Just yesterday, I found myself so desperately missing the wisdom of Kara Tippetts that I circled round to one of her videos, choked up over the brave grace and profound truth that only Kara could share. I needed Kara words: “Suffering isn’t a mistake and isn’t the absence of God’s goodness — because He’s present in pain.”
And then, in His serendipitous grace, Kara’s friend, Jill unexpectedly showed up in my inbox with a note — there were more Kara words: words that her and Kara wrote together: Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together. Three years ago, Jill had met a new mother at her child’s school by the name of Kara Tippetts. Kara and her husband had moved to Colorado to plant a church, but just six months after arriving, Kara was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of thirty-six. She fought valiantly against the disease, her community rallying around her. She loudly proclaimed that God was still good in the midst of suffering, impacting so many through her award-winning bestseller, The Hardest Peace, and her blog. Kara and Jill dreamed of writing a book together that would take some of the mystery out of waking through suffering with one another. But while that dream was born, Kara’s cancer continued to spread. They wrote Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together while Kara was in hospice, being vulnerable about the heartbreak when God’s answers are not as we hoped they would be. Kara won her battle with cancer on March 22nd of this year, when she flew to meet her Jesus face-to-face. Kara was a soul sister — and a whole world of us hunger for more of Kara and the insights her story gave her — which she generously shared with the rest of us limpers, so we could write better stories. I miss her terribly — and it’s a wild grace to welcome Jill Buteyn to the farm’s front porch today…
Thirty-eight year old mamas with four kids don’t die.
That’s not how cancer works.
We have too many ways to treat it. Fix it. And we have a great God.
I know He’s listening.
He’s listening to all of the voices that rise up and pray, please heal. Please save. Please.
And yet, He doesn’t.
Or does He? Isn’t it being saved to live forever in heaven? To sing and dance among the heavenly realms?
A dear woman reads these words to me:
“To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father.
I will also give that one the morning star. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelations 2:26-29
“The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelations 3:5-6
Kara conquered, she reminds me. Kara was victorious.
And so I wonder over the next days… is Kara ruling over something?
She would like that.
The thought makes me smile and imagine all of the things I don’t understand.
Kara would be a wise and gentle ruler. Full of grace yet still disciplining. Yes, I think. Maybe she is in charge of someone or something up there.
Thirty-eight year old mamas of four do die.
I don’t know what to do with this information. It’s too close. Too painful. And so I fluctuate between tears and numb. I dance between not understanding and asking for help with my lack of understanding.
We do not have all of the answers and cures. He is still in charge of our moments, our lives. We reach for control and He takes it back again and again.
Numb is easier, I remind myself. Don’t think.
You must grieve, they tell me. The wise women in my life. Have you taken time? Have you given yourself time to grieve?
No, I think. It’s too painful.
If I can stay busy enough. Write enough. Do anything enough, it won’t hurt.
But it still hurts. It’s underneath, that pain. But it is still there, even when I don’t recognize it.
I’m thirty-seven years old. I am too young to have walked with a friend from cancer diagnosis to the gates of heaven.
I am too young to have visited the hospice wing of the hospital.
To have whispered love to a dying friend.
To sit by her while she fought and faded.
To have prayed and prayed and prayed for answers that didn’t go as we asked.
She was too young to go.
But then, I wonder, is there a right age to die? To fly away to the arms of Jesus?
There is only the age He has handcrafted for us. The moments of life He gifts us.
I whisper to Him that I don’t understand, but that I still trust that He loves us. That I believe He loved Kara more than I can even begin to comprehend.
I ask Him to help me believe.
She would dance, I remind myself. She would find the moments to be thankful for. The babies to kiss. The friends to love.
Every day she would look for the grace and she would find it.
She reminds us that:
She would remind us of that: Grace always shows up.
Always. Even in dying. Even in grief.
And I see it.
I see grace in the women she left behind. In the relationships that have bloomed and grown and blessed beyond my imagination.
I see grace in laughter and hugs. When I run a hand over my child’s hair and thank God, really thank Him, for that moment.
I see it when I stop and pray before attempting to do something on my own.
I see it in a faith revived.
I see the grace in her words still reaching so many, even after she’s flown away.
I see the grace.
Jill Lynn Buteyn is a co-author of Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together with Kara Tippetts.
In Just Show Up, Kara and Jill Lynn write about what friendship looks like in the midst of changing life seasons, loads of laundry, and even cancer. Whether you are eager to be present to someone going through a difficult time or simply want inspiration for pursuing friends in a new way, this eloquent and practical book explores the gift of silence, the art of receiving, and what it means to just show up.