Moments In The Story

Taking time to appreciate the journey….

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Choosing Transformation

I was moved the other night by a reality TV show about transformation. Nyla – a 435 pound woman, wanted to lose weight and the show’s personal trainer, Chris Powell, gave her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to follow his plan and change her life.

I have watched several episodes of this show – “Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition”. I also watch “The Biggest Loser” but I grew to hate it last season. I got sick of the entitlement attitudes and the selfishness of several people. Ok, so I know both of these shows are reality television, and things can be made to appear more dramatic and entertaining than they really are. But the episode with Nyla on “Extreme Makeover” was unlike any episode I have ever seen and it has been on my mind a lot (hence the post you are reading!).

What do I enjoy about weight loss shows? I enjoy seeing someone reach a difficult goal; I love the symbol of freedom that their transformation represents; I love seeing people work through pain in their lives and conquer it; I love to be challenged and inspired to overcome the obstacles in my life. But my favorite part about the Biggest Loser is sitting and eating chocolate while I watch these people work out. Then I love the last episode when they are so skinny – I get disappointed if they are not really skinny. Otherwise they didn’t reach the goal! I believe my skewed thinking has come partly from my definition of transformation, but also from the premise of the Biggest Loser. The purpose is competition. Yes, there is weight loss, but there is so much entertainment through twists and turns along the way that the goals seem to get confused.

What I noticed about “Extreme Makover” with Nyla was something that truly represented transformation.  After one year (the timeframe Chris allocated as her weight loss challenge) she lost 157 pounds but still weighed 278. So she did not reach her personal goal – but there is no doubt she was transformed. She said something to the effect of how during that year she learned to embrace the process and now she is ready to continue the process. She could have cared less that she had a lot more weight to lose. What she gained through Chris’ intentional method was a different perspective, which involved facing her fears. Her father left when she was a small child and the pain of abandonment was so huge in her life. She tried to manipulate Chris to give up on her over and over again. He endured multiple incidents of her yelling in his face, ignoring his advice, and leaving when he challenged her. But he kept coming back, inviting her to experience something better. He knew that her attempts to make him leave were really an excuse for her to give up.

One of Chris’ goals was to force her to face her fears. He mentioned that the kind of transformation she wanted would only come if she could overcome her fear. He pushed her in her workouts, which she gave up on. He challenged her to give up her security in food. Then he asked her to face the fear attached to her father. He hired a private investigator and gave her a packet of information related to her dad. She wasn’t ready to open it at the time, but later she did. She found that he had passed away two years prior due to suicide. She wept, and wept. It brought her to her knees.  Chris held her and walked that part of the journey with her as well.

She decided to get to know the family on her dad’s side and also visited his grave. She learned that he was afraid to meet her and thought she would hate him. Nyla observed that the fear both of them felt is what had kept them from one another. At this point I had to remind myself that this was a show about weight loss. I continued to watch the angry girl become happy, with a genuine smile. I noticed she started taking her trainer’s advice. And I noticed that she was losing weight. At the end of the show her weigh-in was not dramatic – she was still far from her personal goal. But I swear her countenance and energy had changed. I thought to myself, “I want that”.

My relationship with God has taken on similar patterns. He answers my call for something in my life to change and He asks me to do hard things to change it…most of which involve facing fears I don’t want to face. He pushes me to experience the freedom I’ve just asked for, but I resist. And I have to face the real question – do I really want the transformation?

But my favorite part about all of this is I can’t define what transformed her. I know it involved a series of events placed before her, followed by good and bad choices, in conjunction with a loyal trainer who helped her face her fears. But what really changed her? I think that is where I get stuck. I want a defined system. But what she was finally able to embrace was an unknown process that involved one decision at a time, for an unknown amount of time.

Am I willing to sign up for that? Even as I write this, I struggle with making good choices consistently related to the areas in which I seek transformation. One minute there is the satisfaction of a good decision, and the very next minute the regret of a bad choice. But I start again and choose Him as my trainer and I choose His process….I CHOOSE it.

Romans 12:2 (The Message) Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

What inspires you to transform?

© Kristin Gordley and Moments In The Story, July 2012.


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Walking with a Limp

Though an experienced rock climber for many years, my dear friend Vanessa’s life changed dramatically almost three years ago after she fell 40 feet, landing on her back – her head just below a large rock. She remembers several people looking down at her, but she suffered brief memory loss and could not figure out why she was unable to get up. She had no pain at first, but her injuries were significant – she broke her back and her arm, and her femur was pushed up into her pelvic bone. Vanessa had several surgeries and stayed in the hospital for two months.

When I was eight years old Vanessa’s family moved into the house next to ours. We became fast playmates and although I don’t remember much about what we would do every afternoon…I remember laughing a lot around her. She moved away a couple years later, but she always kept in contact with me. We exchanged letters through the years and she sent me a hand-made birthday card every June. I even received one from her my freshman year of college! She has an amazing ability to keep in touch with so many people, and she genuinely wants to be your friend. We reconnected again in our mid-twenties and shared a lot of fun memories, most of which include a tremendous amount of laughter. There’s something about being in her presence. She came to visit from the east coast two weeks ago and again I spent a lot of the evening laughing.

I remember talking to Vanessa on the phone one day when she was in the hospital almost three years ago – it was a few weeks before Thanksgiving. She was hoping to be able to go visit her brother for the holiday and was unsure if she would be out of the hospital before then. She cried on the phone.  I know Vanessa must cry, but honestly I’ve never heard a negative word come out of her mouth, nor have I ever heard her cry. It made me cry. And a few minutes later she resumed back to her positive self, and asked me about how I was doing.

Vanessa was able to make it out of the hospital before Thanksgiving (and was able to go to her brother’s house), but she continued to endure a long road of recovery. Three years later, she still struggles with a numb foot due to nerve damage in one leg. She also struggles with blood clots that cause extreme pain in her lungs and rob her of her normal energy. However, she still rock climbs. She runs races. She rides her bike. And she is still the joyful, fun-loving friend with the contagious laugh.

Oh, and she walks with a subtle limp….

Due to the shattering of her pelvic bone, one hip sits slightly higher than the other. Each step is a reminder of her past, but a demonstration of her courage.

Most of us do not walk with a physical limp, but we may walk with an emotional limp. I dare say we all do. The limp can either remind us of what we have lost or it can be a testimony to what we have gained. In Vanessa’s case, her limp inspires me – mostly because she is still in the “process” of healing. She went back to the rock where she fell in hopes of climbing it and tackling her demon. She wasn’t ready. But she went and I don’t know that I could have done that. She faced her pain. And she continues to live out her loving personality despite that pain. I think the limp gives her a special flair. I’ve been thinking about my limps…boy there are a few. I haven’t always let them make the story of my life better. But I’m learning…and I’m grateful for examples like Vanessa, who have chosen to limp well.

© Kristin Gordley and Moments In The Story, July 2012.