MOTHER'S DAY SERMON at Bel Air Pres Church

MOTHER'S DAY SERMON at Bel Air Pres Church

We have been blessed to be a part of the fabulous community of Bel Air Presbyterian Church since our first Sunday in LA, 10 years ago. This Mother's Day we got to share at our beloved home church, appropriately answering the question "Why Did You Let This Happen To Me?" as part of a larger sermon series about "Sitting With The Tough Questions". The whole sermon is wonderful--we LOVE how our new pastor, Dr. Drew Sams articulates the truth of scripture--but if you only have time for our, you can fast forward to 15:20. Also, you'll love the story explaining this personalized license plate below...CLICK ON PICTURE TO WATCH SERMON VIDEO.

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YOUNG SUFFERING CLUB: Katherine & Jay Wolf

YOUNG SUFFERING CLUB: Katherine & Jay Wolf

7 years ago, on an ordinary day in April,we became members of the Young Suffering Club (read that story, here). We didn't join willingly, and if we could have revoked our membership, we would have. Yet this club of which no one wants to be a part has many members, maybe even you.

In a secular world-view, there is perhaps no greater tragedy than suffering inflicted upon a young life. Such a story reveals our greatest fear...that we won't get to live the lives we always dreamed we might live. We grieve the loss of innocence, the pain of unmet expectations, and the shattering of our best-laid plans, and we are undone.

This is not just a secular response. It seems even the "people of hope" often forget the true story of hope, one that is most profoundly birthed through the story of suffering. We need look no further than the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to see this paradox of hope-through-suffering made manifest.

Hope Heals' "Young Suffering Club" seeks to re-narrate the story of suffering by sharing the lives and lessons of real people--their honest answers, vulnerable struggles, and surprising transformations through enduring life's greatest storms. As we share the scars and even the yet-to-be-healed wounds that come with such territory, the question remains...could we bravely wear our suffering as a badge of honor? Could what appears to be the greatest loss possibly offer the greatest gain?

In the telling of these true stories of suffering may we remember, and in the remembering may we find gratitude, and in the gratitude may we find hope, and in the hope may we find our healing.

What's your story of suffering? This is ours...

[VIDEO: Matt McCartie / PHOTOS: Emily Blake / GRAPHICS: Alex Wolf]

*   HOW DO YOU HANDLE SETBACKS?

{JAY} Each setback has taught us there is no quota on suffering. We don't get to check it off our bucket list even if we've already really been through the ringer. This shouldn't lead us to despair or a fatalistic view of our future, but it should inspire us to figure out what we've been given in that very moment and champion it. If we had waited until our lives looked normal again, without setbacks, to began re-narrating the hopeless story of our lives into a hopeful one, then we perhaps would never have begun. It is a challenging revelation, but God most desires to draw us to Himself, not to simply create the outcomes we expect for our lives.


* WHAT ARE THE MOST VITAL TRAITS TO DEVELOP AS A CAREGIVER?

{JAY} Caregiving has instilled in me a seemingly paradoxical set of traits: the desire to fix it all but the knowledge that I cannot. If I don't desire to be a part of making things right, then naturally, I won't stay, but if I think I will be the ultimate source of the fixing, then my own expectations will crush me, leaving deep frustration, even shame, and I won't stay either. To hold these two truths in harmony prompts me to rise to the occasion while simultaneously humbling me, bringing me low. We caregivers play a role in the care, an indispensable one, but we must release our efforts into the reality that the real healing doesn't come from us.


* HOW HAS SUFFERING SHAPED YOU?

{KATHERINE} My suffering, both after the stroke and to this day, has been a powerful informant for me.  I lived a fairly oblivious life before my stroke.  While undeniably awful and painful, calamity has meant this beautiful and heartbreaking deepening in me.   I’m not quite as naive to the world around me – both the beauty and brokenness. 

I am close to Christ in a way that I never was before this happened.  I have tasted true suffering.  I still taste it to a degree everyday of my life.  As a severely disabled 33 year old, I NEED to believe the truths of our Father. I don’t just believe in him anymore.  

The state of California deemed me permanently disabled in the fall of 2010.  As a 28-year-old girl, I was put on medicare, my driver’s license was revoked, and I was issued a PERMANENT handicapped license plate for our car.  

I have had 11 surgeries since my stroke, much painful emotional and physical heartbreak, a severely broken leg, 2 dramatic, cutting-edge facial reconstructive surgeries, and almost 2 years in hospital settings while my son was 6 months – 2.5 years old.

Deep pain and suffering of every sort has been a reality of my life for the past 7 years.  I have learned NOT to fight it.  Despite what every self-helply piece of propaganda will tell you, I have embraced the suffering. I have learned not to fight, but to lean in hard when it hurts the most. The pain has been the instructor through which I have learned deeper truths about myself and God.

I have been broken and battered, but I am not bitter.  I feel special in fact.  I was chosen for this.  We all “were chosen for such a time as this”.  We long to lead lives worthy of our calling.  We truly do see our pain as an award – a special club we were initiated into on April. 21, 2008.  Nothing will ever be the same, and we don’t want it to be. 

* WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST BLESSING TO COME OUT OF YOUR PAIN?

{KATHERINE} Watching my son James grow up around and engage mommy’s saga is this strange gift to watch. He is seeing my story – his story – our family’s story, as it unfolds. James (and our future son!!!!) will never live in oblivion about our broken world. They won’t grow up unaware the way their mommy did. Their baseline for entering into tragedy will be different, and my suffering will inform the way they live.  They will know redemption and perseverance and hope first hand.  They will also have seen how well their daddy takes care of me. They will see devotion an commitment in marriage – truly in sickness and health. The world rejects sad and hard and broken things.  Their understanding of those things will be deep and extraordinary. We could never teach him to engage pain and cultivate perspective quite like this.  It is the greatest blessing in the midst of my greatest pain.   


* HOW DO YOU FIGHT FEAR?

{JAY} Every day, every decision, the question must be posed, what is motivating me? Is it fear? If so, the fear must be exposed and considered and pulled apart. Write it down. Pray it out. The process of revealing the things we fear, rather than just allowing the visceral, pit-in-the-stomach dread to make our decisions for us, begins to tip the scales in the favor of truth, the enemy of fear. Remind yourself of truth. Remind yourself that you are not in control, but a God who created it all, transcends it all, and loves it all is in control. As a practical tip for emotional health in general, look to the Psalms. David and the other writers neither elevated nor suppressed their emotions. Certainly the elevation or the suppression of fear can have profoundly negative ripple effects, but to name our fears and humbly cry them out to God seems to hit the middle ground just right.


* HOW DO YOU KEEP A HOPE-FILLED PERSPECTIVE?

{JAY} Hope, like contentment, is learned experientially and only through a daily choosing to live in it. This process is first rooted in an awareness that our reality is out of our control, hopeless even. Yet this awareness is often only really clear to us when we live through deep loss and suffering. Then, the practice of seeing God in the midst of the hopeless begins to draw us into a rhythm of gratitude and perspective-taking. This creates a trust that the source of hope is already in the midst of the hopelessness with us. We must remind ourselves of the awareness of that past hope by telling our story, and the greater story of God's redemption, to each other, in community. In the remembering of our past experiences of hope, we begin to anticipate a future hope, even strain towards it, rather than pushing against the fearful unknown.

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7 Years Ago Today

7 Years Ago Today

On April 21, 2008, everything in our lives changed, and anniversaries like this remind us that life will never be the same. It's been painful but incredible to be writing a book in this season on the story that started 7 years ago today. We've cried many times re-living the horror of this journey, yet it's been a blessed reminder of the miracle I am living...that we are all living.

In honor, in memorium, of this day in my life, and all the days in all our lives that change the course of the rest, here is my story. It wasn't told by me or Jay even, but rather by those who loved us enough to not turn away from our pain. They watched and waited and told others the story, and in so doing, they told us that we were not alone.

Special thanks to Charlie Saliba, Dr. Jay Wolf {"Pastor Jay"}, Kim Arnold, Lauren Miller, Alex Wolf, Kelly Hughes, Ryan Dobson, Thomas Griffin, Sally Scruggs Griffith, and Sydney Taylor for telling our story that first week, and in so doing, creating a record unchanged by time that we might draw on as we continue to share. I am so touched as I read your words of hope. I know the sharing of this story to a world-wide digital audience of praying strangers changed more outcomes in our lives than we will ever know. Thank you, thank you, for that.

"If we don't keep telling the hard stories, we'll stop longing for the hopeful ones." - Jay Wolf (III)

WEEK ONE HIGHLIGHTS


APRIL 22, 2008 @ 4am PST

Katherine Wolf suffered from a rupture/bleed in her brain (Arterio-venous Malformation or AVM). Surgery is currently being done by Dr. Gonzalez at UCLA Hospital.

We have sensed God’s peace in this situation. We are standing on His promise, holding onto Romans 8:28-39–that God is in control. He is for us.

The scene in the hospital as Katherine and Jay’s church family have gathered is breathtaking. Jay was deeply encouraged. Pastor Jay is currently on a flight to California. Katherine’s mother arrived in California this morning. Continue to pray for a complete healing and have confidence that God is going to shine through!

@ 7am PST

Katherine is out of surgery and is currently in coma, but she is alive. The doctors have said the coma is expected. They will now perform a brain scan. Please pray that she wakes from the coma and that the brain scan is positive.

@ 1pm PST

Katherine’s condition is very grave, but the family is remaining hopeful and prayerful. She will be in a medically-induced coma for 48 hours. While Katherine is resting in that 48 hours we pray that God will restore and raise her up. Please keep Jay and baby James, along with the Wolf and Arnold families in your prayers. They have felt your prayer support and thank you for being diligent.

@ 5:59pm PST

There has been a bit of good news. The doctors did an arterial angiogram (a type of dye test) a few hours ago that showed the AVM has been entirely removed and that there is no further bleeding — in other words, the surgery was a complete success as far as that goes.

We still do not know (and still won’t know for a few days) whether and to the extent Katherine has suffered any permanent damage. The risks that she has are still very high. Obviously, it is still a very long road ahead and we need everyone reading this to absolutely start a mighty flood of prayer. At the hospital, we feel the Lord at work and are encouraged by this news.

@ 6:30pm PST

A nurse just informed Jay that Katherine raised her hand, responding to the nurse's command to do so. According to this same nurse, that means that she is NOT completely paralyzed as the doctors thought might happen. At this point Dr. Gonzales is saying that the most important thing is for Katherine’s body to remove the blood from affected tissue areas, such as her brain stem.

It’s been encouraging to see how many people have shown up at the hospital, and encouraging to see everyone here on online. Prayer is pouring in from all around the world and is making a difference. Thank you and keep it coming!  The words of Jesus that Jay’s father has been asking all of us to pray today can be found in Mark 5: “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”

@ 7:15pm PST

Katherine has not only raised her hand but has wiggled all ten toes on command! This is a huge advancement, especially for it to happen so soon after surgery. They are still keeping her in a drug-induced coma for the next 36 – 48 hours to let her body rest and heal, but we are all very encouraged by this latest development. The Lord is at work…keep raising our dear Kat. up in prayer!


APRIL 23 @ 9:30am PST

Katherine has “blinked her eyes open” in response to them telling her that her cousin Johnny was in from Canada. Much like last night’s news of Katherine raising her arms and wiggling her toes, this kind of physical and mental recognition, is MIRACULOUS news! We’re seeing specific, tangible answers to prayer. These steps are magnificent, affirming strides in the right direction. Many of them less than 24 hours after the surgery!!

Family members are staying at hotels nearby and coming and going. There is always a scheduled small group point-person in the lobby with internet access so in the event that anything new happens, everyone will be notified right away. The response of the Community of Christ is absolutely overwhelming – your care and desire to do whatever is necessary is truly incredible.


APRIL 24 @ 12:30pm PST

Katherine is much less responsive than yesterday. There has been an increase in brain pressure and that is a concern. The swelling could be responsible for further damage to her brain. As a result, the settings on her ventilator have been elevated in order to bring down the pressure in her brain. Sodium levels are also being controlled to reduce the swelling. A CT Scan was just taken which shows that although there is swelling in Kat’s brain, there is no bleeding, which is positive news.

@ 11pm PST

Today was a rough day for Kat. God’s ways are mysterious indeed, and the day may come for our faith to be tested by a seeming silence in order that it may be made more complete. The knowledge that so many people are interceding for us and loving us and our incredibly precious daughter will help to carry us through those days if they should come. Thank you, thank you, thank you, one and all, for your life-changing compassion and support. It is AMAZING, as Kat would say.

@ 11:45pm PST

Katherine was unresponsive most of the day until the doctors decided to do a small surgery that removed her ventricular, a monitor that checks brain pressure. Removing the monitor actually relieved a blood clot, and Katherine instantly responded. God is at work, but we continue to be in desperate need of prayer.


APRIL 25 @ 8pm PST

K’s fever is subsiding, her brain swelling is subsiding and her blood pressure is in the range the doctors desire. She is alert and responsive. Please pray that these trends continue. Also, please continue to pray for protection against pneumonia and that she will be able to transition from the ventilator to breathing on her own soon. To God be the glory.


APRIL 26 @ 7:40am PST

In addition to moving her arms and legs on command, she raised the corner of her mouth when asked to smile and moved a lot when family members recited Romans 8, which she has memorized previously. At one point, they forgot some of the wording, and when Katherine’s mom said “I know you’re reciting this with us,” Katherine squeezed her hand.

Her MRI yesterday afternoon revealed less swelling than the doctors expected – the only swelling was where the surgery had been performed, and even that was less than the doctors had anticipated.

When Katherine was asked last night if she wanted Jay to stay in the room with her, she squeezed his hand – so he spent the night up in ICU. We’re still scheduling to make sure people are in the waiting room 24/7.


APRIL 27 @ 10:30am PST

(1) They are taking her ventilator out today and giving her a tracheotomy (tube that goes directly into her throat to help her breathe). The big prayer is that she will be able to swallow once they take the vent out, because so far, there has been no gag reflex or coughing (which there should have been at this point). Trouble swallowing is something they thought could happen, so we want to really lift this specific thing up in prayer, that there will be no problems with the throat, swallowing, talking, choking etc. This is the big issue right now — we want her to be able to gag and cough with no problem (otherwise she could choke).

(2) They’ve managed to get her fever down by using this cutting edge new treatment…the problem is, the treatment involves putting ice water in her veins. So, obviously, she’s really, really cold right now, and Jay says he is praying that the Holy Spirit will come along side her through this and warm her. And obviously we want to pray that the fever stays down!


APRIL 28 @ 11am PST

IT HAS BEEN ONE WEEK TODAY.  THANK YOU FOR JOURNEYING WITH US.  Katherine’s personality is beginning to shine through. Of course, there is still as much need for prayer as ever, but there is so much hope.

Yesterday was a very hard day, with the tracheotomy, removal of the huge ventilator tubes and feeding tube from her nose and insertion of a new tube to her stomach. It took longer than expected because they couldn’t get Katherine to “go under.”

Later when Kim asked if she wanted Manda, her 80 year old maternal grandmother, to come out from GA, Katherine looked at Kim, and with her mouth twisted to one side and her tongue swollen 3 times its normal size, she managed to whisper, “Yes.”

The doctors at the hospital are absolutely amazed. Dr. Gonzalez came in on a Saturday, even though he is no longer her doctor, just to see Katherine. According to the nurse, Gabrielle, he got tears in his eyes when he was doing the neurological exam. He is the one who told Jay before the operation that she probably wouldn’t make it through surgery.

Other doctors who were part of the team are incredulous as well. Dr. Gonzalez said that as incredibly well as the surgery went, he couldn’t take credit for it. We thought he meant the assisting Dr. and the huge team of doctors, but when asked what he attributed her progress to, he said he had “a helper’” and pointed up.

Specific Prayer Requests;

1) Unfortunately, Kat is in a lot of pain, esp. her throat

2) Her eyes – One has an infection and she doesn’t have control of them

3) Her temperature. It is up again and Drs. are baffled, doing constant cultures

4) She is freezing and shaking uncontrollably due to the treatment to keep her temperature down.

@ 3pm PST

Katherine’s nurse for today is named Courtney and she is a Christian. Courtney repeated that taking into account the magnitude and location of Katherine’s AVM, no one thought she would have come this far. She explained specifically, “Considering Katherine’s injuries, this is the most amazing thing I have seen in my experiences in Neuro-Intensive Care. We are seeing God’s miracle which could only be correlated to prayer.”

Please ask God for Katherine’s swallow, gag and cough reflex to come back because that will enable them to remove the breathing equipment. God’s Army, KEEP RISING UP AND PRAYING!

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