How can one person be so lucky as to end up with two sisters so completely different in personality and yet, both such courageous people who inspire others daily? Only by the grace of God.
I am one such person.
My regular readers might remember how last month, I blogged about my sister, D, and how she has inspired me with her courage in dealing with some really difficult life challenges and her life as a single mom.
Well, today is my middle sister, Jessica's, birthday, and she, too, has made incredible impressions on me and amazed me with her internal strength and courage.
I was three when Jessica was born and Mom always reminds me how much I adored her. While this wasn't always so apparent as we grew, she has always held a special place in my heart. Sometimes I think she was born possessing more blessings than most.
Jessica had a cuter face than I did and her cheeks and dimples alone grabbed people's attention and make them ooh and ahh over her. She had a natural wit that made others -- especially our mom -- laugh out loud. She had incredible artistic gifts that made all my artwork look like it was made by a chimp -- with his non-dominant hand. And she was so naturally intelligent that even though she was born after the cutoff for school, she tested to begin kindergarten a year early and the evaluators asked our mom if she wouldn't like to have this brilliant 4-year-old skip ahead to first grade.
But she was shy. So Mom decided kindergarten was better to help her build up confidence.
Meanwhile, I remember feeling jealous of her for a lot of years. The green monster was especially ferocious when Jessica and I were both part of a statewide jump rope team in Nevada at the same time. When we became eligible to compete against the other teams in the nation, she was selected among the 16 kids who would represent our team, while I was chosen as a first alternate.
She got to fly to Boulder and I got to learn all the routines and show up to all the practices only to show up at the airport in my athletic shorts and some cowgirl boots (such fashion sense) to wave goodbye to all my friends. I was actually upset that none of them had dropped out or gotten sick. (Shame on me for wishing ill upon them ... but I was only like 8 or 9 at the time.)
So skip ahead several years.
Jessica graduated from high school and what did she do? She went on a countrywide road trip with our cousin and a friend. Here I was a full-grown adult, married with a husband who would gladly travel that road with me, and it still seemed frightening to me. To leave home for a month and just travel around ... not knowing where her next stop would be or what troubles lie ahead? The whole idea of it still astounds me. She was still a kid (in my mind) when she did that.
That's courage right there.
And she did this more than once. She travels alone quite often. I have only traveled alone a couple times in my life ... and both times it was just a plane ride to stay with extended family for a bit.
Jessica and I graduated from junior college with our Associates' at the same time (that tells you how much faster she got through it than I did). She went on to complete her Bachelor's degree, too. I have not.
Jessica has lived away from our parents and all of our family for most of her adult life (I think -- a lot, anyway). While C and I have moved to plenty of places where family is not, we have done it together. I can't imagine doing that as a single woman ... moving where I know no one. Starting over and figuring out all the stuff like where to live, how to fix a car or a vacuum , where to attend church, where to find a social group for support and socializing -- doing all that without much input from others.
The concept of it sounds terrifying to me. But she handles this stuff in stride.
Does Jessica ever get lonely? Sure. Does she ever wish she wasn't so far away from family support? Probably. But she carries on. She knows that with God in her life, she is never truly alone and she depends on that. Her faith is strong. Her faith is a light and an example to others every day.
Jessica is not opposed to marrying one day, but for now, she seems content with her singleness. She likes the freedom it gives her to be creative with her time and schedule or to do nothing at all once and awhile. She comes and goes as she pleases (and as it fits in with work). I was married at 18, so I really don't know what it's like to live like that. I went from my family with parents to my family with husband. I've always been accountable to family. It's all I know and I find comfort in it.
To me, she seems brave to live as she does.
And through all of her life adventures and bravery, I've seen her grow into an incredible person and artist. She creates beauty all around her. I'm astounded by her gifts and how she's developed them over the years. And all the while, she remains humble and ever-striving for more.
She is a wonderful aunt to all her nephieces (her word combining nephews and nieces) and loves them like they were her own children. I think that may come easier for her since she's only around them a couple times a year usually (now) ... so she gets to experience all the joys of being with them and very little of the hard stuff. But I know that when I'm dealing with the hard stuff of our kids, she's praying for us and supporting us from her home in another state.
So, Jessica, one of my most avid readers, thank you for all you are and do. Thank you for being a wonderful sister and friend to me and for being a loving aunt to our children. Thank you for inspiring me to work on developing my own talents. Thank you for showing me how to be brave when I feel afraid. You are courageous and I wanted you to know how much I appreciate you for being you.