This book was really interesting as well as a little hard for me to read... but possibly for one of the most selfish, self-centered reasons that I would be willing to admit to. Sitting there taking in page after page of wisdom and faithfulness from a women who faced a battle much greater than any or all issues I face in my own life... yet she does so with such vulnerability and brokenness... I kept having to stop myself from listening to the self-condemning voice asking me, "what is your problem?!" in order to keep reading.
Kara's story, however, is beautifully written. Sharing both the good and the hard with such elegance, that as a reader I couldn't help but want to champion her on and believe for her healing, since the world needs more people like her (unfortunately, through the wonders of google, I discovered Kara passed away last year in March). I also felt the sweetness of a mother, the caring heart of a mentor, the wisdom of someone who has been schooled by the game of life, in her words and for those reasons I couldn't help but keep pressing forward.
From the beginning of the book and right through to the end where Kara lists page after page of 'thank you's" to those people who have made her life's community, I found myself drawn to this idea of unconditional love and acceptance even in our brokenness. She shares of her conversion to faith and the youth pastor who opened her eyes to the gospel, showing her that "his weakness was his strength, and there was love to be known in brokenness". She goes on to say, "He was inviting me to open wide my hands and admit my fault, make things right, love honestly, and be loved in return. Loved not for how I performed but for who I was, exactly where I was...". Then she followed it up with a Brennan Manning quote from the Ragamuffin Gospel that "To be alive is to be broken. And to be broken is to stand in need of grace. Honesty keeps us in touch with our neediness and the truth that we are saved sinners. There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are".
Then there is the theme that maybe our struggles are God's blessings in disguise (as the Laura Story song goes). Kara questions, "what if our journey was intimately planned to be hard, and that story is the good story? What if the glow of prosperity isn't a glow at all but a unique stink? What if suffering isn't to be avoided but received and embraced?". That's such a hard truth to try to come to grasps with... especially someone who is suffering in some way. And yet here's the author, right in the midst of struggle saying she is "fighting to believe in the goodness of our story that seemed anything but good". She follows that thought up with a quote from Nancy Guthrie's book Holding on to Hope that, "Trusting God when the miracle does not come, when the urgent prayer gets no answer, when there is only darkness... this is the kind of faith God values perhaps most of all. This is the kind of faith that can be developed and displayed only in the midst of difficult circumstances. This is the kind of faith that cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken". And is that not the kind of faith we all want to cultivate...
One of the last things Kara shares in her book (before all the touching letters she leaves for her husband and children, and then her husband for all) is a heart-wrenching moment between her and one of her younger daughters who is struggling to cope with the reality that her mom may not be around until she is old and gray. The two have this sacred moment together, one that I would take away from if I tried to re-share it here (so you'll just have to read the book and get to it for yourself) and in the end, Kara concludes that even "if the hardest is asked of us, we believe grace will be there". Just let that soak in for a moment....here's a women who has every reason to be angry and upset and frustrated (not to say she doesn't feel those things)... and yet in the midst of cancer and facing death she has the confidence to say "Grace... will... be... there". Powerful.
It seems weird to now say whether or not I would recommend this book to anyone... cause honestly, it seems like much more than a book, it's a life... and how can you put your own judgment on someone else's writing of their life. It just doesn't seem right. But for those of you interested in hearing more of this story or hearing more from this woman who still has so much to teach us from the words she left behind, check out this book and also check out her blog (mundane faithfulness).