See You Soon, Kara

I wish I could say that Kara and I were the closest and best of bosom friends. In truth, we had a brief friendship – but any acquaintance with Kara felt close, intimate, genuine, and real. I am so thankful for the months God placed her in my life, and every memory I have of Kara is beautiful, joyful, sweet. I’d love to share a handful.

One of the earliest impressions I had of Kara is also one of my favorite memories of her. It was long before her cancer diagnosis, only days – maybe weeks at most – after we initially met. We often sat near the Tippets in church, and this particular Sunday my husband and I sat right behind Kara and her son. During the Lord’s Supper, her son looked up at her and whispered a question – he asked her what was happening, why we were eating a small piece of bread and taking a sip of wine. Kara didn’t shush him. She didn’t say, “I’ll tell you after the service.” She didn’t even take him by the hand and lead him out into the hall where they could “talk freely.” Instead, she wrapped her arm around her son, leaned in, and whispered into his ear. I sat there holding my little piece of bread and my little cup of wine as I listened to her whisper the gospel to her son right then and there, tell of her confidence in the grace of God through Jesus, explain that we were taking this meal to participate in the covenant made in his blood and that by doing this we proclaimed Jesus’ death until his return. That moment had an enormous impact on me – I saw the deep and confident hope in the Savior she loved meet the profound and enormous love she had for her own son in that moment. I long to be that kind of a parent to my own daughter.

Several months later, the west side of Colorado Springs trembled as the Waldo Canyon Fire spilled over the hills and destroyed homes. Many of us found ourselves displaced and traumatized by what looked like an apocalypse scene out of a doomsday movie. After the fire abated and our neighborhoods opened back up, Kara opened up her home to a few of us west side women as a safe place to “debrief” what we had been through. In a home they had barely moved into – where they had not even yet had the chance to hang pictures on the wall – she provided a meal and encouragement, love and comfort. We joyfully watched her kids play as we reminded each other of the goodness and faithfulness of God even in the storm.

Only a few months after Kara’s diagnosis, God called my family to move out of state, and our friendship muted in the way relationships do over long distances. However, we had a wonderful opportunity a few months ago to drive back down to Colorado to go to a wedding. Kara was there with her bright blond hair, big sparkling eyes, and beautiful smile. She held our 7-month-old daughter on her lap through much of the wedding, cuddling her and tenderly loving on her. At the reception she danced with all she had with her husband and kids. Even after all she had been though I remember thinking, “She is so incredibly alive. She is so full of joy for today.” Little did we know she only had months left. Kara will forever be a picture to me of how to live in the abundance of God’s grace for today – to embrace the beautiful, joyful, wonderful, alive, loving moments we have.

Finally, the day Kara shared with me that she had cancer, she said something I will never forget for the rest of all of eternity. It is the one memory of her that has impacted me the deepest. After explaining to us that the lump they found was malignant, with a straight face and steady voice she said, “I get to have cancer for Jesus.” Get to. Not “have to.” Not, “I’m stuck with.” Not, “Well, I guess God has called me to this so I have to do the best I can with this.” No. Even in that moment of fear and uncertainty, with the darkness of anticipation looming out in front of us, she clung to the goodness of God’s calling and his promise for her good and His glory. She was always the first to quickly admit her fear, her sadness, her questioning and even anger. But every word, every action, every day was lived to God’s glory. She did not doubt him, but thanked him – even when she couldn’t understand what he was doing or why.

It is so easy to ask God “why?” How could this possibly be good? Why would he providentially take her through such suffering, take her from her husband and beautiful kids? I don’t know all the reasons, and I definitely don’t want to diminish the awful sadness of suffering and death. But I do know this: Kara’s cancer became an incredible stage for thousands of people to see and hear and know the goodness and glory of God through the gospel of His Son. Because of Kara’s life and death, thousands upon thousands of us grew in our confidence and faith in God.

It is so easy to say, “God took her too soon,” or “her life was cut short.” But please, beloved, let’s not cheapen this. It feels to us like we lost her too early and everything in our mortality wants and craves her presence longer. But this story, the day and moment of Kara’s death, was not a surprise to God. He didn’t lose control in her life and for a moment give victory to the devil in her cancer. No. Every day of Kara’s life – including the last one – were written in God’s book before even a single one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). And we know that the death of the saints is precious in the sight of the LORD (Psalm 116:15). Don’t get me wrong. Death is not a good thing. It is a horrific effect of the fall – our rebellion against God. But through the incredible sacrifice of Jesus – when he took the wrath of God on himself and died in our place, and then rose from the dead and conquered death for us – the sting and victory of death is gone (I Corinthians 15:55).

Eternity feels so far away to us mortals. The veil between heaven and earth seems so thick and impenetrable. But, while I hope by the grace of God to still live a long life, to be here for years and years and years, I know that in the scope of eternity I can say with confidence, “Dear Kara, see you soon.”

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The tour.

Pictures pictures pictures!! Let me show you our house!

This is the front on a snowy South Dakota day:

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This is just inside the front door looking to the right into the living room and dining room:

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Our beautiful plum accent wall in the living room:

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And finally the corner and window of the living room:

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Looking from the dining room into the kitchen:

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And another view of the kitchen from the other direction (looking toward the dining/living room area):

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Looking from the kitchen into the great room:

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And from the great room back toward the front door – you can get a sense of how open the upstairs is!

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The door in the middle of the picture above is just a coat closet. I’ll spare you. But to the right just around that corner is this little half bath:

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The view from the upper deck out back:

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And this is straight down from the deck. It’s hard to tell now because of the snow, but there’s a pre-built fenced-in garden area!

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Now on to the downstairs. This is just to the left of the front door when you walk in. And yes, we’re drying some of our rugs on the railing…

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The master bedroom:

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And the master bedroom accent wall:

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The master bathroom:. You can see the walk-in closet in the mirror. Just opposite the mirror, but gracefully not shown, is a little toilet/shower room.

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Now back out into the hallway. The storage room and laundry are just to the right of the bottom of the stairs, or just outside the master bedroom doorway.

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Ok, now down the hallway:

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This is the first bedroom, which we are clearly using as an office right now. You’ll notice some white on the wall… we had some refinishing done in the house when we fixed the plumbing and we just haven’t painted this or the other bedroom yet. We’ll figure out what we want in these rooms eventually….

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The two bedrooms have another full bathroom in between them. Again, I’ll let you imagine the small toilet/shower room past that dark doorway.

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And the second bedroom/guest room. Again, ignore the white unpainted splotches of finish work… we’ll get to it. I promise. As well as putting an actual mattress on the bed….

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Finally, I’ll let you see the back of the house too!

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Thanks for humoring me!!

The road goes ever on…

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
~JRR Tolkein

It is hard to believe that after all this time we are finally on the threshold of our next journey. The house is (mostly) packed up and ready. Tonight is the last night we spend here in our own bed. We pick up the trailer tomorrow afternoon, and then Tuesday we wave goodbye as we depart our first home together and set our sights on our next.

Such a significant transition is pregnant with mixed emotions. (No, that’s not a hint. I’m not pregnant. Everyone calm down.) I am thrilled and excited and hopeful and determined and optimistic and content about where we are going. I know this is what God is calling us to, where we are meant to be. I am sad and grieving and remembering and regretting leaving such a wonderful home here and such incredible blessings of friendships and family.

I was unexpectedly confronted today with just how much our lives here have meant. I honestly did not realize what kind of impact we’ve had here until people started telling us this morning. It is humbling. I wish I had been more aware of it all during my time here. I trust God is working in spite of my near-sightedness.

I am VERY aware of the impact the people here have had on us. I am just so incredibly humbled every time I think about who God has placed in our lives – both the friends we have had over the past few years here and also those whom God has so graciously allowed us to know for even just the past few months here. (Oh how I wish we had more time!) It is so so hard saying goodbye to such a loving, giving, sharing, fun, God-honoring community of people. They will be so incredibly missed.

This has always been my home. Even the years the military took my family away from here while I was growing up, we were always “from Colorado.” For the first time in my life, that will be changing. I realized a few days ago that there will come a time (at age 52 precisely) where I will have been “from” South Dakota longer than I have been “from” Colorado – provided God allows me to live that long. It is a strange thought to me, a new way of thinking about myself.

I will miss my family here – being close to my parents, seeing my sister on her school breaks. (I’m telling you guys. You need to move to South Dakota. Job shmob.)

And speaking of jobs – leaving a job that I have truly enjoyed and a team of coworkers I have grown fond of seeing day in and day out.

Yet I step over the threshold and move on to far-ahead things, looking forward to the Road that goes ever on.

A new mission in life – encompassing a career, a passion, an opportunity of its own.
A new community of God-lovers, truth-seekers, fellowship-makers.
A new calling requiring believing, trusting, going, doing.

But the same, steady, constant, faithful God who is in all, above all, and through all.

Grief mingled with joy. Heading forward even as we look back.

Baby Shower!

I threw a baby shower for my friend Christine this weekend! Here are few pics:

Decor

Food table and counter

 

 

Above the fire place

The group!

And a baby shower wouldn’t be complete without babies! Eli was hitting on Winnie….

 

The Morning After

As you may know, I watched the election returns last night until the president-elect was announced as Obama. Then I went to bed. I captured some of my momentary, initial reactions in a brief blog post previous to this one. I would like to expand on some of my thoughts today.

Surprise

One of my biggest emotional responses last night right around 9:30 was surprise. It all happened so fast. I actually took a nap earlier in the evening, expecting to be up until 1 or 2 in the morning watching the returns. Hardly an hour after I awoke, it was all over.

At the beginning of my nap, I felt incredibly confident. Mitt had a solid and steady, though close, lead in both the popular vote and the electoral college. When I woke up, it had all changed, and changed quickly and drastically. We superstitiously joked at work this morning that I should not have taken that nap!

I really thought Mitt had it. All the polls I had followed for the past few weeks indicated he had an edge in the states that mattered. I was floored that our country voted O back in for four more years. It didn’t make sense. Majorities against his healthcare plan, disapproval ratings higher than Bush four years ago, a majority sentiment that our country is heading the wrong direction… it just didn’t make sense to me. Some of those numbers are here: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/11/07/fox-news-exit-poll-summary/

It’s easy for me to blame fraud. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that the election was thrown, that judges cheated, that the Democrats bought out someone to tamper with the results. That may have happened, but I also realize I don’t have the evidence, so I can’t cling to that theory.

Deep Disappointment

My stomach sunk last night, and that sick feeling has lingered throughout the day. I still firmly believe that O is not the right choice for our country. I still strongly disagree with his policy, stance on social issues, foreign policy, economics, and leadership style.

I felt justified in my disapproval today when the DOW dropped over 300 points as a run on the stock market took place. Investors are pulling out their money and they are pulling a lot out very quickly in all areas of commerce except health (think: Obamacare). Here is a CNN article (of all sources) that explains some of the numbers: http://money.cnn.com/2012/11/07/investing/stocks-markets/index.html?hpt=hp_t2_7

Couple this with the fact that he will probably get to appoint at least one Supreme Court Justice during his next term, and a culture that legalized recreational marijuana in my own state (CO) as well as the first approval of same-sex marriage by a popular vote in our nation’s history (in Maine), I worry about the world we will eventually, hopefully, bring children into.

Sadness

I feel sad for our country. And even though, as you know, I am not a supporter of O, my sadness is not over his winning the election. It is over the response of Americans to this. Our nation is so incredibly polarized, I do not see how we will ever get anything worthwhile done. Somehow, after billions of dollars spent, untold campaign hours, deliberations, polls, and elections, we are almost exactly where we started two days ago. We have the same President and Vice. We still have a Republican led House and a Democratic led Senate. Nothing has changed. It’s still a gridlock.

I am stunned by some of the incredibly disgusting and hateful comments made by Democrats in victory. For example, http://twitchy.com/2012/11/07/sarah-palin-dont-lose-heart-conservatives-press-on-left-spews-hate/ Disclaimer, read this cautiously. This blog site pulls tweets from twitter and groups them in trends in response to an issue or incident. These quotes are uncensored, and rather vulgar.  I’m also saddened by the emotional backlash of many “conservatives” in defeat. I don’t have a site like Twitchy with equally disgusting comments from the Right, but I’ve seen vengeful comments on Facebook and Twitter come from the Right as well.  I’m not one to preach “love, love, love” without “Christ, Christ, Christ.” But I’m certainly one to call “foul” on such unbridled hate and loathing.

Looking Forward

What next? I pray I am dead wrong and that I eat my words. I want God to bless America. I hope Obama’s eloquent teleprompter promises for economic growth and better life come true. Yet, I remain skeptical.

How do I respond to this within myself, in faith? I know that God is sovereign and I know that He is good. I know He is jealous for the glory of His name, and He delights in providing for His children. I know He has installed evil tyrants, even over his own people, as well as providing peaceful leaders for times of prosperity. I pray He has mercy on our nation, but I also know the sins of our nation and understand His holy intolerance of our selfish immorality.

I am not one to judge the depths of Obama’s heart, but based on his fruit I doubt he is a Christian. Even so, God has allowed this man to be our President again, and He has His reasons. I need to put my hand over my mouth, be still, and trust in the God I claim to follow.

Even if the worst should happen – if the economy collapses, Christians are marginalized and persecuted, food and power and fuel run short, or our country is invaded or falls – still God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who came as Jesus, is my God.

And this God has commanded that I pray for my enemies and honor my leaders. I pray for Obama’s soul. I pray that God frustrates any of his plans that make a mockery of His law. I pray that God reshapes the man and brings good to His people through him.

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever
Amen.

Initial Reactions to the Election

OK. Initial reactions. I’m sad and disappointed. I’m worried about our future of our country. I’m worried about the kind of world my kids will be born into. But I keep reminding myself, this is no surprise to God. He does know what he is doing. Even if the worst should happen, He is working. He worked through evil men like Pharaoh, Nero, Xerxes… it’s not a stretch to believe he will work through, or in spite of, Obama. I don’t like this, but I have to trust God. Ultimately, my HOPE in moving FORWARD is in Christ alone. The numbers are not official, though they seem inevitable. But even if Obama does officially win this election and is re-sworn into office in January, I have decided I will pray for him but place all my hope and trust in Jesus Christ.

I’ll sleep on this, pray that when I wake  up a miracle will have occurred as the final numbers came in, and post more thoughts in the next few days as I mull over this.

Good night all.

May God bless America, if he sees fit to do so.

Office Space and Leaves of Gold

I have now finished my second full week of full-time work and I can confidently say that I really enjoy my job. Ironic as it is that such an awkward phone conversationist works in a call center, I’m enjoying the challenge of learning a new industry and the stretching of being daily faced with the outer fringes of my comfort zone. That being said, here are the promised pictures of my very own cubicle!

All mine!

Look who’s on my wall!

And switch.

Fall is my favorite season and Colorado is my favorite place in which to enjoy it. While the hubby worked today, I went up into the mountains with my parents to explore the golden aspen groves. I expected sad colors this year since the draught was so awful, but the colors were incredibly brilliant.

We also found an enormous mine and drove up to the American Eagles Overlook above it to play in the monstrous mine truck tires and the abandoned old mining buildings at the top.

It was absolutely gorgeous up there today, the perfect way to spend a Colorado Fall Saturday!