And here are a few of my favorite prints from the latest collection —
So full of hope and GREAT JOY, isn’t it? View more here.
And here are a few of my favorite prints from the latest collection —
So full of hope and GREAT JOY, isn’t it? View more here.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?)
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!
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”.  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.
“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. ” 
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.
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 I have a family to call my own, and this girl (shown below) has none.
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)
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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,
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
(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.)
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.)
I’m shivering just thinking about the fact that I lived in one of the places on this list. Brrrr.
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.
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’s portfolio is full of gems. I spent a good twenty minutes browsing the other day, and enjoying all the illustrated details.
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.
“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.
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 . 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, 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 , 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
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
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.
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.
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
Sometimes, in the middle of the hustle and bustle that ranges from chaotic noise to the mundane, I look over at her and
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?
Mary Oliver, that beautiful poet soul, expresses exactly how I feel about the words I weave. I want to give wings to the secret voice you, the reader, cannot — or are unable to — utter. I want to weave these threads together so you can hear your unspoken words in mine.
“I want to write something so simply about love or about pain that even as you are reading you feel it and as you read you keep feeling it and though it be my story it will be common, though it be singular it will be known to you so that by the end you will think —- no, you will realize -— that it was all the while yourself arranging the words, that it was all the time words that you yourself, out of your heart had been saying.” -Mary Oliver
Dear Internetz Dwellers of the Mothering SubGenre,
I know, I know. I’ve read your weblogs. Mothering is hard. Our small people spill the milk, squeeze the juice boxes until they resemble Old Faithful, chew the corners of favorite books, and keep hours that make us wonder if they have second jobs as miniature convenience store clerks. There are too many choices when we shop, our kids won’t eat their leftovers and we went out with a melted Cheerio stuck to our heads again.
In the last decade, dear Internetz, I’ve watched your weblogs shift from GeoCities to LiveJournal to Xanga, and now to insta-infinity and beyond. And I’ve noticed something. I’ve noticed the chronicles slide down the negative path. Now, from where I stand in 2014, it seems the Mothering SubGenre is firmly entrenched in despair, doom, and dirty diapers — with a side of crude talk and bodily functions.
Haven’t you noticed, Internetz dwellers? The written pieces with the most clicks and comments — the ones your Facebook friends are sharing and your wifi-enabled friends are scrolling through while they’re sitting next to you — are the very blog posts raking the coals in the smoldering Mommy Wars. I watch as mothers sort themselves into teams; home vs. hospital vs. pool. vs cesarean section vs. octagonal hand-tanned artisanal reindeer leather yurts, then draw lines in the strewn toys and lob posts back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until the child in the woven sling vs. structured carrier vs. five point harness vs. car? flex fuel? peddle bike? organic donkey of burden-seat screams in frustration. (And editors of mothering publications? I’ve seen the guidelines and the pitch suggestions for the kinds of articles you want us to write. You’re fanning the flames.)
I’ve been listening, dear Internetz Dwellers of the Mothering SubGenre. I’ve been listening, and I’ve been reading, and I’m done.
I’m done clicking into the negativity.
I want no part of the lie that mothering is nothing but a sticky-fingered, foul-mouthed, angering pile of negativity.
I’m done, and I raise you an armful of joy.
No, not the kind of joy you mock when you blog about that woman in your playgroup who smiles a lot. Real, honest-to-goodness joy that spills down from the heavens and over all of us and over our homes and over our child(ren). Real joy, joy with roots, roots that run deeper than the storms and deeper than the pain and deeper than these momentary tribulations which are preparing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory .
There is enough real horror in the world without manufacturing negativity. There’s enough actual tragedy in the world without perpetuating artificial debates. I don’t know about you, Internetz of the Mothering SubGenre, but when I read that Meriam Ibrahim’s tiny newborn daughter is permanently injured because Meriam gave birth in chains — in chains! — there wasn’t a single ounce of my strength that had any will to raise up a stink about plastic vs. wooden toys. There wasn’t any strength left in me to do anything but cry out, “Oh Lord! Have mercy on this bruised and battered and fallen world!” Hearing how this woman — our sister — brought life into this broken world while shackled, should scream louder into our collective consciousness than BPA-free plastic, the Golden Arches, and the woe-is-me laments of our gilded excess.
Friends, the world is broken. The world is full of pain, and there is more abject suffering outside our circles than most of us, thank God, will ever know. There’s more than enough lifetimes of tragedies to break our hearts thousands and thousands of times over.
But despite this all, because of this all, as for me and my house, I choose joy. As for me and my house, I choose to rejoice — choose to search out the hidden joys, lift them up, and shout — without shame, condemnation, guilt.
This doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t cry out for the hurting and the broken. This just means I know the brokenness can’t win. The Healer has already triumphed. This doesn’t mean I deny the suffering around me. This just means I know that the darkness can’t win. The light has already triumphed.
And so I choose joy.
What about you? “Will you come with me to the mountains? It will hurt at first, until your feet are hardened. Reality is harsh to the feet of shadows. But will you come?” -C.S. Lewis