I've been reading this book Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist for the past week or so. It is a great book about dealing with adversity and relishing in the good times. The book leans a bit on the feminine side which makes me a little uncomfortable at times. :-) But once you get past that part of it and see what the underlying messages are, it's really quite good.
What I like about her books (I've read Cold Tangerines as well) is that they're about her imperfections and resonate with my own experience as well. She talks about a messy house and all the stresses of daily life and how that she doesn't always react to life in a perfectly Christian way. There are times where, despite knowing that God is there and loves her, she doesn't always feel worthy of everything he's given her to care for.
So in this period of preparing for the upcoming stresses of the holidays, it fits quite well into my situation. We've got family coming for Thanksgiving, and then in two weeks, for my birthday weekend of Dec. 11th, we're travelling to Minnesota for my sister's holiday party. Yesterday, while we were frantically cleaning and prepping the house for my in-laws arrival, I keep thinking back to the book where she describes that despite having a house in chaos, the important thing about the holiday is not the house, it's the people in the house.
It's about being together and laughing until our sides hurt. It's about hugs and love and catching up with where people are at in their lives, and we're all at a different point than we were the last time we saw each other. Middle school, high school, job and responsibility stresses and changes.
We share these stories, the laughter and the re-hashing of old memories over great food and beverages in the confines of our warm, closet cluttered, corner-dusty, house in the hopes that no one will see those things. If they do, we hope that they have enough grace in their hearts to forgive us, (we're trying our best here) and if they don't, well, that's too bad for them.
Because it's not about what we're doing wrong with our house or what cool new appliance or gadget we don't have. It's about the fact that I haven't seen you in 6 months, 8 months, a year or whatever, and "How are you? How is your life right now? Are you OK? It's REALLY good to see you."
As much as I claim to be a loner, I really do need connection. Those relationships in my life do matter, and while I sometimes lament about this person's issues, or that person's bad habits, I really do love those people. It's just that in our stupid selfish fallen state, we tend to look at the bad first and gloss over the good. People probably do it to me as well, and Lord knows I have my share of faults. (It does make me wonder what the bad things people say about me are though. :-)
I guess then, that I'd have to give this book four stars ****, if for no other reason than it has caused me to stop, think and put things in perspective. I would really recommend both her books as well as anything by Anne Lamotte . Lamotte's stuff is a little edgier, but once you look past that to the message, it's pretty cool.
Now that I've endorsed two female authors that tend to write about largely women's issues, I'm a little more uncomfortable than I was even a few paragraphs earlier. This can only mean it's time to blog off and go lift some heavy stuff, drill some holes, cut the grass, change some oil, shave, clip my toe nails on the bathroom floor, watch some football and a few Clint Eastwood movies, read some Jack Kerouac, and clean the garage. Because that's who I really am.