Why I Travel: In Defense of Wanderlust

Standing at the peak, the wind whipping my hair across my cheeks, I close my eyes and tilt my face to the sun. I stretch out my arms and turn up my palms and breathe. I open my eyes and try to absorb the techni-colored panorama of jagged, white mountain peaks, emerald pastures and shimmering diamond lakes reflecting back the exact impossible blue of the New Zealand sky and I think, Heaven looks like this.

New Zealand

I sit on the back of a scooter, hands gripping the waist of the twelve-year-old boy who is my driver as we zip down the jungle roads to a breakfast of green leaf pancakes with palm sugar. We dodge a rooster strutting cockily across the road and I can’t stop smiling from ear to ear because heaven feels like the wind blowing past my face as we bump over potholes, winding our way through the Balinese jungle.


In Canterbury Cathedral I kneel, dappled by colored light from the stained glass windows and thinking about Augustine and about Thomas Becket, crouching on these very stones, heart pounding as he waits, pleading with God to spare his life. I inhale and imagine Becket in heaven, smelling the aroma of this same sweet incense in the throne room of the Most High God.


On a mountain in Peru a whole village of Quechuan people, dressed in layers of wool in all the colors of the rainbow, sing a song about their beloved mountain, Huascaran. They sing in high-pitched nasal tones a song that sounds like some combination of zydeco and a tribal wail. The sound is harsh and grating to my ears and yet I can’t help thinking that this is what heaven sounds like – a great cacophony of sound.

Source: Wikimedia commons

Source: Wikimedia commons

In an old Communist youth camp beside the mighty Volga River hours north of Moscow, I tuck a room full of 9-year-old orphan boys into bed. I hug Dema’s freckly face to my chest and kiss the top of his head and think, The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. “Spokie-Nokie,” I say, and turn out the light.



Once, a few years into our marriage, Jonathan and I had an argument about travel. We had hoped to take a trip, but car problems and taxes and medical bills had strained our very limited resources. It seemed like a trip was out of the question and I was profoundly disappointed. At some point during the conversation Jonathan said to me, “I know you’re disappointed, but there will be other opportunities in the future. I don’t understand why you are so incredibly upset.”

And I said (as dramatically as it sounds), “Because this is the purpose of my life!”

And he said, “You can’t be serious. You basically just told me your life’s purpose is to take vacations.”

What I was trying to say then but didn’t have the words to articulate at the time was that traveling is a deeply spiritual experience for me. Traveling moves me to worship in a way that nothing else does.

What does it mean that the mountains melt like wax in the presence of the Lord until you’ve stood at the top of a great and glorious mountain?

What does it mean that all of man’s accomplishments are like filthy rags beside God’s splendor until you’ve seen the Sistine Chapel or stood on the Great Wall of China?

Why does it matter that God is a father to the fatherless if you’ve never known the orphan?

How can you understand what it means that God holds the whole world in the span of his hand if you’ve never been outside your hometown?

What does it mean that heaven is filled with people from every tribe and tongue and nation if you’ve only known people from your own?

“The whole earth is filled with His glory,” cry the angels. I want my life to be about seeing and spreading that glory, even to the ends of the Earth.

Featured Image Credit: Grain & Compass

What I’m Into: August 2014 Edition

The month of August has been a whirlwind of experiences and emotions involving more transportation than I think I’ve ever crammed into such a short time (10 flights in 19 days, two of which were 12-14 hours long). As of last night I am back in Korea. I have one more short trip scheduled for September 7-10 and after that I’ll be settling in for a much more normal routine, hopefully including more regular blog posts.

It feels appropriate to pick up blogging again with my monthly re-cap of What I’m Into. As usual, I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for this post. I like to read through posts by other bloggers from this link up for ideas of new things to read, watch, listen to, make, think, and do. If you like that kind of thing be sure to check out some of the other bloggers on her link-up.

This Month in Numbers:

75,000 (at least) calories eaten

25,000 miles traveled

600 pictures taken

15 times I cried this month (I’ve been feeling a lot of feelings. And hey, only 3 of those were ugly crying).

11 American restaurants visited

10 flights taken

8 lbs gained

7 movies watched

6.25 books read

5 countries traveled through

4 days without luggage

4 trips to Target, just to bask in its glow

2 monkeys that sat on me


What I’m Reading:

I admit, my reading this month was a little all over the place, from really light fluffy books to spiritual memoirs to investigative non-fiction. But that’s the beauty of books, really. There’s something for everyone. (Or in my case, something for each of my personalities).

Three wishesThree Wishes, Liane Moriarty. Like other books I’ve read by this author, this book was a perfect relaxing read. Part domestic drama and part romance – easy reading but with more complex characters than many beach-reads and a plot that was a little predictable without being stupid. Also, this book is about a set of adult triplets, two of whom are identical and one who isn’t. I actually know someone who is part of a set of triplets like that and I’ve always thought that dynamic was unique and interesting.


AttachmentsAttachments, Rainbow Rowell. During last month’s What I’m Into link-up people kept mentioning Rainbow Rowell so when I saw this book on sale for kindle I decided to try it. Told mostly through email correspondence, this book was light, easy, and feel-good. You could almost read it in one sitting. There was nothing particularly compelling about it, but it was sweet.




womanhoodA Year of Biblical Womanhood, Rachel Held Evans. Somehow, I had never gotten around to reading this book in its entirety even though I read a lot of Rachel’s other writing and have read excerpts of it. I’m glad I finally read it. It was interesting, funny, thought-provoking, and informative all at once. Each month Rachel tackled one biblical virtue for women and tried to observe it as strictly as possible. She also interviewed women of different faith backgrounds for perspective (an orthodox Jew, an Amish woman, a family who practices what they believe to be “biblical marriage” through polygamy). While Rachel is well-known for being an outspoken feminist, this book is a very honest and gracious exploration of the nebulous concept of biblical womanhood and, I found, a very fair consideration of various points of view on the subject. I was particularly moved by the chapter that explored the iconic Proverbs 31 woman, evangelical saint of womanhood, and learned how in the Jewish tradition it is the men who learn this poem in order to recite or sing it to their wives as a blessing.

Love DoesLove Does, Bob Goff. Goff has a lot of great stories. And I absolutely love the core message of this book – that real love is active. That we shouldn’t be afraid to take risks and live a big, loud life loving others. That we shouldn’t let the constraints of others’ expectations or even, sometimes, practicality, keep us from dreaming God-sized dreams. But, Goff doesn’t address the fact that many of his stories of jet-setting around the world at a moment’s notice are only possible because he has a stable, well-paid job as an attorney and has both the finances and flexibility to do these things. I find Goff’s spirit infectious and inspiring, but this is not the first time I’ve closed a book like this frustrated, wishing the author would at least acknowledge that their circumstances aren’t universal. I want someone to tell me what it looks like to live that kind of life when you work a regular job making 25k with two weeks of vacation time a year. Because that is reality for most of us.

FreefallFreefall to Fly, Rebekah Lyons. I wanted to like this book. I really did. I deeply respect the author’s honesty in talking about her struggle with severe anxiety and panic attacks in the midst of trying to do ministry in a new city and raising young children. My problem was that I just couldn’t really understand what she was saying changed for her. I know this kind of book requires extraordinary vulnerability, but I felt that she talked around her issues rather than naming them directly and this made it very hard for me to understand what it was that changed in her life and brought transformation.

OmnivoreThe Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan. This book follows the food chain from one end to the other for four different meals. The industrial food chain which produces the McDonald’s chicken nugget (which, you will learn, is largely composed of corn, rather than chicken). The industrial organic food chain where grass-fed beef and non-chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used to mass-produce organic food for places like Whole Foods. The local organic food chain where all of the food is raised locally using sustainable practices and intentionally not traveling far from where it was produced. And finally a meal from a forager’s food chain where all of the food was personally grown or collected by the consumer. This book was fascinating and enlightening and convicting and will certainly challenge you to think about where you food is coming from and what you are putting into your body from an ethical standpoint more than a health one. I genuinely think this book will impact my food choices in the future. (After Korea of course. Because frankly right now I feel good about myself if I get home from the store with anything resembling what I was looking for).

I’m currently a quarter of the way through The Goldfinch, so look for my quick review of that next month. While visiting home I picked up a few physical books I already owned but had had to leave behind so those are next up for me though I’m not sure what order I’ll read them in yet. Those books include Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer, I am also eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s release of Tana French’s new book, The Secret Place. I am a huge fan of hers.

What I’m Watching:

Besides racing through episodes of Veronica Mars, and (embarrassingly) all of Lipstick Jungle, all that flying meant lots of opportunities to watch movies. Before the trip we saw Guardians of the Galaxy which I enjoyed, but probably not quite as much as my husband who saw it two days in a row. On various planes I saw the Veronica Mars movie, Rio 2, and The Other Woman (Which I mostly slept through). I also re-watched Divergent and part of The Amazing Spiderman 2, and some episodes of Big Bang Theory. In America I went to the movie theater twice, once to see The 100 Foot Journey (which I ADORED – a movie about food, set in France. Recipe for perfection.) And I saw Daniel Radcliffe’s new rom-com What if? which I also loved because it was feel-good, but also quirky and endearing, which are my favorite kinds of light movies. In Bali I was able to buy a copy of the Fault in Our Stars which I watched last night and which resulted in the 3rd of my ugly-cries this month in spite of having read the book and knowing the ending. I loved the book and the movie was a good representation.

What I’m Eating:

Besides the copious amounts of restaurant food we ate in America (Bloomin’ Onion from Outback, Chili’s southwest eggrolls, Chipotle burritos, and an extravagant, delicious steak dinner with my family) we also got to eat some amazing Indonesian food while in Bali.

At home I baked two cakes, one was this lemonade cake that became a favorite of mine a few years ago.

Lemonade Cake

Image from: Click photo for recipe!

The other was the absolute best carrot cake in the world from my mom’s recipe.

I also had at least 7 different kinds of ice cream. I tried to rank them for you, but it was impossible. So I will just list them. If you have an opportunity to eat any of these, do it!

Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate chip
Graeter’s Coconut Chocolate Chip
Haagen Dazs Caramel Cone
Bluebell Magic Cookie Bar
Bluebell Red Velvet Cake
Bluebell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Ben and Jerry’s Salted Caramel Core

Are you drooling yet?

You can follow me on Pinterest for other things I’m cooking/eating.

What I’m Writing:

This has been a quiet month on the blog though I did have the opportunity to celebrate the birth of our dear friends Josh and Laura’s daughter, Genevieve, in this post. And I asked for you to share your stories of how the church talks about sex here. I am planning to curate a series of guest posts on this topic, so if you are interested in contributing, please let me know! (lily.e.dunn at

Supposedly, a slightly revised version of my 4 Lies the Church Taught Me About Sex article was reprinted in the newest edition of Relevant’s in-print magazine, though I haven’t actually seen it. But hey, somewhere my name is theoretically in print!

I’m  working on an article for Explore God  though I’m not sure in what capacity it will be used and I have a few guest posts set up for this fall. By the beginning of August I was beginning to hit a wall with writing, feeling drained and tired and stuck with the projects I was already working on, but I’m hopeful that the combination of time away and the coming fall weather will rejuvenate me.

What I’ve been up to:

Our grand adventure included 5 days visiting my family.

My family at our fancy dinner.

My family at our fancy dinner. Aren’t they really, really ridiculously good-looking?

Five days visiting Jonathan’s family, during which my best friend flew out to Ohio to see us.


I don’t always make this face… but when I do it’s because I’m with Christina.

And an amazing few days in Bali where we got to see some beautiful parts of this glorious world, stay in a gorgeous villa (that was cheaper than a Motel 6), drink coffee that was once civet cat poop, and also hold this monkey.


Entrance to our villa. It was like being a queen.


Sunset at Tanah Lot

Sunset at Tanah Lot


Just chllin’ like a villain with our boy Marcus. (I feel certain that’s his name).

We’ll be sure to get a full post with a lot more pictures up soon over at Two Sore Thumbs!

Tag, You’re It! (I Want to Hear Your Story)

The last few weeks have felt like swimming through fog. Since the beginning of July I’ve felt like I was just trying to get by, just trying to push through my days as quickly as possible until our trip back the the US on August 12th.  We all need a break from our routine and from our work  now and then, and in my case, I also need a break from living in another culture. I need a few weeks where I can relax the part of my brain that’s always on the alert, trying to figure out what’s going on. A few weeks where everything is just easy.

This last week has been a perfect storm of  emotions, both good and bad – the stress and then relief of finishing up my English camps, the sadness of saying good-bye to friends who are leaving Korea permanently, the incredible joy of welcoming our dear friends’ daughter into the world, the helplessness and distress we’ve felt learning that one of our indoor cats has gotten out and is missing, and of course all of the planning and excitement and stress of preparing for our trip. As someone who feels all the feels, I am reaching the point of complete emotional exhaustion.

We leave Korea tomorrow morning and, after a series of long flights and layovers, will arrive at my parents’ home in Louisiana where we will spend 5 days before heading on to my in-laws in Ohio. We are very much looking forward to seeing our families and enjoying the familiarity of home. We are also interested to see how living abroad for a year has changed our perspective on home – will we remember how to drive? Will we bow to greet people on accident? After Ohio we will fly back to this part of the world where we’ll spend a few days exploring Bali before settling in for a new semester of teaching.

(I know, I know, that sounds incredibly extravagant and exotic, and of course, I feel very blessed to have this opportunity, but before you give me the stink eye, keep in mind that Indonesia is quite close to Korea, and the entire country of Korea is the size of Indiana, so from here it’s more of an ordinary vacation spot, like living in the Midwest and going on vacation to Florida. Also remember that I did not complain (much) when you put up your pictures from all over Europe and the Caribbean while I was teaching school ALL SUMMER LONG).

With all of the upcoming travel I will likely be away from the blog for the next few weeks, but in the meantime I am hoping to hear from some of you. I am working on a new project related to my recent work on purity culture, saving sex for marriage, and the way the church handles pre and post-marital sex. I am collecting stories. Specifically, I want to hear about your experiences in your churches and faith communities – what you were taught about sex and abstinence (as many specific examples as you can remember), and- if it applies to you-how that positively or negatively affected your understanding and expectations of sex and sexuality in marriage. I will ask permission before using any information you share with me and am happy to change your name if you are uncomfortable using your own.

You can leave a comment here, link to a blog post you may have written on this topic, or send an email to lily.e.dunn at I can also provide a questionnaire with specific questions to answer if that would be easier.  Looking forward to hearing from some of you!