Lessons on Love

Ed Sheeran’s Afire Love is one of my favorite songs.  I can rarely listen to it and not get  a little teary eyed.

V. 1 Things were all good yesterday
And then the devil took your memory
And if you fell to your death today
I hope that heaven is your resting place
I heard the doctors put your chest in pain
But then that could have been the medicine
There you are lying in the bed again
Either way I’ll cry with the rest of them

V. 2 Things were all good yesterday
Then the devil took your breath away
Now we’re left here in the pain
Black suit black tie standing in the rain
And now my family is one again
Stapled together with the strangers and a friend
Came to my mind I should paint it with a pen
6 years old I remember when

I lost two grandparents to memory related diseases, so this song really hits home for me.  If you have never listened to the song I would recommend it.  You can listen to it here, just make sure you bring a box of tissues.

Family is a weird concept.  Family can mean the people we are born with, the people we are married to, our extended family, our immediate family, or friends who feel like family.  There many definitions, and angles, and possibilities, and people to what a family can be.  All of which leaves slightly overwhelmed and lost in what our family actually is.

Losing a family member is painful.   A ghost appears, haunting you in the spaces that they use to fill.  Reminders of them are like knives that cuts through our hearts just when you think it has healed from the shattering.

We go through the stages of grief, sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards.

Stages of sadness;

Stages of anger;

Stages of confusion;

Sometimes all of these stages at once mixed with unrelenting demand for the answers we know we can never have.  

So how do we cope?  How do we move on so that we can begin to love again?  How are we suppose to open up our hearts again when they already feel so rubbed raw?

My family recently got together for my niece’s dedication.  We filled up two rows at church just like we always do when we are all together.  It is a beautiful thing.  I was in the back corner of our mob, and I just watched my family interact with each other.

The pastor was talking about marriage and building a foundation of love that will last.  The whole time I just watched the way that they loved each other.  I thought about the foundation may parent’s molded into our lives.  The type of foundation that was weathered, but still stood strong.


It was then that I knew we would be okay.  Better than okay, because somehow through all of the anger, sadness, and confusion we had found each other.  We had learned what it means to be a family.   A family who had arms to welcome us home and shoulders to cry on.  A family that absorbed each other into our lives fluidly as we came and went.  A family that taught me about love, the real kind of lasting love.

They taught me that love is learning to rely on each other, like clinging to a tree when all of the ground is crumbling underneath your feet.

Love is fighting for someone when the other person isn’t strong enough to fight for themselves.

Love is open arms with open hearts, even if those hearts are still a little raw.

Love is family, no matter what definition that may be.

Oh Brother . . .

Growing up with brothers.  I was so lucky (or unlucky) to grow up with three older brothers whom both adored me and tortured me throughout my life.  Honestly, I was lucky.  I came into this life with three loving older brothers who were ready to show me the world, and who would do anything to protect me.  Growing up with them was always an adventure, there was rarely a dull moment in the Rensink house.SCAN1246 I know adorable (I promise this isn’t just an excuse to show cute pictures of my childhood, well mostly). I also grew up with two older sisters who cared for me and taught me about living with grace, dignity, and gentleness; all of those wonderful things that I am still trying to learn.  I could spend a long time talking about the impact they had on my life, but right now I want to talk about my dear brothers.   I won’t bore you with psychological talk about developing schemas, but basically imagine a blank slate waiting to be written on.  As we grow up and our brains develop, we develop schemas based on the world around us, and that in turns affects the way that we view the world in our later adult years.  The interactions I had with my brothers were some of the first interactions I had with the world.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized just how far of a reach my brothers have had on my life.  I really have never given them enough credit for all of the wonderful things they taught me.  So I just want to take a moment to talk about these crazies and the life lessons they taught me.

Number 1: They taught me how to be a fighter.  Having older brothers is like having your own personal body guard of assaliantes ready to protect me should anyone try to mess with me.  Partly because they love me, but mostly because picking on me is their job, and no one else is allowed to do it.  I have been defending myself from being sat on and tickled since about the age I became ticklish. Whether it was a witty comeback, or a jab at the ribs, I became a pretty feisty person.  I still remember after baton training at the penitentiary one of my friends there told me about how dumbfounded he was that a girl my size could hit something that hard.  I get this type of reaction a lot, and I just tell people, “I grew up with three older brothers.”  Leaving it at that as though there is no further explanation needed, because well honestly there isn’t.  My brothers instilled in me this over eager confidence that even if someone was twice my size, I could still take them.  But that attitude goes beyond wrestling with my brothers as they try to tickle me.  They taught me a much more valuable lesson, never be intimidated by anyone or anything because you are “too small.”


Number 2:  They taught me that if you can dream it, you can do it.   I mean seriously, my brothers had some of the craziest ideas you can imagine.  From turning our basement into a working carnival to turning our old granary into a skateboard ramp, there was nothing they couldn’t will into creation.  I spent many hours as the silent sidekick, in awe watching them as they built things.  I still remember spending a whole day sitting in the snow in our grove as my brothers dug one of the most elaborate snow forts I have ever seen.  My brothers taught me that you and only you have the power to limit what you are capable of.  I grew up with the belief that no idea was too crazy, and you know what, I have some pretty crazy ideas.  I recently ran one of my newest crazy ideas past my brother.  I meekly asked him, “Is this too crazy?”  His response, “Not crazy enough sis.” SCAN1253

(I apparently didn’t feel the need to look at the camera for this picture.)

Number 3:  They taught me to live fearlessly.  I swear my brothers were not afraid of anything.  I personally blame them for each of my mother’s gray hairs.  However gray hairs aside, they taught me that a life without a few risks is no life at all.  If you haven’t jumped onto a trampoline from your roof or let your little sister drive the go-kart into the ditch, then you haven’t lived.  Life is too short to spend it scared of what could happen.  As a young girl, I think we are sometimes taught to be more fearful because there is the belief that we are more fragile.  My brothers never treated me like I was fragile.  I don’t mean to say that they were careless but that they treated me like I was just as tough as them.  My brothers very graciously let me tag along in all of their shenanigans, never once telling me I couldn’t keep up because I was a girl.  For that I am grateful.

SCAN1251SCAN1236 Number 4:  They taught me that life is funny, laugh at it. I was quite honestly probably more serious as a child than I am as an adult.  This is all thanks to my brothers who quite literally probably taught me how to laugh.  They taught me that life is full of bad and embarrassing moments, but that you can’t let those things stop you from picking yourself back up.  They also taught me that life is full of really wonderful and hilarious moments, and they should be cherished as such.  I owe them what sense of humor I have.SCAN1254

SCAN1233 And just because I think this one is adorable. SCAN1229

My brothers taught me how to think outside of the box, how to view the world differently.  They allowed me to stretch the limits of what I believed I was capable of, allowing me to dream any crazy dream I could imagine.

So to my dear brothers, I could probably not say thank you enough, but I am going to try.  Thank you for being the first people to influence how I view the world, I love the world that you taught me how to see.  Thank you for letting me tag along all of those times and treating me like an equal,  you taught me to be strong and brave.   And thank you for helping me grow into fearless and sassy woman I am today. “There’s no other love like the love for a brother. There’s no other love like the love from a brother.” – Terri Guillemets.

Love, your lil sis.