Category Archives: Kara

Ten texts I recently would have otherwise sent to Kara…

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  1. Guess what I got for Mother’s Day?! A PINK dining room! Come see it!
  2. Lyle Lovett is coming to town! Are you going?!
  3. Am I really writing a book on community? Will you just write it for me?
  4. Tequila is my boyfriend…but you knew that…
  5. Von and I miss you; when can we bring you Dutch Bros. and cuddle and chat?
  6. Ella was brilliant in her school play; she stole the show! So proud!!
  7. My pantyliner somehow came unattached from my underwear and is now stuck on my cheek and I’m too lazy to go to the bathroom and fix it.
  8. I can’t believe Jason bought an RV—what about his dream of a VW bus?! Where are you adventuring?!
  9. My heart hurts and I could use some Kara prayer.
  10. Am at Barnes and Noble and see your book on the shelf!! AAAACH!!

Tears and lovey blankets

It’s been a long time since I’ve written; writing so much for Mundane Faithfulness, I actually thought that I would use my personal blog to process my grief over Kara’s Homecoming. But the truth is that it’s just been too hard to write. I told some friends this morning that I feel like I’m on the remedial grief track; I feel behind and like I can’t find my new normal and like the whole world is figuring out how to move forward, one foot in front of the other, while I trip and fall down.5

The babies and I spent the morning at the Tippetts’. Mickey was in town this weekend, and the gals joined her for coffee. It was glorious to gather in Kara’s home and drink coffee and laugh and cry together. But then Jason tearfully asked us to undertake the task we knew was at hand: to go through Kara’s closet.

I was one of the last to climb the stairs. As I carried my daughter, I remembered helping Kara up those very stairs, even offering to carry her in her weakness. I stood in the doorway of her room. I looked at my friends crying and laughing and fingering mundane items that are now treasures.4

Several times in the last month I have come close to texting Jason: Can I come over and just peek in your bedroom? I need to be sure Kara isn’t there. But I don’t do it. It’s Jason’s private space and I know Kara isn’t there. But my heart still whispers that maybe this was all a dream. Maybe I’ll walk into the bedroom and she’ll be there, waiting for me, reaching out for Von.1

So I stood there today, and I couldn’t go in. This was my chance to tell my heart once and for all that Kara is Home, healed, redeemed. Instead, I made my way back downstairs. I entered the living room just in time to see some of the big kids send Von away—he was interfering in their play. Normally this wouldn’t bother him, but he melted into a puddle of tears. It was all too much for him. He had had the courage to go into that bedroom, and looking toward the bed, his eyes also missed what mine were afraid of missing. We sat and cried together.

After the shedding of many tears, we found Ella and Jason. Ella had something very special for Von—his favorite lovey blanket. When Kara was in the hospital the first time, Von asked to bring her a blanket. He had the idea that it would help her feel better. So he picked out his very favorite blankie, the first one he ever had as a baby, the one I’ve repaired over and over again. He proudly gifted Kara with it, and they snuggled together in the contentment of Von’s hope.2

He remembered as soon as he saw it, and he took it carefully. I reminded him that Kara couldn’t take it with her to Jesus’ house and she wanted him to have it back. He brought it close to his face, just like Kara did the first time she held it. And he didn’t let go all morning.3

These are not easy days. This is not an easy road.

While I was downstairs, my friends were selecting some things for me and put them in a fantastic bag of Kara’s. I love it. I love my friends’ thoughtfulness and compassion. I love that they gave me the freedom to have a meltdown while they did the hard work.

I keep pulling the items out of my bag and inhaling Kara’s scent. I don’t have the energy or heart for much more than that. But Grace is meeting me here. In my tears and heartbreak, God meets me. And he loves me just where I am in this brokenness.

The presence of Grace…

It’s four o’clock and I’m just sitting down. I’m group texting my girls. The ones I only know because of Kara and who have become the keepers of my heart through Kara’s illness and death. They are laughing with me, crying with me, and praying for me. My heart doesn’t understand their capacity to love me so big in the midst of their own grief. And when I think about their grief and the goodbye they each had to say, I am almost overcome.

Jason called yesterday shortly after Kara died. His voice was full of emotion and I knew he was fighting to just get the words out. After a short time, our phones went crazy. We spent the evening with our small group, beginning the process of grief together, and then we came home to full inboxes, textboxes, and voicemails. I was up late trying to get organized. Kara and I planned her service and the days following her Homecoming months ago; the moment I dreaded had arrived.

When I woke up this morning, my eyes were wet and my lids stuck together with gunky tears. I knew I had cried in my sleep, mourned in my sleep. I feel Kara’s absence in my bones. I think my DNA has changed and I’m a different person. My bones shout angry complaints of pain; they try to explain that they don’t have hearts and shouldn’t be asked to carry this burden. But my grief dwells deep. It has seeped into every part of me, and it aches.

I went to the Tippetts’ this morning. I took toilet paper and paper napkins and tissue and grieved as I handed it over that I knew to bring those things. I hugged Mickey and watched tears crawl down her soft cheeks. She has beautiful skin that I always want to touch to see if it’s as soft as I anticipate. I had never seen it wet with tears. Story Jane was playing in the kitchen. We raced Barbie cars together. And she told me that half of her was sad and half of her was happy. She dabbed at her nose a lot with a tissue through her sweet giggles, but I couldn’t tell if she had tears or a runny nose.

When Jason walked in, I hugged him big. He has this profound gift of being able to talk through tears, and as we talked, he wiped many away. Ruth played football with Lake outside. He proudly showed off his Peyton Manning jersey. Harper cuddled and giggled in a chair with Jason.

I had feared what being in a Karaless house would feel like. It was difficult. But though Kara is gone, Hope isn’t, Joy isn’t, Grace isn’t. Love still reigns in the Tippetts’ home, and I was comforted sitting where Kara sat the last time I was in that room with her.

My sisters text regularly to check in, to see how my heart is doing. I tell them I’m okay, that I’m trying to lean into Jesus. I am surprised that my heart seems to actually believe that Grace will show up, that Jesus is beside me. I picture Kara seeing His face for the first time—the delight she would have encountered. And I imagine that delight next to me, caring for me, holding me up.

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A home of grief and grace

I haven’t written in a long time, and several people have asked me about that. I guess on the practical side of life, I am busy. We’ve had colds, one baby has had pneumonia, and life is just full right now. But there is also a heaviness that weighs on us constantly, the heaviness of grief dancing like an elephant, clumsy yet powerful, above our heads as we straddle life and death with Kara.

It’s a strange position to be in; I don’t feel that it’s appropriate to inform everyone what lives in my heart now. When my hairdresser recently—and kindly—asked how I was doing, I fought the urge to burst into tears and tell him that one of my closest friends is dying. Instead I smiled and we chatted about other things.

Maybe it would have been okay to tell him—or others—about my sadness, but I’m not all that comfortable putting people in the position to have to respond. We spend our lives trying to pretend that friends don’t die, marriages don’t end, predators don’t prey. We like living in ignorance. Or at least, I do. It’s a fairyland of fake happiness rooted in the delusion that my sweet little life will always be sweet. Having been through my own tragedies, I am still caught off guard when others share theirs with me. I am jarred back into the reality that we are always straddling life and death. That one foot is on this earth dealing with pain and loss, and the other foot is inching toward eternity.

Jason recently wrote about the difficulty of dealing with the mundane in the midst of sorrow. It reminded me of when my parents died. My sister had called me at college, and I was driving home but needed to get gas. I am sure my face was swollen and red as I approached the attendant, who ignorantly gave me change and wished me a good night. I stood there staring at him. What a strange thing getting gas seemed to be all of a sudden. How petty and unimportant. I remember thinking, How can you just stand there like all is right in this world? Don’t you know my parents just died? How is the earth still turning?

I skimmed through the comments on Jason’s post. I was struck by how many people shared their stories of loss—spouses, parents, siblings, friends, children. Sad, horrible, gut-wrenching stories. Everybody eventually experiences loss. We all will inevitably know the pain of which Jason writes in some fashion.

So do I remain in my happy fairyland? That is my question every day. Shall I go through the motions and pretend, wish, that everything is okay? Or do I develop some kind of coping mechanism so that I can not only get through my days, but avoid as much pain as possible?

The other night I was talking to Aaron about the woman I hope to become. We all know women who seem disconnected from intimacy and community, unwilling to move toward people who are messy and ugly, women who are afraid of pain. I get that. I totally get that. But I don’t want to be that. I want to move toward the pain because that is moving toward Jesus. I want to engage grief, because that is engaging Christ. I want to accept the reality of a broken heart because that is accepting the reality of a God who loves me and who will ultimately wipe my tears forever.

One of the commenters said that her house is filled with “grief and grace”. I love that. There is a certain tender, deep, intimate grace from Jesus that meets us in the brokenness of grief. I want that grace. I want it to wash over my messy heart, to seep into the scabs of this new pain, to give me a glimpse of the grace that is to come.

I am sorry if this post is disjointed and if my thoughts are scattered. I want to honor those of you who have pursued me and asked me to write and who have asked me how I’m doing. Thank you for caring.

Grieving in community

Last night some Westside women joined me in my living room for a sweet hour of prayer. We prayed for Kara, Jason, their babies, their parents and family, friends, and everyone who is touched by Kara’s life. And then one of the ladies prayed for my baby boy, who is particularly attached to Kara. And I lost it; I cried the ugly cry, snot and tears mingling as they inevitably traveled to the corners of my mouth, the saltiness reminding me of bitter tears of grief shed in years past.   VonAndKara

I would say I’ve had my fair share of grief, which has taught me many life lessons, one being that there are few safe people in this world and just as few people who are willing to travel the long road of mourning with you instead of expecting you to get over it and move on with your life.

That is why what happened last night was impactful—never have I experienced grief in community, in unity with so many people.

Isn’t that why funerals, memorial services, receptions are important? They provide a place for all the mourners to be together to cry and laugh and process grief together. But then you all go home, you all have to figure out your new normal, and that unity tapers off as the texts and phone calls get fewer and farther between.

Yet as one of my closest, favorite friends moves closer and closer to her Homecoming, I find myself surrounded by people who are experiencing a grief just like mine. In fact, I can’t think of a single person in my immediate circle who doesn’t at least know of Kara and her story, who isn’t praying for her and praying for me.IMG_0945

Every day I get two kinds of emails or texts regarding Kara. One is people who don’t know her personally but want to know how she is doing and the other is people who want to know how they can love me in the midst of this awful goodbye.

What? This is new to me.

Texting with friends and my sisters, we talked about our tendency to withdraw when faced with such deep pain. When asked if I felt numb, I said, “I think there is an element of grief that numbs us out of necessity—there are so many practical things to do, and if I indulge my sadness, those things won’t get done. My tendency is to withdraw and bury my feelings just to survive.”IMG_0138

And while I pray against that—pray that I will move toward Jesus and Aaron, in particular—I am reminded that I can’t withdraw. I am not allowed. Too many people are reaching out to me every single day to love and encourage and care for me and my family. There is no way I can stuff my feelings away. My community won’t stand for that; they are instead standing by with open arms and generosity of heart.

So this is the Body of Christ. For years I’ve wondered what it would be like to experience such intimacy with my church. I would rather Kara stay with us than find out how wonderful it is to be loved so well by community. But this is our story, this is God’s story. Our communal grief is beautiful, awful, powerful, a game changer. Not only am I not the same person for knowing Kara, I will not be the same person for losing her (temporarily until I am reunited with her), and I will not be the same person for walking this road with our church family.IMG_1166

And so we clumsily, unitedly move toward each other in this suffering. We will cling to each other for breath when Kara has said goodbye, and we will numbly discover our new normal afterward as we continue to be faithful in the mundane, fighting for Grace in our grief.

The Hardest Peace giveaway!!!

Today is the day of The Hardest Peace giveaway. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all who entered and who are supporting Kara. I know many of you have never met her but have fallen in love with her through her story. Today I picked up my personal order of The Hardest Peace at the bookstore. The kind-faced clerk asked, Did you go to her book release party? I smiled, Yes–she is a close friend. The lady’s smile disappeared. I’m sorry, she said.

I almost laughed. I know she was saying, I’m sorry your friend is sick; I’m sorry your friend is dying; I’m sorry you will have to live without her. But how could anyone be sorry to know my Kara?! I wanted to respond kindly, gently: Don’t be sorry–this life is fleeting and before we know it, we will all be together in the fulfillment of hope and joy.

And now I get to share that promise of hope and joy with a reader! I enlisted the assistance of one chocolate-faced helper.

First, we wrote down a name for every entry.

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We put the pieces of paper in a bowl. My chocolate-faced helper is taking a picture with his phone, too.

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Then my chocolate-faced helper picked a name and exclaimed: Ta-da! Me. Safe. Day. (I saved the day!)FullSizeRender(2)

Is that better?

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Ah, this is clear. Congratulations, Shannon! I will email you presently.  FullSizeRender(4)

 

Encountering Kara

DSC00895One of the fun things about having a beloved friend publish a book is that I get to introduce her to friends and family. Sure, she has her blog that approximately 3 trillion people follow, but reading her story linearly and in one big chunk is different. While a blog can jump around from topic to topic and have different purposes in each entry, a book is centered around certain themes. In The Hardest Peace, Kara uses her story of cancer to celebrate God’s love for her—how he pursued her, how she learned more about his character and love from Jason’s love for her, how she understood the depth of his passion for her through her own love for her children. And, of course, how God is using cancer to continue to woo her as she depends on him day by day—often moment by moment—just to function.

You see, this is not a typical book about living and dying with cancer. Kara is not trying to triumph over cancer, but to triumph over the selfishness that prevents her [all of us…] from living a full life and loving big. She is not lecturing her reader about how we should live; she is preaching to herself, reminding herself of God’s love and how rich life is because of it, despite external circumstances. And strangely (but effectively), she is really not trying to tell her story, but to frame her story in a bigger one—the story of God’s love for us and the life we can find in him.

If you don’t know Kara, you would love meeting her. She is just about as girl-next-door as you can get. Knock on her door and you might find her standing on the other side in a ratty t-shirt, coffee in hand. Her living room might be strewn with Legos and children’s books. Maybe the breakfast dishes are still in the kitchen sink. But that is why we can trust her—she lives honestly and unpretentiously. If you say, How are you feeling today? you might get an answer that makes you sad. Kara lives out of an honest place and speaks out of that place, too. Reading her book you will encounter an honesty so refreshing and so gentle that your heart will be comforted knowing there are people like her in our world.

Here is the deal: Kara knows that she is not likely to encounter a miracle cure for her cancer. But she also knows that she encounters the miracle of God’s love every day. She lives in the confidence and hope of being restored and redeemed in Christ some day. And reading her book, you will want to live that way, too, whatever your circumstances.

I am doing a giveaway of her book tomorrow. If you haven’t entered, please go to this blog post to do so. And if you don’t win, I encourage you to buy the book anyway. In fact, buy two, because I guarantee you’ll want to share.IMG_0101

 

Today is the day!

first Anberlin picToday is the day! I woke up giddy, first thinking about my baby girl’s first birthday, and then thinking about the release of The Hardest Peace. Kara birthed this book with many labor pains and much joy, and I am so thrilled for the world to hear her story of Grace and Hope in the midst of brokenness.

Reading her book is surreal for me. I read her manuscript as she was writing, but that was in real time. When she tells the story of Harper’s question of if her mama will die of old age or cancer, my mind drifts to when Kara texted me in tears that night. I cried with her, I cried for Harper, I searched for Grace in that moment and begged God to lavish it on Kara and her family. When I read of Kara’s redemptive conversation with Ella over a big, fat, juicy hamburger, I remember seeing them afterward when Ella came over for her voice lesson, traces of sauce on her beautiful face.

How strange to see these moments captured on paper, in a book.

I wonder what it’s like for Jason and Kara to read part of their story in print. I dream about their children reading it some day, reading the letter Kara wrote to them at the back of the book.

I dream a lot these days. I can’t help it, having a [now] 1-year old and a 2-year old. But I dream of other things besides my babies: I dream of Heaven. I dream of seeing my parents, our nephew who was stillborn, my cousin who died when he was only 5. I dream of seeing my aunt and cousin together, Kara and my mother talking [and talking and talking]. I dream of seeing Jesus and asking him all my questions. I dream of my story being redeemed and finally understanding the purpose of pain and brokenness in my life.baby kissesReading Kara’s book brings Heaven to mind. While God has not redeemed her body from cancer and from her hard story, he is redeeming her heart already. She tells her story with an eternal perspective, meaning, she understands that her story has eternal significance, that God has purpose in it, that God will (and is) bring beauty and restoration from it. That her story, as suffocating or overwhelming as it may seem at times, is not the point—Jesus is the point. It’s Jesus’ story being told, and we have the awesome privilege of being a part of that greater, Great story.

Reading Kara’s book will make you fall in love with her and Jason. It will make you hate cancer, if you didn’t already. It will make you curious about our church plant. It will make you think about your own story and the hard in your life. It will make you look for redemption and hope in the mundane. It will make you wonder if God will redeem your brokenness. But most of all, it will introduce you to the Grace of God, his lavish and undeserved love.

I will be doing the big giveaway on Friday. If you haven’t entered yet, please visit my last blog post and enter now! And if you are not the big winner, I hope and pray you will still read this book and be introduced to Kara, to Jesus, to Grace.  IMG_0101

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