Unashamed

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Unashamed is the powerful testimony about God’s transforming work in the life of Christian artist Lecrae Moore. Lecrae writes about growing up without a father, his mistakes, and his transformation into the artist he is today.

Unashamed by Lecrae Moore
Unashamed by Lecrae Moore

Lecrae was abandoned by his father, who he never met. His mother worked hard to provide for him. Because of the emptiness left by not having a father figure in his life, Lecrae looked up to rap artists and uncles who were not always good influences on him. After being molested by a babysitter, he gained a distorted view of sexuality. He used drugs and women. However, he earned a full scholarship to college for theater and continued his lifestyle on campus. It was there that he had to opportunity to go to a conference where he accepted Jesus as his savior.

“I’ve had to learn that my natural responses aren’t normal, that the only way to live a future that’s better than my past is to cling to God in the present.”

Lecrae Moore

Unfortunately, in his zeal he also became legalistic in his approach to his relationship with God. He believed he could do enough good to wipe away all of the wrong things he had done. When he started to slip, he gave up. He began a sexual relationship with a woman who got pregnant with his child. Not wanting to be a father, he told her to get an abortion. Not long after that, they separated and he continued his lifestyle. After checking into rehab, he realized his need for God’s grace. He moved in with a Christian friend and turned his life around completely. It was then that his career as a Christian artist began to take off.

Lecrae’s abandonment by his father severely impacted his life.

Lecrae hungered so much for a male role model that he clung to any male who invested in his life. Even the rap artists he listened to became role models to fill the void his father had left. The emptiness he felt left him eager to prove himself to everyone.

Even after becoming a Christian, the scars from being fatherless still remained. While they were not being filled with drugs and women, the hunger for approval was still there. The lack of a father in his life impacted the way he saw God as a Heavenly Father.

“Because I felt like my dad valued drugs more than having me as a son, I’ve constantly wrestled with my self-worth and craved the approval of others.”

Lecrae Moore

Although I was not abandoned by my father, my complicated relationship with my father has also left its scars on my life. It has left me starved for male role models. I often crave words of affirmation from the older men in my life, especially those I have labeled as role models. Words of criticism can be taken as outright attacks. However, I have been able to work through some of these issues because I am aware of them. As I read Lecrae’s story, I connected with his emotions. I found his honesty about the journey to be healing.

Lecrae has learned to become “okay” with the tension his music creates.

Lecrae’s testimony and his outspokenness about being a Christian have led to him being labeled a “Christian artist.” While a lot of his music does talk about things related to Christianity, he has started taking a direction away from being overtly Christian in his music in order to reach more people. His conviction is that in order to reach people, he needs to be an artist who is a Christian instead of a Christian artist. He wants to write music that will speak to the boy he was growing up so that he can allow doors to be opened to conversations about faith.

“Being an outspoken Christian in the music industry means always feeling out of place. It’s like whatever you have accomplished is less credible because of your faith. You’re in the circle, but you’re not really in the circle. You fit in, but you don’t really fit in.”

Lecrae Moore

While Lecrae is never going to fit in with the non-Christian crowd, he’s also been shunned by some segments of the Christian crowd as well. When he began to shift his focus in his music to follow his convictions, he did not communicate with his fans what his intentions were. Some fans accused him of chasing money. Others claimed he wasn’t a Christian anymore. And although the path he believes God has put him on has left him in a place of tension, he is staying there.

Quick Review:

Unashamed is a powerful and emotional memoir. It is an absolute must-read for fans of Lecrae. Even for those who are not his fans, I highly recommend it because of the powerful testimony that he writes in this book’s pages. This book contains mature content like sexual abuse, drugs, and abortion. However, Lecrae handles his past mistakes and his background in a tactful away. His book gives readers a raw, yet redeemed look inside what life looks like for a young black man in America. Overall, this may be one of the best books I have read in a long time.

I Will Find You

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I Will Find You is a compelling and well-written memoir about a journalist’s journey to find out what brought her and her rapist together on the day of her attack. Joanna Connors writes her heartbreaking tale about how her rape changed the way she lived for over twenty years.

I Will Find You by Joanna Connors
I Will Find You by Joanna Connors

Joanna was thirty years old when she was raped by David Francis at a University theater where she had gone to get a story as part of her job as a journalist. It was by catching a glimpse of his tattoo that she was able to give a compelling description to police. They were able to catch him a day later returning to the scene of the crime. He was convicted and sentenced to thirty to seventy years in prison. But even with her rapist behind bars, Joanna went on to live in fear. A year after the rape, she had her first child with her husband. Unintentionally, she hovered over her two children excessively, afraid that they may fall into harm’s way.

After a college campus visit with her daughter, Joanna realized that she needed to put her fear to rest. She would find David Francis and find out what made him into a rapist. Although he told her that he would find her (a thought that once filled her with dread), she was now determined to find him. She gathered the court documents from her trial. Among them, she found his records and found out he had died several years prior. Although she was relieved that she would not have to face him, she also knew that she would not have all of her answers. Joanna found out that David and his siblings had been abused terribly by his father. This abuse, along with an older man willing to mentor David in crime, may have been contributing factors in David’s outcome.

Joanna powerfully reflects on the journey many survivors go through.

I found myself echoing so many of Joanna’s thoughts and words throughout her story. Although our stories are very different, the emotional toll it took is similar. Joanna is one of the rare cases of a rape committed by a stranger, while my abuse was carried out over a period of nine months by someone I knew. Yet there were several times that her reflected thoughts could have easily been my own.

Joanna reflected throughout the book about her guilt over the rape. She wrote that she blamed herself, even though she would have never blamed someone else in her shoes. Her guilt intensified when the attorney prosecuting her case asked her why she went into the empty building. When I opened up about my abuse, an adult I trusted said, “I thought you were smarter than that.” When they said these things, it only confirmed what we were already thinking: “This is my fault.”

“It was not your fault, even if you were drunk, even if you were wearing a low-cut minidress, even if you were out walking along at night, even if you were on a date with the rapist and kind of liked him but didn’t want to have sex with him.”

Joanna Connors

Joanna also reflected on the fearfulness she felt after her rape. Because of this, she developed a fear of everything around her, to the point that she could not function like she did before. While years of counseling have made that fearfulness less constant in my life, there are still times when I feel afraid for reasons I cannot explain. Men I do not know sometimes make me wary. I startle easily. I’m fortunate that the fear lessens over time, but when it is there, it is very apparent.

Joanna wanted to find out what made her rapist the way he was.

Instead of writing David Francis off as a “bad man,” Joanna wanted to find out what made him the way he was. On her journey, she found out about the abuse he endured at the hands of his father. She found his two sisters, both of which had also been rape victims themselves. Joanna found that in his vulnerability, David was mentored by an older criminal and jailed as a juvenile. In jail, it is possible that he himself was sexually abused.

While not all people who are abused become abusers themselves, those who commit these crimes have often been hurt terribly by other people. Although it is merely anecdotal evidence, the young man who abused me had been abused terribly as a child. I believe that the abuse he endured could easily have been the reason for his actions against me.

Quick Review:

I Will Find You is a very powerful book. It is very emotional. It also has mature content. Joanna Connors spends a chapter going into detail describing her rape, so I would not recommend this book for younger audiences, sensitive audiences, or for recent survivors of sexual assault. Additionally, there was some language throughout the book. It was a very good look at one woman’s journey to find answers about what made her rapist into the man he was. As a survivor myself, I enjoyed the rawness of her reflections of what it looks like to cope with a sexual assault.

A Daughter’s Deadly Deception

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After her father discovered her habitual lying, Jennifer Pan orchestrated the murders of her father and mother in a home invasion. What she didn’t expect was for her father to survive the attack and bear witness to the fact that she seemed to know their attackers. Jeremy Grimaldi writes about Jennifer Pan’s lies, murder plot, and undoing in A Daughter’s Deadly Deception.

A Daughter's Deadly Deception by Jeremy Grimaldi
A Daughter's Deadly Deception by Jeremy Grimaldi

The product of a Vietnamese immigrant family, Jennifer Pan was pushed to excel at everything she put her hand to. After school she was expected to participate in extracurricular activities that would allow her to expand her skill set. She was gifted at piano and enjoyed ice skating. After not winning any recognition for her achievements at her eighth grade graduation, Jennifer was crushed. Failing to see the point in trying as hard as she had before, she let her grades slip in ninth grade. Rather than facing her parents with the truth, she began forging her report cards.

What started as forged report cards eventually turned into a forged college career. Dedicated to keeping up the lie that she was attending school, she went to the library every school day to research and write down notes in case her father asked to look at them. During these college years, she convinced her parents to let her live with a friend closer to campus so that she did not have to commute. Instead of staying with her friend, though, she used these nights off to work at a pizza parlor and stay with her boyfriend, Daniel. She used this freedom to build up her relationship with him. Then she spent the weekends with her parents, pretending she had been at school all week. Eventually, her father discovered her falsehoods and forced her to break off her relationship with Daniel and move home until she finished her education.

Jennifer Pan took lying to an extreme.

At an age when some students might be thinking about forging a signature, she was forging entire report cards. The effort she put into keeping up the lie that she was getting her education may have been more work than it would have been for her to go back to school. However, she instead chose to continue to lie and cover up her earlier failures. Her behavior during interrogation suggests that she may have even believed some of her own lies.

Jennifer’s desire to be with Daniel likely contributed to the murder of her parents.

When Jennifer’s father had her break off the relationship with Daniel, Daniel moved on. Heartbroken by his betrayal, it is suspected that she began sending anonymous texts to his phone. These texts threatened Jennifer’s safety, effectively manipulating Daniel into spending more time talking to Jennifer. However, even these texts did not garner the attention she desired from him.

Jennifer and Daniel had an extended phone conversation before any of the planning of the murder began. After that, Jennifer began texting him constantly. Eventually he agreed to help her plan the murder of her parents, something that would inevitably tie them together. In the weeks between that phone call and the murder, all of the texts between Jennifer, Daniel, and the other conspirators show plenty of evidence of their planning. Some of Jennifer’s final texts in the days leading up to the murder of her parents hint at the fact that she is greatly concerned over whether Daniel will choose her or his new girlfriend when her parents are out of the picture.

I was most moved by the victim impact statements.

It is hard to find places to relate in books like these. I absolutely love true crime books because of how interesting they are. But I find it difficult to find areas where I feel emotionally connected to the people I am reading about. I often feel sad for the families of those who were murdered. But in reality, true crime books often focus on the murderer. They speculate about reasons why the murder occurred. That makes it difficult for me to connect emotionally with the majority of the book when the majority of the book is analyzing the mind of a killer. I mean, I’ve never murdered anyone. So what is there to relate to?

While I didn’t relate to them, I was deeply moved by the victim impact statements from Jennifer’s father and brother. Four years after the murder of Jennifer’s mother, her father is still in constant pain. He cannot work or enjoy hobbies he once did. His house cannot be sold because the Vietnamese community is superstitious about buying a house where someone has been killed. Her brother had difficulty finding work because whenever a potential employer Googled his name, details of the crime were the first results. He also struggled with how to relate to friends in the midst of his grief. Seeing the varied and severe ways that this crime impacted them was eye-opening and emotional for me. They did not only lose a mother to death and a sister to prison, but their lives were altered in ways I cannot even begin to imagine.

Quick Review:

Although I enjoyed this book, the writing was mediocre. It was an interesting story, and I feel the author did an adequate job of tackling the complexities of the case. Unfortunately, some of the writing was unclear. In some areas where brackets were used to change quotes to add clarity, they were unnecessary or used ineffectively. Overall, though, I would still recommend this book. It gives an interesting look at how extreme pressure without parental affection may have caused one woman to murder.

 

What did you find most fascinating about Jennifer Pan’s case?

On Living

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After my friend Darbi sent me this article on Kerry Egan, the author of On Living, I quickly added the book to my “need to read” list. Because of my calling and desire to train to become a hospice chaplain, the insight from another female hospice chaplain was one that I could not pass up.

On Living by Kerry Egan
On Living by Kerry Egan

In On Living, Egan reflects on the patients she has cared for and her personal growth during her years as a hospice chaplain. Some of her stories are terribly heartbreaking. One young man was so crippled and unable to speak that Egan could not bring herself to visit a second time and was haunted by her failure to return like she had promised him she would. Another man dying of cancer held onto hope he would receive a transplant that would never happen.

Despite the heartbreak she experiences at work, most of her work is enjoyable or mundane. Because of the perception that working with “the dying” is morbid, friends are reluctant to hear her stories from work. However, she often has funny stories that are appropriate to share, even at parties. She once received criticism from an acquaintance about the validity of chaplaincy being an actual job after she explained what she had done that day. In reality, many days are mundane: talking to patients about family and being present with them. Despite how others may feel about her job, chaplaincy is an important part of end of life care.

Kerry Egan’s beliefs were very different than my own.

Despite finding this book enjoyable, I found several areas of disagreement. The biggest were her beliefs on salvation. Egan is a Christian chaplain, yet she criticizes the belief that you must be “saved” in order to have a relationship with God. While it did not appear to be her intention, she does seem to poke fun at Christians talking about the day they were saved. She said that when she wants some of the Evangelical patients to have a better day, she asks them to tell her about the day they got saved. She said it is always interesting to listen to, even if she doesn’t agree with it. When another patient said she was the reincarnation of Joan of Ark, Egan wrote that she could not say for sure reincarnation was not real. It left me with a lot of questions about what exactly she believes.

The other major area I felt Egan and I differed was in our beliefs on angels and demons. She had one patient who claimed to be possessed by a demon. Egan wrote that she sympathetically listened to the patient. She then provided spiritual resources for her, despite the fact she knew demons weren’t real. After the patient had her exorcism, Egan believed in demons, but her unbelief in them beforehand was strange to me. Later, when a patient told her that every person was assigned a guardian angel at birth, Egan pretty much wrote, “Yeah, that seems possible.” While I think it’s possible she started to realize that those nearing death might know things she did not, I found her sudden belief strange.

Despite theological differences, I found many positives in On Living.

She wrote about the gray area that all chaplains have to live in. I was able to get a feel for the balance that a chaplain has to have in order to do the job. Although I have thought about it on occasion, reading about her experiences and some of the services she has provided for patients with beliefs different from her own has really allowed me to think about what I believe and how I will balance those beliefs while serving those within my care. Chaplains live in a gray area, and that’s okay.

Another major positive that I found was that she shared her regrets with readers. The story of the man so crippled from an accident that she did not want to be near him was horrifying. Yet it made me think about times that the pain of others has made me uncomfortable. Just as she did, I learned the importance of being present with others in the worst of pain. I do not want to regret leaving someone in the throes of pain.

Quick Review:

This book is not what I was expecting it to be. I was hoping for someone more theologically similar to me. Despite our differences, though, Kerry Egan’s On Living is a very touching look into the life of a hospice chaplain. A few uses of profanity aside, she writes excellently about life among those who are dying. The stories within its pages will make you laugh and cry. Kerry Egan’s On Living is a good book about a unique job.

Misdiagnosed

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Jody Berger shares her emotional story of being misdiagnosed with MS in her book Misdiagnosed. She writes about the doctor who moved too quickly to diagnose her, the treatments that seemed to do more harm than good, and her search to find the real cause of her health problems.

Misdiagnosed by Jody Berger
Misdiagnosed by Jody Berger

When Jody Berger received an MRI in an attempt to find out what was causing the tingling in her hands and feet, she did not expect the doctor to come back with a diagnosis of MS. When she began to ask him questions about how he came to the conclusion he did, he told her that it is the diagnosis he gives most women like her: young, athletic, and female. Unsatisfied with a diagnosis based on a short appointment and spinal tumors that could have several causes, she questioned the diagnosis. The diagnosing doctor insisted she start medication right away to prevent permanent damage. Not wanting to make things worse, she began medication that ended up exasperating her symptoms. After a short period of time, she stopped them and began looking for a second opinion.

“I was starting to believe that we all see only what we are looking for.”

Jody Berger

Jody visited about half a dozen doctors and received just as many diagnoses. One thought that she was deficient in certain vitamins. Another thought she had a heavy metal toxicity and started her on a treatment to clear that out. After the treatment made her feel worse, she realized that could not be the answer, either, and continued her search. Finally she found a doctor who worked with her to look at her entire health history to find the root of her health problems. Throughout her childhood she had intestinal distress with unknown causes. As an adult, she had different problems with her stomach. She did not know these issues could be related to the tingling in her hands. After completing an elimination diet, she and her doctor found that she had an extreme sensitivity to gluten. When she eliminated it from her diet, her body returned to normal.

I found myself relating to Jody’s misadventures in healthcare.

While I have not received a misdiagnosis as shocking as MS, I was able to understand some of the suffering that comes with being misunderstood and mistreated by doctors. While they are mostly well-meaning, sometimes they are unable to take the time they need to get to the root of what is wrong with a patient. Other times they are looking at things through a certain lens, biasing their view of their patient and their condition.

Two years ago I began to have terrible pain in my right leg. In addition to the pain, I had swelling and redness. It got to a point where my husband and I went to the hospital. I received tests to rule out blood clots because a medication I am on puts me at increased risk. Although the tests did not show any blood clots, the doctor told me that it was venous thrombosis (which is a blood clot!). He put me on medication to thin my blood and sent me on my way, telling me that if anything changed I should come back to the ER.

When the pain increased and the redness got worse, I went back to the ER. The second doctor who saw me was confused at my worry and the first doctor’s diagnosis, and said that my leg must have some sort of injury or nerve damage. The redness was caused by a skin infection, but the pain and the redness were unrelated.

I ended up seeing a super weird doctor next.

I was referred to my family doctor, who tested me for diabetes and sent me to an acupuncturist to get a nerve conduction study. While the doctor there was putting needles into my legs, he asked me questions. He asked if I had any other conditions. I mentioned that I get migraines, and his entire attitude toward me changed. “I’ve noticed migraine sufferers have a low tolerance toward pain,” he said. Our entire conversation was then colored by his view of what “migraine sufferers” were like. He would comment about how strange it was that my legs were so cold. Whatever his comments, he tied them back to my being a “migraine sufferer.”

Finally, when he asked if I had any trauma in my past, I mentioned that I had been abused by a boyfriend. I wasn’t sure how it was relevant, but why not answer the questions? The test wrapped up and I put my clothes back on. He said the test did not show anything abnormal, but it was his opinion that my leg wasn’t injured. It was my unforgiving spirit that was keeping me in pain. Until I could forgive people, I would be in pain. I guess that’s a medical diagnosis now.

“Throughout my journey, I’d come to realize how many people get locked into misdiagnoses and then have to suffer the consequences.”

Jody Berger

I am not sure what he sent my family doctor, but I still don’t have answers. After a family member got diagnosed with sciatic nerve issues, I began to see the similarities between our problems. Since then, I’ve looked up sleeping positions and stretches to help and the pain has lessened. Still, it has been a very strange adventure.

Quick Review:

This is a bizarre adventure worth taking if you are interested in the world of modern medicine. While some of Jody Berger’s views are not ones that I hold, I believe that her search for answers in the face of a dark diagnosis can be an inspiration to others. Her writing style is excellent, likely because of her journalism experience. She brings to life the emotions and frustrations of her fight against an unfair diagnosis.

 

Do you have a misdiagnosis story? Share in the comments below!

Freedom

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For the first three-fourths of this book, I was dreading the moment that I would sit at my computer to write this blog post. While I absolutely loved Jaycee Dugard’s first book, I found it incredibly difficult to get through most of this book. Fortunately, the last quarter of the book made the rest of the book worth it.

Freedom by Jaycee Dugard
Freedom by Jaycee Dugard

Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped and held prisoner for eighteen years by Phillip and Nancy Garrido. During that time she gave birth to Phillip’s two children, and lived in the back yard. I was living in Placerville when she was recovered from his home and reunited with her family in nearby South Lake Tahoe. Not long after, the trial of Phillip and Nancy Garrido would dominate local headlines as it unfolded. Her first book, A Stolen Life, details her kidnapping and captivity, as well as her reuniting with her family. This book details the years since, with many of Jaycee’s adventures and dreams.

“I have hope that life does not end when you are kidnapped or raped or abused. I believe life goes on and all that you can endure can be channeled into positive things for others to learn and grow from.”

Jaycee Dugard

Jaycee’s writing style left a lot to be desired, making it a difficult book to read.

Because I want to end on a positive note, I am going to start with why I struggled so much to get through so much of the book. There were two reasons, both of them having to do with the style of Jaycee’s writing:

The first, and perhaps most major reason, was that the book did not seem to be in chronological order. Each chapter had a topic, exploring something that Jaycee was experiencing for the first time. Within that chapter, though, she might get off on tangents or stories related to that topic, losing the chronological order entirely. Some chapters seemed as if they had been rearranged entirely. For example, one chapter talks about her mom getting her ordination renewed when a later chapter explains that her mom was able to get online ordination to do a marriage ceremony for a friend. I suspect that the chapters were likely in a different order that made more sense chronologically at another point. In the editing process, things like this were not caught after the chapters were rearranged.

The second reason I struggled to get through this book was because of the style in which it was written. It had frequent chat-speak acronyms sprinkled throughout it, as well as frequent sentence fragments. While I am never too bothered by the occasional sentence fragment because of the conversational feel it gives, the extreme number of them bothered me. Chat-speak, except perhaps in the context of explaining the content of an email, text, or conversation, really bothers me. I realize that is a pet peeve that might only apply to a select few, but it is worth mentioning.

Jaycee’s story is one of overcoming great things and living life to the fullest despite them.

That’s enough of the negative stuff! Order and style aside, I enjoyed a lot of things about this book. I loved Jaycee’s positivity and desire to impact the world around her. After initially making sure that her children would not be negatively impacted by media surrounding her case, she began going out in public without fear. She even began to travel to universities to speak about her case. Though she has reason to fear, she chooses not to.

“So there’s not any easy answer of why I’m okay. I want to be okay and I think that helps a lot.”

Jaycee Dugard

Jaycee is a fantastic advocate for getting proper counseling after trauma. While her trauma is in a different league than that of many people, I believe that her book is a strong testament to the value of getting good help. She travels with one or two therapists when she goes anywhere. She has a primary therapist that she goes most places with, and a secondary one who is doing research with her. Both of them have aided her in her recovery, and because of her investment in herself, she has gotten to the place she is today. Others who go through trauma (big or small) can learn from her example in getting the proper care.

“New moments and finding the joy in them is what makes me stronger every day, and a little help from family and friends never hurts, too.”

Jaycee Dugard

This book was in high contrast to her first book. While her first book was very heavy because of the content, this book is mostly light. She writes about her best friend’s wedding, her sister’s wedding, trips to Ireland, South America, and the Grand Canyon. She details the embarrassment of her first speeding ticket. Throughout the pages, despite the horrors she endured, Jaycee convinces me that she is like the rest of us, human.