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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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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The Command to Rest

If there’s one adjective we all use to describe our lives, it’s probably busy. Some days, I look at my list and wonder: How did all that get there? One item you won’t see on the to-do list is this: Rest. But I think we would all do well to add it.

I’m not talking about lazy, couch-potato rest, although if we burn out our bodies to the point of illness, that sometimes becomes necessary.

Instead, I’m talking about a quiet rest, a renewing rest, a distraction-free rest. What that looks like differs for each one of us, but here are some suggestions:

  • Spending a quiet weekend morning with our Bible, journal, and coffee (always coffee!)
  • Leaving the laptop off on weekends
  • Taking a break from social media
  • Getting outside to enjoy nature and the good things God created for us to enjoy
  • Making time to catch up with friends and family

As Solomon reminds us, there is a time and season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1). However, the Bible reveals that our “seasons” should include rest.

Click here to read the full post at DailyPS.com.

~ Kristen

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Revolutionary Love

Love perseveres in spite of obstacles. Love gives without any guarantee of receiving. Love sacrifices until it hurts and then sacrifices some more.

If I told you those themes are part of my latest novel, you might guess I’m a romance writer, right? Well, they are, but guess again. The Revolutionary is a dystopia.

Wait. Dystopia? You mean one of those futuristic novels so dark they make the problems of our own world look like a walk in the park? Yes and no. Though dystopian novels have certain bleak characteristics, I think that setting paints the perfect contrast to the hope characters are fighting (and sometimes dying) to gain.

How can a dystopia present an accurate view of love? I’m glad you asked.

#1 – Love perseveres in spite of obstacles.

Obstacles are everywhere in dystopian novels, and The Revolutionary is no exception. The first chapter in this sequel to The Revisionary opens with my heroine Portia in a satellite slave camp where prisoners die like rabbits, and no one cares—no one but Portia’s protector Gath. Whether he’s trying to shield her from the freezing wind or take a lash for her, he selflessly destroys his own health to preserve hers.

As a result, Portia struggles with guilt. Surely, he has already done enough for her. How can she ever repay him? But then, there are those horrible rumors about Gath. Does he feel he owes her a debt because the accusations are true?

But that’s the thing. Love doesn’t keep score. Whether or not Gath is as guilty as people say, Portia resolves to rescue him and the other prisoners.

#2 – Love gives without any guarantee of receiving.

When a spy ringmaster helps her escape the satellite, Portia could try to run and get her life back. But the reality is that without her new role as a plant inside the capital of Crystal, her brother and friends won’t have any chance of learning why the ruling Dome wants to execute prisoners in mass.

Plus, unless she takes this job, she’ll never learn if her long-time friend Luther is on her side and cares about her the way she does for him. But when she sees him again for the first time in months, her blood curdles. He keeps company with the ruling echelons, the very people who want her dead.

They seem stuck on two different ends of a pendulum, never knowing when their paths will cross and if they have the same motives. Yet they desire the other’s good, even when they don’t know what that will mean for them.

#3 – Love sacrifices until it hurts and then sacrifices some more.

When God reaches into someone’s life, He can transform even the cruelest person into a new creation. In Acts 9, the Bible tells the true story of the transformation of persecutor Saul into the Apostle Paul.

Gath’s character arc in some ways parallels that of Paul. His faith enables him to love others—even his tormentors—in a way few people understand.

And though he’s merely a shell of his old self, he volunteers for a one-way mission, even when he finally has a chance at his own happy ending.

True love is sacrificial, not thinking of its own interests but of “the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4 ESV).

Closing thought

Whew, heavy stuff, right? I didn’t say dystopias are all sunshine and roses, but even they can present a beautiful, though battered, representation of what true love looks like.

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s all well and good for make-believe, but that’s not real life.” If fiction doesn’t mirror real life, then there’s no point in reading it.

Besides, real life offers its own examples. Just look through the Bible for story after story of sacrificial love in action.

  • Jonathan willingly gave up his right to the throne for his friend David.
  • Ruth turned her back on her own people to care for her mother-in-law.
  • Esther faced the king on behalf of her people at the risk of her own life.
  • The Apostle Paul endured unspeakable torture for the gospel’s sake.
  • Then, there is the ultimate example, Jesus, who died on the cross for thankless sinners.

Sure, there are many failures in Scripture as well, but I find those examples encouraging, too. (And trust me, my characters make their fair share of mistakes.) However, through mistakes, we can discover second chances. In spite of past hurts, we can learn to love well.

Now that’s a revolutionary view of love.

~ Kristen

I’m grateful that this post first appeared on Christi Perry’s blog Not Born Fearless, which offers an honest, transparent look at dealing with fear and uncertainty in everyday life. 

 

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2 Upsides of Uncertainty

I hate suspense, which is ironic since I write young adult novels packed with conflict. Relegating uncertainty to fiction seems safe, because I (as author) am in control. Uncertainty in real life, I don’t always handle so well. Please tell me I’m not alone here.

Uncertainty comes in all forms, including that four-letter-word wait. Maybe you’re waiting to hear back on an interview. Any day, you could get the phone call that the job is yours—or that the hiring manager chose someone else. Or perhaps you had a medical test last week and still haven’t received the results.

At other times, uncertainty comes when we’re facing a decision, and we can’t tell up from down or good from better. It could be choosing a college, deciding to move forward with a relationship, or wondering whether to rent, buy, or room.

The uncertainties of life are endless. Since they’re not going away, let’s learn to focus on the positives they present.

Click here to read the full post on DailyPS.com.

~ Kristen

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