#HopeHealsBook EXCERPT: the HOLY WEEK that changed everything for us...

{FROM JAY} I turned 30 on Palm Sunday during a trip to Rome--the first big trip we had taken after Katherine's stroke. And on that day, we experienced a picture of heaven that forever changed how we view this life God has given us...

In celebration of our joint thirtieth birthdays, we decided to go to Italy (oh, and because we had a free place to stay). There was great excitement in the planning, and we cobbled together credit card points for the flights—one benefit of having a large amount of medical bills—and researched rental cars that could fit a wheelchair in the back. I wasn’t about to try to drive a stick shift on the one-way cobblestone alleys of the ancient Umbrian city of Amelia where we would be staying, but the only available automatic transmission car was so small it looked like a team of clowns might come honking out at any moment. I planned to pack ten days’ worth of clothes for both of us in one carry-on bag, as it was all that would fit in the back of our Lilliputian car if we brought a wheelchair. Clearly, this wasn’t going to be travel as we had always known it, but we were compelled to see new places and people, history embodied in stone, and culture manifest in music and markets, and we couldn’t wait to engage it all through new eyes.
We took the trip in the spring of 2012, and I had a moment of panic on the flight that—unlike every previous trip with my “pack it all in” family—Katherine and I had not really planned anything to do while in Italy. It had taken all of our attention just to plan the travel logistics. Yet there was a releasing of expectation in that moment and a relishing of precious margin and much-needed rest that we rarely gave ourselves.
Our arrival felt like we were living in Roman Holiday, except in a wheelchair and clown car. Nonetheless, we soaked in the sights of the gorgeous ancient hills and the quaint but terrifying alleys that I was supposed to drive through in the nearly thousand-year-old city. Thankfully, the only casualties were a few broken wheelchair spokes from pushing along the uneven stone streets of Rome, but even getting on the subway required me to help Katherine down the steep stairs with one hand while holding her folded wheelchair in my other hand. I guess accessibility for those with disabilities was not at the forefront of the Italians’ consciousness—too much “la dolce vita” going on, I guess—but we made it work.
We got lost in the rolling countryside visiting local agriturismos—inns where the most amazing meals, farmed on the land, were matter-of-factly laid out on tables under pergolas covered in ancient, twisting vines, teeming with flowers over-looking lush green valleys. It was heaven. And without guilt, we spent a good amount of time in the apartment friends had offered to us, a seven-hundred-year-old structure that was once part of the church next door. Katherine sat by the wood-burning stone fireplace while I cooked food from the local market, and we talked for hours, threw log after log on the fire, napped, and cooked some more.

@@In the kingdom of God, the last are first, the weak are empowered, the invisible are seen.@@

I turned thirty on Palm Sunday, and we attended the service at the Vatican. We had naturally arrived a bit late—on “wheel-chair time,” as we’d come to know it. We were strangely but warmly engaged by a series of pantalooned Vatican guards and then nun after nun, who pointed us to a path through the crowd of the thousands who had arrived earlier. As we wound our way to some unknown destination, quite certain we’d be arrested for accidentally stumbling into the pope’s private quarters, we turned a final corner and saw that the path on which we had been directed led to the very front row, with only steps between us and the podium from which the pope would give the morning’s message. It was jaw-dropping to be so close, but even more so to see that the entire front row was comprised of wheelchairs. We took our place in the line with “our people,” and we both began to weep at the beauty of this picture. The trip had been so life-giving, but it had also been stressful and challenging to navigate, especially with the wheelchair. Yet now we were reminded that in the kingdom of God, there was a paradoxical experience of the last being first, the weak being empowered, the invisible being seen. And it was one of the most stunning pictures we had ever witnessed, like a curtain being pulled back for a moment to offer a glimpse of a different world—a world that awaited us—and it was glorious.
~ Jay Wolf, from HOPE HEALS


"Hope Heals is a beautiful true story that illustrates the love and protection God has for us even in the darkest times of our life. Katherine and Jay’s dedication to each other and the Lord through their most devastating season is inspiring. This book will help your heart believe that He sees, He knows, He cares, and He is still working miracles today!" 

LYSA TERKEURST, New York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries