My nephew, Greg, died on January 18, 2015.  I will never forget the call I got that morning from my sister, Pat.  Her heart was broken, and I never felt the distance of seven hours as I did that day. I would not go on to church as planned.  Instead I would get in the car, alone, to once again face a familiar companion, grief.  

This time around, I knew better than to ask why.  I knew better than to require an explanation.  

Greg died from an overdose in his parents' bathroom after completing two rounds of rehab.  He was given 60 days to "fix" what war and poor choices had done to him.  Just 60 days.  As I write this, Greg's been gone for 60 days, certainly not near enough time to "fix" what war and poor choices have done to his family--not nearly enough time to "fix" the broken hearts left in death's wake.  

I spoke at Greg's funeral.  Because I needed to.  Because someone had to speak about redemption.

January 24, 2015

Once upon a time—well, actually, twenty-eight years, five months, and five days ago, Gregory Joseph Gorski was born.  From the initial gaze into his eyes, it was love at first sight for his mom and dad.  There was not a doubt in their minds that he was a gift straight from the hand of God.  In that moment, their hearts were filled with wonder and hope and a fierce love that every parent in this church can relate to. 

This week we have all been tempted to flip quickly through the story of Greg’s life to the final chapters, to the soldier Greg section.  Perhaps that is because it is where his story seems to climax, where he actually goes to battle and slays some pretty big dragons.  It is where he becomes the hero to many while serving his country proudly.  It is a great part of the story.

 But there is more to his story than the soldier Greg chapters.  Long before he was a soldier, he was the little boy with the dimpled smile and the tender heart.  There were chapters filled with the seemingly ordinary:  birthday parties, baseball games, family dinners, Christmas mornings.  All of those chapters are intertwined with laughter, written with that same fierce love.

And then there were the chapters where things got complicated.  We don’t always know what to do with the complicated.  Sometimes we are tempted to quickly flip through that part in an effort to reach the happily-ever-after.  But every great storyteller knows that it is in the complicated, the conflict, that the story is truly birthed.   And every Christian knows that it is where God comes in to grow us.  We don’t need to skip those chapters.  We shouldn’t skip those chapters.  We need to receive something big from them—something life changing.  

They are the gift chapters.

It is there where Greg, the gift-giver, sent some pretty priceless presents—presents not wrapped in fancy paper, but in his pain.  Their labels read Open Immediately.  And inside those pain-wrapped boxes were lessons in patience, forgiveness, loyalty, and unconditional love.  There was even a special one for his mom containing lessons in prayer.  Through those lessons, she learned how to trust in the Lord with all of her heart.  

If you did not visit those chapters, perhaps you should.  In them you will also find lessons in compassion and acceptance.  Are these easy gifts to receive?  Certainly not.  But they are what Greg has left for us. Yes, we may have preferred a neat little package topped off with a bow made of all things wonderful.  

But that was not to be.  

Well, we have reached the happily-ever-after part of the story.  

We all need to know that there is a happily-ever-after.  The chorus of the Tenth Avenue North song, Worn, says:

Let me see redemption win

Let me know the struggle ends

That YOU can mend a heart

That’s frail and torn

I wanna know a song can rise

From the ashes of a broken life

And all that’s dead inside can be reborn

The happily-ever-after is this:  Redemption does win, my friends.  It wins because of that same fierce love between a heavenly Father and His children.

That story is Christ.

Romans 5:8 states:  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.


May 14, 2014

As I write this, it has been 679 days since the accident that rocked our world and changed our lives.

People told me then that some things would get easier--like breathing.

And they were right.  I can now go days without panic attacks and fighting back the tears.  I can now close my eyes to rest and not have to visit that place--most of the time.

As I wrote about in a previous post, good things do indeed happen after such a tragedy; but they never, ever will make the tragedy worth it.  They will, however, make the tragedy more bearable.

The Sidewalk Prophets never set out to make our personal tragedy more bearable.  When they wrote and recorded the song, "Live Like That," they surely did not have our family in mind.  But God has a way of weaving lives together as He sees the big picture.

In the chaos that followed the accident, I have no idea the exact moment that the song we would sing on the way to school many mornings became our theme song--our hope to hold on to.  But it did.  And just like that we became connected to a band--a small group of followers serving the Lord through words and music.

We never imagined that we would be invited to attend one of their concerts in Knoxville a few months after the boys' deaths.  I would not be honest if I did not say that it was a bit awkward as we toured their bus.  Reconciling the moment with the reason for the moment was no small feat.  There was no separating the two because without one there would not have been the other.  I admit that I was personally too raw to thoroughly "enjoy" our brief encounter with the guys, but God still used it as a salve to add another layer of healing.

And when the band played "Live Like That" a short time later; and Dave (intentionally or not) looked me in the eyes, God again reminded me that He was not leaving me or forsaking me. 

Our family has faced many, many moments of hurt over the last 679 days; and there have been many times I wished that I had had the freedom to momentarily exact my own kind of justice through words or actions or both. But then I would remember that I have committed to LIVE LIKE THAT.

Today, we once again will have the opportunity to meet with the Sidewalk Prophets since they are holding a concert right here in our own little part of the world.  This very moment I am feeling anxious; and a part of me wants to just crawl back into my bed, because once again, I have some reconciling to do.  

But isn't that the whole point of the Gospel?  Reconciliation. It has never been easy.  It comes at a very great price.  

To God be the glory.


December 3, 2013

The Christmas after the accident that claimed the life of my precious grandson, Nate, and his friend, Noah, was hard.  Of course, it was.  Before I suffered such loss, I had no idea just how difficult going through the motions of daily life could be.  Even now, as I face the third Christmas, I still have to give myself pep talks to get me through many days.

Kolein, a dear, faraway, Internet friend, probably did not realize then that when she agreed to join me in making a gingerbread house via Skype, she was, in a sense, giving me a huge pep talk.  Her willingness to give up her day to walk alongside me gave me permission to lay my grief aside for many hours and just create.  

My memory of that day is not filled with a lot of details.  I have no idea how much flour went into the recipe or how long I baked the walls.  I do, however, remember laughing like a fool as we both worked to get our creations to stand up.  I remember how good it felt to have a friend share my first gingerbread-house-making experience.

We took many breaks to deal with real life, but our devices remained on.  I got to hear the sounds of her home, and she got to hear the sounds of mine.  Our kids or grandkids made appearances from time to time, and all was just festive and fun.

And when we were done, we were impressed!


Those gingerbread houses represented so much more than a creative Christmas project, and they still do.  They represent all that is good and right in this crazy world of ours.  They represent hope.  

Kolein gave me the greatest gift that day.  That brief escape from grief world did, in fact, give me hope . . . and isn't that what the Christmas season is all about? 

Thank you, dear, dear friend.  I will love you forever!

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you 

good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Luke 2:10


November 15, 2013

Grief.  You cannot  prepare a plan for it.  The feelings and emotions cannot be rehearsed.  There is no getting it right.  It just is.

The only choice you are given when faced with the death of someone dear to you is whether you will wrestle with God to work through it or whether you will go it alone.  Because of my faith foundation, I chose to wrestle with my maker.  It probably would sound better to say I chose to trust God, and I am sure that I verbalized that sentiment; but to me that makes it sound easier than it really was.  

The book, Glorious Ruin, How Suffering Sets You Free, by Tullian Tchividjian was recommended by a dear friend, and it taught me more about this walk of suffering than anything else.  It challenged my response to suffering and exposed my unfounded cultural beliefs.  It truly did reveal to me how suffering sets you free.

The chapter titles hint at the deeper truths the author explores. 

    •    Suffering Is Inevitable

    •    Suffering is Serious

    •    Suffering Honestly

    •    Moralizing Suffering

    •    Minimizing Suffering

    •    The Freedom of Defeat

    •    The Gospel of Suffering

I cannot read a book without dialoguing with the author.  I do this through highlighting and making notes in the margin.  As I look back through the book again today,  its truths still resonate with my spirit; and I am thankful for the work the Lord did through it on my heart.  

After the accident, many people tried to ease our suffering by trying to point out the good that was happening as a result of Nate's and Noah's deaths.  We heard countless stories of people accepting the Lord and of how lives were being changed.  I wanted it to make me feel better, but it didn't.  I didn't really care about any good coming as a result of that horrible day.  And then I felt guilty. 

Tullian:  One way to understand this dynamic is to look at the ways people talk about painful experiences.  If someone has just undergone an ugly, protracted divorce, for example, he or she might say something like, "Well, it was never a good marriage anyway," or "But I've really learned a lot from this whole experience."

This kind of rationalization tries to make something bad sound like it is good.  It is a strategy to avoid looking pain and grief directly in the face, to avoid acknowledging that we wish life were different but are powerless to change it.

I am now able to say that good things do, in fact, come after suffering and sometimes as a result of the suffering; but it never makes the suffering worth it.  Nothing will ever make what we lived through that day and the tremendous loss we suffered worth it.  Those memories will always reduce me to tears.  And that is as it should be.

Tullian:  We cling to our notions of a universe that runs on the instinctual system of punishment and reward, action and consequence, this for that.  We desire a world that we can control, where suffering is a problem to be solved and everyone gets what he or she deserves; this is the gravitational pull of Original Sin.  Like Job's friends, we prefer the safety of "if-then" conditionality.  Suffering, however, often serves as an unwanted reminder that reality does not operate according to our preferences.

Before we can even begin to grapple with the frustrations and tragedies of life in this world, we must do away with our faithless morality of payback and reward.

Many, many times before the accident I tried to analyze and rationalize scenarios in order to make a tragedy more tolerable--for myself.  I attempted to figure out what to do or not to do to protect myself and my family from experiencing something similar.  In other words, I tried to assign blame to something I could control.  I now realize that while we can make choices, like wearing seatbelts or life jackets, that leave us with less regret if an accident does happen, there are no guarantees.  Life is unpredictable and totally out of my control.  

Tullian:  If you have suffered the loss of a family member . . . know that God is not punishing you.  He is not waiting for you to do something.  you don't have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and find a way to conquer the odds, be stronger, or transform yourself into some better version of yourself.  The pain you feel (whatever the degree) may be a reminder that things are not as they should be, in which case it is appropriate to mourn the gravity of that brokenness.

Again and again, my family was commended for our faith and "testimony" in the face of such a brutal assault, but we were broken to the core.  And we knew it.  There was no comfort to be found in the compliments.  At times the pressure of  being a "good" testimony for Christ felt like a crushing weight.  Our hearts literally hurt and just breathing exhausted us.  So what if it looked like we were "handling" everything well.  Was that really an indicator of the depth of our faith?   What if we had fallen apart and kicked and screamed?  What would people have thought if they saw us when we were alone at night wailing in utter misery?  Our response mattered not to God, because He was in it for the long haul with us.

Tullian:  . . . explanations are ultimately a substitute for trust.

The Lord mercifully put to death Job's final idol--the idol of explanation.

Ray Ortlund:  When the righteous cannot connect the realities of their experience with the truths of God, then God is calling them to trust him that there is more to it than they can see.  As with Job, there is a battle being fought in the heavenlies.  Trust in God, not explanations from God, is the pathway through suffering."

Instinctively I knew better than to verbalize, Why us?  But that did not keep me from trying to come up with an answer in my head.  The only answer I got was Why not us?   On whom else would I have wished this suffering, this pain?  I did want to trust God. I had not realized that it was either or--explanation or trust--but when I did, I was relieved to choose trust.      

So, I wrestled with God through my walk with grief, never really questioning the truth of the gospel for my salvation, but questioning how that truth related to my suffering.  And in the end, true freedom has come because I have released not just the need to justify or understand the deaths of two young boys, but also the grip I had on this world. 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.  Rev. 21:1-4


I knew in my heart that 2012 was going to be a year in which something major was going to happen.  I could sense that the Lord was changing my direction and clearly speaking to me about the last half of my life.  The year started with a fast, and over the next few months, I spent more time praying and searching for answers than I ever had in my 32 years of walking with Him.   

I felt compelled to know the perfect will of God.  There was an urgency that I could not release. 


I have flippantly called 2012 the year from hell.  And I suppose I have good reason to say that.  It started with an IRS audit and was followed by a total upheaval at work in which three key people resigned. I was one of them.  

On the last day of school, with the hope for time to refresh, recover, and redirect, my husband collapsed with a medication-induced thyroid storm which landed him in the hospital, fighting for his life.  Memorial Day weekend was spent in the intensive care unit. 

And, of course, that was followed by "the accident" on the 4th of July that would forever change our lives.  Nate and Noah went to be with the Lord, and we were left with the trauma and loss.   

Honestly, every time I say that it was the year from hell, I feel a bit uneasy.  It's as if I'm giving the enemy, Satan, too much credit.  I am quite certain that God did not send the storms of 2012, but He did allow them. And if He allowed them, then I have choices to make. 

Will I trust Him enough to claim His promise of all things working together for good?  Will I testify of His provision through it all?  Will I rest in knowing that His love never fails?  Will I continue to point others to the cross?  Those are easy to answer.  Of course, I will.  Thirty-two years of faith has ingrained that kind of response. 

The harder question for me is Will I act on the word that I received prior to the day when that line of demarcation was drawn?

Until now, it did not seem possible.  I'm not sure it is yet.  Why?  Because words from the Lord are hard and involve risk.  They get the enemy's attention.  And my word involves a big dream; and honestly, I am afraid of failure and attack.  I am still grieving hard and recovering physically, mentally, and spiritually.

But God's word to me was specific and clear. 

I read several books during my quest for answers last year.  Some of what resonated with my spirit is written in my journal.  

The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

    •    If your prayers aren't impossible to you, they are insulting to God.

    •    Nothing honors God more than a big dream that is way beyond our ability to accomplish.

    •    If you aren't willing to put yourself in "this is crazy" situations, you'll never experience "this is awesome" moments.

Passion to Action by Jay and Beth Loecken

    •    Most people would rather let go of their passion than take the risk necessary to see it come to fruition.

Anything by Jennie Allen

    •    The only exercise that works 100% of the time to draw one close to the real God is risk.

    •    To risk is to willingly place your life in the hand of an unseen God and an unknown future, then to watch Him come through.

    •    You have to thank God for the seemingly good and the seemingly bad because really, you don't know the difference.

    •    We love our earth.  We love our people.  We love our stuff.  We love our schedules.  We love our short lives here.  And God is saying, Look up.  This is going fast.  Your life here is barely a breath.  There is more, way more.

    •    I knew that when the breath of God had dripped off of me, I was not going back . . . it wasn't an encounter tha twould shape my life:  it was THE encounter with God that would define my life.

On June 19, just 15 days before the accident, God confirmed that I had a book to write.  I listed what He told me not to do:        

    1. Research to see if it has been done before

    2. Ask anyone's opinion

    3. Give up before start

    4. Let somebody else's dream take precedence

And then I immediately received what I called the C's.  I think it is odd and sometimes corny when speakers/pastors speak from outlines where all the topics start with the same letter.  Well, that's what I got.

    1. Call

    2. Confirmation

    3. Courage

    4. Completion

I heard the call loud and clear.  Then came the confirmation.  I assumed courage was what it would take to act on the call, but I had no idea just how much courage it would take after the accident.  (When Kelly and Travis chose "Courageous" by Casing Crowns as one of the songs for the funeral, I just sobbed.) 

I felt strongly that there were five C's, so I just left number five blank.  It seemed weird, but so did the whole "C" thing.  And then in September, God gave me the last one: Confidence.

I'm not really sure if it should be go before Completion.  Either I need some confidence to reach completion or after completion, I will have more confidence. 

I know that God began a good work in me, and He has plans to complete it.  Because my steps are ordered by the Lord, I am willing to dream big and take a risk and do something crazy for Him.   


I am not a hugger. There are those that love to hug people, and there are those that don't.  I don't.  I like my personal space.  It's not that I don't love them.  I just don't feel the need to express it in the form of a hug.  I hug my husband.  I hug my kids.  I hug visiting family and close friends when they arrive in our home.  I don't hug people I see every day.

There is a running joke, that I'm Clovis on "Apple Dumpling Gang" the movie.  Have you seen it?  Clovis is a little boy that if someone touches him in any way he kicks them and the siblings say, "Clovis don't like to be touched".  I'm Clovis.  I kick.

Some of my friends find this funny.  And they make it their mission to hug me every time they see me.  Just to irritate. You know who you are. I actually get texts from some people, like this one.

 I am the pug.  Sweet Jesus.

Now that being said, this summer, due to the loss of our son Nate, I've hugged more people than I ever thought possible.  I mean 2500 people came through the receiving line.  Four hours of hugging people.  A lot of whom I didn't know.  I was on herbal calming pills.  For hugging. No lie. You can laugh.

I have realized that hugging is how people tell you how they feel. They feel the need to hug another human to make themselves feel better.  They don't even consider how the other person feels.  (Or if they put on deodorant or too much perfume.)  They are just spreading some love.  

We are all given the ability to love.  Some do that with gifts, some words, some through time spent listening, and some through hugging.  As humans, we need all of the gifts at different times of our lives.  And in this season of my life, I needed hugs.  You can laugh again.

Now there are those of you reading this thinking what kind of cold person writes a post on hugging. Honestly, I thought that. But I realized this morning when a friend (ahem) called me an ice queen because I said they wore their emotions on their sleeve (that sentence felt so third grade), that it is really my loss not to hug.  And I'm okay with that, to a degree.  But, I realized that by receiving a hug in some way is blessing the giver.   And I'm all about blessing others.  If it helps them feel connected to my grief, then let them give the hug.

So who are you?  The non-hugger or the abundant hugger?

(Sorry for the lack of pictures. Apparently, this is the only picture of me hugging. And apparently, my husband's and son's looks are saying, "What is mom doing?")


IN A BLINK . . .


It has been 17 months since my last post.  At times it feels like I did indeed fall off the face of the earth.  Or at least the blogging earth.  So much life passes in 17 months.  Babies become toddlers, boys become teenagers, girls get more dramatic; and somehow in the blink of 17 months, everything is different.  I feel the need to update you on why our life is so different.  How things change even when you're not ready.  How in one blink . . . 

From my last post I can assure you that Jett is now happy.  He is still a handful, but he is a joy, too.  He has big personality in a tiny body.  He is exhausting.  And he looks just like his older brother, Nate.  I'm so glad he does.

Ross is my teenager that is a rock.  I can count on him to be the reason, the tears, the emotion that we need to feel at that moment.  He's become quieter.  He has suffered so much this year, and yet he chooses joy.  He is an awesome brother.

Kenzie is our girl.  She is quiet and reserved.  She likes to observe.  She loves to do art.  She wanted Nate to teach her all he knew about drawing hands. 

And Nate, how could we not talk about Nate.  He is me.  He is my creative one. He was our inspiration to do hard things.  Like triathlons. He left us, along with his great friend, Noah, on his favorite holiday to spend eternity with our Lord.  And we miss him.

It has been a hard four months, but we know that Nate is in a better place.  We know he expects us to live with joy, to create, to run, to serve, to love.  We know he wants us to Live Like That. We have a song by Sidewalk Prophets that we've adopted as our life song.

We are trying to Live Like That. We are continually being told, "We want to live like Nate and Noah," because their testimonies have reached so many.  As we thought about what that meant, we realized that Nate and Noah, with their child-like faith, gave us all something to think about--something to reach for.  They have challenged us to not be wimpy Christians, but to be bold, even when it is hard--to give it ALL we have. 

Our lives were forever changed on that July day, and God has laid it on our hearts to be intentional about adopting Nate's and Noah's vision and to live as an example.  We are longing for the world to know the glory of OUR King--the King who claimed our boy as His own.    This decision came from time on our knees, worshiping our Savior when we had nothing left to give--when we had no hope.  We couldn't even comprehend what we were hearing or reading because our minds were so muddled. 

But now we get up every day saying we want to Live Like That.  We want to do the wise thing.  We want to forgive.  We want to love.  We want to show the world the glory of our King.  

I'm back.  I'm still grieving.  I am changed.  I have a new perspective.  I notice more.  I hug more.  I love more.  And it's all because everything changed in a blink . . . 


In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye . . . we will be changed. 1 Cor. 15:52

And we were, in a moment, forever changed.

Everyone has them: defining moments that set or change the course of one’s life. Some just pass by with such subtlety that they are barely noticed, like choosing chemistry third period instead of American history where you will eventually meet a lifelong friend. Those moments are the finely etched lines in the story stone of life.

Then there are the defining moments that happen with such force that you have no choice but to take immediate notice. There is no eventually to those moments. They instantly become crevices--not lines--that add the depth to the story stone of your life. And while finely etched lines may be “adjusted” or carved over, these crevices are there to stay. And we are given a choice: Will we choose to find the beauty in the depth?

A deep crevice was carved in my stone on July 4, 2012.

That day held so much promise.

What could have been better than a day on the lake celebrating our favorite holiday with all of my children and grandchildren? Today, 38 days later, I know that a lot of scenarios could have been better. I don’t doubt that maybe in 1038 days, I will have crawled out of that deep crevice to see a glimpse of the bigger picture; but there will be no crawling out today.

Today I will have to live by faith and just believe without seeing that there is truly a bigger, more beautiful picture. And that is all I can do.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1


October 4, 2012

Three months. A lot has changed in three months.  Even the season.

Unlike the craziness of summer with its whirlwind of activities and places to be, fall for me is more about comfort, relaxation, and contemplation.  Falling leaves, crisp breezes, soft blankets, and simmering pots of soup seem to wrap me in their arms of security, preparing me for a rest that my body and mind so badly need.

I have changed--just like the season. My carefree season of life is over for now.

I worry more than I used to.

I worry about forgetting what Nate's voice sounds like. I worry about forgetting the funny things he did. I worry about moving on without him. I worry that people think I'm moving on without him. I worry that joy will not come in the morning.  I am tired, physically and emotionally.  I welcome fall and anticipate her work in my life.

I also think a lot more about life and purpose and God’s plan.  

The day before the accident that claimed Nate's life, he turned 11. On a whim, I invited him to spend the day with me, running errands. I remember thinking that I wanted to be more intentional about having meaningful conversations with my grandchildren.   

On the way to an appointment, I launched into a conversation about a specific regret I have in life with the motive of challenging him to consider making some wise decisions while he was young.  My regret is that I never became an "expert" at anything.  I enjoy a level of success in many areas, but I don’t consider myself a true “expert” at anything. 

Nate was to be homeschooled this year, so I knew he would have time to delve into some studies that specifically interested him.  I offered to buy him the books he would need to become an expert in any area he wanted.  We talked about his love of swimming and competing on the swim team at the local Boys and Girls Club. With the Olympics just around the corner, he could research famous swimmers, learning their stories and memorizing their stats.  His passion for the sport could be carried over into his conversations with others.  He got excited about that idea.

We talked about his artistic talents and how his mother had opened her art studio, I Am An Artist, because of him. We considered what that might mean in his future. Maybe he would franchise the business and take it to the next level.  Maybe he would go to art school.  He told me that he already knew a lot about famous artists from his mom, so it would make sense to keep learning about them as well. 

Geography and history also came up, and then I lamented about not being raised in a Christian home and not starting to hide God’s Word in my heart until I was an adult.  I told him how blessed he was because he already knew so much about the Lord and had so much Scripture memorized.  He was closer to being an expert on the Bible than I ever could be.  So he considered becoming an expert in history, geography, and the Bible as well. 

That was Nate.  Why not go for it all?  He ran a triathlon at age ten, if you remember. 

I realize now that that day was a gift from a loving God, and I will cherish every memory of it.  I will also cherish what my loving Father revealed to me this day while writing about it:  I am a memory maker.

I’m pretty sure I am an “expert” memory maker.  And because I have spent time making sweet memories with Nate—just like on the day of July 3, 2012, I have no regrets.  And I believe that those memories will be what brings healing and peace and eventually, joy back into my life.