Renovating Our Homes and Hearts, Part 2

Day one of kitchen renovations went so quickly that we had high hopes day two would complete the job and let us get our home back to normal. Seriously, have you tried not using the kitchen sink for a full day? Go to your kitchen right now and thank God for your sink.

Okay, back to the story.

Around noon on the second day, we started getting worried. “He is coming, right?” I asked James. Although the AC duct guy was almost done, the electrician had just arrived, and we hadn’t heard a word from the project manager.

“He’s supposed to,” James said and shot off a text. By two o’clock, the electrician was almost done but still no word from the manager.

At four o’clock, James received a text to this effect: We’ll finish on Monday. Have a nice weekend.

This was the state of our kitchen.

Long story short, there was a miscommunication. When the project manager told us two days, he meant two days for his crew plus another day for the electrician and AC guy. Since the project began on a Friday, that translated into four days.

Need I mention that Sunday was Mother’s Day, and James’ mom was coming over? Even though our kitchen wasn’t functional, we made the best of it. James grilled, and we ordered take-out Pizookies from BJs for dessert. Thankful for our screen porch, we celebrated outdoors and truly enjoyed our time together.

Celebrating James’ beautiful Mom on Mother’s Day

God’s Sanctifying Work

The kitchen situation reminded me a little of God’s sanctifying work in our lives. We want fast results. We tell God, “Okay, hurry up and get this painful process over so I can move on with my life.”

But that’s not how God works. His molding process is part of His purpose for our lifetime, not a “quick fix.” It began before we were born when He formed us in our mother’s wombs and “skillfully wrought” our frames (Psalm 139:13,15). It continues throughout our lives as He “mars” and remakes us as He sees “good” (Jeremiah 18:4). Ultimately, God designs us to be “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

He refines our rough edges to make us more like Him. For me, one area the Lord continues to shape me is in the area of patience. Some people have told me I seem patient, but they don’t have any idea how much I agonize over waiting. For over a decade, I prayed God would send me a godly spouse before He answered my prayer with James. Then, we had to wait over a year before we found our new home. I could go on with personal examples, but the point is that waiting is part of the refining. God teaches me things in those “waiting room” days (and years!) that I might not otherwise learn.

How might God be refining you today? Let’s not resist His work but trust He knows best.

God’s molding process is part of His purpose for our lifetime, not a “quick fix.” @khogrefeparnell

Giveaway Opportunity

I’ve been reading Victoria Duerstock’s devotional called Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Living Space as a supplement to my daily quiet time. In it, she draws spiritual parallels to design principles that make our homes inviting places for our families and guests.

Through July 25, you can enter to win an autographed copy of Heart & Home, special thanks to Victoria herself! I’ll announce the winner (must have US address) the week of July 26. You can enter several ways for more than one entry.

Click here or the image below to enter.

Learn about Revived and Renovated, Victoria’s Upcoming Project!

Victoria Duerstock, along with her friend Paige Rein, are launching a new video series soon! They’ll be sharing honest conversations on the intersection of faith and design in our spaces.

You can sign up to hear all the good news and updates at revivedandrenovated.com.

Renovating Our Homes and Hearts, Part 1

My kitchen is currently two different colors: blue and chestnut. From an outside perspective, it looks ridiculous. From where I’m standing, it’s a huge win.

Last March, my husband and I bought our first home together. Cosmetically, it was a real fixer-upper. Both bathrooms were pink, the kind of pink that only belongs in Pepto-Bismol bottles. The kitchen sported a cave-like drop-down ceiling and baby blue cabinets. Dear 90s, if only you knew the pain you’ve caused.

I’m incredibly blessed that God gave my husband the ability to watch almost any YouTube video and figure out renovations himself. I don’t possess that gift but am more than happy to embrace my helpmate status. I can identify most of his tools and am talented enough to hold almost anything under thirty pounds.

Even so, when we stared at the cave that was our kitchen, we decided to bring in the experts: demo and drywall team, electrician, and AC duct guy (because the original home designer thought it would be fun to place the air return in the drop-down ceiling).

The two-day job turned into four and caused more stress than I’m proud to admit. Yet looking back, I’m grateful we went through the mess.

What if we could have that same perspective with God’s renovating work in our own lives? Walk (and laugh) with me through this ordeal and see if we can find some wisdom for our Christian journey.

Stage 1: Demolition

Demolition is easy, right? All you do is knock everything down?

Not quite. I think we often confuse demolition with destruction. As I watched the crew on demolition day, I realized the opposite is true. Demolition is intentional. These hard-working men carefully taped a giant tarp around the entire kitchen space to keep debris isolated. They then went about the removal in stages, careful to secure AC duct work and raise support beams.

On a spiritual level, the distinction is even greater. Scripture makes clear that God tears down to rebuild, but man tears down to destroy. In John 10, Jesus uses the metaphor of a door to describe His relationship to His children or “sheep.” He contrasts Himself with impostors or anyone who seeks to injure or harm.

Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:7-10 NKJV)

Thieves destroy. They demolish not to improve but to hurt. On the other hand, Jesus tears down to make peace and reconcile (Ephesians 2:14-18), prunes His children to produce fruit (John 15:2), and casts down strongholds to help us submit our thoughts in obedience to Him (2 Corinthians 10:5). He does all of this for the purpose of giving us the most abundant life possible.

Next time, we’ll look at Stage 2: Refining. Until then, let’s prayerfully consider what constructive demolition God might need to make in our lives to pave the way for what is better.

Home and heart renovations have more in common than you might expect! Learn more and take advantage of a special giveaway of Heart & Home by @vduerstock. Hosted by @khogrefeparnell.

Giveaway Opportunity!

Recently, I started reading Victoria Duerstock’s devotional called Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Living Space. In it, she draws spiritual parallels to design principles that make our homes inviting places for our families and guests. I enjoy using it as a supplement to my daily quiet time.

For the next three weeks, you can enter to win an autographed copy of Heart & Home, special thanks to Victoria herself! I’ll announce the winner (must have US address) the week of July 26. You can enter several ways for more than one entry.

Click here or the image below to enter.

About Victoria

A multi-passionate creative and entrepreneur fueled mostly by coffee, Victoria Duerstock pursues her dreams with verve and intensity. Wife and mom of three, Victoria divides and conquers the never ending to-do list while working to maintain her sanity and pleasant demeanor.

She is currently on a fascinating writing journey which has plunged her deep in the social media landscape and she enjoys sharing her tips and tricks for growth and engagement with others through coaching and teaching online courses. You can read more on her websites www.victoriaduerstock.com and www.heartandhomebooks.com.

She is excited about two new releases for the Fall of 2020 with Skyhorse publishing titled Christmas Crafts and Advent Devotions for Kids and Biblical Hospitality. She also authored Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Your Living Space and Heart & Home for Christmas: Celebrating Joy in our Living Space combining short devotionals with home design tips and full color pictures with Abingdon Press last year.

When Friends Love: 3 Outcomes of Godly Friendships

I’m excited to introduce you to my friend and Bible teacher Sheila Hupp, who is sharing about the power of godly friendship on the blog today. It’s such a neat story how we connected! Pastor Joe Ferreira, my former pastor, now shepherds her church in Connersville, Indiana where I had the privilege to speak last year. Through mutual friends, we’ve had the opportunity to meet online, and I’ve been blessed by the way she presents God’s Word with clarity and simplicity.

As we walk through this year filled with uncertainty, we need godly friends more than ever to come alongside us, and we need to be that kind of friend to others. Be encouraged today by this challenge from Sheila.

Guest post by Sheila Hupp

At the beginning of the year, I started reading the Bible from the beginning in hopes that I would finish all 66 books by the end of December. I have always been intimidated by the Old Testament but once I dug in, I have become a huge fan. What surprised me most of all was how much I love Moses. I have been completely blown away by his humble leadership and the amazing example of his life.

Personally, I admire how Moses felt completely inadequate to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, yet God chose him and used him anyway. Moses was God’s choice for the leader of His people; however, Moses did not lead them alone. As any good leader knows, a strong support system is necessary for success. Moses had a wonderful friend and advisor in his brother Aaron and many other friends who helped him along the way.

Friends Work Together

During the time of reading Exodus, I was inspired by Moses’ reliance on his friends and the success they all achieved from working together.  One instance that melted my heart and made me look at friendship in a new light was when the Amalekites attacked the Israelites (Exodus 17:8-13).

The story begins with Joshua being ordered to round up his soldiers and fight while Moses prepared to go up on a hill the next morning. On that hill during the battle, Moses raised his hands toward heaven, and the Israelites were able to fight and take a stronghold over the Amalekites. As Moses’ arms grew tired and his hands began to drop, the Amalekites grew in power and started to overtake the Israelites.

The beauty of this event is that Moses was not alone on top of that hill. Aaron and Hur joined him and were seeing the same events take place. They saw that when Moses had his hands up in praise to God that the Israelites were strong and dominant. They also saw that as Moses grew tired and his strength began to wane, the enemy had the advantage.

Friends Go to Battle Together

This is when the story gets good. Aaron and Hur did not just sit back and watch their people lose, nor did they stand still while Moses struggled. These two men jumped into action and held up Moses’ hands when he could not any longer. Moses was depleted and his people were suffering. Moses was tired and the battle was being lost. Alone, Moses could not lift his arms in worship to God, but his friends who journeyed up the hill with him were willing and ready to lend their strength during his time of exhaustion.

Each time I read this story, I weep. What an incredible illustration of the need for good, Christ-focused friends. This story makes me seek out friends who will go to battle with and for me, friends who will rush to hold my hands up when I no longer have the strength.

God created us, just like Adam and Eve, to live in fellowship with one another while simultaneously living in worship to Him. When this occurs in the church, our friendships play crucial roles in the growth and depth of our faith. The people we surround ourselves with can either distract us from our faith, or they can run ahead of us toward a deeper faith and a stronger longing for Christ.

Friends Share Strength

In January, my 40-year-old husband was diagnosed with stage 4 rectal cancer. We were shocked and heartbroken over this discovery and clung to our faith. Our family and friends rallied around me, my husband Matt, and our three young daughters. They lent us their strength when we were running on empty. They reminded us of the view from the mountaintop while we were living in the valley. We were in a war, and they jumped in to hold up our hands.

To Aaron and Hur, it may not have seemed like holding up Moses’ hands was a big deal. They may have even dismissed their contribution to the victory. But to the warriors at the bottom of the hill engulfed in battle, this small act saved them. This illustration of shared strength resulted in life, not death.

As the people we love encounter hard times, we have a great opportunity to love them through it. Proverbs 17:17 states, “A friend loves at all times” (NKJV). This includes the wonderful mountaintops and the grotesque valleys. We may not be able to solve the issue or make the pain go away, but we can find ways to walk up the hill with them and hold their hands up when they need it.

My prayer for you and for me is that we will be friends who love at all times and raise future generations of believers who fiercely love their people.

Be encouraged by this guest post by Bible teacher Sheila Hupp who challenges us to be the kind of friend who loves at all times. @khogrefeparnell

About Sheila Hupp

Sheila Hupp is a Christian speaker based in Indiana with a passion for encouraging women to view life through a lens of faith.  Sheila guides women of all ages to embrace their past and live their future for God’s glory by allowing Him to make miracles out of messes.

During her presentations, women are empowered to step into the role God created for them and given the biblical resources to support and encourage each woman in her faith.

Sheila is the proud wife to Matt and mama to three girls: Gracie, Mattie, and Emmylou. She and her husband homeschool their children and enjoy spending time together outside with their dog Annie.

Connect with her online at sheilahupp.com


Uncertain Future, Certain God

I used to have the bad habit of flipping to the last pages of a book to find out what happened. Maybe you don’t have that problem, but have you ever wanted to know something that’s out of reach? Right now, I think we’re all wondering when life might get back to normal. Perhaps you’re wondering if you’ll be able to attend college in the fall or if working from home is now a permanent situation.

At some point, most of us have wanted to know the end without dealing with the drama in between. In real life, we often don’t understand why we have to wait so long for answers or why our prayers hit the ceiling.

I have good and bad news. The good news is that God never designed for us to know what tomorrow holds. In fact, not knowing deepens our dependence on the Lord and strengthens our faith in Him. The downside, from our perspective, is that there are some things we just can’t know right now. When we try to get what we want on our timeline, we create problems for ourselves and others. Perhaps we can spare ourselves some heartache by learning from others’ mistakes.

Choose to Wait instead of Rush.

The fall of mankind hinged on knowledge that God asked us to entrust to Him. God’s instructions to Adam and Eve were simple: They could eat of any tree except “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17 NKJV).

The serpent capitalized on our innate desire for knowledge when he tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5 NKJV).

Pause for a second. What if Adam and Eve had been content not to know? There would be no broken world. We would still be living in paradise!

The serpent used the urgent temptation to know back then, and he still uses it today. Urgency is not an attribute Scripture applauds. Instead, the Bible frequently repeats the command to “wait” on God and records the blessings associated with it. Consider Psalm 27:14, Psalm 37:9, and Isaiah 40:31 for starters.

Yet the opposite of waiting is what Satan wants us to do. He wants us to rush ahead for immediate gratification or pleasure, because he knows that regret will hurt our relationship with God. We can spare ourselves much pain if we rest on God’s timing.

Let God’s Sufficiency be our Security.

Regardless of our life stage, we all face situations where God asks us to wait. For example, my husband and I recently bought a new home and are in the process of renovating it. Newsflash: Renovations do not happen overnight. We have made so much progress, but sometimes, it’s easy to become impatient. Yet much like house renovations, we ourselves are works in progress. God’s renovating work in our circumstances and spiritual lives keeps us going back to His throne of grace, asking for guidance and grace.

God’s renovating work in our circumstances and spiritual lives keeps us going back to His throne of grace, asking for guidance and grace. @kjhogrefe

And that’s a good thing. If we had all the answers, we could fall toward the sin of self-sufficiency. If we were in charge, why would we need God?

King David fell into this trap when he commanded a census (2 Samuel 24:2). Even Joab, his general, cautioned him against this decision. “And Joab said to the king, ‘Now may the Lord your God add to the people a hundred times more than there are, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king desire this thing?’” (2 Samuel 24:3 NKJV)

However, David disregarded the warning. Because he demanded to know the size of his kingdom, God stripped him of the very security his soul craved with a plague that decimated the people. God bluntly reminded David that his sufficiency and security come from Him alone, not from the scope of his realm.

Joab’s question to David is one we should ask when we find ourselves insisting on answers. Why do we desire to know? If we can honestly say the reason will strengthen our faith or another person’s, then we can prayerfully proceed. However, if the root cause has to do with pride or securing selfish interests, we need to stop and reevaluate.

Embrace Knowing God, not Knowing the Future.

There’s an old hymn that says, “Farther along, we’ll know all about it. Farther along, we’ll understand why.”

I think the hymn writer had good intentions and wanted to encourage people that it’s okay not to know everything right now. However, whether we’ll understand one day is not something Scripture guarantees. Maybe God will or won’t take the time to gently reveal His plan.

Ultimately, knowing the details won’t matter. What will matter is that He remains the God who loves us lavishly, unfathomably, and infinitely. Knowing God is enough. We can rest assured that even though we don’t know what’s going to happen, God can more than supply any need.

We can rest assured that even though we don’t know what’s going to happen, God can more than supply any need. @kjhogrefe

Dear Father, please forgive me for trying to control my circumstances and wanting to rush ahead of your timing. I accept that even when I don’t understand how You are working, I can trust Your plan. Please use times of uncertainty in my life to bring me closer to You and to give me a greater awareness of Your presence. Amen.

~ Kristen

The Better Yes: Beating Your Fear of Missing Out

One of my greatest joys as an author has come through getting to know other writers, and Jerusha Agen is one of those writers. Although we’ve never met in person, I’ve read some of her inspirational suspense novels and had the privilege of writing for her Fear Warrior blog. Recently, she invited me to be a guest blogger again and share what’s on my heart that might encourage readers who are facing their fears.

Below is a re-post of my piece that published on The Fear Warrior blog today. You will definitely want to hop over to The Fear Warrior blog to take advantage of a giveaway I’m offering there as well as to check out Jerusha’s other outstanding content.

Post from The Fear Warrior Blog

Have you ever had to pass up a good opportunity? Maybe you weighed your options, and at the time, that prospect wasn’t a good fit for you. Then later, looking back, you wonder if you made the right call.

I’ve been there. Like most writers, I work a day job as well. The challenge for me—and anyone else who has a side hustle—is finding enough hours for work, family, obligations, and the passion that keeps me up at night.

I’ll never forget when two people in the writing industry invited me to be part of their new venture. It had so much potential for growth, but it was on commission. I had a mortgage to pay and had just started driving about forty minutes every week to be part of a singles Bible study. I couldn’t afford to leave my job, which meant I’d be working nights and weekends—and would have to give up the Bible study. In the end, I said thanks but no.

Fast forward to today. That venture has indeed grown and led to some amazing opportunities for those involved. I’m happy for them, yet part of me wonders if I made the wrong choice.

As I was sharing my doubts with my husband, he asked, “Okay, you said no to that opportunity, but what did you say yes to instead?” It was such a good question! I realized I’d said yes to the Bible study, which led me to join that church group, which led me to meeting him. In short, I said no to one opportunity so I could say yes to another—and ultimately yes to my husband.

Perspective #1: Provision, Not Perfection

I share this story to offer some perspective, which is sometimes hard to find. When doubts and discouragement plague us, we have to fight that fear of missing out with truth.

One of my favorite promises is Psalm 138:8, which says, “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands” (NKJV).

I love the idea that God cares about what matters to me and is “perfecting” a good work in my life. However, let’s not confuse “perfecting” with “perfect.” The former carries the idea of an ongoing work in progress. As a writer, I know how messy that process can be. Rough drafts are riddled with problems that need attention. That “perfecting” or revising process takes time. Even when I finish a book, I’d never call it “perfect.”

Yet as human beings, we crave perfection and often unrealistically compare ourselves to unachievable standards. When we do, we run ragged and become ineffective.

Let’s be content with God’s perfecting work, which realistically requires us to prioritize. We can’t say yes to everything. We are the work of His hands, and when we are intentional in following His leading, He can make something beautiful out of the raw material.

Perspective #2: Providence, Not One-Hundred Percent

Another promise from Scripture reminds us that following God’s will doesn’t mean realizing one hundred percent of our dreams. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand” (Psalm 37:23-24 NKJV).

Did you catch that? The verse begins with the assumption that we’re talking about a “good man” or godly person here. God directs the decisions of and delights in the person who is seeking His will.

However, this believer will still fall. I think we sometimes forget this reality. Even God’s children face failures, disappointments, and defeats. The difference is that God won’t forsake us and will stand by us through it all. He “upholds” or supports us with His hand.

When we choose to follow Christ, the most important decision we could ever make, we are not guaranteed one-hundred percent success in this life. If you’ve been following a name-it-and-claim-it “gospel” that suggests otherwise, you’ve been misled. Following Jesus means we believe in His providential wisdom and care over our lives, not a guarantee of our dreams and goals being met.

The truth is that God works through the imperfections and setbacks—all those “missed out” moments—to make us more like Him. The closed doors encourage us to lean on him harder and deepen our relationship with Him, which is so much more valuable than any lost opportunities. 

Perspective #3: Protection, Not Freedom from Problems

The point of the Christian faith is not that we will enjoy a life free from problems but that we can experience God’s protection—and direction—through them. Yes, we will miss out on opportunities. Yes, we will fail where other people succeed.

Yet sometimes, God’s refusals are His mercies, and He allows us to hear “no,” so that He might give us a better “yes” later. In the moment, grasping that truth can be difficult, but in the long-term, we are so much better off.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (NKJV). God desires our good, and His plans for us far transcend any fear of missing out we may experience.

The next time your mind wanders to “what ifs” and fear that you’ve lost your chance, may I encourage you to stop and reflect on all the blessings you have before you. In my case, my husband reminded me that saying no to one opportunity meant saying yes to something far more important: the answer to my prayer for a spouse. We never know how God may use a “no” in our lives to pave the way for a better “yes.”

We never know how God may use a “no” in our lives to pave the way for a better “yes.” @kjhogrefe

~ Kristen

Class of 2020, We See You During COVID-19

There’s something incredibly affirming about being seen and recognized for hard work. For high school and college seniors, they’ve been waiting for that moment when, traditionally in May, they would walk a platform, and all their family, friends, and peers would watch them receive their diplomas.

This May, however, COVID-19 is stealing that moment from the senior class of 2020. It stole prom, senior week, and so many other once-in-a-lifetime moments that they’d watched prior graduating classes experience. Many feel cheated, upset, or let-down, and no one can fault them for feeling that way. They should absolutely acknowledge the disappointment but refuse to let it keep them down.

Today’s post is for you, the Class of 2020.

Anticipate your moment.

That moment may not involve you crossing a literal stage, perhaps the most electrifying part of the traditional graduation ceremony. However, I challenge you to still anticipate your moment.

But how, you ask? Recently, I shared a post on my experience celebrating my first anniversary at home. It wasn’t what we had expected or wanted, but my husband and I weren’t going to let the day pass without a celebration.

You can also celebrate non-traditionally. Maybe you can plan a social-distancing-safe outdoor party with family and close friends. Maybe you can organize a caravan parade of you and your classmates, with cars decorated, driving down your streets. Maybe you can invent a virtual party or even a delayed celebration once your state reopens.

I know this situation is not what you expected, but you can make the most of your moment. Decide what’s special and doable, and go for it!

Choose what you do with this time.

Have you read or watched Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien? One of my favorite quotes from this saga is a conversation between Frodo and Gandalf discussing the growing evil they must confront.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Timely, right? I don’t blame you seniors for wishing a worldwide pandemic hadn’t struck and ruined your senior-year celebrations. None of us wanted this to happen now or ever.

Although we can’t control what happens to us, we can decide what to do with it. @kjhogrefe

Deciding what to do is a personal choice each of us, high school senior or not, must make. Understand you’re not alone in dealing with wrecked plans. Couples have had to cancel wedding ceremonies. Carefully made travel plans have been thrown out the window. Even the Olympics has been postponed a full year. We all feel you!

But we can’t change anything by wishing it away. So what do we do? What can you, the Class of 2020, do with this time?

Scripture speaks to this very question. Let’s take a look at James 4:13-15:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (NKJV)

Let’s break down those ideas and apply them to our situation. Last January, we were all making plans. You were making plans to graduate, maybe deciding what college you would attend next fall. But the truth is, we didn’t know March was going to put a pandemic at our doorsteps.

How should we proceed? We shouldn’t sit around aimlessly. Instead, we should make plans but hold them loosely, not tightly. Whatever good opportunity God presents us to do today, we should do it, and trust Him for tomorrow.

My hope is that you graduates prayerfully ask God what the next right thing is for you to do.

Focus on making a difference.

I remember my own high school graduation. As far as ceremonies go, it wasn’t anything grand. My homeschool class was a total of three (my twin brother and one other student in our umbrella school).

My grades were the highest of all three, but our overseer decided that being valedictorian would benefit the other male student more than me. He probably figured I’d just be a housewife someday and didn’t need the title on my resume. (For the record, there is no such thing as “just” a housewife. Being a wife and mom is such an important role, whether or not a woman also has a career outside the home. But I digress.)

Obviously, I was disappointed at the time, as were my parents, but today, I’m not going to go all Captain Marvel about it. I couldn’t control that I wasn’t valedictorian, and honestly, being slighted at my graduation doesn’t bother me today. The fact is that I got to choose what I did with the intellect God gave me. By his grace, I graduated college Summa Cum Laude, have published six books, have had the opportunity to speak to crowds much larger than those present during my high school graduation, and have the privilege of teaching English to my online students. And yes, I’m also proud to be a wife to the amazing man God brought into my life.

I say all that to say this: You can’t change the reality that you may not have a traditional graduation or enjoy all the regular pomp and circumstance. But you can decide what you’re going to do next with the abilities and opportunities God gives you. Class of 2020, how will you make a difference?

~ Kristen

Class of 2020, we see you during COVID-19. The disappointment of missing out on your pomp and circumstance is real, but refuse to let it keep you down. By @kjhogrefe

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

How to Celebrate, Social-Distance Style

Yesterday marked James’ and my one-year anniversary. He had made a reservation at the restaurant connected with our honeymoon hotel in Tampa, but in light of COVID-19, those plans vaporized. I had given myself the pep-talk that all was well, and we’d celebrate at home, but the morning of, I found myself feeling low. Such a special day seemed to have lost its luster.

So many of you are experiencing similar situations and watching your vacations and special celebrations go down the drain. Friends have had to cancel weddings. (I can’t imagine how heartbreaking that decision must be!) Others have had to cut honeymoons short, miss prom, and the list goes on.

Though easier said than done, we can make lemonade out of our lemons. Today, I want to share some ways we made our home celebration memorable in the hopes that they’ll inspire yours too.

#1: Acknowledge Your Feelings

Yesterday, as I struggled through thoughts of COVID-19 cheating us of our special day, I realized that I simply needed to admit how I felt before I could move on. It was okay to be disappointed.

But I couldn’t stay there. I vented to a friend, and that external processing helped. Then, I was ready to brainstorm.

If you’re feeling the way I did, don’t bottle up your feelings or pretend they don’t matter. They do. Share them with someone and then start thinking about how you can make the best of what you have.

#2. Treat Your Home Celebration as Special as You Would a Fancy Restaurant.

To get started, consider how you usually spend the evening and then ask what you can do differently. In other words, don’t eat at the dinner table the way you do every night.

We just moved into our new lake house and both enjoy eating outside on the porch overlooking the water. Usually, though, we sit in old fold-up chairs.

Though we’re still living out of boxes, I dug around until I found a white tablecloth and some of our wedding decorations. Then, I set up our folding table, covered it with the tablecloth, and started adding the finishing touches. Thanks to my wonderful husband, I had fresh sunflowers (my favorite!) to include.

Though I was tempted to stay in my comfy yoga pants, I realized that even if we could have kept our reservations, I wasn’t dressing up for a restaurant. I was dressing up for James. Ever the bargain shopper, I’d found a little black dress at Ross that I’d planned to wear. After staging our table, I freshened my makeup and slipped into the number.

The look on James’s face told me how much the effort meant to him. He slipped into a nice shirt too.

As for food, we’d made a backup plan a few weeks ago in case something like this happened. He grilled up some filets, shrimp, and Pita bread. (Yes, I’m a lucky girl that my husband is a grillmaster!) We’d also purchased some sparkling apple cider and our favorite Edwards pie.

Maybe you don’t have a porch, but you can decorate your table extra nice. If you don’t grill or like to cook, consider calling to see if a favorite restaurant offers takeout. There are plenty of options, so get creative! Just put in that extra effort, because it will make a difference.

#3. Remember Good Times and God’s Goodness

Instead of groaning about what we don’t have, let’s remember our blessings instead. Last year, we were blessed to go on a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon trip. In 2019, maybe you had the best birthday celebration ever. Or maybe your last vacation was incredibly memorable, and you just sneaked it in before all the travel restrictions started.

Regardless, Scripture tells us to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. My pastor has been walking through the book of Lamentations, a timely series for today! May these verses encourage you:

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 NKJV)

God’s faithfulness doesn’t change due to our circumstances. He is always good to us. When so many things are changing and out of our control, remember that God remains constant.

#4: Plan a Sequel

Just because today’s expectations went unmet doesn’t mean they can’t be reinvented down the road. Yesterday, James and I started talking about possible options for travel this year. We’ve already had one trip canceled, and another one may or may not be a possibility any more. Instead of focusing on the negatives, we considered some other alternatives that would be wonderful too.

Although planning anything right now is almost impossible, add a date on the calendar to come back to the conversation. At that point, you might be able to plan another time when you could celebrate instead. Be sure to write it down! As someone said, a dream is only a wish if it isn’t written down.

As much as possible, we can be intentional in planning ahead and looking to the future, instead of dwelling on the past.

What other ideas would you add to this list of ways to make celebrations special, social-distance style? Please leave a comment below.

~ Kristen

How to Celebrate, Social-Distance Style by @kjhogrefe

When Was Your Last Spiritual Spring Cleaning?

In college, my dorm mates and I dreaded “white glove,” the once-a-semester deep cleaning that bordered on the ridiculous. You could get called back in for so much as a strand of hair in the shower.

As a clean freak by nature, though, I appreciated the concept, and today, pride myself in keeping a clean house. Well, I thought I was keeping a clean house, until we decided to put it up for sale. All of a sudden, there was dust on the floorboards I’d never noticed before. Dust on the light fixtures in the bathroom. Hints of rust on the washer machine. Spill stains on the kitchen cabinets. Don’t even get me started on the microwave.

In short, grossness! I’d been living in a dirty house all this time, yet from the surface level, it had looked pristine. (Don’t judge me too hard. When is the last time you cleaned your microwave?)

I started to consider how this deep cleaning concept might apply to my spiritual life. Yes, I have my daily quiet time and even my intentional quiet place. James and I love our Sunday school class and church too. But do I just look like a “clean Christian” on the outside? What happens when I take a sub-surface inventory? If you’re daring, join me as we ask some tough questions.

When was the list time God’s Word convicted me?

Oh, c’mon. I just finished reading Leviticus. Surely that counts for spiritual.

Not really. Did I actually learn something from Leviticus or just skim through it to check off that yearly reading chore? If I’m honest, the truth hits closer to the latter.

When I’m feeling spiritually dry, I’ve started asking God to show me what He has for me and give me the ears to hear it. The Bible says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7 NKJV)

The Holy Spirit’s job is to expose areas we need to repent and grow (John 16:8). We must be willing to receive that instruction and do something with it.

Am I faithful in prayer and truly trusting God?

Last year, I shared about a book on prayer one of my friends gave me called A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. It is by far one of the clearest and most helpful books on prayer I’ve read. One of my takeaways was to write note cards for specific people in my life, what their needs are, and how I can be praying for them.

In the last few months, some of those prayers have been incredibly answered, so much so, that I’ve found myself blinking. Wow, God! I kind of thought that request was a bit high on the “not likely” spectrum, but really? I thought you might go for something easier first, but uh, thanks!

I’m confessing this to my shame. Scripture reminds us that nothing is impossible with God. When the Angel Gabriel visited Mary, he spoke these very words:

For with God nothing will be impossible. (Luke 1:37 NKJV)

Yes, I know that truth, but I must actively believe it. And so, I echo the prayer of the mute boy’s father from Scripture, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24b NKJV)

Do I thank God whether He gives or takes away?

This one can be so hard, especially when our hopes and dreams are wrapped up in our prayers. As my husband and I have been searching for a house, there have been many closed doors. So many that the disappointment literally hurt. But after one especially disappointing “no,” I accepted it and said, “Lord, thank you for protecting us from something that wasn’t right for us.”

We have to remember that perspective when God says no or not yet. His refusals are His mercies, no matter how much they sting at the time. Later, when He does present a yes, how much sweeter it is!

Today, we’re rejoicing that God appears to have opened a new house for us (hence, the early spring cleaning on our current home). Whatever comes, though, may my heart choose to say, “Lord, blessed be your name.”

Am I accepting God’s refining work in my life?

God works in many different ways and through all types of circumstances, some more painful than others. Sometimes, the blessings also present the biggest opportunities for maturity.

My marriage to James has been the biggest blessing in my life, apart from my salvation. Seriously, God knew what He was doing and what we needed so much better than we did! When I look at my wonderful husband, I just shake my head at how much I don’t deserve him.

Still, day-to-day living presents iron-sharpening moments that reveal my own selfishness and need for God’s grace in my life. Having my spouse see me at my worst can be humbling. Instead of trying to shove those moments under the rug, I have to accept them, examine them, and ask God to help me be the woman and wife He’s called me to be.

I like how Michelle Medlock Adams describes this molding process in Platinum Faith, the book she co-authored with Bethany Jett:

We can’t rush through the process even though we’d like to get off the wheel as soon as possible because it’s uncomfortable to be shaped and molded. But as we keep God at the center of our lives, the Master Potter will continue recentering us and removing any imperfections along the way.

Do I care about God’s mission more than my comfort?

The bottom line is that God loves people (John 3:16) and “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:4 NKJV). Is that our desire as well? Or are we too comfortable in our little circles to share our faith with others?

Recently, our Sunday school class did a spiritual gifts test. If you’ve never done one, I encourage you to find and take one. Even though we don’t all have the gift of evangelism, we can still share God’s love and our testimonies with others. After all, it’s the story of God at work in our lives. Our stories might just be the one the person next door needs to hear.

Yet we worry about being embarrassed, about saying the wrong thing, about being rejected. At least, I do! May God grant us boldness that we would not be timid in sharing the gospel (Romans 1:16, Philippians 1:20).

Closing Prayer

Lord, you know us better than we know ourselves. Create in us clean hearts and renew right spirits within us that our lives may be pleasing to you (Psalm 51:10).

~ Kristen

Spring cleaning season is almost here! Take a sub-surface look at your spiritual health, too, by asking some tough questions.

Got Goals? Let the Elephant Live.

We’ve heard the saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” People use this expression to refer to tackling goals, a buzz topic this time of year. The idea is that you can’t possibly accomplish them all at once but rather through a series of small, manageable steps.

I’m not saying I disagree. I’ve personally practiced the SMART method, and the whole Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound practice does work.

But eating an elephant can be painful and unpleasant for both us and the elephant. And although the SMART approach gets results, it leaves out the important element of priorities. Someone could argue that prioritization is implied, because after all, we wouldn’t spend time plotting out our approach to a goal if the goal weren’t important. Or would we?

I’m 100% for goals, but not at the expense of people. Perhaps you saw my theme for 2020, and this idea of letting the elephant live is an expansion of being people-focused over goal-focused. For example, I’m on a self-scheduled writing deadline and have a revised blogging schedule and some other writing commitments. I also work a full-time job, set aside intentional quality time with my husband, help manage our home, prioritize church community, practice a consistent fitness approach, and want to build into my existing and new relationships with others.

Let’s suppose I reach the week’s writing word count but must choose between a date night with my husband or writing a blog post for next week. You better believe I’m going on the date night. I’m not going to stuff the daily elephant bite into my mouth at the expense of relationship.

This is why I say, “Let the elephant live.” We can still conquer important goals but in their priority of importance. If today’s daily elephant bite doesn’t happen, there is tomorrow. Everything is not equal in importance.

A Resource for Prioritizing

Stephen R. Covey, author of the best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, discussed what he called “The Urgent Important Matrix.” I’ve created a simplified model here to illustrate the point, but you can review a more detailed version on Franklin Covey’s website.

Important/Urgent

(Necessity or Crisis)
Important/Not Urgent

(Effectiveness or Goals)
Urgent/Not Important

(Distractions or Interruptions)
Not Urgent/Not Important

(Time-Wasters)

In other words, we can categorize everything on our to-do list into one of these categories. Getting dinner is a necessity. Writing a blog is a goal. If while I’m writing the blog after dinner, my phone rings, I then have to decide if I take that interruption or remain focused on my own plans.

That’s where the prioritizing comes in. Do I care more about people (the phone call) or my own agenda (the goal)? Each of us has to make her own decision there, but the answer boils down to personal choice. Maybe if I’m on a tight deadline, I let the call go to voicemail. But maybe I’m just working on a “me” project that can wait. Shouldn’t I answer the phone (and let the elephant live)?

What God Asks of Us

When I think about the goals I’d like to accomplish this year, I go back to Micah 6:8. This verse so simply and clearly summarizes God’s expectations of us:

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)

The verse doesn’t say that the Lord requires we achieve all our goals, be a success, and earn a pat on the back. No, it says to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. Maybe we do or we don’t get those elephant-sized goals all accomplished, but may we make wise daily choices in how we prioritize the time that God’s given to us.

~ Kristen

May we make wise daily choices in how we prioritize the time that God’s given to us. #priorities #wisdom

Theme for 2020: Love One Another

I remember when I was a little girl, there was a television show called 20/20. Of all the shows I watched, the one episode I remember is the one predicting we’d have flying cars by this year. To my young mind, the year 2020 seemed so far away that I wondered if they were right.

Turns out, they were wrong about the flying cars but right about how technology would revolutionize the way we communicate, work, and play. Coming out of a social media break over the holidays, I can better appreciate that and also realize the need for healthy limits.

Focus for the New Year

So many words came to mind as I was praying about a theme for 2020. I could have chosen the words intentional or priorities, because I genuinely want to keep “the main thing the main thing” this year.

However, more than being focused on goals, I want to focus on loving people. I know that sounds incredibly cliche.

But this verse from I John has been on my heart lately, and it seems so well to capture the desire James and I have for our lives.

“And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (I John 3:23 NKJV)

I’m so thankful God doesn’t make our salvation and purpose complicated. (Truth be told, we’re the ones who complicate it.) Believe first. Then get busy loving people.

I confess that I’ve often tied my purpose to specific ministries and goals. But God didn’t say, “Get busy being involved,” although being plugged into a church community is a good thing. Instead, He said, “Love people.” I can love people wherever I am or whatever I’m doing.

God knows my desires. He knows better than I do the gifts and unique ways He’s equipped me to serve Him. More than anything, I want the Lord to show me how He wants to use me this year and how I can best love the people who cross my path.

A Hands-Open Approach to Goals

So yes, I still have my goals, but I desire to walk humbly as I approach them. James 4 provides such a wise perspective:

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15 NKJV)

In other words, I want an open-hands approach to goals, not a clenched fist. I want God to shape and change them as He sees best. That’s going to be a challenge for this over-achiever to remember!

This year, I want to be people-focused over goals-focused, with God directing each step.

Will you join me in seeking to love others well in 2020? What desires has God placed on your heart for the new year?

~ Kristen