Boy this book couldn’t have come at a better time. I wanted to read this book after hearing Kate Merrick speak at IF:gathering this past year. I knew a snippet of her story, about the loss of their young daughter to cancer, but not the complete story. To be honest all it took was her name on the cover. I didn’t even pay much attention to the title or subtitle. That being said if I had I may not have thought the story was “applicable to me.” I am so glad I snagged it. Just last week I would not have labeled my own circumstances as “suffering,” but that brings me to my first glowing review of And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick. Merrick takes her own suffering and levels the playing field. Not only does she reference so many kinds of suffering right in the text, but her overall evaluation of what suffering is really validates and empowers the reader right in their own circumstances. Suffering looks different, life looks different, for everyone and Merrick identifies that in the first pages of this beautiful book. The book really is about “understanding God’s love outside of circumstances.” That is a topic that applies to everyone. Maybe the circumstances you are in are overwhelmingly good and exciting, maybe they are overwhelming tragic and debilitating, or maybe you find yourself just in the middle of these two extremes still feeling sapped of joy or fulfillment. Merrick’s story and her exploration of women in the Bible can meet you right where you are.
There were so many snippets in this story that just captured my thoughts. The chapters are written in a way that they can be processed alone and also complete the larger narrative. As of late, I have loved this kind of writing. Almost like a series of essays that build and complete a story. In the chapter titled “#blessed” she talks about suffering and broaches the idea that we as Americans really feel entitled to a “good life.”
“Most of the American church believes this lie. Blessing does not mean we get our life dished out on a silver platter. No, it means that while we were enemies of God, he loved us. Lose sight of that love, and we miss out on the whole world of real life. When we hang onto false ideologies, it kills our joy. It makes us stoop down to whatever the current state of affairs is, rather than stand tall in the confidence of one who is secure in love.” This portion of the book alone had a profound impact on me. Shifting my thinking even further. I’ve been really examining my own heart amidst my life circumstances and I could so clearly see how “entitlement” can and has crept in and clouds judgement, steals joy, and causes me to miss opportunities.
Each chapter is so perfectly titled and I found myself walking away with the titles running through my mind. I am a big fan of Shauna Niequist and particularly enjoyed her book Present Over Perfect (my review is here) in which she shares about the word “yes” in her relationship with Jesus. Not “yes” to everything life has to offer, but a “yes” to walking with the Lord and to the things He calls us to. Well, Merrick explores a similar concept in her chapter titled, “yes, please.” The chapter centers on the power of being in agreement with God. Merrick says, “It takes agreement to deepen relationships; agreement let’s us move on to bigger and better things.” The Experiencing God study comes to mind, “join God in what He is doing.” I guess God has been speaking to me about this very topic for over over decade since I did that Experiencing God study as a senior in high school. Might I be a stubborn one?
And last night as I poured over the final pages of And Still She Laughs I was so impacted by the study Merrick did of the women of the Bible, how she gleaned life lessons from their lives and weaved them all into her story so well. She took Sarah, Mary, and Bathsheba and made their stories approachable and applicable. I felt myself leaning in and truly learning more about the character of God and how he used these women to teach us. I am so grateful that Merrick acted out her faith and put her story in our hands. Her pastor said to her, ” ‘ you do what you believe.’ he meant that we say so much – we talk, talk, talk – but what we do speaks louder. We can talk until we go hoarse, but our action shows what our faith actually looks like.” I’m left examining my own actions, my life and it’s sufferings and joys and truly feeling empowered and inspired to continue to act out my faith. To understand God’s love outside of circumstances and to extend that love to the people around me.
And Still She Laughs really is a book to be read amidst suffering and also on the other side of it. Merrick does an incredible job of teaching us through her suffering and in her times of “reprieve.” As I read I understood my own suffering better and am left seeing life more as a spectrum recognizing that we are not guaranteed a “good life” we are just guaranteed a good companion through it all. I am left grateful, joyous, and feeling more resilient in my own set of circumstances.
Honestly, I now have a list of ladies I want to pass this book along to and have already started sending the title their way. However, a couple of them I also put a slight disclaimer on her chapter called “real-life interlude” as it touches on the very sensitive topic of miscarriage. She is such a raw and authentic writer and the chapter really was beautifully written. As mother who has experienced miscarriage I appreciated her candor and bravery and see her story as a necessary one. That being said I also realize that this kind of transparency can be a real trigger for some and felt I needed to at least mention it here too as the loss of a child, in any form, is a mother’s deepest suffering thus might be what drives her to pick up a book like this one.
The book is as raw as the experiences, it is lined with moments of humor and joy, and for me was one I devoured – completely unable to put it down. (Stay tuned for a post all about how I fit in reading time around crazy life with three littles.) Now it’s ready to be passed on!
“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.