Wednesday, August 25, 2010

bittersweet - a review and a giveaway

When I was seventeen and deciding where to go to college, I had lots of conversations with lots of different people. I went on campus visits and read brochures and then, one weeknight, my best friend and I had a college summit at noodles & co at the deer park mall in arlington heights. We met up with our friend Shauna, who had graduated from this small school in santa barbara not too long ago. I was sold on the school; my best friend, not so much. So we walked through this time of separation--from each other, from our families, from our homes--and I waited, super uncertain of what the future would hold.

It's been seven years since that night, and with time I understand now how those bittersweet days and weeks of august years earlier had provided the dirt from which this rich life would grow - and I had no idea.

So Shauna, as fate and other things would have it, has written two absolutely lovely books - Cold Tangerines, which was published in 2007, and Bittersweet, which was just released and is the book I want to talk about briefly now.

Bittersweet is written in Shauna's typical style, which is to say: raw, funny, honest, painfully honest, poignant, and hopeful. I don't know too many writers (especially Christian writers) who have the courage to share about the deepest and darkest parts of themselves, but Shauna does this -- and does it in a way that builds God's Kingdom, because it makes you feel less alone for all your brokenness. Shauna is winsome in the best sense of the word, and that bleeds through onto every page of Bittersweet . . . you want to be her friend and her student at the same time.

One of my favorite parts of the book comes from the chapter called aurora, which is sort of a welcome letter to the people who move into their family's old house in Michigan. Read what she says:

"I believe in a very deep way that our past is what brings us to our future . . . I believe in mining through the darkest seasons in our lives and choosing to believe that we'll find something important every time. In my worst moments, I want to slam the door on the hardest part of our life. Deadbolt it, forget it, move forward, happier without it. But I don't want to lose six years of my own history behind a slammed door. So now I'm minng through, searching for the light, and the more I look the more I find. I see the moments of heartbreak that led to honesty about myself I wouldn't have been able to get to any other way."

There are many more favorites, and you would really hate to miss them, so you should really read this book. You can buy it, of course, or read below for the chance to win a copy . . .

The giveaway. Here's how it works:

1. In the 'Comments' section of this post, write about a bittersweet moment in your life. Keep it short.

2. If you Tweet about this giveaway, send me a direct message (@lauraortberg) and I'll enter your name into the drawing a second time. (With thanks to @berryman for this idea)

3. The last comment will be accepted at 9pm PST on September 31st (strict rules, right?). I'll announce the winner the next day and mail 'Bittersweet' to the winner!

Happy commenting!

((3.1 - If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in coming to an event with Shauna, let me know on Twitter and I'll make sure you get invited. Save September 13th, evening.))

Thursday, August 19, 2010

feel bad.

there are some days where i feel really bad that i don't cook wonderful meals from scratch every night just because i love to cook and love to use fresh ingredients and then post photos of my creations on my blog. days i feel really bad that running doesn't clear my mind and relieve my stress and that i'll never get a tan and that there will probably never be a picture of me at the met gala in vogue (seriously, i feel bad about that). days when my to-do list seems to fill itself out, page by page, and i am afraid to even look. and i feel bad that i don't want to look. i feel bad, on these days, that i haven't already started a company or become a household name or written a book, and then i google "people who were famous before 25" (which is really not helpful) so that i can compare myself to rihanna and jonathan safran foer and everyone i know.

most nights, i'd rather have frozen pizza for dinner. and broccoli on the side - not from the farmer's market, but the kind that comes from the frozen bags you get at the grocery store. most days, i feel the deep pull of laziness and idleness as i go through my tasks. sometimes, i feel disconnected from other people. sometimes i feel disconnected from God.

some days, i just feel bad.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

letting go

Part of me always hoped (to be perfectly honest, expected) that there would come a moment sometime in my mid-twenties when I would be Enlightened. I'd gain knowledge in a flash of what it means to be a Grown-Up and How to Balance a Checkbook and Act Maturely in all Relationships and see the world free from the cloudy lenses of my emotions and anxieties.

To be perfectly honest again, this has sort of been my religion. Hoping for the day when everything would be perfect, when I would be whole. Hoping for wholeness to come from marriage, from my career, from a beautifully decorated home and a full wardrobe and lovely friends. This is what I've put my trust in, what I've had faith in. And I've liked to think that everything, every little thing, is a stepping stone on my journey to clarity and wisdom and a God-like worldview.

When I was nineteen, one of my good friends from high school killed herself. And I remember thinking that she just didn't get it: the goodness of the future, the hope for what's to come, the love of God. And to a degree, I still believe that to be true, while recognizing all the complications of deep depression to preclude you from seeing the truth. But some of my journey has been and continues to be this struggle against a moment. Our lives are made up of choices, and hard work, and there is no magic moment. There are setbacks and deep valleys and there is a good, a very good God whose deepest desire is not that I know everything he knows, or become immensely wise, although those are good things, but that I live with him in peace and joy and not in fear.

My deepest fear is that I will keep waiting, and I will spend my waiting on managing others' impression of me. That I will shop and talk and not really listen and complain and smile and wait and wait and wait until my life has slipped away and there is no time to wait anymore. There is a new country, as Henri Nouwen writes, where my real life is ready to be inhabited. And I don't get there by waiting, but I am so afraid sometimes of leaving behind what I know to go somewhere unfamiliar. I think that if I had that moment of Enlightenment, of growing up, then I'd be ready to walk forward untethered to fear or anxiety.

So if I'm not waiting, then what do I do? That's the question that rings in my ears when I feel brave enough to ask it.

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out
-The Avett Brothers, Head Full of Doubt