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Friday Musings on Entrepreneurialship and Comparison

There is a joke among entrepreneurs that goes, “Entrepreneurs work 80 hour work weeks to avoid working 40 hour work weeks.”

It’s true, you know.  We bust our derrieres doing what we love because we love the challenge, the creativity, the joy of creating something new.  Entrepreneurs are risk takers.  We think differently and outside of the box.  We would rather work until midnight doing something that we love, something that we’re passionate about, something that is going to change the world than work until 5PM doing something that bores us out of our minds.  Trust me, I know.  I worked a 9-5 job for 7.5 years (pre-Reverence and during the first four years that Reverence was open) because I had those pesky bills to pay, a cat to pamper, and a life to live.  I learned so much at that job and I am so grateful for the years I spent there.  However, I knew that the risk of staying the same was greater than the risk of change, so the leap of faith to open Reverence was necessary.  And, six years down the road, I am grateful I took it.  I remember signing the lease to the studio space we have and feeling like I was going to throw up.  And I did throw up later (don’t judge–it was nerve-wracking!).

In commiserating with some other entrepreneurs, we laughed at some different misconceptions that people have of us:

1.  We work five hours each week and the money just rolls in.
2.  We sleep in until noon each day, roll out of bed and check our Facebook for a few hours before working in our pajamas.
3.  Our success was overnight/instant.
4.  We have it easy.
5.  We are billionaires.

The truth, however, is that it’s not easy.  We all work long hours, waking up early/staying up late, for free until our business gets off the ground.  More often than not, that takes many, many years of blood, sweat, toil, tears, failures, and more.  It hasn’t been easy to learn all these lessons.  In fact, it’s very humbling to learn them.  It’s a lot of heartache, insecurity, crying.  But it’s also an extremely rewarding thing to do.  I get so much joy out of every aspect of being an entrepreneur (even the things that I previously thought were boring!), and I know that I am making a difference for God’s Kingdom and eternity which is worth it to me.

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others.  At the beginning of Reverence, I used to compare myself to other dance studios.  They had more money that was just handed to them, they were in an umbrella organization, they had bigger spaces.  And then I just had to stop and say to myself, “Look at what God is doing in your tiny little space that HE provided for you.”  And I’ve been so much happier.  It’s also easy to compare OTHER people to others.  But it is so very dangerous.

Never EVER doubt that when God has given you something to do–whether it be in a leadership or entrepreneurial role, a 9-5 job, a job at home, being a stay at home parent, whatever it may be–that He will give you the power necessary to complete it with excellence.

Every day I have to walk confidently and boldly on the path that God has called me to walk.  And so do you.  Let’s run this race together!

I Like You, Just Not Your Bride

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One of the things that my close friends and family absolutely adore about my gentle husband is that the only time that he gets angry is when anyone does something to me.  He’s very protective without being smothering, and I love that about him too.  Needless to say, if someone walked up to him and said, “I like you, just not Kirsten,” he would take extreme offense to that statement because, now that we are married, we are one.

That is why I can’t help but think that this whole World Vision fiasco grieves the Lord even much more than it grieves deeply sensitive and caring Christians like myself.  Last week I watched as the internet blew up over the press release regarding World Vision’s policy change to allow homosexuals to be hired at their organization.  I watched people get angry at each other in the name of Christ, calling names and slinging mud, and I was determined not to add my voice to the fray.  It grieved me deeply as well.  Do you know who won this “battle?”  It wasn’t Evangelical Christians.  It wasn’t gay people.  It wasn’t the children who World Vision claims to serve.

It was Satan.  The very enemy of our souls who seeks to “steal, kill, and destroy” took the victory, and it makes me sick to even think about it.  My prayer over the past week has been that God would take this giant mess and redeem it, as He is more than capable of doing.  Only He can take this brokenness and turn it into something beautiful.

Now, however, there is more mud-slinging happening as Rich Stearns apparently held a conference call with well-known Christian leaders and bloggers.  He reported that 10,000 child sponsorships were dropped last week, and now many of those professing Christian bloggers are reverting back to calling evangelical Christians bullies for making their point on the backs of children.  (Thank you, by the way.  There is nothing I like better than to be blanketed in a general, angry umbrella statement that you make about my religious convictions and personality.) :)  Seth and I have always used Compassion to sponsor children, and we’ve been very pleased with them.  I know many other “bullies” who are taking World Vision’s policy change seriously and they have made their choices with lots of prayer and strong, graceful convictions that the rest of us have no place to judge.

People say, “What would Jesus do?  He was a friend of tax collectors and prostitutes.”  Yes, He was.  Thank God He was or none of us would be recipient of the grace that He freely extends.  But, I would challenge you to truly ask yourself “what DID Jesus do?”  I think that many people would be surprised to find out the answer.

You see, there will come a day when all of us–whether we believe in Christ or not–will have to stand before the Lord and give an account of our actions.  Notice that I said we will have to stand before the LORD.  Not other people.   It’s something we should take seriously.  Rich Stearns will have to give an account of his actions.  You will have to give an account for your actions.  I will have to give an account for mine.  We will all stand before the righteous Judge of the earth and have our works be tested and thrown in the fire.  It’s not fire and brimstone preaching.  It’s the truth.

The Bride of Christ will always be imperfect until the day Christ returns because it is made up of imperfect people with struggles and challenges and flaws.  But, I think it’s time that people drop the “angry mob” mentality and start seeking the truth:  without the cross of Christ the Bible and the world in its entire would be a very, VERY dark place.

Let’s go be lights for Jesus, my friends.  They will know that we are Christians by our love for one another.

If you’re happy and you know it, read a book!

March book 1

I made Prince Caspian pose with March’s books.  Can’t you see how excited he is?  Oh how I feel for him.  I remember what it was like to have dignity…Notice the giant paw smudge-print on the window behind his head.

I feel like March has just flown by, don’t you?  I know it’s not over yet, but wowzers!

March book 2This month has been full of good reads for me!  I discovered Laura Frantz from another blogger, and picked up this first book in the Ballantyne Legacy series because a) I LOVE historical fiction–particularly the Revolutionary War period, and b) It takes place in York County, PA, which is where I am originally from!  I will warn you in advance…Love’s Reckoning is kind of a downer throughout most of the book, but it picks up in the end!  A great read!

Seth had bought Wife After God for me for Christmas this past year because I had asked for some devotional books on how to be a superfantasticProverbs31 wife!  Seth said that I didn’t need to learn how to be a better wife (isn’t he dreamy?), but I know better.  This book is written by Jennifer Smith who manages The Unveiled Wife blog, and it’s a 30 day devotional series–each day takes a perfect 15 minutes for me and is a great supplement to my morning quiet time.  Some days definitely review basics and things that I had already studied, but I truly believe that you can read the same Scripture over and over again and the Holy Spirit can reveal new things to you through it.  I’ve felt very encouraged as I’ve read it each day this month.  And hopefully I am a better wife! Grin…

March book 3

I Am Malala has been on my reading list for the past several months.  I realized that it had been a while since I had read a biography or anything “current,” so this seemed like a perfect choice.  I really enjoyed it!  I learned quite a bit about the Pakistani culture (something that I did not know a lot about) and grew to admire the courage of this young woman who spoke up for the right for girls to get an education.

Band of Sisters is a novel that piqued my interest.  It is set in the early 1900s, New York City, and tackles issues of human trafficking, the dignity of all people, and the infamous question “What Would Jesus Do?”  It was a GREAT read…I would put it up there among my favorite books and absolutely a re-reader!

Whatcha readin’ this month?

Why I Schedule Breaks in the Dance Year

Last week Reverence was closed for our Spring Break.  Normally I correlate Spring break with Easter so that we are just closed once during the winter and spring, but Easter is so late this year that I did not want to close the studio for a week right before the recital.  Spring Break always comes at a much-needed time for me, and it’s something I am thankful that I schedule into the dance year at Reverence.  The studio families do not complain–many have told me that they appreciate it as well as the other two times during the school year that we are closed (Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s).  My advanced dancers good-naturedly complain because many of them are at the studio multiple days of the week and they miss their dance classes and friends when we are closed.  (I love that about them!)  But, I get asked a lot by other studio owners why I schedule breaks throughout the school year and why we end in the middle-end of May each year, so I thought I would answer…

1.  Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year and Easter/Spring are easy, natural breaks to have throughout the school year.  As a business owner, I want to keep pushing the values that we have as a dance studio and Christian business of our faith in Christ first, our value of families second, and our love of dance third.  That means that we are closed on Sundays for classes and other “business” things (although our traveling dance ministry teams will go minister to churches on Sunday mornings, but many of them will travel to these events with family members to all be together).  That means that I value the times that my staff at the studio will want to spend time with their families over the holidays, and the times that they will need rest.  It means that I value the lives that the Reverence families have outside of the studio–that while we are a fun, big dance family, people do other things and have other members of their families to focus on as well.  And, it means that I value my dancers and their dance education so much that I want them to have rest and breaks throughout the school year so that they value their dance education more and can have the necessary rest that their bodies need.  We’re not closed for minor holidays like the schools are–just these three ones (and a few snow days unfortunately this year)!  I’ve found that these three breaks are much needed for everyone involved.

2.  Our tuition is based on the entire school year and divided into monthly increments to make paying manageable.  We start earlier in August so that the students can have a 9 month, 36 week school year and we can allow time for these breaks.  If parents choose to pay monthly, they pay the same each month whether there are 6 weeks, 5 weeks, 4 weeks, or 3 weeks in a month, knowing that it all averages out and they are still getting their money’s worth of dance classes.  We offer students the opportunity to make up their missed classes and this year because of having four snow cancellations, I offered a separate make-up day.  It is important to me that people get their money’s worth in their dance education at Reverence.

3.  The end of the regular school year is busy, busy for everyone!  There are concerts, award ceremonies, field trips, and all kinds of things that families do at the end of the school year.  I want the recitals to be a special, meaningful experience for the students and their families, so I deliberately schedule them earlier so that they can be more than “just another thing” on the list to get through.

4.  But what about the moo-la?  Of course, if Reverence continued through June we would make more money through the traditionally lean summer months that most dance studios experience.  That’s why many studios do go through June and then start their summer classes right up in July.  I’ll be honest with you–I’m not in the performing arts business to make the big bucks.  Seth and I don’t have a money room.  We don’t swim around in cash like Scrooge McDuck.  We don’t live in a mansion house and our cars were used before we bought them.  But, having a lot of money has never been my goal in life, and it’s not Seth’s and my goal as a family.  When I first opened Reverence I decided that I would value having a rest period for myself, for the studio, for my staff, and for the studio families more than I would value that extra income.  Because I know that, while we do make a smaller amount of money through our camps and classes over the summer, the summer months are traditionally leaner financially (and I do not typically take a salary over the summer), I save and budget funds for the studio and personal funds all year so that we can thrive even through the summer.  And you know what?  God has always provided–every single step of the way.

5.  It’s all part of entrusting my business, my livelihood, and my life to God.  I was not able to start a business or run a business to this day without hustling.  I still make it a practice to rise early and put in 12-14 hour work days, Monday through Saturday of each week.  I strive to the very best of my abilities to make Reverence a studio where families want to send their children to dance at and a place that is making a difference in the world, and that takes an incredible amount of work and investment to do.  But you know what?  My work only gets me so far.  As a Christian business owner, I have to truly live out what I preach.  I HAVE to trust God to keep providing, to keep working, to keep orchestrating like He has done in the past.  Reverence is His business alone–I’m just a steward of it.  A good steward recognizes that, like the seasons, a business runs in cycles.  We have a spring, summer, autumn, and winter in the business each year–opportunities for planting, sowing, watering, growing, reaping, harvesting, and resting.  And, I’ve seen the different years encompass whole seasons in and of themselves over the past 7 years.

The bottom line is this:  my purpose and passion is to invest in people.  Dance is just the tool and mechanism that I use to do it.  Building in these rest times not only helps Reverence be a successful business, but it benefits the people who I am called to serve–the students, staff, and families of Reverence.  And, it reminds me that I can’t take any credit.  It’s all about Him.

Is it time to forgive Mel Gibson?

In the court of public approval, there is no such thing as “innocent until proven guilty.”  The veritable “we” as the public eye pronounce our judgment on public figures without knowing the entire story (often without even knowing the real story as we do not often personally know the persons we are casting our judgment on).  Reputation is a double-edged sword–it can wield both construction and destruction.  Knowing how easily public opinion can sway to support a person or to destroy a person, Thomas Paine wrote, “Character is much easier kept than recovered.” 

Many celebrities and public figures work very hard to maintain their integrity.  They are the ones we do NOT read about online or see on ET (because the media knows that the court of public approval loves a scandal), for they quietly and carefully go about their life and work, taking seriously their role as a role model.  Some celebrities and public figures simply do not care–they make their living based on how much the court of public approval wants to see more of them.  A third category would include those who might spend a lifetime doing everything “right,” and then allow one mistake to send them into a downward spiral, thus tarnishing their character and reputation.

With this being the 10th anniversary of Mel Gibson’s famously well-done, brutally honest movie “The Passion of the Christ” coming out into theaters (and thus almost 10 years since his cray-cray downward spiral and everyone turning their back on him), many people are asking the question, “Is it time for us to forgive Mel Gibson?”

Many people put their stock in our friend Mel.  He had famously been married to the same woman for over 20 years when the movie came out, and he was a shy, family man in the public eye.  Christians were excited about The Passion movie coming out–churches rented out theaters, had sermon series, and encouraged all their members to support the movie.  Even over the past few years when I’ve been privileged to attend various churches in my travels, I’ve seen stills from the movie accompanying music and sermons.  It clearly made an impact and God used the film to work mightily in our culture.  And then Mel had his cray-cray downward spiral that included divorcing his wife, lots of drunk driving and public anti-Semitic remarks, and other weird things that made the public eye go, “What the heck, Mel?”  His behavior was wrong (hear me–I will say it again: his behavior was wrong).  Then everyone consequently turned their backs on him (we’ve seen it before with other Christian celebrities–Sandi Patty, etc), and he laid low for a while.

But the question remains, is it time for us to forgive Mel Gibson?

I believe that if we individually search our hearts, the question is deeper than merely forgiving Mel Gibson, and the perimeters extend beyond the boundaries of our religion to where the true answer lies with only One: Jesus. 

You see, religion says that we only love those who agree with what we have to say–those who follow the rules, those who do not make the “huge” mistakes, those who live neat, tidy lives.  Religion says that we only serve those who love us back.  Religion says that we are better than the world.

True faith recognizes that were it not for the grace of God and His interceding in our lives, we would be just like Mel Gibson (or worse!).  True faith does not just preach “tolerance” like religion does.  True faith in Christ means that we freely extend the same grace that we ourselves have received from God.  It is undeserved on our part, but freely given by Him.  True faith in Christ recognizes that it is the duty of a moral society to mete out consequences for actions, but that each of us will have to stand before the Lord one day and give account of our actions to Him.  I won’t have to account for Mel Gibson.  You won’t have to account for me.  We will each have to account for ourselves.  That is a terrifying and freeing principle to take to heart.

Our answer to the question “is it time to forgive Mel Gibson?” speaks to the status of our own hearts.  Are we truly willing to forgive?  Are we truly willing to extend grace?  Do we really practice what we preach?  Do we elevate people to celebrity status and place them on a pedestal where only God should be, and then turn our backs on them when they inevitably act human and crumble and fall?

Do we want to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made?  True faith in Christ recognizes that without the grace of God we would be just like those we speak against.  The Bible says that the hearts of men are naturally inclined to evil (Romans 3:23, Mark 7:21, Jeremiah 17:9, Genesis 6:5), but thanks be to God who justifies us freely by his grace and the redemption that came through Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).

Forgiveness is not about the other person.  Would Mel Gibson know the moment someone chose to forgive him?  Would he even care?  Just like our own enemies might not know or care whether we decide to forgive them, forgiveness is about you and your heart and me and my heart.  Is your heart right before the Lord?  Only you can know that and only HE can be the judge of it.  Just some food for thought…

Falling Isn’t Failing (Tuesday Devotional)

In one of my dance classes last school year I was demonstrating a tour jete (a huge, turning leap) to the class so they could do them across the floor.  I’ve been doing tour jetes since I was 9 years old.  They–like most other ballet steps–are second nature to me.  I do ballet in my sleep.  I’m not kidding.  I literally sleep with my legs in a passé position.  And, I’ve literally done hundreds of tour jetes over the past twenty years and never fallen.

Until that day in class…in front of a classroom of my students.  I didn’t just fall either.  I WIPED OUT.  I landed flat on the floor, and it hurt badly.  My whole class gasped in horror and then stood in stunned silence.  They had never seen me fall…not once, not ever.  And I fell epicly.

But…if there is one thing that dance teaches you, it’s that falling does not equal failing.

I saw their concerned faces and the tears welling in their eyes.  So I dramatically flipped over onto my back, sighed, and laughed it off.  Then the students started to laugh since they saw that I was okay.  They came over and helped me up.  “Are you okay, Miss Kirsten?”  I brushed myself off and limped over to the barre.  “I’m fine,” I said, smiling reassuringly at them.  And then I saw them all approach their tour jetes with new passion and gusto that day.

You see, when you are not afraid to fall–in dance and in life–you approach challenges with a sense of determination and fearlessness.  Instead of being too frightened to try something new because of how you might look or the risks involved, you approach everything with courage.  Nelson Mandela once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The  brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

The inherent nature of falling does mean that the one who falls will inevitably be bruised.  But, I would rather ride a bucking bronco and be bruised all over than lead a boring, safe life that requires no risks.

God asks people to risk throughout the entire Bible:

He commanded Noah to build an ark to save a righteous remnant of humanity and every kind of animal (Genesis 6).
He asked Abraham to leave behind his home and country (Genesis 12).
He asked Ruth (a Moabitess) to throw herself at the mercy of Boaz, her kinsman redeemer (Ruth).
He called Jonah to go to a people who he (Jonah) hated and preach redemption and forgiveness (Jonah 1).
He asked the disciples to follow Him (check out the Gospels).

Is God calling you to take a risk?  To do what He’s called you to do with courage, determination, and fearlessness?  Chances are you might fall along the way.  But, by the grace of God you won’t fail.

You might hurt your derriere though…

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