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! 



Merry Messy Christmas – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

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


2017 Keyword: Simplicity

micah-6-8Looking ahead holds such hope and excitement, but before we talk about the New Year, we should take a moment to look back and be thankful for all God has done.

My word for 2016 was convergence, and the idea was to move toward a central goal or purpose. As I think back over all that God has done, I see how He guided, not as I expected, but oh so much better.

Gratitude for 2016

Most unexpectedly, He opened a new job teaching online for an outstanding private Christian school. He’s surrounded me with godly leadership, a lead teacher I admire and count as a good friend, and co-teachers who have incredible talents and senses of humor. He’s given me students who desire to learn and treat me with such respect and appreciation that my heart wants to burst at times.

Beyond that, He answered my prayer for a publishing house to contract me for a book, but not just one book: three. I’m honored and excited to work with Write Integrity Press, my editor Marji, and a team of other writers who treat each other like family. My first book in a new trilogy releases in June (more on that in a future post).

Finally, after months of searching, God has also opened the opportunity for me to purchase my very first home.

Yes, I still have many unanswered prayer requests for some of my dear friends and for myself, but by looking back over what God has done, I know He will answer them in the best time and way possible, or reveal His wisdom in leaving some of them unanswered.

Convergence may have been the word I chose, but I can’t take credit for the work God did. The year 2016 reminds me that His plans are so much higher and greater than mine.

What has God done for you in 2016? In what ways did He surprise you?

Anticipation for 2017

So for 2017, I more meekly pick the word simplicity.

After all, I think of the Lord’s commands. They’re simple.

  • “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved …” (Acts 16:31 NKJV)
  • “… Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I said simple, not always easy. Striving for simplicity may not be easy either.

However, simplicity lets us focus on what matters most while minimizing distractions. It implies we might have to cut back in some areas to focus more on others. It means *gasp* we might have to say no to good things to give our time to better things.

One way I’m simplifying is to move all my posts to this website: I love the journey has taken, and in 2017, it’s merging with my main website.

The challenges, giveaways, and goodies you found at aren’t going away! They’re just moving here. If you’ve subscribed, you will still receive the email newsletter; it will just have a different name.

Something Karen Ehman said in her book Listen, Love, Repeat ties beautifully into the idea of simplicity. In her chapter that focuses on the home (and yes, I’m taking notes!), she talks about “living a life of welcome.”

I want this to be true in all areas of my life, including: relationships, writing, ministry, and hospitality.

Karen uses the example of homemaking to highlight the difference between impressing and refreshing.

Entertaining puts the emphasis on you and your home and seeks to impress others. In contrast, hospitality puts the emphasis on your guest and seeks to help them to feel refreshed, not impressed, when they leave your home.

I don’t want to impress people. I want to bless them. Impressive people intimidate. Welcoming people refresh.

Irresistible Simplicity

Yes, I think there’s something irresistibly refreshing about simplicity.

When we focus on what matters most, everything else should fall into place. This keyword for 2017 has nothing to do with perfection; it has everything to do with God’s perfecting work in our lives.

I am so thankful for you, my friends! Wishing you all a blessed and simplified New Year!

What is your word for the year, or would you join me in embracing simplicity? I’m looking forward to more adventures together.

~ Kristen



2017 Keyword: Simplicity – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Embracing Simplicity in the New Year – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)