Writing with Purpose: An Interview with The Correspondent Evelyn

Some conversations leave you feeling energized, like you just finished chatting with a best friend over coffee and are now ready to continue all the tasks at hand. That’s how my interview at The Correspondent podcast with Evelyn Corral felt.

I would love for you to take a listen to this episode. Whether you’re a writer or pursuing some other calling, you’ll be encouraged to persevere and embrace new beginnings, no matter how small.

Some of my favorite takeaways from our chat include the following:

  • Appreciate closed doors since they might be blessings in disguise.
  • Remember we have to start somewhere, no matter how small.
  • Be faithful to your calling.
  • Struggles are part of pursuing any passion. What can you learn from them?
  • Your little is not too little for God to use.

Which one of these takeaways resonates most with you? Or did a different takeaway stick with you?

Live in abundance and keep pursuing those God-given dreams.

~ Kristen

Whether you’re a writer or pursuing some other calling, be encouraged to persevere and embrace new beginnings, no matter how small. @khogrefeparnell

If I Can Cook with Cast Iron, You Can Too.

Did you or your kids ever watch “The Little Engine that Could” where the train puffed and puffed and told himself, “I think I can, I think I can”? Yes, I did too.

While I’m all for positive vibes, I also believe in giving ourselves and others grace for making mistakes. As an online English teacher, I often tell my students, “It’s okay to make mistakes,” and “Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try at all.” The truth is, there have been many days I needed to give myself that same freedom to make mistakes and learn from them, especially when in the kitchen.

Cooking as a Single

When I was single and living on my own, I mastered the art of not starving. I could make a mean salad and felt pretty confident about my grilled egg, ham, and cheese English muffin sandwiches. Also, I firmly believed mac and cheese constituted a complete meal. (Can I get an Amen?)

I was so busy working, serving at my church, or meeting up with friends that food literally took a back burner.

Cooking as a Newly Wed

As I prepared for my wedding, I started to Pinterest in earnest, searching for “easy meals,” which was code for, “How can I keep my husband happy … and alive?” I had a few tried and true menus, like grilled cheese, spaghetti, my friend Ashley’s taco soup recipe, a chicken bacon ranch Crockpot, and something else I can’t remember at the moment. But clearly, I needed to start paying attention to food, because I didn’t want to be that wife.

Good news. We’re a year and a half into our marriage, and James thinks I’m a decent cook. Side note: He is the nicest human ever. I also encourage him to grill as often as he wants.

Cooking with Cast Iron

When my friend Ashley first told me she had been contracted to write a book on Modern Cast Iron, I celebrated with her out loud but inwardly wondered how on earth I could help support her in this endeavor since cooking with cast iron TERRIFIED me.

The first problem: I didn’t own a piece of cast iron.

The second problem: Ashley and her husband are amazing cooks, and I am not. (I’ve seen them in action a few times.) True, I had managed to recreate her taco soup recipe with smashing success, but that was one taco soup recipe. Even girls like me get “lucky” sometimes.

But more important than my pride was my friendship with Ashley. While researching how to cook pork chops on Pinterest, someone recommended a small cast iron grill pan. It was right around my birthday, so I asked for one, and behold, my wish was granted.

First impression: Dang, this thing is heavy. Second impression: Hey, this isn’t so scary. I successfully cooked pork chops and later asparagus in the grill pan. Everyone survived the experience.

And then my friend Ashley did the kindest thing. Perhaps she suspected my cooking insecurities or my need for a nudge in the right direction, because she gifted me with an enamel Dutch Oven. It was for my birthday, anniversary, and housewarming all wrapped in one, and I literally cried when I received it because she was so thoughtful, and it was so beautiful.

But still the nagging thought: Can I actually cook with cast iron?

Making Homemade Bread

What can be more terrifying and intimidating than making homemade bread? Okay, yes, a T-Rex, but those are extinct.

Still, I knew I had to try this beautiful Dutch Oven gift or appear ungrateful. So I found a Crusty No Knead Dutch Oven Bread Recipe on Pinterest and followed the directions.

Other than not rising as much as I had hoped, it looked like … bread. It even tasted like bread. Hello, I made homemade bread! And James liked it, which is ultimately what matters.

Choosing to Be Brave

None of us likes feeling like a fish out of water. Instead of focusing on the fear of failure, though, let’s focus on the possibilities. Even seasoned fishermen don’t always get things right.

I love the story in Scripture where Peter, the expert fisherman, worked his nets all night and had nothing to show. Nada.

That feeling must have been way worse than my failed zucchini boat lasagna attempt. But I digress.

When Peter and those with him returned to shore, Jesus asked them a simple question, “Children, have you any food?” When they answered in the negative, Jesus then said, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some” (NKJV John 21:5-6). Now what’s so amazing is that this event took place after Jesus’ resurrection, and the preceding verse made clear that the disciples didn’t know it was Jesus Himself who was talking to them.

But there must have been something undeniably special about Him, because Peter and his friends listened and did exactly what He said. And guess what? They cast their nets and couldn’t even pull them back in because they were overloaded with fish! At this point, Peter recognized Jesus for who He is, and, in typical impulsive Peter fashion, jumped overboard to get to Jesus first.

There’s so much more to this story, and I hope you’ll take the time to dig deeper into it, but here’s my takeaway for today: If God gives us a nudge to do something, whether it be learning to be a better cook or befriending the neighbor next door, let’s do it. Let’s plunge right in like Peter!

There’s the chance we’ll bomb dinner or get a door in the face. But just maybe that recipe will become our new favorite or we’ll discover a best friend living next door. Let’s fear failure less and be brave more.

The Bottom Line

Although I’m nowhere near ready to call myself a cook, there’s a healthy rotation of meal options in our home, and even though cooking for company intimidates me, I’m determined to try more … and be content to order pizza the rest of the time. Kidding not kidding.

Seriously, though, I think I can cook with cast iron. I even bought myself a skillet so I can try Ashley’s Peach Dutch Baby recipe. Maybe it will become our next favorite Saturday breakfast tradition.

Regardless, here’s my dare for you: If I can cook with cast iron, you can too. Be brave and willing to try something you’re not good at. You might just discover a new world of possibilities.

If I can cook with cast iron, you can too. @khogrefeparnell

Happy cooking, friends!

~ Kristen

I’m grateful to my friend and gifted author Ashley L. Jones for inviting me to share this post first on her beautiful blog at BigSisterKnows.com. Check out her blog for more encouragement and delicious recipes for your everyday life.


About Ashley’s Book: Modern Cast Iron

In Modern Cast Iron, self-proclaimed cast-iron connoisseur Ashley L. Jones recaptures the ease and joy of cooking with cast-iron cookware. Jones introduces readers to the best brands and types of cast-iron cookware to fulfill any cook’s needs. She offers detailed tips and tricks for rescuing old, rusted pans and keeping them properly seasoned, and she shares recommendations for the best cooking oil for every recipe. With Jones’s help, both experienced and beginner cooks will be able to rival grandma’s cooking. Chock-full of stories from Jones’s own childhood growing up with cast-iron meals, as well as recipe after tantalizing recipe―from breakfast quiche to gluten-free meals and beautiful blueberry cobbler―Modern Cast Iron explores the countless ways that cast iron benefits health and happiness.

Get Your Copy.

Upset the World – Giveaway & Review

When I first read the title Upset the World, it immediately grabbed my attention. “Upset” so accurately describes our society these days. I was curious to learn what Tim Ross meant by “upset the world” and how being an “upsetter” could radically change people for good.

His definition provided the starting point: “An upsetter is a person who has been upset by the overwhelming love of Jesus and upsets others” (Ross 12).

Before we can do that, though, we must first allow Jesus Christ to upset our lives. In other words, we need Him not only to save us, but also to make changes. As Ross says, “If you come into a relationship with Jesus Christ but nothing about you changes, then you probably didn’t really meet him” (17). He makes the point that Jesus upset the world so radically that he literally split the calendar before and after Him (20). It is our job to follow His example by rocking the world’s boat with the overwhelming love of God. Ross encourages us to use our testimonies and share how God has personally upset or changed our lives.

Before Ross moves into how we can upset others, He also explains the Holy Spirit’s role and work in our lives (chapter 3-4). He challenges us readers not to become “trapped” with religion but evaluate the heart motivation behind all our actions (chapter 5). Then, we’re ready to “do good” (chapter 6), love life in spite of what happens to us (chapter 7), be willing to disturb the “piece” of people’s lives that doesn’t match God’s will (chapter 8), and get used to upsetting people on a regular basis in obedience to the Holy Spirit (chapters 9-10).

Takeaways

I absolutely love that Ross explains that to upset the world, we’re not supposed to use hate or anger. We are simply to “go out and share the love of Christ in the most relational way possible” (13). He recognizes our current politically- and racially-charged climate and urges readers to take all their passionate feelings and convert them into love for people.

This is such an important point. Too many people think that hate and violence are healthy expressions. Feeling angry about injustice is absolutely justified and understandable, but channeling that anger into violence accomplishes nothing but more hurt. Ross explains this so well:

“We need to take all that passion and hostility toward people and turn it into love for others. You need to love them, because if you don’t love them, then His Kingdom can’t come to them. Let me put it another way: if you’re mad at somebody, you will also be mad at Jesus” (35).

Another point he makes is that we can love people without agreeing with them (48-49), which is also powerful and true. We can hate their sin without hating the person.

That said, a person who gives His life to Christ shouldn’t remain the same. Even though each one of us comes to know Christ just as we are, we can’t stay the way we are once we’ve accepted the gospel invitation. As Ross says, “We want everyone to come, but we don’t want anybody to stay the same” (167). Amen to that!

Review

I highly recommend the book as a whole with one personal caveat. I am a Bible-believing Christian and recognize different preferences in worship and practice. For example, some of my fellow believers and friends are highly conservative while some are pentecostal. I personally think God cares about the heart of our worship more than the means of expression. Ross is much more charismatic than I, which is neither here nor there, but I personally felt uncomfortable with some of his practices, such as attending a presbytery service where his wife supposedly received a “word” that her deceased father was “pleased” with her (101).

Now I certainly believe we can feel God’s pleasure in our lives when we are obeying Him, but from my knowledge of the Bible, receiving affirmations from deceased loved ones is not a Scriptural practice. Again, this is my understanding, and I am not a pastor like Tim Ross. However, this is the reason I’m giving the book a four out of five stars review.

That said, I am sincerely grateful to have read this book and highly recommend it, especially for those who are seeking a biblical perspective on how to deal with all the hostility and hate in our world. We are to upset people in the nicest way possible: with the overwhelming love of Jesus.

Enter the Giveaway

People need both to hear us tell about God’s love and to see us showing it. Ross provides practical examples and insights on what love-in-action should look like, and that’s why I’m excited to share a copy of the book plus study guide with one of my readers! I truly think these resources will be a blessing to you.

Upset the World by Tim Ross – Giveaway & Review by @khogrefeparnell

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post or last week’s post. You can share why you think this book would be a help to you or someone you know. You could even just say something like, “I want to learn how to upset the world for Jesus!” I’ll announce the winner on the blog next week.

~ Kristen

Special thanks to the Blog About Blogger Network for hosting this giveaway.

All quotes are taken from: Ross, Tim. Upset the Word. Gateway Press, 2020.


And the Giveaway Winner Is …

Congrats to Nancy on winning our Upset the World giveaway!! Thank you to everyone who participated and shared about the giveaway online.

Another Giveaway Opportunity!

The month of August, I’m hosting a giveaway for a Kindle Fire HD8 to encourage readers to “go places” through reading, even if we’re limited in our travel opportunities due to Covid19.

For more details, read the full post. To enter, click here or the image below.

Renovating Our Homes and Hearts, Part 3

If you’ve been following along with our kitchen remodel story (now on day four), you can only imagine how eager we were for Monday to come. Having already waited an extra two days to use our kitchen, I silenced my alarm when it went off and ignored the snooze button. “Hurry up and get over!” I told the day. Yet once it started, the day dragged by.

Pound. Whack. Thud. Pound. Pound. All. Day. Long.

We started to get nervous when the crew wasn’t done by dinner time. Then the project manager arrived, and James and I offered Gatorade and snacks to the workers. Finally, they reached the last part of the project, spackling the drywall. And then their spackle machine broke, and they had to find an alternate solution. It must have been 9:30 at night when they finished and left.

With the house finally silent, James and I soaked in the finished product. The cave with its Neanderthal fluorescent lighting was gone. In its place was a more open, well-lit space. We still had to put in new top cabinets, but at the moment, I could have hugged the kitchen.

Before/After

Rebuilding is messy, time-consuming, and loud; but it is so worthwhile.

Before we accept God’s gift of salvation, we are spiritually dead. The only future we have is eternal destruction (with no demo option). But look what Christ did! “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

Don’t miss this part, because it is incredible. In and of ourselves, we have nothing to offer God, for it is only by grace we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8). But when we become God’s children, we also become His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), and as His workmanship, He gives us everything we need to build effectively. Essentially, we become “God’s fellow workers” (I Corinthians 3:9). 

In I Corinthians, Paul compares believers to builders who are building on Jesus Christ’s foundation. The only way that’s possible is because God first laid the foundation (I Corinthians 3:11), with Jesus Christ being “the chief cornerstone” (Matthew 21:42). In other words, we are not only God’s work, but He also allows us to be part of His work (I Peter 2:4-5).

When we allow God’s spiritual reconstruction in our lives, we can then help spread His Word so more people can know Him and join His “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). What a privilege that is!

In our home, James is the outgoing one. I’ll be working at my desk and all of a sudden hear him talking with neighbors in the backyard or starting a conversation with the couple across the pond. His friendliness paves the way to relationships that might one day let us share the Gospel with others.

Although I truly believe my writing is a ministry, God has also challenged me to get out of my introverted comfort zone and start up conversations with people I meet while jogging in the neighborhood. You never know how one conversation might open doors later.

The bottom line is that as God’s children, He can use us wherever we are to share the Good News with others. Let’s not take that responsibility lightly.

A Prayer for Willing Hearts

Our kitchen renovations aren’t finished, although I’m proud that we were able to install all the top cabinets by ourselves. You can check out the video, and you’re welcome that it’s sped up, or you’d be watching for hours.

Wa-la! We make a good team. And yes, when James didn’t need me, I was editing my manuscript. 🙂

The bottom line is that we’re on this adventure together, and along the way, we’re learning and growing so much. May that also be our mindset as God continues His renovating work in our lives.

Dear Lord, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die for and redeem a sinner like me. I confess that I am very much in need of your saving grace and sanctifying work in my life. Thank you for your patience with me even when I complain about the refining process. I trust that you can use me where I am right now to share your Word with others and be a light for you in this hurting world. Amen.

~ Kristen

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.

Stay Connected for Future Giveaways

Subscribe to Kristen’s newsletter for monthly book buzz about Christian fiction for adults and teens, plus be the first to learn about giveaways and personal takeaways for your everyday adventures. 

When you join, you’ll receive a free copy of Kristen’s novella, A Cord of Three Strands, the prequel to her award-winning novel, The Revisionary. 

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.