My life over the last several months (basically this whole year) has been a whole new level of insane. I have found it difficult to really write much because everything affecting me lately falls into one of three categories:
- Stuff that I'm not ready to discuss this publicly
- Stuff I'm ready to discuss publicly but would ruffle some feathers (and I have an insatiable need to please people)
- Stuff I'm just too busy to write about
Early this morning, my sister Kristi and her family (husband and two kids) left with a jam-packed moving truck to move to Orlando, Florida.
They are the first people in my immediate family to move away from the pack. My brother and sister and I grew up in Central Illinois, and my sister is the only one who went to college out of state. After her college years, she moved back to the city where we originally grew up. When Jared and I got married, we chose a house just a few streets away from my sister. Nine years later (last year), Jared and I moved just across town. My brother lives about half an hour away, my dad lives 15-20 minutes away, and my mom lives about half an hour away.
It's a really long story as to how this move came about. The shortest version is: this is the next step God had planned for my sister's family. My brother-in-law Dave has been a youth pastor and then senior pastor at their church for something like 12 or 13 years. Now he will be teaching Bible classes to junior high and senior high kids at Faith Christian Academy in Orlando, Florida. My sister will be teaching science to sixth and seventh grade classes there. My niece and nephew will both be attending this amazing school.
My sister is the oldest child in our family, and she is five years older than me. Our brother is right in the middle, and he's two years older than me. Kristi and I were always in different stages growing up because of our gap in age, but we really became best friends when I was in college. She was married and had her son Gracen, and her daughter Layla came in December of my junior year. I skipped classes, giving up extra credit I had hoped to earn through perfect attendance, so I could come home for Layla's birth.
Then I got engaged, and Kristi and Dave counseled us for our premarital counseling. Dave and Jared's brother Joel performed our wedding ceremony at Kristi and Dave's church.
Then I had three babies in 3.5 years, and poor Kristi had to take my many, many hysterical phone calls as I tried to figure out motherhood. She helped me through nursing, teething, potty training, and starting school.
My sister has also been my hair stylist for years. Please be advised that I may not be looking as fabulous in her absence.
My sister and I have been through ups and downs together. We have shared as much life as we possibly could. We have held on when life was crazy and overwhelming, and we dug deep to nurture our relationship. We are very different in personality and disposition, and we've needed prayer and grace. We have learned that nothing breaks family and that love means sticking it out in the imperfect moments. Plus we use humor to get us through everything.
The process of preparing for her move was fine until other people got involved. ;) Not everyone was supportive of their decision, and I don't do well with people mistreating my family members. Then I encountered a whole slew of people who simply said, "Well now you have somewhere nice to visit!" I realize that those people are just looking for something positive to say, but I've heard that line enough to last me a lifetime. Plus that reaction completely bypasses the emotions involved in having my one and only sister move away.
I was recently talking to a friend and told her that my sister was moving and I was feeling a little blue. She said, "It's not like she's falling off the face of the earth!" That's also not helpful. She quickly realized it and added, "But you have every right to feel sad." She moved out of state away from the rest of her family, so she was feeling a little defensive.
Whenever I feel sad about my sister's family moving away, I just remind myself that this is God's plan. I trust Him to take care of them, to take care of me and my family, to help us nurture our relationships from afar, and to use each member of our family however He chooses. Ultimately, I'd rather be obedient to Him than have all my people tucked up near me, even though I really really want all my people by me. My sister and brother-in-law are being obedient to God's leading, and I'm so proud of them for stepping out in faith. Plus it's been amazing to watch people pour out blessings on them before they left. I think the next chapter in their family's life is going to be awesome, and that makes my heart happy.
It's really hard to think about Gracen and Layla growing up more between now and the next time I see them. I've celebrated every lost tooth, milestone, and change they've experienced. In person. Facetime and Skype will be so helpful but just not the same. I need to hug them to see how high up on me they reach. I need to examine Layla's new glasses and Gracen's fresh hair cuts. I want to see how their freckles come out in the summer. It's really pretty amazing that I've been able to experience these things all along. I'm quite blessed that my sister has let me into her family from the beginning because I absolutely love being able to share in the small stuff.
Watching my kids hug and cry and say goodbye to my sister's kids last night was physically painful. I don't want any of them to experience that kind of sadness. This morning when Griffin and I both sleepily slumped out of our rooms and met up in the hallway, he said to me with a quivering chin, "Mom, they already left." I knew exactly who and what he meant. So we sat down on the floor in the hallway and cried together for a few minutes.
My spirit trusts God and my heart misses my sister. And it's okay to do both at the same time.
I'm physically exhausted from helping with the move and emotionally worn out. I don't have the capacity to look through all my old photos to share tons with you (although there are some GOOD ones...), but I do want to share a few with you.
|My brother Erik, me, and my sister Kristi|
|Erik, Kristi, and me (taken last month)|
|Dave and Kristi (taken 2011)|
|Kristi and me with our cousin Elizabeth and our grandma|
|Baking in Grandma's kitchen--best place in the whole world! (taken around 2003)|
How 'bout some pictures of the kiddos?
|Gracen and Griffin|
|Layla, Gracen, and baby Nolan|
|Nolan and Layla|
|Layla helping Nora decorate cookies|
|Layla and Gracen came over to make homemade pretzels with us|
Layla is never happier than when she is mothering my kids or any other kids even slightly younger than her. :)
Aunt Kristi is famous for giving snacks at her house. My kids have grown up asking for something from "Kristi's big doors" because her kitchen pantry had two tall doors (and the inside drawers were filled with snacks).
And just a couple fun pictures to finish out:
|Dave learning to braid Layla's hair|
|Kristi and Layla--Do you think I should have asked before putting this on the internet?|
Here's to sisters!