All Posts By:

Kristin Vanderlip

October 25, 2017

How to Survive a Spiritual Winter (Are You Prepared?)

My first fall in New England is simply a delight, even more than I anticipated it would be. The woods and tall oak trees surrounding our rental house have provided us with front row seats to fall’s majestic show.

Each time I’m in the kitchen washing dishes, I look out the window above the sink, not only do I have the pleasure of watching the leaves change colors and dance as they descend to the ground, but I am also greeted by the sights of squirrels frolicking and chipmunks darting to and fro. As I watch these little creatures scurry about busy at work, a smile instantly forms on my face, and I can’t help but feel a little like Snow White in these moments.

I watch as the squirrels make short bounds around the backyard, rummaging through the crunchy leaves, hunting for their treasures. As soon as they find an acorn, their tiny heads dart back and forth as though they’re checking to see if the coast is clear, and then they make a break for it, running to a special hiding place to bury their treasure, like little four legged bandits on the run with their loot.

The squirrels are spending their days storing up their acorns, working hard to prepare for the coming winter. And I think how smart it is that they prepare for the hard and cold season ahead by storing up what they’re going to need, but then again I’m not sure if it’s as much brains as it is part of their design and instincts to survive.

Either way, this stirs something in my soul. It starts as a soft whisper.

Winter is coming.

(And no I’m not referencing the popularized saying from the television show Game of Thrones–which is too risque for this girl–but this is a truth and a warning we should all heed.)

Winter is coming. Our lives are always changing, and we find ourselves in different seasons throughout our years. Eventually we will encounter what we might call figurative or spiritual winters, where our days seem dark and long, our hearts grow cold and lonely, signs of life and vibrancy seem to have withered and faded away. It’s in these seasons we are likely to find ourselves mourning, weeping, or suffering through something.

If I could shout one thing from the rooftops to land gently and lovingly in each woman’s heart in this world, it would be this: Read more

October 19, 2017

For The Ones Who Share Their Stories & For Those Who Are Invited To Listen

A series of small, unexpected events led to a quiet drive home alone in the middle of my morning yesterday.

I turned on the radio and pressed the button to skip through the stations in search of something to listen to.  I landed upon a talk radio show I had never heard of on a station I had never listened to before. I released my finger from the button and listened to the conversations and words being shared.

My soul stirred as it soaked in the stories. Before I knew it, the tears in the distant voices coming through my car speakers were intimately forming in my own eyes.

How easily I could have skipped past this station, past these voices and stories, and kept holding down the button until I landed on a station playing a feel good song. I’m so glad I didn’t.

How easy it is to pass over the stories all around us that are asking to be heard, that need to be heard. We do it every day, passing them by far too often. We walk, flip, scroll, skip, and keep on moving past. Sometimes without even realizing it. Sometimes giving ourselves a million excuses as to why but not giving it a second thought so as not to feel the conviction of doing so.

Sometimes the stories are coming from our own children, our family or friends, our co-worker, the cashier at the store, the rugged man on the street holding the cardboard sign. Sometimes they’re screaming loudly in front of us. Sometimes they’re that literal sign in front of us. Sometimes they’re a comment quietly and timidly released into the air secretly begging and hoping to be caught. Sometimes they’re a status or picture or hashtag on social media.

They come in all forms, but they’re all stories, all people, asking to be heard.

Sometimes we are aware of the stories, but most of the time we don’t take the time to stop, to be present, or to listen. I know this because I’ve done this, and I’ve watched others do the same.  Read more

October 12, 2017

What You Need to Know About Your Tears

He coyly poked his head past the frame of his bedroom door and peeked down the stairs.

“Mommy?” his tiny voice tentatively asked. It was just above a whisper, barely carrying its way to my ears.

I stood at the bottom of the stairs peering up at him and replied, “Yes, Baby?”

“You need to come wipe my tears,” he whimpered.

Big emotions had filled his small three-year-old heart and almost instantaneously flooded his eyes with great big tears. He had been crying for a few minutes before he called to me.

I started up the stairs, and when I reached him, I leaned my face in close to his, gaining an intimate view of his tears. Their streaks glistened on his cheeks revealing paths that resembled tiny streams. Each eye held a tear so large that it filled half his eye and threatened to fall with the slightest movement. But his eyes held my gaze, and so they remained half full of tears.

With my thumbs I gently wiped his tears from his eyes. I cupped his small face in my hands and ran my them across his babysoft skin, wiping the rest away, but he could still feel the evidence of their wet presence.

“Mommy there’s still more.”

This time, I pulled the bottom of my soft, cotton shirt to his face to soak up every last droplet. (After all, isn’t this what a momma’s shirt is for–to collect tears and boogers and all the toddler things as though it were a napkin?).

By now his whimpers turned to soft sniffles. His soul calming with the wiping and drying of his tears.

This routine started a couple of months ago and has now become a familiar scene in our home, an expectation he has of me.

It’s not until I’ve come and wiped every tear droplet dry that his soul truly rests.

Can I be honest for a minute?

Even though the tears and crying look different as an adult, I still have an inner longing to be seen and loved just like this.

As much as I refuse to cry in front of others, there’s this desire inside of me for my unseen tears to be seen, to know they matter.

If we’re honest, I think we all want someone to come to us like this: to see our tears and the pain behind them, to touch them, and to lovingly wipe them away.  Read more

September 28, 2017

2 Ways to Transform Your Life When You Feel Helpless or Hopeless

The sound of bedroom doors opening and closing wakes me from my less than stellar night’s sleep. Before I even open my eyes, my body stirs, and the pain instantly radiates through me. Each small movement feels like my joints have become creaky, old, rusty door hinges.

Why at 32 do I feel like I’m trapped inside of an 80 year old arthritic body?

I painstakingly pull myself so that I’m sitting upright in bed. I swing my legs, or rather drag them with the assistance of my hands because my joints are too stiff and stuck to move on their own, from the bed to the floor. Every movement takes more effort than it should. The pain aches deep inside my bones, and I let out a moan of discomfort followed by a long sigh.

I force myself to stand, pushing against the mattress, once again with the assistance of my arms to get myself there because my legs just can’t seem to function. And then I go to take a small step forward. A simple step. But I can barely manage. I press my foot down on the floor as I step and immediately retract it as it tells me it won’t be holding up the weight of my body this morning. I momentarily hold my leg out in front of me to examine it and test my knee. It won’t bend at all. The pain travels back and forth between my knee and my hip as I try to achieve even the smallest angle. Nope. Not happening.

I look down at my knee that won’t bend. It’s terribly swollen and looks ridiculous on my skinny leg, that’s not skinny in a nice way, but skinny as in I’ve lost all my muscle tone sort of way.

And then I continue my journey to start my day by hobbling to the bathroom, hunched over, using the wall as a crutch. This morning reminds me of the days immediately following my surgery… 6 months ago.

This isn’t good.

This isn’t good at all.

After not seeing the progress I had hoped for, I finally sought the help of a physical therapist. And yet, I’ve seen no improvement. In fact my knee seems to be progressively worsening.

My knee is never going to heal. This pain is never going to go away. 

I notice the tears wanting out as the discouragement and fear barge in, but unlike those emotions that burst through like a pack of wild and unruly children that I can’t seem to control, I try to control the one thing I’ve become good at: keeping the tears in.

But then I recognize what I’m doing as I refuse to let those tears through. I’m storing up things inside of me that are no good, and as a result hopelessness is rising and flooding my soul.

That old familiar lie of hopelessness. I recognize it more quickly these days, but still it comes.  Read more

September 20, 2017

3 Ways to Find Closure

My father took his last breath while I was in the air flying somewhere over the cornfields of Illinois. Less than 24 hours before in Alabama, I received a phone call from my older brother telling me that the time none of us wanted to come was here, and sooner than we expected. I took the first flight back home to be with my dad, to see him one last time, to tell him I loved him one more time, to say my goodbyes. But I didn’t make it.

Two weeks before, my exhausted body and mind were in the refuge of quiet darkness and the comfort of thick soft blankets as I slept in a deep slumber in our guest bedroom. I had been seeking a desperate reprieve from caring for our dying daughter around the clock. I rejected it for as long as possible, but I needed the rest, just a little rest… and it came. But my deep and peaceful sleep was interrupted, and I awoke with a startle, thrust into a living nightmare. While I had been tucked away across the house enjoying my sleep, my baby girl had taken her last breath.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. We had done everything we could for 36 days, knowing she was dying, to always be with her, holding her, watching over her every breath, and when we finally succumbed to the exhaustion and sought our solace in rest, she slipped away from us.

In the end it was a simple cold that took my daughter’s life. Because of her fatal condition we had been told to expect that this is how her life would probably end one day, but somehow we missed the signs. And as a result, we weren’t ready, and my heart was crushed that I wasn’t with her in the end.

For my father, it was a battle with an aggressive, unrelenting cancer. One that resisted every treatment and in the end stole his life more quickly than anyone had anticipated.

The initial news that we would lose them both was unexpected and heart-wrenching. And even though I knew their deaths were coming, I wasn’t prepared. And, worst of all, I wasn’t there for either them.

No matter how much notice we’re given, and even though we all know that death is a part of life, I don’t think we are ever truly ready when it happens, and as a result we often lack the closure we long for when someone we love dies.

When life doesn’t go as planned, when the unexpected happens, when we enter into deep hurt or suffering where we think “this is not how it should be,” when we ache for closure that isn’t there, we wrestle and struggle. And these feelings we’re left with consume, entrap, and entangle us. We feel them wrapping tightly around our necks like a boa constrictor squeezing the very breath from us.

We want out. We want to be free. But how?  Read more