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.

Christmas in the Caribbean

xmas collageIt was not until I was asked to put together decorations for a Jamaican Christmas choral service at school, that I realized how much of the American Christmas celebration is really just about winter:



Evergreen trees.


These were some of my first ideas for decorations. But none of them translate to the Jamaican context. Sure, Jamaicans are accustomed to these images being imported into their Christmas. But they really don’t make sense in a place that will never experience winter as we know it. Continue reading “Christmas in the Caribbean”

Advent Project- Part One

In some ways, I don’t have a lot of hope for humanity. People are inherently good, but we also just can’t seem to get ourselves out of trouble- and I mean that on multiple, multiple levels. Living in a developing country, especially one with cultural roots that cannot be un-entwined from the effects of slavery, only convinces me more that all human beings struggle with some unalterable defect in our nature. Every last one of us. Including me, of course. Our issues are deep and far-reaching.

But before you assume that this post is going to be a big downer or that I’m hopelessly depressed and negative, hear me out. I do have hope. I just don’t think we as people can fix all our messes on our own. My hope lies in something greater.

That’s why Continue reading “Advent Project- Part One”

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