My sister and I grew up in two completely different places. She was the only daughter of a minister, the church angel loved by all the adults, not much liked by her peers. Her father ADORED her mother. She was encouraged to get an education, study her Bible and be a good girl. I was the first daughter of the man who played the piano. I wasn’t much loved or liked by people in our church. Peers…I had none. My father did not even remotely adore my mother. I was never encouraged to get an education, no idea how to study my Bible and I spent most of my life trying to be a good girl but often failed. We were polar opposites, yet In 1991 when I arrived as a foster, she became my forever sister.
My sister spent vacations traveling to other assemblies in the Northwest. She felt part of the churches in Missoula and California. She called the pastor’s assistant in California and his wife her grandparents. She knew the ministers, what kind of coffee they liked and who was who. I had no clue. It was her shadow I followed in. At one point, when another brother in a faraway (ok when you are 17, Spokane is FAR AWAY) assembly became interested in her I feared that she would leave and I’d lose my big sister. Of course the “solution” was to have her marry the current eligible bachelor…who happened to be my best friend…who happened to be interested in me. When I was silent our momma giggled and said, “I think she’d rather keep the boyfriend than her sister.” When I blushed my sister came to my rescue and said, “No. He has his eyes on her.” That didn’t really help the blushing. But yes, although I loved my sister, I wasn’t willing to give her my boyfriend.
When I married, it was my sister I missed. I missed the way I’d fall asleep to her playing the piano. I missed the way she’d come into my room and ask if I wanted to walk with her up the hill to get ice. I missed the way she’d sing songs with me. I missed seeing her every day. When they discovered our father had cancer they were in Missoula. I cried for days. During those days she was reacquainted with the pastor’s son. He was there with the family, keeping her company and talking with our father. When they returned home, the pastors gave my sister and this brother permission to write one another.
One day I happened to be visiting and we decided to go get something to eat. She told me about him and how they were writing letters. When I asked her if they were “interested” in one another she simply denied anything. And then I smelled the paper. Cologne. I started teasing her about him. “He’s interested in you.” She continued to deny anything…but I knew. I was thrilled that I was now teaching her something! Amazingly much to our surprise (ha), they married a few years later.
He lived FAR FAR AWAY…like Georgia. Suddenly my sister was gone. And I couldn’t talk to her because she was in another assembly, and well…that wasn’t allowed. I had no idea the nightmare she was going through, I just knew I missed her. Finally God answered our prayers and they returned home. She told me that she wanted to be home because her sister was having a baby. I didn’t care what it took, I was just happy she was home.
We settled into our married lives. I had my son and then she had a son. Then another. Then I had a daughter and another. She had another son…a daughter…another daughter…soon my sister had 6 children. I loved being the Auntie. We spent time together. And although we were again opposites in parenting and dealing with our husbands, she was still my big sister and often the only one who I could talk to about life.
While the husband and I struggled in our marriage we soared financially. I watched as my sister struggled financially. It made me feel weird and I began to resent that my husband was doing so well in his career. Then her husband pulled away from the church, dragging her with him. In the meantime I was the pulling away from the church but unable to drag my husband. The turmoil in our marriages and the church was causing strain for our families. I began to spend more and more time at her house and we faced the reality that the place we knew was changing into something neither of us could agree with. When I knew God asked me to leave my sister was the first one I called. God in his infinite mercy made sure that when it was time to leave I didn’t have to leave my sister behind.
It’s been a long 10 years for both of us. While I flew far away from the place, my sister stayed in the shadows of the place (literally). While I angrily fought my way back to life, she fell deeply into despair. One afternoon I fought myself fighting with her. I looked at the phone in disbelief. I went quietly into the room and looked at my husband. “I just lost her. I lost my sister.” I demanded he call her husband immediately because I feared for her life. It took her months to call…but she was back, my sister was back.
I’ve watched my sister not only rise from the depths of deep depression…I’ve watched her find her wings and fly. We don’t get together as often now because we have different lives. But we connect and when we do it’s like an explosion of amazingness! And together we are growing and exploring who we are. We pierced our ears together on my birthday and I cried as I watched the chains fall away. Every time I see her I see my sister coming more and more alive. And it makes me smile.
And that’s how I find myself sitting across from her in the restaurant where we used to go to talk. And she’s talking about things she’s learning. AND she’s giggling, which makes me giggle. “You know what I like…?” She tells me like it’s this HUGE secret. And then she says, “I like it…because, well I like it.” And it may seem so crazy, but for us, liking something and being allowed to ACTUALLY like it…it’s kind of a new concept. And then she says something that hits me right here…”I’m seeing things clearer. I was dominated…but he’s showing me I don’t have to be dominated anymore. I can make decisions for me…because I want to make them…because I like something.” And I look at her and just say, “You know, really, we are finally allowed to grow up.”
This journey, this process is long and sometimes I just want to stop it all. But I can’t stop. My sister, she’s the wind beneath my wings. Always has been…and now, in some ways, I’m the wind beneath her wings. And together, we are flying.