Overdue appreciation

On Karis’ birthday this year (May 5), our talented friend Meredith Dobson presented to us four amazing works of art, created from Karis’ clothes. Meredith is a quilter, and used her skills and artistic vision to bless each of us (Dave & me, Dan, Rachel, and Valerie) with this precious gift. Here they are:

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Each one is different, but they feature themes like Karis’ love of trees and flowers and Brazil and Notre Dame. Each one has a picture of Karis printed on cloth and incorporated into the design (on Dan’s, a pic with him and Karis, on Rachel’s, pics with her and Karis, etc.). They are priceless! When you come to any of our homes, you can see them close up.

In the first picture above, you see us all wearing our Pantanal shirts, in memory of the part of Brazil that Karis loved so much she wanted her ashes scattered there. Since only Dave and I were able to fulfill that request for her, we are saving our pennies for a family visit to the Pantanal in 2017 (God willing).

Thank you, Meredith, for investing your time and artistry into our family in such a beautiful and significant way!

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June 19, 2015 Happy Birthday, Steve!

25 years ago today, our family arrived in São Paulo, Brazil to begin our missionary adventure. Our three girls (Karis age 7, Rachel 5, and Valerie 2) were recovering from chicken pox, caught two weeks before from their brother Danny (age 8–turning 9 in July). Despite warm weather flying out from Miami, I had made the girls wear long pants and long sleeve shirts, afraid that Brazilian immigration officials would not welcome us into their country covered with spots! I’ll never forget the fascination of our first glimpse of São Paulo from the air–the city seemed to go on forever (it still does!).


For the first month, while we searched for own place to live, we stayed in the small apartment of a single missionary who was out of town. Bored one day, while I thought they were napping, the kids decorated our yet-unmet-colleague’s bedroom walls with crayons.

Exactly one month later we moved into an apartment of our own, around the corner from our mission’s office. This seemed like a good idea until school started in August, when we discovered what it was like for the kids to take a bus to their school, Pan American Christian Academy (PACA). They left home at 6:45 am and didn’t get back until 4:30. It was too long a day, in my opinion, for children that young. There was just time for homework, supper, baths, and bed–no time to play, to explore their brand new city environment, to just be family. I started looking for a home close to their school.

Those were days of out-of-control inflation in Brazil, and for the first time in our married lives, Dave and I had trouble making our ends meet financially. Appalled by the cost of renting, and expecting to live in São Paulo the rest of our lives, I wanted to buy a home. Our realtor simply did not believe that Americans could have the limited amount of money we had to work with, and showed me homes way beyond our price range. When I complained, he showed me tiny houses and apartments that made me claustrophobic just to walk through. I didn’t want an apartment; I wanted a house, on a street with neighbors. In our apartment building, despite many efforts to make friends we hardly saw anyone. Everyone worked, the children off at day cares or schools, and disappeared behind closed doors as soon as they got home.

Finally I told the realtor, “Don’t call me again until you’ve found a house we can afford, with space for our family and for hospitality, within a mile of PACA.” He told me such a house did not exist, and for several months that was the end of our house search–but not the end of our praying. Rachel could not handle the stops and starts and bumps and turns and fumes of the daily bus ride–she threw up on the bus every day, not a great introduction to the intimidating new world of kindergarten. When Karis had health or ileostomy issues at school, I was too far away to help. Older boys on the bus teased Danny for not speaking Portuguese and threw his things–even his shoes–out the window. The kids didn’t have enough margin for living, just for surviving. “Lord, help us! Please give us a house near PACA!”

One day it happened. Our realtor called me, saying “I found your house. But it’s not a house–it’s a palace!” Indeed, though simple, this house was spacious, and was selling for exactly the amount of money we could spend. It was a ten-minute walk from PACA. We moved in one year after arriving in Brazil, on June 19, 1991 (exactly 24 years ago today). Our new home was on a street just one block long, going down a hill from a very busy avenue toward the represa (one of the city’s reservoirs). From Danny’s upstairs window the represa looked like a lake, with a green area around it–a welcome reprieve from buildings and concrete.

Dad with our girls and neighbors in Brazil

In front of our house (on the left), our girls with PopPop Kornfield and some neighbors in 1999. You can see a bit of the represa in the middle distance. Our kids grew up playing in the street, running in and out of neighbors’ homes, and having long conversations on our front steps. In the violent city of São Paulo, such freedom was a true gift. 

Many people tried to dissuade us from living in a house, for fear of robberies. And in fact, almost every one of our neighbors’ homes were broken into during our time there. One would expect that we “rich Americans” would be an obvious target. I believe that God’s angels protected us: through all of the years that we lived in that house, only once was it broken into–and that happened the first Sunday after we moved in. When we came home from church, we found our house swarming with neighbors! The back roof had caught fire from a falling hot air balloon (traditionally launched as part of “Festas Juninas” celebrations during the month of June). Neighbors saw it and called the fire department, but were able to break in and quench the fire before the fire truck got there. We bought ice cream for everyone and became instant friends with our new neighborhood!

Our car viewed from our garage

From inside looking out at the water rushing down the street, a common sight during the hot rainy season, October-March.

God gave Karis the gift of mostly good health for our first two years in Brazil, the years of adjustment to a new (mega)city and culture and language and school and neighborhood and friends and churches. When Karis started getting seriously sick again at age 9-10, she already had a strong support system around her.

Neighborhood Christmas at our house

A neighborhood Christmas party in our living room, an annual tradition.

Neighbor boys, Val, Deb and puzzle

“We did it!” Val and I with friends in our dining room.

Teens from our church at our house

On Karis’ 15th birthday, teens filled our house with music and laughter, even spilling up the stairs.

Karis 15

Karis hadn’t been well enough to grow in height for some time, but her 15 years were full of wonderful experiences and friendships, deeply enriched by living in Brazil.

For all of your bounty and blessings, Lord, we thank you.

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May 18, 2015 from Rachel

Fifteen months, thirteen days.  That’s how long its been since Karis’ death.  Its strange struggling through the ever-changing landscape of grief.  As time goes by, it is easier, slowly, to remember the good moments, to appreciate the positive.  At the same time, I know there are depths of struggle I haven’t even touched related especially to her last few years when her body and mind were so frail.  I considered reading back through her blog this afternoon, and knew I wasn’t ready to walk again through the details of the many difficulties of those years.
Yesterday at church, a friend mentioned something about Karis.  I don’t know what look I got on my face, but she quickly apologized, saying she saw that she had “side swiped me.”  I couldn’t find the words at the time to tell her how much I appreciated hearing that Karis was remembered so warmly by people outside of our immediate family, that someone else had recently stopped by the place where her ashes are kept in the nave at Church of the Ascension, and had a conversation with her, and remembered, and missed her.  I hope that friend sees this post.
The emotions are complex, and under a thin (but growing) skin-covering, still raw.  Yet I see good in this that I did not see three months ago.  I read the first few pages of the book “The Applause of Heaven,” by Max Lucado this morning and was deeply struck.  The book tells stories of people living out amazing joy in the midst of great physical limitations and pain.  I was reminded of Karis, and of my Mom.  I was reminded that joy is available to me, in the midst of grief, in the midst of the various small and large challenges of life, if I am willing to let go of bitterness and open my arms, and embrace it.
Thank you, Lord, for the examples of Karis and my Mom that show me, even now, that a life of joy is not out of reach, no matter the circumstances.  Help me to keep my arms wide open.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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April 5, 2015 He is risen! Alleluia!

I’ve been reading through some of Karis’ journals, and found this on the Monday of Holy Week (written in May 1999, when she had just turned 16).

What now?  The question echoes.  And I, almost constantly in pain, always hungry, sometimes too weak to get out of bed, I have no answer.  Why?  And there is no answer.  I haven’t been well enough to go to school in a week.  Lord, I am like a fading flower.  I am losing even my will to go on, to do things.  Sometimes it hurts so much I scream—but worse than the pain is the lethargy, with nothing to do or say . . . Too tired to bother doing or saying.  I feel as if I were floating away, melting like the witch in the Wizard of Oz.  I hate the feeling of living only for myself, worrying just about my health.  I don’t understand what is happening to me and have no assurance it will ever end.  Lord, you know me and my needs much better than I do.  I know that you love me and would not let this happen for nothing.  I do not ask for tomorrow, but for my daily bread: what to do, now, to glorify you in this prison of mine?  Such a strange one, that is at the same time a part of me and my enemy.

I’ve been poked with needles until my arms are literally black and blue and red.  I thought last night as they poked me again, “What must it have been like for Jesus, not to be pierced by loving nurses and these tiny sharp needles, but rather the soldiers, the nails . . .”  I remember Christ and find not the strength not to complain but rather that there is nothing to complain about.

Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels,

and let your trumpets shout Salvation

for the victory of our mighty King.

Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,

bright with a glorious splendor,

for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.

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Living Water Reflections

Every year Karis said, “I’m giving up the hospital for Lent.” Once or twice she actually succeeded!

In keeping with her interest in Plant with Purpose, I want to share with you a different sort of Lenten reflections, from World Vision.  This is a share from Google Drive, so I hope it works for you.  If not, try the link below it.



Please pray for our transplant friends Crysta and Ashley, both hospitalized with challenges.  Thanks so much!

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To see the links from the previous post, enter the site: kariskornfield.wordpress.com

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Bless the Lord, oh my soul

As I watched Karis’ memorial service this morning, I felt such deep gratitude to each of you who came and celebrated her life with us, and to each one who participated in the music, the speaking, preparing the reception . . . we were surrounded by love and grace.  Thank you.

Here are the links:

Full service:  

Words only:  

Music only:


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