Kara + Amy

My morning began with a shot in my arm and then I headed down south for the day. My vitals will not be taken until Monday so I am told to take it easy through the weekend while my blood counts rise. Yesterday I was feeling much better than even the days before so I am taking that as a positive sign that my counts are rising.

It was a beautiful day yesterday. One that you want to bottle up and keep so you can have it for a another. It was eighty degrees in Colorado. Blue skies and big white fluffy clouds. As I drove from Denver to Colorado Springs the view of Pikes Peak as I came down Monument Hill nearly took my breath away.

Many of you have heard me make reference to Kara Tippets and the book The Hardest Peace. Kara was welcomed into heaven last Sunday after her battle with breast cancer. Yesterday was her memorial service. Alongside a friend we attended her service to honor who she was, to celebrate her story and to give incredible thanks for the very person to whom God created her to be.

I will be honest, when my friend asked if I would like to join I was at first, unsure. In many ways I was not sure I would be able to make it through the service, a second thought was that I never met her, I was just someone who read her book, read her blog posts, and lastly I am bald. My thought was, that I am a physical reminder to the family and friends of the cancer that took Kara. Would it unfair to attend and remind them? As these thoughts passed I decided that I would attend knowing just how much her words have meant to me. Unfortunately my counts are still low, but the nurses said so long as I wash my hands, be extra careful than I am ok to go. So I did.

This is where my writing becomes difficult. I found myself sitting in her service wondering how it is that I can do life so well like her….

The inside of her memorial program read the words she wrote

“My little body has grown tired of battle, and treatment is no longer helping,” Kara wrote. “But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus. He has still given me breath, and with it I pray I would live well and fade well. By degrees doing both, living and dying, as I have moments left to live. I get to draw my people close, kiss them and tenderly speak love over their lives. I get to pray into eternity my hopes and fears for the moments of my loves. I get to laugh and cry and wonder over Heaven. I do not feel like I have the courage for this journey, but I have Jesus—and He will provide. He has given me so much to be grateful for, and that gratitude, that wondering over His love, will cover us all. And it will carry us—carry us in ways we cannot comprehend.”

Many times in the service I found myself holding back tears not because she passed. Not because she left behind four children and a husband at the young age of 38. My tears met my cheeks because of how she lived while she was here.

Her diagnosis of breast cancer became her opportunity. To move more into the story he was writing for her and more into the goodness of who God is.

And that is where it gets me. Believing that cancer can still be a good thing. That by refusing to be angry, and allowing my heart to be open to what he is doing in my story of cancer, that I can begin to see the very hand of God moving and working in my life.

Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known.” – Kara Tippets

In leaving the service we found ourselves taking a short walk to sit atop a rock overlooking Pikes Peak. In sitting and talking I began to share …

There became a moment in the service when I began to think of both Kara and my dear friend, old younglife work crew boss, Amy Patwa together in heaven with their Jesus. I imagine them both there. Their hair now back on their heads. They are no longer in pain. The scars across their breasts are no longer there. Their tired eyes that met them in their final days are no longer tired. I imagine them with great joy and peace.

Karas service reminded me so very much of Amy’s. Two women. Diagnosed with breast cancer in their thirties. To women who refused to see cancer with anger but rather meet it with grace. Who knew that the homecoming that awaited them, while they were not ready to leave, was one that would be far greater than even what they would have on this earth.

So in my tears I found myself begging them both to show me how to do life so well. I found myself envious of the peace they now have.

How do I press on trusting in his goodness?

If I could have spoken out loud I would have pleaded with them both, How do I do it? How could I possibly live in the manner at which you both have? And how do I trust him so much so that I know that what meets me in the coming months whether news of good or bad that his peace is still available? The confidence. The assurance you have that HE is always good. That my pain. That my hurt does not go unnoticed. But He is here. He has always been here.

As my tears fell, as my words fell short and as I longed for an understanding….. of how breast cancer could hurt so much. How it could take two women away so soon? and how breast cancer stole from me….

I found my answer.

As though he whispered…. Kristina. You are my child. Can you trust me? Can you believe that I love you so much so that even in the midst of cancer you may have my peace. That you may know my joy. That you may live well beyond this. You Kristina must trust me.

And as my tears fell underneath my sunglasses and I gazed out at the mountains I wondered why it was I have fought this story so much. And the tears continued as I came to accept the only choice I have.

I must trust him. Even in all of my fears, as my friend assured me…. He is loving, merciful and kind.

So the rest of the day and evening my thoughts continue to come back to this place.

My dear friend Amy pictured below alongside me in 2002 and the picture below of Kara with her family. You ladies have made my walking with cancer doable. You have shown me what it means to trust.  It is an honor and privilege to be a member of the breast cancer club alongside you both. But more than anything it is a true honor to be a daughters of our most incredible loving King.

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In her Memorial service John Blase shared the below poem. I loved it so much I thought I should share.

I sent you the link to the rare Mary Oliver
Interview in hopes her wild voice and
Silky words would inspire you to write.
I knew she’d wooed your mind when
You began texting me quote after quote
You’d copied down, this one your favorite –
I SAW WHAT LOVE MIGHT HAVE DONE
IF WE HAD LOVED IN TIME.
But you never sent the one I hoped
You’d hear and pause to consider –
WHEN THE MORTAL DIES
IT WILL BECOME SOMETHING ELSE –
For that is the line the poet spoke that
Made me think of you.

Now that you’re gone my grownup thoughts wrestle with
Exactly what that something else is that you’ve become.
While off to the side the faith I held as a child
Holds that You’re now a part of everything from
The warmth of the winter sun to
The unself-conscious laughter of children to
The fragrance of lilac blooms in June.
For in death you were swept up into him
And since he holds all things then it’s not a stretch
At all to say you’re now a part of the grand show.

Mary Oliver would say you’re EVIDENCE OF THE CONTINUANCE.

But Kara Tippetts would grin wide and say Oh, Mary,
After death there is something else.
There is everything else. There is Jesus.

P.S. – You’ll have to forgive us if we have days or weeks where
We are unlikeable in our grief. This is only because we liked you so very much.
Death may have lost its sting, but it still burns.
And we press on here in the strange beauty of sadness

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This morning I am heading back to the cancer center for my shot. The rest of the day is going to be spent trying to take a look at how to do life well, which of course means cheering on my Louisville Cards around 1:00 pm. As well I look forward to picking up my best friend all the way from Guatemala City at the airport tomorrow who is spending her Spring Break with me.
Many thanks for your patience, understanding and loving me so well at this time.
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