The secret to sibling relationships

National Siblings Day was this week! I thoroughly enjoy all types of celebrations and this one in particular holds a special place in my heart. I did a quick internet search on the history of this holiday and here is what I found:

 

“Claudia Evart created the US holiday in 1995 after losing her brother and sister at a very early age. She realized what an important role siblings have in our lives, so she created the holiday to honor the memory of her siblings.”

 

Every day we have many things pulling for our attention and this is a good reminder to make some calls, send some texts, or jump in your car to deliver an in-person word of encouragement.

 

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

Now depending on where you are in life and your family dynamic, reading about Siblings Day could cause a few emotional reactions:

  1. You smile and feelings of home sprinkled with good memories wash over you like a cozy blanket.
  2. It may stir an ache that is deep in your heart for the loss of a sibling or highlight the distance that time apart or not having a relationship due to conflict can cause.
  3. You didn’t grow up with siblings, but perhaps you have close friends you call your chosen family who have stood in the place of a brother and/or sister in your life.

 

I have had the opportunity to experience all three in my beautiful valley-and-mountain-top, 36-year journey – heartache, friendships, and restoration.

 

I grew up in a single family home where my mom was everything – dance partner, homework helper, shelter provider, which as I got older kept her increasingly away from home. I am very extroverted, never have met a stranger, and as a little girl I wanted siblings with every fiber in my energy-filled body.

 

Growing up I remember hearing phone conversations between my grandma and her sister. I loved how they would call each other “sis.” I wanted a nickname like that. I would hear stories how my grandma would fiercely defend her sister and protect her from school bullies as they walked home on dirt roads in rural Illinois. To belong to someone, share my hopes and dreams with someone, and have a built-in friend, was the dream!

 

I gave my heart to Jesus when I was a little girl and I remember hearing about this Father in heaven who knew me before I was born and that I could be a part of his big family. I ran down the aisle in kid’s church to the front and left there with such joy and expectation, as well as a Ten Commandments bookmark.

brother and sister hugging on couch

Through my younger years, I saw my dad here and there and knew he had four boys--one older and three younger. My heart would ache and long to know them and to be known by them. When I was 16 I learned there was a new addition to the family, a little girl.

 

The LORD says, “I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts.” Joel 2:25

 

I prayed and would hold onto the promises I read in the Scriptures. I would pray for my brothers’ protection and would thank God that one day we would be connected. After years of praying and believing, at the end of 2008, I stirred up some courage and called my dad to ask if I could come over to their house. Sometimes the fear of rejection can hold us back and let me tell you that fear was a large mountain.

 

I drove myself there not knowing if I would be accepted. Would I feel out of place? But yet, I was filled with hope. To sum up this story, it was beautiful, awkward, joy-filled and an answered prayer.

 

Once I came over, I just kept showing up and we have been in each other’s lives ever since. I cherish the late night conversations, them asking my opinion and being a part of family gatherings. The best was when my 5-year-old sister met me for the first time and she was filled with pure excitement. She asked our dad, “Where did you find her? I always wanted a sister.” (Me too.)

 

God’s Word says he restores the years, and I can say this is true. Not to say there haven’t been things to walk through and the need to be intentional in cultivating and protecting our relationships. As adults now and some with families of their own, I am living in the exceedingly abundant. I wanted a sibling or two, but I am blessed to be one of six with one niece and nephew with another on the way.

 

I also recognize this isn’t everyone’s story. You may have a sibling who has closed off communication. I have known many who are still waiting on relationship restoration. Or you may be walking through grief over the loss of a sibling.

 

Before the answered prayer and reconciliation with my family, I am thankful God was always close to my broken heart. I had and still have close friends who are my chosen sisters who I met in youth group 20 years ago. I honor them and their parents for creating an atmosphere where I could belong and be accepted. They also showed me what healthy relationships look like and took me on so many family vacations!

 

*Special note to the brothers and men who are like a brother: You are needed and your sisters want to hear from you! If you have older or younger sisters, the impact you have and the words you share give life. I was listening to a friend who is the baby brother in his family and how he checks in on his sisters and vice versa. He is present and available and that is a beautiful thing.

 

To the brothers and sisters out there doing this and who at times may feel discouraged, I honor you and God honors you. It’s in the everyday ordinary that you are making a difference and a kingdom impact.

 

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Now let’s get to the good stuff: encouragement and some tips on how you can experience the best Siblings Day ever!

  • Close Siblings: Keep at it! Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10
    • The giver, the initiator of first communication- keep at it (let us not grow weary while doing good). Take time today to write, send a video, or call your siblings.
    • The receiver, waits to be contacted: Surprise your siblings by reaching out, you know who I am talking about. Surprise them and be the first to reach out. Your sibling wants to hear from you and know they are important in your life.
  • To those who feel loss and heartache: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3
    • Grieving - If you have lost a sibling, I hope you have a close friend who has been there with you through the grief. I see you and I pray you have someone to sit with you in this valley and listen. If you feel you want to share about them on social media or in the comments in this blog, please do so. I would love to read about them.
  • Waiting on restoration: “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
    • Waiting - If you don’t have a relationship with a sibling(s) due to a disagreement and now time has become the separator or you haven’t had the chance for a relationship, I know this pain. You aren’t alone and I am praying for you. If it is safe and your heart is at the place where it is secure in God, I encourage you to reach out. Be the first to take a step toward reconciliation. I know it can be scary, I had often cried out to God and asked, “Why do I have to be the first?" The Bible says, "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13  God has you and won’t leave you.

Friends, the Chosen Family “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Proverbs 17:17

  • “Framily” – To the friends who are closer than a brother, who are aunts and uncles to all the children in your friend group and at church, thank God for the extra blessings! Send those close friends a card and tell them what they mean to you.
  • To the lonely – If you read all this and need a friend/sibling or are going to church and leaving right away not talking with anyone – I encourage you to open your heart and take a step to connect with someone. Be someone’s answered prayer who is seeking family and needs you as their friend.

Many people out there are searching for their purpose in life, but I have heard and believe we have many everyday purposes. As family dynamics change they could give way to feelings of sadness that come to rob your joy. Navigating adult relationships can be difficult, so if you are younger, build a strong communication plan now and walk it out. Be open to learning and receiving feedback from others. Go to God and work to reframe your thoughts from a “lack mentality” to one of gratitude for this season. Let us ask God to help us be the best sister/brother, daughter/son, and friend we can be. When you grow weary on being the first to reach out, ask God to give you strength to continue to grow in selfless love to show up in the everyday.

 

Maintaining relationships takes time and effort. You hold the title brother or sister in someone’s life; now go and make a difference in their lives and the world!

 

"In fact, some parts of teh body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we cloth with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the memebrs, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad." Romans 12:22-26

 

 

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