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.

Growing in a Hard Place

Last summer while on vacation with my husband, I witnessed one little flower after another growing in hard places—in the nooks and crannies of rocky formations above tree line in Colorado.

I spotted the flowers pictured above in the Mount Evans Wilderness area. The flowers found there (and in other alpine regions throughout the world) display a delicate but hearty beauty that seems to cry out, “Look at me! I made it! I’m growing in a hard place. I’ve survived harsh conditions and my beauty is declaring God’s glory!”

And today we each have an opportunity to be like the alpine flowers—we can grow in the hard places we find ourselves in.

Due to the current worldwide coronavirus pandemic, we have literally been thrust into harsh conditions—threat of illness and possible death of ourselves and our loved ones, social isolation as we join together separately to rob the virus of opportunity to spread, financial losses and loss of jobs for many, and an inadequate supply of medical supplies, food, and other product shortages as people panic and start hoarding. Most of us have also had to place certain plans or events on hold—some of them very important like graduations and weddings.

Some of us are dealing with living in other hard places at the same time. Some may be grieving the loss of a mate, family member, or friend. Others may be struggling to keep a marriage afloat. Some are living with chronic pain or long-term health problems and some are even battling cancer or other life-threatening illnesses.

As we each struggle with our own set of harsh conditions, let’s remember that if we hang on, the beauty will come. Persevering and overcoming struggles always serve to make us better, to help us grow. We will have the chance to declare to the world, “Look at me! I made it! I’m growing in a hard place and I’m declaring God’s glory!”

Hang on, friends. God will see us through—and oh, what beauty will come!

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 1 Corinthians 4:8-9 NIV

*Are you seeing any beauty in your circumstances yet?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early May. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Amazon 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 and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*My photo

Mother of the Bride Beauty Prep: Face Yoga Exercises!

Mother of the Bride, are you interested in your face looking its best for your daughter’s wedding? Sure you are! I’m happy to be able to share with you today a great way to do that!

One free, all-natural way to prepare for the big day and get the perfect wedding glow is by starting a daily face yoga routine. Maybe you’ve heard about this new anti-aging wellness routine. Some simply call it facial exercises, and it has been popularized in recent years by a number of celebrity A-listers including Meghan Markle, Jennifer Aniston, and Madonna. Face yoga works by toning and strengthening the facial muscles to keep the skin on top plump and firm. You do this by stretching your face in a series of repetitive exercises that target specific muscles under the skin.

Scientists have recently begun studying the face yoga phenomenon and the results are promising. One recent study showed that 30 minutes of facial exercises per day can lead to a more youthful appearance, and another proved that it can lead to thicker facial muscles.

So MOB, I’ll share a couple of examples below but check out all the exercises from Rory to get started looking younger today!

 

*You might also like to read Most Important Part of the MOB’s Wedding Day Attire and Mother of the Bride: Spruce Up Your Smile!

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

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. 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.)

*Thanks to Rory for these images.

Add Beauty to Wedding Venues with Candlelight

Mother of the Bride, as you and your daughter discuss décor options for the ceremony and receptions sites, don’t overlook the beauty of candlelight. No two ways about it, candlelight works. Yes, other décor possibilities are beautiful, too, but candlelight has a magic all its own.

Candlelight adds beauty, serenity, and romance to every area it graces. This may be one reason candelabras have been such a traditional decoration for the front of the church. As the bride and groom exchange vows, they are flanked not only by the elegance of their attendants but also by the beauty of candlelight.

If your daughter doesn’t want the traditional candelabra-look for the ceremony, maybe she could have clusters of pillar candles positioned at various places up front. Or she might want votive candles lining certain areas. Possibilities abound. Just be sure to suggest that she include the magic and beauty of candlelight somewhere in the vision she has for her ceremony. Candlelight works wonders at a welcome area near the guest book as well.

Candlelight transforms a reception site, too. Whether candles are part of the guest table décor, a magical touch at the cake tables, or positioned in windows or other key areas, candlelight amps up the beauty factor at the reception big-time. As the evening goes on, the beauty grows as outside light fades and the candlelight becomes more prominent. It will make the wedding wonderland you’ve created absolutely gorgeous.

So MOB, do everyone a favor and encourage your daughter to offer the beauty of candlelight to all who join her and her beloved for their big day!

*You might also like to read Wedding Photo Idea: Moms Light Unity Candle Together and Centerpiece Idea: Flower Ring and Candle.

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

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. 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.)

*Hope this slightly revised encore post from March 2014 helps you today!

*Photo by Flowers Photography

Winter Trees and the Church: Beautiful Support

This may sound odd to some people, but I see a unique beauty in the naked trees of winter. Many would describe them as stark, drab, or depressing. I, on the other hand, think they have a beauty all their own when winter strips them of their leafy glory.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the leafy glory of trees as much as the next person. Watching trees bud out and turn green in the spring holds a special excitement for all of us. Summer then brings lush, full trees to pleasantly fill our landscapes before autumn arrives and sets them ablaze with color. I delight in each of these seasons and the changes they bring to trees.

But I think trees are beautiful in winter as well. Some might think it’s like looking at skeletons, but I see what looks like arms and fingers reaching for and pointing to God. I love looking out and seeing the intricacies of the branches. Winter allows us a view of the support system of the leaf laden trees we enjoy the rest of the year. Without the drab looking branches, there could be no beautiful leaves.

Winter trees actually remind me of other support systems in our lives as well. Just think about our bodies and all that’s working together beneath the surface to keep us up and running. The same can be said for just about every company, group, or organization we might name.

Consider the church. Many programs and people are highly visible, but there are just as many or more serving behind the scenes. And it’s the behind-the-scenes-type activity that makes it possible for the more visible ministries to take place. Everyone needs to do their part to keep things running smoothly—and more than that, to enable growth.

What role are you filling in your church—or life in general? Are you a part of the highly visible, leafy-glory, or is your role a part of the vital support system that’s needed? Maybe a little of both? Just keep in mind that neither is better. Both are needed and valued.

So take another look at the winter trees. Beautiful, huh?

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

*What support systems in your church, workplace, or organizations are you most thankful for?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out Feb. 1st. 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 Oakley Originals, Creative Commons License

*I hope you enjoyed this revised encore post from January 2008!