Cool side braids, archery, and unlikely heroes

Okay, so maybe your year wasn’t quite as good as Katniss Everdeen’s…

Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklers

2014 is just around the corner, and I want to jump, shout “Huzzah,” do cartwheels, sing Disney tunes, and dance around at its imminence.  2013 was a beast with ugly horns that growled (yes, I did intend those words in that order).  It was CRAY.  And yet, through it all I can honestly say that the Lord sustained me, strengthened me, and led me through this wilderness season into a new season of growth and abundance.

After all, it was my year of “more.”  Not more money, not more candy…But more of Him.  And, as this year has unfolded and I have been surrendering to Him each day, He’s been revealing more of Himself through every aspect of this year.  You see, the more we get to know God, the more we want to know God, and the more we learn to trust Him wildly through every single day to do great things.

No matter how good or bad your year was, it’s important to take stock of it.  Reflecting on your year, remembering what God has done in your life and in the lives of others, assessing yourself, and making goals and plans for the year ahead is essential to your personal and spiritual growth.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

What are three words to describe your 2013?  Mine would be CRAY (in a hilarious and not-so-hilarious way), UPHELD (the Lord surely upheld me through the twists and turns of this year as only He can do), and BEAUTIFUL MESS (I know, it’s two words!).

What are your biggest accomplishments of 2013?  I had several big personal goals this year:  Enjoy running enough to complete a 5k, read the Bible through chronologically, carve specific time each day and each week for rest, and connect with people who I don’t get to connect with on a regular basis.  By the grace of God I have done all those things!  Yay God!  Magdalene was a huge accomplishment in so many ways, and I give God the glory!  I also consider any opportunity that I have to mentor and invest in others a huge accomplishment as well.  Reverence celebrated 5 years as a small business dedicated to the Lord, which was HUGE!  On a very personal note, this year I wanted to do a lot better at keeping up the house!  It’s been working pretty well, and it’s made it so much easier for when people drop by or when we have a friend call at 8:30PM asking for a place to stay that night. :)

What has God done in your life in 2013?  He’s forgiven me, loved me, showed me grace, and moved me into a new phase of life in incredible ways.  If that would have been all that He had done for me, it would have been sufficient.  He’s given me incredible relationships with my husby, family, friends, studio families, and random strangers who I’ve been able to reach out to!  He’s grown Reverence Studios as only He can do and allowed us to be recognized as only He can do.  He’s provided restoration and healing and hope.  He’s increased my faith even as He enlarged my territory.  Thank You, God.

What do I need to let go of before 2014?  Too personal for me to post online, but something I’m definitely asking the Lord!

What did I do to step out of my comfort zone this year?  I tried lots of new foods this year…and learned to love them!  I reached out to people who hate me…and God gave me grace to extend them grace!  My husband and I went through the home study process…and if you know nothing about that process, it is highly invasive for this extremely private lady!

What does God want to do through me in 2014?  Each year the Lord gives me a different word to focus on–a gift that He wants me to unwrap throughout the entire year (I love how He is a deeply personal God who speaks directly to each of His beloved children!).  A word that He’s been impressing on my heart for 2014 is: accomplish.  I’ve had many things on my heart–requests, concerns, dreams, hopes–that I am trusting wildly in Him to accomplish next year as only He can do.  And, in the process, I’m believing that there are some things that He wants to accomplish in and through me as He graciously allows me to be a part of His plan on earth.  My theme verses for this year are: Isaiah 55:10-11, “For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.”

Do you have an annual self-reflection ritual?  How was 2013 for you?

The Greatest Gift [A Christmas Devotional]

grinch

Every Christmas season I read people griping about how Christmas stuff goes up so early, lamenting about the commercialism of the season with the passion of our favorite Charlie Brown, and–recently–posting memes about how horrible people are who want to go shopping on Black Friday.  Part of me is cheering right along beside them.  Greed and commercialism is ugly, and seeing it played out in the form of people stampeding each other for a new TV is nauseating at best.  Yet, saying that Christmas is only about materialism is like saying Thanksgiving is only about eating.  Rejecting the commercialism and materialism in the sense of not letting it consume you and your family is one thing.  Rejecting the commercialism and materialism in the sense of not doing ANYTHING at all is really White Queen-ish (always winter, never Christmas).

Consuming for the sake of consuming is part of what got our country in the position that it’s in today.  However, when you truly think about the other person and thoughtfully and joyfully give them a gift (one you carefully selected, one you baked or cooked, or one where you offer your time or yourself based on how you serve the other person), you allow the meaning of Christmas to shine through the bah-humbugs of American society.

“Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.” -2 Corinthians 9:7-8 (HCSB)

You see, giving gifts where you serve the other person–whether they are the kind you purchase or the kind you share–is representative of THE GREATEST GIFT.  And He is the true meaning of Christmas.

“For God loved the world in this way:He GAVE His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16 (HCSB) [emphasis mine]

If God so loved the world that He gave, how can we do no less at this time of year and all year round?  Should we walk around with a frown during this season just because we don’t like how others handle Christmas?  Or, should we give of ourselves and be “little Christs” to the world around us?  Should we give freely and generously of ourselves because we love other people?  And because He loved us first?

A Good Name

Have you ever heard the phrase “his name is mud” used to describe someone whose name and reputation have been smeared?

The story goes that a 19th century physician, Dr. Samuel Mudd, was widely reviled for his part in the Lincoln assassination because he unwisely took pity on the injured John Wilkes Booth as Booth was fleeing from Ford’s Theater.  Dr. Mudd was named as one of the co-conspirators of the Lincoln assassination and sentenced to life in a Federal Prison.  Many historians believe that Mudd was innocent and just taking his oath as a medical professional seriously, but it didn’t matter at the time.  His name was tarnished, and the phrase “his name is mud” (which originated in the 1820’s) became a popular means to describe the muck and mire of an innocent person’s name being ruined.

Was Dr. Samuel Mudd at the wrong place at the wrong time?  Perhaps.  But, it didn’t matter.

The same thing goes for one of my ancestors, who was among those hung during the Salem Witch Trials in the 1600’s.  The mass town hysteria caused by a group of foolish young girls and greedy town leaders out for property and revenge caused death and destruction in Puritan America.  My ancestor was pardoned of her crimes in the mid-20th century, but of course, by then it was too late for her.

Three hundred years too late, to be specific.

Integrity is one of the most important character attributes a person can have.  Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen over great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold.”  As a Christian, as a business owner, as a ministry leader, as a writer, I believe in living a life that is one of integrity.  I strive for it in my daily private walk and public business life.  I don’t talk about the various things that I do behind the scenes to serve people or to meet needs because I feel those things are just between me, those people, and the Lord.  I don’t complain about the sacrifices that I make because, when you’re doing what God is calling you to do, they are not sacrifices–they are a means to serve the Lord.  I know that as long as I continue to do what the Lord is calling me to do first–even if it doesn’t make sense to the rest of the world–that He will always provide for me.  And He always has…even when others have tried to take me down.

Here’s the rub about integrity…what takes years and years to build can be destroyed in an instant (by you or other people).  But, we can take heart because good character always wins in the end (even if it’s the way, way end as in the example of my ancestor).  Ask God to rebuild what has been destroyed and He always will.

The word integrity comes from the Latin word integer, which implies wholeness (like a whole number).  It implies that something cannot exist in two separate parts (clearly this word was originated before they come up with imaginary numbers–those beasts that plagued me in Algebra 2).

Are you living a life that is whole?  Do you actions match up with your words?  Are you the same in front of other people in your family, at your church, at your job that you are by yourself at home?

King David wrote in 1 Chronicles 29:17, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent.”  Let us all strive to have our hearts be found out to be righteous.

The integrity of the upright guides them,
    but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

-Proverbs 11:3 (NIV)

 

In Sync (not N’Sync)

I like to jog several miles a day, three or four days a week.  It’s a great part of my exercise routine that counterbalances all the lengthening work I do in dance.  It helps relieve stress and gets my heart rate a-pumpin’.  As the new kid on the block, it’s a great opportunity to explore the backstreets (wow, the boy band references just keep coming) of my town, and I love how it clears my mind and gets me focused on the day ahead.  Throughout this past year, I’ve noticed a huge increase in my stamina, which helps in every aspect of my life.  It’s been a 98 degree turn around.  Okay, I’m done with the boy band references.

running

I woke up on an intended running day this week with a sort of twinge pull in my  left hamstring.  If you are an athlete, you know that hamstring injuries are no joke.  They are absolutely nothing to mess around in.  At the studio, my staff and I always make sure that the dancers are properly stretched and warmed up for the rigors of dance, and hamstring stretches and strengthening activities are a huge part of that.  A hamstring injury can put you out of commission for weeks.  We are most susceptible to injuries when we’re tired, and this week I have been pushing myself additionally hard with preparations for the start of the school year and all the extra activities and meetings that have come up.  And so, upon waking up and finding that the pull was there, I had a choice to make.  I could either push through the pain and go out for my regular running routine, or I could take a day and rest.  If you know me, you know that I will push through the pain 90% of the time and go to the point of exhaustion, so it really was a difficult decision in which I asked the Lord for wisdom.  In the end I felt that it was too risky to go for the run.  I didn’t want to injure myself even further and risk not being able to do something that I have grown to love and look forward to (run) for weeks on end.  I didn’t want to injure myself prior to the start of the new dance season (which is what I love and my livelihood).  So I listened to my body and didn’t run, which ended up being the better long-term decision.

It’s important that we are in sync with our bodies.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  It’s the very tabernacle of God now that we are in New Testament times, and Scripture is very clear that we’re not supposed to misuse God’s temple.

But, it’s even more important that we are in sync with our spiritual heart and soul.  When we have the Holy Spirit within us, He will check our spirit–not in the Jiminy Cricket sort of way, but in a way that the Word and Truth of God can pierce through the marrow of our lives and into what is most important.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

-Hebrews 4:12-13 (NIV)

Being convicted by the Holy Spirit can be a painful thing at times.  I mean, there is a reason why the word of God is likened to a double-edged sword.  God is NOT joking around.

Being prompted by the Holy Spirit is an uncomfortable thing at times.  My friend Amy (hi, Amy!) is a wonderful example of this.  She and I actually met because I had locked my keys in the car at a bookstore on the first day of dance classes four years ago.  I was sitting on a chair, waiting for the police to come and help me and crying because I was frustrated at myself and slightly sick to my stomach at being late for dance classes when the Lord prompted her to come and sit and talk with me.  If she hadn’t listened, we wouldn’t have formed the wonderful sisterhood that we have today.

Being reminded by the Holy Spirit of who you are in Christ makes you look funny to the world.  I don’t mean that you’re clucking like a chicken in the Spirit or anything weird like that.  What I do mean is that when you listen to God and not the world, you make decisions that are opposite of what others make.  And they look at you like you have ten heads.  But it’s okay.  :)

The point is, the closer we become to God, the more we should desire to become like God.  The believers of the early church didn’t name themselves Christians (little Christ’s), they were called that by the people who saw that they were acting like Christ.  What a compliment!  Our words, our thoughts, and our deeds should be an outward sign of the holiness and sensitivity that we have to the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  When we have faith without deeds and deeds without faith, we are not so different from the world.  It starts in our heart.

But, this is a two-way street.  We have to want to be convicted.  We have to want to be prompted.  We have to want to be different.  And when we truly want to be changed by God, then we can keep running the race of our faith.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. -Romans 8:14 (NIV)

Dealing with the Wah-Wah Sad Trumpet Person

You know when something incredibly awesome happens, you’re feeling great/happy/joyful/excited/on top of the world, and then someone inevitably says something weird/mean/ugly/critical?

For example…

Regular Jane:  Hey, guess what!  I just got a promotion! 
Wah-wah Sad Trumpet Person:  Oh man, you are going to have to work like a dog now!

Regular Joe:  We are so excited about our vacation.  We’ve been saving our pennies and vacation time for-EVER to take next week off.
Wah-wah Sad Trumpet Person:  It must be nice to get to go on vacation.

Regular First-Time Mom:  I can’t believe it’s happened.  We’re finally pregnant!
Wah-wah Sad Trumpet Person:  Kids are so much work.  Say goodbye to your free time and money and body!

Wee 22 Year Old Kirsten Six Years Ago:  Well, I’m doing it!  I’m finally opening my Christian dance studio!
Wah-wah Sad Trumpet Person:  Good luck!  Most small businesses fail within their first year. 

Haha…

90% of the time the “Wah-wah Sad Trumpet People” aren’t haters.  In fact, if you spoke with them chances are that they would describe themselves as realists or pragmatists (as opposed to someone like myself who is a dreamer).  Most of the time they’re not trying to rain on your parade or be Martha to your Mary.  They see themselves as being helpful–good friends and family–people who want to make sure you are realistically thinking about what’s to come.  A few of them want to take you down a peg, but I’ve found that’s not the norm.  The other times they’re not really thinking about you and how their words are going to make you feel.

So, besides a major rolling of our eyes, how is an eternal optimist to handle these wah-wah sad trumpet people?

1.  Appreciate them.  If the world were full of optimistic dreamers, we wouldn’t get anything done.  Learn to appreciate how God created people differently first and hear the heart behind what they are saying.

2.  Be kindly truthful.  Whenever that person bluntly delivered the facts about small business failure to me (as if I didn’t already know how big of a risk I was taking), I smiled and said, “Who knows what God will do?  I’m very aware of the facts, but am stepping out in faith believing that He will go before me.”  Saying something firm, but kind lets them know that they came across as unintentionally wah-wah sad trumpet and how they made you feel.

3.  Resist the urge to be wah-wah sad trumpet person back.  That speaks for itself!  And don’t put them in their place either.  Shouting, “Well maybe if you worked harder, you would get a promotion too!” in their face isn’t good.

The most important thing to remember is that people will always be people, and you just have to love them.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

-Colossians 3:12-14 (MSG)