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Book // Choosing to See

As you may already know, I love to read books and articles and blogs and magazines and Facebook newsfeed… the only things I don’t like to read are political propaganda and depressing stories.

When I created this blog I intended to share book reviews so as to better appreciate and process their content. There is much wisdom that lies between covers, spreading out among pages, and in the words of their authors. I have a bad habit of collecting about 20 books at a time and sifting through them all periodically, which means that I slowly accomplish book lists; the other bad habit I have is buying books instead of borrowing books, because I love to underline or crease my own pages and have them on hand to return to at any time. Understandably, I have placed a basket stuffed full of books beside the rocker in the nursery for the many hours of nursing ahead. Basically, I’m a self-acclaimed book-aholic, and I’m dangerous near the bookstore, on Amazon, and even strolling by the library (I picked up a random historic novel the other day, even though I rarely read historical fiction). I’m already gleaning through some of my stack, and one of them I have finally finished …

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This particular book I snagged at a thrift store! I had been intending to read it for several years as their daughter’s sudden death took place while I was in college; I have always had a special appreciation for Steven Curtis Chapman’s musical talents and for his family’s strong bond.

This gem of a story is of faith, failure, triumph, grief, and hope. If you’ve experienced any or all of those adjectives in your own saga, as I have, I’m sure you’d be touched by this warm and deep intimate journey.

Here’s my acrostic book REVIEW:

Rating > It’s a 10 on my shelf! I loved reading it. I laughed, I prayed, I cried, I reflected, I learned.

Emphasis > The emphasis of this book is the rooted faith that comes by much pruning and growth, the strong ties of selfless love from family & community that supports heavy burdens, the bitterness and the sweetness of life and its loss and all the questions that come with suffering.

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Maria’s Big House of Hope – the family’s intensive care orphanage dedicated to one of the poorest cities in China in honor of their daughter’s death.

Visual > Flashback to 90’s bowl-cut hair and leather jackets and high waisted jeans, singer songwriter artist Steven Curtis Chapman was hitting the charts with his bluegrass rock Christian style while growing his family and supporting his clinically depressed wife. Judging from the pictures and the press back then I don’t think anyone would have suspected that Steven & Mary Beth Chapman had a challenging marriage. Don’t get the wrong impression from my summary of the first few chapters, though – their marriage started out like most everyone else’s, full of joy and thrill and passion and dedication. As time wore on and circumstances took their toll, they remained strong and steady but worked hard to carry the burdens of family & fame together; being a celebrity or making good money doesn’t make one exempt from daily battles. The main turn of events in their journey was their oldest daughter’s conviction that adoption was an act of faith that their family should take; Steven & Mary Beth consented after laborious consideration and finally chose to adopt a baby girl from China. During that time, Mary Beth had been on a roller coaster with her depression and Prozac; needless to say, God stretched her capacities as a celebrity wife, mother, multi-tasker, coordinator, and planner to the outermost limits. Yet, she trusted that the Lord would make it possible for her to value and love deeply His good gifts; hence, the family delved into a second and third adoption, their last child being Maria. SCC composed this well-known piece on his album Declaration in 2001:

I know you’ve heard the stories

But they all sound too good to be true

You’ve heard about a place called home

But there doesn’t seem to be one for you

So one more night you cry yourself to sleep

And drift off to a distant dream

And somewhere while you’re sleeping

Someone else is dreaming too

Counting down the days until

They hold you close and say I love you

And like the rain that falls into the sea

In a moment that ahas been is lost in what will be

When love take you in everything changes

A miracle starts with the beat of a heart

And this love will never let you go

There is nothing that could ever cause this love to lose its hold

When love takes you home and says you belong here

The loneliness ends and a new life begins

When love takes you in takes you in for good

When love takes you in

Intention > The intention of this book is not just to emphasize the importance of a healthy family and how to take measured risks, but it’s intention is also to highlight the beautiful treasured soul of a child – its innocence, its authenticity, its frailty; sadly, the Chapmans had the horrific experience of a tragic accident on their own home property involving their second teenage son and their youngest daughter (he was backing a car into the driveway when she ran past the car and was hit by it). Mary Beth’s intention in sharing their journey of marriage and family, fame and depression, trust and love, loss and hope is to magnify the incredible, miraculous, unending grace of Jesus Christ who has compassionately cared for them and uplifted them through it all. He has been their Rock, and their intention is to worship Him, even in the aftermath of tragedy.

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Encouragement > I laughed so hard to the point of belly aches and tears as I empathetically participated in Mary Beth’s retelling of the early years: falling fast for a man who was her total opposite yet her perfect balance; marrying him with only $50 to their name and settling into routine to then find the puppy had eaten her birth control pills and that they were unexpectedly expecting. She refers to herself as Eeyore, a perfectionist slumping into depression when plans aren’t as they should be, a half-glass half-empty perspective of the unknown, a tendency to wilt away into hiding; she refers to Steven as Tigger, an optimist dwelling on the possibilities when resources are scarce, a half-glass half-full perspective of the present and the future, a tendency to bounce into any adventure. Wouldn’t you know it? The night I read that description, Ian and I were lying next to each other, I laughing and laughing about how ironic the descriptions and he solemnly engaging in some online discussion forum – I leaned over to kiss him in his gray blue shirt while I was sporting a pink striped shirt 😉

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Wisdom > The wisdom I gained from Choosing to See was in the flower of a girl that was theirs for just five precious years: every life is a bright light and to be cherished as such, because we never know what great and marvelous things God will create with it, and it is our privilege to participate in His Sovereign plan. Serendipitously, SCC created a compilation titled Beauty Will Rise, a reflection on the tremendous grief and struggle that they had endured with the sudden loss of their child and the deep wounding of their older child; the last song of the series rings out the truth of Hope found in Christ, “Spring is Coming.” The serendipitous part is that they later discovered the actual meaning of little Maria’s name translated in Chinese which actually means “spring is coming.”

A spring river rests from the melting away of winters snow. The purest water flows from spring rivers … God’s means by which formerly frozen ground can soften and bloom again with the life of spring. -Mary Beth Chapman

Since I have more in my stack, look for other posts titled “Book” or click on the tag in the upper righthand corner. Share here some of your favorite books or something you’re currently reading!




In the hands of the potter,

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