SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS :: Nordingården


The Swedish blog Nordingården blog is an absolute treasure trove!

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A picture really is worth a thousand words — I can’t understand the words, but my goodness! Nordingården is a wonderland. There are SO many more lovely images; I hope you’ll check it out!

P.S. Did anyone notice the first and last photos are the same room?

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LIFE IN PHOTOS :: Everyday things


“Everything is fine –

the first bits of sun are on

the yellow flowers behind the low wall.” -Billy Collins
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“Report from the subtropics:

for one thing, there’s no more snow

to watch from an evening window…

no hexagrams of frost to study

on the cold glass pages of the bathroom.

No black sweater to pull over my head

while I wait for the coffee to brew…..

And the birds with those long white necks?

All they do is swivel their heads

keeping an eye on me as I walk along.” -Billy Collins

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“This love for everyday things,

part natural from the wide eye of Infancy,

part a literary calculation” -Billy Collins

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“yes, there would be enough light

to read a book or write a letter at midnight” -Billy Collins

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“the day mirled and clabbered

into the thick, stony light” -Billy Collins

CHRISTMAS :: “Naptime Diaries” Advent + Print Collection


Are you familiar with Naptime Diaries? They have the neatest art! And this year they have a GORGEOUS Advent collection. I mean, it’s really something — prints, calendar, devotional.

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And here are a few of my favorite prints from the latest collection —

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Do not be afraid / I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”

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The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

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Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

So full of hope and GREAT JOY, isn’t it? View more here.

MONDAY’S PRETTY THINGS :: Decorating with Christmas Tree Branches


Every Christmas tree doesn’t have to be a big, Costco-sized production. Here are some lovely ideas to use small, table-top trees — or even the extra branches you might have leftover after trimming to fit into the tree stand!

My Lovely Things on Oaxacaborn's MONDAY’S PRETTY THINGS :: Decorating with Christmas Tree Branches
Tiny tree in the hallway via Anna Truelsen / My Lovely Things

Nora Lill on Oaxacaborn's MONDAY’S PRETTY THINGS :: Decorating with Christmas Tree Branches
Fir branches in jar of water via Nora Lill

Christmas Tree Branches as Chrismtas Trees via A Barefoot Day on Oaxacaborn's MONDAY’S PRETTY THINGS :: Decorating with Christmas Tree Branches
Evergreen branches in mason jars via A Barefoot Day

waltherogco_dk on Oaxacaborn's MONDAY’S PRETTY THINGS :: Decorating with Christmas Tree Branches
Cut tree in glass vase via Walther & Co

Design Chaser - Tabletop Christmas Tree, wooden, and wire geometric on Oaxacaborn's MONDAY’S PRETTY THINGS :: Decorating with Christmas Tree Branches
Table-top Christmas tree with wooden and wire geometric ornaments via The Design Chaser

Princess Pine in Clay Pot Anna Truelsen on Oaxacaborn's MONDAY’S PRETTY THINGS :: Decorating with Christmas Tree Branches
Princess pin in clay pot via Anna Truelsen / My Lovely Things

Noralill Branch in Jar on Oaxacaborn's MONDAY’S PRETTY THINGS :: Decorating with Christmas Tree Branches
Evergreen branch in jar of water on tin tray via Nora Lill

Fika on Oaxacaborn's MONDAY’S PRETTY THINGS :: Decorating with Christmas Tree Branches
Small tree in Swedish enamel bucket on windowsill via B.I.B. And I spy pour-over coffee! The whole photo series is here, and it’s lovely.


Have a photo of Scandi-inspired Christmas loveliness? Send it to me, and I might feature it on the 4th Annual Scandinavian/Nordic Christmas Series! Click here to find out how.

SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS :: Advent Calendar Ideas


Whether you spell it advent calendar or adventskalender — or even  julkalender  — we’re just two weeks away from December 1.  Time to get this Scandinavian Christmas series underway!

The first advent calendar example comes from Elisabeth Heier in Norway. She made this kalender tree from painted white boards — and then attached the paper bags to the tree using nails and wire. It’s really striking — and the black and white design keeps it from looking too cluttered.

Elisabeth Heier Kalender Tree via SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS Advent Calendar round-up on the Oaxacaborn blog
Advent Calendar Tree / Kalender tre via Elisabeth Heier

This next advent calendar, from The Merry Thought blog, cleverly strings up an evergreen bough and then decorates with tiny plywood-covered matchboxes. The full tutorial can be found here.

The Merry Thought - Evergreen Bough Hanging Advent Calendar via SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS Advent Calendar round-up on the Oaxacaborn blog
Hanging Christmas Tree Branch Advent Calendar via The Merry Thought

Starting with a plain tree, and adding one decoration per day until the tree is filled at Christmas — what a good idea! This filigrantrae is Danish-inspired and comes from Nalle’s House blog. Bonus: her post has a full tutorial if you want to make your own dowel tree, although this ideas would work with any small tree.

Nalle's House DIY Wooden Dowel Tree via SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS Advent Calendar round-up on the Oaxacaborn blog
Danish Wooden Dowel Tree via Nalle’s House

Most of the advent candles I’ve seen in my life are a group of four candles, one for each advent Sundag leading up to Christmas. But I love the idea of a single large candle measuring the days, turning the candle into a daily tradition rather than weekly one. In fact, Tina over at Copenhagen’s Traveling Mama, has observed that’s the norm in Denmark!

Traveling Mama Advent Candle Numbered for Days via SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS Advent Calendar round-up on the Oaxacaborn blog
Advent Candle Numbered for Days via Traveling Mama

If you have an accessible staircase bannister, you could make that the focal point for your advent gifts, like Swedish blog Fröken Knopp did with newsprint and twine. (P.S. How cute is that painted floor?)

Fröken Knopp Advent Calendar on Staircase via SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS Advent Calendar round-up on the Oaxacaborn blog
Staircase, Newsprint and Twine Advent Calendar via Fröken Knopp

I can hardly get over Vibeke Design’s stunning advent calendar shop display. Paper cones, edged in lace, hung from a lichen-covered hardwood branch. Oh, so pretty!

Vibeke Design Christmas Shop Display in Sweden, via SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS Advent Calendar round-up on the Oaxacaborn blog
Advent Calendar Display via Vibeke Design Christmas Shop in Sweden

How are you planning to celebrate and decorate for advent this year? I’d love to hear! And if you need more ideas, here are more advent calendar ideas and even more advent calendar ideas!


Want to contribute to the 4th Annual Scandinavian/Nordic Christmas Series? Click here to find out how!

POETRY & WORDS :: Where I was when the Berlin Wall fell


November 9, 1989 —  I’ll never forget that day 25 years ago — well, I didn’t hear the news until Friday morning, the 10th, over breakfast in West Germany. The night before, East German Communist Party spokesperson Günther Schabowski suggested, without much oomph — almost accidentally, it seemed — that travel between East and West could happen “from now”. [1] Humanity surged toward the barrier, climbing over it, smashing at it with axes and hammers, and waiting in endless lines at the now-open gates, disbelief in the air. It’s emotional for me even now to think about this exodus, the pieces that held up the regime crumbling, the people locked in for years. People died trying to cross that wall.

In a giant cloud of exhaust fumes of two-stroke engines, hundreds of East German cars wait bumper to bumper in front of the West German checkpoint Helmstedt to enter the west, Nov. 11, 1989. In front of the eastern checkpoint, the cars wait in line for a distance of 30-40 kilometers, a West German policeman said. The ride from Berlin to Helmstadt (about 200 kilometers) would last about 11 hours. (AP Photo/Claus Eckert)

In a giant cloud of exhaust fumes of two-stroke engines, hundreds of East German cars wait bumper to bumper in front of the West German checkpoint Helmstedt to enter the west, Nov. 11, 1989. In front of the eastern checkpoint, the cars wait in line for a distance of 30-40 kilometers, a West German policeman said. The ride from Berlin to Helmstadt (about 200 kilometers) would last about 11 hours. (AP Photo/Claus Eckert)

“So it was the other side of the roughcast concrete barrier that mattered, the side that people did not spray with aerosol cans but had risked their lives to climb over. The emotional quality of this liberation can only be captured if you can imagine what it was like to live behind that ‘anti-fascist protection rampart’ (its mendacious official name) for all your life, never setting foot in the western half of your own city, and with the expectation that this would continue for years to come.

Here is the other thing that even the finest historians struggle to recover: the sense of what people at the time did not know. To those who lived behind it, the Berlin Wall had become something almost like the Alps, a seemingly unchangeable fact of physical geography. Even when things began to change so dramatically in Poland and Hungary, most people just did not believe the Alps could crumble. After all, there was a nuclear-armed empire holding them up. ” [2]

People now tell me I couldn’t have understood what was happening, I couldn’t have known the significance of the day. I wasn’t yet six. And in a way they are right. I can never fully understand what it was like to have lived under East German rule. During that time, I lived in the former Yugoslavia — officially, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia — with an American passport. And I was on the Western side of the wall when it fell.

“It is almost impossible to recreate the emotional intensity of the moment of liberation. For that intensity came from having lived for most, if not all, your life with the aching certainty that something like this was, precisely, impossible.” [Read More: The Berlin Wall: What it Meant to Be There]

But I remember. There is no doubt about that.

And there’s something else: I am going to keep remembering, and keep telling this story. Because I don’t want to forget. I don’t ever want any of us to forget.

POETRY & WORDS :: A cure for #firstworldproblems


We all need something to keep our priorities in order. Something to keep us grounded, for lack of a better word, something to prevent us from wallowing in our #firstworldproblems.

Sometimes, all it takes is to stop focusing on ourselves. I’m preaching to myself here. My daily complaints do NOT constitute suffering.

Not when Naghmeh Abedini has to tell us this about her husband, Saeed [Saeed Abedini is an American citizen from Utah, imprisoned in Iran for his faith.]

Not when these sixty-seven people have nothing left.

Not when I have a family to call my own, and this girl (shown below) has none.

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Almost every day, a story about a child lands in my inbox, and every time, I read it. Not because I love sad things. Not because I want to have pity. But because the broken parts of this world will never change if we’re too busy holed up in our comfortable little havens. Because the broken pieces will never be picked up if we’re too busy creating ourselves a safe little bubble.

I want to look up. I want to look outward. I want to make a difference.

Because every child matters.

RESOURCES a.k.a. a partial list of the blogs and newsletters I read.

Gladney Center for Adoption’s Waiting Child (Blog)
Subscribe by Email: Click here and you will see the subscription field in the upper right hand corner of your screen

* Taiwan Xi En (Website) 
Subscribe by Email: Click here; only the red ‘email’ field is required

*Bringing Hope to Children (Facebook)
Subscribe by Email: Click here

* Show Hope (Website)
Subscribe by Email: Click here

* And of course, the Ziway + Adami Tulu Project in partnership with Lifesong for Orphans — the organization through we which we sponsor children.

LIFE IN PHOTOS :: Blanket Fort


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I have to stop and remind myself: I don’t get these moments in the frenzy.

I don’t get moments like this if I’m consumed with the tyranny of the urgent, if I’m lost in the self-made chaos, if I measure my worth against how much I’ve achieved or accomplished in the last twenty-four hours.

We’re to run this race with perseverance, yes, but our strength is in quietness and rest. The heart never stops beating, yes, but the stillness between every heartbeat is essential to staying alive.

And I see that stillness in the the way the sun filters through the smudged glass. The way a horse stands motionless in the cool darkness of the county fair, refusing to fear the racket rattling from the midway outside. The way the living room chairs are pushed together, the blankets are tugged from the beds, and her mischievous face peeks up at me through the ramshackle fort.

These are the moments — and yes, He is the God — I want to choose, seek, and hold.

O Thou who art my quietness, my deep repose,
My rest from strife of tongues, my holy hill,
Fair is Thy pavilion, where I hold me still.
Back let them fall from me, my clamorous foes,
Confusions multiplied;
From crowding things of sense I flee, and in Thee hide.
Until this tyranny be overpast,
Thy hand will hold me fast;
What though the tumult of the storm increase,
Grant to Thy servant strength, O Lord, and bless with peace.
– Amy Carmichael

SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS :: Your Chance to be Featured on the Fourth Annual Blog Series!


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It’s that time again. For the fourth year in a row, Oaxacaborn will soon be transformed into a Scandinavian winter wonderland — and I can’t wait!

Here are a just a few highlights from the last few years.

Of course, none of this would be possible without YOU, my incredible world-wide readers. So, what do you have for us all this year? Email me at oaxacaborn@gmail.com!

(Still need ideas? You can read more about what sort of Scandinavian/Nordic Christmas topics to submit, or click here to see the entire Scandinavian Christmas archive.)

MONDAY’S PRETTY THINGS :: From Sault Ste. Marie to Novi Sad


I haven’t done a Monday’s Pretty Things round-up in a while. In fact, if you’re a new reader you might not even know that Monday’s Pretty Things are, well, a thing! That’s just sad.  I’ve been collecting plenty of inspiration, I just haven’t been sharing it. (I’m sorry. Let’s end that drought now.)

Ten of the Snowiest Places in the World
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan via Conde Nast Traveler: Ten of the Snowiest Places in the World

I’m shivering just thinking about the fact that I lived in one of the places on this list. Brrrr.

quitokeeto Modern Bamboo Steamer
Modern Bamboo Steamer via Quitokeeto

Utilitarian things like pots and pans and appliances should be attractive as well as functional, don’t you think? These steamers from Hong Kong are so pretty.

Le Dans la Camel and Off White Interiors
via the ever-lovely French blog Le Dans La

A space doesn’t have to have a lot going on to be beautiful. The unified color palette here is so calming.

David Fleck
Peter via David Fleck on Society6

David Fleck’s portfolio is full of gems. I spent a good twenty minutes browsing the other day, and enjoying all the illustrated details.

Novi Sad
Underpass in Novi Sad / Нови Сад

Images from the former Yugoslavia, or anywhere throughout the Balkans, Eastern/Central Europe and the former Soviet states fascinate me. There’s a sadness about so many of them, and yet such a poignant beauty. Like I wrote here, “it makes me very happy and it makes me very sad.” If you have any seemingly-everyday snapshots from those areas, favorite blogs or Instagram accounts, photojournals (like RFE/RL’s Picture This!) or anything else related. send them my way! They don’t all have to be epic — like these images of Communist-era buildings — I love a good peek into everyday life, too.

POETRY & WORDS :: When She Asks You What Mercy Means


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“Do you love Bible?” She looks up at me with those big eyes of hers. “And does Papa love Bible too? Because I love it. So much.” It’s spontaneous, this declaration of hers. She keeps talking, looking up at me as she pushes her unruly honey-colored hair out of her face. “Where’s God now?” “What is a soul?” “What is mercy? Read more Bible, mumma.”

We just returned from seeing Fernando Ortega in concert, and she is humming the songs as she asks me these questions. “Why,” she asks earnestly, “Why did dat man say dat song about da fire of angels is sad? Why is it sad, mumma?”

At three, her tender heart knows nothing of the aching in one’s soul. “It is sad, baby, but it’s beautiful too, though, isn’t it, that song?” I can feel the tears begin to burn. How can I untangle these questions, when I don’t understand why people slip away and leave behind the empty foothills, burning in the light? How can I explain to a three year-old the concept of mercy, when I still can’t wrap my head around the marvel of it all? And what is this intangible thing inside me, this soul of mine?

She stands in front of me, eagerly, waiting for answers.

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I don’t feel like I can reduce these mysteries to a sentence.  I’m worried I’ll go wrong somehow. But I know Jesus told us to learn what mercy means [1]. And I know love and mercy is how everything — all of this, this big, overgrown mess of earth and humanity — is made whole. Death is swallowed up[2], and the old system of law is fulfilled [3, 4].

So I tell her what I know. I tell her about His love.

My words aren’t perfect, but it doesn’t matter.

“We must try to speak of His love. All Christians have tried but none has ever done it very well. I can no more do justice to that awesome and wonder-filled theme than a child can grasp a star. Still by reaching toward the star the child may call attention to it and even indicate the direction one must look to see it. So as I stretch my heart toward the high shining love of God someone who has not before known about it may be encouraged to look up and have hope.” -A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy

And when it comes right down to it, it’s that high shining love and mercy He crowns us with [5], not rules. And so I point her to that great Love, toward Him, and I take her hand as we run toward the rain.

“…[she] grew up in that Florida rain
They were carried along like leaves on a river of faith
They’d float
All the way home…
And they walked in the rain of His mercy
Let it soak them down to the bone
And they splashed in its puddles
And danced in its streams as they’d go
And, oh, they walked in the rain of His mercy
All the way home….”
-Andrew Peterson, All the Way Home

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POETRY & WORDS :: Rich Mullins, the Homeless Man


Rich Mullins, Ireland, Photograph by Ben Pearson
Image Credit: Ben Pearson

September 19, 1997. Seventeen years ago. Seventeen years ago, Rich Mullins walked right out of this earth and slipped out of his body and right up through the veil that the Cross had already split apart for him and for us all. Seventeen years ago he went “out like Elijah, with a whirlwind in a chariot of fire”, just like he used to sing.

It was seventeen years ago, and I remember exactly where I was standing in the kitchen in the middle of a tiny town in Wisconsin, and how the words echoed out of the little fridge-top radio when I heard that he had flown. And I remember how I was just a teenager and just figuring things out, and how I wore out my Rich Mullins cassette tapes that year, until you couldn’t even hear the scratchy songs anymore. A little later, I sat in the basement of a tiny church and listened to Mitch McVicker, who was with Rich in the fatal car accident, sing songs from Rich’s posthumous album, The Jesus Record. Tears streamed down my face and into my heart and I knew Jesus was my own deliverer, my very own, and I knew right then and forever, “He will never break His promise, He has written it upon the sky.” And then later still, when I was yet again a little older but still figuring things out, I didn’t even get a chance to wear out An Arrow Pointing to Heaven because I kept giving my copy away and buying another one.

I can’t even tell you what passages or words or songs of his mean the most, because how can you pull out one line from a poet’s canon and separate it out from all the rest and say, “This is it.” You can’t. It doesn’t work that way. In the documentary “Homeless Man: The Restless Heart of Rich Mullins“, Father Simon said, “And I think that’s one thing that Rich and Saint Francis had in common is that they were both poets. They both had a vision and they were both willing to live that vision. Their poem was their life, not so much what they wrote.”

When Rich sang of Abraham “how one star he saw had been lit for me, he was a stranger in this land, and I am that, no less than he,” I could see the sojourning thread that ties us all together. Being one of Abraham’s stars and having roots all over, but none deep in one place, can sometimes feel like the edge of being from nowhere, the edge of not belonging. But we’re pilgrims, all. Rich was a sojourner and Jesus was a sojourner — and if the Son of Man sometimes didn’t have a place to rest His head and that detail didn’t mess up redemption one bit, then I know that anything that happens to me is gonna be okay, too.

And this man — who was once mistaken for homeless outside a church before one of his concerts — this man really was the single most influential person I’ve never met. He’s where I learned that this life is a little crazy and it’s a little hard; but nothing, really nothing, of earthly value worth holding on to that tightly, anyway. We’re not put here to pretend to be perfect, and piece together these unblemished lives and create a nice bubble for ourselves, we’re here to be real.

And to be alive.

And love and live with wild abandon.

And stand up loudly in the land of our sojourn, not caring what anyone thinks, and just be those wild arrows, pointing straight to heaven.

Nobody tells you when you get born here
How much you’ll come to love it
And how you’ll never belong here
So I call you my country
And I’ll be lonely for my home
And I wish that I could take you there with me

…When the old world started dying
And the new world started coming on
And I’ll sing His song, and I’ll sing His song
In the land of my sojourn

In the land of my sojourn
And I will sing His song
In the land of my sojourn.

And in that new world, I think, music will be danced out across the strings of a hammered dulcimer.

LISTEN NOW to Land of my Sojourn, I’ll Carry On, and Elijah.

POETRY & WORDS :: Don’t Let Darkness Cause You to Hide From Beauty


Don't Let the Darkness Make You Shink From Beauty

There was a lot less rambling here, this summer. Because there was a lot more of this, and this, there and there and there and everywhere.

And so I wrote less.

Because it’s so heavy to know, and yet not know what to do.

Because it’s so heavy to hear all about the death and the disease and the abandonment and the starvation and the cries, and be so heart-wrenchingly aware that you still just stand here with the ability to just turn it off and stop listening.

And so I wrote less and showed up here less often, and shared fewer pretty things, and stopped saying, please, just would you look at the sunrise? And would you just look at the person next to you, and realize how alive they are? And I stopped coming here to nudge you to see the beauty in the clouds and in the rain, and in your cold coffee and in your traffic jams and in your sleeplessness.

But that’s not right.

When a mountain top is ravaged by wildfire, and the stones crumble and the trees turn to powder and ash and the blackness covers everything, when in that trembling heap a small green stem unfurls and pushes through and raises his brave head to show us his brightly colored petals, wet with dew — when that happens, we don’t turn away because there is ash all around. No, we lock eyes with the flower. We see the sun shining on it, we see the contrast between death and life, and we embrace that little jewel of life with all the strength our weak arms can grasp.

We’re not afraid that loving the flower means we don’t grasp the seriousness of the ravages of disaster.  We don’t ever worry that our voice, tiny in this world, calling out “Look! There is beauty! See it burst through!” makes the burnt mountain worse — we just love every precious delicate petal and call out and cry out and cling to the light and the beauty and the hope of it all.

So maybe that’s why some of us are put here on this earth. We see the fear and the disaster and the starvation and the longing for Hope, and we also see the flower pushing through the rubble of it all. And maybe some of us are put here to be voices calling others to look to the Light. Look to the Hope.

There is Beauty still.

POETRY & WORDS :: Another Little Sojourner Heart


Little Sojourner Heart

Aveline watched Fiddler on the Roof this weekend for the first time. I think she’s discovered a new love, musicals (are any of us really that surprised?) This afternoon, we listened to the soundtrack at her request, and she burst into tears listening to “Far from the Home I Love”.

Dat girl, she was singing she wanted to go to da home she loved and she got on da train instead!

She gets it, this kid. She feels the pull that tugs hearts in many directions. Only three years old and already so many trips to our various homes to be with the people we love, and always leaving, to go back to Florida again.

Another little sojourner. <3

LIFE IN PHOTOS :: The greatest miracle of them all


Aveline, a portrait on www.oaxacaborn.com

Sometimes, in the middle of the hustle and bustle that ranges from chaotic noise to the mundane, I look over at her and

time

just

stops.

It stops, and for that split second — for that little sliver of a spin around the sun — the earth is still and I breath it in and my heart can hardly hold the miracle of it all. I am overwhelmed by the overwhelming reality of what we call life, all this breathing, moving, walking, seeing, feeling.

And simply to be here right now, present and alive — well, isn’t that the greatest miracle of all?