Inspire Encourage Equip
“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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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!
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!
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…
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!
I turn 30 years old tomorrow. It’s one of the big ones, right? :) Another decade behind me while another stretches out before me. Halfway to 60 and one-third to 90 (haha). I started reflecting on the past ten years of my life…from college student to business owner and everything in between, and realized that I have learned much. Annnnnnnnnnnnd…I have much left to learn.
So, in no particular order, some serious and some silly…
30 Things I Learned in my 20′s
1. Always follow the Lord, even when other people don’t understand or tell you to do the exact opposite. You shouldn’t let other people dictate your days and, therefore, your life.
2. You can throw your husband’s sneakers like tomahawks to kill centipedes and spiders when he’s not at home. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Always be prepared with your cat and a vacuum cleaner just in case (in my case, the vacuum cleaner is way faster than the cat).
3. It’s okay to know every single song in every single Disney movie and to randomly sing them.
4. I really do have to use algebra in the real world. I’m not telling my high school algebra teacher that…even though he goes to my church. You know, keeping him humble and all…
5. Falling does not equal failing.
6. Spontaneous dance parties are the BEST. At home, on the side walk, at the studio, in a box, with a fox…
7. I never get tired of watching “Gilmore Girls” on my –ahem– entire collection of DVDs. And yes, I understand that one day my children will ask me, “What’s a DVD, Mom?”
8. I can’t follow a leader who I don’t respect, so I need to be the kind of leader who other people respect enough to get behind. I’ve learned from watching others that the best leaders have humility, integrity, servants’ hearts, listening ears, and authentic behavior. The best leaders are with the people…not far-removed or “above” the people.
9. People you can be yourself with are rare, treasured gifts.
10. My grandparents are, perhaps, the wisest and most godly people I know. I strive to emulate their prayer life and humility.
11. Every day can be an adventure…whether you are at home or a thousand miles from home. Adventure is a state of heart attitude.
12. Writing a thoughtful note to a person “just because” is a sweet gift to them!
13. If you want to have good friends, you have to BE a good friend first.
14-21. “People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway.” -Mother Theresa
22. It’s okay and exemplified by God to take a rest. You are at your best when you take time to rest!
23. God delights in doing the impossible.
24. God ALWAYS keeps His promises.
25. Marriage is truly a partnership. It’s not one of us against the other…it’s both of us, together with God, facing the world.
26. Owning my own business is truly the most rewarding and challenging thing I have ever EVER done. It is so worth it!
27. It’s important to recognize the times that I need to stand up for myself and the times that I need to let God fight for me. Looking back over these past ten years, the things that were so scary to me at the time are not so scary anymore.
28. We judge each other based on our actions. We judge ourselves based on our intent. I didn’t make that up…I feel like it was a quote that I read, but a good one!
29. Starting off my day by spending a lengthy time in God’s Word, working out, and with my fella (and the Fur Child) keeps me sane and grounded. I’ve been training myself not to even turn on my phone or look at my computer until after I’ve done all of those things.
30. We make the whole “living life” process hard, but God simplifies it in His Word: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God.” -Micah 6:8
I can’t wait to see what the Lord will do in my thirties! To all who have invested in me and imparted your wisdom to me, thank you.
I’ve come to dislike the phrase “raising awareness” over the past few months, putting it right down there on my list with things such as using the word ”tolerance” to mean “your beliefs are cool as long as you agree with the popular opinion at this time and are not a conservative Christian” and “just saying” at the end of a slur because you think it softens the blow of your meanness. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to raise awareness for causes that are near and dear to our hearts. Seth and I have been a part of many projects to raise awareness in the past, and I know we will continue to do so in the future. If “raising awareness” means educating people on the evils and injustices of our world and how they can stop them, then I am all for it. If it means educating people on how to love and treat others better, then I am all for it. But, I have come to realize that many times it means something completely different.
I’ve never been a fan of talking for attention or making myself look good because of all the “good things that I do to save the world.” I feel that personal integrity and a genuine desire to change the world for the good trump my need for people to know that I’m concerned and working to change injustices. I will ALWAYS speak up for what I believe is right (and social media can be a good place to speak up), but I always ask the Lord before posting if this is going to bring glory to Him and change things or if it’s just going to bring attention to me. It’s a fine line, and I’m certainly not perfect at walking it.
What really made me dislike the phrase “raising awareness” was a book that I read on the Pennsylvania anti-slavery movement of the early 1800s. What many people do not realize is that Pennsylvania was a slave state until the 1840′s (especially west of the Susquehanna River). And yet, all escaped slaves east of the Appalachians HAD to cross through Pennsylvania to escape to freedom, so the views held by Pennsylvanians of the day and the laws that were in place were very important. Quakers and other courageous men and women motivated by the desire to serve the Lord and their belief of freedom, helped many slaves escape via the Underground Railroad at the risk of their very lives. The anti-abolitionist groups would seize their property and businesses by deceit and many of these courageous folks were even killed for doing what they believed to be right. THAT is sacrifice.
Here’s what really got me: The Underground Railroad (specifically in Pennsylvania) was so secretive that even today, in 2014, we don’t know nearly as much about it as we do in other states. Many of the people who were conductors of the Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania went to their graves keeping their sacrifices a secret.
Would we do that today? Or would we Facebook, “Led a group of slaves to freedom last night. #slaverysucks ” to see how many likes we could get on our status?
ANYONE can sit in the safety of their home or behind the shield of their computer screen and write that they hate human trafficking or abortion or world hunger. But the people who were the conductors of the Underground Railroad, the people who hid Jews during Hitler’s reign of terror, and many people who fight injustice today cannot even speak about what they do and where they are because there are lives at risk.
I believe it begs an honest assessment of our hearts: are we “raising awareness” to stand for a worthy cause, or are we simply “raising awareness” of ourselves and how awesome/caring/concerned we are?
And, if you are a Christ-follower like I am, there is an even deeper question to ask yourself: are you serving and doing good because it makes you look good and saintlike in public, or are you serving and doing good because it’s what Christ commands you to do?
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