Series 01: For The Love Of Girlfriends | Episode 01
Savoring Your Friendships With Shauna Niequist
In our debut podcast, Jen talks with her good girlfriend Shauna Niequist, author of Present Over Perfect. Jen and Shauna swap stories about their friendship and how their circle of girlfriends give them life, laughter and encouragement. They also discuss how good girlfriends will stand by you through everything from wardrobe malfunctions to family crises; plus they always know exactly when to whisk you away for a girls’s trip when life gets stressful. Shauna also shares some great tips on how to make time to gather with your girlfriends around the table, and some delicious (and easy) recipes for those “food for your soul” moments.
Narrator: Welcome to the “For the Love Podcast” with bestselling author Jen Hatmaker. Come on in, and join us for a chat with Jen and friends about all the things we love. Now, here’s Jen.
Jen: You guys, I am so glad to have my dearest of dear friends, Shauna Niequist, joining us on the podcast today. She is easily and sincerely one of my “tip-top” favorite people in the entire world! Let me tell you just a bit about her, and then we’ll welcome her aboard.
So I’m sure you probably know Shauna. She is just an incredibly gifted, special writer. She’s a New York Times best-seller. She’s written Cold Tangerines, and Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine, and Savor. Her latest book, that came out last year is, Present Over Perfect and it just zinged to like the top of the charts and for good reason. She’s married she has two sons, Henry and Mack. Her husband Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek up in Chicago, where her Dad has been pastor for… how long, Shauna?
Shauna: Forty-one years.
Jen: That’s all, right?
Jen: Oh my gosh that is so rare. Hey welcome. I’m so glad you’re here.
Shauna: Hi! I’m so happy to talk to you for any reason, and if other people are listening that’s fine too, but I’m just delighted to have an hour with you.
Jen: That’s kind of how it feels. I was thinking the exact same thing. In fact, Shauna and I were just talking off-line a second ago, and I’m like, ‘here’s a handful of things we’re going to talk about…and also; whatever we say’. There’s a 100 percent chance we will just meander around.
We are, together, we’re members of this Belong Tour team. Last year was our very first year, and it’s sort of a 12-city arena tour.
Now, here’s the thing Shauna, just this morning , I went back and I just did a quick little listen to sort of a Facebook Live thing that me and you and Nicole did last fall, when we were just talking about some stuff. We were in a hotel room somewhere. I’d forgotten, and I’m going to ask you to tell it. I gave you no lead on this. I’d forgotten the most hilarious story that our friend Nicole, well we are all a part of this story ultimately. It was the story about Ken and Shannon and Ken’s mom.
Shauna: Oh, this is the worst.
Jen: Will you tell it? Because this is the thing: these are the stories that sort of are birthed out of friendships, that are actually treasures, that I will probably end up telling 1000 times in my lifetime.
Shauna: This is an amazing story. So, Nichole, who is amazing. She would say that she’s way more comfortable behind the piano singing, songwriting. We were able to like gently coax her out from behind the piano to do a full, like, she was one of the speakers on the tour. And she’s phenomenal. It’s not even fair how good she is. So she tells this wonderful story. You know how there are some stories, like the first time you hear it you’re all “hey, I know I’m going to listen to this 12 more times and it’s going to mean something to me every time.” It’s this beautiful image. It connects to your life. It connects to your heart and your family and you’re like “I get this.”
This is one of those stories that should be told everywhere, but it involves a couple named Ken and Shannon, right?
Jen: That’s right.
Shauna: It’s about when Ken’s mom passes away and Shannon does this beautiful lovely thing as a wife; she helps her husband to deal with, literally and figuratively, everything that’s left. All the stuff physically, but then all the stuff on the inside, too. So beautiful story. So she tells it, do we want to say, like six times?
Jen: I want to say it’s more like eight out of 12.
Shauna: It could be, but then I feel like her friends are in maybe Denver with her, or Dallas. And then they maybe got breakfast early in the morning or they’re in her hotel room late at night after she tells that story. She’s like, ‘You guys, how did it feel to hear me tell this very private story in front of all these people? Was that meaningful for you, or was it weird?” And they all kind of, all her girlfriends look around at each other, and they’re like “well..uh, it’s interesting that you ask,” and they’re all kind of looking at each other, and she’s like..”WHAT…?”
And one of them finally says, “Ken’s mother did not die.”
She was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, or memory loss in some way, and she needed to move to a care facility. So many of the dimensions of this story are, “you’re close, you’re real close on this. Except for the fact that the person you’re talking about is actually still alive. So that part is the only tweak we would make in the next time.”
I feel like it’s one of those things where if you’re a person who does that kind of stuff for a living, like tell stories, you’re sort of like “this is making me rethink a lot of things in my life. Are any of the stories I’ve ever told anyone factually true. Did I in fact go to California and what’s real? Like am I just making up stories?” Yeah.
Jen: We fell out. When she came the next weekend and told us that story. I think you and I practically fell out of our chairs. I mean, we buried Ken’s mother in at least eight cities. It was just so shocking to find out she was alive and well.
Shauna: It was very weird.
Jen: We had so many shenanigans on the tour. We could just sit here and list them forever. But it was so much fun to travel together. You and I have talked about this approximately one million times, but one thing that I have learned, in this sort of work that you and I do, is that there is absolutely no comparison to doing it alone, versus doing this with friends that you love. So much so, that I’ll never go back.
Shauna: Oh, a thousand percent. Really, that’s where, at least my involvement in the Belong Tour came from. I had become so over the “travel alone”/”all the time”, this really kind of segmented life, where I wrote a book about the beauty of life around the table and then I never was around one. I was only in airports and green rooms by myself and watching CNN in my hotel room by myself, like “I hate this.”
I don’t know if you do this, but Aaron and I talked and I said, “I have this crazy dream and I don’t have any idea how to make it come true. I don’t think I can, but if I ever travel and speak again, I want to do it in the context of relationships. I want to do it how I do the rest of my whole life. I parent very much in the context of relationships. Every good thing I do, I do with the people that I love and I wanted to I wanted to experience the traveling and speaking part of my life in the context of relationships. We have all these weird inside joke names for it.
Then the Belong team called and I was like, “have you been listening in on my weird conversations with my husband and our inside jokes about this?” This is such a dream.
Jen: It really, really was. In a season that typically left you and I sort of in the gutter, absolutely depleted, worn out…just kind of in tattered threads, the difference in emerging out of the Belong Tour last year, having traveled with precious friends, week in and week out, was so markedly different. I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe how intact my soul remained in the midst. There’s no doubt, there’s a cost to being gone. You and I both parent a lot of kids and they’re still young and they need us a lot. So, that was such a light bulb moment for me. As you and I look toward the fall, I’m just excited about it. I know that it is going to be amazing.
You and I have been friends for a decade. Right?
Shauna: You know we always do this. I think it’s got to be almost 11 years I think.
Jen: Henry was new.
Shauna: Yes. Yeah, and he’s about to be 11.
Jen: That’s it. I was trying to remember this morning. Tell me if you think my memory is right on this, because my memory is now absolutely ruined by motherhood. It’s probably faulty; it’s like “Ken’s Mom.”
Shauna: I was just going to say, “are you going to tell a story where someone is dead but is not really dead?” Is that what’s going to happen now?
Jen: I feel like our first meeting was; I think it was 11 years ago at McLean Bible church outside of D.C. I think it was at that little conference called After Eve and it was for young adults. Does this does this feel right to you?
Shauna: Yes. So, I think we met there for the first time and then we did another one in Austin.
Jen: That’s right.
Shauna: And you drove me somewhere…
Jen: Probably to eat food?
Shauna: …And maybe back to my hotel and then I think you called me. You were like, “I’m going out for dinner. Would you like to come with me, and I was like alone in my hotel room feeling like such a loser. “YES – please I want to go out to dinner with you.”
Jen: That’s right. Exactly. We were both pretty green at the time. That was at the genesis of both of our, at least for sure, our writing careers and for me, my speaking career. I feel really grateful that there’s probably not a transcript of that around for people to listen to.
Shauna: If there is video footage of that conference, I want it destroyed. I mean I’m sure you were lovely; I’m sure lots of people said nice things.
I had an interesting speaking dilemma that I don’t know if we’ve talked about? I’s a little P.G. 13, so you tell me.
Jen: All right let’s hear it.
Shauna: At the Austin one when I remained clothed in every way but in the D.C. one… now that I’m into this story, I’m realizing I’m not sure I want to tell it.
Jen: Oh, is it too much? Maybe you can just clean it up a tiny bit. Is this underwear related, bra related?
Shauna: It’s bra-ish related–I was wearing kind of an alternative bra situation. And I was pretty sure that it had removed itself and fallen down onto the ground while I was speaking
Jen: Oh no, you’re not telling the truth.
Shauna: What was I going to do? I wasn’t going to stop. So it was maybe the most stressful situation. I told you about that other time where I got lost and I couldn’t get off-stage…sort of like that. There are stressful stage environment things, but this was a wardrobe malfunction. What I thought was my alternative bra situation was falling out of my shirt onto the ground.
Jen: Is what you’re saying to me is that it fell down and it was around that it was your waist?
Shauna: I mean I couldn’t locate it. I mean, you can’t feel for it, right? You can’t be like, “Okay, it’s like on my boobs, isn’t it?” But t I was afraid it was going to fall down on the ground. So, in what I’m sure was a real seamless way, I unbuttoned my jacket, tucked in my shirt so that if it was going to fall, it was just going to fall into the bottom of my shirt.
So picture me, it’s like a silky, pretty shirt that’s supposed to be like flowy, right at the waistline. In the middle of my talk, I just decided to tuck it into my jeans, so that IF there’s kind of a situation happening; something’s going to fall out of my shirt, with my alternative-bra-situation happening with something out of my shirt I it alternate situation. Now I’ve secured it.
Jen: No. I have tears. I am crying.
Shauna: Great start. Great start. I’m glad I just told the story.
Jen: That’s so fabulous. I’m so happy that we managed to work that in. Outstanding. Essentially what happened, Shauna, was that we had a couple of overlapping events and then I’m pretty sure that my really chill way to approach it was by saying to you, essentially, “is there any way that I could force you to be my friend? Is that appropriate? Can I just type your numbers in my phone?”
We started a friendship that has just been just a treasure. Honestly, like 10 years of so many amazing memories and we’ve really grown together. Golly, we’ve seen babies born and kids graduated, our ministries shift, books come and go; I mean we’ve really seen a lot of life together in the last 10 years. It’s amazing.
Shauna: I bet if you were to look back before the tour when we talked like seventeen times every day, I think if you read our texts from those five or six years in the middle there–whatever, I don’t know when–we mostly cheered each other on when it seemed like the other was taking some hits, right? I feel like we’ve been in each other’s corners during some pretty sticky situations, especially public ones.
And I’m really thankful for that. I feel like if I have ever done something brave or controversial, or at least just hard publicly, you’ve been one of the first people to say “I see you, I’ve got you. This is going to be fine.”
Shauna: I can’t tell you how valuable that is. I’m so thankful for that.
Jen: Absolutely. I would say the exact same thing. Our moments of joy are where so many of our delightful memories come through. But it’s really in the hard moments, I think, that a tried and true friendship is truly forged. I heard you say in an interview once that some advice that you wish you’d have given yourself when you were younger, was to invest really deeply in friendships and make memories together and take risks together. I love that! I love the wisdom that the older us would love to go back and tell the younger versions of ourselves. Are you doing that right now? What does that look like elsewhere in your life?
Shauna: I would say one of the things I’ve learned along the way is that friendship is one of those things that has like an unlimited positive return. The more you put into it, you get exponentially so much more out of it. It’s like a formula that I don’t screw around with anymore. I put a lot into my friendships because they’re that important to me. Of all the things I do with my life and my time, friendship bears out. It’s worth it every time.
So, this last week, I was out of town a couple days because my best friend from college (we met 23 years ago), they very unexpectedly experienced a loss in their family. It was just a disaster. So much grief and so much brokenness. I very much wanted to be at the service, but my husband went instead. We had kids and schedules, so the boys went and the girls didn’t. The husbands went to support the husband, and the wives kind of held down the fort because that’s sometimes how life is. But I said to her, my best friend (she’s totally a quality time person), I said “I’m so sorry I can’t be at the funeral. You know we had to switch off on this one. When the dust settles a little bit in your life I want to spend two or three days together, just you and I. I want to hear everything. The big things, the little things. I want to take really long walks and stay up really late and I just want to carry this with you.”
So, we did that last week. I’m so thankful for friendship and I’m thankful for the way it carries heavy things. In this season, this is not a particularly heavy season for me in those ways. But it is for her, and I want to be the first one in line carrying heavy things, because she’s been there for me one million times.
Jen: I like your wisdom in that. You’re probably like me; I have women ask me a lot about friendships. I’m fully in team Shauna here. I am in your camp. I invest very, very deeply and heavily into my friendships because I cannot envision my life without them. I hear from women a lot who struggle or they’re lonely or they’re craving the depth of relationships with other women and don’t quite know how to find them, or secure them, or keep them. The truth is, and what you just mentioned, it takes work. It really does. They don’t just magically find their way to your doorstep. It’s not sorcery. It is picking up the phone, it is getting on a plane sometimes. It is taking that time out and, really, I think maybe time is the key. There’s no shortcut to it. It is hours and lots of them and over lots of months and, ultimately, lots of years; and what you get on the other end of that is just, absolutely, as good as gold.
Shauna: I totally agree. And I think the first couple of years aren’t always gold.
Jen: Great point. So let’s talk for a minute about what you and I both believe is the very sacred intersection of food and friendship that those are twin sisters that for neither one of us can be separated at all. Obviously, you are one of the most delightful, wonderful, credible leaders and writers when it comes to this space. Nobody has instructed me better on this; has inspired me more.
With your beautiful gift of language and life, you led me to the table. So talk to us a little bit about why the table, and food, and cooking and gathering is so important and so central to what ultimately becomes sort of a bedrock of friendship.
Shauna: Well, that was the sweetest—thank you.
Jen: You know I mean every word.
Shauna: Well, thank you. You know, I think some of it is you know sometimes people ask me: “Does everybody have to love the table the way you love it? Does everybody have to read cookbooks like they’re novels and live at the grocery store like you do?”
No, not everybody does. So I would say some of it; I would say two real separate things. One of it is, that we find the people we love by doing the things we love. My best girlfriends and I cook together because that’s what we love to do. My brother races sailboats and motorcycles and basically any vehicle of any kind; especially the more dangerous, the better. That’s what he loves to do with his friends. So that’s where the heart of his friendships reside. My husband is a musician. So, rehearsals and the before and after, the tuning of the instruments and the gear and all that. That’s where most of his friendship moments reside. I think you find your tribe, you find your people by doing your thing, right? Cooking, and hospitality, and hosting is my thing, so I find like-minded people through the course of doing that. That’s one side of it.
The other side of it is, I would say, especially for people who aren’t food people, I always find that people are genuinely shocked to be fed food that someone made sitting at a table with other human people. It’s like this totally novel thing that doesn’t happen. Once you’re out of your parent’s house, people don’t do that very often. So there are a couple of people in my life where I just have them on a regular rotation. I’m like, “I want you to get a good meal and not just from a nutrition standpoint, like from a soul standpoint. I want to sit across the table from you and I’m going to ask you questions about your life. I want to show you that I care by how I listen and I want to feed you in all the ways.”
So just last week, we had some friends over. We don’t see them very often, and we all kind of worked together and served together during a particular season of time and then that was over. Now we’re like circling back after like two years.
What happened around the table reminded me again, “yep, like magic; still works.” We laughed together, we cried together, and we prayed together. We talked about silly things then we talked about really big things. My kids were there, and we talked about why I chose the food I did for the people that I did, and the different things I wanted to communicate.
I just think people are starving in our culture in so many ways, but they’re starving to find a place to be nourished and nurtured. And the table is a really good place for that.
Jen: It is. I’ve not found it’s equal. What would you say to the woman out there who heard you say that and it’s so inviting, and it’s so inspiring and she feels like a super average cook? Maybe she doesn’t have a real sense of flavors or utensils or recipes or any of it. This is not only reserved for people who absolutely love to cook or are super good at it.
Shauna: Absolutely not. In fact, I would say some of my friends who practice what I would call like “true hospitality” on a deep level, don’t cook at all. You don’t have to cook at all. What it is it’s creating and holding sacred space for God’s voice to be heard. And for people to be seen and known. Right? There’s nothing to do with food.
So I would say if your passion is that you want to gather people; order pizza, pick up some LaCroix, pick up a box of chocolates and some paper plates and invite people into your space. Or, grab all those things and take them to a public park. Or, grab all those things and have them in your dorm room. What I’m talking about can be done anywhere on any budget. It’s way more a way of being with people than it is a menu list, or centerpieces, or whatever. I would also say, it’s just like friendship, in that, you get comfortable with it over time, and the returns don’t come early in the process.
Jen: I love that. I found that to be absolutely true in my life, too. I think, early on when I decided “let’s use our home as sort of a center of nurture; as a gathering point; as a collector of human beings”, I probably focused too much, early on, on the mechanics of it all. I probably leaned a little bit more at an attempt to be impressive than an attempt to be nurturing. Now I have it all flip-flopped, because really, you are right. Nobody cares. That’s not what they’re there for. They are not there to be impressed. They are there to be seen and to belong somewhere. It’s a rare and a wonderful gift. I don’t know if we’ve lost the thread along the way, because my parents gathered like this all the time, and their parents did, too. But we’re kind of in a lonely, broken up, isolated culture now. As old fashioned as that sounds, it’s actually sort of rarefied air in our generation.
Shauna: I completely agree. I agree with you in both ways.
When I first started doing lots and lots of hosting and gathering, it was much fancier. I did much more complicated recipes, more new recipes; all put together in one meal with more fancy serving stuff. The table was marked; the whole thing was more fancy, more sparkly, and more orchestrated; every part of it. I feel like that’s flipped for me as well. I think sometimes, you know The Nester? She has a beautiful blog that says it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful?
Shauna: I love what she does. One of the things she says, because she’s known for having an amazing house—it’s what she does. I heard her say somewhere that whenever she has people over, she intentionally pulls out a laundry basket of clean, but not folded laundry, just to show people that if their house looks like that, they’re in good company. I love that. Right?
Jen: That is so precious and brilliant. That is phenomenal. You know Brandon, my husband. He and I are sometimes going in opposite directions on this continuum because while I am getting like looser and lighter, like “where are the paper plates and let’s use plastic spoons.” Just a few weeks ago, I opened up this Amazon box on our front door and it is so heavy I can barely lift it. I’m thinking, “what in the world is it?” I open it up, and inside is the most sparkly, most beautiful set of (this is so Brandon) copper utensils; knives, forks spoons. I am like, “Brandon. Why? Why do we now own a 12 piece set of copper utensils. He was like, “I got overly excited on Amazon,” because we had just come from a supper club, and I’m like, “Brandon, I’m going toward plastic. You are heading toward like a King’s setting.” But whatever, we can do what we want to do with it.
Let me ask you this; I would love to know this. Everybody listening in, I’ll make sure to have this recipe up on the transcript on my web site. If you had to pick one, and I know you’ve got lots; you have a lot of biggest hits. But, what is one of your biggest cooking hits, specifically let’s say for eight people, or more if you’re going to kind of have a dinner party and you do not want to spend 14 hours in the kitchen? But you want the food to be really delicious. What’s one of your go-tos?
Shauna: One of my go-tos: I make a chicken curry with mangoes that I have been making since before we had kids. I can make it in my sleep. It’s not such a heavy curry that people who don’t like spicy food can’t eat it. It’s got a lot of fresh stuff in it. It’s got tomatoes and cilantro and peppers and fresh mango. It feels kind of light and vibrant, so it’s good for springtime. It’s one of those; it’s like it’s essentially a braise. You just dump it all in in a certain order, and it just happens by itself, it’s not like something where you’ve got a meat thermometer going on at the last minute or deep frying anything. That’s a mango chicken curry that I have made more than I’ve made anything else in the world, I bet.
Jen: You’ve got that in one of your books right? Which book did you put that recipe in?
Shauna: It’s in Bread & Wine.
Shauna’s Chicken Curry with Cocounut, Basil and Mangoes
from The $50 Dinner Party by Sally Sampson.
- Mix together: ¼ cup flour
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- Toss 2 ½-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces, in the above mixture.
- In 1-2 tbsp olive oil, on medium-high heat, cook chicken until browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Set aside.
- In 1-2 tbsp olive oil, cook until onion is golden, about 4 minutes. Add:
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
- Add chicken, lower heat.
- Add 4-4 ½ cups chicken broth
- Cook until chicken is tender and broth is reduced by ¼.
- Add and simmer until heated through
¼ cups currants or raisins
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 mango, pitted and diced
- Off heat, add:
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
3 tbsp shredded coconut
- Serve with white rice
- Mix together: ¼ cup flour
Shauna doubles the recipe for 10-12 people, and serves it with a green salad, pita bread, mojitos, and coconut and chocolate sorbets for dessert. Her family is grateful for leftovers, because, she thinks, it might even be better the next day!
Jen: It’s just such a home run every time. Sometimes you just don’t have to fix it if it’s not broken. Make the same delicious thing a hundred times in a row. I was just saying this on social media a couple of weeks ago because we gather often, too. I was sort of suggesting to women that maybe just pick; if you’re at ground zero here. Maybe just pick literally one day a month and say “OK. One night out of the entire month, let’s invite a handful of couples or a couple of families over and we’ll cook and that’s it. Let’s just try the experiment.” If you do that one time a month, over the course of a calendar year, you will have hosted almost a hundred people and your life will be so much richer for it. I guarantee it. Some of those new friendships will catch traction, and that will begin sort of a story that you’re craving. My opinion is like yours; if you want to, make the exact same dish for every single dinner. One of our go to meals when we’re serving a lot of people is salmon… you know why? It’s not even cooking.
Shauna: Are you talking about the one that you make with honey mustard and the pecans?
Jen: Yes. That’s not even cooking. It’s delicious.
Jen’s Salmon with Honey Mustard & Pecans
- Buy a whole plank of salmon from the fish counter, skin on.
- Rinse and pat it dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- On the flesh side, brush on a store bought honey mustard or mustard sauce or mustard barbecue. A nice thick sauce, not a runny sauce. (I use something like Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet Golden Mustard Barbecue Sauce).
- Top with a generous portion of chopped walnuts or pecans. You can buy a bag of chopped nuts or just whiz some up in your food processor.
- Throw the whole plank on your grill or in your oven.
My kids go BANANAS for this. Between the rich salmon, the sweet and tangy mustard sauce, and the crunchy and salty nuts, you’ll want to cook twice as much as you need so you can have some tomorrow, when it is still just as tasty over your salad or tucked into your tortilla or just eaten out of the Tupperware container.
Jen: If you can open a bottle and open a package of pecans and put something on a tray, your main dish is done. Nothing ever has to be complicated, or take a lot of time, or be incredibly fancy, because it really turns out that’s not what anybody is there for.
Shauna: Like right now everything’s all that like the “capsule wardrobe” and I think kind of the the related vision of that would be; have your repertoire and make four things really well and serve them every single time. I think over time, people associate those flavors and those meals with your house. Part of the reason I make the curry is because people ask me to or because I know, like, if our friend Steve is coming over, of course I’m making it, because he’s been asking me to make it when we have him over for a birthday for 14 years. So, it’s not about like “oh darn it, I’m having this thing again.” Even when you go to a restaurant, if you have something you like on a restaurant menu, I’m going to order it 78 times. So you build a sense of, “hey, at our house it tastes like this.”
There’s that wonderful story (I can track down the article at some point) of a family; I think they just moved to a new town and they didn’t totally know how to connect. She had one great recipe and it was for spaghetti and meatballs. So they decided to do spaghetti and meatballs every Friday and invite people over. No one ever said, “I’d love to come, but I was hoping you’d make tacos this week”. But that’s the thing. Just make a thing your thing. If chili is your thing, if lasagna is; just figure it out and make it one bazillion times.
Jen: I think that some of the best advice I’ve ever heard you say. Perfect four dishes. Boom. That’s your rotation. Now you have no excuses. There is absolutely no reason to feel insecure. That’s what you do, and if people don’t like it, they won’t show up. But I promise you that they will. They absolutely will.
So. A couple more questions and then I will just wrap it up, as we like to have our whole week ahead of us. Let me real quickly ask you this. You’ve referred before to friendship as a “shelter.” I love that. That has been the truest piece of my experience that I can recall. Can you name a time or two maybe, or certain ways that your friends have been a shelter for you?
Shauna: You know, maybe I’m thinking of this a lot right now, because I have a couple of friends in my life who I adore, who in the last year or so, have had miscarriages. So you know what happens in your life is you’re experiencing something absolutely horrible. Then one of the tiny things, it doesn’t make it better, but it at least you are happy to share what you know. Then you become a person that people call when they have the same experience. All that to say, someone I just absolutely adore showed up on my doorstep a year ago and said, “it’s happening today. I’m losing the baby today.” Sitting with her and talking with her reminded me of how my friends were my lifelines during those losses. How they were in my space, in my home with my kids, feeding us, and praying with us. After the second miscarriage, and it was twins, there was a season where quite honestly, I had to ask people to pray for me; to pray the prayers I wanted to pray, because I couldn’t right then. And I kind of had to say, “I’m silent in my spirit and in my heart. But if you could pray to a good God for a new life on my behalf. If you could pray for my broken heart.” To have people literally sitting next to me holding my hand, praying out loud the words that I was too empty and silent to pray.
In addition to flowers and laundry and picking my kids up at preschool, I have never felt so surrounded by the blood and guts human thing than in those seasons of so much loss. I’m so thankful for them.
Jen: That’s so powerful. I mean, even as you’re talking, my mind is going through a reel of how many times you have been that friend to me and I am so grateful. Being sheltered under the nourishment of a friendship, it’s healing; it’s transformative, actually. You receive that kind of friendship because you are that kind of friend.
That goes back to our earlier conversation: you will get out of your friendships exactly what you put in. So, if you decide to go all in here and invest hard and go after it, ultimately, when you need it, when you’re the one with the dry well, you will have so much depth and richness to draw from because you have invested so deeply into other people. It will be their honor and their joy to invest back in you. You’re so good at friendship–one of the very best I’ve ever ever known, Shauna, and I mean that.
Shauna: Thank you.
Jen: Three last little questions we do every time. Then we’ll wrap it up and tell folks where to find you. Here’s the first one:
We all have had lots of advice and guidance given to us some amazing some absolutely awful. What is the best advice, and then what is the worst advice you’ve ever received?
Shauna: That’s such a good question. Well, this is not necessarily advice, but a quote and I believe it’s E.M. Forster, a novelist, from ages ago but there was a quote that just captured me so much and it said, “Only Connect.” That’s it. Only connect. I have used that in so many different ways, I think, because I can tend to want to hide when I’m feeling afraid. I’m happy to show up when everything’s good, but when things feel difficult, I would rather handle that privately; that’s my impulse. I want to put my best foot forward. I am learning. There was a situation just today where I thought to myself, “connect, connect, reach out through this. Say what you need, show up in your full messy self, only connect, only connect.” Then also, “only connect,” meaning, don’t perform, don’t impress, don’t compete, don’t push. Just connect. That’s all we’re trying to do here, only connect. That feels really good to me.
Shauna: And , then I think that any advice that suggests a quick fix for something meaningful, feels like really bad advice to me. I was just having a conversation the other day; anyone that tells you true spiritual maturity can happen overnight is lying to you. Anyone who can tell you that a great marriage is built overnight is lying to you. Anyone who tells you that life changing friendships can happen with a snap of the fingers, that’s just all bad advice. Anything that’s microwaveable and quick and instant is probably not the same as something durable, and deep, and beautiful.
Jen: So beautiful and true. Okay, second, finish this sentence. You know I really love you if I ever do for you.
Shauna: Oh, I totally know this. OK. I have two. One of them, we live in Chicago, and there are two airports in Chicago; one is O’Hare and one is Midway. O’Hare is like 20 to 30 minutes from us; it’s like right down highway. Midway is like, I would rather walk to your house in Austin, Texas than drive to Midway Airport. You will know that I have chosen you for my one and only for the rest of our life and I offer to pick you up at Midway Airport.
Jen: It’s like you would rather say, “Can I put some money in your PayPal account to just get an Uber?“
Shauna: Like, “can I buy you a car you can have forever?” I’d rather do that. Yeah, yeah. The heights of my love would be to pick you up at Midway Airport. The other one is if I go with you to Ikea. That’s true love.
Jen: Oh it’s like Dante. I mean it’s like the levels of hell that one does not know even how to name them all.
Shauna: And if you need me to go with you it’s because you’re buying a lot of things that have to get loaded into your car. So then we’re doing the whole backing up in the loading zone and it’s just a whole scenario, so we’re basically married at that point; we’re forever people.
Jen: OK last. This is a question, and I know you’ve heard it, it was first posed by Barbara Brown Taylor who we love.
Shauna: I love her, yes.
Jen: And this is what she asked; what is saving your life right now?
Shauna: That’s so good. OK I’ll tell you, at least two come to mind right now.
Number one: my little boys are playing baseball and I’m in love with it.
Getting to be about them and their thing; getting nervous for them and watch them grow. Loading up all the gloves and the balls and the little helmets and washing all the little baseball pants–I’m into it. I like cheering them on. I like being about them.
I have a weird job that requires me to be gone more than I wish I did. We talk about that so much, and getting to be a baseball mom it feels like the biggest gift in the world to me. I’m crazy about it.
Jen: I could not love that more. And the other thing?
Shauna: I don’t know if you do this, but I have a new thing. OK. So obviously I’m a like a writer, not just professionally, but like I am a person who’s been writing things down forever and ever and ever. So consequently, people give me beautiful journals. But, I don’t use them because they’re so beautiful, then I feel like I have to do something beautiful in them. That feels weird to me. Then I feel like; OK well, I should just be writing stuff on my laptop, but that feels to me like I could actually accidentally publish it to the internet. That doesn’t feel good to me. So I find, this sounds crazy, but I use little hotel notepads, like the little tiny ones that you steal from the hotel when you also steal the shampoo. I write the most ridiculous, honest, “pour it all out,” sometimes they’re prayers, sometimes they’re just expressing my feelings, and I just get them out with actual pen and paper and then I rip them up and I throw them in the garbage; it is my new favorite thing. It just gives me a place, because writing is my original way of understanding the world.
But if I’m not careful I can slip into writing only for professional purposes. There’s that way of healing myself. I needed to recover that, right? I needed to recover the old way of using words to make sense of my life and my world. So, these little hotel notebooks are my way of doing that now. No one’s ever going to see this. I’m not saving this so that it can be an illustration someday, this is just my actual heart on paper. Using the bad paper makes it feel like I can do this.
You know it’s not like the leather bound journal with like a ribbon around it or something; I can’t do that. I feel like I have to have fancier your thoughts for those.
Jen: I love that.
Shauna: That’s my thing.
Jen: Then you tear it up so nobody can ever find it and use it against you, it’s just so smart.
Shauna: I can’t like repurpose it into some greater theme about something. No, it’s just life. So it’s me trying be a good human in my brain.
Jen: You are one. OK listen, tell everybody just quickly what you’re working on right now and how they can find you.
Shauna: So, you can find me at ShaunaNeiquist.com, which is brand new, actually. My old web site fell apart in the fall while we were in the middle of a tour and I was like oh, it’ll be ok.
Jen: We can patch it up with Band-Aids later.
There’s actually a new one, my friend Tim made it and he’s great. I am very excited about the tour this fall. That’s the biggest thing coming up. My favorite of the various social media platforms is Instagram. I love it. I think I love getting to see pictures of people’s lives and I think that’s a really fun thing. That’s probably the most exciting one.
Jen: I’ve always said that Instagram feels like prom every day. Where some of the other social sites… it’s like a dumpster fire. That is always fun and cheery and cheerful and lovely, so I’m so with you; that’s where I go when I need to feel good about life and the world. Fabulous.
Hey friend. Love you. Thanks for coming on today.
Shauna: Love you, too. Great to talk to you.
Jen: All right. Have a good day.
Well, no big mystery why I love that girl so much. Shauna is such a gem, such a treasure to me. I hope you loved our discussion, I hope you got some perspective on it. I love everything Shauna has to say about gathering around the table, and about connecting instead of impressing. Those words just ring and ring in my head as so wise and so good and so true. I hope you loved everything that she had to say.
So listener, dear listener, if you want to head over to my website at JenHatmaker.com, I’ll have several things for you off of this podcast. I’ll have the recipe Shauna talked about, I’ll have the one I mentioned, which can hardly be called a recipe. I’ll have links to her books and I’m going to put up a couple of our favorite cookbooks too, in case you’re feeling inspired over there. We’ll also have the transcript of the blog if you want to read it or send it around.
Jen & Shauna’s Favorite Cookbooks
The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson
In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark
Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee
Against All Grain by Danielle Walker
How to Celebrate Everything by Jenny Rosenstrach
An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler
(this is a food memoir, sort of a cookbook)
Feast by Nigella Lawson
Finally, I just want to share a little bit of love toward the hilarious copper flatware that my husband bought off Amazon for us to use for our dinner guests. Yes, I made fun of him, but here’s the place where I said: they’re actually gorgeous. If you guys ever come to my house to dinner, I promise I will use them to serve you. The ones that he got are called David Shaw copper flatware. He got them on Amazon, which is where we get everything that we have in life. I’ll throw a link up on my website too. You know, Brandon drives me crazy because he makes kind of these random purchases, but by golly, every single time, you guys, they’re gorgeous. Whatever. Don’t tell him I said that. Those will all be over on my website and you can find out more about all that.
I hope you loved our discussion today and let me just drop a little teaser as I leave you here. My second guest in the series, for the love of girlfriends, is literally America’s favorite girlfriend, a literary hero of mine. An author who has instructed us in the ways of girlfriendhood and motherhood for the last 20 years, and I’m giddy and fan-girly that she is coming on. So, we will be welcoming Vicki Iovine who wrote the Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy, The Girlfriend’s Guide to the First Year of Motherhood, The Girlfriends Guide to Getting Your Groove Back, and a myriad of wonderful, wonderful offerings that for years, and years and years have said to us, “you’re not alone, you’re not crazy and we’ll get through this together.” She is a delight and I cannot wait to welcome her on the next podcast. So join us for Episode 2 of For The Love of Girlfriends with Jen Hatmaker.
Narrator: Thanks for joining us today on the “For the Love Podcast.” Tune in next week, when we sit down again with Jen and friends to chat about all the things we love.
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