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February 24, 2014

The 8th anniversary of the day I survived...


It's hard to forget where my life was exactly 8 years ago. Sometimes it still feels like I'm telling someone else's story. I was a freshman in college living in the dorms delighting in way too much stir fry and frozen yogurt at the cafeteria. I was suffering a very recent heart break from my high school and into college boyfriend. I didn't know what I wanted to major in. I was making new best friends in my sorority. I was trying way to hard to impress "friends" I didn't even like. I thought I was cool drinking framboise and hefeweisen. I remember deep feelings of insecurity and rejection. I had a pet fish in which I had a PANIC attack every time I had to clean his bowl. I drove a 98 blue vw beetle and it was always a mess, but I loved it. I really enjoyed getting to know a new city, new weather, and new faces but I also missed home. I was having the time of my life going to sorority events. I like to believe I was your average 19-year-old who didn't have a clue where my life was headed. God was always a part of me but I wasn't actively pursuing him. My mom called often and my sister sent me cute packages. I was busy nursing hang overs but cared about my grades. Aren't most freshmen college students that way?

On February 24th, 2006, I was chowing down on some fried chicken fingers with hot sauce, ranch, AND ketchup. My BFF from Arizona came in that night. I wanted her to have a good night so I made sure we had plans. We danced and giggled and got dolled up in my dorm. Little did I know the next few hours would be the single most terrifying life changing event to EVER happen. 

It's difficult to reflect in on the details of that day. Mostly because its a reminder how sudden life can change and  that evil viciously exists. It's also a souvenir of the deep hurt and confusion that occurred as the aftermath. It's a reminder of the voices of gossip that rang in my ear "you just want attention" "you talk about it too much" "your life is fine, just be thankful!" "you just seem shady". Those words stung and the judgement of how I was healing stung worse. It opens wounds of what were new hurts, new insecurities, extreme vulnerability, shame, and trauma. I was lost, oh so lost. Quickly I spun into survival mode which turned into long seasons of depression, fear, shame, anger, broken relationships, and extreme feelings of panic. "have you ever felt alone in a crowded room?", those Jacks Mannequin lyrics were on repeat. 

I wasn't only the victim. I was hard on myself and on others. I was difficult to be around. I didn't know how to be a good friend and my survival mode certainly wasnt teaching me. Many were patient with me, many weren't. You see, everyone around me was continuing to experience and enjoy the youth of their twenties.The memories that haunted me every day were nothing more than a a forgotten bad dream for them. The scars on my face and my funny shaped smile bothered me. I was angry at everyone else for having a "normal" life, a normal face, and the ability to stand in a crowded room with comfort. My counselor told me all these feelings were normal stages of grief but I felt far from the norm. I began to sink into emotional hiding, trying to act like everybody else. I was suffocating in my own vulnerability caring way too much yet caring way too little. 

Until I started clinging to my faith. 
Rather than escaping, denying, pitying, and letting THAT NIGHT define me, I started praying. 
You see, little did I know that my own Mother had prayed for me THAT DAY. She listened to her nudge and told God that he finally had permission to do what he needed to do, to get me to trust him. What faith, right? She never in a million years thought it would be THAT but it was, and 8 years and a lot of healing and grace I think God is pretty rad. I knew he was then but now I'm certain I can't live another waking moment without his grace. 
Thanks Mom for praying the most difficult prayer. I'm beyond blessed because of your faith. 

The healing took years. 
A 3 month jaunt to live in Africa, falling in love, an extremely supportive family, and learning the truth about forgiveness set me free

I'll never forget swimming alone in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa, as the sun was rising, singing praise songs as loud as I possibly could. That moment was a turning point in my life. I forgave myself and forgave those who deeply hurt me. It was as if I was baptized, and born new again. 

 Now, eight years later, a playful and loving marriage, a bright-blue-eyed baby girl, and a solid relationship with my savior makes every painful second worth it. 
It gives me understanding of how far God will go to catch your attention. 
He's desperate to know you so you can live, eat, and breath GRACE. 
He loves you, oh how he loves you. 
And even better, he'll FIGHT for you. 

So this year, on the 8th anniversary, I'm celebrating with a THANKFUL heart! 
I have many people to thank and I'm doing so by writing hand-written thank you cards. 

(side note: While receiving Christmas cards I developed a crazy card crush on Tiny Prints personal cards. I mean MAJOR heartthrob kind of crush. I love their designs and the feel of their cards! I can't think of any better way to write such personal heartfelt cards than on my own personalized Tiny Prints stationary. I'm pretty in love with these and can't WAIT to share these 'Moment of Dreams' personal cards with those I love.)






I can't tell you how many times I've looked at MVP and our daughter and just cried knowing I could have, and should have died THAT night. Traveling the globe, walking down the aisle with my Dad, graduating college, and kissing my baby for the first time are all things I would have been robbed of. 
I still don't know where our life is headed, or what adventure lie ahead (or countries to visit!) but I am certain that I'm blessed beyond measure. I'm thankful for the joys and trials these last 8 years has brought. I'm thankful for finding purpose and joy! I'm thankful I've learned to be humbled by the little things and joyful for the simple elements of life. I'm thankful I know I don't have to be perfect. I'm comfortable knowing no matter what I do, God still unconditionally LOVES me. I'm thankful I've learned to forgive and be forgiven. I'm thankful I get to see my nieces and nephews grow, and embrace the arms of my family. With every passing birthday and holiday, I'm thankful I'm not only witnessing it, but witnessing it with JOY. 

It's hard not to think "what if I died that night" and its even more difficult not to live in fear because of it. Yet, I'm reminded daily that it wasn't my time and I'm determined to fully rejoice in this life because that was God's intention the whole time. 

My story isn't meant to be silenced; it's a tale of love, GRACE, forgiveness, trust, and healing. And the greatest part of this whole thing? My story isn't over yet. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you for those who have been supportive near and far. For the prayers from strangers, the hugs from friends, and the late night tears and talks with my husband. You've made life so abundant!

Happy 8th anniversary to me and the happiest birthday wish to my god-fearing mother! 

PS:

 You probably want to know what happened THAT night. THAT I was shot in the face with a 45 caliber blistering hot bullet. The sizable bullet was surgically removed hours later from the right side of my face. The medical staff expressed I was the "luckiest" head gun shot wound victim they had ever seen...



God is good, right? 

PPS: It's no accident that my mothers birthday and the shooting collided on the same day. 

#godwink

I'm going to celebrate my pants of TODAY and each day forward. 

To read more about the shooting, CLICK HERE


4 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your story, Katie! I have been reading your blog for a few months and just wanted to say hello :) I am also a former teacher living in Las Vegas. I have a 16 month old and a new little one due in June.

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  2. Crying at my desk, again as I read your story. :) I story i have heard in person and read before. I am so thankful you are a friend of mine. I am so thankful for your honestly and openness. Your silliest and positive attitude make the world a better place. :) Happy 8 years! XOXO-- Lindsay

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  3. I was afraid to read this because I thought it would make me cry! And it did, but happy tears!!! God is SO good. And I'm so proud of how you allow Him to shine through you for all to see. I love your light! xoxoxo forever.

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  4. What an amazing and heartwarming story! It takes a lot of courage, and in your case, faith, to talk about something that happened in one's past that can leave scars. I think that is what makes you admirable. I hope more people who are struggling with scars, physical and whatnot be able to read your post. Thank you for sharing this. I wish you all the best!

    Brandi Kennedy @ Restoration Counseling

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