When Kari Jobe discovered she was pregnant with her son, she was thrilled to share the experience with her sister, Kris, who was already pregnant.
“It was like a dream to be pregnant along with my sister. We were having so much fun,” said Kari.
But the dream was over when, at almost eight months pregnant, Kris gave birth to a stillborn daughter. They named her James Ivy.
Kari Jobe‘s entire family was devastated. Things that so recently seemed mundane were now fast pain triggers. Like in Target, when Kari and Kris passed by the girls’ clothes they had hardly noticed before. They couldn’t walk far in a mall without seeing more girls’ things.
“Everywhere Kris went, she would be reminded that she wasn’t going to have her little girl,” Kari says with a catch in her voice.
Kari didn’t know how to mourn the loss of her niece while celebrating the coming of her son. Bittersweet isn’t even the right word; Kari couldn’t understand why God would allow her to be pregnant at the same time her sister was going through such a horrendous loss.
Kari and her husband, Cody, had to choose to find joy in Kari’s pregnancy. They bought a plaque with the word “celebrate” announced in bold letters to remind them every day to be fully present in their own season.
Kari and Kris grew even closer during this time.
“My sister was amazing,” says Kari. “She helped me celebrate despite the fact that she was in so much pain.” Kris would call to check in on Kari and the baby and share her excitement to meet him.
Kari says her sister taught her about God and faith through the tragedy.
“You know,” Kari told Kris. “It’s okay to tell God that you’re angry with him and be honest about how you’re feeling.”
But Kris stopped Kari mid-sentence.
“Oh, Kari, I’m not angry with God.” Kris explained she knew James Ivy was with Him, and God was still faithful and good.
After dropping Kris off, Kari sat alone in her car and wept.
“I realized that I was processing anger with God,” said Kari. “I was processing disappointment.”
In her prayers, Kari was straightforward with God about how she was feeling and found comfort in how she could be honest with Him.
Ivy in the Garden
You can’t schedule grief. Her songwriting sessions for her new album, “The Garden,” were already booked. She walked into the sessions with her collaborators and wrote from what she was feeling in that season. Songwriting was a way for Kari to process her grief mingled with joy.
“I wanted to write an album for my sister. I wanted to write songs to give life. I wanted to sing hope.”
Kari wanted to give people the hope she had been given shortly before her son was born.
Kari and Cody had just bought their home outside of Nashville, Tennessee. There was a garden on the property, but when they moved in, it was dead and dull. Their landscaper recommended waiting until spring to see what bloomed before deciding what to do with it.
In the meantime—amid pregnancies, a loss, a birth, sorrow and joy—they had forgotten all about the garden.
On one particularly difficult day, Kari was suddenly reminded of the garden again. Holding her newborn son, Canyon, she looked out into the backyard. And her eyes grew wide when she realized what she was seeing.
The garden had bloomed overnight.
“There was ivy everywhere. It was so green and lush,” said Kari.
Ivy is a resilient plant with deep roots. Even when you try to tear it out, it grows back.
Kari wept again, but not for sorrow.
“I realized someone had to plant all of this years ago for it to bring me such life now,” said Kari. “It was this beautiful picture of how God goes before us and knows everything we will need the very moment we will need it.”
It was no coincidence Kris and her husband had named their daughter James Ivy at the same time Kari and Cody bought a home with so much ivy growing in the backyard.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned through the experience is how intricately involved God is in our lives,” Kari explains.
God meets us in our stories—in the Garden and the cemeteries—and that’s the hope Kari shares in her album “The Garden.” The hope she found in her garden.
“It will be a really sweet experience, especially for people who are in a really hard place,” says Kari. “They can come and experience these songs bringing life to them.”