To My First Friend…

There is a quote that goes around on Facebook sometimes and it goes something like this: “Cherish your cousins because they were the first friends you ever had.”

While I have cousins and I believe this quote is true for many people, it is not true for me. The first friends I ever made were the two people who accepted me as their new little sister, albeit grudgingly on occasion. My siblings, Matthew and Chelsea, welcomed me with open arms, and sometimes it felt like we were the only ones we had.

But this post is about just one of them, as today, August 6, is her birthday.

Chelsea was my first friend in this entire world, and throughout the 23 years we have known each other our relationship has gone through peaks and valleys, and there were more than a few years where all we did was scream at each other—but she will never be replaced as my first friend and one of my best friends.

Chels, do you remember when we would be in the car for hours on end going all over Riverside and Redlands and Loma Linda and every other city in most of Riverside County for our paper routes? And remember how we would always have the radio on a country station? (You know, back when country was actually country and really good?) There was one song that we both really liked by Reba McEntire called “My Sister.” Whenever that song came on we would both get quiet and you would turn the radio up (even though Mom never liked the radio to go past a three on the volume scale) and we would listen to it. And my mind would go years into the future, imagining what we would be like and where we would live and what our relationship would look like.

The song tells the story of one sister calling another and leaving a voicemail. Honestly it is the type of voicemail I would leave you just to annoy you a little bit because I would intentionally just keep going on and on about random things. But at the end of the song, the last few lines reflect what our relationship looks like:

“It’s late and I should go,
But I can’t hang up the phone
Until I tell you what I don’t tell you enough
Even though at times it seemed
We were more like enemies
I’d do it all again
My sister, my friend”

These lines sum up our 23 years perfectly. There are times I feel like I could make way more of an effort and I fail, and there were days when I would pray that we could make it through just one day without fighting, but I would never change anything and I would gladly live my childhood and my teen years all over again.

So, you may be asking yourself why I am writing a long and (maybe a little) sappy post for your birthday. Well, first, because I am not there with you no matter how much I wish I was; second, I think words are powerful. To answer your question: I am writing because I hope to make you feel the depth of love and amount of respect I have for you, on this day, your 27th birthday.

Chelsea, you are the definition of a great sister. You are so gracious, so strong, so encouraging and so patient. I remember when I was afraid to talk to you when I was a teenager because I knew how smart and strong you were (and still are) and I did not want you to be disappointed in me about anything. If I was ever nervous to talk to you it was because I did not want you to think poorly of me or hear how stupid I was for doing or thinking something. Even though those words never left your mouth, your intelligence was always highly respected by me. You saw things and people in such a special and unique way, and it intimidated me. But I grew from having you as my sister, and you are easily the one person who has taught me way more than I thought was humanly possible.

Through your strength you taught me how to not only stand for something but to remain standing for it.

Through your love for people you taught me how to fight for them.

Through your humor you taught me how to have a good time and find humor in pretty much anything. (My friends now know that I will find something to laugh at when we watch movies…even if the movie is far from comedy.)

Through your determination and leadership you taught me that it is more valuable to be an example by being different than it is to simply be like everyone else.

Through your resilience you taught me that even a crippling disease should not and cannot keep you down for too long.

Through your intelligence you taught me that some people will not always know how to act or speak around you but that is nothing to be ashamed of.

Through your respectability you taught what a respectable life looks like.

Through your confidence you taught me how to be a confident woman even in moments of crisis and freaking out about the unpredictability of life, especially life as an adult.

Through your fearlessness you taught me that it is okay to take a leap of faith even when you do not know what is waiting for you when you land.

As you have gotten older, you have grown so much emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I have always looked up to you, but I think in recent years we have learned to look at each other as equals, a sort of looking to the side instead of looking up. I am proud to be your sister, and there are a billion other things about you that I appreciate. You have always been the epitome of what it means to live a determined yet quiet and respectable life even when it does not suit the people around you. And I appreciate how constant and consistent you have been as Chelsea, my sister.

God knew what He was doing when He created us to be complete opposites, which makes sense considering how long it took to figure each other out. But like the song goes, I would do it all over again—I would live every bit of our childhood all over again, as long as you were by my side.

You are and will always be my first friend.

I love you, sissy. Happy birthday!

Oh, Mom…

There is a song I like to listen to. It is called “Love Remains.”

If you listen to country music, you know who Lady Antebellum is. And if you know the names of the members, you know that Hilary Scott released a worship album with her family, and it is composed of old and new hymns and worship songs. And, you guessed it, “Love Remains” is on this album.

It makes me think of my family, the love my parents show me every day. But it also makes me think of my mom. The song begins by talking about how we are all born, and our parents react to seeing us for the first time: “Momma smiles, and Daddy cries.” The song goes on and talks about how a boy will grow up and take a bride: “She stands faithful, by his side.”

When I think about my 23 years on this earth and the constant presence of my mom, I can say I saw her do primarily two things: She smiled (at us and because of us) and she stood faithful (by my dad’s side and by our side).

Over the last couple of months, I thought of my dad a lot. He has so many characteristics and traits (hard working, loyal, sacrificial, consistent, loving, respectable, etc.) and he works hard to make sure his children possess those traits as well. But my mom…I cannot begin to tell you how many of her traits are amazing and precious, and how I desire to have those same traits.

If I could use only one adjective to describe both of my parents, I would say this:

Dad is consistent, but Mom is steady.

I can honestly say that she has been a steady and faithful foundation my entire life. While Dad had to go make sacrifices and take care of the family outside of the home, Mom was with us, providing everything we needed. She is the picture of steady love.

At this point, I just want to write something personal to my mom so I am going to change up this post a little bit, but keep reading.

Mom, I am thankful for our relationship. I remember being a teenager, and if there was ever something bothering me it was rare that I talked to you about it. I was Dad’s girl no matter what. I remember you asked me about it one Sunday on our way home from church. I remember where we were on the freeway (driving under the Nuevo Rd. overpass). I remember what car we were in (the truck). I remember where we were going (Sam’s Club). I had a bad day at church, and I was beyond frustrated, and instead of talking to you about it I chose to sit in the passenger seat and cry. I stared straight ahead and refused to be talked to. You got frustrated because I think I told you I only wanted to talk to Dad about what was bothering me. You were quiet after that. It occurred to me that it did not make much sense that I was not taking advantage of your listening ears or your heart of love, and it hurt you every time I preferred Dad over you. Somewhere in my heart that day I made a commitment to start talking to you more. Our relationship grew from that point forward, and now I am just as close to you as I am to Dad.

And now that I live on my own, the lessons you poured into me have taken root in whole new ways. Dad worked tirelessly (and still works tirelessly) to teach me and Matthew and Chelsea how to work hard and respect people and earn respect in return and defend ourselves and fight for what is right and prioritize others over ourselves and how to make sacrifices and be smart and be wise. He always taught with the right amount of love and strength so we would get it. But your lessons were so soft and subtle that I did not really put much thought to them until recently.

You taught me how to use my time wisely. If there is something that needs to be done and you have a few minutes to do it, get it done. You always told me, “The things you love, you will make time for them.”

You taught me how to plan and how to be wise with the gifts I have been given. Whether that gift is financial stability or time spent with people, it takes a certain amount of organization and wisdom to use them.

You taught me how to be faithful. You have never let me question how much you love me and how deep your love for me runs. And even in those moments when I think I might have reached the bottom of the deep love you possess, you always assure me that there is more to be found.

You taught me how to be quiet and let things play out. I bet if anyone who does not know you could use one word to describe you, it would be “quiet.” You are quiet by choice. You choose the right moment to speak and the right moment to keep your words to yourself, and so much of that wisdom comes from how well you know me.

You taught me how to fight (in all aspects where a fight is needed or required). I still think of how hard you had to fight for me against insurance companies and doctor’s offices, and if you had not fought who knows what my life would have turned out to be.

You taught me how to love in small and detailed ways. Everything you have ever done for me, it has stemmed from the detailed love you show me. You know me well and you taught me to show that same love to others.

You taught me how to cling to the Lord every day of my life, and you taught me that He will communicate with me in a personal way, a way He does not use with anyone else. I am special to Him, and that will show in every part of my relationship with Him.

Most of all, you taught me how to put my characteristics into action. You taught me how to get to know myself, and surrender my gifts to God so He could use them the best way He sees fit.

Mom, the song “Love Remains” makes me think of our family. If there is anything more difficult than being a parent to a toddler, I would think it is being a parent to an adult child. But I think you and Dad have done a good job always showing us that love remains. So for that and so much more, thank you.