“Je­sus taught me the true mean­ing of beauty”

A young ac­tress finds hope af­ter suf­fer­ing a mas­sive stroke

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Kather­ine Wolf sat propped in a wheel­chair, her arms aching to hold her 8-month-old son. She watched, bro­ken­hearted, as some­one else played with baby James. Kather­ine longed to feel his soft skin, cra­dle him close or bounce him as he gig­gled with de­light. But now she could barely say his name or wipe away her own tears. Caught in a no-man’sland be­tween life and death, Kather­ine felt aban­doned by God. Over­come by sor­row, she could only silently won­der, What did I do to de­serve this?


It had been a sunny Cal­i­for­nia day, and as 4-month-old James snoozed in his crib, Kather­ine had been mak­ing lasagna be­fore an au­di­tion. “Out of the blue, I started feel­ing weird,” she re­calls. “My hands and feet

Kather­ine Wolf had it all: a lov­ing hus­band, a new baby boy and a blos­som­ing ca­reer as a model…un­til a mas­sive stroke changed ev­ery­thing. Un­able to walk or speak, she was filled with de­spair, but then

God opened her eyes to real love­li­ness

swelled up and I felt dizzy—then I col­lapsed on the floor and ev­ery­thing went black.” Luck­ily, her hus­band, Jay, had just come home. He’d called 9-1-1, then buck­led James into his car seat and raced be­hind the am­bu­lance to the hos­pi­tal.

Kather­ine’s di­ag­no­sis: a mas­sive brain-stem stroke.

Her only chance had been 8 hours of mi­cro brain surgery—but doc­tors had warned Jay that her chances weren’t good. As 8 hours had stretched into 12, Jay knelt in the hos­pi­tal chapel, pour­ing his heart out to God, while their friends and fam­ily mem­bers had spread the news and asked for prayers through email, phone and Face­book.

Be­fore long, a net­work of peo­ple from all over the world were pray­ing for Kather­ine’s life.

Fi­nally, the doc­tor emerged with mirac­u­lous news: The surgery had been a suc­cess. As Kather­ine was wheeled into the in­ten­sive care unit, Jay had wept tears of re­lief…and ter­ror for what was to come.

For more than two months, Kather­ine blinked in and out of con­scious­ness. “My first thought when I fi­nally woke up was, Where’s my baby? I need to nurse him!” she re­calls. She didn’t know that she’d missed months of James’s life; he was no longer breast-feed­ing but hap­pily drink­ing from a bot­tle.

Kather­ine was shown her face in a mir­ror and her life changed for­ever. “I just stared at my­self in shock think­ing, Why won’t my face move on the right side?” she says. “I didn’t rec­og­nize my­self. I was dev­as­tated.” That heart­break was just the be­gin­ning— Kather­ine was about to face the hard­est chal­lenge of her life.


In­stead of liv­ing the charmed life she’d ex­pected, Kather­ine lived at the hos­pi­tal, en­dur­ing end­less tests and pro­ce­dures and re-learn­ing to stand, speak and swal­low. “My act­ing and mod­el­ing ca­reer was over,” Kather­ine says, “but when you can’t walk or talk, you don’t even think about beauty.”

Six months af­ter the stroke, Kather­ine failed her ninth swallowing test. “It was the dark­est time of my life,” she re­calls. “I won­dered what I could’ve done to in­voke God’s anger—it seemed like a cruel curse out of the pit of hell. I couldn’t walk or eat or hold my head up. I felt stranded in a bro­ken body. Watch­ing Jay’s sis­ter play with

James that day, I had this over­whelm­ing thought: God had made a mis­take. I should’ve died. If I were gone, Jay could re­marry and James would have a new mommy who could hold him.”

In that dark mo­ment, Kather­ine sud­denly felt God’s pres­ence. “It was this sense of deep peace, this bizarre joy that had noth­ing to do with what was go­ing on,” she de­scribes. “But I felt so happy.” From out of nowhere, the words of Psalm 139 en­tered her heart:

I am fear­fully and won­der­fully made. “In that mo­ment, I knew be­yond a doubt that God was speak­ing to me, en­cour­ag­ing me, di­rect­ing my life,” she says. “Show­ing me that even now, I was won­der­fully made!”


Filled with God’s love and a fresh hope, Kather­ine found the strength to carry on. There were months of pain, 11 surg­eries and even a bro­ken leg. “There’s no quota on suf­fer­ing—you don’t go through one chal­lenge and check that box to be done with it. I checked those boxes again and again!” she laughs. “But it was in that suf­fer­ing that God worked in me. The Lord taught me that He alone is enough. Af­ter all, the Bi­ble says His power is made per­fect in our weak­ness.”

Through it all, Kather­ine and Jay’s fam­ily and friends—and their vir­tual com­mu­nity of thou­sands— were with them, lift­ing them up in prayer. Their story had in­spired so many that felt called to start a min­istry dubbed Hope Heals.

To­day Kather­ine and Jay have an­other gift of hope: their baby boy, John, who ar­rived in June of 2015. “Je­sus called me to re­de­fine what it means to be healed,” she says. “My life was shat­tered, but God picked up the pieces and showed me how to make it truly beau­ti­ful.”

Kather­ine was a sought-af­ter ac­tress and model be­fore a stroke set her on a new path

“There’s no quota on suf­fer­ing… but it was in that suf­fer­ing that God

worked in me.”

Kather­ine, Jay and their two sons, James (now 8) and John (born in July 2015)

“God was speak­ing to me, en­cour­ag­ing

me, show­ing me that even now, I was won­der­fully made.” Read more of Kather­ine’s story in her new book, Hope Heals (Zon­der­van, 2016; Hard­cover $23, Kin­dle & Nook $10) or visit HopeHeals.com

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