I had the wonderful opportunity to take some vacation time and head down to Illinois to visit my brother, sister-in-law and two nieces. The plan was just to hang out and relax and enjoy their company. I got to enjoy their company a lot, because my wonderful, amazing nieces would come in to my room and wake me up at around 5:30 everyday. And that is just ungodly, if you ask me. Now, by ungodly, I mean immoral, wicked and unreasonable. I do not mean of or denoting the absence of God.
We had the opportunity to do some fun stuff. One of those things was visiting the Jelly Belly warehouse in Wisconsin. We got a "tour" which included riding in a little train around the perimeter of the warehouse and watching videos about the origins and production of Jelly Bellies. It was neat, and I've decided my goal is to become one of their Master Confectioners. After the tour we got free samples of the Jelly Bellies. I tried some normal flavors like mango and pomegranate (that's a really hard word to spell) and red apple (which was really good!) and I also tried some weird flavors like booger (although I opted away from the vomit flavored one because, as I told my sister-in-law I have too many stories involving me actually vomiting to be able to enjoy a jelly bean that simulates that flavor... oh, and I've tried it before...).
On my way back home, after visiting my family, I drove the long way and visited my old internship congregation and went to church there on Sunday. Then I drove through the Quad Cities and visited my internship supervisor (that's where he has moved since he retired, although with the congregations he's serving as an interim pastor, and the organization he's working with as their interim director, I think he might work just as much if not more than he did as a fulltime pastor...). It was great to see Ron again, and to chat about all the things that are going on in my life and ministry. Ron was probably one of the best supervisors I could have had as an intern pastor. He was like the yin to my yang. I was inexperienced and impulsive and had a lot of energy. He was experienced and thoughtful and grounded. I'd come into his office freaking out about something, frantically trying to come up with a solution for it immediately, and he'd calmly talk about it and think about it.
While I was in the Quad Cities I also visited my friend Christie, ate some great pizza, and then went to Ross's 24 Hour Diner in Bettendorf, IA and ate their Magic Mountain for breakfast. I've had it before when I was in the area, and I really enjoy it even through I know it's not the healthiest thing I could have. It's grilled texas toast, piled high with eggs, hasbrowns and sausage and then covered (I mean COVERED) in sausage gravy or cheese sauce. The first time I had it, I almost got the cheese sauce but the waitress informed me that it was much better with the gravy. So I do that, although I am always intrigued by the cheese sauce. I do love me some cheese (but I recognize that "cheese sauce" is probably more sauce than cheese...)
Then I drove home and made it back to the Cities in time to have supper with some great people. Erin is a friend and classmate from seminary who has recently moved to the area to serve as the Director of Youth Ministry at a large church. And Casey is the son of other good friends from seminary who recently moved to the area so Mike, Casey's dad, could be the Executive Pastor at this same congregation. Casey has recently enlisted in the army and was getting ready to fly out for basic training so Erin and I took him out to eat and it was nice to have that time with him. And Erin paid for dinner at Outback Steakhouse, which included french fries covered in cheese and bacon, so I can't complain!!
Also, on my drive home, I had the window open and the sun was beating down on me for most of the drive. Well, and when I say "beating down on me" I mean it was beating down on my left arm and left knee for most of the drive. So now my left arm is tanner than my right arm, and I have a small spot of sunburn on my left knee, although that's already faded. Pretty awesome, though, huh?
All in all, it was a great week of fun and family and friends!