Without a Facebook

Okay, so Chad and I stumbled upon something hilarious that also happens to support an underlying opinion of mine.

Watch these videos IN ORDER and you’ll see what I mean…. 😀

VIDEO #1:

VIDEO #2:

You’re welcome.

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Matthew Ryan

Last week I wrote about my older brother Shaun and the influential role he played in my life growing up.

This post is about the other half of the coin.
My little “baby” brother – Matthew.

I’ve always called him Matt and that is what I will continue to call him. I say “the other side of the coin” very purposefully. Growing up wedged between these two brothers of mine – who couldn’t be any more different than night and day – was quite the feat! I am amazed to have survived the whole ordeal. Needless to say, Matt was an entirely other story in the pages of my life…

As a very young girl, I didn’t get along with Matt very well. Sure we played together (Hotwheels and Barbies) and we were still siblings, but something about his personality went entirely against the grain of mine.
I loved to read. Matt got bored with reading.
I loved to color and draw, but it was always a joy for me to “do it right”. Matt colored out of the lines.
There were even the archetypal moments where Matt was most definitely the “baby” of the family. Shaun and I did not do well with these moments when Matt would play his “I’m the youngest” card. It usually meant we either got in trouble, or that we simply just had to play or do whatever HE wanted to do.

I always felt sort of trapped in his shadow. Matt had and still has a HUGE personality. God given, mind you… But my personality (despite loving to make people laugh and just enjoying being around people in general) has always been much more laid back and introverted. I like to be alone. I like my space. I abhor being the center of attention, but I still like attention in smaller portions.

One day I was the baby girl, and the next thing I know I am the middle child sandwiched between my older brother and my loud and hyper little brother. It was difficult.

Here is a picture of Matt that shows his vivacious personality:

Needless to say, as much as I loved him because he was my brother… I don’t have as many memories of us being close because of the extreme differences in personality and the way his personality tested my patience daily. I know this doesn’t sound nice, but I am going somewhere beautiful with this, so just bear with me…

Shortly after I turned 18, I ran for the hills.
The hills of East Texas that is!
I was spreading my wings and flying (literally) and singing Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” the entire trip South!
I was free! Free of my past! Free of my family! Free to be whoever I wanted to be!

I was also naive.

Something I’ve learned in the 10 years since then is that you never are free of your past and you are never free of your family. Your family is a part of you. It not only shapes you, but it sticks with you like a starving 3rd-world leech. It is supposed to be that way. Our family is one of the many pieces of iron God has given us to sharpen us into better people.

My years at Teen Mania are an entirely long story meant for another post. Sometime between graduating as an intern and coming back as a Graduate Intern, I convinced Matt that Teen Mania was a part of his destiny. In fact, if I am remembering this correctly, I sat him down and forced him to apply. haha
Deep down, I loved my brother. I knew he was capable of great things and I wanted his life to be as impacted for God as mine was. I knew my other brother was already making another path for himself, so I wanted Matt (who was still young enough to have no locked-in plans) to find a home in East Texas like I did.

Here is a pic of us at Teen Mania. 🙂

And just one of Matt…. he was going through a phase. lol

So obviously Matt did eventually come to Teen Mania. For missions trips, the internship AND the Graduate Internship.  Once again, God tested my patience and my pride. People started referring to me as “Matt’s sister.” I wasn’t Tasha anymore?? Since when did I become Matt’s sister?? “I was here first, dang it!” I grew very mean and very resentful. I had made a home and a name for myself and suddenly I had become Matt’s sister. I always had been, but I didn’t seem to notice that. This was definitely a time in my life when I was struggling daily with my identity, my self-worth and my purpose. I certainly was not okay just being Matt’s sister.

Skip ahead a few years.

Matt and I didn’t talk hardly at all. I had distanced myself from him and everything that reminded me of my past and who I used to be. Meanwhile, Jesus was teaching me how to love. Not just showing love, but how to truly love. When it’s hard and when you feel like it isn’t profiting you anything – LOVE. I went through some hard times with a friend or two. I went through a season of loneliness. I went through a season of abandonment and betrayal. All for one purpose – to teach my wounded, running, self-serving heart what it means to truly love.

This is where Matt comes in with the good part.

Matthew was highly instrumental in teaching me how to love. Loving him was highly symbolic for me. (I tend to find symbolism in almost every area of my life.) Loving Matt was about loving my past…. loving my family…. loving who I used to be…. Poor guy probably didn’t know all those years I was distancing myself from him that he was a symbol of all those things, but it’s true…. In learning to love Matt, I learned to love truly and wholly. This has been the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned.

Now?
Now Matt lives 40 min south from me. We hang out when we can. We talk quite a bit. We have more in common than we used to. He is a much better listener now and I am way more patient. We vent to each other. We laugh and do life together. The treasure I’ve found is that I have found a friend in my little brother. I missed out on it all those years. Not because his personality wasn’t “right” – but because I was too unloving.

I am so grateful to now have him as my local family and my friend. He has grown up into an extraordinary man who loves God and cares deeply for his friends. He knows how to have a good time, throws a great party and remembers the little details about people that make them feel special. (<– rare quality in most people!)

He has also become quite the handsome man.

He shares a love for good country music and being outside like I do. 🙂

Me and Matt a few years ago:

So there you have it. My two brothers. I have grown to love them both – each in their own way. I wish my older brother Shaun lived closer, so that we could also become better friends and so our kids could grow up together. But I am so grateful that Matt lives here in Kansas City…. Maybe one day we will all be within a short drive from each other. (hint, hint – Shaun!)

Family is still family. They always will be.

But my brothers are more than that. They are my friends…. and I thank God for them. 🙂

* * *

Few more pics I couldn’t pass up!

Matt and Shaun being so weird and funny and ridiculous….  I’ve laughed and smiled so much growing up with these two. 🙂

Shaun Michael

Family is one of those things I’m really never sure how to handle… but I know that no matter what they will always be my family.

We love.
We argue.
We encourage each other.
We disagree with each other.
We’re family.

I don’t come from a huge family with tons of siblings and cousins and extended relatives.

Growing up it was always just me and my two brothers +  occasional visits, phone calls and packages from the rest of my family who all lived out of state.

I wanted to dedicate the next two blog posts to my brothers – Shaun and Matthew. As much as we differ on so many things, to know them is to know me. I have more memories of times with them than I have childhood memories to begin with. They were a constant in my life.

This post will be about Shaun.

I adored my older brother Shaun. We are approximately 1 year and 10 months apart.
I may not have shown it as obviously when I was a teen, but nearly ALL of my memories of Shaun are fond and put a smile on my face.
He was someone I looked up to. He was someone I knew would be there for me. I remember thinking he could do anything he wanted. I always saw him teaching history to middle-schoolers or high-schoolers…. while coaching football and basketball on the side, of course. 🙂
The specific thoughts I remember having about him included admiring how gentle he was, how compassionate and understanding he was, how athletic and confident he was, and how smart and funny he was. He always listened to me. He always had my back. He filled in the best he could when our dad walked out on us. He was my irreplaceable big brother.

This is me and him when we were little:

He was always making funny faces like that. 🙂

Sometimes we would fight, but what healthy and normal siblings don’t?? One of my favorite memories is from when I was about 13 years old. Our family was walking near this Prairie Dog park in Lawton, OK near our house. Shaun and I started fighting (about what I haven’t the faintest memory!) and our “punishment” was that we had to walk home holding hands.

Of course, my mom snapped a picture. The funny thing is that my love language is physical touch. I didn’t know this was my love language at the time, but my reaction to this “punishment” then now makes perfect sense. Not only was any anger I had towards my brother quickly abated by simply holding his hand (ask Chad the easiest way for him to solve our marital arguments! haha) – but I felt a hidden sense of pride. I got to hold the hand of my older brother who I looked up to. What my mom didn’t know, is that I secretly didn’t mind at all. 🙂

Here is a picture of all three of us. Don’t mind the hand-me-down Goodwill clothes or the homemade dress I am wearing! This was the eighties!

Yes, that IS a mullet on Shaun. Yes, Matt IS posing like he’s on the catwalk. Yes, that is a GINORMOUS bow on my head.

Shaun influenced me to love Jesus.
He taught me a lot about music and what all the good bands were. Even when my music tastes branched out a little in high school, I still enjoy a great song by Journey, DC TALK, Stryper or All Star United. As I type this right now “Don’t Stop Believin”” is playing on my iTunes. 🙂

We used to stay up late – just me and him – watching “Real Videos”. Anyone else remember this? 🙂

Shaun got our family back into church when I was about 11 years old.
Shaun taught me how to throw a football, shoot hoops and even my ABC’s.

Here is a picture of him dancing at my Uncle Donald’s wedding with our cousin Katie.
I always thought my brother was so handsome. 🙂

Here is a funny pic of him that I love.

Now we are both grown up.

He lives in Wisconsin and I live in Kansas City, MO.
He has 3 kids and I have 3 kitties.

I haven’t lived around my brother for 10 years.
Our personalities, tastes and preferences have both changed as time often does this to people.
Sometimes I feel like I don’t know him anymore and it makes me sad.
But one thing will never change… Shaun Michael is my big brother.
I love him.
No matter how much we argue about whether or not a Christian should enjoy and read Harry Potter…
No matter how many miles separate us….
No matter how much he hates that I have a Justin Bieber song in my iTunes….

NO MATTER WHAT.

I love you, big brother. Always. 🙂

Friendship : Manna from Heaven

When I was a little girl, I used to close my eyes every night before bed and pray to God that He would please give me a sister.
Often, my eyes would be brimming with tears.
When I was old enough to realize that my mom was NOT having any more children no matter how hard I wanted her to, my prayer changed to “God, please, PLEASE bring me a best friend.”

Look how cute I am… Wouldn’t you have wanted to be my friend?? 🙂

p.s. I am on the left in the weird jumper suit thing….The kid on the right is my little brother Matthew…. when you are a little girl, brothers do not count as friends. lol

For the next 10 years or so, I waited and waited for that best friend.
My mom used to say, “If you want a friend, then BE a friend.”
Naturally, when I didn’t see any friends around me, I concluded that I wasn’t being friendly enough…. but who was I supposed to be a friend to if there was no one around?

Some friends eventually came and went, but they were mostly fun girls to hang out with. Not the type of friends who really and truly understand you. Other friends came into my life that were absolutely the BEST and we connected deeply and have so many beautiful memories. Time and life and distance now separate us, but the memories of those friendships continue to replay in my mind. I miss them dearly.

What I didn’t know is that God had NOT forgotten about my first prayers.
A sister.
God blessed me with all these amazing friendships that were so rich and so life-giving and so full of love I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
But He still remembered that I wanted a sister.

In the Fall of 2002, I was introduced to my sister.

I didn’t know she was my sister at the time because she was from Florida and had different parents than I did. One very normal day, we both made a drive to DFW to drop someone off at the airport. I don’t remember who we took to the airport, but I remember that day so clearly. We both got desperately lost as we hysterically searched for a Starbucks. On the drive home, we shared how we felt isolated and misunderstood at Teen Mania. She was a Sanguine/Choleric Extrovert, but she felt more introverted around her peers at Teen Mania. I was a Melancholy/Phlegmatic Introvert, but most people thought I was the opposite because I loved people and was desperate for friends after most of mine had graduated with the August 2001 class. In that moment, when we shared who we really were with each other – (like it was a secret that no one else was privy to) – we became friends who would eventually become sisters.

Nine years later… life circumstances have changed. Our last names have changed. She is back in Florida and is a mother. I am living in Kansas City and I am still a student. We don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like, but one thing has always remained the same: WE KNOW EACH OTHER. We understand each other. We “get” each other. We accept each other. We love each other.

We are family.

This is my sister:

Kimmie Ann Carter

TM Banquet

The goodness and grace of God evident in my life.

His faithfulness to answer prayer astounds me.

Here we are as “new” friends in 2002:

At my Intern Graduation:

One of my favorite pics of her….

Riding Horses in Texas!

Fast forward to when she began dating one of my best guy friends: Ryan Carter

They got married. 🙂

And now they have a beautiful son: Judah

You couldn’t ask for a better sister…. or a prayer more worth waiting for…. 🙂

Not Looking Back

Recently, my friend Kimmie told me that as much as she misses the times when her son was a snugly little newborn, she wouldn’t want to go back to that time because there is so much about her son as he is right now that she would miss. That thought has been sitting with me.

As much as it would sometimes be easier to go back to being a simple kid swimming at the community pool all summer long, or a carefree single adult doing whatever I wanted to do….and avoid the responsibilities and difficulties that come with being a married adult with a mortgage, a job, complications, etc…. I wouldn’t want to go back and lose everything that I have right now with Chad and our friends and where God has brought us.

I don’t want to look back.
I don’t want to go back.
God has me here. Right now.
Even still, I want to enjoy the right now and not gaze too longingly into the future. Why is it so hard to live in the moment? I am constantly thinking about when I am done with school, or when we pay off a car loan, or when we can travel to visit so-and-so, or when I can finally be a mommy. But God has me here right now. I need to focus on what it is about right now – in the present – that I am supposed to be soaking up before it also becomes part of the past. Just a memory.

Right now:
I have a seemingly unending amount of time to spend with my Hubby Chad.
I have time to spend with friends whenever it becomes available.
I am learning so much in school and becoming a better writer.
Unless I am working an early shift or have church, I can sleep in and enjoy a full night’s rest.
I can dedicate the disposable income we have to travel plans or entertainment, rather than diapers and formula.
I don’t need to be on anyone else’s schedule.

The list could keep going.
I have so much to be grateful for right now.
Oh, that my heart could be content in the moment.

What about you?
What are you able to enjoy in your life right here and right now?
What things might you be taking for granted?