Wednesday, June 21, 2017

When Your Younger Siblings Get Married First {An Older Sister's Perspective}


This post isn't what you might be thinking it will be. If you want a sob story post of the older sister who is wallowing in depression with her three baby brothers getting married before her, well, wrong stop here. =) This is a post of so much hope and happiness that I'm thinking a little of the love might just rub off onto y'all after reading it! I've been sitting on this post for EVER (I was waiting til all three were engaged because, well, that just would make it quite legit) and am so excited to finally share it!

It has actually been something on my heart for years. Call it sister intuition, or whatever, but for so long already I have expected to have my younger siblings get married first. Probably partially because they were always mature for their ages, whereas it took me a little longer to grow up, and then partially just because I really thought it would end out this way. It never bothered me; on the contrary, I was ecstatic for it. I prayed for it. For the last several years, in particular (as they've been getting older) it has been one of the greatest cries of my heart---for my brothers to find and have peace about the right girl with which to spend the rest of their lives. I was totally thrilled with the thought that they would probably "go" before me. It didn't bother me in the slightest, rather, it was my chief wish and dream that my brothers would get married first. At the time I started more seriously praying for them (in my early twenties, when they were getting to the age where they could get married) I knew that there were no guys I was interested in, and at the time I honestly had no desire to get married, with other things in my life that I was focusing on. The thought of wanting my brothers to wait until I was ready and married first, never even crossed my mind.

And here we are. The boys all started relationships in the fall of 2016, (Mitchell in August, Josh in September, and Carson in October) and now all three of them are getting married this fall, 2017. It was all so God, the timing of everything. Recently a friend told us that a rumor is going around our home community that my Dad "finally allowed his boys to get married". That story got the loudest howls of laughter you can imagine, around our dinner table! Without going into the whole long stories of their lives the past five years, let me just tell you that the reason my brothers are all getting married now, virtually at the same time, has nothing to do with planning it all perfectly, or the timing being just what they would've picked, or any of that. For everyone of you who knows their stories, and for me, their oldest sister, we can only say, "the hand of Jesus was all over those stories, and the timing was perfect, because it was ALL JESUS."

Last fall, when all of this was beginning, Allison was living in Mexico, and I was at home, trying to keep all three of these brother lovebirds on the straight and narrow, haha. And you know what? It was, and continues to be, one of the happiest times of my life.
I vividly remember one October Sunday, when all three girlfriends were over for dinner. I texted Allison pictures and said something like this: "Sister of mine...from my place at the kitchen window, washing dishes, I can faintly hear Mitchell + Bryn chatting in the schoolroom, I see Josh and Cassidy swinging and talking on the swings in the front yard, and Carson and Carolina are deep in conversation, still at the dinner table, the only ones left there. ALLI! God is so good! I might just sit down and cry from sheer happiness! How are we so blessed? So much answered prayer! So much grace and beauty poured down from Jesus!!"

For my sister and I, it wasn't hard. People asked us if it was. (hashtag most asked question ever!)
I felt like I should have some big response thought out, but all I wanted to say, every time, was, "How could I be anything but happy at so much answered prayer? At so much beautiful young love? At so much joy? How could I be anything BUT the happiest girl in the world when Jesus gives such good gifts to my best friends---these brothers of mine?"

All these questions, and this constant expectation for my sister and I to be knee-deep in depression over the situation, got me to thinking about something.

A) Why is it expected to be hard for an older sister if her younger siblings get married first?
B) Why do we allow those expectations to be the norm?
and
C) What needs to happen for them NOT to be the norm?

I don't claim to have all the answers. I'm quite new to this whole business, having never had any siblings married up to this point. All I know is what I know as a girl who fiercely loves her brothers and is more happy than should be legal, about their upcoming weddings. =)
And as such, I have a few thoughts that I'd like to share from my heart, to whoever is reading this.

The first thing that comes to my mind as a foundation for setting a new "normal" is close-knit sibling relationships. If your siblings are your best friends, your closest confidants, your greatest blessing...than why would you feel anything but joy for them when God brings along their life partner?

The second is the answering of prayer. When there is something that has been such a big part of your heart and life and prayer list for so long (aka godly girls for the brothers) your first thought, when God answers, is "glory hallelujah!" Am I right? After all, this is how we respond to every other answered prayer, so why not the same to this one?

The third thing I think of, is a subject I have touched on before, and will continue to talk about in the future, and that is joy in the current journey. When you find joy right where God has you, and desire God's perfect best + timing for all of your life (marriage just being a drop in the bucket of God's gifts) and the lives of those you love, then when He answers those prayers and brings your favorite people together, it is so amazing. 

Why do we put God in such a box? Why do we think everything has to happen in order? Why do we think it is fair, and right, and "how it should be", for kids to get married in age order? It is so bizarre, if you actually think about it, and it basically never happens that way anyway!

My answer to this is that I think we put God in this box of "our perfect timing" because we think we know best. We think that we know how it all should be. I really have no idea why we think this; in every other area of our lives we would say God knows best. (at least I'd hope we would!) So why not in this area of one of the most important decisions of our lives? Why wouldn't God know best on this one, too? And if we know He knows best, why would we not be absolutely delighted with His timing and plan? Not only for us, but for all of the people we love, also? Regardless of age.

Honestly, age has nothing to do with it. If people could just get that idea out of the way, it would be a much better world. (can I get an amen from from the single readers here?) One of my beautiful sister-in-laws-to-be is nineteen. I could not be happier for her and my brother. She is an absolute gem, and one of my heroes. God's perfect time for her to get married is now, when she is young! I sure wasn't ready when I was nineteen, and I'm relieved that I didn't get married then, because if I would've it would've been disaster. But that was me. It wasn't God's time for me then. It is God's time for her now. See, it is all about timing and following the Spirit, and nothing about age or situation.

Yes, my brothers are getting married first.
Yes, as most people think and say, we "went" (as in relationship/marriage timing) topsy turvy and all "out of order".
Yes, it has been the most wild and beautiful past nine months that you could imagine.
Yes, it is going to be an incredible fall. Hey, not just every girl gets to gain three sisters within 24 hours!! Talk about party time, overtime! (cue all the confetti + heart eyes) I still can't believe it!

No, it isn't hard, and no, it isn't a struggle. God has answered my prayers and given my brothers these gifts-these three incredible women-that I prayed for. It is the most beautiful thing to watch God answer prayer in such exceedingly abundant ways. My heart is filled with so much happiness!

"I will worship toward Thy holy temple, 
and praise Thy name for Thy lovingkindness and for Thy truth:
 for Thou hast magnified Thy word above all Thy name."
-Psalm 138:2

Please feel free to share this post wherever, simply linking back to my blog. 
I feel very passionately that this is a subject that needs to be talked about in our generation!

And as always, I would love to hear from y'all. 
Thoughts, questions, comments? Leave them below!
-Chels

{Note: My sister Allison also did a post along this same vein, over on her blog. Read it here!}

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Double Header Northern Weddings Sister Roadtrip

Can't believe I totally forgot to post this! (actually I can believe it...my life these days...can't remember anything!)

It is so very long after the fact that I hesitate even posting...? Buuuut. Our sister road trip posts are my favorites, and I really want this one in the archives. So here it is, all of eight months later!

It was the first weekend of October 2016. Would you believe it---we had invites for two weddings in the north (Minnesota + Wisconsin) and not only were they on a weekend that we were home, but they were also on a weekend that we were home AND available, and the wedding locations were two hours apart from each other, and last but definitely not least, they were on a Friday evening and a Saturday afternoon.

Can't get it anymore perfect than that, my friends!

So off we set, sista love and I, bright and early (think 4am!) on Friday morning, heading to the twin cities of Minnesota. 
The first girl getting married was an old friend of ours, and she brought us in to do the hair/makeup for her bridal party. That was definitely such fun, as always! 
Classy ladies, with hair + makeup done, hanging out before dress changing + pictures. Unfortunately when the photographer in me turns into the hairstylist in me, the hairstylist in me forgets about the photographer in me. (so frustrating!) So I usually get home from these weddings and say, "whaaat?? How am I a photographer and I took NO PICTURES?" To save myself from that embarrassing scenario (because a photographer with no pictures is just weird) I try to grab random shots at random times. You'd think I could've gotten something more...like the real deal? Like the bridesmaids in their dresses or something? Never even entered my mind until days after. 
It was a marathon but we got all of those eight ladies done in the time allotted! I will say that by the time we were finished we were very hungry and very tired. In addition to all that it was absolutely freeeeeeezing cold that weekend. (it had been warmer at home, but the further north we went, the temps kept plummeting!) So we were also underdressed. 
Next came the saga of finding Chipotle. GPS informed us that there were only nine in Minneapolis-the closest being seven minutes away-this definitely should be easy! 
NOT.
You would not believe the hassle we had finding that place. I should've tracked our time (and miles!) but it was a good hour after leaving the apartment that we FINALLY located Chipotle #5. 
Never, no never, has Chipotle tasted SO good. 

After Chipotle it was on to a little hipster coffee joint we found across the street. We were chilled to the bones and I seriously considered taking a nap on that little couch in the shop. (but refrained =)) 
So very much fun to bump into friends at weddings. The world really is so small and I feel like one never knows WHO one will meet from event to event! At wedding #1, I got into a conversation with the ladies in our pew, and discovered that they were cousins to the girl that MY COUSIN was marrying the following day, and that we also had other mutual friends. So fun.
And here we have the charming little air B+B place where we stayed Friday night.

Got to tell y'all about this place. Oh goodness, what a story. I really wanted a fun little place for us to stay at Friday night. Something not too pricey (because we were literally only going to be able to be there to sleep and for a few hours in the am) something cool, something hip, something homey, something kinda funky and out of the box...I had a whole list, and Allison had a few ideas too. =) I was in charge of our lodging details, so I set out to find the best place I could.

After looking through dozens of options, we settled on this one. It looked perfect, and it was right on our way from wedding #1 to wedding #2, in the middle, in St Croix Falls.

The saga of getting there after the wedding was...well, just that-a saga! We left wedding #1 quite late, and headed to St Croix Falls. On the way, a variety of things happened. Amongst other things, roads were out, we lost cell service, and at one point it looked like we possibly would have to spread out under a bridge in a very sketchy part of the country.

We finally rolled into the town around midnight and were able to find our little apartment without any trouble. We had to park behind/underneath; the parking situation was quite something. As we unloaded in this strange town, at midnight, after several hours of quite the adventures, I turned to Allison and said, "some things...we will NOT mention to our mother. She will sleep better if she never knows about some of tonight." =)

Love technology these days---we had a code for our the rental "nest" and never even talked to anybody at all. Just let ourselves in with the pre-given code, and checked out at the agreed time. Dream situation.
The whole place was so eclectic---totally random styles of decor/tiling/colors/etc.
Allison was in charge of our food, as usual. She packed a delicious  little breakfast for us---sausages, her famous fire roasted tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. We also had energy balls, fruit, and chocolate covered something. (can't remember, sorry!)
Grabbed this sister selfie right before we left---it will always be one of my favorites, I think.
The view of the town from our little "perch" apartment. The whole town was set on the side of a hill overlooking a river. Would've loved more time to explore there!
Got to wedding #2 early enough to spend a few minutes with our cousin, the handsome groom! So excited we got to be there for his special day.
Literally THEE coolest wedding favors I have ever seen. Perhaps this is just because I have a real affinity for maple syrup. But the bride's family is maple syrup farmers and so they gave a little container of maple syrup to each guest. So sweet. Literally. =)
Love these cousins of mine! 
Family weddings are such fun, because there are so many favorite people at those. =)

And that's just another one in the sister book of road trip adventures. 
Hope y'all enjoyed following along. =)
-Chels

Thursday, June 1, 2017

New Look!

I've got my domain name back, I have a fresh new design, and I'm back in business, of sorts! I'm very grateful for the team of ladies who helped me get this together!

*Photography credits go the incredible HannahElise, as usual. She nails it every time + I am always SO HAPPY with her pictures!
*Header designed by the skilled Rachel (Wissmann) Busenitz, who designed my last header as well, and has a great eye for clean lines + layout, which is just what I love!
*Domain Name Resolving + Redirecting Assistance + things of that sort by the talented Anna Maxwell, who knows far more about these tech issues than I could ever dream of knowing!

So blessed by the help of these three + the skills they have shared, that enable me to have this new, fresh look.

I'm excited for what God has been doing + is continuing to do. Got some very big topics on my heart and I'm thrilled to share more in the coming days, as well as continuing to tweak + add new features/elements to the blog here!

What do y'all think of the new look? Yes/no?
-Chels

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Surprise Visit From The North!

Once upon a time...it was a cozy Thursday evening, and I was sitting cross-legged in my favorite chair, in our schoolroom, deep in a FaceTime conversation. I was very much of the knowledge that it was just me and a few siblings at home. It was dark outside, and nearing ten o clock as I was finishing up my call, when all of a sudden...the door to the schoolroom opened and in walked MY COUSIN + lifelong bestie whom I most certainly + assuredly knew was hundreds of miles away in her far-off Canadian home. 

OR WAS SHE REALLY AND ACTUALLY HERE?!?!?!?!?

The phone went flying, earbuds dangling as I shot out of my seat screaming out all sorts of exclamations. I had to hug her multiple times in the middle of all the joyful whooping to make sure that she really and TRULY was standing right before me. Her baby boy (in her arms) began to cry, obviously + understandably terrified by this wild woman before him. 

Ah, what memories.

Once I managed to calm down, I heard the whole story...here cousin love + sister love had been scheming + plotting of this visit since JANUARY. Where had I been???? Well, in the dark, quite successfully. =) Her husband so sweetly brought her and the little man ALL THE WAY from their new home in Ontario...to visit ME in lowly little Iowa! She hadn't been here since she was dating her husband, five years ago...and it was just all too good to be true that she actually WAS here again!
Friday morning found us at our favorite local coffee shop, for the first "in person hash" since last April. BEST OF TIMES. It was also lovely to introduce my cousin to my best friend, the luscious Breve Experience. She was smitten, as I knew she would be. =)
Ahh. Can we do this every week please, instead of just once every year or two???
Friday night we had homemade pizza + such a fun pizza making party proceeding it! Over half of the family was gone on trips or dates or things of that nature, which left just a few of us, eight in number. 
Saturday lunch was at the most incredible Crepe Place. (downtown Iowa City) This place is so legit---I could live on their gormet crepes, I think. I was especially thankful for them after the ???? amount of time it took to finally find a parking spot! 
Just look at it. If that isn't presentation, I don't know what is. =)
We had a Coldstone gift card that we put to good use for our dessert. We were nearly blown away as we walked back to the car......eating ice-cream + horrifying our proper and dignified cousin as we defied every kind of street-crossing rule known to mankind. Er, womankind. =)
The little man is basically all grown up since I saw him last a year ago! (cue the tears) Such a charmer. We all couldn't get enough of him, and he was definitely the most popular person all weekend. It was slightly sad that I had to share him with my little sisters (and the rest of my family) but such is life whenever a baby enters our door. =)

Ah, so many memories just writing this post. This visit was definitely one of the highlights of my year. There's just nothing quite like time with kindred spirits, and surprises are the best, I am finding. =) I haven't often been on the "being surprised" end, but it is quite fun. It will be a looooong time before I forget the afternoon at the park, the failed golfing expedition (ahem), the midnight chats, the hilarious round of "the Bean Game", and the look on certain faces when guys got up in the middle of the night to load out hogs and found us girls all still awake + "going strong".
Oh, and all those  "shady" moments that occurred over the visit? Those were pretty grand too. =)

To my cousin dear, and her sweet little family, and my sista love who helped plan...
thank-you a million times over. The visit was beyond beautiful + I loved every minute.
Let's do it again sometime, okay? 

-Chels

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Currently

 
*THINKING
About how it's been a loooong time since I've blogged. Okay, that's it. =)
*LISTENING
The new hymns album by Anthem Lights. I have it on constant repeat. My favorites are the Easter Medley, I Need Thee Every Hour, and the Hallelujah Medley. Goodness, so much beautiful. These guys can harmonize SO well!
*WATCHING
Nothing. Ha. No time for movies these days. Kinda funny how life does that to you. Does anyone else feel like movie time is in seasons, sometimes?
*WORKING
Details for the summer tour. New album marketing. Blogging. (family blog) Office work, in other words! Also spring cleaning window washing at the hotel. Trying to figure out a plan for this blog. (pray for me!) Organizing my life.
*DREAMING
About trying out a new project I've been dying to do for YEARS and am finally going to be attempting!
*LOVING
Organizing, deep cleaning, and discovering my minimalistic side that I didn't quite know I had.
*LEARNING
More and more about openness, brokenness, + faith that move mountains.
*EXPERIENCING
Lots + lots of new things in this season of life. Also answered prayer in the tiniest AND largest of ways, which warms my heart so much.
*FINDING
Rest in knowing that I don't have to know everything, cause Jesus already does.
Revelation!! Why does it sometimes take SO LONG to learn this?!
*KNOWING
That there is a purpose for everything, and that Jesus has, does, and WILL make everything beautiful. That's a promise!

I'd love to hear a little of YOUR life currently, friend!
-Chels

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My Sister's New Blog!

You asked, I asked...and finally, God asked! So she did!

My sister Allison has started a fabulous new blog, and you don't want to miss it. Click over to www.fromallison.com to follow along on her new blogging journey!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Sisters + Kindreds October Surprise || Shipshewana, Indiana

(disclaimer. This is a little mortifying to be posting about this now, because it happened last October! 
To be fair, a lot happened in my life last October, and I'm still catching up with myself! So I've got a few posts coming for y'all that are from that time, as long as you promise to forgive me and be okay with reading news that is six months old =))

Something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately, is friendships, and the importance of having good, solid, LIFE GIVING people in our lives! And not just having them in our lives, but having them as friends--- as kindred spirits, companions, mentors...you get the picture. 

So these two girls above---they are that kind of friends. Literally two of the sweetest ladies you will ever meet. Sometime last fall (can't remember exactly when) the idea was born that they could drive out from the east, and meet up with us to hang out while we were singing in Shipshewana. And since surprises are always just sooo very great...it was decided to surprise Alli with their visit! 
It was a complete success and so very much fun. I was out for coffee with her when they just "walked in", and the look on her face (well, actually, tbh, the scream was the best) was pretty grand. =) 

We were singing multiple times over those two days, there in Shipshe, so we didn't exactly have an open schedule to do whatever. But we worked with our concert times and made the most of all the other times that we got. We (us four girls) stayed at a lovely hotel for the two nights and made an abundance of memories trying to get our room unlocked, and falling over suitcases in the hallways, and laughing til our sides hurt, among other things.
Lots of chats + laughs over coffees + soft pretzels!
I took pictures of these cups in the hotel room and told Allison, "Can we pleeeeeease get cups like these for the Dutch Country Inn????" #managersisterperks =) I mean, how cool...??
Our very own buffet of random leftovers + restaurant food, served on the WHITE bedspread. I tried so hard not to panic the whole time that I was going to make a mess. Thank goodness, the covers survived! And we now know that dinner in pjs on a hotel bed at 11pm is a great idea for all girls everywhere. Go try it! =)
Excuse the fuzzy picture. But really these were the best of times. Fuzzy picture or not.

Side note: the food above comes from the most incredible establishments. f the Bluegate Restaurant or JoJo's Pretzels or Rise n Roll bakery ever needs promo or a free blog post advertisement or whatever, I'll totally be RIGHT HERE AND AVAILABLE, ready to exchange my services for free samples. *sigh* Any other foodies out there? I just love food so much!
End of food rant. =)

It was such a rich time. We discussed goals, and life, and siblings, and family, and writing, and books, and relationships, and all the current issues surrounding our generation (okay, not quite all!) and solved as many of the worlds problems as we could squeeze in.

So many good memories were made. I'm so thankful for these girls, and all of our incredible friends, really. It is such a treasure to know people who push you UPWARD and encourage you in your "reaching for the PRIZE". Friendships like this are priceless, and meant to be loved + valued. And I'm really blessed by mine.

Hope y'all are having a wonderful week!
-Chels