Present Over Perfect: an excerpt :)

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Hello & so much love from the lake–we’re only here for a few more days, but we’re soaking it up like crazy: boat rides instead of bedtimes, peaches and blueberries from the Farmer’s Market…okay, also kettle corn and homemade pizza, too.

Part of the reason we’re headed home soon is because release of Present Over Perfect is right around the corner–August 9th!–and we’re so excited!

A book release is always fun-slash-nerve-wracking, but to be honest: I’ve never felt this way about a book. A friend texted last night and said, “Shauna, this is a…manifesto.” She’s right: this is the deepest, most honest, most passion-fueled thing I’ve written–get ready for ranting and raving and dreaming and confessing. This one’s kind of a wild one. And I can’t wait to share it with you. 

For absolutely everything there is to know about the book–about the release, about giveaways, about how to pre-order, how to order a limited signed edition, here’s a page that’s all things Present Over Perfect.

And here’s an excerpt from the book–the title essay, in fact:

Present Over Perfect

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.                —John Steinbeck

The phrase present over perfect was one I first held tightly to a few Christmases ago. I remember the moment: the table was a train wreck of wrapping paper and unfolded laundry, half-eaten cookies. My mind was running with all the remaining tasks that needed to be done—gifts bought, cards addressed, bags packed, deadlines reached.

To put it plainly: my desire for beautiful, sparkly Christmas moments was edging out my ability to live well in my own actual life, and I recognized this feeling as one I’d grappled with all my life. I want things to be spectacular, epic, over the top, exciting and dramatic. But in order to force that beauty and drama into otherwise ordinary moments, you have to push and tap dance and hustle, hustle, hustle.

I was faced with a dilemma—one so many of us face quite often: I could either wrestle my life and my kids and my house and our Christmas into something fantastic, something perfect . . . or I could plunk myself down right in the middle of the mess and realize that the mess is actually my life, the only one I’ll ever get, the one I’m in danger of missing completely, waiting around for fantastic.

That Christmas I chose to be present over perfect, and that’s still what I choose today. Some days I do it better than others—it’s still a tremendous temptation for me to spin out into achievement or efficiency or performance instead of dwelling deeply in life as it presents itself each moment. Indeed, sometimes I can get a little obsessive about pursuing non-perfection just perfectly. But the endeavor itself is transformative: my marriage, my parenting, my friendships, and my connection to God have all been enriched in countless ways along this journey.

This isn’t about working less or more, necessarily. This isn’t about homemade or takeout, or full time or part time, or the specific ways we choose to live out our days. It’s about rejecting the myth that every day is a new opportunity to prove our worth, and about the truth that our worth is inherent, given by God, not earned by our hustling.

It’s about learning to show up and let ourselves be seen just as we are, massively imperfect and weak and wild and flawed in a thousand ways, but still worth loving. It’s about realizing that what makes our lives meaningful is not what we accomplish, but how deeply and honestly we connect with the people in our lives, how wholly we give ourselves to the making of a better world, through kindness and courage.

Let’s talk for a minute about perfect: perfect has become as near a dirty word to me as hustle, prove, earn, compete, and push. Perfect is brittle and unyielding, plastic, distant, more image than flesh. Perfect calls to mind stiffness, silicone, an aggressive and unimaginative relentlessness. Perfect and the hunt for it will ruin our lives—that’s for certain.

The ache for perfection keeps us isolated and exhausted—we keep people at arm’s length, if that, and we keep hustling, trying trying trying to reach some sort of ideal that never comes.

I’ve missed so much of my actual, human, beautiful, not-beautiful life trying to force things into perfect. But these days I’m coming to see that perfect is safe, controlled, managed. I’m finding myself drawn to mess, to darkness, to things that are loved to the point of shabbiness, or just wildly imperfect in their own gorgeous way.

I’m drawn to music that’s more earnest than tidy, art that’s more ragged than orderly, people who are just a touch more honest than is strictly appropriate for the situation. I’m finished hustling for perfect. It didn’t deliver what they told me it would.

And so, instead: present. If perfect is plastic, present is rich, loamy soil. It’s fresh bread, lumpy and warm. It’s real and tactile and something you can hold with both hands, something rich and warm. Present is a face bare of makeup, a sweater you’ve loved for a decade, a mug that reminds you of who you used to be. It’s the Bible with the battered cover, the journal filled with scribbled, secret dreams. It isn’t pretty, necessarily—it isn’t supposed to be.

Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairy tale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.

Present over perfect living is real over image, connecting over comparing, meaning over mania, depth over artifice. Present over perfect living is the risky and revolutionary belief that the world God has created is beautiful and valuable on its own terms, and that it doesn’t need to be zhuzzed up and fancy in order to be wonderful.

Sink deeply into the world as it stands. Breathe in the smell of rain and the scuff of leaves as they scrape across driveways on windy nights. This is where life is, not in some imaginary, photo-shopped dreamland. Here. Now. You, just as you are. Me, just as I am. This world, just as it is. This is the good stuff. This is the best stuff there is. Perfect has nothing on truly, completely, wide-eyed, open-souled present.

***

When I was slipping out of my heels and pencil skirts—my armor for a frantic professional world—in search of a cozier, plainer, simpler way of living, I bought a pair of white Converse All Stars. Practically speaking, I needed a pair of shoes to wear to a camp. And I needed desperately to go to a camp—to reconnect with nature and silence and water and people who knew me well.

The Chucks, then, became a symbol of the transition from one season to another. They have become the shoes I wear when I want to feel truly grounded: low-key, low-drama, my plain old self. They’re like the jeans you’ve had forever, the college sweatshirt you can’t throw away, the baseball cap that outlasted the boyfriend and has now become part of your own story, part of who you are.

When I see them in my closet, I remember that I want to live both feet firmly planted on this gorgeous green earth, that I want to be right here and right now, that I am loved and known and that I don’t have to hustle or perform.

I know that’s a lot to get from a pair of sneakers. But sometimes, especially when we’re in seasons of great transition, we cling to a couple things very tightly—physical reminders of deep inner revolutions—and I’ve held tightly to these white Chucks.

They’re not my first pair—didn’t everyone my age have a pair or two in high school or college? I certainly did, along the way—green ones, red ones, black ones. So these feel familiar, like a return to an essential self, like I’m traveling back to reclaim something, which is exactly what I’m doing, in many ways: I’m retracing the steps I’ve taken across the last several years to find the woman I used to be—she’s definitely nowhere near perfect, but I like her better, and I’m determined to find her again.

The Belong Tour 2016

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Hi pals! We’ve got some really fun, really big news that we’ve been wanting to share for a long time.

NO, I’M NOT PREGNANT.

In 2016, some of my all-time favorite women are gathering together for a brand new tour called Belong, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Jen Hatmaker, Patsy Clairmont, Sarah Jakes Roberts, Nichole Nordeman and I will be coming to 12 cities starting in August 2016. Can you even believe those women? This is nothing short of a dream for me—these are women that I adore, women I learn from, look up to, laugh with, cry with. These women are GOLD.

Belong is a two day event—Friday & Saturday. We’ll talk together about faith, about family, about love and purpose and passion and brokenness. We’ll talk about fear and courage and what it looks like to craft lives of meaning. There will be creativity and beauty and music. There will be laughter and connection. There will be space to fall apart, and space to stand and sing.

Belong is for every woman—for long-time Christian women and women who wouldn’t come to a church if you paid them. It’s for conservatives and liberals, young and old, married and single, women of every background and race. We are deeply committed to creating a wide and holy space for us to connect to one another, to see and know each other, to carry each other’s burdens together.

The team behind Belong is the same team that has built Women of Faith, and I was able join them a couple times this year as a part of Women of Faith’s Farewell tour. This is what I know about this amazing team: they’re passionate to their toes about changing women’s lives, about giving women a vision for life and meaning and purpose. I couldn’t love them more.

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You know that I’ve taken a break from most traveling and speaking. You know that I was away too much for a couple seasons, that my health suffered and my heart ached. I believed and still believe in what God can do when we share our stories, when we meet each other face to face, when we gather together to connect and pray and sing. I believe in that, but I couldn’t figure out how to make all that travel work with my family life, with my heart, with health and wholeness.

So for the last three years I’ve been traveling less and less, home more and more. It’s been wonderful. And at the same time, I’ve been dreaming about a way of speaking and traveling that might work for me, and for our family. Aaron and I have talked about it a million times, knowing that it’s a dream, but articulating it all the same: what if the women I love, learn from, text silly pictures to, pray for…what if we got to do this thing together? Instead of sitting alone backstage, sitting alone in a hotel room, sitting alone at the gate of another airport, what if when I left my family, I got to join another family—a team of women that love each other and love each other’s kids, that connect in meaningful ways, that cheer each other on and weep together and have curled up on each other’s couches and eaten around one another’s tables over the years?

It was a far-off dream, to be sure, and I had no idea how to even start moving forward. But I did know that if I continued to speak and travel, the key was that it had to be in the context of long-term, authentic relationships.

At dinner with another writer friend, I told her about my dream. Crazy, right? I know. A few weeks later, she called.

She told me that the team that built Women of Faith into a beautiful, long-term movement was starting conversations about the future, about a new circle of women to continue the legacy that Women of Faith has built.

They invited me into those conversations, and we’ve been talking for months—dreaming, telling stories, getting to know one another, listening, praying. I was very slow to commit at first, wary of being away again, throwing off the healthy rhythm of life I’ve fought so hard to establish.

But then there was a night when I came home from meeting with these women who have become friends over a million phone calls and meals and visits, and I said to Aaron, “I think this is what we’ve been praying for. I think this is a sweeter, richer, fuller vision than I even knew to dream. I think this might be one of God’s most generous gifts to us.”

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I have–many, many times in the last few months–gotten down on my knees and lifted my hands to say thank you to God for this opportunity. I’m flabbergasted that I get to be included in the company of these women, and I’m so profoundly thankful.
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I know there are so many cities that we won’t get to this first year. There’s a whole complicated matrix of which city and why and when, and when they tried to explain it to us, our eyes glazed over really fast. But trust us: we would LOVE to come to every part of the country, and it’s possible that in subsequent years, we’ll add or shift cities.

Tickets will go on sale on Friday, but here’s a fun thing: if you use the code SHAUNA between now and then, you’ll get $20 off select tickets.

AND for anyone who already bought a ticket, or buys one between now and December 18th, we’ve got a free Belong tshirt for you.

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Here’s the thing: please come join us. Gather up a bunch of girlfriends or call your mom and sister or wrangle your neighbors and come connect with us. Our hearts are bursting with love & excitement, and our brains are brimming over with all sorts of crazy ideas to help women feel loved and connected and celebrated. We’d love to set a place at our big Belong table for you.

Don’t Be the Next _____

IMG_2335I keep hearing things like, “He’s the next Rob Bell.”

“She’s the new Beth Moore.”

“She’s a female Donald Miller.”

“He’s a young Dallas Willard.”

“She’s the next Anne Lamott.”

I get it, what people are saying when they say things like that. They’re trying to describe a certain potential, more ‘this’ than ‘that,’ to define trajectory and tone. They’re trying to pay a compliment–they’re saying, “I think you could do what that amazing person has done.”

But there are at least two problems with this way of speaking: first, there is already one Rob Bell. And he’s great at what he does. There is a Beth Moore, and she’s amazing. Let’s not communicate to them that they’re factory models, a dime a dozen, with newer, younger versions of the same nipping at their heels.

There will never be another Dallas Willard. There will never be another Anne Lamott. These are individual people with stories and families and quirks, not types and caricatures, but we make them that, when we talk about them like products. They’re not products, and they’re not replicable. They’re unique voices that God has used in extraordinary ways, and we minimize that when we talk about them like types, not people.

And what you’re saying to someone, when you tell him he’s the next so-and-so, is that there’s a slot you think he can slip into, if he tries hard enough. There’s an identity he can put on like a necktie. Just occupy this person’s voice and identity, and all will be well.

No. All will not be well. We don’t need more of them. We need more of you. God is using so many people in such beautiful ways, but we absolutely don’t need replicas of them. We need you: your voice, your uniqueness, your magic.

And we lose your magic when you lay it down in order to imitate someone else. We lose your voice, your perspective, your story, your strengths, your weaknesses, your dreams, your secrets.

Don’t be the next anybody. Be deeply, weirdly, completely, totally you.

Why do I care so deeply about this? Why does the hair on the back of my neck stand up when someone says, “He’s the next Billy Graham?”

Because some of the hardest work I’ve done in my life is fighting to believe that God’s not asking me to be the next anyone–not the next Bill Hybels, not the next Lynne Hybels. Not the next whoever. God’s asking me to be an entirely new thing, never before, never again. My parents’ daughter, of course, one thousand percent, but not their replica.

You were not made to be a clone or a replica or a version 2.0 of what God’s already done. You were made to be only you, with all the limitations and triumphs contained within that.

And so, on a cloudy Friday morning in May, my dear friends, promise me that you’ll be you–deeply, weirdly, totally you, not the next _____.

That’s where life is. That’s where freedom is. That’s where peace is.

XO–S

 

On Bethlehem & the Beginning of Something

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Nine weeks ago at this time, I was in Bethlehem. I had just walked through a refugee camp, and then a few hours later, I ducked my head low to enter the cave underneath the Church of the Nativity to kneel at the very place where it is believed that Jesus was born. Bethlehem, the ancient city of the mighty Jewish king, David; a city we sing Christmas carols about, a city that every Christian understands as our beginning point, the birthplace of our Savior, is also a place where Christians (and Muslims) live with limited self-rule under military occupation.

Bethlehem, like its neighbor Jerusalem, is a city that sits right at the heart of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and the very little that I know and understand of that complex conflict feels contained right within those two experiences on that damp, cool day.

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And there are a thousand snapshots like that—the holiest of lands and the darkest of divisions. We were invited into the homes of Jews and Christians and Muslims; Israelis and Palestinians; professors and rabbis and farmers. We put our feet in the Sea of Galilee, and the next morning, we stood high on a hillside in the south of Israel—an area in constant range of hostile rocket fire—looking across the border into Gaza. We pressed our hands onto the Western Wall and celebrated Shabbat dinner in the home of an Orthodox rabbi. We made jam with Palestinian women and Israeli women whose only connection is that they’ve all lost a loved one to the conflict. We helped to replant apricot trees on a Palestinian farm after military bulldozers destroyed them in the night.

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And in every space between those amazing moments, we asked questions—thousands of questions. We got up early and stayed up late, took copious notes, asked the people we met to explain it again, again, again. But what about this? But when she said that? But I don’t understand what he meant when he said this.

I’ll be the very first to admit that I don’t understand a whole lot of it, but this is what I do know: something about that land and the people we encountered—the warm-hearted, deeply kind Israelis and Palestinians who welcomed us to their land and into their stories–and the smells and the flavors captured my heart and my imagination, and this is the beginning of what I think will be a long journey of learning for me. I know so little, but I’m committed to learning, to gaining a grasp of the vernacular of this extraordinary land and the tangled conflict that touches every person who lives there.

One thing I realized is that the average American cannot immediately understand the nature of the conflict because our understanding of land is so entirely different. So much of the pain of the conflict flows out of deep connection to land—land as part of family identity, land as part of religious identity. Very few Americans have this—some might, if your family’s been farming the same acres for generations, or if a family home has been passed down over generations.

But for most of us, we live relatively disconnected from land—we live in one house and then another, we rent apartments. And most American Christians don’t experience our faith in terms of rootedness in location—we’re a part of churches that gather in warehouses and malls and junior high schools. The idea of a particular plot of land being inextricably tied to identity, family, religion? That’s not how we think of land. But it’s an important key to understanding the depth of the conflict.Telos Trip March 2015-March 5 Parents Circle Tent of Nations-0055

A tour of Jerusalem illuminates this centrality of the land: the churches, the synagogues, the mosques, the tombs—all sacred spaces for three major world religions and countless smaller groups within each. Churches are shared by denominations and sects, so walking through one church feels like a tour of religious organizations, or a fair of some kind. This chapel is Catholic, this one Eastern Orthodox, this one Armenian, this one Ethiopian.

There were twenty-five of us who traveled together—my mom and I gathered together some of her friends and mine, mostly writers. Some I’ve known for twenty years, some were friends of friends that I met for the first time when we all turned up in Jerusalem.

And now we feel knit together in that way that only traveling together can do—we’re all back home in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles and DC and Chicago and a dozen other cities, but we’re texting back and forth, planning visits, still asking questions, ever asking questions.

One of the women we traveled with lives in Chicago, and her family came over for dinner a week ago.

And so we sat across from each other, and we asked each other the same question all of us have been asking in the nine weeks since our return: what’s next for you in all this?

This is what I said: “You know how there are some things that you experience, but then they’re over, and you rather quickly and easily turn the page into something new? This is not that. This began something in me.”

If you want to learn with me, here are a few places to start:

The Telos Group

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Six Things I Believe

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Dale Hanson Bourke

Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour

All photos by the talented Christine Anderson.

 

 

 

Breath // A guest post from my friend Rachel Held Evans

IMG_1227Hi pals! I’m so excited to share this with you: an excerpt from Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held EvansRachel is a writer I respect, and a good friend. She’s intelligent and brave, and I love her new book. 

Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

—John 20:21–22

The Spirit is like breath, as close as the lungs, the chest, the lips, the fogged canvas where little fingers draw hearts, the tide that rises and falls twenty-three thousand times a day in a rhythm so intimate we forget to notice until it enervates or until a supine yogi says pay attention and its fragile power awes again. Inhale. Exhale. Expand. Release. In the beginning, God breathed. And the dust breathed back enough oxygen, water, and carbon dioxide to make an atmosphere, to make a man. Job knew life as “the breath of God in my nostrils,” given and taken away. With breath, the Creator kindled the stars, parted a sea, woke a valley of dry bones, inspired a sacred text. So, too, the Spirit, inhaled and exhaled in a million quotidian ways, animates, revives, nourishes, sustains, speaks. It is as near as the nose and as everywhere as the air, so pay attention.

The Spirit is like fire, deceptively polite in its dance atop the wax and wick of our church candles, but wild and mercurial as a storm when unleashed. Fire holds no single shape, no single form. It can roar through a forest or fulminate in a cannon. It can glow in hot coals or flit about in embers. But it cannot be held. The living know it indirectly—through heat, through light, through tendrils of smoke snaking through the sky, through the scent of burning wood, through the itch of ash in the eye. Fire consumes. It creates in its destroying and destroys in its creating. The furnace that smelts the ore drives off slag, and the flame that refines the metal purifies the gold. The fire that torches a centuries-old tree can crack open her cones and spill out their seeds. When God led his people through the wilderness, the Spirit blazed in a fire that rested over the tabernacle each night. And when God made the church, the Spirit blazed in little fires that rested over his people’s heads. “Quench not the Spirit,” the apostle wrote. It is as necessary and as dangerous as fire, so stay alert; pay attention.

The Spirit is like a seal, an emblem bearing the family crest, a promise of belonging, protection, favor. Like a signet ring to soft wax, the Spirit impresses the supple heart with the power and prestige of God, and no one—not kings, not presidents, not the wealthy, nor the magisterium—can take that identity away. The bond of God is made of viscous stuff. He has put his seal on us, wrote the apostle, and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee (1 Corinthians 1:22). In the rite of confirmation, which acknowledges the presence of the Spirit in a believer’s life, a thumb to the forehead reminds God’s children of their mark: the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s as invisible as your breath but as certain as your skin, so pay attention; don’t forget who you are.

The Spirit is like wind, earth’s oldest sojourner, which in one place readies a sail, in another whittles a rock, in another commands the trees to bow, in another gently lifts a bridal veil. Wind knows no perimeter. The wildest of all wild things, it travels to every corner of a cornerless world and amplifies the atmosphere. It smells like honeysuckle, curry, smoke, sea. It feels like a kiss, a breath, a burn, a sting. It can whisper or whistle or roar, bend and break and inflate. It can be harnessed, but never stopped or contained; its effects observed while its essence remains unseen. To chase the wind is folly, they say, to try and tame it the very definition of futility. “The wind blows wherever it pleases,” Jesus said. “You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). We are born into a windy world, where the Spirit is steady as a breeze and as strong as a hurricane. There is no city, no village, no wilderness where you cannot find it, so pay attention.

The Spirit is like a bird, fragile alloy of heaven and earth, where wind and feather and flight meets breath and blood and bones. The rabbis imagined her as a pigeon, the Celts a wild goose. Like a dove, she glided over the primordial waters, hovered above Mary’s womb, and descended onto Jesus’ dripping wet head. She protected Israel like an eagle, and like a hen, brooded over her chicks. “Hide me in the shadow of your wings,” the poet king wrote. “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 17:8, 63:7). The Spirit is as common as a cooing pigeon and transcendent as a high-flying eagle. So look up and sing back, catch the light of God in a diaphanous scrim of wing. Pay attention.

The Spirit is like a womb, from which the living are born again. We emerge—lashes still wet from the water, eyes unadjusted to the light—into a reanimated and freshly charged world. There are so many new things to see, so many gifts to give and receive, so many miracles to baffle and amaze, if only we pay attention, if only we let the Spirit surprise and God catch our breath.

Oh, I just love those images, and I’m so thankful for Rachel’s words. If you haven’t yet picked up a copy of Searching for Sunday, do it. I know you’ll love it. XO–S

On Narrowing

FullSizeRenderHappy Friday, my friends. It’s almost noon, and I’m typing away, surrounded by scribbles and scraps of paper, drinking Irish Breakfast tea, blasting Alabama Shakes.

After about six weeks away from working on Present Over Perfect, I’m back into it today, reading old drafts, squinting at each page, trying to figure out what stays, what goes, what comes after what.

I’m working with a new editor in addition to Carolyn, who I love, and I feel as though I’ve hit the jackpot, that these two brilliant women are walking with me, pushing me, telling me the truth, drawing out the best, asking for deeper, richer work.

There are a lot of things I love, but the core of the core for me is writing and family, my two greatest loves. Today I’ll type till Henry gets off the bus, and then tonight is family night—shooting baskets, watching a movie all snuggled up, popcorn and jammies and blankets.

There’s a narrowing that takes place as you grow up, I think—you leave more and more behind: things other people want you to be, things you thought you might want to be, ways of living that never did actually fit, like shoes that are a little too tight.

For those of you who are 18 or 28, and to you 38 years old sounds a million years away, I’m here to tell you it’s great. Getting older is the best thing ever, because you’re so much freer, so much more sure of what you are and what you’re not, so much more able to articulate the most important things.

These next 10 weeks or so will be narrow, in the best possible way, as I work to finish the first draft of this book: lots of writing, lots of silence and space. Lots of shooting baskets and peeling clementines for Mac and reading with Henry. Lots of time around the table with our people, Saturday soccer games, lots of walks to the park.

I’m loving the simplicity and rhythm of this season–the boys have Saturday morning breakfast with Papa, we gather for the Practice on Sunday nights, our small group turns up around our table on Thursdays. I love the signs of spring drawing us outside again, Mac on his glider, and Henry and his friends whooping and shouting, shooting Nerf arrows into the trees. And I love these moments surrounded by words, lining them up, rearranging them, discovering what it is that I really do think and feel by typing, trying, typing.

When I’m writing, I’m very particular about what I listen to and what I read, because it gets inside, you know? I’m a little more permeable in seasons of writing, and so I want to choose stories and sounds that keep good company, that make me braver and wilder and more honest.

Some sounds and stories that are keeping me company this springtime:

What I’m listening to:

Alabama Shakes/Sound & Color

Sandra McCracken/Psalms

Christy Nockels/Let it Be Jesus

Needtobreathe/Rivers in the Wasteland

The Lone Bellow/Then Came the Morning

What I’m reading:

Rachel Held Evans/Searching for Sunday

Jon Ronson/So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Erik Larson/Dead Wake

Gretchen Rubin/Better Than Before

Scot McKnight/A Fellowship of Differents

What else should I be reading and listening to these days? What stories and sounds are keeping you company this springtime?

 

A film called NOBLE

 

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Hi, pals! It’s been ages. It’s almost like I went out of the country, launched a book, did one million radio interviews, spring-breaked with Aaron and the boys, and then last minute flew away again for a little adventure with my parents, my brother and Henry. Almost like that. Wait, just exactly like that.

It’s been a really sweet season—lots of adventures and family memory-making, lots of learning and celebrating and general merriment. It has not, however, been a season of a lot of blogging, and I’m sorry about that, pals.

I’m back, though, and the first thing I want to do is tell you about a really special film that’s coming out.

Noble is the story of Christina Noble, an Irish woman who believes that God has called her to serve children in Vietnam. It’s about more than that, of course. It’s about courage and taking risks and heartbreak and trusting God. It’s about believing that your bravery can make a difference in the lives of other people.

It comes out May 8th, which is Mother’s Day weekend–so maybe make a date to see it with your mom or the women in your life, and then go out afterward to talk about what it looks like to be noble in your corner of the world. You’ll love it.

More soon, pals.  XO–S

Introducing Shauna Mail & a Secret Recipe Video

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Happy Friday!

It’s been a whirlwind of a week around here, and we’re so very grateful—grateful for every single one of you who bought Savor, who posted a photo, who wrote a review: thank you, thank you, thank you!

I am absolutely overwhelmed by God’s goodness and your kindness this week. There’ve been lots of happy tears this week, and I’m so grateful for you.

As a way of saying thank you and I love you and you’re such lovely people, we’ve got a secret video for you: my super-talented brother-in-law runs a film company, and we shot some videos together in my kitchen earlier this year. The first one is ready, and we’re so happy to share it with you.

All you have to do to get the password to the video is sign up for Shauna Mail below. Most people, when you sign up for their email list, say something like, “I promise not to fill up your inbox with emails every five seconds.” I feel like, based on my blogging track record, that’s not something you have to worry about with me. I can’t even promise I’ll send Shauna Mail once a month, although I’ll try, in the vaguest of ways.

What I will do: I’ll keep you posted on inside scoop stuff, like when you can pre-order a book before anyone else, or I’ll post videos or pdfs you won’t be able to get anywhere else.

I’d love for you to sign up today so you can peek at the video Eric made—it’s a recipe demo of one of my all-time favorite recipes, and also a story about a tradition that my friends have built around that recipe. And if you signed up before, please sign up again? This time, I really will send out emails, instead of just asking you to sign up and then doing nothing with all your names, like a weirdo.

This time, I’m on it. Promise.

One more thing, for local pals: I’d love to see you tomorrow at LifeWay in Wheaton at noon—I’ll read, I’ll sign books, and there will be cake…see you there?

It’s SAVOR Release Day!

IMG_0573Today, officially, is Savor‘s release day, although those dates are always sort of unpredictable. It was available a couple weeks ago on bn.com, and it started shipping from Amazon while I was in the air, phone off, between Tel Aviv and Newark airport. I landed in Newark yesterday at 4:30am yesterday to tons of notes and texts and notifications–and we’re off!

For the full picture, it’s 5am now, and I’m typing in bed, next to an eight year old who’s either a touch sick or just missed his mama. I’m sick, too–a killer cold that we passed around the bus last week, and I don’t mind him snuggled up to me one bit. And I’m wide awake–thank you, jet lag, and thank you, book-release-day-nerves.

A book release day is absolutely nothing like an album dropping–press conferences, huge events at record stores. It’s nothing like a movie premiere–red carpets, screaming fans. It’s just exactly like every other day of being a writer: you wear your pajamas and you type. The only thing that’s different is that you clear your whole day for “release” stuff, which is really just checking your Amazon rating every six minutes.

This time around, the release day comes straight off 8 days in Israel and Palestine, and I think that’s a lovely way to do it. The run-up to a release can get a little me-me-me, so I’m very thankful for an experience that jolted me out of myself, connected my heart to a sacred place, my mind to a complicated conflict, my soul to a group of extraordinary women, some of whom I’ve known for decades, some of whom I met a week ago.

My mind and heart are still reeling from the trip, of course. I’ll write about it in the next few weeks, as I start to make more sense of it. Short answer, though: it was a game changer for me. We traveled with an amazing organization called Telos–in their words, they create “uncommon experiences for the common good,” and I’m so thankful for their guidance through a complex and beautiful land.

The bowl in the picture is one I bought on our last night, at a market in Jaffa, an ancient Arab port city. The bowl’s on my table, surrounded by the lists and lists of release details, and it’s there intentionally–don’t forget, it whispers to me. Don’t forget the smell of the spices in the market and the faces of children in a refugee camp. Don’t forget the feel of the Western Wall under your palms and the faces of people who are working for peace, for reconciliation, for the common good.

So the faces and the bowl and the jet lag and the cold and the sick kid and in the middle of all that, a devotional called Savor. I love the word devotional, because I love the word devotion–so beautiful and intense and rich, to be devoted to something. Part of why this project captured me is because I’ve rediscovered in the last few years my need to begin my own days in devotion, devoting myself to God’s presence and action in my days, in my corner of the world.

And savor: another word I love–to soak up, dwell richly within, notice deeply. At my best, I’m a savor-er. At my worst, I blow right past the most important things, but at my best, I see them, feel them, soak them up, savor them. That’s what this book is about: devoting ourselves and our days to God’s love and presence, and living those days in such a way that the beauty and hope of the world is not lost on us, in such a way that we can savor each day, each moment.

So many of you have been posting photos of Savor on Insta or writing about it on FB & Twitter–thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t tell you how moving that is for an author, or how helpful it is. Blog posts, photos on Insta/Twitter/FB, and Amazon reviews really really do matter, especially in the first week of a release, so if that’s something you’re up for, it would be a huge gift to me–again, thank you, each one of you. It makes a really big difference.

And for those of you who are local, I’d love to see you this Saturday at noon at LifeWay in Wheaton–and I’m told there will be very good cake.

It’s 5:52am. My son has gone back to sleep. I’m drinking tea, feeling full-hearted and thankful and even a little tender right this second. I say this every time, because it’s true every time: this is all I ever wanted to be, a writer. I never wanted to be an astronaut or a basketball star. All I ever wanted to do was to make someone feel the way I feel when I read: like I’m not alone, like I’m not crazy, like the world is good and God is good and you have a friend across the pages.

Here we are, the fourth time around, and I’m crying thankful tears onto my laptop once again, grateful to make books and grateful to make friends across the pages. You’re not alone, you’re not crazy. The world is good, God is so good.

Savor, indeed.

XO–S

 

 

You Are Enough

IMG_0069 2My dear friend Margaret bought me this little plate years ago, and I keep it on our bathroom counter. It holds my wedding rings at night, so I see it twice a day, when I take them off to sleep, and when I put them on again in the morning. I put it there purposefully, because I need to be reminded of this at least twice a day. At least.

And I thought maybe today I might not be the only one who needs the reminder: YOU ARE ENOUGH.

You. Yes, you. Wherever you’re reading this–in your office, or on your phone as you nurse a baby. If you’re in your dorm room or in between meetings or stealing a few quiet moments before the kids get home. You–yes, you–are enough.

You’re enough because you were created by God, out of nothing but dust and love, and that’s what makes you enough. You’re not enough because you’re smart enough or pretty enough or working hard enough–although you are, to be sure, all those things: brilliant and beautiful and working your tail off. But that’s not what makes you enough.

What makes you enough is your createdness. God made you. He made you, dreamed you up, spun you out of thin air. That makes you so much more than enough. That makes you a work of art–because you were created by a master.

As I leave behind hustling and earning and pushing, if those old ways of living aren’t what make me enough…then what does? If it’s not the doing and the being capable and the being needed and the being whatever, then what is it that makes me valuable? What is it that gives me the right to stop all this hustling?

What gives me the right is my createdness. I keep coming back to the dignity, the beauty, the value, of having been created by God. That’s the core of it all.

I’m enough, because God made me.

And you’re enough, because God made you.

I don’t know what you’re holding today–joy or heartbreak, challenges or great freedom. Probably all of the above and then some. Probably these days are both beautiful and hard. Probably there is both great sweetness and something breaking your heart a little bit. That’s how it is, I think, most of the time, for most of us.

And right in the middle of it, right this second, on a freezing cold February Thursday, this is what I want to tell you: YOU ARE ENOUGH.

(Oh, and if you need a place to put your rings, and a place to be reminded that you, indeed, are enough, here you go. I don’t know them, but I love their stuff–this little plate from Margaret was my first introduction to them, and now over the years I’ve accumulated several other beautiful pieces of theirs. LOVE.)

 

20 Books

IMG_0003One thing you must know about me: I’m a reader. Like a voracious, crazy, whenever-I-have-two-minutes, books-are-my-oxygen reader. I met a new friend recently, a writer friend, and in the middle of a party, we nerded out so hardcore on books we love, ranting and raving, delighting in plots and language and lines that move us. I ran all over our house–because we have books literally in every room in our house–and kept delivering to this new friend another book and another book that he absolutely had to read. I do this to people. Often.

And I do believe very firmly that writers absolutely have to be readers. Every once in a while I talk to another writer who tells me they don’t have time to read. Nope. If you’re a writer, you have time to read. You can’t add your words to the big conversation that authors have been engaged in for thousands of years without listening to that conversation first. You have to know what stories can do, how language shapes us and how the rhythm of words lined up just right can move us so deeply. Writers have to be readers. And we have to read outside our genres, especially.

Side note: I cannot understand people who don’t read fiction. Not like I judge people who don’t–more like I wish they knew what they were missing. Do you know how many beautiful stories you could dive into? Do you know how many cities and civilizations and traditions and cultures you could peer in on? How many meals and love stories and heroes’ tales, how many adventures and tragedies and plot twists you could carry with you in your heart? Because that’s what happens when you read.

I know. I’m like straight PSA right now. I’m your elementary school librarian. I’m your crazy aunt, the one who’s always talking about how her favorite smell is the smell of old books. I know.

And I’m not sorry. Books are my favorite. My medicine. My fuel. I could not live well without a steady diet of stories. My brain runs on rows and rows of words, like PacMan, gobbling them up as fast as I can.

Here are 20 I’ve gobbled up recently:

All the Light We Cannot See
Gorgeous, deeply evocative fiction. The images and sounds and smells are haunting.

Scary Close
Oh, I super-love this one. Don Miller is so gutsy, and his writing is so intelligent, and this one’s going to help so many people truly connect.

Where Chefs Eat
Super fun for anyone who loves to eat out–would be a great gift for anyone in your life who (like me) keeps lists and lists of restaurants to try on upcoming trips.

Overwhelmed
Such a great, smart book about the pressure so many of us feel to live lives that are too fast, too full, too frantic.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
Ann Patchett is a master. I adore her writing, and this is no exception. Writers: this one’s a must read.

Are you My Mother?
My first foray into graphic novels, and I’m fascinated. I’m generally very old school about black and white text being all we need, but this was so imaginative and smart and emotionally connected, in a way I couldn’t imagine this format could be.

Rosie Project
A sweet, funny, unexpected love story.

Department of Speculation
I’ve never read a book like this, in a good way. In the same way that I’m old school about text, I also tend not to love devices, or anything that feels tricky or gimmicky. But this odd format worked in such a brilliant way.

Vanishing Grace
Phillip Yancey’s most recent, and I think his best. You can feel both his intellect and his depth through the pages. Loved this one. Would recommend to pastors, especially, for his thoughts on the changing landscape of faith.

I’ll Drink to That
A memoir from the woman who made created personal shopping at Bergdorf Goodman. Great New York story, and tons of fun fashion stuff, but also a really important look at what it was like to be a woman not so long ago.

Fringe Hours
Jessica Turner’s done such a beautiful job on this–she lives this message, and this book is like a handbook for how to live with intention.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Okay, this one is a touch nutty–like the part where your sweaters are supposed to tell you if they’d like to be hung up or folded. But several other parts really did stay with me, and we’ve been decluttering like crazy because of it.

The Girl on the Train
Ooh! Someone recommended this as the perfect novel to curl up with if you’re snowed in, and I agree. Gone Girl-ish, in a good way.

The Attachments
I just love Rainbow Rowell–I’ve read all of hers, and I’m a huge fan. And yes, I know some of them are young adult, and I don’t even care. She writes with such sweetness you basically fall in love with every one of her weird-but-wonderful characters.

The Opposite of Spoiled  
The author defines kids who are “spoiled” as having few chores or responsibilities, few rules that govern behaviors or schedules, lavish time and attention from parents and other adults, and a lot of material possessions. This book has invited some really good conversations about how we’re parenting our boys.

The Goldfinch
Wow. This is such a big story, in every way–sweeping, complicated, evocative. Feels like a Russian novel written three hundred years ago, but somehow set in New York and Las Vegas today.

Wearing God
I’m a huge fan of Lauren Winner, and this book has really helped me read the Bible with a new focus on metaphor. Totally recommend for writers, pastors, anyone who finds themselves talking about God in the same old ways, knowing there must be more.

Hemingway’s Boat
I’m sort of crazy about Hemingway…I mean, not as crazy as I am about the Kennedys, but close. I did drag my husband all over Key West–to his house, to his favorite bar, to the replica of Pilar there. And I love boat stories, of course. Beautifully written.

Essentialism
Right up my alley these days: the idea that focusing more narrowly on doing a few things well will allow you to be so much more effective.

Flipped
Doug Pagitt has been inviting Aaron and I into new ways of thinking about God for more than a decade, both around the table and in books like this one. He’s a like a brilliant uncle who’s making your kids laugh one second, and then blowing your mind about theology the next.

Your turn: what books have you been reading & loving recently?
Happy Saturday! Love & jammies! XO–S