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Merry Messy Christmas

One of the first things I did after closing on my home last year was buy a Christmas tree. Yes, a Christmas tree. To clarify, I closed two days before the new year, and there was a 70% final clearance sale.

That 7.5-foot tree had been sitting in my garage for 11 long months. You can only imagine how excited I was to finally unbox it and put up the beauty.

And for one glorious moment, it was perfect.

Proud moment … It didn’t last long.

But only for one moment. My eight-month old kitten Ness thought I’d just transplanted a tree in the living room for his enjoyment.

Having lived with a cat before, I knew better than to decorate the lower branches. But I had no idea my kitten would scale the branches like Tarzan. Before long, my tree looked like it belonged in a Home Alone movie.

Worse, Ness tried eating the tree. Let’s just say it didn’t digest well. And then there was the episode where he tangled himself in the lights so that the tree twisted the way someone might on a dance floor. Panic moment.

So for my kitten’s own safety and my personal sanity, the tree came down … eight days later.

Ness thought he was invisible.
No ornament should be that big.

Messy Christmas

I wish I could tell you I had some deeply spiritual moment through this “Ness-capade” as I’m calling it, but I didn’t. Instead, I became frustrated. After all, why couldn’t I have a normal pet that left my Christmas tree alone?

Then, as I packed up the tree, the thought hit me: The first Christmas wasn’t perfect. Why should I expect mine to be?

Think of Mary. I’m sure she would have loved to birth her baby in the comfort of her own home. Instead, she endured the discomforts of travel while approaching full term and the indecency of a public delivery.

Luke 2 records that she laid her first-born in a manger or feeding trough.  Most Christmas plays depict the birth of Christ taking place in a stall, because animals were present. Other sources suggest the location was perhaps a cave or a crowded lower room where the family brought in animals for the night.

Regardless, it wasn’t a tidy place like the little figurines we display on our bookshelves. It was smelly and dirty. But God chose that unlikely location for His Son to be born.

Right. I should stop complaining about a lost-cause Christmas tree.

A Simplified Perspective

My word for 2017 was Simplify. Appropriately, I repackaged that 7.5-foot tree, returned it to the garage, and unpacked the small tree I’ve decorated since my childhood. (It’s amazing the thing is still in one piece.)

It’s simple, but maybe it will stay standing.

I placed it (hopefully) out of Ness’ reach and am attempting to appease him with a dollar store decoy he can destroy to his heart’s content.

This is what pacifism looks like.

In all seriousness, though, we tend to clutter Christmas with so many parties, programs, and obligations that we wear ourselves out. Author and blogger Laura Thomas wrote she’s Dreaming of a White (Space) Christmas, and I think her approach is brilliant. (Thanks, Laura, for sharing this post!)

Yes, enjoy the festivities, but make white space in your calendar to be still and give thanks for that first messy Christmas when God came in the flesh to this world with one purpose alone: to live so He could die and atone for our sins.

 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 NKJV)

Blessings to you this Christmas season,

~ Kristen

This is my last blog post before Christmas. I’ll look forward to seeing you back here soon! 

 

Tweetables

Merry Messy Christmas – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

The first Christmas wasn’t perfect. Why should we expect ours to be? – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

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Holiday Book Specials

Happy December! With Christmas a few short weeks away, I want to share some holiday book specials with you. This month, all of my Kindle books are on sale, but you’ll want to mark your calendars for the dates.

Wings of the Dawn Trilogy

My first three young adult suspense books are $.99 on these dates:

The Revisionary

My latest release, the first book in The Rogues trilogy, is available for $.99 (Kindle version) on the first day of winter, Dec. 21.

For those who have already read The Revisionary, the sequel is coming soon! Look for more details in the new year on The Revolutionary, releasing spring of 2018.

Hope you enjoy and have a wonderful Christmas season!

~ Kristen

Tweetable

December holiday book specials – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Embrace the Possible: Lessons from a Half Marathon

“Nothing is impossible; the word itself says, ‘I’m possible’!” This quote by Audrey Hepburn is one of my favorites, because so often, the difference between success and failure is our perspective. A decade ago, I equated running a mile as an impossibility, thanks to a curvy spine and the enablement of doctor’s notes excusing me from my physical education classes in college.

Then, after graduation, my brother dared me to run anyway and get in the best shape of my life. I accepted the challenge, pushing through shin splints and back spasms. Eventually, I plateaued at 3-4 miles. In other words, I became too comfortable with my routine, until a friend invited me to run a half marathon with her this year.

Last week, I ran those 13.1 miles in a time better than I could have thought possible. This physical dare has taught me to embrace the potential of seemingly impossible goals. I hope what I’ve learned might encourage you today.

Click here to read the full post on DailyPS.com. As always, I welcome your comments.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Embrace the Possible: Lessons from a Half Marathon – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Thankful for Finish Lines

Thanksgiving is a few short days away! Many people are talking about what they’re thankful for, and today, I’m adding a new item to my gratitude list: finish lines.

Last weekend, I ran my first half marathon. Thank you for letting me share about this journey with you here! Today, I just want to leave you with a few pictures and a simple challenge.

At the start line of the St. Pete Run Fest
I ran the half marathon with 689 other runners.
These sweet friends ran with me most of the race.

Ecclesiastes 7:8a says, “The end of a thing is better than its beginning” (NKJV).  This verse is a favorite for students at the end of a school year, but it also applies to many other aspects of life – half marathons or otherwise.

However, no matter how great finish lines are, they are no place for us to stay long. Instead, they demand us to begin once again and challenge us to move forward to new goals with determination and humility.

What are you thankful for this year? Wishing you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving!

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Thankful for Finish Lines – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

3 Essentials for Race Day Readiness

My first half marathon is less than a week away! After months of following a training schedule and tracking mileage, I am beyond ready to start the actual race and reach that finish line. However, as I look back over my half-marathon training, I see practical lessons that apply to more than just race day. I hope they’ll encourage you in your personal goals and spiritual walk.

#1: Get rest.

The first time I ran 10 miles, I nearly passed out in the grocery store a few hours later. I was waiting behind another customer in the check-out line when a tidal wave of fatigue swept over me. Of course, the gentleman in front of me was writing a check.

Usually, I’m a fairly patient person, but surely one glance my way would tell this dear, sweet man I’m about to pass out if he doesn’t skip the memo line?

Running demands I rest, and I can’t cut corners if I want to stay upright in shopping lines.

The same is true of our spiritual walk. We need rest and quiet time alone with God to recharge. Jesus Himself modeled the example for us, as we see in Mark 1:35.

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed (NKJV).

Jesus intentionally set apart time with His Father, despite all the demands He felt. How much more should we?

#2: Stay hydrated.

My close friends know I have a fear of dehydration. Seriously. At any given time, chances are there’s at least one water bottle in my car’s cup-holder.

Drinking enough water each day is important for anyone, but when we’re training for a physical dare, we have to watch our intake even more carefully. Are we drinking enough water? Are we replenishing electrolytes?

Here’s an even deeper question: Are we spiritually thirsty, and how do we seek to satisfy that thirst? Recently, I read the story of the woman at the well. You’ve probably heard it before. Jesus met a Samaritan woman with a scandalous reputation for failed relationships and offered to satisfy her thirst the way no well and no man could.

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14 NKJV)

Only those who believe in Jesus Christ and accept His salvation can experience living water and true refreshment (John 7:38). Without Jesus in our lives, we’ll remain spiritually dehydrated.

#3: Just do it.

I’ve nearly forgotten what sleeping in on a Saturday feels like. Without fail, I set the alarm just as if it were a work day and am running some trail by 7 or 7:30 am.

Getting out of bed early isn’t fun, but I know that to be ready for race day, I have to make the sacrifice. I have to run when I’d rather hit snooze or when my knee aches or even in the eerie pre-dawn darkness under the glow of my street lights. (My overactive imagination tends to imagine Hound of the Baskervilles scenarios. Maybe that’s why my morning runs are usually faster.)

Seriously, though, what has God called you to do? Are you willing to sacrifice to achieve it, or would you rather stay comfortable and complacent? Comfort zones are dangerous places. They present the aura of safety and security, but they can in fact turn into deep graves of wasted time and life.

We have only one life to live. Steward it well, and whatever you do, don’t waste it. 

~ Kristen

Tweetables

3 Essentials for Race Day Readiness – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

We need rest and quiet time alone with God to recharge. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Love, Truth, Love

You are in for a treat! My friend and writer Ashley Jones of BigSisterKnows.com is my guest here today. She and her husband Robby demonstrate how differences can complement each other. Are you more like Ashley or Robby? Read on to learn how each personality type has its own strength and weakness … and how these blended styles help us make the most of our relationships.

Guest blog by BigSisterKnows.com

My husband Robby and I have been happily married for over six years now. One of the reasons we work so well together is that neither of us likes drama. We prefer the simple life. But, sometimes, stuff happens and you just have to deal with it. And that’s when our complementary personalities really shine. You see, Robby is a natural-born peacemaker, and I’m…well…scrappy. As you can imagine, we didn’t always see this difference as positive thing.

Early into our relationship, Robby’s “can’t we all just along?” temperament grated on my “why can’t everyone just do it right?!” attitude. It wasn’t long before we realized some very important things about ourselves.

Truth, Truth, Truth

I am a “truth, truth, truth” kind of person. Not only do I want to know the truth, but I want to relay the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, at all times. If that hurts your feelings, I’m sorry—but not really, ‘cause I can’t help that it’s the truth.

Love, Love, Love

Robby, on the other hand, is the quintessential peacemaker. He is a “love, love, love” kind of person. Yes, he wants to be truthful in all things, but if he has to pick, he’ll choose a loving silence over a truthful discourse any day.

Truth or Love?

At one point, we talked about what was more godly: truth or love? Fortunately, I was taking Bible classes at that time, and we looked into the following verse:

 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NAS)

The teacher suggested that “in spirit” means “in love,” since we know that “God is love” (1 John 4:16 NAS).

Although the context of John 4 is worship, all of our activities can be considered worship if we do them as unto the Lord. (See Colossians 3:23.)

Pulling these concepts together, I realized that my words and actions should be as loving as they are truthful.

Love, Truth, Love

That’s when Robby and I made a pact. He would be more upfront with the truth, trusting that I wouldn’t overreact or blame him for passing along difficult news. And I would be more loving, sweetening each word of truth with love. Now, we’re both striving to be “love, truth, love” kind of people—sandwiching the necessary truth in love.

I have to admit that this has made me a better person, wife, and friend. It’s also enabled me to minister to others in a meaningful way.

Learn to Love

If you’re a truth-focused person like I am, take heart! You can learn to be more loving in your interactions with others. Here are a few tips.

  • God first – Remember, the great commandment is to love God, and the second is to love your neighbor. (See Matthew 22:37-39.) We can’t fulfill the second commandment until we fulfill the first. It might help to think of the image of the “love cup.” Focus on your love for God first, letting that fill your love cup. Then let God’s love overflow and pour through you into your relationships with others.
  • Fake it – In the meantime, “fake it ‘til you make it.” I don’t mean that you should be a fake person, but if you make an effort to be nice and caring, you’ll find your emotions follow suite.
  • Pray – You can’t dislike someone you’re praying for—at least not for long—so pray daily for their welfare.

Learn to be Truthful

If you have a hard time telling difficult things to people you love, you can learn to be more truthful.

  • Right motives – We should never speak the truth out of a sense of self-righteousness or judgment. However, we should speak truth in love if it will help the other person in some way. This could be as small as telling your friend that she has spinach in her teeth; or it could be as big as confronting her with her addiction to alcohol. Just make sure your motives are righteous before you speak.
  • Faith – If you need to say something, then have faith in your friend and in the strength of your relationship. Even if the truth rocks the boat a bit, your friend should appreciate that you said what you did in love.

What about you? Have you struggled with speaking truth in love? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

“But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NAS).

~ By Ashley L. Jones of BigSisterKnows.com

Thank you, Ashley, for sharing this guest post! You can follow Ashley on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Tweetable

Be a “love, truth, love” person—sandwiching the necessary truth in love. @kjhogrefe @BigSisterTweets (Click to Tweet)

Adored Giveaway!

Thank you to everyone who participated in and shared about last week’s Adored giveaway.

Congratulations to the winner, Elizabeth!

 

 

Adored: Book Giveaway & Review

Each year about this time, I start thinking about a daily devotional book to supplement my Scripture reading. Some of my favorites in the past have included Charles Stanley’s Every Day in His Presence and Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. When people ask me for recommendations, I sometimes hesitate because while I enjoy the ones I read, they might not be the best fit for everyone.

That’s why I’m excited to introduce you to Lindsay A. Franklin’s Adored, a daily devotional intentionally designed for young women (middle or high school age). The short selections for each day touch on issues relevant to today’s teens and offer biblical perspective on common struggles and questions, including:

  • Why should I attend church?
  • How can God’s promises help me weather life’s storms?
  • Does God care when I feel like an outsider and like I don’t belong?
  • How do I deal with bullying?
  • How can I invite God’s guidance into my life?
  • Is it possible to truly know God?
  • Why did God create me this way?

Throughout the daily challenges runs the thread of the reader being God’s adored daughter, someone who is precious in His sight. For young women today who constantly feel the world’s pressuring messages, telling them they’re not “good enough,” this devotional offers the much-needed grounding truth that they are unconditionally loved by and valuable to God.

Each daily reading begins with Scripture and ends with space to jot down notes, thoughts, or a prayer. Though not designed to be an exclusive daily reading, this devotional offers an excellent jump-start to a young woman’s daily quiet time. (Speaking from personal experience, I often need something to help focus my mind where it needs to be before diving deeper into God’s Word.)

A Giveaway for You

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to show a special teenage girl some love than give her something she’ll actually use to help build her relationship with God in the new year? There’s even space in the front of the book for you to personalize the gift.

Today, I’m excited to share a special giveaway opportunity. You can enter to win a copy of Adored! Here’s how:

  • Simply leave a comment below.
  • Share my Facebook post from my author page and tag me.
  • Share the Tweet below.
  • You can do one or all of the above!

I’ll announce the winner at the end of next week’s post, which by the way, you won’t want to miss! My friend and blogger Ashley Jones of BigSisterKnows.com will be sharing tips on how to speak the truth in love.

Take time this week to let a teenager know how much you care and how much God adores her or him.

~ Kristen

Special thanks to The Blythe Daniel Agency for making this book giveaway possible!

 

Tweetables

Adored: Book Giveaway & Review – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Book Giveaway! Adored by Lindsay A. Franklin – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)