Sisters in the City of Brotherly Love

IMG_2325Many people have described life as a tapestry: here on earth, we see the back and the mess of strings and don’t understand how it is all coming together. But someday, the Master Weaver will show us the finished product and we will marvel.

Sometimes, though, we are lucky enough to get a sneak peek, a corner of beauty that has been in process for years and years, where we can trace the threads with our fingers and be overwhelmed by sovereign plans and merciful care.

I got to do that this past weekend with my dear friend Christa. Little Man was away for the weekend, so Sunshine and I decided to travel to Philadelphia. Naturally, I contacted Christa’s family, as they live about a half hour from the city.

Although, when we thought about it, there is really nothing “natural” about it.

I sat in a kitchen with a young woman almost fifteen years younger than I, completely relating to one another about life, love, growing in character, everything…even down to what it means to be the oldest sibling of four and to live life with others online. She is a sister on this journey with me, and I was so refreshed to hear encouragement and give it as well.

The most amazing thing to me was found in the counting out of all the gradual things that had to be put into place in order to be in this time, in this place, communing together.

I first “met” Christa and her family nine years ago, when she was a student in my online writing class. While my real life friends know the ins and outs of my physical living, I have an entire set of people who I live online with. I have a secret society of students who come to me every day to learn and grow, and who turn into the people they were meant to be right before my eyes. These dear students are not just pixels on a screen, but living, breathing people. Those relationships are sometimes just as rich as my face-to-face ones, and hold just as much importance to me. Due to the nature of my job, I often have students for four, five, even six years in a row. While some pass through, there are special ones who I develop a deep bond with.

And sometimes, I get lucky enough to breathe in the same space as one of them.

I met this family for the first time in real life at a picnic eight years ago and instantly fell in love with their quirky humor and zest for life. Christa’s mom Ellen soon became a barometer for my professional improvement, and a sounding board for my personal life. Over the years, our paths and lives have continued to intertwine.

Christa and her sister Courtney just “happened” to be magnificent writers, winning awards both regionally and nationally. The awards ceremonies were ones I “happened” to be able to attend. Their two younger siblings also “happen” to be on their way to continuing the tradition.

Their family’s home “happened” to be close enough to different events that we could meet or I could stay there, and often other things like piano recitals or church fellowship “happened” to be at the same time, and as we spent time together, our affection for one another grew.

Christa just “happened” to be the oldest of four, just like me, and we both “happen” to process the world in similar ways.

Courtney, the second sister, just “happened” to like languages, and decided that Russian was one she wanted to learn. She is currently at a language institute studying Sunshine’s native language.

Christa “happened” to get a paid internship last summer, and she “happened” to have had excess money that she wanted to use to support missions. As she was praying over what to do, I was praying over whether I should bring Sunshine here. Our desires coincided, and I found myself supported by a college student. She found herself investing in the life of a girl she hadn’t even met.

And so we have traveled and found our paths constantly intersecting and our relationship growing. And they love this girl of mine because they have loved me.

We tell these things to Sunshine and she says, “Oh yes. Цепочка. Chain. Like stones connected to make beautiful bracelet.”

It is a chain we could not have understood when it began, a chain we were not looking for, a chain we desperately needed.

And so we spent the weekend turning this chain of love over and over in our fingers.

We Skyped with Courtney in her room at the language institute. Sunshine spoke in Russian and corrected her pronunciation. She quizzed Courtney on the names of animals and told her she would send her books to help in her studies. Courtney will forever be known as the “Russian sister.”

We sat around the table and the younger two siblings laughed at Sunshine’s sass and opinions on life. The rest of Christa’s family was leaving for vacation the next day and were trying to get ready, but they kept being drawn in to her stories. Sunshine’s level of comfortableness surprised me—she is generally more guarded than she was with this family. But it was like talking with old friends from the start.

We spent the next day with Christa, walking around Philadelphia. We visited the zoo and the Liberty Bell and Chinatown. We took Sunshine to a Russian bookstore. Christa got a sense of our relationship. The Liberty Bell was declared boring and I was asked, “You like to be boring?” Christa laughed.IMG_2331

Yes, I said. Yes, I do. Especially if it means creating memories with you.

And that evening, Christa and I sat together, this unlikely pair of friends, sisters in spirit, amazed at the path of our relationship, the way that our lives have come together, the love that we both feel for this dear girl.

I know that Christa could never have known what her investment in me would mean for her life, just like I never would have imagined that my investment in her as a teacher would yield this beautiful relationship.

But there was One who did, and as we counted out our stones in this chain together, I was overcome by the care in each detail to get us here.

So many times, we look at the big things as the “moments” of life. Christa and I have been to New York City together for awards ceremonies three times. We have met for picnics and class parties. I have written very important recommendations for her college applications. She has given me financial gifts. But those aren’t the things that make us friends. Those aren’t the things that invest us in one another.

Those are the results.

The real work came in the mundane. Turn in this paper. Grade that assignment. Fill out this application. Answer that question for the hundredth time.  Neither of us knew what we were building. The moments only happened because we walked in faithfulness doing the work placed in front of us.

I think of all the millions of details we invest in each day. How so many of them feel mundane. How many times we slip the next stone on the chain, sew the next stitch on the tapestry, thinking that these things are nothing. We can sometimes become frustrated with these small tasks, never realizing that faithfulness here leads to the big moments.

I am so grateful for Christa and her family, faithfully investing in the mundane with me.

The results will be everlasting.

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