Win a Year of Free Books

A year of free books? Unlike Aladdin’s story, there’s no genie required for this wish. Although we don’t have magic carpets to take us to exotic places, we do have books, and I’m excited to share about my publisher’s unique giveaway which might just open a whole new world to you.

That has been my experience with books. You see, as a child, I devoured most of my local library’s Nancy Drew series and borrowed unashamedly from my Aunt’s personal collection. On an ongoing basis, my mom had my brothers and me participating in the Book It program where we earned personal pan pizzas through Pizza Hut. Those were good days!

Today, I’ve expanded from Nancy Drew to books that not only entertain, but also deepen my faith, challenge my personal walk, and simply teach me things I wouldn’t otherwise know. Right now, I’m seeking to grow my conversations with God with the help of  A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. I’m also feeling personally challenged through Eric Liddell’s life story (post Olympic fame) in his biography, The Final Race, by Eichinger and Everson. In addition to non-fiction, I’ve also recently enjoyed fiction by Becky Wade and Melanie Dobson. (Hint: A great way to get book recommendations from friends is through Goodreads.)

Yes, there are other ways to learn and grow, but books are mere fingertips away whether they’re paperback or electronic. Plus, summer is the ideal time to choose reading that interests you instead of school-required texts.

A Different Kind of Giveaway

This year, my publisher Write Integrity Press is doing something different with our annual giveaway. Instead of giving away a specific number of books or a grand prize, we’re giving away an annual subscription to Kindle Unlimited (an $80 value). So many books, including my own, are available through this Amazon subscription service, so the sky is really the limit with your reading list.

Already have Kindle Unlimited? Then this giveaway would make a fabulous gift for a friend or family member.

To enter and for more information, click here.

Whether you win or not, I hope you’re encouraged to find your next great read and learn something new this summer. Books truly can open a whole new world if we just take the time to open the cover.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Win a Year of Free Books – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Everyone’s Going to Prom but Me

Have you ever complained or even silently whispered, “Everyone’s going to prom but me”?

“Uh, Kristen,” you say. “Prom season is over.”

To that, I reply, “You’re right. I’m not really talking about prom.”

Last week, I had the chance to catch up with one of my close friends for the first time in a while. She asked how marriage is treating me, and I told her we’re doing great. Life is just overwhelmingly busy, and I don’t have time to do all the things I want or think I should. Plus, I confessed that I need to get off social media. It just makes me feel “less than” when I see so many of my friends being absolute rock star writers, and I can barely scratch out a weekly blog post right now with all my college assignments piled on top of my teaching load.

“Oh, girl, I get it,” she said. “It’s like, Everyone’s going to prom but me.”

Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you feel that way right now. I’ve got good news and better news, so grab your coffee and join me for a few minutes.

The good news: Prom is wonderful, but so is Netflix in your pajamas.

We focus too often on the glittering spotlight, the shimmering dresses, and the most sought-after dates. Okay, maybe we did or maybe we didn’t care that much about prom, but stay with me. Maybe you could care less about the limelight or best-dressed award, but do you crave that travel adventure, that real-life “forever” romance, that dream home, or that other seemingly unreachable goal? Ah, now we’re on the same page, right?

Maybe you spent prom night on the couch in your pajamas, because you didn’t have a date. Or maybe you were like me, a home-schooled tomboy who didn’t have the option to go to prom (and frankly, didn’t care).

However, I’ll confess I’ve felt “left out” in other ways, and if you’re being honest, so have you. Maybe what we’ve wanted have been really good things, too, but for whatever reason, God hasn’t seen fit to give them to us.

Maybe a rejection is God’s mercy in disguise. Maybe a “no” is just a “not yet.” Or maybe a “no” is an opportunity to see if we will trust God regardless of what eventually happens.

The bottom line is that we can still find contentment of the purest kind when we don’t get to go to prom. We don’t find it in our circumstances. We find it in our Savior who supplies all our needs as He sees best (Philippians 4:19). The Apostle Paul shared his own personal example:

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 NKJV)

Ah, we quote verse 13 for a spiritual pep talk on a regular basis, but how often do we notice the preceding verses? Do we ask God to let us be content when we’re full and when we’re hungry? When we’re on the mountaintop and when we’re feeling oh so low?

Our God who is with us in our prom-like moments is also with us on the couch when we’re alone and nursing our broken dreams with ice cream and Gilmore Girls. His presence can sweeten our less-than-photo-worthy moments and remind us that He alone satisfies.

The better news: Prom will come around again.

The Bible’s wisdom literature is among my favorites. Why? It points out the common-sense truth that we forget in the heat of the moment when we’re tempted to cry, Everyone’s going to prom but me!

Truth is, everyone isn’t. Social media creates a FOMO (fear of missing out) culture, thanks to all our beautifully filtered photos and featured life highlights. I mean, hello. I don’t post updates about all the student papers I grade or now the papers I write, because no one’s interested in my daily workload.

What I do share (and c’mon now, so do you) are those “prom” moments. Most recently, that special moment was my wedding, one of the happiest days of my life. So much joy and answered prayer rode on that day that I couldn’t wait to share about it!

However, let me jump to the other side of the fence (because I’ve been there too). For the many years I was single, scrolling through wedding pictures on Facebook was more like an exercise in self-mortification. Please don’t misunderstand. I was happy for my married friends, but I felt left out. Everyone was going to prom but me.

Here’s what I had to learn: God’s timing and plan are better than mine, and everyone’s stories are different.

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Special thanks to Solomon for putting that so eloquently. Read the next seven verses for his full summary, and then, journal a few lines of personal application to where you are right now. All our dreams might not be realized, but God has seasons of blessing in store regardless.

Next year, prom season will come around again. There will be new opportunities, new possibilities. However, don’t forget to soak in and enjoy the ones before you this day, even if they aren’t as glamorous as a prom date. They are here for only a season as well, so savor the moment.

The best news: Prom doesn’t actually matter.

Whaaatt? After all that, you’re going to tell me my prom-like dreams are a waste of time?

Well, yes and no. Cultivating the gifts God’s given us and chasing the dreams He’s placed on our hearts are not wastes of time. The Bible makes clear that we are God’s workmanship, created to do the good works He’s called us to do (Ephesians 2:14 paraphrase). That calling is a good thing and looks different for each of us.

However, God doesn’t need our achievements, even though in His grace, He sometimes sees fit to use them for His bigger purpose. He doesn’t call us to be successful, and he doesn’t guarantee life will be happy or easy. We too often lose sight of our real mission in our side-tracked frenzy to grasp what we’ve told ourselves matters or what the world places its money on.

Here’s another of my “prom” examples: It doesn’t matter if I’m ever a world-class writer or picked up by a major publisher or sell a boat-load of books. None of those things matter.

What matters is if I’m faithful with the gifts and responsibilities God’s given me. What matters is sharing His Word with others. What matters is living a life that pleases Him. What matters is hearing Him say, “Well done” one day.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. (I Timothy 6:6-7)

You see, prom doesn’t matter. If we get to go one day, good for us! If someone else gets to go today, good for her! And the next time we’re tempted to whine, Everyone’s going to prom but me, remember this: Prom is nice, but it’s not the point.

Live in abundance, friends!

Kristen

Tweetable

Everyone’s Going to Prom but Me – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Dear Student Me: A Thirty-Something’s View on College

The last two months have been a blur with the wedding, honeymoon, speaking event, and travel. In addition, I also started a summer college class for my teaching re-certification, because that’s just how the timing worked out. But when is life not busy?

However, I’m making the best of the course about technology in education, which is actually quite interesting. Besides, having a student ID again has its perks. Who knew I’d be claiming student discounts at thirty-something?

In all seriousness, though, this going-back-to-school experience has shed a new perspective on college that, if I could, I’d share with my teen- and twenty-something self. Maybe you’re in college or know someone who is. If so, I hope these thoughts will be encouraging to you.

Be less of a perfectionist.

Hands down, I struggled with perfectionism in college. I remember crying on the sidewalk outside my history class because I scored an 88 on a test. I did all the bonus essays in speech class to get my grade to an A. I even volunteered to do most of the work in group projects because I didn’t trust the other members to do the work right. (They were usually very happy about this arrangement.)

While I’m proud to have graduated Summa Cum Laude, I wish I could have told my younger self to be less hard on myself. I still strongly believe in the importance of doing my best work, because the Bible says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10, NKJV)

However, no where does the Bible praise perfectionism. When I spoke with the ladies of Connersville Baptist Temple in May, we looked at Martha as an example of someone whose well-meaning expectations almost stole from her something far better. She wanted to be the perfect hostess, but that’s not what Jesus cared about. He cared about her heart. Listening to what He had to say was more important.

“… Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Maybe we perfectionists mean well, but we miss the mark and often life’s greater blessings.

Dear student me, do your best but don’t obsess.

Prioritize better.

Even though I had a campus job and full load in college, those responsibilities hardly compare with the ones I have today. As a newly-wed student working a full-time job, I definitely have more on my plate now than I did back then. The beauty of this reality is that homework can’t get first place, and as a result, I have to prioritize better.

In college, students are discovering freedoms for perhaps the first time away from Mom and Dad. The perfectionist in me, as we already discussed, didn’t take advantage of free time like some students might, but I was perhaps just as guilty of misplaced priorities.

The Bible places a high value on how we use our time, because no one is promised tomorrow. Regardless if we live out the length of our days or find life cut short, we need to be good stewards of the time given to us.

Although there are many relevant verses on this subject, I’d like to focus on I Peter 4:7-10 today, because it provides some guidance for how we’re supposed to spend our time. I encourage you to read these verses on your own and then consider these takeaways:

  1. Pray seriously.
  2. Love fervently.
  3. Give generously.
  4. Serve specifically.

These points could be a post in themselves, but for now, let’s focus on that last one, which was a real stumbling block to me until I learned that I didn’t have to do everything to serve Jesus. Instead, we should prayerfully consider the unique gifts God has given us and His will for us in whatever season we’re in before we sign up for the next service (or class) project. For young people, time seems abundant, but that’s no reason to spend it foolishly.

Dear student me, prayerfully consider how you use your time.

Switch up your setting.

In college, I was guilty of retreating to the desk in my dorm room and hobbitting there for hours on end. There was no interaction with other people. I enjoyed the blissful quiet (because my roommates were extroverts or actually had social lives). My goal was efficiency, and I knew myself well enough to understand that I did my best work in quiet spaces.

However, I wish I had relocated my laptop to the cafe or even spent more time in the library instead of hauling the books back to my dorm room. A change of setting can be equally refreshing, and honestly, being with people wouldn’t have hurt my social life.

God never intended for us to do life solo. A very important point here is that I’m not talking about singleness or marriage. God’s will for people in this area is a completely different topic. What I mean by solo is to live in isolation of other people. After all, how can a person who’s isolating herself carry out any of these biblical commands?

  • “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
  • “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
  • “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

These verses just scratch the surface and hold more life application than one post can discuss, but I hope you see the point that we’re meant to do life with people.

Today while I tackle homework, I try to be more intentional about unplugging my laptop and camping out on the couch next to my husband. We might both be working on our laptops, but we’re doing so together.

Dear student me, don’t be a hobbit.

Wherever you are in life, whether college or otherwise, may these thoughts encourage you to be your best self in your season and steward your opportunities and time well.

Kristen

Tweetable

Dear Student Me: A Thirty-Something’s View on College – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Book Trailer for The Reactionary

Cue dramatic music! The book trailer for the finale to The Rogues dystopian trilogy is here.

The driving beat reminds me of the purpose behind this book and the motivations that propel the characters themselves. That driving force is hope.

  • Hope for justice
  • Hope for personal liberty
  • Hope for family restoration
  • Hope for love
  • Hope for national reunification
  • Hope for meaning and identity outside of circumstances
  • Hope for truth that transcends the individual
  • Hope for eternal assurance and salvation

Dystopians aren’t known for hope, but this one is. Enjoy the official trailer for The Reactionary, available on Amazon.