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August, every year, is a whirlwind. We come back from the lake, pink-nosed and plump from Sherman’s ice cream and donuts from Golden Brown Bakery. It takes us a few days to settle back into life in the suburbs—bike rides to the park, sleeping in our own beds. And then the Leadership Summit is its own swirl of old friends and big ideas, long days, head spinning. It was, of course, a total highlight to introduce Bob Goff and Brene Brown, two people I respect so much, two people who have taught me so much.

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And then my birthday: I turned 37 on Saturday. Something about back-to-school and a birthday in the same week forces a little introspection—what will this year hold? What am I leaving behind with 36? What are we building? And maybe I’ll change my tune at some point, but I’m really not one of those women who “turns 29” every year. I earned this year, day by day, trying and failing and starting again. I’m proud to be 37, to have learned some things along the way of this year.

36 was one of the highest change seasons of my life—almost a little midlife-y, or something. I made some fundamental shifts over the course of this year: I finished my third book, I fell apart a little, and most importantly, I think, I confessed that I couldn’t keep pushing as hard as I had been. Something had to give, and it did. I hope that I always look back at 36 as the year I stopped hustling, the year I learned to rest.

36 was also the year that I decided to make fitness and nutrition a priority. Essentially, as I wrote Bread & Wine, I was forced to face the fact that I was still carrying a lot of brokenness about my weight and my relationship to food, and I was ready to repair some things, no matter what it took.

In December I called a friend and asked her for help. I told her I was going to give it one year, and in that year I’d do whatever she told me. At the end of the year, if I found it didn’t make much of a difference, or I didn’t like the process, I’d go back to business as usual.

And this is what happened: my friend helped me change my life. I’m not through the year, and I still have lots of learning to do, but I’m so thankful for the shift that’s taken place inside me. The short version is that I stopped looking at fitness and nutrition as punishment or discipline, and instead began to see them as self-care, ways of being kind to myself, investing in my life and my family and my future. I began to see that running with a friend can be as healing and life-giving as brunch with a friend, and that saying no to the voice inside you that’s demanding a club sandwich immediately will build good things inside you every time you do it.

These are, of course, broad strokes and intimations of much bigger things, things I’m still sifting through and making sense of, things I’ll be writing about for months to come.

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I had, as you know, a truly transforming experience at a lodge in British Columbia in July. And I’m still mining through those moments and conversations, finding them rich with wisdom and grace and instruction. You know how sometimes a whole year or a whole season has been building toward something, and then in the course of just a few days, a whole body of learning locks in and finds its target, pierces you with clarity? That. That’s what happened at the Lodge.

At the Lodge, I found a vision for my future that I had almost lost sight of along the way, in the rush of deadlines and babies that don’t sleep and the push to go and achieve and prove.  At my core, at my best, I’m silly and warm, able to make people feel comfortable and safe. At my best, I laugh loud and jump into cold water and listen closely. But we almost lost that girl, lost her to a to-do list and what seemed like an endless and inevitable cycle of doing more and more and more so that I’d be invited to do more and more and more.

We’re done with all that. I want to be that girl again—present and warm and grace-soaked, silly and light-hearted, whole-hearted, full-hearted. I’m not going to live in such a way that I’m too tired to live my life or love the people in my life. I’m not going to live in such a way that I miss the sweet, tiny, hidden moments because I’m too bleary-eyed with stress and exhaustion. I saw a glimpse of how my future could be, at a Lodge in BC, and I’m hanging on to it with both hands, so thankful, and so ready to build a new way of living—freer, softer, braver.

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For my birthday, the boys and I went to the lake. Aaron and my dad had to work, but my mom and brother were there, and we played on the beach and went paddleboarding and played games with the boys. I took a nap in the hammock and wandered through the farmer’s market. We watched the sunset in near silence, enjoying being together, that perfect familiarity where nothing needs to be said. I went to bed early, snuggled up next to Henry, listening to him snore softly. When we got back Sunday night, the boys fell into bed, happy and worn out, and Aaron and I drank Champagne on the front steps, toasting a year that has held so much change, looking forward to a future that’s wider and sweeter, less hard edges and more moments of grace and mischief.

Last night, the night before school started, Henry was a little nervous, but he wouldn’t admit it. When he was falling asleep, I sat next to him on his bed for a while, and he held out his hand. “Can you put something in here, Mom? Like maybe one of your hands?” Darling big-little boy. We met his first grade teacher yesterday, found his seat, his locker, his mailbox. This morning we woke up early, packed his lunchbox and backpack, stood out in the driveway as he marched on to the bus. And just like that, a first grader.

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Next week, Aaron and I will celebrate twelve years of marriage with a couple days in NYC. Before that, I’ll teach our church’s weekend services, all about community and hospitality, what it means to live with honesty and connection, what it means to invite people past their perceptions of you into the true messy human stuff, the beautiful stuff.

But before all that, I’m staring out the window, listening to the Lone Bellow, thinking about the school bus, thinking about what this last year gave me: essentially a hand-written invitation to change my life, to stop, to begin again, to write a new future. I’m so thankful, and I’m diving into this season with bravery and gratitude, letting it shape and remake me at every turn.


35 thoughts on “37

  1. What a beautiful post. I really appreciate your honesty about how you are still learning.

    Love the sentence about building towards something and then the learning seems to all come at once. It’s reassuring that although sometimes your battles through things feel “unrewarded”,you are still learning things under the surface and you can have hope that at some point it will all come together in an “aha” moment!

  2. So beautifully written, Shauna. My big 4-0 birthday was a week before your birthday and I also have learned over the last couple of years to slow down. I’m also looking at exercise and nutrition as self care and the importance of teaching that to my children as I start this second half of life. Looking forward to hearing more about what you learned at the lodge. Blessings!

  3. “At my best” — those words resonated with me.

    Like you,
    ” I want to be that girl again—present and warm and grace-soaked, silly and light-hearted, whole-hearted, full-hearted. I’m not going to live in such a way that I’m too tired to live my live or love the people in my life. I’m not going to live in such a way that I miss the sweet, tiny, hidden moments because I’m too bleary-eyed with stress and exhaustion.”

    My 2013 word of the year is “Better.” I’m still working on it … and your words have inspired.
    Thank you!

  4. love hearing about your journey with health, fitness & self-care. such a challenging, yet imperative journey.

    also love hearing your introspection on a new year, as i approach my ne
    xt birthday i am discovering what I’ve lost and what I want back as well…


  5. Reading this post was especially timely, since I just finished reading the chapter on feasting and fasting in your book. Bread and Wine is my introduction to your writing (and your life), and I find that with each chapter I find something to empathize with, be challenged by, or which breaks my heart for someone I know who is going through a similar challenge. Thank you for your candour and compassion. God is using you and your words.

  6. …so grateful to hear this. I am wallowing in a deep pit this second. No work, called in, staying in PJs for the day. It’s my version of self-care, or so I thought. Perhaps I need to do something to feel STRONG vs. wallow. Dearesst Shauna, I heard you and met you in H-town at Ecclesia. Your heart is beautiful. I am thanking the Lord for you! xoxo

  7. Shauna,
    An amazing and transparent picture of how God can and does make us more like him daily. Thank you for sharing from your heart and helping others to be honest with themselves. YOU look amazing by the way so clearly exercise is a good thing.

  8. I loved your post and long for some of the things that you shared that happened to you when you went to the lodge. it is difficult when a person finds themselves in the place called “waiting”; trying to discover, uncover, or hear from God what the direction their life should take because they have been so busy with life that they feel as though they have lost themselves in the process. I can definitely relate to what you said about “almost losing that girl” who you know is there, inside you. I think, many times, I see that person I used to be ~ how do I get her back ? I want to be her again !

    Anyway, I long for a time such as the one you said you experienced at the lodge where it all came together and you received clarity about your direction. I think that is what I have been waiting for, but it does not seem to come in the timeframe that I want it to come ! It is then that I remind myself ~ in God’s time…. and that gives me peace for the moment !

    AND ~ my family and I spend time in South Haven every year and love Sherman’s and Phoenix Street Café and the beautiful sand on the beach ~ so my heart skipped a beat when I saw you writing about my home away from home !!

    thanks for your post !!

  9. A beautiful post! Thanks for inspiring me today! I hope to meet you someday in person, because you are friends of some of my friends, and it seems like we would be kindred spirits. :)

  10. Shauna, Thanks for this. I’ve been feeling a little raw with emotion these last weeks — moving toward changing things, evaluating relationships that are not working (like really not) and letting go of some of my expectations on ones that are not working but can if I hold loosely.; what I am capable of and what others are capable of (and not capable of right now) It’s about trust I know and the Lord is helping me to learn what trusting Him is all about. Thanks again…..and Happy Birthday!! ps — I can read your books over and over again and different parts always touch me in different ways. pps — do you think you will post your talk that you are doing this weekend? It would be cool to have a link to listen.

  11. This was beautiful — so inspiring! I’m approaching 52 and I feel the same way — these are sweet years and I want to savor them, not hide or sweep them under some rug of shame. I’m reading all three of your books this summer (not yet to Bread & Wine – can’t wait!) and I feel as though I’ve made a friend. Happy birthday, sweetie!

  12. Shauna,

    I’m so proud of you, impressed by your writing gift.

    Grab each day, Kiddo. Life is so very short and passes quickly if we blink too often.

    I’m loving your blog.

    I’m praying for you.

    I’m praising Him.

  13. Happy Birthday! As always, thanks for your genuine take on life and self and Christ. Thanks for making me feel normal in the seemingly abnormalities of life. Also, the Lone Bellow makes me melt. :)

  14. I don’t look at exercise as punishment / discipline as much any more but it’s harder to take the “next steps” with nutrition . . . it’s still about indulgence and rewarding myself or about trying to lose baby weight. Work in progress! Congratulations on 12 years, 37 years, and first grade – great milestones. I’m right behind you with 13 years, 36 years, and kindergarten :)

  15. Shauna-
    I’m a big fan of your last book (the others are on my t0-read list). This post was a blessing to me. Your outlook on health and fitness as self-care is one I’ve recently tried to start adopting as well. Your writing on it was especially encouraging to me. Thank you!.

  16. Reading your blog feels like a gift every time. I loved reading this post over breakfast this morning. It is inspiring and challenging. Your honesty is what draws me to reading your writing. I hope your ‘year’ continues to go well! X

  17. I love that God took on a journey as you wrote bread & wine..So cool to know that you can write and also still be in process. This is probably what scares me most about writing a book…thinking i need to have it all figured out!

  18. I pitter-pattered over here thanks to the Influence Magazine and I’m so thankful I did. Out of all the posts I could have happened upon during my first time visiting your site, I’m so thankful it was this one. It really speaks to me and makes me smile. Thanks!

  19. Thank you so much for your wisdom, true beauty and revealing of the heart. I have enjoyed every single one of your books and can’t wait for Bread and Wine to arrive at my door step!

    I admire you, Brene Brown, Donald Miller and Bob Goff. It’s so nice to know that we can embrace our imperfections and our struggles and see the light in them and show them to others to help them as well.

    Thank you for being a positive role model in my life. :)

    Cheers and many blessings!

    Nicole C. Maloney

    Ps. I’m working on my own memoir as well. It’s a goal to have a book published by the time I’m 35. Good thing I have 5 more years!

    Thank you, for everything!

  20. Thank you for your honesty. Last night I attended Willow and your teaching on hospitality is exactly what I needed to hear. Recently I have been meditating on what it means to open my home — thank you for the clarity.

  21. Sometimes I think maybe we are soul sisters. I read your words and am so grateful you write out so many of the thoughts and feelings that have been swirling around in me in such a beautiful life-giving way. I have been where you are and letting go a busy schedule means having to confront yourself in the vacuum that is left behind when we say no . If we were friends I would like to buy you something pretty and take you out for dinner and a walk in the woods.

  22. Your words moved me. Thank you. I am not the only one who feels the slippery slope of losing the joy. I am not alone. Such knowledge is motivating movement toward release. Thank you again.

  23. For my birthday last week, a friend gave me a copy of your Cold Tangerines book. I just finished tonight. I enjoyed it so much. You are a very gifted writer. I live in Coloma, Michigan, not far from South Haven. My husband and I frequent up that way often to antique, eat and buy jewelry. He loves to bike there and back.

    I went to college in Grand Rapids and lived on Heritage Hill (Davenport College) and I’ve been to California several times to visit my Marine Corp son and my oldest son lives in Chicago. So on all those many levels, your book struck additional chords for me. You are wise beyond your years. Looking forward to reading your other books.

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