Moments In The Story

Taking time to appreciate the journey….


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Like Father, Like Daughter

My dear friend, Vanessa, lost her Daddy a little over a week ago. Although she’s 38 years old, she still calls him “Daddy”. She found him after he had passed away in his bed early one morning. She and her brother had flown out to be with their dad for a fairly routine heart procedure. They decided to come because of an unsettled feeling they had about him going through it alone. Things went well, and Vanessa’s brother flew home the same night. She stayed with her dad, and was alone when she found him the next morning. Several years ago Vanessa also discovered her mom, after passing away from a sudden heart attack in her bathroom. She was alone then too.

My heart has been grieving since I talked to her on that Friday she lost her dad. No words come to mind or can possibly stand up against the devastation of a heart-broken, sobbing person you love. Just when I wanted to say something stupid, like “He is in a better place”, I instead found myself entering her grief and just crying with her. I told her I loved her and I meant it…and we just cried.

I’ve since been reminded of why I love Vanessa so much. When I was nine-years-old, she and her family moved in next door to us. Our younger brothers were also close in age and the four of us became good friends. We did all the normal kid stuff and laughed a lot. When we moved to a different neighborhood two years later, Vanessa and I stayed in touch by exchanging letters and attending each other’s birthday parties. When we would start to lose touch, I would receive a surprise letter from Vanessa. As we got older, every year I would receive a home-made, hand-written Christmas card, and Birthday card. Even when I was away at college, she made the effort to find my address and send me a card.

In our early 20’s, we lived in the same area and began hanging out a lot. We became close during that “transitional” season of life when you are trying to figure out what to do with your life. We were both working and going to school, and socializing a ton. I still laughed a lot around her….just like when we were kids. And she always had “this friend” or “that friend” that would be joining us. I met a lot of new people through her! About eight years ago, she moved to the Washington D.C. area and although we’ve been miles apart…she still manages to keep in touch with me. She still remembers my birthday and she still sends Christmas cards (though now it’s by email to 100 people at once…she wouldn’t be Vanessa if she didn’t continue to accumulate friends!). She is still my dear friend. And when we got together with our brothers and her boyfriend last night….we laughed again like little kids. It’s so rare to find someone that pursues your friendship like that, and makes you feel special even though it is how they are with everyone. And it’s rare to find someone that cares so much about you, and enters into your world even though they’ve just been through a trauma.

At her dad’s funeral I was really moved. One-by-one, folks came up to share about Vanessa’s dad….his golf buddy, his life-long friends, his subordinates, his peers, and his children. Most all of them described the same quality about her dad that meant the most to them – his concern and his availability for people. They would talk to him about their problems. One person never heard him say a bad word about anyone in the twenty years they were friends. Another gentleman shared about receiving a letter from Vanessa’s dad while he was serving in the Army. He hadn’t talked to her dad in years, but somehow her dad tracked down his address and sent him a letter that reached him at just the right time. Vanessa spoke about her dad’s influence in her life, and how she takes after him.

She herself finds that as a college professor, students come in, close her office door, and ask to talk to her about various things. She pursues people, and keeps in touch. She contacts them and makes their day when they needed to hear from a friend. She is a loyal friend that never speaks badly of anyone else. She laughs a lot. She is living out the things people loved most about her Daddy in her own life. Her father modeled it for her, and she became a reflection of His life-changing qualities.

One older gentleman who shared at the funeral pointed out that her father was the kind of man he was because of his parents. Looking at Vanessa and her extended family, he said “Find out who his parents were”.

Those who have gone before us leave a legacy. No one is perfect, but we are wise to examine the qualities that positively impacted the lives around them. And we are wise to follow in their footsteps.

In honor of Willie Little, and his reflections – Vanessa and Jason.

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

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Don’t Just “Get Over It”

I have heard many people describe experiencing God the most when they went through a significant trial or trauma. In that place of grief, God met them there…and they sought Him fervently. It reminds me of September 11, 2001…when people were brought to their knees in prayer. Even our nation’s leaders were praying and singing, in an effort to experience the kind of comfort only He can give.

When I was 16, I lost my grandfather. Usually when I tell people about him, I try my best to describe the history of my relationship with him and the reasons why he was more like a parent than a grandparent. I almost find myself “justifying” why he meant so much to me, and why my grief over losing him rocked my world. Even now, tears fill my eyes when I look at his picture…the one of him laughing. It’s still in a frame on display in my house. I’m 38…how can this still affect me? How can the raw emotions of a 16-year-old still rise up in that “place” in my throat? Perhaps it’s because at 16, I had no idea how to navigate through grief. Perhaps if something like that happened now, I would be stronger….

Yet all of my feelings of grief could never compare to the grief of someone who lost their father or mother, right? Or their child, right? Of course you cannot compare those types of losses. And that is my point. We have this tendency to compare our pain to the pain of others. We may feel like our hurt is so small when held up next to someone else’s tragedy….so we minimize our pain and tell ourselves to move on. And often others do the same. They also secretly wonder why we can’t just “get over it”.

In this world certain losses and tragedies are greater than others…and they have greater long-term effects. But I don’t think our hearts always know the difference. And instead of taking our “little pains” to God, we ignore them and turn to our own coping mechanisms. I believe God cares about the small stories, which include the small pains in our lives. I believe these are just as important as the big tragedies in our faith-journey with him.

When Job asked God about the tragedies he had faced, God responded with four chapters describing the “big” things about Himself.…as well as the “little” things. Obviously we have noticed the big things about God (Job 38-41): His creation of the earth, stars, and sea; His control of the wind, snow, rain, ice, lightning and hail; His power; His glory; His knowledge; the amazing animals He created and His attentiveness to their every need.

What are the “small things” God cares about? (Job 38-41): He provides a path of rain to water a land where no man lives, and a desert with no one in it…to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass (38:25-27). He hears and provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God (38:41). He counts the months until each mountain goat and doe give birth, and then He takes the time to watch the birthing process (39:1-2). God describes the intricacies with which He created many of His animals – how their wings flap, how they lay their eggs, and whether He endowed them with fear, pride, or wisdom (throughout chapter 39).

I would remain speechless if I weren’t still writing a blog post. Why on earth would we not think God cares about the small stuff in our lives? What would our lives be like if we chose to take the little things to Him and ask for help with the same fervency as in the case of tragedy? What if we saw the “little pains” in others and walked alongside them?  I believe grasping this aspect of God’s love could change our lives, our relationships, and ultimately our relationship with Him.

An important piece of redemption in our lives is found in the hidden and unseen places….and thankfully we have the powerful love of God to meet us there. May we boldly bring to Him what we have withheld the most!

© Kristin Gordley and Moments In The Story, November 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.