Cold Tangerines. (book giveaway!)

"But this is what I'm finding, in glimpses and flashes: this is it. This is it, in the best possible way. That thing I'm waiting for, for that adventure, that movie-score-worthy experience unfolding gracefully. This is it. Normal, daily life ticking by on our streets and sidewalks, in our houses and apartments, in our beds and at our dinner tables, in our dreams and prayers and fights and secrets - this pedestrian life is the most precious thing any of us will ever experience."
~ Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist

I've returned home from glorious Colorado, but before I start gushing about the beauty of the mountains, I wanted to share some reflections on a book that has become very dear to me: Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. I've mentioned it here before, how the book was an inspiration to finally start writing my own stories more, to be brave with my writing, and to be brave with my relationships.

Cold Tangerines is about celebrating everyday life as it occurs in individuals: individual moments, and individual people. It's about real, honest, gritty struggles that inevitably happen and how we reconcile them and deal with them in the light of courage and hope.

A review by Shane Claiborne says, "This is a book you can taste," and that is a great description, because as you read, you can taste the risotto simmering in Shauna's kitchen. You can taste her joy after being awakened from busyness by a striking red tree in Michigan's autumn. You can taste the longing she feels as she recounts summer family vacations and friends' babies being born and birthdays being celebrated.

One of the chapters that most resonated with me when I first read it last year, and even now as I type this, is the one entitled "On Waiting." Because aren't we all waiting for something? It seems that my pinball-machine-mind is always in a state of "what comes next" - What is our schedule for tomorrow? Where are the next three places I'm traveling? Five years from now, will we get to have that charming old farmhouse nestled in the trees? How much longer will my parents live?

And we all do it - we all wonder. But the crisis is when you live like you're waiting for life to happen, while life is actually happening right now.

"I believe that this way of living, this focus on the present, the daily, the tangible, this intense concentration not on the news headlines but on the flowers growing in your own garden, the children growing in your own home, this way of living has the potential to open up the heavens, to yield a glittering handful of diamonds where a second ago there was coal. This way of living and noticing and building and crafting can crack through the movie sets and soundtracks that keep us waiting for our own life stories to begin, and set us free to observe the lives we have been creating all along without even realizing it."
~ Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist

Most days, I don't get it right. The few days before I left for Colorado, I'm ashamed to say the only words that could describe me were frazzled, stressed, irritable. My poor husband had the intensely painful shingles and needed my time and care, our teething puppy was chewing everything in sight, and I was on my fiftieth load of laundry while staying on top of a demanding 8-hour work day. The phone rang again, and I almost burst into tears, and that is when I knew I needed to stop.

So I pulled my hair back to the nape of my neck and went into the backyard where I hadn’t stepped in days, unless you count the beeline to the driveway to let Greta and Heidi in and out of the dog run. While I was inside feeling sorry for myself, in the meantime this entire wondrous thing was happening out there: new life was sprouting and growing before my very eyes, and I hadn’t noticed it. Our first tiny okra had made an appearance. A pear-shaped tomato was becoming golden on the vine. Orange wildflowers had opened their buds while I was inside stressing over loads of laundry and packing and my sick husband and my schedule and my to-do list.

I knelt down, pulled up some stray shoots of grass, watered the squash. I leaned close to the basil and inhaled deeply. I tore off some leaves the size of my palm and remembered that fresh basil is one of the best scents in the entire world. And then I went back inside and apologized to my husband for not loving him well, for not being thankful that I have this house, this life right now, these people with whom I get to walk through life. And then I thought about my caring mother and how many hours she has put into planning this trip for the two of us to see the beauty of the mountains together in Colorado, and how I had been so short with her on the phone. And I got choked up a little. Because once again, I had missed it.

Yet, the undeserved gift is that life keeps pointing me in that direction, even when I stray so far away. A message on my tea bag. A bottle of wine brought by a friend and shared over dinner. A chance to hold a baby and notice that her smile is changing everyday. 

So, here's to life's best moments. I don't want to breeze through them anymore. This "pedestrian life" is the best thing I've got, and I'm not going to miss it.

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Shauna Niequist has kindly sent me 5 autographed copies of Cold Tangerines to give away to my blog readers! If you'd like to win a copy of the book, post a comment below, and include at least one way you celebrate everyday life. This Friday, June 26th, I'll choose 5 winners from a random drawing.