Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Choosing to SEE – Mary Beth Chapman with Ellen Vaughn

©2010 Revell, Grand Rapids

Maybe you haven’t heard of Mary Beth Chapman, but if you have listened to music (especially that with a Christian message) you may well be acquainted with her husband, Steven. She is the one who wrote this story. He states in the Foreward to the book, “For many years I’ve been known as ‘the writer’ of the Steven Curtis/Mary Beth Chapman duo. And while I’ve been known to pen a song or two, and maybe even a book (with a whole lot of help, believe me!), here’s the real, honest to goodness truth: Mary Beth Chapman is a way better writer than Steven Curtis . . .” Whether you agree with the famous husband or not, the book is well worth your read on a variety of levels.

Several years ago (shortly after it was published), my wife picked up this book with the intention to read. It was written and subsequently published not too many months after the tragedy that spurred the writing invaded the Chapman household, so we knew it would contain some heart-breaking, tear-producing passages (note: you will want to bring a case or two of facial tissue with you when you embark on this reading—you have been warned). So, the book sat unread on our shelves.

Fast forward to 2017. We decided to clear out our bookshelves for the purpose of selling off some of the books (we have a mountain) to help fund, of all things, our adoption process. While clearing the shelves, I came across, and dusted off this book. I decided to keep and read it—a decision that I both love and regret. I love because it is book that speaks to the very core of your being, challenging and healing you at the same time. Regret because it is a book that touches you to the core of your being, coaxing even the hard-heartest of us to weep tears (don’t tell your manly side).

Here’s the low-down on this book: in the very opening pages the author recounts a tragedy of loss that no one should ever go through. I’ll not repeat the story, although many who are reading this review would remember the horrifying accident that has colored the lives of the Chapman family from that day to this (and onward).

The book is not about tragedy and grief though. It is a book about hope. Within the pages the author gives some biographical background that gives insight into her life and her life with Steven Curtis Chapman, award-winning musical artist. Her writing is engaging, funny, real, and touching. You won’t want to put the book down, even though you have to get another box of tissues.

I picked up the book, because I wanted to read it as we raised money and waited for the call to travel to Vietnam to meet and bring home our little girl. That call came in the midst of the reading and (because of the amount of crying I was doing) I decided to put it down until after the journey ended. The tears I shed during the reading were not sympathy or even empathy tears for what happened in the Chapmans’ lives. No, reading of their struggles in the journey of life and their hope found at the end of long, dark tunnels brought to the surface of my own heart struggles, pain, as well as laughter and joy that had been a part of my own story. My story is not her story, but her story evokes mine. I don’t know whether that means she’s the great writer Steven claims her to be, her emotional roller-coaster is one that all of us can relate to on some sort of level, or I am just a sentimental sap. What I do know is that you will want to read this book for the stories of triumph, the stories of forgiveness, the stories of adoption, and the stories of heartbreak. Bring those tissues with you, but cry away, the tears will be cleansing. I know they were for me.

BTW, if you stop reading before the end (for adoption travel, or life-happening, or whatever reason) you will still be glad that you picked up this book. It has the full complement of 5 reading glasses from this reader.

—Benjamin Potter, September 12, 2017

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