Life Is Enriched by Relying on the Almighty Refiner

We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9

Caregiving has forever changed me. In some beautiful, cherished ways and in some ways I’m not at all proud of too. I’m sure there are more than a few here who can relate. It’s always a rich discussion when we get to this principle during the online discipleship group I lead.

 

Principle #3: God lovingly refines us as we cooperate with Him.

In recent blogs, I’ve written about grief and lament — and how uniquely that is experienced by families affected by disability. Part of this life we’re living involves learning to suffer well. Does that statement sound strange? What might it mean or look like to “suffer well?”

“Suffering well” includes allowing God to refine us through challenges.

I believe we honor God and experience richer lives when we let life refine us — shape us for the better. The scary things is, the Almighty Refiner might choose to use a furnace of very high heat. The fires of life can make us terribly uncomfortable. Our human nature will be to resist the fire. But there are gifts and opportunities there.

Life’s shaping and purifying process makes life so much richer. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know that.

Being refined by God means to stop resisting things that aren’t going our way. Stop. Did you catch that? Speaking to myself here: quit resisting all the heat, my friend. Consider that God’s priority is to inject His presence —love, care, vision, and purposes — into the situation rather than just fixing things with His power. Whatever circumstances you’re in, no matter how intense they feel, regardless of how long they seem to drag on, even when pain seems pointless, and we feel hopelessly stuck — God is there.

God doesn’t leave us to burn and He doesn’t leave us alone.

God was in the fire with Daniel.

“Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted.
“I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed!
And the fourth looks like a god!”

Daniel 3:25

Consider that God’s priority is to inject His presence — love, care, vision, and purposes — into the situation rather than just fixing things with His power.

If we receive God’s presence and power, He will form our character while teaching us to love Him more and love others like Christ loves. And that’s just the beginning of the gifts He’ll unfold.

God will use the heat in our lives to refine others around us too. That could be our spouse. It is often our children. Certainly, God is using the fiery furnace of our lives with disability to refine the broader community too. Our neighborhoods are watching. Our churches see (even when they don’t seem to be looking).

It can be tempting to grow bitter when we feel like we are the only ones allowing the fires of our special situation refine us. I’ve pounded on God’s chest a time or two feeling unheard, unseen, uncared for by Him or someone else. He further refines me by teaching me to be more patient, and trust Him in using his kindness to lead others to repentance.

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 2:4 (emphasis mine)

That’s just one lesson I’ve been learning that I attribute to being a special needs mom. I don’t get to define the pace of someone else’s growth.

There are so many many lessons! Here are just a few more of them in a nutshell. Perhaps sharing them will inspire you. It helps hold me accountable to remembering God is faithful to teach me and give me grace, that’s for sure.

Accept that we are all in process.
You, me, our spouses, our children, our friends, our churches, our extended families. All are sinners who fall short. All are acceptable to God when we repent and turn to the Lord. Each of us who believes in Jesus and trusts Him as Lord is in an ever-increasing process of becoming like Him. That is called sanctification. And God alone authors that process for each of us who love Him. I don’t author anybody’s sanctification (even my own), nor do you.

  • Suffering transforms us into Christ-likeness (Philippians 3:10) and that’s our highest calling.
  • Suffering cultivates our dependence on God (Luke 9:23).
  • We learn compassion for others (Philippians 2:5-8).
  • We ascribe to new values and develop eternal perspective (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) even to the point of holding onto life and death differently.

Extend compassion, grace and forgiveness toward yourself and others.
Growth is a process. Grief is a process. Faith is a process. It can help to recognize that the ugliest parts of us are most apparent at home and in our closest relationships. (I believe it was author Gary Chapman who said that marriage is the mirror showing us what is worst about us.) Yes, those we live with are often the “mirror” showing us who we really are.

Expect everything from God and little from each other.
This is a broken world and every person faces weakness and vulnerability. With God, there is victory over sin and death, as well as strength in weakness. We can learn to play to each other’s strengths. We can’t let our circumstances have too much power — but we can let them have power to trigger opportunities that nothing else could trigger.

Understand where your true soul cravings are coming from.
We can’t expect to get our greatest fulfillment from our children or spouse, or our circumstances. That’s a set-up for disappointment. Our spirit is designed to crave GOD. So, only deepening our walk with Him will truly satisfy us and energize us for a life that really breathes!

I want that so much. I want a life that breathes life. A life that multiplies life and love is joy. It is a privilege. And that is what growth looks like. I hope I’m growing. Don’t you? I don’t want to be the same person next year that I was this year. Do you?

The human soul was designed to aspire growth. The Creator is the author of all growth. Leaning into a life that cooperates with Him — even when it stings of disability’s fires — is a rich adventure, in so many ways deeply satisfying.

QUESTIONS FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION

In what ways have you seen God strengthen or purify you (your faith, your character, your mindsets) as a result of challenges, special needs, or some other “fire” in your life?

Have you felt vulnerable to thinking certain prayers aren’t being answered because you haven’t learned enough or changed enough? Talk to Jesus about those feelings and let Him show you the truth.

How does the idea of being held in the gentle hand of the Almighty Refiner give you comfort, peace, or hope? 


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. She leads a weekly online discussion group welcoming caregivers in families living with disability. Lisa and her husband, Larry, are co-founders of Walk Right In Ministries, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. They live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome.


We use one Bible principle as the theme for each week’s discussion during Real Talk Connect. Please consider joining us any Tuesday at 2 pm Central! Drop in for richly encouraging connection in a casual setting.

Contact us for the Zoom link, the complete list of Bible principles and all the FAQs about Real Talk Connect!

Disability Take Us Deeper

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
— from Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) © Hillsong Music Publishing Australia

I used to stand enthusiastically in church and sing these lyrics without fully realizing what a tremendously radical surrender I was declaring. Then one weekend, while presenting at a women’s retreat, those words hit my mind and heart differently. They hit me rather like a two-by-four, actually. The song changed me and many others in the room.

These women came to the retreat in hopes of finding insight about their personal calling or life purpose. Many were feeling stuck in the mundane routines of parenting or concerns about limitations as they aged. Like any of us, they were finding life and relationships hard. They also felt life was frequently less exciting than they had imagined in their youth that it would be. Some suspected they were doing something wrong because life wasn’t more fulfilling or feeling sufficiently productive.

Jesus, the enemy steals my joy and feeds me lies. I confess to believing that adversity and boredom equate to a lack of purpose or a failure in faith.

Do we really mean it when we ask God to give us a life that matters? When we ask God to show us how strong He is, do we realize that He might use us as His canvas? When we wrestle with the parts of this parenting journey that feel impossible and wonder how long we will be able to hold on to our faith, are we willing to choose trust that we are part of God’s vast and creative Kingdom scheme of things?

Jesus, take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. Wherever you would call me.

Parenting a child with disabilities changes the trajectory of our lives. Followers of Jesus find themselves on a different path of adventure than they would have imagined or even hoped for. We may have aspired to see the power of God and experience growing intimacy with Him. But seldom do we have any idea about what might actually be involved in getting us there.

After the worship set was finished that evening at the retreat, I stepped back to the podium and shared a personal story about how God changed my perspective about the very unexpected and challenging life I was leading as a special needs parent.

My daughter Carly used to struggle with strabismus, an eye focusing and teaming issue. She needed therapies to stimulate her macular vision and prevent her from fixating in her peripheral field which interfered with her depth perception and affected her balance (among many other things). One of her therapies involved wearing “pinhole glasses” and watching high-interest entertainment on television from a specific distance.

Carly’s therapies aimed to bolster the eye-brain connection because doctors understood the problem to be more about her neurology than her anatomy. You might say, the way her eyes functioned were dependent on changing the messages that her mind was giving her body (ocular muscles).

As I watched her wearing those fancy glasses one day, I recognized a metaphor about faith and perspective. Carly’s glasses gave me new perspective about our struggles.

Those glasses limited some aspects of Carly’s vision in order to stretch and strengthen other aspects of her vision. Her brain was learning how to search out and learn new information, perceive differently, and function more effectively. Carly’s life was stretching me to see God’s Kingdom purposes differently. I was developing a Kingdom perspective about our circumstances. I was growing new vision that our situation was God-purposed, God-authored and imperfect, but holy.

Oh my, raising a child with disabilities is so very holy! Jesus, help me let go of needing to see the whole picture and grow a new perspective. I need Your vision and mindset to carry me through circumstances that feel impossible sometimes!

Those song lyrics suggest we are willing to give up absolutely everything—hopes, dreams, comfort, clarity— for the benefit of experiencing a rich and deeply purposed life with God.

WRIM’s Real Talk Connect discussions for family caregivers are based on ten Biblical principles like this one.
Contact us for the Zoom link, the complete list of Bible principles and all the FAQs about Real Talk Connect!

My family—much like your own, I hope—has experienced many new opportunities from our experience with disability. While our family experiences chronic medical issues, mental health difficulties and developmental disabilities, each of us has been drawn into relationships we would not have known otherwise. We may have fewer friends than we had before, but many of our existing relationships are richer than they were before. We have different values now. We have unique perspectives on life, love, and priorities than we had before. We appreciate or cherish many things differently than others around us. Our faith is stronger. Our intimacy with Jesus is a life-giving experience instead of a cozy or intellectual concept.

As 2022 approached, my husband and I were feeling the grip and stings of disability on our life. We had been wondering again about some areas of our lives that feel stuck or senseless. We have had moments of ferocious anger with God and/or Carly’s circumstances. We have felt at our wits end with some of her medical issues and behaviors.

Thankfully, God meets us at the end of our wits. He reminds us of this one key fact:

Life is richer for us because disability has turned our world upside down.

Jesus, with each new day give me a fresh vision of the faith adventure that comes with disability!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Today’s post originally appeared on Key Ministry’s Not Alone Parenting blog and is reprinted with permission.


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. She leads a weekly online discussion group welcoming caregivers in families living with disability. Lisa and her husband, Larry, are co-founders of Walk Right In Ministries, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. They live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome.


We use one Bible principle as the theme for each week’s discussion during Real Talk Connect. Please consider joining us any Tuesday at 2 pm Central! Drop in for richly encouraging connection in a casual setting. Contact us for the Zoom link, the complete list of Bible principles and all the FAQs about Real Talk Connect!

Jesus Makes Much of Our Little at Christmas

Are you experiencing some underlying exhaustion while preparing to make joyful new Christmas memories?

Larry and I love the Christmas season! Yet we are coming into festivities with some battle fatigue and frayed nerves from parenting our daughter with disabilities. We have been short on respite for months while sleep, behavior, and health issues have also been challenging.

A recent doctor appointment offered yet another affirming but sigh-triggering report. Carly’s specialist kindly said, “You guys know just what to do and you do a really good job it. Unfortunately, this is a very complicated condition and there are few effective ways to treat it. The methods we would typically try will not be an option for Carly because of her developmental issues and limited communication abilities.” Fortunately, this physician also had some new suggestions to try in hopes of bringing us all some relief. We’re working the process.

In the meantime, we will very gladly push through weariness for the benefits this festive family season brings.

Such can be the life when parenting a child with complex health issues or developmental disabilities. Parents can find themselves dealing with a lot of trial-and-error, feeling very inadequate to help. Sometimes, we simply have very little to offer our big situations.

We need God to multiply our efforts and the fruit of those efforts the way he did for Jesus and his disciples!

That evening the disciples came to Jesus and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”
“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered. 
“Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!
Matthew 14:15-21

This passage isn’t just about the multiplication of food. It is about God multiplying the limited physical and emotional resources Jesus had at hand.

The placement of this story in Matthew’s fourteenth chapter is interesting. It reports one of Jesus’ most well-known miracles, but it immediately follows a significant moment in Jesus personal life. It is a moment of deep grief, and it can easily get lost. Yet it carries a helpful and inspiring message for us who have been called by God to care for others when we ourselves feel weak or depleted. 

“As soon as Jesus heard the news (about John the Baptist’s death), he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
Matthew 14:13-14

Jesus wanted to be by himself. He had lost a dear friend and cousin. He likely felt somewhat responsible for John’s death too. Grief is exhausting. Possibly He needed rest. He may have wanted to find a safe space to express his raw emotions. Surely, He would also pray.

Despite Jesus’ desire to get away from the crowds, He tapped into two things that empowered Him to serve beyond himself:

God’s Indwelling Power
and
Compassion

Jesus was often motivated by compassion (Matthew 15:32, Mark 6:34, Luke 7:13). We can ask God to give us a vision to care for others that is moved by compassion too. We also have the Holy Spirit in us to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 
Hebrews 4:14-16

When the many needs of our families and a busy holiday season are pressing in like a “huge crowd,” we may desperately want to set some boundaries, find rest, even grieve some disappointments. Periods of separation in a quiet place are fair, appropriate and necessary. Jesus frequently modeled boundaries and rest. But He also shows us there will be times to engage with the needs of others, even when it is very hard. Even when we may rather be somewhere else.

And He will supply.

The God of compassion — the One who fills all things with Himself (Ephesians 4:10) — will fill you with His comfort and mercy to extend to those in your care.

He will make much of your little.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 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.
Philippians 4:13, 19

RELATED: A Prayer for Minimized Losses and Multiplied Gains


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.


Thriving Caregivers Prioritize Soul Care

Sometimes I have an opportunity to escape being a mom, wife, and the primary caregiver to our adult daughter with Angelman Syndrome. It may just be for a couple of hours but one rather simple and satisfying way I can do this is to take a long bath and read a book or magazine. I might even give myself a pedicure. It’s a luxurious time of pampering to light a candle, pull out the Epsom salts and indulge in some “me” time.

Truth be told though, I could live without the pedicure and even the soak in the tub. What I cannot really live without is some time to myself to organize my thoughts, to rest from my responsibilities, to remember who I am apart from loved ones around me and to renew or deepen my connection with God.

The pampering is sweet and valuable. My flesh cries out to feel cared for. But it’s the solitude and spiritual intimacy that are my lifeline. That’s where I get in touch with my soul and the Creator of it. Both are important — myself and my soul — but I need to keep these things in balance or the cost is great to me and to others.

One reason it is tempting to neglect the balance is because the world and our culture lure me into thinking that self care and soul care are one and the same. There can be some overlap between the two but, for the most part, they are not the same at all. In fact, differentiating them has eternal implications.

Self-care fuels your body and mind.
Soul care fuels your spirit, your sense of purpose, and your hopefulness about the future.

Self-care will tend to keep you thinking about yourself and relying on your own strength.
Soul care points you to Jesus, your ultimate and eternal Source of power, purpose, help, and hope.

In the battle between self care and soul care, your soul always wins.

As caregivers, we can be vulnerable to getting our priorities out of whack. We might function in survival mode or on autopilot. Our opportunity for thriving lies in learning to do both soul care and self care in an energizing and God-glorifying balance.

Psalm 107:9
For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

I hope you won’t neglect either one but recognize that you can actually live without one but not without the other. Your very life depends on the state of your soul.

RELATED: Respite Rhythms (Part 2): How Much is Enough?

What are you best at — taking care of yourself or taking care of your soul? Where is your focus?

You will be a better caregiver for others when you take good care of your soul.

Why is soul care so effective?

Soul care gets to the root of what most deeply and purely fuels us. Like our vehicles function better on premium fuel, the quality of what you feed your inner spirit influences how you function. When your energy and motivation are depleted, self care might tide you over for a while. But soul care will nourish and empower you in a fundamentally different way and for fundamentally different purposes.

Jesus prioritized soul care but stayed on top of self care too. He paid attention to meeting his personal needs eating healthy foods, taking time to relax, getting the sleep he needed (he even took naps), and doing a lot of walking (Matt 26:18, 20; Mark 1:16, 3:23, 4:38; Luke 7:36; John 10:40, 12:2).

Jesus also sought the company of friends (Matt 26:36-38) and enjoyed solitude. But he made personal prayer time a top priority and regularly started his day that way (Mark 1:35).

Prioritize soul care but stay on top of self care too.

Jesus also understood that maintaining healthy and God-honoring boundaries were necessary and demonstrated His trust that God would be the ultimate Supplier, Caregiver and Advocate. He was never in a hurry. He was interruptible. He understood that one way God fuels people and enriches their lives is when they are generous and sacrificial with their time, energy and resources by following Him into the world.

Proverbs 11:25-26
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

You can be encouraged and energized knowing that God highly values what you are pouring into your family and others. Just remember that God will ease that load when you carry it His way and only bear the parts He has called you to.

Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

We tend to put more things in the category of soul care than really belong there and then wonder why those things don’t refresh or sustain us for longer than they do. 

There is some overlap but far less so than what the enemy of your soul wants us to believe. A caregiver who enjoys little or no time for hobbies can still thrive. But a caregiver who harbors unforgiveness will struggle. A caregiver who relies too heavily on a well-ordered household for a sense of peace will gain only temporary relief from housecleaning. The state of one’s home cannot offer the kind of life-giving peace that comes from surrendering control. Our surroundings offer an illusion that is helpful but not sustainable and lacks eternal implications. (I’m preaching to myself here.)

We are called to choose our “burdens” carefully and learn to wear the “yoke” alongside Jesus. Soul care involves a partnership with the Holy Spirit.

Self care is fleeting. Soul care is forever.

Our children will reap lifelong benefits from seeing us model effective self care and soul care too. By modeling these priorities, even if imperfectly, we show your children that we all matter to God. As spouses juggle and navigate their own priorities and as special siblings grow up, they need to know their personal care matters. Your family is in a marathon. You will all need to stay fit for the long haul. You can help your loved ones learn how to do this well by learning to do it well yourself. Model personal care so that your spouse and children won’t worry about you. Model it so your children see that your marriage matters to you. Model it proactively so they are reassured their family will not run off the rails of exhaustion. Most of all, model soul care so that when the ultimate race is finished, your family can enjoy eternity together in heaven.

RELATED: Best Practices of Refreshed Moms

Don’t neglect self care or soul care but recognize that you can actually live without one but not without the other. Your very life depends on that state of your soul.

By all means, indulge in that pedicure — or whatever it is that refreshes you! Just consider prioritizing something that is truly fuel for your soul and then make self care a reward for choosing well.

Galatians 5:16-17
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

Romans 11:36
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever.

In the battle between self-care and soul care, your soul will always win.

RELATED: 3-part series on Respite Rhythms

RELATED: Is Soul Care Biblical?


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.

What God Accelerates While We Wait

We’re celebrating Carly’s 23rd birthday in 2 weeks. When you have a child with disabilities, birthdays trigger an odd mix of thoughts, emotions, and memories. I find myself experiencing awe and wonder about what God has done in her life and ours for more than two decades. At the same time, I still have moments and seasons of raw emotion — when fears, frustrations and sleep deprivation maintain an unwelcome grip.

Parenting Carly has been like living in a long series of waiting seasons. She wasn’t diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome until she was 2-and-a-half years old. Yet her challenges were increasingly obvious and numerous starting just a few hours after she was born. Those were long and confusing days before explanations came. Still, waiting seasons continued. I struggled for a while to feel bonded with her the way a mom connects with her child. I sometimes waited for friends or family to understand and empathize. I’ve waited for wisdom in decisions about things like medication, therapies, and even meaningful birthday gifts. I’ve waited for help. I’ve prayed for healing. I’ve waited for church to be easier for my family.

Lisa and Carly posing during rehearsal at Darby's Dancers

I’ve also waited for God to change me. Sometimes a new mindset is needed, or a better way of responding to my challenges. I’d really like to be shaken loose of unhealthy habits and selfishness. So many times, I have taken a deep breath and said simply, “I don’t know what to do, Lord, but my eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 12:20).

I suspect most parents have sighed a similar prayer at least once.

RELATED: When Our Trust Meets Borders

The truth is Carly’s situation has accelerated my spiritual maturity and enriched my life in a host of ways. For example, disability slowed me down to appreciate things I may have missed. It completely shifted many of my values. It gave me a more realistic self-image. It exponentially grew my compassion and grace toward others. Living at the end of my rope has taught me how to rely on God and really trust Him. Even when I only have a mustard seed of faith to offer.

The apostles said to the Lord,
“Show us how to increase our faith.”

Luke 17:5

The Covid-19 pandemic has been an accelerating event too. For all that has been stolen and broken this year, there have also been some important wins. In many ways, we get to choose what long-term impact it will have on us. This has been part of conversations in disability ministry leadership circles lately too. Consider this example. The church that started 2020 with a 3-year plan for offering online services suddenly found a way to make it happen within 3 weeks. Countless families who had been isolated by disability for a long time could suddenly worship at home. And they received new empathy for their dilemmas.

Now we’ve all been stuck in a waiting season for more than a year. And while warmer weather and vaccines are bringing a sense of hope, many are still languishing in ambiguity about the future. There are some choices to make. This year has invited us to be changed. I hope you’ll allow it to be an accelerating event that moves you toward a life surrendered to God and in richer relationships with others. We’re all in process. We’re not perfected until heaven. But we can choose progress in the midst of everything that keeps us stuck. Because of Jesus, it is possible to be simultaneously both vulnerable and victorious.

I will celebrate Mother’s Day and then Carly’s birthday, caught between all the awe and what’s still raw. I hope you can join me in appreciating that living in this balance is the very thing that keeps us humbly in the sweet grip of our Savior.

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

Colossians 2:6-7

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.

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.

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.

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.


Andrea’s Glory Story

We have all done things we’ve regretted. But have you ever needed a completely changed life? Today, my friend Andrea is sharing a memory about a time when she encountered God and it became a turning point for her.  Together we’re praying that her story gives you confidence in God and courage to run toward Him, no matter how hopeless or unworthy you may feel.  


See that little corner parking spot on the left? Five years ago, I drove under the influence of alcohol in the middle of winter and ended up in that little corner at 1:00 am. For the most part, I don’t remember driving (at least 15 miles). I crashed my car into a snowbank. Then in my attempt to get out, I ruined the transmission. Soon after I got stuck, my phone died. It was freezing and the night was a blur to me. 


For three hours, I sat in the car (no car heat for most of the time) and honked my horn, waiting for someone to get me. I was in a rough part of the inner city and too scared to get out to try looking for people to help. A police officer eventually came and brought me to the Police Station. 

I will never forget how kind she was to me. Most would say I deserved jail time or something of that sort.  I think God knew that what I needed was someone to just talk to me and love me in my mess. I was so young but had the capacity for these kind of crazy stupid decisions. That officer talked to me and processed with me. 

Maybe she broke all the rules. I’m not sure. What I do know is that the moment she had me call my mom to come and get me, I was already at the pit and needed Mercy more than anything. Anyway, she let me go. No charge.

Because of God’s grace, I didn’t hit anyone while driving drunk. I made it out safe in the middle of the night in North Minneapolis by myself. And I didn’t even get sick from the cold! I still get freaked out—in a good way—about this story.  I don’t know every reason for why I didn’t get penalized, killed in an accident or something else horrific, but I am thankful, and amazed. 

I drive by this spot almost everyday on my way to school nowadays…and I smile. I smile at that young girl who had a Perfect Father smiling at her and just WAITING for her to come home to His embrace. A couple of years later I did, and now I barely recognize that person. I am so thankful that I can look these horrible memories in the eye and DECLARE that these moments didn’t have the final word. Jesus came and made me beautiful. And now that’s my story.

Hebrews 10:22-23 (NLT)Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.  


Jamieson’s “Toughest Struggles” Interview Re-Airs


A couple of years ago, Larry and I were invited to do an interview with WORDS TO LIVE BY RADIO. We shared about how we experienced God in the early years of Carly’s life when disability was devastatingly new and we struggled to ask for help so Carly might thrive. That episode is re-airing again this coming weekend, Saturday and Sunday, September 13 & 14

I hope it’s encouraging to you. Please join us in praying that God will use this once again to reach into things like broken heartedness, hopelessness and loneliness. 

To learn where you can hear the interview on a station in your area, call 616-974-2210 with your zip code handy or just visit this link — http://words.net/2010/06/04/finding-hope-in-one-of-life’s-toughest-struggles-–-larry-lisa’s-story/

For more of the story about those early years, read Finding Glory in the Thorns — the book about how Carly, her family and the community surrounding them experienced love, hope and unexpected miracles in the midst of shared struggles.  Finding Glory in the Thorns and the small group curriculum Finding Glory Group Discussion Guide are both available at the Walk Right In Ministries store and Amazon. Finding Glory in the Thorns is also available for your eReader on Kindle, Nook and iBook (Apple).