Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Hardest Peace

I have an icon on my computer that is labeled “Kara”. Stored in that folder are multiple Word documents of Kara’s manuscript for her book that comes out October 1, The Hardest Peace. As she wrote, she shared with me, sometimes asking for input and sometimes just because I begged to see it and be a part of the process, which was so fun and exciting.

The timing of the book release is personal for me—it is also my baby girl’s first birthday. With this impending day, I’ve thought a lot about a year ago, how unbearable that ninth month of pregnancy became, how desperate I was to give birth, and how worried I was about Kara. You see, the doctors suspected cancer in other parts of her body. She was scheduled for surgery just past my due date to see what exactly was going on. Aaron and I had asked her and Jason to take care of our 18-month-old son when I was in the hospital. Kara was desperate to have that time with her little buddy, and in all honesty, I wanted that for both of them, too. My little boy adores, as in loves, Kara and her entire family.    VonAndKara

But it didn’t happen. Ann wasn’t ready in time; actually, the same day Kara was admitted into the hospital for her surgery, I was admitted to be induced. My high-risk pregnancy necessitated intervention just as Kara’s cancer did.

As I was being checked in, the nurse asked me for a contact in case something went wrong and I wanted clergy notified. I imagined Jason being called at the other hospital, away from Kara’s side, to minister to me in an emergency. I couldn’t fathom asking that of him, and the tears started rolling. Aaron calmly gave the nurse another pastor-friend’s info.

While I was in labor, I experienced a strange paradox. We hadn’t heard from Kara or Jason reassuring us of good news from her surgery. In my heart, I already knew the awful truth. With each labor pain, I knew I was closer to holding my baby girl, but my mind was conflicted knowing I was also closer to my Kara-fears being confirmed. I sobbed with the labor pains—sobbed. My nurses thought I was crying from the pain; I was, but it was a heart pain of understanding what Kara was facing and what we would all be asked to face.

The inevitable happened: my beautiful Princess Squish was born and Kara’s spreading cancer was confirmed.

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In the months since then, I’ve watched with joy as my baby has grown and developed. And I’ve watched with joy Kara labor with love writing her book, her hard story. There were times I wondered if Kara would live to see her book published. Each day with her is a blessing and a reminder of the biggest blessing to come—eternity with Jesus and Kara and my parents and all the saints.IMG_0132

Some days, Kara would text me about her writing process and then email me chapters; I would stay up reading until Ann’s cries to be nursed reminded me of how late it was. These chapters had me laughing, crying, thinking, meditating, reflecting. If Kara had asked for input, I would always have to go back and read a second time because I so easily got lost in her story, unable to even remember her original question to me. I couldn’t put her book down, and I gladly reread those sections!

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Last Friday, on the very day of Kara’s book release party, a package came in the mail from David C. Cook. Kara generously and graciously chose me to receive a giveaway copy to give one of my own readers. I’ve devoured my copy of the book, delighting in its polished prettiness. I don’t have to tell you that Kara’s book will have a profound impact on you or that you won’t be the same person after reading it.

Here is the fun part, the part that I’ve been antsy to blog: the giveaway! Let’s get the word out about her book so that others can be blessed by it, too. Please share one of the links below on Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, wherever. Then come back here and comment that you shared. I will then randomly select one of the commenters to win a free copy of The Hardest Peace. If you share more than one place, leave more than one comment.

Mundane Faithfulness blog

The Hardest Peace on Amazon

The Hardest Peace on B&N

Thank you for being a part of this journey and for helping me get the word out not just about this fantastic book, but about this beloved, remarkable woman.IMG_0138

Suffering with others

Our assistant pastor recently preached on suffering. You might think that his sermon would be a philosophical approach to the theology of suffering, or if not, that it would be depressing. It was neither. It was an honest conversation about what Psalm 6 says about suffering, and it was just what our church needed to hear. We have so many suffering people in our church family, and I personally soak up anything I encounter that deals with suffering and teaches us how to have a proper perspective and response. Jeremy talked about how suffering needs to be done in community. Oh, how that is true! He defines suffering with each other: to seek someone else’s relief is to willingly take a bit of their suffering on our own shoulders, to shoulder a piece of their suffering for them.

Those words grip my heart. How many times have I suffered without a friend to shoulder my burden? How many times have I felt incredibly alone in my pain, desperate for a kind word of empathy? And yet, when faced with others’ suffering, I recoil. I want to plug my ears and sing, “La la la la!” I am uncomfortable with suffering. I spend my life trying to avoid it, trying to spare my children from it. But I’ve learned it’s all around; I can’t escape it.

We were at a party a couple of weeks ago. I had been looking forward to the social time and meeting a friend’s new baby. I was excited to get out of the house and laugh with friends. Instead, I found myself immersed in conversation with a man I had met once before. As we chatted, his grief came out—he and his wife lost their 3-year-old daughter almost a year ago. I saw the torment of his heart on his face, how he spoke carefully as not to crumble under the weight of his words. I pray I did not visibly flinch. I wanted to say, “I’m sorry to hear that,” and then go pour a glass of wine, find a fun conversation to join.

But I couldn’t.

I couldn’t ignore the crack of his voice as he shared. I could not dismiss the very realness of his brokenness, right there in front of my face. I asked his daughter’s name. I asked who she was, what she liked, her favorite color, what kind of sister she was. He graciously and passionately shared with me until he was overcome. “I think I’m done talking now,” he choked out.

What a privilege to hear this man’s story and to know about his precious daughter. My awkwardness and discomfort paled as I soaked in every word about this amazing little girl and what a joy she was. I realized in the heat of my own emotion—wasn’t he reading my mind, telling me my worst nightmare?—that it was an honor to shoulder even a tiny bit of this suffering. That a 30-minute conversation could be life-giving to both of us and could provide a tiny bit of comfort and safety. That the fear and pain I was experiencing was simply a reflection of this father’s, and for the length of the conversation, we could share that burden.

That was a tiny expression of empathy. Everywhere I turn around, though, it seems like I have opportunity to love others and walk with them in their suffering. Will you please pray for me to have the courage and compassion to reach out in love instead of withdraw in discomfort?