Merry Messy Christmas

One of the first things I did after closing on my home last year was buy a Christmas tree. Yes, a Christmas tree. To clarify, I closed two days before the new year, and there was a 70% final clearance sale.

That 7.5-foot tree had been sitting in my garage for 11 long months. You can only imagine how excited I was to finally unbox it and put up the beauty.

And for one glorious moment, it was perfect.

Proud moment … It didn’t last long.

But only for one moment. My eight-month old kitten Ness thought I’d just transplanted a tree in the living room for his enjoyment.

Having lived with a cat before, I knew better than to decorate the lower branches. But I had no idea my kitten would scale the branches like Tarzan. Before long, my tree looked like it belonged in a Home Alone movie.

Worse, Ness tried eating the tree. Let’s just say it didn’t digest well. And then there was the episode where he tangled himself in the lights so that the tree twisted the way someone might on a dance floor. Panic moment.

So for my kitten’s own safety and my personal sanity, the tree came down … eight days later.

Ness thought he was invisible.
No ornament should be that big.

Messy Christmas

I wish I could tell you I had some deeply spiritual moment through this “Ness-capade” as I’m calling it, but I didn’t. Instead, I became frustrated. After all, why couldn’t I have a normal pet that left my Christmas tree alone?

Then, as I packed up the tree, the thought hit me: The first Christmas wasn’t perfect. Why should I expect mine to be?

Think of Mary. I’m sure she would have loved to birth her baby in the comfort of her own home. Instead, she endured the discomforts of travel while approaching full term and the indecency of a public delivery.

Luke 2 records that she laid her first-born in a manger or feeding trough.  Most Christmas plays depict the birth of Christ taking place in a stall, because animals were present. Other sources suggest the location was perhaps a cave or a crowded lower room where the family brought in animals for the night.

Regardless, it wasn’t a tidy place like the little figurines we display on our bookshelves. It was smelly and dirty. But God chose that unlikely location for His Son to be born.

Right. I should stop complaining about a lost-cause Christmas tree.

A Simplified Perspective

My word for 2017 was Simplify. Appropriately, I repackaged that 7.5-foot tree, returned it to the garage, and unpacked the small tree I’ve decorated since my childhood. (It’s amazing the thing is still in one piece.)

It’s simple, but maybe it will stay standing.

I placed it (hopefully) out of Ness’ reach and am attempting to appease him with a dollar store decoy he can destroy to his heart’s content.

This is what pacifism looks like.

In all seriousness, though, we tend to clutter Christmas with so many parties, programs, and obligations that we wear ourselves out. Author and blogger Laura Thomas wrote she’s Dreaming of a White (Space) Christmas, and I think her approach is brilliant. (Thanks, Laura, for sharing this post!)

Yes, enjoy the festivities, but make white space in your calendar to be still and give thanks for that first messy Christmas when God came in the flesh to this world with one purpose alone: to live so He could die and atone for our sins.

 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 NKJV)

Blessings to you this Christmas season,

~ Kristen

This is my last blog post before Christmas. I’ll look forward to seeing you back here soon! 

 

Tweetables

Merry Messy Christmas – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

The first Christmas wasn’t perfect. Why should we expect ours to be? – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

3 Pitfalls of People Pleasing

Does anyone else out there struggle with the problem of people pleasing? What are some core values we can keep in mind to help us be honest with others and ourselves? I’m excited to share this post with you, which published today on DailyPS.com, and welcome your comments.

Post excerpt

As a youth leader for six years, I often challenged teens not to conform to peer pressure but to let God’s Word transform their thoughts and actions (Romans 12:2). Recently, I realized we adults suffer from a subtler form of this problem called people pleasing.

Those of us who dislike conflict and change (or is that all of us?) find this problem particularly painful. If we’re going to conquer it, though, we have to take an honest look at the pitfalls of putting others’ opinions over what we know God has asked us to do.

Pitfall #1: Pretense over Transparency

Perfectionism often goes hand-in-hand with people-pleasing. We want others to think we have our lives, jobs, and relationships immaculately intact. We crave acceptance and applause at the cost of quenching the impact our messy, imperfect stories can make.

Can you imagine if the Apostle Paul had attempted to cover up his past crimes against Christians? He would never have gained anyone’s trust or been half as effective in spreading the gospel. Instead, he proclaimed from the rooftops “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15 NKJV).

Are we afraid God can’t use cracked vessels? A quick study of Scripture reveals the very opposite is true. In fact, He chooses the most unlikely people to accomplish His will. Yes, transparency makes us vulnerable, but it can also open doors to the most unexpected, amazing places.

To learn about the other common pitfalls and find help to overcome them, click here to read the full post on DailyPS.com.

~ Kristen

3 Freeing Truths to Fight Busyness

If you’ve been joining me here for a while, you might remember my keyword for 2017: Simplicity.

How’s that going for me? I’ll admit: not the way I’d planned. Truth is that I’m busier than ever. In fact, each month adds something new to my never-ending list. Maybe you can relate.

How do we fight against the bully of busyness? I wish I could outline three steps to a simpler life, but I’m on this journey with you. However, here are some freeing truths I’m discovering that may help us keep life in perspective.

#1: My best doesn’t have to be perfect.

Oh, trust me, I want it to be. I finished my first content edit for The Revisionary this weekend and even after pressing “send” on the email to my editor, I found myself worrying I missed something.

Then, I stopped and laughed. I’m sure I did! But if there’s an omitted Oxford comma, or if I could have substituted a few more synonyms for my ‘weasel’ words, the world won’t end.

God doesn’t ask for perfect. He asks for obedience. One of my favorite verses is Micah 6:8, which speaks this liberating truth so well.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (NKJV)

Sure, do your best, but trust God for the results.

#2: Interruptions are opportunities.

Ouch. This one is really hard. I’m a planner, and if something isn’t on my calendar, it probably isn’t going to happen.

But then I get a phone call or a text message. Or my neighbor stops me during my run to frantically ask if I’ve seen her missing dog. (See last week’s post to become more intentional in loving our neighbors.)

These are opportunities, or perhaps reminders from God, that life isn’t about me and my agenda.

Even though I can’t unpack the busyness out of my schedule, I can press pause and allow God room to work.

#3: God’s best is different than expected, and that’s okay. It’s better.

Has your life ever taken a U-turn? Maybe you thought you had the future figured out, and all of a sudden, your dreams deflate. Life hands you lemons.

Many of us think that if we just work hard enough or wait long enough, we can blow the air back into our balloons and squeeze lemonade out of the lemons. But what we often fail to see is that the “mess” is God’s plan. Even though we may not recognize it at first, there’s beauty and design right here, right now.

In her book I Don’t Wait Anymore, Grace Thornton shares why we shouldn’t wait for our pre-planned lives to materialize but instead embrace the life God’s given us today.

“And because I know it’s Him [God], I trust that whatever happens isn’t ruining my story—it’s actually writing the story He wants me to write. And that’s the one that’s filled with the most joy” (108).

Joy. Right where you are. Right where I am. Don’t waste the present because it’s not perfect. (There’s that word again.)

Finding Simplicity in the Busyness

Simplicity is still my theme this year and something I treasure. Sunsets and Saturday pizza with my family are the types of things I like best.

However, I can’t avoid the busyness of life. There are people to love, tasks to do, deadlines to meet, and commitments to keep. No matter how I try to free up my calendar, more “stuff” fills the white space.

Since I can’t escape a full schedule, I pray God will give me the grace to handle my heaping plate with joy.

How do you fight the bully of busyness? Do you have a favorite Scripture that keeps life in perspective for you? Please share as a comment below.

Kristen

 

Tweetables

How do you fight the bully of busyness? – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

3 Freeing Truths to Fight Busyness – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)