I absolutely love to read.
For me, reading is life-giving. It’s something that restores my soul in a way that few other things do. I love well-written fiction that causes me to get lost in the story. I also love spiritual memoirs and the way they cause me to rethink and revision my faith.
Lately, the spiritual memoirs that have most captivated me have been those by Shauna Niequist. In 2007, Shauna wrote, “Cold Tangerines,” a collection of essays that celebrate the extraordinary moments hidden in our everyday lives.
When this book came out, I was reluctant to read it, as I was convinced that Shauna was merely riding on the coattails of her dad, Bill Hybels. But months went by and I finally picked it up. When I did, I devoured it, finding an honest, incredibly raw, emotional exploration of faith that ministered to me in a deep, deep place. In the years since then, I’ve reread “Cold Tangerines” often for encouragement, all the while eagerly awaiting the release of Shauna’s second book, “Bittersweet.”
“Bittersweet” is one of the few books that I pre-ordered from Amazon this year, enabling me to get it as soon as it was released. When it arrived in the mail, I sat down and began reading it, intending to ration it out and savor it over the course of multiple days. Instead, I found myself so captivated by this collection of essays that I couldn’t put it down.
“Bittersweet” is a collection of Shauna’s thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way. In it, Shauna shares some of the more difficult aspects of her faith journey including what it’s been like for her to grieve the loss of a pregnancy that ended in miscarriage. As with “Cold Tangerines,” “Bittersweet” is incredibly raw, honest, and beautifully written.
As I read “Bittersweet”, I laughed and I cried.
But perhaps most importantly, I found myself in the midst of nearly every one of Shauna’s essays. Because of this, her words inspired me, challenged me, and in some ways, even changed me.
One of my favorite essays from this collection is called “The Middle.” In it, Shauna describes her journey, saying
“At the beginning, you have a little arrogance, loads of buoyancy. The journey, whatever it is, looks beautiful and bright, and you are filled with resolve and silver strength, sure that whatever the future holds, you will face it with optimism and chutzpah…
The end is beautiful. You are wise, better, deeper…
But, oh, the middle. I hate the middle. The middle is the fog, the exhaustion, the loneliness, the daily battle against despair and the nagging fear that tomorrow will be just like today, only you’ll be wearier and less able to defend yourself against it. The middle is the lonely place, when you can’t find words to say how deeply empty you feel, when you try to connect but you feel like thick glass is separating you from the rest of the world, isolating and deadening everything.”
I’ve seen myself in the “middle” on countless occasions, feeling just as Shauna describes. For that reason, I found hope in her conclusion that “We’re all trying to emerge new from the pain, beautiful after the brokenness, to live, in fact, the central image of Christianity: Life after death.”
It’s really such a simple conclusion.
Yet it’s also so profound, as is much of Shauna’s writing. Perhaps this is why Shauna has quickly become one of my favorite writers. And just to clarify – she’s not just one of my favorite Christian writers. She’s one of my favorite writers.
Because Shauna’s words have spoken to me so deeply, I’ve often felt compelled to share them with others. After starting “Bittersweet”, I e-mailed one of my good friends, telling her, “I sat down today, fully intending just to take a peak at “Bittersweet” and ended up reading half the book. It’s that good. So do yourself a favor & go order it NOW!”
Friends, my advice to you is the same. Do yourself a favor and go order this book. It’s that good…
Or enter the following giveaway to win a copy of “Bittersweet”. To enter,
1.In the comments section of this post, write about one journey that you’re currently on. Are you in the beginning, middle, or end of that journey?
2.Or enter your e-mail to subscribe to this blog.
3.You have until Wednesday, November 24 at Noon CST to enter. I’ll announce the winner on Wednesday night.
- Special thanks to those who read, subscribed to this blog, or commented on this post. Holly Hyde is the luck winner of a copy of “Bittersweet”. Happy reading!