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.