Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Choosing To See: Book Review

I have been a long-time fan of Steven Curtis Chapman for many years. In fact, the first official date that my husband and I went on back in 1996 was part of his tour for "Signs Of Life". We also used Chapman's hit, "I Will Be Here" and "Parent's Prayer" as part of our wedding service in 1997. His music and ministry has been a huge part of our lives and I clearly remember where I was when news broke on May 21, 2008 that his daughter, Maria, had been killed in a tragic accident at their family home.

I have watched the interviews that Chapman, his wife, Mary Beth, and their children, have done in the two years since Maria's death. It has been so inspirational to see this family go through so much pain and grief, yet live with hope and joy, because of God's grace and promise of a future in Heaven.

When I had the opportunity to read and review Mary Beth Chapman's book, Choosing To SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope, I immediately agreed to it.

About The Book:

From the beginning, Mary Beth Chapman's life was not how she planned. All she wanted was a calm, peaceful life of stability and control. Instead, God gave her an award-winning singer/songwriter husband, crazy schedules, and a houseful of creatively rambunctious children. Most difficult of all, God's plans for her also included tragedy.

In Choosing to SEE, Mary Beth unveils her struggle to allow God to write the story of her life, both the happy chapters and the tragic ones. And as the story unfolds, she's been forced to wrestle with some of life's biggest questions: Where is God when things fall apart? Why does God allow terrible things to happen? How can I survive hard times?

No matter where you find yourself in your own life story, you will treasure the way Mary Beth shows that even in the hard times, there is hope if you choose to SEE.

You can read an excerpt of Choosing To SEE here (in PDF Format)

About The Author:

Mary Beth Chapman is the wife of Grammy and Dove Award winning recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman. Together they began Show Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to caring for the world's most vulnerable children by providing financial assistance to families wishing to adopt, as well as increasing awareness of the orphan crisis and funneling resources to orphans domestically and internationally. Mary Beth serves as president of Show Hope and is a speaker for Women of Faith 2010 with her husband. She is also coauthor with Steven of the Shaoey and Dot series of children's picture books. Mary Beth and Steven have six children: Emily, Caleb, Will Franklin, and adopted daughters Shaohannah Hope, Stevey Joy, and Maria Sue, who is now with Jesus. The Chapmans live in Tennessee.


"Right now all I Can taste are bitter tears
And right now all I can SEE are clouds of sorrow
From the other side of all this pain
Is that you I hear?
Laughing loud and calling out to me?

Saying SEE, it's everything you said it would be
And even better than you would believe
And I'm counting down the days until you're here with me 
And finally you'll SEE"
       Steven Curtis Chapman "SEE" from Beauty Will Rise

My Review:

With a vulnerability that pours from the pages, Mary Beth Chapman brings you on a journey of her life, prior to marrying one of Christian music's most iconic figures, to being a mom of six children, to experiencing the hardest thing in the world: losing a child.

 This book had me experiencing every emotion that God has created in man: joy, sadness, grief, frustration, and so much more. Yet it was a fantastic reminder that when we experience a trial in our life, we have two choices - when can choose to run or choose to see. 

Without giving too much of the book away, there was a time shortly after losing Maria, that the concept of choosing to see became clear to Mary Beth Chapman:

" ...Steven and Caleb had been praying like crazy since the night before, something like, "God, we know you're in this, but we're so confused and hurt. You've got to show us something tangible so we can know Maria's with You! Please, we need to see you in this, please let us see!

Steven was slowly making the rounds of the house, retracing some of Maria's steps from the day of the accident. He walked into our dining room. Next to the bay window Stevey Joy and Maria had two little art tables where they had spent tons of happy hours creating things. They loved coloring and gluing and taping and glittering just about anything they could get their sticky fingers on.

Steven looked down at Maria's table. There was a piece of notebook paper there. Maria had drawn a six-petaled flower with a green stem and two leaves. Only one of the petals was colored in. Blue. Maria's favorite color. The center of the flower was orange.

Steven saw something bleeding through from the other side of the paper. He turned it over. Maria had colored an orange butterfly, and written a word she'd never, ever put down on paper before.

Maria could write her name and little things such as "I love you", but she hadn't started writing other words yet. Since Stevey Joy was a little older and a year ahead of Maria in preschool, she had a list of words to learn. Steven's best guess is that Maria must have copied one of the words off the list.

And the word she wrote was SEE.


Staring at Maria's artwork, Steven had tears spilling down his face. It was like Maria was speaking to him from heaven, from the very realm of eternity, saying, "SEE? Can you SEE? Everything is going to be all right. I am here with Jesus. I am fine. Heaven is real, the gospel is true, you just have to SEE!"

Several days later, when we were getting ready to leave Karen's house, I drew Maria's artwork on a white board there. As I drew the flower, I realized it had six petals. Like I had six children. And only one of those petals was colored in. Like only one of my children was safe at home in heaven with Jesus. And the petal that was safe was blue - Maria's favorite color.

Some people might see little things like this as coincidences, no big deal. But to us, these small signs were like a little trail of bread crumbs on a shadowed path, showing us the way to walk.

I could only see a few feet in front of me. If  I could see any further than that, the journey ahead would be too scary. But He was showing me all that I needed, just a few steps at a time...giving me little glimmers of grace...if I would choose to SEE"  p. 157 and 158)

As I re-read the above lines from Choosing To See, I am reminded that God's ways are so not our ways, and His time is not our time. The Chapman's will never understand this side of eternity why God took little Maria at such as time as He did. But He knows, and despite their grief and pain, He showed the Chapman family that to choose to SEE is the way God wants it to be. 

I lost my seven year old foster sister in May 2009, from health problems, and have watched my mom's journey through pain and grief and cannot imagine losing a child. However, through Choosing To SEE, Mary Beth Chapman has reminded me that being a Christian does not mean life is going to be a perfect journey. Far from it. As a Christian, she has experienced both high's and low's in her life, but she is choosing to SEE and move through this life that God has given her with joy and hope in the Lord. 

Choosing To SEE is a raw, honest look at life, and how, despite the hard times, we need to look to Him, and He will bring us through it all.

"He is going to tell us where to step and when to look down if our faces are on Him. As I was walking and looking up, allowing my face to feel His warm presence, I felt like I was supposed to look down and open my eyes. When I did, I was getting ready to step right on a baby hammerhead shark! It was deceased, but none the less...a shark! God allows the sharks of life like the hard places of suffering and difficulties. We all have them! But if our faces are turned toward Him, He will tell us when to look and how to survive those times by completely trusting in Him. He navigates the steps and takes us where He wants us to go because He loves us and wants us to become more like Him. It is not up to us!" (p. 225). 

As Chapman states in the final page of the book, "I can choose to SEE His story, or I can miss it" (p.273).

I highly recommend this book to all those who are fans of the Chapman family, but also to all those who are going through a difficult time, and do not always think God is there. He is, if we choose to SEE! I also HIGHLY recommend Steven Curtis Chapman's recent CD, Beauty Will Rise, his respond through song, regarding the loss of Maria. 

BUY IT: You can purchase Choosing To SEE by Mary Beth Chapman online here, directly from Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. It is also available from you favorite local Chrisitan bookseller, as of September 2010.

***I received a complimentary copy of this book courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. All opinions expressed are my own, and I have not been compensated in any other manner***

1 comment:

  1. Wow Shirley! Thanks for posting this review. I have tears in my eyes just from that little excerpt from the book. I WILL be buying this to read AND pass on.