Kara Tippetts was instrumental in changing many lives during her battle with cancer. She became known as the dying woman who wrote a letter to Brittany Maynard. But she was much more than a letter. Kara had the gift of creating community and beautiful friendships. She wove people together and made it look easy. She believed in loving big, in pulling more people in even when she was weary and tired and fighting cancer. She was wise, often able to pinpoint a solution or speak into a problem without judgement. Throughout the time I knew her, she spoke into my life and the lives of thousands of others. Here’s a few things I learned from her that I’ll always hold close.
Kindness matters. “Love is kind” is scrawled on a chalkboard in my kitchen. It’s my reminder that when I’m at my end, when I’m weary and exhausted as a mother, wife, even just as a person, that how I act toward others in those moments are not excused. I’m not saying I never fail at this. Just that I strive to be kind even when I don’t feel kind. I’m learning to listen to my kids, to take the extra moment to explain why. Again, I’m so not perfect in this area, but Kara greatly impacted how I think about parenting and how I act toward others.
Love big. Kara often talked about big love. Recently, someone asked me, what exactly does this mean? I would say it means letting other people into our lives, our homes, even our hard. I easily come to the end of myself—my limits. But loving big is extending beyond what we feel capable of in loving others. Leaning into God and the love he has for us and our people. This doesn’t mean you have to start spouting your innermost secrets to the next person you see. But you can move toward people, grow relationships, and find some havens for your heart while in turn being that for someone else.
When fighting anxiety or fear, go to the worst case scenario. When I’m overcome by fear and anxiety, logic flees. My mind runs ahead, coming up with all kinds of scenarios. Sometimes pretty crazy ones. Kara and I were talking about this once. She told me she liked to go straight to the worst case scenario. Name it: what is the worst thing that could happen? Go all the way there. To the scariest of the scary. Sometimes just naming it takes away some of its power. Then ask yourself, would God be with me through that? Every time, I find the answer is yes. It doesn’t always make the fear vanish, but it helps me realize I’ve been running ahead, assuming God wouldn’t be present when that is nowhere near the truth. Just knowing he would be with me, no matter the trial, is such a relief.
Laugh often. Kara was great at laughing—whether it was at herself, with us, or even at our mistakes. (This was waaay better than crying when we said something wrong.) She never ceased to surprise me in terms of her humor. I often wondered what I would do if our roles were reversed. Would I still keep my sense of humor? I can’t imagine not, but at the same time, I remember thinking about how she had the right to crawl into a hole. To stop smiling and laughing. But she kept her wit and humor throughout her cancer fight.
Be selfless. It’s kind of a crazy thing to write, but it’s so amazingly important. I find myself using the word selfless to describe Kara many days. She met us in our personalities. She did not ask us for things that were way out of our comfort zones. She knew our schedules and our gifts. She still cared. In the midst of fighting cancer, in the midst of pain and suffering, she still loved the people around her. It was really beautiful to witness. She put others first in a world where that’s a foreign concept. And she shined at it.
Most days, one, if not all of these life lessons cross my mind. Kara was a great example of doing what she preached. How easily she could have hidden in a dark hole as her earthly life was slipping away. But she didn’t. She continued to point others to Jesus, to kindness and love and grace until the last days of her life. And because she obeyed, we’re blessed to have her words and her wisdom with us still.
Jill Lynn Buteyn is a co-author of Just Show Up with Kara Tippetts, and the author of the inspirational romance novel, Falling for Texas (as Jill Lynn). She is a guest contributor at MundaneFaithfulness.com and can also be found online at Jill-Lynn.com.