Tuesday, January 20, 2015

No Such Thing As Detours

by Katherine Wolf

I imagine for most of us there are fairly straightforward pictures in our heads about what our lives will look like and about who we will become. It seems these pictures are always of wonderful things that happen at exactly the right time and make oh-so much sense. I imagine when something happens that is not inside the four corners of that picture, we view this as a "detour" and hope to get back on the correct path as quickly as possible.

I suppose I have a question then: what happens when you go on a detour and cannot ever get back on that original path again? 

Perhaps some detours aren't detours at all.  Perhaps they are actually THE path. THE picture. THE plan. And perhaps most unexpectedly, they can be perfect.  

On October 16, 2007, James Thompson Wolf, our precious and big-eyed baby boy, was born.  Though my husband and I planned on having kids in our 30s, getting unexpectedly pregnant at 24 was not at all what we pictured for the first years of our marriage. Like so many young women do, I worried over what this would mean for my career and my future.  As a fearless, accomplished, and Type-A woman, I wondered if this baby would throw all my plans for a loop. 

I wish that was the story I was going to share with you today.  If only that would have been the great detour of my life.  Instead, 6 months and 5 days after James was born, out of the blue, I nearly died of a massive brain stem stroke.  The greatest detour anyone can take in life, I imagine, is a near-death experience.  James was part of God’s perfect plan to come before my life was turned upside down, and he would be the deepest reason for me to fight for my life.

I had a rare collection of malformed blood vessels in my brain (called an "AVM") that ruptured and caused a massive hemorrhagic stroke. I had no symptoms. There was no warning. One day I was living a healthy, normal life, and the next day, it was unlikely I would survive the night. After 16 hours of micro-surgery, I was on life support for 40 days, then in a rehab hospitals for two years.

My journey in the past 6 years has been arduous and at times so achingly slow I thought I could not go on. I have fought my way back to being able to do the most basic things again, yet still many, many disabilities remain. I can barely walk, even with a cane. I have no coordination in my right hand, so I cannot hold things or write well with it. My face is paralyzed, and I have severe double vision. I could not eat for almost a year after my stroke, and even today, I have difficulty swallowing. I've had 11 surgeries since my stroke, including the removal of a brain aneurysm that was totally separate from my AVM. I severely broke my leg while walking on flat ground. I can’t possibly do so many things that I used to do and long to do now, and there is a profound sense of loss that lingers. Sometimes it feels like I am an observer of my own life. Yet, I think my story is about ultimately learning I am not in control.

I would love to tell you how good it is to be on this journey or how inspired I am by all that has happened.  I can’t though.  It has been painful in ways I never thought could exist.  Having a small child makes it even more heart-breaking.  Sometimes, I feel so alone even though I know that nothing is further from the truth.  I STILL cannot believe this happened to me even though I have had years for this reality to settle in. 

Everyone asks if I ever had a moment of total despair or hopelessness.  The answer (in short) is no, but I did come very close.  I had several moments, particularly when not eating, when I thought I should just end this.  "I'm caught between life and death". I reasoned, "this could not be what God PLANNED for my life".  In those darkest moments, I felt this supernatural encouragement: GOD DOESN'T MAKE MISTAKES.  HE KNOWS AND ALLOWS EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS TO US IN THIS LIFE.  

I am discovering joy even in the sadness and CHOOSING contentment when it is very, very hard.  For that, and countless other blessings, I am so grateful to God. No amount of catharsis or perspective-finding will change that my situation is terribly sad and deeply broken. I can give God the glory, and it can still hurt.  Those actions are not mutually exclusive. God is big enough to take all my pain and because of that I can praise him, really praise him.

I have recognized, above all other lessons, that healing is internal.  I will be restored in Heaven, but I am actually fully healed on Earth RIGHT NOW.  You see, true healing is ultimately IN YOUR SOUL.  My feelings were hurt badly when this happened to me.  I was mad at God and struggled to make sense of all this pain.  God spoke into that mess and revealed truth that I already knew.  My "birth defect" that would rupture at age 26, was a part of His plan for my life. He sees the entire picture. He knows that this is part of the story He is writing for me and for all of the creation that he is making right. It's not a detour. It's not a Plan B, and I trust that.

The question then becomes, what will I do with this one precious, messy, unexpected life I've been given? It's mine because he gave it to me, not because I chose it, but now, I get to chose to really live it. And so do you.

Learn more about Katherine and her family's story at www.hopeheals.com and you can follow them on Instagram and Twitter at @hopeheals.

Want to know more about the Wolf's story?  Watch a video...
4 min (version of our story): http://vimeo.com/94226793

Monday, November 24, 2014

WM Spotlight: Katherine Wolf & Hope Heals

by Hope Heals

In April of 2008, Katherine suffered a massive brain stem stoke while 6-month old James slept in the other room. She was not expected to live or recover, but as you may have guessed, she did both. In the time since the AVM rupture (the congenital condition that cause the stoke), she has re-learned to eat, to speak, and to walk, although those things look very different than they did before. Many other obstacles remain, from double vision to deafness, facial paralysis to lack of fine motor coordination in her hand, even a small brain aneurysm, and yet hope remains also. Today Katherine and her husband Jay share their journey of whole-hearted living and hope in Christ through many successful digital and in-person forums. The response to their authentic sharing has been so overwhelmingly positive that they formalized their ministry, Hope heals (www.hopeheals.com), into a non-profit corporation for which they both currently work full-time. The Wolfs like to think of themselves as "missionaries of hope"--messengers who have come a long way to bring good news, that hope in Christ heals our souls. Katherine and her family currently reside in Los Angeles, CA.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Happily Ever After

by Mandy den Dekker

Remember how, when you were a little girl, you used to love those movies about a princess, looking for her one true love, her prince. They found each other in the end and lived happily ever after. Obviously, the prince was extremely handsome, heroic and everything the princess ever needed to be happy. He completed her. Remember that? Yeah, me too. I remember that I loved it even when I wasn’t a little girl anymore. Every romantic movie on earth is based on this same principle. ‘Find your true love, because he is the only one to complete you. Your life will be perfect when you finally find him.’ I have believed that for a long time. Longer than I care to admit. The thing is, it’s not true. It’s not true that you can find someone walking on this earth who will completely fulfill you. Of course, people can make you happy, but completing someone is another matter entirely. If another person is going to fulfill you, that person must be perfect. And I have yet to find the perfect human being.

Growing up, going through high school, I based my idea of a boyfriend on the image the movies gave me. And boy, did he have to live up to a high standard. My boyfriend would be super romantic and he would pursue me, and of course, he would be extremely handsome. He would be the one to make me happy, and if I had finally found him, all my worries would disappear. Looking back, I realize how unhealthy my view on a boyfriend and a relationship was. I decided a boyfriend would fulfill me, and would give my life meaning. I was constantly waiting for him to come into my life, and every romantic movie I watched fed that overly romantic side of me that said: he is going to make your life perfect. Just wait.

Now believe me, I’m a fan of relationships. I think it’s a blessing and a place where God can bring growth and healing. But my view on relationships when I was younger wasn’t healthy. And it’s not what God has intended either.

I know there are a lot of girls out there who, like me, believe or at one point have believed these things. If you’re one of those girls, this is for you. It was never God’s intention you would find your meaning and fulfillment solely in another person. He wants to bless us through relationships, sure, but He doesn’t want another person to take that place in your life – a place that was actually made for Him. As people, we are not perfect. If you put your life’s entire happiness in someone else’s hands, that person will fail you, even if they have the best intentions of loving you. I’m sure people have hurt you when they didn’t intend to, and you have hurt other people too. The only one who can take on the task of fulfilling you completely, and can really live up to the challenge, is God. He is the only one who can take care of your entire life’s happiness, because He is perfect. He will not fail you nor hurt you.

Coming from a place like this, looking for perfection and fulfillment first and foremost in Him, will make your relationships better and healthier. Not needing your boyfriend or significant other to be perfect is a great way for the both of you to start or continue a relationship together. And it will surely save you a lot of stress. Maybe you rejected someone before, because they weren’t perfect enough in your eyes. Of course it’s great to think about the things you find attractive and important in someone else, there’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t take it too far, try to not give someone else the impossible task of being perfect. Let perfection be up to God, and let that be a blessing in your relationship. I’m the first one to admit I occasionally forget this truth myself, and I stumble a lot. But I’m thankful I get so many chances to learn. Isn’t that what life’s about anyway?

Are you still looking for your happily every after? What are some personal tips that you use to put God first and not a relationship?

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