Seasons of life are funny things. Since my family straddles several right now (are we in the "growing family" category? The "parents of teens" camp? Midlife? All of the above?), we find ourselves finding our own norms and making our own rituals and rhythms as the old ones begin to feel stretched. One area where the expansion of our family has been most keenly felt, as of late, has been in our Sunday morning routine.
Our church offers three Sunday morning options: 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 11:15 a.m. For years, we have bounced between the 9:30 and 11:15 options, never quite settling on one but instead letting the events of the morning (and menfolks' ushering schedule) dictate which service we'd be attending. We're early risers, but our love of big, celebratory weekend breakfasts, combined with more than a few small people to wrangle from pjs, to potty, and into acceptable church attire, meant that more often than not, it was 10:30 before we were walking out the door. That meant that Mani, Seven, and Reuven were unlikely to get their normal nap in. It also meant driving home with hungry children who had been up since 6:30 a.m. and were more likely to be whining than singing "Jesus Loves Me."
Fast forward to our arrival home. A frantic rush to pull together a suitable lunch. A crying baby just wanting to be nursed in a quiet spot. A frazzled Daddy halfheartedly assigning clean-up duties. Older kids wiped out and just wanting to find a book and a place where no one will ask them for anything.
And then, it's 3 p.m. A couple of hours, then it's dinner and bed. Where has the day gone?
In the midst of one unhappy Sunday afternoon, Mr. Blandings turned to me and asked, "We do this again why?"
And I knew just what he meant. Not "Why do we go to church?" or "Why do we have all of these kids?" He was asking why we were doing the same thing, over and over every week ... when clearly, it worked for no one.
So we sat down and thought it over. Why hadn't we ever tried the 8 a.m. service, we wondered. Sure, it was early. But if we ate a light breakfast-- just enough to get by-- we could be out the door by 7:30 easily. Then we could come home and substitute a fabulous brunch for our normal elaborate breakfast. If all worked according to plan, we would still be able to work in naps, and maybe even a few hours of quiet family time that we'd all enjoy. Imagine that!
With a little trepidation, we tried it out. We're creatures of habit, we Blandings, so it felt odd at first. The 8 a.m. service has no childcare option, so we're still one of the only families attending with small children in tow. The difference at this service is that the general population is over 65 and somehow doesn't seem to mind the happy babble of babies nearly as much as people still in the active stages of parenting young kids. The music is a little quieter, the tone a bit more subdued. The first week, we hurried to shush Reuven the second he offered up his indignation at waiting for her early morning snack. Rather than being startled at the intrusion, nearly everyone who noticed (very few folks, it turns out) turned to smile and attempt to elicit the same from him.
In other words, we were very, very quickly more at ease in our church home of 10 years than we have ever been.
In addition to finding a beautiful niche for our family worship, we've also enjoyed the benefit of Sundays being relaxing. No, really.
We chill out on Sundays now.
A little pre-planning on Saturday nights (baths for everyone, everyone's church clothes laid out and ready, a simple breakfast of yogurt and fruit or granola and dried blueberries all set) and the morning goes off without any major snags.
When we return home, Mr. Blandings pulls out board games with the littles.
The bigs help me assemble brunch in the kitchen.
We all listen to music and sing.
Then we enjoy time around the table.
Bacon, fruit, egg dishes, whatever else sounds fun and festive.