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. :)

 

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…

A Light to My Path: Lessons from my Chronological Bible Reading Thus Far

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The first and only time I read the entire Bible in a year was when I was 12- 13 years old and in the 7th- 8th grade.  It was a time in my life where the Lord really grabbed a hold of me.  Since then I’ve learned to depend on the hope, strength, and faith that I have found through a solid reliance on God’s Word.  It’s the only thing that remains a constant in my life, my anchor through life’s storms.  I’ve read and reread its books over again.  I’ve underlined passages, words, and verses that are particularly meaningful to me at a certain time in life.  I’ve done countless Bible studies through books.  I’ve written many Bible studies and spent hours exegetically studying root words.  But, I haven’t read the Bible through in its entirety in a year in 16 years.  And let’s be honest, I haven’t read books like 2 Chronicles or Numbers much over that time either.  So this year I was feeling like I needed to really dig into God’s Word and read it in an entire year in its entirety.  I’m headed into another time of change and full reliance on God is critical.  One of the best ways to know God better is to read His Word.  I decided to read the Bible chronologically instead of straight through, and I have to say that I’m really glad I selected that method!

1.  Reading the Book of Job during the blah Central PA winter was…special.  I read the first part of Genesis and then the entire book of Job.  If you haven’t read the Book of Job, it’s basically like this:

Job:  I hate my life.  I wish I had never been born.
Job’s Friends:  Yeah, you should wish that.

But once you get past all that, there are some amazing pearls in that book.  I found one in Job 34:29b:  Yet he [God] is over man and nation alike.  It reminded me of how God watches over both men and nations to see that right is done.  “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” -1 Chronicles 16:9  What is your heart focused on?  I’ve been especially challenged by that this year.  What is in my heart?  What are my motivations?  I want to seek first His kingdom and righteousness.  But even more so by this verse:  “He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.”  -Job 36:16  Don’t you just love that?  Lord, may You continue to woo us into a spacious place!

2.  I want to have the faith of Abraham.  “Lift up your eyes and look!” was God’s command to Abraham when he finally entered the Promised Land.  When we look because God tells us to look, our hearts and focuses are changed.  Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited to him as righteousness.”  By believing in God’s promises our faith unlocks them.  My faith pleases the Lord and it is put in the spiritual bank.  I am so inspired by Abraham’s faith, Joseph’s bravery, Ruth’s steadfastness, David’s full life well-lived….I want to be like them.

3.  If the Lord’s presence does not go before me, I do not want to go from this place!  I have learned throughout my life, but especially over these past five years that I do not want to go anywhere or do anything without the Lord telling me to do it first.  I want His presence with me wherever I go.  Exodus 14:13-14 says, “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

4.  The Lord equips me.  He is all that I need.  “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.  He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.” -2 Samuel 22:33-34  These verses (also echoed in Psalms) have been such an encouragement to me and a constant reminder that no matter what happens, He is my source of strength.  “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever–do not abandon the works of your hands.” -Psalm 138:8

5.  Our God truly is greater, stronger, wiser, more powerful, and more awesome than any other (cue Chris Tomlin).  The more I read about Him and how amazing He is, the more I want to know Him.  The more I want to seek Him.  The more I am thankful that He invites us to be a part of His greater plan for humanity.

Have you ever (or are you currently) read through the Bible in a year?  If so, did you use a specific plan?  What did you learn?

 

A Manifesto for the Wimps and the Movers

Let us be a people who Move.

Let us not be afraid of what’s uncomfortable.  Let us embrace the new, the bold, the rough, the raw.

May the atmosphere change where we walk because we will walk in such a way that dust scatters beneath our feat.

Let us be a people who do not look back.

We put our pillars in the Jordan so that we always remember what God has done, but then we move forward–setting our faces toward what is yet to come.    Our past shapes us, but it does not make us who we are.

Let us keep walking through the mire, the murk, and the mist.

Moving through the mire and murk means that we keep moving when the situation gets sticky.  We do what is right.  We press forward when life is ugly, hopeless, and messy, knowing that there is still hope.

Moving through the mist means that our faith is being sure of what we cannot see.

Let us then run in such a way as to get the prize.

If our ultimate goal is to have an abundant life through Christ Jesus, then we should move that way.  Our goal should not be to be the best dancer, doctor, or mountain climber.  Our goal should be to conform to the character of Christ.

Because transformation is born from moving.

Christ humbled Himself.  He wrapped Himself in human flesh and walked on our broken, desolate terra so that He could change the world.  And He’s calling us to do the same….

Let us be a people who move. 

Like Abraham we’ll go when He calls us to go into unfamiliar territory.

Like Ruth we’ll gather leftover kernels of grain from the end of the line because we’re foreigners in a strange land.

Like Gideon the Lord will fight our battles.

Like David we’ll be a shepherd and a warrior.

Like Esther we’ll rise to our purpose for such a time as this.

Like Peter, James, and John we’ll say yes to following Him.

Let us be a people who move.

When Your Best is Used Goods

new used

“No nice, Christian guy will ever want me.  I’m used goods.”  As I listened to my friend echo the cries of so many others in our generation, my natural—and hollow—response of “of course you’re not” got stuck on my tongue.  I had no clue as to the depth of emotional torture she was facing because I had never done something like that, but as I listened to her choke out the horrors she had faced, my soul wanted to weep.  Her fragile emotions wouldn’t be able to handle my trite platitudes in that moment, and my honor wouldn’t allow me to speak them.  Instead, we both cried together for what she had lost, and for what the world had lost through her decision.

Because I knew just as well as she did that the church would rank her sins as among the worst. Why do we do that?  The church as a whole seems to have a list as to what sins are worse than others.  It looks something like:

  1. Abortion
  2. Homosexuality
  3. Extramarital affairs/ sexual sins
  4. Being a democrat (or a Republican these days!)
  5. Murder
  6. Not wearing hipster clothes if you’re a pastor or church leader (I’m semi-kidding on this one!)

And then, wayyyyyyyyy down at the bottom are those “little” things like lying, gossiping, idolatry, hating others, judging others, jealousy, and excess.  You know, those things that many of us do and think we get away with every single day.

But, the truth is that we don’t.  Like the Pharisees, the American church is full of white-washed tombs of men and women.  We look amazing on the outside, and we do all the right things in public.  We create an image for ourselves that screams perfection, forgetting that we’re all dead inside without Christ’s redeeming blood.  And yes, some sins have different and greater consequences than others here on our moaning and groaning Earth.  I’m not condoning or excusing any sin.  I just think that we lie to ourselves when we say that someone isn’t good enough for our church or our Jesus or our ministry because of their past.  Has it really been that long since we’ve experienced the beautiful power and precious gift of Christ’s redeeming love for ourselves?  Have we forgotten what it’s like to live in grace?

Years ago I was a part of a dance shoe drive for an orphanage in Mexico.  I had been connected with a lady there (also named Kirsten!) who had started a dance school in that orphanage that was wildly successful.  She was asking for any gently used dance shoes that we could donate for the kids to use.  When you’re a teenager or an adult, you wear your dance shoes until they have holes in them and are molded to your feet perfectly.  When you’re a kid your feet grow so fast that most times the dance shoes are still practically new.  For kids who don’t have the money to buy a new pair of shoes and have to rely on their parents, it was good for them to give something that had been once meaningful and useful to them to a group of children across the world who couldn’t afford dance shoes.  Was it not from their heart because they weren’t giving new shoes, but rather giving what they had?  Of course not!  Their families would rather the investment be used and multiplied for the good rather than just sitting at home collecting dust.  In this case, the best that the American children had to offer the Mexican orphans was used goods, but it came from their hearts because it was all they had to give.  Used dance shoes became the vessel for God’s love to multiply in another country.

Yet, the American Church still demands perfect vessels.  And that’s why people in my generation have stopped going to church.

Have we forgotten that Christ’s earthly lineage was comprised of adulterers, murderers, prostitutes, liars, and cheaters?  Have we forgotten that when Christ Himself walked on this dusty, broken terra that He went out of His way to eat supper with those same people?  As we piously tell people to “hate the sin, love the sinner,” don’t we know that the devil is knocking at our door as well?

God hates sin because He is a perfect and just and holy God.  His inerrant Word found in Scripture specifically says that there are things that are sins, and they include everything except for democracy and lack-of-hipster-dressing that I mentioned above.  The truth is that all sins are equal in His eyes.  We all start on the same playing field.  We are all used goods.

Nonetheless, because He is a merciful God and because of His great love for us, He sent His one and only Son Christ Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.  He offers us grace and the chance for healing and restoration, when He didn’t have to.  Though our sins are scarlet, He can make them whiter than snow.  How precious and sweet a gift that is to each of us!  He blessed the Widow’s Mite because it was all that she had, even though it was a minimal amount.  He picked up the Adulterous Woman and said, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  Why then is it so hard for us to offer grace to our fellow sojourners?

That conversation that I had with my friend was over ten years ago.  After we had cried together, I took out some paper and markers and we wrote down the labels that the enemy and other people had wrongfully given us.  Mine were different than hers, but they were just as damaging.  We realized how we were allowing those labels to dictate our lives, and the only One who could break through them and allow us to walk in freedom and victory was Christ.  Arms linked, we walked outside and burned our papers and asked Christ to do a new work in us.  My friend has been able to marry, have kids, and walk countless other women through the steps of healing and restoration.

And you know how my story has unfolded thus far….

“The sacrifices you desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” –Psalm 51:17 (NLT)