Wedding Day Joy: Stories Behind the Photos

Our wedding photographer recently shared our photographs, and I currently feel like a little kid who is about to overdose on Christmas cookies. It’s the feeling of, “Please, please, someone share this goodness with me because if I eat any more by myself, I’m going to burst!”

So this week, I’m sharing this happiest of snapshots into my personal life. Maybe saying so is cliche, but James’ and my wedding truly was the best day of my life, next to my choice to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.

Some Humor

Joy overshadowed the entire day, and I’m also grateful for the humor dosed throughout. For starters, my now-husband and I wrote each other letters that our friends helped us exchange before the ceremony.

I laughed out loud when reading his first line, “Do you remember the time you broke up with me?”

Yes, yes, I do.

That’s a longer story than this blog has room to hold, but I’d just like to encourage you with this: If you have a relationship you’re tempted to give up on (whether romantic or friendly), give it a second chance. Some friendships aren’t meant to last forever, but some just need extra work. Don’t let pride, miscommunication, or unrealistic expectations rob you of a tremendous blessing.

Some Tears

James warned me that when I walked down the aisle, he would probably lose it, and I didn’t mind that he nearly did. The love in his eyes melted my insides to mush.

This picture is one of my favorites, not only because of the love in my groom’s eyes but also because it captures his mother sharing the moment with him.

However, I was priding myself on keeping things together … until I started to read my handwritten vows.  You see, James and I decided to personalize part of our vows, so we scribbled them on darling little His and Hers booklets from Hobby Lobby.

The moment I saw my promises in my handwriting, I lost it. Not just sniffling. Stuttering sobs.

Bless his heart, James had a tissue ready in case he melted down and offered it to me instead. After dabbing my eyes and nose, I managed to gasp through the rest.

Many times, tears are our body’s way of cleansing or responding to sadness. Not this day. Mine were tears of joy and tears of gratitude. We both had prayed long and hard for God’s choice in a life partner, and today, all those years of waiting were coming to an end. All that bottled-up emotion just seeped out as I realized finally, I was making this lifetime commitment. Today turned a new page.

Some Reminders

Several people asked about the unity cross we assembled during our ceremony and said they had never seen that symbol used before. We absolutely loved the significance of this cross. There’s a detailed explanation that comes with the cross (available through several online sellers), but the short version is that there are two pieces: the outer frame represents the masculine strength of the groom, and the delicate interior represents the beauty of the bride. Three pegs hold the two pieces together, representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This cross now graces our living room. It’s a daily, visual reminder that we made a vow before God to honor and uphold our marriage and how very much we need to depend on Him for our marriage to flourish.

So Many Thank-You’s

One post can’t even begin to express how much gratitude we owe to our family and friends.  This day wouldn’t have been absolute perfection without all their love, support, and help–from my family who hosted the reception; to James’s mom who hosted the rehearsal dinner; to our sweet friends the Lambersons who organized the reception decor, the flowers, and the emcee responsibilities; and to our many friends who volunteered to help decorate and transport a myriad of items.

You know who you are, dear ones! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

My friend and Italian travel partner Maria drove overnight from Tennessee to Florida with her husband to help set up the reception. She is an absolute gem!
My dear friend Mrs. Lamberson blew any expectations of mine out of the ballpark with her gorgeous flower arrangements and detailed decorative care. I’m forever grateful to her and her team!

Only the beginning

Weddings are beautiful, but they are only the birthplace of a marriage. As we prayerfully begin this journey together, James and I want more than anything for God to be pleased with our lives and our union.

May we truly be better together for His glory.

Kristen

Special thanks to Aja Skye Photography for capturing these moments!

Tweetable

Wedding Day Joy: Stories Behind the Photos – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

 

 

3 Attitudes to Embrace Change

Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “The only constant in change.” Sometimes, life feels that way, doesn’t it? Even when the change is positive, it can still cause our stomachs to somersault.

In less than a month, I went from single to married and enrolled as a student for a summer class while juggling a full-time job. Exciting? For sure! Nerve-wracking? Maybe a little.

Along the way, I realized my attitudes determine whether I enjoy the change or let it cause undo stress in my life. Maybe these takeaways are simplistic, but I hope they’ll help you if you’re facing changes.

#1: Welcome the Newness

Usually, a few moments after my head hits my pillow, I’m out cold. I tell my now-husband not to worry about waking me when he leaves for work, because I can basically sleep through anything.

However, the night before my wedding, I couldn’t sleep. I may have managed 3-4 hours, and that’s a generous estimate.

There’s something about newness, uncertainty, and the unknown that unnerves us. At two in the morning on my wedding day, I realized I had two choices: embrace the newness, even if it’s awkward, or over-think it and make it even more awkward. I chose to laugh at my clumsy moments in the first few weeks of marriage and reminded myself that I will only be newly-married once. Why not relish the newness instead of cringe at it?

That’s what I decided to do, and as a result, I absolutely enjoyed those moments. Looking back on those first few weeks brings a smile to my lips and no regrets.

#2: Savor the Season

Here’s the other thing about change. It doesn’t last forever. The wedding day comes and goes. The honeymoon ends. The first day of class becomes a daily routine.

What if instead of dreading the unknown, we focus on the anticipation? What if instead of worrying about failure or making mistakes, we look forward to learning and an opportunity to grow?

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven” (NKJV).

There are times for change, and each season brings its own challenges and blessings. Let’s re-train our thinking to forecast joy instead of pain and abundance instead of scarcity.

#3: Remember Tomorrow’s Change Becomes Today’s Comfort Zone

Stop and think about that statement. The event or situation today that has us on pins and needles might very well be our new comfort zone in a few months or even a few weeks. That new job won’t be new forever, and we’ll be the seasoned employee and not the new hire before too long.

Through all of life’s changes, we can fix our eyes on the One constant that never changes: Jesus Christ, “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV). Whether change makes us want to laugh or cry, if we’re God’s children, we have the assurance that He will always be with us (Hebrews 13:5).

What change are you facing that has you on edge? How might a change of perspective help you embrace it instead of lose sleep?

~ Kristen

I’m grateful that this post first appeared on DailyPS.com.

Tweetables

3 Attitudes to Embrace Change – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Forecast joy instead of pain and abundance instead of scarcity – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Questions from the Bride, Part 2

I’m excited to share part two of this interview with Tami Myer of MannaForMarriage.com. Once more, she graciously answers my questions, drawing from her thirty-plus years of marriage. As a bride-to-be, I so much appreciates her wisdom, and I hope that her words bless you as well.

Bride: Forgiveness is something couples must generously extend, but, of course, that’s not always easy to do in the heat of the moment. What has helped you to be more forgiving as a wife?

Ruth Graham, the wife of Billy Graham, said that “a happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” How true! Learning to forgive is a marriage essential.

In fact, pastor Ron Zappa says, “If you are having trouble in your relationship, I guarantee you’re having trouble with forgiveness.”*

I have had a lot to learn about forgiveness! One thing that I have come to realize is that the moment I sense that my heart has been offended, I must take action. My natural reaction is to sink down into my hurt, to feel it, and to hover over it solicitously.  But that is a dangerous trap! I must act quickly to prevent an offended heart from becoming a deformed heart.

Here are a few key thoughts that I try to keep written across my mind:

1. A chance to forgive is a great opportunity! Forgiveness is perhaps the most powerful spiritual assault which we can hurl against the enemy. The opportunity to forgive is an opportunity to re-enact the gospel. I can advance the Kingdom of God in this moment, or I can walk into the enemy’s snare. It is a God-enabled and God-reflecting privilege to forgive someone, and I am a fool if I harden my heart instead.

2. I do not have the right not to forgive. It is easy to resent the command to forgive. We feel that a burden has been unfairly dropped on us, and we chafe against it. It seems, in fact, that forgiving would be an injustice! But when we think this way, we are believing the lies of the enemy.

The truth is this: it is an injustice for God’s people not to forgive. When we do not forgive, our spirits are demanding payment from someone when God has already paid in full. Insisting that someone still owes us after God has suffered severely for that person’s wrongdoing, as well as for all of ours—this is a great injustice which God will not overlook. (See Matthew 6:15.)

3. Forgiving will always enrich me. Forgiving puts us in a spiritual posture which allows increased intimacy with Christ. When I do not forgive in my marriage, it is as if I am putting up walls around me, creating distance between my husband and myself. My defective sin nature tells me that these walls will protect me. But I know now that walls of bitterness will always entomb me.

Bitterness does not build healthy protection, but forgiveness does. Forgiveness shields me from the corrosive acid of resentment. Nothing a spouse says or does has the power to truly harm us (although those things can hurt!), but our own reactions of bitterness can poison our lives.

On the other hand, forgiving serves to heal me. How encouraging! When I forgive someone else’s brokenness, some of my own brokenness is healed. How could I not see the opportunity to forgive as a blessing from God?

Elizabeth Elliot said that the best consolation is obedience. Perhaps we can adapt her statement to say that the best consolation for hurt feelings is the obedience of forgiving.

When we forgive, we are being conformed to the image of God. We definitely feel   s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d  in the process, but we can be confident that we are being shaped for greater effectiveness and for maximized joy.**

Bride: Do you have any resources you’d recommend to engaged or newly married couples? What are some of the resources you offer on your website MannaForMarriage.com?

Pre-marital counseling is valuable; but in many cases, there is something else that is just as important and even more helpful: marriage mentoring.

In your pre-marital counseling, you are eager to learn, and you are trying to listen, but you don’t really have a hook to hang these truths onto yet. It is like sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture on how to drive a car. It is hard to fully process that information until you are actually in a car with your hand on the steering wheel. Once you are out of the classroom and onto the road, you suddenly have many “teachable moments”!

Make a commitment now–before you get married–to meet with someone a couple times during your first year of marriage. Schedule an appointment for several months after your wedding with your pastor or with another married couple. Another good option is for you and your spouse to meet with separate mentors.

You don’t need to plan anything formal; it can be a conversation over lunch at a nearby restaurant. But get your plan written on the calendar.

Also, plan to attend a marriage conference together, such as Weekend to Remember.

There are a number of helpful resources on my website, MannaForMarriage.com:

  • I recommend several great marriage books and online mentoring videos on the Resources page.
  • You will find a group code for a $100 discount for a Weekend to Remember.
  • Join us as we pray for marriages! Every Thursday, we “fight on our knees” for marriages for fifteen minutes, and we would be happy to pray specifically for you—just email me at mannaformarriage@gmail.com. You may join the prayer call live each week, or you can listen to the recorded calls at any time. You can find all the information on the Prayer Call
  • Receive a free copy of Your Marriage: God’s Masterful Design, which is a short ebook (PDF) summarizing some of the basic principles of a successful marriage.

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge, its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
(Proverbs 24:3-4 NIV)

I am excited for you, beautiful bride! May the Lord bless you and your husband with great joy as together you build a household of faith.

 

* The Marriage Knot: 7 Choices That Keep Couples Together. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2019. 58.

**Interested in learning more about forgiveness? Here are other articles by Tami Myer on the topic of forgiveness:

Tweetables

Questions from the Bride, Pt 2 – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

Ruth Graham: “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

Questions from the Bride, Part 1

As a soon-to-be bride, I asked my friend and mentor Tami Myer of MannaForMarriage.com several questions to help prepare me for my wedding this month. Although the wedding event is beautiful, we both believe that preparing for a lifelong marriage is more important than preparing for a single day. Having been on her own marriage journey for over thirty years, she graciously agreed to share some of the lessons she’s learned along the way. Please join me in welcoming Tami! I hope her answers to my questions will encourage and bless you as much as they have me.

Bride: Opposites do attract, and my fiancé and I are no exception! What advice can you give to help us celebrate these differences instead of resenting them?

Yes, celebrate your differences! You will have to be deliberate about doing that, though. Otherwise, you will drift into frustration and resentment.

You could start by making a list of those differences. (And then make another list after you have been married for a few months because you will discover more, believe me.) As you review your “reasons for celebration,” make the conscious choice to look for ways to make these differences work for you, not against you. Where can they provide balance? Where can they add strength? How might they simply provide richness and color? How do they give insight into your different needs and unique perspectives?

Remind yourself—and your husband–that your differences are for accepting, appreciating, and enjoying. Be deliberate about complementing and complimenting, rather than competing and condemning.

As you yield to the Spirit, your spouse’s differences will either delight you or polish you. Either way, they are blessings!

Bride: So often, I hear, “The first year is extremely hard.” Do you agree or disagree, and why?

I am glad that you heard that the first year is difficult because, for many couples, it is! Simply knowing that can be very helpful. It is like putting your seat belt on when the pilot announces that the plane may encounter turbulence: you will be better prepared to handle the situation well.

During your first year of marriage, you might feel as though you are in junior high because everything is intense. It can be an emotional roller coaster. It certainly helps to know that this is normal!

Here are some examples of common first-year turbulence:

  • You think that you made a terrible mistake.
  • You are alarmed that your husband is not the man you married.
  • You panic.
  • You are disappointed.
  • Your feelings get hurt.

When you experience some (or all) of these things, you can come back to this article and check them off your first-year to-do list. Then you can also check off these items:

  • You have many wonderful joys!
  • You experience new adventures.
  • You learn more about the amazing, complex, fascinating person that your husband really is.
  • You learn surprising things about yourself.
  • You learn awesome things about your God.

You will find that you made it through junior high again!  And through each successive year, you will learn how to make it the best one yet.

Bride: Perhaps because I’m getting married in my thirties, I don’t have the “rose-colored-glasses” view that a teen or twenty-something might have. Instead, I’ve seen enough life and marriage struggles to know marriage isn’t always easy. What encouragement can you offer the new bride?

This is a common concern, even for younger brides (and grooms). Many people are a bit hesitant to marry because they have not observed healthy marriages up close and in action. However, they have seen countless shipwrecked marriages, and they wonder if they will be able to steer the ship of marriage any better themselves.

But take courage! It is quite possible to sail that ship triumphantly, and many have done so. It will take work, of course, but sailing is not a mysterious skill. You can learn! You must choose your teachers carefully, but there are many who are trustworthy and who are eager to help you and support you.

Building a marriage is a lot like building a house. Although many have never seen the blueprints, and many others refuse to follow them, there is a reliable blueprint for marriage. Take courage! There is a Master Builder, and He is eager to help with every part of the construction.

Marriage is not easy, but the best things in life never are. In this fallen world, good things are always opposed, and great things are greatly opposed. You must simply remember that you are holding something very valuable in your hands—something sacred. Don’t let go! Refuse to believe that marriage is not worth the effort.

Your marriage is not a hobby; it is a commitment to serve another person, someone made in the image of God. As you minister to your spouse, your submission to God becomes a platform for His Spirit. He will work powerfully and redemptively in both your life and your husband’s.

Marriage is not only like sailing a ship and like building a house, but it is also like growing a garden. You will have to dig up stubborn roots and lug away heavy rocks. You will wonder if the weeds will ever stop coming. But take courage! You will also be planting and pruning, watering and weeding.

And beautiful things will grow.

For more marriage encouragement, check back next week for more questions from the bride, and visit Tami’s website MannaForMarriage.com.

Tweetables

Questions from the Bride, Part 1 – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

Marriage is not easy, but the best things in life never are. – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

My Top Ten Engagement Superlatives

Hey, friends! This is a big transition month for me, because my wedding is less than a month away. Today, I want to share a lighthearted post about my engagement experience. Enjoy my top ten superlative moments.

#1: Favorite moment of engagement: The North Carolina temperatures were dropping, and I was getting cold, so I suggested we leave the mountain vista we had been enjoying. James said he wanted “just one more picture over there,” and I complied. When we reached the outlook,  he started saying all sorts of sweet things and got down on one knee. You can read the full story here.

#2: Most hilarious moment of engagement: Our friend Amanda didn’t arrive until late that night, and we were all too tired to tell her the story. We pretended nothing had happened and turned in for the night. The next morning, my friend Devon asked her to watch a “funny video” on her phone. When Amanda realized she was watching our engagement video, she threw the phone in excitement! (Good news: The phone is fine.)

#3: Highlight of my bachelorette weekend: We solved an American Escape Room with 8+ minutes to spare. Definitely bragging on my amazing friends for this one! I’m also going to brag on our escape master nicknamed “Snickerdoodles” who was absolutely fantastic. Five stars for this venue!

#4: Funniest moment of my bachelorette weekend: My friends conned the Irish entertainer into serenading me with a love song in front of the entire restaurant.

#5: Biggest surprise about engagement: I believe in transparency, so I’m not going to sugarcoat the reality that once you get engaged, you may have conflict about something you never anticipated. Don’t try to avoid the conflict. It’s a great opportunity to talk through differences, learn how to problem solve as a couple, and grow stronger together.

#6: Most ridiculous question I’ve been asked since getting engaged: Who’s going with you on your honeymoon? 

#7: Most anticipated wedding day moment: I am so excited to see the look on James’s face when I walk down the aisle!

#8: Most anticipated wedding day food: I’m grateful that our friend Ashley, an amazing baker, is making our cupcakes, and some will be Reese’s flavored chocolate. Yum!

#9: Most important part of engagement: The wedding planning is special and fun, but the most important part is the time we’ve spent preparing for a strong marriage. This includes our personal discussions as well as time with our marriage mentors. I’m convinced the more we talk through potential challenges and differences ahead of time, the better we both will be.

#10: My best piece of advice about engagement: It is meant to be a short season. Although every couple is different, I’m really thankful our engagement is only five months long, because the challenges of living two separate lives but preparing to merge them into one can be emotionally exhausting, though certainly worthwhile.

Next week, I’m going to share my parting thank-you to singleness, which I hope will be an encouragement to you! Afterward, I have a wonderful line-up of friends who will be guest posting this month and next. They are such a blessing to me, and I know they will be to you as well.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

My Top Ten Engagement Superlatives – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

God Cares for You

The other night, I woke up at 4 am, wide away and overcome with a sense of anxiety.  It wasn’t a panic attack, but my heart wasn’t buying my head’s coaxing that everything was fine and to go back to sleep.

Finally, I tossed off the covers and retreated to my quiet place. Opening the Psalms, I started reading in the last place I had left off and just prayed that the words would soak into my insecure soul. The enemy was feeding me lies: You’ll never be enough. You’re not doing a good job. 

A personal story

Transparency moment: I’m an easy-going person who finds pleasure in life’s simple joys. I never realized how much my personality would clash with all the expectations people place on weddings. Truth be told, I don’t care if there are pew flowers or if my dress would be picked on a runway. I’m surprised and not sure how to respond when I hear that people are talking about who’s getting invited to my wedding and who’s not. (Seriously, we’re just trying to keep this simple!) However, the result is that I’m left feeling “less than” or if something is wrong with me, and then I worry I’m disappointing someone.

Of course, I want my special day to be beautiful just like any other bride would want. Yes, I hope those who celebrate with us feel special and appreciated. But what I desire far more is a Christ-centered marriage. At the end of the day, I don’t care about impressing people.  I care about loving my future husband well and honoring God through our commitment to each other.

Yet in a culture that obsesses with the external, I often feel out of place and inadequate. Maybe that’s a good thing.

When you feel anxious

Perhaps you’re not stressing over a wedding, but there may be something else keeping you up at night. May I share some of the verses that brought me comfort?

  • “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” (Psalm 34:4-5 ESV)
  • “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” (Psalm 42:5 NKJV)
  • “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear …” (Psalm 46:1-2a NKJV)
  • “For the Lord will be your confidence, And will keep your foot from being caught.” (Proverbs 3:26 NKJV)

A better solution than sheep

I finally crawled back into bed around five in the morning, closed my eyes, and started whispering over and over, “God cares for you.” That promise was my takeaway from God’s Word. God cares for me. He cares for me so much that He promises to direct my paths and never lead me astray. He cares for me even when other people misunderstand me. He is my good Shepherd, my good Father. He cares for me.

Friend, He cares for you too. If you can’t sleep, find refuge in His Word. Don’t try to count sheep. Latch onto His promises and remember He cares for you.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

God Cares for You – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)