Shauna Niequist is my new favorite author. Alright, to be fair, in my life that’s a not a very bold statement; I have a lot of favorite authors: Donald Miller, Lauren Winner, Rachel Held Evans, and now Shauna Niequist. I loves these authors, they’re my favorites, because they’re who they are on paper. They’re people with authentic hurts and authentic joys who share their experiences in their books, well, authentically. They’re real people who aren’t afraid to be real in print. I aspire to be one of these people, the kind of person who from the first sentences of their work is saying to you who read it, “This is the story God and I are writing together, and I just want to share it with you. Because I think maybe it’ll help you share your own story. And I think God’s pleased by this exchange.”
I think really good books are written from this place, this want to share an honest story. I think that books like that change lives. Or if they don’t change lives, at least they cause us to think differently about our own lives and the stories our lives are telling.
Shauna Niequist’s book, “Cold Tangerines,” is changing my life. Its met me in a season of great transition, and it’s causing me to think differently. Sidenote, I also think that’s the mark of a really good book, that it makes you think differently. How this particular book is making me think differently, though, is that it’s inspiring me to live in the moment. Shauna (who I just can’t call “Niequist,” as I would ordinarily address an author, because her story has now had too much of an impact on my own) challenges her readers to celebrate. Essay by essay, she shares the significant moments that she’s experienced with significant people in her life, and by sharing these moments she’s encouraging readers to challenge themselves to see God at work in those moments, to see Him in the vibrant red of a tree as it changes colors in the Fall, or to see His grace working in the friends we interact with and community we create, or to see His redemptive nature in the action of turning left-over turkey bones into soup. At least, that’s what she’s encouraged me to do. And she’s encouraged me to do it right now. In this very moment.
Today is Memorial Day, and I am where I have been for many Memorial Days, at my oldest friend’s house with her family, who is my family too now, eating burgers and hot dogs and watermelon and corn. To prepare for this event, this morning my oldest friend, Beth, and I ran out to the grocery store for her mom, and that’s an errand we don’t get to run together anymore because Beth lives in Scotland and isn’t usually around to run to ShopRite with me. And in any other day I would hate this errand because I hate the grocery store. I hate being banged into with shopping carts, and getting stuck behind that Extreme Couponer who has a wallet full of what she’s clipped from the newspaper that will save her 48 cents on canned peas, which I also hate. But this morning, I loved going to the grocery store. Okay, to be fair again, I still hated that we were going to the grocery store, but I loved that I got to steal an hour of solo-time with Beth. I loved that we laughed on the way to the store about our friends having babies and the way this weirds me out. I loved that we fought like the sisters 15 years of friendship has made us because I thought she was taking way too long picking out an onion. And I loved that when I was talking to her about what God and I are working through at this juncture of my life that she reached over and rested her hand on my arm and told me that she thinks I’m an even better version of myself than I was when she was home a year ago.
I think this is the kind of thing Shauna was talking about through her book. I think that this is what she hopes people do, that they “suck the marrow out of life,” as another favorite author of mine, Henry David Thoreau, would say. I read “Walden” in high school and I have carried that phrase with me since my sophomore year, but I think 12 years of life and a thousand added experiences have given it new life and new meaning. To suck the marrow out of life is to find joy in an errand that you hate. And for the rest of the day, it’s for me to laugh with these people who aren’t my blood relations but who are my family. It’s to eat corn and watermelon and enjoy the flavor of these simple summer foods. It’s to be all in, where I am now, with these people. In this moment, it’s about embracing the ways that I’m changing, and to praise God for them…and for good writing and good books that have the power to make me think differently.