You Don’t Have to Be Great to Start

New Years is typically the time of year people set health and fitness resolutions, but according to Forbes, the follow-through is pretty slim (under 25%). We’re approaching the half-way mark of 2019, and if you’ve already failed at a goal, I want to challenge you to start fresh.

Maybe my personal story will help you feel less intimidated by the idea of joining a gym or tackling whatever goal you have yet to reach. Although I have been a runner for about a decade now, I’ve never joined a gym. Personally, I prefer running outdoors over using a treadmill and have always enjoyed home workouts. These sometimes include an over-the-door pull-up bar and YouTube yoga videos, such as the ones by EkhartYoga and Yoga with Adrienne.

However, my husband enjoys the gym, so when we got married, we both agreed to share in each other’s hobbies. He runs with me occasionally, and I’ve joined a gym with him.

Though I didn’t actually say this thought out loud, I was pretty sure I was going to hate the gym.  Turns out, just the opposite is true. I only had to change my mindset. If I can, so can you.

#1: Get over yourself.

Ouch. There’s no sugar-coating that sentence. In other words, most of us tend to be self-conscious and worried that people are watching us. The truth is, of course, that they aren’t. They’re watching themselves, worried that we’re watching them. It’s a vicious cycle.

Although we may cite embarrassment or self-consciousness as the the culprits keeping us out of the gym, the real reason is pride. We don’t want people to think “less” of us. We don’t want to set ourselves up to look silly at something we’re not good at. On that note, let’s clear the air with the reality that no one is naturally good at anything. Even though we all have inherent gifts and abilities from God, unless we work to develop them, we’ll never excel.

The Bible tell us that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5b NKJV). Isn’t that a wonderful thought? He gives grace. We mostly think of that grace in terms of our spiritual shortcomings, but I believe God also extends His generosity into the ordinary, everyday parts of our lives.

So go ahead. Buy yourself a comfy and trendy workout outfit as long as you’re actually going to use it and not just lounge in it for Netflix marathons.

#2: Learn from others.

I’m a notorious people watcher, so maybe there is a tiny bit of truth that I might be watching you, if you happen to join my gym. The reason is not so I can poke fun at or envy you. On that note, comparison can be a subtle little monster, and we must avoid it like the plague. The Bible makes clear that comparing ourselves with ourselves is not wise in any pursuit (2 Corinthians 10:12.)

Instead, we should want to learn from each other. I’ve seen several ladies doing different free-weight workouts that have given me new ideas for my own. Interacting with other people, regardless of our location or activity, can inspire new creativity and ideas we otherwise wouldn’t have imagined.

#3: Do life with people.

Feelings of isolation and loneliness can turn even the most friendly of us into hermits. Maybe we feel as though we won’t fit in or belong. Whatever subconscious lies the enemy is feeding us, we must choose not to listen to them, because we need community. We need friends to help us get out of our comfort zones and try something new.

Accountability is a huge part of committing to and sticking with our goals.  Each of us might have different personal motivations, but regardless, we need friends and family who can be our cheerleaders and also keep us in check.

If you’re wanting to set new fitness goals, find someone who can help you work to meet them. Maybe it’s a gym buddy or a friend who can walk or jog with you. Even if you can’t train together every week, you can at least send friendly reminders and follow-ups to see if you’re both sticking with the plan.

At the end of the day, we must remember that we’re the ones who are ultimately responsible for our choices. Do we make sacrifices to meet our goals? Are we willing to plan accordingly? Or are we only content to work toward our goals if they’re convenient or feel comfortable? (Reality check: Meeting goals is rarely convenient or comfortable.)

At my gym, there are motivational signs peppered throughout the building. One of them caught my attention recently, and all it said was, “You don’t have to be great to start.”

The key is simply to start. As William Wordsworth so eloquently said, “To begin, begin.”

No excuses.

Kristen

I’m grateful this post first appeared on DailyPS.com.

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Love that Never Forgets

DailyPS.com is committed to providing a positive Paradigm Shift in our culture. When one of their editors asked me to write on the recent New York decision to legalize full-term abortion, I paused and prayed about what to say. So much has already been said, yet this heart-breaking news weighs on my heart. I hope my response is both compassionate and a clear rallying cry to the unborn’s cause.

***

Never Forget. Americans rallied around that cry after the atrocities of September 11. In anger, we said that we would not forgive the acts of terror that cost so many lives, and more importantly, we would not forget the individual lives themselves. Yet every day, we seem to forget lives lost. In fact, we do them greater dishonor in not even acknowledging them as lives. Lives without a voice. Lives trusting us to care for them. Lives entrusted to us by God.

Instead of rallying around them, some make the choice to flaunt and celebrate their termination. We pass legislation1 that not only permits but encourages mothers to neglect responsibility instead of nourish new life, to condemn to death instead of cherish at the breast.

These victims have no voice. No one feels their agony or the screams they’re not permitted air to cry. In silence, they pass from life to death. Oh, America, how can we so rightly condemn acts of terror from outside our borders while justifying ones we commit daily from within?

How can our love be so selfish that it forgets?

We make excuses and justify ourselves. We label murder as “reproductive rights” and choose self-love over sacrificial love. Science confirms life begins at conception2, but we re-brand the baby as merely a “fetus” to satisfy our consciences.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
And not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Surely they may forget,
Yet I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15)

Yes, apparently women (and men) can forget the life forming in the womb.

But God does not forget.

  • He “fearfully and wonderfully” makes them. (Psalm 139:14)
  • He accounts all their members in His book, even while they are still forming. (Psalm 139:16)
  • He considers them a reward, not a mistake. (Psalm 127:3)
  • He calls them for a purpose while they are yet in the womb. (Isaiah 49:1)
  • He knows each one and sanctifies him for a calling. (Jeremiah 1:5)

Yet God is also compassionate, even when we are not.

“… if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Oh, America, are we too stubborn to repent, or can we yet find healing? Can we break the icy chokehold of self-justification? Can we learn to love life instead of take it, to sacrifice for it instead of squelch it? Can we fight for these unborn blessings and give them the single chance to suck that first stuttering breath—and cry?

~ Kristen

Notes

1On the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, New York legalized late-term abortion.

2“Why Life Begins at Conception.” NAACP.org.

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Where Do You Find Inspiration?

Photo Credit: Kristen Hogrefe, Orvieto, Italy

A common question people ask writers is where we find our inspiration. Regardless of your trade or career, you find inspiration for your craft somewhere or from something. However, the source isn’t always remarkable and doesn’t have to be. Today, I’d like to share some places I find inspiration to help encourage you to seek out your own.

From Creation

The Genesis record of creation repeats the words “And God saw that it was good” multiple times. Although man’s sin corrupted God’s flawless design, we still see the intentional purpose God crafted into His creation.

No wonder when I run, hike, or otherwise adventure in this world, I constantly find beauty that stimulates the imagination. When I visited Italy last year and explored several settings in my upcoming novel, I was overwhelmed with the the colors, sounds, architecture, culture, and cuisine (including pizza and gelato)! As I said before, the experience doesn’t have to be international or exotic to provide inspiration. Wherever we go, God’s nature provides boundless possibilities for subject matters and settings.

From Conviction

This February, the final novel in young adult, dystopian trilogy publishes. Some people have asked why I decided to write dystopian since it can sometimes be a controversial genre.

The reason is that I felt convicted to write a dystopian thriller from a Christian worldview with an overarching message of hope. So many dystopian books are dark with bleak outcomes, and while mine still includes many common characteristics of the genre, it offers a twist. It suggests that for a futuristic society to survive and thrive, its people need to rediscover heritage and the Source of true hope. As a result of my convictions, this theme underpins an otherwise classic dystopian tale.

From Conversation

I’m not the only person who likes to people watch at airports or tune in to random conversations, am I? Sometimes, a mere word or phrase catches my ear and suggests perhaps a title, a unique character name, a nugget of truth about human nature, or a humorous story to tuck away for later.

Even if those snippets never find their way into my writing, they certainly make me a better observer, conversationalist, and listener–all of which are necessary for being a good writer.

Where do you find your inspiration? Please leave a comment and share!

~ Kristen

This post first appeared on DailyPS.com. For more inspirational posts, visit DailyPS.com.

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Making the Manger Personal

Last September, I had the opportunity to travel to Italy with a colleague, work remotely, and research my next novel. During one of our day-tripping adventures, we visited a place called Civita di Bagnoregio, a place sometimes called “the dying town.” This city rests atop a hill that is slowly eroding, and the place itself is breathtaking.

As my friend Maria and I explored the city, I suddenly stopped short. There, to my right, were the remains of a manger.

A manger. The scene seemed taken right out of a nativity story set in Bethlehem, and yet here we were in Italy. As I soaked in the moment, a few realizations struck me. Though perhaps I’d already known them, I hadn’t taken them to heart before. Maybe you can relate.

The manger was a common place chosen for an anything-but-common Christ.

Jesus could have been born anywhere else. People expected that the Messiah would come as king and break Rome’s oppression. They expected a palatial birth with pomp and circumstance. As a result, they couldn’t even recognize His birth in a stable, among animals and dirt, to a simple girl and her carpenter-husband.

I get caught up in my expectations sometimes, too. I expect God to provide a certain way, and when He doesn’t, I feel confused and frustrated. Yet God’s uncommon methods are the very means He uses to accomplish His will back then and today.

The manger stands as a challenge for simplicity and personal humility.

For introverts like me, Christmastime can overwhelm the senses with programs, white-elephant gift exchanges, Sunday school parties, special services, shopping, and everything that we’ve come to expect. Granted, those things may all have a time and place, but they often distract from the main reason we celebrate.

When I looked at the manger, all I saw was a rickety feeding trough that did double-duty as the Messiah’s crib. Its bare simplicity reminded me what a humble birthplace Christ accepted. It reminded me of these verses from Philippians where the Apostle Paul challenged his writers to adopt the mindset of Christ:

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7 NKJV).

Is that mind in me? Is it in you? If I’m honest, it often isn’t. I prefer things my way, on my schedule, for my convenience. Yet Jesus exercised humility even though He was equal to God! How much more should humility characterize my thoughts and actions?

Back in Italy that day, I felt reluctant to leave this manger-like scene. However, I don’t have to relegate the manger to once-a-year Christmas stories and pageants. I can strive to apply the truths it represents every day of the year. So can you.

May you experience the joy of God’s unexpected blessings this Christmas and always!

~Kristen

Thanks to DailyPS.com for hosting this week’s post on their blog. 

 

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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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You Can Embrace Your Unfiltered Life

Do you feel “less than” when you scroll through social media feeds, featuring flawless photos and seemingly perfect status updates? If so, it’s time to stop comparing your unfiltered life with everyone else’s filtered ones.

The truth is, all of us filter our content. Case in point. Last month, I was beyond excited to share that my friend and I are making a spontaneous trip to Italy that will let me visit some settings in my upcoming novel. Also last month, my refrigerator died, and I had to spend about the same amount of money to buy a new one as I had to pay for Italy travel.

Guess which experience I shared and which I didn’t? Exactly. After all, no one really cares or wants to know that my fridge died.

But that’s the point. Real life, unfiltered life, is often inconvenient, less-than-ideal, and messy. Nine times out of ten, we don’t show that part of our lives online.

While there’s nothing wrong with putting our best face forward, the drawback is that we’re not presenting the complete picture. When other people look at us, they think we’re perfect. When we look at their feeds, we wish we could be more like them.

It’s a vicious, ridiculous cycle. The Bible makes clear that comparing ourselves to ourselves isn’t wise (2 Corinthians 10:12). Instead, let’s learn to accept our unfiltered lives. That doesn’t mean putting our messiness on display for all to see but learning to be content with the places and people God’s given us.

How do we do that? Read the rest of the post at DailyPS.com. I look forward to your comments!

~ Kristen

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Lies the Kill Zone Tells You

Learning to surf at thirty-something requires a willingness to sputter like a toddler in swimmies and a healthy dose of humiliation. It also demands mental toughness to defeat the wave’s wallopings. Now doesn’t this sound vaguely like life?

I thought I was reasonably ready for my first surf lesson. Yoga has improved my balance, and I did burpies to help prepare for changing stance from lying on the board to going vertical. Points for a good pupil, right?

But like so much in life, preparation can’t top hands-on experience.

With great anticipation, I plunged into St. Augustine’s waves. That’s when the words kill zone took on a whole new meaning. Forget getting on the board and trying to surf. First, I had to get past the barrage of breaking waves.

To read about the rest of my surfing adventure and takeaways, visit DailyPS.com. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my story. Much like breaking waves,  lies can pummel us at times. How have you fought past them, and how have others spoken truth into your life in those situations?

~ Kristen

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