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A Little Peace and Quiet

Today’s post comes from my friend and author Ashley L. Jones of BigSisterKnows.com. She tackles the topic of stillness, something hard to find in today’s fast-paced world. I hope this post blesses you as it has me.

Guest Post by Ashley L. Jones

I’ve always had a sensitivity to noise, but it’s getting worse. I think that’s because the world is getting noisier. Every store I go into is blaring the latest top 40 music. When Robby and I pay good money to eat out at a restaurant, we often have to talk over the music and several TVs, all tuned to different stations. At doctors’ offices (which are stressful enough), the TVs are usually tuned to daytime talk shows showcasing the worst humanity has to offer.

In traffic, the guy next to me will inevitably blast his music because he thinks it makes him look cool. (It doesn’t.) Even at home, a neighbor will often turn up his favorite station until I have to shut my windows for a little peace and quiet.

And that’s what I find myself seeking these days: peace and quiet.

Peace

When I was little, I loved to stay at my grandparents’ house. Papa liked to have the TV on all the time, whether he was watching it or not. But whenever he would go outside, Grandma would immediately turn it off. I thought it was the perfect opportunity for us to finally watch what we wanted to watch, but to Grandma it was an opportunity for some peace and quiet.

Looking back, I don’t remember any of those TV shows, but I do remember Grandma singing hymns in the kitchen while the washing machine thumped along in the background. To me, this is what a peaceful home sounds like.

I understand now what Grandma meant when she said she needed quiet time to hear herself think and to hear God speak to her. By seeking silence, Grandma was able to tune out the world and tune into God.

Quiet

How can we expect to hear God’s voice when we can’t even hear ourselves think? How can we focus on what’s important in life if our attention is constantly switching from one song or show to the next? Why do we feel the need to stuff ourselves with entertainment at the expense of our own peace?

Author Richard J. Foster addressed this issue back in 1978 in his book, Celebration of Discipline: “Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds. We keep up a constant stream of words even if they are inane. We buy radios that strap to our wrists or fit over our ears so that, if no one else is around, at least we are not condemned to silence.”

Foster goes on to discuss the Discipline of Solitude, which he states is inseparable from inner silence. “Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment… There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times… if we possess inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. In the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart.”

That’s what I want! Don’t you?

Discipline

Fortunately, solitude is something we can attain through spiritual discipline. Foster states that one way to “step into solitude” is to “take advantage of the ‘little solitudes,’ that fill our day,” from quiet early mornings to being stuck in traffic. We can also develop a “quiet place,” such as a special room in the house where we can shut out the noise for a bit.

Robby and I discovered this inadvertently when we canceled our cable. I’d like to say that we were being super-spiritual, but the truth is that it was getting too expensive. Although we still have internet-based TV, the format is different. Instead of streaming one show after another, we have to select each show we want to watch. Since we have to be intentional about it, we find ourselves watching less. We also avoid the hamster wheel of 24/7 news and weather; this change alone has removed stress from our home. We even avoid commercials now, which are manipulative by default.

Now, Robby listens to the news for a few minutes in the morning and evenings so we can stay current on important events. When he gets home from work, I’ll turn on something soothing like light jazz or Christian music, and we’ll enjoy our dinner at the dining table. On weekends we might find a show or movie to watch, but for the most part, we prefer to piddle around the house or read. We tune out the noise of the world and make room for each other and for God.

Unplug

As we’ve quieted our home, I’ve felt a quietening within my spirit. Yes, I still have to contend with the noise of the world, but I’m learning to develop that inner silence Foster speaks of—and you can too!

I encourage you to watch your habits this week. Do you reach for the radio, the TV remote, and the phone without even thinking about it? Do you always have something on, even in the background? Do you feel uncomfortable with silence, even in your own home? If so, it’s time to make a change. Unplug for awhile. Fill that time with quiet rest, housework, or a hobby. Even better, read your Bible and pray. By carving out some time for a little peace and quiet, you might begin to hear God speak to you like never before.

“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12 KJV).

Sometimes, God prefers to speak in a still, small voice. Can you hear Him?

~ By Ashley L. Jones of BigSisterKnows.com

 

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A Little Peace and Quiet – @kjhogrefe and @BigSisterTweets (Click to Tweet)

 

Say Yes to New Adventures (Engagement Story)

Dear friends, please celebrate with us! I’m so excited to share that my wonderful boyfriend James asked me to marry him, and I said yes. Here’s the story for all you romantics.

Let’s take a road trip, he said.

James has been going to Beech Mountain, North Carolina for years, and last winter, I went for the first time as part of our church group’s ski trip. You may remember my takeaways as a first-time skier.

Since Florida doesn’t see foliage, James suggested getting a group of friends together to take a long weekend and hike around Beech Mountain. So along with my best friend Devon, we road tripped to Beech Mountain where our friend Conrad joined us.

After work on Thursday, we started the long drive, prepared with more snacks than necessary, of course. Some ten or eleven hours later, we rolled into the driveway of a rustic cabin along the ski slopes and crashed for a few hours.

Let’s wait for this view, he said.

North Carolina dawned with sparkling blue skies and cool fifties, the perfect hiking weather. It’s as if Beech Mountain were in on the surprise.

We had breakfast and coffee at Fred’s, and if you’ve ever been to this part of the Carolinas, you know Fred’s is a landmark! Fueled with food, if not much sleep, we started out for some hiking trails.

Welcome to Fred’s!

The last hike of the day was called Wiseman’s View, but to get there, we had to work our way over one of the bumpiest stateside roads I’ve ever seen! However, the view was more than worth it. Some people have even described the vista as the “Grand Canyon” of North Carolina.

The late afternoon chill was setting in, and after exploring one of the outlooks, we went to another. However, a couple was there taking pictures, so we waited against some fencing.

“Maybe we can just go check out another view or head back,” I said at last. “It’s freezing out here.”

Freezing is subjective. To a Florida girl, one flannel shirt is not sufficient for low fifties.

“No, let’s wait,” James said. “I want to do a picture like that one.” He meant a “facing away” picture like the other couple.

“Okay,” I said and shivered next to him.

Wiseman’s View

Let’s spend the rest of our lives together, he said.

When he finally led me to the outlook, something was different. Maybe it was his breathing or the way his heart beat in his chest.

AND THEN HE STARTED TALKING AND GOT DOWN ON ONE KNEE.

So help me, I don’t remember much of what he said. Snippets included:

  • I love you more than I thought possible.
  • There’s no one else I want to spend the rest of my life with.
  • Will you marry me?
I said yes!

I said yes.

The video my friend took (which is good, because otherwise, I might not remember anything) involves me smiling as broad as the mountain range (hyperbole, perhaps), saying yes, and embracing the love of my life.

I couldn’t have asked for a more special moment. James was there, naturally. My best friend Devon was there capturing it all and celebrating with us. This cute hiking couple was there and insisted on shaking our hands and wishing us the best.

So grateful for amazing friends like Devon and Conrad!

And God was there. We’ve bathed this relationship in prayer and sought wisdom for this road. I’m trusting this love is from Him, and He’s blessing it.

Adventure On.

Let me be vulnerable for a hot second. I’m in my early thirties and wasn’t sure if God would bring along someone or ask me to stay single. Though I prayed for marriage, I was trying to be content with either option.

I’ve learned that both singleness and relationships bring their highs and lows. Right now, my thoughts and emotions feel like fireworks, but I also know marriage requires work. Regardless, my conclusion is this: Godly love purposes the good of another and pursues God first. When that’s the case, we can thrive-whatever the future holds.

I hope I can encourage my young friends today with this: Don’t wait for a relationship to start living. Be your best self right now. That best self will either be fabulous single or incredibly attractive to the man or woman God has for you. And regardless, God can use you for His glory.

Thank you for celebrating with us!

~ Kristen

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Say Yes to New Adventures (Engagement Story) – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Rice Krispies®, Chili Powder, and Rushing Ahead

I was fighting a sweet tooth and since I’d made brownies the week before, Rice Krispies Treats™ seemed like a brilliant alternative. Besides, they’re basically instant gratification because they require only minutes to prep.

After spreading the gooey goodness of Rice Krispies® cereal and buttery marshmallows in my cake pan, I reached into the cabinet for some sprinkles. Deliciousness is 90% preparation and 10% presentation, right? Maybe the percentages depend on the person, but I always like to make my desserts pretty.

I started shaking the red dispenser, but something looked off. The red wasn’t red enough. It was a deeper burgundy color.

And then I read the label. Chili Powder.

I was doctoring my delicious treats with chili powder, not sugar cookie sprinkles.

When we rush toward gratification

I was in such a hurry to add the finishing touches that I didn’t read the label or take time to do a two-second inspection. If I had, it would have been obvious that the chili powder container didn’t look like sugar sprinkles.

Sometimes, we act the same with life. We’re in such a rush to get to the next phase of our lives that we grab what looks like the “real thing,” only to be disappointed later.

For example, have any of these If Onlys ever crossed your mind?

  • If only I could just finish school
  • If only I could meet the right guy
  • If only I could make the team
  • If only I could go on that trip
  • If only

The problem is that when we wish for instant gratification to our desires, we often miss out on the blessings of right now and mess up God’s recipe to provide in the best way.

When to stop and read the label

Like it or not, life doesn’t come with a label. Can you imagine what ours would say if it did?

  • Caution: Do not converse with prior to coffee consumption.
  • Directions: Dose regularly with sunshine for optimum results.
  • Warning: Introvert requires good books and quiet time to recharge properly.

What would yours say? In all seriousness, though, even if we had labels, they would have one problem: They would be about us.

Instead, we have something better. God’s Word directs our focus off ourselves and toward Him and His plan.

If you find yourself wanting to rush ahead, open a copy of the Bible and meditate on truths like these:

  • Jeremiah 29:11-12: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” (ESV)
  • Psalm 34:8-10: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (ESV)
  • Philippians 4:4-7: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (ESV)

How to Move Past Mess-Ups

Maybe you’re thinking, “But, Kristen, I’ve already grabbed the chili powder.”

I hear you. So have I. Plenty of times. But you know what? Chili powder on Rice Krispies Treats™ wasn’t a total fiasco. A gentle sprinkling was almost unnoticeable, and I caught the problem before I doused the whole pan.

No matter how big you think your mess is, God’s grace can redeem it. His Word says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a ESV).

Bring your mess to God and be honest with him about it. Ask him to put his grace to work in your weakness and bring about good through the mistakes. He will.

~ Kristen

I’m honored that this article appeared in the fall issue of the Girlz 4 Christ digital magazine. Hope it’s a blessing to you! For more great content for teen girls, visit girlz4christ.org.

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Do Small Things Greatly

Life is full of small things, isn’t it? I don’t mean snails and sand fleas. No, I mean the small choices we make, like taking care of our bodies, and tasks we complete, like home and work responsibilities. Since “small” or seemingly routine, non-earth-shattering items construct the majority of our time, perhaps they aren’t so insignificant after all.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for daring adventures and if you’ve been following me here lately, you know I just returned from traveling two weeks in Italy. Everything in its place, right? Although life certainly has its mountain-top moments, it’s also good to adventure on the small scale.

Truth is, God cares about and can use our ordinary, less-than-glamorous moments just as much as those bucket-list accomplishments.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the Bible in I Chronicles. Now this book holds its share of hurdles, including chapters of genealogies, but it also holds a challenge relevant to our lives.

To read on, click over to DailyPS.com where this post appears in full and consider: What “small thing” can you do greatly today?

~ Kristen

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Italy in 10 Snapshots

Hello, friends! Thanks for joining me on my Italian adventure. Over the next several months, I’ll unpack more of this trip and its correlation to my upcoming novel, but for now, I’m limiting myself to 10 top moments, one for each day I was in Italy.

Day 1: The Streets of Orvieto

After an eventful rental car experience in Rome and finally finding our Air B&B in Orvieto, my colleague and I enjoyed a few moments roaming the cobbled streets before settling into our adorable apartment. After all, this was a working trip as well as an adventure.

Day 2: The Duomo in Orvieto

This breathtaking cathedral is a centerpiece of what might be the most charming, authentic city in Italy. Of course, I’m biased and haven’t even scratched the surface of Italy’s hidden gems, but there was nothing fake or superficial about this place. It was consistently the same whether I was visiting a back street or main attraction.

Day 3: Pizza in Civita di Bagnoregio

This place is a literal city on a hill. The views are breathtaking, and I should probably choose one of my landscape shots as my featured image, but you guys!! This was also the place I experienced my first Italian pizza. Enough said. (For actual pictures of this beautiful town, visit my Facebook page.)

Day 4: Walking Tour of Rome

I will never forget the day my colleague and I walked fifteen miles on a self-guided tour of Rome. The trek started at the Colosseum, so this picture seems appropriate.

Day 5: Fort Michelangelo at the Port of Civitavecchia

Nicknamed “The port of Rome,” Civitavecchia is a hub for cruise ships and tourists entering Italy. I gushed over it for a similar reason, because it is the point of entry into Italy (and the international scene) for my heroine Portia in The Reactionary (Coming 2019).

Day 6: Gelato in Palermo

Italian gelato is all it’s promised to be and more. My go-to flavor was fragola or strawberry. Delish!

Day 7: The Beach at Palermo

Naturally, the Florida girl in me feels at home on any beach, and Palermo’s was stunning! The water was a refreshing temperature and oh so very blue.

Day 8: Prickly Pear in Valguarnera

Have you ever eaten the prickly pear fruit? I never had, but it tastes as sweet as candy! Note: The locals eat the seeds, so just chew them and pretend to be Italian.

Day 9: Scala dei Turchi

My friend Maria promised me that the cliffs and beach in Agrigento would fast become my favorite place. How right she was! These pearly white cliffs and the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean were like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Day 10: Cappuccino in Valguarnera

Before we returned to Palermo, we spent the morning with Maria’s family. Like many other days, breakfast consisted of a chocolate or cream brioche and a cappuccino. Yes, I’m basically in withdrawal at the moment.

Thanks for sharing in this adventure with me!

~ Kristen

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Italy in 10 Snapshots – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

 

Italy Adventures: Choose Joy and Enjoy the Journey

Ciao from Italy! I’m so thankful to be here, visiting some settings in my next novel, exploring this beautiful country with my colleague, and working remotely.

However, lest you think the writer’s life and remote work life are purely magical (and oftentimes, they are), keep reading. Here’s what this trip has taught me so far.

#1: You can’t plan for everything.

Perhaps you’re wondering, Wasn’t Kristen going to blog while she’s traveling abroad? The answer is that yes, I was.

However, when I turned on my laptop in Orvieto, I discovered that it would not charge. My colleague and I tried everything from reinstalling battery drivers and various other online suggestions with no success.

Here I thought I had everything I needed! I had an adapter, and my colleague had one too, and yet for some reason, my charging cord was not compatible with European power.

I don’t like feeling helpless to solve my problems, but there wasn’t much I could do about the situation. So, as my brother says: improvise, adapt, and overcome!

#2: You can’t control or fix everything.

I had two choices when this hard reality hit. I could be miserable for the rest of the trip, or I could make the best of the situation. Though the frustration was real, my friend, I chose the latter. As a result, I’ve been waking up at five o’clock in the morning each day to grade, so that I can use my friend’s laptop when she doesn’t have to work. Is it ideal? Of course not. But I’m able to still grade, help my students, and do my job. (However, I sadly have not had much time for my lovely blog.)

The privilege of working remotely means sacrificing whatever is needed, in this case sleep, to make a work-around possible. But the reward is worth it! After putting in those early hours, my friend and I get to spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon adventuring before she logs in for her own job.

Maria and me at the Duomo (cathedral) in Orvieto (Photo cred: Maria Constantine, thepotentialofyouth.com)

#3: You can choose to live in the moment.

The planner in me is dying to know if my laptop will work fine once I return home or what repair work will be needed, but again, I choose not to worry. Philippians 4:6-7 has been a go-to for me on this trip:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

God’s peace goes with me, regardless if I haven’t slept much, am under-caffeinated, and don’t know how I’m going to solve some of my circumstantial challenges. However, I can enjoy the gift of this moment and this incredible opportunity, choosing not to let inconveniences steal the beauty of this adventure.

Exploring the streets of Orvieto, we found these fun metal horses, designed for the young and young at heart. (Photo cred: Maria Constantine)

#4: You can both prepare and be spontaneous.

When Maria and I were in Orvieto, we planned one day at a time. Of course, we had some ideas ahead of time of where we could go and what we could do, but the key to working remotely and adventuring is not to try to do everything. You do have to sleep sometime, although the extent of that sleep is clearly debatable.

As it was, we decided to visit Civita di Bagnoregio, nicknamed “the Dying Town” because it looks like an elevated island in the middle of a mountainous region. As a result, its inhabitants have to carefully guard against erosion.

But oh, the place is stunning! It’s like a city on a hill, and yes, it is a short trek to get there but so worth it. This spontaneous day-trip might just be my favorite yet.

(Photo cred: Maria Constantine)

#5: Take time for gratitude moments.

Even in the “ugly” moments of travel and working remotely, we can still find something to be grateful for. For starters, I’m grateful to be traveling with someone who’s willing to share her laptop when she’s not using it. I’m grateful for the kind lady who helped us get a taxi when we literally lost our car and the friendly construction workers who helped us get back to the road we were supposed to be on.

The moral is this: Anything worthwhile is going to be both wonderful and likely challenging. Whether we’re home or abroad, we get to choose our attitudes even if we can’t choose our circumstances.

Choose joy, my friends. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

Ciao!

Kristen

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Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Come Adventure with Me! Italy in Real Life and Fiction

Starting next week, I’m traveling to Italy with my friend and colleague. Among other mouth-watering destinations, we’ll be exploring some of the settings for the final book in The Rogues trilogy, which include Orvieto and the Port of Civitavecchia. I can’t wait to share these places in real life with you and then take you into my heroine’s fictional story where she experiences them in her dystopian world.

Can you believe we’ve been on this trilogy adventure together since 2016 when I first signed my contract with Write Integrity Press? The cover reveal for The Reactionary will be coming soon, but for now, you can preview Portia’s climactic adventure.

Maybe you haven’t dived into Portia’s story yet. No worries. You have a few months before book three releases to catch up on the action. And this month, if you read and share your review about The Revisionary or The Revolutionary on Amazon and tag me in a social media post about it, I’ll enter you into my summer book challenge giveaway. (Maybe I’m in denial, but I’m not counting summer as over until the end of this month.) Bonus points if you review both or participate in the original summer book challenge.

Oh, what’s the giveaway? So glad you asked. It’s an autographed paperback copy of The Reactionary once it releases next year. (A winner outside the U.S. will receive a Kindle copy.)

Wherever We Go

As I’m hustling through all the last-minute trip preparation, I need to pause and remember: This trip isn’t about me. Yes, it’s a huge blessing and opportunity that has me antsy with anticipation. But at the end of the day, whatever I do and wherever I go, I want to shine God’s love and light.

No, this isn’t a mission trip by any means, but are we not always to represent Christ? Who knows whose paths I’m going to cross. My hope is that I’ll represent Christ well even if I’m tired, anxious, or inconvenienced.

Bottom Line: I’d appreciate your prayers during this trip and would love for you to share in this European adventure with me. I’ll be updating my Instagram stories @kristenhogrefeauthor and on Facebook, and you’re invited to follow me there.

Happy reading, safe travels, and adventure on!

~ Kristen

Tweetables

Come Adventure with Me! Italy in Real Life and Fiction – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Whatever I do and wherever I go, I want to shine God’s love and light. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)