Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life  by Shauna NiequistCold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist
Publisher: Zondervan
Number of pages: 238
My copy: Kindle edition

Cold Tangerines is a collection of stories that celebrate the extraordinary moments hidden in our everyday lives. It is about God, and about life, and about the thousands of daily ways in which an awareness of God changes and infuses everything. It is about spiritual life, and about all the things that we have called nonspiritual life that might be spiritual after all. It is the snapshots of a young woman making peace with herself and her life, and trying to craft a life that captures the energy and exuberance we long for in the midst of the fear and regret and envy we all carry with us. It is both a voice of challenge and song of comfort, calling us upward to the best possible life, and giving us room to breathe, to rest, to break down and break through. Cold Tangerines offers bright and varied glimpses of hope and redemption, in and among the heartbreak and boredom and broken glass.

* * *

I was shopping for a Christmas present for my mom in Body Shop when I saw that they have new stocks of my favorite body butter scent, tangerine. That scent became my favorite by accident years ago, when I went there to claim my Love Your Body membership birthday gift, and they gave me a small bottle of their tangerine-scented lotion and body wash. I used it for the gym and loved it, and eventually bought more until I got broke and realized that my daily bath stuff are too expensive. So while I was there, buying a Christmas present for my mom, I decided to get a tub of the tangerine body butter, since it’s on sale anyway. Plus, the scent just really cheers me up.

I’d like to believe that the moment I had with that body butter was something that Shauna Niequist was pointing at in her first book, Cold Tangerines. The subtitle alone is an indication of it: Celebrating the extraordinary nature of everyday life. Plus the fact that what I bought was a tangerine scented body butter, it kinda fits the entire thing, right?

Anyway. I loved the first Shauna Niequist book I read, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way, so when I saw that her two other books were on sale on Kindle on early December morning, I immediately bought it. I was a little afraid that her books might be those one-hit thing, meaning I won’t really like the others I read because I won’t be able to relate to it, but I shouldn’t have feared anything with her first book because it was exactly what Bittersweet was for me when I first read it: it came at the right time in my life.

Cold Tangerines is exactly about what it says: celebrating the extraordinary nature of everyday life. Here, Shauna Niequist talks about the many little ways that God shows Himself in life, how the natural becomes spiritual, and how the physical things we see and we do are all connected to how we are nourished spiritually. There’s food, friendship, writing, traveling. There’s body issues, vacations, heartbreak, family. Shauna shared stories of her personal life, much like how she also did in Bittersweet, and then points the reader to God, and His faithfulness and His wonder in the ordinary life that she had.

Which means, we too, can see this, the extraordinary in our everyday life. I loved how easy it was to relate to her stories in this book, and whatever stage of life I was in, I would be able to find wisdom and advice in this book. Shauna’s honesty shone in this book, and when I read the part about how hard it was for her to write in this book, I realized how much she must have struggled to put these words on paper. But that struggle was a blessing, at least for me, because I know that struggle, too. I feel that every time I write a post for my personal blog, wrestling with the words in hopes of them being used for something. And then there’s the forgiveness chapter, one of my favorites, which really and truly came at the right time because I was struggling to forgive and ask for forgiveness from someone as well. Like Bittersweet, I think I highlighted almost half of the book — there were just so many quotes to keep — the ones I added below are just a glimpse of it, really.

I don’t plan on using my tangerine-scented body butter everyday because I don’t want to run out of it too fast. But I do take the time to smell it everyday, in a way to remind me that I can choose to see my life as sweet and happy, because it really is. And that is what Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines is — a reminder that there is something super in our natural life. Cold Tangerines is the kind of book I would recommend someone to read especially for the New Year. It’s fresh and honest and funny and inspiring, and I think it would help set the mood for the fresh start that everyone’s looking for in the turn of the year. Or if it’s not the New Year, read this, still. This book is a reminder that there is beauty and hope and redemption in this extraordinary everyday life.

Number of dog-eared page(s) highlighted quotes: 138

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

God is no match for the wreckage of the world we live in.

The big moments are the daily, tiny moments of courage and forgiveness and hope that we grab on to and extend to one another.

You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, the God of the universe dwells within you, the true culmination of super and natural.

Friendship is about risk. Love is about risk. If we can control it and manage it and manufacture it, then it’s something else, but if it’s really love, really friendship, it’s a little scary around the edges.

I felt so small and anonymous, surrounded by the sounds and smells and sights of a place I’d only read about, and I could go as quickly or as slowly as I wanted to. There are only two things I like to do alone: reading and traveling, and for the same reason. When you travel, and when you read, you are not actually alone, but rather surrounded by other worlds entirely, the footsteps and phrases of whole other lives keeping you company as you go.

Help us to be brave with one another, for these are the days.

Words are the breakdown through which I see all of life, instead of molecules or notes or chords and colors. words in even black and white snakes, back and forth across the page, the portals through which a little girl found a big world, and through which, now, a grown-up girl is trying to pass.

I have never been so clingy and strange, so unmoored and lacking in appropriate small talk, and I am beyond thankful to my friends for sticking around in the worst of it.

When I pray, something freaked-out and dazed inside me finds a place to lay down and rest. When I pray, I don’t feel so alone in the universe. I feel like there is a web, a finely-spun net, holding it all together, keeping it spinning. I feel powerless, and prayer reminds me that I may be powerless, but there is power, and the one who holds the power is good.

It was like a full-time job, forgiving her over and over, with each new angry thought or bad conversation, but it was good work, like how good it feels to shovel snow or rake leaves in the cold air.

It happens when we do the hardest work, the most secret struggle, the most demanding truth telling. In those moments of ferocity and fight, peace is born. Shalom arrives, and everything is new. And when you’ve tasted it, smelled it, fought for it, labored it into life, you’ll give your soul to get a little more, and it is always worth it.

Nothing good ever comes easily. You have to lose things you thought you loved, give up the things you thought you needed. You have to get over yourself, beyond your past, out from under the weight of your future. The good stuff never comes when things are easy.

The sacred mixes in with the daily when you have a conversation with someone you love, or you read a great book, or when you do something courageous.

Rating: [rating=5]

Other reviews:
Sierra’s Bookmark

My favorite story

Holy Week has always been the time when I try to tackle a difficult book — by that, I mean a book that I can’t read in my usual pace. I choose this time because I don’t have to go to work from Thursday to Sunday, and being Catholic, I don’t make plans those days because it’s always been filled with family and Church traditions. I always dream of finishing at least two hard to read books during my Holy Week break but I almost always end up reading only one because the break is filled with activities.

This Holy Week is no different, and I meant to try to get a chunk off reading my first non-fiction book that I’ve picked up again after a long time (Come Be My Light by Mother Teresa). I’ve barely gotten 1/4 of it and I know for sure that it will take some time for me to read it because I’ve been distracted by other books. On the up side, I’ve finished three of my Required Reading books for this month, and there’s a very good chance I’ll probably finish the fourth within the month. Yay me, right?

But I digress. I’ve read a lot of books this year and the past year since last Holy Week. I’ve marveled at so many good stories, gushed at so many good novels. I’ve shrugged at not so good ones, I’ve wrinkled my nose at some and I’ve vowed to forget the others I really didn’t like. I remember gasping at the books that blew my mind, telling everyone to read it because it was just oh-so-awesome.

But you know what I realized this Holy Week? There is one story that still beats all the other ones I’ve read in my lifetime, and it’s one that I knew by heart ever since I was old enough to understand it. Sometimes, I think I know it so much, I’ve heard about it so much that it becomes too familiar and it doesn’t have that much effect on me as it always should. I’ve never made it a secret that I am a devout Catholic in this blog, and I think it pretty much shows in how I review some of the books I’ve read. Sometimes, though, I think with all the books I’ve read, I tend to forget the One story that really matters. All those stories tend to overshadow the story of all stories, the one that is not really just a story, but one I believe with all my heart and soul to be the truth.

This Holy Week reminded me of my favorite (true) story, the one that has put me where I am right now, the one that reminds me of who I am and whose I am. This story has everything that I’ve ever really wanted: conflict, drama, betrayal, action. There’s even a bit of romance, but not the kind of romance that I usually read, but a bigger kind, the one that encompasses a bigger kind of love that I can’t fathom sometimes. I don’t think there’s much witty humor, but there is so much JOY at the end of the story, that it beats all the shallow laughter I get from the witty banter I have read. This is the story of ALL stories, and one that makes my heart beat faster and harder, never fails to drive me to tears and always, always makes me thankful and wanting to live better in the end.

It’s the story that I relive every Holy Week. The one story that really matters, the one worth more than 5 stars. :) And this one just always blows my mind (and my heart) every time I hear it and relive it.

And may that never change. May Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection never fail to make me stop, never fail to take my breath away and remind me of the great love He had for me (and for you) every time I (we) remember.

Happy Easter, everyone. :)