By Avery Ballmann | Staff Writer
Author Tsh Oxenreider recently wrote a devotional book, “Bitter & Sweet: A Journey Into Easter,” to help guide experienced Lent participators and ones who are just starting out. Oxenreider will discuss her new book through an interview and book signing at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Fabled Bookshop & Cafe.
As the season of Lent begins, Christians all over the world are debating what food, apps, habits or items they should surrender for the 40 day fast. Some Christians have never participated in Lent because it is assumed that only Catholics practice this event.
Oxenreider used to have this same belief until she began studying the liturgical calendar while living in Turkey in 2006, and discovered that Lent is one of the oldest practices in the church.
“Bitter & Sweet’s” name is no coincidence, Oxenreider said. She specifically chose this title to tie into the meaning of Easter.
“There’s a certain bitterness that comes from the idea of living in a finite world that is full of things that entangle us and are frustrating, all the way to the goodness of Easter where we’re remembering that this life is not all there is,” Oxenreider said.
The big spoiler alert for Lent is that no one will do it perfectly, because humans are naturally flawed. Oxenreider said she acknowledges this struggle by lining out five questions in her book that help the reader decide what they should give up.
The questions were formulated during Oxenreider’s personal experience of Lent. They include what have you been overly dependent on, which appetite has a unique grip on your body and soul, what would be genuinely challenging, what would be truly freeing to leave behind and what do you sense God leading you to.
“We fast in order to make room for something better,” Oxenreider said. “It’s a way to hear for God more clearly.”
Oxenreider said she has narrowed down what she will give up for Lent, but has not decided fully yet. It will either be no sitting while she writes or only a 20-piece wardrobe down to the shoes.
Oxenreider’s friend and confirmation sponsor Haley Stewart will be conducting the interview at Fabled. They will be answering questions from the audience over the book, liturgical calendar and questions in general about Lent.
“I’m so excited about her new book, about the season of Lent and thrilled to be joining her for this event,” Stewart said. “I know her wisdom about this holy season [is] designed to draw us closer to Jesus and prepare us to celebrate the Resurrection is going to impact so many people.”
Stewart is an author and currently works as a managing editor for Word on Fire Spark, publishing books specifically to young readers.
Oxenreider and Stewart began as online friends and blossomed into a personal friendship. Back in 2019 Fabled hosted Oxenreider and Stewart for Oxenreider’s book “Shadow & Light: A Journey Into Advent.”
“I am such a fan of small independent-run bookshops,” Oxenreider said. “They are our beacons of literacy in our ever digitized world.”
Fabled is an indie bookstore co-owned by Alison Frenzel. Having events such as Oxenredier’s, Frenzel said, is important so they are able to “promote books that interest the community.”
“This book signing will be the second we’ve hosted for Tsh, as she is a beloved author in the Waco community,” Frenzel said. “Hosting authors for signings at Fabled aligns with our store value of inviting engaging conversations and celebrating the transformative impact of books.”
Since Waco is home to Baylor, some of their books are targeted to the Christian population. “Bitter & Sweet” is Oxenreider’s fifth published book, but she is now working on fiction.
“There is not a way to separate your regular life from faith because your faith forms your world view, what you find beautiful and what your definition of good is,” Oxenreider said. “There is no way to draw a clear line so for me, it’s infused in everything I do, but it does not necessarily mean we’re talking about religion all the time.”
Oxenreider writes on several different platforms, such as her weekly newsletter and books. She also tells stories on her weekly podcast, “A Drink with a Friend.” Oxenreider’s event is free and open to the public.
“At the heart of everything, I’m story driven,” Oxenreider said. “The idea of God leading us in life through one big story and that is really what we all long for.”