All is calm. All is bright: Advent 2018

“All is calm, all is bright.” It’s a delightful sentiment, though not typically how I’m experiencing the world these days.

That’s why I’m making it my motto for Advent.

Advent, the time leading up to Christmas, tends to hold a lot more anticipation and magic in childhood. These days, I struggle to find ways to make it special.

To me, Christmas has a “true meaning” indeed. It has nothing to do with Santa, giving or receiving presents, and it’s definitely not about shopping.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ. A real live baby boy who changed the world. God walking on Earth. The man who was persecuted, whose body couldn’t be found in his tomb three days later, and who appeared to hundreds of people – people who became martyrs in dedication to his kingship.

It’s world-shattering stuff.

Worthy of pause. Reflection. Introspection. Action.

Every year I struggle with how to do this.

I don’t particularly enjoy tradition and ceremony for its own sake. It’s too easy to go through the motions.

I want to be intentional about Advent. But how?

I heard of the idea of adopting a “Christmas motto” on the podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. One of their listeners shared the concept of choosing a theme for Christmas. The theme could impact what you’ll prioritize during the season – which activities you’ll do and which you’ll skip, how you want to feel, what kinds of gifts you’ll get for people, etc.

Gretchen announced that her motto for this Christmas season would be “Tis the season to be jolly.” The co-host, Gretchen’s sister, Elizabeth, chose the motto:

“All is calm, all is bright.”

Elizabeth’s choice resonated with me. I would love to feel calm and bright this Christmas.

This is not typically a calm season. There’s a lot to get done before the year ends. There can be duties and obligations, busyness and to do lists that get overwhelming. And in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where I’ll be celebrating with my family, the days are short and often dreary at this time of year. On top of those things, there’s a looming ugliness that seems to be hanging over our world, constantly in the background, these days. Not exactly bright and cheery.

So my focus this coming month is going to be on simplicity. Simplifying my schedule. Minimizing how much I take on. Leaving space for rest and reflection, spontaneity and relationships.I also came across an Advent series put together by World Relief called Listen For Your Yes. They send out a weekly audio file with a guided meditation. Here’s the promo that made me sign up:

“What if you could move beyond feeling overwhelmed and hear clearly from God about the one thing you’re called to do? Our 4-part audio series, “Listening for Your Yes,” helps you slow down and find space in this crowded and busy season.”

So that’s where I’m starting.

Confession: I started writing this post on the overnight train from San Diego to Salem last week. But the first weekend of Advent has come and gone already, and I don’t feel like anything has slowed down or simplified yet…

Do you have favorite practice during Advent? How do you stay calm and bright during Christmas season? Let me know in the comments below.

7 Things I’ve Learned in 7 Years of Marriage (updated)

Ten years ago today Michelle and I stood before family and friends and committed to being life partners. It’s hard to believe how much time has passed and yet, there’s always a newness in our relationship as we keep working on being better individuals, and working through challenges to grow closer and stronger as a couple.

3 years ago I wrote this post and upon revisiting it, a lot of the things I wrote still hold true. But to mark this anniversary I also wanted to add 3 new things I’ve learned from our 10 years of marriage. Here’s the original post with some new thoughts: Continue reading “7 Things I’ve Learned in 7 Years of Marriage (updated)”

Will 2018 Be Your Year of Simple?

Seven years ago we made a life-changing decision to serve in the Peace Corps. We put in our notices at work, ended the lease on our apartment, and sold all of our furniture. We kept our winter clothes and yearbooks in storage with family and headed off to volunteer in Jamaica with the required maximum of two suitcases each.

Living with less was completely liberating. Not only did we have less stuff to keep track of, our weekly schedules in that rural Jamaican community were simplified, too. When we came home from work, we had time to read, journal, practice new recipes… In Jamaica, it was nearly impossible to get more than two real tasks done per day, so we became accustomed to a slower pace of life.

That simpler life was so much less stressful – it was something we vowed to keep in our lives moving forward. And we’re passionate about helping others do the same. Continue reading “Will 2018 Be Your Year of Simple?”

Turning 35: Michelle’s Birthday Bucket List

I promised myself that I wouldn’t actually be old until age 75. But turning 35 means I’ve left my “early thirties” behind, which makes me feel that I no longer fit in the “young adult” category. I’m doing my best to accept this shift in identity without dragging my feet.

I confess that one of my biggest fears about aging is that life will somehow go downhill. I realize that the physical obstacles will increase – I’ve had chronic pain and headaches since my mid-twenties, so I don’t have much hope of anything getting better in that regard. But my real concern doesn’t involve bodily functions.

I remember as a Continue reading “Turning 35: Michelle’s Birthday Bucket List”

What Matters Most

Every year I write a birthday post reflecting on something I’ve learned in the past year about myself (and thoughts about getting older). It’s a great way to see where I’ve been, who I am today, and hopefully reflects the person I am working on becoming.  


I want to ask you a question: what core values drive the major decisions you make for your life?

In other words, what are the things you value the most? Do you know? Have you ever asked yourself this question? If you do know what matters the most to you, do you live your life in such a way that reflects these values?

This is the foundation to Continue reading “What Matters Most”

2016 Annual Review Part 1: How Well Did The Year of Productivity Go?

For the last three years, Michelle and I have done a practice called an Annual Review. It’s an opportunity to intentionally reflect on the past year and think of the things that went well, things that didn’t go so well, and to take all that information and start planning for the upcoming year and beyond. We highly recommend this activity as an individual, as a couple, and even as a family. Don’t know how to start one? Check out this awesome free workbook from our friends at Live Your Legend and example posts from the Art of Non-Conformity


At the beginning of this year I made a pronouncement to make this the “year of productivity”. I even wrote a post explaining my plan here.

I was going to:

  • Learn Spanish (mind)
  • Get ripped and in-shape (body)
  • Grow in my faith (spirit)

How did I do? Well… Continue reading “2016 Annual Review Part 1: How Well Did The Year of Productivity Go?”

You’re Invited to the World Domination Summit

Michelle and I want to personally invite you…

To one of the most incredible and extraordinary events called the: World Domination Summit (a.k.a. WDS). 

Mark your calendars and save the dates: July 11th – July 17th, 2017

Each year 1000+ amazing and wonderful individuals make the journey to Portland Oregon to think and respond to this central question, “how can we live remarkable lives in a conventional world”.

For the last three years, Michelle and I have Continue reading “You’re Invited to the World Domination Summit”

To the First Cohort of the Wayfinding Academy…

There’s a good chance that when you read this post, 15 new students will have just finished their very first class at the Wayfinding Academy. It’s an incredible story of how a former college professor (and great friend of ours) put together a team to create a college from scratch that combats many of the current issues in higher education.

The main focus of the Wayfinding Academy is to help students discover and better understand who they are (based on their passions, skills, and interests), how they can serve our world, and determine what next steps they’ll need to live the life they want for themselves — not what others are saying they should do. Continue reading “To the First Cohort of the Wayfinding Academy…”

When You’re Not Saving Money at That Sale

Sale prices. Who doesn’t like to save money and get big shopping discounts? You walk into your favorite store and see a bright sign above some nice T-shirts: “45% off today only!” You may think to yourself: “That sounds like a good deal; I don’t want to miss out.” But I wouldn’t be so sure.

Unfortunately, sometimes those sale prices aren’t actually saving us money.

Intentional Spending

Being aware of how we spend our money is a big part of intentional living. Continue reading “When You’re Not Saving Money at That Sale”

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