I’ve hesitated to share this, because it’s vulnerable. I’m not opposed to being vulnerable online, but I’m always sensitive to share stories that belong to me only. It’s not my place to share someone else’s story.
But today I’m going to share a piece of my story, and it will only be a piece, because some things just have to remain private. But I’ll share a little, because perhaps someone can identify. Perhaps this vulnerability will be cathartic in a way that’s needed not just for me, but for anyone who is separated from someone they love.
My Facebook feed has exploded with photos of friends and their siblings today. Happy pictures of siblings both young and all grown up, all smiling for the camera, because apparently today is National Sibling Day. That’s a thing, I guess. I never knew we had so many reasons to celebrate until Facebook came along.
I’ve enjoyed seeing photos of all my friends with their siblings. I particularly like the side by side comparisons of young siblings next to grown siblings. It’s sweet, and I’m genuinely pleased to see celebratory messages between siblings. But I’m also terribly sad, because you see…
I am alone.
I haven’t seen or spoken to my only sibling in two years. I still can’t believe that that is my reality, but it is. I am operating as an only child these days, and there’s a pain in that reality that is difficult to express.
Once upon a time, my brother and I were close. I was the dominant older sister, and he was the sweet, complacent younger brother who gave me anything I wanted. It worked well, though perhaps he would have preferred I’d let him lead now and then.
There are sweet memories of childhood, though, and those are the ones I cling to when the silence of separation starts to feel deafening. I remember the Christmases when we’d pile up together in bed and stay up late into the night, listening for the sound of Santa’s sleigh. Then we’d wake in the wee hours of the morning, much to mom’s chagrin, and tear downstairs to see what had been left behind.
There are memories of playing on the beach, and laughing together as a family. There are happy memories (ones that apparently always include dressing up, because just about every picture I found had us in some crazy get up), and I’m thankful for those.
But as time progressed and we grew older, the differences in our personalities became more pronounced. The pull away from one another happened slowly, and I take responsibility for my part.
I have no explanation for my outfit, other than it was the ’80’s.
The reasons for our current separation are both murky and confusing, but I won’t at all claim that I had no part in our fractured relationship. When I left for college, I lost all claim to any hope of a Sister of the Year Award. I went to Texas and left him behind in Missouri, and it never occurred to me that my leaving might be difficult. I enjoyed my life away, the independence I felt living on my own.
It’s easy for me to look back on those years and justify my behavior. I was 18. I was acting in youthful ignorance, and arrogance. But my youthful arrogance left my brother alone at home at a time when life got very confusing. There were things that happened in our extended family that I was able to remain separated from, but my brother had to live through a different reality.
I wasn’t there for him.
It’s a regret I will carry for the rest of my life, because if I had been there, perhaps he would have trusted me more when he grew into an adult. Instead, I was too distanced. And despite the fact that I apologized to him, and begged his forgiveness (which he readily granted), the damage had been done. I wasn’t a friend to him when he needed me most, and so he lived his life without me in it.
The last seven years have been a challenge of trying to repair the damage, and working through new issues. There’s enough blame to go around to everyone involved, but it does no good to try to rehash every moment that led us to this final separation. I’ve learned that sometimes you can try too hard, and in the trying you actually do more harm than good.
I don’t even know where my brother is now. I don’t have an address or a phone number or an email address. I don’t know his family, and he doesn’t know mine. And I embrace my part in that separation with full remorse. I wish things were different.
On this National Sibling Day, I celebrate the good memories I had with my brother, and I hope for reconciliation. I suppose there is a part of me that’s hoping, maybe, he reads this blog and will hear my heart and be willing to reach out and start a dialogue.
To those of you who are able to truly celebrate this random holiday, I offer you my only advice – be thankful always for what you have in your siblings. Cherish them, and never give up on knowing them as adults. Because it is truly a precious relationship to have someone who knew you then and knows you now.
I love you, dear brother, and I do hold hope in my heart that someday we can enjoy one another’s company again. I just wanted you to know.
We are on Spring Break this week, taking a much needed time away from the daily grind of an over-scheduled life. We will be on a bit of an adventure as the six of us share one hotel room.
This could either be miraculous or a total disaster.
Either way, I will be taking a few days to enjoy my family, to read books (the kind with paper), and to make a few memories. I’ll pop in online now and then to share photos and the joys of family travel.
Blessings to you all as you head into this next week. Spring is upon us! Rejoice!
The stomach flu, that most unwelcome of visitors, has made a pit stop at our house. I shouldn’t complain. We haven’t met up with the the stomach bug in years. He was bound to stop by at some point.
Landon is down for the count, though I’m hoping the worst of it is behind him. And I’m going to be busy disinfecting, and praying that somehow the rest of us are miraculously spared.
Really, is there anything worse than waiting for the stomach bug to make it’s rounds?
So no new words from me today. But I am over at Extraordinary Mommy this week talking resolutions, and giving a few tips on how to get your kids on board with your goal setting as you plan out your year.
So why don’t you join me over there. It’s for the better, really. You probably don’t want to linger here in germville anyway.
Happy weekending, everyone! May your days be puke-free!
It’s that time of year again.
The time of year when we write down a list of ambiguous, unrealistic resolutions for ourselves – goals that we more than likely won’t accomplish because what does “Eat Healthier” really mean, amiright? Does it mean one spoonful of Nutella instead of two, or should I start Pinning fancy recipes for Kale and Brussel Sprouts now?
In recent years, the idea of making New Year’s Resolutions has become less popular. I think we’ve all come to realize that we set ourselves up for failure using the traditional resolution model of the past.
There is something invigorating about the first of the year, though. It teems with possibility and in many ways it feels very much like a fresh start. Setting plans for the coming year doesn’t have to be stressful, as long as we do it the right way.
In recent years, I’ve enjoyed bringing my kids in on this little goal setting tradition. It’s fun to sit down together as a family and discuss where we’d like to be as a unit in a year.
Kids love to set goals. It makes them feel safe when life is predictable.
How children set their goals, though, will depend almost entirely on their personalities and, to a lesser degree, their birth order. Most (not all, of course) Type A first borns will want to set very high, lofty goals (get all A’s on my report card), while feisty second borns will set the bar much lower (eat ice cream every day).
Setting goals as a family is a fun way to tap into your children as unique individuals, and it gives you shared direction as a unit heading into the New Year. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Several weeks ago, Discovery Channel heavily touted an upcoming special in which a man named Paul Rosolie was going to allow himself to be eaten alive by an anaconda in order to raise awareness to the plight of the monster snake, whose habitat is being destroyed by deforestation.
When I read of Rosalie’s plan, I had several questions come to mind. The first was the very obvious, Why again? It was a question without a good answer (because people are stupid was the best I could come up with), so I quickly moved on to question number two:
I wonder how it would feel to be squeezed into the belly of an anaconda.
You know, besides completely and utterly terrifying…
As the events of the last few days have unfolded, I’m beginning to understand what that type of squeeze feels like. It’s almost crushing.
We got the call we didn’t want to get today. “His breathing is labored. They’ve called in hospice. You need to get home.”
Tomorrow morning, my husband will board an airplane and he will go home to say goodbye to his dad. We knew this day was coming – we didn’t think it would come so fast.
How do you say goodbye to the man who has been the rock of the family? The man who stands in the driveway and waits for you when he knows you’re almost there every time you come to town? The man whose dry sense of humor is what makes holidays and summer visits so very much fun?
The squeeze hurts. It’s tight, and you feel like you can’t breathe. But you must – you must keep breathing because you are still here…living.
I will remain at home with the kids. There isn’t any reason for all of us to go up just yet. We said our goodbyes over Christmas, and they were sweet goodbyes. They weren’t sad, but rather joyful and peaceful. I knew it would be the last time I saw my second father, and I also knew it was going to be okay.
But I still don’t like it.
“K” is with us for another week and a half,and the squeeze gets tighter still. It’s been different this year in ways we didn’t quite predict. But tonight she and I sat beneath the stars and enjoyed the balmy Florida winter air. She drank her coffee and I drank my tea, and we just talked. We shared life in broken, simple Russian sentences.
This morning when I woke up, I prayed that the Lord would help me to truly and deeply love her. I didn’t want to just say it – I wanted to feel it, and tonight I did. As she shared more of her story with me, I felt a surge of love flood through me. It wasn’t emotional, but it was very poignant and real.
As I looked at her, I felt the same wave of love that I feel when I look at any of my children.
I don’t know how the next week and a half will play out for us. When I think through the potentials and the possibilities, I feel squeezed so tight I can hardly breathe. There’s a grieving family 16 hours away who I long to be near, and there are the children in the rooms down the hall who need me here.
I’m being swallowed.
As I’ve prayed over our current circumstances, I’ve asked that the Lord would give me the strength and the grace to walk this path well. He is answering that prayer, and of course He would.
I only feel the tightening at night when the sun goes down and the house gets still, and I run through the logistics of every decision that needs to be made, of the heartache and loss that the young woman down the hall has already experienced, of the sting that my children will feel as they experience death for the first time, and I have to slow down, relax, and take deep breaths.
Tonight Tia asked me if her Papa was going to die soon and I told her yes.
“So he’s going to get to see Jesus in a few days?” she asked.
I nodded, because sometimes speaking hurts.
“He’s lucky,” she said. “He won’t have to ever be sick again, and he will get to be with God.”
The squeeze hurts, and it isn’t comfortable. I’d rather not be in this place. But the squeeze is also good. It breaks us down and folds us into the lap of a child with innocent, unwavering faith.
The blend of familiar chords filled the room, and I closed my eyes. It had been a long few days, and I felt the weight of life squeezing my throat tight. I was tired, my eyes so heavy, the knot in my neck pulling my head slightly to the side.
“Joy to the World, the Lord is Come. Let earth receive her King!”
The melody washed over and through me, and I didn’t sing. I just listened. I was too weary to add my own voice, so I just let the song envelope me.
Christmas songs bring comfort. They are so familiar, and they carry with them years of memories, of happy times and joy filled moments. In a season of weary fatigue, the words and the melody felt like rest.
This Christmas will be a different one for our family. A bittersweet Christmas, indeed. The cancer of a loved one forces us to take it slower this year – to cherish the moments more sweetly – to look for the miracle of healing because that’s all we have left.
I believe He can speak life and health back into my father-in-law’s body.
I trust Him to be good whether or not He does.
We also have the awesome privilege of bringing our sweet “K” back to us for Christmas. How mysterious God is to ordain these two events in such a way. How awesome is His power to dictate that we should feel both immense joy, and desperate sadness, all at the same time.
“Let every heart. Prepare Him room. And heaven and nature sing.”
I’ve written about Love before, and I’ve pondered the beauty of suffering. Walking in faith is easy sometimes. It’s easy to say “I believe” in the face of great joy and peace. But when the soul cries out without the promise of an answer, faith becomes a wrestling match.
Like Jacob with the angel, I tussle with my Savior. I call Him Sovereign, and I question His actions. I praise His goodness, and lament His silence. I waver, then accept, then waver, then accept.
“He rules the world with truth and grace. And makes the nations prove. The glories of His righteousness.”
When the wrestling is finished, I hobble away, and still His Love pulls me back. You don’t wrestle with the Savior and come away unscathed. But the scathing is like a healing – the fire burning away the parts of me that cling to this world, the selfish pieces of my heart that seem so firmly attached to the things I can see and understand.
I don’t understand cancer, and I can’t see the glory of heaven. I doubt, and I question, and I wish that pain wasn’t so…painful. I open my eyes and look at the Christmas decorations up front, and it hits me that the story of Christmas has to be true. If it isn’t, then what is the point of my wrestling?
I battle because I want to believe, and the wrestling points me to Christ every. single. time.
This Christmas will be bittersweet as we cling to the One who came to earth as a humble infant. He was the One they prophesied about for hundreds of years. He was born in a manger, and His birth set into motion a life that pointed to a Creator. He would grow into a man who died on a tree so that I might live.
So that our family could have hope in the face of uncertainty. So that we could hope for a miracle, take comfort in the knowledge of heaven, and cling to peace when life feels foggy.
“And wonders of His Love.”
He tugged on my sleeve and motioned me down. I leaned over, and his lips pressed against my ear, sending a shiver down my spine. He’s the one with the freckled face – the one who is asking a lot of questions, and seeking for the answers. I felt his hot breath, and my heart leapt with a fierce love.
“Is Jesus real?” he whispered. I glanced at his big, blue eyes, so full of wonder and hope, and the lump in my throat dissolved. There are so many things I don’t know – so many questions that feel unanswered. But not this one. The answer to this question is Joy to the world.
I lean down and press my mouth against his ear, and he pulls his shoulder up with a tickled grin.
“Yes,” I breath. One syllable, filled with conviction.
He grabs my hand and smiles, his nose inches from mine. “Good,” he whispers.