Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bread & Wine - A Book Review

It's the sweet cinnamon and sugar, flaky dough in your nails, tart apples peeled. It's just another attempt at Gran's apple pie.

Breakfast burritos, fragrant, warm, and wrapped in tin foil. Me, hoping I didn't get the one with extra habanero's expertly hidden by my trickster uncle.

The cabbage is scattered across the cutting board, sesame oil and ginger sizzling. It's my father in laws expertise at Asian cooking.

This week I know it will be there, dry bread, sweet juice, those little plastic cups. I enter in to my Lord's suffering.

Food and memories almost inexplicably connected, but the truth is each fragrance, taste, and empty plated aftermath reminds us of something.

Shauna Niequists newest release, Bread & Wine is a beautiful memoir full of poignant essays that focus on life, God, and the beauty of sharing ourselves with one another through meals of love.

In a world that says thin = perfection, we have forgotten that it is okay to savor a good meal, to relish in the hard work of an excellent cook, to walk away satisfied or to even admit that we are hungry.

"Sara loved to eat and believed it was her right and pleasure. She didn't overeat or under eat, cry or hide food. She just ate, for sustenance and enjoyment both, and I was fascinated. Still, it took almost a decade more for me to say those words... "I'm hungry" - without feeling ashamed." - Bread & Wine

Shauna has given us permission to feast, permission to fast, permission to give and permission to receive.

The book is filled with delicious recipes - some easy peasy like her Basic Risotto and some more challenging, including Steak au Poivre with Cognac Pan Sauce.

But, with each recipe she challenges us to give - mercy, grace, food to those we know need it
and challenges us to receive the help, self compassion, and friendship that others offer to us.

"What people are craving isn't perfection. People aren't longing to be impressed; they're longing to feel like they're home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they'll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd."  - Bread & Wine

If you know me at all you know I am a fan of Shauna's. While occasionally it was difficult to enter in to her life (we do live very different lives) there are still an abundance of ways I saw myself and those I love in the pages of Bread & Wine. I have already started a short list of people that I know would LOVE this book because of a mutual love for food, friends and family.  Shauna is an excellent story teller and this book is easy to devour.

You can pre-order at Amazon and I suggest you do (it's 9 bucks off!). Her books Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet are also available (and one of them is sitting in my Easter Basket right now).

*I received a pre-release copy of Bread & Wine in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


It was 18 months ago that we got the news.


My second mom, my beloved Gran had cancer. The really bad kind.

The tears came, but there was hope.

Surgery after surgery, treatment after treatment, heartbreak after heartbreak.

And now we are here.

The final weeks. The final days.

I'd like to be one of those people that say, "Oh, I know God is in control" or maybe "But, God has a plan and it'll all be okay" I do say those things sometimes, but more often I think, "This sucks."

Because, it does.

Generally speaking, I am pretty optimistic, pretty joyful, and pretty resilient.

However, grief is hard.

It's hard when every day you aren't sure what the next phone call will bring. It's hard to imagine life without her, but at the same time you long to see her free from the pain of this life. My mind is racing all the time. Sleep evades me many nights, but in the middle of the day, I wish I could sleep the day away instead of doing anything else. It's hard when every time I get an update it peels the scab off the old wound of losing my dad, to cancer, 15 years ago. I thought that wound had healed. Its hard to not be there to help, but if I were sincere I would say that it is also a relief to not have to bear that burden. I'm broken. For the first time in my life I googled "natural treatment for depression". It would be foolish of me not to recognize that possibility in my life right now. It would be foolish to think that a year long roller coaster ride of hope and disappointment wouldn't give me some sort of mild depression. Grief is hard, especially when you are grieving a person who is still here.

I don't have the answers. I don't need any pity.

For now I look for grace.

Sufficient grace for each moment from the One who I know is near even in this valley.

Grace with myself when I'm exhausted, but accomplished nothing.

Grace to say "no", because right now, I'm not quite myself and grace to accept that.

And grace from my sweet friends who hold me in prayer, ask me how I am, and accept that most of the time I don't want to talk about it. I just want to make it through.

I'm not mad, or bitter, or angry. I'm just sad.

I'm not hopeless or despondent. I am just weary.

When you see me smiling and laughing, I'm not being fake. It is just a moment where the goodness of life has distracted me from that rain cloud over my head that keeps following me. So let me relish in it.

In my mind I continue to repeat the words of Solomon (and the Mama's and the Papa's)

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,  
  a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

I am totally ready for the next season. I'm ready for spring. I'm ready for sunshine. I'm ready to rejoice. I'm ready for unabashed joy. I'm ready to stop fighting the fear and anxiety that are banging on my door - bringing up the "what if's". 

So, for now I will fight to hope, because I know the Light that shines even in the darkness. 
I will cling to the simplest of truths: 

Jesus loves me.
Heaven is legit.
This isn't my home. 

And, I will soldier on, in love. 

Thanks to all of you who tenderly soldier on beside me. 

(This song is another Shauna Niequist recommendation)

P.S. For those of you who may have stumbled upon here that are dealing with your own grief. Please, check out Levi Lusko's blog as he soldiers on through a heartbreak that I hope I will never have to face.