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A fascinating true storyChrissy grew up surrounded by the beauty of love and the ugliness of pain. The daughter of a pastor whose church was located in a rough-and-tumble area of Brooklyn, she witnessed the ravaging effects of the streets on the lives of the most desperatedrug addicts, derelicts, and other destitute people. Yet her own home was a haven of warmth, filled with affection and love.Then something happened that tore her away from it. With the flip of a switch, Chrissy fell deeper and deeper into deception where haunting images and songs pointed to one thingperfection. Longing to be the girl in the song, she became entangled in an obsessive relationship. Before long, secret after secret led her down the path to becoming someone she didn’t even recognize. Locked in to an impossible life, Chrissy found release from a surprising direction.Girl in the Song tells the gripping, true story of a young woman whose choices led her to despair and incredible triumph. More than the story of one lost girl, Chrissy’s experience points to the power of hope to lead us away from destructive relationships and into a life that just might end happily ever after.
|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Girl in the Song
The True Story of a Young Woman Who Lost Her Way â" and the Miracle that Led Her Home
By Chrissy Cymbala Toledo, Bonne Steffen
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Chrissy Cymbala Toledo
All rights reserved.
IT WAS 9 P.M. and I looked up at my dad as we walked down a dark, dismal block of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. Even at four years old, I noticed that he looked much different from most of the people we passed — Dad was clean-shaven, well dressed, with nice-smelling cologne. I was oblivious to the sadness that surrounded me.
"Daddy, wait a minute. One of my shoes got unbuckled."
My dad apprehensively let my hand go but didn't take his eyes off of me, not even for a second. I bent down over my dark blue kneesocks, smiling as I reached for my shoes. They were bright red, and they were my favorite thing, more important than any doll or toy I had. I took my time buckling the strap, admiring the shoes for just a bit too long.
Dad gently pulled me by the hand. "Ready?"
"Yes, Daddy, I did it myself. See?"
We continued down the street, and I giggled as he squeezed my hand three times. It was our secret way of saying I. LOVE. YOU. I would squeeze his hand three times too. Back and forth, back and forth, we'd talk in our special code. The concrete pavement was cracked and bumpy under my feet, and I made a game out of trying not to step on the cracks.
The rumbling sound of the subway under my red shoes was, in part, the music of the streets. A strong burst of air whooshed up through the grate as a train passed underground, blowing my fine blonde hair over my eyes. Dad gently swept my hair off my face so that I could see.
At that moment, I caught a whiff of the odor that always made me wrinkle my nose. I didn't know that the pungent smell was mostly from urine. I didn't think much about why there was loose, smelly garbage on the sidewalk. I just made sure I didn't step on anything. The sights and sounds of the city were just an indication to me that we were close ... close to the center of my world.
I looked across the street and saw the lady who always stood in the same place under the streetlight. She wore lots of makeup and sparkly clothes and was always talking to a man through the window of his car. When I turned to look back and saw her get into the car, I wondered, Where is she always going?
Before I could ask my dad, someone shouted from farther down the block. I recognized his voice right away, but I couldn't understand what he was saying.
"Oh no, Daddy, he's waiting for you again!"
We continued down the street, and I pulled on Dad's arm.
"What do you think he wants tonight, Daddy?"
As we got closer, I could see the man struggling to get up from the cardboard mat that was sliding underneath him.
"Father, Father!" he shouted, his words seeming to mush together.
He had a bottle clutched tightly in one hand while he tried to raise the other, hoping to get my dad's attention
Father? I thought.
"Daddy, you're not his father!" I exclaimed.
He looked at me and just smiled.
Kneeling down next to the man, Dad laughed and said, "I'm a pastor, not a priest." Even though it wasn't cold out, the man was shaking. Daddy talked quietly to him. "Hey, my friend, you're not looking so good tonight."
Dad's blue eyes filled with tenderness met the man's bloodshot gaze. He reached over and touched the man's shoulder, which I thought looked really dirty.
"Would you come see me in the morning?"
The man didn't respond. Instead, he laid his head back down on his paper bag pillow, holding the empty bottle to his chest. I could see that Daddy was really sad, and it made me sad too. He was kind to everyone, especially people that others wanted to hurry by. Dad always looked at hurting people with so much love in his eyes. Maybe it was because he grew up in a home watching his own father's hands tremble.
* * *
"Come here, Chrissy," Grandpa would say with his arms out, unable to keep from shaking because of his drunkenness.
I never wanted to be near Grandpa, and I surely didn't want to give him a hug. I cringed when he would set me on his knee, trying to still himself enough to talk to me. He would lean his face close to mine, and I would squirm and turn my head away because I didn't like the smell of his breath.
"Grandma, where are you?" I would call out, hoping she would come get me. But my attempt at a rescue only seemed to make Grandpa hold me tighter.
No matter what Grandpa said or did, Grandma's response was always caring and considerate. When he raised his voice, she would answer him quietly. Year after year, she saw beyond what things were and believed that change would come. What I didn't know at that age was that sometimes Grandma had to call my dad in the middle of the night because Grandpa had struck her and she was hurt badly. My dad had grown up living with an abusive father and watching his mother endure through the hardest times without becoming bitter. Even though she had every reason to leave Grandpa, she never did.
As an escape from the turmoil at home, Dad spent the majority of his days on some of the worst playgrounds in the city because that's where the best basketball was. Playing ball in the fifties, he quickly learned how to get along with all kinds of people and ended up creating a whole new world outside of his home. Little did he know that he was being shaped to have a heart for the people in the neighborhood that his little church would be in one day.
It looked to me as though the man on the ground had fallen asleep, so I tugged at Dad's sleeve. He slowly stepped away and pulled keys out of his pocket. The dim light above the sign that read Brooklyn Gospel Tabernacle cast a long shadow on the sidewalk that I loved to step on. Click, click ... the first and second locks opened and Dad switched on the light. I reached down to scoop up the scattered envelopes that had been pushed through the slot in the door.
"I've got the mail, Daddy!" I said and ran up the stairs, leaving him behind.
"I'll turn on the lights in your office, too!" I shouted through the railing.
Running my hands along the faded light blue walls, I inhaled the mouthwatering aroma that lingered from dinners that had been cooked that night in the apartments above our small church sanctuary. I loved those meals just as much as the ones Mom made for us. One of the tenants, Rina, was Filipino and made egg rolls, and the Ali family, who were from Trinidad, ate delicious roti stuffed with curried chicken. I reached the second floor, wondering who might be awake.
Skipping loudly through the hallway and into Dad's office, I was hoping someone would peek out of an apartment door and notice I was there. I flipped on the light switch, set the mail on my dad's desk, then plopped onto the green vinyl chair against the paneled wall, noticing that my red shoes were a bit scuffed from skipping on the sidewalk.
When Dad came in, he dropped our overnight bags on the floor and sat in his desk chair, shuffling through the pile of envelopes. For whatever reason, he always looked worried when he opened the mail. I licked my fingers and was trying to rub the scuff marks off my shoes when the picture hanging on the wall caught my attention, just as it always did.
It was a painting of Jesus standing next to a building as tall as a skyscraper. Jesus was as big as the building and was knocking on the windows. I had talked about it several times with Dad.
"Daddy, that looks like Jesus knocking on a building in New York."
"It does. Jesus really cares for the people in this city," he said, opening one envelope after another.
My gaze wandered from the painting to Dad. I loved him so much, and he made me feel so special when I was with him. I never wanted to be anywhere but by his side.
"Where's my lee-tal girl?" I heard Rina call out in her heavy Filipino accent from the apartment down the hall.
"Rina!" I jumped up from my chair and ran out to greet her. Wrapping my arms around her hips, I hugged her tightly as she pulled me into her kitchen.
"Come in, I will give you some snacks." Barely five feet tall, she wore a floral print housedress and slippers, and her thick dark brown hair was tied up in a bun. As usual, her kitchen counter was filled with cookies and other treats she'd bought in Chinatown.
"Ooh, can I have some pineapple juice with my cookies, Rina?"
"Of course, my leetal princess," she answered.
Rina and her husband always kept a guest room ready for us, with a bed for Dad to sleep in as well as a makeshift bed for me on the floor. I loved staying overnight at Rina's when Dad decided to work late because it was such an adventure. I would run all over the building, exploring every corner. And even better, I got to be with Rina, a person I adored.
I finished up my snacks, changed into my cozy pajamas, and lay down on the fluffy blanket that was spread out on the worn shag carpet. Rina shuffled into the room and kissed me goodnight, turning off the lights so that I could settle in. I lay there in the dark listening to the noise coming through the slightly opened window — far-off sirens, honking horns, and blaring music blended together, sounding like a crazy song. Starting to doze off, I heard laughter — Rina and her husband were talking in the kitchen. I loved my world.
As I slept, Dad would usually work late, sitting alone in his office down the hall. The reality of what he faced every day as the pastor of this church must have crowded his mind. The problems seemed somehow veiled when I was with him — his distraction, a four-year-old girl who loved being with her daddy. But now, in the stillness, pangs of doubt must have entered his thoughts. It had been almost a year since he'd resigned from a promising career at American Airlines to take this church in an area where heroin was as easy to buy as a carton of milk.
There was absolutely nothing appealing about the neighborhood or the building that might draw people to this place. The Brooklyn Tabernacle was not in a good situation. Collections taken on Sundays were sometimes stolen before they could be counted and the few people who attended could barely support themselves, let alone a struggling church. The wood-like paneled walls of that second floor office must have felt like they were closing in on Dad that night. To me this was an adventure; not so for him.
Suddenly on this night I woke up, startled by screaming sirens speeding by the building. I looked toward the empty guest bed. Where's Daddy? I got up and tiptoed through the kitchen, then out into the hallway. A small light shone from the office, the door slightly ajar. I quietly approached, peeked through the opening, and saw something that was not unusual to me. Dad was praying. But he was not just praying ... he was listening. Even as a little girl, I knew that's what he was doing because his eyes were closed and his face looked like someone who was looking at something beautiful.
Excerpted from Girl in the Song by Chrissy Cymbala Toledo, Bonne Steffen. Copyright © 2015 Chrissy Cymbala Toledo. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a powerful story of God’s amazing grace at work in the life of a young woman and her family. I read Chrissy’s father’s book 14 years ago in which he shared a very brief portion of her story as it affected him and his wife. But as Chrissy shared her life in the book, it became so much more real to learn what drew her away from loving Christian parents and a wonderful church family to the depths of despair. My heart ached as I read about her dishonesty to her parents and herself as the dark powers of evil tried to steal her soul. It is easy to look around at people I know and wander if they are fighting similar battles as I see them struggle over and over with the same things. And I have to wander if there is a cadre of people calling out to God on their behalf. Chrissy’s story truly highlights the tremendously significant role of those people who will come together and cry out for their loved ones who are in hopeless situations. Rev. Cymbala shared in his book about the Tuesday night when someone handed him a note saying “Tonight is Chrissy’s night”. She shares what was happening to her that night while the whole church prayed for her. I shudder to think how the story might have ended without a church praying specifically and adamantly for her. I highly recommend the book. If you are struggling with destructive obsessive behavior that keeps pulling you down, read this book. If you know someone who seems to be caught in a vicious trap of a destructive lifestyle, read it and share with that person. Every Christian and everyone who has any interest in surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ can benefit from reading Girl in the Song. I won a copy of this book in a giveaway and was encouraged to write my honest review. This review is honest and straight from the heart.
New Girl. New Song. During their years of captivity, the people of Israel needed encouragement. The prophet Zephaniah reminded them of God’s presence in their midst, His power to save, and the fact that He rejoiced in His love for them, a joy that was expressed in song! “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) Memoir, biography, and cautionary tale, Girl in the Song by Chrissy Cymbala Toledo encourages readers to be the girl in God’s song, bringing joy to His heart. Daughter of Jim and Carol Cymbala of the New York’s Brooklyn Tabernacle, Chrissy’s life journey began in a loving home surrounded by a vibrant community of believers. However, by the time Chrissy entered her teen years, she ached to be written into all the wrong songs, was finding her significance in all the wrong measurements, and was giving her heart to a relationship that would lead to darkness and disaster. Obsessed with her appearance, Chrissy was a slave to the voice of her mirror’s daily message: “Not good enough.” The patterns of deception that fed her destructive behaviors eventually alienated her from her family and led to a humiliating existence of poverty, instability, and deep misery. Tough love and the power of prayer opened Chrissy’s eyes to her own desperate situation. God, in His faithfulness, demonstrated His unfailing love and forgiveness. Parents of prodigals will find hope in the Cymbala family’s journey, but, more important, young women who see their own harmful patterns reflected back to them in Chrissy’s story may recognize and repudiate the lies that hold them captive: that their happiness depends upon becoming someone’s fantasy-woman; that they can achieve perfection in their appearance; that their wardrobe and possessions define them and give them value. When love for God became Chrissy’s powerful heartbeat, her music became a road back to rejoicing. Her story is proof that even those who lose their way can find freedom and can rediscover the love of God who cherishes them, who accepts them, who rejoices over them with singing. This book was provided by Tyndale in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Girl in the Song was truly a great read! Not only was Chrissy's story a blessing but it was also relative to my personal life. Like Chrissy, I also struggle with the voices that tells me everyday I am not good enough, which led me to make many mistakes, finding my worth in other things besides God, and doubting God. While reading, i felt like i wasn't alone. In her book, she describes the constant battle of wanting to be chosen, the need to be more, to be perfect. This is a constant struggle for women of all ages including myself. Girl in the Song reminded me of Gods unconditional love for us regardless of our bad choices. He is faithful and will take whatever mess we get ourselves in and use it for good. I now have hope and plan to continue to grow in His love. Thank you Chrissy for sharing your story. I recommend this book to all.