Gifted in Advance

On this date— ten years, five months and ten days before I was born— God gave me a gift. My sister, Karen. She babied me, cared for me and played with me as only an older sister can.

I’m blessed with many memories of time with my sister. How she carefully pulled aside the white strands sprinkled through my “dishwater blonde” hair, while my mom was giving me a home perm, her comments on how pretty they were. How she sewed eyelet around the hems of my grown-too-short overalls, making an awkward time feel special. Riding on the handle bars of her bike as Karen pedaled us down our street to the park, with me loudly singing “Ahhhhhh” so that the bumps in the road would make my voice bobble up and down, nearly wrecking because she was laughing so hard.

She taught me how to stand on my head, how to do a back bridge and how to do a cartwheel by practicing on a straightened water hose. How to roller-skate on a bumpy sidewalk in a pair of metal, adjustable skates that fit on my tennis shoes. How to play Slap-Jack, Old Maid, Go Fish and WAR!

We made cookies and brownies and lemon ice box pie. Ran squealing through sprinklers. Washed (and, walked!) pet pigs. Cut out paper dolls.

I remember how my big sister would wrestle our brother into submission on the floor of the living room while I watched and laughed from the safety of our couch. And how she would often turn and catch me, ticking me until I cried “Uncle!”

I remember getting to sit with her, among the other “big kids” at church, where she played tic-tac-toe and hangman with me during the sermon.

I remember Karen helping me hammer milk cartons of ice into chunks small enough to fit in the ice cream freezer. Gathering pecans from under our grandparents’ trees— and those on the Abilene Christian campus. Picking vegetables with her in our Grandma’s magnificent garden.

At Halloween, Karen would creep me out by wiggling fingers covered with pumpkin “innards” as we carved pumpkins, but then she’d help dress me in costumes that, more often than not, she helped our mom create.

I remember bouncing on her bed Christmas mornings, waiting for her to bring our filled stockings; she’d go through the dark to get them, helping keep whatever Santa had left under the tree a surprise until Dad had turned on the tree’s lights.

I vaguely remember sharing a bunk bed with me brother, but then I was moved into Karen’s room where we shared a double bed. Poor big sister— I was either tossing and turning, or snuggling up against her and making her too hot. When she was old enough to date, I’d lie in bed and wait for her to come home. I’d pretend to be asleep— lying oh, so very still, holding my breath. She’d always say, “I know you’re not asleep” and it would make me so mad! How could she possibly know?? (I think maybe it was the “not breathing” part.)

For a while, with the difference in our ages, we didn’t have a lot in common. She was a teenager and I was the bratty little sister (that she was still nice to). Then she was off to college, getting married, having babies. I was growing up, expanding my own horizons and for much of the time, we weren’t even in the same state, much less the same town. But I always knew she loved me.

I carried that knowledge in my inner “security bag” when I went off to college and then while moving all over the world as a Marine wife, raising a family of my own. We had more in common, then, with her ever willing to offer advice when asked. But, still, our lives were running on different lines, sometimes parallel, sometimes intersecting and running concurrently for a while before separating, again. Thankfully, technology made keeping in touch easier, even if the busy-ness of our lives was a challenge.

This week, well, it was an amazing week. My sister, knowing how nervous I was about buying a dress for an upcoming special event, offered to fly down and take me to one of her favorite dress shops near me. I picked her up at the airport and we checked into our hotel suite. (A one-room suite, to be sure, but, still, it had a living room area!) Drive-through Starbucks (my favorite coffee EVER is on the menu right now) and Chick-Fil-A nuggets (I like the CFA sauce, she prefers honey mustard) and dinners out with shared desserts.

I broke a sweat trying on fancy dresses and she may or may not have broken a nail zipping and unzipping, fastening and unfastening them! We shopped a little, met up with one of her old friends (which literally cost me, as said friend owns a wonderful home store, decorated to the nines for the holidays!)

And, we talked. And talked. And, maybe, cried a little. And, then, we talked some more. As well as a sister, she’s now a true friend.

We hugged goodbye when I dropped her off at George Bush Intercontinental, but were already talking about doing this again— maybe in the Smokey Mountains?— so I didn’t cry when she left. I did the next-best thing. Got more coffee.

Reflecting on our mid-week weekend, I thank God for the gift He gave me before I was ready for it. He knew what I would need before I was even born! His gifts are like that. We have no idea what’s coming. Or, from what direction. Or what form it will take. But, He does. And He’s ready for it, ready to take care of us. Ready to bless us beyond all imagining.

My sister is one of those “blessings before imaginings”.

I love you, Sis.

Happy Birthday!

And know… I remember.

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