Have you heard of Shauna Niequist? I’ve been gobbling up her writing lately so when I had the chance to review her latest book, Bread & Wine, I jumped at the opportunity.
Bread & Wine is all about building life and friendship and community around the table. It’s about opening your heart and home to people and letting them in to be fed and loved.
“This is what I want you to do: I want you to tell someone you love them, and dinner’s at six. I want you to throw open your front door and welcome the people you love into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter” (p. 256).
After finishing Bread & Wine, that is exactly what I wanted to do—throw open the door to my home and let people in to be fed and nourished. Shauna’s book is filled with a collection of recipes—some her own, some from friends, others from restaurants and cookbooks—all look delicious. I decided I would take Shauna’s challenge to let people into my home and life by inviting a few friends over for dinner.
I have a group of friends who get together every now and then for what we call “Girls Night.” All that means is the husbands watch the kids and the girls hang out watching a movie or going out to eat. After reading Shauna’s words though, I thought it would be nice to have all the girls over for a real dinner made at home instead of snacks or restaurant food. I chose a couple of recipes from the book and worked out a time when everyone could get together.
I have to admit, I’m not a very good hostess because I get nervous about everything not being perfect. My house is tiny and there are never enough matching glasses or chairs at the table. I’ve let little things like this keep me from having people over. I always tell myself I’ll be more hospitable when I have more room…when we have a real dining room and enough forks for an army…sure, sure.
Shauna encouraged me with this:
What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd” (pp. 106-107).
I reminded myself of those words whenever I worried about not having enough room or messing up the food.
On the day we were all getting together my friend Sarah stopped by early, when I was still in yoga pants with messy hair, to drop off home-made Mexican ice cream. I tasted a spoonful before she left and about died and went to glory—it was that good.
I spent the day grilling chicken and corn and prepping the food. Evening rolled around and the girls trickled in one by one, two by two. Jessie came first with a salad. We stood in the kitchen talking and laughing. Next came Sarah with Emily. We spread out in the kitchen and talked some more. Maya and Alicia came last with my little baby nephew. I took the baby out of his car seat and snuggled him up with kisses…aunties rights, you know.
We were crowded in the kitchen now with dishes coming out and different conversations bubbling over into laughter. We filled our plates we enchiladas, salad, and Mexican grilled corn. I didn’t have enough chairs at the table, of course, so we ate in the living room instead. Even then, three of us ended up sitting on the floor with plates in our laps. That is one of the reasons I don’t normally invite very many people over—who wants to have company sitting on the floor while they eat dinner? Well you know what, it didn’t matter a bit.
We talked and laughed, told stories and went back for seconds; we looked at pictures and caught up on each other’s lives. Soon we were streaming back into the kitchen for bowls of Sarah’s Mexican ice cream and brownies on the side. We filled mugs with coffee and hot chocolate and talked and talked.
Before Darren left that night he asked what time I thought we would be done. We were getting together at six so I told him we would probably be done by eight…I think it was ten. We just kept talking and laughing and every time someone would say something about needing to leave, another story would start and no one ever quite made it out the door. I love that. I loved the whole night. In fact, I think I needed it.
Life is busy and demanding and I forget sometimes when I’m hurrying through one day right into the next that I need to stop and make time for people, for love and friendship and community. I need these girls in my life because they remind to slow down and live for what really matters. They make me laugh and build me back up when I’m tired and torn down. They love me and encourage me even though I’m not perfect and never have enough chairs at the table. I need them and I’m so thankful Shauna’s book reminded me of that. I’m so thankful Shauna’s words gave me the push I needed to throw open the door to my home and my heart. I’m so thankful I invited people in and they came and filled a need I’d forgotten I had. I need friendship and love and community. I need life around the table to feed my heart and soul. We all do.
Look kids, I’m not trying to sell you anything. It’s true, this book was given to me to review but what I’m telling you are my own thoughts and feelings. I love Shauna’s words and I love this book. I hope you will read it because I sincerely believe you will love it too. You will be challenged and encouraged to slow down and live. To taste and feel and to let people in. That’s the truth and that is all :]
Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine. Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She is married to Aaron, who is a pianist and songwriter. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek and is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Aaron & Shauna live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry and Mac. Shauna writes about the beautiful and broken moments of everyday life–friendship, family, faith, food, marriage, love, babies, books, celebration, heartache, and all the other things that shape us, delight us, and reveal to us the heart of God.
Shauna blogs at ShaunaNiequist.com