Jay and Katherine’s story is one of incredible loss and pain. However, it is also a story of miraculous healing and restoration. In April 2008, 3 and a half years after getting married and 6 months after the birth of their son, James, Katherine suffered a brain hemorrhage caused by an arteriovenus malformation that had been in her brain since birth. By God’s grace, Jay was home when his wife started to have a seizure as a result of the hemorrhage and was able to call 911. Katherine was rushed to the UCLA emergency room and a bold doctor performed surgery on her brain even though he knew the odds of saving her were low because, without the surgery, she had no chance of surviving. Katherine was given a second chance at life and spent years in therapy relearning how to talk, walk and swallow. The right side of her face is permanently paralyzed, she walks with a cane and still has a hard time swallowing some foods, but she returned home to her family and in June 2015, a little over seven years after that fateful day, Katherine gave birth to their second son, John.
It is hard to put into words what it was like to read Jay and Katherine’s story. Heartbreak gave way to hope for this beautiful family and it was like a breath of fresh air to read something so real and so raw. Below are some excerpts that stood out to me and how I can relate.
“When something happens that is not inside the four corners of that picture, we view it as a detour and hope to get back on track as quickly as possible.” - katherine Wolf
Katherine’s wise insight that sometimes the detour is the path and there is no going back, can be very hard to accept, but fighting against the life God has for us, will never bear fruit. Ever since we moved to Idaho I have felt like a different person. Not as confident, not as self-assured, more anxious and missing the familiarity of a community of people I trust. It has gotten easier the longer we have been here, but I told Phil a few months ago that I don’t know how to get back to who I was before. He said, “I don’t think it’s about going back, but figuring out how to move forward.” When we experience situations that cause stress, grief or pain, we cannot go back to never having experienced those things and the only other options are to stay still or move forward.
“At times I felt like God had made a mistake, and I struggled to make sense of all the pain…. This could not be what God planned for my life.” - Katherine Wolf
Lately I have felt frustrated and betrayed by the limitations of my own physical body and, while I have never experienced the pain and devastation of paralysis, there have been occasions that I have been angry at God for creating me the way he did. Katherine’s journey of being reminded that God does not make mistakes and what happened to her happened for a reason really resonated with and encouraged me.
“What’s true in the light is true in the darK.” - Katherine Wolf
Such a simple and powerful statement and one that is so easily forgotten in the midst of trials. When I was struggling with anxiety and depression back in 2014, I stepped away from serving in the children’s ministry at the church I was attending and gave a pretty vague reason to the children’s ministry director. Without knowing exactly what I was going through, he asked me how old I was. I was 24 at the time. He then told me that if God had taken care of and provided for me for 24 years, why would He stop now? Our attitudes, dispositions and behavior may change with our circumstances, but God and His love for us remains the same.
“I believe that pain is pain, no matter what the form, but perspective is also perspective.” - Katherine Wolf
I don’t think it is helpful to compare sufferings, but at the same time, there will always be someone that has gone through more trials in life than you have. We have all had painful experiences in our lives so we can all relate to one another whether or not the situation is a matter of life or death. Additionally, it can still help bring perspective when we hear the stories of others and we can be encouraged by the perseverance of our brothers and sisters through the storms of life.
“How quickly we forget the miracles of our past as we step into an uncertain future, fearing we’ve used up our allotment of God’s provision and we’re all out of miracles.” - Jay Wolf
This goes back to the truth that God is unchanging. He is not flakey or wishy washy. He knows what He wants and what He wants is us. He goes before us and He stands behind. He will never leave us and He is always with us even when we feel like He isn’t there.
“I was learning that vulnerability and grief were love’s inevitable companions.” - Jay Wol
I have a tattoo on my left forearm of a rose in transition to an arrow. This was inspired by Helen Roseveare, one of five amazing women Noel Piper wrote about in her book, Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God:
“As Helen Roseveare stood by our fireplace and looked into their faces, she reached backward toward the mantel and eased a long-stemmed red rosebud from a tall vase. As she spoke, she broke off the thorns, the leaves, the petals, the green outer layer of stem - every element that makes a rose a rose. All that was left was a lithe, straight shaft. The pieces that lay on the floor were not bad things. But, she explained, they had to be removed if she were going to make an arrow. God does this to us, she said. He removes everything - even innocent, good things - that hinders us from being the arrows that he will shoot for his purposes at his intended target.”
At the time of reading Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God, I was engaged to my now husband but I was living in Orange County, California and he was in the Seattle area. We were just weeks from living in the same state, but on top of missing him so much, I was plagued with thoughts of losing him. Reading this passage about Helen Roseveare’s ministry and discussing it with the women of my church convinced me that I needed to get this tattoo as a reminder that God gives and He takes away, but He is the only one that has the whole picture.
“Don’t wait to celebrate the life you have been given, even if it looks different from the one you thought you would have.” - Jay Wolf
Everyday we wake up breathing is a gift. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, so don’t wait for tomorrow to be grateful for and reflect on all that God has done in your life. We may all still have unrealized dreams, but that is okay because we are alive and breathing and able to do awesome things through the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.