Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Happy 36th birthday to my brother!!

Now, that that's out of the way, I'll stop talking to him and start talking about him for a few minutes. Very few people who read this blog actually know my brother. Probably because he and I haven't lived in the same town since I was 10 years old, and I'm not sure if any of my childhood friends read this. But that's all right because I'm going to tell y'all about him. I sure hope that you would have guessed he's my older brother after I mentioned his age in the first line, but if you had any questions about that, don't voice it because we may not be able to be friends anymore. =) Speaking of the age difference...though it's a somewhat significant age difference when you're both kids, it is one that has been good. Very good for us. Even during those years of living at home. When I hear people say they're not close to their siblings that are far apart from them in age, I recognize immediately that there are other things that must be at play in their relationship to cause the distance because age alone doesn't do it. I know that from my experience. I do not remember a day of my life when Blake and I weren't close. I think I was born with a close sibling relationship.

Not only is he my big brother, he is The World's Greatest Big Brother. It's a very official title. We were close before I had anything to do with contributing much to the relationship. I'm saying this to say that I can't take credit. What has been special about our relationship has always stemmed from an intentionality on his part to reach into the season of life I was in and invest in me. As a baby, I couldn't reach into his childhood season. As a child, I couldn't reach into his teenage season. And as a teenager, I couldn't reach into his young adulthood season. At those ages, you just lack the maturity to understand much about the seasons ahead of you, and relating to someone that much further ahead seems impossible. But he could reach down. And he did. He made deliberate choices to be involved in my life. He was intentional in stepping out of his world to meet me in mine. He never hesitated to show me affection, spend quality time with me in an effort to develop a relationship with me, talk honestly with me about everything, and really help lead me.

People have asked me before if it felt at times growing up like I had a third parent, and I guess at some point it did, in some ways. Just not how you might think. While there are times when older siblings have some level of authority in the lives of their younger siblings (not just with huge age differences but those times when parents leave the older one to baby-sit, etc.), he never tried to be my parent. Even though he had the wisdom to know what I should do much of the time, he never asserted it in a controlling-ish way. I remember a few nights (when he was a teenager and I was maybe around six years or so) when he'd let me sneak into his room after I was supposed to be in bed and let me instead stay up later with him....he was allowed to watch Cheers and I was not. So I remember watching Cheers with him (having no clue what was going on, of course) and hearing my parents coming, I'd roll off the bed and quickly hide between Blake's bed and wall so they wouldn't know I wasn't in my bed. I'm guessing now that I never had my parents fooled. But I sure thought Blake and I were pretty smart to pull off something like that. I like that I have those memories. I'm glad he didn't tell me to go to bed. I appreciate that he still was my brother even when he could have really bossed me instead. But one of the ways he did seem like a parent was just that I could see him living out what my parents were teaching us. His life so validated the teaching I received. I'm very thankful to have parents who started reading Scripture to me from my very first day of life (no kidding), and I realize what a huge blessing that is. But I also wonder what my perception of the Truth they taught me would have actually been if I had not seen the example of Blake's life, affirming it in such huge ways. He loved God from early on. I wouldn't know when exactly, but for as long as I can remember, I saw him serving God, being committed and passionate in his pursuit of God, and striving for excellency in all those things. Oh, I'm sure he probably got in trouble as a teenager, but those aren't the things I remember. I just don't. I remember that he was authentic. I remember seeing him on his bed in the mornings when he was in high school, reading his Bible before leaving for school. I'm so blessed to have not only witnessed those things in my parents' lives but in my older brother's as well. When I look back at all of the big shaping experiences of my childhood, they involve not just myself, or one parent, or even both parents...but our whole family. Blake played a role in my spiritual development (even after he left home), whether or not he had any clue at the time that that's what he was doing.

The thing is that I think that kind of relationship is rare. I know I'm not the only one blessed with good siblings, but I do think our relationship is unique. And as I think about Blake's birthday, I am reminded to take time to celebrate the originality of our relationship. And to thank God for orchestrating the events in our family's life that helped nurture this kind of relationship. This has all been on my mind a lot lately as I prepare to be a parent in a family of an older brother and younger sister. Many times I have wondered what on earth I can do to help facilitate that same kind of sweetness of relationship between Jonah and Parker. Besides pray. Which I know is of utmost importance. But as I sort through some of this in my head (which is not easy because I'm highly emotional about it), I'm understanding a little better how to pray. My brother wasn't that kind of brother because my parents told him how to be a good brother. I don't want to discount their leadership in it, but they didn't make him do it. It was just who he was. To be intentional with a younger sister means having a selfless heart. That was just his character. Still is. So I'm thinking that if I continue striving to be used by God to impact my children's hearts, He will cultivate in them the qualities that lend themselves to a close sibling relationship. I realize there are no guarantees. I am definitely not saying that if two siblings have selfless and loving hearts, they will automatically be close. I understand there's more involved, and some of that may be where my leadership as a parent comes in...to foster opportunities for more shared experiences between them. But still, I can't guarantee it. It's another one of those parenting goals I just have to lean on the Lord for. I can't make Jonah's and Parker's relationship be what I want it to be. But you can bet that it's one of things I will most desperately ask the Lord to do in my children's lives. Because I understand firsthand the blessing that comes from it.

And the blessing just grows. What may seem like a significant age different when you're young so very quickly becomes insignificant. Now, we're more in the same place. We have children in the same stages of life, and thanks to his good marrying choice, I have a sister-in-law who is every bit the kind of sister I could have wanted. I never missed having a sister growing up, but I missed it when I thought about how great it would be as an adult to have a sister (when I watch my mom and her sisters interact). Who knew that I would end up having that once my brother married?!! I was pleasantly surprised. And while I'm talking about Amy, I'll just go ahead and give an early Happy Birthday! (It's in two days.)

I feel a little silly asking for more from God, but my only hope is that we can all live closer geographically so that my brother and I can have greater opportunity to build on our relationship and grow our friendship more. It's been a long time since I was 10 years old. I'd sure like to be able to meet him for lunch during the day every once in a while and talk about life. I think doing that over the phone is what is kinda hard in a brother-sister relationship as compared to a sister-sister relationship. (Even though we try!) But I'm praying for that kind of opportunity to happen. Just waiting to see if/when God says yes.


Dalene said...

I have four older brothers, and like you, I feel SO blessed by the influence they all had upon my life. Big Brothers and their influence is hard to explain.
Sort of makes us little sister's a bit choked up with appreciation.

I like that you are thinking about the relationsips that your children will have with one another in the future. KUDOS to Bubba, and Happy Birthday!

PS-- WOW on being at a "3"

Courtney said...

that is a very sweet post. i hope blake has a copy of it! :) you were/are a good little sister to him also! :)

Lori, Landon and Logan said...

How sweet! My brother and I are 10 years apart. Thank goodness since Dave and I are 8. God knew what he was doing because that would have just been weird!