“Don’t be afraid of your hard…”

The light above the stove glowed warm, and pots clanked as we cooked together, this sister and I.
“Is Kara still alive?” she asked quietly,
about a woman who neither of us have met, yet whose story has become very dear to us.
I nodded, “But it won’t be long…” My words trailed off.
We hate this thing of dying, all of humanity does.
We fight for life with all we have. Life is so, so, dear.
It is all we know. Or we think so…

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She has been shaped by death, this little sister of mine.
Grew up with just flashes of memories of Daddy, the kind man in scrubs who would throw her high in the air, and alway be there to catch her. He would be there for us, making Sunday lunch when we returned from church, since he had been on call and couldn’t drive far from work to church.
He was there. Good, loving and kind.

Except then he wasn’t.
My childhood memories take a drastic turn to cancer treatments and beeping monitors and then kind hospice nurses training me how to flush his feeding line. I helped keep him alive a little longer, but he wasted away before my eyes. His strong arms that were always there to catch me shrunk to just bones and skin hanging.
His eyes got that distinct “deer in headlights” look that only the dying carry.

I was naughty, even at his bedside.
I remember I had been outside playing, but it was my turn to come in and give Mom a few minutes break.
It was just to sit by his side and read some verses of comfort, but I was in dress up clothes and the game outside went on without me. I pouted and read hurriedly.
He looked over at me and said something about reading cheerfully.
I tried, then.

I wish I had understood more fully what was really happening.
Does a child ever really understand death when it happens daily in front of their eyes, to their Daddy?

This morning Kara’s four beautiful children woke up for the first time knowing that Mommy was not there anymore.
Yesterday her long struggle with cancer ended, and she opened her eyes in heaven’s glory.
It is such a mixture of emotions, this joy for her, and the ache for her family…

The road ahead is not easy. I wish I could spare them the years of growing up with just memories. A child craves the physical presence of their biological parents. But my daddy didn’t choose to leave. And Kara wished to stay and watch these four grow into beautiful adults who would love God more than anything.

Last week I was at a family reunion and Daniel and I found ourselves in a conversation with a couple who lost their only son to cerebral malaria.
On the mission field. Far from family. It is shattering.
But in the same breath, we smile. Our eyes glitter with the reality of Heaven pressed deep into our core.
We dream. We wonder. “Do you think in Heaven they…” We are changed.
Eternity becomes the new reality. It is where God dwells with us.

“He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,
neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said,
“Behold, I am making all things new.”
-Revelation 22:3-5

Yes, we have lost. Death has changed forever who we are. And really, it is a priceless thing.
You see, when the dagger of death pierces our life, we never recover. In an instant, our lives are forever changed.
This rushed and crazy life down here slows and looses its importance as we see through new eyes.
Eternity is just as close as Kara was yesterday, here in our arms and hearts.
And suddenly, we realize that life is more than we knew.
That eternity is looking over our shoulder, and it is to be embraced.
That here, in our tears and shattering, God IS.

I stood there, in that room bustling with people, tears persistently sliding down my cheeks.
I felt a tad ashamed. After all, I hardly knew their son.
It seems strange to feel so passionately the loss of a stranger.
But really, in loss, none of us are strangers.
His mother and I both stood there, hot tears dripping off our chins, together.

We cringe from this place of our shattering, and long to be whole again.
But it is here, in our brokenness, we find we are not enough.
And it is only here that there is room for God to fill us, to truly carry us.
Our strength comes in being channels of His presence, not in being enough.
We are strongest when we learn how to weep with those who weep.
For here it is not our strength at all,
but His.

Today my sister and I, and you and each of us have questions bigger than our answers.
But here in the not knowing, in the missing and the journey, Kara’s words remind us of reality:

“Hard and suffering is not the absence of God’s goodness…
Don’t be afraid of your hard.
Let it encourage you to know God’s goodness even more in your life.
And look for it. ‘Cause it’s there.”
-Kara Tippets

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Photos from Kara’s Facebook page, Mundane Faithfulness

You can read more about her story by purchasing her book, The Hardest Peace.

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7 thoughts on ““Don’t be afraid of your hard…”

  1. I too wept my way through her book a month or two ago… I didn’t want to go on reading it and I couldn’t stop reading it… And I’m crying again today as I reflect on her homecoming and especially on her littles she left behind. *hugs* I think one reason many of us are so deeply moved by her words is we all have a nagging inner question about the grace we will or won’t find if we are ever asked to be in the place of the Tippetts family…. And knowing she experienced abundant grace and peace, of the hardest sort for sure, but to know that they WERE/ARE there… assures us that we too will be found by grace and peace when our time comes.
    I love you and your family, Melissa…. I have often seen THAT grace in you, too.

  2. Melissa dear, I really don’t know what to say, except thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this. Don’t be afraid of your hard……. This will be a favorite for me. I still have days that it seems SO hard, I feel almost desperate. I want it all to be a bad dream. But it isn’t. Then there are what I call the glory days, when I feel an amazing anticipation and even excitement for the glory that’s coming! I woke one morning with a settled assurance that Peter will rise from that grave in Honduras and we will be with him! I was so excited! Then today I finished cleaning his house. I was fine until I opened his dryer………. There was a load of clothes we had missed, of the last ones he had worn to go to Honduras. I so carefully and almost reverently folded them, knowing this was the last time. But I try to stay focused, and remind myself that one day the glory will triumph and it will be forever and ever! Even so, Lord Jesus come!

    1. Sweet Mary, I have thought of you so, so many times… Wished to come just sit with you and listen, to share tears and the longing for heaven.

      I know Jesus is carrying you, on both the glory days and the messy, painful, missing ones… Know that I carry you, and your family, in my heart continually. Our few days together, although so painful, were very precious.

  3. Melissa dear….thank you for your writing. So beautifully and poetically written. Giving us glimpses into the glory that is to come. Thank you for the support and love you have shown our family as we trudge (and yet skip) down this path that we didn’t ask to be taken on. There’s such a combination of glory and pain. We cry and wonder if it will ever go away. We didn’t think it could get worse and then it does. We think it’s getting easier and then waves of grief surprise us. And all the while I’m getting glimpses of the surprises God has for us….the beautiful things He can teach me only thru pain.
    Those days in Honduras will always be in our memory as a painful but sweet time… you were God’s hands and his feet to comfort us!

  4. Like Linda, I have seen this stunning grace and graciousness in your family too, even with the gaping holes.

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