Flat Tire in a Foreign Country? Drive on Faith.

Our honeymoon in St. Lucia was epic on many levels. In some ways, that also included risks that many newlyweds probably wouldn’t attempt on their first vacation together out of the country. But James and I are the adventurous type, and perhaps this tendency only encourages a more healthy prayer life.

For starters, he decided to rent a car. That choice seems innocent enough until you consider that St. Lucians drive on the wrong side of the road. Well, to them it’s the correct side, but to us Americans, it’s wrong.

My heart did a little flip flop when we pulled away from the airport and started driving. Perhaps not helping were the crowded streets of Soufriere and the fact that the first intersection we encountered was more like a free-for-all since the street light didn’t work.

After that, our ride smoothed out, and James became a champ at wrong-side driving (with only minor reminders from yours truly to stay on the “other side”).

Perhaps now would be a good time to mention we rented a Chevy Spark. It’s a zippy little car, emphasis on little. My brother and I have a history of renting Sparks on our road trip adventures, which has been a fun experience, but this Spark didn’t know what it was in for when it got us honeymooners for passengers.

Narrow Streets, Drop-Offs, and Distressed Roads

The first few days, we managed to navigate the tunnel-like width of city streets and survive the bumpiest of winding mountain roads that hadn’t seen a grading machine, perhaps ever. James often honked the horn since there was zero visibility around some of the cliff corners.

We did fine, until our day-trip adventure from Soufriere to the capital of Castries. On the way back to our villa, we hit yet another rut, and about a minute later, something didn’t sound right.

I moaned. “I think we have a flat.”

James pulled off to the side. Now grant you, there really wasn’t a side, but at this point, there was a place where several other cars had parked on one side, basically creating a one-lane road. Right across from our resting place were the remains of an old junker car. We don’t believe in omens, but it was ironic.

“Well, I was going to teach you how to change a flat one day, so I guess today’s that day,” James said. How many girls can say they learned to do that on their honeymoon? 

After switching a healthy tire to the front and moving the donut to the back wheel, we resumed our journey.

Here’s the kicker: We till had three days left on our trip, and the roads weren’t improving overnight. We had no cell service and no AAA, not to mention no second spare.

Don’t Wait for a Flat to Pray

We definitely breathed extra prayers every time we left our villa. There was also this plunging dirt road to a waterfall we wanted to explore that probably was a bad idea for us to drive, but we did anyway. This is a funny story to tell now, but we seriously held our breath more than once.

Most of the time, we’re not in a foreign country whispering prayers every time we hit the road. However, what if we approached our every-day lives with the same sense of urgency? When we’re comfortable with our circumstances and everything seems smooth, we sometimes forget how much we need God. But here’s the bottom-line truth:

Just because we’re not driving on a donut doesn’t mean we need Jesus any less. (Click to Tweet) 

King David helps remind me of my constant need for Jesus at work in my life. Time and time again, his Psalms refocus my attention to my dependence on God.

  • “But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.” (Psalm 3:3 NKJV)
  • “For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3)
  • “But I am poor and needy; Yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God.” (Psalm 40:17)
  • “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121: 1-2)

Before we end our time today, I want to share one of my favorite Matt Maher songs, simply titled, “Lord, I Need You.”

Lord, I need you. May that be our prayer, whether the road we’re traveling is turbulent or serene.

~ Kristen

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Flat Tire in a Foreign Country? Drive on Faith. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

 

Italy in 10 Snapshots

Hello, friends! Thanks for joining me on my Italian adventure. Over the next several months, I’ll unpack more of this trip and its correlation to my upcoming novel, but for now, I’m limiting myself to 10 top moments, one for each day I was in Italy.

Day 1: The Streets of Orvieto

After an eventful rental car experience in Rome and finally finding our Air B&B in Orvieto, my colleague and I enjoyed a few moments roaming the cobbled streets before settling into our adorable apartment. After all, this was a working trip as well as an adventure.

Day 2: The Duomo in Orvieto

This breathtaking cathedral is a centerpiece of what might be the most charming, authentic city in Italy. Of course, I’m biased and haven’t even scratched the surface of Italy’s hidden gems, but there was nothing fake or superficial about this place. It was consistently the same whether I was visiting a back street or main attraction.

Day 3: Pizza in Civita di Bagnoregio

This place is a literal city on a hill. The views are breathtaking, and I should probably choose one of my landscape shots as my featured image, but you guys!! This was also the place I experienced my first Italian pizza. Enough said. (For actual pictures of this beautiful town, visit my Facebook page.)

Day 4: Walking Tour of Rome

I will never forget the day my colleague and I walked fifteen miles on a self-guided tour of Rome. The trek started at the Colosseum, so this picture seems appropriate.

Day 5: Fort Michelangelo at the Port of Civitavecchia

Nicknamed “The port of Rome,” Civitavecchia is a hub for cruise ships and tourists entering Italy. I gushed over it for a similar reason, because it is the point of entry into Italy (and the international scene) for my heroine Portia in The Reactionary (Coming 2019).

Day 6: Gelato in Palermo

Italian gelato is all it’s promised to be and more. My go-to flavor was fragola or strawberry. Delish!

Day 7: The Beach at Palermo

Naturally, the Florida girl in me feels at home on any beach, and Palermo’s was stunning! The water was a refreshing temperature and oh so very blue.

Day 8: Prickly Pear in Valguarnera

Have you ever eaten the prickly pear fruit? I never had, but it tastes as sweet as candy! Note: The locals eat the seeds, so just chew them and pretend to be Italian.

Day 9: Scala dei Turchi

My friend Maria promised me that the cliffs and beach in Agrigento would fast become my favorite place. How right she was! These pearly white cliffs and the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean were like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Day 10: Cappuccino in Valguarnera

Before we returned to Palermo, we spent the morning with Maria’s family. Like many other days, breakfast consisted of a chocolate or cream brioche and a cappuccino. Yes, I’m basically in withdrawal at the moment.

Thanks for sharing in this adventure with me!

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Italy in 10 Snapshots – @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

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

 

Come Adventure with Me! Italy in Real Life and Fiction

Starting next week, I’m traveling to Italy with my friend and colleague. Among other mouth-watering destinations, we’ll be exploring some of the settings for the final book in The Rogues trilogy, which include Orvieto and the Port of Civitavecchia. I can’t wait to share these places in real life with you and then take you into my heroine’s fictional story where she experiences them in her dystopian world.

Can you believe we’ve been on this trilogy adventure together since 2016 when I first signed my contract with Write Integrity Press? The cover reveal for The Reactionary will be coming soon, but for now, you can preview Portia’s climactic adventure.

Maybe you haven’t dived into Portia’s story yet. No worries. You have a few months before book three releases to catch up on the action. And this month, if you read and share your review about The Revisionary or The Revolutionary on Amazon and tag me in a social media post about it, I’ll enter you into my summer book challenge giveaway. (Maybe I’m in denial, but I’m not counting summer as over until the end of this month.) Bonus points if you review both or participate in the original summer book challenge.

Oh, what’s the giveaway? So glad you asked. It’s an autographed paperback copy of The Reactionary once it releases next year. (A winner outside the U.S. will receive a Kindle copy.)

Wherever We Go

As I’m hustling through all the last-minute trip preparation, I need to pause and remember: This trip isn’t about me. Yes, it’s a huge blessing and opportunity that has me antsy with anticipation. But at the end of the day, whatever I do and wherever I go, I want to shine God’s love and light.

No, this isn’t a mission trip by any means, but are we not always to represent Christ? Who knows whose paths I’m going to cross. My hope is that I’ll represent Christ well even if I’m tired, anxious, or inconvenienced.

Bottom Line: I’d appreciate your prayers during this trip and would love for you to share in this European adventure with me. I’ll be updating my Instagram stories @kristenhogrefeauthor and on Facebook, and you’re invited to follow me there.

Happy reading, safe travels, and adventure on!

~ Kristen

Tweetables

Come Adventure with Me! Italy in Real Life and Fiction – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Whatever I do and wherever I go, I want to shine God’s love and light. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)