Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Most Inspirational Person for 2014 ~ Kara Tippetts


Kara Tippetts has inspired me all through 2014.  She is the author of the book, The Hardest Peace.  Her blog, Mundane Faithfulness, has grown in readership as she has chronicled her battle with cancer and her faith in God.  

In the midst of living, 
in the midst of seeking to live life well,
in the midst of seeking the grace to live a life that has purpose,
for many, 
circumstances and events come into life that threaten to be one's undoing.
Or, perhaps, when life seemed rather mundane,
when we might have even questioned if our lives even have a purpose,
we search for inspiration in books or inspirational speakers.
There is a reason that Rick Warren's book, A Purpose Driven Life has sold over fifty million copies.
Most of us want to believe that 
our stories, 
our lives, 
have purpose and meaning for ourselves, our children, our loved ones, our community. 

I can't speak for KaraTippetts, I can only tell you what I know about her.
At some point in time in the recent past, she began writing a blog called Mundane Faithfulness.
I really don't know when or why she started writing her blog, but I'm sure when she selected the title of her blog, she had no idea that readers of her blog would come to see her
 faithfulness as anything but mundane.

A Short Backstory

Kara and her family live a short distance from my home in Colorado Springs.  They came here when her husband Jason was called to be the pastor for a new church being planted in the area by my church, Village Seven Presbyterian, and the Presbyterian Church of America.  Not long after moving to Colorado Springs, Kara discovered she had breast cancer.  She made this discovery just shortly after she and her family had not only made a move to a new community, but also just after they had been evacuated from their new home by the Waldo Canyon Fire.  Thankfully, their home did not burn.  

I don't have access to her early blog writings about this time.  I think of how challenging those days must have been for her and for her family.  In her book, The Hardest Peace, she writes about this time by saying that she thought they would come to town with a plan of strength that would help them "build a small band of believers who would share Jesus with this community."  Instead, they found themselves broken by circumstances they never could have foreseen.  

I will not retell her entire story here.  I do encourage you to buy her book and read it.  You will read how she has not only won The Hardest Peace, but you will also learn how she truly has lived, as her book subtitle states, expecting grace in the midst of life's hard.  (Her book is available on Amazon.)

How I Became Acquainted with Kara

I started reading Kara's blog much as I would any other bloggers blog early in 2013.  My niece attends Kara's church, so she started sharing Kara's blog on Facebook.  I read with interest about a young mother's struggle with cancer.  My heart went out to her.  I began to think of her as a member of my church community.  In fact, I had considered attending the church her husband pastored before I started reading Kara's blog because it was closer to my home and a sister congregation to my own church.  

In May of 2013, hospitalized over Mother's Day with pancreatitis, I was visited by the pastoral care pastor from my church.  He is Kara's "dear Karl."  He has faithfully visited her as she has received chemotherapy and when she has had other medical procedures.  He has been by her side through much of her "hard."  He came up to see me after visiting with her.  Feeling quite sorry for myself, I had a change of heart as I talked with him and began to think about a mom with four "littles" going through chemotherapy to fight for her life, to have more time to be a mom, while I was just going through a bout with a non-life threatening illness.  Suddenly, her battle became more real to me.  I began to read her blog and to pray for her.

Immediately, I discovered that Kara was a great writer.   I began to relate to her even as I could not relate to her experience of cancer.  My experience was not unique.  Her voice has made her the best friend, the sister, or the daughter to readers all over the country.  She is loved, deeply loved by her readers.  She is prayed for thousands.  Her journey has been one many have traveled with her.

It doesn't seem like it was that long ago,  when on a Sunday morning in late fall 2014,  as I got out of my car to walk into church, I realized that the Tippetts family was walking just in front of me through the church parking lot.  When church services were over, I went up to speak with her and introduce myself as a faithful reader and aunt of one of her dear friends.  She was just as charming, intelligent, and lovely in person as I knew to be from reading her blog.  I thanked her for sharing her story.  I thanked her for building my faith.  She said, "I know you've had your "hard" also."  She seemed to know my story, and connected me with it.  Tears filled my eyes as she spoke these words.  I mentioned that I knew she would be shaving her head in just a very few days.  Wanting to speak words of comfort and supports, I said, "I guess I was surprised to learn that losing your hair is so hard for you," I said.  Immediately, it seemed so trivial to even say such a thing to her, one who was facing the loss of life with such grace, with such beauty, with such peace.  I wanted to take back my words as soon as I said them, but she assured me that being bald is not an easy thing to deal with. In an attempt to tell her that I understood what losing hair feels like, I quickly shared my journey of losing my own hair over the past few years.  She understood my pain.  Her words comforted me when I wanted to comfort her.  Instead, I found myself saying, "but I don't have cancer, I just have hair loss."  She did not minimize my experience with loss of hair.  Oh how I wished I had never said anything about losing my hair, but she has a disarming way of looking at you with her big blue eyes brimming over with life and empathy that caused me to spurt out a deep pain that I speak about with few.  

So often, I have wished I could have ministered to her as she has to me.  Once, deeply moved by one of her posts, I sent her a scripture verse that had become one that I would cling to after my daughter's death. "God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered for a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."  I Peter 5:10  Even as I sent this verse to her via comments on her blog, I didn't see all that is in this verse.  God has kept her strong, firm and steadfast in her faith.  Not only that, He will restore her when she is in His presence.

Kara is in the care of hospice now.  Her fight with cancer is now done.  She is living the life she has left by continuing to give thanksgiving to God for all of His rich mercy and grace in her life.  Read her latest post here: "Sacrifice of Thanksgiving."  You will understand after reading her words why I have selected her as my most inspirational person for 2014.  You will see her beautiful smile, her beautiful spirit, and her beautiful family, and you will know why she is so loved.

On the last Sunday in December, in our small group at church, we were told that Kara would enter hospice care the next day.  As I prepared dinner that day,  I wondered when was the last time Kara had been able to cook for her family.  I gave thanks that I was healthy and able to cook a meal.  I gave thanks for a young woman named Kara because she had continually reminded me to live life more fully while I still have it.  

What have I learned from Kara?  
Why is she an inspiration?

I've learned to expect grace to show up even during the hardest seasons of life.
I knew this.
I've experienced this.
Kara has reinforced this belief. 
 
I've witnessed the beautiful sanctification of a soul.
This has taken place as a young woman's body has walked through unimaginable pain and suffering.

I've learned to accept more fully that God is the true author of our story.
I've learned that trusting the outcome of that story to Him would be impossible without 
His mercy and grace.

I've seen the truth of this quote that she used in her book lived out in her life:
Give me the courage to stand the pain to get the grace.
~Flannery O'Connor A Prayer Journel

I've learned that fear is the opposite of trust.
I know she has felt fear.
I also know that she has exchanged the fear for trust.

I have been inspired by the vibrancy of her faith and her life.
Just this week, weakened and dying, she had a photo shoot with her family so she could have their last days captured forever on film.
I was again struck by her beauty, her smile, her blue intelligent, and full of life eyes.
I thought to myself, even the camera loves Kara.

I will be heartbroken when Kara leaves us to go home to Jesus.
I will also rejoice that she will be with Him, the lover of her soul.

On January 1, I read the morning devotional in Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening.
His words reminded me of Kara's journey.
He spoke of the Israel's wandering in the wilderness and how they longed to be in the land which flowed with milk and honey.
He spoke of crossing over the Jordan which causes the unbeliever to shudder.
He then spoke of what this is like for the believer.
To be with Jesus in the rest which remains for the people of God is a cheering hope indeed, and to expect this glory so soon is double bliss.
...let us rest assured that we have already experienced more ills than death at its worst can cause us.
Let us banish every fearful thought, and rejoice with exceeding great joy, in the prospect that this year we shall begin to be "forever with the Lord."

Truly, I have witnessed the ills that many have suffered in this life.
I have witnessed how Kara has met these ills with faith and trust.
She did not set out to be followed by thousands on her blog.
She did not set out to write a book.
She set out to be faithful in the mundane parts of life as she raised her beautiful children and loved her wonderful, kind, and loving Jason.
She did not set out to inspire and be loved by throngs.
She did not try to put into practice ways of living a purpose driven life.
She simply believed a Sovereign God and took Him at His Word.
She sought His grace knowing full well that she could not earn His grace;
knowing full well that He alone is the giver of His grace.

Then, she shared her story, one of God working out His grace in her life.

I love you Kara.
Thank you for sharing your life with us.

You will remain in my prayers until you go home.
Your children and your Jason will always remain in my prayers.
God speed.




33 comments:

#1Nana said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Perpetua said...

Thank you for your beautiful tribute to this extraordinary woman, Sally. I have just spent an hour exploring Kara's blog and can see just what you mean. May her last days be filled with peace and love.

Margaret Adamson said...

HI Sally I was so moved by your post today and have looked and read Kara's blog. Such a wonderful testimony of Faith and what a beautiful child of God. It is so wonderful the witness she has continued to make to friends,family and bloggers through this terrible tradedy and I certainly will keep her in my prayers. Thank you for sharing her story today.

Jeanie said...

She sounds magnificent, Sally, in all the ways we would all hope to be -- and probably could not. Her story is indeed an inspiration and I am so very grateful that you shared it with us.

I send prayers to her and her family -- and to all who love her -- for peace.

Olga Hebert said...

That is an incredible story of strength, endurance, and faith.

rosaria williams said...

Isn't it amazing how we react to human suffering? It's that ability that has built civilizations, that has helped us reach across to strangers and "minister" to them. I don't have your faith, Sally. I wish now that I did.

MaryAnn Unger said...

#1 Nana - I don't think there is any intentional packaging at all. This is just an amazing woman opening her heart and her life to share God's working in her life with anyone who cares to read it. The Hallmark aspect you see is because in many ways, like a Hallmark movie, the ending is perfect - she will be going home to her Savior, never to feel pain again, never to be sad, never again to be sick. I agree, she is in oh so many ways "too good to be real", just like a Hallmark character - however, she is too good to be true, because she has a faith unlike most. In the worst of times, she finds joy, she is living each day to the very fullest and completeness that she can. She is the purest example most of us will ever witness of God's spirit while we are here on this earth. Is she perfect, no, and she would be the first to tell anyone that. In her incredible faith and love of Jesus, He has chosen to use her and her family, to touch the lives of so many. I know we live in a world where it is so easy to be cynical and look for the "catch". I hope that you can see Kara and her story for what it is - her being trusting and caring enough to share her life and death with the rest of us and if God makes that "package" seem perfect, know that only can happen through Him!

Mimi said...

I have been following Kara's blog for awhile and she so encourages me to try and live my life better by her faith. I hardly consider it a Hallmark movie...but beautiful people truly committed to serving God and I think it shows thru their lives ...eyes and all their being.

Sherry Strawn said...

I can assure you, that Kara's story wouldn't make a neat, tidy, happy ending Hallmark movie.I am reading her book for the second time.It's difficult to get through parts of it, but so worth the effort! I certainly think about the fact that it must have been hard to write, and certainly even harder to live.Kara gets so personal in her blogs and book, that I do get the sense that she is the best friend that I have ever had, but haven't met yet.

Shari Glaser said...

This is a beautiful testimony of faith. I have read Kara's book and followed her journey as I fight my own battle with cancer. She has brought me comfort and taught me so much.

very_inky_fingers said...

I loved your blog post about Kara. I too have been reading her blog and have found many lessons in it. I am so taken aback by one of the comments that I find myself unable to say more.

Kathy Harrod said...

First time I've read your blog, but not the last. Thank you so much for your wise and true words. Kara's story is powerful and true.

Donna Parrack said...

Amen ~ as tears stream down my face.

Lori said...

Thank you for sharing YOUR heart as well! We all have a "hard" of varying degrees....and I am so VERY sorry for your pain at the loss of your precious daughter as well as anything else you may be going through. I will pray for you if I may.
To #1Nana, I have to say that it is so easy to be cynical in today's world--I think that is part of what draws us to Kara's blog--she has EVERY reason to be cynical, despondent, desperate, angry etc but though she may indeed experience these emotions at times, she doesn't STAY there. She takes it to the One who is her ultimate Confidante, the Great Physician, her Savior and Best Friend.
And in response to your thought re: "Honey Boo Boo's" mama/family...I confess I do not care for that show and have not watched it. But if she wrote a blog and opened her heart honestly...if she were dying of cancer? I'd indeed read it and offer my prayers to her too. None of us are deserving of grace and mercy--and that is precisely what makes it so wonderful!
God Bless you all!

Lori Sealy said...

Dear #1Nana,

I wanted to take just a moment to talk with you, via the format of font. I understand all too well the temptation to fall into cynicism. I've lived a life that can easily breed it - (entering life as the result of an adulterous affair, almost aborted, abandoned by my adoptive parents, living life with the agony and angst of autism)... but that's a story all its own.

I want you to know that I've known Kara Tippetts personally for over 10 years. She's a dear friend to me. Our families have walked together in feast and in famine. I've seen the good, the bad, the less than lovely, and I've seen the far beyond beautiful sanctifying grace that has come from her suffering in these recent years.

I'll testify before the watching world that what you see in print is what I know in practice.

This is no Hallmark movie - this is the living and the DYING of a sinner who's been saved by the grace of God and changed by the mercy of Christ. (She just happens to have an incredibly gifted photographer for a very dear friend, and that dear friend has chosen to capture every moment she can as an Ebenezer for Kara's friends and family to remember the amazing grace that has met us all on this hard road. That's not packaging, that's just loving your friend by using your God-given talent to mold a memory that will forever remind us of mercy.)

Those pictures mean the absolute world to a gal like me who now lives too far away and has too little money to travel and say goodbye to my buddy. I'm thankful for those pictures, Nana. They are a balm to my soul as I'm separated from my sister. (Thank you, Jen Lints for allowing me to see on my computer what I'm no longer able to witness by a quick drive in my car!)

As for Honey Boo Boo's mom - Nana, what comparison is there? But, to answer your question, I suppose if her mom were to write an equivalent blog there would be much rejoicing, for it would mean that her mother had turned from her sin to the Savior! An equivalent blog would point us to Jesus and would remind us that He is enough for whatever we face in this life and that He is our greatest gift as we face our death.

One thing you do have right is that this IS indeed a terrible story, but so was the cross of Calvary. Both stories came on the scene because sin entered the scene in Genesis 3. But, thankfully God has a way of redeeming the things that sin has ravaged - that's the glory of the gospel and that's the glory of Kara's story. Jesus Christ is making all things (even this thing) beautiful in His time and working all things together for His glory and for our good.

I wish you could know my friend as I know her. If you know Jesus, then one day you will. And on that day all of our cynicism will vanish at the sight of our Savior.

By grace alone,
Lori Sealy

Kimberly said...

#1Nana, I'm taken aback by your comments. Do you really compare Kara's journey to both a Hallmark movie and Honey Boo Boo? As a person who loves Kara, her family and hometown, i can only say...You are a nervy person. Mama June has taken in child molesters and Kara has the "nerve" to preserve memories with her kids and husband in her 11th hour. How scandalous. Regardless of which Hallmark/Honey Boo Camp you may find yourself, I think Kara would remind us that even Jesus was a friend of sinners. Kara shines a magnifying glass on her own flaws...Mama June does too. What's the issue here? NO on is perfect and we all have a "hard" to deal with. Can't we celebrate the beauty: In each woman? In each person's struggle? In knowing that God ultimately gives us all grace and mercy?

bozley33 said...

Wow #1nana... I don't even know what to say.. The cynic in you? This woman is DYING, regardless of whether she and her family are photogenic. I certainly hope that god forbid, I'm ever in this situation, I have the ability to capture beautiful "hallmark" pictures for my family to have for the rest of their lives. I don't know what is wrong with this world, I really don't. There's always someone who isn't happy, even when it has to do with a dying mom and wife. So very sad on so many levels. Thank you for your blog, it was beautiful.

Diana Stone said...

Her last few sentences: "How is your brokenness meeting you? Are you avoiding it? Can you see how it can be made beautiful? Can you see how the pain in your story could be redeemed to something beautiful? It’s a fight to see the grace through the fog of the pain- but it’s there. It’s there. Are you looking for it?" As a woman who has lost three children shortly after birth - Kara's "Hallmark ending" gives me hope and strength. Her beautiful pictures let me know dying isn't the ugly thing we all make it. Her honesty and passion are a breath of fresh air. In a world where we are asking to end our lives before we suffer - because we are scared of the ugly - Kara shows us that dying can be as tearful, hard, and yet beautiful as living.

jacqueline said...

Dear #1 Nana, As a follower of Kara's blog I will respond, in part, to your inquiry. If June, Honey Boo Boo's mom, wrote such a blog, yes, I would follow it. I am a resident of the western North Carolina town which Kara and her family called home for a spell. Met her and Jason in passing but was a friend of several friends. She made a strong impression of uniqueness even then.
Have you ever met someone and found that person unattractive but as you knew them more well they became attractive? The same happens with attractive people, God shines through and they become more so also. This has transpirewith Kara and we are seeing "the glory of God", who created
things that truly take our breath away. We are seeing Holiness.

jacqueline said...

so also. This has transpirewith Kara and we are seeing "the glory of God", who created
things that truly take our breath away. We are seeing Holiness.

Anonymous said...

How beautiful are your words! I too love Kara!

Texsheva said...

Beautiful...I too, have been following Kara and her journey. Never have I seen such grace & beauty. She has taught me so very much. I don't know her, but I will miss her horribly when she's gone. I'm quite sure many will feel the same.

Emily A. Clark said...

Beautiful tribute. Thanks for putting all of this into words.

DJan said...

I hardly know what to write here, Sally, but I will just acknowledge a heartfelt post to a dear friend who is struggling to go home right now. Sending you and her love.

Merry Mefford said...

Simply beautiful, I completely agree.

LC said...

Thank you for sharing this. Your words of what you have learned from Kara lifted me up.

Kay said...

What an incredible person Kara is. Thank you for sharing her with us, Sally.

Deb Shucka said...

I didn't realize you were this close to Kara, Sally. I've been reading her blog, and following her story, and being moved and inspired by her words since her letter to Brittany. She is truly a gift to the world, as is your tribute here. I like knowing we have this love in common.

jozphotos.com said...

Lovely tribute to a lovely person! Kara has encouraged even though I never met her. Blessings!

Terri Tiffany said...

She is blessed to know you as well. This was so touching and a wonderful tribute to someone who deserves it. Your words about your meeting and your feelings toward her really touched me. I will go to her blog now and read.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Sally, thank you for posting this. It gives me a lot to think about as I spend time with my younger brother, who is in hospice care. He hasn't shared his journey so publicly but shares bits of it with family and friends in person. Your connection with Kara is a gift for both of you, I think.

Valerie-Jael said...

I read your post with great enjoyment - thanks! Thanks too for visiting my blog today! Hugs from one retired teacher to another! Valerie

Maggie May said...

What a wonderful testimony for this lovely lady. She was certainly facing a great ordeal that she used her faith to fight.
A great inspiration for all of us whatever we have to endure.
Maggie x