When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.
This post has been lurking in the wings for quite awhile. Day after day, it stares at me from the recent drafts area, taunting me to finish writing. You know those moments where you have so much to say and just don’t quite know how to say it? This is one of them. I still don’t know that I’ll do any of it justice, but since I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Shauna Niequist speak tonight, I figured it would be no better time than now to finally finish my thoughts on her second book, Bittersweet.
If I’m being honest, I’m probably a bit biased about this book. Shauna’s husband, Aaron, used to be the worship leader at my church. The amount of talent in this couple is ridiculous. Seriously. But, more than that, Shauna’s first book, Cold Tangerines, feeds my soul. There is something so raw and honest in her words that speaks to something deep inside me. I have been anxiously awaiting her second book since, well, the day I finished the first.
Much like her first book, Bittersweet is a collection of short narrative essays about Shauna’s life. She shares stories of, as the subtitle aptly puts it “change, grace, and learning the hard way”. While a lot of the experiences she shares are things that I personally can’t relate to, I think in the grand scheme of life, we all can. While I have never experienced the heartbreak of a miscarriage, some of my family members have. Beyond that, I may not personally understand that loss, but I know how tough it is to lose someone you love. One friend drowned in Lake Michigan seven years ago and his memory still is with me.
Although there are many chapters that did touch me, one I loved is twenty-five where Shauna shares her advice for those around that same age. I’m only two years past that age and so much of it spoke so much to where I feel I’m at in my own life.
This is the thing: when you start to hit twenty-eight or thirty, everything starts to divide, and you can see very clearly two kinds of people: on one side, people who have used their twenties to learn and grow, to find God and themselves and their deep dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real life adults.
When I look back on my twenties, that is the person I want to know I have become. While I think every age has the potential for so much growth, I deeply believe this is one of the most crucial. Perhaps I say that just because it is where I’m at right now. In ten years, it’s quite possible I’ll say the same thing about mid-thirties. But, for where I’m at, in this very moment, I want to be someone who finds the truest parts of myself, who figures out the person I want to become, and who takes the first steps to make that person more than just a vision of what could be.
Or, there’s another chapter called things i don’t do, all about “figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about”. Right now, I think that goes hand in hand with finding myself. What are the things that make me come alive?
Bittersweet is a collection of personal stories, some so heart wrenchingly personal and true, it feels like you’re listening to Shauna share her heart over a cup of coffee or like you’re the closest of friends. It is stories about hard, challenging, painful seasons we all go through. But, through those seasons, there is hope and there is grace, and for me, Bittersweet was a true reminder that it is both the bad and the good that make life what it is, but even more so, that make us who we are.
If you want to be filled with hope, laugh, cry, maybe even get a bit angry reading stories written by a woman who feels like she could be your friend, then go read Shauna’s book. Even if you don’t want that, go read it anyways because I think you won’t regret it. Then, go get her other book and read that. Personally, I believe it’s all best enjoyed curled up in your favorite corner chair with a hot cup of coffee and a scone and a warm blanket.
Thanks, Shauna, for sharing your heart and life through your words. But, more than that, thank you for giving me stories and words and advice that have helped me to grow and be challenged as I journey through life.