Kara Tippetts and her husband, Jason, discuss her ongoing battle with cancer and the impact it's had on their lives, marriage, children and faith. (Part 2 of 2)
Kara Tippetts: And when I found it, I almost immediately knew it was cancer. I almost immediately knew. I just wept. And my daughter saw me crying and I didn't want to startle her, because I was not sure. And she was following me all around the house.
Jim: How old is she?
Kara: She's 12 and she's very intuitive. And tears ... she's like, "Well, mom, what's dripping on your nose?" I thought, "I'm fine; I'm fine," but I could not stop the tears.
End of Recap
John: I can't imagine the tension and the struggle of that moment, finding out that you have cancer and sharing that news with your children, very, very difficult. This is "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and last time we started a very powerful conversation with one couple. They're living faithfully in the midst of a heartbreaking breast cancer diagnosis.
Jim: Kara was only in her mid-30's, John, when she discovered she had cancer and it quickly overtook her whole body, including her brain. She's gone through countless treatments, but she still lives with cancer in her body every day to this day and currently, does not have a time line for how long she will live and be with her husband, Jason and their four young children.
And I'll tell you what. My heart breaks over that, being that kid of a mom who died of cancer. I experienced it firsthand. I know the emotions and my heart breaks for this family. Yet, they have a story to share with us and hopefully, it will grab out hearts and one, to remind us to pray for them, but also to look and reflect on our own lives, to know that each of us, no matter what our diagnosis may be in the future, we only have so many days to live. Nobody escapes this life. Nobody's immortal. And something will come across your path that's gonna rock your boat.
Maybe right now, you're walking a path you don't want to be walking. Maybe it's a health crisis like our guest, Kara. Or maybe it's unemployment or trying to parent a wayward child or a marriage that's crumbling. We're here for you. We have caring Christian counselors on staff to take your call and help you walk through this situation.
John: And Jim, we should note here that in recent days we've had just a flood of calls from hurting families and individuals.
Jim: We have, John and so, the way it'll work. You'll call the ministry here and you'll give the numbers in a minute. And you'll leave your name and number and one of our counselors will call you back to speak with you. And be patient, because there are so many. I think right now we have over 300 people in that queue who need help.
So, thank you to those of you who support us and provide the counseling service. That is such a kind gesture on your part. And for those who haven't supported Focus recently, I hope you will. This is the kind of help right at the front lines that we need to be doing together.
John: Yeah and those counselors, they are great. They love people. They love to bring truth into a situation and the number to call if you'd like to talk with one of them is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. We also have a counseling referral tool that you can find at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .
Now our guests once again, are Kara and Jason Tippetts and Kara has chronicled her story in the book, The Hardest Peace and also on her blog, Mundane Faithfulness. Let's go ahead and hear now that second part of the conversation with our guests on today's "Focus on the Family."
Jim: Have you thought about … I mean, in that way, because again, you don't know what the next few weeks or few months might be like for you. And again, for those joining us, I mean, your body has been riddled with cancer. It seems to be in check, but the doctors are telling you, it's still Stage 4 and--
Jim: --there may not be many tomorrows.
Jim: Is that fair?
Kara: That is fair.
Jim: So, have you thought through how to communicate those things to your kids? About videotaping how to shave your legs.
Kara: Yes, yes.
Jim: How to communicate with them, 'cause I can only say for me, I mean, I can't remember my mom's voice--
Jim: --'cause I had no recording of her.
Jim: Very few pictures of her.
Kara: You know, I think as a mom, after having four kids and a soft belly and not looking like I wanted to look like, because our culture, you know, does that to us, I think I have put myself in front of the camera a lot more now. I was the camera taker, probably so I would not--
Kara: --be in the pictures. And now, Jason picks up the camera and our camera is tired, because (Laughter) we take so many pictures. And the school bought us a video camera and we just wept, because we knew why. And so, people have asked me to make those videos for my kids and I struggle, because that just seems final. And I think when they tell me that there's no other options, I'll start doing that. But on my blog, I'm starting to write letters to my kids in the future. And I might be there and I might not.
Kara: And you know, I 'm gonna write letters to my graduates. And I feel like my blog is my heart, that my kids when they want to hear my voice, will hear it. I'm a writer, and so, they will be able to read these words that will forever be present. And I share my heart very openly in that space. The videos will come, but I'm not ready yet.
Kara: I don't think you are either.
Jim: Let me ask you in regard to the journal that you've referenced. You've mentioned it a couple times.I'd love to hear in your voice, an entry that would illustrate how you're communicating about your journey.
Kara: All right. This is from the post "My Darkest Hours." And often when everybody's asleep, those are the hours I struggle to remember the truths. And I'm often gripped with how young my youngest is and how I really … my greatest heart's desire is for her to have her own memories and not have to inherit them from her brothers and sisters. And each day feels like an answer to that prayer. So, here's the post.
"Every moment given to me feels like a precious gift. In the daylight I live that gift. My children's faces are chapped from too many kisses. Their ribs are sore from fierce hugs. Somehow I feel as though I'm trying to fill a cup so full with love that it will carry my children through a lifetime. But if I'm believing the truth and thinking on Jesus, I know my love is merely an extension of His great abundant reckless love.
"That love transcends me. That is a love that can truly carry my children through whatever they will face. In the night I struggle to remember. In the night I forget about the gain of heaven and I merely long to stay and live Christ. The best thing about Jesus is that He knows. He asked for the cup to be passed from Him. He knows. He longs to hear my tears in the night. And every morning I wake to His new mercies and the sweet faces He has granted me to love. How do you struggle in the night to remember the truth of the Gospel?"
Jim: That is beautiful. I mean it transcends this life.
Jim: And I so appreciate just your heart and the way that you share that. Do you ever ask yourself the "Why me?" question?
Kara: You know, after I got my second diagnosis, I actually think it was after I found out it was in my brain, I turned to Jason and I said, "Anger feels easy. But sadness feels like the journey we're called to." And it felt like a choice. And so, Jason and I have just been fighting to be sad instead of angry. And I feel like God has been faithful to us in that. It's hard to be sad. It's hard. But I don't want to be angry.
Jim: Jason, how about for you again, as the husband, the why question, why us? Do you ever grapple with that?
Jason: Yeah, at some point in the beginning, I probably did a little more. I feel like, as we've walked through this, as I read the Bible, I see that God is sovereign over everything. And so, in one sense, I think asking that "why me?" and being angry, I'm really confronted with God's sovereign. And I think, just being reminded of that's who God is. And you read through the Bible and the Bible is full of people that suffer and they're broken. And what does God do? He restores them. He gives them peace. He walks with them in the midst of that.
So, I mean, just as Kara said, I'd rather be able to be sad and broken and be continually reminded that God is the One Who is sovereign. And my anger is not gonna accomplish anything. And I think at the root between sadness and anger, you know, it's mostly softness. I think if you're angry, your heart tends to become more hard.
Where sadness, I just feel a little more broken and I'm okay with that. 'Cause I see in the midst of that brokenness, that God meets me there. And I do have a lot of peace. And I think the other thing that I'm reassured in and this is something you mentioned about if we really understood what heaven was like more, we'd have a different view of earth and our time here.
One of the phrases in the New Testament that sticks out to me is, our union with Christ. And here's this amazing union with Christ that is unbreakable in death. And so, our faith in Christ is, He seals us as His children. As we die, it's unbreakable. It just becomes more and more real, which makes me think more about my present life, am I really, really trusting in that?
Jim: That is well-said. You know, you should be a pastor. (Laughter) I like that. I like that. You know, it again, it feels to me, even though we're talking about these deep difficult situations that you're walking through, it feels like holy ground.
Jim: Isn't that interesting, that we could talk about tips on marriage and--
Jim: --how to raise your kids, it's a different feel, isn't it, John?
Jim: It just feels like we're in the presence of the Lord here. There's something so profound about brokenness with Him. It's as if the Holy Spirit is looking for that human heart that is broken--
Jim: --because He can do so much with it.
Jim: And I love that Scripture says, He's close to the brokenhearted--
Jim: --and saves those crushed in spirit.
Jason and Kara: Uh-hm.
Jim: What does that mean? It means the pride is knocked out of ya.
Jason and Kara: Yeah.
Jim: We are walkin' at this level. There's no more pride. It's just, can I live another day?
Jim: And the Lord seems to respond to that. The woman with the issue of blood, she just wanted to touch His hem. And maybe if I do that, I'll be healed, to wake up in the morning thinkin' about that, that if I somehow if I could just reach out and touch the Lord in a certain way, He would turn to me? Or do you--
Kara: Yeah, we have.
Jim: - -feel Him turning to you--
Kara: He already has.
Jim: --every day?
Kara: I came to Christ late in life. I went from a life of anger and bitterness to just this amazing freedom in knowing Jesus and knowing grace. And that was my healing.
Kara: You know, May 4th--
Jim: So you did …
Kara: --1994 was--
Jim: You didn't need--
Kara: --the day.
Jim: --a miracle to know God loves you.
Kara: No, that was it. That was that moment.
Jim: That's powerful.
Kara: That was that moment. And I feel in this cancer He said, "Kara, glorify Me in it." And I'm fighting to. But not in my own strength, because that would just stink of fake and everybody would know.
Kara: But in His grace, He's given me a story. And two weeks ago I led a high school friend to the Lord--
Kara: --who had lost her husband after Thanksgiving in a motorcycle accident. She wrote me, "What is this peace you write of?" And that's the healing. That's the healing. That's the redemption and one day I will have actually healing and be in the presence of the Lord.
Jim: Well, and again, if you think about that spiritual family tree--
Jim: --your testimony, leading at least one and I'm sure many, many others, like my mother to the Lord, to a point of repentance and acceptance. As you said, Jason. It's a beautiful thing and I think we're gonna see that on the other side--
Jim: --that this--
Kara: --I pray so.
Jim: --brought them this life was for one purpose, to accept Jesus Christ as Lord--
Jim: --so that you have eternal life.
Kara: And that's the healing.
Jim: That's good.
Kara: I mean, sure I would love to be healed of cancer. Sure, I would love to be here more days. But I have today. I have today and our call is to be faithful today.
Jim: Kara, we're talking right now to people, women--
Jim: --who are in a desperate spot, for whatever reason. You can fill in the description.
Jim: It may be cancer. It may be something entirely different, but it's as if the enemy of their soul has 'em by the ankle and won't let go and is trying to pull them into that hole of desperation--
Jim: --depression, anxiety, whatever it may be. What would you say to her?
Kara: I would say, the darkness that you're living in, the deep darkness, you need the light of Christ to shine on it. And we are such weak vessels that we need people to help us shine the light on it. And the power of community is that you need to find a safe place to share your ugly, your hard, your heartache. And you need first to go to the Lord and just talk to Him. He wants to hear our hearts. But we need brothers and sisters around us that are safe, that can help shine the light in the darkness we're living in.
There are times I'm consumed by my own darkness, some of it intensely. I talked about the heart of sin that can come into that is this over-focus on yourself. And that doesn't please God. And so, I need my sisters. I need Jason to remind me of "God with me," Immanuel. And I need to be able to say out loud the embarrassing things; we get our minds on a loop of lies. And we go to bed hearing them. I'm a failure. I was a terrible mom today. you know, I overate today. Women, we have a loop that we play. And we need to say it out loud and put the light of the Gospel on it--
Kara: -- to shine on the darkness or else it stays dark. And that darkness is a very lonely place.
Jim: It is lonely. Jason, as a husband, I mean there are husbands that are seeing their wives struggle. What would you say to them? What do they need to do to be the steadfast helpmate of a husband in that situation?
Jason: I think at least in our situation, I would encourage them just to take time with their wives and figure out how do you love your wife in the midst of that. I don't know if there's a …
Kara: Your gift has been gentleness towards me. I think you have walked and I think that's what most women want, is just a gentle shepherding. And you particularly towards me are so servant-hearted. You know, he was asked for a year to be mom and dad in my absence. And he didn't begrudge that. It was hard. But you gave beyond your ability to give.
Jim: Oh. Jason, let me ask you this. It may be a big bold, so I apologize, but I think it has the potential to help people.
Jim: When in your situation, I'm sure you think about that time that might come--
Jim: --where Kara is not with you and you're in a different spot that way, 'cause you've got the four kids and--
Jim: --do you let your mind wander into that? Or do you think about it? Do the two of you talk about it? I mean, that you may be in some ways, given our faith in Christ, you're in, in some ways, a more difficult position.
Kara: Oh, I think he absolutely is, yes. I think watching someone you love suffer, I think is a lot harder than actually suffering.
Jim: Oh. I mean it's hard to understand that, but I think there's merit to it.
Jason: Uh-hm. You know, that's something Kara and I have talked about. I don't like to talk about it.
Jim: I can see it.
Jason: But I think you're right. It's a real thing. At our age, it's not something that you usually talk about. And so, I've gotten more used to smaller conversations about it and talking through, you know, how can I love our kids in that and communicate with them? Kara's very good about when I get impatient with our kids, that you know, can have a conversation what … her wanting to see that transformed in me, which is a good thing, 'cause I do need to be more patient with our kids. So, yeah, it's not something I like to talk about.
Kara: You're plagued with fear of the moment you have to tell the kids I'm gone.
Jason: It …
Kara: That's the hardest part for him, that moment. (Weeping) We know grace will be there.
Kara: We know it'll be there.
Jason: Yeah. Yeah, I think for me, my worst fear in this is (Weeping) coming, you know, when Kara does die, or having to communicate that to our kids. But then also, like coming home afterward the funeral and how do you live life when the person you want to process the hardest thing in your life with is not there?
Jason: So, for me, that is my greatest fear and concern and as we talk about it, it's helpful. But then I also need to remember that Christ is enough. And in that moment, Christ'll be enough.
Jim: It is that that tough balance between instilling in your children the fact that Christ is enough and He is real and mom is now with Him.
Jim: There's almost this paradox of celebration, yet mourning, which is again, so much in Scripture, isn't it?
Jim: But I could tell you, I mean, that day as a 9-year-old boy, I can remember smells, I can remember colors. I can remember everything about that day, even though it was so many decades ago. But when we--
Jim: --got back from the funeral of my mom, that's when my stepdad stepped out and said, "I'm leaving" and just walked out the door.
Jim: So, we didn't have (Emotion) that steady hand of a father to say, "I'm still here with you."
Kara: I'm sorry, Jim.
Jim: And that'll be a huge difference for your kids.
Jim: Powerful for them to see the love of their dad for their mom and to have that memory. That's a good thing.
Kara: I think the thing I've learned about future fears that we both have--
Kara: --I have a huge fear of having a long end and having not, for me personally, but for the people I love having to watch it. Cancer can be a beast like that. But the thing, when you think in your future like Jason is, or that I do, when you think in the future of God's daily grace isn't there, you only see yourself.
Kara: And so, we have to fight all that future thinking, because I know that I know that I know, on that day, His grace is gonna be very abundant. And you know, there was one day I couldn't be at church, 'cause I had a surgery. And Jason looked and saw the kids on the pew without me and just wept. Because those future fears can grab us and steal all of our peace. And I think that's the real enemy of our hearts. So, I think part of Jason doesn't want to talk about it. It hurts.
Kara: And I know that grace will be there. And I'm feeling those in my life right now, praying those future prayers, because my prayers will meet them. They will be there. My prayers today have entered eternity. And so, my prayers for godly husbands and a wife for my son, those are gonna keep going forever. And uh …
Jim: And those memories will be so strong. I mean, just hugging your kids.
Jim: They'll remember that hug and that day for the rest of their lives. Thank you for being with us.
Kara: Thank you for having us.
Jason: Thank you.
Kara: It's a privilege.
John: Well, what a powerful time with our guests, Jason and Kara Tippetts on today's "Focus on the Family."
Jim: John, I've been reminded so much that God does not promise us an easy life. I have felt that. I have experienced that. But He is faithful to give us strength in the moment for whatever we're facing. And I have experienced that.
And if you're walking through a hard season, give us a call here at Focus on the Family and ask to speak with one of our counselors. They're here to come alongside you and to provide that hope, uh ... to refer you to the Scriptures and those Scriptures that are applicable to you and what you're going through.
I want to turn and say thank you to those of you who have joined our team by praying for us and supporting the ministry. You are impacting people's lives and I hope you hear that today. Let me share one comment we received from a mom on how "Focus on the Family" met her at her point of need.
She wrote, "We had a death in our family. Our firstborn passed away and Focus on the Family really reached out and ministered to us through that experience. And that was really meaningful for us. A Focus counselor heard about our story and called us, just asking if there was anything that they could do and prayed for us. And then they send us some materials that we could use through our grieving process. It really meant a lot to us during that difficult season." John, that's what the Christian life is about. We are people of hope, not despair.
Jim: We're a people that turn toward God in our moment of need, not away from God. We want to embrace those that are turning away from God in that critical moment, to point them in a better direction emotionally and spiritually. It is much better to live this life knowing Christ, than not knowing Him. And I hope and pray that if you need us, call us. And if you're in a good place, help support the ministry and I'll leave it at that.
Closing Voice Track:
John: And either way, we'd count it a privilege to hear from you today, either to ask for help or to contribute to the work we do around the world or perhaps to get a copy of Kara's book, The Hardest Peace and also a CD or download of this conversation. And we'll encourage you to do that today. Call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; Now that book beautifully captures some of the points that have been shared in these past couple of days from Jason and Kara, about how God has met this family at their point of need. And it'll give you some perspectives about walking through trials in life, regardless of what you might be dealing with today. It might be a family member, it might be your marriage, it might be a child who is really struggling. God will meet you at that point and this book, The Hardest Peace will offer insight and reflection. You can get a copy of the book when you make a donation to Focus on the Family today of any amount. We'll send that to you as our way of saying thank you and encouraging you in your walk with God. You can donate when you call or at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time. We'll hear from Dr. Michael Youssef, as he shares a scriptural plan for growth, blessing, protection and guidance for your family, next time, as we once again, help your family thrive in Christ.
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Kara TippettsView Bio
Kara Tippetts was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36. She continues to battle that cancer two years later as it has crossed the blood/brain barrier and has metastasized into her entire body. Kara has authored a book based on her experiences, The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life's Hard. She and her husband, Jason, have four children and reside in Colorado. Learn more about Kara by visiting her blog, www.MundaneFaithfulness.com.
Jason TippettsView Bio
Jason Tippetts and his wife, Kara, are currently planting a church in Colorado Springs, Colo. Jason is fighting alongside Kara as she battles cancer that has metastasized into her entire body. The couple has four children.