Jonna's Tribute

After Kara’s memorial service, her sister Jonna led a time of sharing at the reception. She began by sharing her own tribute with us; it was powerful, beautiful, joyful, and full of love. Seeing Jonna’s grace in speaking so eloquently about Kara even in the midst of her own deep and piercing grief was something I will treasure for the rest of my life. The relationship between these two women was a privilege to witness, and I can’t wait for them to be reunited in Heaven. She also shared at Kara’s memorial service in Indiana last week. I asked Jonna if I could publish her tribute on the blog. Enjoy and soak in the abounding grace…

I want to start off by reading something Kara wanted to share with you all. She wrote this in her final days:

My little body has grown tired of battle, and treatment is no longer helping. But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus. He has given me breath, and with it I pray I would live well and fade well. By degrees of doing both, living and dying, as I have moments left to live. I get to draw my people close, kiss them 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.

I was unsure how to honor my amazing sister. I mean she was an accomplished writer, a wonderful speaker, she inspired so many….where do I start? So like everyone else, I hit the google key.

KARA. I looked up her name. The Irish meaning of Kara means love. The Greek meaning of Kara means pure. I thought that was amazing. Anyone who knew my sister knows those two words describe Kara. But I would like to make up my own version. The name Kara means to me pure love.

For the many in this room you know what this love is; it is the love that she had as she stood in front of you either in a crowd of people or one on one. It was the way she looked at you. The way her green eyes would look at you as if she could read your heart. As if there was no one else in the planet except the person standing right in front of her. Her love was a pure love, an everlasting love.

I am Kara’s older sister. Life with Kara was fun. She was my secret keeper, my nighttime companion, my playmate, my first girlfriend. Kara and I were very different. I am reserved, she was outgoing. I am nervous walking into a crowd of people I don’t know, she was looking to make a new friend. I am a pleaser, she was a questioner. Kara was great to have around. I was the girly girl, and Kara enjoyed playing in the mud. She would beg me to go fishing with her at our grandparents’ pond. I found this miserable. Kara would bait my hook. She often cast for me as well. If I caught a fish, she would get it off for me. So I became a really good at fishing—I was basically just holding a pole for her! Oh now that I think about it, she had me wrapped around her finger even then.

She was younger but she taught me many things. She taught me how to be a good friend and love someone well. Kara and I had a very strong bond. She was always my go-to for problems and advice. I can remember many times hiding things from her. She would call and say, “I have not talked to you in a few days; what are you not wanting to tell me?” Kara would never jump on my band wagon and join my pity party. She would dig deeper. She would ask me questions about my heart and how I was approaching the problem. It is hard to face your own heart when you know it is not soft and loving.

I love this quote from my favorite author:

The book of Romans tells us that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. I want to love with a kindness that nurtures a hard heart to desire to be soft. God is the only one able to transform someone else’s heart, but if I live a life submitted to Him, then His love will be reflected through me.
— Kara Tippetts, Big Love

I will never forget the call I received from Kara two and a half years ago. She was avoiding my calls. I had tried reaching her before I was to go on summer vacation. We talked several times a week. I knew she was hiding something. I even phoned her on vacation. Nothing… no answer, no call back. Finally we connected. She calmly stated, “Jonna, I have breast cancer.” I sobbed. I trembled, I was shaking. I was devastated. She said, “Jonna I am so sorry.” I said, “Why are you telling me you are sorry?” She answered,  “Because this is making you so sad.” She then went on to tell me she was not afraid of dying, she was not afraid to go home to Jesus. It was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.

I immediately jumped on board as one of her soldiers, cheerleaders, and prayer warriors. I flew across the country often. I held her hand as they cut her beautiful long blond hair into an adorable pixie. I arrived in time as they shaved her head. She looked stunning. I came for chemo treatments and I filled in for her at school for a mom-and-muffin party. Through this hard, I was loving my sister. Through these struggles, we laughed. Through the tears, we could look into each others’ eyes and know the love we had for each other without saying a word.

Suffering is not the absence of Gods goodness.
— Kara Tippetts

When Kara was nauseous I would rub her feet. Now I HAVE to tell you: this was the biggest task for me. When we went on road trips as a family when we were little, I was the one who could not fall asleep. Dennis would be sound asleep before we would be out of the driveway, Kara would be asleep by the time we were out of the neighborhood, and I would be sitting in the middle on the “hump seat”—you know the seat, with no leg room—and Kara would take her little wet feet and put them on me. YUCK. It would make me crazy. There were times I swore I saw a little smile grow across her face. So when she had chemo and asked me to rub her feet…that was a huge act of love. I was up for the challenge but I am pretty sure through her misery as she would peek to watch me rubbing her feet— I think I saw that same sneaky smile.

I could sit here all day and tell you funny, amazing, touching stories of my sister. I know many of you witnessed our relationship. Many of you are praying for me. I truly believe that is how I have the strength to stand before you today. But the one thing that describes my sister and her pure love is to be a witness to her amazing marriage.

Jason, my sister’s beloved. I googled his name as well. Jason comes from a Greek word meaning healer. That describes Jason perfectly. He assisted my sister into the ultimate healing of our Lords Kingdom.

When Kara met Jason it was so beautiful. Watching their young, innocent love blossom into an incredibly solid marriage was breathtaking. I had a front-row seat to this love affair. Kara, as many of you know, had a very strong personality. Jason embraced it and guided it so softly and eloquently. Jason and Kara worked every day on their marriage. Their marriage was not perfect but their love for each other was. The way Jason would look at my sister. Oh, I could see the love in his eyes. When my sister became ill, Jason was the rock. Jason has cared for my sister the moment he said I do.

Kara would often say to me, “I could not live without Jason, but Jason could live without me.” That is such a strong statement. The love and support my sister felt with Jason was real and it was powerful. I was in Colorado when Kara was getting her port put in. We all took a walk in the park up a small mountain. Kara was walking ahead with the kids. Jason turned to me and said, “Kara is so beautiful. I am so lucky to have her.” It was so sweet to hear him talk so lovingly about my sister.

The way Jason and Kara handled the hardest goodbye is so beautiful and has made us better people for watching it unfold. I could not ask for a more godly, loving, caring, supportive, faithful husband for my sister than Jason.

As for my fabulous nieces and wonderful nephew… They each have a piece of their precious mama with them. I get to watch them grow, and I get to point out all the fantastic things that are just like her.

When you think of Kara, you think of the word community. I googled the definition of community as well: Community: A feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Kara built a community wherever she went. From a tiny girl to a grown woman, Kara brought people together. When she came to Christ, she built her community on the strongest foundation possible. Her marriage, family, and friends. She grew strong, loving relationships that were all Christ centered. She branched out to her blog community. Always pointing them toward Christ. Kara is pure love. And now she lives in peace with the Lord. We need to take what Kara has taught us. We need to start in our homes and extend that glorious Christ-like love to all.

I would like to recognize someone who has done that very well. Mickey is a perfect example of Christ-like love. The way she cared for my sister and her family while she was dying. She is amazing to me and to everyone here. Thank you to showing us how to love. Thank you for the love you have shown to our family. We love you so much.

My heart is overflowing with love from all of you. What an honor it is to celebrate the life of Kara Lynne Tippetts. Remember: today we get to live well.