Corinthians 3:5

Ask God the questions below in prayer. Begin some conversation exploring the questions with your spouse. You might look at one practice each week. Read the scriptures together and ask for God’s fresh insights, breakthrough in troubled areas, and refreshment to come to your family through your ongoing practice of each area.

  1. In which of these areas are we strongest?
  2. Which of these principles are hard for us? Why?
  3. Which one of these principles shows us our greatest opportunity to grow?
  4. How might our marriage be richer and stronger if we practice that principle?

At Walk Right In Ministries, we are praying for marriages. May every person who reads these practices be encouraged and empowered by the Holy Spirit to experience hope and growth — with each other and with Almighty God.

Larry and Lisa Jamieson, co-founders of Walk Right In Ministries, shared a candid reflection on these practices in their own marriage at the Wonderfully Made Conference (fall 2020). You can watch that on YouTube for more information, encouragement and inspiration.

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.

1 PETER 4:8

Please contact us if you would like specific, personal prayer. Our dedicated Prayer Team will hold your need confidentially in prayer.

If it could help you to talk with a caregiver consultant or professional counsellor, please let us know. We hope you will fill out the Interest Form or contact us online.

NOTE: Until fall 2021, you can also get the Wonderfully Made 2020 Conference VIP subscription to be able to watch ALL of the presentations shared at the virtual conference last fall. Learn more and get your subscription at wonderfullymadeKC.com

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.


Open Communication: The Currency of Love in Caregiving Families

My family has learned that we communicate a lot nonverbally. Carly, my sister who has Angelman Syndrome, is (for the most part) nonverbal. So we’ve learned to read the people and situations around us without needing to say much. The problem with that is that we often find ourselves frustrated and even resentful when the people around us are not “reading” what we are not saying.

Hear this loud and clear. It is okay to have needs and to express them. 

Did you hear me? It’s okay. It’s good. 

We were created to need each other. And that is a blessing! 

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.

Galatians 2:18

Caring for one another’s needs is a currency by which we exchange love! If you are a caregiver, you know this full well! We show the one we are caring for that we love them by taking care of their needs! But how do we take that currency of love to all the relationships around us and also let people love us?

As special needs families, we spend much of our lives putting aside our own needs for the more pressing needs of our family member. There is something very beautiful and even noble about the ability to do that for someone else. What an act of service and love!

However, if we completely neglect our own needs, we will slowly wear down our own ability to care well for the very one(s) we are trying to protect. 

We can tend to neglect what is going on inside of ourselves in favor of what we have to do to care for others. Then we allow moments of stress to give us permission to unleash all of the negative emotions we’ve got stored up in there. But if we can process our emotions as they come, not every stressful situation will feel like the sky is falling. 

I’m as guilty of this as anyone. But I’m learning. If you can catch your emotions early, take time to process them and evaluate what you need before the pent up emotions start creating negative behavior, anger and even resentment towards the people around you (i.e. your family), you’ll find you have much healthier and satisfying interactions them. In turn, you’ll enjoy much better relationships long term. To me, that’s well worth the effort of knowing myself and my emotions — giving them the time of day when they need it!

The best thing you can do for your sibling, parents, kids, family members and friends is to practice self-awareness and be proactive in communicating. There is enormous positive potential in sharing your own needs and asking others to share what they need. Especially in a season where most of us are experiencing more time in close quarters with those around us than ever, it’s important to learn tools for communicating well so everyone remains in good spirits!

There is enormous positive potential in sharing your own needs and asking others to share what they need.

We need practice being aware of our own needs and then learn good ways to communicate those needs.

“I’m so busy today, I’m never going to get everything done.” 

“You never wash the dishes!” 

“I wish the laundry would just wash itself!”

Believe it or not, these are not the best ways to ask for help. In fact, they’re not asking at all. Statements like this may feel like an obvious hint to those around us about what we need. But they don’t actually give effective information about how we would like to be helped! In fact, they can even communicate criticism or disappointment in others and their lack of ability to meet our needs. You’ve essentially told your loved one, even if inadvertently, that they have already lost the battle in trying to help you or love you.

Why would they try now?

We can allow moments of stress to give us permission to unleash all of the negative emotions we’ve got stored up in there. But if we can process our emotions as they come, not every stressful situation will feel like the sky is falling. 

How do we take the currency of love to all the relationships around us and also let people love us?

Let me clarify that it is totally okay to express frustrations and disappointments to your loved ones. However, it is important to check our own motives as we do so that we are not trying to send a subtle message behind our words. (We’re all guilty of it, I promise). 

  1. Ask yourself what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way.
  2. Ask yourself what would make it better or how others around you can help.
    (This sounds simple, but for most of us this is actually very difficult and might take a little soul searching, but trust me, it’s worth it.)
  3. Directly ask those around you for what you need! 

It sounds profoundly simple, I know. And it is. But once you start thinking about it, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll notice yourself trying to give subliminal messages to those around you without actually saying what you really want or need. 

I know, I know, it feels like cheating if you have to ask for it — even selfish! But the truth is, we are asking a lot of the people around us if we are expecting them to read our minds. We are caregivers! We know how to help the person we are caring for. Possibly the people we know least how to help are our other family members — and yes, ourselves

If you’ve ever been in school, you know the best kind of test is an open book test. When we expect our loved ones to know what we are asking for without us outright saying it, we are asking them to take a test on a textbook they’ve never read! The reality is, they don’t know what you need because your needs are as unique as you are.

Let’s do ourselves and our loved ones a favor this Holiday season (and all year round). Let’s give each other the gift of the answer key to us.

Let’s give each other the information we need to win in relationship with one another! 


Erin is a singer-songwriter and worship leader. Her songwriting, blogging, and speaking is often inspired by challenges and insights she experienced growing up in a family affected by disability. Erin serves with Walk Right In Ministries speaking on special sibling issues and assisting with social media. She has also served frequently in her community and home church as a worship leader.

Erin earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Songwriting at Belmont University in Nashville and currently lives in California where she completed three years of study at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Her latest CD Come Alive (released 2018) and is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, YouTube and other streaming services.

Find out more at www.erinjamieson.com.

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.