Advent-ure by Doug Floyd 12/13/2010 I told Kelly we were going on an “adventure.

” We left Saturday morning for an overnight trip to celebrate our 22nd anniversary. We left for adventure. Sunday morning as we turned onto our road, we literally clapped and cried thanks to God for bringing us safely from this harrowing adventure. What happened? I’ll tell you our story in a moment. First let me take a side route to discuss the word “adventure.” JRR Tolkien understood adventure as a side route off the main journey. An adventure is a “there and back again tale,” whereas a journey stretches toward a final, ultimate destination. In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins goes on adventure and returns wealthier, wiser, and more powerful. Frodo Baggins goes on journey in The Lord of the Rings. He never returns home. Kelly and I departed Saturday morning on adventure. We had a vague idea of where we were headed. That’s my favorite kind of trip. Several years ago, we took a trip with Jeremy and Dorry. We had a vague idea of heading toward the coast. As we drove, we finalized plans to Edisto and even booked a room from the car. I like to start moving, and find out later where I’m headed. So on Saturday, we set out on adventure. A couple days earlier, Kelly’s aunt mentioned that she was traveling to Christmas Town USA in North Carolina. Hmmmmm. My curiosity stirred. I started looking. As it turns out, Christmas Town is really called McAdenville. I got up Saturday morning and dressed to go. As Kelly was getting ready, I looked up Christmas events in Nashville, Asheville, Chattanooga and even Georgia. She came downstairs, dressed and ready to go. “Grab a change of clothes maybe we’ll spend the night.” I like maybes. Maybe I’ll read. Maybe I won’t. Maybe you’ll like this essay. Maybe you won’t. So we headed out with a few maybes in mind. As we pulled out of the driveway, I turned to Kelly and promised, “We’re going on adventure!” Then I thanked the good Lord for a safe drive and the adventure awaiting us. When I was looking up Christmas Town USA, I read about Dillsboro, NC. This little town had a Christmas festival planned for Saturday, and it was only a few minutes from Asheville.

“Let’s head toward Dillsboro. But traveling there through Asheville seems boring this morning. Let’s cross over through Cherokee.” On this sunny beautiful Saturday, we drove through the mountains and were treated to creation’s seasonal exhibit of ice crystals hanging from rock ledges. As we drove, memories flooded my mind of hiking the Chimney Tops in winter, the death-defying hike to Mt Leconte in winter, and the magic of sledding at Newfound Gap. The world around us sparkled in snow and ice, but the day was clear, so we could see far. Not forever, but far enough. We saw layers of mountain ranges, shades of blue and brown and white; trees silhouetted against a sky of blue and white and orange. Though I’ve seen these ranges and views again and again throughout my life, they always surprise. They always provoke wonder. They always compel worship to the good Lord who surrounds us in a world of glory. As we drove toward adventure, the Lord came toward us and encountered us in the wonder of His creation. Lately, I’ve been thinking about adventure and advent. My gut distinction between the words has to do with motion. In adventure, we move toward an event. We move toward risk. We move toward an experience or activity that may threaten as well as delight. Advent on the other hand speaks to me of movement toward me. Advent is an arrival or coming that will change everything. Someone moves toward me. When He comes, everything changes. In fact, His coming sends waves of movement through space and time that change everything even prior to His full unveiling or arrival. During “Advent,” the church watches and waits for the coming of the Lord. We are waiting, watching, expecting, hopeful of His coming to us. Both words have the same latin source, advenire, which simply means “to come.” It appears to derive from a Latin word that focuses on a jury coming to a trial. There are special customs, places, clothes and expectations associated with their coming. Even as we wait for the coming of the Lord, we go forward into adventures. Kelly and I went on adventure. For this adventure, the risk was the lack of planning; the openness to surprise; the willingness to change and move based on what we encountered in the movement. As we came down the mountain, we arrived in an almost vacant Cherokee. We perused a Cherokee gift shop, and oddly enough, I found a book on Cherokee myths and stories. Then we drove over to Dillsboro. Turns out this quaint little town was only about a square block of stores that put up lights. Nice folks. In fact, I found a bottle of chocolate wine for some odd occasion. But

on the whole, Dillsboro looked more exciting on the web than in person. After a quick tour of the stores, Kelly and I decided to keep driving. “Let’s find Christmas Town!” To get to McAdenville, we “must needs” travel through Asheville. As we approached Asheville, we faced two choices. “We can turn left and head back home, or we can turn right and head toward McAdenville.” Or we could forgo the decision and stop in Asheville for dinner. Door number 3 please. Kelly and I decided to drive downtown and partake of Asheville delicacies. We took the wrong exit and instead of driving downtown, we were in a dark neighbor with no ramp back onto the highway. Makes me think of another story from another trip, but I’ll tell that story another time. Most of the time, I love being lost in a city. I figure if I drive around enough, I’ll find something interesting. We took our cues from the movement of cars around us and eventually found downtown. Asheville was too cold and too dark for much exploration, but we did discover a double decker bus bar, and an art gallery that was having some big event featuring all their artists. One artist painted pictures of clouds. At first, this sounds like a bunch of white on canvas, but his work astounded us. At the bottom edge of every picture, he painted a thin strip of earth: towns, fields, and mountains. The earth images were overwhelmed with clouds bursting with color and movement and white (of course). What was he trying to say? Not sure, but I was stunned by the heavens overtaking the earth. After this surprising tour, we ate some pizza, bread and a little more bread. Then we decided, “Let’s head to Christmas Town USA!” A couple hours later, Kelly and I pulled into Christmas Town. Well, actually we pulled off the Interstate into the exit lane for Christmas Town. We joined the line of cars at 9:55 pm. At 10:30 pm we were actually pulling off the Interstate and turning toward the town. At 10:45 pm police cars drove up and down the line, announcing, “Lights go out at 11:00 pm.” What? We drove two hours and waited in line one hour to miss the whole show? Yikes. Kelly and I decided then and there, no matter what, we’re driving through Christmas Town. Light or no lights. As it turns out, we drove through at about 11:20 with some

lights. Some lights are better then none. And we were determined to enjoy that even if there was only one candle shining out from a darkened house, we’d cheer in delight. Now at this point in the story “Google Map” let us down. Or least our inattention to the glaring problem in the “Google Map’s” suggested route home. The map suggested we go home via Johnson City. We drove back to the nearest exit off I-40 to the Johnson City route and found a hotel. At 12:45 pm, Kelly and I ended our big day of adventure ready to sleep late and rest. Then I realized that in the “adventurous spirit” of deciding to sleep overnight, I’d left my medications at home. Since my kidney medications must be taken at regular intervals, skipping was not an option I wanted. Thus we chose to pop up at 6:00 am and resume the adventure home. By 6:15 am, I was dressed and almost ready to walk out the door. Looking out the window, I beheld a site of glory, of wonder, of dread. A curtain of white snow fell from the sky. Several inches already covered the ground. Kelly scraped off the snowy blanket while I grabbed us some breakfast from the lobby, and we hit the road by 6:33. After driving for about 15 minutes, we realized this route was not leading us to a main road. Like a couple of winsome children, we rushed headlong into the backroads of a snowy wonderland. We rushed headlong into mile after mile after mile of country mountain roads covered in snow and ice. We drove into the beautiful, isolated and mountainous Pisgah National Forest--in the dark. At the base of the first hill, my tires started spinning. My car swerved. I held on tight. Kelly prayed. Up, up, up, up and up. The car inched up the slick mountain. Then down, down, down and down. The car slid and veered down the mountain. Up, up, up and down, down, down continued for an hour. I held on tight. Kelly prayed. The snow snowed and snowed and snowed. As I drove, I kept thinking about living fully in the moment. “I’m in this moment.” “It’s a glorious moment.” “It’s a snowy, wondrous moment.” “It’s a shared moment with my treasured wife.” “It may be my last moment.”

“Lord, I want to enjoy this moment. Lord, I want to survive this moment. If possible.” We eventually entered Tennessee through Roane mountain. We eventually made it to I26. We eventually reached I-81, I-40, Alcoa Hwy and finally our neighborhood. “Hallelujah!” Lots of clapping all around. The drive was so stressful, we both crashed into bed and slept off this adventure. Life is filled with adventures, side routes. Unlike the great call and journey, these adventures are not specifically the journey that leads to our final destination, but they are “there and back again” tales. We choose some of these adventures, like our trip to North Carolina. Other adventures choose us. Some adventures are exciting. Some adventures are wondrous. Some adventures are exhilarating. A new job. A new town. A long awaited vacation. Some adventures are terrifying. Some adventures are painful. Some adventures are confusing. A lost job. A disease. A lost relationship. These adventures are risky, exciting, threatening and potentially rewarding. Whether we chose them or not, they may involve navigating new ground. Finding a new way home again. Discovering people, treasures and knowledge that can help us. As the origin of “adventure” indicates, we move out toward a new place, a new experience, a new relationship. Some of these adventures may lead us far away. So far away we forget our way home. But in the midst of our chosen and unchosen adventures, someone is calling, coming, moving toward us. In His timing, He pierces our dark confusion with light. He comes with advent hope into the midst of our unsettling and dazzling adventures. He comes calling. He comes welcoming us. He comes leading us forward on a journey that leads us away from one home and toward another true and enduring home. Even now, He is breaking in around us, around me, around these words. Jesus is here calling, stirring, inviting. He is meeting us in the middle of our road and leading us on a journey that will end with love inconceivable. So whether you’re at home waiting. You’re in the midst of high adventure. You’re reeling from an unwelcome intrusion. Look out. Listen. Watch. For He is coming. And He is calling out your name.

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