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February 24, 2016

A decade and a bullet. Cheers to ten years of LIFE post shooting!

TEN YEARS.

Holy shit! Ten years ago my life took a turn for the BETTER. Although a blistering hot bullet to the cheek wasn't the entry point to consciousness I would have written, it worked, none the less.

Just before writing this I read through all my other posts about this event. You guys, it's been a WILD ten years for me! There was so much goodness and lessons that I decided to share the past few years of thoughts on this day. If you have time, read them! Or, just zoom to the very bottom on my thoughts for today. xo.

Year 6-2012

Writing this post has been lingering on my mind for weeks. I have said many prayers over this specific post. I've been extremely anxious, and all the reasons as for why, aren't exactly clear. I feel led to write about it; It's an incredible story with a powerful message.

But, this is and was REAL.

It's not a fictional story.

It's not invented emotions or phony fears.

It's raw and authentic and has changed my world profoundly.

This narrative goes deeper than the oceans and wider than the sea.

This is my story.

Six years ago today, I was painfully shot in the face.

The 45-caliber bullet teared through the right side of my face.

Gliding along my jaw line, the smoldering hot metal came to rest in the fatty tissue in my cheek.

No exit, only an entry wound.

It was bloody.

It was horrifying.

It was excruciating.

It was a miracle.

The doctors were in awe of this case. "This is the best gun shot wound to the face I've ever seen. It's a miracle you're still standing, let alone breathing."

Family flew long distances to console me and friends gathered to spend long nights in the hospital. I was overwhelmed with cards, flowers, emails, text messages, and love.

Physically I healed, yet mentally and emotionally, I was lost.

The following days, months, and years were difficult.

Ever heard of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

How about grief?

 Rapidly the meaningless phrases of handling trauma became my reality.

Being 19, away from home, and handling so much brokenness left me extremely vulnerable.

I did what I thought (and my mom thought) was appropriate. I prayed, wrote in my journal, tried to talk about it with friends, went to counseling, and continued on with my life.

Very quickly I felt very alone in my world.

Relationships were failing, insecurities were growing, and confusion and chaos clouded my vision.

I was angry that everyone else's college experience and lives were "normal". They weren't living with this monster of repeated nightmares, numbness, feeling detached, anger, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, guilt, worry, fear, and stress.

I remember my counselors words, "You have been through a serious traumatic event. It's okay to not be okay."

 Looking back, I didn't recognize it as PTSD. I knew I was hurting, but, I didn't find it acceptable. I didn't understand what happened, what was happening, and what the future had in store. I was determined to build a house in the middle of a tornado; it's just not possible.

Post traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that is triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms usually include:

1. Reliving the event: flashbacks, nightmares, uncomfortable reactions to certain situations

2. Avoidance: numbness, depression, avoiding people or places that trigger the event, lack of interest in normal activities, feeling detached

3. Arousal: difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance, outbursts of anger or irritability, trouble sleeping, "survivors guilt", dizziness, feeling your heartbeat in your chest.

Symptoms can last for days, months, or years, and can recur with no given reason.

 After researching PTSD for this post I was literally brought to tears. I was BY THE BOOK suffering and didn't ever realize it. There is actually reasons for how I felt.

Do you know how enlightening and wonderful that realization feels?

Every year on this date, I feel different. This year is the first year I can look back and stop trying to be so strong and stop trying to  make sense of every little detail that followed the months after the shooting. Themagnitude of what has happened has finally become real. With a restful and hopeful heart I'm able to recognize where I've been and where I'm going. I'm able to understand grief and post trauma disorders and say, I've been there. I'd be foolish to think that my seasons of storms is over, but, as for now my house is a little more prepared.

I'm incredibly thankful for this wake-up call. I'm stronger, wiser, and have a deeper relationship with God. I truly feel that I took this one bullet only to dodge several other.


I've asked my Mom to share her story with you. 

"It's my birthday week, and It's the same week every year that I recall with awe the events that took place six years ago. Those events gave me a new perspective of God's  love and concern for us all, and left me wanting more of HIM. I am forever changed. I still remember those heart-stopping words, "there's been an accident, and Katie...". These are the type of phrases that give breath to a parent's worst nightmares...the words we pray we'll never have to hear...yet I was hearing them.



One chilling, February night, our daughter Katie was struck in the face by a stray bullet while attending a party with some college friends. We were told that a fight broke out, and in the chaos a shot was fired, leaving a young man paralyzed from the neck down. The same bullet that left the first victim motionless, passed through his neck and entered our daughter who was standing behind him. The events of that night left our daughter and many of her friends confused and horrified at what they had witnessed. The thought of my child lying in shock without me there to comfort her, is a thought almost too hard to bare. I've learned that it's best not to entertain the memory of that night too often.


The night of February 24th 2006 was the beginning of much pain and searching for Katie, but it was also the beginning of a mother's answered prayer. The shooting introduced our whole family to the painful realization that we truly have no control over the events on our lives. I've since made friends with this powerful truth, and find it to be both frightening, and liberating.


Since the shooting, I've witnessed profound growth in Katie. Her face is completely healed, and she can comfortably say that "the bullet" was the best thing that ever happened to her, and in many ways set her free. She learned that the experiences that bring us to our knees, are often the very experiences we need to break through the chains of fear. She's allowed the shadows surrounding her self worth to disappear in the light of God's insane love. That love, along with the love of family and many faithful friends has helped Katie heal, and through her pain she's been transformed into a wiser and happier person.

Our entire family has been methodically and lovingly changed through this experience, each gleaning a measure of wisdom specifically designed by THE LOVER OF ALL.


Backing up a bit.....


In the months leading up to Katie going away to school, I had become very concerned about many of the choices she was making. She was young and immature, and I had serious reservations about the wisdom of sending her away to school. I'm aware that most parents share the same reservations, but I found myself plagued by a deep concern for Katie's safety....I believe I now know why.


In order to paint a more complete picture of how my personal faith and trust were strengthened during this time, I feel it's important to mention some note worthy things that occurred leading up to the shooting.

The same day that Katie was shot, I was on my daily walk when I was taken by an overwhelming need to pray for her. I remember asking God to give Katie a wake-up call. My hope was that she would begin to listen to reason, and develop a deep, abiding love for HIM.  I recall pleading, "do whatever it takes to give Katie a heart for You". I reasoned with God that if she understood His love for her, she would grow the strength and wisdom to conquer whatever life may bring.

Little did I know that she would receive a gunshot wound to the face less that 24 hours later...not quite the wake-up call I had in mind. The events that followed my prayer were clearly and creatively scripted, and carried with them a message of love more powerful than I could have ever imagined.


Six years have come and gone, and I can say that I too am thankful for the bullet. I can also say that I'm very thankful that God didn't need to run details of His plan past me for my approval.


I believe there are a multitude of reasons why God allows painful things to happen. I choose to believe that my need to pray on that particular day for a "wake-up call",  was a type of preparation or warning for the sudden impact that was about to take place. I remember when I heard the words "there's been an accident, and Katie...", my heart dropped and my eyes began to well with tears. Then, I recalled my prayer from the day before, and all I can say is that I was overcome with a profound sense of peace and knowing that my prayers for Katie were being answered. I had the peace that passes understanding, and I know it was from HIM.


The thoughtless actions of Katie's shooter became the catalyst of an extremely challenging season of growth for Katie. While writing these words, I'm reminded of many raw emotions that tenderly touched and tested us, as a family.


 I learned some wonderful truths about God that continue to impact my life in many wonderful ways.   I now know that God is capable of turning any tragedy into triumph. I had always heard that God really does listen to our prayers...and now I know it to be true. HE cares deeply about what concerns us. God is all knowing and wise...He knows exactly what we need, and HE has a divine purpose for our lives. GOD IS LOVE.



I would like to add one more prayer to the hundreds of prayers I've prayed for the young man who was first hit by "the bullet". My prayer is that he will be given great healing and peace...forever.


I would also like to offer up a very special prayer for the shooter. It's clear that he lacks the knowledge that he is dearly loved. I pray, for his own good, that God gifts him with whatever it takes for him to develop a deep, and abiding love for HIM.  For with God, all things are possible.


Peace.


* I've kept the following excerpt, along with Katie's 2005-6 sorority picture safely taped to the inside of my bible for the past five years....lest I forget.


"THERE IS NOTHING, NO CIRCUMSTANCE, NO TESTING THAT CAN EVER TOUCH ME UNTIL FIRST OF ALL, IT HAS GONE PAST (THROUGH) CHRIST, RIGHT THROUGH TO ME. IF IT HAS COME THAT FAR, IT HAS COME WITH A GREAT PURPOSE, WHICH I MAY NOT UNDERSTAND AT THE MOMENT. BUT AS I REFUSE TO BECOME PANICKY, I LIFT UP MY EYES TO HIM AND ACCEPT IT AS COMING FROM THE THRONE OF GOD FOR SOME GREAT PURPOSE OF BLESSING TO MY OWN HEART. NO TRIAL WILL EVER DISARM ME, NO CIRCUMSTANCE WILL CAUSE ME TO FRET, FOR I SHALL REST IN THE JOY OF WHAT THE  LORD IS, AND THAT IS THE REST OF VICTORY".      < BARBARA  JOHNSON>   (author)"




Can I get an AMEN?!

WOW.

I'd be lying to you if I said the healing is over. I still have moments of PTSD and I will forever carry this with me. However, today is a celebratory day! I'm blessed beyond belief and ever so thankful of this life-changing event. This journey for our family is not over but I'm not afraid if it anymore. I've learned that God has insane love for us. I've learned that a mothers love is richer than all the wealth. I've learned that healing and forgiveness takes time.

This event has deep roots that travel miles underground. I'm excited to continue this journey with the support of my loving husband, family, and friends.


If you know anyone who has been through any sort of trauma encourage them to read this, understand where they are, and seek help.


Let's all learn to pray, trust, and love...furiously.


xoxo, katie


Oh, one more thing. Happy Birthday, Mom.



YEAR 7- 2013

As I promised, here are my thoughts this anniversary.

If you are unsure what anniversary I'm talking about, here's the deal.

7 years ago I was shot in the face with a 45 caliber bullet.

It's a miracle that I'm here and it's been quite the journey since that day.

Scroll back a few posts if you didn't read my post from last year. It gives a better description of what happened and an awesome story about it from mi madre.

I'm so joyful this year!

I'm going to be a mommy in a short 3 months.

AMEN!

My mom prayed that my heart will be on fire for God, 7 years ago.

That night, I was shot.

God has used this experience to answer that prayer.

His blessings may not come pretty but they sure do come!

Yes, I still struggle. I'm HUMAN.

However, I'm totally blown away by his grace, forgiveness, and love for ME.

AND, I'm totally blown away by my mothers love.

My mom trusted God SO much, enough to pray knowing it would seriously shake things up.

My faith was too rattled to make sense of WHY.

Do you trust God enough to pray for the unthinkable and TRUST his decisions knowing it could be painful?

That is faith.

That is what I'm feeling this year.

I only pray I can be as trusting as we bring this little peanut into the world.

I do wonder though, what will I eventually tell my kids?

I don't think they'll believe that mommy got shot!

Perhaps I'm exhausted or in a silly mood BUT this is my thoughts and I'm quickly typing away, not editing or deleting.

Each day I'm so thankful for the LIFE I've been given.

These past 7 years have been seasons of darkness and seasons of crazy joy...need I say more?

This year, I'm just thankful and joyful.

I can't wait to greet my baby girl and guide her to love Jesus, too.

xo.



Year 8-2014


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 forgivenessset 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. 





YEAR 9-2015

It's hard to believe NINE years ago my mom prayed a prayer that I would truly understand the need for Jesus. Just a short 12 hours later I laid in a hospital bed as detectives swarmed and doctors planned for surgery to remove a rather large bullet from my face. Tonight, I looked at my precious daughter and realized that because I lived...she lives. I guess I feel a strong urge to talk about grief? It's real. It's messy. It's long. It's painful. But for those that are grieving for ANY reason...keep going. Today is such a reminder that we ALL need Jesus. He makes beautiful things out of messy situations. I often felt I was grieving the wrong way, or, grieving too much. Nine years has taught me it's okay to not be okay...the world is just one big pot of broken people and none of us know how to hurt...or heal. Here's to learning we can't do life on our own and we are ALL worth it. 




YEAR 10 - 2016

Sorry to burst your bubble thinking this would be some awesome words of wisdom. Here is what I have TODAY. Allergies. Hot coffee. A messy apartment. A sleeping toddler who asks to cuddle and tells me I'm the best mom in the world (tears!). A big freaking tender graceful heart. Surrender. 

Over the past ten years this story has been the start of profound conversations about healing, trauma, Jesus, grief, and love. You know what's crazy? 

The story ain't over! 

This is one of the experiences I tell over and over again. It's one of those that has rocked me in all the best ways and was a huge catalyst for growth. It's one of those that doesn't end leaving the hospital but a tale I'm still in. 

It's a story of LIFE. God-given BREATH of life!

So, today, I am thankful for my life! 

Choosing to deeeeeeeeeeeeply thank God for the junk and the joys the last ten, and the last year, have brought. 

I mean...not everyone has their own bucket-listing DAY, right? So today, I'm doing something for the FIRST time and going to do it with JOY, and sass. DUH!

This year, I'm in a place of surrender to the next ten years. I have this moment, and only this moment, RIGHT NOW. Why not love it?

I think I'm exactly where God wants me. Open, vulnerable, honest, authentic, and empowered. After a really long season of change, this is exactly where I need to be. Amen? Yes, AMEN. 

Here's my prayer. GOD USE ME! 

Just sayin'....

I think you should consider a bucket-listing day, too. Pick one day that every single year you vow to do something new. Cross SOMETHING off your list. You think I'm joking...I'm NOT. 

Or choose today, with me. Because you sure as hell know that I'll remind you each year!

I love you all. And I cherish that YOU, on the other side of the screen, have openly welcomed my story into your world. May you hear it for the reason it happened...to teach all of us just how loved we are. 

Happy Birthday, Mom. Words will never describe what you've taught me. <3

Hugs to you!




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