Kara’s Collection: Determined

from an article originally posted July 17, 2014...

Last night two different friends asked me how I was doing. I gave a limp reply but they are the friends that ask: REALLY Kara, how are you REALLY? A few things have happened this week that have changed my perspective a bit.

First, someone was coming to visit me for my birthday day, and they were asked, Oh, are you going to the hospital to see her? Then as I was planning a retreat for this fall, one woman said she expected to find me very sick. More than that, a lot of people have commented on the change of tone in this place, in my writing, in my perspective. Nothing negative, just a change. I would agree; where we once held a bit of confidence in a cure, we now hold onto something much different. Those words are reflected in this place.

So last night as the text came through: How are you REALLY? A new answer came. My simple answer was determined. It was a word I felt yesterday, as I moved past what I felt like doing—nothing—and moved. Moved into the day with kids eager to spend their summer energy.

Nearly a month ago the crushing blow of more cancer hit us hard. Really hard. Not only were we given the devastating news, I was then given tough treatment. Tough treatment FOREVER. Those pills were hard to swallow emotionally and physically. It was this terrible dance of managing pain, managing nausea, managing sadness. Maybe we were depressed; no absolutely we were depressed, but goodness—I would call all of that depressing. But Jason and I would wake, move, try, and function, and we knew the grace to live would come. But first, we simply needed to move through the pain of the new hard. I remember Jill Briscoe years ago admonishing Christians for only wanting happy all the time, and often met with anxiety when a new season hit them. That somehow we think we are broken or doing life wrong if we are not constantly happy. I loved those words. I needed those words of freedom. So Jason and I have been wading through the swallowing of these impossible pills. Some mornings he’s crying, some evenings I’m crying. But we meet each moment, expect grace, and know the story is not a mistake. Jesus is not unaware of my pain.

But hearing from those lovely women that they expected me to be a bit lifeless. Well...it has grown a determination in me to show up. Show up honest, but show up where I am today. And that is not a lifeless place. No, I don’t think the glimmer has faded from my eyes. I know the fight has not left me to battle this disease. I know today I have love to embrace and love to give. Is it hard, yes. Will I show up? Yes. Will grace capture me that I never deserved? ABSOLUTELY.

As Jason and I were getting ready for bed last night, I asked him two questions. I asked him if he felt I have a message to share. Then, I asked him if he was at peace with sharing my strength with other communities as I begin to plan travel and speaking. I asked him to begin to pray. He looked at me determined himself and said, ABSOLUTELY, Kara, but I will begin to pray specifically about this. We talked about his college roommate Tim Timmons who travels and shares his message and music. We had the privilege of sitting with him after a concert. He, too, has incurable cancer. I simply asked him how he and Hillary handle his travel when his days feel numbered. His answer was clear: God has given us the call, and we both have peace in my going. Is it hard, yes, but God has been faithful. Jason and I are beginning to understand.

So, there you have it. Yes, my cancer has spread, but so has God’s Grace in the midst of this terrible blow. I am learning, learning, learning to live in the midst of it. As I am learning to open wide my hands to the limit of days before me, Jason is opening wide his hands to what we are being asked in sharing this story of finding grace in the midst of suffering. Sure we both want to hold tight and white knuckle our living together. But we simply don’t feel that is what we are called to do right now. Obviously, there will be boundaries and I’m not planning to wear myself out, but I am opening my hands to this story. I’m simply a steward of it. Jason and I both want to live it faithfully.

Do I feel great? No. But am I able to participate in living in the midst of feeling junk? Yes. Each day I’m learning that new. Yesterday I went to Chick-fil-a and the zoo with my people and a gaggle of other people. Did I feel great? Nope. Did I wonder over the amazing eyelashes of the giraffes? TOTALLY. Was I determined? Without a doubt. It felt good to go? Even when I felt like stopping.

Finally, yesterday I sat with my kind-faced oncologist. I asked him frankly what was happening with me. I tell you, he is a gentle optimist. That’s how I can best describe him in words. He was pleased with my pain reduction, and we are both taking it that this chemo is shrinking my cancer. He looked at me and frankly said, This is not the end, Kara. I’m discouraged hormone suppressants didn’t work better for you, but we are not at the end. And with those words, this beautiful determination has grown in me. Determination to figure out how to live on this tough regiment of pills well. It feels bigger than me, so you better believe I’m looking for the grace in each moment. Yesterday I showed up at the zoo. Story wanted me to hold her. I told her I could not. But right beside me was a strong 13-year-old friend of our family that loves my Story. She was ready with strong arms to capture her. Grace—isn’t it stunning? Would I have liked the strength to carry her? Sure. But I loved watching a young lady extend herself in love toward my daughter on the hills at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Story shone in the reflected grace of another loving on her. It was beautiful really. Who am I to stand in the way of that kind of beauty?

And guess what else? Jesus knew exactly when I needed to leave. He sent a giant storm. So I could simply say, Kids, let’s go, storm is brewing. There was much more to see, but I was already meeting my limit. But the kids didn’t know. They were happily running to avoid the storm. I was inwardly smiling that I saw the giraffes, the elephants, and was able to pet a baby joey. That was enough. That was amazing.

How are you meeting your own limitations today? How are you looking for the grace to extend yourself past your own borders of what you think you can do today? Are you looking for and expecting the grace to meet you in your weakness? Are you struggling with bitterness where you are facing your weakness or are you pressing into Jesus and asking for the grace to live well in the midst of pain? I’m learning that feeling badly isn’t license for unkindness, quitting, not trying to capture life today. But if I truly want to live well, I must depend on the strength of another. And Jesus is generous in his provision of this feeble mama of four. I get to fall into bed spent, unbelievably spent. That sleep is a blissful sleep. I am asking Jesus for my strength and stamina to grow. In His answer of yes or no, I will be met. Beautifully met and kept.

I want to leave you with a video of Tim opening his hands to his story. The faithfulness of Hillary and Tim inspires the socks off of me. Hearing the crowd share and sing truth with him brings me to tears- knowing his singing comes at a cost. Press on dear brother and sister-I love you.