POETRY & WORDS :: On the Epiphany, Dirty Bathrooms, and Hallowed Ground


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I’m in her bathroom, sighing at the wasted toothpaste carelessly squeezed from the sticky tube,  the splashed water, the dozen unclipped plastic barrettes dropped near the container, the towel on the floor. I don’t see the shaft of light, the breakthrough, the miracle. I only see the stony ground.

But from the living room, I hear her singing the catechism. Her voice soars, light, innocent, and the winged notes swirl and pierce into my blindness, my preoccupation, my heart complaining though manna is raining all around.

I too often see only wilderness with my blinded eyes, but these rust-colored tiles and this lumpy berber — this can be hallowed ground.

The light does not require a perfect vessel in order to shine bright.

I fold the towel over the rack and wipe off the faucet and bend down closer to the earth and she sings, “Can anyone hide in secret places / so that I cannot see him? / Do not I fill heaven and earth / declares the Lord?”

Here, earth. He fills this place.

This can be hallowed ground.

I stoop to retrieve the dropped towel.

She is still singing, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place / He sees their every step / His eyes are on the way of man.”

And I lower my eyes. My heart takes it all in. He is already here. He is waiting, standing next to me always, just patiently waiting for me to turn my eyes to Him and sing His truth.

How often do we, in our self-centered, blind-mole ways,  invite God into our presence, when the opposite should be true? Our lives would be transformed if we stopped repeating by rote — “Lord, be present here” — and turned around and looked up and stretched out hands to the waiting Savior and said, “Lord, open our eyes to your constant presence.” It’s not “Lord, lead us”, as much as it should be “Lord, open our eyes to your leading.”

Make us willing to be led, for You are always willing to lead.

I turn off the bathroom light, ignoring how sticky it is. I think of how we are to be like children if we are to enter His kingdom. (“Where is His kingdom?” she asked me yesterday. “Here and heaven, right, mumma?”) I walk past the last vestiges of Christmas — a strand of lights I’m not yet ready to put away — and I think of how poetess Luci Shaw is always reminding us that infancy was only the beginning of incarnation. We celebrate the infancy with pomp and circumstance, forgetting that it leads to Good Friday, and we mourn Good Friday forgetting that it leads us to the Resurrection.

Redemption does not end at the manger, thank God. The earth-rending story of redemption — begun long before — was brought into view there, set into motion, changing everything forever.

Epiphany reminds us of that. Epiphany, the dramatic appearance. The manifestation. The precursor to the second glorious appearing, which would be rendered powerless without the first. Yet like the travelers on the road to Emmaus, we miss it sometimes. He is in our midst, resurrected, incarnate, hands outstretched, and we look past Him.

Epiphany reminds us that God is flesh. God with us. God is among us. God appears as is His Son, born to be king, born to be pierced, born to die. The Man Jesus acquainted with grief, no stranger to sorrow, rejected by so many. Born to be Light Eternal not just for the Jewish people in that Middle Eastern town, but to be my Redeemer, my Light Eternal too.

And then Epiphany reminds me, too, that he grew.  He stood in the river and spoke to John.  He showed up at Cana, and how could they forget that?  Those who walked shoulder to shoulder with Him, those whose sandals were streaked with the same dust and the same splashes from the River Jordan, they missed Him too. Even when God sent a dove, opened the heavens, and said “Look! Open your eyes. It’s HIM. You’ve been waiting. This one here. He’s the one. Don’t miss Him” — even then, some still missed Him.

And we miss Him, over and over and over and over again. Like the wanderers in the wilderness, like the once-rescued, twice-forgetful, like the disciples, we are stumped and we don’t know where He is and we ask Him —

“But Jesus! Did we ever see You?”

And He says, “When your world was rocking and you were sure you’d drown, I was asleep, right near you, in the very same boat on the very same sea.

And it was I, underneath that dove, in the river, when you were craning your neck elsewhere, searching for Messiah.

It’s Me every time you read, Word-made-Man.

It was Me at Emmaus.

It was Me in the other room, waiting to take your weary burdens, when you were making yourself sick with stress over preparations.

It is Me in the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the fatherless, the ones with no voice, and the ones with a voice to which you’ve turned a deaf ear.

It was Me, this morning, in your living room, when you were grumbling about the dirty bathroom and your daughter was singing, head tilted toward Me, face up against the veil, in my presence, kneeling on holy ground.

It was Me.

I am.”

And I put away my cleaning rags, and lay down my pride, and walk into the living room, and ask that I, too, might see.

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SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS :: Jul, Lagerhaus Style


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Like GRANIT, the Swedish retailer I posted about earlier this season, this next retailer hails from Sverige, too. Lagerhaus has a lovely line of home goods — and their Jul collection is just so pretty! I’d leave out the gold-dipped mugs all year round — and the numbered tags make creating a set of your own weekly advent candles so, so easy.

Scandinavian Christmas styled by Lagerhaus Sweden

Scandinavian Christmas styled by Lagerhaus Sweden

Scandinavian Christmas styled by Lagerhaus Sweden

Scandinavian Christmas styled by Lagerhaus Sweden

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Gold mug // mugg guld 

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Christmas matches // jul tändstickor

Chocolate / Chokladkaka

Chocolate / Chokladkaka

Chocolate advent calendar / Chokladkalender

Chocolate advent calendar / Chokladkalender

Numbers for each week of Advent / Nummerbrickor

Numbers for each week of Advent / Nummerbrickor

Want more tidings of jul cheer? Browse the entire Scandinavian Christmas seriees on Oaxacaborn.com, or see more from Lagerhaus’ Christmas collection.

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 

Shop online at livieandluca.com, or follow @LivieAndLuca on Instagram or on Facebook.

Disclosure of Material Relationship: I received a pair of shoes from Livie & Luca in exchange for publishing this post. 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.

SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS :: Fika


First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Fika is essential. How else could you get through the daily slump, the brick wall, the sleepies, if not for elevensies, fika, coffee with sweets?

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Fika London, that most…design-y…of all coffee houses, gets it right with this one. (Who wants to be a dull horse?)

FIKA London, kannelbullens on a Donna Wilson plate with glass of milkAnd okay, they kinda nailed it with this one, too. Swedish kannelbullen, er, cinnamon buns, anyone?

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Fika is never consumed on the run. It’s about stopping to breathe, and recharge. [image via the Kitchn]

97aaf1d2ea96a693e74e4eca28a825a2Swedish coffee isn’t served strong, but light and thin, so you can keep on pouring refills all [long, dark] afternoon long. (image via DimeStoreVintage on Etsy)

Just don’t add egg to mine, thanks ;))

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And it isn’t just coffee alone. It’s coffee + sweets. Maybe you’ll have some spiced coffee with tiny ginger stars? (Image by Herz Allerliebst, via Nadine on Flickr)

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Or maybe coffee in the prettiest enamelware (via Lagerhaus.se), and more gingerbread stars.

fika_red_enamelwareMore kannelbullen — and more enamelware, which to me is so quintessentially a part of the whole fika experience. (Image via What’s for Lunch, Honey?; Swedish kannelbullen recipe via Craft and Creativity.)

Even though it’s fast approaching the busiest time of the year, how did YOU pause for fika today?

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[image via The Faux Martha; Salted Nutella Latte]

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]