TRUMPED BY SOVEREIGNTY: a book review and update

Author Sara Stophel shared exciting news with her friends on Facebook recently-she is engaged! Her friends are delighted and you will be too, after reading her memoir. In Trumped by Sovereignty Sara poignantly relates her late husband’s illness and death, and describes how she coped through that as well as the difficult years after.

Author Sara Stophel shared exciting news with her friends on Facebook recently-she is engaged!

After 8 years as a widow, and after an apparent whirlwind long distance courtship, she is engaged to be married in just 6 weeks. Her new husband should never forget their anniversary since their wedding date is January 1. I haven’t met him yet but I highly approve since he works in healthcare.

Her friends are delighted and you will be too, after reading her memoir. In Trumped by Sovereignty Sara poignantly relates her late husband’s illness and death, and describes how she coped through that as well as the difficult years after.


Juggling Faith, Healing, And Submission to God’s Perfect Plans


“Damen Ballard, twenty-five, left his apartment on April 19, 1995, to grab a pack of cigarettes at the convenience store. On his way back he took the shortcut…crossing I-44 on foot at rush hour. He was hit and became a John Doe while doctors tried to save his life. Even as we were watching the terrible news of the Oklahoma City bombing down the road…and fighting against all of those feelings of desperation when we discovered no hearts would be coming…Chuck’s new heart was just two floors above us in the very same hospital.”

large storm cloud
photo by Nikolai Stophel

Sovereignty is a word you may not use or even hear often; I know I don’t.  Scholars use it in a political sense, like the sovereignty (authority) of a nation. Maybe that’s why Sara Stophel offers this definition on the back cover of her book;

“‘Sovereignty’ means that God, as the ruler of the universe, has the right to do whatever he wants. Further, he is in complete control over everything that happens.

Why sovereignty?

In a game of cards, a trump card overrules any card previously played … But what happens when that “game” is actually life? And what happens when you realize that God’s sovereignty is the final trump card?”

Trumped by Sovereignty is two stories in one book.  One story relates the multiple medical challenges faced by Sara, her husband Chuck,  their children and extended family. The other story describes how Sara coped with these challenges, especially in relationship to her Christian faith.

I have known Sara and her family for several years and already knew much of their story although not all. I find Sara to be direct, truthful and frank. She does not mince words.

(I did not consult Sara prior to writing this review.  I paid for my copy of her book.)

This is not one of those how we went through a horrible experience and survived by our unshakable faith stories; it is how we went through extraordinary stress testing our faith which survived and grew anyway.

Sara doesn’t boast about how she changed her problems; she admits that her problems caused her to change the way she looks at life, faith and God.

a tornado in Oklahoma
photo of an active tornado by Nikolai Stohel

The medical story

Sara’s book describes multiple medical conditions that afflicted her family (yes, afflicted is exactly the right word). The list reads like a medical textbook, so you may need to look up some of the terms; she does not describe them in detailed scientific terms.  (I’ve included some links for you to use.)

Between Sara, her husband Chuck, their children and extended family they endured –

The faith story

Sara and Chuck met in college, a Christian university known for teaching and believing in divine healing. However, Sara’s denomination, although Christian, did not teach Biblical healing. So as a new concept for her, she found it difficult to reconcile as her family’s serious health issues continued to worsen and not respond to medical treatment much less prayer.

She does not expect you to believe that she endured these challenges and tragedies due to strong and unwavering faith; rather she freely admits otherwise. As she puts it, her “truster” frequently breaks and needs repair.

“I could not commune with a God who did not honor my bigger-than-mustard-seed faith. I was more than certain God loved people…but I was also nearly certain He just needed me as a tool of transparency. My truster was broken. Having loved God my whole life, I couldn’t think of anything better…anywhere else to turn…so I just kept on serving and assuming the love and peace of God were for everyone but me.”

Sara uses humor in her writing, just like she does in life; she has to in order to get through some of the days she lives. You will laugh, cry, or both at some of her stories like-

  • Her annual physical (which was a year late) with her doctor, Dr. LionKing (an offbeat humorous pronunciation of his real name)
  • Her first CPR class after a family death

And you may get angry as she describes her shabby treatment by the IRS, the cell phone company, and the local fire department first responders who refused to take her critically ill husband to the hospital.

hugh storm cloud
impending storm captured by Nikolai Stophel

I encourage you to buy and read Trumped by Sovereignty. I know Sara and her family which means I also know that their challenges are not over; in fact, they may be bigger than ever. I believe she will continue to face them with the same courage and humor that she has so far; and maybe in a few years she will write volume 2 of her story.

woman holding a book
Sarah showing her sense of humor, soon after the 2016 Presidential election .


Trumped by Sovereignty is published by Paladin Publishing, Tulsa Oklahoma.
Find Sara on Facebook at Sara Stophel -author and on Instagram-sarastophel.  




exploring the HEART of health in books

Dr Aletha

Exploring -when HEARTS break

understanding common heart conditions


Anyone who has ever had a “broken heart” (and who hasn’t?) knows that sadness and grief cause not just emotional pain, but also physical pain. And since that pain is often felt in our chest, it makes sense that we call it “heart break”.

The late Elvis Presley made the expression famous with his breakout hit Heartbreak Hotel.  And a particularly gruesome battle during the Korean War occurred at a place named Heartbreak Ridge, dramatized in a movie The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge.


In this post I’m going to explain some of the ways our physical HEARTS can break.

Last week I gave you a brief overview of the human HEART and how it works.. Here’s the link in case you missed it. It will help before you read this post.

Exploring -the HEART


We often use the term HEART DISEASE when there are many diseases that involve the heart.  HEART conditions affect people from birth to death.

diagram of the human heart
Heart diseases affect any and sometimes multiple parts of the heart- the atria, ventricles, the valves, the aorta, the pulmonary artery and veins, the walls and the coronary arteries (not shown in this diagram. )




Heart problems that are present at birth are called congenital heart disease. Signs or symptoms may be not apparent for a few weeks or months.

  • A congenital heart defect is a problem with the structure of the heart. It is present at birth.
  • Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect.
  • The defects can involve the walls of the heart, the valves of the heart, and the arteries and veins near the heart.
  • They can disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart. The blood flow can slow down, go in the wrong direction or to the wrong place, or be blocked completely.


I remember how concerned I felt when my son called to tell me the doctor had found a heart murmur in my 3-week-old granddaughter- especially since they lived 2000 miles away. An  echocardiogram showed a VSD, a ventricular septal defect– a hole between the two larger chambers of her heart. We were all relieved when the pediatric cardiologist said it was small and unlikely to cause her problems or to need surgery. She gets regular check-ups and is now a healthy, active 10 year old who does karate and loves swimming.

Other congenital heart conditions


In a previous post I told you about my late friend Chuck who had heart disease. Chuck had developed cardiomyopathy, disease of the heart muscle, which makes up the walls of the heart. Cardiomyopathy  has many causes including high blood pressure (if not controlled), ischemia (lack of blood flow), infections, toxins including alcohol, and sometimes unknown causes.

Cardiomyopathy can often be managed with medications and lifestyle but sometimes, as in Chuck’s case, requires heart transplantation.

Chuck’s wife Sara wrote about his heart condition as well as other medical issues in her memoir Trumped By Sovereignty.

woman holding a book
Sarah displaying her book soon after the Presidential election . Is that the President-elect’s name?



My late father developed diabetes mellitus which led to atherosclerosis of his coronary arteries, the arteries that carry oxygen to the heart itself. Atherosclerosis can affect any of the arteries and basically means “hardening”, hence the term hardening of the arteries.

In his case this caused a heart attack, which in medical terms is a

myocardial (heart muscle) infarction(death or damage).

From the damage to his heart muscle he developed congestive heart failure; his heart could not effectively pump blood  to his body.

EKG tracing
In sudden cardiac death, the heart stops beating abruptly



I still remember the night I received a phone call soon after going to bed. It was an EMT from the local ambulance service telling me he was at my parents’ home. My mother called 911 after my father collapsed at home and died from sudden cardiac death.

Sudden cardiac death occurs when someone with heart disease dies suddenly and unexpectedly. But sometimes, unlike my father’s case, the victim and family didn’t know a heart condition existed. This is often the case when someone dies from a sudden and persistent irregularity of the heart rhythm, called an arrhythmia.

old photo of man in a sailor uniform
My late  father served in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War

Both my husband and I have hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure. This is probably the most common cardiovascular disease . Although not a heart condition, it can cause disease in the heart and other vital organs, as shown in this diagram .


complications of high blood pressure



Please follow any of the above links to read more about these and other heart conditions. Next post I will talk about how to keep our hearts healthy.

We can keep our heart from breaking.


Please  leave a comment to share your own experience with heart disease or to honor a loved one with  a heart condition.

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