by Lauren Flake
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’” (Lamentations 3:22-24)
The women in my family have a tendency to be negative.
We’re generally critical, hard to please, and just plain difficult to deal with on a regular basis. It may have something to do with the fact that my grandmother, my mother, and I were all the only girls in our immediate families.
You read that right; on my mom’s side, we’ve had no sisters for three consecutive generations. My grandmother had three much older brothers, my mother was an only child, and I have a younger brother.
The three of us either were or still are quite accustomed to ruling the roost and feel extremely entitled to our own preferences and opinions.
But, now, even though I’m married to a man who also has no sisters, we have two young daughters–two incredibly different, in both looks and personality, and only twenty-two months apart in age, daughters. They are currently four- and six-years-old.
Our youngest daughter loves ballet, mermaids, and Barbies, is an assertive stage performer, an extrovert, and a morning person, and is petite and athletic like my mom with fair skin and blonde hair like me. Our oldest, on the other hand, loves art, math, Minecraft, Legos, and superheroes, is a cautious and detail-oriented creative, and an introvert, and is tall and thin like me with olive skin and dark brown hair like my husband.
My girls recently made “thankful trees” from kits we found in a box of leftover craft supplies from my aunt.
Together, we wrote something they’re thankful for on each foam leaf and then glued the leaves to the two pairs of foam trunks, placing the sides together to form two cute, little, autumnal trees. They were both thankful for their parents, grandparents, cousins, friends, teachers, dogs, food, and toys. They were also thankful for one another.
In fact, as much as they fight and bicker, they both named each other among their top three blessings.
My girls clash frequently, but they also complement each other beautifully. Where one is weak, the other is strong. Where one struggles, the other easily achieves. As their mother, and someone who grew up without any sisters, it’s incredible to watch them learn from one another whenever they stop competing and embrace each other’s unique gifts.
They are teaching me so much about sisterhood in both a family and broader sense. They are teaching me about loving and supporting the women around me in every one of their positive pursuits. They are teaching me gratitude for community instead of resentment and envy and competition regarding my female peers. They are teaching me to celebrate other women’s successes and to hold hands with them when one of us is scared or grieving.
They are teaching me to stop judging others and holding grudges. They are teaching me to love and be grateful.
I am reminded of the apostle Paul’s words to the early church in Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
How often are we guilty of not forgiving those around us as Christ forgave us? How often are we guilty of not being grateful for those he has placed around us? How often are we not loving our brothers and sisters in Christ as ourselves? And how often are we not loving the members of our own immediate family as ourselves? For me, it’s often.
I get caught up in pride and selfishness and my need for control. I let preference become an idol at the expense of my spiritual sister or biological brother. Worst of all, I let control be an idol at the expense of both my husband and my children.
I forget to be grateful and humble and content and ask God to change my heart, to bend my wayward, self-serving will to desire his glory each day. I forget to love and forgive my grandma, who now has vascular dementia, when she is mean, negative, and generally hard to be around. I forget to be grateful for her even when she seems ungrateful for me.
Yet, God loves us even when we’re ungrateful for him, which is often. Sin is essentially what happens when we choose our own will over God’s. Again, I am reminded of what Paul writes to the early church, this time in Romans 4:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
May we be ever grateful for his love and mercy in spite of our lack of gratitude.
Lauren Flake is a wife, mother of two girls, and Alzheimer’s daughter near her native Austin, Texas. She is the author and co-illustrator of two award-winning children’s books for grieving families. Read more at LaurenFlake.com.