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What They Meant for Evil: How a Lost Girl of Sudan Found Healing, Peace, and Purpose in the Midst of Suffering

What They Meant for Evil: How a Lost Girl of Sudan Found Healing, Peace, and Purpose in the Midst of Suffering

by Rebecca Deng with Ginger Kolbaba

What They Meant for EvilWe hear reports on the news of massacres of innocents in various countries around the globe and stories of displaced men, women, and children who become refugees and try to survive in crowded refugee camps. Those stories are usually sound bites, quickly discarded for the next big story. Rebecca Deng, a survivor of the horrific Bor Massacre of 1991 in Sudan, gives us the perspective of a six year old girl in What They Meant for Evil. We see her confusion as she flees with family walking through the wilds. She becomes an orphan as those she loves most are killed and grows up in a refugee camp. The UN provides a small amount of maize, without seasoning, to sustain the population. The bathroom is an open area on the other side of a dry riverbed with nothing to provide privacy. I had always imagined a refugee camp as a temporary facility, but Rebecca lived in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya for eight years before she benefited from a special program that relocated her to the U.S. and placed her with an adoptive family. Many of her Sudanese relatives remained in the camp long after that.

In the latter part of the book, we learn of Rebecca’s life as an adult and her spiritual growth as she comes to terms with her identity and the trauma of her past. She uses her education, her experiences, and her faith in God to help other refugees recover as she sees God’s plan unfold to bring good out of what others intended for evil.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Faith Words for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:  4/5

Category: Christian, Memoir, Nonfiction

Publication:   September 8, 2020—Faith Words

Memorable Lines:

That was what the war did to the tens of thousands of innocent children who lost everything—it took their childhood, their innocence, their families, their homes, even their lives.

More crowds meant less food for everybody. And less food meant more violence. Crime seemed to be everywhere. People began bullying other people, stealing their food, and beating and raping them. These things were unheard of for my people before coming here. My language doesn’t even have a word for rape.

…I had learned that God doesn’t always keep us from experiencing trauma, but his unseen presence is with us, strengthening us.

But there’s another aspect of forgiveness that we too often forget or neglect, and that is forgiving ourselves. If we want true forgiveness, we must forgive ourselves for the ways in which we have failed ourselves. We do more damage to ourselves when we believe the lies others have said about us and the lies the enemy whispers into our minds—the lies that tell us we are no good, we are worthless, we can never experience true freedom or true love.

The Wall: Rebuilding a culture of LIFE in America—and ending abortion as we know it

The Wall: Rebuilding a culture of LIFE in America—and ending abortion as we know it

by Kirk Walden

The WallIf you want to know more about what you can do to help rebuild “a culture of LIFE in America—and ending abortion as we know it,” then read The Wall by Kirk Walden. Written to encourage people to give of their resources—money, time, labor, and more, The Wall is informative, practical, and inspirational. Using the story of Nehemiah rebuilding the long destroyed wall around Jerusalem as a model, Walden shows how we can rebuild the broken culture as a loving people, giving options to those who find themselves in a crisis. 

Pregnancy crisis centers can help in so many ways, from showing parents their unborn child using ultrasound to counseling men, encouraging them to step up to be dads. They can provide medical and physical support, abstinence and parenting education, post-abortion recovery counseling, and so much more. To provide all of these services, funds are needed, and all donations are important whether it is a small, but sacrificial donation of ten or twenty dollars or the rich person’s spare $50,000. If we create a culture that values life, abortion clinics will close their doors from lack of clients and profits. Give this book a read if you want to know more about pregnancy crisis centers and what you can do to help.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction, Social Issues

Notes: short, inspirational read about providing real choices to those facing the real challenges of an unplanned pregnancy

Publication:   August 4, 2013—LifeTrends

Memorable Lines:

Our Wall is going to be strong, and we will stand on that Wall. And we will invite inside our Wall the hurting, the fearful, the desperate and the destitute. We are not going to back down. And we are not going to back up or let up.

It’s a Wall of protection for those facing the cultural temptations and battles of today, and for their children waiting to be born; wanting nothing more than to celebrate their first smiles, their first steps, and their first birthdays. Once we get started, once we take our stand on that Wall, there is no limit to what God can do with each of us.

Empty Nest, Full Life: Discovering God’s Best for Your Nest

Empty Nest, Full Life: Discovering God’s Best for Your Nest

by Jill Savage

Empty Nest Full LifeParents, but mothers in particular, spend almost twenty years preparing their children to fly out of the nest and into the world of adulthood. It turns out that the releasing can be as hard as the preparation. There are issues of control, especially if you have boomerang kids. Mothers are good at piling guilt on themselves when things don’t work out perfectly or as expected for their kids. Grandkids are a blessing, but they come with their own set of issues. The list goes on and on.

Jill Savage, a speaker and teacher of the Bible, who has endured her own personal trials, shares Biblical wisdom and personal anecdotes to illustrate her viewpoints on various subjects related to the “empty nest” in Empty Nest, Full Life. The first half of the book is entitled “Let Go!” and discusses the problems encountered during the empty nest season. It speaks of letting go of expectations, guilt, opinions, traditions, your child’s problems, and your own idols (the things that steal your attention away from God, the things you use to identify yourself). Part Two is called “Hold On!” and within that section lie ideas for what to actually do during that season of the empty nest. Savage encourages you to grab hold of a new mission field, passions, and friendships. She encourages you to revitalize your marriage and your relationship with God.

Each chapter closes with a truth from the Bible, an action step, and a prayer. The book itself ends with encouragement for the next season, a list of questions to help you identify current or past baggage that has affected your marriage, reference notes, and a discussion guide for a leader to use in a small group setting.

My personal nest has been empty for a number of years so I am not approaching or in the middle of an empty nest crisis. I would imagine, however, that this book would be helpful for those wondering how to deal with their new found “freedom.”

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Moody Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Christian, Parenting and Family

Publication:   August 6, 2019—Moody Publishers

Memorable Lines:

Expectations will get us in trouble every time. They set us up for disappointment and leave us feeling disconnected.

Studies indicate the brain isn’t fully developed until the age of twenty-five. Yes, that means that our kids are now setting their own priorities when they’re not actually fully equipped to do so.

My friend Becky says that when she’s tempted to address something with her adult son, she tries to think of how she would address it with a friend. Most of the time she realizes she wouldn’t address it with a friend at all! This helps her find self-control and pray instead.

The Healing Jar–challenges that require patience

The Healing Jar

by Wanda E. Brunstetter 

The Healing JarExamples of difficult situations and decisions abound in Wanda E. Brunstetter’s The Healing Jar along with positive, Godly responses to those circumstances. Frequently the characters pray and then continue with their daily activities as they wait on God to answer their prayers by changing their circumstances or their hearts. Often He acts in surprising ways.

The main characters in these stories are all connected to the Amish Lapp family, and they all independently stumble on prayer jars hidden on the Lapp property. What remains a mystery to the young ladies, until a discovery in this book, is who accumulated Scriptures and heartfelt petitions to God on slips of paper in old canning jars.

The matriarch of the Lapp family is Mary Ruth. The other main character in The Healing Jar is her granddaughter Lenore Lapp who longs to be a wife and mother. The story of Sara, a granddaughter who was not raised Amish, continues in this book as she tries to discover the identity of her biological father. Michelle, who in an earlier book pretends to be Sara, finds happiness in her conversion to the Amish way but faces challenges when her husband wants to move away from her new family and friends.

I enjoyed this gentle book and recommend this trilogy to those who are interested in learning more about Amish life and customs and to readers looking for romance with a Christian focus. I do think this series should be read in its entirety and in sequence as it is very character based. Perhaps because of the way the series builds and the closure this book provides, it is my favorite of the three books.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Literary Fiction

Notes: #3 in the Prayer Jar Trilogy. I recommend it, but not as a standalone.

Publication:  August 1, 2019— Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines:

“We must learn to trust the Lord, even with things we don’t understand. As we go through troubled waters, it should strengthen, not weaken, our faith. And remember, dear one, prayer is not a business transaction. We don’t give something to get something in return.”

It was frustrating how a person could think they had worked through a situation, even felt peace about it, and then out of the blue, the pain of it all came right back to haunt them.

“It just goes to show that even when people make terrible mistakes, God can take a negative situation and turn it into something good.”

Just in Case You Ever Wonder–created by God

Just in Case You Ever Wonder

by Max Lucado

illustrated by Eve Tharlet

Just in Case You Ever WonderA gifted storyteller for both adults and children and known as “America’s Pastor,” Max Lucado has a way with words and thoughts. In  Just in Case You Ever Wonder, Lucado has captured some of the most important truths of reassurance in the Bible in a book he wrote for and dedicated to his daughters many years ago. In this newly published version, Eve Tharlet created soft and welcoming illustrations that feature bears as the characters instead of people. I am enchanted by this book that talks about God’s love and the parent’s love for his child. It provides reassurance for a child that both God and the parent will always support and love the child through good times and bad. The bad times are age appropriate—monsters in the dark, bullies, and bad days at school. It skirts the issue of death while describing the promises of heaven. I think every home with small children should have a copy: it will indeed be a favorite bedtime story.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Children’s Nonfiction

Publication:   August 6, 2019—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

The same hands that made the trees and the moon and the sun made you. That’s why you are so special. God made you.

If you looked all over the world—in every city, in every house—there would be no one else like you…

I knew in my heart God had sent someone very wonderful for me to take care of.

The Medallion–for the love of a child

The Medallion

by Cathy Gohlke

The MedallionWhat is worse than being a Pole during World War II?  Being a Jew.  

And what is worse than either? Being a Polish Jew, a target for abuse, humiliation, torture and destruction.

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke tells the story of two families whose lives and deaths become joined through the horrors and hardships of life in Poland in World War II. Janet is a Polish fighter pilot married to Sophia, an English citizen, alone in Poland, but with a heart for Jewish children. Rosa has to make the most difficult decision possible to save her beloved daughter’s life. Her husband Itzhak, an electrician, endures the most horrific task assigned to any person by the Nazis, digging up mass graves with his bare hands. Can anything good possibly emerge from the desperation of this story?

Many of the characters in The Medallion are fictional, but are inspired by interviews and textual research. Some are found in history, including Irena Sandler who rescued 2,500 children and Dr. Janusz Korczak who ran an orphanage.

The tales of these two families are difficult to read but also inspiring. Towards the end of the book, when the war is over and all should be well, it isn’t. Sophia finds herself in a moral and personal crisis of faith that intimately affects the lives and futures of herself and those she loves most.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Tyndale House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Historical Fiction

Notes: The end of this book also includes discussion questions, notes to the reader about the writing of this book, and historical notes.

Publication:   June 4, 2019—Tyndale House Publishers

Memorable Lines:

“Adonai makes a way when there appears no way. It is His specialty. Remember the Red Sea.”  The words of her old friend came back to her, just as they did so often when Sophie felt at her wits’ end.

The Germans wanted to make certain that Poles were equipped only to follow orders, mostly for menial labor. They espoused the belief that a thinking Pole was a dangerous Pole. Hence, Polish schools were closed and thousands upon thousands of children did not learn to read or write—unless they were taught in secret.

“We’re not meant to handle life alone, Sophie. It’s too hard, too unpredictable, too messy and big. There is One who is willing and ready to help, to travel with us, if we let Him.”

The Printed Letter Bookshop–books as a pathway to healing

The Printed Letter Bookshop

by Katherine Reay

The Printed Letter BookshopThis fictional work opens with the rather stark and extremely well attended funeral of Maddie and shares the perspectives of her estranged, but much loved, niece Madeline and of Janet and Claire, two ladies who are employees and friends of Maddie. What follows takes us into the lives and families of all of these ladies. They struggle with work and relationships, but Maddie leaves each an encouraging letter listing books that will help them in their life journeys. Maddie has a reputation for matching up readers with just the right book. Life is a battle for each of these ladies, and there is some characteristic in one or more of them that readers can identify with.

Part of The Printed Letter Bookshop draws attention to Proverbs 31 in the Bible which describes a wise woman and provides a model for the characters in forming their aspirations. I followed the ups and downs of the characters with hopes for successful resolutions to their problems. Will Madeline continue on her intended path to become a successful law partner? Will the town’s beloved bookshop survive during an online economy and after some bad business decisions? Can Janet find restoration with her husband and children? Is there a way for Claire to be a good mom while meeting her own needs? The story builds at an adequate pace as we are introduced to the characters and storyline, but accelerates towards the end as things come to a head for each of the characters in solving their personal dilemmas. Although there is closure for each of the ladies, it is not a puffy pink, cotton candy kind of resolution. There are surprises, heartbreaks, and difficult situations along the way as they learn what is important, how to forgive, and the need to avoid jumping to conclusions based on appearances.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Christian Fiction

Notes: I would LOVE to visit this bookstore!

Publication:  May 14 , 2019—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

You can miss your family so much you have to look down to see your chest rise and fall, to confirm that it hasn’t been cut open and you’re not bleeding out and you’re still breathing. Friends can’t hurt you like that, nor can they fill that fissure.

“I remember Aunt Maddie saying you could lose yourself in a book and, paradoxically, find yourself as well.”

I do remember that his resignation ignited my anger. Anger always comes first for me. Anger keeps embarrassment, humiliation, shame, all manner of painful emotions at bay—for a time. But it requires so much fuel. And while it burned hot that night, and for a couple weeks after, it soon flickered out. Shame replaced it, and shame doesn’t need much fuel to thrive. It can live on tiny nibbles for years, possibly a lifetime.

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