Choosing to SEE (Mary Beth Chapman)

Thanks to a hot Kindle sale, I was able to read this narrative biographical journey of Mary Beth and the Chapman family throughout their rather tumultuous life experiences. In the book, she tells of her early life together with Christian singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman. She also tells of their family's growth through birth and through adoption. She writes very candidly about the sad accident which caused the death of little Maria, one of their daughters. This is a book that resonates with every mother, and unlike many of the popular "celebrity" books written today, Mrs. Mary Beth is as real as it gets. I'm thankful for her courage in writing this book.

Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret (Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor)

What do you believe in? 

I'm not talking Mac over PC, or Percy Jackson over Harry Potter, or even Nutella over peanut butter. (Though of course, the correct choices are in fact Mac, Harry, and Nutella.)

No, but really...what do you really believe in? What do you believe in so strongly that you would give up your money, your home...even your family?

Hudson Taylor's single focused passion, which fueled his efforts as a pioneer missionary to China in the 1800's, was his salvation in Jesus Christ.  

Hudson Taylor lived a life of sacrifice just to have the opportunity to travel to China and work with the people there, and during his years serving the Chinese he experienced death, destruction, violence, and resistance from the government. He lost children and even his wife. He lost his health. At one point, he even lost his mobility. But, champion of faith that he was, Hudson Taylor never wavered from his calling to serve the people of inland China through medical and evangelical missions. He was known as an oddball because he was the first to dress in traditional Chinese attire and to shave his head (leaving the long braided ponytail) in the customary manner of the people he was serving. But eventually others realized that his strategy was working, as it earned him favor and understanding with the Chinese. 

His biography, written in 1932 by his son and daughter-in-law, alternates betwixt excerpts from Hudson's personal letters and journal to narrative descriptions of the events he and his family faced during their years in China. The book emphasizes the strength of his faith, and explains throughout that his "spiritual secret" was a joyful and willing submission of trust to God's plan for his life and for the people of China. 

I found this book oddly sluggish at times yet compelling at others. Ultimately, I was utterly fascinated by Hudson Taylor, but I found this particular telling of his life and work substandard. His legacy deserves a better, more clarified biography than this particular book offers.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot)

Ever heard of something called HeLa cells? Yeah, umm, me either...not until a few months ago, anyway.

HeLa is a building block of cell science and a cornerstone of modern medical research. Among numerous other very interesting uses, HeLa cells were used in the first space missions to test the effects of space on human cells, they were used in nuclear experiments, and they were (and still are) used to develop important vaccines, chemotherapies, and radiation treatments that have and continue to save millions of human lives. HeLa is widely known in the medical science community as one of the most important tools in the development of modern medicine. The purchase and sale of HeLa cells for the purpose of medical research over time likely numbers somewhere in the billions.

This book goes into painstaking detail about the relevance of HeLa cells in the existence of mankind, but its primary purpose is to shed some light on how HeLa came to be...which went a little something like this:

Once upon a time there was a woman, a wife and mother to several children. She suffered several medical ailments on and off in her life, but one day she became very ill and was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The doctor treated her with radiation, but the cancer spread and in her very early thirties this young woman died. After her death, cells were removed from her body and used in an experiment of cell division. Unlike any other cell in that experiment, this woman's cells kept dividing. And kept dividing. And kept dividing. And even unto this very day, they are still continuing to divide. Because of this unique type of cell division and multiplication, the woman's cells were extremely valuable for a multitude of research purposes. The woman's name was Henrietta Lacks. Likely because it was the 1950's and even more likely because Henrietta Lacks was a black woman, her family was never informed of the cultivation of her cells for research and certainly not informed of their value. Today, Henrietta's family is trapped between an expired statute of limitations on the several infringements committed toward them and an understandable inability to trust anyone in the legal or medical communities after a lifetime of  betrayals they have experienced. They have lived 60 years of intense frustration, and no one in the Lacks family has lived happily ever after. 

What a sad, sad story. Henrietta Lacks left a legacy that has transformed medical science, yet her own children stated at one point that they were so poor that they couldn't even afford health insurance.

Somehow the author of this book won the trust of the Lacks family and was therefore able to put together this very comprehensive tale of Henrietta's life and background, her medical treatments, and the process of the discovery and subsequent uses of HeLa cells. It is incredibly thorough and in the author's own words was extensively fact-checked.

The thoughts that continued to run through my mind while trudging through the bits of cellular science history were that the real untold story here is that this family has been exploited in ways unimaginable. Their disadvantages due to poverty and race (at that time) made them easy prey for the people who they should have been able to trust: the doctors. What has been done to the Lacks family is positively inexcusable, and why no reparations have been made to Henrietta's descendants is beyond me.

In addition to her cells' contributions to science, the controversy surrounding Henrietta's family's experience has led to a revolution in the way patients are required to be informed and to give consent for their treatments or for bits removed from their bodies. What you and I take for granted in that stack of release, privacy, and consent forms we fill out at the doc's office or for pre-operative processing, Henrietta was never given the opportunity to consider. You can thank Henrietta Lacks for her seemingly ceaseless contributions to science, but you can also thank her for your right today as a patient to be informed and to give consent to procedures that involve your body and what is removed from it. And we can all thank Rebecca Skloot for telling Henrietta's story.

*The author used a portion of her earnings from sale of her book to establish the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, which is a foundation that provides scholarships and grants for descendants of Henrietta Lacks as well as descendants of other research subjects (ex: the Tuskegee experiments). Learn more about that here:

For more about the author and Henrietta's story, go to

Kindle convert-3rd edition

Read about why a book-lover would even care about a Kindle here and here.

One of the more intriguing aspects of my Kindle is that I can post quotes from books I'm reading to Facebook and Twitter. I enjoy social media, and what better way to share interesting thoughts from a book you are working on than a tweet or FB status? It's a way of sharing interesting thoughts, and sparking discussions. I like how people comment or reply with their own take on the book, which sometimes is quite different from my own. And I really like how sometimes people will suggest other books I might like based on a quote or note or thought I share through the Kindle on these social networking tools. I like being part of a community of thinkers, and it has surprised me how my Kindle has contributed to that.

I held back for a while because I feared the fragility of the device, but I finally got brave enough to tote my Kindle to the gym. I was totally surprised by how much I thoroughly love it! Reading on a treadmill is...tricky, to say the least. It still requires some effort at concentration, but what I love about the Kindle is that you don't have pages flopping over or have to be worried about losing your place. You hit the "next page" button mid-stride, and it waits for you to consume it. It's sweet like that. :)

An ed-tech blogger recently posted this about the "eBook Revolution" in schools.
I also caught this link on Twitter about the Kindle Revolution.
Great stuff!

Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father (Dan Cruver, John Piper, Jason Kovacs, Scotty Smith, & Richard Phillips)

Having recently experienced international adoption and having my eyes opened in such radical ways, I've also become sensitive to the adoption community. My family has attended adoption conferences and seminars, and have been able to learn from some incredible thinkers in the adoption world. The authors of this book are among them.

My husband and I felt called to adopt an orphan, and it was during the long and arduous process that we learned levels of Ephesians 1 that we had never contemplated before. How very interesting it is that while the most significant encounter of our lives is becoming adopted into the family of God, (and for Christians is the primary motive for adopting), it is nearly insurmountable that we truly and fully understand the depth of our adoption by God until we have experienced the adoption of our own child.

"One of my dreams is that when Christians hear the word adoption, they will think first about their adoption by God." (author Dan Cruver, first chapter, first sentence). Dan, along with several other authors, sets out to encourage just that in their newly released book Reclaiming Adoption. Within each chapter, John Piper, Dan Cruver, Jason Kovacs, Scotty Smith, and Richard Phillips each take turns delving into separate and unique characteristics of our vertical adoption as God's children, along with application in the horizontal adoption of our own children here on Earth.

The voice of each writer is evident, as is their careful choreography of collective authorship. I found their words encouraging as an adoptive mother and as a believer striving to grow in my relationship with God.  I also found myself quite pleasantly surprised and challenged by their fresh ideas in our meditations as believers of being adopted as heirs with Christ, as well as some cutting edge thoughts and philosophies in regard to orphan care within the church.

Thanks to my Kindle, I can easily navigate back to my list of notes, marks, and highlights from this book. It is truly the mark of a great work when, out of its 100 or so pages, I have 50 of these notations to review.

For more information about the authors, the book, or the T4A network, visit: