It was book club weekend again amongst some lovely Chicago HLBloggers this past Saturday. Unfortunately, the CTA and I have been locked in an epic battle over the past couple of days (three times I’ve gotten to the platform JUST as the train is pulling away. Sighhh), so I was a bit on the late side, which meant my pictures of the incredible French-inspired eats are a bit on the nonexistent side. I wish we had book club every weekend so I could eat everyone’s food all the time!
After eating and chatting, we moved on to white elephant gifts. I’ve got to be honest: I’ve never liked gift exchanges, mostly because of some awful experiences growing up. When I was in third grade, I went to a girls group at the church I attended at the time, and I was not only the only one my age that went, but I was also the youngest by about two or three years. When we did a gift exchange at Christmas, no one wanted to take what I brought, which both made me feel so crummy that I broke down in tears when my dad came to pick me up and gave me a strong aversion to gift exchanges in general. In middle school, I went to a different church with a different youth group that had a white elephant gift exchange each December. That youth group was made up of almost exclusively popular kids who went to my school (and me, Miss Distinctly Not Popular), and BOTH years I was made fun of for what I brought. AND THEN in college one of my student organizations did a white elephant gift exchange during finals week while I was a sophomore, and once again the senior in the group who picked my gift was highly critical of it.
Regardless, I banked on this group of bloggers not being quite as judgmental as everyone I spent my formative years with, ever and brought a earbud holder I received a few months ago as my gift for our exchange. Though I had no use for it, I’m happy to announce that Saturday was one of the first times I can recall where I wasn’t made to feel like a total fool for what I brought. Maybe gift exchanges aren’t always an exercise in emotional torture?
When looking for a future husband, I’ll be sure to scout out men with hemophilia in their family now that I have this incredible useful book!
On a more serious note, I think I’m going to break up with my Chicago church.
I started going to my current church when I had an internship in Chicago, and I went back there because I desperately needed a community I knew when I moved back. For a few months now, I’ve turned a blind eye to the blatant judgement, piety, self-righteous attitude, and, too often, preaching that is downright inaccurate for the sake of socializing with my friends after church.
This past Sunday morning was the last straw for me. Things said about members of other Christian churches during the Sunday School lesson infuriated me to the point where I was ready to get up and leave before the service even started. I was so distracted by my anger and frustration that when I was asked later that day at lunch how my morning was, I couldn’t remember what actually happened at church that day (other than the fact that they completely ignored the fact that it was the first Sunday of Advent. Seriously.).
On Sunday evening, desperate for some adherence to the church calendar, I went to a service at a church I had visited once before. I couldn’t believe how different this second service felt compared to the one I went to in the morning. For the first time since I graduated, I really felt like I was actually worshipping rather than mindlessly going through the motions of church.
I have a few churches in mind where I’d like to visit, but I’ve got to be honest: I’m anxious about church shopping. The community at my first Chicago church kept me there, and I’m not eager to leave those people behind or attempt to find another place with an equal (or better?) community. I like being relationally comfortable at my church, and I do really enjoy the company of the people there. Starting from scratch in the relationship department doesn’t really appeal to me, but neither does letting my faith fall apart due to an unhealthy spiritual environment, and ultimately, I think I’ve gotten to the point in my life in Chicago where that’s more important than having a consistent group of semi-friends that I see weekly.
What’s the best gift you’ve received through a gift exchange? Or do you have gift exchange horror stories?
Any suggestions for churches to visit? Automatic upgrade to Best Friend Ever status if you can find me a Calvinist, liturgical church with a lot of twentysomethings, solid preaching, and both traditional (organ) and contemporary (praise band) services, ideally with the traditional service being in the morning and the contemporary service being at night. So basically, if you can find me the exact same church situation I had for all four years of college, that’d be ideal. Thanks.