Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cold Tangerines

"Every life tells a story, through words and actions and choices, through our homes and our children, through our clothes and dishes and perfume. We each play a character in a grand drama, and every stage direction matters. We tell our stories, and we let God's story be told through our stories."

Cold Tangerines, p. 137

When I was in high school, I had reconstructive surgery on both of my hips. And both of my knees. At the same time.

Four surgeries. Ten days apart. Forty days in the hospital.

I then spent three months in a body cast. Flat on my back. The cast started just below my chest, and went down both of my legs and up my feet and stopped just below my toes.

Three months. Three summer months. Flat on my back.

I watched my neighbor slip into her flip-flops and head off to the pool with her boyfriend. I watched my brother fall in love and begin dating my best friend and go to our favorite Mexican restaurant that she and I used to frequent. And, I watched hours and hours and hours of T.V. and became an expert at one-player Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo.

It was hard. And it was lonely.

One day, shortly after I arrived home from the hospital, I got a package. It was a candy basket from my grandparents. It was filled with chocolate candy bars and Twizzlers and bags of salted peanuts.

And a candy necklace.

As I examined my new candy bling, I bit off one piece of candy. And then another and another until remaining on my new necklace were the exact number of candies as days left in my cast. One piece of candy to eat on each remaining day.

The chocolate and peanuts were yummy. But, the was so much more.

Strung on that elastic string were God's hope to me. Dangling from that tiny cord were pastel reminders that He was there, that His love for me trumped my fear, and that my current suffering and loneliness were just for that season.

Something happened and changed in me that day. I began a lifelong journey of searching for God in the most unlikely of places. In the most unlikely of things. During a time in my life when fear and loneliness and the longest of days could have enveloped me in a thick fog of sorrow, around my neck hung a beautiful reminder that God's grace was bigger and better and brighter than any storm and could shine through the thickest fog.

When my husband first handed me Cold Tangerines, and said "You must read this book. It is you." I began reading, and began looking. For me.

As I read Shauna Niequist's stories of looking for and celebrating God in everyday things, places and experiences, I indeed saw my own versions of these same stories:

God is as big and colorful as the red tree in the park across from Shauna's Niequist's house. And as powerfully small as The Little Leaf in my backyard.

He is as beautiful as waves hitting the shore of a vacation island, and as joyful as bathtime Bubbles.

His love and redemption are written on a roadside sign proclaiming Evan Jager a track star. And they are written on the cardboard pages of "That's Not My Truck".

These are Shauna Niequist's stories. And, these are my stories.

When I finished reading the book, I wanted to find God everywhere; all over again and with renewed passion, as if I'd just been given a fresh, new, candy necklace. But, even more than that, I wanted to share my stories of finding Him with anyone who would read them.

There are thousands of books written by men and women so much smarter and holier and grander than I am. Those books fill four large bookshelves in our living room. And they burst open with Scripture and theology and they tell me how I should live, want to live, hope to live. And, I have read, and been encouraged by many of them. I'm sure you read them, too.

But, I shared Cold Tangerines with you, the readers of this blog and writers of your own, because you are storytellers. And, I wanted to send you "a candy necklace", strung not with candy, but with Shauna's compelling stories of finding and celebrating God; everywhere, and in everything.

That maybe, just as I was, you would be freshly and newly inspired to look for God in the most unexpected of places. And, that you would be newly emboldened to share your stories of finding Him.

As I tell my stories of God's love and grace and of finding Him in Belly Bruises and Doughnut Shops and everywhere in between, then I get to tell His story...

And there's no other story I'd rather tell!

*Click here to read my interview with Shauna Niequist.


  1. Oh wow, Sarah. That's such a beautiful story. It's incredible. You are too, my dear.

    I knew some of your story, but not that part.


  2. This is awesome. Beautifully written. You have such an amazing heart and I'm so grateful to be getting to know you more and more. Thank you for sharing!!!

  3. LOVE the review... you did a GREAT job. Thank you SO much for sharing!

  4. Sarah- will you be hosting highlights from your time with Shauna? How was your "interview"? Did Jack help? :)

  5. You are such an amazing person!!

    I love you and your blog - and it is *here* that I am encouraged to look for God in the most unexpected of places.

    Thank you for that!

  6. Sarah,

    What a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing your heart, and your very life with us from day to day! You are an inspiration!

  7. And just like you made me cry so many years ago when I first heard your story, you've touched my heart again. You are a precious child of God... blessed beyond belief... because He has always had His eyes and arms around you... even in those days you speak about long ago.

    I love you little girl!

  8. Sarah, your spirit shines through and reminds me of why I love you.

    Your story is amazing beyond words. We can find God in the small and insignificant places in life if we just look.

    I'm glad you were blessed and changed by the book. God meant it to do just that.

    Thanks for sharing your heart and your family with all of us. You have made a mark on my life and I'm so thankful to know you.

  9. Sarah - thanks for sharing your "candy necklace" with us. Thanks for being bold enough to ask for more books so you could bless us with this book, like you always bless us with your blog!

  10. Wow that was awesome. I couldn't agree more and thank you for sharing this personal story and what this book meant to you.

    It settles my true feelings about this book. You know by my review that I liked the book, but I did feel there was something missing. The part where you share how there are many books that tell you how to be Godly and how to live your life etc. I missed that part, the deep truths, but I truly treasured your gift of this book for this reason,

    "That maybe, just as I was, you would be freshly and newly inspired to look for God in the most unexpected of places. And, that you would be newly emboldened to share your stories of finding Him."

    Thank you, Thank you, you precious woman. Big hugs being sent your way.

  11. YOu have challenged me not only to read this book, but again to look for God in everything...I love your aspiring story and how God can use anything!

  12. What a beautifully written post Sarah! You amaze me with how you find God in all the little things. It is one of the things I appreciate about you. You make me look at the little moments in life and find joy, beauty, and God working. Thank you Sarah! Your blog is a blessing to me :o)

  13. what a beautiful post. i think i've told you before that i'm in awe of those who can see God in the ordinary things of life. i think that is a gift. thanks for sharing it with us.

    i still am looking forward to reading my copy of the book. soon!

  14. Sarah, once again your word stirred my heart. You are one of those people that I wish I knew in real-life. What a beautiful gal you are!

  15. You do such a wonderful job doing that, all the time, and this was beautifully written, Sarah. You have a gift with words!

  16. Wow, that must have been an incredibly hard summer. I can't imagine how I would have felt. I just want to say, that as I read the book, I thought of you many times. I was reminded of so many of your little stories, and thought you truly do look for those God moments. Yes, this book was you. Keep shining.

  17. To quote Shauna Niequist, thank you, and keep going.

  18. Well written review. We lived through a lot of "God stories" together. My college experience would not have been the same without you, and I thank God helping us find each other.

    Thanks again for sharing this book and a piece of your heart with us.

    I love you.

  19. This post made me cry. I get teary-eyed every time I think about you lying there in your cast. You are who you are today because of the suffering in your life and it is a testimony of God's amazing power to use the most painful experiences in our lives for our good and His glory. And this is only a small glimpse of your (our) story. I love you and am proud to call you my sister.

  20. Awww, Sar...I know you don't share those memories too often and certainly didn't do it to get all those comments :)

    Like you find God's characteristics in all the "little" things, I look and find Him in YOU, every time we talk or I read what you've written...that's why there's all these comments, because everyone that "meets" you can see it, too! I'm so thankful that God gave me such amazing siblings! Love you and miss you tons!

  21. Wow! I am at a loss for words...

    You told your story so beautifully. Thank you for sharing!



  23. What a sweet, tender post. You are a most remarkable young woman, Sarah, and I am glad I've gotten to know you a little bit.

  24. Yes, Sarah, God has blessed us with wonderful stories. My He called each one of us to be His child, adopted into His family. Thank you for sharing you stories each day. I remember sitting in Pap and Gram's house and hearing you tell why you had surgeries on your legs, but today, I was privileged to see even more what you went through. Thank you for sharing about your candy necklace; I will never look at them the same again! What a see our Lord in each aspect of the life He has blessed us with! Love you, cousin!