Shauna Niequist’s second book, Bittersweet, is a delightful book on change, grace and learning the hard way. I loved her first book, Cold Tangerines, but this one is even better. As she tells her story of a difficult season in life,  it becomes clear  how God has taken her to the depths of herself, only to find Him there to bring comfort and stability. Shauna reminds us that life is a combination of  the bitter and sweet and in both times we ought to give thanks.

There were moments in the book where I felt like I was reading my own journal. Particularly in the chapter titled, “Things I don’t do.” Shauna writes about the illusion of being able to do it all and coming to the understanding that once you decide what you want your life to be about, you have to figure out what you’re willing to give up. She wrestles with the challenge of not doing everything because everything is “just a killer” and her “drug of choice.” And then better being a “seductress”  that keeps us going and going until we can’t see straight any more.

Rather than “doing everything better,” Shauna decided it is more profitable to come up with a list of “Things I Do” and “Things I Don’t Do.” The lists range from things like, “I try to keep my faith in Christ at the very center of my life,” to things like “I don’t bake” and “I only blow dry my hair on special occasions.” The idea is, when presented with a new opportunity, one can refer back to the lists to discern whether it is a good choice to move forward or not.

The chapter reminded me of something Andy Stanley said at Catalyst West in April that has been ringing in my head ever since: “Your fully exploited strengths are of more use than your marginally improved weaknesses.” Combined with this chapter in Bittersweet, I got to thinking about what it is that I really do. What do I love to do and what is  life-giving  not just to me, but also to those around me. And let’s not forget about those things I really have no business doing.

So, I came up with my own list of things I do and things I don’t and now I’m wondering if that prepared garden bed in the back yard with nothing planted in it yet is a sign of things I don’t do. Alas, the list is still in progress as I find it truly difficult to give up things that are good but not necessary for me. But here it is… at least for now:

  1. Make it a priority to abide in Christ
  2. Give my best to Steve
  3. …and the boys
  4. Be a more thoughtful and organized leader
  5. Work hard to become a better teacher
  6. Shepherd the women who are in my scope of influence
  7. Live in authentic community with my friends

The list of things I don’t do:

  1. Decorate (I look around and realize everything that looks good was someone else’s idea)
  2. Yard work (It’s a nice idea… I love planting but hate weeding – this is a blog post for another day)
  3. Scrapbook (enough said)
  4. Have a perfectly clean house (it’s more important to have fun)
  5. Long term counseling of others (it’s not my best contribution)
  6. Read fiction (nothing against it, don’t have time for it)
  7. Do a lot of girls nights out (my free time needs to be protected for my husband and kids)

So there it is. What’s on your list(s)?

4 thoughts on “Bittersweet

  1. Doesn’t it feel almost tangibly freer and brighter when we let go of things we want to do but aren’t necessary? That same chapter of Bittersweet stood out to me too, and I’ll be returning to it again.

    It’s fun to find bloggers who’ve reviewed the same books I have, and I’m glad I found your blog, Suzie! I look forward to looking around some more. 🙂

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