Let Me Tell You About My Other Brother

For awhile now, I’ve been sharing what’s on my heart about the tragic loss and aftermath of losing my brother Eric. But here’s the thing. God not only blessed me with one amazing brother, but with two. My brother Luke is five years older than me, and although we fought like crazy when we were young, I consider him one of my best friends now. And today is his birthday.

If I could turn back time, I would have a puppy party with him at sunset after finishing the dishes, share a bowl of ramen noodles in front of the wall furnace, fix a bowl of cockadoodledoo, watch back-to-back episodes of Star Trek (Captain Picard only, please), and sing every song in the Jungle Book sound track at the top of our lungs. These are only a few of the inside jokes and memories we share, and I realize now how lucky I am to have so many.

I love you Luke, and I am the luckiest girl in the world to have you for a brother. You’re one of the smartest, kindest, most generous people I know.

 

Happy Birthday big brother!

 

Then…

 

…and now!

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What if I wasn’t in the picture?

At 40 years old, having a baby was the last thing on my parents’ minds. That is, until they had a baby. Me. While I know I wasn’t planned, I’ve been assured time and time again that I was a welcome addition to the family. This isn’t what troubles me, though.

It isn’t the deliberateness of my existence that disturbs me, but the timing of my birth. I was born just four days after Eric’s 13th birthday, meaning that for the majority of his twelfth year, my mother was pregnant with me. Why is this significant? He was molested at age 12. Sometime during that year, his innocence was stolen, his life instantly changed. Had he tried to tell my parents, but worried they were too distracted with an unexpected pregnancy and didn’t want to bother them?

I know this thought isn’t rational, but it still haunts me. What if I’d been born earlier, or later, or not at all? What if he resented me? It’s at times like these that I fully appreciate my father’s avid photography. These photos tell me I was a happy, if unexpected, addition to the family. And judging from how close Eric and I grew over the years, he never wished I wasn’t in the picture.

Read More of Eric’s Story

To honor his life, I’ll keep on living. Happiness is the best tribute.

My brother loved me, and our entire family. He took delight in our accomplishments, and was genuinely interested in our day-to-day lives. He wanted nothing but for us to be happy and healthy. If I’d chosen to stay on the path of destruction, he would be heartbroken. And for me to break his heart again, I just couldn’t bear.

Brother, your little sister is happy. She’s leading a full, busy life full of laughter and love. She follows Christ, and yearns to learn more about his teachings, just like you did. The sound of little feet fill her home, and her family fits snugly in the core of her heart. She is happy, so happy. Her children are proof:

 

She’s such a delight. And you would probably agree, just like me when I was younger. Ta-da!

She melts your heart with her generous hugs and frequent kisses. And who couldn’t love that gap-toothed smile?

Dear Lord, Please Let My Daughters Be Awkward

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It's hard to imagine that these gorgeous girls could ever go through an awkward period. But I sincerely hope they do.

Believe it or not, this is actually a prayer I’ve offered for my daughters. Strange? Maybe. Genius? Definitely.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish for them to be permanently awkward (although I would love them no less). Rather, one of my greatest hopes for them is to suffer through a few awkward years, and survive. The key word there is survive. I don’t want them to be scarred, or cope with their awkwardness through immoral, illegal, or otherwise dangerous behavior.

Let’s face it, life is easier for pretty people. Right or wrong, those with symmetrical faces, straight teeth and lustrous hair seem to sail through life a bit more easily. Studies have even proven that women with well-applied makeup are deemed more trustworthy!

My Awkward Survival Story

Having been through many awkward years, I can attest to the positive experiences that can result from these trials. I was always a head taller than my classmates, and suffered from terrible skin, fashion choices, hair styles and wore some awesomely large pink plastic glasses to boot. I remember a time in middle school when I overhead the love of my life (I was convinced we would get married someday) making hurtful remarks under his breath about the blemishes on my face.

I was crushed…by my crush. Now imagine if I’d had clear, glowing skin. He might have actually liked me, and maybe we would have dated. Then, we might have stayed together in high school, and later gotten married. I shudder at the thought of this, considering what he’s doing with his life now (a big, fat, nothing). (P.S. I’ve never quite forgiven him for his cruelty.)

In addition to being an acne-prone adolescent, I was also a huge nerd (still am). I was captain of the Scholar’s Bowl team, sat in the front of the classroom, and was always the first to raise my hand when the teacher asked a question (I must have been quite annoying). Believe it or not, most guys don’t like smart girls. (Idiots.)

Fortunately for me, I survived these awkward years, and even had brief stint in college when I was almost hot. I say almost because my biggest modeling gig was as a butt model for jeans at Sheplers. Yes, a butt model. I was flattered until a friend of mine noted that they “didn’t want to see my face.” Ouch. (Some friend.)

So what lessons have I learned from the awkward times in my life?

– Humility
– Empathy
– Resourcefulness

What mother wouldn’t want this for her daughter, to be more beautiful on the inside than she is on the outside? I honestly feel that these attributes are best earned the hard way, through overcoming adversity and knowing what it’s like to be on the outside looking in. I hope my girls don’t hate me someday for this prayer. (They’ll probably hate me someday either way.) And if all else fails, I’ll stick some thick plastic frames on them, dress them in outdated clothes, and force them to learn random trivia (for all of those Scholar’s Bowl matches). Oh, who am I kidding? They’ll still look cute. I guess they’ll just have to learn the lessons above by listening to their momma. :-)

Let’s Hear it for the Homemakers

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Anna Lou and Betty Lou

Today, the girls and I were blessed to spend our time with an amazing woman, my Aunt Betty. She has been both my rock and my soft place to land for as long as I can remember. When things get all topsy-turvy, she’s always there  with a spare bed, hot coffee, and the world’s best chicken soup.

We’re so close, in fact, that Anna shares her middle name, Lou. My father has always told me that I come from a long line of strong women, and I’m honored to pass this legacy on to my daughters. It’s funny, though, that I never fully appreciated all she’s been through until this season in my life.

She’s never really had what you’d call a traditional career. She’s never climbed any corporate ladders, or won any mucky-muck awards. She is what you’d call a homemaker. While some might scoff at the title, I realize now just how important it is to have homemakers in our lives.

You see, she works harder than most people I know. Her home is a warm, friendly safe-haven for her multitudes of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and even great nieces (like my girls). She always has time to run an errand for you, keep the kids for a few hours while you shop for groceries, or just listen as you pour your heart out over several cups of coffee.

As I begin to comprehend the influence she’s had in my life, it gives me renewed hope and a sense of purpose. My traditional career had been at the center of my life for a long time, and I derived my sense of worth from my successes. Now that my role has changed, I’m beginning to see that our true worth isn’t in how far we can advance ourselves, but in how far we can advance the ones we love.