Saturday, June 30, 2012

My New Favorite Travel Accessory

Recently I saw a giveaway on another blog for one of these fabulous travel pillows. I didn't win the giveaway, but I decided I really needed one. I'm generally a very cranky traveler and am always looking for ways to make myself more comfortable. I hate taking a big pillow because I'm not one of those folks that can only sleep on my own pillow and it's just one more thing to keep up with, but I like the idea of a travel pillow. Those squishy beads and those u-shaped things just don't cut it for me, so I thought this might be just the solution. After about two days of debate, I decided I wanted this one that said "Dream Big." It's flowery and has pink on it. Yup, it's perfect for me!

I was super-excited when it came, but of course my loving husband decided to tease me about it and how it looked kind of goofy. Yeah, the teasing lasted all of 24 hours when I came downstairs and found him napping in the recliner all curled up on my pillow! The worst part was that he wouldn't give it back! I'm going to have to get him his own! It really is very comfy. It's firm so it gives you some good support and will last, but it isn't like propping on a rock. I like that I can tuck my shoulder into the corner because I'm a side sleeper (especially on my right) so it feels very natural to me! I also like that the long part gives me something to hug on and a place to put my arms.

If you're planning any vacations in the near future (summer or otherwise) I would recommend you get one of these, especially if you will be driving! There are baby/kid sizes also for your littlest travelers. Most have a strap so it can be attached to your seatbelt. Mine didn't  have that, which suits me just fine because that means it's comfy for sleeping on either side. The pillowcase comes off so it can be tossed in the washer. The only thing I wish was different is that there's no "water resistant' covering to keep my inevitable spilled Dr. Pepper from seeping in, but I may go get some waterproofer that I can put on the pillow part. So far nothing has happened to it, but I know myself well enough to know it's only a matter of time!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jeff's Post-Anniversary Surprise

When I made my 101 things list, one thing I added was taking Jeff on a surprise trip. I'm not great at surprises and secrets. I tried to do this for his birthday but my cover was blown. Thankfully, he didn't say anything until after the fact, but it did make it that much harder.

 For several months now, he has been talking about wanting to go visit Vicksburg, MS. He has been once when he was younger but said that family trip left a lot to be desired. I have never been. I knew we were probably going to do this at some point this year, but when I saw a great deal on Groupon, I couldn't pass it up. Originally I had planned to wait a little while longer, but since I'm not good with secrets and was out of good ideas for his anniversary gift, I figured I'd make this work.

The actual surprise part involved a fair amount of sneaking around on my part and putting some things off to the last minute, but I sucked it up and did it. The biggest challenge was getting him into the car! Originally I had planned to kidnap him from work at lunch time, but since he is no longer on overtime and had taken off work the past two Fridays, I decided not to push it. Instead, we agreed to grab an early dinner when he got home from work. As soon as he got home, I was already waiting for him with the suitcase hidden in my car and the dogs all squared away. After he changed clothes, we headed out and I decided not to say anything and see how long it took for him to ask questions.

We got about halfway to the interstate when he started to name all the places we WEREN'T going for dinner. Then he started guessing sort of ridiculous places (like the concession stand at the local water park) but finally I decided to tell him. Since I was still driving, I had him reach into the back seat and retrieve the bag I had stashed with some candy, a Mississippi map, and a book about Civil War road trips. I had a printout of our groupon tucked into the book at the page about Vicksburg. We stopped in Meridian for dinner and I let him drive the rest of the way. We got to the hotel and checked in. As soon as we got to our room, his first comment was "Let's hurry and catch the shuttle to the casino." We played a few slots and had a snack before heading back to the room.

Saturday, we headed out to the Military Park. We stopped for breakfast on the way out there and spent the better part of the day out at the park. When we got done, we headed out to cemetery in search of the marker for "Old Douglas," the Confederate Camel. We didn't find it, it started raining, and there were lots of people driving 90 miles an hour on lawn mowers right where we were, so we decided it wasn't worth continuing the hunt. After that, we drove around downtown and stopped at a little museum and soda fountain that was the home of the first Coca-Cola bottling operations. After that, we headed back to the hotel and watched a little bit of a movie that was on TV before we went over to the buffet at the casino for dinner. The buffet was generally disappointing, and if we'd had to pay full price for it, I would have been peeved. Even with our groupon credit it was kind of disappointing. I honestly prefer Golden Corral. Oh well, we'll know for next time! After dinner we lost the last of our casino credit on a slot machine, and then headed back to the room. We watched another movie, then went to bed.

We had thought about doing a little more sight-seeing but it was rainy and we decided to just take the long way out of town instead. We stopped outside Jackson for a late breakfast/early lunch at Cracker Barrel. I honestly can't remember the last time I went to a Cracker Barrel on a Sunday but it was really nice since we got there before the after church crowd started swarming. We got home around 3pm and enjoyed a lazy afternoon at home with the dogs.

It was a wonderful weekend and I can't wait to have another one! We saw most of his family last night and most of them knew about it or heard about it, and a few people said something to Jeff about "next time tell us when you're doing something like that!" and Jeff very honestly replied "I didn't know what we were doing until we were part of the way there!" That made me feel good and made me want to do more things like that in the future!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Church Shopping

As Jeff and I began to prepare for this new Season of Sabbath, one thing that was a priority for us was finding a new church. We have done a little bit of visiting other churches both while dating and married, so we have had a few conversations about what we like and don't like about some of these places. As we began to prepare for this transition, we started having more conversations about what we feel is important in our church home and we started making a concrete list of what we are looking for.

Our Shopping List:
Less than 15 minutes drive
Associated with an established denomination
Community that is friendly and welcoming, but not all up in everyone else's business!
Average attendance of 100+, but not so huge we feel anonymous
Worship space that feels like a sanctuary, not an auditorium!
Sunday School or Small Groups (*this can come from someplace other than our "main" church, too!)
Opportunities to get involved, but not feel pushed or obligated to do so.
Active programs for children and families of all ages.
Worship that is comfortable for both of us.
Sound theology!
Diverse leadership

We also started making a list of the places we would like to visit. Some are more "church tourism" because we are curious about them or know people who go there, not because we think we would actually attend on a regular basis. Others are because we have started doing our homework and, on paper, these churches meet most of these requirements. Some we won't know until we visit, which is why it is important to visit. I need both the information on paper as well as the experience so that I can make a decision I am happy about. 

There are very few things that are absolute deal-breakers for me, but there are a few. I want to hear good, sound theology in preaching and worship that happens with intention and not just a feel-good motivational speech with a few trendy songs. I want to SEE a variety of people, especially in leadership positions. I want to see and feel that people are there to worship and learn, not just socialize or gossip. Most of all I want to know that there is respect and regard for everyone, not just from the pastor but from the community as a whole. This weekend will be our first opportunity to begin working our way through the list we already have and really thinking about where we want to find our home. Part of me says I want to be settled someplace by the end of August, but I know this is a process that will simply take as long as it's going to take and I can't rush it!

What do you look for in a community of faith? Have you ever done any "church shopping"? What was the experience like for you?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Visiting Churches as an Introvert

I am an introvert. A very strong introvert. The group social interactions where I thrive are the ones where I am free to sit back and observe. I am nourished and inspired by the thoughts and work of others. If given enough time in a small enough group, I will open my mouth but please oh please don't try to force me and especially don't try to make it happen immediately. In high school, "get to know you games" (especially at summer camp) often reduced me to tears. Even now, any time I attend some sort of event or workshop where there is some adult version of these games, I always excuse myself to go to the restroom and will hide outside until it's over if it's at all possible!

Why am I telling you all this? Because, as I enter my Season of Sabbath, I am facing a very anxiety-producing experience and that is visiting new churches. I was trying to come up with some logical and eloquent way of sharing this anxiety when I came across this article : Top 5 Things Introverts Dread About Church. That pretty much covers it for me. The most anxiety producing part of this for me is that I don't know how much of all these things to expect so there's no way to prepare for them. I have just about decided that, no matter what, I'm going to have to visit a place at least twice before I can form an opinion about what kind of fit it will be for me. The first time will be all about survival and getting my bearings. The second time I can actually take it all in and make a more educated decision.

When I think about visiting a new church, I can't help but remember an episode of Designing Women. I can't remember whose church it was (probably Charlene's) but Mary Jo and I believe Julia were visiting. They were immediately noticed by the pushy woman in charge of the "hospitality" committee who promptly pinned a giant yellow mum to each of them so that everyone in the church would know they were visitors. Although I know that there was a certain level of embellishment for the comedic sake of television, there is still a tiny part in the back of my mind that is terrified that this will happen to me as I visit new places.

I have never encountered a church that took it to quite that level, but I do remember the one time I visited a church in college (which may or may not have been part of why I didn't really go to church in college!) when the friends who had taken me forced me over to get a "visitor's bag". Their reasoning behind it was that there was a super-fabulous homemade brownie inside made by one of the sweet ladies in the church. While the brownie was really wonderful, I would have preferred to never eat another brownie again for the rest of my life than have to walk out with that bag. After that incident, I never did go back to that church because I saw myself tagged as "fresh meat" and I just couldn't handle it. I will walk a quarter mile in the rain to avoid parking in a space marked for visitors. I refuse to raise my hand and introduce myself. I will generally only fill out a visitor card if it is small and can be slipped discretely into the offering plate or made as a note on an attendance pad and I promise you will NOT get my address or phone number! If and when I decide to attend regularly or join, only then will I allow myself to exist "on the grid."

My husband is not an introvert. He is happy to shake hands, introduce himself, tell anyone where he works and where he lives. He has no problem jumping right in. Obviously, this can require some negotiations and compromise on both our parts when we embark on new experiences.

What about you? Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? What parts of church (or new situations) are uncomfortable for you? How do you deal with them?