Remember November’s Other Holiday

When you think of November and holidays, what’s the first one that comes to mind? Right, Thanksgiving. You might think of everything that comes with this celebration like family time, delicious food, funky traditions, parades, or football games. While there’s nothing wrong with these things, let’s not forget November’s other special day: Veterans Day.

Veterans Day serves to honor and appreciate all veterans. While Memorial Day honors the fallen, Veterans Day offers gratitude not only to those who are parted from us, but also to the men and women who gave so much and are still here for us to thank.

Are we too busy thinking of ourselves to say thank you?

If you’re like me, you probably get absorbed in the day-to-day. Our tasks and to-do-lists may be full of wonderful things for our family and friends, but we need to take time to pause and look outside our comfortable circles.

More than likely, we wait in line with veterans at the grocery store, pump gas next to them at the gas station, and jog by them in our neighborhoods. We probably don’t know who they are, and they certainly don’t go around wearing a stamp on their forehead that says, “Thank me, I’m a veteran.”

No, they go about their business, just like you and me.

But on Veterans Day, their patriotism and pride come out. Many dust off their uniforms and share with us who they are and how they have served.

Will we notice our veterans today?

Now is our chance, people. Now is our chance to notice them, to appreciate them, to thank them. If you see them at the grocery store, thank them. If you stand in line behind them at the coffee shop, buy their coffee. Be creative. If you personally know a veteran, take the time to call or text. A simple thank-you can go a long way.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, he addressed the topic of authority and respect for government in the first part of chapter thirteen. His takeaway is for us to give each proper authority the dues and respect his position commands. Paul put this idea so eloquently:

Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. (Romans 13:7 NKJV)

Give honor to whom honor is due, Paul said. Our veterans certainly deserve our honor and thanks.

Let’s be grateful people who count our veterans among our blessings this day and every day.

How will you thank a veteran today?

Kristen

Your Heritage Can Start Today

This summer has been special for my brother and me, because for the first time, we were able to introduce our spouses to our family camp in New Hampshire. This place of our childhood holds so many memories and history we wanted to share with them. It’s also the same place that inspired the setting for Secrets Beyond Lake Winona’s Shore.

Going to camp always feels like stepping backward into time. There’s the small wooden cottage my great-grandfather built, the generations of chipmunks my grandfather taught to eat out of his shirt pocket, the memories of family reunions from years past, and the collection of family pictures on the walls.

My heritage. It includes a godly great-grandfather who rocked me (a once colicky, crying baby) to sleep with a smile on his face. He must have been a saint! It includes grandparents who boarded a ship to Colombia as missionaries and later returned to the States to pastor a Connecticut church. It continues through my parents and now me.

Today’s choices are tomorrow’s legacy.

Have you ever stopped to think that we’re making our own heritages today? People talk about “leaving a legacy.” That’s a heritage, a history that defines your story and mine. I’m grateful that God saw fit to give me “the heritage of those who fear [His] name” (Psalm 61:5b NKJV).

However, maybe you can’t say that about your family. Maybe you’re the first in your family to call Jesus your Lord and Savior.

If so, I have great news for you. You have the privilege of beginning a godly heritage. It’s your choice and mine. Even those blessed with a Christian family must choose for themselves what legacy they’ll leave behind.

Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, For they are the rejoicing of my heart. (Psalm 119:111 NKJV)

Does God’s Word make our hearts rejoice? Do we care about what He says? Do we seek to please Him with our daily choices? How we answer those questions will shape the course of our lives.

Our present will become someone else’s pictures.

Imagine a wall in a home, decades from now. Perhaps it’s your child’s or grandchildren’s home. There are pictures on the wall –pictures from your graduation and wedding, pictures of your children and family, pictures of places you’ve been and places you’ve served. What will the pictures you leave behind tell about your life?

I want mine to show a life well spent for Christ. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “Is anything offered to Christ ever wasted?”

The question is rhetorical, because the answer is no. God can use anything we give to Him. May we live with eternity in our hearts and with the awareness of God’s presence in our lives.

~ Kristen

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

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Flat Tire in a Foreign Country? Drive on Faith.

Our honeymoon in St. Lucia was epic on many levels. In some ways, that also included risks that many newlyweds probably wouldn’t attempt on their first vacation together out of the country. But James and I are the adventurous type, and perhaps this tendency only encourages a more healthy prayer life.

For starters, he decided to rent a car. That choice seems innocent enough until you consider that St. Lucians drive on the wrong side of the road. Well, to them it’s the correct side, but to us Americans, it’s wrong.

My heart did a little flip flop when we pulled away from the airport and started driving. Perhaps not helping were the crowded streets of Soufriere and the fact that the first intersection we encountered was more like a free-for-all since the street light didn’t work.

After that, our ride smoothed out, and James became a champ at wrong-side driving (with only minor reminders from yours truly to stay on the “other side”).

Perhaps now would be a good time to mention we rented a Chevy Spark. It’s a zippy little car, emphasis on little. My brother and I have a history of renting Sparks on our road trip adventures, which has been a fun experience, but this Spark didn’t know what it was in for when it got us honeymooners for passengers.

Narrow Streets, Drop-Offs, and Distressed Roads

The first few days, we managed to navigate the tunnel-like width of city streets and survive the bumpiest of winding mountain roads that hadn’t seen a grading machine, perhaps ever. James often honked the horn since there was zero visibility around some of the cliff corners.

We did fine, until our day-trip adventure from Soufriere to the capital of Castries. On the way back to our villa, we hit yet another rut, and about a minute later, something didn’t sound right.

I moaned. “I think we have a flat.”

James pulled off to the side. Now grant you, there really wasn’t a side, but at this point, there was a place where several other cars had parked on one side, basically creating a one-lane road. Right across from our resting place were the remains of an old junker car. We don’t believe in omens, but it was ironic.

“Well, I was going to teach you how to change a flat one day, so I guess today’s that day,” James said. How many girls can say they learned to do that on their honeymoon? 

After switching a healthy tire to the front and moving the donut to the back wheel, we resumed our journey.

Here’s the kicker: We till had three days left on our trip, and the roads weren’t improving overnight. We had no cell service and no AAA, not to mention no second spare.

Don’t Wait for a Flat to Pray

We definitely breathed extra prayers every time we left our villa. There was also this plunging dirt road to a waterfall we wanted to explore that probably was a bad idea for us to drive, but we did anyway. This is a funny story to tell now, but we seriously held our breath more than once.

Most of the time, we’re not in a foreign country whispering prayers every time we hit the road. However, what if we approached our every-day lives with the same sense of urgency? When we’re comfortable with our circumstances and everything seems smooth, we sometimes forget how much we need God. But here’s the bottom-line truth:

Just because we’re not driving on a donut doesn’t mean we need Jesus any less. (Click to Tweet) 

King David helps remind me of my constant need for Jesus at work in my life. Time and time again, his Psalms refocus my attention to my dependence on God.

  • “But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.” (Psalm 3:3 NKJV)
  • “For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3)
  • “But I am poor and needy; Yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God.” (Psalm 40:17)
  • “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121: 1-2)

Before we end our time today, I want to share one of my favorite Matt Maher songs, simply titled, “Lord, I Need You.”

Lord, I need you. May that be our prayer, whether the road we’re traveling is turbulent or serene.

~ Kristen

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Flat Tire in a Foreign Country? Drive on Faith. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

 

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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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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Lies the Kill Zone Tells You – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

 

God doesn’t give you more than you can handle…or does He?

I’m grateful to my friend and blogger Ashley L. Jones of BigSisterKnows.com for sharing this encouraging post. Her biblical, honest approach to this topic of “too much to handle” was a blessing to me, and I hope it will be to you as well.

“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I’ve heard this saying all my life, always from well-meaning Christians.

But there have been plenty of times when I just couldn’t “handle.” After my grandmother passed away, I couldn’t handle the grief, and depression set in for two years. Later on, my body couldn’t handle what I was eating and the stress I was under, and I suffered with physical pain for several years. During those periods, hearing that God hadn’t actually given me more than I could handle felt disingenuous. What’s more, it added to my frustration and self-condemnation.

So let me give it to you straight: yes, God may give you more than you can handle.

You are human, after all, and human beings are fallible creatures. You will make mistakes. You may suffer from illness or grief. You may be called into a family role or ministry that is far more than you can do on your own. At some point, you’ll feel like you’re drowning.

But that doesn’t mean your “failing” at being a Christian.  In fact, that over-your-head feeling is all part of God’s plan to make you understand and accept your reliance on Him…

  • Like the Jews had to do in the wilderness
  • Like Noah had to do when he built a boat unlike any other
  • Like Jonah when he was sent somewhere he didn’t want to go
  • Like Paul when he shared the Gospel to the Gentiles for the first time.

The good news—no, the great news—is that you don’t walk through life alone. As a follower of Jesus, you have His ultimate protection over your life, and the Holy Spirit as your inner guide. Whenever you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed, remember that God is in control. The journey may not be comfortable, and you may not end up where you wanted to go, but God is with you, and He has good plans for you. (See Jeremiah 29:11.)

I’m speaking from experience here. During my times of grief and illness, I relied on God completely. He was my Comforter, Protector, and Guide. And in the end, it was He who healed me and made me whole.

When you’re going through a rough patch, don’t rely on platitudes. Instead, claim powerful verses like these as your own, reading them out loud to encourage your spirit:

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 11:29 NAS).

 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 NAS).

 “We would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10 NAS).

 “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NAS)

 “‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him'” (Lamentations 3:24 NAS).

Platitudes may sound nice, but the Word of God is powerful. Let His Truth give you comfort and guidance in every season of life.

Have you ever needed a word of truth, only to receive an empty platitude? How did it make you feel? Does that experience encourage you to speak truth into the lives of your loved ones?

~ By Ashley L. Jones of BigSisterKnows.com

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Platitudes may sound nice, but the Word of God is powerful. @BigSisterTweets and @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)