Tag Archives: Wendell Berry

How About a Staycation Where You Get to Travel Across 4 Continents? (with help from Tsh Oxenreider)

Friends!  Who in their right mind would tote THREE young children across FOUR continents, with her husband and FIVE backpacks over NINE months??? Uh, that would be Tsh Oxenreider.  Now that I’ve read her book, I feel as if I had the fabulous opportunity to accompany her from my little chair right here on our porch.

The book?  At Home in the World:  Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe.

Having enjoyed reading another one of Tsh’s books (Notes from a Blue Bike), when I discovered this one, I had to grab it.  Her little family accomplished this traveling while “world-schooling” their kids.  Their experiences are eye-opening and jaw dropping all at once. (Small detail:  their children were 8, 6, and 4 at the time.  Piece of cake, right?)

One minute you find yourself bug-eyed, the next minute you’re howling laughing. Upon some hair-raising discoveries you’ll find yourself saying, “Wow, I’m glad they did this!  Not sure I’d be so brave.” (i.e. finding a tarantula in your shower or monkeys stealing a sandal!)

We readers get to see firsthand how travel shapes and transforms this precious family of five. Chris Guillebeau said, “Tsh is a remarkable example of how to balance the rooted stability of family with the winged adventure of wanderlust.”

Toting only backpacks, the Oxenreider family hops a plane bound for China where they land twenty-nine hours later.  Upon arrival, they snap “first day of school” pics in Beijing, their three children’s blond hair fascinating the Asians. You’ll get to go on more than one tuk-tuk ride and gag over some prepackaged chicken feet in a market.

On to Hong Kong…and then Thailand where Tsh seeks out some spiritual direction.  I love her honesty and hunger to revive her faith. Amazingly, and surely God-orchestrated, Tsh is connected with a woman by the name of Nora, a spiritual director, who she meets with a number of times since they’d be in Thailand for two months.

Right away, Nora suggests the below phrase:

Precious pearls of faith are dotted throughout, many of which are revelations. God’s omnipresence will warm your soul.

The family flies to southern Thailand, strategizing to create an endless summer.  A ninety-degree Thanksgiving is what they got. On to Singapore, where it’s also ninety degrees, we learn it’s always ninety degrees there.

And did you know the Changi Airport is the best airport in the world? “Free movie theaters, swimming pools, art stations, video game portals, nature paths in outdoor gardens, world-class playgrounds, a butterfly sanctuary, and sleeping rooms.” Who needs Disney?!

After a brief visit, the Oxenreider fam is off to Australia and it’s Christmastime. They travel from Sydney, to Brisbane, to Cairns. We learn quickly Australia is “one of the world’s most expensive countries.” Interestingly, both Tsh and her husband, Kyle, have jobs where they can work from anywhere.

A huge aha moment occurred further into the chapter on Australia.  I’ve always been a fan of koala bears, thinking Qantas Airlines surely is the bomb.  I’d never realized the country is home to “5,700 different animal species, 80 percent found nowhere else in the world…Australia has more things that will kill you than anywhere else on the plant. Ten of the worlds’ deadliest snakes live here, and five of the most lethal creatures in the world reside in the northeast state of Queensland.” Packin’ your bags?

Tsh’s vivid writing brings each new element of each country to life. A favorite quote from their visit to Australia is, “The land is special here; a dance of God’s divinity with dirt. We are here to witness it.”

Red Rocks, Katajuda, Outback, Australia

John, their hiking guide, warns the children not to touch a certain plant with side effects you don’t want to read about, much less subject your children to. I’d have bailed.  You don’t want to miss this part.

Nor do you want to miss their snorkeling adventure at the Great Barrier Reef, making you want to jump in with them, even if you have to stuff yourself into a wet suit. Tsh shares, “The sky and water are monochromatic. It is a canvas of blue, textured by shadowy-small waves.”

Onward to New Zealand…from Christchurch to Queenstown. The plot thickens, when because of expenses, their next half of the visit will be spent in….get ready:  a campervan in non-stop rain. (I’d have had to stop and buy duct tape to cover my mouth.)

Another nugget we should all copy is a term Tsh teaches us upon their return to Australia where they get to housesit for friends. This friend’s parents pick them up at the airport, some fifty miles from the outskirts of Sidney where they’d be staying.  They come in not one, but two cars.  Commenting on the cost of gas, Tsh insists they at least pay them something.  But no, Pete and Bez won’t hear of it.

They go on to explain about “The Westbrook Effect” which came from an experience they had with a man named Westbrook.  Every time they came to visit, he’d pull out all the stops, going above and beyond, treating them like royalty.  They decided from then on that anytime they had guests they’d do the same. Likewise Tsh and Kyle said they’d be doing it too. Their family of five celebrates Christmas, and it’s on to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is a “pear-shaped island southeast of India.”  What transpires here is my favorite part of the journey.  (Remember the tarantula and the monkeys?  Do NOT miss this chapter!) Also keep in mind that “cobras are as plentiful as Texas squirrels.” How much sleep would you get? (You’ll also discover incredible facts about tea in Sri Lanka and coffee in Ethiopia.)

Our own Kentucky author, Wendell Berry, introduces Part Four. It includes Uganda, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Morocco.

Part Five takes us to France, Italy, Croatia, Kosovo (where Tsh and Kyle met), Turkey (where they lived with two of their three children for some time), Germany, and England. Since Europe has always been Tsh’s favorite place to visit, the stops in each of these countries are extra special, including the places where they stay, one of which is an olive oil mill!

You can easily picture the countryside in these petite villages.  Breathtaking. At one point Tsh reveals, “Passport stamps became icons for gathered wisdom.

Every single chapter (there are twenty-two!) is a wealth of information, entertaining and educating the reader who I presume will add some of these stops to their own bucket list.

Now you know what I’m going to say! Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and snag a copy of At Home in the World:  Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe. See where your definition of home is after reading this.

Bonus: Don’t miss Tsh’s blog:  The Art of Simple www.theartofsimple.net

‘Til next time!







Filed under Book Reviews

When You Hear a Dolphin Take a Breath…(Managing Your Margin: Part 4 of 4)

Parked poolside, in Naples, Florida, in January, John and I were some-kind-of-happy. We’d just received reports of snow at home and here we were in bathing suits! Armed with sunscreen, sunglasses and books, we plunked down for a moment of margin before lunch.

Since we were early, not too many people were by the pool yet. Palm trees waving overhead, I thought to myself, “It just doesn’t get much better than this.”

palm trees

We dove into our books and all was well….Pretty quickly I heard a very strange sound. Akin to an ultrasound swoosh (Which one would not normally encounter outside…), I thought, “What in the world is that?”

I listened intently again as the noise repeated itself. Looking over to John and across the pool, nothing seemed amiss. Looking over my other shoulder, out toward the bay, I spotted them. Two dolphins, playfully swimming, were a stone’s throw from our chairs!

The swooshing sound was the two of them taking a breath here and there out of their blowholes. Amazing. How did we hear them? Watch this: we were very still, all ears, and could’ve heard a pin drop.

Jumping Dolphins.

Two weeks ago we discussed at length Psalm 46:10 which says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (See: A Croissant A Day…) We discussed WHY we need to be still, to cease striving in order to manage our margin and the Sabbath.

This week we’ll address listening…because we must be still in order to listen. Mark Buchanan’s book we’ve been highlighting, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath, opens our eyes to elements of listening.

The Rest of God

Mark poses this step-on-your-toes question: “If people stop to listen to you, fill-your-name-in-the-blank, to whom are YOU stopping to listen?” Oh dear…

He adds, “Our speaking comes out of our listening. What we say comes out of what we hear. We have to be people who listen, day and night, to God.”

Author Wendell Berry (from our own state of Kentucky!) says in his poem A Purification,

I confess my sins…

That I have not been happy enough,

Considering my good luck;

Have listened to too much noise;

Have been inattentive to wonders”; (for more on wonders, please see Wander in the Wonder…)


John and I happened upon this leaf, heart-shaped no less, along a walk over the weekend. I brought it home to show you this wonder from our wandering…

And the last sentence of Wendell Berry’s poem further confesses, “Have lusted after praise.”

Mark says after the poem, “I confess my sins; I have done these things also.” To which I add, “Yessirree, me too…again and again and again.”

While we’re basking in confession (!), let’s look at another helpful Scripture: Ephesians 4:29 says we should “not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”


One more amazing verse is James 1:19 which tell us to be “slow to speak, quick to listen and slow to become angry.” Bet you’ve heard the saying that it’s no coincidence God gave us two ears and one mouth.

I am so busted on the topic of listening. Inevitably, the wheels in my brain are turning while someone is talking, telling me something, while I’m already formulating my response. Truth is, I’m only half-listening. Anyone else do this???

Businessman Multitasking

Mark Buchanan diagnoses this as a control issue. (This just keeps getting better, doesn’t it??!!!) He claims he meddles in too many things. (One-two punch!)

He says, “Part of Jesus’ regimen for me…is holding my tongue.  So I hold my tongue and realize how the world hums right along without my commentary on it.”

Mark adds, “There is a deeper lesson here. God is teaching me quietness of heart…

Plate, Fork, Knife And Red Heart

Quietness allows room for God to speak or to be silent.

Both are gifts.

Cropped view image of a woman holding three colourful Christmas

Quietness stops crowding the Holy Spirit, elbowing aside God’s gentle presence.

The end of striving makes room for dwelling.”

Proverbs 1:5a adds a benefit to listening: “Let the wise listen and add to their learning.”

As we wrap up our time on margin and The Sabbath, let’s look at the Ten Commandments. They are found in Exodus Chapter 20. The fourth commandment, all about Sabbath, begins with a frequently used word in the Bible: Remember…

Exodus 20:8 says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in yourtowns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

It’s my prayer we may all be more conscience of managing our margin which will hopefully translate into observing the Sabbath. Remember we talked about how margin helps your health and well-being? (See Come With Me to France…Part 1 of 4)

I pray we may remember to:

Be still,


Wander with wonder …

as God so desires for us.


One last shot of a picture of margin…the beach! This was taken in Fort Lauderdale, FL this past March. Enjoy…

I’ve only shared a handful of a multitude of helpful thoughts by Mark Buchanan in his beautiful book, The Rest of God. I recommend you perhaps have some moments of margin reading a chapter here and there in his book. You will be blessed!

If you’d like more information on margin, I wrote another series about beating busyness, which dealt a great deal about margin last year. Here are the links:

Get Over the Guilt: Grab a Nap!

Help! My Calendar’s Controlling Me!

But, I Don’t Have time to Pray!

But I Don’t Have Time for a Bible Study!

Remember, all this is a process, not a quick fix.

Do not be discouraged.

Please be enthused to challenge yourself to find the time to manage your margin.

‘Til next time!


Filed under Book Reviews, Margin, Travel