From Risk to Resilience: A Book Review


I am a privileged white woman living in one of the most affluent countries in the world. I never had to walk more than a few yards from anywhere in my house to get fresh water. I never wondered where my next meal would come from. I never worried that my parents would sell me or my siblings because they were trying to survive.

frontI never had to worry if I would be given in marriage when I was still a child so that my parents could get a dowry for me. Education? Free. Transportation to that education? Free. It never even crossed my mind that I would have to quit school to work to help my parents with living expenses. I always had an abundance.

War never came through my town. I never had to rely on the kindness of strangers in a new place where we had to flee because it was unsafe where we were. I never had to fear rape or death at the hands of invading soldiers.

risk to resilience

In From Risk to Resilience: How Empowering Young Women Can Change Everything, Jenny Rae Armstrong opened my eyes to things I had never thought of before. Things that are everyday realities for a too-large percentage of girls around the world. And I thank her for it.

Jenny Rae is a friend of mine through the Redbud Writers Guild, of which we’re both members. So I know that she is a foster mom to a bunch of teenage boys. I know that she’s not just talking about this stuff. She’s walking it. She lived overseas for many years as a child. She still visits African countries and meets with the people and cares for their needs. This isn’t just lip service. Jenny Rae has done her research and her book will not only touch your heart for the plight of our global sisters, it will spur you into action.

Did you ever think that contributing to a clean water project could help ensure a young girls’ future? I hadn’t either, until Jenny Rae pointed out that if girls in Africa, who have the majority of the responsibility for bringing clean water, sometimes from extremely long distances, into their homes, could have access right near where they live, then they would not have to spend so much time in that job. They could actually go to school and have time to study for tests. They could possibly get into universities and further their education, thus setting themselves up for greater economic success.

Clean water near their homes = less time spent toting water and more time studying. It’s not rocket science.

Did you know that when you send your used clothing to well-meaning organizations that ship it overseas to needy countries that you are taking away the livelihood of those who work in those countries to make clothing or materials used for clothing? I had never thought of that before.

There are so many other ways that the lives of girls could be improved, and Jenny gives us a look into some of those ways. Even right here in my own city, there are ways that I can help. I can’t do everything, but I can do something.


For many years I have supported Mercy House Global through their Earring of the Month Club. Two times a year I send a contribution and every month, I get a pair of handcrafted earrings from different countries where the ministry is teaching women trades so they can support their families. This past Christmas, I decided to shop at the Mercy House Global online store so that I could continue to help support these women around the world, some of whom have been rescued from sex trafficking.

What is that old saying? Give someone a fish and they have food for a day; teach someone to fish and they have food for a lifetime?

What I appreciate about Jenny’s book is not only the practical steps she gives, but the fact that she acknowledges that all the injustice and hurt and bad things that are happening in the world will not be solved without hearts being changed by Jesus. But that doesn’t get us off the hook for helping where we can.

In From Risk to Resilience, you will read statistics and be apprised of facts, but you will also be introduced to some of the girls who have been affected by cultural norms in their countries that are literally killing them. Shame for how their bodies naturally work; savagery in the hands of men sometimes more than twice their age; responsibilities that should never have to be placed on the shoulders of ones so young.

We take so much for granted in the western world. Yes, I have been leered at and catcalled. I have been afraid when I have gone places by myself. I have felt the unwanted attention of men when I’m just going about my life. But I will never endure what thousands upon thousands of women around the world assume is normal.

In her epilogue, Jenny says this:

So consider this your invitation to jump into the fray and fight for shalom for girls. Every voice, every heart, every set of hands is needed. Gather your people, gather your resources, and resist until the powers, principalities, and dominant forces of this world have been trampled under your feet. Don’t just fight to win; fight because we bear the name of Christ and surrendering to sin is not an option, no matter how hard and hopeless the battle may seem at times.

I have an almost 17-year-old daughter. I can’t even imagine being at a point where I would consider selling her to an older man so that I could make ends meet, or so that I could ensure she was provided for because I couldn’t do it. My heart breaks for the mothers and fathers around the world who have felt that they had no other choice.

Read this book. Share this message. Do it for the girls. Do it for yourself.

Dust to Dust

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series, but with a twist. I am not stopping at the 10-minute mark, but I am using a one-word prompt. Today, in honor of the new “Avengers: Endgame” movie, my word is “dusted.”

Don’t worry. Even though I’ve seen the new Avengers movie, this post will not contain any spoilers. If, however, you haven’t seen “Infinity War” or “Captain Marvel,” you may want to come back later.

My family and I are big Marvel fans. We own all the movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and somehow my kids have gotten me to go to the last few pretty close to opening weekend. When we know one is coming, we put it on the calendar and await the day.


We knew “Infinity War” would be a hard one to watch, and we were right. It’s terrifying to watch a war unfold that you believe can’t be won by the good guys. Marvel threw every super hero into the mix, and no one could stand up to Thanos. He was that powerful. And with all the infinity stones in hand, he seemed unstoppable.

Before Nick Fury blew away as so many dust particles, he used his little communicator to send a message. For fans of the Marvel comics, that symbol on his screen spelled hope: Captain Marvel. Surely we were saved.


But still we walked away from “Infinity War” with a heavy heart. Half our heroes were decimated by one snap of Thanos’ fingers, and though we wanted to believe they weren’t all dead—we knew there were other Marvel movies coming, after all—we didn’t know who we’d eventually have to say good bye to. It was just too much.

The entrance of Captain Marvel in her solo movie introduced us to a warrior who had come into her own. She realized who she was. She stopped listening to the lies being told to her. She finally allowed all the power that was hers for the taking to shine through.

And we believed that she would be the one to finally help defeat Thanos.

Thanos made his choice to destroy half of all living creatures in the universe seem like he was doing everyone a favor. Resources were limited. There were just too many people on every planet to sustain it. So he made himself supreme and took it upon himself to decide who lives and who dies.

The chosen were dusted. The rest were left to mourn.


Sometimes, there doesn’t seem to be a solution to all the evil that is in the world. You might solve one problem, but then another crops up to take its place. There will always be another villain. The poor, the downtrodden, the marginalized, they will always be among us because someone will always want to be the conqueror.

Inherent in all of us is the knowledge that nobody should have the right to decide with one snap who lives and who’s dusted. I haven’t heard of anyone applauding Thanos. He didn’t choose to wipe out only the “bad guys.” The criminals. The sociopaths. The psychopaths. His decision was seemingly without thought. It was obviously without remorse. He really didn’t care who lived or died, or he would have just taken out all the Avengers. Why let any of them live?

Deep down inside, we want things to be fair. We want justice. We want good to triumph. Wouldn’t it be great if we could know the end of the story while we’re still watching? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that Good wins in the end?

Here’s a life spoiler alert: He does.


photo credits:,,

To “Infinity War” and Beyond

infinity warMy family and I are big fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (hereafter referred to simply as the MCU). We’ve seen every one of the movies and now own them all as well. We laughed the most during Thor’s flicks, cheered the most during “Black Panther” and watched in expectation for what would happen to our heroes in the most recent “Infinity War.”

If you haven’t seen the latest movie and plan to, you might want to save this post for later, although I won’t give any major spoilers.

I think there is something in the heart of every man that wants evil to be vanquishable. We want to know that the good guys will win. When that doesn’t happen (apparently, as in the case of “Infinity War”), we’re disappointed, some even to the point of despair.

In the MCU, we know that the heroes are fallible. At least most of them are. I’d like to think Captain America is about as perfect as they come. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, along with Dr. Stephen Strange and Quill, who prefers to be called Star Lord, battle a fierce pride that makes them think they are better than everyone else. Therefore working together as a team is difficult for them.

Natalie (Black Widow) has major skeletons in her closet that have only been hinted at so far. Dr. Bruce Banner, well, his issues are hulking.

Yet we know that they have the good of others at the heart of everything they do. When the Avengers team seemed to be split in the aptly named “Civil War,” the big question was whether the good of the few outweighed the good of the many. Throughout their time together, the Avengers have battled with whether their saving a society while losing individual members has been worth it.

Tony made his decision in wake of the disaster that Wanda (the Scarlet Witch) instigated that took many innocent lives. Though completely unintended, Wanda’s actions caused the deaths of many even though it also prevented worldwide annihilation.

Collateral damage. It happens when you’re trying to save the world.

So that’s what makes Thanos such a disturbing villain.thanos

He is seemingly unbeatable. While his backstory may try to make us believe that he is a sympathetic character simply trying to find a way to save civilizations around the universe, his super-sized ego is completely out of control.

And that makes him very dangerous.

Wiping out half the populations of every civilization isn’t really murder, it’s actually compassion. People are starving and suffering because of over population. Cutting the number of citizens in half will allow everyone to prosper and live better lives.

Thanos believes it without pause. When his minions walk through towns after the purge has happened, they declare how blessed everyone is to be “saved” by such a gracious lord as Thanos. What great mercy has been shown to them. Nevermind that they’ve just lost half their civilization. It’s out of great love that this has been done for them.

The movie doesn’t seem to show that anyone is actually believing this nonsense, but they are incapable of doing anything about it. Thanos cannot be stopped.

And that’s what makes this movie so hard to handle. If I didn’t know a part 2 was coming, this would be one of the only Marvel movies I didn’t want to own.
We can feel that way about evil in the real world sometimes. Why do the wicked seem to prosper?

In Psalm 73:3, the worship leader Asaph laments that very point. “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (English Standard Version). He goes on to describe how good things continually happen to them. They are fat and happy. 

And he despaired.

But then he went into the sanctuary of God. He spent time with Him. And there he learned the truth. “Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin” (Ps. 73:18, ESV). He discerns that the end is coming for those who are wicked. He knows God is good and that in the end, God wins. Good will triumph.

Hold on to hope. In the midst of an evil and perverse generation, when it seems evil cannot be vanquished, Jesus is there.

And Thanos doesn’t stand a chance.

Can’t wait for part 2.

images from: (The Avengers poster); (Thanos); (The Avengers group)

First Ask Why: A Book Review

Parenting books are plentiful, it’s true, and trying to fit your family into the mold of what others have done is impossible. So it’s refreshing to read a parenting book that gives you the freedom to be your own family while still suggesting principles that will help point your children to Jesus.

First Ask Why coverIn this her first book, Shelly Wildman encourages parents to engage in intentional discipleship, positioning your kids to follow Jesus as they grow in independence. By asking why we do the things we do, we’re taking a closer look at our efforts as a family.

The message that spoke the most to me was near the end. In a chapter titled “Strengthening our Ties,” Shelly confronts something that families these days don’t want to hear: We’re too busy.  She says, “Driven by today’s American culture, parents often believe that if their kids don’t play sports or aren’t involved in some other activity outside the home, then their lives won’t be successful. But that argument plays on parents’ fears and emotions. We can’t fear being a little countercultural when it comes to protecting time together as a family, because that time together makes us stronger.”

I confess to feeling that fear. College applications and having a resumé filled with accomplishments drive us to over scheduling our families so that we teeter on the very brink of burnout and exhaustion. What are our kids learning from this?

That performance matters. That who they are will forever be tied to the things that they do.

My 9th grade daughter is concerned by the fact that she doesn’t have any activities to add to her resumé. She’s in virtual school (meaning she does all her classes remotely on a computer), so obviously extra curricular activities are not as easy to engage in.

But more important to me than the status of her resumé is the status of her heart. Have we made an intentional effort over the 15 years of her life to point her to Jesus?

Prayer, service, cross-cultural experiences, family memories. All of these and more are areas in which Wildman encourages parents to disciple their kids. When asked what makes her book different from other parenting books, Wildman answers:

“So many parenting books are ‘how-to’ books. They seem to say, ‘Just follow these 10 steps first ask why memeand here’s what you’ll get in the end.’ But I don’t believe we can parent by formula. I think we have to look at our unique family and ask why.

“Why are we doing what we’re doing as a family?

“Why are we emphasizing these spiritual values? And are there others we should consider?

“Why are we even here as a family? What’s our purpose for being put together in this unique combination of individuals?

“Asking why gets to the heart of the matter; it exposes our motivations and desires for our family. Asking why leads to intentionality. And asking why helps give our children a sense of purpose as we lead them.”

First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship is available now for preorder on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Web_Shelly-2Shelly Wildman is a former writing instructor and author of the forthcoming book First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship (Kregel). Shelly holds degrees from Wheaton College (BA) and University of Illinois at Chicago (MA), but her most important life’s work has been raising her three adult daughters. She and her husband, Brian, have been married for 32 years and live in Wheaton, IL. Shelly speaks to women’s groups in the Chicago area and spends much of her free time mentoring young women. When she has time, she loves to cook, read, and travel.


A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging—a book review and a giveaway!

Place to Land coverI’m a California girl, but I have lived in Florida for nearly 27 years. My parents are both gone now, and much of my extended family doesn’t live in the state anymore, but I will always consider California “home.”

There’s something about the place of our birth that binds us. It might be just a piece of land, but it holds a piece of our heart. But if that “place” no longer contains the people who meant so much, where do we find “home?”

I worked with an international missions organization for more than 30 years. People came from all over the United States to work at the headquarters. Along the way, many moved overseas to tell people about Jesus. Early on, my husband and I opened our home on holidays to friends who had no family nearby. To this day, we crowd our home with those who fit that category.

In Kate Motaung’s memoir, A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging (now available for order from Amazon), she wrestles with the question of home as she lives cross-culturally in South Africa and loses her mom to cancer while she’s overseas. (This is not technically a spoiler as it’s revealed in the very beginning of the book.)

Kate writes with candor about her home life, her parents’ divorce and her father’s remarriage. About forgiveness, about sin, about grief. And about home. Must we be all or nothing to the place we live? Does it matter where we live? If God has called us to service in one place, but all that we love is in another, do we lose? Or do we gain more than we can ever even see?Place to Land

In describing her feelings following her parents’ divorce, Kate writes, “One day, . . . Mom whisked Sarah and me off for a weekend away. When we got back, Dad was gone. The next afternoon, when I came home from school, he was still gone. And the day after that. And the day after that. Every morning that followed, for months, when Mom dropped me off in my second grade classroom, I went straight to the coat closet, tucked myself inside, and cried. Terrified that one day I would get home from school, and, like my dad, Mom would be gone too.”

Your heart will be captured when Kate expresses what losing her mom felt like. You will walk in her shoes as she eloquently describes landing on the foreign soil of South Africa. You will smile as she reveals how she felt when first meeting her husband, Kagiso. And you will weep with her as she lets go of her mom.

Turns out, “home” means much more than a location, and “A Place to Land” captures that truth in a story that you will not want to put down until you’re done.

A-Place-to-Land_3I will be giving away a copy of A Place to Land on April 6th. To enter for a chance to win, just leave a comment about what “home” looks like to you and why you would like to read this special book. I will pick a random winner on April 6th. Don’t miss a chance to be challenged and changed by this beautiful book.

Meanwhile, visit Kate Motaung’s author page here. You can also read the first chapter for free here.