POETRY & WORDS :: Advent in Seasons of Uncertainty


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Thanksgiving weekend and Advent Sunday were one this year, like sabbaths multiplied, rolling in with rest for our souls.

And in this low-flung latitude, we stayed together, worshipping in the multitude of Small Things, the blessings given, the blessings withheld until such time as our hearts might hold them, the clouds bunched up, tumbling over and over each other like eager children, walled up against nonexistent mountains, pausing before an abrupt change of mind, dashing away again before falling, like rambunctious children collapsing with laughter despite it all, because of it all, in glorious Light of it all.

And with Thanksgiving and Advent colliding, we give thanks for the gratitudes heaped upon gratitudes.

This unpredictable season, the familiar routines carried out, the sprinkling of anticipation in the air, the hope that fills our hearts against all hope — the Hope that staves off despair, the hope that fights, the hope that holds on, the hope that illuminates joy we otherwise would have passed by.

For this and much more, Father we thank Thee.
For the Hope that springs anew, we thank Thee.
For the incarnation miraculously birthed out of terrified solitude in a stranger’s land, Lord, we thank thee.

For all that we do not know, Lord, we thank Thee.

“Stability is greatly
over-rated,” sings the poet Luci Shaw,
and I listen intently, my knees pulled up to my chest.
“Why would he ever want to sit
still and smug as a rock,
confident, because of his great
weight, that he will not
be moved?
Better to be soft as water,
easily troubled, with
at least three modes
of being, able to shape-      
shift, to mirror, to cleanse,
to drift downstream,
To roar when he encounters
the rock.”
-Luci Shaw

And I see now what she means.

I see that perhaps Advent, like the First Advent, is most deeply celebrated in seasons of uncertainty.

Credits: Red Suede Toi Toi Shoes c/o Livie & Luca 

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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!