Christmas, Poetry & Words

Why Celebrations & Beauty Still Matter in a Broken World

During Advent, lighthearted festivities can conflict with the dark reality of the world. But we shouldn’t give up Christmas. You can’t fight the darkness without light.

Why Celebrations & Beauty Still Matter in a Broken WorldSometimes, people wonder how I can get behind something so trite as Christmas decorations, when I also talk about death and darkness and clinging to a thread of hope when grief colors everything. 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 ourselves our deep-seated craving 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 think twice about merrymaking. 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]

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Life in Photos

LIFE IN PHOTOS :: Perfect[ly Imperfect]

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Have you seen the new photoblog Sham of the Perfect? It’s so beautiful.

Life as it is, life as it’s lived.

No need to make a scene. No need to impress.

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March2015_ShamOfThePerfect_GoodMorning

That tangled head of hair, morning’s first light, the one brown crinkled leaf that catches that light….

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…the pent up energy on the afternoons the rain falls down around us, the mismatched pajamas, the out-of-focus blur.

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“What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?

It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside–
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

But beyond this table
there is nothing that I need,
not even a job that would allow me to row to work,
or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4
with cracked green leather seats.

No, it’s all here,
the clear ovals of a glass of water,
a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,
not to mention the odd snarling fish
in a frame on the wall,
and the way these three candles–
each a different height–
are singing in perfect harmony.

So forgive me
if I lower my head now and listen
to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
while my heart
thrums under my shirt–
frog at the edge of a pond–
and my thoughts fly off to a province
made of one enormous sky
and about a million empty branches.”

-Billy Collins

Inspiration, Life in Photos, Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: Let’s Be the Uncommon Ones

Gina Munsey | Oaxacaborn blog for Uncommon Goods | Fresh Tulips, Mexican Blanket, What I Love About You & Soapstone Platter

I’m hearing it more and more lately, this idea that repeatedly sharing beautiful corners of your life is deceptive, because the viewer isn’t able see what’s hidden around the edges — this idea that the sharer, by selective portrayal, is perpetuating a view of reality that isn’t representative of the human condition.

Gina Munsey | Oaxacaborn blog for Uncommon Goods | Fresh Tulips, Mexican Blanket, What I Love About You & Soapstone Platter

I don’t think I buy it. I think instead, our preoccupation with beauty is precisely because of our human condition.  It is because we are broken that we long for wholeness. It is because of the darkness that we crave the light. It is because of the chaos that we ache for order. It is because of life’s temporal nature and inevitable death that we rejoice when new life comes into the world.

Gina Munsey | Oaxacaborn blog for Uncommon Goods | Fresh Tulips, Mexican Blanket, What I Love About You & Soapstone Platter

I hear women talking, in that sometimes-cruel way women do, mocking the writer whose blog is filled with anecdotes of small joys, mocking the photographer who sees the one sparkling thing while rust and dust ravage on. “It is not realistic,” they chide. “It doesn’t show the whole picture.” “No one really lives like that,” they laugh. “You should see my house.”

But I don’t want to join them.

I’m not an optimist by any stretch of the imagination and yet — I don’t want to join them. Has the world really become so bleak that we need to mock the light?  Has the world really become so dark that we now say the one who points the way to beauty is shallow?

I don’t think that’s the way to live this “one wild and beautiful life”. [1]

Gina Munsey | Oaxacaborn blog for Uncommon Goods | Enamelware Ladle from Yugoslavia

Gina Munsey | Oaxacaborn blog for Uncommon Goods | Fresh Tulips, Mexican Blanket, What I Love About You & Soapstone Platter

Instead, let’s set out to see beauty. The kitchen sink may be filled with dishes, but the sun is catching the single blossom on the cactus just so, and let’s celebrate that. The corner chair may be heaped with clean laundry, but the wind is pulling at the curtains just the tiniest bit, and the just-budding branches tap against the window with every ebb and flow of the breeze, so let’s celebrate that. Your child maybe screaming and you may be exhausted but just look! She’s alive and she’s miraculous, so let’s celebrate that. And even — oh especially! oh, give me strength!– in the face of death, we can’t erase it. There will still be piercingly bright sun and there will still be blueberry pancakes and the seasons will still change and time will still march on. We can’t reject it all.

It’s ok to see the beauty and the brokenness, side by side.

Let’s set out to create beauty. Eat on the living room rug with the nice dishes in the middle of the week — not because it’s been a good day, but because it was a bad day. Serve breakfast in bed even though your kids will definitely climb onto the tray and spill it all, and the people on Instagram might whisper, “No one actually does that.”

But that’s okay.

Gina Munsey | Oaxacaborn blog for Uncommon Goods | Kokeshi Ceramics, Dala Horse, What I love About You Book

Let’s be the ones who do the things no one else does.

Let’s be the wild ones. Let’s be the uncommon ones. Let’s be the ones who are a little bit of light, a little bit of crazy, the ones who aren’t afraid to shout “Glory!” at that one glowing cloud on the horizon when the rest of the world is fixated on the storm. <3

Gina Munsey | Oaxacaborn blog for Uncommon Goods | Fresh Tulips, Mexican Blanket, What I Love About You & Soapstone Platter

About Uncommon Goods :: Every purchase you make from Brooklyn-based Uncommon Goods supports one of four non-profit charities, meeting needs from early literacy to supporting survivors of war. The online marketplace is curated with creativity and individuality in mind, partnering with independent designers and artisans around the country to offer a huge range of handmade items, gifts, home goods and art, and other curiosities.

Unique gifts featured in these photographs include the handmade Hot and Cold Soapstone Serving Platter c/o Uncommon Goods [shop more gifts for women here] and the fill-in-the-blank What I Love About You journal c/o Uncommon Goods [shop personalized gifts here].

Gina Munsey | Oaxacaborn blog for Uncommon Goods | Fresh Tulips, Mexican Blanket, What I Love About You & Soapstone Platter

Additional Credits :: Flokati Sheepskin Rug: Shades of Light | Mexican Blanket: Thrifted | Hmong Textile Pillow: Boho Pillow on Etsy | Owl Mug: West Elm via Four Hands Creations on Etsy | Enamelware: Vintage, Made in Yugoslavia | Handmade Kokeshi Doll: See Through the Mist on Etsy | Stencil Art: 26:PM

Uncommon Goods | Website | Facebook | Instagram

Disclosure of Material Relationship: I received products from Uncommon Goods in exchange for publishing this post. I was not required to present or promote any specific products. All the photographs, opinions, and experiences shared here are in my own words and are my own honest evaluation. Please be assured, I only accept sponsorship opportunities for brands I personally use and/or would recommend to close friends and family, and I will always disclose any such relationships.

Uncategorized

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.

Inspiration

INSPIRATION :: A Curated Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Sometimes, I get lost in the tyranny of the urgent. Lost in the chores and the clutter and the cooking and the cycle of washing, drying, folding. I get lost and forget that all around is beauty, even inside these four walls. We were created to know beauty, and it’s worth every bit of conscious effort to choose to see it, even in the whirlwind. The Weepies knew this when they sang“All this beauty…You can ask about it, but nobody knows the way. No bread-crumb trail to follow through your days. It takes an axe sometimes, a feather, in the sunshine and bad weather. It’s a matter of getting deeper in anyway you can…All this beauty; you might have to close your eyes and slowly open wide.”

I believe in making a beautiful home, something I learned from my mother (although I’m nowhere nearly as good at it as she is). “Anything can be made beautiful”, she always told me, “though a combination of cleaning and contentment.” And she proved this, too, over and over and over again throughout the years.

Maybe you have a mother like that too, someone who has always managed to create peacefulness and a sense of home and beauty no matter what. Or maybe you have a mom who whips up magic in the kitchen, or throws the best parties, or has endless athletic energy, or is always on top of the fashion game. (Honestly, isn’t Supermom a little bit of all that and more?)

Keeping everything a mom does in mind — and with an eye toward seeing beauty in the whirlwind — I’ve teamed up with JCPenney to bring you gift ideas for any kind of mom.

A @JCPenney #Momisms Mother's Day Gift Guide curated by the Oaxacaborn blog // #JCPHostMom #JCPFitnessMom #JCPDecorMom #JCPChefMom #JCPTrendyMom

#JCPHostMom | 1. Lantern | 2. Copper Bowl | 3. Plates | 4. Card
#JCPFitnessMom | 5. Yoga Mat | 6. Tote | 7. Hair Tie  | 8. Towel
 #JCPDecorMom | 9. Basket | 10. Rug | 11. Pillow | 12. Art |
#JCPChefMom |  13. KitchenAid | 14. Eat | 15. Cucina | 16. Tray | 17. Bowls | 18. Mortar & Pestle
 #JCPTrendyMom |  19. Lace Tee | 20. Bracelet | 21. Bag | 22. Pants
Even MORE  gift ideas | JCPenney Mother’s Day Hub

This week, I’ve also joined JCPenney in tweeting little snippets of motherly advice. Being a total rookie in the mom department, it probably comes as no surprise that my quips have been of the “Don’t suction-cup the dog”, “Don’t lick the sidewalk”, and “Don’t stick potato chips in the outlets” variety. But you can use the #momisms hashtag to tweet your own, much wiser motherly gems of wisdom — and you’ll be entered to win one of several $100 gift cards JCPenney is giving away, so YOU can buy a little something for yourself!

(Pssst…a little secret? Don’t worry if you aren’t one of the winners of the #Momisms sweepstakes, because I will host a separate $100 gift card giveaway here very soon. Sign up for Oaxacaborn email updates so you won’t miss it when it goes live!)

Leave me a comment on this post letting me know which of the items above is your favorite. Since I curated the list, I can safely say….I love them all!

Disclosure of Material Relationship: I received compensation in exchange for promoting JCPenney’s #Momisms Sweepstakes/Giveaway. I personally selected all the items displayed in this curated guide, and was not required to present any specific products as gift ideas. All the opinions and experiences shared here are in my own words and are my own honest evaluation. Please be assured, I only accept sponsorship opportunities for brands I personally use and/or would recommend to close friends and family, and I will always disclose any such relationships.