November newsletter

Shalom, friend! 

During the Passover Seder, there is a section of the service called the Four Questions that launches the recounting of the story of God’s deliverance of the Hebrew people from slavery. The first question is “Why is this night different from all other nights?” 

There will come a day when we may ask, “Why were the holidays different in 2020 than all other years?” So much of what infuses holidays with meaning for many of us is the repetition of our cherished rituals from year to year – or at least, the memory of those rituals. This year, most of us will be experiencing a very different Thanksgiving than in years past. We may ache for the comfort of the familiar (Campbell’s Soup green bean casserole, anyone?) on in a year that has turned life upside down for many of us. I share a wonderful piece of counsel from Tara Owens of Anam Cara Ministries:

I have a proposal. Since many of us are not going to be with family the way we usually are over the holidays, can we make a pact?

We don’t have to make the dish that we hate just because it would be something someone else (who is probably not at your table this holiday) wants. If you hate turkey, don’t make turkey. If the green bean casserole disgusts you, don’t do it. If creamed corn is traditional but you just don’t understand it, don’t figure it out. If the whole thing stresses you out, order it in (or skip the planning of it altogether.)
Conversely, if the weird jello mold your aunt always makes would make you feel nostalgic and comforted, Google the heck out of that recipe and go jello-wild. If your in-laws taught you to make apples and cheese (which is just deconstructed apple pie, I’ll have you know) and it makes you happy, make a whole tray.
This year all bets are off. This isn’t about “making new traditions,” or whatever weird pressure that is. It’s about treating yourself and your family with kindness, practicing healthy choice around food, and giving ourselves a darn break when it comes to holiday pressure.
I am ordering a couple of ready-made Thanksgiving meals for Bill and I from a nearby local restaurant. For a dedicated cook like me who has always cooked with joy and many sticks of butter for the holiday, it will be a different kind of Thanksgiving. And that’s the point. Things are different this year.

hqdefaultLeaning into the difference has been freeing. I am finding afresh I’m best able to give thanks to God when I also know I am also welcome to come before him to name the losses of 2020 and express my confusion, fear, and disorientation.

I am deeply grateful for each of you reading these words. Whether you’re an “in real life” friend or a digital connection, know that I thank my God every time I remember you. And I pray that this different holiday season will bring unexpected consolation to you – and maybe even a bite of a Googled version of your aunt’s weird Jello-mold.

Do you know someone who could use a word of encouragement – and who couldn’t right now?

Becoming Sage
I am giving away two signed copies of Becoming Sage: Cultivating Maturity, Purpose, and Spirituality in Midlife. The book is about spiritual growth, and a number of readers have told me that the words of the book have given them all kinds of “ah ha!” moments of understanding about the Lord, themselves, and the others in their lives. Enter the drawing for yourself, or to gift someone you know this holiday season.

To enter, simply click here to email me. I’ll draw two names next Monday, November 30th, and reach out to you for the name and address of the recipient.

Free online devotional to read and share


When unexpected challenges upend the good plans we’ve made for our lives, how can we begin to respond in faith? This five-day devotional is available here, and offers a thoughtful, compassionate exploration of the subject of how we can take first steps in processing those losses with honesty and courage. Bookmark it, and share it with someone you know who might find comfort and strength in these words.

Advent begins this Sunday, November 29th


I Wonder As I Wander: Devotions For Advent
This affordable little booklet is designed to share with groups at church or in your community. These daily devotions capture the surprise, truth and wonder of God’s pursuit of each one of us. Contemporary examples mix with ancient, unchanging truth to guide readers to the One born in Bethlehem who has been pursuing us every step of the way.



  download 2

Moments and Days: How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith
This book is about more than Advent, but Advent is included. Learn the feasts and festivals of the Bible, and discover the beauty of the Church calendar. Both the Jewish festal cycle and the Christian year have much to teach us about holy days and every day.



Finally, have you ever heard the 17th century hymn Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree? The haunting melody includes these words:

For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree

According to Ye Olde Wikipedia, “The song may be an allusion to both the apple tree in Song of Solomon 2:3 which has been interpreted as a metaphor representing Jesus, and to his description of his life as a tree of life in Luke 13:18-19 and elsewhere in the New Testament including Revelation 22:1-2 and within the Old Testament in Genesis.” It is a song full of life and longing, and I really enjoy Bob Bennett’s gentle contemporary version: 

This hymn is often sung during the Christmas season. It’s not one you’ll hear in a mall, but since we’re not going to malls in quite the same way as years past, sit back for a few minutes, breathe deep, and let these words of love wash over you. 

With great gratitude to God for you,

Michelle Van Loon

To contact me about speaking at your church or ministry event, click here. It would be my privilege to serve your group. I can Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or use two empty toilet paper rools strung together if you like. 


Cover photo by Mathyas Kurmann on Unsplash

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