Shauna Niequist

A Few of My Favorite Things: Big Sale on some of my Favorite Books

As most of you know I am a really big reader. When I got in trouble as a child my parents would punish me by not letting me read. It was my nightmare. This year I’ve had more time for leisure reading than in previous years, partly because I live in a city and spend a fair amount of time using public transportation. So far this year I’ve read 57 books. (Remember, I don’t have kids or a TV).

I am a huge believer in physical books and I will never give them up in favor of ebooks, but since I live in Korea right now, it’s just more practical to use a Kindle than to buy a bunch of physical books that are expensive here and that I won’t be able to bring back home with me.

The great thing about Kindle books is that there are lots of flash sales where books can drop to $2 or $3 for a few days. I keep a giant Amazon wish list that I check almost every day to see if anything on my list has gone on sale.

There is a big publisher’s sale going on right now and I noticed that many of my favorite books from this year are on sale so I wanted to share them with you. I don’t usually do posts like this (although I occasionally tweet about a good deal) but I know a lot of you are also big readers who might benefit from these sales. Hope you find something you like!

Note: I’ve just learned that prices may be different if you are visiting Amazon from Ireland or the UK (or perhaps any other non-US country). Although I live in Korea, my Amazon account is registered in the US and the prices I’ve listed are the ones on Amazon’s USA site.  Sorry if the prices are different for your country. 😦

Nonfiction

These are mostly creative non-fiction – essays and spiritual memoirs—that I’ve read this year and enjoyed.

bread and wine

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table by Shauna Niequist $1.99: One of my favorite books I’ve read this year (I wrote more about what this book meant to me here) this book is about food and hospitality and about the table as a place for building community. Buy it!

 

Bittersweet

 

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist $2.99: This book of essays focuses on change and the bittersweet ways that we grow through challenges and difficulties.

 

 

 

Found

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett ($3.03). This is a story for tired Christians who need to experience God in the ordinariness of life. It particularly resonates for those of us who grew up evangelical and have always felt burdened by the need to pray more, read more, do more.

 

QuietQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain ($2.99) I found this book completely fascinating. If you are an introvert or you love an introvert, you must read this. It taught me so much about how I work as a highly sensitive introvert in contrast with my husband who is more strongly introverted, but is not highly sensitive. I also found her exploration of Western culture’s “extrovert ideal” so helpful in understanding the ways in which I’ve trained myself to act more extroverted. This helped me make sense of why I am 100% sure I’m an introvert, but other people sometimes seem surprised by that.

Faith unraveledFaith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions by Rachel Held Evans ($2.99): This is one of my all-time favorite spiritual memoirs and one of the best books I read this year. Evans’ story about coming from a fundamentalist evangelical “it’s us against the world” background and learning to be ok asking questions, even if you don’t find answers right away resonated deeply with me. I love that she actually articulates some of the really hard questions of life and faith in this book and doesn’t try to smooth them over with Bible verses or trite Christian phrases. My biggest takeaway was something Evans said at the very end of the book – that there is a difference between questioning God and questioning what you believe about God.

womanhoodA Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”  by Rachel Held Evans ($2.99): Interesting, funny, thought-provoking, and informative, each month for one year Held undertook one virtue for women mentioned in the Bible and tried to observe it as strictly as possible. She also interviewed women of different faith backgrounds for perspective each month (an orthodox Jew, an Amish woman, a family who practices what they believe to be “biblical marriage” through polygamy). While Held is well-known for being an outspoken feminist, this book is a very honest and gracious exploration of the nebulous concept of biblical womanhood and a very fair consideration of various points of view on the subject.

Notes from a Blue Bike:The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic WorlBlue Biked by Tsh Oxenreider ($2.99): This book is about living simply and creating the life you want to live. In many ways I was inspired by this book to evaluate and define what it is I want out of life. What are my priorities? What are the things that matter most deeply to me? What are the values I want to build my life around? And how do I make those things reality? This book is particularly applicable to people with kids since there are sections that specifically deal with education and parenting, but even being childless, I enjoyed it.

1000GIFTS

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp ($2.99). This book has been a NY Times Bestseller since it came out a few years ago and you’ve probably heard of it. I actually read this a few years ago but plan to re-read soon. It is a beautiful, challenging book about living life fully wherever you are by practicing radical gratitude.

 

Learning to Walk in the Dark

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor ($1.99): Actually I haven’t read this one yet, but I did just buy it because it’s been on my wish list since it came out. Taylor is known for wrestling with difficult topics and writing about the spiritual life in profound ways. This is a book about how God works in the dark seasons of life.

 

Leaving Church

Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor ($3.99): This book is Taylor’s memoir about her decision to leave her role as an Episcopal priest to become a professor. It talks about how easy it is to lose your soul in the midst of “doing ministry” and how sometimes the best place for our souls is not the place that seems most logical.

 

Altar in the WorldAn Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor ($1.99): I also just bought this one because it’s been on my wish list for months since I read so many rave reviews. This book is a follow-up to Leaving Church which was about her decision to leave full-time ministry. This book talks about learning to encounter God outside of the church.

 

Fiction

Here are a few fiction books I’ve read this year that are on sale now. Just a note – I read fiction like a writer. In other words, a book is good to me if the prose is beautiful, the characters are well-developed and the plot isn’t predictable. I appreciate novels that engage me intellectually and emotionally. When I recommend fiction books it is because I think they are well-written, entertaining, and compelling. I’m not often bothered by language, sexual content, or whether or not I totally agree with the author’s perspective. If you are easily offended by these things bear that in mind when reading my fiction recommendations.

17557750

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes ($2.99) Ambitionless twenty-six year old Louise loses her job and takes a temporary position as a caretaker for a 35 year old quadripalegic who challenges her to live life on a grander scale. This is a quick read, but not a particularly light one.  Be warned that you’ll need Kleenex.

 

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty ($3.99): This is the fourth book of Moriarty’s I’ve read this year and probably my favorite. I think she’s a great contemporary writer, writing about complex family relationships and suburban drama in a fresh way. Her characters are always interesting and fully-formed. This particularly novel revolves around the death of an elementary school parent at a school function, but who died and how it happened remains a mystery until the very end. It’s a fun, engaging read.

Name of the WindThe Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss ($4.99): This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. If you are into fantasy at all, you must read this book. The prose is gorgeous. The world-building is phenomenal, the characters will become dear friends. I really can’t say enough positive things about this book. This is the first-person narrative of a terrifically gifted young man who grows to be the greatest wizard the world has ever seen. This is the first book in an ongoing trilogy called The Kingkiller Chronicle.

Way of Kings

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson ($2.25): This book (and the one below) are the best books I’ve read this year and also possibly the best books I’ve ever read. Definitely high up there. This is a fantasy epic that will appeal even to those who aren’t huge fantasy readers. This is a story about honor and justice and revenge. The characters are fantastic and the world with it’s various people groups and magic system, etc is captivating. If I could recommend just one book from this year’s reading to everyone I know it would be this book. (PS- If you get it, stick with it through the prologue. It’s a weird start to the book but I promise after you get past those first two chapters you’ll be hooked).

Words of

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson($3.75): This is the second book in the Stormlight Archive. It is even better than the first one. The only bad thing is that it was just released in March 2014 which means a long wait before book 3. It will rock your world.

 

Disclaimer: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Advertisements

What I’m Into: May 2014 Edition

It’s officially June! Which means it’s time for the May wrap-up/What I’m Into post. I started participating in Leigh Kramer’s link-up a few months ago and I’ve found it’s a fun way to review what’s gone on in the previous month and read other people’s suggestions for new things I may not have heard of.

What I’m Reading

I haven’t read a huge quantity of books this month, but the books I’ve read have been long and good. And I have quite a few things on-deck for next month


wise man's fearThe Wise Man’s Fear
by Patrick Rothfuss. I started the month with The Wise Man’s Fear – the book that follows Name of the Wind in the Kingkiller chronicles. It did not disappoint. There are times that this book feels a little winding and unfocused, but it’s hard not to love each individual part anyway. The prose is really spectacular and the characters are complex and engaging. It’s a hefty 1,000 pages, but well worth the time.

 

book thiefThe Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. I had actually read part of this book way back when we were still living in the US, but I had borrowed it from the library and didn’t finish it before we moved so I had to return it. It was on sale a while back as a cheap kindle book so I went ahead and purchased it so I could eventually finish reading it. There was no reason except for unfortunate circumstances that I didn’t finish this book earlier because it is a gem and a quick read. This book has gotten a fair amount of attention and I think rightly so. The characters are unique and interesting and the story is moving. I sobbed through the ending. I think it’s the best WWII fiction book I’ve ever read.

carry on, warriorCarry on, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, by Glennon Melton. This book was an easy read that was mostly a delight. Not only is Glennon hilarious, but she writes in such a familiar way you feel like you’re sitting at a coffee shop having a chat with a good friend. While I don’t subscribe to all of her views on life, there’s a lot about Glennon’s writing that I really appreciate and resonate with – especially her emphasis on showing grace to yourself and allowing yourself and others to be the messy human beings that we are and find beauty in that anyway. Glennon is a recovering alcoholic, drug addict, bulimic, etc and in spite of it all has such a hopeful outlook on life even with its messy bits. I especially like Glennon’s mantra that “We can do hard things.”

Lies of Locke LamoraThe Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I’m not quite finished with this one, but I’m including it this month anyway since I’ve read most of it in May. I’ve found this to be both highly entertaining and well-written. My friend Josh recommended it to me by describing it as part Oceans 11, part swashbuckling pirates which sounded like a winning combination to me.! I’m not quite finished with it yet, but it’s been great fun and I look forward to reading the other books in Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastards” series.

 

 

On Deck: I’ve got a lot of books queued up and waiting for me to “click to buy” on Amazon, but I think my next few books will be Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and maybe Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. I’ll probably also sneak some sort of light fiction book in there for my long weekend at the beach. Honestly…I have like 20 books on the “read ASAP” list with new ones popping up on my radar almost every day, so we’ll see what happens. If you want the play-by-play you can follow me on Goodreads.

signature of all thngs

bird by birddaring greatly

What I’m Watching

I’ve finished all the episodes of Call the Midwife available to me on Netflix, so naturally I’m listless and depressed by that. We are still catching up on a few season finales but have finished up some of our favorites including Parks and Recreation, Mindy Project, New Girl, and Community.  In new discoveries, I’ve become fascinated by Anthony Bourdain’s series, Parts Unknown which explores both food and culture in different parts of the world (two of my favorite things). There are two incomplete seasons on Netflix that I am working my way through haphazardly.

In movies, we recently saw the new X-Men movie. Twice actually. I thought it was fantastically entertaining despite some weird plot holes. (SPOILER ALERT: So a mutant drops a stadium on the White House and tries to kill the President, but then everyone decides the mutants aren’t dangerous because one of them saves the President? Sure, they proved that not all of the mutants are bad, but Magneto just got away!)

I’ve got a big thing for James MacAvoy, so watching him is always enjoyable. And as much as I hate to follow the crowd, I do still love J-Law, so it’s always a pleasure to watch her. I will say though, I remain perplexed by the supposed controversy about her body… I hear in the media all the time her saying things like, “I’m sorry! I like to eat! I don’t want to look like a pre-pubescent boy, I want to look like a woman!” and then I see her more or less naked in this movie and think, “Who the heck thinks you’re fat?! That has to be made-up.” Because not only is she objectively thin, she also has this killer body!

We also saw the new Amazing Spiderman movie at the beginning of the month and I really like the new franchise in spite of my initial misgivings. Andrew Garfield is a superb on-screen crier. And I’ve always liked Spiderman’s smart-alecky ways.

 

What I’m Listening To

My amazingly talented friend Avery Bright has a new EP out called Under the Influence that everyone should listen to. You can even get a Free Download here!

 

What I’m Eating

I’ve been experimenting with a few new recipes lately and while this hasn’t been a great thing for my resolve to “eat healthy,” it has been a great thing for my amazement in my own culinary abilities. 😉 For example, check out these pretzel bread buns that I actually made FROM SCRATCH! Who knew such a thing could be made in my own home toaster oven. I felt like an awesome professional baker.

You can get the recipe  I used here or check out my Pinterest boards to see what else I’ve got cooking. I think my next project will be homemade naan and curry.

I took this picture with my phone! These are the actual buns that came out of my oven!

I took this picture with my phone! These are the actual buns that came out of my oven!  Be sufficiently amazed!

 

On the Blog

This month was pretty busy. My parents came to visit until May 12th so the beginning of the month was jammed with lots of traveling around and showing them Korea. (You can read about their visit here.) I wrote a post introducing people to the real me, even the parts I’m not proud of, and you readers were very gracious to me. I wrote about my Bible study girls and how we might not be the best Christians, but we sure are good at eating cookies. I told the story about my first grade teacher outsmarting me and trying to let go of control. And last week I talked about cellulite and other things a 26-year old never-carried-a-child body isn’t supposed to have.

On the Internets

Some of my favorite pieces on the internets this month include my friend Meredith’s hilarious piece about accepting ourselves as we are. I think the title speaks for itself. “My Mustache Brings All the Boys to the Yard.”

My friend (OK, she’s not like my “real-life friend,” but a girl can dream) Addie Zierman wrote a fantastic piece over at A Deeper Story about how there is no fool-proof parenting plan that will produce kids who love God and how maybe spiritual struggle is just part of life.  It reminded me a lot of some of things I wrote about in this post a while back.

An anonymous writer wrote a guest post on my friend Briana’s blog, sharing a very important story that challenges the assumptions the evangelical purity culture has made about post-marital sex. I appreciated that this woman was brave enough to share something so personal because I really understood some of the harmful ideas and thought processes even if I didn’t have the exact same experiences that she did.

I was also really moved by this video of a talk by Shauna Niequist about the importance of women pursuing their calling and not pushing it to the back just because they have a family. I think it was a really good message for those who feel like pursuing something outside of caring for the family is a selfish thing. I made my husband listen to this too because I wanted him to be on the same page about what I hope our life looks like once we have kids and are more settled.

In Life:

I suddenly got up the stamina to start running again, and then a week and a half into it, summer hit Daegu and we’ve got highs in the mid-to-high 90s (between 35 and 38 Celsius, people) which has derailed some of my more ambitious plans. It is just not healthy to do long runs in that kind of heat.

Last weekend I went out for my first girl’s night in I-don’t-know how long. This partly made me feel good like, “I’ve still got it!” in spite of being more of a homebody the older I get. And it partly confirmed that I am in fact an old lady now that it’s taking me three days to get over staying up so late. (I was in bed at 8:30 last night and I’m still exhausted today).

This coming weekend is a 3-day weekend for Korea (Friday is a holiday) so we are taking a trip to Namhae where we will go to the beach, snorkel and kayak I am ready for a break, if not for wearing my swimsuit in public. We’ll try to take some good pictures and get a full report up next week!

What I’m Into: April 2014 Edition

Linking up with Leigh Kramer again this month for her What I’m Into series.

What I’m Reading:

I actually finished Words of Radiance this month even though I slipped into last month’s round-up, but now I sort of regret doing that because my book list feels short. So I’m just going to re-mention that I finished Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance this month and it was even better than the first one and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

bread and wineBread and Wine by Shauna Niequist is a book that had been on my digital bookshelf for a few months. This month I finally got around to reading it. Let me tell you, this book was a balm for my soul. Through years of struggling with my “relationship” with food, I have come to believe that there is something deeply significant about what we eat and in the communal aspect of sharing food with others. Niequist’s book made me feel validated in these feelings. It especially helped me to articulate for myself how I feel about food and my consumption choices in a world where more and more people are becoming ardent food-evangelists for a particular way of eating. (I wrote about that here). At it’s core though, this book is about food as an avenue for community and about hospitality, both of which are increasingly important values in my life.

cuttingThe Cutting Season by Attica Locke. I’d seen this book on a lot of bestseller lists and was in the mood for something different. Genre-wise I’d classify it as a literary mystery. The plot is built around a murder, but the book isn’t designed as a classic detective or crime novel. Overall, I thought it was a good book, not a great one, but the basis of its appeal for me was that it’s set in the present day on a plantation in South Louisiana, actually just an hour or so from where I grew up The plantation is kept as a historical site and the main character is in charge of renting it out for events and running tours. I’ve rarely read a book, even one set in Louisiana, that brought me home so completely. This book made me miss Louisiana, which is strange for me since I’ve never felt particularly tied to it

thousand daysThe Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale is a YA fantasy book I decided to read this as a quick and relaxing story while I tried to decide which larger book to get into next.. It served its purpose. No great shakes, but it was mildly entertaining. I’m generally a fan of the retold fairy-tale genre when it’s done well.

I’ve just started reading The Wise Man’s Fear which is the second book in the Name of the Wind series by Patrick Rothfuss. So far it is just as enchanting as the first one was.

What I’m Watching:

Divergent: Jonathan and I saw Divergent in theaters a few days after it came out here in Korea. In his words, “I liked it more than I thought I would.” Having read the books, there are a lot of gaping plot/logic holes to the story which can be irritating if you think about them too much. But if you can put all of that to the side and just go with it, the movie was entertaining and the acting was pretty good. And Shailene Woodley’s hair was absolutely the star of the show.

Noah. I know a lot of people have strong opinions about this movie. Frankly, I don’t understand the people who were getting their panties in a wad disowning it because it isn’t biblical. What did they expect? These are secular filmmakers making a movie they hope will entertain people and make money. Their goal was never to make a biblically accurate story. All of that aside, there were a few things I really liked about the movie – like the way that God speaks to Noah once and then he is left clinging to that, forced to have faith that his encounter with God was real and meaningful. There are times when God doesn’t give us constant amazing displays of his power and presence and sometimes we have to trust God and have faith in our past experience of God even when He is silent. What I didn’t like so much is the portrait of this t God who doesn’t intervene even when Noah gets fixated on the idea that they aren’t meant to survive. I didn’t like how the other characters, even Noah’s family, treated the whole thing like it was Noah’s God who only existed in his head rather than a God that they could also communicate with. I heard many complaints about the strong environmental message, but I didn’t find that problematic personally. I think Christians, more than anyone else even, should be concerned about how we care for the earth and could stand to think about conscientious consumption and what it means not to take and use more than we need. All in all, I didn’t think it was a terrible or offensive movie, but I also didn’t think it was a great movie. I was just like, “Meh.” Though the special effects of the actual flood were kind of cool.

As far as television goes, I can feel summer coming as we reach the season finales of New Girl, Mindy Project, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family.  I’ve continued to be hooked by Nashville and am completely emotionally exhausted after this season of Parenthood. And of course, there was the series finale of How I Met Your Mother which I had conflicting feelings about and which left me feeling like I’d lost some of my best friends. Is that sad? I’m also more than halfway through Call the Midwife which I am both fascinated and repulsed by. During ever labor scene I swear I will never, ever do that and then every time they successfully deliver a baby, I cry at the miracle of life, so I don’t know where that leaves me on the baby thing…

 

What I’m Listening To:

Ingrid Michaelson’s new album is wonderful (like everything about Ingrid). I also stumbled onto this gem recently and have become completely obsessed with it. This is an unrecorded song that she sings at live shows sometimes with her husband, fellow musician Greg Laswell. I can’t even deal.

 

What I’m Eating:

I’m still loving the zucchini lasagna, but strawberries being in-season here led me to try a strawberry cream cheese chocolate chunk bread recipe that I cobbled together out of a few recipes I found on Pinterest and then turned into strawberry cream cheese muffins. They were a rousing success. I also turned my love of adding zucchini to things to my baking and tried a lemon zucchini bread. I don’t like using oil in my baking, but there isn’t any applesauce here (which would be my normal substitute) so I used sour cream instead. It made the texture slightly gummier, but it also cut out about 800 calories, so I say worth it.

zucchini bread

Check out my Pinterest boards for the basic versions of these recipes (I always end up changing things). I’m also obsessed with pistachio ice cream right now. I can’t get enough of it. But sadly, I think I bought the last pint from our local grocery store this week. I may be the only person who ever bought it so I’m not confident they will be re-stocking any time soon. So much weeping…

Best thing I’ve read:

One of my favorite writers, Addie Zierman’s, wrote a courageous post about depression.

And Emily Maynard wrote this beautiful, thought-provoking post about God and gender. Parts of this really resonated with me. Parts of this were confusing to me. I wasn’t 100% sure what she wanted us to take away, but i think it’s worth a read. I’m still mulling it over.

Finally, my friend Briana Meade’s post about tricking the YMCA into thinking she works out so that she can take advantage of a few hours of childcare and free coffee cracked me up. I’m obviously not a mom yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing things like that too.

 

Best thing I’ve written:

My most-read post this month was the one I wrote about the sacramental nature of food and why I don’t really believe in Paleo. The thing I am most proud of is probably my spoken-word poem from the beginning of the month that was a guest post for my friend Briana’s blog. I don’t think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, but it was way out of my comfort zone and I felt good about trying something new.

***

In other news, we are kicking off May in Korea with a bang. My parents have arrived in Korea for a visit! They’ll be here for the next 10 days and we are off of work on Monday and Tuesday for Children’s Day and Buddha’s Birthday respectively, so we’ll have extra time to gallivant around the country.  And in case you missed them, pictures from our trip to the green tea fields and cherry blossom season are up on Two Sore Thumbs!

The Sacrament of Eating: Discovering Food as Holy and Why I Will Never Eat Paleo

I love food. I don’t mean that I really like food or that I have a few favorite dishes that make my mouth water when I think of them. I don’t mean that I (like many people) have a sweet tooth or that I really enjoy a nice meal after a long day. I mean I LOVE food. I wake up in the morning thinking about all the things I will eat that day (or even later that week). I spend my free time making lists of the things I will eat when I return to America, drooling over pinterest recipes, and watching cooking shows. During our last vacation, we spent several perfect days doing nothing but moving from one café or coffeeshop or gelateria or restaurant to another- eating, drinking, talking, and reading in each one. For a while my dream was to own my own bakery (though the business side of things always keeps me from pursuing that too realistically) because I am absolutely captivated by the way sugar and butter and flour and eggs combine in endless variations to make a thousand different cakes and pies and cookies and custards and cobblers and crumbles and brownies and sweet breads.

Admitting to loving food feels a little like to admitting to watching porn or non-ironically liking Real HousewivesWhy is that? Because as a woman, I’ve often felt ashamed of my appetite. Because I can easily eat the same amount as my husband even though he’s 8 inches taller and 50 lbs heavier. Because I have never in my life said, “I don’t think I can finish this ice cream cone.” We live in a culture where women are expected to have dainty appetites unless they are naturally very thin, in which case they can eat as much as they want and people are amused that someone so thin can put away so much. But when you’re on the rounder side of things, you are expected to go to restaurants and order a side salad with no dressing, not the bacon alfredo pasta and a glass of wine.

Breakfast Bagel from my amazingly talented fried at "This Wild Season". Click for the recipe and more gorgeous images.

Breakfast Bagel from my amazingly talented friend Asharae at This Wild Season. Click for the recipe and more gorgeous images.

I freely admit that much of the time I don’t love my body. Not because of the way I’m shaped so much as the incredibly fragile balance I have to strike to maintain a healthy weight. I have always lived on the cusp of what is medically considered overweight for my frame and height and I gain weight very easily. I can gain a solid 6 lbs in one week of vacation. I have done the diet thing. I have struggled with self-loathing because of my weight and shed tears over the size of my thighs. For me, the problem with gaining weight is not just being unhappy with how I look or feel, it’s truly a health issue. I believe that my body is a gift and am convicted that I should treat it with respect by maintaining a certain level of health and fitness.

There’s a saying that I’ve heard dieters use for motivation, “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” That’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. I can think of many things that taste so good I would rather have them than have smaller thighs. (For example, cheese. Could I live without it? Sure. But why would I want to?) For me to have smaller thighs, I would have to consistently say no to some of the things I love most in this life. It’s simply not worth it to me. I’m ready to find another way.

Lemon-Glazed-Blueberry-Donuts_This-Wild-Season-8

Lemon-glazed blueberry donuts from This Wild Season. Click for recipe. Now, imagine not ever eating these. A travesty.

In the past, I thought the crux of my problem was that I loved food and if I could just stop loving food so much I would be able to choose being thin over eating. But I’m beginning to wonder what it might look like if, instead of trying to change this part of myself, instead of trying to curb my appetite or denying myself certain things I’m not “supposed to” eat, I embraced that food is something I love. That creative medleys of flavor make my soul sing the way music moves the violinist. I am coming to genuinely believe that loving food (like, really loving it) is part of being me. It’s part of what makes me uniquely myself, as much as crying all the time and loving words are part of who I am. And that part of myself is GOOD. *

Chicken-Tortilla-Soup_This-Wild-Season-6

Chicken Tortilla Soup from This Wild Season. Click for the recipe.

It seems we all have people in our lives who have been sucked into the Paleo craze. Many of my family members and friends have jumped on that bandwagon. I have heard them use the language of addiction to describe my kind of passion for food. If you aren’t familiar with it, the basic premise of Paleo is that we were biologically designed to eat a certain way and that through modern technology we have come to eat many things that our bodies were never intended to process. All of this “unnatural” food causes a variety of health problems (not to mention obesity) that can be resolved simply by cutting out the foods we were never intended to eat. Paleo diet adherents eat grass-fed meats, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. No grains or starches, no legumes, no sugar, no dairy, and nothing processed. The diet (and it’s a lifestyle, not a temporary diet) is essentially the diet of a caveman (hence the “Paleo”) and is based on eating only things that would have been available to the caveman.

I deeply admire and agree with the concept of eating natural things that have grown from the earth and aren’t full of chemicals. I also am sympathetic to eating less grain and starches as my own body doesn’t process these things well.** Where I get tripped up is the assertion that we shouldn’t eat these things because they go against our nature. Because we weren’t intended to eat them. I reject that. And the main reason is Jesus.

I think about the Last Supper and I envision Jesus and the disciples gathered around that table, coming together for this holy meal that their fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers for generations back had eaten, every bite dripping with significance. I see Jesus picking up, not the lamb or the herbs or the vinegar, but the bread and the wine. Holding the crumbling bread in his hands, saying, “This is my body.” Staining his lips and tongue purple with wine saying, “This is my blood.”

I simply can’t accept the idea that the bread-eating, wine-drinking God-made-flesh was knowingly “poisoning” his body with what he ate. I understand that Jesus lived embedded in a particular cultural context. But even still – I don’t think he would have chosen bread and wine as the sacramental elements to represent his body and his blood for all future generations all over the world if they were things we were never intended to eat.

wine and bread

Here is the bottom line. I don’t believe we were meant to live part of a life. I believe in living a full, rich, abundant life. And for me that includes tasting everything. There are times when I choose to cut out some sweets or starches for a while because my body is telling me that’s what it needs in that season. And it is important to me that I honor and respect my body.*** But I will never stop eating those things completely. Not because I can’t, but because permanently removing those things takes away some of what abundant life means to me. Shauna Niequist**** puts it so well when she describes her life on a rigorous diet of no gluten, dairy, caffeine, alcohol or sugar:

“I felt great. I lost some weight, started sleeping better, didn’t ache at all. Success! But at the same time I felt like I wasn’t living in the same world everyone else was living in. It was like choosing to live with the volume turned all the way down, or going to the beach and not being able to put my feet in the ocean. My senses were starving. Eating such a restricted diet on an ongoing basis wasn’t going to work for me…There has to be a way to live with health and maturity and intention while still honoring the part of me that loves to eat, that sees food as a way to nurture and nourish both my body and my spirit.”

I couldn’t agree more. I have come to believe that there is something holy and sacramental about food itself-the way we nourish our bodies with the gifts of the earth that God has provided for us. And the more I’ve thought about this, I’ve been struck by the sheer beauty of food as a sacrament. Could the act of eating itself be worship? Could working with our hands to prepare the gifts of the earth for the table be a form of gratitude for God’s provision that spills glory out into an ordinary moment? Could savoring the common elements of paper-thin pizza crust covered with sweet pears and creamy gorgonzola and spicy arugula, drizzled in balsamic be a way to experience uncommon grace? After all, why do we speak words over our food and call it grace if not because there is grace there to be received?

“You say grace before meals.

All right.

But I say grace before the concert and the opera,

And grace before the play and pantomime,

And grace before I open a book,

And grace before sketching, painting,

Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing

And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

G.K. Chesterton, “A Grace,” Collected Poetry

________________________________________________________

*Of course, I don’t believe that any amount of love for and enjoyment of food excuses overeating or gluttony. I would never try to make the case that I should feel free to eat as much as I want of whatever I want unchecked. I think it’s wrong when I eat far beyond what I need, or when I eat to try to satisfy some appetite that isn’t really physical. These things don’t get a pass just because I am embracing my love of food.

**A few years ago after many doctors and a couple of years of tests, finding and removing polyps, and chalking up lots of digestive issues to the all-inclusive “IBS,” I tested off-the-charts positive for a bacterial overgrowth in my small-intestine (SIBO). This was treatable by an unbelievably expensive antibiotic, but according to my doctor, once you have this problem, it almost always comes back. No one knows what causes it, and there is no cure that prevents it from ever coming back. However, the bacteria feeds on starches. So when it is flaring up, one of the best things I can do to manage it is to cut starches out of my diet. Also, like many women, there is a direct correlation for me between the amount of starch I eat and my weight.

***I am learning to find balance by listening to my body. If the SIBO is active and I’m not feeling well, I stop eating starches until the cycle is over. If my clothes are tight because I’ve been letting my appetites run out of control, I treat this as a physical symptom I need to address for my health. Obviously, if you have some sort of serious food allergy, you have to listen to your body in that as well. Believe me, I’m not advocating that someone with celiac should think having regular bread is more important than being healthy. I’m talking about my own feelings for my particular situation.

**** This is from Shauna Niequist’s excellent book, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table.