“That’s the lesson in this for people like me who sometimes get wound up about doing things perfectly: 90 percent of the people in your life won’t know the difference between, say, fresh and frozen, or handmade and store-bought, and the 10 percent who do notice are just as stressed-out as you are, and your willingness to choose simplicity just might set them free to do the same.”
Our church had a Memorial Day picnic at the end of May, and I signed up to bring a side dish and dessert. We had just moved into the rental house, Eliza was a couple of weeks old, and I had mastitis. I wanted to make a gluten-free dessert so Sarah could have some, and I planned to make gluten free chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting and little red, white, and blue star sprinkles for decorations. Early Saturday afternoon it crossed my mind that I could just go buy a pre-made dessert and bring a gluten-free cookie (I keep some in the freezer) for Sarah. Then 9pm rolled around. I was finally done nursing the baby, and I so desperately wanted to go to sleep. But I had told Sarah about the cupcakes, and I thought it might be lame to bring a store-bought dessert to a church picnic. So I stayed up until 11:30 making and frosting the cupcakes.
This is what crazy looks like, y’all, in case you wondered. But it’s also why Shauna Niequist’s cookbook/memoir Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes. turned out to be an exceptionally encouraging book for me in this particular season of life.
The book is tied together by being a food memoir (and some of the recipes sound pretty amazing–“dark chocolate sea salted toffee” anyone?), but I think the real strength of it is the memoir part. I loved the honest, thoughtful, and sometimes funny tone Niequist took in writing about her life. So many of her chapters resonated with me, and her insights helped me to think about my motivations and choices in new ways.
I was particularly struck by the sections about having to admit you’re sick or tired. Niequist ties this to food, but I think her observation can apply to anything you fill up your life with:
“What I’m finding is that when I’m hungry, lots of times what I really want more than food is an external voice to say, ‘You’ve done enough. It’s OK to be tired. You can take a break. I’ll take care of you. I see how hard you’re trying.’ There is, though, no voice that can say that except the voice of God. The work I’m doing now is to let those words fall deeply on me, to give myself permission to be tired, to be weak, to need.”
It seems that one of the key lessons I’m learning this year is that I have permission “to be tired, to be weak, to need.” Like Niequist writes elsewhere, I think of myself as “a utility player” who is kept around because I get stuff done. But it has been interesting to see what happens when I just don’t get stuff done. Other people step in and do things, usually differently than I would have done, but often better. Some things don’t get done at all, and it turns out fine. Dynamics shift, and perspective emerges with greater clarity. A lot of the things Niequist writes about in the book are issues I’ve been thinking about lately, and it was interesting to view them from another person’s perspective.
If you like food memoirs I’d recommend Bread & Wine as a particularly good example. And if food books aren’t usually your thing, I’d still recommend the book for it’s thought-provoking essays on life, friendship, motherhood, and faith.
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