A number of years ago, I picked up Mary Beth Chapman’s book, Choosing to SEE. Her transparency in sharing her story – in a remarkably refreshing, authentic way – was so encouraging to me. It was also a bit startling, to be honest. I’ve worked with authors, publishing, and personalities since 2000, and it is rare to see such vulnerability from those living a very public life. Getting a first-hand account of marriage, parenting, loss, fame, and all the challenges and celebrations in-between was also beautiful, and so encouraging to me as a leader. Such a relief to know that my beloved and I are normal in loving each other deeply but clearly not having it all together or being immune to heartache.
The most tender part of the book was Mary Beth’s adoption story of meeting her daughter for the first time. I remember reading it and weeping just before we started our own adoption journey. When we met our own sweet girl for the first time, Mary Beth’s narrative was running through my mind. There is something that is a bit unexplainable about how we become parents through adoption (not just on paper, but soul-deep) – a fierceness of love that I don’t think can be adequately be put into words. When we just about lost our daughter just months after she came home, I realized how fierce it really is. I think Mary Beth gets it.
Mary Beth’s husband, Steven Curtis Chapman, is releasing his own book on March 7th, and it’s truly a great book. It would have made sense to pick it because it’s brand new! However, I just couldn’t stop thinking about Choosing to SEE, and how personally it impacted me, so it became my Ellen’s Picks choice for January / February. All our lovely community members received a copy along with a package of tissues because it’s not an easy story to engage without some tears.
Through the pages of Choosing to SEE, Mary Beth started to feel like a friend to me. Someone I could be my authentic, imperfect self with. So, I thought for our Ellen’s Picks linkup this month, I’d ask her some questions – you know, friend to friend. If you choose to read this book (and I hope you will) you might just want an update on how her story has continued to unfold, so here it is!
- You’ve chosen to be really honest in your book. It was refreshing to me as a leader in ministry – but I think that this could be terrifying for others considering it. What has the response been?
I’m going to tell you a secret. In writing the book, I really felt like God asked me to write my story. He gave me my personal story to tell with all the hard, ugly bumpy not-so-neat parts, so I told it and I didn’t really search out responses from it. The responses and letters that found their way to me were “thank yous” for being honest and vulnerable, which was very encouraging.
Would you write the book the same way if you had to do it all over again?
Yes…. It was hard, but it’s the only way I could do it.
- As an adoptive mom, I especially appreciated your candidness about the day you met Shaoey and becoming her mom. What do you most want people to know about adoption?
Most people usually want to talk about the feelings toward biological children and adoptive children and how is it the same? How is it different?
- After Chapter 22 – May 21, 2008, your book and your story change dramatically – even the font and your writing style. Looking back now, what is the biggest shift you’ve seen in your own perspective over the past 9 years?
Yay! You noticed the font and the style… it makes me happy that you noticed. The biggest shift for me personally is that May 21, 2008, still feels very real and relevant and present in my life. That is hard when all of your friends have moved on. Don’t get me wrong. That is what happens and it is totally normal…I feel like I’ve done a lot of great grief work along the way, but Maria is still my daughter and so what happened is in the front of my mind all the time. I wish it could be different. The Chapman’s new normal is that we live with this huge hole in our Chapman puzzle and there will always be a missing piece. Truth be told, it’s a very lonely place to walk because no one gets it… I’m just plain and simply still struggling. Sure, we have so much to be thankful for and God has carried us through, I don’t like it, though. I wish it could have been different. This is where faith comes into play – faith that there is coming a day where there are no more tears. And where Maria is with us.
- What would you tell those who are reading this today, serving in leadership, facing hard things they never imagined they’d have to deal with publicly?
Dealing with it publicly is really difficult. We made a decision together as a family to walk through it all together and that we could model “grieving with hope” to the public at large. It was really, really difficult and we did the best we knew how. Sometimes I’m sad that everything was so public… it feels like we gave up something that we could’ve kept to ourselves. That sounds selfish, but when I look back and get caught up in missing her so badly, I have to be honest and wish we had some of those very public moments to ourselves. Obviously, though, God does amazing things and gives people amazing strength to do the unheard of, and so we trust that God didn’t waste any of our public pain and that people were touched and changed through watching us.
- Is there anything else you want us to know since your book ends in 2010? Can you give us an update?
First and foremost, Will Franklin is doing amazing well. Sure there are hard days, but he met an amazing girl, Jillian, married her and they have been married for over four years now. He is in a band called Colony House with his brother Caleb and they are really doing well. Jillian is also a singer/songwriter and she is a gift direct from God and cares for him so well. Caleb is married to Julia and they have a son, Noble Day. Emily is married to Tanner and they have three little girls now. Eiley Eliza, Della Rosamond, and Verity Lou. Shaoey is looking for a place to call college… she is a junior in high school and wants to put the decision to rest! Stevey Joy is growing up as a 14-year old now and loving life. Four grandchildren keep SCC and I really busy as does my work at Show Hope. Steven is out on tour and is getting ready to release a book himself. It’s his story and I couldn’t be more excited for him. Click for more info.
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