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Monet, I am not (and other lessons from painting)

Seth asked me what I wanted to do for my 30th birthday back in June, and I told him something different and relaxing.  He found this local company that does paint parties at people’s houses, booked them, and invited a few of my girlfriends over for a night of painting and snacks.  It was perfect and right up my alley!  Here’s what is amazing:

We were all painting the same painting, but everyone made her painting “her own.”  Everybody’s looked different!

It was so much fun that over this past weekend my Mom, our friend Michele, and I decided to have a girls’ night and go to a painting party that this company has at local restaurants.  This painting was different.  It wasn’t a still life of a flower in a pot.  It was Monet’s “Venice at Sunset.”

Claude Monet, I am not.  But, it didn’t turn out half bad:

painting

You have to do the whole squinting thing and it’s more of an “illusion” of Venice, but still…it was fun!  Here are some lessons I’ve learned from painting:

1.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I was overly critical of my painting (as I am about everything that has to do with myself haha), but when I texted a picture of it to Seth, he was full of praise and asked where I wanted to hang it.  No really, he did.

2.  Know when to stop.  There IS such a thing as over painting and it really messes up your work.  See my water in the painting above.

3.  Everything looks better when you’re not comparing your painting to someone else’s.  There were some amazing artists and their paintings looked great.  Compared to theirs, my painting did not look so great.  But at home?  By itself?  It looked great and I was proud of it.

Right now my two paintings are sitting on our little mantle downstairs and they look really great from far away! ;)

painting 2

Ignore Prince Caspian’s toys on the floor.  He loves his crinkle tube that we got him for Christmas a while back and he claimed the Elsa and Anna balloon after my Once Upon a Time party a few weeks ago.  I haven’t had the heart to take it away from him.

The coolest thing about art?  There is a great beauty in the flaws, the imperfections of life because they are what make us all unique.

5 Years!

I’m deliberately timing this post to publish at 11AM today…exactly five years since our wedding ceremony began on October 10, 2009.  Five years–wow!  It feels like a big milestone (although, we celebrate every anniversary like it’s a big milestone…because it is!).  Let’s take a little looksy back to that day and the start of our life together:

the kiss

Now, here we are five years later (this photo is from Mount Rainier).  Seth now has a beard!  He started growing it towards the end of 2013 and I really love how he looks in it.  We have a thing with creatively gifting each other with things that represent each anniversary (i.e. paper for our first anniversary, cotton for our second anniversary, etc etc).  The 5th anniversary is wood, so we counted our big trip to Alaska and Seattle hiking in the “woods” for this one.  No way was I going to attempt to carve Seth anything out of wood!  I assure you that my tech ed teacher from middle school is thankful.

seth and me alaska

These past five years have been quite the adventure! Like all families we’ve had our up’s and down’s over the years, but we can truly say that our love for each other has deepened every single day and our love for the Lord has grown even stronger.

wedding

always a bride

 

cute coupleHappy anniversary to my beloved Seth.  Here’s to at least 60 more anniversaries! :)  Although, I would like to live to 100, so you’d better live to be 104.  So, here’s to 70 more anniversaries… ;)  I love you and I thank God for you every single day.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” -James 1:17

Four weeks into the new school year…how’s it going?

“They sowed fields and planted vineyards
    that yielded a fruitful harvest…” -Psalm 107:37

We are four weeks into the new dance season at Reverence, and I laugh (Proverbs 31:25) every day.

After 6 years, I had decided to finally install wireless at the studio so that we could streamline our process and I (and the other studio staff) could do work actually at the studio.  The installation guys came a couple weeks ago when it was 100 degrees with 100% humidity and I had unfortunately turned the air conditioner off because of some electrical issues we were having (I’ll get to that in a minute).  The lights kept going on and off while they were installing things, the music kept being turned off as they flipped different switches.  I have trained my dancers well over the past years, so they kept dancing like the professionals they are…

Until the crickets started wandering in through the open doorway.  Then they screamed.

The installation guys became our knights in shining armor as they chased crickets all over the studio to catch them for us.  I didn’t ask them to do that.  They just did it.  And so I giggled as I watched these big, tough guys chasing crickets around to help the 12 screaming girls and me.

Back in the month of August when my friend was painting the studio, he mentioned that the lights would trip every time he turned the air conditioner on.  I didn’t think too much of it because that has happened at least once or twice at the beginning of the school year since I have been in the space.  I had an electrician out to look at things years ago, but he couldn’t diagnose a problem.  It started happening more frequently in the first two weeks of the school year, and we actually had to keep the lights off for a few minutes to let the breaker box cool down.  I have a friend who I have made since the studio started who is an electrician, so I called him and said, “Is the studio going to burn down?”

He assured me it would not, but he wanted to come out and take a look at it.  Long story short, he wasn’t able to come for a few more days, so we had to leave the air conditioning off.  On the hottest days of the summer.  I kept both doors open, allowing cross ventilation.  The teachers and I made sure we gave the students plenty of water breaks throughout each class, and they were troopers.  Myself and the other teachers who taught during those three days felt like we had taught twice the number of classes, but we were in good spirits.  When we were younger our dance studios did not have air conditioning, after all.  And we had to walk uphill both ways.

To make another long story short, my friend was able to fix the situation at the studio so that we can have both air conditioning and lights now!  What an answer to prayer!

I have to laugh at these things, you know?  They are totally and completely beyond my control.  I know it’s been a good day when I have done my very best to run Reverence in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord, to fix any problems that are in my power to fix, and to leave everything to Him.  The studio mailman, whose daughter has been a Reverence dancer for years, says, “Every year I expect you to have a few more gray hairs, Kirsten.  And every year you don’t!”

I giggle whenever my little dancers say cute things in their classes, when my teenage students call me a Disney princess and imitate my “angry voice,” and when I trip over my own feet as I am walking into the studio (dancers are the biggest klutzes, after all!).

Each year the Lord blesses me by allowing me to see the fruits of the labor that has gone into Reverence, but this is the first year where I have seen the fruitful harvest MULTIPLY.  It’s truly an exciting, humbling thing to see.  Not only are the dancers growing in their skill (I have the best staff–they are an incredible group of women who love the dancers with their whole hearts) and our student leadership program thriving, but they are going out into their communities and the whole world and taking the things that they’ve learned.  We’re seeing dancers come to Christ each year.  I’m hearing testimonies from students who were offered the chance to go the way of the world, but courageously saying no because they didn’t want to let me or their friends at Reverence down (yes, I talk to them about how it’s God they should please–Reverence is a great support system though).  We offer a safe haven for the students to come and express themselves through dance, and I am forever thankful.  And, by God’s grace, we are able to fulfill our mission to share the hope of Christ through the love of dance.

And so I laugh…every day.  I laugh through crickets and lights going out.  I laugh when God provides in the most unlikely of ways.  I laugh through tears when I feel like I’ve let every one down and I’m a complete failure and then Prince Caspian does something zany to cheer me up.

I can laugh because I love and trust God.  I can laugh because, through all the trials and heartaches and tears that come with opening and running a small business, He is using “little ol’ me” to do something great.  It’s not because of me.  It’s because of Him.

The 21st Century Church…is it worth it to change?

I’ve read a lot of articles lately on why my generation, the millennials, are leaving the Church in droves.  Some of the articles are good and some leave me saying, “Clearly you are not a millennial, sir.”  They say similar things such as millennials are more interested in social justice and less in spending money on church programs, millennials don’t respect structure, millennials think that having coffee shops in churches are pointless, the church is not the center of the American social system anymore, and we want to be known for what we are for instead of what we are against (what does that even mean?).

I’m a millennial and Seth, being 3.5 years older than me, limped into the millennial generation with one foot still in Generation X.  We both grew up in pretty traditional Christian families and our upbringing has had a profound impact on who we are today.  So, when it comes to the Church, we both respect the traditions that we grew up with while recognizing that there is a need for change.

Fifteen years ago the American Church saw the same thing.  Their answer was to make it acceptable for pastors to wear jeans), have contemporary and traditional services, institute missions programs that were focused on social justice, hand us a latte as we walked into services, and do the whole “it’s cool for Christians to swear and say other shocking things” thing.   I don’t have a problem with any one of those things (except for the swearing thing.  seriously, people, aren’t we called to more?) per se, because I believe that those changes were well-intentioned to reach out to people (or shock people, depending on how you feel).

I believe that the Church in every generation needs to take a serious look at their programs and institutions, and this generation is no different.  The Word of God is enduring, truthful, and is as applicable to us today in the 21st century as it was when it was first breathed into existence by God thousands of years ago.  God and His Word do not need to change.  Our man-made programs and methodology?  They need some consideration.

As a millennial I have been advertised to my entire life, so I know when people are trying to be cool and faking their interest in me.  And if I know, chances are all my friends know, too.  No one likes to go to church and have a specific brand thrust in her face.  And yet, I don’t necessarily think that the “hipster Christianity” that so many people my age have turned to is the ultimate answer either.  What happens when it’s not cool to be hipster anymore?  When the next thing comes along?  When what worked so well even a year ago does not work today?  Our culture is changing so rapidly that it’s almost impossible to keep up with.  By the time a church takes the time to implement a new program, it’s already outdated.  How can anyone possibly be expected to keep up with the trends when they change so fast?

This is not an indictment of the church as an institution.  Like many of you, I’ve had experiences with churches that are both hurtful and wonderful.  It’s an institution made up of imperfect people, but as Christians we are a part of the Church.

This isn’t a “how to” article because I don’t believe there is a simple answer to the semantics aspect of it.  I can tell you that we need to focus on Jesus and what He actually called us to do as His bride here on earth, but I think most of us already know that.  I would also say that if you want to know why millennials are leaving the Church, you should ask us.

What I think we need to ask, instead, is if change is worth it?  Is it worth it to let go of non-Biblical traditions that we’ve been holding on to for so long for the sake of meeting people where they are today?  Is it worth it to release our right to be right about what’s important to spend money on at our churches?  Is it worth it to take an honest look at what works at our church (there are many beautiful programs at churches that work so well!) and what doesn’t?

I believe it is.

“The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.” –C. S. Lewis

Summer Readin’

book meme

In the summer I go into sponge mode.  By “sponge mode” I mean that I take the time to inhale every single book, Bible study, dance class, and learning experience that I can get my hands on.  Owning a business that is also a ministry is an amazing thing that I love, but it also means that I give everything of myself and don’t take as much time to be poured into as I should.  In order to be able to effectively pour into my students, I need to also get poured into.  It doesn’t always happen throughout the school year, so I make sure it happens in the summer.

Here’s a glimpse of what I dove into this summer…

Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch :  Kristen is the author of We Are THAT Family Blog and the founder of Mercy House Kenya, an organization that rescues pregnant women off the street in Kenya by offering them a place to live, education, and spiritual training.  It’s an organization that I love, and this book tells her story.

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin:  A wonderful novel, set in the time of Nazi-occupied Czech.  It is a modern-day story of Esther and it kept me interested and excited until the very last chapter!

Love’s Awakening by Laura Frantz:  Novel #2 in The Ballantyne Legacy focused on the next generation of Ballantyne’s as they forged a life in the post-Revolution west.  I loved how it talked about the Abolitionist movement in the early 1800s, and I was challenged by the honor and sacrifice displayed by those who fought for what was right.

Dancing Through It by Jenifer Ringer:  LOVED these memoirs of former NYCB principal dancer, Jenifer Ringer.  It is a detailed, interesting book that shows how Jenifer–a Christian–navigated the murky, dark waters of a professional ballet career.  If you recall, she was the dancer who a reviewer from the New York Times called obese, but this book shares how she overcame all her body image issues to truly shine.  GREAT read.

Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers:  Francine Rivers ALWAYS delivers.  I try to re-read the Mark of the Lion series every year or so because I wish I could read it again for the first time (you know those kinds of books).  Her new book Bridge to Haven is a fantastic read based on the book of Ezekiel and set in the 1950s.

In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar:  Anytime I am looking to read some Biblical fiction, I always look to Tessa Afshar.  Her latest book is about Ruth and Boaz, and it’s told in a beautiful, heartwarming way that makes the beautiful, familiar story new to the reader again.

When You Need a Miracle by Linda Evans Shepherd:  I had the opportunity to sit under Linda’s teaching at a conference a few weeks ago, and she is the real deal!  She is gracious and authentic and a true reminder that ministry can happen wherever you are.  This book isn’t a magic formula about praying for a miracle, it’s about drawing closer to God’s heart so that you can be open to His response to you.

Wherever the River Runs: How a Forgotten People Renewed My Hope in the Gospel by Kelly Minter: I just love Kelly Minter’s studies.  I have participated in many and led a couple women’s studies for groups over the years and find her to be very authentic and candid.   She does a great deal of ministry to the people of the Amazon, and this book is that story!

Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman:  Can you see a pattern in my reading this summer?  I was in sore need of encouragement to relinquish my perfectionist ways and receive the grace that the Lord has given me to be imperfect, but wholeheartedly seeking Him.  I have no trouble extending grace to others, but I have a hard time giving it to myself.  This book was a really great read, and there are questions in the back if you want to do it as a small group!

What did you read this summer?

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

Wow, this summer has just flown by!  It’s hard to believe that next Saturday August 23 is the opening day of Reverence’s 7th season, and the start of the new school year.  Summer is a great rhythm change for me and the studio.  We have six weeks of camps and our intensive, we hustle to get the recital DVD out to all those who ordered (this was the first year we had decided to mail them and it worked out pretty well in the mailhouse o’ Kirsten), I have one-on-one meetings with the studio staff, I lesson plan, and a whole crew of people helps me get the studio cleaned, painted, and ready to reopen for the fall.  It keeps us busy, but like I said, it’s a rhythm change that I’ve come to value over the years.Neshema at Reverence 5

Reverence was honored to be the Reader’s Choice Award Winner for Best Dance Studio for the second year in a row!  Only by the grace and goodness of God is that even possible.  My two theme verses for Reverence from the very beginning have been Mark 10:27 and 2 Corinthians 12:9.  Only God can use imperfect-walking-in-grace people such as myself.  If I were operating in my own strength, Reverence would not exist.

Readers Choice

 

One of my longtime dear friends Angela is getting married on September 6, and I have the honor of being a bridesmaid in her wedding.  We’ve had lots of fun wedding stuff to do this summer…a bridal shower, a bachelorette party, and lots of wedding crafting.  Angela and I have known each other since we were in high school, and we’ve encouraged each other through many of life’s ups and downs.  Just for kicks and giggles, here is a picture of the two of us at my wedding almost five years ago!

dweezil and kirsten

Seth and I have been enjoying extra time together this summer.  We love to laugh and go on adventures…whether five minutes or thousands of miles away!  We enjoyed a big adventure at the beginning of the summer, and lots of small ones ever since!

IMG_2432

seth and me alaska

I love to have people over, and this summer has been amazing for that.  I think we’ve had a group of friends over at least once a week throughout the summer.  It’s been a blast!  We’ve also had a bajillion parties and weddings and big celebrations to attend this summer, and it’s been AWESOME to celebrate with all of our friends.

Prince Caspian has been enjoying his typical daily routine of impressing our guests, sleeping, and eating.  I put together a picture of Prince Caspian the parlor panther in his typical gargoyle pose with an actual panther for your amusement…

Prince Caspian and panther

It’s been a really great summer, for which I am so thankful!  You may or may not have noticed that I’ve been on a bloggy hiatus while I’ve been doing some other writing projects and taking a rest this summer, but I’ll be returning for more regular posts very soon!

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