Life Lessons I Learned from a Friend

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Written by Jill Lynn Buteyn

My friend Kara Tippetts was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of thirty-six. She recently flew away to heaven at the very young age of thirty-eight. Typing those words feels surreal. I still can’t quite fathom that she’s gone. But to state her life in two sentences simply does not work. She was instrumental in changing many lives during her battle with cancer and blogged regularly at She became known as Kara Tippetts—the dying woman who wrote the letter to Brittany Maynard. But she was much more than that to those of us blessed to know her in life and the many that followed her words before that 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.buteyn pinterest

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.

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 the co-author of Just Show Up: the Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together, written with the late Kara Tippetts. Buteyn is also the author of Falling for Texas, an inspirational novel, and a recipient of the ACFW Genesis Award for her fiction work. Buteyn lives near the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and two children.

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