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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.

Author Chat with Bryan Davis on his New Christian Science Fiction Series

I met Bryan Davis at a writer’s conference several years ago and enjoyed getting to know him and his daughter Amanda (also an author). His books are favorites among the students I teach, and I’m honored to have him be my guest on the blog. In our author chat feature today, he shares about a brand new Christian science fiction series, with the first book releasing today.

Q: What prompted you to write this new series, or what was your inspiration?

This story began as a dream about a dystopian society with a tyrannical regime and a rebel faction trying to bring it down. In the dream, two rebels posed as fake doctors to deliver a toxic vaccine to regime troops, and the novel sprouted from that seed.

Q: What are some science fiction elements in the story that help drive or enhance the storyline (if you can share without giving away spoilers)?

The story has hovercraft drones, a scanner that can see a soul in the brain, a portal in the sky that has been breached by an alien race, weapons that shoot plasma spheres, and a missile designed to destroy a cross-dimensional conduit.

Q: Fiction often mirrors reality, even if the setting, time period, and characters are other-worldly. What aspects of the story might readers find paralleling their own experience?

In this case, the parallels are all too real. The story includes the threat of a contagion that will kill millions and a requirement to take a vaccine that is touted to be helpful but might be hazardous. I wrote the story long before the COVID-19 situation, and the current-events elements came to pass after I completed it.

Q: What message do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I try not to reveal specific story themes that I intended, because I want readers to glean for themselves, but in all of my stories, including this one, I hope to promote faith, courage, and self-sacrifice in my readers.

Q: You’re a household name for fans of young adult Christian fantasy. How is this new series different from some of your other books, and/or how is it similar?

It’s different in the target age—for older teens and adults instead of for middle-graders and younger teens. It is more science fiction than fantasy, though there are some fantastical elements. It is similar in that I continue to feature characters who display sacrificial heroism and other virtues, and the Christian world view never wavers.

Q: How have you seen God use your writing journey in unexpected ways?

In too many ways to describe here. For myself, I have seen God provide in miraculous ways during the lean years, which has helped me more fully understand His sufficiency as I practice contentment. For readers, I hear from them nearly every day that my books have helped them in their faith as well as their physical lives. For example, more than 20 readers have told me that my books kept them from committing suicide. Some have given my stories credit for helping them with drug abuse, sexual exploitation, and self harm. The feedback has been a huge blessing and an overwhelming one.

Q: I know you’ve taught teen track courses at writer’s conferences. What do you enjoy most about talking to teen writers, and what is the best advice you would give them as they work on their own stories?

Teen writers often have great story ideas, and their energy and passion are invigorating and inspiring. Most are ready to listen and learn, and they are looking to make a positive influence.

I encourage teen writers to learn the craft and to exercise patience. It can take years for a new writer to a create professional-level novel. Some, when they are unable to acquire a traditional publisher, jump to self-publishing even though their stories might not be ready to publish. I am not opposed to self-publishing, but I urge young writers to be ready for that step before leaping in.

Q: When can we expect to see the next book in the series?

I don’t have an exact date, and I don’t have a title yet, but it will probably come out early in the spring of 2021.

Enjoy this interview with best-selling author Bryan Davis who talks about his new Christian science fiction series. @khogrefeparnell

About the Author

Bryan Davis is the author of several fantasy/science fiction series for youth and adults, including the best-selling Dragons in our Midst series. He and his wife, Susie, have seven adult children, and they work together as an author/editor team.

About Heaven Came Down

In the chaotic aftermath of apocalyptic war, the strange lights in the sky heralding the coming of unearthly beings seemed like an answer to prayer. When the heavenly visitors entered selected people and transformed them into angels who demanded obedience in exchange for the restoration of order, the majority accepted their new rulers.

But Ben Garrison and his siblings, Jack and Trudy, have seen a dark side to these so-called angels. They join a rebel faction with one goal: destroy the invaders and free the world from their tyranny.

When the rebels catch wind of an angel plot to invade the resistance region and spread a deadly contagion, the Garrisons embark on a crucial mission to swap the angel troops’ vaccine with a fake injection, stealing the real vaccine to save the rebels. The catch: Ben and Trudy, in disguise as doctors, must volunteer to become implanted by angels and fake their implantation.

The rebels’ plan, however, is soon exposed, jeopardizing the mission and their lives. Their only hope for rescue lies in an odd bounty hunter, a young angel priestess, and a mysterious spy embedded among the angels—a woman whose identity the rebels have yet to discover.

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


Book News! I Signed with The Blythe Daniel Agency

Sometimes, I wondered if this day would come. The search for the right literary agent has been quite the journey.

But the wait was worthwhile. I’m so honored to share that I signed with the Blythe Daniel Agency and Literary Agent Stephanie Alton, who will be representing me on a new Christian Romantic Suspense project I cannot wait for you to read one day!

About My New Project

The setting of this story is near to my life (and heart) as it takes my heroine from her ordinary world in Tampa to the snow-covered slopes of Beech Mountain. Both places are special to me, because I’m a Florida girl by birth, and my husband James proposed to me near Beech Mountain. You’ll get to experience so much of what I love about these settings in this novel.

Here’s a sneak preview of the premise:

Kaley just wants a carefree ski trip with her church singles’ group, but trouble follows her to Beech Mountain. When her last client of the day is murdered hours after she leaves for vacation, she becomes the target of an underworld celebrity who will stop at nothing to keep her secrets buried. The ally Kaley needs to survive is none other than her ex-boyfriend who won’t give up on her, even if she gave up on him.

You can be praying with me as my agent works to place this project with the right publisher.

Introducing My New Agent

Speaking of my agent, I’m excited for you to meet her! But first, some backstory:

It’s so neat how God works in unexpected ways. I met Blythe Daniel, the owner of the Blythe Daniel Agency, several years ago at the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. I appreciated so much her professional expertise and also her gracious ability to connect with people on a personal level. Never in my dreams did I imagine that one day, I’d get to be part of her author community.

She connected me with her Blog About Blogger Network, organized by her colleague Stephanie Alton. For a few years, you’ve enjoyed the giveaways made possible through this network right here on the blog.

In March of this year, Faith Pitch on Twitter did a special #FaithOverFear contest where writers could pitch an in-progress project, and the participating editors and agents would each award one person a consultation. Although I figured it was a long shot, I pitched my current WIP (work in progress), and to my delight, won a consultation with Stephanie Alton, also an agent with the Blythe Daniel Agency.

Stephanie has been so helpful in answering my questions and a delight to communicate with. Long story short, I just signed an agreement for her to represent me on my new project.

What’s Next

Because we only see news (like this) and new book release announcements on social media, it often appears that just like that, the book is published.

But that’s not how the publishing industry works. In reality, it’s a slow process that often takes years.

All that to say, it could be over a year or even two before you have this novel in your hands. But in the meantime, I’ll be sharing the journey right here with you, along with other book news, the author chat features I hope you’ve been enjoying, giveaway opportunities, and as always, faith in the everyday adventures of life.

Thanks so much for being my friends and celebrating with me today!

~ Kristen

Book News! I’m proud to partner with the Blythe Daniel Agency. @kjhogrefe

Author Chat with Jerusha Agen on Romantic Suspense, Fighting Fear, and Her Next Release

I’m excited to introduce you to today’s featured author, Jerusha Agen! This gal has been such a blessing to me as we’ve gotten to know each other through our writing journeys, and today, it’s your turn to be blessed by her. I hope you enjoy this author chat as much as I have!

Q: What prompted you to first write Christian romantic suspense?

The first novels I wrote, which became the Sisters Redeemed Series, were romantic women’s fiction. But a curious thing happened as I was crafting those stories—each book in the three-book series leaned increasingly toward suspense! I realized when I finished that series that I might as well stop fighting the urge to add suspense to everything and embrace it instead!

Since then, I’ve written suspense novels that allow me to revel in the excitement, danger, and fear-fighting courage of the genre. I especially love how suspense stories delve into intense, sometimes dark issues—the places where the love and hope of Christ shine the brightest.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

I hope and pray readers will always find in my stories a greater understanding of Who God is and where He is in the midst of suffering. I want my readers to come away with an unshakable hope from the realization that even in the darkest, most difficult circumstances, the Redeemer is there, is in control, and is always good.

Q: How does your Fear Warrior Blog tackle the topic that plagues characters in suspense novels—and many people in real life too? How does your faith shape the way you approach fighting fear?

The Fear Warrior Blog is dedicated to helping people fight against fear in their everyday lives. And you’re right, Kristen, this is an issue that does plague the characters in suspense novels, as well as all of us in real life! Everyone experiences fear at some point in their lives, to varying degrees, and I love to write realistic fiction that depicts that authentic struggle in the lives of characters too.

The characters may face a more palpable or overt danger than many of us do in our lives, but their deepest fears are the same as ours. And the only way to gain victory over fear is the same for us too.

You pinpointed that answer when you asked how faith shapes the way I approach fighting fear. Faith in God is the only way anyone can truly obtain victory over fear and break free from the prison of anxiety, worry, and all forms of fear. The good news is that this faith isn’t a pie-in-the-sky make believe or ignorance of reality. And the other good news is I don’t have to muster some heroic degree of faith myself.

“Faith in God is the only way anyone can truly obtain victory over fear and break free from the prison of anxiety, worry, and all forms of fear.” ~ @SDGwords on @kjhogrefe

This faith that gives us victory over fear is simply acknowledgement of and belief in the truth. And this faith, thank the Lord, isn’t something I have to conjure or force, but rather is a gift from God Himself.

So my faith, the faith God enables me to have, is also the means by which He gives me victory over fear. This fear-fighting weapon is available to everyone who belongs to Christ!

Q: How have you overcome fear in your own life, and how has this experience helped you encourage others?

Since God started me on this journey of fighting fear years ago, He has granted me so many victories, but many of them are in the small steps forward on my path to eventual conquering of that fear.

The most remarkable fear God has enabled me to overcome is my stage fright. I shared the complete story of this victory and how others can beat their own stage fright at the FW Blog, but the short version is that God gave me the faith, wisdom, and radical shift in perspective that enabled me to break free of stage fright. Ironically, this breakthrough happened when I gave a live presentation on fighting fear!

I knew we as Christians could have victory over our fears because the Bible tells me so. However, this experience has equipped and encouraged me to speak this truth to others with even more conviction because I’ve seen the evidence of victory over fear in my own life.

Q: As writers, we often don’t get to see how our writing influences others. However, sometimes readers do reach out and share with us. What has been the most encouraging feedback you’ve received?

I wouldn’t have thought to receive feedback on my writing during a pandemic, but I got a hand-written note from an elderly reader the other day who shared that one of my books gave her comfort and helped her pass the time in an enjoyable way while she was quarantined alone.

I never expected a story I wrote would bring encouragement to a sweet woman alone during such a time. But God knew how it would be used, just as He knows how He will use each of the posts I write for the Fear Warrior Blog, where I have often been astounded and encouraged by feedback from readers who were strengthened for their battles against fear.

I am awed by the privilege to have my words used by God to help others!

Q: Can you hint about what next project you have in the works?

I’m delighted you asked this, Kristen, because I’m currently working on getting my debut romantic suspense novel ready to launch with Love Inspired! I’d like to share with your readers the official title, for the first time in public: Rising Danger.

Rising Danger, which will be among the first books published with Love Inspired’s new trade line, is slated to release in July 2021. The novel tells the exciting story of a woman and her explosives detection K9 who stand between a city and a bomber.

That’s all I can say for now, but I’ll be sharing more exclusive updates and insider peeks with members of the Fear Warrior Suspense community (my awesome newsletter subscribers) in the coming months. I hope you’ll all join me by visiting FearWarriorSuspense.com.

Meet Romantic Suspense Author Jerusha Agen whose Fear Warrior blog equips readers to fight fear in their everyday lives and whose suspense novels remind them of the One who provides the victory. @kjhogrefe

About the Author

Jerusha Agen imagines danger around every corner, but knows God is there too. So naturally, she writes romantic suspense infused with the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ. Her debut romantic suspense novel, Rising Danger, releases in July 2021.

With a B.A. in English and a background in screenwriting, Jerusha is a speaker, writing instructor, and author of the Fear Warrior Blog, where she writes about fighting against fear in our everyday lives.

You’ll often find Jerusha sharing irresistibly adorable photos of her Furry Fear Warriors (three big dogs and two little cats) on social media.

Visit Jerusha at www.JerushaAgen.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

About Introverted

Jerusha is giving away Introverted, a free romantic suspense story, to anyone who signs up to join the Fear Warrior Suspense community! Follow this link to get your free story at FearWarriorSuspense.com!

She never invites visitors. But visitors sometimes invite themselves.

When a winter storm brings more than snow, May Denver is forced to flee from her home and fight for her life. Can she trust an unwanted neighbor and risk her greatest fear in order to survive?

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

Peace Pirates: Review & Giveaway!

You might be surprised to see this book on my blog. I’m kind of surprised myself. After all, this is not a mom blog. (Hello, I’m not a mom yet!) However, this blog is all about thinking truthfully and living daringly in everyday life, and when I reviewed the book concept for Peace Pirates, I realized it fit our theme here perfectly.

Ashley Willis’ premise with this book is to fight the “pirates,” or anything that steals the peace from motherhood, by using biblical truth. It’s such a simple concept but so powerful, because every day, all of us (mothers or not) face choices, confront thought patterns, and deal with situations that can potentially rob the peace of God from our hearts.

So if you’re one of my friends who is a young mother (or like me, have so many friends who are in this season of life), please keep reading. I’d love for you to enter the giveaway and use this resource for yourself or share it with someone who would be blessed by it.

What are Peace Pirates?

After her confessions of a pirate mom (which are both hilarious and more than likely common misadventures shared by many moms), Ashley identifies four peace pirates that often plague mothers: mommy martyrdom, comparison chaos, clenching control, and excessive expectations. She breaks down each one by showing how these pitfalls can steal joy and then provides practical teaching from the Bible to combat each one.

One of my favorite points that she makes is that there are no perfect parents. This is such a liberating thought, right? She uses the example of Mary and Joseph in the Bible. The mother of Jesus and His earthly father actually lost Jesus for three days (Luke 2:43-47). Although I’ve read this story many times, I’d never considered it in terms of parenting. If the parents of the Son of God made mistakes, then parents today need to give themselves some grace, too, when best-laid plans turn into pure chaos.

As someone who isn’t a mother yet, I really appreciated this perspective. Not only are there no perfect parents, but they also can’t control everything their child does. Instead of judging parents in public when we have little-to-no knowledge of the situation’s background, Willis offers this suggestion: “When we see a stressed-out mom at her wit’s end, why can’t our first inclination be to offer her some help or an encouraging word?”

I love that. Assume the best, not the worst. Offer an encouraging word or to get more napkins from the dispenser. Willis’ practical, biblical style will bless and encourage the young mommas who read this book.

My Takeaway

Again, I’m not a mother yet, but as I read this book, I realized that the “peace pirates” Willis identifies can steal our peace, not matter what our life stage.

My personal takeaway is to not make excuses for issues like pride, comparison, and unrealistic expectations but deal with them now. Don’t wait until you’re a mother and feeling “less than” other mothers because your child isn’t perfect. Don’t wait for your child to graduate to realize that you “missed out” on priceless moments because you were so concerned with looking the part.

Wherever we are in our journeys (single adults, young marrieds, young mothers, empty nesters, etc.), let’s ask God to show us what “pirates” are trying to steal our peace. Then, let’s make it a matter of prayer to defeat them and pursue joy right where we are.

Enter the Giveaway

I wish I had a dozen copies of this book to give each of the young mommas I know. Since I don’t, I’m still excited to give away the one autographed copy I have.

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment. You can share why you think this book would be an encouragement to you or a young mother you know. Or, if you’re a young momma barely holding it together, you could just say something like, “I want to fight the peace pirates!” I’ll announce the winner on the blog next week.

~ Kristen

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

Peace Pirates by Ashley Willis: Book Review & Giveaway by @kjhogrefe

Giveaway Winner!

Congrats to Bethany on winning the hard copy of Peace Pirates by Ashley Willis! Thank you to everyone who participated.

Author Chat with Lindsay A. Franklin on Her Weaver Trilogy

Have you ever talked to someone ONCE and come away thinking, “Wow, she’s so cool but totally down to earth, and I think we could be friends in real life?” That’s how I feel about award-winning author Lindsay A. Franklin. Although I’ve never had the privilege of meeting her in person, the emails we’ve exchanged make me hope that our paths will cross one day.

For now, though, I’m thrilled for you to meet her right here on the blog as she shares about her Christian fantasy series, The Weaver Trilogy, and its epic conclusion, The Story Hunter, releasing today.

Q: What inspired the fantasy element of “story strands” and the concept of “weaving stories” as being a special power some characters possess?

The series was inspired by the phrase “story peddler,” which I heard an acquisitions editor say in a workshop about the publishing process. She was referring to selling manuscripts to her publishing board, but I wondered what it might be like to be a “story peddler” in a world where art was magic and “story” had to be something a traveling peddler (in the more traditional sense) might sell—something physical. Why strands that solidify into crystal? I have no idea! It just came out of my imagination that way.

Q: Who is one of your favorite characters from the Weaver Trilogy and why?

I have a lot of favorite characters in this story, even when I’m forcing them to make terrible decisions (Brac comes to mind there). Digwyn is the most personal to me, as her story is the most based on mine, but something personal is poured into each of them. My love for my father is in Yestin. My close relationship with my daughter is in Tannie (on whom I based Tanwen, back when my daughter was only five). Kharn’s easygoing nature and his dorky dad jokes are a wink at my beloved husband. There’s a little something I love (or love to hate in some cases!) in each of them.

Q: The characters in your stories experience the loss of friends and family throughout their journeys. When Tanwen asks how she can make the loss stop hurting, she’s told, “It’s supposed to hurt. Because people matter. And when we lose them, it hurts. It leaves a void.” Why do you think this truth is so important to include in fiction, and how do you think it can help readers who have experienced loss?

It’s human nature to try to avoid pain. It leads to a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Avoidance. Denial. Numbing. I think it’s important to accept that some things are supposed to hurt. Life is hard. Our world is fallen. Pain is inevitable. Doctors tell us physical pain is important because it shows us where the injury is, where the disease lies, what’s broken. Emotional pain is the same. Allowing yourself to ride those waves of pain, rather than trying futilely to fight against or ignore them, is the beginning of processing your grief so you can heal and one day move into your new normal—one that will always honor and in some sense grieve the ones you lost but will allow you to live on without them.

Q: An important topic The Story Hunter explores is choosing forgiveness over revenge. Why do you think this message is so powerful, not only for a fiction story like this one, but also in real life?

Forgiveness can be profoundly difficult to practice. By nature, I’m a bit justice obsessed, to be honest. We have a long-running joke in my family of origin. When I was two or three years old, my older sister hit me and was made to apologize. She bounced over to me and threw out a flippant, “Sorry!” I glared at her and said, “The main thing is you did it.” It was utterly shocking and offensive to me that my parents expected me to forgive her just because she said she was sorry. It didn’t erase what she’d done in the first place! So, “The main thing is you did it” became something of catchphrase in our family—usually to poke fun at how ridiculously difficult it was for me to forgive someone who had wronged me.

But when I became a Christian at eighteen, everything changed. I was suddenly sharply aware of my own sin—the many ways I failed on a daily basis, and how woefully desperate I was for God’s grace. Because of Jesus’s atoning sacrifice, God never says, “The main thing is you did it” when we ask for forgiveness. He offers complete forgiveness freely, and it has been my life’s goal to model that in my life whatever way I can. Vengeance merely compounds wrongs. It doesn’t bring healing, it doesn’t bring peace. Vengeance says, “I want you to hurt because I hurt.” Forgiveness sets the offender and the offended free.

Q: Can you hint about what next project you have in the works?

Well…I can tell you it’s a YA portal fantasy, and my research will involve reading and rereading many classic works of literature. The project “code name” is Cosmic Library, which is fantastically terrible. I promise to think of a better title than that!! 😊

Meet author Lindsay A. Franklin who talks about her Weaver Trilogy, latest release, and the power of forgiveness. @kjhogrefe

About the Author

Lindsay A. Franklin is a Carol Award–winning author, freelance editor, and homeschooling mom of three. She would wear pajama pants all the time if it were socially acceptable. Lindsay lives in her native San Diego with her scruffy-looking nerf-herder husband, their precious geeklings, three demanding thunder pillows (a.k.a. cats), and a stuffed marsupial named Wombatman. She’s @LinzyAFranklin on Instagram and Twitter, and is also on Facebook.

About The Story Hunter, Book 3 in The Weaver Trilogy

Redeeming the past is a fatal quest.

In the wake of a deadly coup, the capital city of Urian has descended into chaos. Heartbreak and bloodshed await Tanwen and her friends as they discover the unlikeliest leader now rules Tir.

If they want to save the realm, Tannie and the Corsyth weavers must rescue Queen Braith and unmask the Master, ending the strife once and for all. But the success of their hunt depends upon an ally no one trusts.

The Master has a new target in sight: fragile, trauma-scarred Digwyn, whose unique weaving ability could turn the tide of any war. When the desire for vengeance proves too powerful for Digwyn to resist, Tanwen must face a terrifying truth: the fate of Tir rests in the hands of a volatile, shattered girl.


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

The Revisionary Gets Featured on Grace Filled Fiction Spotlight, Spring 2020

I’m excited to share that The Revisionary was selected for the Grace Filled Fiction Spotlight this spring! Enjoy this interview about how my dystopian fiction remains relevant for today and what else I have in the works.

Q:  What is your latest release/release you chose to spotlight, and what would you like us to know about it? What take away? If its theme is pertinent to the time of year or a holiday that’s coming up, mention that.  

Kristen:  THE REVISIONARY presents the theme of finding hope for tomorrow, a timely message given the uncertainty so many are facing today. My heroine Portia sets out to save her brother from a satellite prison camp, but ultimately realizes she needs rescuing herself. Her search for the true Source of hope leads her on an adventure of rediscovering America’s godly heritage that her government has suppressed.

Q:  Please tell both fiction readers and writers what your writing journey has been like. How long have you been seriously writing? What have you learned? Did you experience anything unexpected? What has been your greatest joy?

Kristen: My writing journey has been an adventure of its own! I’ve been writing seriously since college and have learned so much in the process: from self-publishing to working with a traditional publisher. A teacher at heart, I’ve adopted a “teach-as-you-go” style that has involved sharing my experiences at writer’s conferences and online courses. My greatest joy has come through meeting readers and building friendships with other writers.

Click here to read the complete interview. Special thanks to the board at Grace Filled Fiction Spotlight for this opportunity!

~ Kristen

The Revisionary by Kristen Hogrefe ~ Grace Filled Fiction Spotlight, Spring 2020