Book Review: Choosing to SEE

Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman was a raw and real look at the Chapman’s life of love and loss.

Mary Beth had an idea of how her life would look, but God had a different picture.

She describes wanting to be in control and then marrying a free spirit, unexpected motherhood, battling depression, and resisting adoption.

God had a bigger plan and he would be the author of Mary Beth’s story.

The Chapmans went on to adopt three girls from China. They championed countless others to adopt and started Show Hope to further reach out to orphans.

Here is an excerpt from the book about the moment Mary Beth held her first daughter adopted from China.

“In that moment, time stopped. It was like God was speaking to me directly. ‘Mary Beth, you thickheaded woman, do you not understand now that this is the very way I see you? You are this orphan! I adopted you and you are Mine! I bought you for a price! Do you see how you love this baby? That’s just a faint reflection of how much I love you! You didn’t have a name, and I gave you a name. You did nothing to deserve my love, and I love you anyway. You had no hope, no future, and now you are the daughter of the King!’

I saw it. The second she was placed in my arms, I would have fought to the death to protect her. I loved her with everything inside of me.

“Do you get it now?” God was saying to me. Under the blanket, this baby was wrapped in rags. She was poor. She didn’t smell good. She was hungry. There was nothing about her that had ‘earned’ my love. But I loved her powerfully, deeply, absolutely. Period.

I got it ” (Choosing to See, pg 86)

She got it.

I got it.

And I hope you will get it.

Whether you know how the story continues or not, you should definitely read this book.

Make sure to have a box of Kleenex by your side and Pandora set to Steven Curtis Chapman.  His songs ran through my head throughout the book thanks to KTIS and one of my sisters for buying me my first ever Christian cd.

Our agency sent us this song when we first applied to adopt. (They also sent us the video from the Chapmans first adoption, but I can’t find it anywhere online). Apply to adopt and they will send you one, too ;)

Book Review: Adoption Edition Part 2

My friend, Sarah, asked what adoption books I had been reading lately. The truth is, I had been avoiding reading adoption books. I was already battling discouragement and the thought of reading more about how difficult this process can be made me weak in the knees.

Adoption, in it’s very essence, is born out of tragedy (death of parents, sickness, abuse, financial woes, etc). Part of me didn’t want to face the ugliness. I wanted to keep it at an arm’s distance. But, with Sarah’s encouragement, I requested a stack of adoption books from the library and determined to read them (pretty or not).

Between Light and Shadow: A Guatemalan Girl’s Journey Through Adoption

This was a quick read. It was written by a journalist (Wheeler) who set out to investigate the Guatemalan Adoption Industry (just before it was shut down). I, too, wanted to know what went wrong there, especially considering Honduras is it’s neighbor.

I think Wheeler had some serious biases about International adoption but that changed when he was confronted with the complexity of extreme poverty.

He found an adopted girl’s biological mother in Guatemala and discovered that this woman had given up (for adoption) four of her ten children. She used income from giving up those children and through prostitution to provide for her remaining children.

This book gave some insights into extreme poverty and the complicated nature of adoption. Guatemala, in particular, is somewhat racist and there are few domestic adoptions completed. When international adoption was shut down, surrendered children where not being placed in families but in orphanages. Overall, though, the book was inconclusive… hence the title.

 

I Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison

This book sat on our counter for almost two weeks before I even dared to open it.

Harrison and her husband were foster parents and she vividly depicts the shattered lives of children that entered their home. I worked in Community Services long enough to see the severity of damage caused in the lives of children by neglectful and abusive parents and I wasn’t sure I could stomach this book.

I felt like Harrison did a good job stating the facts of what some of the children endured, without excruciating details. She painted an accurate picture and explained how she tried her best to offer these children love, care, and hope in a crazy, messed up world.

It broke my heart.

I looked up foster parent qualifications for my state.

Then I prayed for the hurting children of this world.

Matthew 25:40 ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

I felt like a rock-star mom for the love, support and safety I am able to provide for my children.

And then I thanked God for the gift of family.

This gift I did nothing to earn and this gift that has allowed me to become who I am.

This gift of family that taught me about love and care and God and right vs wrong and giving to others.

This is a gift I want to give.

Book Review: Adoption Edition Part 1

 “You my mommy!” she announced as I walked by.

I stopped before her. “That’s right baby. I’m your mommy.”

“And Nattie, she my sister!”

“That’s right. Nattie’s your sister.”

“And daddy” – she’s excited now, a little breathless – “Daddy is my daddy!”

“That’s right sweetheart. Daddy is your daddy.”

“We’re a family!” she crows. “It’s a present!”

 

Two Little Girls: A Memoir of Adoption

Oh, how I enjoyed this book (thanks to my amazing friend, Sarah, for recommending it as she also makes her way through the adoption journey).

Reid is painfully honest in her story of adoption, the specifications they made for selecting a child, the anguish in turning down a child, and the exhaustive paperwork/travel process.

Even for non-adoptive readers; the story, the drama, and the emotion of this book will capture you. (I started reading this at night and could not sleep without knowing the ending).

However, as a whole, this book made me a little sad. Reid is an agnostic and I really felt like the perspective lacked hope.

 

Papa Piccolo
This was an excellent children’s book that touched on adoption. It was part of MissE’s Five in a Row curriculum. Piccolo is a tomcat that lives for adventure!  Then he encounters two orphan kittens and something changes within him. He cannot simply walk away and ignore their existence. He decides to embark on the greatest adventure of all…raising youngsters!

My Reflection:

1. We have been given a lavish gift of having been born into loving, stable, nuclear, hard-working, and godly families.

We want to continue to give and receive the gift of family.

2. Like, Piccolo, we cannot walk away.

After spending months and months learning about adoption and Honduras, we simply cannot walk away as if nothing has changed within us. Whatever it takes, big or small, we want to embrace this adventure and welcome a child forever into our family.

 

ps – Thanks for walking alongside us on this journey!!

 

Book Review: Biography Edition

The past two weeks I went on a biography binge. I read the following books.

I read Decision Points on the eve of 9/11. I wanted to know more about what happened that day and how that day impacted future decisions. However, I was really overwhelmed by all the details in the books (dates, names, places, etc). A history buff would probably enjoy the book, but overall I skimmed entire pages looking for more of the personal aspect.

I was inspired when Bush  talked about his personal transformation of waking up after turning 40 with a hangover, quitting drinking, and then turning 50 as governor of Texas.  It made me feel like I still had a lot of time to accomplish what I desire from life :)

I also loved the story of he and Laura watching ‘Meet the Fockers’ with Tony Blair (Can you picture it?) .

I Shall Not Hate was, in some ways, the flip side to Decision Points. It follows a Palestinian Doctor who lived in Gaza strip and worked in Israel. I honestly knew very little about life in Gaza and the book was eye opening. Unfortunately, He paints a somewhat hope-less picture. He talks about working to bridge the cultures there, valuing people, and reaching peace. But, in the end he moves to Toronto to raise his family in a safe place. This book gave me a new awareness of that part of the world ~ especially considering that just this week Palestine requested statehood. My heart aches for the children there. Hurt people hurt people.

 

This was BY FAR my favorite of the three biographies. I grew up hearing the story of Joni Eareckson Tada and knew a little about how she was paralyzed from the neck down during a diving accident. This book explores her adventurous childhood, her encounter with Jesus as a teenager, and her search for purpose in life after becoming a paraplegic. It also covers the absolutely incredible ways God has blessed Joni and used her to reach out to others.

We all have wrestled with questions about the meaning of life and I loved, loved, loved Joni’s honesty in dealing with doubts, depression, and uncertainty all the while moving forward with the life God had given her. Her life is an inspiration to millions and she has done great work in promoting the care, support, and value of those living with disabilities. She ended the book saying…

God had brought me here that I might see  - and thank him – for the wiser choice, the better answer, and the harder yet richer path.

Ah, this is the God I love. The Center, the Peacemaker, the Passport to adventure, the Joyride, and the Answer to all our deepest longings.  He has brought me here…to declare to anyone within earshot of the whole universe, to anyone who might care, that yes –

There are more important things in life than walking.

Book & Movie Review: The Help

I read The Help in June by the lake. It was bliss. The book is well written with a great balance of humor and insight. I have been counting down the days until the movie was released (and we had childcare) so I could see how they adapted the book to a movie. I was really hoping they would change a certain part in the ending.

 

 

The grandparents offered to watch the kiddos so we could sneak out and see it last night.

I LOVED the movie.

I think I liked the movie even better than the book.

It reminded me of the power of my words, the importance of doing what is right, and the amazing influence I have as a mother. No, they did not make the change I wanted, but the ending of the movie was perfect and fitting. The woman next to us in the theater was bawling. So, heads up to you criers, bring a kleenex! Oh, and invite me, because I would absolutely pay to see it again.

 

Book Review: Meet Kirsten

I snagged a complete boxed set of Kirsten books at a garage sale this summer. I was excited because not only is Kirsten Swedish, she also moves to Minnesota. What a perfect combo!

 

We just finished reading Meet Kirsten and it is taking all of my will to not sit down and read the entire set in one day. I know MissE would LOVE that, but it would be better to read the Christmas Story a little closer to Christmas :)

Another good note about reading Kirsten is that her American Girl Doll has been retired. I won’t be tempted to run to the store, overspend, and buy the doll because I am emotionally attached to the story.

Book Review: Radical

 

I just finished reading Radical; taking back your faith from the American Dream. After a year of paying off all of our debt, I felt like we had the radical lifestyle down. I was certain this book would reinforce what I already knew about living on less and giving up the pursuit of possessions.

Fortunately, it was way more than that.

I was stopped in my tracks when I read this paragraph (pg 80).

Then something happened last year that changed my life. I stood in a city dump in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I saw men, women, and children who were living in a dump where they scoured for food and shelter. Humbled by the reality of parents raising their kids in a dump, I reached my breaking point when I saw a woman eight months pregnant walk by me, looking for food. I couldn’t decide which was worse – the fact that the baby was conceived in a dump or that it was going to be born there.

Wait. What did that just say?

That could be our mama. That could be our baby.

My heart was broken and alive at the same time.

Can I fly to Honduras tomorrow? Can I send them my leftover chicken burritos? What can I do to help right now?

The book continues.

In the middle of these scene, God asked me, “What are you going to do with what I have given you? How are you going to use your influence, your leadership, and your resources in the world around you?”

And that, my friends, is really why I liked the book. It didn’t just say here is a five step plan for making yourself feel better about your life. It said, here is the reality of the world and the reality of Jesus, what are you going to do about it this year?

 

Movie Review: Soul Surfer

 

We finally got to watch Soul Surfer last night. I say finally, because I thought it was coming out two weeks ago and was a little devastated to have to wait so long.

I’m not going to lie. Some of the acting was a little cheesy and I really could not buy Carrie Underwood as a youth pastor.

BUT, I love the story!

After the movie was over, we had to watch all of the special features. I was so impressed with this young lady. The determination, the love for surfing, and the unwavering faith in God was inspiring. To think she lost her arm and a month later was surfing! To watch the real Bethany Hamilton awkwardly address the media, not because she loved to talk about herself, but because she was determined to use her situation to bring honor to Jesus Christ!

So awesome!

And now I want to go surfing.

Or move to Hawaii.

But, maybe not, because now I have the soundtrack of JAWS playing in my mind.

Book Review: Heaven is for Real

If you haven’t read Heaven is for Real you may very well be the last person in America not to do so. Or maybe that is an exaggeration, but a lot of people have read it. I had heard the buzz for a few weeks and was eager to get my hands on it, but I was number 175 on the wait list from the library.

My sister purchased the book for my dad for a belated father’s day present. It was fitting since my dad’s mom (my grandma) had just entered the gates of heaven after 92 1/2 full years on earth. My dad read it quickly and loved it. He brought it to the cabin over the 4th and than my brother, sister, and myself all read it within a day.

Everyone agreed. It was a perfect, heartwarming book that reminds of how much Jesus loves children. My brother said he wanted to buy copies and hand them out to friends. My sister said it should be required reading for children’s church workers and VBS volunteers.

For me, it was such an encouraging outlook on how every child is created and loved by God.

Our child that is waiting for us somewhere across the ocean is being watched over and cared for by an amazing God.

Our child that was lost in miscarriage, was loved by God and is in heaven with him at this very moment.

Our two beautiful children that live happily and health-fully in our home, are being taught about the God of the universe. Sometimes it feels like they don’t grasp what I would want them to know about God. This book reminded me that they don’t need to take lessons on theology to know that God loves them and uniquely created them.

Their child-like faith brings joy to God and I can rest knowing he loves them even more than I do.