Recently our beloved Pastor – not your typical pastor, but a truly amazing pastor – passed away. The lessons, the smiles, the handshakes and advice, the Bible studies and the sense of humor were so big, so inspiring, and truly unforgettable… hearts will ache until we see him again.
I needed a break in the grief. Something to startle me back into the world and out of those thoughts of loss and eternity and all of that.
Going to the ocean hits me like a hammer. A big – “Look at what I have made” God said – hammer. I feel small and yet strangely protected in the presence of such perpetual earthly force, because my God and most intimate friend made that. I was itching for the ocean. Haven’t been to see her in almost two years.
Water soothes us. My husband and I share a yearning and longing for it. There’s a tranquility in it’s ebb and flow, the ripples and waves, the sounds of gurgling and lapping. I needed it. Needed to feel small in the presence of God’s most impressive creation, in my opinion. Just a few moments to observe his strength, if that makes sense. My husband & I planned a Sunday drive to Pymatuming. We’re at least 5-6 hours away from the ocean. Pymatuming Lake covers 26 square miles. We thought maybe that would be big enough.
We walked onto the beach, both of us sniffing the air. No saltwater smell. There was a wonderful breeze that always flows easily across a large body of water without the hindrance of trees and hills, but not the smell.
Lakes are to oceans what decaf is to a cup of real coffee.
“This little light of mine..
I’m gonna let it shine.”
A song from children’s church. I’ve sang it a million times. Sang it with my kids and grandchildren. It’s based on a Bible verse – do you remember it? There are other verses that say we’ll be known as Christians by our love, and that we’re the salt of the earth.
Apparently, once we’ve been redeemed, the world is supposed to be brighter, more loving and flavorful as a result. And us? We’ll be living lives with grace everywhere – accepting it for ourselves and extending it to others. And victory over all the crappy stuff – sin, selfishness, worthlessness, addiction. Lots of loving, shiny, tasty people changed and let loose on society.
Have you seen the new sitcom, “Save Me?” (They use the above theme song.) I love love love this show. REALLY love it! Beth (played by Anne Heche) is a drinking, flirting, self absorbed wreck of a wife and mother. She’s alienated her friends, husband and daughter. And one night in her kitchen – she almost chokes to death on a chicken sandwich. But she doesn’t. God saves her. (Pondering the wisdom in my No Eating After Dinner policy.) And then he talks to her. In a gender neutral voice. She’s the most unlikely person to pick. She’s a mess! But that is his specialty, huh? He hosted the original Extreme Makeover show in the heavenlies. Angels would ooo an ahh at the unveiling.
When he saved me, I soaked it up, gathered it up, collected it like the deflated hump of a camel. Maybe even a 2 humped camel.
Beth doesn’t soak it up, though. Yes, it filled her – but she doesn’t just hoard it for herself like a camel. She’s like a piece of gauze. Quickly soaked and then it runs right through her – all over everyone around her. Right away. The first day. In every situation.
Her husband doesn’t believe God talks to her. He pictures growing old with her. Helping her with her jacket. One that doesn’t require the sleeves tying in the back. She doesn’t argue with him. She just smiles at him.
“I know. I wish you did, but we’ll just agree to disagree, ok? There’s no one I’d rather be agreeing to disagree with.” There’s love all over her face when she says that to him. Rather than jump to an opportunity to sell him, she just sweetly lets him know she’s happy he’s the man in her life.
Her face is beaming, knowing she’s loved by God. and she tells others they’re loved. Not with big shouting proclamations, or deep conversations of theology, but gentle, smiling, beautiful reassurances. And people think she’s crazy.
But her friends are responding. even the one whose husband she flirted with, and whose espresso machine she stole right off the kitchen counter. Even the neighbor whose lawn she peed on – yep, dropped her drawers and peed right there! Even the husband, involved in an affair and preparing to leave her.
But he can’t resist her. She’s not the wretched creature of a month ago. She’s changed. She looks the same, except her beauty is more beautiful with the joy that just pours out of her.
She’s obedient – learning quickly that she wants to be. Even when she has to take the espresso machine back to its original owner, or concede in an argument with her husband when he drags it back home again, or even when she goes to the hospital to visit her husband’s mistress – now in a coma from a lightning strike. Funny story there…
And she’s changing her world. It’s brighter, more flavorful, more loving and contagious. What if we really lived like that? What if we were the crazy people, loving him and expressing joy in the middle of everything we live through?
We can feel like this inside.
God’s spirit lives in us! What are we going to do with that? Are we going to settle for, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” or are we going to add some light, engulf people in love and be tasty?
“Bread and Wine is a collection of essays about family relationships, friendships, and the meals that bring us together. This mix of Anne Lamott and Barefoot Contessa is a funny, honest, and vulnerable spiritual memoir. Bread and amp; Wine is a celebration of food shared, reminding readers of the joy found in a life around the table.” (From the publisher)
I’ve curled up with books all my life. I think this is my first time to ever curled up INa book.
Do you know what it’s like to get swept up in a book and not be able to put it down – devouring each page as quickly as you can gulp it down? This isn’t that kind of book. Instead, this is a croissant dripping with honey butter, a glass of wine on the beach at sunset, a crackling fire and a cup of soup. Shauna’s writing style makes you take small bites, savoring each paragraph – letting each adjective set a mood of indulgence – in the emotional connection to the practical, yet sacred, act of feeding the people you love.
As a mother and grandmother, I know what it is to rush around a kitchen and get everything ready for a holiday. I remember years of frustration in wanting everything to be perfect, rather than being fully present – not just my body but all the rest of me. In my mind I believed it should be a beautiful experience of sharing a meal. In reality – it felt like a catering job.
Shauna encourages her readers to put on some music and get out the cutting board. Invite friends and family in. Pour the wine and fully involve yourself in the satisfaction of nourishing both body and spirit as you offer a meal at your table. Open the door to your tiny apartment without apology. Welcome people in to your “needs renovated” dining room, with their stories and life experiences. Share those moments without one thought of making it perfect.
Whether she’s just shared a moment of sorrow, a day of summer relief at the lake, the miracle of a long awaited answer to prayer, or how she overfilled her tiny first house with guests to the point where she had a food and drink station on the piano – which was in her bedroom – she also includes the food of those experiences. Each essay is followed with a recipe. Simple to follow instructions to make comfort food. Welcome food. Food that’s meant to be shared.
The essays are honestly written moments of a normal life. Laughter, tears, frustration, disappointment, exhaustion, truth and surprises (of both the pleasant kind and the not so much).
I loved this book.
Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist – Review Don’t buy this in an ebook – you want this one in hardback. Trust me.
I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest review.