Those who have read Shauna Niequist’s previous books, or follow her snapshots from the kitchen on social media, won’t be surprised to find food and recipes throughout her new daily devotional, Savor. With every comforting bowl of soup or sweet slice of cake comes a story of the people in her life, who cook and eat and celebrate alongside her. In honor of her latest title, the Chicago-based author shares with us a reflection on what it means to savor our friendships. – Kate Shellnutt, Her.meneutics editor
It’s my birthday, she said, so I get to ask the questions. She was right—the birthday girl is the boss. It was her 30th, and we were at a French restaurant she’d chosen, plates full of omelets and baguettes, tiny pots of jam and Nutella, flaky croissants and coffee cups.
Before she asked, she told us about the last year. She said she felt anxious and pressured. She worried that she wasn’t measuring up, that she wasn’t impressive, that she had to keep running and running and doing and doing in order to be loved and respected. She wanted to leave that behind, to close her 20s and walk forward in a new way: free, connected, grounded.
You’d never guess that this is how she felt. She’s the kind of friend who lights up a room, looks you in the eye, laughs with freedom, and lives with style. She makes it look easy. But what she told us that morning, as we passed jam and bites of chocolate croissant across the round table, was that there was a darkness under the surface, and she needed a new way forward.
We each answered her question. This is what we do when we feel scared: centering prayer, counseling, writing in a journal. We talked about spiritual direction, about getting up before the kids to begin the day with coffee and God’s Word. We talked about striving and proving ourselves and the dead ends of those ways of living. We talked about what we regret: working for our worth. And what we’re learning: unconditional love is the most beautiful, life-changing thing there is, and we’re hooked.
She’s the youngest (several of us are much closer to 40 than 30), so we told her the things we’ve learned the hard way. Over the years, I’ve grown so much from the voices around that table, from their wisdom and experience and bravery. But more than the advice itself, it’s important for us to have these kinds of friendships.
When she told the truth about how life feels to her—scary, pressured, volatile—we leaned forward and said, Me too. You’re not alone. Sometimes it feels like that to me, too. The power of that conversation was not the words we shared that day, but the hours and days and years they stood upon. You don’t get to have this kind of conversation around the table unless you put in the time.
Of all the things I’ve built in my life, what the eight of us have built around the table together is one of the things I’m most proud of. I’d make your head spin if I drew you a map of where we’ve all lived—neighbors and then not and then again; around-the-world trips and cross-country moves; racking up frequent flyer miles to see each other’s faces as often as possible.
And it’s worth it, because after more than a decade of life together, we can have conversations like the one we had at that brunch, about the deepest stuff, about the real and sometimes scary insides of our lives. These are people who put me back together after the most painful moments of my life. These are people who point me in the right direction when I’m turned around and can’t find a way forward. When I live well, when I connect deeply, when I parent in a way I’m proud of, when I live with gratitude and hope, it’s because these faces around the table taught me and teach me, and every hour we’ve spent together matters.
They say that we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. I think that’s absolutely true. And that fact makes me all the more committed to friendship, to life together, to becoming the woman I want to be because these guides are showing me the way. The birthday girl, eight years younger than me, was a guide to me that morning. I want to be honest, passionate, and unwilling to begin another decade tangled up in anxiety and fear. The other faces around the table are guides to me: teaching me how to pray, how to forgive myself, how to practice Sabbath and dwell deeply with God through prayer.
This is what I know about spiritual life: it is not a solo endeavor, and most of the true progress I’ve made over the years—growth, courage, forgiveness, patience—has been born out of the truth we told each other over eggs and coffee or soup and bread, around the table, guiding each other toward hope, bravery, life itself.
Shauna Niequist is the author of Savor, Bread & Wine, Cold Tangerines, and Bittersweet, and is an enthusiastic hostess, home cook and passionate gatherer of people. Shauna’s three great loves are her family, dinner parties, and books, and she believes that vulnerable storytelling, hard laughter, and cold pizza for breakfast can cure almost anything. You can connect with her online at ShaunaNiequist.com.