Author Chat with Tessa Emily Hall on Her New Book for Teens

Tessa Emily Hall is one of my go-to authors for young adult inspirational fiction, and when I heard she was releasing a non-fiction devotional for teens, I wanted to know more. Today, she shares about Love Your Selfie, her new devotional designed to help teen girls gain a biblical perspective of their worth in Christ.

Q: What need do you see present in the lives of teenagers today that you hope Love Your Selfie will help meet?

The issues of self-shame, insecurity, and comparison is nothing new amongst teens; however, I believe the measure in which teens have dealt with these issues have increased. It’s been less than ten years since I, myself, was a teen, but I feel like the pressure to be perfect has since reached new heights.

These days, teens desire to attain the polished perfection that they are exposed with on social media through the aid of filters. Their measure of worth fluctuates day-to-day as it’s often attached to the number of likes on their posts and followers on social media. And, of course, there seems to be no escaping from the cyber bullying that runs rampant on Instagram and YouTube. Because of this, I don’t believe there has ever been more of an identity crisis amongst youth than there is today.

I hope that, by drawing from my personal experiences with self-shame and insecurity, I can help these girls seek God and His Word along their quest for identity and confidence. Through the use of Scriptures that proclaim the truth about who we are in Christ, girls will be challenged to view themselves through the eyes of the Word rather than the eyes of the world. Then, as they rise up in confidence, they will be better equipped to utilize their God-given gifts to reach out and extend God’s Kingdom.

“Girls will be challenged to view themselves through the eyes of the Word rather than the eyes of the world.” ~ Tessa Emily Hall on @khogrefeparnell

Q: What experiences from your own life impacted the writing of Love Your Selfie?

This devotional comes from a vulnerable place, only because self-shame was an issue that I personally wrestled with as a tween/teen as well. I often felt like people were secretly judging me for my “flaws”; because of that, I would often keep myself hidden. But as I drew closer to Christ and rooted my identity in Him, His love enabled me to rise back up with boldness. He helped me learn how to embrace my uniqueness rather than condemning myself for being “different.”

Throughout this journey, I discovered why the enemy wants to keep us paralyzed with insecurity: because he doesn’t want us to reach out. He wants us to remain hidden rather than being like a “city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14). Because if the enemy can cripple us with self-shame and insecurity, then we will never gain the confidence we need to step up, to speak out, or to extend a helping hand. We will never come to realize the full potential God has placed within us—gifts we should use to build the Body of Christ.

Q: Selfies, selfie-sticks, photo filters, and more—All these tools have become commonplace today. How can teens find a balance between sharing about themselves and not becoming overly self-focused?

Great question. The message of self-acceptance can often cause Christians to cringe—and, really, I get it. We don’t want to preach the wrong message of pride; after all, pride is the root of all evil. We have been called to die to our flesh, to bear our cross, to focus more on others rather than ourselves, to live as Jesus lived. And, yes, there is potential danger for the message of self-acceptance/love to be taken too far.

But from my perspective, self-acceptance is different from self-pride. Self-acceptance involves being confident (not proud) in your own skin. In the way that God has designed you. When we grow in confidence and understand our worth in Christ, we will then be motivated to treat ourselves with care (which is scriptural). It’s hard to care for something or someone when we don’t see the value of it. Then, as we step into our identity in Christ, we will become unashamed to embrace the unique ways in which we have been called to share the gospel.

Isn’t this partly why Christ paid such a high price for us? So that we could grasp just how much we are worth in His eyes? So that we could live in freedom from condemnation, including the kind that comes from self-shame?

The Bible makes it clear that there is only hate and love; light and darkness; hot and cold. No in between. This makes me wonder—if we aren’t loving ourselves, then are we hating ourselves? And if so, is that really the behavior in which we should treat a creation of our Creator?

I believe it comes down to the state of our hearts. The journey of self-acceptance should never be taken apart from God’s Word; if it is, then, yes, we’d certainly become at risk of idolizing ourselves. We’d become at risk of living for ourselves rather than for God and His children. But if this journey is taken as a result of our time spent with God and in His Word, then our hearts will remain in the right place. Our hearts will then remain focused on what matters to Jesus: loving God, loving others, and living in total surrender to Him.

Freedom is simply a byproduct of drawing closer to Christ.

Q: With social media, we often see only people’s “best faces.” How can this reality lead to an unhealthy comparison, and what should young people remember when viewing content online?

Exactly! Social media is yet another means by which we mask our insecurities, considering it presents us with the temptation to create a persona. We can hide our true selves behind the disguise of photo filters. We can post pictures that reflect our best adventures in life and toss out photos that reflect our everyday difficulties.

Yet even though we remember this when it comes to hiding our insecurities, we tend to forget this as it applies to other people. In other words, we tend to compare our “flaws” with the filtered versions of others on Instagram. This is what has created an unhealthy trap of comparison amongst teen girls—resulting in even more of a self-hatred issue.

This is why it’s important for girls to remember that reality is only found in real life. Not on social media.

When we draw closer to Christ, we build spiritual muscles and are less likely to give in to the temptations of the flesh. I believe this applies with the temptation to compare as well. Because, yes, I do believe that comparison is a sin, considering it comes from a place of both pride and jealousy. Yet this relationship with Christ enables us to focus less on ourselves and embrace our God-given identity; therefore, that trap of comparison will eventually becomes less appealing as we scroll through Instagram. 

Q: What is one takeaway you hope teenagers will hold onto after reading this book?

I hope teen readers will discover that God has designed them in a unique way for a reason, as a way to help them fulfill the specific calling He has placed on their lives. A calling that is centered on furthering God’s Kingdom. 

Meet award-winning author Tessa Emily Hall, who challenges teens to embrace their God-given identity in her new release, Love Your Selfie.

About the Author

Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic books for teens to remind them they’re not alone. She writes both fiction and devotionals for teens, including her upcoming release, LOVE YOUR SELFIE (October 2020, Ellie Claire). Tessa’s passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as a Literary Agent at Cyle Young Literary Elite, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PursueMagazine.net.

About Love Your Selfie

The truth is: the Creator of the Universe stamped His approval on you far before anyone ever had the chance to disapprove. In this 52-week devotional, you will be guided through a journey of embracing the unique way you were created. Author Tessa Emily Hall shares her personal struggles of dealing with insecurity and self-shame as a teen, then she invites you to reflect on the weekly message through journal prompts and social media challenges. You will be taken on a journey to understand what Scripture says about your identity, discover how you can tap into your God-given potential, and learn to love who you are inside.


Stay Connected

Subscribe to Kristen’s newsletter for monthly book buzz about Christian fiction and non-fiction for teens and adults, 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 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. 

When Was Your Last Spiritual Spring Cleaning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Am I faithful in prayer and truly trusting God?

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

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

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

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

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

Do I thank God whether He gives or takes away?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing Prayer

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

~ Kristen

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

Fresh Start Bible: Giveaway and Review

Many people wait until New Year’s for new beginnings, but any time of year is perfect for a fresh start. What better way to grow our relationship with God than learning more about His Word? The Fresh Start Bible is designed to help us do just that.

What’s Unique about the Fresh Start Bible?

The Fresh Start Bible uses the New Living Translation (NLT) for its biblical scholarship as well as easy-to-read, dynamic writing style. A forward by Jimmy Evans includes his personal testimony and 52 lessons he wrote that address fundamental questions, such as:

  • Who made me?
  • Why do people die?
  • How can I be saved?
  • Why should I be baptized?
  • Can I be saved without baptism?
  • How do I deal with anxiety and worry?
  • How do I build godly relationships?

After this foreword are the Old and New Testaments, and sprinkled among the books of the Bible are supplemental articles by church leaders. They are designed to break down practical teachings and inspire spiritual growth.

Following the Scriptures themselves is a section titled “Intersections” that examines major characters in the Bible’s narrative. Their purpose is to show God’s faithfulness and relationship with men and women through history. Finally, there are also full-color maps that show where Scriptural events take place, including:

  • Topography of Palestine
  • World of the Patriarchs
  • Ministry of Jesus
  • Paul’s Missionary Journeys

What Features Make this Bible a Great Gift?

My church has put a real emphasis on finding our “one,” at least one person God has placed in our lives to be a friend who needs Christian encouragement or an unbeliever who needs someone to point him to Christ. This Bible would be a great gift for my “one” or your “one” for a couple reasons:

  • The first page provides a special place to write someone’s name, your name, the occasion, and date.
  • An easy-to-use table of contents outlines the front matter, books of the Bible, and resources at the end of the edition.
  • Welcome letter by Pastor Robert Morris: This conversational letter invites new and seasoned believers alike to be intentional in reading God’s Word and also explains some of the resources.

My Review Summary

The supplemental material provided throughout this Bible makes it highly approachable and helpful, especially for seekers and new believers. However, readers should understand that none of this information adds to God’s inspired Word, nor do I think that to be the intent of the contributors and publisher. While these commentaries and practical insights offer guidance, readers should still exercise discernment and be aware that believers may disagree on certain areas of practice.

For example, one of the lessons by Jimmy Evans asks the question, “Why should I pray in tongues?” This question assumes that readers should pray in tongues, which is a debatable topic among denominations. Personally, I believe tongues was a unique gift fitted for a unique time period (the church in the book of Acts). However, I can respect Jimmy Evans and others who believe it still has a place today. As with any interpretation of Scripture, readers should exercise discernment and prayerfully examine Scripture and its context.

A Giveaway for You

All that said, I’m glad to find this new resource and look forward to sharing it with others, starting with you! This week, you can enter to win a free copy of the Fresh Start Bible here on the blog. Here’s how to enter:

  1. Like this post and add a comment, explaining why you would enjoy this Bible or why you’d like to give it as a gift.
  2. Share any of my related posts on Facebook or Twitter and tag me in them. (You must tag me so I’m aware that you shared the post and can add you to the drawing.)
  3. Do more than one to be entered multiple times!

“No matter who you are or what you have done, Jesus wants to give you a fresh start.” Learn how you could win a copy of the Fresh Start Bible at KristenHogrefe.com.

As we close out this year and anticipate the next, may we cherish God’s Word, prayerfully study it, and seek to know our Maker and Savior more.

~ Kristen

I’m grateful to the Blog About Network for hosting this giveaway.