Much—I’d venture most—of my childhood was spent alone: playing alone, reading alone—no one present to my thoughts but the summer locusts and a farm full of animals. I would sometimes play with my parents’ grandchildren and a couple boys my age who lived close by, but my childhood feels characterized more by solitude than by regular interaction with other kids; they just simply weren’t like me so alone was just easier. I don’t remember being lonely per se yet I envied the type of relationship my nieces and nephews (who were just a few years younger than me) had with each other. Sure, they could be harsh to one another but their family configurations offered them built-in people to talk to, someone (for better or worse) to witness their lives, to companion them when they were scared or confused or crushing on someone or just wanted to play.
I remember this one night—I must’ve been 11 or 12—I had climbed up in the pecan tree by the barn as was my custom. (I was a climber—roofs, trees, fences.) From my perch, I looked out over the pasture at the sky above. A canopy of deepening shades of indigo—the kind of blue you can only see out in the country—glimmered with what I though was a million million stars; some were small, some formed configurations I had learned from my fold-out, glow-in-the-dark National Geographic World magazine map of the sky, and one big star that always, no matter where I was, seemed to glimmer toward me.
As the locusts reprised their nightly symphony, I reflected on a piece of information that had unceremoniously been passed on to me earlier that day. My biological mother (who had for a few months moved to our small town and who would not have my little brother for almost a decade) had discovered some information about my biological father. She told me the woman involved in the brokering of my adoption had learned he had three daughters. [As I recall this memory, I’m pretty sure I made up the part about them living all together somewhere in the Midwest where they had horses and apple trees and a beautiful life; this construction could not be further from the actual reality.]
Sisters. I had sisters! As I lay across the broad branch of the old tree, my heart swelled at the thought of it—sisters who were my very own.
I wondered what they were like…if they looked like me…if they were like me (meaning, “were they ‘different’ like me”)…whether they would like me. And as I looked up at that impossibly big sky, my heart pounding in my chest, I prayed that some day I would know these sisters, somehow, some way—that at least one of them would be like me.
In that moment, I could’ve sworn that big star winked at me.
Well, the Creator of that impossibly big sky scattered with stars answered my prayer. United with two of these sisters for a decade this year, I can absolutely affirm that we look alike (though the ginger gene skipped me), act alike, and that yes, they not only like me—they love me! I’ve written about one of these beloved sisters, but the other—well for some reason, the other sister I have not, for I think my heart has just been to full of joy to know where to begin.
You see, that night in the pecan tree—I know that star was winking at us both, telling our hearts that we were not alone. That, in its wisdom overlooking the earth, it knew a little red-haired girl in Kentucky who was longing for a brother, for resonance with someone else who didn’t quite fit in, for a soul-sibling to share her life and her fears and her joys and her insecurities and her dreams with.
And decades later—we were brought together: me and my sister Jenn, the star in my heart.
When I talked to her on the phone that first night in 2009, it was as if a lifetime had collapsed into two hours. Never before had I felt such a synergy, such a connection, such a confluence of belongingness. And once we met in person, we immediately became “thick as thieves,” as if we had known each other our entire lives. Since then, we have been making up for all the years of being without each other. And continue to do so.
My beloved sister Jenn—what an incredible woman. I could talk about how she overcame so many obstacles in her life to become the person she is today. How she finished school a bit later in life and became a leader in the corporate world. How she emancipated herself from toxic relationships so she could become the kind of person who would attract the great love destined for her. How she models for her daughters what a strong, nurturing, creative, and bold woman looks like and teaches them to love them selves and their bodies, live fully into their spirits, and above all love others. How she cares for her mother and family and how she loves to laugh (oh, her laugh!), loves to dance, and loves to sing karaoke. (If you haven’t heard us sing Delta Dawn…well you should probably be thankful.)
But here’s what I’m bursting at the seams to say.
Today, she turns 47. She is raising a family. She is invested in a deeply nurturing relationship full of reciprocity and passion. She is a mentor and loyal friend to so many. And she is about to take a huge leap toward living into her purpose.
A couple of years ago, Jenn exited the corporate track, pausing that part of her life to try and discern what it was she wanted to do with her gifts and talents. She leaned more fully in to caring for her family full time and immersed herself in rigorous self-discovery. During this time, she engaged in the practice of relationship and expressing her gift of being present to others. She mentored inner-city high school youth, teaching them to cling to their dreams, to believe in themselves, and claim that above all they each one are incredible human beings full of potential and light. She became involved in companioning trans women who were struggling to enter the workforce, sharing her skills, yes, but mostly spending time with them, seeing them, being present to their fears and companioning them into a stronger belief in themselves. She searched, she worked through her doubts and fears—all the while listening to the cues of the Universe guiding her.
And now, after a season of discernment, she is entering grad school in just over a week to begin a Master of Social Work degree at USC so she can specifically—with her natural, Universe-blessed giftedness enhanced with a season of knowledge and practice—companion queer teens and young adults as they struggle to find healing and wholeness en route to living into their purpose.
This—this is my sister y’all. And I am so deeply proud. And also humored by how very much alike we are, how we approach life, how our paths are so very similar and inextricably intertwined. (And what is it with us and 47?!)
Of the folks in my most inner, sacred circle, she is there like she always is and was always destined to be: holding space, being fully present, nurturing and filling the air with the electricity of her joy. (And probably, whether it’s for breakfast or when we’ve rolled in at 3 a.m., fixing us some amazing yummy thing to eat with whatever she can find in the house.)
Beloved sister: you are the answered prayer of my young boy’s heart, the star the designer of the Universe placed there for me to discover, gleaming brightly each time I think of you. You are the blessed living reminder that I am not alone in this world.
And in a few days, when we are together in the Dust beneath an indigo sky holding those same ancient stars, know that I behold you with the deepest affection, gratitude, and joy, as the same blood and stardust coursing through our bodies affirm what that big star always knew:
You. And me.
I love you sister. Happy birthday.
White Nationalism is not Christianity