Sunday, September 27, 2009

Back on the Search Again?

A few of you were reading this blog back when I was whining about how long it was taking us to find a new church after our move. Looking back now, I wonder why I was in such a hurry. Well, no, I do know. We needed connections. The girls needed friends. We needed a place to belong.

We've been attending Sunnybrook Community Church since about January. A big church (at least, big by our standards) -- 1200 in attendance each week. Reformed by denomination, but they don't talk about that much. Quite evangelical. Rather seeker-focused. Pretty contemporary. Lots of emphasis on community service. Lots of emphasis on the kids' and youth ministries. Good reputation in the community. As I've said before, God seems to be working in this place.

Yet, we're not convinced that this is the place God wants us. Which is a problem because we're now connected in a lot of ways. Kind of a Catch-22 situation: you have to plunge in and get involved in order to meet people and find out what a church is really all about. But once you do that, if you decide you're not about what the church is about, you've now made connections that are harder to cut.

Not that there's anything wrong with this church. It just doesn't feel right for us somehow. The connections we've made aren't exactly social ties; we know people--and they're nice people--but we haven't really bonded with anyone.

So many of the things that don't feel comfortable to us seems to be "style" preferences. The worship service feels too polished -- too much like a performance we're there to witness rather than worship we're there to participate in. And a lot of little stylistic things are what figure into that: dark sanctuary, big video screens, etc. I keep thinking, we'll just get used to that . . or it isn't that important . .

But our hands may be forced soon. The new worship minister asked to meet with me this week. He's wanting to "raise the bar" on the drama program and wants me to pray about being involved in the leadership with that. (Sidenote: this man hardly knows me. What made him think I was the person for this? Hmmm.) Accepting such a role would not only require our staying in the church . . . it would also require me to be actively involved in helping create the worship environment that I'm not feeling comfortable with. Will being on the inside make me more comfortable? Will I be able to be a positive influence on the situation? Who knows. But as exciting an opportunity as it sounds like, I don't have much peace with the idea.

I think we're going to start exploring other churches again -- like, Keith and I taking turns each Sunday visiting elsewhere, and we'll see if we feel a pull in another direction. I'm just not sure where else we would go. As I recall now, one of my frustrations in the church search was how few great options there seemed to be out there......

Friday, September 25, 2009

A "Life"

"You know what, mom? I don't have a life."

I questioned my daughter as to what exactly she meant by that. "I don't have friends. I don't have goals. I don't have a life," she said very casually, almost flippantly. I stifled for a moment the mother-angst that immediately flared up (I'm a terrible mom!! I've ruined my child!!) and paused to consider the setting we'd just left and what might have triggered this remark.

We were watching the East High varsity football game -- or, more accurately, watching people at the game. Scads of groups of kids -- from two to five in number, from 7 to 18 in age -- "hanging out", wandering around, talking and arguing and laughing and yelling and all the stuff kids do at ball games. I was remembering ball games I went to when I was in school . . . the friends I hung out with there . . . the conversations that happened.

No friends? Both my girls keep talking about how they have plenty of acquaintances at school, but no real friends yet. But I wonder if they realize how few of the relationships they see on display have the intimacy and commitment to qualify as "real friendships" as they've come to know them. Lots of people to hang out with. Usually only a very small handful of real, true friends.

No goals? What kind of goals do 13-year-olds have? Or what goals should they have? My daughter wants to do well in school. To make and enjoy friends. To figure out what God's plan is for her life. To babysit as often as she can. To improve in all of her artistic abilities and interests. To use her time and her money and her abilities to help other people. Do all 13-year-olds have goals like that? I honestly don't know.

A thought flickered across my mind from our small group's study this week in the book The Purpose-Driven Life. We're not made for this world -- it shouldn't surprise us that we aren't completely fulfilled and satisfied with our life here, because this life is just a preparation for the next one. I considered bringing this idea up but decided against it. This didn't seem to be a moment for theological instruction. It was a moment for encouragement.

"You have a life. It's just not the kind of life that the other kids you see at school have. And frankly, I have no problem with that at all."

I'm not convinced that the life of the typical American teenager is one to be coveted. I'm anxious for her to come to that realization as well.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Latest Challenge

My nine-year-old is getting on my case to update my blog. I'm happy that she's reading -- I'm annoyed that she's getting on my case. :) (Just kidding, hon.)

I have a good reason for not having blogged: I'm been too busy finishing a script. This past summer, I was talking with one of the moms in the homeschool group about drama. We started formulating an idea for how to do a drama program for the group this year. Something for the elementary school kids this fall, then something with the older kids in the spring.

When we were at the idea stage, it all sounded pretty basic. I mean, I've done all this. I've written scripts. I've directed. I've worked with kids. I can do it. No problem! Really, I have much too high an opinion of my abilities sometimes.

We did auditions last week, and I finished the script over the weekend to hand out at rehearsal yesterday. I couldn't really finish it until I knew what kids we had to work with -- how many, what ages and genders, what kind of experience and ability, etc. I've been writing like a maniac. I'm exhausted. I hope it's good -- I'm too close to the thing right now to have any idea of the quality of my work. This is when I need my writer friends (Randy, Lauree . . ) to read my stuff and give me feedback. Although frankly, I'm not sure I want their feedback now, because it's too late. It's copied and out, and I'd rather not hear what I should have done differently with it.

We have about seven weeks until the performance. Seven more rehearsals. Gulp. All the moms keep thanking me profusely for offering this for their kids. I hope they're still thankful when they see the finished product.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Family Shoe Closet? Hmmm

My friend Shelley loaned me the book written by the Duggars, the family with the 18 kids, now expecting number 19. An interesting story. I'm not going to go into my opinions about the Duggars and their "lifestyle choices". I only bring it up because they mention something in the book that I think is a great idea.

In previous homes, the Duggars quickly realized they had no space in bedrooms for dressers and wardrobes and such to store clothing. Plus, I'm sure it quickly became a hassle to have to sort all of those clothes and distribute them to each person's individual storage spots. So, out of necessity, they started keeping everyone's clothes in a "family closet" right by the laundry room. Clean clothes went straight from the laundry room to the nearby closet. Everybody went there to choose their own clothes for the day and deposit their dirty clothes.

When the Duggars built their own house custom-made to accommodate their large family, they probably could have made room for clothes storage in the bedrooms, but they decided the family closet idea worked for them, so they built it into the floorplan of the new house.

My mother-in-law kind of does this. She keeps most of the clothes she wears regularly in the laundry room downstairs and changes down there. Really, it makes a lot of sense.

I bring this up because Leslie and I were just discussing our family's shoe situation. We almost always take our shoes off immediately upon entering the house. It's just what we do. For me, this is not much of an issue, because I keep one pair of shoes right by the door that are very generic and go with just about anything. I wear them 90% of the time, so it works well to slip them on and off right there by the door.

Leslie, on the other hand, has a plethora of shoes and may wear two different pair in a day. This means that right now, for instance, there are four pairs of her shoes lying in the aforementioned doorway -- which is what prompted this conversation between the two of us -- and made me wonder if we can implement a family shoe closet downstairs by our door to the garage. It would make SO much more sense, considering the way we are ....

Check me out -- thinking outside the box. How very right-brained of me!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Suppose I Think Too Much

Well, now that Meredith is all happy about my Disney experience, I'll put the damper on things. :) I've decided I'm much too much of a cynic. As I said, I was surprised at how often I caught myself last week rolling my eyes . . . sighing with a bit of exasperation . . . suppressing sarcastic comebacks (although I didn't always suppress them when Keith was nearby to whisper them to).

One specific example: we watched a video somewhere (don't remember where right now) with a big save-the-planet environmental message. Now, trust me, although I'm not an obsessive tree-hugging type, I am concerned about the environment and about the issues they brought up in the video. But I couldn't help wondering -- after observing all the trash created at the parks, and the huge, spacious buildings being air-conditioned, and the monstrous fleet of busses running night and day around the place -- what kind of "carbon footprint" the Disneyworld resort leaves. The irony was palpable.

But it ran deeper than that for me. And I don't want to knock the Disney franchise in general (although one could argue they deserve some knocking). They provide good, clean family entertainment, which is much needed in our society. And I usually appreciate the positive messages in what they offer my kids.

But those very messages were the issue for me last week. Somehow, they seemed . . . hollow. Empty. Like the Mickey-shaped crisped rice snacks on a stick -- sugary junk food that makes you feel full but doesn't give you the nourishment you need to live and thrive.

Not all of the messages, I suppose, but the ones that jumped out at me on this trip. "When you wish upon a star" . . . "let your conscience be your guide" . . . "follow your heart -- follow your dreams" . . . "what are you wishing for? what are your dreams?" . . . "anything your heart desires will come to youuuu".

Somehow, it felt like Christmas focused on Santa, and Easter focused on the bunny. I mentioned before how I dislike the song from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, "Any Dream Will Do" -- because any dream will NOT do. That's not the point of the story at all. It completely distorts the listener away from the Point of the story.

I know, I know -- Disneyworld isn't church, and by no means do I want it to be. I'm just saying that this was the first time I remember being so very struck by the fact that society (through "good" organizations like Disney) tries so hard to instill hope in our children about themselves and their future . . . but fails miserably to point them to the only source of that hope.

Kind of a hopeless endeavor, really.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Most Magical Place on Earth

So . . I've been away for a while at Disney. My FB friends may have noted on my status before I left that I was unsure of how much I would enjoy this trip -- not big on crowds, or heat, or bratty kids, or parents who fail to keep their bratty kids in line. But I was pleasantly surprised by many things on this trip. I'll list a few:

1) The LACK of crowds -- which was the reason we picked Labor Day week to go. My Disney freak friend Meredith said it's the deadest week of the year there, and I don't doubt her now. After Labor Day Monday, we hardly had any lines of any kind. Sweet.

2) Disney seriously does this stuff well. Disneyworld is one monstrosity of a resort size-wise, but they have it running like clockwork. Everything was about as easy as it could be, considering. For example, our room keys served as our admission tickets to the parks, as make-shift credit cards that we could charge pretty much anything to, and as our meal cards to get food at restaurants and food stands throughout the resort (plus we got a free meal deal for visiting this week! I repeat -- sweet!)

3) There's simply no way I could work at Disney -- I'm not cheerful enough. I've never seen so many nice people one place, especially in the service industry. And really, if you're a person who just loves to perform -- sing, dance, etc. -- and who doesn't have any hang-ups or attitude about needing to do highbrow stuff, Disney is heaven. There have to be thousands of performing jobs. But again, you have to be the cheerful type. Plastic smiles required.

4) Amazing shows. The main street electrical parade (or whatever they're calling it now) was beautiful. The fireworks displays at Magic Kingdom and Epcot were awesome. The Lion King show was really exciting (and Eastin got pulled out of the audience to participate). And I thought the puppetry in the Finding Nemo show was absolutely gorgeous.

5) Most surprising of all, I was amazed at how unannoying the general public was. Other than the two women behind me at the Magic Kingdom parade the first night who started arguing and spoiled about a third of the parade for everyone around them . . . people were generally polite and decent. Able-bodied folks gave up their seats on the bus for children and elderly. Parents, for the most part, made their children behave. I even saw a couple strangers jump in and help some women struggling to lift their handicapped companion out of a ride. I usually hate places like this because they remind me of how overall jerkish the human race can be. But humanity was redeemed in my eyes this week. Made me wonder what was in the water.

However, I was wondering about myself by the time we headed home. I caught myself in far too many eye-rolls over the course of the week. Perhaps I'm a bit too cynical ....? But that's a topic for another post . . .

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Battles We Pick

Some members of our household (who shall go unnamed) have become reality TV junkies. The end of the American Idol season didn't end our obsession; nor did my personal boycott of "Jon and Kate Plus Eight". Now there's "What Not To Wear" . . "Toddlers and Tiaras" . . "Nanny 911" . . "Wife Swap" . . "Cake Boss" . . "Say Yes to the Dress" . . it's shameful, I tell you. Sha-a-ameful.

Several of these are on the TLC channel (and if you already knew that, maybe you have a problem, too). Does anyone else remember when TLC stood for The Learning Channel? Is there anything educational on there anymore?

Anyway, I have a love-hate relationship with most of these shows. Honestly, some of them I enjoy watching. I've learned stuff from Stacy and Clinton on "What Not to Wear" (though I wish they'd watch their language sometimes). I have yet to watch "Wife Swap" or one of the Nanny shows without coming away feeling like a better wife and mother ("At least I'm not that bad . . "), and I truly do occasionally get some real insight into family issues that are useful to me. Some of the cakes Buddy and his crew make on "Cake Boss" are really fascinating . . . and the east coast talk and attitude are entertaining for a recent transplant from that area.

But other times, I have to admit: it's just mindless occupation that is a total waste of my time. What really could I gain from watching a bunch of women agonizing over what wedding dress to buy? You gotta wonder who ever had the idea for a TV show like that . . .

And frankly, some of the programs are infuriating. I swear I'm going to throw a pillow at the screen one of these days during "Toddlers and Tiaras". Leslie's already heard my tirade about why I think such pageants are entirely inappropriate for kids that age -- and why I think TLC is exploiting the people involved in making this show. I'm not telling her she can't watch. I didn't tell her she couldn't watch Jon and Kate either; I just told her why I wasn't going to watch it anymore and she made the decision to stop watching also. Yet toddlers are still parading across my TV in tiaras.

But when Eastin glanced at the TV the other day to see a 5-year-old in a sequined halter-and-bell-bottoms ensemble wiggling her hips and blowing kisses at the judges . . and then said, "I can do that. I wanna do that," that pillow was almost a-flying and mom's leniency was almost at an end. We WON'T be having any of that in my house. OH, no.

I'm already tired of being the mom of a teenager. I hate having to pick my battles; they all seem important to me. But I do have to pick . . and I think this is one I don't fight against her, but alongside her. If she must watch, she watches with me and gets a reality check on what she's viewing. And the TV goes off the minute I see evidence that her filters are malfunctioning.

And, in the meantime, I suppose I need to be more intentional about finding better activities to fill our minds and our evenings with -- things more noble, more true, more pure, more lovely, more admirable . . all that Philippians Four stuff.

That would mean no sequined halter tops. Ha.