Mason Jar Joy

Spread the joy of God’s Word this Christmas with a Scripture Promises Mason Jar! With a little time and some creativity, you can create a gift your family and friends won’t soon forget.

Inside are 100 paper slips, each personalized with a Scripture promise and your name. A friend gave me one a few years back, and I still have it on my desk today. It provides a reminder that God’s Word is relevant for whatever I’m facing.

When the shepherds saw the star in Bethlehem all those years ago, the Bible says that “they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” (Matthew 2:10 NKJV). They had clear cause to do so! After all, the Word had become flesh (John 1:14). Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, had come to change the world and make possible reconciliation between fallen man and God.

Today, God’s Word continues to tell that good news and speak truth into our lives. What better gift to give someone this Christmas than the gift of God’s Word?

Learn how to make your own Scripture Promises Mason Jar by clicking here.

May you be filled with God’s exceeding great joy this Christmas and always! Merry Christmas!

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Mason Jar Joy – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Italy Adventures: Choose Joy and Enjoy the Journey

Ciao from Italy! I’m so thankful to be here, visiting some settings in my next novel, exploring this beautiful country with my colleague, and working remotely.

However, lest you think the writer’s life and remote work life are purely magical (and oftentimes, they are), keep reading. Here’s what this trip has taught me so far.

#1: You can’t plan for everything.

Perhaps you’re wondering, Wasn’t Kristen going to blog while she’s traveling abroad? The answer is that yes, I was.

However, when I turned on my laptop in Orvieto, I discovered that it would not charge. My colleague and I tried everything from reinstalling battery drivers and various other online suggestions with no success.

Here I thought I had everything I needed! I had an adapter, and my colleague had one too, and yet for some reason, my charging cord was not compatible with European power.

I don’t like feeling helpless to solve my problems, but there wasn’t much I could do about the situation. So, as my brother says: improvise, adapt, and overcome!

#2: You can’t control or fix everything.

I had two choices when this hard reality hit. I could be miserable for the rest of the trip, or I could make the best of the situation. Though the frustration was real, my friend, I chose the latter. As a result, I’ve been waking up at five o’clock in the morning each day to grade, so that I can use my friend’s laptop when she doesn’t have to work. Is it ideal? Of course not. But I’m able to still grade, help my students, and do my job. (However, I sadly have not had much time for my lovely blog.)

The privilege of working remotely means sacrificing whatever is needed, in this case sleep, to make a work-around possible. But the reward is worth it! After putting in those early hours, my friend and I get to spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon adventuring before she logs in for her own job.

Maria and me at the Duomo (cathedral) in Orvieto (Photo cred: Maria Constantine, thepotentialofyouth.com)

#3: You can choose to live in the moment.

The planner in me is dying to know if my laptop will work fine once I return home or what repair work will be needed, but again, I choose not to worry. Philippians 4:6-7 has been a go-to for me on this trip:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

God’s peace goes with me, regardless if I haven’t slept much, am under-caffeinated, and don’t know how I’m going to solve some of my circumstantial challenges. However, I can enjoy the gift of this moment and this incredible opportunity, choosing not to let inconveniences steal the beauty of this adventure.

Exploring the streets of Orvieto, we found these fun metal horses, designed for the young and young at heart. (Photo cred: Maria Constantine)

#4: You can both prepare and be spontaneous.

When Maria and I were in Orvieto, we planned one day at a time. Of course, we had some ideas ahead of time of where we could go and what we could do, but the key to working remotely and adventuring is not to try to do everything. You do have to sleep sometime, although the extent of that sleep is clearly debatable.

As it was, we decided to visit Civita di Bagnoregio, nicknamed “the Dying Town” because it looks like an elevated island in the middle of a mountainous region. As a result, its inhabitants have to carefully guard against erosion.

But oh, the place is stunning! It’s like a city on a hill, and yes, it is a short trek to get there but so worth it. This spontaneous day-trip might just be my favorite yet.

(Photo cred: Maria Constantine)

#5: Take time for gratitude moments.

Even in the “ugly” moments of travel and working remotely, we can still find something to be grateful for. For starters, I’m grateful to be traveling with someone who’s willing to share her laptop when she’s not using it. I’m grateful for the kind lady who helped us get a taxi when we literally lost our car and the friendly construction workers who helped us get back to the road we were supposed to be on.

The moral is this: Anything worthwhile is going to be both wonderful and likely challenging. Whether we’re home or abroad, we get to choose our attitudes even if we can’t choose our circumstances.

Choose joy, my friends. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

Ciao!

Kristen

Tweetable

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Find the Merry in Your Messy

Inspired in part by my Christmas tree Ness-capade, which you can read about here, this guest post on DailyPS.com challenges us to look beyond the mess and see our blessings and opportunities. Wherever you are today, I hope you celebrate Christmas with a heart of joy that isn’t defined by circumstances.

Post excerpt

Everyone’s Christmas looks different, and reality often doesn’t mirror Hallmark movies. Some married couples find themselves apart due to military service, while singles in healthcare positions wish they had a reason to request the day off.  Others experience an empty-nest or long for their own children. Still others find the holidays painful because of loved ones lost through circumstances or death. Even those who enjoy the quintessential Christmas carry burdens of their own.

The truth is that everyone’s Christmas is its own version of messy. Comparing our Christmas to someone else’s will only steal our joy and make us miss out on the gifts we have.

This Christmas morning, find the merry in your messy by asking three questions.

Click here to read the full post on DailyPS.com. Merry Christmas!

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Celebrate Christmas with a heart of joy that isn’t defined by circumstances. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

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)