As you can see, we have a growing number of beautiful pictures being created & collected. T loves drawing and doodling, and at the moment quite a lot of her spare time is spent drawing pictures for Monika, a child we sponsor in Bangladesh. I’m not sure how (and how many?) we are going to be able to get to Monika, and we’re are to be perfectly honest more than a little apprehensive about trying to explain that to T! Nevertheless it’s absolutely lovely. T loves talking about Monika, has taken photo’s and letters in for show and tell and worked hard at remembering all the long names of where she lives so she could tell her class about how we help her go to school there, and loves to look up in books more things about Bangladesh to try and work out what Monika’s home, village and town are like. Of course when we write letters to her, she is particularly involved – more pictures to slip into the envelope and now she is able to write her name on the bottom of each card we send she is so thrilled. When we began sponsoring children through Christian charities, we had really hoped it would shape us as a family as much as we hoped and prayed for an impact on the children being sponsored. I think it’s so important that our children grow up with eyes and hearts to see others with God’s love no matter how far away or close to us they live.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 36:7)
But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously. (Micah 6:8)
When B & A were smaller and we were trying to do ‘proper quiet times’ with them we dipped in and out of ‘You too can change the world’, by Daphne Spraggett and Mary Filidis – a great resource full of snippets of information on each country and specific things to pray for. I think it may be a good time to find it again and begin looking at it together. These days I try to make sure there are resources and books of Bible stories on their bedroom shelves, and look at them when they pick them up and try not to worry when they don’t – I’m finding T quite regularly chooses these bedtime stories in amongst other books with neither of us feeling under pressure to ‘fit in a Bible story’ at bedtime. A book like this is really useful as it gives short sentences to inspire prayer but that can actually simply be read out as a prayer – which often suits ours better. Prayers tend to be a collection of gradually evolving fixed sentences that can’t be added to or altered, so reading one from the book, separate to their prayer works much better than asking them to ‘say a prayer’ in response to what we have read.
It is the practical hands on things though that I have seen make the greatest impact on us as a family. Whether it has been B offering to help make the tea and sandwiches for door callers where we used to live or asking me to teach her to knit so she can join in and make a square towards my small group’s blanket for refugees; or T coming with me to deliver cakes from church to families with new babies and drawing endlessly for Monika; or A enjoying helping me fill the shoe boxes for operation Christmas child (https://www.samaritans-purse.org.uk/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/), and helping me to get food ready for families who could do without the added stress of cooking for whatever reason; it has definitely been these times which have broadened our conversations as a family, and opened our hearts to others. There is something about getting stuck in and doing something that not only makes a new thought stick with us and grow, but that also somehow grounds un-chartered territory of thought enough to make it approachable. I suppose what I mean is that I am aware that for my girls there is often an extra level of difficulty towards being able to see things from someone else’s perspective, sometimes it is hard for them even to imagine someone’s life could be fundamentally different from our own. It’s not a selfish thing, ASD has a group of areas of difference or difficulty and this (Theory of Mind)
Theory of mind refers to the notion that many autistic individuals do not understand that other people have their own plans, thoughts, and points of view. Furthermore, it appears that they have difficulty understanding other people’s beliefs, attitudes, and emotions.*
is just simply one of them… the result is that trying to think about the lives of others – perhaps especially far off in another culture and country – is such an outside their box thing to think about that words alone, information alone just becomes a sea of unknown, something to fear. To some extent I think that is something many of us feel from time to time when we face learning something completely new. Doing something practical seems to give us a doorstep to safely stand on to look into someone else’s world.
I wonder what else I could be doing to create opportunities for these adventures as a family together. Maybe this could be a way to bring shape to seasons like advent and lent for us, where other resources have not been easy to use together. I have come across families who have set themselves practical challenges to get to know or to help others; like Acts of Random Kindness, or collecting/making gifts for charities to distribute at Christmas, doing some of the practical suggestions in resources such as ‘love life live lent’ or ‘love life live advent’ (inviting others into our homes for food and time, volunteering in some way together as a family. There are so many ways that the practical could open our eyes and hearts as a family.
Have you thought yet about what might shape advent for you and your family?
What helps you and your family see others with God’s love?