Sisters. They are a gift from the Lord! I have three of them, all equally precious to me. When you are little, growing up together in your parent’s home and sharing a room while fighting over who-took-who’s hairbrush or doll, it’s easy for the beautiful treasure of sisterhood to escape you. Growing up with three sisters was a little bit like the Bennett family from the book Pride and Prejudice. Just ask my father! That’s a lot of girls under one rooftop. My older sister is here right now visiting from overseas, and I am cherishing these moments I get to spend with her. There are few people on this planet who get you inside and out, because they have known you since you were a baby. My older sister knows where I tend to be weak and where I am strong, she knows what foods I like and activities that I enjoy. She can’t help it; she’s known me for too long to not know.
My older sister and I were like night and day growing up. It was obvious that she was blessed with super-smarts from early on. She was a bookworm and read voraciously. She skipped a grade in school. She would tolerate the outdoors but she didn’t love it, and she hated sports and exercise. She had the heart of every teacher she sat under, because she excelled so well at school. She was obedient and polite, and rarely got anything more than a stern warning from our mother. She was sensitive too, and usually didn’t have to be told that she was in the wrong. She wasn’t a tomboy but she wasn’t a girly-girl either. In fact, she didn’t have time to be either, because she was too busy reading.
And then I came along. I was a different animal. I was loud, energetic, and boisterous. The home videos speak (or should I say shout?) for themselves. Looking back, it feels like I was always in trouble. My parents bought a whole section of books that remain on their bookshelf to this day on the subject of ‘how to raise the strong-willed child’ after I was born. It’s no wonder, I had a really rebellious spirit back then. I didn’t really like reading that much. I spent a lot of time outdoors, on my bike or in the cherry tree in the backyard. I struggled in school, and my teachers did not like me immediately. I got detention in second grade for forgetting to raise my hand too many times. I often felt that there was no way I could ever measure up to my older, seemingly more-perfect sister. I got C’s and she never got anything less than an A.
And then came high school. For the first time, I watched my sister struggle academically in a calculus class in college. I was a sophomore in high school, but I had discovered a few years prior that math wasn’t too hard for me. In fact, a lot of school was becoming easier for me. I learned how to study, how to focus and apply myself. I learned how to get help if I didn’t understand something. My sister and I started talking on the phone while she was away at school. We started emailing each other. Our relationship started to change. I was learning to find my identity in Christ, and she had already found hers. We started to share about our walks with the Lord, things we struggled with, how we could be praying for each other. We were growing up, both in stature and in the Lord.
A year later, she met her husband. As they dated and eventually prepared to marry, our relationship survived a very difficult family matter. We went running together often, stopping occasionally to pray through tears and heartache. It wasn’t easy, but it something we endured albeit through much confusion. Looking back over the years, I can see now how the Lord has brought much healing.
Then sis got married and our relationship grew even deeper. I was a freshman in college, busy with anatomy and chemistry among other classes, and work. She was completing her student teaching degree at the same college as me. She often invited me over for breakfast, or to go on walks or hikes together. I knew she cared about me and so I allowed her to speak into my life when she thought necessary. She encouraged me much in the Lord. Her husband accepted me in as his sister in law and was never threatened by our friendship. I have always appreciated his (as well as my husband’s) sacrifice to allow my sis and I to spend time together when we get the chance.
And then it came time for my sis and brother in law to start their long journey toward becoming specialists in linguistics and overseas missionaries. Their training for this difficult and long process took them all over the U.S., including Wisconsin, Oregon, Oklahoma and Missouri. I visited them at each stop along the way, by scraping up any spare money I had towards sale tickets with Southwest. Each time I left to say goodbye I was sad but knew another trip was around the corner. They came to visit our family whenever they had the opportunity and the finances.
In the meantime, my sis had one, then two, then three little boys! I got to watch her grow into the role of becoming a wonderful mother. She welcomed me with open arms to be an auntie who could love on her children without reservation. She helped me to foster an individual relationship with each of my nephews. She trusted me, and knowing that blessed me greatly. She often sent me hand made cards in the mail with the latest drawings her kids had done. Many of them adorn our refrigerator. Although she was often several states away, I always felt close to her.
When her littlest was 2, their training was completed and it came time for them to move overseas and start their missionary work. I traveled with them and worked in a medical clinic in the same country for 3 months. When that time came to an end, I remember holding back tears (not so successfully, as I recall) on the plane coming home. I knew it would be a long time before I could see them again, their location being so remote and plane tickets being so expensive. And yet, this work that they were and are still doing — bringing HOPE to a people group bound in fears and superstition–brings a greater joy that more than covers the hardship of separation.
Over the years, I have traveled three times overseas to see my sister, and twice she has traveled to see us. We are thankful for each trip we get. It might be easy for a person to go an entire year without seeing their sibling, but for sisters who write each other almost daily, who are aware of every little need, every prayer request, and much of each other’s daily lives– a year feels like an eternity. I have to admit, I cried the day I discovered that our little unborn baby would already be fifteen months old by the time he met my sis for the first time. Separation just never gets easier. In fact, it seems to be the opposite! But the Lord continues to be faithful, He continues to bless where we don’t expect it, and to give strength when we need it most.
One of the things I treasure most about my friendship with my sister is her God-given ability to empathize. When I have been in a place of deepest heartache, dark despair, utter brokenness, or confusion and uncertainty, she has never failed to immediately get on the phone from several thousands of miles away and make sure that I am okay. I cannot tell you how many times she cried with me when my heart fells to pieces again and again over our struggle with infertility. I cannot tell you how many times she has prayed over me– literally hundreds of times– over any struggle or fear that I had. She is, as Anne Shirley puts it, a “kindred spirit” to me and always will be.
Sisters are a blessing, but friendship takes work! If you have a sister but aren’t close with her, I encourage you to write her a note, give her a call, or bless her in a unexpected way. Love her well. Don’t let distance be a reason to detached!
~All of my sisters are wonderful and a huge blessing in my life in their own special way. Parts 2 & 3 of this series will be about my younger sisters.~