My growing up could read like a mashup novel from National Geographic, Little House on the Prairie and Epicurious magazine. Before kindergarten, I was riding my bike to a Minneapolis candy store several blocks from home. Later, I ice skated to elementary school on the James River in North Dakota. By the time I was 9 years old, we had moved to Canada where I was collecting sap from maple trees every spring, catching smelt in Thirty Mile Creek, building blanket forts surrounded by peach and cherry orchards in the summer, swimming to a rocky pier off the southern shore of Lake Ontario and stomping Niagara grapes with the neighbors every fall.
Woven between the lines of that idyllic childhood were some dark days too. I carried the grief of good-byes and struggled to make friends.
Attending weekly church developed my sense of God’s presence but I perceived him to be far away and relatively impersonal. I often felt very lonely. My diary became a place to imagine and hope that God might intimately see my heart.
I continued to struggle in relationships throughout my school years but developed a few very close friendships that meant the world to me. During my freshman year in high school, I learned that it was possible to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I carried that comfort into college but tested God’s love as I wandered through destructive choices in attempts to feel included and accepted.
By God’s grace, I met Larry during that time. We got married fresh out of college and began a process of seeking renewal with Jesus while launching our careers. Within a few years, I caught a fascinating break as a professional consultant designing large-scale corporate training programs for Fortune 500 companies. Meanwhile Larry was climbing the ladder in public accounting. Those were exciting and scary days, making adult decisions together, seeing our careers develop, and starting a family.
Life seemed to be headed down that “American dream” path until our marriage hit a storm that really shook us. It was during that time we first sought a Christian counselor. That process introduced us to a foundation of prayer and Christian temperament theology that transformed our lives, marriage, and faith. The tools we gained during that crisis soon proved invaluable in an extraordinary turn of events.
In the early 1990s, my curriculum design career started intersecting with my passions for ministry. I began developing Bible studies for my church and envisioning a series of children’s books. But then our third daughter, Carly, was born in 1998 experiencing health and developmental challenges.
During Carly’s preschool years, a group of volunteers from our church and neighborhood rallied on behalf of our family as we floundered to cope with her medical issues, developmental delays, and inability to sleep. People loved us with remarkable expressions of prayer and practical help. It wasn’t long before I began to experience a more tangible sense of God through their support. It felt like a longed-for hug and a deeply personal assurance of His nearness.
Sometimes people would encourage Larry and I to find a parent support group. Such groups were few and far between at that time and nearly all of them were specific to a diagnosis like Down Syndrome or autism. Carly’s rare chromosomal deletion was finally diagnosed when she was two and a half years old. Still, no existing group seemed to fit our circumstances or our values.
Given our training background and fueled by our growing passion to help caregiving parents connect in faith-based community, Larry and I started creating a support group curriculum for parents of children with special needs. We were initially hesitant when our literary agent asked us to put that project on hold and begin writing Carly’s story. Although I had never envisioned writing autobiographical books, a powerful story had been unfolding about our little girl with disabilities and what God did when the community loved her. Finding Glory in the Thorns released in 2008 and the companion Bible study launched two years later.
Today, Walk Right In Ministries remains dedicated to building faith and community with special needs families. What started as discussion groups in a handful of Minnesota living rooms, has grown to a multi-service organization reaching every state and friends around the globe. WRIM’s focus is on caring for family caregivers which includes parents, siblings, spouses, grandparents, and extended family. We offer in-person and virtual caregiver consulting and peer discussion groups as well as biblically based teaching and counseling for individuals, marriages and families impacted by disability. The same counseling principles that transformed our marriage and family are now the foundation of ministry to hundreds every year.
It is the greatest privilege of our lives to know that thousands of families impacted by disability are receiving the life-changing hope of Christ through conferences, educational blogs, and social media engagement. The WRIM team also collaborates with a broad network of national leaders dedicated to strengthening churches and communities as places of belonging for people of all abilities. It is great joy to walk alongside others in peace, purpose, strong relationships, resilience, and faith — one step of faith at a time.
I am more passionate than ever about encouraging others in sharing their own stories about how they are experiencing the presence, power, and goodness of God. My book Living Your Glory Story explores what happens when Christians freely and naturally share their stories of stumbling but exhilarating faith in Jesus.
My children’s book, Jesus, Let’s Talk, celebrates relational prayer, illustrates basic sign language, and features photography of young people from around the world, many with physical and developmental differences. (Photographer: Ann L. Hinrichs)
Larry and I have been married for almost 33 years now and have three grown daughters — Alex, Erin, and Carly. What takes fewer than 1,000 words to summarize, took years to live and to understand. Even now, there are new chapters emerging.
The same is true in your story.
When a person looks back over a few decades of life, the endless layers of God’s faithfulness are evident. This doesn’t always feel so obvious along the way. Nonetheless, it is true. We have to stay on watch — tuned in to the nearness of our Holy Spirit.
Of all the countless lessons I have been learning, one striking reassurance is that God’s accessibility, power, and goodness is ever-present. The devil tries to keep us narrow-minded and self-protective. God’s purposes in our lives are always far-reaching and Kingdom-building.
1 Peter 5:9
Stand firm against (the devil) 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.
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed but wants everyone to repent.
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.