Questions from the Bride, Part 2

I’m excited to share part two of this interview with Tami Myer of MannaForMarriage.com. Once more, she graciously answers my questions, drawing from her thirty-plus years of marriage. As a bride-to-be, I so much appreciates her wisdom, and I hope that her words bless you as well.

Bride: Forgiveness is something couples must generously extend, but, of course, that’s not always easy to do in the heat of the moment. What has helped you to be more forgiving as a wife?

Ruth Graham, the wife of Billy Graham, said that “a happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” How true! Learning to forgive is a marriage essential.

In fact, pastor Ron Zappa says, “If you are having trouble in your relationship, I guarantee you’re having trouble with forgiveness.”*

I have had a lot to learn about forgiveness! One thing that I have come to realize is that the moment I sense that my heart has been offended, I must take action. My natural reaction is to sink down into my hurt, to feel it, and to hover over it solicitously.  But that is a dangerous trap! I must act quickly to prevent an offended heart from becoming a deformed heart.

Here are a few key thoughts that I try to keep written across my mind:

1. A chance to forgive is a great opportunity! Forgiveness is perhaps the most powerful spiritual assault which we can hurl against the enemy. The opportunity to forgive is an opportunity to re-enact the gospel. I can advance the Kingdom of God in this moment, or I can walk into the enemy’s snare. It is a God-enabled and God-reflecting privilege to forgive someone, and I am a fool if I harden my heart instead.

2. I do not have the right not to forgive. It is easy to resent the command to forgive. We feel that a burden has been unfairly dropped on us, and we chafe against it. It seems, in fact, that forgiving would be an injustice! But when we think this way, we are believing the lies of the enemy.

The truth is this: it is an injustice for God’s people not to forgive. When we do not forgive, our spirits are demanding payment from someone when God has already paid in full. Insisting that someone still owes us after God has suffered severely for that person’s wrongdoing, as well as for all of ours—this is a great injustice which God will not overlook. (See Matthew 6:15.)

3. Forgiving will always enrich me. Forgiving puts us in a spiritual posture which allows increased intimacy with Christ. When I do not forgive in my marriage, it is as if I am putting up walls around me, creating distance between my husband and myself. My defective sin nature tells me that these walls will protect me. But I know now that walls of bitterness will always entomb me.

Bitterness does not build healthy protection, but forgiveness does. Forgiveness shields me from the corrosive acid of resentment. Nothing a spouse says or does has the power to truly harm us (although those things can hurt!), but our own reactions of bitterness can poison our lives.

On the other hand, forgiving serves to heal me. How encouraging! When I forgive someone else’s brokenness, some of my own brokenness is healed. How could I not see the opportunity to forgive as a blessing from God?

Elizabeth Elliot said that the best consolation is obedience. Perhaps we can adapt her statement to say that the best consolation for hurt feelings is the obedience of forgiving.

When we forgive, we are being conformed to the image of God. We definitely feel   s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d  in the process, but we can be confident that we are being shaped for greater effectiveness and for maximized joy.**

Bride: Do you have any resources you’d recommend to engaged or newly married couples? What are some of the resources you offer on your website MannaForMarriage.com?

Pre-marital counseling is valuable; but in many cases, there is something else that is just as important and even more helpful: marriage mentoring.

In your pre-marital counseling, you are eager to learn, and you are trying to listen, but you don’t really have a hook to hang these truths onto yet. It is like sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture on how to drive a car. It is hard to fully process that information until you are actually in a car with your hand on the steering wheel. Once you are out of the classroom and onto the road, you suddenly have many “teachable moments”!

Make a commitment now–before you get married–to meet with someone a couple times during your first year of marriage. Schedule an appointment for several months after your wedding with your pastor or with another married couple. Another good option is for you and your spouse to meet with separate mentors.

You don’t need to plan anything formal; it can be a conversation over lunch at a nearby restaurant. But get your plan written on the calendar.

Also, plan to attend a marriage conference together, such as Weekend to Remember.

There are a number of helpful resources on my website, MannaForMarriage.com:

  • I recommend several great marriage books and online mentoring videos on the Resources page.
  • You will find a group code for a $100 discount for a Weekend to Remember.
  • Join us as we pray for marriages! Every Thursday, we “fight on our knees” for marriages for fifteen minutes, and we would be happy to pray specifically for you—just email me at mannaformarriage@gmail.com. You may join the prayer call live each week, or you can listen to the recorded calls at any time. You can find all the information on the Prayer Call
  • Receive a free copy of Your Marriage: God’s Masterful Design, which is a short ebook (PDF) summarizing some of the basic principles of a successful marriage.

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge, its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
(Proverbs 24:3-4 NIV)

I am excited for you, beautiful bride! May the Lord bless you and your husband with great joy as together you build a household of faith.

 

* The Marriage Knot: 7 Choices That Keep Couples Together. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2019. 58.

**Interested in learning more about forgiveness? Here are other articles by Tami Myer on the topic of forgiveness:

Tweetables

Questions from the Bride, Pt 2 – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

Ruth Graham: “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

Questions from the Bride, Part 1

As a soon-to-be bride, I asked my friend and mentor Tami Myer of MannaForMarriage.com several questions to help prepare me for my wedding this month. Although the wedding event is beautiful, we both believe that preparing for a lifelong marriage is more important than preparing for a single day. Having been on her own marriage journey for over thirty years, she graciously agreed to share some of the lessons she’s learned along the way. Please join me in welcoming Tami! I hope her answers to my questions will encourage and bless you as much as they have me.

Bride: Opposites do attract, and my fiancé and I are no exception! What advice can you give to help us celebrate these differences instead of resenting them?

Yes, celebrate your differences! You will have to be deliberate about doing that, though. Otherwise, you will drift into frustration and resentment.

You could start by making a list of those differences. (And then make another list after you have been married for a few months because you will discover more, believe me.) As you review your “reasons for celebration,” make the conscious choice to look for ways to make these differences work for you, not against you. Where can they provide balance? Where can they add strength? How might they simply provide richness and color? How do they give insight into your different needs and unique perspectives?

Remind yourself—and your husband–that your differences are for accepting, appreciating, and enjoying. Be deliberate about complementing and complimenting, rather than competing and condemning.

As you yield to the Spirit, your spouse’s differences will either delight you or polish you. Either way, they are blessings!

Bride: So often, I hear, “The first year is extremely hard.” Do you agree or disagree, and why?

I am glad that you heard that the first year is difficult because, for many couples, it is! Simply knowing that can be very helpful. It is like putting your seat belt on when the pilot announces that the plane may encounter turbulence: you will be better prepared to handle the situation well.

During your first year of marriage, you might feel as though you are in junior high because everything is intense. It can be an emotional roller coaster. It certainly helps to know that this is normal!

Here are some examples of common first-year turbulence:

  • You think that you made a terrible mistake.
  • You are alarmed that your husband is not the man you married.
  • You panic.
  • You are disappointed.
  • Your feelings get hurt.

When you experience some (or all) of these things, you can come back to this article and check them off your first-year to-do list. Then you can also check off these items:

  • You have many wonderful joys!
  • You experience new adventures.
  • You learn more about the amazing, complex, fascinating person that your husband really is.
  • You learn surprising things about yourself.
  • You learn awesome things about your God.

You will find that you made it through junior high again!  And through each successive year, you will learn how to make it the best one yet.

Bride: Perhaps because I’m getting married in my thirties, I don’t have the “rose-colored-glasses” view that a teen or twenty-something might have. Instead, I’ve seen enough life and marriage struggles to know marriage isn’t always easy. What encouragement can you offer the new bride?

This is a common concern, even for younger brides (and grooms). Many people are a bit hesitant to marry because they have not observed healthy marriages up close and in action. However, they have seen countless shipwrecked marriages, and they wonder if they will be able to steer the ship of marriage any better themselves.

But take courage! It is quite possible to sail that ship triumphantly, and many have done so. It will take work, of course, but sailing is not a mysterious skill. You can learn! You must choose your teachers carefully, but there are many who are trustworthy and who are eager to help you and support you.

Building a marriage is a lot like building a house. Although many have never seen the blueprints, and many others refuse to follow them, there is a reliable blueprint for marriage. Take courage! There is a Master Builder, and He is eager to help with every part of the construction.

Marriage is not easy, but the best things in life never are. In this fallen world, good things are always opposed, and great things are greatly opposed. You must simply remember that you are holding something very valuable in your hands—something sacred. Don’t let go! Refuse to believe that marriage is not worth the effort.

Your marriage is not a hobby; it is a commitment to serve another person, someone made in the image of God. As you minister to your spouse, your submission to God becomes a platform for His Spirit. He will work powerfully and redemptively in both your life and your husband’s.

Marriage is not only like sailing a ship and like building a house, but it is also like growing a garden. You will have to dig up stubborn roots and lug away heavy rocks. You will wonder if the weeds will ever stop coming. But take courage! You will also be planting and pruning, watering and weeding.

And beautiful things will grow.

For more marriage encouragement, check back next week for more questions from the bride, and visit Tami’s website MannaForMarriage.com.

Tweetables

Questions from the Bride, Part 1 – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

Marriage is not easy, but the best things in life never are. – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

My Top Ten Engagement Superlatives

Hey, friends! This is a big transition month for me, because my wedding is less than a month away. Today, I want to share a lighthearted post about my engagement experience. Enjoy my top ten superlative moments.

#1: Favorite moment of engagement: The North Carolina temperatures were dropping, and I was getting cold, so I suggested we leave the mountain vista we had been enjoying. James said he wanted “just one more picture over there,” and I complied. When we reached the outlook,  he started saying all sorts of sweet things and got down on one knee. You can read the full story here.

#2: Most hilarious moment of engagement: Our friend Amanda didn’t arrive until late that night, and we were all too tired to tell her the story. We pretended nothing had happened and turned in for the night. The next morning, my friend Devon asked her to watch a “funny video” on her phone. When Amanda realized she was watching our engagement video, she threw the phone in excitement! (Good news: The phone is fine.)

#3: Highlight of my bachelorette weekend: We solved an American Escape Room with 8+ minutes to spare. Definitely bragging on my amazing friends for this one! I’m also going to brag on our escape master nicknamed “Snickerdoodles” who was absolutely fantastic. Five stars for this venue!

#4: Funniest moment of my bachelorette weekend: My friends conned the Irish entertainer into serenading me with a love song in front of the entire restaurant.

#5: Biggest surprise about engagement: I believe in transparency, so I’m not going to sugarcoat the reality that once you get engaged, you may have conflict about something you never anticipated. Don’t try to avoid the conflict. It’s a great opportunity to talk through differences, learn how to problem solve as a couple, and grow stronger together.

#6: Most ridiculous question I’ve been asked since getting engaged: Who’s going with you on your honeymoon? 

#7: Most anticipated wedding day moment: I am so excited to see the look on James’s face when I walk down the aisle!

#8: Most anticipated wedding day food: I’m grateful that our friend Ashley, an amazing baker, is making our cupcakes, and some will be Reese’s flavored chocolate. Yum!

#9: Most important part of engagement: The wedding planning is special and fun, but the most important part is the time we’ve spent preparing for a strong marriage. This includes our personal discussions as well as time with our marriage mentors. I’m convinced the more we talk through potential challenges and differences ahead of time, the better we both will be.

#10: My best piece of advice about engagement: It is meant to be a short season. Although every couple is different, I’m really thankful our engagement is only five months long, because the challenges of living two separate lives but preparing to merge them into one can be emotionally exhausting, though certainly worthwhile.

Next week, I’m going to share my parting thank-you to singleness, which I hope will be an encouragement to you! Afterward, I have a wonderful line-up of friends who will be guest posting this month and next. They are such a blessing to me, and I know they will be to you as well.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

My Top Ten Engagement Superlatives – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

The Reactionary: Gratitude Moments

Coming to the end of a trilogy is a little like crossing the finish line of a half marathon. The only reason I felt amazing at that time is that I’d prepared and trained with friends. Others cheered me on, even though they may have secretly thought I was crazy.

This Tuesday, The Reactionary publishes, and I want to start the week with gratitude by saying thank-you to everyone who made crossing this finish line not only possible, but truly unforgettable. My family has been my constant support, and some new faces have joined those ranks throughout this journey, including my sister-in-law Brooke.

Pictured with my brother Dave and sister-in-law Brooke

I also want to say a special thanks to my fiancé, James Parnell, for wanting to join this bandwagon and encouraging my writing.

Photo credit: Aja Skye Photography

Members of my writing family include fellow author Ashley Jones, my Word Weavers group, members of my book tribe (You know who you are!), and more recently, my colleague Maria Constantine whose family roots go back to Italy. At one point, I mentioned to her that my heroine travels to Italy in this final book and that in my dreams, I’d get to visit one day.

That’s when she said, “You have to go! Want to come with me?” As a result, she and I planned a spontaneous trip to some of the settings in this novel, and in a month’s time, I found myself walking the streets of Orvieto and then mapping out Portia’s entrance to the Port of Civitavecchia from just outside Fort Michelangelo. I can’t thank Maria enough for helping make this dream a reality!

Exploring Civita di Bagnoregio, Photo credit: Maria Constantine

In another sense, Kelli Sorg (Make It Snappy) traveled with me this whole journey as well. She made brainstorming and creating the final cover perhaps the most enjoyable design session of all time.

The leadership and talent at Write Integrity Press also deserve my heartfelt gratitude. My editor Marji Laine championed this book and made the production process as seamless as possible. I’m also grateful to my primary editor Brittany Clubine who grasped the vision of Portia’s story from the start and believed in it.

At the end of my half marathon, people asked me, “So, what’s next?” I told them, “I’ll keep running!” Those runs might be in my neighborhood, for my church’s Hope 5K, another half marathon some day … who knows! The same is true of my writing. Lord willing, I’ll keep composing the stories He gives me and then watch where He takes them.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

The Reactionary: Gratitude Moments – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Come Explore Orvieto with Me

The Reactionary, the final book in The Rogues trilogy, releases in 4 days! As I anticipate launch day and entrusting the last part of Portia’s story to you, I want to share some more snippets from my own journey to the Italian settings she encounters.

Portia’s mission to secure communications with a possible international ally takes her to Orvieto, a cliff-top Italian city with more charm and beauty than one visit can capture. My friend Maria and I decided we could live in our Air B&B indefinitely and never soak in everything this city has to offer. However, because I didn’t want my novel to be the length of War and Peace, I chose to highlight some of the city’s main attractions and tie them into the plot.

Exploring the streets of Orvieto with Maria

Orvieto Forever

The Orvieto 4Ever celebration is the reason I chose this setting for my story in the first place. It lauds the American ideals of independence and liberty on an international level, not just a national one. Moreover, it recognizes the Italian influence on the United States, including the contribution of Italian Phillip Mazzei, a friend and correspondent of Thomas Jefferson. Mazzei actually influenced some of the wording of our Declaration of Independence.

I so much enjoyed weaving this historic information into my fictional dystopian tale of a futuristic world trying to recapture the ideal of liberty for all. Though my Rogues (rebel forces) are fiercely independent and even proud to a fault, they must realize that the fight isn’t just theirs. The world, not just the ASU, needs to overthrow the Rosh League and its minions who are determined to uproot the last strongholds of freedom.

Duomo di Orvieto

The city’s centerpiece is a breathtaking cathedral that serves as the backdrop for the Orvieto 4Ever celebration. Getting to visit this beautiful cathedral in person was one of my most-anticipated moments of the trip! The outside itself is stunning and even more imposing in person than in pictures.

Purchasing our ticket to go inside was a must. The massive, pillared space has a sacred, quiet mood that invites reflection and reverence. I found a seat, closed my eyes, and envisioned how Portia would have felt inside this space while waiting for … Well, I’m not going to spoil the story.

Maria snapped this picture of me inside the cathedral.

The cathedral was everything I imagined and more. I hope as you read The Reactionary and Portia’s encounter with it that you can glimpse the beauty and my appreciation for the Duomo di Orvieto.

Orvieto Underground

What’s not to love about a city that has an underground cave system? During our last full day in Orvieto, I squeezed in a tour of the underground cave network. I didn’t realize almost every house has a cave! (It made me want to take the floor-length mirror off the wall in our Air B&B to see if there was a secret passageway behind it, but Maria wisely advised against this.)

Although the caves have served different purposes, the most common was storing livestock, drinking water, and food. They also served as bomb shelters or hiding places during war times.

One interesting feature of these caves are hundreds of little holes in the wall. What do you think these were used to store? Join my friends and me for The Reactionary Launch Party on February 19 on Facebook to find out!

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to explore a little of Orvieto with me, and I look forward to sharing more of my Italian adventure with you during the virtual launch party next week.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Come Explore Orvieto with Me! – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

The Beautiful Doors of Civita di Bagnoregio

A few weeks back, I had a little heart-to-heart with  you about closed doors and open doors in my life. As we count down to book release day for The Reactionary, it seems only fitting to have a little fun with doors today!

When I traveled to Italy to do book research, one of my favorite places to visit was Civita di Bagnoregio. Aside from the pizza there, which was amazing, I also fell in love with all the architecture, namely, doors. In fact, my friend Maria snapped my back cover author picture in front of a vine-framed door I wouldn’t stop raving about.

Here are a few more of the imagination-inspiring doors we encountered, and all the photo credits go to Maria. (For more of her Italian stories and photos, visit her awesome website.)

Fictionalize It!

In The Reactionary, Portia doesn’t have a chance to explore this town like I did, but she does get to witness the city’s morning beauty from a distance. Here’s an excerpt from her point-of-view, inspired by my own:

The general and guard talk in hushed tones but at a rapid-fire pace. I turn away from them to watch the golden sun pierce through low-lying clouds. The hazy sky turns shades of purple and peach, forming the backdrop canvas to the sprawling landscape before us. It looks like a child scrawled a marker across the page, and nothing was left even, least of all that ragged remnant of a city.

How had I not seen it sooner? But I had been too intent on just taking my next step and learning to trust my stiff legs again.

I want to tell those two to stop talking. Silence seems more fitting for the tragic beauty of this dying place. Buildings jut out along the edges and top of an eroded mountain, now bathed in the dawn’s warm glow.

Join in the Fun!

I’m so glad you can share in my real life and fictional adventures! You’re invited to join my book launch party on release day, February 19, from 7-8:30 pm EST. It’s a virtual party on Facebook, so you can join right from your home! Even if you can’t stay the whole time, please pop in and say hello. We’ll have Italy trivia, book trivia, and maybe even talk about a little fictional and real-life romance … You won’t want to miss it. Click here to join.

One day, I would love to return to Italy to explore even more places (and doors), but for now, I’m content to enjoy my current setting. I hope you are too. Wherever we are, may we appreciate what we have while welcoming the possibilities God opens.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

The Beautiful Doors of Civita di Bagnoregio – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Skiing Life Lesson: Enjoy Going Downhill

Well, friends, I wish I could say my second time skiing began flawlessly, but it actually started with me falling as soon as I left the lift chair. The good news is that after half a day of practice, skiing started to click.

I transitioned from mental pep-talk that involved telling myself not to die to actually breathing and whispering, “Enjoy it.”

Yes, I’m all about self pep-talks, and I’ve discovered something: When we focus on enjoyment instead of failure, we relish the experience more. In other words, when we focus on fear, it steals our joy. When we focus on simply enjoying the moment, we do just that.

True, I did fall one other time when I was more relaxed, but for the most part, I anticipated reaching the top of the slope and starting the downhill descent. I looked forward to the challenge of practicing and improving my technique.

Skiing Parallels to Life

Isn’t that like life? I know for myself right now, I have two choices with wedding planning. I can get all tense and stressed, or I can take deep breaths and simply enjoy this special time of transition and preparation. I can focus on the unknown or all the expectations with anxiety, or I can gently take each moment as it comes and gradually enjoy the journey.

Now that sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes, the choice to let go and relax isn’t easy when my to-do list grows instead of shrinks. However, instead of anticipating problems, I can anticipate joy and focus on the blessings of today. That won’t mean problems will never come, but it does mean I’ll enjoy the process much more.

The Bible clearly speaks to where our focus should be and identifies two places: the present and the eternal.

In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount that we are to lay up treasures in heaven (eternal) and not on earth (temporary). We are also not to worry about tomorrow (the future) but live in the present (today).  When we do, we not only spare ourselves unnecessary worry but also live in obedience to the One who has a perfect plan for our lives.

Back on the slopes of Beech Mountain, I wanted to enjoy each moment of the ski run. Now, I want to live abundantly in the moment and make an eternal impact with my everyday decisions. What about you?

~ Kristen

Congratulations to our Bible Study winner, Faith! Please email me through my website this week with your mailing address so I can share this gift of God’s Word with you. May we all relish our time in the Bible more this year. Thank you to all who participated!

Tweetable

Live abundantly in the moment and make an eternal impact with everyday decisions. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)