Let it begin: the Church Year

O house of Jacob, come and let us walk
In the light of the Lord.

Isaiah 2:5 (NKJV)


The holy echo for this season came in an early morning reading. Could Isaiah have imagine how far the echo of Advent would ring?

Advent is for us, not just some. O house of Jacob.

Advent is an invitation. Come.

Advent isn’t about idling or accelerating, the two options most offered by the voices around us. Do nothing, Do too much. No, it is about a steady pace– let us walk. 

Advent is about direction, we aren’t walking for the sake of a nice post meal stroll — let us walk in the light of the Lord.

When I read this yesterday morning my soul whispered, pay attention, this is your posture for advent. We again join the Church universal, invited to walk in the light of the Lord. The light of anticipation and waiting.

O house of Jacob, come and let us walk
In the light of the Lord.

If you’re reading The Circle of Seasons with me/us, I’m planning for December to post each Monday of Advent. If you don’t have the book, don’t worry, the post will be enough to stimulate thought. This isn’t meant to add more to you, it’s meant to help orient or course correct. I’ve found it can be easier to talk about things than to actually implement them. So, if nothing else, Mondays will be a stake in the ground saying, “Show up in your life, don’t just talk about showing up.”

Kimberlee says in her book: “Observing the seasons of the church year also helps us embrace the church’s telling of time instead of our culture’s. Our culture’s calendar is grounded in capitalism, which requires consumption. Back-to-school sales, the-day-after Thanksgiving sales, the Christmas shopping season, after-Christmas sales, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, graduation, Father’s Day, the Fourth of July – there is a sale associated with each and every cultural holiday or occasion to induce us to consume more. This way of measuring time reduces us to mere consumers, instead of inviting us to be fully human, with all the varied emotions, experiences and roles that entails.

“The church year, on the other hand, is grounded in the very story of Christ, which is the foundational story of our lives as Christians.”

This is no longer just capitalist societies challenge. November 11th in China is singles day—11/11—see all theses ones? What started out as a cute idea has turned into one of the HUGEST shopping days. I was saddened to see this in action a few weeks ago. My friend Tanya , who lives in the UK, put on Facebook a reminder to UK stores that Black Friday has nothing to do with them.

You know what. The culture is going to do what the culture is going to do. We however, have a choice how much we listen to it. I sometimes forget this. This is why I need you and you need me.

O house of Jacob, come and let us walk
In the light of the Lord.


For Those Who Receive Hard News This Week

This first appeared last year. I’m reminded how each year looks different :)! How does this year look for you?

Dear friend,

I don’t have to tell you, it’s the holiday season. We have reminders surrounding us. I don’t care where you live, social media and the internet won’t let you forget.

You might want to. The holidays are supposed to be happy, but you’ve gotten news this week that has t-boned you and now you’re not sure which direction you’re going.

It was the day before Thanksgiving last year for our family. With one doctor’s report pieces both fell into place and scattered all over the floor.

So that might explain what’s going on. 

Oh my word, this … just … might … I do not want to say it because then it will make it true … be his last Thanksgiving. 

Hard news near a holiday

Your news might be medical too. Or involving relationships or finances or your job or be about your kids or a pregnancy or a dashed dream.

So many ways bad news can enter a life.

I am so sorry for the hit you have taken. The air that has been knocked out of your soul. The way you may have lost your bearings this week. And though you know you’ll (probably) recover from this, right now you’re a bit stunned. You may  know deep in your gut this might be a game changer. You will bear the mark of this week for the rest of your days.

What you might not know right now is the size of the scar.

The news you received may end up fading over time. Or it may not. Our shock is over, but we still dance around the holes in our lives figuring out what they mean.

For you, what to do this week? When the message being projectile vomited at you from all directions is be thankful (OR ELSE).

That’s not the gospel. That’s not why Jesus came. Your pain is real. But your pain is not supreme. So, again, what do you do?

Embrace the messy middle. You may need to make adjustments this holiday. Change locations, scale back, maybe make a road trip. I don’t know what you will need to do.  Honor the holiday in some way while also honoring your pain. I am grateful for the memories I have of last year. They include Dad’s last turkey dinner at a dear friend’s house and texting with my sister afterwards saying how for both of us there had been tears. We were in shock.

The messy middle creates space for the good and the bad. The joy and the sorrow. The pain and the pleasure. You may want to deny what’s happened or deny the holidays. If possible, lean into the tension and find ways that real holidays involving real life are richer than the shallow versions offered by advertisers. A better cell plan isn’t the answer to a rich and fulfilling life, finding ways to make gestures towards each other is.

A few years ago part of our family was with Dad who was in rehab for a broken hip, and just as the rest of us sat down for the meal my phone rang. After I had spent most of the day on a situation involving a suicidal American in China, I was now going to miss the meal with my family because her mom had gotten my phone message. I had to break the news that would forever be associated with this holiday and yet she needed to know and be a part of the plan for her daughter’s safety.

Let me say it again — I am so sorry for the news you received this week. Some years are harder and you’re having one of those.

It comforts me that Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation was written in the midst of Civil War. Clearly all was not right with the country. And yet.

And yet he knew in the midst of bad news it is worthwhile to pause and remember the story is bigger than this news, this week. God gave us two hands, one to hold the troubles and one to hold the hope. Use them both. Offer them both.

I will be thinking of you this week. And if you want me to pray for you or just want to share your story leave a comment or email me at messymiddle@gmail.com. We can’t make it go away, but we can let you know you’re not alone.

With blessing,


A Sign From a Beijing Bathroom That Points to Eden


I saw this sign in a bathroom in Beijing: We were in a nice hotel, doing a bathroom stop—as public restrooms are not always the easiest to find in downtown Beijing. While I understand why a hotel might want to discourage people from using their bathroom as a changing room, when I read it, I was reminded how […]

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Reordering My Soul {and an invitation to join me}

Circle of Seasons

There is only one reason I’d violate my “I’m not blogging while in China” declaration. A book! And not just any book, a book with a time sensitive invitation. (By the way, I’m having a grand time in China. Feeding body and soul almost nonstop.) This summer was a rough patch for me internally. I had […]

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#DistractedByBeauty and You Can Be Too!


It started innocently enough. I took a picture and then said on Instagram:  I’m finding it hard to work on email and editing the book. I just want to stare at this cute pig! I’m creating a new hashtag/ spiritual practice and calling it —#DistractedByBeauty. Seriously doubt it’s new :). But who else wants to […]

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Control and the Garden Of Eden

False Dichotomy

“Control” was the theme of the week at Velvet Ashes and one of the blessings has been to remind me that God is in control. That he did not merely put the world in motion and then step away, leaving us on our own to figure our way through the muck. As I was thinking about how […]

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Eleven Gift Ideas For Boys Ages 10-14 (PDF printable)

Over the course of the last year I’ve heard myself say more than once, “I’m quite taken with boys ages 10-14.” SCRATCH THAT! I’m quite taken with knowing we can do something about the discrepancy when it comes to Operation Christmas Child and the lack of boxes for boys. In case you’re not familiar with OCC  […]

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A Non-Cook Reviews 3 Chinese Cookbooks


This post reminds me of my first “research” paper in sixth grade. We were learning about using sources to enhance our ideas. Want to know my subject? Prepare to laugh given how life and interests turned out. Mexican food. We had a student teacher and I recall him talking with me, wondering if I had […]

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When you see the shopping cart, it means he’s probably inside my house


This is one of my personal Top 10 favorite posts because it embodies life in the messy middle. Three years have passed since I first published it and I’d like to do a follow-up interview with my sister. What should I ask? /// Several years ago my sister Elizabeth saw a homeless man in her suburban neighborhood. […]

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This is a special weekend for The Messy Middle

Arabella Grace

This post is a like a braid with the three strands weaving together. Strand one: The Messy Middle  Earlier this week, this blog celebrated her 4th birthday! If you’re like me and think WHAT?! I thought she was three years old, have we really been doing this for four years? Yes, yes we have. Life has a […]

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