POETRY & WORDS :: And I’ll Sing in the Land of my Sojourn

And I'll Sing in the Land of My Sojourn by Gina Munsey on Oaxacaborn, with quotes by Rich Mullins and Frederick BuechnerIt’s quiet, at least as quiet as an afternoon can be on the second floor of an apartment building, perched at the edge, where the gully dips down into rain-soaked grass and back up again to meet the ragged blacktop edge just before the toll booth.  This little corner of earth where residential and interstate meet is not a destination or a landmark, but I think Rich Mullins would have sung about it [1].

I think he’d have seen the gold in the way the sun fights for light here, like a farmer sees hope and life in the tiniest green shoot.

Maybe he’d have heard a melody in the rumble of the trucks which coast and pull their rattling brake just before the bend in the road, like he did when he sang “And the coal trucks come a-runnin’  / With their bellies full of coal  / And their big wheels a-hummin’  / Down this road that lies open like the soul of a woman…” [2]

He saw beauty, somehow, where others only saw the tired corners, where others only saw the afternoon traffic jams and the faded street signs and the plodding of sojourners down the cracked and uneven sidewalks. When you know everything around you lies in shadow, waiting for the great awakening, when you know we’re all living just on the very cusp of seeing clearly and not through a glass dimly, well, then, there’s beauty in everything broken. Because as soon as that Star shown down into the stable and as soon as He was born, well, redemption was set in motion and that was “When the old world started dying / And the new world started coming on”. [3]

There have been sojourners as long as there has been time itself, mendicants wandering [4] yet wandering with purpose, through the dredges that are made holy with that same purpose. Sojourning is different than drudgery. Drudgery is repetition without hope on a horizontal plane. But sojourning! Ah, sojourning takes the repetition in which drudgery despairs, and views it with eyes opened by the God of Wonder Himself.

“If you think you are seeing the same show all over again seven times a week,” Frederick Buechner writes [5], “you’re crazy. Every morning you wake up to something that in all eternity never was before and never will be again. And the you that wakes up was never the same before and will never be the same again.”

And so, in the midst of the traffic chorus outside my window, and the unwashed laundry and  the unanswered emails, in the midst of confronting evil and doubt, in the midst of working long into the night and consoling a child’s fever and answering unspoken fears, in between the lost moments of sleep and the sunrises awash with new mercies and endless grace, in the arms of everlasting love, “I’ll sing my song / and I’ll sing my song / in the land of my sojourn.”[6]

POETRY & WORDS :: A History of Weather

Life in Photos :: Sonlight Science A :: Biology, Botany and Physics :: Homeschooling on the Oaxacaborn blog

Life in Photos :: Sonlight Science A :: Biology, Botany and Physics :: Homeschooling on the Oaxacaborn blog

Life in Photos :: Sonlight Science A :: Biology, Botany and Physics :: Homeschooling on the Oaxacaborn blog

Life in Photos :: Sonlight Science A :: Biology, Botany and Physics :: Homeschooling on the Oaxacaborn blog

We spend the mornings together, side by side, she a constant inquisitive spirit, eager, joyful, full of wonder. We sit at the table together, the sun casting shadows through the curtains and across the stacks of books. Sometimes she slowly exclaims “Wow!” and sometimes she shrieks “Tell me more about it!” But always she wants to know more.

I read, she listens. She reads, I listen.

Voyages and discoveries,  light and darkness.

We turn the pages together. We marvel at the lines in the paintings of the masters together.  We look up into the vast distance of the galaxies together.  We talk of good and evil. We talk of beauty. She asks for more about Moses, more about Joshua, more about Sarah, more about these men and women who walked before. Her voice recites truths, her fingers are just beginning to dance across the piano keys, her little self is flying through books like there is no end to adventure.

Because there is no end to adventure.

Life in Photos :: Sonlight Core A :: An Intro to World Cultures :: Ancient Romans :: Homeschooling on the Oaxacaborn blog


Life in Photos :: Sonlight Science A :: Biology, Botany and Physics :: Homeschooling on the Oaxacaborn blog


LIFE IN PHOTOS :: Perfect[ly Imperfect]


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.


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


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


“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

POETRY & WORDS :: When She Asks You What Mercy Means


“Do you love Bible?” She looks up at me with those big eyes of hers. “And does Papa love Bible too? Because I love it. So much.” It’s spontaneous, this declaration of hers. She keeps talking, looking up at me as she pushes her unruly honey-colored hair out of her face. “Where’s God now?” “What is a soul?” “What is mercy? Read more Bible, mumma.”

We just returned from seeing Fernando Ortega in concert, and she is humming the songs as she asks me these questions. “Why,” she asks earnestly, “Why did dat man say dat song about da fire of angels is sad? Why is it sad, mumma?”

At three, her tender heart knows nothing of the aching in one’s soul. “It is sad, baby, but it’s beautiful too, though, isn’t it, that song?” I can feel the tears begin to burn. How can I untangle these questions, when I don’t understand why people slip away and leave behind the empty foothills, burning in the light? How can I explain to a three year-old the concept of mercy, when I still can’t wrap my head around the marvel of it all? And what is this intangible thing inside me, this soul of mine?

She stands in front of me, eagerly, waiting for answers.


I don’t feel like I can reduce these mysteries to a sentence.  I’m worried I’ll go wrong somehow. But I know Jesus told us to learn what mercy means [1]. And I know love and mercy is how everything — all of this, this big, overgrown mess of earth and humanity — is made whole. Death is swallowed up[2], and the old system of law is fulfilled [3, 4].

So I tell her what I know. I tell her about His love.

My words aren’t perfect, but it doesn’t matter.

“We must try to speak of His love. All Christians have tried but none has ever done it very well. I can no more do justice to that awesome and wonder-filled theme than a child can grasp a star. Still by reaching toward the star the child may call attention to it and even indicate the direction one must look to see it. So as I stretch my heart toward the high shining love of God someone who has not before known about it may be encouraged to look up and have hope.” -A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy

And when it comes right down to it, it’s that high shining love and mercy He crowns us with [5], not rules. And so I point her to that great Love, toward Him, and I take her hand as we run toward the rain.

“…[she] grew up in that Florida rain
They were carried along like leaves on a river of faith
They’d float
All the way home…
And they walked in the rain of His mercy
Let it soak them down to the bone
And they splashed in its puddles
And danced in its streams as they’d go
And, oh, they walked in the rain of His mercy
All the way home….”
Andrew Peterson, All the Way Home


INSPIRATION :: Mary Oliver on Writing

“I want to write something so simply about love or about pain that even as you are reading you feel it and as you read you keep feeling it and though it be my story it will be common, though it be singular it will be known to you so that by the end you will think— no, you will realize— that it was all the while yourself arranging the words, that it was all the time words that you yourself, out of your heart had been saying.”

Mary Oliver, that beautiful poet soul, expresses exactly how I feel about the words I weave. I want to give wings to the secret voice you, the reader, cannot — or are unable to — utter. I want to weave these threads together so you can hear your unspoken words in mine.

I want to write something so simply about love or about pain that even as you are reading you feel it and as you read you keep feeling it and though it be my story it will be common, though it be singular it will be known to you so that by the end you will think —- no, you will realize -— that it was all the while yourself arranging the words, that it was all the time words that you yourself, out of your heart had been saying.” -Mary Oliver

POETRY & WORDS :: We were created to know beauty beyond what our senses can take in


We see it in the burst of green which sprouts up from a thick, decaying layer of broken leaves in the spring. It fills our hearts the way of vase of daffodils fills a room, like a smile brightening every line of the face of the one you love after a long, long absence.

This is beauty.

And mountains and sunsets and the magnetic tide, beautiful songs and lilting poetry, and laughter, clear like bells; these are beauty. These things lift our spirits. They buoy us; they bring happiness. We’re created to see this, to breathe this, to be enveloped in this.

We were created to know beauty beyond what our senses can take in.

And all of this earthly beauty — a fire-tinged sky, the quiet breathing of a sleeping child,  velvet buds on a tangled vine — all this great, overwhelming, everywhere beauty is reflection of the One, the author of good, the divine Creator of all things bright and beautiful.

INSPIRATION :: “Every day do something that won’t compute”

Jesus Storybook Bible

“So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. …

Ask the questions that have no answers. …

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

…Practice resurrection.”
-Wendell Berry

POETRY & WORDS :: I sit, wrapped in my thoughts moreso than anything

Poetry on Oaxacaborn - I sit, wrapped in my thoughts moreso than anything
in the blanket of red
and green
that only sees use on those
rare days when
the temperatures deign to lower
themselves to us,
i sit.

i sit,
wrapped in my thoughts
moreso than anything;
wrapped in the memories
of thanksgivings past
of home and laughter
of tall pines and
of turkey leftovers
always finding their way
into a tortilla
on a bed of

i ate my leftovers with black beans
and kimchi
and laughed.
has changed.

i sit,
in the glow of tiny lights,
next to a toy elephant and
three dozen crayons
and a hula hoop.

i sit,
wrapped in the sound of endless
automobile engines, humming
through the exit ramp
like messengers
they will not sleep —

but i will,
wrapped in words
and thoughts
and near-silence,
enveloped in this warmth
and this home
and this hope
and this light,
in this old blanket of red
and of green.

“Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.”
-Wendell Berry

LIFE IN PHOTOS :: But now I am mostly at the window watching the late afternoon light…

1000px - Barefoot on a wooden chair, Late Summer

1000 px- Looking out the window in late summer

“…You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light…”

-an excerpt from Billy Collins’ On Turning Ten

POETRY & WORDS :: There are no rules in poetry except

There are no rules in poetry except

Poetry has no rules, it has been said.
I say, rules exist. They lie
in how poetry should be read.

For instance, one cannot
read Octavio Paz
without first pausing
to sink into a faded velvet chair
of some bookstore
now out of mode and forgotten

And when
one reads the words of Billy
Collins it can only be
at a kitchen table
after dark
by the light of a single flame.

Shakespeare’s for the school halls, read
by one who thinks he knows
and Dickinson’s for the garden
with a single yellow rose.

Frenzied prose is for the birds,
scattered in the mist of ancient cobblestone
a panicked pandemonium set off
by the toss of a head
or sleight of hand.

But the poem, in all its outdated ink
remains unruffled
and to think

you nearly passed it by.

POETRY & WORDS :: I no longer take fresh air for granted

Curtains, bunting, and lanterns in the corner of Aveline's room

One doesn’t open the windows, often, here, in this place where the air holds a strange combination of constant heat and dampness.

Most times there’s barely a difference in the numbers telling us the temperature and the percentage of water in the air.

Most times the air outside smells thick and old, as if it hasn’t moved in hundreds of years; it’s clinging to the trunks of trees, inching down the crevices in the sidewalk, barely keeping itself afloat, pouring itself into your lungs.

Inside, we empty the dehumidifier, over and over and over again.

But then, sometimes, ever so rarely, there comes a day when the dampness leaves momentarily and the humidity dips down, just a tease, just for a handful of hours. And I run to fling open all the windows, and shake out the blankets and rugs, and turn up the music and laugh and breath it all in and think of Pablo Neruda, who said

“Walking down a path
I met the air,
saluted it and said
‘It makes me happy
that for once
you left your transparency,
let’s talk.’
He tirelessly
danced, moved leaves,
beat the dust
from my soles
with his laughter…
the day is coming
when we will liberate
the light and the water,
earth and men,
and all will be
for all, as you are.
For this, for now,
be careful!
And come with me,
much remains
that dances and sings,
let’s go
the length of the sea,
to the height of the mountains,
let’s go
where the new spring
is flowering
and in one gust of wind
and song
we’ll share the flowers,
the scent, the fruit,
the air
of tomorrow.”

And I am happy, with this one short gust of fresh wind.

POETRY & WORDS :: The Glass, Dimly, as We Wait for Christmas Like Children

Reaching and Waiting, a Poem about Christmas and the Second Coming

Here, in the humid fog
(which, I imagine, might not be much
unlike The Night
in which the angel appeared)
here in the humid fog
the only snow looks like
paper scraps and
shaving cream. Bubbles and
these circles of vinyl we
press to the windowpanes
with hearts of hope
as though we were two again
or five or nine or eighty-four
as though we pressed up our noses
to the glass
waiting for papa to come home
or waiting for Christmas time
or waiting for snow.

But while we are grown
and while we are tall
and while we can reach the upper shelves, now —
we are still children.
We are still waiting for Papa,
every day,
and this window is a glass, dimly, and
we see glimmers of celestial light
inside claypots and
outside trimmed oil lamps, and
in cups of cold water, given.

Christmas day was the first time He came and
so now through the centuries since
we press our noses to the glass
Christmas Day, Round Two
(in which we will all be made wholecompleteperfected

and the sky will light up.)

These are tidings
of the greatest joy.

A bit later, He told us this, so that His
joy might be in us, and
our joy might be full.

So now let’s all press our noses
to the glass
and look heavenward
and reach high
and hope

and rejoice.

MY LIFE IN PHOTOS :: “I woke up this morning, as the blues singers like to boast…”

Toddler in fluorescent pink dress sitting in a mini IKEA Poang chair“I woke up this morning,
as the blues singers like to boast….
Everything seemed more life-size than usual.
Light in the shape of windows
hung on the walls next to the paintings
of birds and horses, flowers and fish.
…I closed the door to that room
and stood for a moment in the kitchen,
taking in the silvery toaster, the bowl of lemons,
and the white cat, looking as if
he had just finished his autobiography.”
-Billy Collins, from the poem “The Literary Life”

WRITING & WORDS :: I don’t have to be able to see clearly for it to be beautiful

She was desperate to look outside. She pulled at the shades, tangled herself in the curtains, and whined, impatiently dancing on her tiptoes.

I understood. I understand.

I swept the curtains aside and tied the gauzy fabric into a loose knot. Tugging the braided cord downward, we watched as the slats slid upward, pouring sunshine over us.

She was instantly silent, instantly still.

She rested her fingertips on the wooden sill, the wooden sill which has seen more tenants than just us. It’s buried in coat after coat of sticky white paint, and not all of them had been evenly applied. She doesn’t notice this.
Toddler looking out of apartment window - Black and white photo via Oaxacaborn dot comShe is still, transfixed, mesmerized by what’s beyond those two panes of glass.

For a moment I feel sorry for her. She looks at the grass and barely knows it beyond something that’s labeled “Keep Off”, “Pesticides Applied mm/dd/yy”, “Clean up After Your Pet”.

But this does not trouble her. She is quiet and calm, lost in her own little world of thoughts.

In this moment, I feel that her world is much deeper than I can begin to imagine.

She places her small hand on my arm, and my precarious camera-toting, nearly-kneeling balance is lost. She pats my arm reassuringly, and looks up at me from her squatting position.

I click the camera button, and glance at the screen.Toddler in Black and White - via Oaxacaborn dot comYou can’t really see her face clearly.

And then it hits me. That’s ok. I don’t have to be able to see clearly for it to be beautiful. I don’t have to have a perfect exposure, a perfect view.

I just have to be here — here in this quiet moment, kneeling in front of the low window with my daughter, quietly watching the trees and the sky, washed in His redemptive Grace and Peace. Here in gratitude, here in thankfulness, here in the kind of perfection that I can’t create, but can receive, with arms open wide and eyes fixed on my  great and wonderful God.

My arms of full of blessings; my heart is full of peace.

“So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures. … In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.” -James 1:17+, the Message version