August 31, 2021
I remember when my baby sister was born.
I was staying with my Uncle John and Aunt Terri because their house was across the street from McKinley Elementary, my Kindergarten home. They handed me the phone and my dad told me, “It’s a girl!”
Really? I didn’t want a sister.
And then, he said, “Her name is Sheila!”
SHEILA? That’s the best you could come up with?
I was difficult to please as a child.
But, there’s something to say for the baby’s knack of wiggling into your heart. She wouldn’t be the baby forever, but she was the baby for a long time.
And we love her.
Sheila and I have shared a lot of adventures over the past number of years. One of my favorite moments was when we were both hired for our very first 5th grade teaching positions at private schools, she in North Dakota and me in Fergus Falls. In those early mornings, especially after saying goodbye to our own babies, we’d email each other. Together, we’d study lesson plans, down coffee, and wait for our students to show up. It was so nice knowing that she was an email away at her own desk, experiencing much of the same ups and downs of the “first teaching job” that I was.
Then, we made a Big Move at the same time. Caleb and I ventured off to Buda, Texas for his first church position, and Ty and Sheila went to Grand Rapids, Michigan to experience something new and different! In those two places, we spent time calling and video chatting about our new towns, our adventures, and our loneliness.
Three years later, we moved back to Fergus Falls. I remember pulling into town our first evening back from Texas, our moving trailer still packed to the gills. I went straight to where Sheila and Ty were living (and had been for a few months), just so I could give my sister a hug and kiss her brand new baby girl. It felt SO GOOD to be with family again!
For two years we enjoyed easy, quick visits for coffee, trips to Walmart at night without husbands and children, and cozy weekends with Sheila’s good baking. I treasured EVERY MOMENT because I knew it wouldn’t be that way forever.
After Ty’s second year in seminary, he and Sheila took a call to Salem Lutheran Brethren Church in Grand Rapids (Minnesota this time). I was so thankful it wasn’t as far away as the last move. I was as excited for them as they were. It’s so thrilling to get a first call! Exploring your new community and meeting new people is fun! Finding the good coffee shops and the Target is necessary. All of it and more (and many more important reasons) gives me peace in knowing that they are where God was TRULY calling them to be.
The one thing I’ve loved the most about my sister is that she doesn’t just go to go. She goes to LIVE. She’s so much better than I am about getting out into the community. Sheila is excellent at intentionally meeting new people, planting roots, and being a citizen that means to stay. She and Ty are so GOOD at purposefully showing their kids how to love where they are and how to embrace their neighbors. They work passionately in their new church and have blessed COUNTLESS people already. I’m so very proud of them both. Sheila especially has blessed me in this same way so many times.
The most important, and the HARDEST, moment we’ve ever shared together was the moment I handed Alexander to my sister the day after he died. His tiny little body was wrapped in his blanket and my sister cuddled him. She spoke with smiles to my kids but with tears in her eyes. It broke my heart and was the most profound moment to me. I knew grandparents grieved the loss of grandchildren, but it really struck me how much my siblings were grieving for me, too.
And look at me, I’m BAWLING writing this because of the memory.
It feels so absolutely amazing and undeserved to be loved this deeply.
I’m not always a good sister. My siblings know my faults more than anybody. All of the awful things I’ve ever said or done growing up (and sometimes as an adult) can weigh heavily on a person’s heart, even after forgiveness is sought after and granted. It’s just HARD being a sinful human being living with other sinful human beings! But out of anybody on the planet, siblings get it. For the longest time they live with you, get to know you in a way nobody else does, and choose to put up with you anyway.
And then they hold your dead son in their arms and agree with you that life isn’t fair.
It’s a place I never wanted Auntie Sheila to have to be, nor any of my other siblings. But, I’m so glad that she loves me enough to share these moments anyway. And OH what a delight it was to hand her Brendyn for the first time.
In fact, it struck me in THAT moment that she needed that healing, too.
I’m glad Sheila was born. In fact, it wasn’t until after a few of my own miscarriage did I learn that mom almost lost HER. I think that’s why it meant so much to me to have all of the children that I do. Maybe it’s why I grieved loss and tried again and lost more and tried again for so many years. I know what it’s like to have all of these beautiful brothers and sisters, both on my side and on Caleb’s side. More than anything in the world I wanted my children to have that experience, too.
I’ve learned a lot over the last 10 years (i.e. I’m not in control of much of anything), but most of I’ve learned and continue to learn THIS: the Lord knows how to fit and grow people together.
Thank you, Sheila, for loving and living life the way you do. Your family and Grand Rapids are EXTREMELY blessed.
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