Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Bittersweet

I have a deep, deep love for Ghirardelli’s dark chocolate squares with caramel. There’s something about that little square (much too small, if you ask me) that brings bliss to the very moment I’m inhaling it…each bite cracking the outer shell until the sweet caramel comes oozing out the edges. In that instant dark chocolate meets caramel, and bitter meets sweet. Shauna Niequist's newest release, appropriately titled Bittersweet, is all about those moments in life when bitter and sweet embrace.

Just as I consume those Ghirardelli squares, I have devoured and savored every bite of Bittersweet. Shauna’s openness and honesty about loss and chang
e 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 empt
y, 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 ex
change” 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 c
onfront 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 re
lentless 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 rece
ive 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 m
ust 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:

8 comments:

Bethany said...

I loved "Cold Tangerines" - so I would love to win!

Favorite song lyric right now....well, I've also got Audrey Assad's album in heavy rotation. Lots of good stuff there, but I'll go with this one: "Bind up these broken bones. Mercy, bend and bring me back to life. But not before you show me how to die."

splumier@lincolnchristian.edu said...

Hey Mandy

Pick Me Pick Me. I haven't gotten a copy yet.

My favorite musice right now is Andrew Peterson's new album. Here ae some lyrics to a song called
Planting Trees
She rises up as morning breaks
She moves among these rooms alone
Before we wake
And her heart is so full; it overflows
She waters us with love and the children grow

So many years from now
Long after we are gone
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless the dawn
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless someone

Love you
Sheri

Jennifer said...

Mandy,

I'm so proud of you! You don't realize how wonderful you are. You are talented, beautiful and a wonderful young woman. Keep on writing!

No lyric right now. I just wanted to let you know how fabulous I think you are!

Love you,
Jennifer

Neil and Courtney said...

ooo, I'm in. Haven't read any of her stuff yet, but your post makes my mouth water for it!

I'm fighting the urge to post the entire song. It has been my melody the last few months after losing a dear friend, encountering the ugliness of sin that runs so deep in me, and struggling with the faces of poverty here.

excerpt from Jars of Clay's "Oh My God" from the album Love & Thunder:

Sometimes I cannot forgive
And these days, mercy cuts so deep
If the world was how it should be, maybe I could get some sleep
While I lay, I dream we're better,
Scales were gone and faces lighter
When we wake, we hate our brother
We still move to hurt each other
Sometimes I can close my eyes,
And all the fear that keeps me silent falls below my heavy breathing,
What makes me so badly bent?
We all have the chance to murder
We all feel the need for wonder
We still want to be reminded that the pain is worth the thunder....."

Great post, friend. sharing your heart from far away!

Jennifer said...

Mandy,
I have stumbled over this blog for the first time in a LONG time, and I forgot how very much I LOVVVEEE reading your posts. I downloaded Cold Tangerines onto my iPhone months ago because of a recommendation you posted a very long time ago...and although I've really only read bits and pieces, I really enjoy her writing.....but not as much as I enjoy yours!!

Love ya!!
Jenn

jkgeb@yahoo.com

The Clark's said...

I don't have a song lyric right now. Just a verse that has been sticking with me lately. "The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him" II Chronicles 16:9.

I will try not to pray I win; just to make it fair for everyone else :) You are a great writer Mandy--Love You!

Dalenna said...

A great review! I can't wait to read both her books (and how come I'd never heard of her before today??)

Anyway, favorite song lyric, it's long I know but my heart song is Lead Me To The Waters - Matthew Perryman Jones

Put some water in the kettle
Let’s just sit here and talk a little while
It’s been a long day, I just wanna settle down right here
And maybe we can end this day with a smile

I’ve been thinking way to much
And I just need a place to lay my head
And your eyes tell me everything my heart needs to hear
Despite all those words that could be said

It’s in the way that you open your heart
It’s in the way that you open your hands
Cause when my life gets to changing and I don’t know where I am
It’s in the way that you try to understand

Sitting outside on a porch swing
Telling jokes and listening to the sound of rain
Laughter’s tugging on our heartstring
Making songs about a love we can’t explain

My mind seems to be at ease now
Cause I’m at rest with the comfort of a friend
And my heart is feeling lighter and less haunted than before
With each added moment that we spend

It’s in the way that you open your heart
It’s in the way that you open your hands
Cause when my life gets to changing and I don’t know where I am
It’s in the way that you try to understand

And you lead me to the waters
Where my soul can rest at ease
Yeah you lead me to the waters
Where I’m free

Here is where I let my heart run free.
Oh, a home in which I do not have to hide.
A place where fears and dreams and insecurities
Don’t have to stay all bottled up inside

You lead me to the waters
And my soul is right at ease
You lead me to the waters
And I’m free

Mandy said...

And the winner is...

Sheri Plumier!!! Congrats mama Sheri!!!