The Justification Conundrum

I’ve experienced it often, and you probably have, too.  You’re sitting around with a group of people (9 out of 10 times they are all women–I’m not hating, I’m just speaking the truth), and the conversation will inevitably include the following statements:

I deserve this dessert.  I ran five miles this morning.
I’ve had a rough week.  I deserve this extra drink.

Or, how about this conversation (usually on that “beloved” social media site we call “Book Face”–Office reference!):

Person A: I can’t wait to go on vacation!  Ten more days…
Person B: It must be nice to be able to take a vacation.
Person A: I’ve worked hard all year long and saved my pennies for a LONG time to be able to take this vacation! (Translation: Back off!)

And lastly, a favorite conversation between myself and someone else:

Me:  Did you watch “Once Upon a Time” last night?
Other Person:  No, I don’t have time to watch TV.
Me:  Oh, sorry… (thinking: a simple “no” would have sufficed!)
Other Person:  Just wait until you have kids.  You won’t have time to watch TV!
Me (thinking to myself):  I suddenly feel very lazy…even though I worked a 90 hour week and worked while I watched “Once Upon a Time” last night… :)

Why do we feel the need to justify our choices to others?  I see it all the time on social media, I hear it in daily conversation, and–as evidenced by the conversation just above–I have felt the need to justify my choices.  When I think back to that conversation, I feel silly for allowing that person to make me feel bad about myself.  That person does not know how I operate each day, and unless they are our great Lord Himself, that person does not need to know.  I don’t need to report to anyone.  Yet, I–like many of you– feel like we have to justify our choices to others–whether it is a bite of dessert (or ten bites!), a vacation well-earned, or even something as simple as taking a break.  Why is that?

#1: We feel guilty.  “Survivors Guilt” is a feeling of guilt for having survived something that others did not.  It’s a real, genuine thing that people have to work through.  I would suggest that people who are successful or have worked hard do feel that sort of “survivors guilt” when they do something special or even simply rest.  We look around at the rest of the world and all the suffering that goes on, and we feel guilty for being happy.

#2:  We are made to feel guilty.  Sometimes I will see a thread on Book Face or on other blogs where people will just attack another person.  How dare they be happy when I am so miserable?  How dare they worship when I have turned my back on God?  How dare they this?  How dare they that?  I just get so sad because there’s no reason for it on either end.

So how do we combat this justification conundrum?

#1:  Be sensitive and gracious to others!  If something good happens to you and you feel compelled to share it with others, do so in a sensitive and gracious way.  Book Face is a great place to get the news out to a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean you should always use it like that.  Before I post anything on social media, send any text message, or share any good news with my friends/family, I check my spirit first.  Is it bragging, or is it just sharing good news?  Is it something that will bring glory to God, or is it something that will bring glory to me?  What is the purpose of me sharing it?  Who is my audience?  Asking yourself those questions will save you from a world of hurt and it will keep you humble.

#2:  Rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15)!  This is a HUGE one to me.  Whenever I hear someone else’s good news, I love to celebrate it with them!  Why not?  As brothers and sisters in Christ, we should work to build each other up…not tear each other down.  I’m not saying we should be fake about it…if you can’t think of anything nice to say, or you can’t be real in your joy, don’t say anything at all.  Be like Thumper, yo!

#3:  Resist the urge to justify yourself…or expect justification from others!  I’ve been working to catch myself whenever I feel the need to justify myself to other people.  And we shouldn’t expect it from our peoples either!  Remove that seed of insecurity or bitterness from your heart before it takes root and makes you appear a bitter, hateful person who no one wants to be around.

#4:  Remember that it’s not about you.  I say that phrase to myself ALL the time for many different reasons. Grin.  One of those reasons is that I am an incredibly sensitive person and I have those artistic emotions where I experience every.single.emotion. very deeply.  And I have to remind myself that I can’t control what other people say and how they think of me–I just have to live my life in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord and Him only.

The most important thing, however, is to remember that Christ does not require you to justify yourself before Him.  In the end we will all stand before Him and every deed that we did here on Earth will be tested by fire.  1 Corinthians 3:13-15 paints a picture of the time to come:

“…their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.  If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”

But the Good News is that Christ died and victoriously rose again for each of us…and we are justified freely through Him!

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:23-24

And that, I believe, is some great news worth sharing with the entire world…

Heirs According to the Promise

I once heard (I can’t remember where exactly, but I feel like it was from Beth Moore) that the following verses were a liturgy read in the New Testament church when new believers were baptized.  Can you imagine what it must have been like to have these words read over you as you were being dipped (Baptist roots…grin) into the water?  Don’t close your eyes while you’re imagining though…you still have to read! 😉

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” -Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV)

When Seth and I first publicly announced our intentions to adopt, we were floored when several Christian people responded with, “Adoption isn’t Biblical.”  We were shocked.  Adoption is all OVER Scripture–at the very least in the commands to care for widows and orphans (although that does not necessarily mean adoption), and at the very most when verses like the above Galatians passage signify the truth that God brought us all into His family through that wonderful thing we call “grace.”

When a child is adopted into a forever family, that child receives the last name and same rights and privileges of any biological children.  Two family trees that were once separated by miles become linked as hearts join together over the distance.

“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” -Ephesians 3:6 (NIV)

When we are grafted into God’s family, we become co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

We receive the rights and privileges of being a part of God’s family (Galatians 4:5-7).

We will receive an inheritance (Colossians 3:23-25).

What is that inheritance?  2 Corinthians 2:9 says, “However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’— the things God has prepared for those who love him…”

But we know this:

Our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10).
He is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4).
He is rich in mystery (Colossians 1:27).

And so much more…

I wrote back in December about how my word for 2014 was “accomplish.”  This is the year where I am trusting Him wildly to accomplish many things.  However…in order to trust Him to accomplish many things, we need to first know who we are in Christ.

Lady Wisdom Gives a Dinner Party [A Devotion on Proverbs 9]

grapes

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I pray many prayers throughout the course of my day and week for Reverence–prayers for the studio families, my staff, prayers for safety and provision and protection, prayers that we would be a light for Jesus and that God would continue to make us shine brightly for Him as an organization.  God has been so faithful to answer those prayers.  But when it comes to praying for myself and Reverence, the prayer that I pray most is one for wisdom.  I NEED wisdom from God.  There is no way that I could do this on my own without His guidance and Him going before me.

Proverbs 9 describes wisdom as a woman giving a dinner party.

Wisdom has built her house;
she has carved out her seven pillars.
She has prepared her meat; she has mixed her wine;
she has also set her table.
 She has sent out her female servants;
she calls out from the highest points of the city:
 “Whoever is inexperienced, enter here!”
To the one who lacks sense, she says,
 “Come, eat my bread,
and drink the wine I have mixed.
 Leave inexperience behind, and you will live;
pursue the way of understanding.

-Proverbs 9:1-6 (HCSB)

Wisdom is portrayed in Proverbs as a magnificent and magnanimous queen.  In this passage she prepares a beautiful table, sends out her servants, and invites the people of the city to sup at her table, pursuing the way of understanding.

Wisdom, not finding a home suitable for her needs, builds a house that is both strong and beautiful.  As Christians we are not supposed to do things in our own strength, but God does give us specific talents, abilities, and resources to do what He has called us to do.  Wisdom means using what God has given us in the sense of our resources, but in a greater sense, the words of truth that God has given us through Scripture.

Wisdom prepares a sumptuous feast.  The meat is specially prepared and the wine is mixed with something special as well.  (Insert cheesy joke about what that special something is here.)  Both the food and the drink are intended to have an extraordinary flavor, something that is sacred and intended to be enjoyed by the person who takes part of it.

Wisdom does not merely invite her close friends to the dinner party.  The invitation is to all who would receive it.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), and the more we seek and pursue wisdom the closer we will get to Him.  God extends the mercy of Himself to all (John 1:12).

Some scholars believe that Proverbs 9–while written hundreds of years before the beautiful Queen Esther set her table for the king and Haman–was a classic case of Biblical foreshadowing.  A magnificent and magnanimous queen who had been put in her position for such a time as this fasted and prayed for God’s direction, while using the resources she had been given to prepare a sumptuous and special feast–all to save her people.  And isn’t that why we are told to ask for wisdom as well?

“The one who gets wisdom loves life;
    the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.”
-Proverbs 19:8 (NIV)

From Beginning to End

2014 countdown

Photo Credit

Christmas gifts have been opened and enjoyed, cards have been mailed, and the bright, twinkling lights on Christmas trees are starting to wane.  The days are already becoming longer as we’ve just passed the winter solstice and darkest day of the year,  and most radio stations have sadly stopped playing the loops of Christmas songs.   The final countdown to 2014 is on, and even if it will take most of us the first three months of the year to actually remember to write “2014,” the New Year itself will be upon us in just a few short hours!

I finished it.  I chronologically read through the entire Bible…starting on January 1 and ending on December 31.  Some days I had to play “catch up” and read 12 chapters in a day if I missed, but most days I tried to discipline myself to do it as a part of my regular daily devotions.  You can read my thoughts on the first half of the Old Testament HERE and my thoughts on reading the second half of the Old Testament HERE.  The people of Israel had 400 years of silence between God’s last inspired word in the Old Testament and when He spoke again in the New Testament.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait that long because, you see, when you read the Bible in its entirety it reads like a beautifully raw work of art.  You laugh.  You cry.  You quickly turn the page to see what is going to happen next.  You want to shake people…and then you are confronted with the startling realization that you are just like them: sorely in need of a Savior.  And so, by the end of reading the Old Testament, you–just like the people of the world at that day–are longing for a fresh word from the Lord.

And it comes.  Oh, does it come!  As He promised long before…

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.  And I will be their God, and they will be my people.  And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. -Jeremiah 31:31-34

He came and made His tabernacle among us.  He came and died on the cross to save us.  He came and rose victoriously from the grave so that we could have forgiveness, redemption, restoration, and hope.  He left us with His Word–a perfect, complete, whole letter by which we are to live our lives.

On January 1, I asked the Lord to change me through the reading of His entire Word this year.  And, as I journeyed through the Scriptures…from creation to the fall of man, from the Exodus to the conquest to the exile, from the birth of Christ to His promise to return soon, He was faithful to do it.  I was inspired again by Abraham to live a life of faith, to live a life of integrity like Joseph and Daniel, to trust that God has me where I am at for such a time as this like Esther, and to bravely step out of the boat like Peter.  I’ve been in awe AGAIN and AGAIN at God’s character, majesty, holiness, and power.  And, I’m humbled by His love, grace, and mercy that I do not deserve.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

From beginning to end, God’s word has been about Him.  He pursues us with tenacity and then grafts us in to the beautifully woven tapestry that includes liars, murderers, prostitutes…every day men and women like you and me who grasped a hold of the lifeline of Christ and let Him change them, too.

From beginning to end, my 2013 has been about Him as well.  This year has been the “year of more” as I prayed it would be, and through every celebration, trial, blessing, hard time, I have come to know Him more.  The new year is just around the corner, and I wait for it with a sense of peace, excitement, and faith, knowing that “the one who is in me is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

“So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” -Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

See you next year! 😉

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!