Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A few pictures

Some pictures for your enjoyment. Firstly, the view out our back door. Across the way you see some more townhouses like our own, except that ours does not have a walkout basement. For the past few weeks we have had a lot of precipitation, mostly a mixture of sleet, rain, and snow.
And here we have Elijah looking sharp in some new church clothes. He goes through phases where he bites his nails a lot. Not terribly attractive, I know, but it was either this picture or one of him looking a bit whiney (he was tired).

And here is Elijah smiling and saying "Hi, Meemaw" (my mom) for the camera. I took this picture to send to her. As you can see, I dress him in lots of layers for bed.
And last but not least, Noah looking cute as usual.

I hope everyone who reads this is doing well today!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Of big churches--Part II

Thanks for the comments on my last post! Rather than responding in the comments section to the comments I received, I will continue here for the sake of a more readable layout.

In answer to Mrs. Turnbull's question, I do take Noah into the services with me, but Elijah goes to the "twos and threes room." This is because he seems to be a bit sensitive to loud noise, to the point that when he hears even acapella singing in a small church, he whispers, "It's too loud, mama." Well, the music in our church is not acapella, and it is not a small church, so it is quite overwhelming to him, to the point where he will even cry. I am not fond of the music in our church myself, so I don't make him stay through it.

But I would much prefer to be in a church where the children stay with the parents as a matter of course. In our church, the children are segregated from the parents all the way through high school!! They call it "reaching the children on their level." I think the children are being underestimated, myself. That's not specifically a big church complaint, though. I know of smaller churches that do the same.

My concerns with big churches are two-fold, as follows: the clique issue, and anonymity/accountability. Regarding cliques, I know that people generally tend to gravitate towards people like themselves, and I suppose that's not necessarily a bad thing. But in a big church where there are, for instance, lots of other young couples with children, it is possible that you can end up only socializing with other young couples with children; or college students may end up only interacting with other college students, or even older retired couples only with other retired couples. The distinctions can get even narrower--at one point I was in a small group that consisted entirely of young couples where the husbands were in graduate school, and the wives were working to support the family till the husband graduated (I was the lone exception). While it's nice to be able to connect with others who are going through some of the same experiences as yourself, I think that we miss out on a lot when we don't also have relationships with people at different points in life; for instance, I have often thought that I would love to get to know a mom with older children who would surely have good advice for me as I deal with my own little ones! (In addition to my own mom of course, who is always a great source of advice.)

I suppose this issue could be circumvented if people were intentionally placed in small groups of mixed ages.

The second issue is anonymity or accountability. For years I attended this church and was entirely anonymous, in the sense that no one knew me and I knew no one. It wasn't until I actively sought out a small group that I really got to know people. Even now, many weeks I can come and go from church and not see anyone at all that I know, other than the usher who always says hello to Noah and hands me a bulletin, or perhaps the associate pastor who always asks me how I'm doing. But in a church so large, it's entirely possible (and frequently happens) that if I don't happen to be sitting near any of my friends, I may not see them at all in the crowd. I find that if I leave town for the weekend, my absence is usually not even noticed. I begin to wonder, if I stopped attending church entirely, how long would it take for anyone to realize that I was no longer there? (Don't worry, I would never stop attending just to find out!) And previously, when I knew no one, how was I to be held accountable? How would anyone know if my lifestyle was in accordance with even the most basic principles of Christianity?

I'm sure that those who are more "involved" with Bible studies, weekend retreats, volunteer opportunities, etc. have no trouble meeting people of different age groups, and have plenty of people to hold them accountable. But surely I'm not the only person who finds it difficult to get more "involved" due to family obligations and work schedules.

I'm not at all trying to say that I think there is something inherently wrong with a big church per se, and I'm sure that the issues I mention can be worked around in some way, but those are the reasons I think a smaller church would be a better fit for me.

Disclaimer: these are just my opinions, and I hope I have not offended anyone! I am open to persuasion if you feel differently!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

of big churches--feel free to participate in this discussion!

During a conversation with Jesh recently, he asked how many people attend my church. I wasn't sure. A couple of weeks later I took a minute to count seats and discovered that our sanctuary seats 600. There are three services every Sunday, with different attendees--two morning services, and an evening service geared toward college students. I don't know how many people attend each service, but I know that the service I attend is usually pretty full, and I remember the college service (I started attending this church in my college days) usually being filled too.

The church has organized "small groups" to help people connect with others and feel more at home. There are various Bible studies, couples groups, moms groups, etc. that meet throughout the week.

The question is, when is a church too big? Is there a point when a church should split due to size? I suppose you could almost say that our church is already split, since the people who attend the 9:30 a.m. service may never cross paths with the people who attend the 7 p.m. service. But there's still just one pastor (well, plus an associate pastor who handles counseling, and a college pastor) and one board of elders.

So...a question for the many, many people who read my blog :) How big is your church? Do you think there's a point when a church is too big? What do you think are the advantages/disadvantages of big or small churches? (If you have an answer to one of those questions, don't feel obligated to come up with an answer to the rest)

I have my own thoughts, which I have been mulling over for some time now. But I will save my opinions for later!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Maybe tomorrow

Well, I didn't get the bathroom done this evening. Noah is out of sorts due to nasal congestion that keeps him from sleeping. Oh and two more top teeth coming through. I had several errands that I wanted to do that I had to postpone as well, due to Noah's unhappiness.

I did manage to take the boys to see their dad at the restaurant where he works. I enjoyed an excellent turkey salad with interesting ingredients like dried cranberries, apples, candied walnuts, and crostini (plus the usual veggies of course). Elijah ate large quantities of chicken fingers and fries and watched his dad working, asking me with great interest, "Are those Daddy's FRIENDS?" every time he saw Mike talking to one of his tables. Noah ate crackers, cucumber slices, and bits of chicken, and at intervals shrieked "Da DAAAAA?" when he spotted his daddy.

Then I took the boys to "the store with the train table" also known as the children's resale shop. I bought a few things, mostly for Elijah (pajamas and church clothes). Elijah and Noah enjoyed the train table, of course.

Then we came home again and I put the boys to bed. Technically I have an hour till my bedtime and I suppose I could finish the bathroom now, but the easiest way to clean up that joint compound dust would be to vacuum it, which of course would wake up the boys. And I'm tired. So I think I'll wait till tomorrow.

Today I found out that I get to fly down to Texas again in March! I'm very excited to be able to see my family again so soon. And it's a direct flight this time, no connecting flights to manage with the little ones. This will be so much easier!

Elijah's new thing: he starts a sentence with "If..." and waits for me to finish it. For instance, today I made a pot of coffee, a routine that Elijah enjoys "helping" me with. Elijah got to push the button to turn on the coffeemaker, as usual, and as usual I mentioned that we never turn on the coffeemaker unless Mama says so, and that after Mama pours out the coffee, we always turn off the coffeemaker. Elijah said "If the coffeemaker is on and the pot is empty...." and waited. Having been through this several [many] times in the past week, I recognized my cue and completed his sentence with "...the pot might break." I think he usually already knows what will happen in the little "if" scenarios he describes, but he likes to hear me say things over again. He likes me to be predictable.

All right, I'm heading to bed early. (It's not even ten yet!)

A day off

Today I find myself with a surprise day off. The father of the girls I watch has a recital today (he's an organist). So his wife and girls are taking the day off to attend his recital.

I'm using my [paid!] day off to work on some projects. I figure that if I work on one room or area per month, I can have the whole house "done" by the end of the year, except for new flooring, which will have to wait until finances permit, perhaps next year. January's room was the main level half bathroom, which I have not yet finished, so obviously I am behind schedule a bit. My goal is to finish it today. I still need to sand down some spots on the wall that I had patched, clean up the joint compound dust, paint, and rehang the sink. I'll post again at the end of the day to let you know if I finished it all.

February's room is the playroom in the basement. The plan is to repaint all the trim and the staircase, and to disguise a sloppy drywall job with a piece of molding. I also need to do something about the lighting, as the room is rather dim (the overhead light fixture only holds one bulb, which is insufficient given that the room has no windows). I want the room to be childproof seeing as it is the playroom, so I can't just set a lamp in there (might get knocked over). I might put a small shelf high on the wall and put a lamp on that, or perhaps I will replace the overhead light fixture with one that will hold two bulbs. Haven't figured that out yet.

Anyway, this morning I made good progress in the playroom, putting a second coat of paint on the door to the office, and painting the balusters to the staircase.

And then I made my second breakfast. I eat breakfast twice every morning, once when I first wake up before dawn, and a second one later when the kids are ready to eat. I guess that makes me kind of like a hobbit. :) Anyway, I made lots of french toast and orange juice. While we ate, I watched the snow falling. Today we have the unusual treat of seeing snow fall while the sun shines. The snow catches the light and it's gorgeous! Hiding under the lovely snow on the ground, however, is a half-inch layer of ice (we had sleet all day yesterday).

I got some pictures from a relative's camera and thought I would share. These are from last October. First is one taken at a park here in town. Not sure if you can see the water (click on the picture for a closeup), but we are all standing behind a waterfall. From left to right are: Mike's mom, Mike's nephew, Mike, Elijah, me, and Noah. I like this park a lot but we don't make it over there often for some reason. This park also has an amazing playground. I hear that people drive up to an hour just to visit this playground. This town really has great parks and playgrounds.

And since I don't think I've posted any pictures of myself here yet, here's one of me and Noah, in a little well house at that same park. Please pardon the baby drool on my shirt. :)