A List Maker's Life: Bittersweet

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Thanks to a loan from our sweet sitter, I just devoured the book Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist.  Never mind the bags under my eyes, it wasn’t the baby keeping me up late;)  A few years ago I read Shauna’s first book, Cold Tangerines, and appreciated the style and voice in her writing.  However, I connected with this newest book in a much different way.  In so many pieces of this book I found myself thinking, “Yes. That is exactly what I was trying to say.”  She eloquently writes about the Bitter/Sweet balance of life. 

The Bitter:
When I tried to explain to good friends how I felt about Christmas my words must have mish-mashed because the conversations would typically end with a reference to Scrooge.  Shauna says what I was feeling so very perfectly when she explains her own feelings in the chapter titled Thin Places.

“Advent is the question, the pleading, and Christmas is the answer...this season when I don’t feel a lot like Christmas, I do feel like Advent.  Advent gives us another option beyond false Christmas cheer.  Advent says the baby is coming, but he isn’t here yet, that hope is on the way, but the yearning is still very real...Advent is what saves us from giving up on Christmas and all its buoyant twinkling-light hope forever.”

In another chapter, Say Something, Shauna explains a lesson Kevin and I have learned in the past year and hope to never forget.  In fact, the night we found out about Gabe’s diagnosis one of the first things my dad said to me is, “People won’t know what to say.  We will likely say the wrong thing, but we support you and love you.”  What he didn’t prepare me for were the people who would say nothing.  Who would assume we would be “fine.” Who would allow their own insecurities to keep them from caring. Who would walk the other way.

“When something bad happens, people say the wrong things so often.  They say weird, hurtful things when they’re trying to be nice.  They say things that don’t hurt until later, and then when they do begin to hurt, you can’t get the words out of your mind...but there’s something far worse than the things people say.  It’s much worse when people say nothing.  I remember exactly who walked the other direction when they saw me at church and who walked toward me.”

We will likely spend the rest of our lives saying those awkward things, but we understand in a new way how even the “wrong” things show our love.

The Sweet:
It was a year ago this month that I traveled to WI for Cupcake ’10.  As I read the chapter, Alameda, I couldn’t help but smile about the memories of a group of friends relaxing together, sharing our babies, sharing our favorite foods, and sharing our hearts.

“Share your life with the people you love...There are enough long lonely days of the same old thing, and if you let enough years pass and if you let the routine steamroll your life, you’ll wake up one day isolated and weary and wonder what happened to those friends.  You’ll wonder why all you share is Christmas cards and why life feels bone-dry.  We were made to live connected and close...holding one another’s babies while taking turns stirring whatever’s on the stove.”

We have some very dear friends we used to see every Wednesday night just to visit – and eat sweets!  In the years of changing jobs, changing homes, and changing family size we let life get in the way of our set aside times to be together.  Last weekend we got together with many boxes of pizza and bunches of babies (8!) just to share life. 

“Because there really is nothing like good friends, like the sounds of laughter and the tones of their voices and the things they teach us in the quietest, smallest moments.”

And sometimes there is nothing like reading the right book, at just the right time!

post signature


  1. Thank you for your perspective on this book, Katie. Your post - and the book - were both great reads that have given me a lot to chew on.

    And on a bit lighter note, Shauan's books always make me hungry! She describes food so incredibly well. :)

  2. that sounds like an amazing book that I will have to find!

  3. Sounds like a good read...I need one of those right now!

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. glad you liked it :) It is a good read...

  5. This is fabulous - a great addition to the recent epiphany I've had on friendships. Love the part about holding babies and stirring what's on the stove. God has created us to live in community and there is no better season of our lives than the one we're in now as mothers to make sure that is fulfilled. Love this.

  6. Might I also add... I am thrilled to report that our library system has this book and I have just reserved it for myself! Thanks, Katie!

  7. Thanks Katie,
    You and the book just gave me inspiration. I might have to look that book up too.


Thanks for taking a moment to comment. I love to hear from you!