Just as I consume those Ghirardelli squares, I have devoured and savored every bite of Bittersweet. Shauna’s openness and honesty about loss and change and strain in her life make me feel like I’ve joined her at her amazing Crate & Barrel dining room table eating risotto and warm crusty bread partnered with a glass of sparkling wine. I find myself laughing out loud, tearing up, and in other moments wanting to shout out “ME TOO!”
Shauna writes with vulnerability about real, raw events in her life: tension in her marriage, traumatic miscarriages that left her feeling empty, and seasons that felt cold, lonely, and disorienting. Yet out of that vulnerability she exposes a deep sense of grace and gratitude for what has come through the cloudy seasons. Shauna articulates the blessing that comes after, even amidst, the bitter moments. She writes, “When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” Also, “the question is not, will my life be easy or will my heart break? But rather, when my heart breaks, will I choose to grow?”
Recently I keep finding the idea of a “beautiful exchange” in an assortment of channels: the new Hillsong album, lyrics to other songs, and now Shauna’s words in this literary treasure. They all point back to the beautiful exchange that IS the gospel. There’s a line on singer/songwriter Audrey Assad’s new album that says, “I’ve watched you carve streets of gold from the sin and gravel. I gave you brokenness; you gave me innocence, and now this road leads to glory.” There’s something about that line and Shauna’s words and my life that all string together like a handcrafted necklace I’d like to wear around, proudly displaying the grace and truth and forgiveness and growth and redemption that have become evident in my life through each change, each heartbreak, each loss.
Shauna writes that,
We really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy.They say that dark chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, is better for you anyway. So it is with life.
While some of my own experiences haven’t been easy, they’ve made me become more deeply rooted, more sure of who God is. I’d give anything for my dad to be alive again, and I hate that my heart is afraid to love and be loved, and I hate that I’m sometimes paralyzed by irrational fears like the phobia of throwing up. Different hurts, pains, sins, and fears in my life can drown you if you let them, but they can also color in the waters that you’re wading through. God might not part the ocean for you to walk through on dry land, but He will be there to pick you up when you’ve been anchored by a difficult season.
Our stories—in good seasons and in bad—tell the greater story of who God is. When the bitter mixes in with the sweet, the gospel comes alive again in the reality of death and rebirth for humankind. Bittersweet is a refreshingly candid way that Shauna shares with her readers that greater story of hope. Her essays will inspire and confront you, give you hope in the darkness, and prove that beauty can come out of disarray.
Chances are good you’ll find very few writers like Shauna with whom you’ll resonate so closely. She’ll leave you hungry not only for food with her relentless culinary passion, but with each essay you’ll be hungry for more of her authentic and well-threaded words. If you’re new to Shauna’s writing, I’d highly suggest you go ahead and just order both of her books, Cold Tangerines and this new release, Bittersweet. You might as well, because you’ll get free shipping with orders over $25 on Amazon anyway, right? And I promise you’ll thank me later, but no need to send notes.
Also, Zondervan is allowing me to choose a winner to receive a free copy of Bittersweet. So here’s how I’m deciding: post a comment (include your email address) with your favorite song lyric—one that’s speaking to you, one that makes you laugh, one that tells your story—and I’ll put all the names in a hat and choose randomly. (If you don’t have a resonating song lyric right now, it’s ok!) I’ll contact you for your address if you’re the winner, and Zondervan will mail you your free book!
With all of that said, I plead with you for your own good, you must read this book. It’s as necessary as a Ghirardelli dark chocolate square with caramel at the end of a long day!
Just to entice you, click on this picture: