blogging

What I’m Into: December 2015 Edition

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for my final What I’m Into post of 2015! I thought I’d do a traditional monthly round-up for December and maybe do a highs & lows year-in-review type post sometime next week.

What I’m Reading:

Since today is the last day of 2015 I can officially say that my final count for the year was 66 books. Not too shabby. This month I read:

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling). Loved this third mystery in the Cormoran Strike series in which Strike’s assistant Robin receives the severed leg of a murdered woman in the mail and the pair must figure out both who the victim and who the murderer are. I thought it was entertaining and engaging and kept my guessing til the end. Be warned though, this one’s a bit grisly with some graphic descriptions of violence towards women so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Accidental SaintsI love Nadia Bolz-Weber and am often inspired by her straightforward, candid take on matters of faith. Having said that, this book did feel a little less substantial than her previous book, Pastrix. I loved her take on how God uses all kinds of people, even those who are furthest from him. The book is more or less a series of anecdotes that illustrate this premise.

Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella. I have a soft spot for Kinsella’s Shopaholic books as far as fluff fiction goes, but this one was a disappointment, even for what it was. Maybe I’m just outgrowing Becky and find her airheaded-ness more annoying than funny, but I didn’t finish this book with the typical feel-good feeling of her other books.

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. This was a fun, funny read that left almost no lasting impression on me. My main beef with this book is that, while Hatmaker is a funny writer, each individual chapter seemed to have nothing to do with any other chapter, and while the subtitle was “Fighting for grace in a world of impossible standards” I found the book barely touched on this theme. To be frank, while this book was fun to read, it felt self-indulgent and it would be difficult for me to tell you what the point was.

Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell. I listened to this as an audiobook because I wanted something light and easy to listen to. I didn’t have high expectations, but this book was still a waste of time. It was going along well enough – nothing memorable, but mildly entertaining – until the ending which was so stupid it sort of ruined the whole thing. Don’t recommend.

After You by JoJo Moyes. This book was a sequel to Moyes’ famous Me Before You, picking up a year after the end of the previous book. It was satisfying in a way to see where Louisa ends up and it’s not a bad book (though I found myself a bit disappointed in Louisa’s life choices) but it’s nowhere near as impactful as Me Before You.

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close. I’m not sure how to describe this book. In some ways it’s a coming-of-age type story about a group of friends moving into adulthood. While the writing was technically sound, I just couldn’t connect with any of the characters. This book is described in reviews as “wickedly funny,” but I mostly thought it was sad and painted a rather bleak depiction of adulthood, marriage, and family life. Having said that, it was a quick read and I flew right through it.

Paul Among the People: The Apostle Paul Reinterpreted and Reimagined in his Own Time by Sarah Ruden. Jonathan got this book for Christmas and we read it together on the drive back from Louisiana. I thought this book was incredibly interesting, especially since I am one of those blasphemous Christians who tends to think of Paul as an arrogant jerk. Ruden, a Harvard-educated classics expert, examines the writings of Paul against contemporary Greek and Roman writings, using these to build a cultural context and audience for Paul’s letters. Ruden’s careful research reveals a different Paul than the one we think we know – especially when it comes to his teachings on women, marriage, slavery, and homosexuality.

Currently reading: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1) by Rob Thomas, A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, Delicious! By Ruth Reichl, and Washing the Dead by Michelle Brafman. For an up-to-date list of what I’m reading and what I think of it, follow me on Goodreads.

What I’m Watching:

On TV I’m nearly current with How to Get Away with Murder, Fresh Off the BoatThe Mindy Project, and Brooklyn Nine Nine. On Netflix I picked up Revenge again, a show I started a long time ago and took a long break from for unknown reasons.

In theaters this month we and everyone else  went to see the new Star Wars movie (I have no strong opinions on this since I didn’t really grow up watching Star Wars. I enjoy Star Wars now, but I don’t have the kind of childhood nostalgia that makes people feel super opinionated about it). We also saw Joy the day after Christmas which I enjoyed a lot, though it could have stood to have some more Bradley Cooper in it. (But you could say that about everything).

What I’m Listening To:

The new season of Serial has started up. I’m not quite caught up on the episodes that have come out since I listened to the first one while driving back from a friend’s house late at night and was dozing off for most of it. (Jonathan was driving, not me!) I’m not as immediately captivated as I was by the previous season, but I’m willing to give it a shot!

What I’m Writing:

 

Yesterday I put up the final post for my 52 Weeks of Adventure. I can’t believe I made it through the whole year without missing any posts. It’s been a fun way to mark my days and to keep challenging myself to see life as a grand adventure, even though I no longer live abroad and my day-to-day life feels so much more ordinary. I wrote my adventures for weeks 48, 49, 50, 51, and 52.

I wrote a heartfelt post about things I’m appreciating about being Anglican(ish). I wrote a piece about Mary and women and the incarnation for Christians for Biblical Equality that was picked up by Scot McKnight(!) and republished on his Jesus Creed blog. I hit 10,000 subscribers and did a big giveaway (which is closed now, sorry). I gave out some superlatives on all those books I read in 2016. And I reflected on my year of wholeheartedness and shared my new(est) ink.

Apart from blogging I was keeping busy doing some freelance web content for a marketing company, but they’ve now hired a full-time copywriter so that well seems to have dried up. One of the downsides to freelancing is that there’s very little job security, so I’ll be back to looking for new freelance opportunities over the next few weeks.

I’m planning a guest post for my friend Kelsey’s blog this month and maybe, possibly, potentially an exciting piece for an international magazine, but I don’t want to say too much cause it’s not set in stone.

What I’ve Been Up To:

December is always jam-packed for the holidays, but also because my birthday falls at the beginning of December, it really feels like non-stop celebration from Thanksgiving onward. I celebrated my 28th birthday with a visit from my best friend and her husband who live in Raleigh a few hours away.

We visited friends in Charlotte for a Christmas feast and cookie decorating party. I had work doing tutoring, writing, and proctoring exams (though not full-time) right up until December 23rd during which Jonathan’s family came to town to visit and we ate too much yummy food and took family pictures together. Right after his family left, we drove down to Louisiana to spend a week with my family and we’ve only just gotten back from that trip. Its been full, but it’s been beautiful.

I hope you all have a lovely New Year’s Eve. Stay tuned for tomorrow when I reveal my One Word for 2016!

Advertisements

And the Winners Are…

Hope you are all having a lovely Christmas with family and friends! Ours has been lovely despite being 80 degrees with 100% humidity and bouts of heavy rain in Louisiana. Feels like we are in a rainforest.:)

This is just a quick post to announce the winners of the giveaway (!) My sister Anni drew the names out of a bowl, so the results are completely unbiased. 😉

Drumroll please….

The fiction prize pack winner is Paige Nguyen. You will be receiving copies of The Way of Kings, Peace Like a River, and Station Eleven.

The nonfiction prize back winner is Ben de Wachter (בנימין). You will be receiving copies of An Altar in the World, Searching for Sunday, and Pastrix. (And don’t worry, these are all female authors but they aren’t geared towards women specifically).

To claim your prize please send me an email (lily.e.dunn at gmail.com) or Facebook message with an address I can send them to!

Congratulations to the two winners and thank you to everyone who participated and to everyone who is part of this community.

Merry Christmas!

 

10,000 Followers Giveaway!

Yesterday something kind of amazing happened. This blog hit 10,000 followers. To some of you that may seem like a lot and to others it may seem like a little, but to me it is almost incomprehensible and completely humbling, especially since the majority of these followers have come within the last year. I know that not everyone who follows my blog reads every post, but I am still overwhelmed by how many people at some point clicked that “Follow” button to show a measure of support.

When I first started this blog almost five years ago, I was right out of college working as a full-time nanny and needed a creative outlet to keep me writing. I wrote sporadically and without much focus and only about five people even knew about my blog because I didn’t share my posts on social media or even tell my friends about them. As I moved into a season of wrestling with my faith, I started to explore some of my questions, my doubts, and my revelations through blogging. I occasionally shared these posts on Facebook, but my audience was still very small.

After moving to Korea, I had a wealth of strange and interesting life experiences to write about and process through. At the same time, I discovered the spiritual memoir genre and found that blogging about my faith helped me sort through my jumbled thoughts and feelings. I started to connect with other bloggers who wrote about similar topics – what it looks like when the faith you grew up with doesn’t quite fit anymore and how faith can change and grow over time. I had opportunities to guest post and invited others to share on my blog. As I grew into this community, I became more serious about blogging as a means of working out my own story and my own faith while connecting with other people. I sought to present my authentic self with my questions and doubts and problems, and hoped that through my vulnerability others could identify with me and feel less alone.  I started to hear from readers who told me that these little essays meant something to them and I started making real life friends with people who read my words.

I know that some of my you came here to read about my travel experiences, some came to read book reviews and recommendations, and some came to read about my faith-wrestling, but all of you have made my life richer and made my moments of vulnerability worth it.

To help express my gratitude to those of you who have joined me on this journey, I’m hosting a little giveaway. There will be two winners and those winners will each receive a book pack with 3 of my favorite books. One set is nonfiction books and the other is fiction. (It was SO HARD to choose just 3 books for each!)

The nonfiction book pack includes: Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans, Pastrix by Nadia Bolz Weber, and An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor.

The fiction book pack includes: Peace Like a River by Lief Enger, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.

The rules are simple.

  1. You must be a follower or subscriber to this blog. (If you are not a follower all you have to do is scroll to the top of the page and look underneath the picture of a younger and svelter me with the little bio. There is a button right under that that says, “Click here if you’re awesome!” Click that button. All this means is that you will be notified when I post something new. )
  2. You must EITHER “like” my Facebook page, which I will link here. (Literally just click the “like” button) OR follow me on Twitter @lilyellyn. If you don’t have Facebook or Twitter just tell me that in the comment you leave.
  3. Finally, leave a comment below telling me either how you found this blog and why you started following OR what your favorite post has been. Be sure to include whether you are more interested in the fiction or nonfiction book pack if you have a preference.

This giveaway is open internationally so anyone can enter.Submissions are open for 1 week and will close on Wednesday, December 23rd at 11:59 PM EST. There is only one entry per person. At the end of the submission period I will collect the names of everyone who submitted and draw two names randomly. I will announce the winners here in a blog post on Christmas Day so be sure the check back.

You guys are seriously the best. Thank you for being a part of my life.

Giveaway banner image credit via StephanieHowell.com

Thankful Thursdays, Special Edition: My 200th Blog Post

Today is a special day. Not only is Thankful Thursday, but this is the 200th post I’ve published on this blog. That’s a lot of words, friends.

I’ve had this little space for more than four years, but I’ve only become serious and about blogging and more focused in my topics for the past 18 months. I’ve thought several times about going back and taking down some of my oldest posts, which feel so different from what I write now, but I can never bring myself to do it. Because I’m thankful for where I’ve been and I’m thankful for where I am now.

Blogging has opened doors for me – not in the big, exciting money-making kind of way, but in terms of relationships. I’ve made friends in the past few years, genuine friends-of-the-heart, whom I never would have met if it weren’t for our blogs. Working out my feelings and my faith in this space has given me the courage to grow and to change, to have hard and necessary conversations and to become more of the person I’m meant to be.

I am so deeply thankful to all of you who read what I write here and take the time to interact, to be a part of my life. Your encouragement, advice, compassion, and kindness are inspiring to me. Whether you are someone who has been here for a while or someone who is visiting for the first time, please know how genuinely grateful I am for you.

In the spirit of thankfulness, I wanted to share two of my favorite pieces on gratitude from some far better writers than I. The first is a poem by the great e.e. cummings and the second is a passage from a book of essays by Andre Dubus that I share here every year on Thanksgiving.

I Thank You God for Most This Amazing

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

-e. e. cummings

This passage comes from Andre Dubus’ essay “A Country Road Song.” At the age of 49, Dubus suffered a devastating injury when he stopped on the side of the road to assist with a fatal automobile accident. While pulling the survivor out of the wreckage, he was hit by another car. He was injured so badly that he eventually lost one of his legs and was paralyzed in the other. This essay is about his memories of running.  If you have a chance, you should read the entire essay because it is so much better than just this excerpt.

“When I ran, when I walked, there was no time: there was only my body, my breath, the trees and hills and sky…I always felt grateful, but I did not know it was gratitude and so I never thanked God. Eight years ago, on a starlight night in July, a car hit me…and in September a surgeon cut off my left leg… It is now time to sing of my gratitude: for legs and hills and trees and seasons…I mourn this, and I sing in gratitude for loving this, and in gratitude for all the roads I ran on and walked on, for the hills I climbed and descended, for trees and grass and sky, and for being spared losing running and walking sooner than I did: ten years sooner, or eight seasons, or three; or one day.”

I hope today you are reminded of some simple graces in your life as I have been reminded of how undeservedly blessed I am to have this space to share with all of you.

What I’m Into: November 2014 Edition

As usual, this is my monthly wrap-up post for Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” link-up.

What I’m Reading:

If last month was a bit excessive on the reading front I think I’ve evened it out by only reading four books this months and most of them were lighter reading as well.

19715106Delancey by Molly Wizenberg. I really enjoyed this book. I love books about food and the food industry and this one – about a young couple opening a specialty pizza restaurant in Seattle, both satisfied my voyeurism about that world and broke down some of my romanticized notions about what owning a restaurant is like. I’ve heard others say this book was not as good as Wizenberg’s first book A Homemade Life, but as I haven’t read that one yet I don’t have anything to compare it to.

17557750Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. Moyes’ books are all over bestseller and other kinds of book lists, but I’d never read anything of hers before so when this one went on sale for $2.99 in the Kindle Store I thought I’d try it. (It is actually still on sale for that price if you want to check it out). I wanted a bit of lighter read in a modern setting. Well, I got the modern setting part right. Ambitionless twenty-six year old Louise loses her job and takes a temporary position as a caretaker for a 35 year old quadripalegic who challenges her to live life on a grander scale. This was a quick read, but light it was not. I’m glad I read it, but be warned that you’ll need Kleenex.

17925145Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson. Jackson is another writer of what might be called “women’s fiction,” but is not really chick lit. More domestic drama? I never really know how to describe it. I admit that I didn’t love the main character of this book – I found her a little annoying – but the other characters and the situation were interesting enough that they outweighed those feelings.

 

19398490-1All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This book has made all of the Best of 2014 book lists this year and I can understand why. I admit that I am not quite done yet, so I can’t comment on the ending, but everything I’ve read so far is very compelling. In alternating chapters the book tells the story of a blind French girl whose father is the Keeper of the Locks for the Museum of Natural History in Paris and a German orphan boy whose talent with engineering gets him recruited into an elite military academy and then sent into the field tracking the Resistance during WWII. It is a gorgeous and haunting book.

This month so many books I’ve been wanting to read went on sale for Kindle and I couldn’t resist buying them since many of them had been on my wish list for eight months or more. (I do still prefer physical books but living abroad makes the Kindle so much more practical). You have permission to scold me if next month’s books do not include some of the following: Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Found by Micha Boyett, and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

You can also follow me on Goodreads if you want to keep up with my reading.

What I’m Watching:

My internet seems to be struggling more and more these days so I never really know when I’ll be able to stream shows or which shows I’ll be able to see. I am a little behind but trying hard to stay current with Nashville, Parenthood, New Girl, Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Modern Family.

This month’s new discovery/obsession: Jane the Virgin. The premise sounds kind of dumb, but I’m finding it irresistibly charming a la Ugly Betty. We also finished the entire season of the BBC’s Broadchurch which was so fantastic. Highly recommend it.

On Netflix I am nearly finished with the last season of Veronica Mars and have made it halfway through season five of my Gilmore Girls re-watch. Hubby and I have also been watching more episodes of Frasier, a show he grew up on, but that I’ve never seen before.

I saw both Interstellar and Catching Fire, this month’s two big movie releases. I love everything Chris Nolan’s ever done and Interstellar was no exception although I admit that it took me a little while to decide how I felt about it – I didn’t really know much about the plot going into the movie, which was fun but also meant it took me a while to digest it.

What I’m Listening To:

SERIAL!!!!  Need I say more? For anyone who doesn’t know (though I can’t imagine who doesn’t know) Serial is a podcast that is an off-shoot from This American Life (my other favorite podcast). Serial is a one big investigative journalism story that is being told one episode at a time. This is the first season they’ve made and it is completely addicting. This season’s story is about a murder that happened in the 90’s where an 18 –year-old boy went to prison for supposedly murdering his girlfriend. But did he really do it?!!!!! We just don’t know. We are down to the final few episodes and I am so torn. If you haven’t listened to this, you need to catch up. It’s absolutely fascinating.

I also loved hearing this original song from Lauren Daigle, a friend of my little sisters’. I think she’s got a really cool voice and she is such a sweet girl.

Fawn Larson is a friend from high school who is a pretty awesome blue grass kind of artist releasing her first album. If you’re into that kind of music and supporting indie artists, you should check her out and buy her album!

What I’m Eating:

All the Thanksgivings! Thanks to a great expat community here in Korea we got to participate in three separate Thanksgiving dinners with all the good stuff. My contributions included apple crisp and this pumpkin cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Pretty serious stuff.

b6d29cbb669200d9f13a1896c0c2a6f3

Photo by: cozycakescottage.com

Follow me on Pinterest for more recipes.

On the Internets:

I adored this post from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary about the obnoxious misuse and overuse of the word “Blessed.”

Also, my friend Brett has had a few different series going on over at his blog, Irresistibly Fish including perspectives on racism and reconciliation, what single people want their married friends to know, and what married people want their single friends to know. Basically, there’s always something new happening over on Brett’s blog.

If you are one of the people who is also obsessed with Serial, these charts are fun.

If you need a laugh, here’s a great video of how German sounds compared to other languages. Cause it’s always fun to laugh at people speaking other languages. 😉

 

I also enjoyed this humorous post in the New Yorker about the benefits of coconut oil. “A few dabs of coconut oil in my ears and I could hear the ghosts of all my ancestors. “You’re fabulous,” they whispered. “The triumph of our bloodline.”

On the Blog:

As most of you know I was honored to be Freshly Pressed by WordPress this month, ironically for my post about how going viral doesn’t necessarily open all the doors you think it will. Thanks so much to all of you who sent encouraging comments and messages. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to respond to each one, but I have read all of your comments and appreciate them so much! I’m really humbled by all the love and encouragement I’ve received.

I also had my friend Meredith share her story of uneventful virginity for my Sex and the Church series. (There is one more piece in this series coming this week! Stay tuned!) I wrote about why I don’t jive with phrases like, “This World is Not My Home,” about learning to speak thankfulness as a way of showing love, and about my favorite passage on gratitude.

What I’ve Been Up To:

My students all participated in an arts festival at the beginning of the month where they performed songs and dances and other routines for all of their parents. They were adorable, though I did find the song and dance to “Summer Lovin’” from Grease to be mildly inappropriate for elementary school students. I figured they didn’t understand what the lyrics were really about…

The semester is winding down so I’m about to enter the frenzy of planning for English festival and the three separate English camps I have to run over the holidays as well as (the much more exciting) planning for our two weeks of vacation in January (hurray!)

I spent a lot of time this month running in preparation for the half marathon I ran last weekend with my friend Courtney. We finished in 1:57:07 which was my first time running a half in under 2 hours.

This week we had all the Thanksgivings including one with our friends Michael and Sophia who are a Korean couple in their 60’s who just retired to Korea after living in New York for most of their lives. They were a little homesick for American Thanksgiving so we all went to a big international hotel downtown that had a big Thanksgiving buffet in their main restaurant. They didn’t really know how to cook a turkey but they had an amazing selection of food so I can’t complain. Especially since we had two perfectly cooked turkeys over the weekend.

Tomorrow, we diet!

10441045_10152418733831583_7583601215199423858_n

Look at that beauty. 28-lbs of turkey carcass.

 

The Day I Hit 424. And went a little crazy.

The day of my last post was epic. On the day of my last post I got 424 separate hits on my blog. This was a big deal to me.  It blew my previous record (121) out of the water. Honestly, I didn’t know that there were 424 people in my acquaintance, much less 424 people who would click on a link and read about what a bad wife I am. : )

I’m going to be honest…the fame kind of went to my head. For that one 10-hr period I thought, “I am the best blogger ever. People love me. I will get many subscribers. So many subscribers I will be able to quit my job and just write. And then a book deal. And afterwards my book will be made into a movie. And someone famous and beautiful will play me in the movie. Maybe Amy Adams since my hair is red now and she did such a nice job playing Julie Powell in Julie & Julia and I think made Julie Powell seem even cuter than she is in real life (just assuming since I don’t actually know Julie Powell.) And then probably Amy Adams will want to hang out with me for a while to get a good sense of me before she plays me in the movie. And then she will realize she wants to be best friends with me. And then I will be best friends with a beautiful and famous person. And at the movie premier I will wear something truly fabulous. Probably a top designer will create a gown just for me. And Amy will say, ‘Oh Lily, you must let my stylist do your hair!’ and I will allow it and I will look so beautiful people will ask if Amy and I are sisters and she will laugh and say, ‘Oh no, not sisters. Just best friends.’ ”

See. If Amy played me in the movie, everyone would think I was like 50 times cuter than I am in real life.

The sad thing is, I’m not really exaggerating. I have an active imagination. I totally went there. In fact, I decided that for the premiere, I want a dress in the same genre as this one (though obviously, a little more personalized):

I love everything about this.Very classy, very beautiful. I would allow a dress like this to be named after me.

And then, the sadder thing happened. I was quickly and rudely awakened from my fantasy-land.  Within a day or two my blog was back to getting its usual 5 hits per day, three of which came from people who stumbled on it accidentally after googling “kidney stones.” My visions of fame and glory were dashed to pieces. Not to mention I had a lot of work to do to make up for all the time I had wasted looking for red carpet gowns and brainstorming activities for me and my BFF Ames to do together.

And so I return to my quiet, ordinary not-a-bit-famous life.  And really, it’s not such a bad little life. Maybe it’s not glamorous. But it’s real. And it’s mine.