Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cold Tangerines

As I'm digging through cutouts of magazines, photographs, and little snippets of things trying to find what truly inspires me and qualifies for inclusion on my fun little project--my inspiration board (see post below). It's appropriate, for multiple reasons, that I mention the book Cold Tangerines as one of the deserving things that have inspired me. Or maybe the author, Shauna Niequist, herself should be the one who has inspired me rather than just the book.

Shauna grew up the daughter of Bill Hybels, one of the founding pastors at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL. Her life growing up was probably nothing ordinary at most times, living in the spotlight of being the daughter of a megachurch pastor and feeling a little expected to live up to some kind of standard as most preacher's kids do. She writes in her book about flying to Paris, France when she was in eighth grade--by herself--as if this is part of any normal childhood. She was used to traveling with her dad around the world, and so opportunities of the like were nothing out of the ordinary.

Despite her not-so-ordinary upbringing, Shauna is, deep down inside, still an ordinary person, just with extraordinary God-given talent to capture words like fireflies on a summer night, putting them in little jars to share their light. Cold Tangerines is a collection of essays written from her personal life experiences--from stories about college to stories about marriage, having a baby, working at a church, quitting working at a church, past struggles with weight, tragic loss, the joy of a bright red fall tree, jealousy, forgiveness, true community, and what it means to find joy and contentment in the little things in life. The stories in her book come to life and seem to be relevant with everyone who comes in contact with them, even though they are her very own experiences.

We've all been in these places in life...not the exact same stories, but the deep-down-underlying emotions and flaws that lie within us that Shauna so honestly lays out for us. She openly says that writing, for her, is like getting naked in front of people. And she truly bears her soul and all its parts in this book, and that's what is inspiring.

If you haven't read this book, you need to! This week is the one-year anniversary of its release, which is an exciting thing to celebrate for a writer! When you write and put things out there for others to read and critique, you are putting yourself up for criticism. But just as you open yourself up to criticism, you hopefully find that someone, somewhere, has gained something from what you've contributed to this world of ours.

I had the privilege of spending time with Shauna when we invited her to Lincoln for our annual High School Girls' Retreat called Awaken this past February. We spent some quality time talking about life and writing and the future and her son Henry and food, often over meals. Just last week, when I was in Grand Rapids for a college fair, I met up again with Shauna and her little boy, Henry, for breakfast at an adorable cafe, Marie Catrib's. It was refreshing to see her, like an old friend I'd known for years.

But I say all of this just to encourage you to pick up her book. It is an honest, raw, unique collection of essays that you'll find yourself cozying up to, reading in sections or all at once, feeling like you're having tea with your best friend, maybe even crying because it seems like she's got a window into the deepest parts of your character flaws. Her book is like comfort food and a security blanket. It reminds me that, yes, I'm normal. I'm not the only one who struggles with this and that, and I'm not crazy for being jealous of someone and wanting them to trip and fall. With a good amount of laughter included, Shauna captures real, honest, ordinary moments in life and helps you to find something extraordinary within.

So, as a somewhat distant friend of hers, I'm giving her a plug to anyone who may not have read this book yet. Also, check out her blog...it will give you even more insight into who she is and her most recent posts are from the experiences throughout the first year since Cold Tangerines was released. You'll also find that her current project is a book that will be called Bread and Wine, and she'll be focusing on the community that often happens among people in the presence of food.

Go get a copy of Cold Tangerines. You won't be disappointed. You might just want to buy a copy for everyone you know. They make great Christmas presents!


Christine said...

I agree 100%, Cold Tangerines is one of my favorite books in the world, one I will read over and over and over in life. The chapter on Africa particularly struck me, oh how I could identify with it...Since reading that book, I find myself having candlelight dinners more, cooking for people more in our home, and just finding more reasons to celebrate on "ordinary" days.

Shannon said...

So glad you posted this. I just re-read 'needle and thread' yesterday after reading your post on inspiration boards. Funny how that happens. What if I said you should try your hand at trying to publish something? What would you think about that? Just a thought...

Love ya betch!

katemcdonald said...

Ok. I officially have to buy this because EVERY TIME I TURN AROUND I HEAR HER NAME.

(wait, I think I mostly hear it from you *Grin*)

'becca said...

i'm so thankful that cold tangerines and shauna came to lincoln. they are dear and good. thanks for inviting her to come to awaken on a perfectly snowy weekend, greeted with coffee and dessert. certainly this weekend was a highlight of my few years spent at LCC.

bleev said...

Oooh! I'm excited to read this! :D I have a good friend who works at Willow Creek. Thanks for the recommendation.

Oh, and I found you from Kate's blog about the TV products. Haha! Bless you!

bleev said...

Justin Rizzo plays music at IHOP in Kansas City. International House of Prayer - not pancakes haha! :) He's a worship leader there... You should definitely hear his music. :D

Lincoln Christian, huh... I went to school at Greenville College... I think I heard about your school while I was there...

How long have you been there?

Thanks for your response on my blog... Glad you liked my post.

Bless you!