Book review · Uncategorized

Review of “Nothing Wasted” by Kasey Van Norman

You may have seen these quotes floating around on the Internet:

“Your past doesn’t define you,”

“Your past doesn’t define your future.”

The positive message conveyed, at least to me, is that who I was in the past doesn’t have the final say in who I am becoming. I’m to forget the past and stop dwelling on it or living in it. The past is seen in the negative here.

But in “Nothing Wasted: God Uses The Stuff You Wouldn’t,” Kasey Van Norman wrote about how the past defines us. She shared the painful events from her past that God used to make her into the person He predestined her to become. Her past became the “raw material.”

The book plunged me headfirst into the deep end of Kasey’s past, starting at the end of an affair between her and her best friend’s husband, Ty. She remembered the click and dial tone when they hung up the phone. Later, she used this same ending, a click and dial tone for another terrifying and yet pivotal moments in her journey. Both showed how God’s hand was guiding still, even in the worst moments and darkest times in her life.

Kasey provided the backstory then about how she and husband Justin first met Rachel and Ty in their young newlyweds’ church group. They became close friends and had their children around the same time. They became spiritual “rock stars” in their church and were called upon to serve in leadership roles. Her husband and Ty were also leaders in their work life and community in East Texas. Satan prowled around them “like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The affair last three years. Rachel had seen the texts between them, and the truth was out. Kasey’s husband Justin forgave her, and together they walked through a deep valley.

Despite repenting and coming clean, Kasey faced isolation and abandonment from some of her church family. Justin and their children were shunned as well. People acted like they were tainted somehow, like their “stank” would come off on them. The church leaders seemed more interested in how they could allow the two couples to stay a part of the congregation. They were worried about appearances and were thinking about where their “dream team” would go from here without thinking about what they should do to help them. I guess they thought all was lost. It wasn’t lost on me that her church must have had people leading them who didn’t understand about repentance, forgiveness, God’s mercy and grace.

On top of that, people sent her letters and emails telling her how far she’d fallen in their eyes. They dropped her as a friend. They continued to hold the perceived stench of her sin up to her. And I grew more and more angry as I read, but then worried about their hearts. I know from experience what happens when you judge others. Remember the roaring lion? He’s still on the prowl. How about the fingers pointing at you when you point your finger at someone else’s sin? No one is immune. Kasey said that even now some think the person who sinned should never have success or fellowship again. Thank goodness, that’s the opposite of what God wants from us when we come to him in repentance.

Kasey’s broken road was difficult to read at times. She lived through her parents’ divorce, the trauma of her father’s alcoholic rages, and an angelic intervention when she considered suicide. She was sexually assault and raped, first as a young girl and later in college. I was so angry at those who committed these acts against her I wanted them to pay. I told Denise, who is heading up this study in my small group, how mad I was. She told me to keep reading. She read this book in two days; it’s that gripping. Kasey wrote her story so well that I would finish a chapter and think, “What happened next?” I gave my husband an update too usually after reading multiple chapters, so he was hooked as well.

This is the second book I’ve read and studied in our small group where I thought: “As a writer, I don’t know if I’ve ever truly unveiled all my past for the world to see.” These inspirational writers share secrets knowing how people have the tendency to be cruel and to condemn others for things they think they would never do. But I’m drawn to these writers. They speak into my own life, and I’ve learned so much from them. The greater the pain in a person’s life, the greater the failure or fall, the greater God’s grace, His mercy and love are on display in that person’s life.

“God is using the best and worst parts of us to make us whole,” Kasey said. “He doesn’t just want our lives to be happy, peaceful, or blessed. It’s better than that. He wants our lives to be full — mind, body, and soul all working together to choose His love more often, and faster than we did the first time around” (63).

My group has been following along in the “Nothing Wasted” study guide (I highly recommend it for the many amazing insights. Just don’t beat yourself up if you can’t answer all the questions like I did. lol) Kasey is an excellent Bible teacher. She has us digging into God’s word to show what she learned as she explored the “whys” of her past. And, yes, when you get to the end you will see how nothing was wasted from Kasey’s past. I now have great hope for what He’s been doing with my story.

While reading this book, I came upon the song, “Chase Me Down” by Chris Tomlin: The lyrics seemed to echo the message of Kasey’s story.

Some days I take it too far
Sometimes the world gets the best of my heart
I know who I am (I know who I am)
‘Til I forget just who I am.

When I find myself again
Standing knee-deep in my sin

You chase me down
When I don’t deserve it
You show me love, You don’t make me earn it
I make a mess, and I just start running
Hoping that You won’t know
Oh, when I’m lost
And I’m low in a place that I think You won’t go
You chase me down
You chase me down

No matter how great the failure or fall, God loves us. He didn’t come here to condemn us, but to save us (John 3:16-19). I highlighted the end of her book; it’s perfect for the season we’re in as I’m writing this review:

“…If Jesus did not abandon us when hell itself rained down on His shoulders, why in the world would we think He’s going to give up on us because of a few rough years or bad days? If God did not spare His own Son for His glory, He will not spare one moment of our lives for that same glory” (217)

Isn’t that wonderful news? To listen to Kasey share about her Bible study series, “Nothing Wasted,” go to


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