Olympic Dreams Start with Small Habits

I always get excited about the Olympics, but this year, I’m especially eager in light of my recent ski trip. With my new perspective on snow sports, I know I’ll have a greater respect for winter Olympians and their skills.

The games starting this week highlight the athletes’ best performances, but they don’t reveal the countless hours and early mornings that have led up to the moment. These athletes had to be intentional every day to take the steps and make the sacrifices necessary to reach this opportunity.

You and I may never participate in the Olympic games, but we do have dreams God’s planted in our hearts. What habits do we need to cultivate in order to reach them?

#1: Desire God more

Wait a minute, Kristen. I thought you were going to talk about how we can achieve our goals?

That’s right. Who better to teach us and train us for the journey than the Dream-Giver Himself? As God’s children, we should ask Him to inspire our dreams.

The only way we know God’s best plan for our lives is to spend more time with Him in prayer and in His Word. Seeking His will on a daily basis is essential for walking the path He wants us to travel.

He invites us to do just that.

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV)

#2: Be willing to work hard

No one wakes up one day and accidentally becomes an Olympian. If we’re serious about achieving our goals, we need to roll up our sleeves and get busy.

Did you know God’s Word both commands and commends hard work? Yes, God calls us to give our best.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might … (Ecclesiastes 9:10a NASB)

He also promises to reward our best.

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24 NKJV)

So why would we give anything less than our all?

#3: Do the next right thing

One of my mantras for life is to do the next right thing. The reason is simple: I’ve learned that sometimes my long-term plans just don’t go as planned. I can’t control tomorrow, but I can focus on the task at hand.

You know what? That’s okay. Proverbs 16:9 explains why:

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps. (NKJV)

I’d rather have God redirect my steps as He sees best than always get my own way. Wouldn’t you?

Parting Challenge

Think about where you were four years ago and where you are now. Think about where you want to be in the next four years.

What have you done with the dreams God has given you? What baby steps can you take this week to work toward the goals He’s laid upon your heart?

~ Kristen

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3 Ways to Shred Fear on Life’s Slopes

Recently, this Florida girl left her state behind to experience snow and skis for the first time. And. I. Loved. It. All.

Yes, I’m not too proud to say the white stuff stole my breath and claimed a space in my heart. That said, I wasn’t an instant star on the slopes. I wiped out hard and often, but by the end of the trip, I truly enjoyed skiing, despite my ungraceful moments.

I learned so much on the slopes and realized that some of those same principles apply to our Christian lives. We can’t let fear keep us from growing; instead, we can intelligently channel that emotion to discover new potential.

#1: Abandon the Bunnies

There’s a difference between caution and fear. Caution kept my unskilled self off the icy black slopes, but fear would have kept me on the bunnies.

It didn’t. Instead, I abandoned the training slope on day one and went for the green. In the process, I mastered my trademark 360 wipe-out move and discovered I have speed/control problems. However, I wouldn’t have improved my slowing techniques with the pizza move and side-to-side method if I hadn’t had a place to experience speed.

The same is true in life. Sometimes, we’d rather stay in our comfort zones, but we can’t grow if we don’t encounter steep places and challenges. As James says, it’s the “testing” of our faith, not the sheltering of it, that develops patience (James 1:3). Only in the middle of the slopes do we identify our weaknesses and practice mastering them.

#2: Don’t Ride Lifts Alone

If you’re a pro skier, you’re more than welcome to go solo. But a newbie should always have someone go with her the first time.

I’m thankful I did. I was so eager to get off successfully that I actually jumped off the lift. (You’re not supposed to do that.) Thankfully, my friend was right there, grabbed my arm, and helped me up from my awkward split in the snow.

Sometimes, we think we can handle life solo (pride), but the fact is that we need people alongside us to pray with us (James 5:16), sharpen us (Prov. 27:17), and fellowship with us (Hebrews 10:25).

#3: Wipe-Out and Recover

As I tell my students, we can’t be afraid to fall. Though sometimes painful and embarrassing, failure is often the best teacher.

If a new skier is scared to wipe out, she will never learn to ski. Truth is, eating the snow taught me more than caution would have.

  • I learned how to get back up. The bottom line is that if you can’t get yourself back upright, you can’t get off the bunnies.
  • Wiping out gave me motivation to improve my slowing techniques, because I very much wanted to get down the green without falling. (That only happened two or three times, but the sense of achievement was sweet.)
  • I learned to laugh at myself. Everyone wipes out at some point (some people harder than others). The key is to shake it off and keep smiling.

Those are good reminders for life. Uncomfortable or embarrassing places allow God the opportunity to work His good through our mistakes and mess (Romans 8:28). How we respond to those situations gives us a chance to model His grace at work in our lives.

Happy Shredding

I can’t wait to go back to the slopes one day and hone my skills, but until then, I want to remember what I learned.

Don’t let fear keep you from discovering new places and hidden potential. Remember 2 Timothy 1:7? We are not to approach any part of this life with fear but with God’s power, love, and fortitude.

~ Kristen

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Theme for 2018: Wait and See

Like many of you, each year I write goals with the understanding that God can shape and change them however He sees best. For the last few years, I’ve also chosen a word that I hope will capture my prayers and dreams for the New Year.

Lately, God’s been showing me that I need to lay aside my expectations and embrace the reality that His plans may be different than I imagined. And that’s okay. In fact, His ways are far better.

However, I still struggle sometimes. “Lord, but I thought …” or “But isn’t this a good expectation?” Yet I imagine I’m somewhat like Job who thought he had the right to ask God a question when he didn’t have the faintest idea what was really going on.

That’s why I’ve chosen a theme, not just a word, for 2018: Wait and see. I want to let go of my expectations and let God have His own way in my life. Sure, I still have goals I’m working toward, but I’m trying to hold loosely onto them. For you visual friends, the mental image that goes along with this theme is an open hand. I want God to give or take away whatever He sees fit.

In other words, I need to desire, not any specific outcome, but simply the Lord Himself. My expectation needs to be from Him, because at the end of the day, only He can satisfy.

And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. (Psalm 39:7 NKJV)

I love the start of a new year because it holds so many possibilities. In 2018, let’s not get wrapped up in our own agendas. Let’s be willing for God to surprise us with His best.

Wait and see.

~ Kristen

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Embrace the Possible: Lessons from a Half Marathon

“Nothing is impossible; the word itself says, ‘I’m possible’!” This quote by Audrey Hepburn is one of my favorites, because so often, the difference between success and failure is our perspective. A decade ago, I equated running a mile as an impossibility, thanks to a curvy spine and the enablement of doctor’s notes excusing me from my physical education classes in college.

Then, after graduation, my brother dared me to run anyway and get in the best shape of my life. I accepted the challenge, pushing through shin splints and back spasms. Eventually, I plateaued at 3-4 miles. In other words, I became too comfortable with my routine, until a friend invited me to run a half marathon with her this year.

Last week, I ran those 13.1 miles in a time better than I could have thought possible. This physical dare has taught me to embrace the potential of seemingly impossible goals. I hope what I’ve learned might encourage you today.

Click here to read the full post on DailyPS.com. As always, I welcome your comments.

~ Kristen

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3 Essentials for Race Day Readiness

My first half marathon is less than a week away! After months of following a training schedule and tracking mileage, I am beyond ready to start the actual race and reach that finish line. However, as I look back over my half-marathon training, I see practical lessons that apply to more than just race day. I hope they’ll encourage you in your personal goals and spiritual walk.

#1: Get rest.

The first time I ran 10 miles, I nearly passed out in the grocery store a few hours later. I was waiting behind another customer in the check-out line when a tidal wave of fatigue swept over me. Of course, the gentleman in front of me was writing a check.

Usually, I’m a fairly patient person, but surely one glance my way would tell this dear, sweet man I’m about to pass out if he doesn’t skip the memo line?

Running demands I rest, and I can’t cut corners if I want to stay upright in shopping lines.

The same is true of our spiritual walk. We need rest and quiet time alone with God to recharge. Jesus Himself modeled the example for us, as we see in Mark 1:35.

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed (NKJV).

Jesus intentionally set apart time with His Father, despite all the demands He felt. How much more should we?

#2: Stay hydrated.

My close friends know I have a fear of dehydration. Seriously. At any given time, chances are there’s at least one water bottle in my car’s cup-holder.

Drinking enough water each day is important for anyone, but when we’re training for a physical dare, we have to watch our intake even more carefully. Are we drinking enough water? Are we replenishing electrolytes?

Here’s an even deeper question: Are we spiritually thirsty, and how do we seek to satisfy that thirst? Recently, I read the story of the woman at the well. You’ve probably heard it before. Jesus met a Samaritan woman with a scandalous reputation for failed relationships and offered to satisfy her thirst the way no well and no man could.

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14 NKJV)

Only those who believe in Jesus Christ and accept His salvation can experience living water and true refreshment (John 7:38). Without Jesus in our lives, we’ll remain spiritually dehydrated.

#3: Just do it.

I’ve nearly forgotten what sleeping in on a Saturday feels like. Without fail, I set the alarm just as if it were a work day and am running some trail by 7 or 7:30 am.

Getting out of bed early isn’t fun, but I know that to be ready for race day, I have to make the sacrifice. I have to run when I’d rather hit snooze or when my knee aches or even in the eerie pre-dawn darkness under the glow of my street lights. (My overactive imagination tends to imagine Hound of the Baskervilles scenarios. Maybe that’s why my morning runs are usually faster.)

Seriously, though, what has God called you to do? Are you willing to sacrifice to achieve it, or would you rather stay comfortable and complacent? Comfort zones are dangerous places. They present the aura of safety and security, but they can in fact turn into deep graves of wasted time and life.

We have only one life to live. Steward it well, and whatever you do, don’t waste it. 

~ Kristen

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We need rest and quiet time alone with God to recharge. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

3 Reasons This Christian Girl Runs

I get it. Some people hate running. I once was one of them, and some days, I still am.

When I tell people I’m training for a half marathon, I get a variety of responses. Most fall into one of the following categories. I’d be curious to hear yours, and I promise, you won’t hurt my feelings!

Asking the reason why

Whether you’re setting goals or getting ready to make a decision, pause to ask, “Why am I doing this?” That’s a healthy question.

Last time when we talked about goals, we determined the bottom line for doing anything is to glorify God (I Corinthians 10:31). Let me unpack that a little more today to explain why I’m growing to love this physical pastime. How can running glorify God?

#1: It builds endurance and discipline.

Oh, it definitely builds endurance. There are days when putting one foot in front of the other is an act of sheer will power.

But it teaches me that persistence and hard work pay off. As I discover that showing up day after day makes a difference, running becomes a metaphor that motivates me to give my best in all my endeavors.

Call me crazy, but I’m an English teacher, and sometimes, metaphors just make a whole lot of sense.

#2: It can benefit a great cause.

Some friends and I ran the Idlewild Hope 5K together.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of running in the Idlewild Hope 5K to raise awareness and money for survivors of human trafficking.

Newsflash, Florida is considered a hub for this horrific crime, even third in the nation. I love my Sunshine State, but that’s one statistic that makes me want to vomit.

Because yes, Florida, this disease is in your backyard. Regardless where you live, don’t think your hometown is immune.

Races often benefit good causes, and even if they don’t, they’re an outreach opportunity. You never know who God will bring along your path. Literally.

#3: It provides quiet time with God.

Who said you have to be sitting down in a quiet nook to spend time with God? Running often provides quality time alone with my Savior. When I run with friends, it even provides a chance to share our burdens (Galatians 6:2) and pray.

Since my friend Angela and I are training for a half marathon together, we encourage each other this way. (I both blame and thank her for talking me into this race.)

Now our prayers aren’t necessarily pretty. We’re panting and sweating, but we’re praying for the needs on our hearts, for family members and friends, and for the lost and those who need to know Jesus better.

The point is simple. You don’t have to be on a private perch to pray. You can be on a running trail.

We have the opportunity to grow closer to God wherever we are, whatever we’re doing.

We can’t compartmentalize our lives. This third is for serving Jesus, and this third is for my family and responsibilities, and this part is for me.

No, no, and no.

If we do, we miss out on the chief purpose and joy of our lives: to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever (as the Westminster Shorter Catechism so succinctly states).

Think about your weekly routine, and look at it with fresh eyes. How can you glorify God in the ordinary? 

~ Kristen

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2 Realities of Reaching Worthy Goals

I’m convinced that anything worthwhile involves sacrifice. To reach a great goal, you have to give up good things.

Take sleep, for example. For the last two Saturdays, when many people enjoyed the chance to catch some extra Zs, I set my alarm early to go for a long run. Granted, I enjoyed the morning with some amazing running partners, but I had to sacrifice sleep, embrace sweat, and push through fatigue (and dewy cobwebs along the trail).

But I’ll never be ready for my half marathon in November if I don’t.

As I type those words, I laugh, because not many years ago, I couldn’t even run a mile. In fact, I received a doctor’s note that exempted me from my college physical education class on account of my back.

Those of you who’ve read The Revisionary may be having an aha moment right now. My heroine Portia suffers from scoliosis and a back injury, a physical obstacle she must overcome in order to reach her own goal. I often give my characters something that lets me relate to them better (or a “piece of myself”).

Little does Portia know when she starts training with Luther that she will need that physical endurance to survive her satellite sentence and the next part of her story (coming spring 2018).

Her regimen requires pain and grit. Giving up would be easy, but she doesn’t. Why? The reason is one she doesn’t fully understand yet.

#1 – Sacrifice now builds endurance for future circumstances.

Truth is, we often don’t know what those situations will be. We can’t know what we’ll face next year, let alone next week.

What we do today affects tomorrow. But how can we prepare for a future we can’t see?

In his awesome little book I Dare You, William Danforth describes how the four sides of life are connected. He challenges readers to exercise all sides of their personalities, following Jesus’ example in Luke 2:52.

And Jesus increased in wisdom (mental) and stature (physical), and in favor with God (spiritual) and men (social). (NKJV, parenthesis added)

Developing our mental, physical, spiritual, and social capacities in our current circumstances equips us to better face tomorrow’s challenges.

Maybe that’s why I like running: I can see all of these elements at work. In order to develop stamina (physical side), I need mental toughness (mental side). Friends (social side) often provide the encouragement and affirmation to stick with the routine. As I run, I enjoy quiet time with God, appreciate the beauty He’s provided in His creation for my enjoyment, and recognize the parallel between running a race and the Christian journey (spiritual side).

Many of my students are competitive athletes (such as in dance, swimming, or other sports) or enjoy pastimes such as acting or art. I’m sure they could share that these rewarding experiences require them to exercise discipline and say “no” to other fun activities their peers invite them to join. However, they’re committed and confident that what they’re practicing today will produce results.

How and when is up to God to decide.

#2 – To reach the prize, show up for practice.

Back in college, I never dreamed of running 13.1 miles, and even now, know that I have many more long, hard training days before I’m ready for the race on November 22.

But I know that to be ready, I have to show up when I’d rather hit snooze.

The same principle applies to all walks of life. In order to invest in a friendship or relationship, you must invest time and emotional energy. In order to write a book, you must resist the urge to flee from your computer when your screen contains nothing but white space. (Yes, as a writer, I feel that way sometimes.)

Do you have a goal you want to reach but feel you can’t? Start showing up for practice. Set the alarm and go running, even if you don’t get far the first dozen times. Sit down at that computer and type even if the words feel locked behind an insurmountable dam. Dedicate intentional time to build into that relationship. Block time out in your calendar for the calling God’s burdened you to do.

The bad news is that you’re going to have to give up other good things in the process. The good news is that those things aren’t the passions God’s laid on your heart right now and therefore not your priorities. There will either be another time for them, or God will provide other resources and people to meet those needs.

Whatever you do and whatever I do, we should do it all for the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).

As I get ready to run this race, I hope you’ll follow along with me as I share about it right here.

I’d also love to hear about your goals! Leave a comment so others and I can cheer you on your way and pray for you in the process.

~ Kristen

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