Posted in Adult Nonfiction, Book, Book Review, Christianity, Reading

THE BROKEN WAY by Ann Voskamp

As I read this beautiful book, I was continually drawn further and further into the ministry of Jesus. He came for the oppressed and the needy, for the sick and the tired.  Jesus sought the broken for healing, for comforting, to love unconditionally.  He came to save all who needed His salvation and gave Himself up to die upon the Cross for me, for you, for each and all.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  Luke 19:10  Jesus broke the bread and gave it…And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of Me.”  Luke 22:19   Jesus was the Gift to His disciples; He also is the Gift for us this very day, every day.  As we take communion, we sit with Him, the Bread of Life.
The Broken Way is about being the gift, ourselves, to those we encounter in our walk upon this earth, on the path that God has set for us.  By being the gift, we give with open and welcoming hands, not closed fists and fearful. We can become less needy and less sick, less oppressed and less tired because we are giving of ourselves from the heart molded by God.
As I finished reading chapter 14, I underlined so much in this beautiful chapter because it spoke right to my heart. I felt just like Hope, Ann’s daughter, who was lying on the bed with her mother.  I was listening to Ann’s words I had need of decades before, words that touched my soul today, that crept into my soul and heart through cracks begun years ago.  Maybe all the brokenhearted don’t need to try to believe more in themselves, but to believe what Jesus says about them more.”  I have lived broken since a teen…not being good enough.  By the time a bad first marriage ended after ten years, those old tapes of not being good enough had intensified.  What Hope began to grasp at her young age, I am healing year upon year since God blessed me with a Christ-centered marriage of 23 years now.  Now 69 years of age, I am blessed.  Thank You, Jesus.  Amen.

Being a member of the launch team for this book allowed me to begin reading before it hit the bookstores.  I have been so blessed to be a part of this as we who were on the team shared on a facebook page.  On it, we interacted with the actual book launch and the tour that Ann made over about two weeks in the United States, ending in Toronto, Canada.  We were able to watch the tour as it journeyed on from photos and words written.  We created graphics with quotes from the book to share with the others. Many on the team were able to venture to Canada to meet Ann and others on the team before it all began.  (I was not able, but enjoyed the photos, the messages, and the music from that afternoon.)

I highly recommend this powerful and insightful new book of bestselling author, Ann Voskamp.



Ann Voskamp is wife of a Canadian farmer and mother to seven children, ranging form college-age to a very young one.  She homeschools her kids, integrating real life in those lessons.  Ann is a New York Times bestselling author of The Greatest Gift and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, and the sixty-week New York Times bestseller One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, which has sold more than one million copies and has been translated into more than eighteen languages.

She was named by Christianity Today as one of fifty women most shaping culture and the church today.  Ann’s blog (Ann Voskamp) is filled with beautiful photographs of hers and her finely woven words.  Her site is one of the top 10 most widely read Christian websites.

Ann and her family live in Eastern Canada.




Book Information:

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (October 25, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310318580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310318583
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.4 inches
Posted in Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, Book, Book Review, Children's, Classic, Middle Readers, Picture Book, Poetry, Reading, Young Adult

POEMS TO LEARN BY HEART by Caroline Kennedy


This is a collection of almost 200 poems, a companion to “A Family of Poems,” Caroline Kennedy’s New York Times #1 Bestseller from 2005.  This beautiful volume is filled with poetry of all sorts: about one’s self, family, friendship, and love.  There are poems about sports and games, about school.  Nonsensical poetry, poems about fairies, ogres, and witches are included too.  There are deeply touching poems about war, poetry about nature, Bible verses, and so much more are scattered together and throughout this fine book.

“Poets distill life’s lessons into the fewest possible words.  But those tiny packages of thought contain worlds of images and experiences and feelings.”  Caroline Kennedy

Caroline Kennedy writes about the importance of memorization of poetry in her introduction.  “If our circumstances change and things seem to be falling apart, we can recall a poem that reassures us. If we find ourselves in unfamiliar or frightening surroundings, a poem can remind us that others have journeyed far and returned safely home.  If we learn poems by heart, we will always have their wisdom to draw on, and we gain understanding that no one can take away.”

As a Bible verse is memorized and tucked into my heart, even if only in part, it will be there when I need it the most.  Poetry can be a similar strength in a weaker time.

This anthology has works of art by well known poets from the past such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  They remind me of poetry I once read, maybe even memorized for a class.  Geoffrey Chaucer’s General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales is even etched into this book. (I read the whole of The Canterbury Tales when I was in high school from the Old English translation, no less, each night for homework, translating it into “readable” English for Senior English class/Mrs. Lee!  I recall the assignment well.  I did not tuck any of that away for those weaker moments, I am afraid!)  Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, along with Ogden Nash, Carl Sandburg, and many others remind parents of poems they may have memorized or read.

Poetry by A.A. Milne, Nikki Giovanni, Shel Silverstein, Jane Yolen, and Jack Prelutsky represents some of the newer poets yet each stands tall among those of years gone by.

Caroline Kennedy worked regularly with the DreamYard Preparatory School in the Bronx who authored a lengthy poem (or more) in this book as well.  These young people are the DreamYard Slam Team.  She dedicates the book to them and their futures.

The watercolor paintings of Jon J. Muth are gentle and excellent for each and every page, each and every poem.  As one example, on page 35, the Bible verse, Micah 6:8, is written upon an array of blues suggesting the heavenly realm spread over the double-page:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Yes, Bible verses can also poetry.

This is another fine collection from Caroline Kennedy.  She is an advocate for poetry as she was brought up with it in her family.  They shared poetry at gatherings of the whole Kennedy clan as well as amongst their own smaller family.  Caroline said her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy, loved poetry and encouraged her children to engage with it, to memorize it.  Rose Kennedy, Caroline’s grandmother, was another encourager along this creative avenue.

Reading Level: Preschool and up


Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg is a lawyer, author, education advocate, and lifelong supporter of the arts.  Ms. Kennedy attended Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, England from 1975-1976. She earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from Radcliffe College at Harvard University in 1980. Ms. Kennedy received her J.D. from Columbia University Law School in 1988.  She is the Ambassador to Japan from the United States of America.

She is the daughter of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis , sister to John Kennedy.

She has written many books and articles, subjects ranging from legal issues, family and children, the Kennedy family, and poetry.


Jon J Muth is an American artist, born and grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He loved to draw as a boy, and he also painted. His mother was an art teacher and took him to museums all over the US.  He studied stone sculpture in Japan; paintings, prints and drawings in Austria, Germany, and England.  Most of his education as an artist came from an informal apprenticeship with fine artists.

“My work in children’s books really grew out of a desire to explore what I was feeling as a new father,” says Muth. “I was working in comics and that is a natural forum for expressions of angst and questioning one’s place in the universe. When the children came it became important to say other things about the world. With the birth of my children, there was a kind of seismic shift in where my work seemed appropriate.”

Jon Muth has illustrated (and written some) picture books of high acclaim.  They are beloved around the world.

Muth lives in upstate New York with his wife and four children. Jon can be found @ or on Pinterest or @ RMichelsonGalleries  or  for many paintings from this book.

Book Information

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; First Edition edition (March 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423108051
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423108054
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds



Posted in Adult Nonfiction, Book, Book Review, Children's, Reading

THEIR NAME IS TODAY by Johann Christoph Arnold


Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World

Children are special and need to be treated as such, raised with love and discipline, taught with respect as well as being taught to respect others.  Children have a sense of wonder about them.  They are curious, wanting to explore the world they live in.  They are usually filled with joy.

Busy-ness, two parents having to work, single parent households, schools inundated with testing, strict structure of the curricula have left children on the short end of many, many sticks.  They are losing precious time and needed attention from parents, teachers, and so many others who care about them, or would care about them.

This beautiful little book should be read by every parent, teacher, and anyone else who cares about our world’s children.  The kids deserve our best, including love, time, education, guidance, discipline, and reverence.

Mr. Arnold clearly sees the ways of today that surround childhood.  Some things are good, helping to maintain innocence that childhood ‘should’ hold.  He also clearly sees the turbulence of the world and how those ways affect childhood.  This turbulence wraps around the lives of all of us, but children need to be protected from so much these days.  Sadly, they are not.  He points out how our children are jettisoned into the world without the safeguards that they need to keep their innocence.  He sees this in the home, in the schools, in stores, on television, and so much more.

Mr. Arnold calls us to revere our children:

“Our response upon encountering a child must be nothing less than reverence.  Perhaps because the word sounds old-fashioned, its true meaning has been blurred.  Reverence is more than just love.  It includes an appreciation for the qualities children possess (and which we ourselves have lost), a readiness to rediscover their value, and the humility to learn from them.

“Reverence is also an attitude of deep respect,….”

We each have a part to play in the raising of children, whether we have our own, care for or about others’ children, or even just caring about all of the children of this world.  Adults in society need to restore the reverence for life and for one another.

Parenting should be a model for so many things: respect, compassion, love, integrity, healthy relationships, gratitude.  Teaching children how to give rather than want, want, want, is vital to their mature adulthood, yet the desire to get seems to be such a decisive factor for both children and adults these days.  Oh, that we would open our eyes and change.

The hope that I see through this powerful little book is that each one of us — parents, teachers, counselors, anyone who works with children — can help to restore “every child’s right to the joy and wonder of childhood.”  Every one of us can engage in relationships and modeling that will share a better way for this world where children live and grow.  Value, love, nurture, respect, reverence, and joy can be shown so that these little ones can grasp the fact that this is who they are.  Who they are is not what they do nor what they want.

The chapters in this book include:

  1. The World Needs Children
  2. Play is a Child’s Work
  3. Great Expectation
  4. Screening Out
  5. Material Child
  6. Actions, Not Words
  7. Guidance to Grow
  8. In Praise of Difficult Children
  9. Discovering Reverence
  10. Tomorrow Comes

This books makes me sad that this is the world in which these young things are brought up within, yet also gives me all the more reason to tutor with the love that God has given me.  I love the children that He gives to me and I want to be the best steward I can in the short time I have them in my life.  Over the years of teaching, being a children’s librarian, and now a tutor, I have had many children.  They were given to me to teach and love and respect.  I have done my best even though I did not always have this information in my back pocket.  I just knew that this is how I was to be with each child.  Thank You, Father, for gifting me with the tools to do the task to which You called me.

Gabriela Mistral writes:

“Many things can wait.  Children cannot.  Right now their bones are being formed, their blood is being made, and their senses are being developed.  To them we cannot answer, “‘Tomorrow.'”

Thus the title of the book:  “Their name is Today.”

They are right now, in this moment, Today!


Christian Small Published Book of the Year – 2015 (Christian Education Division)

Foreword Reviews’ 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award Finalist (Family & Relationships (Adult Nonfiction)


“People have come to expect sound advice from Johann Christoph Arnold, an award-winning author with over a million copies of his twelve books in print in more than twenty languages. A noted speaker and writer on marriage, parenting, and end-of-life issues, Arnold is a senior pastor of the Bruderhof, a movement of Christian communities. With his wife, Verena, he has counseled thousands of individuals and families over the last forty years.  

“Arnold’s message has been shaped by encounters with great peacemakers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, César Chavez, and John Paul II. Together with paralyzed police officer Steven McDonald, Arnold started the Breaking the Cycle program, working with students at hundreds of public high schools to promote reconciliation through forgiveness. This work has also brought him to conflict zones from Northern Ireland to Rwanda to the Middle East. Closer to home, he serves as chaplain for the local sheriff’s department.

“Born in Great Britain in 1940 to German refugees, Arnold spent his boyhood years in South America, where his parents found asylum during the war; he immigrated to the United States in 1955. He and his wife have eight children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They live in upstate New York.”  from Plough Publishing House @


Book Information

ISBN-13: 9780874866308
Publisher: Plough Publishing House, The
Publication date: 11/01/2014
Pages: 189
Product dimensions: 5.38(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.56(d

linking up with:  Teach Mentor Texts, Unleashing Readers, Literacy Musing Mondays, What to Read WednesdayKid Lit Blog Hop, Booknificent Thursdays, The Book NookLiterary Friday, Semicolon Saturday, Reading List/Cozy Reading SpotBook Review Blog Hop

Posted in Adult Nonfiction, Book, Book Review, Reading

SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME by Douglas A. Blackmon

Slavery_by_Another_Name_(book_cover)Slavery By Another Name:

The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II

This has been the most difficult book review I have yet to write.  I have amended and deleted and written and rewritten pieces and parts and all of this review.

After reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and then The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, I found myself reading Slavery By Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon.

A web of tragic circumstances of my country’s history, both past and current, has held my interest in each and all three of these books.  I wanted to know more.  I am so saddened that this country could have been so inhumane to its own citizens.  How could I be so naive and not know that this kind of history had gone on long past the Civil War?  Yes, I am naive, but I have a heart that cares so was drawn into wanting to know what happened to the Black Americans who had won their freedom through the Civil War, through the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

This book, of almost 500 pages, is a powerful read.  It is well written and referenced to the hilt.  Mr. Blackmon did his homework.  It is about “industrial slavery,” “Black Codes,” “convict laborers,” “peonage,” “debt peonage,” “forced labor,” and so much more.  Rather than go into all that this book is, as I first intended, I will leave you to decide whether you want to know more about a rather large and terrible chunk of history of the United States that has basically been hidden, not taught in history classes, nor exposed so thoroughly as Mr. Blackmon does.

It, indeed, was “slavery” under a different name.

Douglas Blackmon’s words say more than all that I have deleted that were my own words:

“As a Wall Street Journal reporter, Mr. Blackmon wrote a piece ‘asking a provocative question: What would be revealed if American corporations were examined through the same sharp lens of historical confrontation as the one then being trained on German corporations that relied on Jewish slave labor during World War II and the Swiss banks that robbed victims of the Holocaust of their fortunes?’  This story described the post-Civil War corporate use of forced black labor in the South.  It received more response than any other piece he had written which led to the writing of this book.”

“In the book’s epilogue, Blackmon argues for the importance of acknowledging this history of forced labor:

‘the evidence moldering in county courthouses and the National Archives compels us to confront this extinguished past, to recognize the terrible contours of the record, to teach our children the truth of a terror that pervaded much of American life, to celebrate its end, to lift any shame on those who could not evade it. This book is not a call for financial reparations. Instead, I hope it is a formidable plea for a resurrection and fundamental reinterpretation of a tortured chapter in the collective American past.'”

I thank you, Mr. Blackmon.  Your book was tough to read, but this chapter in history gave me even more compassion towards my fellow human beings who just happen to have darker skin than I have.

I am so sorry that people of my skin color did this and other horrific things to you, my Black sisters and brothers.

The Slavery by Another Name documentary was broadcast in February 2012.  The entire film can be watched online @


2009 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction
a New York Times bestseller in both hardback and soft cover editions
a 2009 American Book Award
the 2009 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters non-fiction book prize
a 2008 Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Book Award
the NAACP Freedom Fund Outstanding Achievement Award
and many other citations
Mr. Blackmon has been honored by the state legislature of Georgia for distinguished scholarship and service to history.
In 2010, he received the Grassroots Justice Award from the Georgia Justice Project.


Douglas A. Blackmon is co-executive producer of the acclaimed PBS documentary of the same name. His is also the executive producer and host of American Forum, a public affairs program produced at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and aired weekly on more than 250 PBS affiliates across the U.S.

He was the longtime chief of The Wall Street Journal’s Atlanta bureau and the paper’s Senior National Correspondent until 2012, when he joined the faculty of the University of Virginia and became a contributing editor at the Washington Post.

Prior to his work at The Wall Street Journal, Blackmon was a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he covered race and politics in Atlanta until 1995. Earlier, he was a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat in 1986-1987, and co-owner and managing editor of the Daily Record from 1987 to 1989, both in Little Rock, Ark.

Raised in Leland, Miss., Blackmon penned his first newspaper story for the weekly Leland Progress at the age of 12.  (He became drawn into the racial issues of the South through this article.)  He received his degree in English from Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.  He lives in downtown Atlanta and Charlottesville, Va.

Book Information

  • ISBN-13: 9780385722704
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 01/13/2009
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 7.98(w) x 5.12(h) x 1.03(d

linking up with:  Teach Mentor Texts, Unleashing Readers, Book Musing Mondays, What to Read WednesdayKid Lit Blog Hop, Booknificent Thursdays, The Book NookLiterary Friday, Semicolon Saturday, Reading List/Cozy Reading SpotBook Review Blog Hop

Posted in Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, Book, Book Review, Classic, Reading

You Did It to Me – The Grapes of Wrath | Just Mercy

For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You?  And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’   Matthew 25:35-40

MLKquoteI have just finished reading “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, written in 1939.  Prior to that book, I read “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, written in 2014.  In this world today…my heart, my eyes, my ears see and sense injustice, inequality, desperation in trying to migrate or to escape across waters and harsh lands, living in war-torn countries, starvation, sex and slave trafficking, and this list goes on and on.  I also see the good and the great, but these books have focused my attention on these harder issues.

The first of these books wraps around the issues of migrant farm work back in the Dust Bowl period and the Depression.  The misuse of land, bank loans, and then corporations getting the land of small farmers, set these families off their land.   When they saw handbills advertising workers were needed in the rich, fertile valleys of California, far too many went out there without enough work for all.  Then corruption reared its ugly head all across the state in many forms.  The circumstances of it all broke the spirits of many of these people, yet many overcame as best they could to survive.

200px-JohnSteinbeck_TheGrapesOfWrathThe second book is about a lawyer who meets prisoners on death row.  These men come together when Bryan Stevenson goes to the South for a month-long class while attending Harvard Law School.  He meets men who have been locked up in solitary confinement for years upon years.  Eventually, the ones in the book are found to be innocent, yet never had the council necessary to have a fair trial.  People in authority used their powers unjustly to lock up innocent people to keep the guilty out of prison or to keep their own name from coming under ridicule when they did not arrest a guilty party.

9780812994520_p0_v3_s260x420Although one book is fiction, it is based on events over years and of many that actually did occur.  It is like a composite of the times.  The other is nonfiction.  My heart strings have been pulled immensely these weeks.  I am sad for the injustice that took place so long ago in many situations, and still takes place to this very day.

Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, to visit prisoners, to welcome a stranger.  When we look around, there seems so very much that needs to be done.  Overwhelming, indeed.  And we often sit still, doing nothing because we don’t know where to begin or it seems like too daunting of a task.  Bryan S. thought such thoughts, but he began with one prisoner.  Casy, in Steinbeck’s book, stood up for the downtrodden who were being underpaid, overworked, and betrayed because someone else was willing to do their job for less so the wealthy landowners hired the new ones for half the price and forced the others to take that same pay or get out.  Tom Joad, a main character, planned to take up that mantle after Casy was killed in trying.  Tom was willing to risk it all.

Risking is hard.  Yet…can we lift a hand to help another?  Can we offer a drink of water?  Can we feed the starving?  Can we bring Jesus to the hearts of the lost?  Will we?

Helping-Others-Quotes-No-one-is-useless-in-this-world-who-lightens-the-burdens-of-another.Father, I ask Your forgiveness for all of the open doors I have walked passed, missing the golden moments to offer help.  And thank You for giving me an opportunity to feed one from Cuba recently when he asked for money for food.  We were just outside a cafe so I invited him in and bought his lunch. He was most grateful.  You blessed me, LORD, for this man truly wanted a meal.  My cynicism creeps in when so many have a hand out with looks of drug and alcohol abuse.  My trust in their request is zero for I judge them and think I know what it is they really want.  Guide me to those who You want me to help.  I trust in You and You alone.  Then I will know.  Father, take me by the hand and teach me Your ways that I will see Jesus in these with a need.  I don’t want to get to Heaven and find out just how many, many times I have missed Him here on this earth.  I know I will have missed many, but I don’t want to add to that number now.  I lift this prayer to You in Your Son’s Name. Amen. 


Martin Luther King, Jr. photo:

Charles Dickens’ Quote:


Originally posted on “Being Woven” June 16, 2015.  It is less of a book review than it is a statement yet I want this to be on this book review site as both books were powerful books and ones to be read.

Posted in Adult Nonfiction, Book, Book Review, Christianity, Reading

WALK ON WATER FAITH by Catherine Martin


Discovering Power in the Promises of God

A Quiet Time Experience

A fine Bible study on faith.  Catherine Martin writes studies with such depth and insight.  Through God’s promises seen in the lives of many who walked in faith (shown to us in Hebrews, the Gospels,and Romans), this study is so rich and filled with God’s promises, not only to and for them, but to and for us today.

I love Catherine’s studies as she poses questions and gives Scripture to look up in relationship to the questions.  She loves the old generations of Christian writers, theologians, missionaries, and others, quoting their words in short devotionals on each day’s study. The study is eight weeks long, but you can take as long as you desire.  Each day follows a pattern: Prepare Your Heart, Read and Study God’s Word, Adore God in Prayer, Yield Yourself to God, Enjoy His Presence, and Rest in His Love….PRAYER.  Each week has five days in this pattern of study, and then the weekend is one day of reading a devotional and pondering the week’s journey that you have just completed.  There is plenty of room for making notes and plenty of depth to touch the heart of God, should you be quiet and ready to hear Him.  I have done many of her studies and find each one to grow me a bit more in one direction or another towards God.  There have been several that I have done twice.  I highly recommend any one of her studies.

Catherine Martin, Summa Cum Laude, Faculty Award graduate of Bethel Theological Seminary, Master of Arts in Theological Studies, Founder of Quiet Time Ministries, prolific author, and a Director of Women’s Ministries at her local church, has been a popular keynote, conference, and retreat speaker for more than twenty years.

We have recently completed this study @ Google+ where a number of women joined Catherine each week to share our insights and read the week’s lesson from Catherine.

Book Information

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Quiet Time Ministries Press; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0990582108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0990582106
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches

Originally reviewed 4-5-2015

Posted in Adult Nonfiction, Book, Book Review, Children's, Christianity, Picture Book, Reading



Two books by Ann Voskamp, two reviews, but I am reviewing them together for they dovetail so beautifully with one another.  As you can see by the covers, the titles are slightly different, as is the layout, as well as the intended audience.  Yet, they are both for Advent, for the waiting of Christ to come.  Ann’s desire is for each and all of us to come to Christmas with a heart open to God’s love.  Christmas trees go up each year with the hustle and bustle of preparation for December 25th.  But the twenty-four days prior can bring so much more when we spend time getting to know Jesus, the One we await.  Ann takes us into the family tree of Jesus.  “Out of the stump of Jesse (King David’s father) will grow a shoot….”  That shoot that bears fruit of hope and love is Jesus.  Ann introduces us to the Jesse Tree.  Each day we discover a branch of Jesus’ family tree, from “the beginning” when God created through the day of Jesus’ birth.  It is a rich story.  Ann writes, “If we want our Christmas tree to really stand wondrous and full of meaning, the tree we really need to understand and be astonished by is the family tree of Jesus Christ.  Because this is our story—your story.”

THE GREATEST GIFT: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas
Beginning on December 1and through Christmas Day, this devotional takes us to the very depths of Christmas.  It reminds us that Christmas is about waiting for the Holy One Whom God sent to bring us into relationship with Himself  Each day begins with a Scripture that points to Jesus.  Ann follows God’s Word with words of her own that wrap around the Scripture and wrap our hearts around the meaning God intends for us as we delve into His beautiful Word announcing the coming of His Son.  We are given something to “do”…in the world that would remind us, those around us, or those we touch by the “doing” of this precious gift of Jesus.  We read a quote by an author, current or long ago, that takes us further into the heart of this day’s meaningful depths, which is then followed by “A Moment for Reflection” where Ann asks three questions.  Below each question, she gives us room to write as we ponder our personal answers.  At the end of the book, she gives us the website and “code word” to download beautifully designed ornaments for the Jesse Tree that you may have decided to do with your family.  This is a book that can be done alone or with your family.  It was published for the 2013 Christmas.

UNWRAPPING THE GREATEST GIFT: A Family Celebration of Christmas 
This beautiful book was published for this current Christmas, 2014.  Ann takes the beauty of last year’s white devotional and wraps it up with colorful family ribbons, art that is so very pleasing to the eye.  Children will be drawn into this book by the beauty of color and the artwork that matches each day’s devotional.  This book is meant to be read aloud with the family gathered around.  Beginning on December 1 through Christmas Day, each day has a Scripture and a story from God’s Word that relates to that Scripture.  There are “Thoughts to Discuss,” concluding with an activity for the family to engage in together.
At the end of the book, there is, once again, the website from which to download ornaments for one’s own Jesse Tree.  DaySpring has two different sets of ornaments available for purchase.  There is a DVD Curriculum “designed for families, small groups, and Bible Study classes” also.

Ann Voskamp is a wife to a Canadian farmer, mother tow six children whom she home-schools.  Two of her books have been on the New York Times Bestseller list- The Greatest Gift and One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.   Her blog, one of the Top 10 Christian blogs on the web is

THE GREATEST GIFT illustrators and photographers include: Stephen Vosloo – cover photograph; Paula Doherty – cut paper illustrations; Molly Morton-Sydorak – author photograph; Julie Chen – design

UNWRAPPING THE GREATEST GIFT has three illustrators: Jacqueline L. Nunez – cover and story opener illustrations; Paula Doherty – cut paper illustrations; Martina Peluso – interior story illustrations

Book Information/The Greatest Gift

  • ISBN-13: 9781414387086
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/30/2013
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.88 (d)
  • New York Bestseller #7 in Religion, Spirituality and Faith – December, 2014

Book Information/Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

  • ISBN-13: 9781414397542
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/3/2014
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Originally reviewed December, 2014

Posted in Adult Nonfiction, Book, Book Review, Christianity, Reading


3158309The whole title to this fine book on God’s unconditional love for us is “Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes.”  At first, I struggled with the two words, “Love Idol” for I was not able to focus my heart and thoughts on God.  I kept thinking about all the idols most of us carry around such as money, jobs/careers, clothing, certain people/friends, which it turns out that these are exactly the things that Jennifer calls “love idols.”  We place value on them.  We seek approval from or by them.  We want to be accepted by and because of them when, in fact, the only real love, acceptance and approval comes from God.  The truth is that we only need to know that God created us in His image, that He loved us first, and that we are loved unconditionally because we are His.

Jennifer Dukes Lee writes an especially fine book weaving her own story in and through the beautiful reminder that God is all we will ever need and His love envelops us completely.  The love of others is special and sweet yet often comes with attachments.  Instead of seeking approval everywhere we go, we just need to turn our hearts toward Home, to God.  We are significant, cherished and approved by Christ.  He gave Himself completely for us at Calvary, paying for our sins in total.  Seek Him.

Age Appropriate: Adult

Jennifer Dukes Lee is a writer, a storyteller, and a faith blogger.  She is married and has two children.  They live in Iowa on the Lee family farm, raising crops and pigs.  She covered crime, politics, and natural disasters as a news reporter for metropolitan daily newspapers. Now, she uses her “reporting skills to chase after the biggest story ever: the redemptive story of Christ. (That’s front-page news.)”  She is passionate about sharing the Good News through own story.  She writes for Dayspring’s (in)courage, and is an editor at The High Calling.  Her blog is “Dispatches from a Good News Girl – Stories of Grace in a World that Needs Hope.”

Book Information

  • ISBN-13: 9781414380735
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/21/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Original review 8-30-2014

Posted in Adult Nonfiction, Book, Book Review, Christianity, Reading


How can I possibly pray “Anything, LORD?”  Those kind of words have always filled me with fear.  What might God do with me?  Where might He send me?  What if I don’t want to do that?  But how can I disobey my God?

We live life chasing things of the world trying to fill those empty places inside of us.  For a moment, that new home, the nice car, the cute dress, the different job seems to make us feel better, happier, more content…for.a.moment.  Then we revert back to feeling the same way…discontent, unhappy, sad, yet still looking for what might satisfy us.  On page 46, Jennie says, “So the concrete things we can see and touch, they become the wind, they become the things we try to catch, and over and over, they pass through our fingers and souls, keeping us empty.  But when I take my empty self to God, he feels familiar and stable and more like concrete than wind.”        

Turning to God in our quiet moments, we begin to hear Him, to hear from Him.  We hear what plans He has for us.  But it is not just about listening.  It is about letting pieces of the self-pie go and surrendering that self to God.  He wants an undivided child to work through in order to touch others in this world.  God wants us to seek Him first and foremost.  He wants all of us.  The prayer, “God we will do anything.  Anything” is an incredibly difficult prayer to pray.  Yet if we truly want to walk with Him and be His servant in this world, praying “Anything” is just what each one of us needs to do.  

Jennie Allen’s book will turn your mind over, make your heart beat faster, and will give you plenty to ponder.  For such a young woman, she is beautifully wise and compassionate.  Her book is well worth reading, but not just to read from page to page.  There is meat here…meat to chew upon, to digest, to be absorbed into our bloodstreams in order for those nutrients of the Christlife to be absorbed into our spiritual bodies to grow as Christians.  God is not a God to be feared (I am still learning).  He is compassionate and just and loving.  He knows His plans for us.  He just wants to take us there, but he cannot until we release, surrender, abandon this person that we are in this world.  Only then can He use us for His glory.  Praying “Anything” is a mighty prayer, a courageous prayer, a serious Christian prayer.  May we each find the stability, the comfort, and the power of God.

2013 New Author of the Year Christian Book Award

Jennie Allen
is a young woman, is passionate, and is inspirational.  Jennie Allen states on her website: My passion is to inspire a new generation of women to encounter the invisible God. I love words and I believe God uses them to heal souls and to reveal Himself to people.  She received her Master’s in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.  She is the author of two Bible studies, Stuck and Chase.  She was named by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) “New Author of the Year” winner of Anything and Restless, which also includes a DVD-based study.  She is the founder of IF: Gathering,   Jennie and her husband Zac, have four children.   You can find more about Jennie @

Book Information

  • ISBN-13: 9780849947056
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/3/2012
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Originally reviewed for first book blog in June, 2014.

Posted in Adult Nonfiction, Book, Book Review, Christianity, Reading


2979095“Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas” is the subtitle of Ann Voskamp’s Advent devotional.

As we wait with expectation for Christmas Day, Ann Voskamp takes us on a genealogical journey from Adam to Jesus Christ through daily devotionals for the first twenty-five days of December.  Each day has a reading based upon Scripture from the Bible, a brief section called “Unwrapping More of His Love in the World” where she gives us something to do in our own world…something that would bless another or give us room to ponder more of Him.  A quote from a Christian, a current author to a Puritan follows. Each day is completed with “A Moment for Reflection” where she asks three questions with lines for our answers.As we journey through this lineage, we are reminded of the promise of Christ.  We look forward and upward with each day’s reading and time to ponder.

“The Jesse Tree” ~ tracing the family line and heritage of the family of God is also a way for the family to read this together, making a Jesse Tree with the lovely, delicate ornaments seen throughout the book.  Ann has made them for downloading at her website,, using the code Jesse.  She explains the Jesse Tree in detail in the beginning of this book.

Ann Voskamp is the Bestselling Author of One Thousand Gifts – A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  She is also a writer for DaySpring, a contributing editor to Laity Lodge’s The High Calling, and an advocate for Compassion International. With an educational background in psychology and education from York University and the University of Waterloo, Ann lives with her farmer husband in the Mennonite countryside of southwestern Ontario, Canada, raising and homeschooling a half dozen kids.  She writes daily at her website, A Holy Experience.  You can read more about Ann @ Tyndale House Publishers –

Book Information:

  • ISBN-13: 9781414387086
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/30/2013
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Originally read and reviewed December, 2013.