We read in Matthew 19:14 where Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” I love this verse.
I am continually looking for ways for our family to connect over shared interests. Our camping trip last year was a blast. The trip to the beach this past summer was extremely special. We enjoy going to the pool, playing at the park, going for bike rides.
Our faith in Christ is our foundation. We love God and desire to raise our children to know and love Him. We moved to a new city three days before Camden was born. Since he was a fussy baby, our criteria for a church included: Bible teaching, close to home (since he hated the car), and had to have a room for nursing mothers. That was really easy for the first 8 months. When he got a little older, we’d leave him in the church nursery, and get a call after 10-15 minutes to come and get him due to his prolonged crying. When Camden was around 12-15 months, Brian and I decided to take turns with him each week. One of us would go to the service while the other stayed with him in the nursery. On one particular Sunday, I had been in the sanctuary listening to the teaching while Brian had been hanging out with Camden. I met up with them a few minutes before the service let out. Brian looked really discouraged. His forehead was damp from sweat and he was obviously sad. He told me that from now on when it was his week to stay with Camden, that they would stay home.
My heart ached. Brian was raised in church. For him to say this, I knew things were bad. We loved God and knew the importance of gathering together with others for fellowship. This is not what we had envisioned. Not what we wanted for our family. But that verse in Hebrews 10 about how we should not give up meeting together, which is often quoted to remind Christians about the importance of fellowship and corporate worship, is not what we were doing. We were checking the box, but our hearts and minds were far from it. So we left the church for about 6 months. We didn’t even go on Easter. It was a sad and lonely time. I guess it was a moment that stands out that shows how hard things were during that season (and beyond).
My dear friend, Danielle, had recommended a church to me in the area. We knew several families there, it wasn’t too huge, and there was a husband and wife team that worked in the baby/toddler department who had a son on the spectrum. We visited about 2 weeks after my little guy was born. It was a good fit for us. The people were kind and understanding. The children’s minister went above and beyond to care for our family and befriend me. I was able to sit in the back and care for Carson. Camden did great in the nursery. I would peek in on him to make sure he was okay. During the 2 years there, they never once came and got us out of the service. When Carson was old enough to crawl and go to the nursery, he and Camden stayed together in class. They both seemed comforted by this. They moved together from the infant class to the “walkers.” They stayed there until it was past time for Camden to move classes. We got to the point where we needed to find a church that was equipped to take care of various special needs, so we began the search for a new church home. But that first church we attended as a family will always hold a special place in our hearts. Forever grateful to that sweet congregation. They cared for us during an extremely tough season. Here’s a collage from the church’s playground, where we spent a good chunk of time:
I had checked out churches in our area that had a special needs ministry, and then visited the various campuses and spoke with the children’s directors. We ended up at our current church. It’s five minutes from our house, which is a huge bonus. Both of my boys are happy and willing to attend. They do have a special needs ministry and monthly respite program. Our children’s minister is a beautiful person with a heart for special needs kiddos. And the volunteers that faithfully show up week after week are the glue that holds the program together. Camden’s class is not an afterthought. Each week our children’s minister organizes a memory verse, a Bible lesson, craft, games and activities. Camden takes his praise and worship dvds, jams out to his tunes, jumps on the trampoline, plays with the train table, and whatever else he can get in to. Brian and I plugged in to a Bible Fellowship Group (I’m old and call it Sunday School). It’s nice to finally feel like we are truly fellowshipping and not just checking a box. We meet/talk/pray/study/hang out with people who we have grown to love and who care about us. And we encourage one another in this faith journey.
For many families like ours it can be a challenge to find meaningful ways to include your child with autism into various aspects of life: faith, hobbies, holidays, traditions, etc.. I am going to share a few ideas that have worked for us to this point. And oh, how I would love to hear your ideas!
The idea to involve Camden more actively in our faith came from a news story about a local autism mama and her son, Jack. Check out Carla and Jack’s story from November 12: http://www.wfaa.com/story/entertainment/television/programs/daybreak/2014/08/19/14127246//
During the interview, Carla shared that hearing Jack sing Katy Perry’s “Roar” song was the first time for him to spontaneously string words together. She mentioned that he could make one-word requests for his preferred items, and that he did sing the dinner-time prayer with them. Hmmm. What she said got me thinking. At this point, Brian would pray before we ate. I thought about Carla’s son, Jack, singing the prayer with them and thought it would be great to try with Camden. He responds very well to music. So we started a very simple music prayer that goes like this:
God our Father
God our Father
We thank You
We thank You
For our many blessings
For our many blessings
This first video was taken last night before dinner. Sometimes Carson likes to pray on his own for us. Tonight he was praying for his cousin, Grace, who was at the hospital with severe stomach pain.
Then I had Camden sing on his own so that you could hear him, and just because I think he’s so precious.
Here’s a video I posted on Facebook of Camden singing that same prayer, but it was taken a little over a year ago (Dec 2013).