Cat Bearding and Fun Times: The Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Weird of 2013

Here’s a glimpse into the good, the bad, and the just plain weird that is the life of Kirsten in this fun, iPhone photo dump from 2013!

I started out the year with some difficult times that I couldn’t really share with a lot of people.  And then, the Lord used a studio mom (who knew nothing about what I was going through) to surprise me with a gift and an encouraging note one day!  Love when He does that!

2013ayear1The light in our mudroom (where Caspian eats) randomly fell, and this cat kept eating!  He takes his food very seriously! 2013ayear2Me and my man before one of our home studies… 2013ayear3When I started jogging outside back in the spring, I started noticing the beautiful sunrises that we have in Central PA!   2013ayear4

Caspian loves to interrupt my time with Jesus! :) 2013ayear5Student leader recital rehearsal!  I love this group of ladies!  They made a tunnel as a student was coming out of the restroom…haha! 2013ayear6

Prince Caspian is the studio’s much beloved mascot, and sometimes he gets extra spoiled by the studio families!  One of my student leaders bought him this catnip stuffed dangly toy and it has been his consistently favorite toy ever since! 2013ayear7Me and my fella after a late night of recital prep! 2013ayear8I love when I run into studio families out in public!  I ran into Hannah and Victoria at Bamboo Café one day and we had to take a Reverence picture! 2013ayear9Seth and I hiked at one of our favorite spots quite a bit this year.  We love to go early in the morning to see animals, the sunrise, and experience cooler weather when it’s hot outside. 2013ayear10 2013ayear11When the recital costumes came in, Nolan and Luke “helped” me go through them!  They were cracking up!  With all the students we have at Reverence and all the students in multiple classes, there were over 1000 costume pieces to be sewn and organized and distributed for the recital!  Costuming–from beginning to end–takes thousands of hours (and only a couple hundred hours are done by me–the rest by the awesome companies we use)!2013ayear12Auditions for Magdalene, Company Jazz, and  2013ayear13One of my dearest friends from Geneva, Phil, stopped by for a visit back in the spring!  Phil and Seth get along fabulously, and we took Phil to one of our favorite restaurants…Pizza Grille! 2013ayear14My Modern dance class at the end of last year! 2013ayear15

With some of my 5-6 year old students at the recitals in May!  The worst thing happened–I got strep throat during recital tech week (which is an insane week for me), and I was on antibiotics during the recital!  I just talked less and smiled a lot during this week and few people knew!  2013ayear16After the recital and the close of the school year, Reverence is closed for a few weeks.  Seth insisted that I rest, but Prince Caspian and I got bored after a few days, so we tried catbearding.  Below is a failed cat bearding attempt, but I love PC’s massive leg and paw in the camera! 2013ayear17Reverence was honored to win several award this year! 2013ayear18An upside down picture of Seth and I before leaving on our family vacation road trip! 2013ayear19 2013ayear20

This was me this year!  I learned all the secrets to becoming a 1950’s housewife! 😉2013ayear21One of the coolest things that I and Reverence have had the opportunity to do: I choreographed a dance for my students to dance with students in wheelchairs for a concert at the forum!2013ayear22I was honored to be a finalist among women who were outstanding in their fields for an award among Central PA Women in Business!2013ayear23My dear and longtime friend Molly tied the knot with her man Chris!  It was so fun to connect with this group of ladies at Molly’s bridal shower…and see my dear and longtime friend Sarah in from CA as well! 2013ayear24One of the things Seth and I like to do when the studio is on break is cook together! 2013ayear25Beginning of school year kick-off with this year’s student leaders!  This is a boy t-rex and this is a girl t-rex… 2013ayear26I stopped to visit my good friend Christine in Newtown, PA on the way to a family picnic!  Christine and I are kindred spirits–I just love her! 2013ayear27The cast of Magdalene…minus Destiny! 2013ayear28I had the studio staff over for a Once Upon a Time Premiere Party at the end of September!  We all dressed in costume…this picture shows Cindy as Mulan and Cait as Regina! 2013ayear29I was able to wrangle PC into his pirate hat for Halloween this year.  He was NOT happy.  I was though. 2013ayear30I took a weekend at the end of October to visit my Gramom and Popop for Gramom’s and my 9th Christmas Card making!  Here are this year’s designs…I actually ran out this year!  For our big tenth year extravaganza we have something fun planned that I can’t wait to show you! 2013ayear31Things always break at the studio in the fall.  It’s a fact.  This fall, one of our portable barres broke, two shoe holes got put in the wall, a shelf randomly fell off the wall (and Miss Lindsay epicly caught it during Irish class), and the heat went out for a gripping, chilly ten day saga!  Seth is the studio handyman, so we went in several days when we could sneak in between classes and Seth’s work schedule to fix things.   2013ayear32This is a sad picture that I took when it took me FOREVER AND A DAY to reset the clock on our stove after the power blinked.  It is seriously the hardest clock to set ever.  Take my word for it! 😉 2013ayear33Cor Ignis, one of Reverence’s traveling dance ministries started touring at local churches in November.  Here they are by their poster at West Shore E-Free Church! 2013ayear34Seth and I treated ourselves to a date day the second weekend in November.  We celebrated the launch of Reverence’s 6th school year, a successful and God-honoring production of Magdalene in October, the end of Seth’s two months in a row of working on nights and weekends for a few months, and life in general.  This year was hard, but I believe in celebrating every single moment! 2013ayear35One of my students, Victoria, made us crack up by doing this weird trick with her sweatshirt.  She was rolling all around the studio and making us laugh really hard.  I love that kid! 2013ayear36Tuesday Intermediate Ballet II class selfie one night! 2013ayear37Lauryn took a picture of me taking the selfie and instagrammed it!  I love that girl as well! 2013ayear38Seth and I ran the Color Run the third week in November.  It was hilarious and so much fun!  This is one of my grandmother’s favorite pictures of the two of us, which tickles me! 2013ayear39Post Color Run…Upside down apparently! 2013ayear40Family picture, celebrating Thanksgiving! 2013ayear42Me and my fella prior to having some dear friends over for dinner one night… 2013ayear43Dad, Seth, and I at the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day! 2013ayear44Seth and I post-Thanksgiving! 2013ayear45Prince Caspian has to war with his sinful nature for six weeks out of the year when the tree is up…2013ayear46And sometimes we drink out of Princess cups because I love princesses and we both love Disney.  And all of our cups were in the dishwasher.  Not kidding! 2013ayear47I loved this quote that I came across one day!  So often people think that they have to do something great and extraordinary to make a difference for the Lord.  I believe that the sacred can be found in the every day life.  When we do ANYTHING in service of the Lord whether it is going on the mission field, baking bread for a neighbor, serving at a homeless mission, teaching dance :), taking care of our children, or speaking words of life into a friend…it is no small thing. 2013ayear48Cor Ignis dancing at Compass Point Church…their third performance of the fall! 2013ayear49I snapped this picture early in December after a snowfall…love wintry scenes! 2013ayear50Seth and I together at my parents’ house for an early Christmas celebration while my brother, sister-in-law, and niece were in town in mid-December! 2013ayear51I made this beautiful winterberry salad for Christmas day lunch at the Kline’s! 2013ayear52I love my man.  And his beard.  I think he looks mansome. 2013ayear53Seth and I were playing Phase 10 over Christmas break and Prince Caspian the card shark had to be involved… 2013ayear54I love these photos of us and our Willow Tree poses! 2013ayear55 2013ayear56Love getting sweet Christmas cards from students!2013ayear57The Sunday before Christmas brought the opportunity for me to dance with the Daybreak Dance Ministry.  Deb and I kicked off the dance ministry at Daybreak almost ten years ago!  That’s a decade!  I haven’t danced with them in over five years and it was an honor for me to be back with them.   2013ayear59I’ll end with a picture of the Fur Child in all the wrapping paper at Christmas…we love that guy! 2013ayear60

So, that’s a wrap (haha, get it?) on 2013 in photos, friends!  I’ll post pictures from Seth’s birthday and New Year’s Eve at some point, too!

A Prayer for Our Child to Heal

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While God can use adoption to provide a happy and hopeful ending for orphaned children and the families that they are adopted into, many of us cannot even comprehend the trauma that those children faced that led them to be orphans.  They have, quite often, experienced more pain and brokenness in their young lives than many of us have ever experienced.  And so today I’d like to pray for our child’s healing process…and invite you to join me!


We don’t know the circumstances that will make our child an orphan, and we grieve that our child even had to become an orphan in the first place.  But YOU do.  You know our child intimately, even though we do not yet.   You formed our child in the womb and knit him or her together with great love and care.  You knew that tragic circumstances would make our child an orphan at a young age, and we trust that You are keeping Your hand on our child through this time of tragedy and transition.  Lord, we ask that You would start the healing process in our child now, as only You can do.  We ask that You would send a caretaker to him or her to love on our child through this time of uncertainty.  We ask that You would be with Seth and I as we learn how to best love and care for a child who was orphaned, and whatever special needs our child may have.  We ask that You would prepare the hearts of those who will interact with our child as a part of our family and community.

We know that You have promised to set the lonely in families, and we claim Your victory over our adoption process from here and through the transition time when we bring our child home.  Help us to love our child as You love our child…and us.  I’m believing that You will restore the years that the locusts have eaten.  You have overcome, and we will always take heart in that.

In Your Son’s Precious Name, Amen.

Women Who Move Series: Meet Jillian

Kirsten: Welcome to for the latest edition of our “Women Who Move” blog series. I am pleased to host a fellow sister in the Lord and adoptive mama Jillian Burden here today!  Jillian recently adopted her son from Russia and is passionate about adoption advocacy as well as children’s ministry.  Welcome Jillian!

Jillian: Thank you so much for having me! I love sharing what God has done in my life and it is always an honor to share in someone else’s space!

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Kirsten:  Can you share a little bit about your story?  What first inspired you to get involved in children’s ministry?

Jillian: When I was in high school, I was walking through an airport on the way home from a trip I had taken with a group of peers, when one of my friends said to me, “You know, I don’t know anyone who looks at kids the way you do. You look so happy when you watch them play.” I had been watching a pair of toddlers playing on the ground by their mama’s feet as she waited for her flight. That was probably the first moment when I realized that I appreciated children differently than most. After that remark, I walked through life with a heightened sense of awareness, constantly interested in the fact that I enjoyed the presence and company of children more than most. I started to wonder if God would have me do something with that gift.

Even greater than my love for children, however, was my passion for my faith as a Christian. I went to a Bible College in earned a degree in Pre-Seminary Studies, anticipating that I would go on to seminary and earn a Masters in Divinity to become a pastor. As seminary approached, however, I could not shake the sense that I was taking a misstep. Through a series of events, God led me to enroll in a different seminary degree program: one focused more on the educational ministries of the church. It could not have been a better fit! I loved learning about the Bible and how to equip others to pass on our faith to both new believers and to our children’s generation.

In the years since I graduated from seminary, God has continued to refine my calling and marry my passion for children and the Christian faith in the area of Orphan Care. The first and boldest step I’ve taken in this direction has been to adopt my son, with my husband. Our adoption has not been a “ministry” of course, however I tried to use our story to minister to others through my blog, in which I chronicle our adoption and parenting journey from a spiritual perspective.

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Kirsten:  Why do you feel it is important to invest in the next generation–specifically at the early childhood age?

Jillian: I feel that way because God has clearly commanded us to do it! In Deuteronomy 6 God’s people are commanded to impress God’s law upon the hearts of their children. Even before the social sciences could confirm it, God knew that our earliest teachings shape who we are for the rest of our lives. I want the children in my life to know who they are in Christ- created, loved, forgiven, purposed people- more than they know anything else. Only when our identity is secure in Christ can we rightly fulfill our purposes in life, family, and career.

Kirsten:  What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue early childhood education (as a ministry or career)?

Jillian: Get used to being on your knees! When you work with children you will be on your knees all.the.time both as a servant wiping faces and floors and in prayer for patience, endurance, kindness, and strength. You will also be on your knees as you are humbled by the grace and joy those tiny little people will show you.

You should also probably get used to tearing up. I was never one quick to cry, but there is something about seeing a child grow in the love and knowledge of God that will move your heart so deeply. It is almost impossible not to cry about it!

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Kirsten:  Now let’s talk about your adoption. :) I, too, am passionate about adoption….Seth and I can’t wait to bring our little one home from Uganda!  What made you choose Russia?

Jillian: Divine calling. When we started looking into adoption I had my heart set on finding a country that only required one trip and that would cost somewhere between the 20-25,000 range. Russia was three trips and $35,000! But we found our son’s picture and profile on a waiting children list and we knew God was calling us to pursue his adoption. When our hearts told us that he was our son, the country and the trips and the cost all faded into background noise. We wanted HIM and we would do whatever it took and go wherever we had to go in order to get to him.

Kirsten:  I definitely understand that longing!  We can’t wait to bring our sweet one home from Uganda!  Your son has now been home for six months (yay!).  What have been some of your greatest joys and challenges during that time?

Jillian: Last night as I put him to bed he put his hands on my cheeks and told me, “Five kisses Mama!” and planted them right on my lips. That’s my greatest joy. I think about all those nights when he climbed into his orphanage bed without a mama to stroke his hair or kiss his lips and I cry. His love is so tender and in his love my joy is complete.

My greatest challenges have been finding ways to cope with the painful realities of my son’s relinquishment. Adoption comes with such a paradoxical set of emotions because while I cannot imagine not having Arie as my son, I deeply grieve the fact that he lost his birth mother and his birth culture. I often think of it as a picture of the Christian faith: we focus on and celebrate our adoption and redemption, however there is always a part of us that grieves sin and The Fall and the fact that we ever needed to be redeemed in the first place.

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Kirsten:  Was there been a particularly meaningful Scripture verse that encouraged you throughout the adoption process?

Jillian: Yes. Joel 2:25 which says, “I will repay you for the years the locust have eaten.” This might seem an odd verse to rely on through an adoption process, but I would read it and think of the years I had missed with my son. He was 2 ½ when we brought him home and I deeply grieved those lost years. I would have given anything to hold him as an infant, to watch him take his first steps, to comfort him when he was ill, and to celebrate those two missed birthdays. I spent a lot of time lamenting those years in prayer, and I sensed God giving me that verse to tell me that he was going to restore them to me, in his time and in his way.

Kirsten:  I love that!  God is so faithful to restore the lost years to us!  How has adopting your son changed you (besides the obvious ways of becoming a parent)?

Jillian: I am a much more peaceful person now. Before our adoption I would have described myself as Type A, controlling, precise, detail oriented etc etc., but the adoption process taught me to let go of that control and trust in God’s provision for my life. We had so little control in our adoption process that we honestly had no choice but to trust God. I would never have asked God to teach me that lesson in that way, but I am so grateful that he did.  I still have the same personality traits, but they no longer define me. Instead of viewing my life as a series of events to control, I know see my life as a story that ebbs and flows. I am learning to breathe and walk more peacefully through the story.

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Kirsten:  How are you using your personal experiences with adoption to advocate for other orphans in need of homes? What does adoption represent for you personally?

Jillian: I am sharing our adoption story to encourage others toward orphan care. The “tagline” I use is that I write about our journey “and all the blessing, lament, joy, and conviction that happen along the way.” There is so much good that happens when we share our stories with honesty. Stories convict, inspire, warn, encourage, and so much more. In my own life, the best decisions I’ve made have all been results of stories I’ve heard about someone else who walked the path before me. My greatest joy is hearing other people saying, “I read your story and felt God prompting me to…” My prayer is that God will use our story to build his kingdom and reveal his glory.

For me, adoption represents redemption. Adoption is a picture of what God has done for us in Christ. While we were fatherless, God sent his son to restore us to relationship with him. Adoption is an example of how God takes broken situations and broken people and redeems them, giving them new life and new purpose. I was broken by my inability to conceive and God restored me as a mother by bringing me my son. My son was broken by his orphanhood and God restored him by setting him in our family. Adoption is a clear and beautiful picture of our spiritual reality: we are a broken people, redeemed by the love of our Father God.

Kirsten:  I couldn’t agree more!  What a beautiful journey!  To read more of Jillian’s story, you can check out her blog at:  Thanks so much for taking the time to share with my readers today, Jillian!  I pray God’s blessings on you, your family, and your future journey!

Tea Time with the Girls

My tea cup...isn't it divine?

My tea cup…isn’t it divine?

During our recent family vacation, I came up with the idea for all girls to all go for tea one afternoon as a fun, girly, bonding experience.  We went to a little tea room called The English Rose and had a really fun time!  Look how cute it is inside!IMG_2102IMG_2101IMG_2104

They had a wonderful selection of teas, and we could each pick our own served in individual teapots.  Some of us got hot tea, others got cold tea (the cold tea of the day when we were there was a watermelon tea).  They even had a special children’s tea and teapot for my niece!  They had a wonderful menu selection as well as gluten free and children’s options (which was perfect)!


We had a wonderful late morning/early afternoon of sipping our tea, eating yummy food, and sharing good conversation.  It was a highlight of the trip for all of us and a very special time!IMG_2111

Do the women in your family have a special tradition or fun thing that they like to do when they get together?  If so, I’d love for you to share in the comments!