Book Description: 'The idea of bittersweet is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life. Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness. 'It's the practice of believing 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, audacious, earthy. 'This is what I've come to believe about change: it's good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. By that I mean that it's incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God's hand, which is where you wanted to be all long, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be. 'I've learned the hard way that change is one of God's greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we've become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I've learned that it's not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God's graciousness, not life's cruelty.' Niequist, a keen observer of life with a lyrical voice, writes with the characteristic warmth and honesty of a dear friend: always engaging, sometimes challenging, but always with a kind heart. You will find Bittersweet savory reading, indeed. 'This is the work I'm doing now, and the work I invite you into: when life is sweet, say thank you, and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you, and grow.'
My Review: bittersweet (yes, the title is in all lower case letters) thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way by Shauna Niequist is an interesting and thoughtful read.
Sometimes, "the hard things" that come our way are actually the "things" that cause us the most growth and help us to develop into the people that God wants us to be.
As I was reading bittersweet I thought of Ruth and Naomi in the Bible. Naomi had lost her husband, her sons and basically her whole life. She changed her name from Naomi which means pleasant or sweet to Mara which means bitter. I see where Naomi was also bittersweet (bitter mixed with sweet=loss and then wonderfully good change).
Shauna writes about a miscarriage, job loss for both her and her husband, home owner troubles, and moving woes. But in all of this mess God had a purpose. And yes, God directed a better move for Naomi and Ruth after all their loss they were directed to a better place.
Shauna doesn't pull and punches as she she describes in chapter 7, things I don't do. I love this chapter because as Shauna illustrates that she doesn't do certain things because they are a waste of time to her or she deems them unnecessary . . . no guilt trip either. But this is the sentence that I loved best of all in this chapter, "I don't spend time with people who routinely make me feel less than I am, or who spend most of their time talking about what's wrong with everyone else and what's wrong with the world, or who really like to talk about other people's money." At the end of this chapter she then sums up the entire paragraph with these two wonderful sentences, "The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be. It gets us somewhere certainly but not anywhere worth being." Ah! This what I needed to hear!
As Naomi's life changed and became much better I don't think that her life was without problems. I do think that she may have addressed her problems/life stresses just as Shauna encourages us to do: " . . . when life is sweet, say thank you, and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you, and grow."
Yes, I hope that life brings some failures for my child too. No, I hate to see him hurt or in want but I don't want him to rely so much on his own resources that he forgets to lean on the One who loves him most!
This is one of those 10 star reads that makes you think beyond yourself.
*I reviewed this book, yes a free ARC copy, for Zondervan*
Meet the Author: Shauna Niequist grew up in Barrington, Illinois and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. After graduation, she worked with high school students at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington for five years. On her first day there, she met Aaron Niequist, and three years later they were married.
They moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to work at Mars Hill Bible Church. They made great friends, walked to the Real Food Café twice a week for breakfast, and learned the hard way that they are not home repair people. Their son Henry was born there, and will be four this fall.
After six years in Grand Rapids, they moved back to the Chicago area. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek, and Shauna is theoretically working on another book, but mostly playing with Henry and planning dinner party menus.
Shauna is the author of Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life and Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way. You can find out more about Shauna and read her blog at www.shaunaniequist.com.