Kindred Spirits: Justine

Not much about my relationship with Kara is unique from my other friendships (although she is the reason I now drink coffee J). I have many friends who encourage my heart, make me laugh till my cheeks hurt, and walk hards with grace. Their kids, just like Kara’s, are constantly in and out of our house, and I love it. But with Kara... I had never started a friendship with someone who was dying. And cancer... Cancer makes all normal and mundane things about love unique.

When I was new believer, my rough edges and stone walls constantly hurt those I loved most. Just before meeting Kara, God painfully closed doors in my life, which left me brokenhearted but also softened some of those sharp edges. My sister pointed out that without all that hard refining, I wouldn't have the community I have now. I wouldn't have ever called Kara friend. And my kids and I wouldn't have the sweet bond that we have with the Tippetts kids. I can see how God used other losses and aches in my life to prepare my heart to walk more faithfully and joyfully the deeper cuts that were to come along.

Kara and I met because we shared close friends who graciously included me in their get-togethers with Kara. When she was diagnosed with cancer, my place wasn't to necessarily support Kara, but to be the support to my dear friends who were her support.

Slowly though, Kara started to fold me into this community of beautiful friends. Even in all she faced, Kara constantly encouraged me to fight for a soft heart and move closer to my kids in kindness. She loved my kids and we were both thankful for the blossoming friendship between all our babies. As I started helping with the Tippetts kids, my people who weren't connected to Kara stepped up to now support and lift me up. I became a support to Kara and they became my support! Godly, authentic community is one of the most incredible things I've ever witnessed.

One of the many things I loved about and learned from Kara was what it looked like to be sensitive but not easily offended. I can relate to her in being that type of person too. But when our friendship started, I was constantly afraid of offending. My rough edges had done this often without my intending to hurt the other person. She was kind and gentle with me, talking me through it all, and as Kara always did, she asked good questions as to why I felt I had to walk on eggshells. She gave me the freedom to know that unless she came to me, I had not offended her. And I knew that even if I did offend her, she was committed to reconciliation because she loved me. She also asked that I not give her a pass just because she had cancer, that I come to her if she had offended me. She beautifully lived out Matthew 18, and it spoke volumes to my heart, showing me how God taught her to love well.

Someone once asked me if, in watching Kara’s fight, I struggled with believing God was still good and sovereign. I said, “No; not only did God give my heart peace that He is still good, but He gave Kara that same assurance.” Each text that came with shattering news of more cancer, the nearness to God was both our goods. And yes, I sometimes feel my heart has shattered into a million pieces that can't be picked back up, but Jesus meets me there and collects the pieces and my tears. Some days searching for grace is harder than others, but as Kara said, “Grace always shows up.”

I keep coming back to this quote by Paul Tripp: “Be careful how you make sense of your life. What looks like a disaster may in fact be grace. What looks like the end may be the beginning. What looks hopeless may be God's instrument to give you real and lasting hope. Your Father is committed to taking what seems so bad and turning it into something that is very, very good.” God did just that. With His Son, He purposed something so bad to bring about the best good! I know He has a good and perfect plan in the death of my dear friend too.

Kara gave me a card the month she died and ended it with this: “Your story next to mine makes my heart sing in pride that I know someone like you. I love you friend!” My heart will continue that song...the song of thankfulness to our God, who wove our stories together in just the right ways, at just the right time.