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Got Goals? Let the Elephant Live.

We’ve heard the saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” People use this expression to refer to tackling goals, a buzz topic this time of year. The idea is that you can’t possibly accomplish them all at once but rather through a series of small, manageable steps.

I’m not saying I disagree. I’ve personally practiced the SMART method, and the whole Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound practice does work.

But eating an elephant can be painful and unpleasant for both us and the elephant. And although the SMART approach gets results, it leaves out the important element of priorities. Someone could argue that prioritization is implied, because after all, we wouldn’t spend time plotting out our approach to a goal if the goal weren’t important. Or would we?

I’m 100% for goals, but not at the expense of people. Perhaps you saw my theme for 2020, and this idea of letting the elephant live is an expansion of being people-focused over goal-focused. For example, I’m on a self-scheduled writing deadline and have a revised blogging schedule and some other writing commitments. I also work a full-time job, set aside intentional quality time with my husband, help manage our home, prioritize church community, practice a consistent fitness approach, and want to build into my existing and new relationships with others.

Let’s suppose I reach the week’s writing word count but must choose between a date night with my husband or writing a blog post for next week. You better believe I’m going on the date night. I’m not going to stuff the daily elephant bite into my mouth at the expense of relationship.

This is why I say, “Let the elephant live.” We can still conquer important goals but in their priority of importance. If today’s daily elephant bite doesn’t happen, there is tomorrow. Everything is not equal in importance.

A Resource for Prioritizing

Stephen R. Covey, author of the best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, discussed what he called “The Urgent Important Matrix.” I’ve created a simplified model here to illustrate the point, but you can review a more detailed version on Franklin Covey’s website.

Important/Urgent

(Necessity or Crisis)
Important/Not Urgent

(Effectiveness or Goals)
Urgent/Not Important

(Distractions or Interruptions)
Not Urgent/Not Important

(Time-Wasters)

In other words, we can categorize everything on our to-do list into one of these categories. Getting dinner is a necessity. Writing a blog is a goal. If while I’m writing the blog after dinner, my phone rings, I then have to decide if I take that interruption or remain focused on my own plans.

That’s where the prioritizing comes in. Do I care more about people (the phone call) or my own agenda (the goal)? Each of us has to make her own decision there, but the answer boils down to personal choice. Maybe if I’m on a tight deadline, I let the call go to voicemail. But maybe I’m just working on a “me” project that can wait. Shouldn’t I answer the phone (and let the elephant live)?

What God Asks of Us

When I think about the goals I’d like to accomplish this year, I go back to Micah 6:8. This verse so simply and clearly summarizes God’s expectations of us:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (NKJV)

The verse doesn’t say that the Lord requires we achieve all our goals, be a success, and earn a pat on the back. No, it says to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. Maybe we do or we don’t get those elephant-sized goals all accomplished, but may we make wise daily choices in how we prioritize the time that God’s given to us.

~ Kristen

May we make wise daily choices in how we prioritize the time that God’s given to us. #priorities #wisdom

Theme for 2020: Love One Another

I remember when I was a little girl, there was a television show called 20/20. Of all the shows I watched, the one episode I remember is the one predicting we’d have flying cars by this year. To my young mind, the year 2020 seemed so far away that I wondered if they were right.

Turns out, they were wrong about the flying cars but right about how technology would revolutionize the way we communicate, work, and play. Coming out of a social media break over the holidays, I can better appreciate that and also realize the need for healthy limits.

Focus for the New Year

So many words came to mind as I was praying about a theme for 2020. I could have chosen the words intentional or priorities, because I genuinely want to keep “the main thing the main thing” this year.

However, more than being focused on goals, I want to focus on loving people. I know that sounds incredibly cliche.

But this verse from I John has been on my heart lately, and it seems so well to capture the desire James and I have for our lives.

“And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (I John 3:23 NKJV)

I’m so thankful God doesn’t make our salvation and purpose complicated. (Truth be told, we’re the ones who complicate it.) Believe first. Then get busy loving people.

I confess that I’ve often tied my purpose to specific ministries and goals. But God didn’t say, “Get busy being involved,” although being plugged into a church community is a good thing. Instead, He said, “Love people.” I can love people wherever I am or whatever I’m doing.

God knows my desires. He knows better than I do the gifts and unique ways He’s equipped me to serve Him. More than anything, I want the Lord to show me how He wants to use me this year and how I can best love the people who cross my path.

A Hands-Open Approach to Goals

So yes, I still have my goals, but I desire to walk humbly as I approach them. James 4 provides such a wise perspective:

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15 NKJV)

In other words, I want an open-hands approach to goals, not a clenched fist. I want God to shape and change them as He sees best. That’s going to be a challenge for this over-achiever to remember!

This year, I want to be people-focused over goals-focused, with God directing each step.

Will you join me in seeking to love others well in 2020? What desires has God placed on your heart for the new year?

~ Kristen

My 2019 Christmas Letter to You

Ah, my friends, how this year has flown! It has been perhaps the best year of my life, with so many happy moments. Below are some of the highlights and a personal reflection on celebrating what God has done.

January

James and I went on our class ski trip to Beech Mountain for the second year in a row. Last year, we had been dating, and this year, we were engaged. We were also thrilled to celebrate as two of our friends became engaged on the trip!

February

The final book in my Rogues trilogy, The Reactionary, released. This book holds a special place in my heart, because in 2018, my friend Maria and I traveled to Italy to visit some of the settings.

Also special to February was the second annual Galentine’s Day party held at my place. I love that each year, the group keeps growing. Although we should celebrate our friends all year, having a special day set apart to do just that is tradition I plan to continue.

March

After all those years of waiting and prayer, James and I said “I do” at beautiful Harborside Chapel in Safety Harbor. We could not be more grateful for this practically perfect day and the wonderful family and friends who celebrated with us. You can read about our special day in the post “Wedding Day Joy.”

April

Our honeymoon in St. Lucia was both breathtaking and quite the adventure! You can read about one of our misadventures and a real-life application in the post, “Flat Tire in a Foreign Country …”

May

James and I traveled to Connersville where I spoke at the Women’s Ministry Event for Baptist Temple. It was such a privilege to share with these ladies! We also made a side trip to Chicago so James could introduce me to the Windy City and its deep dish pizza. Yum!

July

Getting to introduce James to one of my favorite childhood places, a family cabin in New Hampshire, was a dream come true! Even better was that my brother and his wife were able to join us on this couples’ trip.

August

James taught me how to lobster, and what an adventure that was! Before this trip, I hadn’t heard of a tickle stick, let alone imagined I’d be using one to help catch lobsters. You can read about my experiences and a life analogy in this post.

October

We traveled to Beech Mountain with friends for our second annual reunion trip! Last year, James proposed here, and no matter how many times we visit, there is always something new to explore and appreciate about this beautiful part of God’s country.

November

James and I consider ourselves abundantly blessed to call so many incredible people our friends. We found some deals on flights and were able to visit friends in New York, Texas, and Colorado. (My friend Maria introduced me to Niagara Falls, which was stunning!)

Christmastime

Maybe your year has had more challenges than cheerful moments. We all have years like that. Even so, Christmas is a time to celebrate what God has done, even with the challenges that come our way. (For example, not pictured were my many falls while skiing, the sinus infection I got on our honeymoon, or the ordeal we experienced in selling a home.)

May I encourage you that even though you may only see the highlights of other people’s lives, all of us are waiting on outstanding prayers to be answered and wondering how God might see fit to do that.

Here’s a personal example. James and I continue to wait on God for an open door regarding a new home. We truly believe this next home will be a way for us to minister and bless others, and so it’s easy to become impatient after months of waiting. However, in the waiting, we are grateful for the home we have and how God can use us right where we are.

Whether you’re heading into this Christmas season with a happy or heavy heart, remember that God loves you and has a perfect plan for your life. Sometimes, that plan is messy or unexpected. That has certainly been the case many times in my life. But as His children, we can have the confidence that His plan for our lives involves hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Wishing you a blessed Christmas and New Year!

~ Kristen

I’ll be taking a break on the blog until next year. See you then, Lord willing!

Penguin & Moose, a Story the Whole Family Will Enjoy!

This adorable new release by Hannah Hall is the first children’s book I’ve shared about on the blog, but it fits right in with my theme of thinking truthfully and living daringly. This sweet story will not only entertain young readers but also drive home a message readers of all ages need to remember.

We all have dreams, right? We all want to soar in one way or another, and Penguin is no different.

After all, other birds can fly. Why can’t he?

Penguin is determined to remedy this situation and enlists the help of his friend Moose. Together, they try a series of comedic attempts to help Penguin fly.

[Spoiler: They don’t work.]

Discouraged, Penguin trudges home and talks to his dad about his day. His dad offers a fresh perspective on the situation. Without giving away the ending, I’ll just say that Penguin realizes he has something better than the ability to fly.

I love how Hannah Hall incorporates Scripture and a spiritual truth into this engaging children’s story.

Plus, the illustrations are imaginative and bright. Their whimsical nature gives the pages a lighthearted feel that fits Penguin and Moose’s creative attempts to solve Penguin’s problem.

Bottom line: I can’t wait to read this story to my nieces and nephews. Even though this story releases at Christmastime, making it a perfect gift, its message is timeless for any season of the year.

Happy reading!

~ Kristen

Tales of the Lonely Sun Blog Tour

I am so excited to introduce you to today’s guest blogger, Jorja Ayres! Please join me in welcoming Jorja to the blog. This teen writer and her friends are striving to raise the bar for young adult fiction, and today, she shares her reason “why” and a writing tip for other aspiring young writers.

Guest Post by Jorja Ayres

Hi, everyone! My name is Jorja Ayres, and I’m one of the writers on Tales of the Lonely Sun. TotLS is a writing and reading blog that focuses on sharing and creating stories that shine bright in our dark world. This post is part of our blog tour. If you want to find out who else is a part of the tour, enter a bookish giveaway, or read some of our posts, click here.

Why Do I Write?

I’m a writer. I’ve written blog posts, short stories, and am working on a novel. The question is: why? Why do I spend hours upon hours every week punching buttons on my laptop’s keyboard? Well, it’s the same reason that pianists press black and white keys and artists drag graphite and wax across paper. To try and create something beautiful. For me, though, there is more to it. I am part of the group of people in this world that use their creativity to create things that bring glory to God. My way of doing that is writing clean fiction with good themes and messages of hope. Whether you are a writer or not, I encourage you to think about your “why.” Psalm 119:59 says, “When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies” Self reflection when it comes to hobbies or jobs can help us realign our lives with God’s will. 

How Do I Write?

Part of the mission of Tales of The Lonely Sun is to help people write stories that stand apart from the dark and hopeless stories that are becoming more and more common in today’s world. A common struggle is not knowing where to begin. Coming up with an idea for a writing project can be difficult, especially because inspiration tends to disappear as soon as it is sought out. 

One quick way to get creative gears turning, and come up with original ideas, is to use a random word generator. Generate random words and craft a story out of them. I recommend this word generator, because it lets you choose the parts of speech you want your words to be.

As an example, I got these five words from a generator: infamous, pocket, pass, typical, and airport. Different people would come up with different stories for these words, but my mind immediately jumped to a spy story. Combining all of the words into one sentence describes a scene: A typical looking woman in an airport passes a man who slips a piece of paper into her pocket containing information on an infamous criminal. To fill this sentence out into a story, we start asking questions. Who is the woman? Why is she a spy? Does she know the man who gave her the note? If she does, what is their history? Why is she the one getting the information on this criminal? What is her history with this criminal? Already a plot starts to emerge. Asking more questions leads to a more developed story. 

Once you have a general story idea, you must make decisions on how you want the story to go. One major step in this process to identify the theme you want to include in your story. What do you want the character(s) and readers to learn from the story? Your theme should be something you are passionate about, something you want to shout from the rooftops. This will give your story meaning; it will give you your “why.”  

Whether it’s the theme of your story or the anthem for your season in life, having a Christ-centered reason for whatever project you are undertaking makes all the difference. 

About Jorja Ayres

Jorja Ayres (pronounced Georgia Airs) is a 15 year old Christian writer, reader, and fangirl. Her hope is to help the readers of Tales of the Lonely Sun navigate around some of the beginner mistakes that she has made, as well as share some writing hacks that made things simpler for her. Her dream is to one day be able to give her readers the same feelings that she has experienced when reading some of her favorite books, as well as share positive themes that shine bright in this dark world.

She lives in Southern Arizona with her family, dogs, and hedgehog.

Merry Christmas Early! The Revisionary, Free on Kindle for a Limited Time

This Cyber Monday, here’s something you don’t need to buy. I’m excited that for the first time, I can give away copies of The Revisionary for free on Kindle. It’s my Christmas present to you! I hope you enjoy and share with other fans of young adult dystopian fiction.

Merry Christmas early! Download the award-winning dystopian novel, The Revisionary, by @kjhogrefe for free December 2 and 3. Available on Amazon.

If you’re new to the blog, you might wonder: What’s it about? I’m glad you asked! This futuristic thriller takes characters on a journey where they must rediscover America’s heritage to find hope for her future.

Nineteen-year-old Portia Abernathy plans to earn a Dome seat and rewrite the Codex rules to rescue her exiled brother. Her journey demands answers from the past civilization, but uncovering the truth means breaking the rules she set out to rewrite.

You can learn more on my book page. When you finish the story, if you can spare a minute or two, I would be thrilled if you would leave a simple, honest review on Amazon or Goodreads. Again, there’s no pressure to leave a review, but I would truly be grateful if you would consider doing so. Reviews can go a long way in sharing books with others.

Now, it’s your turn to share: What’s been your favorite find this gift-giving season? I’d love to hear about your good deals (or good reads) in the comments below.

~ Kristen


Giveaway Winner!

Congrats to Pamela on winning a copy of the Fresh Start Bible! Thanks to all who commented and shared on social media. This resource released December 1 and is available on Amazon.

Fresh Start Bible: Giveaway and Review

Many people wait until New Year’s for new beginnings, but any time of year is perfect for a fresh start. What better way to grow our relationship with God than learning more about His Word? The Fresh Start Bible is designed to help us do just that.

What’s Unique about the Fresh Start Bible?

The Fresh Start Bible uses the New Living Translation (NLT) for its biblical scholarship as well as easy-to-read, dynamic writing style. A forward by Jimmy Evans includes his personal testimony and 52 lessons he wrote that address fundamental questions, such as:

  • Who made me?
  • Why do people die?
  • How can I be saved?
  • Why should I be baptized?
  • Can I be saved without baptism?
  • How do I deal with anxiety and worry?
  • How do I build godly relationships?

After this foreword are the Old and New Testaments, and sprinkled among the books of the Bible are supplemental articles by church leaders. They are designed to break down practical teachings and inspire spiritual growth.

Following the Scriptures themselves is a section titled “Intersections” that examines major characters in the Bible’s narrative. Their purpose is to show God’s faithfulness and relationship with men and women through history. Finally, there are also full-color maps that show where Scriptural events take place, including:

  • Topography of Palestine
  • World of the Patriarchs
  • Ministry of Jesus
  • Paul’s Missionary Journeys

What Features Make this Bible a Great Gift?

My church has put a real emphasis on finding our “one,” at least one person God has placed in our lives to be a friend who needs Christian encouragement or an unbeliever who needs someone to point him to Christ. This Bible would be a great gift for my “one” or your “one” for a couple reasons:

  • The first page provides a special place to write someone’s name, your name, the occasion, and date.
  • An easy-to-use table of contents outlines the front matter, books of the Bible, and resources at the end of the edition.
  • Welcome letter by Pastor Robert Morris: This conversational letter invites new and seasoned believers alike to be intentional in reading God’s Word and also explains some of the resources.

My Review Summary

The supplemental material provided throughout this Bible makes it highly approachable and helpful, especially for seekers and new believers. However, readers should understand that none of this information adds to God’s inspired Word, nor do I think that to be the intent of the contributors and publisher. While these commentaries and practical insights offer guidance, readers should still exercise discernment and be aware that believers may disagree on certain areas of practice.

For example, one of the lessons by Jimmy Evans asks the question, “Why should I pray in tongues?” This question assumes that readers should pray in tongues, which is a debatable topic among denominations. Personally, I believe tongues was a unique gift fitted for a unique time period (the church in the book of Acts). However, I can respect Jimmy Evans and others who believe it still has a place today. As with any interpretation of Scripture, readers should exercise discernment and prayerfully examine Scripture and its context.

A Giveaway for You

All that said, I’m glad to find this new resource and look forward to sharing it with others, starting with you! This week, you can enter to win a free copy of the Fresh Start Bible here on the blog. Here’s how to enter:

  1. Like this post and add a comment, explaining why you would enjoy this Bible or why you’d like to give it as a gift.
  2. Share any of my related posts on Facebook or Twitter and tag me in them. (You must tag me so I’m aware that you shared the post and can add you to the drawing.)
  3. Do more than one to be entered multiple times!

“No matter who you are or what you have done, Jesus wants to give you a fresh start.” Learn how you could win a copy of the Fresh Start Bible at KristenHogrefe.com.

As we close out this year and anticipate the next, may we cherish God’s Word, prayerfully study it, and seek to know our Maker and Savior more.

~ Kristen

I’m grateful to the Blog About Network for hosting this giveaway.