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Challenge: Raising Siblings

Turning Burdens into Loads

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Earlier this year in my bible study, we pondered the scriptural differences in the terms load and burden. Before this lesson, I assumed the terms were synonyms in a biblical sense. My study uncovered the words actually carry different connotations biblically. For discussion purposes, load refers to our own specific responsibilities of everyday life, burden refers to a more urgent or unplanned responsibility that we must assume without warning. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He promises to carry our burdens if we let him, but we must carry our own loads, as found in Galatians 6:5, “For each should carry his own load.” This class and these words really impacted me and I have continued to think about them and the actual application of them in my life since then.

We all carry our own loads, those that belong to us. Matthew is our responsibility—mine and Brett’s. Able-bodied and able-minded people should be able to carry their own load—mental, spiritual, relational and physical loads. Caring for Matthew is a load, not a burden. A burden is an emergent crisis, Matthew’s future care is not. We know the day will come that Brett and I are no longer here or are no longer able to care for or oversee Matthew. Brett’s heart attack this summer prompted us to begin communicating that plan to BethAnne, Peyton and Walker so that they too see it as a load and not a burden. They accepted this future load years ago, without us ever having to ask, and we began planning financially for that day they will officially assume it.

Now as we age and sense our own mortality, we realized that planning is not enough, we need to share that process with the older kids. They need to understand that caring for Matthew will be a physical and emotional labor, but not a financial one. The physical and emotional loads can be taxing, but are accompanied by great reward—the love and progress of Matthew. The specifics of who will carry those loads day in and day out and for how long are uncertain, but we know that each of them is prepared to carry their share when the time comes.

With our advisors, we began to formulate a financial plan for Matthew’s future several years ago. The plan evolves as Matthew and the others mature, over the holiday BethAnne and Peyton met with one of our advisors for their first of likely several lessons about the plan. He began with an educational session about estate planning and special needs trusts in general and then more specifically explained our plans. Once Walker turns twenty-one, he, too, will receive the same information and education.


My hope is that never need these plans, that Matthew achieves enough independence that he needs financial oversight, that he can live in an “independent” but supported environment. I am not, however, naïve or innocent enough to not plan for greater needs or more immediate ones. We learned this summer just how precious life is and how quickly it can change. Thoughtful planning and a strong faith can make these times slightly less harrowing and turn burdens into loads.

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