Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope

Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope

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by Mary Beth Chapman, Ellen Vaughn

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I've told my kids for years that God doesn't make mistakes," writes Mary Beth Chapman, wife of Grammy award winning recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman. "Would I believe it now, when my whole world as I knew it came to an end?"

Covering her courtship and marriage to Steven Curtis Chapman, struggles for emotional balance, and living with grief, Mary Beth's

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I've told my kids for years that God doesn't make mistakes," writes Mary Beth Chapman, wife of Grammy award winning recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman. "Would I believe it now, when my whole world as I knew it came to an end?"

Covering her courtship and marriage to Steven Curtis Chapman, struggles for emotional balance, and living with grief, Mary Beth's story is our story—wondering where God is when the worst happens. In Choosing to SEE, she shows how she wrestles with God even as she has allowed him to write her story—both during times of happiness and those of tragedy. Readers will hear firsthand about the loss of her daughter, the struggle to heal, and the unexpected path God has placed her on. Even as difficult as life can be, Mary Beth Chapman Chooses to SEE. Includes a 16-page full color photo insert.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Chapman, wife to singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman, tells the story of her life and loss in this tender memoir. Chapman discloses how unsuited she is to be the public figure spouse to a charismatic and outgoing husband. Marrying him totally upset her orderly mental image of a quiet life in the suburbs with a 9 to 5 working husband. Instead, she discovered that God gave her a life she didn't expect that has taken her places she didn't want to go. As Chapman tells it, fame, travel, and adoption of children took this quiet woman out of her comfort zone more times than she cares to remember. In 2008, the tragic death of their five-year-old daughter, Maria, led to still more inner heartache. The Chapmans' story is harrowing and deeply sorrowful, yet the author finds a way to communicate their hope, faith, and love for a faithful God in every moment by grace-infused moment. (Sept.)

Product Details

Baker Publishing Group
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6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Choosing to SEE

A Journey of Struggle and Hope
By Mary Beth Chapman Ellen Vaughn


Copyright © 2010 Mary Beth Chapman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8007-1991-3

Chapter One

Winter It was the day the world went wrong.

"Beauty Will Rise" Words and music by Steven Curtis Chapman

In the bleak midwinter frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone

Christina Rossetti

The sky was a bright, springtime blue that day. We were planning a wedding and a graduation. We were happy.

It was May 21, 2008. It didn't look like winter—yet. We were the parents of six beautiful children, blessed beyond our dreams. Our twenty-three-year-old daughter, Emily, had become engaged four days earlier. Just the night before, we had bought her wedding dress. I had brought it home to show Emily's three little sisters from China. Shaoey was eight, Stevey Joy was five, and Maria had just turned five a week earlier. They shrieked about the lacy white gown and all started talking at once about being flower girls at her wedding.

On this particular Wednesday afternoon, Emily was at work, and Steven and I had converted the dining room table into Wedding Central. We had phones, laptops, calendars, and notepads spread all over the table. Caleb, our eighteen-year-old, was to graduate high school in a few days; he was messing around with his guitar in our music room. Will, who was seventeen, had driven over to his school to try out for a play. The three little girls were running in and out of the house, playing together like a thousand other afternoons.

Maria ran up to me, breathless. "Mommy!" she said. "I can't get Cinderella Barbie's gloves on her! Can you do it for me?"

"Sure," I said. Maria climbed up on my lap. She was sticky and sweet as usual. She sat for a second while I tried to scoot the tiny, elbow-length white gloves onto Cinderella Barbie's rubbery little hands. It was hard; no wonder Maria hadn't been able to do it.

Maria got impatient. There was fun to be had. She scooted off my lap and ran away giggling. As Steven and I continued to talk, I used my fingernails and tugged, eventually succeeding with the gloves.

"Hey, Maria!" I yelled. "I got Cinderella's gloves on her!"

There was no answer, and I assumed that the girls had gone outside to their playground. They loved to climb on the monkey bars, swing, and pretend they were "the Chapman Sisters," a famous musical group.

Steven took a call on his cell phone and walked out on our front porch to get better reception. He saw Will arriving home and watched as Will slowly turned his old Land Cruiser into the driveway, which winds past the house to the garage in back, near the playground. I was sitting at the table, writing a list.

Then everything changed forever.

I realized I was hearing odd sounds outside—not just the yelling of happy play but screams and commotion. I bolted into the kitchen to head outside just as Shaoey ran up the back steps and met me there.

"Mom!" she yelled. "Will's hit Maria with the car!"

I flew outside. Will was near the garage, holding his little sister in his arms. There was a lot of blood, on both of them.

"Maria!" Will was crying. "Maria! Wake up!"

Chapter Two

Not My Plan

Love of God is pure when joy and suffering inspire an equal degree of gratitude.

Simone Weil

Obviously, I never planned to write this book.

No mom can come up with words to express the ripping pain of losing a child ... and no words can do justice to the mysteries of God in the midst of tragedy.

When people ask how we are doing, the first thing I always say is, "I want Maria back. I want my son Will Franklin not to have this as a chapter in his story. I want my children to be healthy, my family secure. I don't really care whose life has been touched or changed because of our loss!"

That is the heart of a mother who lost a daughter and is determined not to lose another child. I believe God can handle my heart, my questions, and my anger. It's okay to want Maria back. It's okay to be angry. The question is, what do I do with it all? What do I do with God? In the midst of such heartbreak, do I really believe that all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose?

The answer to that question has come at a great cost. It has been agonizing to choose to see God at work through the tears of losing my daughter. I have, however, experienced the kindness, sweetness, faithfulness, and redemptive heart of God. I believe none of my tears have been wasted.

So here I am, putting down these words one by one, because God has surprised me over the long days since Maria went to heaven. I have come face to face with evil and what part it plays in our lives, past, present, and future. I am realizing, though, that God is God, and He is purposeful in destroying what evil intends for harm. He is surprising me in good ways beyond what can be measured on this earth! I am living what I once only read in Genesis 50:20–21, where Joseph tells his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children ..."

Even in this free fall of pain, I've landed on a solid foundation and my faith has held ... on most days. I have learned that God is good ... always. Hope is real. I have found—even in the awful pain of tears and grief so intense you think it will kill you—that my family and I can do hard. We'll never get over our loss, but we're getting through it. And so I have prayed that our journey through the shadows of loss might be of some help to those who have experienced similar pain ... that our stewardship of this story would comfort many.

But I need to be clear. This book isn't just about the spring day when Steven and I lost our precious Maria Sue in a terrible accident. It's about a story ... a story God is writing. All along the way, He has changed my story in ways I didn't like. I've had whole chapters added and deleted and strange plot twists that I never saw coming.

The truth is, I was born with a plan. I wanted life to be safe and predictable. My plan was to marry someone with a nice nine-to-five schedule and have a tidy, organized life—everything under control.

Absolutely none of that came true!

And if it had—if I had lived the life I thought I wanted—I know I wouldn't have experienced the grace or the miracles of God in the ways that I have. What I've found is that it's in the most unlikely times and places of hurt and chaos that God gives us a profound sense of His presence and the real light of His hope in the dark places.

So this book isn't so much about me and Steven, as broken and crazy as we are. It's about God ... and how He can comfort, carry, and change us on our journey, no matter how hard it is.

My husband has always been considered the creative, public side of our marriage. Everyone loves him and people assume that I'm a lot like him.

I'm not.

Steven is an extrovert who gets his energy from being around people. He loves to speak—and speak—and speak—in front of large groups. I am an introvert who loves to nest at home with my kids. If I'm invited to speak in front of a gathering of people, I get so nervous I feel like I'm going to pass out.

Steven is an optimist; I tend to be more melancholy. To him the glass is half-full; to me the same glass is half-empty. He is overflowing with great expectations; I'm sure that if things can possibly go wrong, they probably will.

Steven would never think of pulling a practical joke; it's not nice. I laugh and get all excited just thinking about playing jokes on my friends. It's like a love language to me! The other night I took Shaoey and Stevey Joy, and we headed over to my daughter-in-law's house. My son Caleb was out of town, playing a show, and I knew Julia had a friend over to spend the night.

We parked our van, snuck around the back of the house, and proceeded to scratch on the window screens and knock on the walls. I could hear Julia and her friend running around in panic, and then it got real quiet. I decided we should go around to the front and knock on the door so they would know it was us.

When my sweet Julia opened the door, she had tears on her face and the phone in her hand. I heard her tell the 911 dispatcher through her tears, "Oh, never mind ... it's just my mother-in-law!"

I promised I'd never do it again, and I think she still loves me!

Anyway, it's obvious that Steven and I are very different, kind of like Tarzan and Jane, but we'll get to that a little later.

As long as I can remember, and throughout my twenty-five-year marriage to Steven, I've held on to certain expectations about life. But Jesus has always loved me enough to show me that even when I push my own ideas and expectations, He is there to guide me back to green pastures. He has shepherded me through the mountainous terrain of my stubbornness, shame, depression, and inadequacy and brought me gently back to the lushness of His love. He loves us enough to never let us go ... even when it feels like He has.

It wasn't like I wanted a life that was unreasonable or questionable. My plans had to do with a Christ-centered ministry, an easy marriage, a peaceful and orderly home, constructive growth rather than shattered dreams, protection rather than fires ... all good things. Still, God has turned my life, my expectations, and even some of my dreams completely upside down so many times.

I hope that in these pages you'll find a friend for your own journey ... whether you're in a good place, or in a place that's hard, sad, mad, or desperately hopeless. In the midst of it all, God really is with us and for us. I have found that even during those times when the path is darkest, He leaves little bits of evidence all along the way—bread crumbs of grace—that can give me what I need to take the next step. But I can only find them if I choose to SEE.


Excerpted from Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman Ellen Vaughn Copyright © 2010 by Mary Beth Chapman. Excerpted by permission of Revell. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 274 reviews.
Booknerd-momma More than 1 year ago
This book is a true account of Mary Beth Chapman's loss as a mother. This book made me smile, made me laugh and made me cry.... That is a sign of a great book in my eyes. What I found most fascinating about this book is the fact that even though Mary Beth & Steven are public figures serving the Lord, they still went through all 7 steps of loosing their daughter just as any mom and dad would. Mary Beth reveals her anger and struggles to understand why... why take her child? Why of all people does she have to handle this. As a mom I was so able to relate to her pain.... And found comfort in knowing that ALL of us scream at and question the Lord when bad things happen.... The raw emotion she shares with us, her reader, makes you feel as if you are sitting on a couch talking with her. It breaks my heart still that she had a story like this to write about, but thank her for sharing her pain and struggles with us. A coworker of mine just lost her 17 year old son, and I have recommended this book for her to read. I think knowing that you are not alone in the pain is a relief.
WenGut More than 1 year ago
Words cannot adequately express the ways in which Mary Beth's honesty has touched me. I am in 'the Club' with her, as a brokenhearted Mom who also had to bury her daughter. MB has shown such bravery, such courage as she has opened her heart for the world to see. I can say that there is NO GREATER PAIN for a Mommy, than to have to bury our child, and then be forced to go on -- to function, to live -- in my early days after our daughter died suddenly, it felt like someone chopped off my leg, with no anesthesia, and then told me to 'Walk! Move forward, carry on, your other children need you!' Trust me when I tell you ~ when a mother loses her child, even though she has other children and loves them immensely, there is a period of time where the hole in her heart is BIGGER than the deep love that she has for her remaining children. It just is. There is a part of Mary Beth's heart that will forever be incomplete, until she is reunited with her precious Goober! Just like there's an 'Emily-shaped' hole in my heart! ~~ Mary Beth, thank you SO MUCH, for candidly opening your heart and for allowing us to share in your grief and also in your joy! I plan to write to you personally, as I want to share with you some AMAZING similarities in our journeys. I love you and although we'd give it all back in a heartbeat, our hearts are forever tied, as we share a pain that we hope no Mommy ever has to endure! Continuing to lift the Chapman Clan up to the Throne! ~ Love, Wen Gutreuter
HilleReader More than 1 year ago
You will find yourself engaged in this heart wrenching non-fiction story. You will go through the horrible tragedy that took the youngest Chapman child, Maria, and the days following. You will start to feel the pain of Mary Beth, Steven, and their 5 other children: Emily, Caleb, Will,(and their adopted children)Shaoey, and Stevey Joy. You will be encouraged to have faith and look to God, as you see Mary Beth heal from her pain. My favorite part is when Emily and her fiancee find out the true Chinese meaning of Maria's name. The most important thing I learned is to put your Faith in God in the most difficult times. I thought the book was good because it showed that a good Christian family can get through the most difficult parts of life. I think that kids with great faith or going through a tough time through ages 11 and up should read this heart-aching book.
Laura Wauchope More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully written book that shares not only the hurt and the sadness but the joy and grace in it too.
momxthree More than 1 year ago
Wow, I am a mom to three awesome kids... and reading their story really hit home in a way that they are just like us.. all one in Gods eyes.. I felt really moved reading this.. I would HIGHLY recommend this to anyone... I have already passed it to numorous friends as I bought it in hardback.. such an awesome read...
Kaye Rybinski More than 1 year ago
I agree with several of the comments about B&N lately. I had this book on my Wishlist where it was listed for 2.99, but when I purchased the book and checked my account I was charged 21.99! What a huge price difference, had I known that I would not have purchased the book. I feel that before you are asked to confirm there should be a warning that the price of the book/app has changed and if you still want to continue with your purchase. I contacted B&N, but like others got no satisfaction. I also agree that ebooks should be much cheaper, there are no printing costs; inks, machines, shrink wrapping, paper, shipping, the crews to run it all! Far cheaper! Last, but not least, is that many of these books can be bought used on the B&N site, including this one, why are these savings not passed on to us NOOK and NOOKCOLOR users, haven't we already purchased the device and it's many costly accessories? Come on B&N step up your game before you turn a wonderful product into a nightmare! Just saying.....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was so interesting to see into the hearts of this family. Not only did they deal with the premature death of a child but the guilt and healing of their dear son. I found myself constantly asking the question "How would I deal with that?" as well as hoping I would be able to stay as faithful in my realtionship with Christ. Sometimes I felt it was a little repetitive, but how do you evaluate and critique the heart of this mourning mother? She felt and feels what she does and puts it all out there for us. I love the humor that she threw in occasionally, even when it was a little edgy and embarrassing.
Ana Maria Stoecker More than 1 year ago
it is a great inspirstional book. mainly becsusr is real. christians suffer but our blessed hope in Jesus keeps us going. Thank you for being such a family of faith that actually chose to put words into actions! i choose to see. God bless
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such an amazing story of how wounds heal, and how heartbreak can turn into joyful triumph.
Vacagirl More than 1 year ago
So incredibly honest about her journey of growing her marriage and family and the ultimate loss any parent could experience...the death of a child. Through it all she looks to God and her Christian faith but admits to struggling and questioning. I laughed and I cried as I read this book and have recommended it highly to friends and family. An absolutely beautiful book, written straight from a woman/wife/mother's heart. You wil not regret reading it.
dodgelf More than 1 year ago
Very personal, open and honest!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having lost a daughter I was drawn to their story. I love that she shares their whole story not just their loss.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I started to read this book on vacation and found myself so enthralled that I couldn't put it down. I was moved to tears (literally). The subject matter is by no means light an airy, but the authors interject with humor and tie things together at all the right moments. Mary Beth Chapman is very honest about what she perceives to be her shortcomings, but in actuality they are signs of her grace and her strength. Anyone who is mourning the loss of a loved one and trying to maintain their faith could gain a lot from her experience. Loved this book!
marianne68 More than 1 year ago
Not exactly what I had expected, but in a good way. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to others
Nae62 More than 1 year ago
Love conquers all through trails and triumphs. This book show what unconditional love really is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the only book I have read that has made me cry. There were times I didn't want to put it down. Towards the end Mary Beth was a little repetitive, but I know that is just her anguish coming out. Overall this was a good book. I love how Mary Beth is so down to earth. Her strength and courage is amazing! I only hope someday I can grow to become the person she is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read to understand how faith helps you though hard times and know this is not the end. This world is not our real home. Thank you to the Chapman's for sharing their story for other's to share and believe.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mary Beth Chapman is a true woman of faith. Following the death of daughter Maria, she has learned to SEE. The three powerful words left for her under a picture drawn by Maria. The light blub finally came back on for me. I have been a Christian for years. However, like many it has been difficult to really SEE that God is in control. Mary Beth's words have helped me to begin the journey to find my eye's to SEE.
rspooner More than 1 year ago
All I can say is "Oh my goodness, you have to read this book!" Let me make something clear, I enjoy reading all kinds of books, but if it is not a story, not fiction, the likelihood of me actually finishing it is small. I read this book cover to cover, in a matter of days. It spoke to my mother's heart, my woman's heart, and my spiritual heart. It is Mary Beth's testimony and it is so powerful, it truly will change lives! Many of you will remember that a few years back, Steve and Mary Beth Chapman lost their youngest daughter, their son hit her with his car. Yes, this is the story of that, but more than that, this is the story of their family. Of their lives. Of their adoptions, their careers, their testimony. Have you been craving to read something real? Have you gone to church and left feeling that everyone was fake, putting on a sunny smile where no one is free to be real????? This book will shatter all the pretenses. Mary Beth is not perfect. Yes, reply with the sunday school answer that no one is. But there you go, a perfect little sunday school answer. Mary Beth gave me a sense of freedom, she made me want to reach out and share my imperfections, relate to her, talk to her, be real with her. And that, my friends, is the power of a testimony. Not to be a pretty little package all tied up with a bow. But to be messy, to be real, and to be used for God's glory to touch lives and hearts, giving people a chance to relate! To feel that they are not alone! Anyways, all that being said, this book truly did start a change in my life. A passion to be real. And a passion for adoption. Adoption is always something I have considered, but after reading this book, I put it down and told Jonathan "we will adopt one day". We will wait until God opens that door financially and emotionally for us as a family, but I know with all my heart that the day will come when we will fulfill our calling to look after the fatherless. There is a child out there who needs a mother, and I intend to find him/her. Read this book! You will not be sorry you did. Give it as a gift, keep it in your bookshelf, but don't just put it on the side to think about.... sit down and read it. It will have you laughing, crying, and will show you the power of a true testimony! **I received a complimentary copy of this book through Baker Publishing Group
Happy_Blessed_Loved More than 1 year ago
If you want to see life differently read this book. Her heart breaking true story will make you see that the petted little things just don't matter anymore! Read this if you are willing to choose to see! GREAT READ!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can not think of anything else to say that would do this book justice. I'd also like to recommend "When God Stopped Keeping Score" by R.A. Clark. It's revealing look at the power of forgiveness. If you ever felt trapped by anger, guilt, resentment and/or pain, then this book is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
J4Life5 More than 1 year ago
In Choosing to SEE, Mary Beth Chapman shares the story of her life and how the reality differs from her carefully planned out life. Readers might know of her as the wife of singer Steven Curtis Chapman, but through her book, readers can get to know her as a woman, wife, and mother. What impressed me the most about this book from start to finish is the honesty. Chapman shares the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of her life. Sometimes it is easy to dehumanize celebrities or singers and put them on pedestals and forget they are people just like us. Chapman shares her struggles with depression, her insecurities, and past regrets. In doing so, she makes herself accessible to readers. She also shares some funny stories along the way. The story of the tragic loss of their daughter was difficult to read. I anticipated that she would share in the book about how her faith in God helped her cope with the loss and provided peace to her and her family. What was surprising (in a good way) to me was the way Chapman shared how she and her husband coped with the grief and cried out to God in that grief. The scenes of Steven screaming out to God in their soundproof room, or pounding on the windows of the car stay with you, as does the scene of Mary Beth exchanging clothes with her friends in the hospital room so that the blood-soaked clothes don't scare their other daughters. If you are a mother, this book is a must read!
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