POETRY & WORDS :: Why Celebrations and Beauty Still Matter in a Broken World

Why Beauty Still Matters in a Broken WorldSometimes, people wonder how I can get behind something so trite as a whole series about Christmas decorations, when I also talk about a cure for first-world problems and death and darkness and clinging to a thread of hope. How can I talk about pretty things when there’s all this brokenness everywhere we turn? Isn’t that incongruent? Doesn’t that make me a hypocrite? Don’t I know the world is dying?

I do know. And because I know, I refuse to give in to the darkness.  I refuse to let the darkness chase us away from all the beauty.

Our God, the same God who demands justice and calls us to love mercy [1], also created beauty. The same God who calls us to defend the fatherless [2], also paints the billowing clouds with fiery indigo, told His ancient people to weave golden threads into gilded curtains and dot the tabernacle with precious stones [3], and turns snowy mountain peaks copper with every rising dawn.  If we have the eyes to notice, our heart is lifted at a solitary bloom alive in a dry and cracked sidewalk, and something in our spirit leaps at the sight of a single lit tree in the darkness, glistening in snow-covered bursts of colored light. Our deep longing for aesthetic beauty echoes the whole, complete beauty that existed in God himself before the Fall of Man. Glimmers of it shine earthside still. Every single thing of beauty on this earth hints at the beauty that waits just beyond the veil [4].

And something else await beyond the veil, too — a celebration [5].

Somewhere along the way in our journey through the monotonous tasks of living, we’ve heard whispers that to be holy is to reject the nonsense of tinsel and lights, and to be an effective servant of God we have to squelch in us any inkling of desire for beauty.  We’ve heard that to have a heart that really loves mercy, to have a heart that really broken over injustice, we should probably first deprive ourselves of enjoyment. But beauty and joy and celebrations are not at all antithesis to our identity as Christians. Rather the opposite; celebrations are at the very heart of our Father God. All throughout the Bible we see, over and over and over again, this idea of gathering together in the mutual enjoyment of this wild and beautiful life. And we crave it. We crave beauty, we crave togetherness, and we crave wholeness.

Maybe it doesn’t make sense to live this way. Maybe it’s all more complicated than this. But I think my God is big enough that I don’t have to choose between beauty and truth. I think my God is big enough that I don’t have to reject the beautiful things He’s created in order to love mercy. So instead of understanding it all, I just want to embrace this mystery. The mystery of God, the mystery of this life, the mystery of serving the One who lets all these disparate things — beauty, injustice, death, love — coexist, and even, somehow, weaves them all together with redemption in a tapestry altogether glorious.

So let yourself be freed from legalism this Christmas. Let yourself be free to savor the deep, beautiful goodness of God, and drink in the wonder of His Advent, even if everyone around you is cramming in commercialism until the season nearly bursts with misunderstanding, and even as the news broadcasts keep rolling, and even as there is still work to be done.

“Here is the world”, said Frederick Buechner. “Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.” [6]

POETRY & WORDS :: The pirates would like to worship Jesus

The kitchen lights are switched on, the dishes are in the sink, the washing machine is whirring, there’s laundry on the floor, and I’m leaning over a to-do list, panicking over the tickle in my throat and how much I have to do this week. Aveline is in the living room in her pajamas, kneeling down on the brown and grey rug in front of the little stable of twigs and moss that’s held together with nails, kneeling there in front of the baby Jesus.


She’s singing — not reciting, but singing — words as they come to her. The music is so pure and so real and so full of worship. She runs off, and comes back pulling a pirate ship behind her. “The Lalaloopsy would like to worship Jesus!” she shouts. “The pirates would like to worship!”


Because that’s how it should be, you know — no, no, that’s how it is. He didn’t come just for the shepherds of ancient yore, to be tucked neatly into a storybook and a creche to decorate our mantles and our church foyers. He didn’t come to live forever safely next to the haloed holy family. He didn’t come for the perfect, for the sinless saints, for the angels in the winter sky. No, he came for all of humanity, all of us, every single one in every corner of the world.

He’s here for the blue-haired Lalaloopsy,

for the circus-performer,

for the sword-wielding pirates,

for the stowaways and the untouchables, hidden in the depth of the ship’s steerage,

for me.

And here I am, like Martha, “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” [1], in danger of taking this miracle for granted.

So come. Come, everyone one of us. Just as we are — with our baggage and our stress and our burdens and our imperfections — come. Here’s here.

Oh, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.


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.

Screen shot 2014-11-17 at 1.55.31 PM

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?

Screen shot 2014-11-17 at 1.47.10 PM
Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

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

SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS :: 5 Ideas for an Advent Calendar / Julkalender / Adventskalender

For those of you who plan ahead, here are a handful of visually inspiring Advent calendar projects you can make yourself.

Advent Calendar via Dandee Designs via Advent Calendar Ideas on Oaxacaborn

Advent Calendar via Dandee Designs – This beautiful calendar has printed advent activity cards attached to the back of each hanging tag.

Advent Calendar via babyramen via Advent Calendar Ideas on Oaxacaborn

Advent Calendar via Babyramen – Hand-stamped white bags are clothes-pinned to a string in this simple advent calendar.

minikunst - Last minute advent calendar

Advent Calendar via miniKUNST – Little notes tucked into drilled holes – so clever!

adventkalender og adventstake via innsidenut

Advent Calendar via innsidenUt – White paper bags on white shelves — this one is an intriguing combination of intricate and minimalist.

Adventskalender - emmaleinswelt

Advent Calendar via Emmas Welt – I love the Dala horse detail here; click through to see her entire adventskalender.

Will you be putting together an Advent calendar this year? What have you done in the past?

We plan on doing this activity-based one from Lifesong for Orphans, but I’m not sure I’ll assemble an DIY project in addition to that (despite what I said last year when I was talking about Advent calendar ideas. ;)

Want to contribute to the 3rd Annual Scandinavian/Nordic Christmas Series? Click here to find out how!

POETRY & WORDS :: The Glass, Dimly, as We Wait for Christmas Like Children

Reaching and Waiting, a Poem about Christmas and the Second Coming

Here, in the humid fog
(which, I imagine, might not be much
unlike The Night
in which the angel appeared)
here in the humid fog
the only snow looks like
paper scraps and
shaving cream. Bubbles and
these circles of vinyl we
press to the windowpanes
with hearts of hope
as though we were two again
or five or nine or eighty-four
as though we pressed up our noses
to the glass
waiting for papa to come home
or waiting for Christmas time
or waiting for snow.

But while we are grown
and while we are tall
and while we can reach the upper shelves, now —
we are still children.
We are still waiting for Papa,
every day,
and this window is a glass, dimly, and
we see glimmers of celestial light
inside claypots and
outside trimmed oil lamps, and
in cups of cold water, given.

Christmas day was the first time He came and
so now through the centuries since
we press our noses to the glass
Christmas Day, Round Two
(in which we will all be made wholecompleteperfected

and the sky will light up.)

These are tidings
of the greatest joy.

A bit later, He told us this, so that His
joy might be in us, and
our joy might be full.

So now let’s all press our noses
to the glass
and look heavenward
and reach high
and hope

and rejoice.

CHRISTMAS :: 5 Advent Calendar Ideas

Happy December 1st! It’s time to open the first door (or package) of those Advent calendars! Aveline’s a mite too young this year, but next year, I want to do a proper Advent with her. Here are a few of my favorite ideas, which you hopefully haven’t already seen elsewhere. (No Pinterest pins were used in the making of this blog post. Imagine that! ;))

julekalender via Deas of Mia
Tree Branches Advent Calendar via Deas & Mia

Burlap Advent Calendar via Fun Kyti Me
Burlap Advent Calendar via Fun Kyti Me

Advent Calendar via Nicest Things
Fabric Bag Advent Calendar via Nicest Things

Packages on Wooden Tree - Advent Calendar via Noe Pa Hjertet
Wooden Tree Advent Calendar via Noe på Hjertet

Clothespin Advent Calendar via Kjerstis lykke
Clothespin Advent Calendar via Kjerstis Lykke

CHRISTMAS :: It is as if Infancy were the Whole of Incarnation (Lucy Shaw)

I first read this poem years ago. Lucy Shaw’s powerful words have stayed with me, a reminder to look up from the cradle and worship the risen King, who we are celebrating today.

Merry Christmas, friends! He was born so we could live.

“One time of the year
the new-born child
is everywhere,
planted in madonnas’ arms
hay mows, stables
in palaces or farms,
or quaintly, under snowed gables,
gothic angular or baroque plump,
naked or elaborately swathed,
encircled by Della Robia wreaths,
garnished with whimsical
partridges and pears,
drummers and drums,
lit by oversize stars,
partnered with lambs,
peace doves, sugar plums,
bells, plastic camels in sets of three
as if these were what we need
for eternity.

But Jesus the Man is not to be seen.
We are too wary, these days,
of beards and sandalled feet.

Yet if we celebrate, let it be
that he
has invaded our lives with purpose,
striding over our picturesque traditions,
our shallow sentiment,
overturning our cash registers,
wielding his peace like a sword,
rescuing us into reality
demanding much more
than the milk and the softness
and the mothers warmth
of the baby in the storefront creche,
(only the Man would ask
all, of each of us)
reaching out
always, urgently, with strong
effective love
(only the Man would give
his life and live
again for love of us).

Oh come, let us adore him-
Christ–the Lord.”
Lucy Shaw

CHRISTMAS :: “…the power of Christmas is when spiritual and material meet.”

Over exposed photo of christmas ornaments on white background

“Some people want to filter the material out of Christmas and morph it into some pure ethereal spirit religious day. And some people want to filter all the spiritual out of it and make it simply a holiday celebrating the purchasing power of plastic. But the power of Christmas is when spiritual and material meet. And it always has been. That is the joy of the season, that is the good news, that is the laughter and the paradox and the earth-shaking magic of Christmas. The infinite Word became a physical baby.”

-via (Rachel) Lizzie Jankovic’s excellent article Of Kids and Christmas