Lift Up Your Eyes: Guest Post by Gail Goolsby

Gazing out of the window on my first airplane trip to Afghanistan in 2004, I’d thought the scenery depressing. The decades of war, the desperate need for heating fuel, the years of drought, and the desert climate all contributed to the missing trees and grass. It is all so drab, so lifeless. Where is the green in all this khaki? Yuck.

The dusty, colorless environment fit my overall mood those first few months after my arrival in 2005 to serve as the principal of the soon-to-open International School of Kabul (ISK). I missed my young adult, semi-launched children back in the States and all my friends and my comfortable Missouri home, complete with gardens, paved streets and sidewalks.

When the rain came, the billowing dust turned to sticky mud. The mess was worse than the dust, but the rains brought relief through cleaner air. I could actually see vibrant color on trees and plants when the showers removed the dusty camouflage. But only briefly, as the high desert sun dried the ground quickly and the dust always returned.

Ah, but out of the dust rose…the mountains.

Like Denver, Kabul has several mountain ranges encircling it. They aren’t tree-covered like the Appalachians or Ozarks, or mighty granite peaks like the Rockies, but they are majestic in their own way. Walking down the dusty ISK street, I would lift my eyes to see the sunny blue skies outlining the mountains on every side and feel momentarily pleased with my surroundings. Sunrise and sunset photos over the hills were popular postings by staff on social media and undeniably breathtaking. Many fit foreigners loved to hike the stark inclines of Kabul’s mountains.

Ugliness at Every Corner

The Kabul chaos bothered me far more than bombs and guns, which were real threats, but not my daily challenge. Living in an overcrowded, unorganized city was draining to a lifelong suburban dweller like me.

Contrast too few resources (water, heat, power, internet, roadways, housing and work for returning refugees) with too many taxis, bicycles, pedestrians, beggars, flocks of goats and sheep (with their droppings), and horse-drawn carts all vying for the same travel space. Traffic was crazy with few yellow lines or stoplights. Drivers went where they liked, even in the opposite lane, confronting the coming stream of vehicles until somebody gave way.

Add to that the disregard/disrespect for women which hit me personally and professionally as I dealt more with men than women (who had limited English) in maddening, sometimes scary moments. Groups of Afghan men appeared throughout the city and seemed to stare holes in foreign women in eerie, disconcerting ways.

One October morning that first year in Kabul, I heard my husband call to me as I got ready for work. “Gail, come see this.”

I stepped outside, noticed the white powder on our marble patio courtyard, and then looked up.

Wow. My mouth fell open.

God Shows Up

When I saw that first autumn snowfall on the many peaks surrounding Kabul, I was enraptured. The transformation from a dusty, bland city was powerful. The sparkling white frosting on the brown mountain tops made a picturesque contrast. As a December birthday girl, I have always loved snow and yearly hoped it would appear as a special gift on my day. Now, it served to lift my spirits even higher, to remind me again, that God was present and able to enter any bleakness in wonderfully personal ways.

Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV) says: I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

When I purposely opened my eyes and looked carefully all around me, I could find delight, wonder, love, purpose and beauty in a seemingly desolate, vacant place.

What is hindering you from recognizing beauty and hope in your life right now?

*This article contains excerpts from my award-winning book Unveiled Truth: Lessons I Learned Leading the International School of Kabul. You can purchase a signed copy at: gailgoolsby.com/buy-book/ or online: books2read.com/gailgoolsby

 

 

Gail Goolsby holds master’s degrees in Professional Counseling and Educational Leadership. She has over 25 years educational experience as teacher, school counselor, and principal, including the K-12 American school in Afghanistan. Her award-winning book Unveiled Truth: Lessons I Learned Leading the International School of Kabul details the experience with challenging applications for all readers. As a counselor and ICF certified life coach, Gail believes there is support and encouragement in God’s Word to help us all learn to live well.

Gail and her pastor husband have been married 41 years and have three grown children, two sons-in-law, and four spunky granddaughters. They live where the wind blows over the prairie in south central Kansas and there really is no place like home.

Find her on her website: gailgoolsby.com  and social media: facebook.com/  Twitter

*Photo by Khalid Ahmadzai, used with permission.

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early August. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

No Beauty By Accident

During a visit to Mom and Dad’s several years ago, I woke early one morning and looked out the bedroom window. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I took a few moments and basked in the beauty of their then-backyard in the lush woodland hills of Missouri. The photo above shows part of what I saw, but my camera and photography skills don’t do it justice. They had a gorgeous view that was not only a treat for the eyes but for the spirit as well.

My thought that morning as I feasted on the scene before me? Beauty doesn’t happen by accident.

That’s right. No accidents in the world of nature. There is a Creator. Whether it’s the hills of Missouri, the beaches of Mexico, or the birds that sing outside my door each day, the beauty of the world around us proclaims the handiwork of a Master Designer.

Each one of us bears his signature as well “For we are God’s workmanship…” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). And just as our outward beauty (yes, we are beautiful!) is no accident, our inner beauty doesn’t happen by accident either. The same Creator who sculpted the mountains and painted the seas will mold us into loveliness if we present ourselves to him and submit to his loving and all-wise touch.

Do we trust him? Are we ready to become the masterpiece he envisions? Let’s allow him to unleash his handiwork on the inside, too. After all, beauty doesn’t happen by accident.

“Yet, you LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 NIV

*What is beautiful about the masterpiece God has created in you?

*The current issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out earlier this month. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*My photo

Small Seeds, Big Results

“‘. . . a mustard seed . . . the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’” Mark 4:31-32 NIV

We’ve all heard the phrase “little but mighty.” These well-known words are an apt description for many people and situations, and they can certainly be applied to seeds and planting too.

In scripture, Jesus used the example of the mustard seed to show how something great—something big—can come from the smallest of seeds when planted. The humble little mustard seed can grow until it is one day large enough to provide shade for birds. What a perfect example of how something little can become something mighty.

Small seeds that yield big results are not only seen in the world of gardening and farming, though. They can be witnessed in finances, education, in developing talents and abilities, in building self-confidence, and in spiritual transformation as well as many other things.

Whenever and wherever seeds are planted, growth—yes, miracles—are bound to happen. A little boy who’s given a toy microscope as a child grows up to become a research scientist. A little girl receives a set of colored pencils for her birthday and one day opens her own graphic design business. A troubled teen accepts a New Testament during a Gideon distribution at school and later that year asks Jesus to be his Savior. Yes, planted seeds become miracles.

What small seeds can we plant in the coming days, weeks, and months? It might be as simple as an encouraging word to a struggling soul or a verse of scripture shared on social media. Perhaps we could give a scholarship to a camp, conference, or event that will be life-changing for the recipient. The possibilities are limitless.

Let’s do it. Let’s plant small seeds that could become mighty things. Let’s provide shade—or nourishment or inspiration or any number of other things that someone somewhere needs today. Let’s be part of a miracle!

I planted the seed . . . but God has been making it grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV

*What seeds have been planted in your life that have become mighty things?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Kapitalist63, Creative Commons License

Christmas Poem 2018: The Marvelous Mix of Christmas

Yes, Virginia, I did write another Christmas poem.

Some of you may be wondering how long I can keep this tradition up—and sometimes I do too. I started writing original Christmas poems for my Christmas cards way back in 1982 and have not missed a year since. It hasn’t always been easy (in fact, writing poetry is pretty challenging), but God has always been faithful each year to give me a message to share with my friends and family. And I am ever so grateful.

I’ll be taking a blogging break as we all focus on the holidays the next few weeks. I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones and have a chance to get refocused and recharged for the new year. I will see you back here then.

May you experience “The Marvelous Mix of Christmas” this year in every way, my friends, and may this year’s poem bless you in a special way!

    The Marvelous Mix of Christmas

Christmas is a marvelous mix
A medley of tradition and faith,
A beautiful blend of heaven and earth
A merry and holy holiday.

A marvelous mix of magic
Of music in the air,
Of snowflakes, angels, and twinkling lights
Of sweet surprises shared.

A marvelous mix of memories
From childhood through present day,
Starring friends and family dear
Ever in our hearts they’ll stay.

A marvelous mix of ministry
Of reaching out to others,
Giving and serving with good will to all,
All become sisters and brothers.

Christmas—a marvelous mix of miracles
Begun by a Babe and his star,
Still ripples down through the ages
Bringing Light and Life from afar.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5 NIV

*How are you experiencing the marvelous mix of Christmas this season?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early February. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by s_mestdagh, Creative Commons License

Easter Acrostic: From Sorrow to Joy

Easter—the holiday that takes us from the depths of sorrow to the heights of joy in the span of only two and a half days.

We remember the Last Supper our Lord had with his disciples and feel the pain of his betrayal. We recall his prayerful agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and then relive the horror of his arrest and crucifixion. We feel the grief his loved ones and followers felt.

But then the joy comes. We remember and rejoice in the fact that death did not win. God raised Jesus from the dead—our Savior lives! And because of him, we who are believers will live eternally with him in heaven. What joy!

May the following Easter “From Sorrow to Joy” thoughts bless your celebration this year. Happy Easter, friends!

Easter: From Sorrow to Joy

Ever remember his body and blood shed for us.

Again read the scripture and tell the story of those history-altering, life-changing days.

Stand at the foot of the cross and weep over the price he paid for our sin.

Thank God for raising Jesus from the dead, for giving us a Savior who lives today.

End fearful and defeated thinking and be filled with the joy and hope of eternal life.

Rejoice in Christ’s victory over Satan and let our lives overflow with praise to God!

“The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” Matthew 28:5-6 NIV

*Do you know Jesus as your Savior? If not, ask him to forgive your sins and be your Lord. Give him your heart today!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early May. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Dale Simonson, Creative Commons License