8 Truths About Disability & Relationships

The Bible provides many anchoring truths to guide us and spur us on in life. Caregiving families see those truths tested with extraordinary perspective. We also get to see — up close — how a foundation in certain truths stirs our compassion for each other, bolsters our sense of purpose in suffering, and reassures us that each person in our family is celebrated by God.

Each and every one of us is one hundred percent unique,
purposed for God’s kingdom,
and made for belonging.

Consider how our lives would be transformed if we really believed this one thing about ourselves and each other!

Let’s take a closer look at this foundational belief through the lens of eight truths about disability and relationships. By transforming the way we think, God’s truth has power to shape the way we live. By shaping the way we live, God’s equips us to cope with challenge or crisis. As we learn to cope — by the power of the Holy Spirit — we thrive in relationships with God and others.

God's good design is reflected in every person.

God’s good design is reflected in every person.

The fingerprints of God are on every person and circumstance. No matter how complex, senseless or hopeless a situation looks, every person has value and carries the image and power of Christ in them with the potential to contribute God-purposed things to this world.

Exodus 4:11
Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?

Psalm 139:13-15
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Suffering and weakness do not negate the value of life.

Suffering and weakness do not negate the value of life. 

Our culture hates inconvenience. Jesus welcomed interruptions and weaknesses as Divine opportunities. His value system is quite unlike the world’s. We worship knowledge and intelligence. God values wisdom over knowledge, and character over intelligence.

Our personal worth, our value to God, even the degree of our sin are not dependent on our abilities or anything we can earn. That means we are completely free of responsibility to earn God’s favor. All that God requires of us is faith. Even faith that is metaphorically as small as a mustard seed — one of the smallest seeds in the plant kingdom— is enough for Him.

Romans 3:23
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Ephesians 2:8-9
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

1 Corinthians 12:22
The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.

God is not limited by anything.

God is not limited by anything.

Issues that are so complicated for us are really very simple to God.

We scratch our heads (or pull our hair) over suffering that seems senseless. We wrestle with dilemmas about everything from medical ethics to school services to whether to accept governmental disability benefits. We train ourselves in different ways to pray for healing that might be more effective. We wait, often for a very long time, for answers to our questions and God’s response in areas where we are powerless.

In his book, Why the Church Needs Bioethics, John F. Kilner offers relatable encouragement, “Godly waiting reorients human beings from demanding that God perform, to prayerfully declaring that God’s character is holy, good, just, full of mercy, abounding in grace, and the source of all comfort. God’s gifts are good, both to desire and receive. The human heart tends to strive stubbornly for its wishes rather than rest in the contentment that flows from acknowledging God’s faithful blessings.”

Isaiah 45:7
I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Jeremiah 32:27
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

Disability frees a person to multiply grace.

Disability frees a person to multiply grace.

The culture values self, comfort, happiness, ease and an entitlement mentality. We feel no one deserves to suffer. Yet suffering positions us to give and receive unique and good gifts from our Heavenly Father and each other.

Disabilities help us appreciate different values like slowing down and unconditional love. The world teaches self-reliance. The Bible teaches God-reliance. There are times when the hardships of disability stretch us to trust God more. Over time, we become increasingly reassured of His faithfulness. We learn how freeing it is to surrender our weaknesses to the God of the universe!

Those who are most dependent are most freely used by God as a means for grace. My daughter with Angelman Syndrome is not limited by the need to work eight hours and tend to a home. She is entirely available to bring joy and love to others in a way that is profound and unique to her.  She teaches us humility in caregiving. She shows us how to persevere despite external obstacles and internal limitations — hers, and our own. She gives us a living picture of God’s unconditional love and challenges us to love one another well.

I must admit, my husband and I have often wished we could protect Carly’s siblings and others from the “burden” of her care. Yet we are reminded that the promise of God’s grace is just as much opportunity for them as it has been for us. 

James 1:2-4
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

God is first and foremost concerned with our hearts.

God is first and foremost concerned with our hearts.

Disability, suffering, and weakness remind us of the severity — and very broad reach — of the impact of Adam’s sin. We see in Mark 2:5 that God is generally more interested in changing people than changing their circumstances.

Mark 2:5
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Our relationship to God and others is what matters most to Him. And God will use whatever method he needs to in order to accomplish that intimacy. This means that God’s response to our requests for healing, to our weaknesses and sin, and to all of our concerns in life, always begins and ends with how our circumstances work to shift our focus and affections toward Him and then others.

Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to love God and love each other. We were told to carry our crosses instead of seeking our own comfort or happiness. Suffering makes us long more for heaven and less for the world. It encourages a Kingdom perspective. Others will see that God Himself is our treasure.

God desires to restore us to right relationship with Him and others.

God desires to restore us to right relationship with Him and others.

God loves us even before we love Him. He created us and wants to be intimately near to us. Our lives will not be untroubled, but they will be deeply satisfying and life-giving when our choices, attitudes and beliefs drive us toward God rather than away from Him. Until we choose to receive the generous love Jesus offers, we will miss out on the richness of life and relationships.

In his book Disability and the Sovereign Goodness of God, John Piper offers this challenge: “The truth is that suffering can only have ultimate meaning in relation to God. Jesus says that the purpose of blindness is to put the work of God on display. This means that for our suffering to have ultimate meaning, God must be supremely valuable to us. More valuable than health and life. Many things in the Bible make no sense until God becomes your supreme value.”

Romans 8:26-28
We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

1 John 4:19
We love each other because he loved us first.

If you are ready for a reset in your relationship with Jesus, watch here.

God transforms people and churches when we engage with each other through the adverse circumstances of our lives.

God transforms people and churches when we engage with each other through the adverse circumstances of our lives.

Christ-following families living with disability know the transforming power of doing life together in diverse community. Our own families are a picture of this on the smallest scale. Imagine what the family of God would look like if we learned to live out that same kind of community on a large, Kingdom-minded scale!

It is really really important for leaders in the Church to recognize and embrace this truth too. Individuals and families impacted by disability need to know they belong. As the Church, we need to get engaged with each other amidst challenges. But we don’t do this just because we are really nice people. We need to get involved in messy lives because God tells us to, because Jesus showed us how to, and because the Word promises that God will glorify Himself and give good gifts through unique people and unusual circumstances.

Godly communities make the compassion and truth of Jesus easily accessible to all who seek it.

Godly communities make the compassion and truth of Jesus easily accessible to all who seek it.

Making church and church programs accessible is a matter of eternal salvation for any person. This certainly includes people with disabilities and their families.

We have an opportunity to defend life. This opportunity has nothing to do with anyone’s ability. It has everything to do with making the Good News of Jesus known to all. Jesus is the Giver of life and the Way to life. He is the Giver of all good gifts. He witholds no good thing from those who walk in faith (Psalm 84:11). We are called to follow in that Way — to walk in that Light.

1 John 1:5-7
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Of this we can be sure:

God made each of us for a purpose and is going to help us in that purpose.


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Special Needs Dad Shares Hope for a Redeemed Life

Our guest writer today is Ken Atkins, a man who grew up in the pleasant surroundings of a small North Texas dairy farm during the late 1950s. From there, he wandered through a career that included schoolteacher, newspaper writer and editor, advertising executive and construction sales. When his son Danny was born in 1992, Ken faced the life-changing reality that Danny would require full-time care for his entire life. Ken’s journey meandered through the early days of doubt and discovery about Danny’s neurological and related medical issues, over the hills and valleys of a parents’ worst fears and highest hopes, past the financial and marital issues that eventually crushed his family, and into the deep pit of lifelong struggles with alcohol and relationship addiction.

But Ken’s story doesn’t end there. Read on as Ken shares how he found transformational hope and life-saving tools in taking one step of faith at a time.


“I am a grateful follower of Jesus Christ who has been redeemed from a life of alcohol abuse.”

For nearly eight years now, that is how I have introduced myself to the small group of other men I meet with each week in Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery, also known as “CR,” is a Christ-centered, 12 step recovery program for anyone — men and women — struggling with hurt, pain or addiction of any kind. It is a program that changed my life and the lives of my two children.

But if our introduction is meant to give others a quick glimpse into the truth of who we really are, I probably should amend it to:

“Hi, my name is Ken, and I am a grateful follower of Jesus Christ raising a son with Angelman Syndrome. I have been redeemed by a loving Savior and have experienced the joy of being forced into a world that I am totally unequipped to manage on my own.”

My son, Danny, recently celebrated his 29th birthday, but developmentally he is basically a happy, healthy 2-year-old. He can’t speak or walk unassisted. He is incontinent and his basic needs must be met by someone else, which would be me, at least 95 percent of the time. Danny has been my constant companion through career changes, divorce, bankruptcy, a couple of major relocations and more emotional roller coaster rides than any amusement park.

Danny sat next to me through many of my recovery meetings. This is fitting since he was the only person in the room or the truck as I fought my single-parent battles for years with a Bible in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other.

Stock Photo: Pick-up truck parked in Wildlifepark Dulmen, Germany.

Step One in Celebrate Recovery, as well as in Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery programs with slight wording variations, is this:

“We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

One of the first and hardest lessons many parents of children with special needs learn after we get the news that our child has some physical, neurological or development issue for which there is no cure or even successful therapy, is that we are powerless. Initial attempts at denial include thoughts like: the diagnosis isn’t correct, we can fix this, we just need to look harder and do more, and God wouldn’t do this to our family. Eventually these arguments lose their sway to the preponderance of evidence that we must adjust all our thinking, hopes, plans, and dreams to this new reality.

RELATED RESOURCE: Discovery Your Course for Life, One Step at a Time by Ron Keller.

By the time we give up on our denial, we often do so out of sheer exhaustion and the depletion of our finances, if not our hope. Only then do we admit that our addictions, compulsions, or other problematic behaviors — like trying to “fix” our kids, or clinging to control over their lives, or unfettered devotion to our family’s dreams and traditions — are a greater threat to the emotional and spiritual well-being of ourselves and our children (including those without special needs) than whatever lifelong diagnosis we are confronting.

Only with that admission can our healing begin. Because only then are we ready to take the next steps in the recovery process where we come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore our lives to normal. It’s a new normal, to be sure. But at least it is our normal. Only then can we make the decision to turn our lives and our families, over to the care of God.

Ken coaching Danny and their adapted baseball team.

One of the many truths I have learned in Celebrate Recovery is that any addiction or compulsive behavior has its root in the same sinful place—pride. We believe that we can (and should) handle any challenge in our own strength. We think we have a God-given right to live our lives on our terms. Whether it is a drinking problem, or uncontrollable rage, or soul-shattering depression, or the physical and mental exhaustion of caring for a child with special needs, we are tempted to believe these are our issues and we can handle them.

But it was never meant to be that way.

God didn’t give us these challenges to show us how strong we are, but to show us our dependence on His strength and His faithfulness. We are entirely dependent on God to meet the special needs of our child, and our own special needs in the process. We get the joy and the honor to have a front row seat to what He can do in all our lives.

There is a saying on t-shirts at many church camps that we should, “Let Go and Let God.” In recovery, and in my life as a parent of a special needs son, I have found this message being worked out again and again.

God has blessed me and my son in many ways these past 29 years. But before He could do what He wanted to do, I had to quit trying so hard to do what I could not do.

Psalm 107:13-15
They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.


Ken Atkins is the author of Silent Son, the story of how God turned one man’s mess into a life-giving message through his non-verbal son, Danny. Ken has been serving in Celebrate Recovery ministry leadership for more than five years. He leads men through the 12 Steps that have given him the tools and support he needed to face the challenges of raising a son with special needs. Ken and Danny enjoy multi-generational living in Newport News, Virginia, with Ken’s daughter and son-in-law.

The Secret to Thriving, Not Surviving

It was a quiet morning at the oceanfront hotel where we were staying at Virginia Beach. The breeze off of the Atlantic Ocean gently combed the beach grass. Families of birds chased the retreating waves, their footprints too light to make any impression in the sand. I walked alongside the beach, taking in the overcast grey sky blending into the waves. The beach approached a peninsula, promising a view that would surely not disappoint.

As the beach rounded the corner, another expanse of beach came into view with the same grey watercolor. I kept on walking. The horizon continued to taunt me as I walked closer to the end of this beach segment, followed by another bay of sand to trudge through. I kept my eye on the next corner. But each corner rounded to a similar scene. It seemed to be never-ending. It was beautiful, but it was also the same view no matter the number of steps I took. 

This walk felt like my life — a “Groundhog Day” of caring for my disabled daughter. There are beautiful moments. But most days are focused on each step without seeing the view. We are dealing with many of the same issues that we have dealt with for a long time. Only now, we are older. And my daughter is now bigger. It is becoming more physically challenging to keep up. Our patience has grown greater. Our wisdom has grown deeper. But our fatigue has grown more real as well. 

On my walk, I was looking for the beauty around the corner. I wanted the AHA! moment that would allow every grain of sand in my shoe to be worth the gritty journey. But each turn of the corner proved to be more of the same.

A vertebra "shell" found on Virginia Hampton Beach
A vertebra “shell” found on Virginia Hampton Beach

Chronic suffering is being trapped in a never-ending cycle of the same. We all have a painful thorn in our side that does not let up — an unanswered prayer, a salt-wound relationship that never heals, a broken heart that cannot ever be whole, a dream we must mourn. The reality is this broken world is marred by loss. 

I want to thrive in loss. Just survival is not enough for me.

I want a thri-vival

So how do we answer the deep aching feeling that there must be more? 

For the Christian, there is more. 

The only way to understand the intersection of a suffering mankind and a good God is to interpret this life through the lens of eternity. 

The only way to find purpose in our suffering is to know that our lives exist for more than this world. The more we accept decay — and, for that matter, learn to embrace it — the more we become thrivers rather than just survivors.

Decay is everywhere.

When I was walking this beach with the repetitive view, I finally looked down. Shells, seaweed, and abandoned nettings were peppered amongst the sand. All were carcasses of life that once was. The beach is a battlefield littered with the remains of an ocean ambushing its prey. What is one’s child’s playground is the cemetery of mollusks. What is one woman’s treasured pearl is the oyster’s expulsion of waste. What is one family’s treasured keepsake of vacation, is the skeleton of a conch.

Decay co-exists with beauty.

In fact, decay is required. For the beauty that emerges from decay is richer, more fruitful, and lasts forever. Like the compost that enriches the growth of a garden, decay, disability, and death are the fertilizers of a richer beauty to come. Yet decay occurs at the same time that flowers bloom. Beauty and pain can be enwrapped in the same moment.

There is no better example of this paradox of beauty and pain than the cross. The cross is the intersection of many contrasts — injustice and justice, death and life, hatred and love, grief and celebration. When Jesus died on the cross, He did more than punch a ticket to heaven. Purposeful suffering was exemplified. 

Still, living the joy of the cross on a daily basis is not easy. Especially in the mundane everyday struggles of motherhood or caring for the disabled, suffering can feel purposeless and never-ending. We can be deceived into hopelessness if we allow emotions to overshadow truth. The energy needed for everyday surviving makes thriving seem impossible. When the days of survival mode stretch into weeks, months, and years, we must learn how to thrive in the pit. So how do we seek thri-vival?

  1. To thrive means that we change our expectations about decay. Our decay is not unique to our generation and decay will continue until this world belongs to Jesus again. We can certainly point out the decay of others, but we are often unaware of our own decay. We expect progression, not regression. And yet our society, many of our relationships, and our own bodies are fighting the natural decay that comes from the fall of man. We would like to believe that we are always getting better, but in reality, we ourselves are not immune to entropy. As our bodies and minds age, our ability to process our worlds is also dampened. But one day, this decay, too, will lead to eternal beauty. And decay will not exist in heavenly realms.
  • To thrive means we recognize our need for rescue. Grace covers our sin, for our salvation. But sanctification requires us to embrace pit-dwelling. He gives our feet a place to stand between each rung on the daily climb. This state of dependence is uncomfortable and yet necessary for our trust in God’s goodness to grow. The Gospel is lived daily in our lives when we are in a state of dependence. For our need for a Savior is often when we are at the end of ourselves. 
  • To thrive means we learn to abide in Jesus daily. We rely on His mercies to be new every morning and enough for today’s trials. We humble ourselves to be a servant rather than the source. Abiding in Jesus is trusting Him to fill in the cracks daily. Abiding involves constant connection with our Source of strength. We are emptied continuously so that He can fill us continuously. And we must ask for help. Ask for His wisdom. Ask for eyes to see His care for us. Ask for a heart of praise. And these one-second prayers build our relationship with Jesus and help us see the treasures in each exhausting step. We must sit under the Bible as a servant and not stand over the Bible as a critic. As we learn of God’s plan for the decay of this world, our souls are comforted and reassured that He has an ultimate plan for redemption. 

That is thri-vival — where pain and beauty co-exist. It is possible to be a thriver and not only a survivor. To thrive is to abide with Jesus. Because when we look only at ourselves and our circumstances, the decay is discouraging. But when we look at the cross, decay is defeated. It is in the daily struggle of chronic Christian suffering that we learn to abide. We learn to trust in the One who carries us from birth to death to eternal life. God alone sustains us.

Our walk on the beach becomes about Him, not about us nor the view that we think we deserve. 

The walk to heaven is more pleasant when we let go of the “should be” and “should not be.”  We will stop walking for the purpose of the view. We will walk because we are called to walk. And then we will start to see the treasures in every step. We will expect decay in this world rather than be disappointed by it. And one day, at the vantage point of heaven, we will look down at all of the faded footprints in the sand and we will understand why. The deepest sinking sand will be the sweetest places we thrived as we learned to abide in Christ.

This is the hope of the Christian in chronic suffering: There is more. And for today, He is enough.

“Listen to me, house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been sustained from the womb, carried along since birth. I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you. I will bear and rescue you.”

Isaiah 46:3-4

Rachelle Keng is a physician practicing Obstetrics & Gynecology in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she lives with her husband Michael and their two daughters. She cares deeply for people and has a passion for writing about her reflections on life and faith. Rachelle’s oldest daughter has Angelman Syndrome. Her experiences as a special needs mom are often the inspiration for her writing.

What is the Parable of Your Life?

par·a·ble
ˈperəb(ə)l/
noun

A simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.

If your life was a parable, what would the lesson(s) be?

That is a question I began pondering last summer. I was in the process of updating my website, finishing a new book and planning for the next season of life and ministry. I was thinking and praying a lot about how my talents, passions and time might best be used for the next few years.

I thought back over highlights (and low-lights) of my life and began considering how those experiences had shaped me, taught me things, stretched me for the better, sometimes kept me stuck yet often spurred me on. Events and circumstances that left a big impression on me were numerous but included things like moving a lot while growing up (including spending my later elementary and high school years in Canada), being bullied horribly in middle school, putting God “on a shelf” for a while in college, living the “American dream” for a while in our early years of career and marriage, running into a hard storm a few years into marriage, having a child with profound disabilities, helping two other children navigate life and dreams into adulthood and so much more.

From these memories, I realized some life lessons had risen to the surface and become themes that resonated through much of what I have been doing with my life in the last several years. Sometimes, those lessons were spilling over into my interactions with others and, by God’s grace, becoming resonating or teachable points for them too. It was deeply encouraging and humbling to recognize some ways God had mercifully orchestrated both good times and hard times for greater purposes than I could have imagined.

Isn’t that the truth? What can seem to be the simplest, even mundane, experiences in our lives can often be steeped in life lessons! As with the illustrations Jesus used for teaching, those lessons can turn our perspectives upside down and rearrange our ideas about what matters. Those “parables” have the power to point us in the direction of a new way of living — and even a new way of sharing life. That has certainly been true for me.

I believe these have become key “parables” from my life:

  • God uses adversity to move our hearts, lives and relationships to places we were quite unlikely to go if left in our comfortable places.
  • After a life crisis, things may never be the same. But maybe things were never meant to be the same.
  • Where there is human frailty, there is opportunity for grace to break through. And when grace appears, God’s nearness, accessibility, power and goodness are experienced in a whole new realm.
  • Answers aren’t always available to us but Jesus is always available. He is the perfect closure to our questions and ambiguous circumstances. (This is paraphrased from Tim Keller’s book Walking with God Through Pain & Suffering.)

Joni Eareckson Tada’s life is like a living parable, teaching the world about God’s sovereignty in suffering. Joni is the Founder and CEO of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, is an international advocate for people with disabilities. A diving accident in 1967 left Joni, then 17, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, without the use of her hands. After two years of rehabilitation, she emerged with new skills and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations. Joni has written more than 50 books on topics ranging from disability outreach to understanding the goodness of God and the problem of suffering. Her life story and teachings illustrate this truth beautifully:

God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.
— JONI

This focus for reflection has been helpful for me. Will you think about it too? When we understood how our lives are like a parable (or series of parables), it can give us some clues about where to prioritize our time, how to invest in our careers and relationships, how we can help others, whether it’s time to shift gears and find a new way to live on purpose. Reflecting on life’s lessons also helps us to see God’s faithful hand in our circumstances and empowers us with the freedom to fully live!

If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
No one.
For Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us,
and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
Indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us
from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

—Romans 8:31, 34, 37, 39

So how about you? If your life is a parable, what lessons is it teaching? 

We would love to hear from you. Please drop us a note and let us know what parables you are seeing in your own life story.

This post was authored by Lisa Jamieson and first appeared in February 2018 at LisaJamieson.org.





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Miraculous Preservation

A common concern among caregivers, especially parents of children who have disabilities, is what will happen to our children if they outlive us. And as middle age comes, depending on the degree of toll in caregiving and other life circumstances, we caregivers tend to fear that our bodies may wear our long before we actually die. What then?

And so we pray a lot. As we’re able, we do some planning. Having an estate plan in place offers some peace of mind as does doing lots of documentation for those who will be inheriting the caregiving responsibilities. Our family has had many conversations about this and those are always very reassuring as well. But at the day’s end, when my body is aching and I’m weary to the bone (as they say), I’m left with taking it all to the Lord in prayer and begging him to preserve and protect my husband and I for as long has He possibly will!

Today I was reading the accounts of a missionary who travelled a ship between England and China in the 1930s. The ship’s route took them through the Red Sea with full views of the desert places where the Exodus occurred. Audrey Johnson’s pondering jumped off the page at me with reassurance that God’s capacity to preserve and protect His children is not limited by our physical bodies and minds.  

Audrey wrote:

Probably no one who reads Exodus can fully enter into that miracle of absolute dependence upon our faithful God who revealed Himself so clearly that throughout Israelite history and Psalms this miraculous preservation and protection was never forgotten. Think for instance of Deuteronomy 29:5 (which says): 

“For forty years God has led you through the wilderness, yet your clothes haven’t become old, and your shoes haven’t worn out” (TLB).

Audrey Wetherell Johnson

I want to remember this verse and the underlying promise it carries for our family too. Nothing has changed about God, His promises or His abilities. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday as He is today and forever. His character, power, goodness and accessibility remains as certain for me as it was for Moses. In fact, it’s even better because I (we) have access to God through the indwelling Holy Spirit!  

The very same God who so faithfully cared for the people of Israel makes the same kind of promise to me. His protection may look differently than I’m expecting but it remains dependable and will surprise me in the best of ways.

Whether you are a fellow sojourner down the caregiving road with me or someone who just needs reassurance, let us be confident of this — God is creatively preparing all kinds of “miraculous preservation” for us and for those we love.

Jeremiah 29:10-13
This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord.”


This post was inspired by the book Created for Commitment by A. Wetherell Johnson, founder of Bible Study Fellowship.

Selective Sharing

A few months ago, I posted this statement on Facebook:

“I don’t believe it can be overstated how stressful and wearying it is being the parent of someone with significant developmental and medical needs. There is also unspeakable joy. But make no mistake that this life is OFTEN more than overwhelming. I speak for my own family and many others when I ask you to pray hard and regularly for anyone you know living this life. We need your persevering friendship and sometimes help. We wish we didn’t need help, and very often we don’t even know what to ask for. But we can’t do this alone. Practical, emotional and spiritual encouragement is a gust of wind in our sails.”

Lisa Jamieson’s Facebook post | April 2017

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. 

SHOCK
WORRY
APATHY
DEFENSIVENESS
RESONANCE/APPRECIATION

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.


God Changes Lives & Enriches Churches when We Fully Engage with Each Other

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.  

An Enormous Opportunity for the Church

The Gospel answers hard questions and gives ultimate hope. The church has an enormous opportunity and responsibility to engage those questions, serve in love and wholeheartedly include people with disabilities in the life of the church family. 

Paul describes the church using the metaphor of the human body. God arranged the members of the body as he chose. Some parts were weaker but indispensable and others less respectable but treated with special honor and greater respect. 
(See 1 Corinthians 12:14-27.)

Doing life together well and according to the ways of Christ involves messiness.  The church can not be self-preservational. Still, we all need to be patient with each other. People experiencing disability, for example, deserve to be fully integrated in the life of our churches. Likewise, people facing challenges need to be patient with the persevering church. That kind of patience is a form of grace. 

Four Promises to Anchor and Encourage One Another During the Holidays

1. Nobody is immune to trouble but we have hope.
Jesus said I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)
2. God remains your most faithful advocate.
The Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them.”  Exodus 2:23-25, 3:7-8 (NLT)
So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:3-7 (NLT)
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  Romans 8:26-27 (NLT) 
3. You are never alone.
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:6-10 (NLT)
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT)
4. When you suffer, God’s comfort will be multiplied to you and through you.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NLT)