Reading Series: Cold Tangerines

These days, I cling to every word that spurs on my tiny faith. When I picked up Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist this summer I wanted to devour it like good cake—the rich flavor delighting me as it slipped down my throat. But I didn’t want it to end so I consumed it slowly, bite by bite, letting it soak into my senses well through autumn.

I used Cold Tangerines as a devotional while I was disillusioned with the three part, “always inspiring” dissections of Scripture I was learning to formulate in my writing classes. I wanted stories that I could dig the meaning out of myself. That is what Niequist provides.

Her essays infuse moments of ordinary life with purpose and sanctity. Niequist’s words, “I choose to believe that there is nothing more sacred or profound than this day,” remind me to slow down, to pay attention. At college it is easy to live so fast that I don’t have time to feel, to examine my life. But that pattern drains me, turns me into a hollow aching body.

So throughout the semester, I worked on slowing myself down. One of the main ways I did this was by writing a haiku (almost) every day in November. The poems focused largely on the earth’s shift from fall to winter. I became attentive to the world around me as I walked across campus. I began to notice the way the wind sounded through the grass or the particular way the sky looked throughout the day. I slowed from my usual, quick pace. I felt more connected to the Earth and my body that month because I chose to pay attention, to find sanctity in the everyday. I sat in silence in my dorm room before going to bed to reflect on the day and craft a small poem to commemorate it. Not all the time, but as often as I remembered.


Another feature of Cold Tangerines that I found particularly compelling is Niequist’s willingness to admit to being scared or stubborn or unhappy. She encourages everyday celebration—it is her preferred state of being—but she is brave enough to admit that it is not a reality as a constant. She grants herself and her readers that allowance. Her words have made me more willing to face the daunting questions in my life while I still have these negative emotions connected to them. Like Niequist says, “something bright and beautiful has been given me, and I’m in grave danger of losing it, squandering it, becoming a person who cannot find the goodness that’s right in front of her because of the sadness that she chooses to let obscure it.”

What practices do you have to celebrate the sanctity of the everyday? What books made you think differently about life this year?


8 thoughts on “Reading Series: Cold Tangerines

  1. Beautiful, Emily. Love Niequist, and love your thoughts about her work. Put Bittersweet and Bread & Wine on your reading list if you haven’t already. Hope you’re doing well!

  2. I reread one of my favorite books, Disappointment with God, by Philip Yancey. He made me look at so many issues in my life differently and to see the glory in every day, even the dark ones. Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to read this book!

  3. I still want to read some of your Haiku’s Em! To practice the sanctity of the everyday, I am keeping a gratitude journal. I try to embrace the blessings from God that surround me every day. Having just finished Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, I am inspired to see the good and positive in simple and extraordinary everyday happenings. “Gratitude is the most fruitful way of deepening your consciousness that you are….a divine choice.” Henri Nouwen

    1. I will send some haikus your way when I get back to my room tonight or later this weekend.
      Gratitude journals are a great way to reflect on the day. I think I kept one at one point in the recent past. It was a good practice.

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