Can Caregivers Expect Something Out-of-this-World?

I confess, I am one of those people who can have high expectations. I believe for the best in people. Even more, I expect great things of myself. I’m not looking for perfection, but I do highly value progress. I naturally see when there are opportunities for something — or someone — to grow or improve. Especially when that “someone” is me. It can be a lot of pressure. This inclination can be a helpful gift and it can be a great burden.

But I’m not offering this admission in order to wander into a detailed analysis of the strengths, weaknesses or sins of my observant, analytical, and deep-thinking ways. My aim here is to initiate some reflection on and potential transformation of the expectations caregivers can tend to develop.

You see, when parents find themselves in a life of complex — possibly even lifetime — caregiving, as we have with our daughter, Carly, we are regularly faced with hoping for healing, praying over various obstacles and longing for sleep. We are constantly grappling with expectations that life could get better or easier while frequently pushed to the limits of our capabilities and capacities. For me, this has been true countless times. It became exponentially truer when the pandemic hit.

Every special needs parent reading this has some idea about what I mean.

When the needs of our child are complicated by disability and/or medical issues, the bar of expectations is naturally raised. We are quite desperately reliant on having a robust system of supports in place in order to maintain quality of life. We need professionals to be on the top of their game. We need churches that will step up to a big plate. We need schools that are exceedingly creative and committed to partnership. We need our families and friends to be generous with time, courage and grace. Yes, so much grace.

We don’t want to be so needy. But we have found ourselves in an unexpected dilemma. Like it or not, caregiving radically alters our realities and mindsets about what we need and expect from ourselves, others, life, and God. We must work out our expectations of that system on a daily basis.

As we learn to live in attentiveness to the Holy Spirit, we can simultaneously feel confidently equipped for our responsibilities while utterly reliant on God.

When we feel things like weakness, grief, stress, anger, or pressure, we are tempted to look toward things of the world to strengthen us — or at least make us feel strong. But the world disappoints. People fall short of what we need from them. And we disappoint ourselves too. Our flesh may cry out in shame, bitterness, confusion, and frustration (Psalm 121).

It can be exhausting.

Unless we learn to do two critical things:

  1. Accept that this world will always fall short of our needs and expectations. People will let us down.
  2. Recognize the Sovereign goodness of God and the role He plays on our team.

Several years ago, I heard this sentiment in a sermon: “We must expect everything from God and very little from the world.” While I already appreciated that my ultimate hope and rest were in Jesus (Galatians 6:7-8), hearing that shifted my perspective and gave me a new mindset, particularly as it related to being part of a family with such signIficant needs.

In 8 Habits of Caregivers with a Robust Support System, I shared that one of those habits that effective, healthy caregivers manage to develop is this:

Adopt low expectations of the world — and out-of-this-world expectations of God.

If we had to boil all of this caregiving life down to one essential, game-changing habit, this one would be it!

Our culture values self-reliance. But if you believe that you are ultimately the one responsible for yourself and a loved one who experiences challenges and limitations, you are likely to carry burdens of inadequacy, shame, or low self-esteem. You may even burn out completely. If you are too demanding of others, they are likely to pull away and leave you feeling more alone than ever.

Caregiving radically alters our realities and mindsets about what we need and expect from ourselves, others, life, and God. We must work out our expectations of that system on a daily basis.

Receive this encouragement from Stephanie Hubach in her book Same Lake Different Boat:

“The life affected by disability is a marathon, not a sprint, and it requires the engagement of others who are willing to run the race alongside—mile marker after mile marker after mile marker. But in the relentlessness of disability is also found a hidden gift, a potential measure of God-reliance that empowers the ability to “go the distance.” Let us learn faithfulness borne of utter dependency on God.”

Only God is entirely trustworthy and perfectly capable of meeting your needs. This includes your needs for encouragement and acceptance. You can anticipate that He’ll surprise you with His generosity and creativity (Ephesians 3:14-21). God will absolutely bring justice and Kingdom purpose out of your adversity (Psalm 37:6). Psalm 104 and Psalm 136). And He will keep providing reminders about where your true help and hope comes from (Psalm 62).

While we are developing well-paced and well-purposed connections, we need to guard our hearts and minds about the balance of our expectations. It is a constant tension. As we learn to live in attentiveness to the Holy Spirit, we can simultaneously feel confidently equipped for our responsibilities while utterly reliant on God (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).

Sometimes people will surprise us and go beyond what we hoped (2 Cor 8:5). But, more often than not, our faith muscles will get stretched because someone is disappointing us. With God, we can always expect Him to do something wildly unexpected — and I mean always and way beyond our imaginings. (Eph 3:20).

That’s just the nature of a holy and omnipotent God.

Ephesians 3:14-21
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

With God, we can always expect Him to do something wildly unexpected — and I mean always and way beyond our imaginings.


Lisa Jamieson, co-founder Walk Right In Ministries

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.


If you’re needing extra confidence, encouragement, or tools to assist you in finding your caregiving groove, please reach out for professional help. Consider caregiver consulting or professional counseling for personalized care. Walk Right In Ministries is available to help you with education, consulting services, counseling, and referrals to meaningful resources. Our team collaborates with a broad network of local and national organizations dedicated to strengthening churches, communities, and families when disabilities are involved. Fill out the Interest Form or visit us at WalkRightIn.org to learn more.


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.

FINDING GLORY Wednesday

Today’s scripture shows that Jesus had his attention and affection fixed on something and SOMEONE outside of himself. He was able to endure the cross and opposition from sinners because of the “joy set before him.” He endured for the sake of His Father’s honor and for the sake of our salvation. As usual, Jesus had his attention and affection fixed on someone outside of himself. What amazing love!

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

Where does this passage say we should fix our own attention and why does it say we should do this?

According to these verses, why should we “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles?”

What benefits have you gained from fixing your eyes on Jesus and disentangling from sin?

These “Finding Glory Wednesdays” posts are an online discussion series based on the books Finding Glory in the Thorns and the companion Finding Glory in the Thorns: Group Discussion Guide by Larry and Lisa Jamieson. For more information about Finding Glory Groups, visit http://www.findingglory.com/findingglorygrou.html.

When Tension is a GIFT

Why do we do the things we know we shouldn’t do? And why don’t we do more of the things we know we should do? We get impatient waiting for dreams to come true and get frustrated when our hopes aren’t satisfied. We try to flee from suffering and cling to comfort zones. Few of us are strangers to these kinds of tension.

I used to lament the tugs-of-war so commonly experienced within my spirit. But my perspective is changing. I’m learning to appreciate that much of the tension within me is actually a gift — a privilege born out of a growing relationship with my Lord and Savior. Why can I say that? Consider these verses with me:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21-25 (NIV)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 (NIV)

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (NIV)

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:7-11 (NIV)

Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it. Philippians 1:28-30 (NLT)

In light of these truths, we can receive some encouragement:

· Recognition of our sin nature and that growing distaste we have for it is evidence of an aspiration toward holiness — and that’s a good thing! (Someone who is far from God does not aspire to Christ-likeness or care about his sin.)

· Confusion can cause us to search for Truth and clarity from God’s Word — and going to God’s Word is always a good thing!

· Inner tension can help change our perspective (which often needs changing).

· A troubled spirit can draw us closer to Jesus.

· The restlessness that comes from growing passions, dreams and vision can be God-given helping to motivate and mobilize us for new or broader ministry.

FATHER GOD, I am coming to realize that many of my inner tensions are evidence that I am Your child. There is freedom in knowing that these feelings are not always a bad thing. I want to praise You today for the privilege of drawing near to You when I am restless, frustrated, confused, or ashamed. I want to stay firmly rooted in my relationship with You despite the obstacles that will come my way. Help me to persevere, Lord. Thank you for the holy discontentment that keeps me from being apathetic about sin. Help me to turn away from temptation and offer my body as a living sacrifice to You. Thank you for stirring God-given dreams in me. Help me to be patient and persistent, always yielded to you. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, please energize me for things that please You, precious Lord. AMEN

Packing Up for Someplace New (Part 2 of 2)

Raising children has a way of shining gorgeous light on God’s blessings in our lives. Despite our daughter Carly’s severe disabilities, we have often been astounded by the ways God has used our greatest challenge for good purposes. I’m a firm believer in focusing on the things we can be grateful for. Even our ministry makes a point of focusing on the amazing evidence we see of God’s presence in the midst of people’s lives.

But here’s the problem: sometimes we can get a little addicted to seeing those tangible expressions of God in our midst. We can even give those blessings so much of our attention that we forget to attach our foremost affections on the Source itself.

In last Monday’s blog, we were reflecting on Rachel’s story in Genesis 29-31. If you haven’t read those chapters or the blog post, it will help to do that right now in bringing today’s reflections into context. There was simply so much to discover that I couldn’t fit it all in one week.

In Rachel’s story, we see a woman who had a desperate dream.

When Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children, she became jealous of her sister. “Give me children, or I’ll die!” she exclaimed to Jacob. Genesis 30:1

It’s certainly not a bad thing to have hopes and dreams. Many of our dreams are actually planted in us by God Himself. The problem comes, like in Rachel’s case (e.g., 30:3), when our attachment to the dream competes with our affections for God Himself. If following a dream leads us into sin, then we know we’ve really crossed the line to having a dream become an idol.

What do you want more — God’s blessings or God Himself?

If you don’t see a blessing, are you tempted to do something to create it or do you ever try to replace the longing with something else?

Are the blessings that God is already providing enough for you?

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:13, 15-16

LORD God, please forgive me for desiring anything more than You. Please decrease my fixation on anything that undermines my wholehearted devotion to You. Please increase my appetite for time with You and Your Word. Teach me what behaviors, relationships and material things I need to set aside and show me which dreams to embrace in Your name. Then help me to follow Your leading while keeping my eyes set on You, not on the dream. Thank You, Jesus, for taking me along with You in this great adventure of life! AMEN

Incidentally, if you’re a historical fiction fan and have found reflecting on Rachel’s story to be intriguing or helpful, I strongly recommend that you read Liz Curtis Higgs’ Lowlands of Scotland Series. I thoroughly enjoyed it a couple of years ago and have drawn heavily from my memories of it while applying this scripture to my own life again recently.

May the Lord continue to bless you as we dig into the deeps of His Word and His grace in us!

FINDING GLORY Wednesday

Our focus this week continues to be on sharing life and ministry. This can be a challenging thing to do — and do well! Let’s dig deeper.

Today’s scripture and discussion question are:

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for on hour?’ he asked Peter.” MATTHEW 26:36-40

Consider how Jesus felt about his friends’ response during his time of anguish. What are godly ways to handle the temptation toward resentment when you don’t experience satisfying support from others?

For more information about Finding Glory Groups, visit http://www.findingglory.com/findingglorygrou.html.

Today’s reflections are copyrighted excerpts taken from Finding Glory in the Thorns: Group Discussion Guide.

Where I Get STUCK

PHILIPPIANS 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is loves, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

Those of you who know me well are aware that Philippians 4:8 is a special verse for me. After a life-changing experience with that message in 1997, I have been learning more and more about the benefits of keeping my thoughts focused on positive things and especially things I am grateful for.

A grateful heart is God’s Divine weapon against a consuming negative thought life.

I confess that I have a tendency to have a critical spirit. The up side of my wiring is that it is easy for me to see how things could be better in some way. Thinking creatively and finding ways to make improvements upon something come quickly and easily for me. I tend to strive for excellence and progress in life. The down side is that my busy mind and high expectations can leave me dissatisfied, discouraged, lacking hope, and putting inappropriate pressure on people around me (or at least giving them the perception of pressure which can be just as unhelpful).

There was some incredibly valuable insight for me when I looked at the Greek translation for the word THINK in this verse. I am to very intentionally KNIT my thoughts together in the direction of true, trustworthy, honorable, lovely things. What goes on in my mind must, ultimately, be woven in the direction of Christ’s perspective.

Psalm 38:9 models for me that I can lay my every thought and emotion out completely bare before the Lord. How wonderful that Almighty God deeply cares about everything that concerns me! He wants me to share from the depths of my heart with Him. God absolutely cares about even the darkest, harshest realities of what goes on in my mind. He just doesn’t want me to stay STUCK in the places of pain, anger, frustration, fear, hopelessness or dissatisfaction. He wants to hear my heart but then refresh my thoughts in what is TRUE and HOLY and RIGHT.

What do these verses say to you about your thought life today? Let’s share what we are sensing God teaching us together!

PSALM 38:9
All my longings lie open before you, O Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.

2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.

ROMANS 8:6
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

COLOSSIANS 3:2
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

ROMANS 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

PSALM 111:2
Great are the works of the Lord; they are PONDERED by all who delight in them.

Where I Get STUCK

PHILIPPIANS 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is loves, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

Those of you who know me well are aware that Philippians 4:8 is a special verse for me. After a life-changing experience with that message in 1997, I have been learning more and more about the benefits of keeping my thoughts focused on positive things and especially things I am grateful for.

A grateful heart is God’s Divine weapon against a consuming negative thought life.

I confess that I have a tendency to have a critical spirit. The up side of my wiring is that it is easy for me to see how things could be better in some way. Thinking creatively and finding ways to make improvements upon something come quickly and easily for me. I tend to strive for excellence and progress in life. The down side is that my busy mind and high expectations can leave me dissatisfied, discouraged, lacking hope, and putting inappropriate pressure on people around me (or at least giving them the perception of pressure which can be just as unhelpful).

There was some incredibly valuable insight for me when I looked at the Greek translation for the word THINK in this verse. I am to very intentionally KNIT my thoughts together in the direction of true, trustworthy, honorable, lovely things. What goes on in my mind must, ultimately, be woven in the direction of Christ’s perspective.

Psalm 38:9 models for me that I can lay my every thought and emotion out completely bare before the Lord. How wonderful that Almighty God deeply cares about everything that concerns me! He wants me to share from the depths of my heart with Him. God absolutely cares about even the darkest, harshest realities of what goes on in my mind. He just doesn’t want me to stay STUCK in the places of pain, anger, frustration, fear, hopelessness or dissatisfaction. He wants to hear my heart but then refresh my thoughts in what is TRUE and HOLY and RIGHT.

What do these verses say to you about your thought life today? Let’s share what we are sensing God teaching us together!

PSALM 38:9
All my longings lie open before you, O Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.

2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.

ROMANS 8:6
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

COLOSSIANS 3:2
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

ROMANS 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

PSALM 111:2
Great are the works of the Lord; they are PONDERED by all who delight in them.