Tsh Oxenreider grew up in Austin, Texas, in a nondenominational Christian church. Hers was a typical experience for a Christian kid in the 1990s: church on Sunday, youth group, and summer camp. It also meant trips overseas to serve.
Serving internationally became Oxenreider’s passion. She was in Russia 18 months after the wall fell. Later, she served in Kosovo, which is also where she met her husband, Kyle. The couple planned an international life together, and a few years later, landed in Turkey. They enjoyed getting to know the culture, food, and people.
Then, the family’s international dream came to a sudden end when one of their children required medical care. When it became clear that they would have to stay in the United States, they were devastated.
“We realized that part of our mourning was for the death of a dream… that of raising our kids in a cross-cultural environment, so they would have a healthy worldview on how the rest of the world works,” Oxenreider recalled.
Indeed, the international dream was over… at least for the time being.
After the birth of their third child, though, the couple began to dream again. “We decided to have this ambitious dream that, maybe in five years, we’d spend a year traveling around the world,” she remembered. “We wanted to see if we could keep that side of us alive—the one where we are able to interact cross-culturally and bring our kids along.”
Four years later, they knew the time had come: “Everyone was potty trained and could carry their own backpacks,” Oxenreider shared. She wondered if her young children would remember much of the trip, but it turns out she need not have worried. Their shared experiences serve as a base for larger conversations as the children get older, and the global perspective she strived for has been planted in them.
It was on this trip that Oxenreider read St. Benedict’s The Rule. Benedict was a sixth-century Christian monk whose Rule became the standard for monastic communities. Initially, Oxenreider read it out of a desire to find a connection to church history. But upon finishing it, her desire shifted—she longed to experience better rhythms in her life.
She read about the importance of living rhythmically with the seasons. Prior to this, they stayed mostly in warm-weather locations, but now, the absence of seasons left her cold.
As she reflected on this concept, Oxenreider began to understand the church calendar, as well. The manual for spiritual seasons that Christians have used for centuries suddenly attracted her in a way it never had before.
“The liturgical calendar became this really interesting way to mark time outside the here and now. It connected me to the past, to our future, and to the Kingdom to which we are loyal,” she reflected.
“Living according to the liturgical calendar is a gift,” she said. “It’s a gift for marking time and rhythms that we’re hardwired for, because God made us that way… in a way that feels lifegiving instead of burdensome.”
Oxenreider’s current work shares the joy she found in living according to established rhythms.
Her latest book, Bitter and Sweet: A Journey Into Easter, is a devotional designed to guide readers into a richer experience of Lent and its culmination on Easter Day. Oxenreider’s motivation to write it was to help those who misunderstand Lent experience it in a new way.
“Lent is not classically ‘fun,’” she said with a chuckle. “When we think of Lent, it feels like a dirge. It literally starts on Ash Wednesday, when there’s a smudge marked on you, and a priest reminds you that your life is not long, and you’re going to die.”
But there is more to Lenten practice than ashes and eating fish on Friday. “Lent is fasting, prayer, and almsgiving,” Oxenreider explained. “Even fasting is balanced with days of ‘mini-feasts’ on Sunday. It’s a tiny taste of Easter as we lead up to it.
“While there’s the bitterness of Lent in terms of recognizing how frail we are as humans—that we are made of mortal stuff and are going to die—that’s not all there is,” she added. “Lent has an ‘in-betweenness.’ While things are hard, there is a reason for the hard, and there’s hope in the hard.”
Lent reminds practitioners that God’s promise to set the world right has started, but it is not yet fulfilled. It allows Christians to at once mourn suffering and evil and cling to hope that God will come through.
“Lent is a time-tested practice that I can join alongside millions of other Christians around the world, as well as those who have gone before me,” Oxenreider concluded.
Oxenreider started podcasting in 2011 and was quite successful, landing on a big network. Then, her show about minimalism started to feel out of balance with network demands for more downloads, ads, and productivity. She decided it was time to retire it.
In her final series, her last guest was friend Seth Haines. The Oxenreider and Haines families had traveled together and discovered a shared worldview, including a commitment to simplicity as a spiritual practice. They clicked so well that a new show was born, A Drink With a Friend. On it, Oxenreider and Haines cover “living sacramentally, usually over drinks.”
“I’d rather have a really good, independent, simple show over a subpar, trying-to-be-well-polished show that was bleeding money,” Oxenreider reflected.
Check out A Drink With a Friend, and join the conversation about “faith, books, music, films, family, nature, and other signs of the divine.”
February 2022 Issue