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Review of And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick

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I tend to find out about books to read through other author’s recommendations via Instagram or Twitter, but I found this read quite nostalgically.  I was in a strange period of time in my life when I was between books without a queue.  That feels strange to even describe as I now have a stack of at least 20 (no joke).  I channelled my inner Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail and went into a bookstore.  I walked down the aisle and this book caught my eye.  Though familiar with the publisher, I had not heard of the book or its author.  It felt strange to hold a book in my hands rather than read reviews on Amazon.  I remembered lessons from my elementary school librarian and read the back cover and flipped through a few pages.  I was sold and I’m so glad I was.


We all have a story.  We all have tragedies and losses and heartaches and miracles and real life, and while so much of life is glorious, sometimes it gets ugly.  No one is exempt.  We share in this thing called humanity, and I want us to feel– really face head-on– the reality of life with all its pimples and less attractive bits.  I believe it makes the joy more vibrant, the laughter louder and stronger.  So bear with me, cry with me, but please, please, laugh with me.

In this work, Kate Merrick shares about the difficult journey her family faced through her daughter Daisy’s cancer, ultimately ending in Daisy passing away.  She describes the ups and downs of Daisy’s cancer, when she and her husband felt hopeful and hopeless, when she was angry that these were the cards they had been dealt, and when she would lay in bed and hold every precious minute she had with Daisy.

While this read is heart wrenching at times, I was so blessed by Kate’s metaphors for grief.  She described the phenomenon so well and so honestly, even naming some facets of grief I had yet been able to put words to.  She talks honestly and openly about meeting God in the depths of doubt, hurt, pain and bitterness.

Nearness to God results in a banquet of peace beyond understanding, with a heaping side of joy.

Merrick connects her own story and struggle to many women in Scripture who were similarly handed unfortunate cards.  She bravely challenges her readers to move at their own pace, but to keep moving.  To keep pushing on and pushing away the barriers to return to the sweetness and intimacy of God.

If broken Bathsheba can say in Proverbs 31 that an excellent woman laughs at the future, so can I.  If Sarah laughs at the newborn manifestation of the promises of the Lord, then I will too.  Grief is real.  It is intense.  But what is more real, what is more intense, what is eternal is the hope of Christ, the drying of tears, the new heaven and new earth, the final conquering of death.

Through some of the most broken experiences of her life, Kate Merrick nudges readers of And Still She Laughs to shift their perspective from defining God through our circumstances to defining Him through His Word and proven character.  She holds the sacredness of grief and the depths of suffering she has faced, but walks with bravery and honesty into the truth of Scripture that provides the hope with which broken bones can rejoice.


Cwo_36H90YyZDh57ZRc3-wLpbFUXDKAFpDqTD3rIdhQThanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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17 Books I Read in 2017

I said it last year that I’m far too bold to make this an annual post, but here goes another year.

Things you should know:

  • Books are listed in alphabetical order by the title, not by any ranking because I’m bad at favorites.
  • I do not receive any endorsements, just occasionally free books that I review honestly.
  • If you would like to purchase the book described, click its picture and Amazon will open in a new tab.
  • Yes, I do have a life outside of reading books.

 


1.) Braving the Wilderness

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To read my review of Braving the Wilderness, click here.

2.) The Broken Way

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I enjoy Ann Voskamp and especially love to hear her in person.  This book includes some great nuggets and quotes about brokenness and identifying with the brokenness of Jesus.  If I’m honest, though, I find myself lost in her writing style and have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees.

3.) Christians in an Age of Wealth

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I would have never chosen to read this book on my own volition, but read it to meet a requirement for my Christian ethics class.  Blomberg presented some interesting information on how many Christians do not give, not because they are unable, but because they have chosen a lifestyle that does not allow them to give generously.  He offered some practical steps to saving money both for individuals and churches, presenting modern giving statistics and how global poverty statistics could be offered if they Church is faithful to give.  This is quite a dry read, but good information if you are looking to learn more about this topic.

4.) How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk

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This eye catching title provides precisely what it says, practical insights as to how to avoid falling in love with a jerk.  Dr. Van Epp works with the US Armed Forces providing seminars presenting his research in how relationships should healthily progress and signs of personality traits to avoid.  This is a very practical read that is based primarily on psychological research.

5.) Hurt

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This book provides good information and insight for all who work with or interact with teenagers.  Clark illuminates many of the hidden battles teenagers face.  While this book is beneficial, it is also 7 years old and the majority of the information presented is dated.

6.) The Inner Voice of Love

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This might be one of my favorite books I’ve ever read.  Nouwen, renowned theologian, faces the greatest challenge of his faith.  He journeys to a monastery where he openly and rawly journals his innermost thoughts in the pit of darkness, slowly inching back toward believing and accepting the love, grace, and friendship of God.  He never intended for this work to be published.  It is extremely honest and I wept through most of it.

7.) Love Lives Here

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To read my review of Love Lives Here, click here.

8.) Men, Women, and Worthiness

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I have yet to find this in print, only in audio.  Read my review here.

9.) Of Mess and Moxie

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I love Jen Hatmaker both for her honesty and out of jealousy of her friendship with Brené Brown.  I admire her bravery to speak up for the marginalized and oppressed and was excited for this read.  I have so enjoyed certain parts of it.  I listened on Audible and was deeply touched to hear Jen weeping as she read certain chapters.  If I’m honest, though, I stopped listening sometimes because of exaggerated mom humor.  While I serve as a “bonus mom” for so many as this book describes, I found myself not thinking many Mom jokes were funny and maybe its my own “junk”, but joking about Mom’s needing to neglect their children just strikes a deep and painful chord.  This book has some great nuggets.  Great ones.  But I struggled through it.

10.) Out of Sorts

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To read my review of Out of Sorts, click here.

11.) Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child

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While I do raise many children, I am not biologically a parent; yet, took away some great insights from Dr. Gottman’s work.  He describes how parents can interact with their children when they are afraid or pitching a fit by “emotionally coaching” or helping them to name the emotion they are experiencing and walk them through an appropriate response.  I LOVE THIS!  I hear so many parents or grandparents in stores or restaurants just telling their child to “shut up” or “suck it up”, then none of those parents understand why we need counseling.  What I especially love about this book is while offering this incredible approach to raising littles, Dr. Gottman is practical about when behavior simply needs to be disciplined and how to respond when you’re in a hurry and don’t have the time to properly “coach”.  If you have little people in your life, read this.  Naming and appropriately responding to emotions is the absolute best way you can prepare your child for adulthood.

12.) The Road Back to You

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It seems 2017 was “the year of the enneagram” in contemporary Christian culture (by that I mean modern, not like Michael W. Smith).  As an enneagram junkie, I have loved every last minute of it.  This book by Ian Cron is my favorite resource on the Enneagram.  Cron does an incredible job of concisely describing each enneagram profile, but most importantly unpacks how the believer should use the enneagram as a tool.  This is what sets the enneagram apart from most other personality profiles.  Rather than describing you, the enneagram is a tool both for understanding others and for overcoming the “mask” you have worn to survive.  The Road Back to You hands its readers large paving stones to create the road to wake up and toward becoming your most real, unfiltered self.

13.) Sacred Marriage

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Sacred Marriage is a common resource provided to believers who are about to enter the covenant of marriage.  While this context makes total sense, I felt as a single person, Sacred Marriage also had a great deal of insight to offer.  Gary Thomas’ thesis of this work is “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”  This book debunks many false understandings of marriage and the purpose of marriage, many of which are created and perpetuated by Church culture.  He was honest about the difficulty of marriage, while also illuminating its sacredness.  I think this is a beneficial read in any stage of life.

14.) Soul Virginssoul virgins

I read Soul Virgins as a resource for a seminary class and went into it with great expectations.  Single sexuality for the believer is almost never touched, while the average number of years between the onset of puberty and marriage increase.  I was highly interested in this read, primarily as I work with college students.  This may be a good resource, but I think my expectations were too high.  I was thankful the authors addressed this topic, but stayed too broad to have any true impact or voice on the topic.  Also, this book is a little dated.  The alphabet worked highly in my favor because the book I would recommend over this one in this subject area is next.

15.) Swipe Right

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To read my review of Swipe Right, click here.

16.) Unseen

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My small group of post graduate girls studied this book together this Fall semester and I absolutely loved it.  Unseen reads very personally and intimately, like most Christian living and would be a great solo read, along with a read for a group.  I felt met and seen by Sara Hagerty in the most beautiful ways on these pages, have recommended it to many college students I mentor, and will be closely on the lookout for any reads from her in the future.  I would recommend this book for anyone who feels forgotten and overlooked, for anyone in a difficult season, or for anyone interested in meeting God more intimately.

17.) You are Free

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I know I fan girl over my Christian authors I love and I am not ashamed.  I am such a fan of Rebekah Lyons.  This girl is honest, fun, and when I saw her speak had incredible taste in shoes.  I loved You are Free and needed it in all of the best ways.  I greatly appreciated Rebekah’s honesty in talking about learning their precious first born would have Downs Syndrome.  Her word choice throughout the book challenged me to expand my vocabulary.  But most central, the message of this book empowered me to walk in the confidence of my Father in a season where every foundation beneath me felt shattered.  Read it, okay.


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Thanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Review of Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness

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Belonging so much to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness.

Brené Brown puts out incredible work, TED Talks, and literature precisely at the intersection of my nerdy love for psychology, heart for authenticity, and passion for Christianity.  A very wilderness she has braved on her own of merging those worlds of psychology and Christianity together, often facing adversity on both ends.

Professionally, Brené is a researcher.  She is a renowned clinical psychologist with incredible books and talks on bravery and vulnerability.  This book, specifically, looks into the idea of “braving the wilderness” or standing alone in a world or context all your own.  Brené describes knowing your place and beliefs so firmly and having such a strong sense of self that you, as an individual, can healthily enter community with others.

She describes this wilderness, this path from what everyone wants of me and how everyone else has demanded I show up, to becoming who you most authentically are as a wilderness.  A scary path that requires great courage.  It was in this honesty I fell in love again with her authenticity and such precisely fitting interjections of profanity.

Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work and never disappoint anybody.  It doesn’t work that way.

Brené dives deeply into research regarding loneliness.  While my generation of millennials are the most connected generation of all time, maintaining regular contact with exponentially more people on an hourly basis than ever in human history, we are reportedly the generation most starved for true authentic connection.  Her research describes how such loneliness, such absence of deep and meaningful connection effects our entire beings, including our physical health.  Yet, it’s an ache we’re unwilling to admit.  An ache which carries great shame, often the shame of rejection or the terrifying belief that maybe that little voice in our head that keeps on whispering “You are not enough.”  is right.

Denying that you feel lonely makes no more sense than denying that you feel hungry.

Beyond loneliness, Brené unpacks the difficulty of relationships and the courage they often require.

Pretending everything is okay is not loyalty or love.  That’s fear.


Here’s the heart of this review:

I deeply love Brené and will forever and always support all things she publishes.  I loved this book, have recommended it to others, and would love to read it again.

Here’s my disclaimer:  This book has some political parts that at a couple points made me want to stop reading (Insert your millennial jokes here.).  So don’t let it derail you.  There is great information in this book that I’ve found myself often quoting in my head.

People are hard to hate from close up.  Move in.


And in the vein of the lack of connectedness, if you feel like you are lacking when it comes to friends, let’s talk.  Comment below to start a conversation, because people need people.

 

dalton-31

Thanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story, primarily in the sudden loss of my precious Dad on my 22nd birthday.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Review of Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

 

We sort through our mess on the threshold of change.

To know me well is to know my deep adoration of Sarah Bessey, not for her books alone, though Jesus Feminist was extremely influential in my life and story.  I enjoyed her work and commentary so much that I followed her on social media like any good millennial.  When I stumbled upon Sarah and her husband dressed as Sookie and Jackson from Gilmore Girls, the deal was sealed for me.  Sarah Bessey is one of my favorite Christian speakers and writers.  Beyond her love of one of America’s greatest TV shows Sarah is full of wisdom, interjecting Truth both to the global and local church.  She is a precious mama and her Canadian grammar idiosyncrasies grab my attention and wrap her closer around my heart in each read.

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To know me well is also to know how timely Out of Sorts publishing was in my life and story.  I had not yet purchased the book when news spread Sarah Bessey was coming to speak at the college where I work.  Upon the loss of my Dad and the grief that followed I had not picked up a piece of Christian literature in a while, including my Bible.  I was angry and lost but I knew I loved Sarah Bessey, I mean she dressed like Sookie, so I went and could not put to words how thankful I was.  She shared about braving the wilderness of doubts and questions, pressing into our wrestling and never feeling like we need to protect God.  It felt like a scene in a movie when the lights go off in a room and one single light was on me.  At a time when I felt completely missed, I felt completely seen and understood by her words.  I waited in line to speak with her afterword and shared about her voice in my life and story and how sweetly the Truth God laid on her heart had met me that night.

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But you didn’t come here to hear me fan girl about Sarah, you came to hear about Out of Sorts.


Real life is the undignified life and it is the classroom for holiness.

Sarah Bessey begins this book by describing the process of cleaning out her grandmother’s attic upon her passing.  She then opens up to describe the “sorting” of our faith and theology that grief brings.  Grief of losing a loved one, grief of hurt from a friend, grief of a divorce, or grief of losing a job.

She shares of her own journey of walking away from the Church for years as she questioned her faith while her husband was still working in ministry.

She unpacks the preconceived notions about faith and ministry she and her husband carried for years, without ever bringing them into the light of analyzing their true weight or faithfulness to Scripture’s call.

Out of Sorts is honest about the difficult tension of holding allegiance to the evangelical church amidst watching many actions and decisions taken and made in the name of Jesus and disagreeing with them deep in our bones.  How do we reconcile the Church we claim and the Church we are ashamed of?

She speaks of taking off the cape and crown of being a modern, evangelical hero and learning to be the faithful friend that brings over dinner when a friend just had a baby.  In a world that applauds those who take big steps of faith in obedience to move and sacrifice, she affirms those who stay, who brave it out in movements that are slow to change.

I believe we don’t give enough credit to those who stay put in slow to change movements.

 


I recently listened to a podcast by Annie Downs, in which, she encouraged us to pay attention to the trends of Christian books as they represent the heart of believers.  Recently, especially within women’s circles there were trends of bravery and courage and more recently friendship and finding your “tribe”.  I have found this idea of real sorting, of reaching back to the broken places to be a recent trend in Looking for LovelySearching for SundayOut of Sorts, and more classically The Inner Voice of Love.

We are in a unique age in the Church.  A changing age.  A time of sorting, reorganizing, and reorienting.  Sarah Bessey sets an incredible stage through her own story of how we on and individual level and collective level can truly sort our faith, returning to the often hidden Truths of Scripture’s true call.

 


 

dalton-31Thanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story, primarily in the sudden loss of my precious Dad on my 22nd birthday.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Review: Men, Women, and Worthiness by Brené Brown

YES.

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This “read” via Audible by Brené Brown is one of my favorites I’ve ever listened to.  I am deeply passionate about gender equality so this text grabbed my attention.  As I listened to Brené’s discourse, I quickly found myself sending the link to Men, Women, and Worthiness to countless friends and colleagues.

I’ve not been able to find this work in print.  I listened on Audible and it’s also available as an audio download on Amazon.

Brené discusses in depth the shame women experience each and every day of not being enough: working and not being the classroom mom, sitting in the carpool line with no make up on, etc.  She shares research and meta-analyses that she’s performed but I found what brings the message of Men, Women, and Worthiness so close to home is Brené’s own personal stories interspersed, like the woman in the carpool line saying, “Working so much must be so hard on your family” and the way she named and handled the shame she experienced.

I love the way Brené highlighted and discussed shame, bringing light to the everyday experiences of shame I face and carry, often misnaming or suppressing.  She shared how advantageous it is to know your shame triggers and know the way you respond.  Upon listening to Men, Women, and Worthiness I began practicing phrases she offered when I would experience shame, “Don’t back down.  Don’t puff up.  Stand your ground” I would chant in my head in moments of shame until I felt the strength to again walk out of my shame cave and show up present, knowing just how vulnerable that presence is.

This work also beautifully discusses the value of friendship, empathy, and “me toos”.  Brown shares a graphic story of a grandmother who was passed out on the couch from drugs.  The mom needed her body moved before her kids came home from school, so she called a friend to come help her move the body.  And we need more friends like this, especially as women.  Friends we can call to move lifeless bodies that carry so much shame for us and know they won’t judge us.

In the midst of Men, Women, and Worthiness, Brown described being challenged in her research to reach across the line and not just study and teach on the shame women carry, but furthermore the shame men carry- about their bodies, jobs, confidence, etc.  She found there was little research in this field and very few discussing the topic of shame for men.

I greatly enjoyed Men, Women, and Worthiness, wanted more upon its conclusion and would recommend this read to anyone.

Review of “Swipe Right” by Levi Lusko

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Let me be honest.  I was hesitant to read this book for a couple reasons.  First of all, 2017 has made me a graphic design snob and I kind of felt like the tattoo inspired cover felt a little 2009.  Don’t act like you don’t judge a book by its cover.  We all do.

But on a much deeper level, I was afraid of reading this book because of its subject matter- love, sex, and dating.  Being a single girl and working in student ministry, I am constantly exposed to questions and very poor answers surrounding these topics.  Answers that reinforce gender stereotyping, answers that minimize,  answers that cover up, answers that don’t address enough, answers that are falling short in a culture that keeps asking more and more questions or simply assumes the Bible has nothing to offer.

In steps Levi Lusko.

I grew up on the tail end of the True Love Waits revolution and I read it all- Lady in Waiting, Captivating, Wild at Heart, Every Young Woman’s Battles, Soul Virgins, even I Kissed Dating Goodbye, so needless to say my expectations were low.

Lusko walked a tight line between cultural relevance and Biblical applications seamlessly with iconic imagery, metaphors, and word plays.

Employing the phrase “Swipe Right” from Tinder, a common dating app, Lusko displayed much deeper issues beneath dating culture without straying away from tackling difficult questions.  He described Biblical characters like Moses and Eve “swiping right” by choosing what they wanted to do in the moment, rather than what was right or eternally better for them.  Each of these characters faced consequences for their actions, but their stories do not simply end in shame and consequences, rather grace and redemption similar to our own.

At the risk of some cheesy word pictures, Swipe Right is a great read with incredible insights on dating culture that can greatly resource students, young adults, or anyone who interacts with anyone who is dating or facing temptation.

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Review of Love Lives Here by Maria Goff

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I read Love Does a couple years ago and very quickly fell in love with Bob’s writing style.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover Maria employs the same style, sharing a story and example and tying it to a deeply profound truth that resonates deeper than you realize in the moment.

Since reading Love Does, I’ve found myself telling the stories Bob shared in lessons I teach and conversations I have.  I have already found myself doing the same with Maria’s stories and examples of Love Lives Here.

I think the best way to explain Maria’s focus of “Finding what you need in a world telling you what you want” is in a metaphor she uses.  Bob is known for bringing balloons to events all over the world.  He is a big, audacious, whimsical personality that I was shocked to find also works as an attorney.  Maria shared that whenever they go places Bob brings balloons and she brings string.  Maria does not similarly share of huge, crazy adventures.  Instead, she shares of loving her neighbors, friends, and family really well.  Maria talks about crafting a home where everyone who enters senses and feels the home and safety she has found in Christ.

“His plan from the beginning of time was that love wouldn’t be traded among the noises in our lives; it would be understood in the places of peace.  Sometimes when we’re asking Him for an answer, He sends a friend.”

Over the first few pages I found myself writing hearts all over the margins, underlining, and writing the phrase “DON’T SKIP THIS” before the foreword and introduction.

“Faith doesn’t eliminate fears in my life; it lets me know I had someone I could bring them to.”

Maria also offers great insight into walking into your own story and scars in order to truly love people well.

“What I’m learning is that the good news of our faith isn’t found in avoiding the pain, but in living through the loss, walking through the ashes, and stacking back up what we know could burn down again.”


“Preparing soil that someone can grow in is hard work, but it’s not all the work.  Preparing your own soil is where the most important tilling is done.”

As I read this book, I quickly began making a list of person after person to give this book to that I love in my life.  So if you’re reading this, go ahead and click here to purchase Love Lives Here.