Kara’s Collection: 20 Years Ago

from an article originally posted May 4, 2014...

May 4, 1994, I was a struggling high school senior. Struggling with life, struggling with drugs and drinking, struggling to find my footing in life. I was sitting beside a zealous convert in German class, Michele Pribble, who was excited to share her faith with me. She pleaded with me to come to her youth group with her. I was curious. I agreed to go. Once I arrived, I was met by kindness, amazing kindness. The youth group at Grace Community Church was a new land of kindness, warmth, and unity. Then the pastor, Rod Vansolkema, spoke on forgiveness. To top it all off, my dear friend Jenny Gates Fitzgerald came and explained to me who Jesus was and why he came to love me, rescue me, offer me new life. That very night I asked God to forgive me for my many sins, I prayed that He would enter my life, and I learned forgiveness for the first time in my life. It was an amazing night. 

Twenty years later, I still need those reminders daily. Those same people are still in my life; though miles separate us, these women are still so important to my life. We met in brokenness, and we continue to meet in brokenness. May 4, 1994, was the day I learned what it was to live free, but it was not the day it became easy. Knowing Jesus did not bring ease into my life, it brought life—true life into my living. 

Today, this day, I will travel a few blocks to a church of broken-hearted people to worship. Frankly, I want to stay home today. I’m desperate to be reminded of Jesus, just as I needed to be introduced to him 20 years ago. But I feel so tempted to stay in bed all day today. I’m tempted to not rub shoulders with the people I love. Twenty years later, I’m still as needy as I was the day my life in faith started. Jenny texted me this week that she feels a specific calling to be praying for me. She is still loving me with her giant heart 20 years later. I’m so humbled that my paths crossed with such a woman of faith. 

Today is Eat Church. Not only will I do life beside these people I love, I will also stay and enjoy a meal. I feel cloudy and anxious as we await new test results. I feel weak and weary as we wade through the hours before we hear my new diagnosis. If the borders of cancer have spread again, we will be given a new treatment, a new hard, a desperate seeking to slow this beast. We are worn, very worn today. All our edges feel frayed. All our efforts feel hard. We need our community. We need reminding of goodness. We need the love of others today, and we need to hear of Jesus who is WITH US. Today I will fight to share honestly how I’m doing. I’ll try not to fake optimism to make everyone else more comfortable. There are those precious friends that ask, wanting to know how I really am doing. I look forward to seeing their faces. Today, I move, move, move, when all I really want to do is stop. Today, I will sing songs, weep, and remember, because I need reminding. 

Last week was a hard one for Westside. A dear friend lost his job, another was in the hospital, we had yet another biopsy, but we are a community. A community of messy people that are like the four men with the man on the mat in the gospels. We drag, we drag, we dig through the roof, we do what it takes to bring each other before Jesus. We know he is the only answer. We also know he is able. Able to meet us in the place of our deepest need, greatest hurt, and endless hurts and fears. After 20 years, he doesn’t look at me and say, Kara, why don’t you have it figured out yet? No, he says, Fear not—come, simply come to me. 

I’m headed out to be reminded. Won’t you join me? There is goodness in the midst of your hard. There is a purpose for today. Won’t you come and find Jesus with me? Thank you Rod, Jenny, Michele for showing me Jesus, and thank you for living broken beside me all these years. The best is yet to come!