Highlights o’ my Break

Today is my first official day back to work at the studio after a much-needed three week break.  It’s been an amazing break that I am deeply thankful for.  Many people don’t know that, for the first five years of me opening and running Reverence, I worked an additional full-time job.  That job was a huge blessing to me as a single person who owned a business and then Seth and I as we navigated the roller coaster ride of owning a business as a married couple, and I am really grateful for the Lord’s provision of it.  Because I had responsibilities at my other job, I was not always able to take off many days during the times that the studio was closed on a break, so I have really enjoyed being able to take off an entire three weeks last year and this year.

What did I do over my break?  I’ll sum it up in one delicious word: unhurried.

I spent lots of unhurried time with the Lord…
I spent lots of unhurried time with Seth…
I spent lots of unhurried time with my family and friends…
I spent lots of unhurried time outside…
I spent lots of unhurried time playing with Prince Caspian…
I spent lots of unhurried time reading, journaling, and watching movies (the kids at the studio were peer-pressuring me–haha–to watch all the Tinkerbelle movies, so I unashamedly did.  they were adorable)…
I spent lots of unhurried time sleeping (those who know me well know that I wake up between 5:30-6AM each day, and my “sleeping in” is considered to be 7:30 or 8AM.  You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that there were several days where I slept in until 10AM!)

This is one of Seth's favorite pictures that he took of me, determining which way I would get to the gold in Skagway, Alaska.  It's hard to wrap my mind around, but gold fever is very much alive and active in Alaska today!

This is one of Seth’s favorite pictures that he took of me, pretending to determine which way I would get to the rumors of gold in the Yukon. It’s hard to wrap my mind around, but gold fever is very much alive and active in Alaska today!

You might also know that Seth and I went on a little adventure to Washington, Alaska, and Canada during this time as well.  These past few years have been pretty crazy-full, so we decided to take some time off during the studio’s off season this year and do some exploring of the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  We’ve been wanting to go for quite some time, so we decided to save our pennies and just do it.  It was BEAUTIFUL.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Seth.  Ever.  We took it at the EMP Museum of Seattle in the sci-fi section.  Hilarious!

This is one of my favorite pictures of Seth. Ever. We took it at the EMP Museum of Seattle in the sci-fi section. Hilarious!

It was an amazing trip for many reasons, but it was really GREAT to be with Seth for 12 uninterrupted days.  It was really GREAT to be outside in nature and put all those things that have been clouding the periphery of my vision for the past few months behind me.  I had some GREAT times with the Lord–just praising and worshipping Him.  Seth and I sought the Lord together for our future, Reverence Studios, and more.  I came back with clarity on some changes that I need to make in my life and some boundaries that I need to put in place again.

Great trip.  Deeply blessed.  Great break.  Deeply blessed.  Ready to be back to work, but I said goodbye to the old workaholic, people-pleasing Kirsten who felt like she had to work 120 hours a week and justify every decision to every single person.  And you know what?  It feels good.  I’m still going to be the hard-working, determined, and compassionate person who God created me to be, but I’m turning 30 next week and it’s time to make some changes and leave the bad stuff behind.

Also.  I saw a humpback whale’s tongue up close.

At Mount Rainier National Park.

At Mount Rainier National Park.

We fell in love with Alaska.  I've never really said that the "air has agreed with me" in all the wonderful, amazing places I've been privileged to visit.  But it did here.  Alaska, we have a feeling we haven't seen the last of you.  :)

We fell in love with Alaska. I’ve never really said that the “air has agreed with me” in all the wonderful, amazing places I’ve been privileged to visit. But it did here. Alaska, we have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of you. :)


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!

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…

Playing Favorites

It’s human nature to have favorites.  Most people, if asked, could easily name a favorite book, movie, or place to eat.

But how about playing favorites in your organization?  Whether they are a group of “yes men” who acquiesce to your every need/want/hope/wish, or a “star pupil” who works fifty times harder than the others in the group, it’s easy to play favorites when people do what we want or act in the way we think they should.

It’s one thing to be observant as a leader…to recognize those who work hard, those who want to grow and be better, those who want to be there.  It’s good to take notice of those people, to encourage and build them up so that they can one day be better than you at your job.  Being a confident, secure leader means that you are a servant leader first and always looking to better those around you.

Playing favorites, however, means that you specifically reward those who you deem worthy because of how they have served you, and it is so very wrong.  Why?  When your organization, ministry, or life in general becomes all about YOU, then you have lost.

Christ calls us to love and serve people differently.

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
-Matthew 5:46-48 (NIV)