Sunday, November 28, 2010


Pain. Sometimes I think I prefer taking physical pain over emotional pain or heartache. Proverbs 18:14 puts it this way, “The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit?” Lately I’ve been aware of several good friends of mine who are going through trying times. They’ve had their spirits crushed. If that’s you, this is from my heart for you.

At one of my girl’s retreats last year, a girl out of the blue asked me, “Cristina are you ever sad? I just always see you happy, do you ever get sad?” And I just cheerfully answered back, “Nope! Not really. I’m a pretty happy girl.” Then as I walked away it was as if God stopped me dead in my tracks and said, “BALOGNE!! Tell her about times you have been discouragement and what to do with it. She needs that.” Duh! So I whirled around and went back to her and said, “You know, I’m a pretty happy girl but I DO get discouraged from time to time…” And I sat down and opened my heart to her about some things the Lord has done in my life in regards to pain and suffering and some dark and lonely nights.

If you’re not there right now you can read over this and it probably won’t mean a thing. But next time are discouraged (because that’s real life), come back and maybe your soul will be reminded of what we tend to forget when times are joyous.

My spirit was completely crushed because of something that happened last Christmas but I turned to the Lord and searched the Scriptures for words like: heartbroken, crushed in spirit, & faint. I was blown away by all the special promises God has for the broken and faint at heart! If that’s you listen to this:

Psalm 34:18, “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart…

Job 17:1 “My spirit is crushed,and my life is nearly snuffed out. The grave is ready to receive me.” (Definitely how I felt!)

Psalm 27:13
“I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”

Proverbs 24:10
“If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.”

Lamentations 5:17
“For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim.” (Are your eyes dim? Keep reading.)

Isaiah 40:29
“He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” I QUALIFY!!!

But don’t stop there, take a look at what’s ahead, right around the corner...

Isaiah 57:14-16, “I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.”

“Reviving the courage of those with repentant hearts” is where I’m at right now. Jesus has so gently been convicting my heart of an area that I need to surrender and completely take my hands off, and I have been battling with that for several months. Not wanting to let it go because I believe I know what’s good for me. When we know what we’re supposed to do and we don’t want to do it, changes to make, sins to repent of, competing affections to get rid of, we turn a deaf ear to the Lord and just avoid that all together.

But how tragic for God to be speaking, and you not listening! I’ve done that before Here’s what He says to that. Isaiah 30: 1, “Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit.”

But He’s so eager to communicate with us! There are a thousand times a week He wants to tell you how much he loves you. A thousand times a week He’s trying to nudge you in the right way. A thousand times a week He’s trying to warn you of something He wants you to miss and not experience pain as a result.

“For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” –Mathew 13:15

A few years ago I led a group of young girls on a journey to some cabins at the Northwoods of Michigan, with the sole purpose of seeking the Lord for ten days. I decided from the start that I would never tell them ahead of time what we would do. They would know when we did it. During those ten days I gave them instructions like, “Everyone grab your coats we’re going outside.” Then came the questions, “For how long?”, “Am I going to want my purse?”, “What are we going to do?”, “Should we bring food?”, “Will we be back by dark?” No matter how many times I said “Girls! Just trust me to give you the instructions you need, no questions!” haha A gazillion questions continued. Each new day held new questions, doubts, concerns…and opportunities to trust. God was showing me a mirror of myself. Just trust me. Just follow. No questions. No comments. No complaints. He leads us by still waters. He restores our soul by still waters.

Even when you have been stubborn and rebellious and you’re not listening, He says “I will continue to speak to you and be faithful! And when you hear from Me your heart will burst in song! God is in the business of taking things that are ALL BAD and turning them into things that are ALL GOOD. And you know what that’s called God’s Providence. Even when you have sinned and become hard hearted, our God’s character doesn’t change! He still keeps speaking and prompting even when being ignored. The issue is not why isn’t He speaking to me anymore, the issue is, how can I make myself sensitive His voice again.

Take a look at His precious thoughts towards us. Let’s reflect on his goodness and mercy:

Psalm 145:9
The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.

Psalm 84:11
For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

1 Chronicles 17:26
And now, LORD, thou art God, and hast promised this goodness unto thy servant…

Psalm 33:5
…the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.

Psalm 69:16
Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.

Psalm 73:28
But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

Lamentations 3:25
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.

Let those promises wash over you. Let them take root deep in your soul. Letting yourself remain in the trenches of discouragement and despair is failure to lift your eyes to Jesus and trust His faithfulness and mercy and unfailing love. You will always be discouraged when you fix your eyes on the difficult situation. So stop. Let the above verses stop you dead in your tracks and remind you what you’re tempted to forget. Grab a pen and paper and make a list of benefits.

Mine range from:

  • I look forward to Heaven
  • I'm learning to follow God's plan without knowing the details.
  • Personal strength is being built inside me.
  • I'm learning contentment & that God is more than enough.
  • I'm being reminded of whats worth treasuring.
  • I long for Christs return QUICKLY!!

Go turn on a song of praise to the Lord and let your heart sing along! Its good for your soul to recount His goodness.

Monday, June 30, 2008

On Divorce and Re-Marriage

Many today would be surprised if you told them that divorce is, in fact, a very American phenomenon. When divorce is not an option, the two people are more likely to move heaven and earth to work a situation out. Because divorce has become such an easy thing to do for trifle reasons, then it is the first thing people resort to when they are disillusioned with the circumstances in their marriage.

God is very clear about how strongly He hates divorce. Divorce has never been part of God’s plan for marriage. Mathew 19:7-8, “They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away. He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.”
Marriage is a covenant made with the determination to remain together until Jesus returns or one of the two parties dies. Marriage is a covenant, not a contract. A contract is based on lack of trust, but a covenant is based on full trust. A contract can easily be dissolved if at any given moment, things are not convenient for the man or the woman. The marriage covenant cannot be dissolved because Biblically speaking the covenant makes the husband and wife one—in spirit, soul, and body. It is within this unity, that family is established with identity and a sense of security.

Malachi 2:14-16, “Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.”

God gave every person three privileges or inalienable rights—the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to property. God is the one who gives life and no one has the right to take it away except civil authorities. To them he gave authority to put to death those who violate God’s law. If the circumstances of a marriage are some type of abuse or aggression, this is a violation to the God-given right to life. In this case, a temporal separation might be necessary, knowing that God can work to change their hearts during that period of time.

I recently went to the wedding of one of my best friends and college roommates. On the way to the wedding rehearsal, I was in the car with her grandmother—quite an extraordinary lady. She has been married for 67 years. She told me beaming, “The other day a young man asked me. ‘What does it take to be married for 67 years?” I echoed that question and said, “Yeah what does it take to be married for 67 years?”

In her grandmotherly voice she said, “Well at the moment I had never pondered that question, you know. It just, never crossed my mind. But nevertheless as I thought about it, I realized that through the good times and the bad, through the rough times and the smooth times, one thing remained certain, divorce was never an option. Today young people are as quick to get out of a marriage as they are to change their socks. They have all kinds of excuses: the romance was gone; he turned out being different than the man I married; even infidelity. But there is nothing that God can’t work with. There is nothing too hard for Him.” That’s sage advice.
Grandma Smith is not the only person who has told me that. Choosing divorce as the solution to a problem is to take the matter in our own hands and say, “God, this one is definitely too hard for You, I will take matters into my own hands and resolve it.”

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I will boast in the Lord my God...

I'm sitting here at the Dallas airport waiting for my flight back to Mexico. (This is the layover from Kentucky). I'm watching people and just noticing the general despair on the faces of the people around me. The things they glory in. Men, their money, women, their material possessions. The problem is, I used to be the exact same way. My glory was in myself. My boast was in my things. Clothes, accessories, beauty, gain, popularity, reputation, position, posessions.

But the deeper I press into Jesus, teh more I savor His kindness and gentleness, the further I walk alonside Him, the more I realize that He is more worthy of my praise than Cosmo magazine, than clothes and accessories, than shoes and friends, than beauty and popularity, than music and reputation. he is FAR more worthy of my lifestyle worship and adoration, than all the beast this world has to offer.

How could I have ever boasted in the things I did before? God is patiently purifying my heart and sanctifying me. The song that will forever and all eternity be on my lips will be gratefulness for His faithfulness and mercy to me every day of my life. I have literally been singing all day long. In the airport and in the plane, humming a tune to precious Savior. There is a renewed joy that fills my soul, no plane cancelation or hours of airport bonding time can take away that joy. It just doesn't even matter anymore.

Spending this week at the New Attitude conference in Kentucky was the greatest investment of $$ and 4 days I could have ever made. I've come back so renewed and afresh in love with my Jesus, and with a new resolve to study His word and "esteem the words of his mouth, more than my necessary food" as Job said.

I'm going to set aside time every morning to read, deeply study, memorize, and meditate on God's Holy Word until it is emblazoned on my heart. Sealed in such a way that it will be my waking thought. My meditation all the day. My song in the night. My weapon in the fight. My refuge in sorrow. My wisdom in confusion. My delight. My joy. My Supreme Treasure. Thank you Jesus for reviving my heart. Thank you for saving me. Forgiving me. Answering my prayers. Healing my wounds; my sickness; my infirmities. Restoring my soul. Redeeming me. Justifying me. Sanctifying me. Seating me at your table. Trading my rags for royal robes. My filth for cleanness. My sorrow for gladness. Weakness for strength. Peace for turmoil. Hatred for love.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Child-like Hands and Feet

I was wearing a red leotard with small white stars that looked like polka dots from far away. Gripping the edge of the floor mat with my toes, I’m not sure if it was nervousness or an attempt to muster up all the confidence in my eleven-year-old body for the challenge ahead. I looked over at the panel of judges with sheets of scoring sheets—their eyes glaring at me from their brown rimmed glasses. Alexa—my gymnastics coach sat on side, caught my eye, smiled at me confidently, and gave me her nod that meant, “Whenever you are ready Cristina.”
I started my long-rehearsed routine with summersaults and jumps, and sharp spins and twirls with my feet. My small, childlike hands and feet.

I finished and saluted like the gymnasts I have watched so many times in the Olympics, glancing one last time at Alexa, she gave me a thumbs up. Satisfied, I walked off the mat to take my place and hear the judge’s verdict. A second-place blue ribbon was pinned on my shirt and my arms were filled with stuffed animals, candy, and coupons for free burgers and McDonalds.
Sometimes I still feel like my spiritual hands and feet are small. Childlike. Those are the times I realize that I might always be childlike is my ways. And God will always have to smile, nod reassuringly and say, “Whenever you are ready Cristina.”

Do you ever long to do something more. Or maybe we did it in the past and we long for that again. Kind of how I feel about gymnastics, although I think my body would rebel at the thought now. We see others around us, with that sparkle in their eyes, and we long to have it.

I want to be the skater.

I want to be the twirler.

I want to be the glider.

I want to be the world changer.

So, together, God and I have decided to change the world. A lot of lovers make these kinds of promises of changing the world, but how many ever do it?

God and I…we’re going to change the world! And I mean this seriously. Give it all, until I don’t have anymore, then He can pick up the torch and carry me further.

I was thinking about my life. I was thinking about writing another book. I was thinking about learning how to play the guitar well. Become a better photographer, a better cook! My thoughts were along these lines: Maybe when I’m older. Or later. Or something. But then I won’t have time. Then I’ll have dishes to wash, children to tuck in bed, and laundry to fold. I won’t have time to be a photographer. Write a book. Sing. Act.

I want to do EVERYTHING God wants me to do, and be GREAT. If all God calls me to is be a mom, or take care of children for the rest of my life…that will be great. SO great I get excited just thinking about it! But for now He has called me to be single, living in Mexico, working with girls, and that is great, SO great!

Then the thought came: But don’t waste today.

So we're starting today. Jesus and I. We’re a team, I’m His daughter, friend and beloved…and He’ll provide energy and strength for me. He and I, together we’ll change the world. So, come, join us on the challenge. Dust of your gear and come do something great.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Photography Scavenger Hunt

Hi! Here is my Advanced Excell assignment of the Photography Scavenger Hunt. The following pictures were taken with a Sony Alpha X-200.

Vanishing Point: This picture is of my brother Judah looking out over a rail. This is located at a central point in the city called "El Obispado" where flown is a national flag of Mexico the size of a football field.

Broken: This is a sad picture for me because the other day I was wearing these favorite sunglasses, I saw the chip in the top and realized they must have falled down from my shelf to have broken like that. And they were my favorite! ::Snif snif::

Time: I chose this picture to portray time because I thought it branched out from your typical clock/watch fotos. This chart is located in my classroom where I work at school and is the scheduled with the times for each subject my kids learn.

Temperature: This picture demonstrates the main two global signs for tempreature being the Celcius and Fahrenheit. I always get confused as to which one is Mexico's and the USA's!

Stapler: I am very proud of my close-up shot of such a classy and sofisticated object. This stapler is one of many found in my classroom at the Kindergarten school I teach.

Squirrel: (Because squirrels are non-existent here in Mexico, really there aren't any, Grace gave me permission to just pick "something furry"). Daphne is one of the puppies our dog Meesha had recently. Isn't she a cutie? Here she is dolled up in Russian "babushka" attire.

Self Portrait: Here is my attempt at a self portrait. As you can see, I am not very good at these although my brother is a pro (practice makes perfect ;). Reflections: Judah is walking down a dock-like area downtown called "Paseo de Sta. Lucia." It is a new place they built here in Mexico to look like San Antonio's Riverwalk (a copout).

Police: This was as close as I got to taking police pictures. To be quite honest, the police here are as corrupt as the crooks and most of them are crooks seeking to learn the ways of the government, or seeking to join the ranks (so they have men on both sides) and their corruption can be more widespead.

Police2: and one more police picture. This is located at a park near my house. I go jogging here with my Dad as often as I can and I'm not quite sure why they have a small police quarters there but I think they are supposed to be looking out for the neighborhood. (As I took these pictures they kept glaring at me like "What are you taking those for?" as I nonchalantly got down on the ground to take a picture of a sparrrow and some trees (so as to calm all suspicions). I think they decided I was a freak of a tourist.

Music: My little sister (who owns this camara) was practicing her violin when I was on this scavenger hunt, so I though "Aha! Music!"

Memorable Moment: This is a picture that might mean nothing to the common man yet brings a smile to my face when I see it because it's the birthday party of one of the girls in our youth group. We played games and made up "punishments" for those who lost. Here the punishment is eating a whole jalapeno raw (the other alternative was eating a raw onion).

Making A Statement: This scene is one I drove past with my Dad on our way to a pastor's meeting far out in a poor town. It really made an impact on me because these people were lining the streets selling used clothing and other wares for very cheap. It was beautiful to see them diligently working with what little they had and sitting through the hot sun, when I sometimes complain about working in an air-conditioned room in nicer conditions.

Leap: My sister is leaping through the air! There was just no other way I could think of portraying this one. This was probably her 15th jump and her feet were getting pretty bruised, so its as good a shot as I could get.

Green: This sweet girl came over to our house one day and I spotted this VERY green volkswagen buggy and I just HAD to do something with it! I love its rich color and contrast with pink shirt and blue jeans. Just a casual portrait yet so full of life.

Funny: My girlies! These are my three little stinkers who I attempt to teach math and science to, yet they would much rather make funny faces at my camara. They do this all by themselves too! The ringleader (girl on the far right) would say "Make funny face now!" and all the girls would start being silly and doing...exactly what they're doing in the picture!

Fear: I would have liked a close-up shot of my face here portraying fear (and I know shots of yourself probably don't count) but I set this picture up myself with the idea that my expression would portray fear in the midst of my surroundings (broken down walls; kind of caged in).

My Favorite thing: Here is a picture that just makes my heart burst because it is overlooking the whole city of Monterrey (well a portion, you need to do a 365 fisheye lens if you want to get the whole picture). This picture is a favorite of mine because when I look out on this sea of buildings I see an even greater sea of people and more specifically people God has called my family to serve and give our lives for while we are here in Mexico. I don't know how much longer we will be here, but I want to make the most of every day to be spent for the spreading of the gospel here so that those in darkness can come into marvelous light.

The bird in the above picture was flying in the same spot for at least 5 minutes, maintaining its wings still and being upheld by the wind currents. It was so fascinating to watch and reminded me of all the times in scripture where God tells us to learn from the birds, how He provides for them, how they live so carefree, and learn to fly above their circumstances.

Date: Today's date on my classroom whiteboard. Something I do every morning is to write down the date so my kids can copy it onto their notebooks. I was trying to get the glare off the picture but was not really sure what setting to put it on so it would do that.

Coffee: Liquid Happinessss. And our coffee maker is actually bilingual! For some reason the instructions are longer in Spanish than in English. More explanation neede probably. Beside it is my favorite mug--bought my self as a gift to my self on Christmas day. If you look closely you will see it has tiny sparkles (the only Starbucks mug I've ever seen with sparkels and I just HAD to have it!)

White Trash: This photo was kind of awkward to take. I got plenty of great stares. Thank God for a lens that can zoom in so you really don't have to be that close. People use styrophoam a lot here so most of the trash is white. Interesting cultural fact there.

Tool: I was about to take a picture of my Dad's machete, but opted on a more sofisticated tool as seen in the above photo. Trying to find a creative way to capture this was...interesting to say the least. So that's just that. A tool.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Crayons, scratched knees, and eternal impacts.

Today I tied several tennis shoes, patched up several scratched knees on the playground (kisses and bandaids work wonders!), placed patty-cake, and cut lots of paper money for Math class, and tried to convince my darling kiddos from the Euro school that eating crayons is just not good for your health!

I got a sub-teaching job there and I'm loving it!! Its pretty much a dream job because they just call me up whenever a teacher can't go to school, so I just fill in with her assistant to the 2nd teacher (there are 2 per classroom). Since I am a sub-teacher, I really don't do anything other than take them from Spanish class, to recess, to lunch, to Math class, to computers, to painting, to daycare, etc. And I get paid for it!

I love to eavesdrop on the girls when they are playing together in little circles. Depending on what ages they are, their conversations on the playground vary... :)

Also when they call me up I can decide if I want/can/feel like going to work that day and then say yes or no. Its really great! Of course, I usually say yes (unless I'll be on a trip or something)! This is one of the most expensive schools here in Monterrey so everything is in English and these kids are wow--part of the small subculture, a bubble of people rolling in the dough of Mexico. (I've about decided Mexico is devided into a medium-sized high class, a small middle class, and a large low class population). I'm usually subbing for a teacher who has gone to Paris or NYC for the week. The cool thing is that everything in this school is done in English, so I get to speak English all day!

Allow me to introduce to you my favorites! (a.k.a. teacher's pets, JK, just some who have stole my heart!) I don't even remember their names (I think I have short term memory loss), since I get a different group of kids each time, I only remember the names of the kids of the kids I'm currently teaching!

They love making crazy faces for the camara!

This girl is one of the sweetest, nicest Pre-Kindergarteners I've ever met (it's scary)! She never does anything she isn't supposed to, she is always sweet and mannerly and obedient. She is never mean to the other kids no matter what they do to her. She never raises her voice, never spills food in recess, always finishes her projects on time, never complains about anything, is super laid back and flexible...she's an angel!

Now here is another one of my students, and this girl...she is the cutest thing in the whole world, just makes me want to hug her and kiss her and hold her! She is super inteligent (too smart for her britches), she is a leader (she always takes the initiative to get everyone riled up for the cause, BUT...she is so mischevious! SO mischevious! But because she is so cute, it so easy to overlook her naughtiness and just let it go! I would have a hard time parenting her! I love to watch her interact with the other kids--she is such a little adult, with a mind of her own!

Look at that little face!

Also when they call me up I can decide if I want/can/feel like going to work that day and then say yes or no. Its really great! Of course, I usually say yes (unless I'll be on a trip or something)! This is one of the most expensive schools here in Monterrey so everything is in English and these kids are wow--part of the small subculture, a bubble of people rolling in the dough of Mexico. (I've about decided Mexico is devided into a medium-sized high class, a small middle class, and a large low class population). I'm usually subbing for a teacher who has gone to Paris or NYC for the week.

The proud Miss Cristina

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

God Speaks Russian.

God speaks Russian. Did you ever think of that fact? God laid that on my heart as I stood beside a beautiful Russian babushka in church. It was Sunday morning and I found myself standing by someone’s Russian grandma trying to sing Russian words I couldn’t even read on a page. She kept showing me the lines where everyone sang, and I could even say I “ya nie panie mayu” meaning “I don’t understand.” And then God told me “I do.” Wow. For some reason I thought God spoke English. Well English and Spanish.

I was talking to a friend of mine back in the United States and realized the places I had gone and things I had done, people I had seen since the last time I saw him and he is still selling pizza. Since the last time I saw him, he said, “I have an apartment, a car, money, everything I need to live a comfortable life.” And then he said something I will never forget, “I am living the American dream and I hate it.” He continues to sell pizza. Not that that is not a glorious job or anything, but he would be the first to tell you “that’s not what I was made for.” This is not what he dreamed of doing all his life. Do what you love and love what you do. It reminds me of a song that says, “This ain’t my American dream. I want to live and die for bigger things.”

If God speaks Russian, then I want to too. Because God loves the Russian people and if there is anything I can do to help them know Him better, then I will give the rest of my life to do that.