Shauna Niequist is one of the most eloquent and engaging non-fiction authors I know. Her books read like fiction and have that innate ability to capture your attention so deeply that you simply cannot put them down until you’ve finished the last word on the final page. Whenever I complete one of her books, there comes this sad, quiet little pause, as if I’ve had to say goodbye to a very dear friend. It’s a magical relationship to have with an author, which is why I’ve read and own all of her books.
When the opportunity came to review an advance copy of Bread & Wine I was ecstatic. I may or may not have sent out a few all-caps texts and made my husband jump up and down in the living room with me. It was a happy day when the book arrived from Zondervan, and it made for wonderful reading over a long weekend.
The central theme that all the essays in this book revolve around is the table; the place we come to feed ourselves and our loved ones, the place we engage with each other and build relationships, and ultimately the place that Jesus asked us to remember Him. It was a fascinating journey for me in this season of life, marked by short-order cooking for my notoriously picky eaters, to remember the significance of food and fellowship and sharing life with the people I love most around my table.
There were so many places in the book that I actually laughed out loud, or wiped tears from my eyes because Shauna’s stories and the way she conveys them grip me in some of the deepest places of my heart. So many of the essays for so many different reasons caused me to pause and reflect and consider what I do, why I do it, and how I can be better.
In one of the most moving essays for me, What My Mother Taught Me, Shauna shares an important lesson her mother continues to teach her:
Sometimes I meet women who are so passionate they’re about to jump out of their skin . . . They don’t know how to move forward, so they’re vibrating with pent-up passion turning rapidly to frustration.
And when I talk to them, I tell them the story of my mom. I tell them there’s still so much time and still so much to be done. I tell them it doesn’t have to be full-time, or all-or-nothing, or all-at-once. I tell them what my mom tells me – that you just have to take one step, and that when you do, the next one will appear. I tell them the path doesn’t have to be a straight line, and that often it only makes sense when you look back at it. I tell them that when my mom was my age, she was a stay-at-home mom. She wasn’t yet an oil painter or a potter or an AIDS activist or an expert on peace-keeping. There’s still time, I tell them and I tell myself. There’s still time.
My mom makes sixty look good, and she reminds me every day that honest prayers transform us, that the world is big and beautiful and waiting for us, and that the best is yet to come.
In my thirty-year-old life filled with little boys and sloppy joes and loads and loads of laundry, this passage continues to remind me to keep life in perspective, embrace the season I’m in, and accept the beautiful reality that there is so much more life to be lived ahead of me.
What sets this book apart from her previous two are the recipes Shauna includes with each essay. I made her Bacon-Wrapped Dates for my friend Mindy’s birthday party and they were amazing. Even more fabulous was the fact that all the ingredients (two of which I had never actually purchased before) were available at the local Target, and incredibly easy to put together.
My favorite favorite favorite recipe piece to the whole book was the chapter On Weeknight Cooking. As much as I’d love to be a fabulous dinner party thrower, right now with two boys under four, I am in more of a lets-get-through-dinner-without-hurting-each-other kind of phase. Shauna includes four of her own family’s go-to meals for hurried weeknights. They are simple. They are fresh. They are fabulous – and we had three out of four of us eating the same thing. Those are big potatoes in my house.
Thanks Shauna, for sharing your life through a wonderful new book, and for being a voice of encouragement to me and so many others.
About the Author
Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine. Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She is married to Aaron, who is a pianist and songwriter. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek and is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Aaron & Shauna live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry and Mac. Shauna writes about the beautiful and broken moments of everyday life–friendship, family, faith, food, marriage, love, babies, books, celebration, heartache, and all the other things that shape us, delight us, and reveal to us the heart of God.