“Cold Tangerines”

They say, ‘Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.’ Through the unexpected and winding roads of depression, anxiety and an eating disorder, I full heartedly say, touche. Before you object or take your stance on the cause and cure of mental illness just hear me out. This has been my experience, not science. I’m not offering a five-step self-help, but rather the hope I found in the midst of being overcome by the heaviness of life.

Since I was young, I decided I would be one of those people who enjoyed being alive and made the most of it. Life happened. There was brokenness in our family, hurt feelings between friends, rejection and betrayal from Christians. I focused myself on all which was crumbling to the ground around me and sunk down with my circumstances.

As I focused on how terrible things kept happening to me, another terrible thing would happen. All I really chose to see in life was pain, hardship, and broken hearts. I tried to be happy, numbing myself with drugs, alcohol, sex. I obsessed over my weight and food and exercise, trying to gain control of the hell I felt inside. Obviously, it didn’t end in happiness.

As hopelessness settled in, I came across a book, a ray of light, called The Gratitude Principle. I have held onto one principle throughout these last four years, wake up and before thinking anything else, make notice of what you’re grateful for. I was not instantly filled with joy, nor did I overcome much of anything that first morning. But as I have made this one discipline into a lifestyle and an outlook on life I have begun to understand the truth behind what Paul wrote almost 2,000 years ago “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Sure there are days when I don’t feel great about my body; I am anxious, and I don’t want to get out of bed, but those days are now the minority. Most days, I am filled with life and joy and peace. I can live out of a place of contentment having given thanks for the gift of life knowing that it’s God’s will for me to find something to be grateful for in every circumstance and situation.

A little while back I found this little gem of inspiration. I want to live the life Shauna talks about below, but no matter how hard I try, if I am not living out the will of God, giving thanks in all circumstances, I will never find the deep-rooted joy that brings an overflowing abundance of color and zest into this world. I hope this sparks something in you the way it has for me.

“I’ve missed whole seasons of my life. I look back and all I remember is pain I guess I went to work or to class during that time, but I don’t really remember. I wasted a lot of time wishing I was different. I didn’t love the gift of life I was given. I wanted it to be different. But being angry didn’t change those things. It just wasted time. I can’t take away the things that have happened to you or to me, but what we have, maybe as a reward for getting through all the other days, is today. Today is a gift. And if we have tomorrow, tomorrow will be a gift.

It’s rebellious, in a way, to choose joy, to choose to dance, to choose to love your life. It’s much easier and much more common to be miserable. But I choose to do what I can do to create hope, to celebrate life, and the act of celebrating connects me back to that life I love. We could just live our normal, day-to-day lives, saving all the good living up for someday, but I think today, just plain today, is worth it. I think it’s our job, each of us, to live each day like it’s a special occasion, because we’ve been given a gift. We get to live in this beautiful world. When I live purposefully and well, when I dance instead of sitting out, when I let myself laugh hard, when I wear my favorite shoes on a regular Tuesday, that regular Tuesday is better.

Right now, around our house, all the leaves are falling, and there’s no reason that they have to turn electric bright red before they fall, but they do, and I want to live like that. I want to say, “What can I do today that brings more beauty, more energy, more hope?” Because it seems like that’s what God is saying to us, over and over. “What can I do today to remind you again how good this life is? You think the color of the sky is good now, wait till sunset. You think oranges are good? Try a tangerine.” He’s a crazy delightful mad scientist and keeps coming back from the lab with great, unbelievable new things, and it’s a gift. It’s a gift to be a part of it.

I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that He gave life to someone who loves the gift, who will use it up and wring it out and drag it around like a favorite sweater. ”

-Cold Tangerines

By Shauna Niequist

“Finally, whatever is

 True • Noble • Right • Pure • Lovely

Admirable • Excellent • Praiseworthy

Think about such things

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.

And the God of peace will be with you.”

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