This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the car accident that changed my family’s life and taught me my biggest life lessons. At the accident scene, I was taken in a flight for life helicopter. Everyone survived. We weren’t sure that I was going to make it. I have to remind myself of the magnitude and severity of the situation.
I also remember the relief knowing we were all alive and peace that my family was by my side. My life with paralysis has been longer than I have lived without it. And I can boldly say, I’d rather have the life lessons than have my right arm again.
So in honor of the 20th anniversary, have been reflecting this summer on the impact of that day and how it changed my life. I want to share the lessons God has taught and continues to teach me.
One of my biggest life lessons that I have I’ve learned from this experience is that life is precious and I want to embrace each day to the fullest. I adopted that mentality at a young age and it changed the trajectory of my life! Early on, I learned to take action. If you have a dream/goal/hobby, go chase it! Why wait?
I learned to stop living in fear.I learned the importance of living life with gratitude, to put things in perspective and to count the blessings I have been given. And believe me…gratitude and perspective are two things that are so easy to forget, but we ALWAYS have more opportunities to learn them again.
Shifting my perspective has also helped me learn to “zoom out” when I am overwhelmed. Over the last 20 years, there have been seasons of amazing blessings (like our baby Juliana!) and seasons of incredible hardship. One hard season was the year I took these original photos in 2009/2010. I was in college and I made the scary decision to go with the doctor’s advice and move forward to have brain stem surgery to try and reduce nerve pain.
Not only did it fail miserable, it actually made my nerve pain 3x worse! They damaged nerves and didn’t screw in the discs in my neck properly, so the disc slid out and impacted the nerves on my LEFT arm! That was maybe the hardest year of my life. It took over a year of intense treatment and rehab to regain the use of my left arm. By God’s grace it came back.
Mentorship & Reflection
It was during that time that Theologian Dr. John Walton asked if I would co-author the new NIV Biblical Commentary on the Book of Job. God used that intentional time of studying and reflection to heal my heart. I was able to really reflect on how my experiences were shaping my view of God and my time in this world.
With Dr. Walton’s mentorship and God’s grace, I began to learn what it means to pray. I used to only pray for the struggle to go away, but when the answer my prayer was “no” Ifelt abandoned. God was always there in the pain. In that process of co-authoring that commentary and study on the book of Job, I learned how to pray in times of suffering.
So when I face trials…my first prayer is for wisdom. I pray for wisdom to see my circumstances through God’s eyes. I pray for perspective, I pray for endurance to make it through the day, and I pray for the tools I need to overcome. He has answered those prayers every single time.
So in 2018, when I learned I had a rare unrelated syndrome (Parsonage Turner Syndrome) which paralyzed my left arm (again) within 4 days …I sat without the use of an upper extremity once again.
I was unable to eat, get dressed, pick up a camera on my own and had time to reflect. But this time it was different. I had the tools, the life lessons and the faith knowing God will give me the strength no matter the outcome. It was an insane season of not having a functioning arm, a season where we saw my community rally around us and miraculously my arm came back faster than the top neurologist at UW had ever seen in 30+ years of practice. We witnessed a miracle and I finished out photographing 20 weddings that year.
So over the last 20 years I have learned lessons and had opportunities to learn them again..and again and have honed skills by God’s grace, giving us peace as we ride the waves of life.
Having a life threatening experience at a young age can really shape you. For me – it shaped how I thought of myself and my actions and the impact there were having on others. I began asking if I hadn’t survived – how would I be remembered? Would I be seen as someone who encouraged others and shared God’s love? How am I using my resources, time, and energy to make a difference? Life can be so short – if my life ended today, what legacy would I leave behind?
I have taken that mindset throughout my life and my business. It is important to me to leave a beautiful impression on the world and leave a legacy of love.
There are SOO many times I mess up, like we all do. When I started KLP, for example, I knew I wanted to create a different experience. I wanted couples to feel taken care of, supported, and have an experience that was goes above and beyond. It is important that I am intentional with my suppliers and collaborations. I would rather know they are ethically run rather than saving a buck.
I know it sounds “serious” but sometimes I think, “if this interaction was my last, would this person feel seen?”⠀⠀
I want Juliana to grow up loving people well, being kind, thoughtful, confident to take her own path. I want Juliana to be willing to stand up for whats right. Let’s strive together towards a legacy mindset.
I am passionate about building intentional communities within my business and personal life.
It’s so easy to stay in the safe and normal routines. When opportunities come, we need to step out in faith and seize the moment!
Whether it be to share with someone in your life that you value them, or a job change or shift for your family now is the time to take action! Be intentional with our choices that impact the life we want to lead!
So it is perfectly fitting that 20 years from the day that changed the course of my life,God is asking Agustin and I to take a leap. A bold and scary step to intentionally pursue treatment. We don’t know where we are going to live. Even though we don’t know if it will work, we are stepping out in faith.
WHEW! If you made it this far I commend you!!
Thank you for being on this incredible journey with me and reflecting on my biggest life lessons.. I’m honestly so grateful you are a part of my community. Thank you for encouraging me on the hard days and celebrating the joy-filled ones.
This intentional community has been one of my biggest blessings and I hope I always remember how special it is. It’s been a wild 20 years, and I pray the next 20 will challenge and shape me just as much.