Thankful for Finish Lines

Thanksgiving is a few short days away! Many people are talking about what they’re thankful for, and today, I’m adding a new item to my gratitude list: finish lines.

Last weekend, I ran my first half marathon. Thank you for letting me share about this journey with you here! Today, I just want to leave you with a few pictures and a simple challenge.

At the start line of the St. Pete Run Fest
I ran the half marathon with 689 other runners.
These sweet friends ran with me most of the race.

Ecclesiastes 7:8a says, “The end of a thing is better than its beginning” (NKJV).  This verse is a favorite for students at the end of a school year, but it also applies to many other aspects of life – half marathons or otherwise.

However, no matter how great finish lines are, they are no place for us to stay long. Instead, they demand us to begin once again and challenge us to move forward to new goals with determination and humility.

What are you thankful for this year? Wishing you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving!

~ 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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3 Essentials for Race Day Readiness – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

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

Run to the Word

Teach me,  O Lord, the way of Your statues, And I shall keep it to the end. (Psalm 119:33 NKJV)

My half marathon is just over a month away. One. Month. Away. Last week, I ran 7.3 miles and was feeling pretty good about my mileage, until I did the math.

13.1 – 7.3 = 5.8

Did I mention I never liked math? (Hence, I teach English.)

The good news is I’m over half way there. The bad news is that I almost need to double last week’s distance to reach the finish line. *Groans*

Don’t worry. I’m not quitting. I will cross that finish line. There just might be some teeth gritting, blisters, and tears.

Sometimes, my walk with God requires the same resolve. Let’s be real. In our Christian lives, we all face obstacles, trials, and temptations. If we throw in the towel when those hit us, we might need to examine if our faith is genuine or fake (like we talked about earlier).

I’m convinced the way to press through any circumstance is to put down deep roots in God’s Word. A few weeks ago, we looked at the reasons we need God’s Word. Today, let’s identify some common responses to it and examine our lives to see where we fit. Do we take it for granted, or do we run toward it like the prize it is?

In Mark 4, Jesus told the parable of the sower where he describes four responses people have to God’s Word. I encourage you to read the whole parable and explanation in verses 3-20, and then check yourself against these categories.

#1: Wayside Listeners

“And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.” (Mark 4:15 NKJV)

To these people, God’s Word is all about convenience. There’s no real relationship with the Word Giver, and the Deceiver easily steals what little truth they heard. To them, the Bible:

  • Is a nice story about a good man
  • Doesn’t really apply to their everyday lives

#2: Fair-Weather Listeners

“These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.” (Mark 4:16-17 NKJV)

These people have good intentions. They enjoy hearing the “good news” of God’s Word, but there’s a disconnect between its relevance to their lives when storms or problems arise. To them, the Bible:

  • Tells sweet stories for children
  • Doesn’t solve their real-world problems

#3: Distracted Listeners

“Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Mark 4:18-19 NKJV)

These people might like some of what God’s Word has to say, but they’re not willing to let its message change their lifestyles and habits. After all, what’s wrong with a little fun? To them, the Bible:

  • Is outdated
  • Preaches a doctrine that’s too narrow-minded

#4: Active Listeners

“But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” (Mark 4:20 NKJV)

These people don’t just listen. They do what the Bible says. They search it to learn how to deal with confusing decisions, how to understand God’s will, and how to make a difference in their world. To them, the Bible is:

  • An irreplaceable lifeline to God
  • A must-have for all decisions

Let’s ask ourselves: Do we run toward God’s Word in good and bad times or only when it’s convenient? What kind of biblical listener are we?

Yes, the race is hard, and often, the training hurts. But that doesn’t mean we should quit.

Dear Lord, I want to run in “the way of Your statues” until “the end” of my life (Psalm 119:33 NKJV). By your grace, I’ll cross that finish line and hear a “well done” one day.

~ Kristen

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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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