Tag Archive | book review

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.

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, CBD.com 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.



Redeeming Ruth: A Book Review

Books-Mockup-01Some may think doing hard things isn’t worth it. Some may think one little Ugandan baby with developmental problems is too big a risk for a normal family from Maine. But Meadow Rue Merrill and her family felt differently. The subtitle for this beautifully written book is “Everything Life Takes, Love Restores.” All across the pages, this truth comes through.

What I loved about this powerful story was Meadow’s honesty throughout. She had doubts about adopting this special-needs baby. She didn’t want to trust God with this opportunity. She questioned what seemed plain to her husband, Dana. Honesty about her faith struggles, honesty about her marriage struggles, honesty about her parenting struggles. Everything is there for everyone to read. No holds barred.

But what shines so clearly through as well is the non-stop love and care and advocacy Meadow and her family heaped upon this little girl, and the heart that they bring to the issue of special-needs kids in the poorest of countries in the world. If their family could help, so can yours.

The story comes to life through Meadow’s recounting of her trip back to Uganda with Ruth to complete the adoption process. My palms sweated and my heart raced as they encountered trial, after trial, after trial, but saw God’s provision in every instance. Tears flowed when hearts were prompted to raise money that was needed in just a couple of days. Emotional and heart breaking and heart warming all at the same time, Redeeming Ruth shows us the heart of God through the hands of His people.

Losing a child is an unspeakable tragedy, yet Meadow speaks of the place this tragedy had in her life, in her faith, in her family. Raw emotion, unconditional love, shaken faith. And redemption. God brought that to this little family in Maine through a deaf, disabled baby from Uganda. And He can bring it to you, if you will open your hearts.

You can find Redeeming Ruth starting May 1 at Amazon.com, and Christianbook.com and watch the book trailer here.