though now unable to walk down any aisle or clearly speak her wedding vows
or eat her beloved wedding cake,
was somehow, impossibly more radiant than she was then.
Now she glowed with the light of life restored.”
(above image borrowed from web)
i finished the soon to be released ‘hope heals’ last night. i’m fairly certain that as i laid the book in my lap i made an outloud sigh, tears streaming down my face. i read the epilogue three times and couldn’t remember the last time a book wrecked me as this one just did. i wanted to text katherine & jay and tell them how much their story touched my heart…and then just as quickly i realized i don’t have their number! haha-well of course i don’t have their number but that’s how their story reads. it’s as if you’ve been snuggled up in a comfy chair, well actually on the edge of your seat, with real life friends katherine & jay sitting across from you while they share. jay’s gentle & loyal demeanor and katherine’s wit and candor despite living through tragedy makes these saint-worthy souls just so real.
last month i listened to katherine share at IF gathering. her story blew me away. i came home from austin & immediately pulled up her website. hours passed as i read snippets of their story & watched their documentary & then laughed and cried again as i watched her you tube videos referred to as chocolatekatchats.
this beautiful young couple, full of personality, hopes & dreams for the future, became husband & wife on november 6 in a large celebration with hundreds of friends. 8 years prior, on that same day, november 6, my life as a young couple ended in a small hospital room with a small handful of friends. i remember leaving the oncology floor and thinking to myself that my world had just stopped yet it was truly only ‘my world & my crisis’. babies would be born that day, weddings would be attended that weekend. celebrations seem to call for large gatherings don’t they, yet tragedy can feel so isolating. jay spoke to that very feeling on one of the first pages of their story. just three years into life as newlyweds, katherine was admitted to the ER at UCLA just three years later, having just suffered a massive brain stem stroke. she should have died that day.
last night in my comfy chair, as i closed the book i reflected on the power of a transparent heart & the power of sharing stories not only our own healing, but in the healing of others. transparency has long been one of my favorite character traits. jay and katherine nail the transparency issue. they knock it out of the park actually. i thought about how i was really unable to write when gregg battled cancer…or perhaps the reality of seeing our story unfold on paper was just more than i could bare. i did feel isolated in our crisis. yet i think that’s one of the things that really touched my heart with jay & katherine. they share over & over about how they’ve let others into their pain, and honestly in doing so hope has grown within that sacred place.
we will all go through suffering at some point in our lives. our loved ones will go through suffering at some point in their lives. to see a glimpse into how this beautiful young couple walked through the valley of the shadow of death has left a lasting impression on me. ever since my own family’s crisis i’ve struggled with fear and while i’ve never experienced physical crippling, the spiritual and mental crippling fear can unleash has been overwhelming at times.
“i don’t hang out at that place of fear & questioning what might happen. i think there’s something profound about hope. there’s something so meaningful when you cling to something beyond what you know & understand. and when that’s in there, deep within your head and within your heart and you believe it with every ounce of your body, something happens… hope heals, where it hurts the most, which is your soul.” you hear katherine so eloquently say this in their documentary yet in reading their story you watch as this unfolds.
i wanna hold jay & katherine’s faces & say…you two kids are gonna change the world with your love story. you are! thank you jay for showing us a picture of unconditional love in the flesh. i think each groom should read this handbook on radical love. i really do. ( that’s a little mother of the bride nod to your dad & his annoying wedding ceremony directive-wink!). katherine, i think if i’d have had your number last night, i would have called & been a weeping mess. girl, your ability to make the largest mountains seem climbable and the deepest valleys a place where god’s hand can be trusted even if seemingly unseen has left me wrecked in the sweetest sense. you said that maybe it takes life being undeniably terrible before we can truly recognize its undeniable splendor. i think that the sharing of your story of terrible has painted a beautiful canvas of undeniable splendor & those of us who’ve been blessed to witness this beauty will be changed forever. remember how you mentioned your love of a beautiful art museum & how “true beauty viscerally connects us to God and reminds us, in ways platitudes cannot, that we are beautiful to Him”? it’s funny you spoke of the transcendent beauty found in art. in my minds eye i see your story as if it were a painting of the ocean during a storm and despite the stormy seas, the art leaves me with a sense of peace. oh girl, you are effervescent beauty to Him indeed!
the book releases on april 26th but you can preorder it now, here & here. in my humble, honest opinion, i think this story has the power to change your heart, to make you stronger if you need strength…or softer if your heart battles bitterness…maybe both. there’s a place in each of us that needs to hold fast to an anchor when storms rage around us. hope in something beyond our strength, hope in something beyond our comprehension will indeed heal.
hebrews 6.19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil
(letterpress art print & much more available in the Hope Heals shop)
& local friends, jay & katherine will be in athens in april~
4.16 (Saturday) Hope Heals Book Signing!, Athens Academy, 10:00 am (Athens, GA)
4.17 (Sunday) Hope Heals Book Launch! Athens Church 9:30am and 11am (Athens, GA)