Christmas

Fifty Two Weeks of Adventure #52: And So We Come to the End

This is it. This is the final post in my 52 Weeks of Adventure challenge.

I started this year out with adventures in Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. I spent the middle of the year exploring Korea, Japan, and Taiwan and getting my first tattoo(s). I ended the year exactly where I needed to be – in Louisiana having Christmas with my family for the first time in four years.

Not only did I get to spend Christmas with my parents, my grandparents, my two sisters, my brother, and my husband, but I also got to build this super cool gingerbread house with my super cool nephew.

We got back to Columbia yesterday after spending a full week in Louisiana with my family. It was a luxury to have so much time to spend with them after being there for only two days this summer.  The longer stay also made the 12 hour drive each way feel more worthwhile.

This year has been so full of change. Our adventures have taken us through seven different countries where we’ve made new friends, said good-bye to some, and been reunited with others. Some weeks, my adventure was easy to spot, but other weeks I had to change my perspective and either intentionally seek a new experience, or choose to see the extraordinary in my ordinary days.

I want to give a special mention to my friend Pradnya, who completed 52 adventures of her own and blogged about them here. Knowing that Pradnya was keeping up with her own adventures encouraged me to stick with it.

This challenge pushed me to look at all of life as an adventure and to keep exploring the world around me, whether I’m on an international excursion or in my own hometown. The perspective I gained from living intentional adventures is one I hope to carry with me into 2016 and beyond.

So here’s to my year of adventures,  and to all of you who came along with me, both living your own adventures and sharing in mine. This is only the beginning. 52 adventures and counting!

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Fifty-two weeks of Adventure #51: Family Pictures and Purple Hair

Last week my in-laws came to visit us in South Carolina. Jonathan’s sister was home from college for Christmas break and his brother had come back from South Africa where he lives. Since Jonathan and I had been in Korea for the past two years, this was the first time the whole family had been together since August 2013.

I really love Jonathan’s family – they are lots of fun and we all get along really well together. Of course, having people stay at your house is always a little stressful, especially when your house is pretty small like ours is, but the Dunn clan is pretty easy-going and that made their visit lots of fun, even though it was a little crowded.

Since this was the last time we would all see each other before Christmas, we exchanged Christmas presents early. Naturally, we prepared for the festivities by putting on this “Yule Log” video of Nick Offerman sipping whiskey at a glacial pace in front of a fireplace. (Literally all he does is sit there and sip whiskey without speaking for an hour).

 

Jonathan decided to give me one of my Christmas presents early.

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Yes, that is a 2-step step ladder. Because I am vertically challenged and can’t reach things on the top shelves of the kitchen cabinets. (Jonathan says I am his “shorty”). This rivals the Tide Pen of ’08 for most romantic gift he’s ever given me.

The one big event we did with Jonathan’s family was taking family pictures. After much deliberation about the coordination of outfits, we ended up in the most perfectly color-coordinated group ensemble I’ve ever seen. My super talented, amazing, hilarious, soul sister Lorien took these pictures for us. I LOVE them.

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The one negative part of having Jonathan’s family around for several days was that my darling idiot cat, Bart, was incredibly stressed out by it. He does not like strangers and has an impressive commitment to hiding from them. One night, after staying under the bed for probably a good 10 hours, he wandered out and stood at my ankles crying and crying so I picked him up. He doesn’t normally like to be picked up, but apparently he was so stressed out and in need of comfort that he immediately buried his head in my arm and stayed that way. Like, “Oh, Mommy, please save me from this horror!”

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After my in-laws left and the family pictures were safely out of the way, I decided to take my next two weeks of vacation as an opportunity to try something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Lavender hair.

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It’s just a wash out so it’s already mostly faded, but I might do a bit more over the holidays, just for fun. It makes me feel like an exotic mermaid. Or at least a My Little Pony.

Don’t forget that my 10,000 Subscriber Book Giveaway is STILL OPEN, but it does close tonight at midnight. Rules for entering are HERE.

And as always…

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. If you missed last week’s adventure about our grand Christmas Feast, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

There’s Something About Mary: On Women and the Incarnation

Today I have the great honor of sharing a post over at CBE International’s (Christians for Biblical Equality) Arise newsletter which has now been reblogged by Scot McKnight on Jesus Creed (!). This past summer I wrote a satirical piece for Arise about what it means to act like a lady. This time I took a more serious route and wrote about something I think about a lot during the Christmas season – the role of women like Mary in the story of salvation.

“One thing I love about Advent is that you can’t get through it without talking about Mary. Whether you believe that Mary was a saint, an innocent virgin girl, or even if you’re skeptical about the whole virgin birth thing, you can’t deny that without Mary, there would be no Christmas story. Because the story of the incarnation, of God becoming flesh, doesn’t begin in a manger full of sweet, clean hay with a lullaby of softly lowing cattle—it begins in the belly of an unwed teenage girl.

Maybe you believe that Mary was chosen to be the mother of Christ because she was particularly pious and holy. Perhaps you’ve heard sermons like the ones I heard growing up where Mary is held up as an example of virtue, that we might all strive to be holy enough to be called blessed and highly favored as she was.

In reality, we have no evidence that Mary was especially devout. All we know about her is that she was a virgin from the line of David, betrothed to Joseph the carpenter, and that when the angel came to her with astonishing, even absurd news, she simply said, “Let it be to me according to your word.” Mary was an ordinary girl who simply chose to say yes.”

Click here to read the rest of this piece!

Fifty-two Weeks of Adventure #50: Christmas Feast

In spite of the 70 degree weather we’ve experienced here in Columbia this week, Christmas is only two weeks away. Since this is the first Christmas we’ve spent in the US in 3 years, we’ve been trying to make the most of Christmas festivities.

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The Dunn House is ready for Christmas.

We've got our stockings up and everything!

We’ve got our stockings up and everything!

On Saturday night we drove to our friends Asharae and Tim’s home outside of Charlotte. Asharae was one of my college roommates and she and her husband are fantastically talented wedding photographers and videographers and all around terrifically creative and incredibly sweet people. We take it as a clear act of grace that we now live a mere 2 hr drive from them.

Asharae and Tim hosted a Christmas party for their friends which included Brandon and Christy, who live in Charlotte and have visited a few times this fall , and also a whole slew of new acquaintances.

This party was so festive. There were Christmas decorations and holiday beverages and party foods and Christmas movies and cookies to decorate. Brandon wore a pair of excellent green velour shorts with jingle bells on them that I think we sadly failed to get proper photo documentation of.

Check out that gorgeous centerpiece!

Check out that gorgeous centerpiece!

Concentrating on the decorations.

Concentrating on the decorations.

Queen Frostine. Get it?

Queen Frostine. Get it?

Moments like these are the ones that make me so glad to be back in the US sharing these moments with people who are dear to us. I miss the excitement and glamor of life abroad, but there is something sacred and special about sharing these moments with the people we love. 12360250_10100345764262652_9103981593181293596_n

Tomorrow Jonathan’s family is coming to stay with us for a few days and next week we will head down to Louisiana to spend Christmas with my family. It’s hard to believe that there are only two adventures left in this year that has been so very full.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my grown up birthday celebration at the zoo, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Holy Longing: Why Advent Isn’t about Peace and Joy

Growing up my family didn’t celebrate Advent in any traditional sense. We always attended non-denominational churches that lacked any sort of liturgical traditions. We never used an Advent calendar or lit the appropriate candles on Sundays, though we did set up a nativity scene where the baby Jesus remained conspicuously absent until Christmas morning when me or one of my siblings got to unwrap the Christ-in-manger figurine and place him between his expectant parents who had been kneeling in awe of an empty space for weeks.

Even without Advent traditions the Christmas season was always full of excitement and anticipation for me. There was something mystical and magical about the lights and decorations, familiar tastes and smells and the chance to sing Christmas carols during regular church services.  But, like many people, after adolescence hit, some of the glitter started to rub off. I remember feeling a sort of let-down that for some reason even though I enjoyed Christmas, it just didn’t feel as magical as it used to. This continued year after year and despite my attempts to follow the advice of all Christmas movies everywhere to “Just believe,” I could never recapture the way I’d felt about Christmas as a six-year-old. Eventually I gave up hoping that Christmas could ever be as magical as it was back then.

I’ve noticed a lot of people this year posting blogs or statuses about feeling disappointed and discontented with the way Advent is turning out. People are angry about the injustice in the world, disappointed with circumstances in their own lives, or frustrated with their own busyness. All of this disillusionment seems to center on the idea that this is not how the Christmas season should be. I’ve seen a lot of comments along the lines of, “This is supposed to be a season of joy, a season of peace, a season of contentment and closeness to our families, a season of celebration.” Even those who don’t claim Christianity often consider this time of year a good time to remember the poor, to celebrate family, and to intentionally show more love and patience to others.

I think we may have gotten it wrong.

I don’t think Advent is primarily about peace and joy and all the other warm and fuzzies we think we’re meant to feel. I think Advent is about longing.

It is about longing for a world that is not broken. Longing for justice for Michael Brown. Longing for restored relationships with our families. Longing for a world where people cannot be bought and sold as commodities. Longing for comfort for the friend who has lost her child. Longing for rest from a world that is moving so fast we feel like if we pause for a moment we’ll get left behind. It is about longing for hope that we are not abandoned.

Most of us are very uncomfortable with longing. We live in an instant-gratification world, one where it is unacceptable for a need to go unmet or a wish to go unfulfilled, so when we feel emptiness in ourselves, we rush to fill it. Sometimes the desire to satiate longing manifests itself in materialism – the need for the next new thing. Sometimes it shows up in our relationships and we use and abuse other people in our desire to satisfy our longings.

My own attitude towards longing is usually, “How can I make this go away?” But I think we have two choices when it comes to longing – we can lament the discomfort we feel and try to make the feelings go away, or we can embrace those longings and let them change the way we live and love.

Maybe Christmas is the perfect time to bring awareness to the disparity between the world we live in and the world we long for.

My favorite Christmas song has always been “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

This is a song about mourning and emptiness and the longing of a people for rescue and restoration. But it is also a song about hope. Yes, we are mourning in exile now, but Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come.

Calling attention to the brokenness in the world doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. As long as we continue to deeply feel this disparity, there is hope. As long as we still have the image of what peace and joy could look like in the world – as long as we live every day to bring these things to our corner of the world, there is hope.

For Christians, it is the hope of the incarnation. It is the tangible promise of God with us. It is the belief that we are not abandoned. As long as we both pray and live “Thy Kingdom come,” there is hope.

If we’re looking for a perfect time of holiday cheer this season, we can be sure we won’t find it, but that doesn’t mean we have to resign ourselves to disappointment and disillusionment the way I did when I outgrew my childhood belief in Christmas magic. We can embrace the longing and feel it deeply instead of trying to chase it away with other things or feeling guilty that we aren’t filled with peace and joy . And we can rejoice that Hope is still alive and  let that longing and that hope  change the way we live.