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Kristin Vanderlip

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September 1, 2017

What I Learned This Summer

At the end of every season I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman and hundreds of other women as we reflect back and share what we learned in that season. It’s a wonderful practice that’s helped me reflect, process, and transition into the next season. 

So what did I learn this summer?

It feels more like what didn’t I learn this summer?!

This summer has been full of change and glorious adventures, and it would be impossible to share all I’ve learned especially considering all of the visits to new places with so much history (like NYC, Boston, Yale, etc.) so I’ve tried to narrow it down to 10 things that struck a cord with me.

(I hope maybe you’ll learn something new here too!)

Here we go – What I Learned This Summer: Read more

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August 30, 2017

The First Day of Kindergarten, from One Rainbow Mom’s Perspective

Right now many of us moms are sending our babies off to kindergarten.

For many moms this season likely creates a huge ache in their hearts and a trickle of tears down their cheeks that they quickly try to wipe away and hide, at least while still in view of their little ones.

After all, we’re sending our babies off into the world. And perhaps this is one of the first true moments of letting go. And the letting go is h-a-r-d.

This week I was one of the moms sending my baby off to kindergarten.

However, I wasn’t one of the moms that I just described.

Now please don’t hear me wrong, especially if you were / are one of these moms. I can empathize with the reactions and tears and difficulties in sending our babies off to school in a way that is much deeper than most realize and there’s no judgement here.

My experience this week was different. And maybe in a way that you might not expect.

You see, when you’ve walked the unexpected and traumatic road of child loss, as I have, it drastically changes you as a mother, as a person, and affects every aspect of your life including how you think and feel and look at the world.

One of the hardest aspects of losing a baby is that you grieve more than just them, more than just who they were, more than just your sweet one month old. You lose them and their entire future – and the future you had expected for yourself.

You lose an entire lifetime all at once, your grieve a lifetime of losses all at once, and you do it for your entire lifetime.  Read more

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August 24, 2017

Comfortable in Suffering

There’s a song by Francesca Battistelli called “If We’re Honest” in which she sings these words:

“The dark seems safer than the light.”

Who could ever imagine the dark being safer than the light? That we could end up thinking that way?

But that was it.

One day as I was listening to this song for hundredth time, those words reverberated in my mind and stopped me in my tracks.

That was where I found myself without realizing it.

In a place where dark seems safer than the light.

Have you ever been there before? Are you there now? If yes please keep reading. If not, please still keep reading, because maybe one day you’ll remember these words, and they will help free you from the darkness and the moment in which it seems safer than the light.

In our lives we will have seasons where the storm rages, the skies darken, a fog falls over us, a blackness consumes us. There’s a million ways to describe it – and most are accurate. None of us are immune to these seasons.

However you want to describe it, the darkness can enter our lives in different ways but functions the same. Maybe it’s through sorrow or fear or pain that comes from death, illness, job loss, a broken relationship, or something else, something else that hurts and breaks and empties us.

Our lives grow dark during seasons of suffering.

The darkness wraps itself around us. Those of us who have experienced a season of suffering know this. But here’s the thing, if we’re not careful, we might end up holding onto the dark and pulling it tighter around us like a blanket.

Like the dark is safer than the light.

We might long for the light and beg to be released from the darkness’s captivity – but how do we experience the light again? Will the darkness ever be lifted? When will we ever be free from it? Is it even possible?  Read more

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August 11, 2017

Why God Calls Us To Dangerous Places (A Book Review)

I recently became a member of Moody Publishers blogger review program in which I receive free copies of certain titles in exchange for my honest reviews. Below is my review of the first title I read. As always, I promise to only share books and other products I think will be meaningful to my readers. 

As a military spouse whose husband is called to dangerous places all the time and as someone who has followed Jesus through seasons of trials and suffering and learned deep and freeing spiritual lessons and grown to love deeper and walk freer as a result, and who also has a strong desire to encourage others who are walking through hard times and wrestling with hard questions, I was eager to read this book for the question its title asks and share the messages in it with you. Read my full review below.

 

 


In the book Why Does God Call Us to Dangerous Places (2015), Kate McCord answers the question posed in her title, and she does it just as Jesus does, gently, yet powerfully. In each chapter Kate offers a new facet and answer to this heavy question by speaking truth backed by her personal life stories, the stories of others in dangerous places, and ultimately by sharing God’s word and ample scripture references.

Kate bravely opens up her personal sacred spaces by sharing her personal stories from her 9 years spent in Afghanistan as a Christian woman and humanitarian aid worker. Her stories of a foreign and dangerous life the majority of us will never see or experience will draw you in. As you read about Kate’s experiences you will feel as though you’re sitting next to her on the dirt floor surrounded by Afghan women, experiencing the ebb and flow of emotions that wash over her and witness her heart turn to God throughout as though it’s your own heart and then witness a God who does all He says He will do just as Kate does.

Kate’s stories recount the danger, the suffering, the loss, the fears, and more of being called to a dangerous place to serve Jesus and share the Gospel. She not only shares her personal stories, but also shares the direct words and stories of others.

At first I found the excerpts in which the words of others appear distracting and found myself wanting to skim through them because I wanted more of Kate’s own words and story, but then I understood Kate’s message and slowed down to take the time to give honor to each of these stories she included because they weren’t just stories, they were people whose lives matter and deserve to be shared. These inclusions ended up supporting and brought a greater understanding to Kate’s message and emphasizing it as not just her own.  Read more

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July 20, 2017

The Story of the Butterfly

I’ve come to discover that it’s often in the unexpected moments that God surprises and reveals something to me.

It should be no surprise when He surprises me, but it often is. And I sort of love that.

So let me tell you about the story of the butterfly and how it’s come unexpectedly into my life, twice, and how God has used the story of the butterfly to speak to me. Maybe as you read, the butterfly will unexpectedly speak to your story too.

THEN

It all started on a day in which chaos and darkness spiraled around me. A day I never could have foreseen in my future. The day my husband and I, both dazed in the depths of grief and in a panic of urgency, found ourselves shopping for suitable black outfits to wear to our baby girl’s funeral, the next day.

We had just driven and wept for 24 hours from Alabama, where we had been stationed, to Illinois, through a blizzard, to bury our child back home, and we had nothing to wear. (How could we have?) But her ceremony and burial were the next day, and we were exhausted and in a desperate hurry to find something.

In a trance of grief, we passed underneath the florescent lights of the nearest mall searching for something to wear. The world whizzed by us in a happy hustle. And we were completely disconnected from it.

The reality of the world didn’t make sense anymore with this new reality of ours. And the world had no idea about what we had just lost and what we were preparing to do and why we found ourselves at a mall. I longed to escape it all, the mall, what we were doing, my reality — it was suffocating.

I think I made it through that shopping experience in part because of my husband’s ability to display strength and keep his composure, even though I knew he was as broken as I inside, and through a constant internal prayer I cried (Lord, help me) almost so repetitively that if you had ears to hear you might have thought I was a crazy person.

But it carried me through, and we managed to find what we needed. As we were about to leave, I walked down the aisle of the last department store, toward where my husband was standing.

He had the look of someone holding an old photo containing the image of someone they loved long ago, reminiscing with a smile while tears filled their eyes, that bittersweet expression of joy and sorrow.

“I think these are for you,” he said softly.

He motioned to a small box of jewelry in front of him on a table. It was a charm for a necklace with a matching pair of earrings.

Pink jewels shaped to look like butterflies.

This was the first time the butterfly entered my life.

Yes. I thought. Pink for her. Our baby girl. I could wear them the next day.

I knew I needed them. I needed the delicate, pink butterflies to stand out against the harsh black of my dress.

I needed evidence of love and hope and joy to stand out against the blackness that was sure to be one of the hardest days of my life.

But the butterfly, was unexpected. It had no previous meaning to me or us or our baby girl, but it was about to take on a very personal meaning to me.

They were unexpected and unexpectedly perfect.

The pink butterfly charm I wore close to my heart was a way for the world to see my little girl with me in my heart while I walked this earth apart from her.

As I held the tiny, pink butterflies in my hand and studied them, their meaning began to form.

They were a symbol of her, and of transformation and beauty and hope.

My daughter was experiencing the ultimate hope of our faith, eternal life in Heaven with Jesus. Where there was no more pain or sickness or darkness for her. She was where there was only perfect healing and freedom.

My little baby girl’s imperfect body had been transformed into a glorious one – just as the caterpillar transforms into a glorious butterfly.

My little girl, once dressed in pink, was like a little pink butterfly…

It’s been seven and a half years since the day the butterfly appeared in my life unexpectedly in a mall on the darkest of days.

And through the years the butterfly has remained a part of me and my little girl’s sacred space in my heart and our family. We had a pair of butterflies etched into the granite on our Hailey’s headstone. They make up the artwork on the walls of our home. Just this year my husband has given me a card for every occasion with a gorgeous butterfly on it.

NOW

The story doesn’t end there. There’s a new chapter thanks to another, unexpected encounter with the butterfly that surprised me this month.

When I found out that we would be moving from our current home in Tennessee for a year, I knew I needed to see the Nashville murals before we left. So to celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary, my husband drove me around the city to see the murals on the top of my list.

The top two were murals of wings. Angel wings and butterfly wings.

Some simple images speak to the deep places of my soul, and these were them.

I stood in front of each pair of wings. Marveling at their beauty.

I took photos with them. Thinking of and honoring my sweet baby.

To celebrate the beauty God has helped me find since the time when life lost its beauty in those cold winter days of losing her.

To rejoice over how I  have encountered Jesus in my life because of her and how I’ve seen my mourning transformed into new joys.

On the drive home that night I scrolled through the images my husband had taken on my phone. I looked at the wings. At their beauty. I looked at myself in front of them.

Part of me wondered what I was doing there looking like I was a butterfly somehow. I wasn’t a butterfly. My daughter was. It was for her, that I was there in her place. But that’s not what God wanted me to know.

This is how the butterfly entered my life unexpectedly the second the time.

This time the butterfly carried a new message for me, about me.

When the thoughts started coming to me, I knew they were God-whispered because they were so unexpected, and I would have never gone down this thought trail on my own.

I’ve been through some hard and lonely seasons over the past seven, almost eight years, where I have been deeply broken, feeling like I’m walking alone or stuck in the dark, most of them due to grief, but not always. Sort of feeling like I was living life trapped inside a cocoon.

But through every season, in His timing, I have witnessed God breathe life into my dead places, bring healing to my broken places, transform my sorrows into joy, and give me eyes to see the beauty, Him, all around me.

I looked at the photo of myself in front of those butterfly wings. And asked, is this me? Is this is a symbol for my life? Of all the work Christ has done in me through my dark places and how I’ve seen the beauty come from them? Is this the image of Christ transforming me?

“Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness yet become something beautiful.” Author unknown

I wrestled with my thoughts and God’s whispers.

Could I see the new life and the hope He has given me, even when the darkness continues to invade? Could I see the places in me He continues to transform and make beautiful?

Could I believe that I am meant to fly… and it’s time?

Could this be more of the conversation I’ve been having with Christ throughout this year about confidence? 

The thoughts and questions and revelations felt both deep and heavy and light and freeing. I felt the tears rise and my breathing still. The moment felt unexpected and powerful.

It was a call out from the former dark places to move forward past the breaking into the newness, to continue to become who He created me to be — to continue to see myself as He sees me.

But there was more from that evening when I stood in front of those beautiful wings and felt these revelations land upon my heart.

Because so often I don’t generally see myself this way. I don’t use my wings. I don’t believe I could fly. Sometimes the beauty is hard to find and life still seems dark and lonely, like I’ll forever be lost in a cocoon, never being able to break free, never being able to become anything more.

Why is this?

And then I think back on the mural, and I wish I had photographed it in its entirety. (Honestly, part of me wants to drive back and stand in front of those wings and take the wider shot of what surrounds them.)

Because do you know what surrounds those pair of beautiful butterfly wings on the wall?

Images that look like demons. For real. Honest truth. Black and blood red images of other wings and skulls and things that speak death and evil surrounding this one image of beauty and hope.

Initially I thought wow, not my cup of tea for a mural, I’ll stick with a tightly cropped shot of the butterfly wings.

And then God laid another revelation upon me as we drove.

This is me. And those surrounding images paint the complete picture.

I am the butterfly after all. And there is a very real spiritual warfare going on around me.

I saw the complete mural as though the dark forces were attacking the butterfly. Maybe speaking lies to convince her that she isn’t in fact a butterfly, she isn’t beautiful, she can’t fly, she’s forever a caterpillar stuck, no hope of anything more — and she’s tempted to fall into hopelessness instead of flying free as she was created to do.

But the truth is that she has already been transformed into the butterfly. She has her wings. She’s meant to fly.

There’s nothing holding her back from flying and being who she’s created to be — except for the lies and dark forces that swarm around her.

Maybe that explains me.

Or maybe the interpretation of the artwork together is different. Maybe the butterfly soars unashamed and free and beautiful and brave and confident in spite of the evil around her.

Maybe that’s who I need to be.

Have I been believing lies and letting them hold me captive? I think I have.

I’ve seen the work He has done in and around me, the transformations from mourning to joy and so much more, and yet, I still struggle to see the truth of who God says I am. I struggle to step forward confidently to become the woman He is creating and transforming and pruning and calling me to be.

I forget the enemy prowls about me. I forget to hold thoughts and emotions up against Truth, and I fall under the weight of them. Forgetting I’m victorious in Christ.

It feels strange to write this about myself. It really does. But it’s been an enlightening journey. One that brings back hope and life and sheds light on the lies and shouts the truth.

I need to be reminded that just because I’ve been transformed by Jesus doesn’t mean the transformation is finished or the journey is over or that it will be “all rainbows and butterflies” so to speak.

The transformation is continual, every morning, until He finishes His good work in me (Philippians 1:6).

If I’ve learned anything from the year my life fell apart, it’s that God does not promise His followers an easy life and that does not mean His promises and Word are void of truth when life is hard. Absolutely not! They’re true all the time!

And I’m reminded that just because the journey continues with periods of trials and suffering doesn’t mean I’m not the new creation that He says I am. It doesn’t mean I’m not the butterfly so to speak. It doesn’t mean I’m not called forth to fly.

It just means God is doing a new and good work in me continually, and the spiritual warfare trying to prevent that is real – but I stand on the side of victory and His power is alive in me. 

I need to hold tight to this and live in light of this.

I need to live in awareness of the lies and the truths and let the truths demolish every lie set against me (2 Corinthians 10:5).

It means I’m the butterfly meant to fly, and there’s a very real dark power that prowls the earth trying to keep me from flying and being who God created me to be (1 Peter 5:8).

God used a mural to remind me of the reality in which I find myself. One in which He has a very real purpose for me and calls me beautiful and sets me free and calls me forward – and one in which the enemy tries to engage me daily.

FOR ALL OF US

Oh friends the journey is hard and painful at times, we all know this, and we all cycle through seasons of suffering and trials in our lives.

The enemy attacks. Suffering comes. Trials enter. Even then, we are His beautiful creation, we are made new in Him when we surrender our lives to Him and believe in Him.

The suffering and trials and struggling and evil we encounter don’t change our identity in Him. They don’t change His plans for us. They don’t change our hope. They don’t change the truth.

So when the hard times come and go and come back again, let us remember the truth of who God is and who He says we are and demolish the lies of the enemy before the lies demolish us. 

And as I think on all of this. God pushes the story deeper. Beyond the story of the caterpillar transformed through momentary brokenness and darkness into a butterfly. Because of course the story goes further. And of course this story of the butterfly is not just for me.  It’s for all of us.

It’s the story of Jesus and our salvation.

Jesus, God in human form. Lowly. Broken. For us. The world goes dark for three days. And then He is risen. He is transformed. He is alive. He ascends into Heaven.

We see the echoes of the caterpillar’s transformation into a new creation, the butterfly.

And those of us who believe in Jesus’s transformation and transfiguration, we have this story too.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the old has gone, the new creation has come: the new is here.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Walking broken and in the dark and dead in our sins, forgiven and transformed into new creations with the hope of our faithful God who is always with us and eternity before us with Him.

We are all new creations.

We are all the butterfly.

No matter the season, or the darkness, or how lonely we feel. There is hope. In the dark places. In the lonely places. In the places of waiting and suffering. There is hope. Always.

Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over, she began to fly.” Author unknown.

Let us expect God when we feel like we’re alone in the dark. Let us expect His presence. Let us expect Him to be at work in our lives. Let us expect Him to transform our brokenness into beauty. Let us come alive in Him and who He says He is and who He says we are. Let us silence the lies and believe the truths. Let us expect our wings. And when they come, let us be good stewards of them and fly.

May hope unexpectedly find its way to you today.