Saturday, September 27, 2014

21 Books from my 2014 Library

A friend of mine posted a list of books he had read last year and I thought, "Man! That's a lot of books!" and I immediately examined my own internal list which probably was like "0" or maybe "2".  I was ashamed to realize that I wasn't investing in reading books at all!  I vowed to change that so I decided to keep a little tally for myself and record the books as I read them this year.

For as far back as I can remember, I have been a competitive person.  I distinctly remember being about 4 or 5, sitting on a stool at the kitchen counter, peeling potatoes like a speed demon, and furtively stealing glances at my 3 years elder sister who was completely unaware of our "race" and was peacefully peeling potatoes on a stool of her own.  So, its not really shocking that my book list has become like a competition with myself and, alright, maybe its a tiny bit competitive with the size of my friend's list from last year.


Some books I've read are just silly "junk food" type books, some I have read with my kids, and some have been really good investments and uplifting books for my soul.  I'm a little bit embarrassed to dredge the caverns of my (reading) soul like this, but in the hopes of challenging you to read a bit more, too, here is my "so far" this year reading list…

Cryn's Books of 2014

1) A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

2) The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger -- I really enjoyed this nonfiction account of this crazy storm.  It was interesting as a story, but also really informative about weather, sailing, and the sea.

3) Basic Christian,the Inside Story of John Stott by Roger Steer -- This was a very interesting and encouraging read about the life of one very influential theologian and pastor who has influenced many of the well-known theologians of our time.  This was an extremely ordinary man with the same struggles and conflicts as many of us.  His respect for his father in difficult circumstances, his ordinariness, his hobby of birdwatching and camping with friends, his diligent study, his patience and trust in God over controversies within the Christian faith were all very inspiring.

4) The Giver by Lois Lowry -- A classic, but not my favorite.  An interesting and quick read.

5) Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom -- A story about saying goodbye and death

6) Holes by Louis Sachar -- Ok, this one is embarrassing to admit, but what can I say, I needed something to read and someone had given it to the kids.  Honestly, ever since Shia LaBeouf starred in the Disney Production of the movie, I was curious what this story was about.

7) Knowing God by J. I. Packer -- This was a tough read and took me a while, but it was a great book and I would definitely recommend it.

8) Bridges with Spirit by Adam Voith -- Random short stories. Meh.

9) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

10) Divergent by Veronica Roth -- I loved the movie, so I had to read the series.  Totally addicting teen book series.

11) Insurgent by Veronica Roth

12) Allegiant by Veronica Roth

13) The Maze Runner by James Dasher -- After my experience reading the Divergent series and having to wait for a copy from the library for forever, I decided to get a jump on the Maze Runner series before the movie came out in case I liked it.  It was ok.  I don't want to see the movie after reading the books.  Interesting story, but too gory and zombie like if it turned into a movie for me.

14) The Scorch Trials by James Dasher

15) The Death Cure by James Dasher

16) The Kill Order by James Dasher

17) The Privilege by Kay Smith -- A book about the privilege of being a pastor's wife.  Some good nuggets and some stuff to take with a grain of salt.

18) Peace Like A River by Leif Enger

19) Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller -- An illuminating read about the idols all of us collect, sometimes without even realizing.  This book has given me news eyes with which to view everything.  Where I once was blind to the subtleties of my and other people's idolatry, I am now much more aware and therefore equipped to deal with them. A super quick read.

20) The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller -- A beautiful and uplifting book about the parable Jesus tells about the TWO sons of a certain man and the failings of each son: the prodigal one and the one who stayed behind.  And how we often fall into the same trap as either of them. A super quick read.

Currently Reading: 21) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Magical Pie Nightmare

This sounds so snobbish, but… I'm sort of against store-bought pie.  Its just really hard to bring myself to eat it.  One giant store-bought pie showed up at our house last week and Caiden kept bugging me to have some and here were my difficulties with that.  First, it was giant and I was imaging what would happen when I cut one little piece of pie out of that giant thing and then the rest of it would inevitably go to waste.  I wanted to see if anyone else would want to take the pie off of our hands.  Second, after a while, I wasn't too sure if the pie was still good.  Third, after a while after that I wondered what was wrong with the pie that no mold was growing on it or anything.  What kinds of steps were taken to preserve this thing anyway?!

But even with all my reservations, I felt kind of bad about the whole pie thing and I finally confessed to David, "I don't know what to do! Caiden wants some of this pie, but I don't really want her to have it and I'm not even sure if its good or not.  What should I do?!"

That's when he encouraged me to go with my gut and get rid of the pie with the assurance that "You guys can just make your own little galette or something."

Well, to me, those words were freedom, liberation, empowerment!  Did he just tell me to make pie? Yes, he did!

So the next day, I picked up my little fools from school and asked them what kind of pie they wanted to make.  When they couldn't agree, I thought, "What the heck; it's fall; it's a beautiful day; I made enough pie crust; why not make two pies?"  So I let them each choose what kind of small pie they would make.  In my head they would be little pies, but when Elliott decided to go with pumpkin it felt weird to picture throwing out half a batch of pumpkin pie filling so we made a whole pumpkin pie and a little apple galette for Caiden.  It was so fun to whip up some special desserts without having a special occasion or any good reason to do it.




We all were looking forward to dessert after dinner, everyone, that is except for David who is basically allergic to all forms of pie.  And that's exactly when the magical aura of delight and whimsy around our pie making adventure came crashing down around us me.  David had snuck away to the couch and I grumpily ordered him to take part in witnessing our ingestion of delightful pie whether he likes pie or not. He would not be exempt from this experience, thank you very much.  And then weirdly, something went awry with my children.  They are defective.  It turn out, they don't really like pie very much and to my horror and devastation they turned up their noses at my beautiful, flaky, buttery pie crust.  On one side of the table was a weird group of urchins who only like the pie fillings, but even then only gave it a "thumbs in the middle," which means halfway between good and bad: on the other side of the table was a handsome, but pie-grinchy, old man who detests what is inside of the pie, but delights in the crust, commanding me to put cinnamon sugar on plain crust for him next time.  In short, nobody really appreciated the pie except for me.

Oh, to have someone to appreciate pie with… Will the day ever come?!  I am halfway excited that there will be more pie leftovers just for me and halfway scared of there being more pie leftovers just for me. I know I will eat them all.

And so that is how it came to be that Elliott, Caiden, and even me, had made from scratch a pumpkin pie and apple galette.

But no one was happy.  The end.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Elliott and Caiden Visit Connecticut

All my mom's kids and a straggler grand baby (Photo Credit: Monica Montgomery)

So, my mama turned sixty years old a few days ago and my stepdad made sure to surround his bride with all six of her children and eight grandchildren for her birthday.  It was a marvelous opportunity to reunite with my family and meet some of the newer members.  The kids and I jumped on a plane to Connecticut and what I took away from the whole experience is this: you can take my kids out of the city, but you can't take the city out of my kids--not in just one week anyway.

All my mom's grand babies (Photo Credit: Monica Montgomery)

Connecticut Day 1: My sister, Heather, was searching high and low for her purse until she finally asked for help.  

"Does anyone know where my purse is??  I thought I left it on my bed."

"Oh, that was me."  Elliott said.  "I hid your purse under the bed so no one would steal it!"

Connecticut Day 2: Driving a normal route from one town to another, Caiden is completely carsick from a drive that Connecticut kids have to take every single day.

Connecticut Day 3: Driving down a paved road that has lots of cracks that have been patched, Elliott asks, "What's all that graffiti supposed to be?"

Connecticut Day 4: Grandpa is taking the kids outside to find sticks for roasting marshmallows.  Elliott worries the flashlight will die and they won't be able to find their way back to the house which is fifty yards away.

Connecticut Day 4: We were going to take some kayaks out on Burr Pond and the kids want to know what a pond is and whether it is dirty or not.

"I thought you said it wasn't dirty!" they worried when we arrived. 

And then we when we left they were so impressed and told me, "That water was so cool!  It wasn't salty at all.  When it got it my mouth it wasn't salty, it was like water you can drink!"

(Photo Credit: Monica Montgomery)

David had tried to warn me before I left.  He was so insistent about the fact that our "city kids" (as he kept calling them) would be clueless out there.  He asked me if my mom's house was next to a forest and I started cracking up.  All of Connecticut is like one giant forest.  All you can see in any direction is hills covered in trees.  Secretly I was doubtful about labeling our kids "city kids."  I thought he was being a bit dramatic, but after the week we just had in Connecticut I'm convinced he's right!  City kids it is!

Monday, September 15, 2014

That Time Caiden and I Decided to Run Away


My sister always used to threaten she would run away when we were little.  A cousin of mine actually did run away while living with us.  This particular approach never occurred to me when it came to dealing with my frustrations as a child.  I remember using tears A LOT as an outlet to frustration, but it never struck me to throw in the towel on my family.  Never, that is, until two weeks before I was free to be on my own.  It was two measly weeks until my high school graduation (at which point I planned on moving away) when I got so frustrated with my mother and felt there was so much injustice happening that I literally ran away. I ran out of the house and down the street, jumping into ditches every time a car drove past in fear that my mother would find me and take me home. I ran all the way to the outskirts of town and eventually ended up in the home of a friend.  My mom and I patched things up a few days later and I came home, finished school, and moved away.  Twelve years went by before I felt any kind of remorse or guilt about my decision.  Until then, I had felt completely justified.  Completely at peace with my decision until the Holy Spirit brought conviction about this thing I hardly ever even think about any more.  It all happened when my own little girl made the decision recently that it was time for her to pack up her things and "get out of Dodge."

A few weeks ago, as I was getting out of the shower, an unhappy little six year old with an iron will and tangled hair came marching into the bathroom with her backpack on and her "Pink Blanket" in her hand.  "I'm running away from home!" she declared with a pouting look.

"Oh man." I thought wryly, "How can we be here already?" I really hadn't expected to deal with the whole running away scenario until teen years, if ever.


We talked there in the bathroom--me in my towel with dripping wet hair, sitting on the closed lid of the toilet and her standing before me with her backpack and determined face.  I asked her why she wanted to run away and explained why its not okay to run away from your problems.  I also tried to evoke some compassion for the feelings of her conscientious big brother who was probably scared as his little sister was packing up to run away while Mom was in the shower.  We talked about some other things and she apologized and had a change of heart.  She assured me that she wouldn't do it again.

A few nights later, David and I had a confrontation and battle of wills with Caiden right before bed.  Now that she was an old pro at this she threatened the run away thing again.  We had to have a serious conversation about obedience and trust.  I asked Caiden if she trusted God. I asked her if she loved God.  I reminded her that Jesus says "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." in John 14:15 and that His word says, "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." Colossians 3:20.   I told her that if she leaves the family God placed her in, she would be disobeying and leaving God's will for her life, because God put her parents in authority over her ("There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." Romans 13:1) In leaving, she would be saying that she knows better than God.*  In essence, she would be saying that she doesn't trust Him.  I told her that if she loves and trusts God, she needs to trust that He knows what He's doing when He placed her in her family.  As I spoke these words of truth from God's word, His word also pierced MY heart.  I remembered my actions all those years ago and all the circumstances surrounding them.  Nothing changed as far as my perspective or view of the circumstances, but I clearly saw that in leaving my family in such a way, even if I had felt wronged, was an act of disobedience to my Lord and also one of mistrust.  I was surprised by this change of heart, because nothing could have convinced me that I was in the wrong except for God's Spirit speaking to my heart and changing it.  I felt I must repent and make amends with my mom.

I love how He does that.  It lends an incredible amount of peace to my life in knowing that I need not spend all of my moments worrying and second guessing everything I've ever done, but can--in entrusting my life to following and loving Jesus--rest, knowing He is responsible for convicting me of sin and convicting my children, too.  I don't need to nor can I successfully micromanage these things.  If I do, I end up placing my trust in myself and my own abilities instead of spending my time enjoying Jesus and the relationship with God that He has made available to me through His work in living a perfect life in my place already and then taking my punishment for my sins. I am not resting in that work and enjoying Him, instead I am trying to do that same work myself as if His work wasn't good enough!

His worthiness to be trusted with these things has been evidenced to me exponentially, lately, as just yesterday, Caiden came to me out of the blue, confessing that she sometimes would throw her homework away last year.  I couldn't help but laugh, knowing how much Caiden hates homework and how much we battled over it last year.  At the same time I realized, with awe, how much God holds my little girl in His hands.  I might not catch every wrong thing my kids do, but He misses nothing.  I cannot force my children to love and obey Him, but His Spirit clearly works in them to do both. I may not always handle each parenting situation right; I may sometimes frustrate my child to the point where she deceives me and throws away her homework, but luckily God knows what He's doing when He allows one broken person who desperately needs God to steward and disciple another broken person who desperately needs Him, too, and He's faithful to work in both of us to sanctify us and He is "able to keep [us] from stumbling and present [us] blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy" (Jude 1:24).  The only way I know to parent is to humbly cling to Jesus, point to Jesus, and hope in Jesus.


*To be clear, this post was not written to condemn anyone who has left an abusive situation and/or left a situation in the interest of safety.  That would be an entirely different matter.

Monday, August 4, 2014

An Unexpected Moment with Jesus

Have you had a moment where God speaks to you so clearly you can't doubt that it's Him? The kind of moment you hold on to for the rest of your days and refer back to as a pillar of remembrance to His faithfulness?  The Lord has been gracious to me and faithfully taught me and spoken to me over the years through His word and through His people.  But He has also given me a few of those arresting moments in my life where His voice is loud and bold in speaking to my heart, transfixing me with His love.

One of those moments happened, unexpectedly, to me last week.  We had a new church member over having dinner with us and just before she left she casually handed me a shopping bag announcing that she bought me a gift and it just so happened to be my "half birthday"--or so she had discovered over dinner.

I opened the bag and inside was just this extravagant gift: a beautiful and carefully chosen handbag.  Not a hand me down (although I love hand me downs!), this was a name brand handbag--for me, an almost stranger to her--and I was just floored.  Like a gaping, staring, jumbling, teary eyed mess, I could not find words; I stumbled over my sentences.  I mean, who wouldn't love to be given an expensive gift?  But it was more than that.  It didn't make sense.  I could find no reason or explanation for such a gift--no prolonged friendship or previous debt she owed me, no magnificent feats or overly thoughtful deeds on my part, no intimate acquaintance or particularly shared interest.  Not only that, but it was the magnitude of the gift that was so confounding.  Again, who wouldn't be surprised by an extravagant gift?  But this was more than that.  The handbag won't last forever and the novelty of such a lovely thing will wear off, but what really happened to me in that moment was that I saw the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding.  I saw a gift that was modeled after the one that God has given to me in Christ Jesus.  A gift with insurmountable worth for no conceivable reason--an unmerited outpouring of extravagant favor.  It makes no sense!  And in that moment and the ones to come I was broken, humbled, and elated at the knowledge of God's love for me: how he loves me and pours out this unexpected and overwhelming love on me though I am undeserving.  Yes, it reminded me of this spiritual truth of my salvation, but it also demonstrated a current outpouring of undeserved love and favor from God at that very moment--a current grace.  I know I have salvation, but God reminded me that He continues to love and bless me all throughout my life and can at any moment arrest my attention with it.  I now call it "Betsy Johnsoning" me.  He tells me in His word that He has not withheld any good from me.  He has given me His best and His all without holding back any good when He gave me His one and only Son.  All that He does and allows in my life is viewed through that lens and security of His love--even the hard and heartbreaking things.  But at any moment He can swoop in and reveal Himself and His character and His overwhelming love to me by sending someone to my door with a Betsey Johnson bag for no reason and leave me completely gasping and wordless in awe of Him and His love for me. He doesn't always do it that way and He doesn't have to, because He has already given me His all and demonstrated once and for all His love for me by laying down His life for mine while I was His enemy--but at any time, in His own time, He can and He does.  In a time when I didn't feel worthy, wasn't looking,  and was doing nothing to earn, merit, or find Him, there He was before me displaying for my broken heart to see the magnificent firework show of His overwhelming love for me.  Why?  Because He is love--the very embodiment of it--because He loves me, and because He has chosen to set His love on me.  And I am undone.


A gift like that makes me want to love people boldly, extravagantly, and fiercely.  I want people to see how ridiculously crazy God's love is: how nonsensical and beyond reason it is to be loved like that.  Its like an electric shock to our souls when we are loved by Him.  And I can only love people in an arresting way like that through Him.  Without Him, all my efforts fall far short of magnificent like a little broken firework that never makes it past the first blade of grass before fizzling out.  Fill me up and send me out, Lord.