And Still She Laughs: Defiant Joy in the Depths of Suffering

And Still She Laughs: Defiant Joy in the Depths of Suffering

by Kate Merrick

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718092818
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 03/07/2017
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 200,786
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Kate Merrick is the cofounder of the Reality family of churches along with her husband, Britt. When she's not writing, speaking at retreats and conferences, or #slayingmotherhood, you can find her at the beach, in the garden, or making delicious messes in the kitchen. She lives with her family and a flock of chickens in Carpinteria, California.

Read an Excerpt

And Still She Laughs

Defiant Joy in the Depths of Suffering


By Kate Merrick

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2017 Kate Merrick
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-9309-9



CHAPTER 1

AND SUCH IS LIFE


The days and weeks following Daisy's earthly departure were of a strange sort. Hovering in our home was an empty feeling, much like when a door slams shut in your face. You feel the rush of air forcing your hair back for a brief moment, then a wall directly in front of you, so close up that everything else is out of focus. We sat around that first day, drinking coffee and looking about the room, blinking for lack of recognition of our surroundings. We said good-bye to her in the night, and sat in the darkness together as the remnants of the gloomy wee hours surrendered to the gradual appearing of the winter sun.

I found myself staring into nothing, moving sloth-like, actions and words suspended in midair — both requiring more effort than I could afford. All drive had been released from me, like a burst tire. I was flat, slow, nearly useless.

Death had come for my daughter. The words made no sense. To me they sounded like a different language. One I didn't know. Death. Dead. Deceased. I couldn't compute. I couldn't understand it. I couldn't grasp how she was here chattering in her sleep just hours ago, and so I stared.

Hours passed in our living room, where family joined us in the sorrow. It's too strenuous to look someone in the eye during times like this, so I fixated on a stray fiber in the rug, refilled my mug, found reasons to close my eyes for extended periods. Maybe it would all disappear.

After the initial blow settled in, there crept up in me an amplified hatred of all things that reminded me of Daisy's cancer treatment and subsequent suffering. In a frenzied, brief burst I rid my home of all medical paraphernalia. I hastily threw away all bandages, needles, sharps containers, medications, tubes, pumps, and alcohol wipes, shoving them deep into the trash can, slamming down the lid. What I couldn't throw away, I stashed out of sight while we waited for the medical supply truck to pick it up: various machines for pumping drugs into Daisy's veins, a commode, a tiny wheelchair. The very sight of these accoutrements of torture turned my stomach, and they couldn't be gotten rid of quickly enough.

Toward the afternoon, I spent some time in her tiny bed that had been at the foot of our large one: the one she died in, the one we crowded together on as a family while we cuddled her empty body in the night, while we said our last good-byes as a family of four. It was an old pine bed my dad had built for me when I was a toddler. Daisy had still been so small she fit perfectly in it, like a little mouse in a pocket. The bedsheets smelled of her, and I wanted to breathe as deeply as possible, as if the act would magically bring her back.

The following day, though, Britt and I dismantled the bed. We knew that if we didn't, we would both continue to lie there individually, folding our bodies into the last place she had breathed, unwilling to accept the truth. It would become an idol to us, an altar of suffering, a pitiful attempt to keep things the way they were and not let them out of our desperate grip.

After the house was rid of physical reminders of the toll cancer takes, I was left fumbling with my hands — empty arms that for twelve years straight had been busy holding babies, making messes with preschoolers, or caring for my cancer-riddled daughter. I felt naked, exposed, and strangely self-conscious. The fight had ended, and I was the loser.

Days went by, all melded together. How does one go through the motions of life when death has swept through your world? It was like trying to speak, but emitting barely a squeak; trying to walk, but wading through quicksand; trying to breathe, but choking on life.

C. S. Lewis says in A Grief Observed,

Grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn't seem worth starting anything. I can't settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.


I felt suspended, waiting, helpless, incredibly self-conscious in those early days. The awkwardness has taken a few years to subside.

Like a pair of old jeans with a memory of its own, that once fit every curve, I had to relinquish life as I knew it before Daisy left for heaven. I had to get used to a new pair, a new life. A new pair with different faded spots, different belt loops, different worn parts. No longer a family of four, we had become a family of three. No longer a balanced bunch, I had become the only girl in the house. No longer a crusader for healing, I had become a bereaved mom. No longer Daisy's best friend and fiercest defender, I had been stripped of my immediate mission. Instead I became bored and lonely. They fit now, this new pair of jeans, this new life without her. They fit. Though I want my old jeans back.

And yet, though hollow in the missing of one of its crucial members, my house is filled with gifts. Gifts that speak to me when I'm uncomfortable in my own skin, when I'd rather leave and never come back. The toy mouse she hid by the stairs to frighten unsuspecting passersby, complete with a mouse hole made from construction paper. A grocery list in the drawer — all her favorites written in her quirky spelling style — keewee, rut beer, q-cumbers. Her tiny leopard-print leggings folded on the dryer, each glance I give them flooding me with memories of the way she looked in them — a tiny booty and bird legs, sticking out from underneath tie-dye. And the graffiti. My darling angel would draw a pile of poop surrounded with buzzing flies or an anchor-tattooed, hairy-chested princess on her grammar worksheets, sufficiently raising the bar on inappropriate artwork. Once in a while I run across a tragically moving journal entry she wrote, hopeful and optimistic for the future. But really, anything she wrote is my favorite, because not only did she touch the paper, but what was tucked in her heart came out onto the page. Though Daisy is gone, she left love notes at every turn. It has taken two years to go through the things in her room, two searing years of a little here, a bit there.

I look for these little treasures every day. From time to time I run into something new and enjoy the memory flood, no matter what type of tears it brings. It's a weightless feeling, walking through grief. The body still needs food and sleep, the house still needs to be cleaned, the family still needs attention. It's almost like there is such a deluge of emotion all the time, it's easier to shut it out and become a zombie of sorts just to get on with the necessaries of life. I may be robotically going through the motions, yet when I happen upon a treasure, I experience a brief spark of life.

Even so, God has provided. He didn't leave me to grieve alone — I have a family who suffered the same loss. And in his kindness and generosity, he gave me the gift of another daughter to wrap my arms around. The gift of someone new to love, a diversion for the family, a little someone to care for in her sister's glaring absence. A generous gift.

I don't journal much, but I found this entry I wrote while I was pregnant and still reeling from loss:

There is a stretching pain both in my heart and in my body. The kind that pulls the fibers so thin that some of them snap, finding refuge in the curling, hiding where they came from. Most waking moments, sometimes hours, are spent wondering at the audacity that life goes on, remembering what has happened to my Daisy, feeling simultaneous pain and hope, depth of belief. Yet the breaking and retreating of various fibers of my soul are not quite ready to be grown to this point, not ready to carry the weight of the life gone from this world into the next. The life of my girl, whom I love so much, whom I can't see anymore, touch anymore, who is not dependent on me anymore.

Yet I believe God gives me glimpses into her existence, an existence I won't understand until our flesh embraces once again. One of possible time and space, of flesh as we know it, and of what is visible to the eyes God has given us. Strange, that the fibers of my soul should mirror the fibers of my body, growing, stretching, painfully preparing to carry the weight of new life. A life that is dependent upon me for oxygen, food, even elimination.

There is new life inside me, already mixed with aching and joy and wonder. A life that will give us new reason to love, to sacrifice, to shave. A girl to bring joy and brightness, to give us opportunities to laugh, pray, cry. As certain as we are that we will hold the little one making her home in my womb, we will hold the little one who has made her home in heaven.

As my heart and body go through conflicting changes — heavier, lighter, made stronger, weak fibers tearing, making room for love, pouring out and being poured into, wondering, praying, moving in the realm of God's provision — one thing is certain. In the midst of darkness, in the still gray of dreariness, in the depths of sorrow, God has given us sunshine.


And such is life. A mixture of sunshine and rain, mountains and valleys, births and deaths. When Job's wife suggested he curse God and die, he responded with something simple but so profound: "Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?" (Job 2:10). It was time to walk in everything God had destined for us, and to do it with guts.

You know how sometimes we convince ourselves we are the only souls to walk the earth who have ever _____________? You fill in the blank. Been cheated on? Been stolen from? Been abused? Lost a child? Personally, I know the drama can escalate when I'm self-focused to the point of believing no one else has ever even had a pimple, much less a bad day. We too often make ourselves the center of the universe. That's exhausting.

Being around someone like that is incredibly annoying, and slowly but surely, I have come to realize I am that annoying person. God is dealing with me and giving me a restored perspective. He has informed me that, no, I'm not the only woman on the planet to experience such heartache. There are plenty more, an entire community of women who have suffered, perhaps even more so than I. News flash to me.

He is kindly leading me into a community of the suffering, and it's surprisingly comforting. Mortifying, but comforting, because in order to work through stuff we have to be aware of it first. I have been known to point out the speck in another's eye while there was a giant sequoia in my own. Oops.

The community of suffering is a heroic bunch. A strong, effective, hilarious, rock-solid bunch I would be honored to be lumped in with when I grow up, although on the surface it doesn't seem like the best of company. After all, the community I'm talking about consists of a woman who was used for sex, and whose infant son died. There's a woman with a reputation as an adulterer and deluded liar, who witnessed her son's brutal murder. There's a woman who slept with her boss's husband and got pregnant, and there is a rich old lady known for laughing at inappropriate times, as well as getting busted for lying.

I'm talking about Bathsheba; Mary, the mother of Jesus; Hagar; and Sarah, the wife of Abraham. Women who suffered. Women who made a difference. Women like me and you. God surprised me with these lives of faith and, using them as guides, gently walked me through the years following Daisy's departure. These women's stories are filled with pain, yes, but thankfully also with honesty. Honesty that is crucial to healing, crucial to repentance, crucial to walking tall and strong.

Remarkably, I have gained an appreciation for suffering. Not in a sick, masochistic way, or even as a desperate undertaking for attention, but in a clearer understanding of the deeper things. Things like love, faith, eternity. I have learned not to fear suffering, because it's not my enemy but my teacher. I've encountered a deeper love of God than I thought possible, like a marriage that weathers the storm — both souls grateful to have held each other tight while the ship heaved unsteadily. Beauty is seen more crisply than ever before through the eye of the sufferer; gifts are heartily received and rejoiced over by the one who is able to take what is given. I never thought I'd say it, but suffering has been life-giving for me. I just never recognized it before.

God has taken me from that inability to move, that zombielike existence, to one of fullness of joy, one of dancing feet and swinging arms. Come with me while we uproot the plank from my eye — while I display the cards I've been holding too closely to my chest. I pray you find some comfort in my community, that you can let down your guard.

It's time.

CHAPTER 2

TINY PINE BOX


You know, it's funny. No, not ha-ha funny, but "I just came out of the church bathroom with the back of my skirt tucked into my undies and now the entire congregation has seen my unfortunate nethers on the way back to my seat" funny. A euphemism for something rotten. Rotten occurrences that come frequently — like a pattern that seems sickeningly typical of my life.

Remember the birds I told you about? Well, what I didn't tell you was that just as those darling birds were almost grown, almost ready to leave their smelly but precious nest, I went out to check on them. I was feeling lighthearted that morning, glad to be alive, grateful to be free and, well, feeling like things were going my way for once in a really long time. It was one of those days when you begin to forget the past heartaches and some of the present troubles, a day when you see fit to be brave and take a chance on life. Sun shining, deep breath of ranch air in my lungs, I was feeling perky in my pretty jammies and a messy bun.

So, chai tea in an Anthropologie K mug in hand, I checked on my feathered friends. I couldn't see them over the edge of the nest, so I kept moving closer to get a better look. Just a little closer ... One more foot ... So excited to get a glimpse of these delicate creatures God had kindly placed in my life. I inched up on my tiptoes, enjoying the warmth of the mug and of a pretty morning, of life. Convinced my birds knew and loved me and desired me to come hear them sing a personal concert, I was shocked when they popped their itty-bitty fuzzy heads up and looked at me in panic.

All three freaked out and jumped out of the nest, frantically flapping their adolescent, partially grown wings. Unable to fly. They landed in the nearby lime tree, and that's where they stayed, eyes wild, huffing and puffing their tiny bird chests. There was nothing I could do. Their mother would reject them if they had my scent on them, and they couldn't make it back to their nest on their own. I had killed God's nature gift to me; theirs would be a drawn-out death of starvation and helplessness.

I felt so lame, so defeated. I had only been enjoying the little shred of beauty found in such a simple thing, innocently wanting to delight in the gifts God had placed about me. Then, just like that, I knocked them to their doom.

Too often the joys we experience are so fleeting, so small, so easily spent. Relationships end, homes burn, bills pile up. Seems like summer always comes to an abrupt halt, plopping us into the stark and hungry landscape of winter, when all we were expecting was endless warmth, endless green, endless fun. Life, real life, with all its complicated and unsavory problems, with all its precariously balanced departments, never fails to surprise.

And then we find ourselves questioning God when things go awry. We shout beneath the stars and in the darkness of our cars as we drive. Questions run down our cheeks, onto our bodies in the shower, and slip down the drain. But then more well up and hover just beneath the surface of our skin, looking for a way of escape, a satisfactory answer.

Why suffering, God? Why sin? Why are you letting them get away with this? Why such darkness? Why the crushing of dreams on a regular basis? And why me?

Silence.

I have yet to hear the reason why. Oh, I've heard "answers" from the well-meaning. Answers that leave me thirsty and malnourished, sickened, or downright angry. I've heard every cliché, every Bible verse taken out of context, every flimsy offering of comfort said hurriedly with hopes of plugging up neatly what is spilling out of every crack of my being; sloppy, messy, dangerous. Things carelessly thrown about, hoping to gloss over the whole soiled lot.

"The Lord gives and takes away!"

"So many will be saved from your testimony!"

"Isn't it great her suffering is over?"

"God is good all the time!"

"He has plans to prosper you!"

Piles and piles of answers.

But I haven't gotten an answer from God. In fact, at this point I'm pretty sure I won't get one until I see him face-to-face. I have searched Scripture, screamed until my throat was raw, turned the questions into a dirge, a lament, an empty wailing that evaporates into thin air. There is a reason why my God has not seen fit to reply to my very human questions. My best guess is that I am not ready for the answers.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick. Copyright © 2017 Kate Merrick. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

1 And Such is Life 1

2 Tiny Pine Box 13

3 #Blessed 29

4 Crazy Messy 45

5 No, You Did Laugh 63

6 Yes, Please 91

7 Lionhearted 107

8 The Best "Me Too" 123

9 Real-Life Interlude 135

10 Just a Little Bit of Poop 145

11 Do You See It? 165

12 Until A Wedding 183

Acknowledgments 207

About the Author 211

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And Still She Laughs: Defiant Joy in the Depths of Suffering 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author of book provides her testimony and insight on the journey taken to understand, adjust and increase her faith following loss of her daughter who suffered from cancer.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Touching, comforting and I so can relate since it’s been 27 years since I buried my son. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability.
michelemorin More than 1 year ago
When we read about women in the Bible, there’s a tendency to flatten them out into cardboard characters, one-dimensional and distant. Kate Merrick was in that camp as well, intimidated by the fabulous woman of Proverbs 31, judging Bathsheba, missing the depth of Mary’s sacrifice in saying yes to God, and brushing Sarah off as that old lady who had a baby. Then, her nine-year-old daughter died of cancer. Desperate for moorings in an ocean of loss, Kate looked to the Truth of Scripture and found there a community of women who had suffered as she was suffering. When she delved into their stories, her collision course with bitterness and despair slowly turned toward joy and peaceful acceptance of the will of God. In And Still She Laughs, Kate Merrick is still writing from that liminal place between tangible grief and the new normal that finds its way to the surface, so her words are raw and real, and just about right for me in these days following the death of my mum. Like breaking in a new pair of jeans, like the bathing suit that fits everyone differently, like a water balloon that if you let just a little bit out it might explode on everyone, Kate employs multiple metaphors to bring her readers into the world that opened up to her when she joined the ranks of the bereaved. Still longing for the old jeans, and having realized that grief looks different on everyone, she encourages readers to throw her book across the room if it helps — and then to come back to it later at a different stage of grieving. A Path Through Grief Since a Western understanding of living “blessed” only served to drive Kate further into bitterness, she turned to the stories of biblical women, for whether one reads Bathsheba as roof-top temptress or helpless victim, the ultimate outcome of King David’s moral lapse was the loss of their baby son. Bathsheba’s story became a virtual grief support group for Kate since so many of their story-points coincided: “When I was the only woman I knew who had experienced death so close to my heart, I remember how she had too. . . She whispered strength, dignity, and fearlessness. When I was comforted with a pregnancy, I remembered that she had been too. She showed me how to be loyal to another child while grieving the first. She held my hand in the gloom, leaned close to my ear and whispered, ‘Me too.'” Then there was the dawning realization that, like Sarah, grief and bitterness were leading Kate toward a “bitter, hardened laughter, like a waste product of a sick heart.” Sarah’s Old Testament story sounds idyllic from a distance: remarkable beauty, a godly husband with unlimited assets, a bevy of servants, and exotic travel opportunities — and Kate is convinced that Sarah “was covered in swanky accessories.” (Sure, why not?) But then, there were the empty arms, and the seemingly empty promises of God: Sarah had waited so long that even good news elicited bitterness, bubbling forth in a sneering laugh alone in her tent. Opening the heart to a journey of grief puts a mother in company with Mary, who demonstrated that a yes to God can lead to a sword through the heart. “The yes doesn’t always make sense. We don’t fully understand how God works, but we read in 2 Corinthians 1:20: ‘For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And through Christ, our ‘Amen’ (which means ‘Yes’) ascends to God for his glory.” Continue reading at Living Our Days . . .