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.

5 Ways to Make Valleys of Weeping into Places of Springs

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“As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs . . .” Psalm 84:6a

People have had to travel through tough times and places since the beginning of time. Ever since sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, difficulty and suffering have touched our lives.

In the verse from Psalm 84 above, pilgrims on their way to observe the religious festivals in Jerusalem (see v. 5) passed through the Valley of Baca—a valley of suffering. My NIV text note tells me that “Baca” means either “weeping” or “balsam trees.” It goes on to say that balsam trees were common in arid valleys. So whether the meaning here is a place of weeping or an arid place, both paint pictures of difficulty and suffering. The pilgrims didn’t have it easy. They had to travel through tough places.

Today believers are still pilgrims traveling through tough places, through valleys of weeping or struggles. Each one of us is walking life’s road toward our heavenly home. Each one of us faces tough places along the journey. Places and times when grief, trials, or spiritually dry times overwhelm us. Like the pilgrims of old, we don’t have it easy.

But notice how the scripture tells us that these Old Testament pilgrims made their valleys of weeping into places of springs. If you’re like me, you’re wondering how in the world they did that. Again, an NIV text note gives further insight. It says that the pilgrims’ expectations of joy transformed the difficult ways into places of refreshment. The promise of coming joy helped see them through.

So how can we transform our valleys of suffering into places of springs? Here are five ways that might help us:

1. Keep our eyes on the Lord and turn to him for solace. Even during our toughest times, he can supernaturally give us comfort, strength, refreshment, and even joy when we look to and depend on him.

2. Like the Old Testament pilgrims, expect and look forward to future joy. Instead of focusing only on the grief or difficulties we are currently dealing with, let’s keep an eye on future days when joy will be our portion again.

3. Find something every day to be thankful for. Expressing gratitude for something—for anything positive we see in the midst of our struggles—can lighten the moment, lift our spirits, or give us a fresh perspective.

4. Instead of isolating ourselves, stay involved with others and allow them to provide the comforting touch or encouraging word we need. Remember, God uses people to apply balm to our hurting hearts.

5. Read from the Bible every day—even if it’s just a few verses. God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It can provide refreshment and comfort and wisdom and everything else we need on any given day. It has been a lifeline for me nearly all my life.

As we apply these strategies—and others you may be thinking of—I can almost guarantee that God will bless us with moments of refreshment in the tough places of our lives.

God wants to show us his love and he will honor the efforts we make as we look to him. We may not have it easy all the time, but we do have a God who walks with us and is able to transform our valleys of weeping into places of springs. Let’s keep our eyes on him.

“He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs;” Psalm 107:35

*Which of these strategies have made a difference in your life during tough times? What else could you add to the list?

*My photo