You may be a Clerget if…

Some times when I’m feeling adventurous (read: desperate), I ask my sisters what I should write about. There are two responses I get consistently:
1. Write about the Bible, because apparently for a Christian writer, I tend to avoid actual religious topics. (I can neither confirm nor deny this.)
Or…
2. WRITE ABOUT MEEEEE!!! (This is in caps, because they usual say/exclaim it at a higher decibel with an unparalleled level of enthusiasm.) My sister Rebekah has tweaked this response a bit to say “Write about me and my boyfriend!!!” Ha! Nice try though.

But I do love my sisters. They are rather sweet and funny in a creepy, acquired taste kind of way. There are six of us; six Clerget girls of which I am the oldest. And yes, my poor father has managed to survive. The man is a saint with noise-cancelling headphones and a Netflix subscription. He gets on just fine. We get our sense of humor from him actually. If we’re special, it’s half his fault. (Though my mother blames our behavior/sense of humor/weird habits on him 100%.)

So I decided to meet my sisters halfway. I’m writing a post about them. All of them. Or all of us. Below is a checklist, a list of things my sisters and I do that we probably ought to be embarrassed about, but we’ve just made them our thing. If you find you relate to the things in the list, you might actually be a secret member of my family, lost at birth due to unfortunate (or maybe fortunate?) circumstances.

You may be a Clerget if…

  • You don’t clean your room unless threatened with bodily harm from your mother or similar parental figure. Related, you don’t see the point in making your bed, because let’s just be honest and say it’s going to get messed up in a few hours. Waste of time.
  • You think doing laundry is the worst. And if you’re Cassi, most things are “the worst”.
  • You would live in Disneyland. No matter how old you are, Disneyland never gets old. Of course, if you’re Brittney, you’d get married there. The rest of us draw the line at vacationing.
  • You’ve seen every Disney movie in the history of the world, know all of the songs, and can kick butt at Disney SceneIt. Also, Broadway is magical, and you’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.
  • You will make at least ten pop culture references in one sentence, maybe throwing in a few tv or movie quotes for good measure, and the person to whom you are talking will get every one of them. If you are Cassi and Allie, you can have an entire conversation by using just the first letter of words as long as context is established.
  • You talk really fast and make your mother “tired” (her words).
  • Your name is probably spelt a bit different, but in that “my parents wanted to be cool, but really just guaranteed that as a child I would never be able to buy monogrammed souvenirs” way. Cassandre should be Cassandra. Brittney is usually spelt Brittany. Rebekah is most often spelt Rebecca. Alexandre should be Alexandra. But apparently with Margaret and Sophia, mom and dad took pity…
  • But your name is still kind of badass: Cassandre Anastasia. Brittney Danielle. Rebekah Elizabeth. Alexandre Marie. Margaret Lillian. Abigail Sophia.
  • The answer to “Do you want to get French fries?” is always “Absolutely I do.”
  • You love good food. And you don’t apologize for it.
  • You play some kind of instrument. Maybe you sing. But you CANNOT dance. At all. Your hips do lie.
  • Soccer is really the only sport you were good at.
  • You grew up watching sports, specifically football, college basketball, and baseball. You understand everything about the sports and do not need a guy to explain them to you in a patronizing manner. Unless you are Allie with football. Then you might as well be explaining the sport in Arabic with crayon drawings made by a one year old.
  • You’re a nerd. You know all those things nerds like? Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, sci-fi in general, reading books, technology? We grew up with it. And so will our kids.
  • You were homeschooled at one point. And you’d rather not talk about it.
  • You have a slightly disturbing obsession with crime shows, especially ones involving serial killers. Criminal Minds never gets old. Law & Order SVU, Psych, Bones, or Sherlock (please come back to me) are also acceptable. If you’re Rebekah, you once made a game for school based on serial killers. (Of course, she is the one with a boyfriend…)
  • Actually, let’s just say you probably watch far too much television in general. Netflix and DVR are your best friends, and you use Cassi’s HuluPlus account shamelessly while having no intention of getting your own or pitching in to pay for it.
  • Ditto for movies.
  • You don’t like doing things by yourself. Especially if you’re Rebekah. Why go shopping, to the library, to get food, to the bank, or to get gas without one of your five built-in companions? Well, Cassi will do all these things herself. Especially going to the movies. It means less social interaction.
  • The only way you’re going to buy something without having instant buyer’s remorse is if it’s on sale, usually at Target. Unless you’re Allie. In that case, you have buyer’s remorse ten minutes before you buy the stupid thing.
  • You also live at Target. When you say “I’m going to the store” you mean Target. Other stores are only visited if you can’t find what you need at Target.
  • The fact that you grew up with PCs instead of Macs and other Apple products is a deep wound you’ve not yet fully recovered from. Unless you’re Brittney, who just wants a phone and computer that works. Tsk tsk.
  • You can’t saying anything without a hint of sarcasm. If you’re Cassi, sarcasm is the only way you know how to communicate, and not using it makes other people question your mental and emotional wellbeing. If you’re Brittney, you just get offended.
  • You’ve been subject to Maggie saying “I have an awesome story to tell you!” only to follow it up by saying “So at school today, my friend talked to me in the hall!” End of story.
  • It’s never a bad time for a “that’s what she said” joke.
  • You will put anything embarrassing your sister/brother/relative/friend says on the social network of your choice. And you won’t feel guilty.
  • You have been called “sweet baby” by Cassi at some point, but don’t know why.

If you relate to any of these, you would fit in pretty well with my family. We would love you and call you our own. Whether or not that is a good or bad thing has yet to be determined.

Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter. I’m pretty entertaining.

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For my sisters.

Last week, my dad gathered my sisters and I together and suggested that we, as a family, weren’t showing each other the love God calls His believers to have for each other. It was convicting and distressing, because as my sisters listened to his words, we couldn’t deny there was some truth to them. We had become complacent in our love, lazy in showing it. In many ways, we took each other for granted, and my dad feared what sort of family we had become. Did people see our family and see eight people who loved each other above all things? Or did they see eight people who took each other for granted?

I was dumbfounded, mostly because I heard a bit of truth in my dad’s words. I looked at my sisters, my mom, and my dad, and feared they didn’t know how much I love them, adore them, admire them. I worried they thought I cared for them less than I ought. I wondered how my family had come to this point – where my dad questioned our commitment to each other.

It broke my heart.

When tragedy struck Newtown, CT, last week, I read about families losing their darling babies. I read about the bravery and sacrifice of teachers, the trauma of students. I read about gun policies, our rights as Americans, our duties as Christians, and how can we put a stop to the senseless violence? Or is humanity too far gone?

But all I could think about was my baby sister Sophia, eight years old and at school. I thought about my sister Margaret, roaming the halls at the high school down the street. I thought about my sisters Allie, Rebekah, and Brittney at the mall. I sat on the couch, reading about the horrific shooting in Newtown, echoing the tragedy at Clackamas mall in Portland, and I wanted to hug them.

I don’t hug them enough.
I don’t say I love you enough.
I don’t listen to them enough.
I don’t put down my phone and enjoy time with them, talking with them like I should.

I’m the oldest, and I’ve done a poor job of loving my sisters – the people I love most in the world – the people who know me best.

So this is for my sisters, my love letter to them. My apology. My hope for the future. Not in an attempt to trivialize the violent events of last week, but in an attempt to open my heart and begin again; a second chance.

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To my darling sisters of varying ages, heights, and places in life-

I love you all dearly. My guyses. And I’m dreadfully sorry it takes moments like these for me to open up. I wish I was different, more open. I’m learning, for both our sakes, because I don’t wish for you to be like me. You can be so much better, so much more. In many ways, you already are.

I’m so proud of you – of your fearlessness, your faith, your ambition. You know who you are in a world that tries relentlessly to change us, and I admire you for it. Though I should be an example for you, you teach me something every day. I can’t imagine not knowing you. Your souls are beautiful, your hearts full to overflowing. I’m blessed to be your sister. You are God’s gift to me, and I’m forever thankful.

Know I am here always. I will listen to anything you find to be important. There is no matter too small. Nothing that could shock me. Nothing that would make me love you less. My ears are open and my heart as well. I will love you through anything, carry you if I have to. Because I love you and because I’m your sister. It’s what I was born for.

Brittney – We argue, more than we should. We’ve fought and competed our whole lives. But I want you to know I’ve never thought you less. I’m proud of you, of your intelligence and your convictions. You are so strong in your beliefs; I can’t fathom it. I wish I could be a bit like you in that way. Your smile is infectious, your beauty blossoming every day.

Rebekah – We’ve shared a room for years. That we haven’t murdered each other is a testament to our patience. You are lovely. You have a gorgeous heart and soul, and I am proud to be your sister. You do so much and hope for so much, and your faith in God is inspiring. You touch so many lives and I can’t help but smile when you tell me about your day.

Allie – You are an absolutely gorgeous nightmare. A whirlwind of intense passion. I can’t imagine a world without you bursting into my room unannounced, challenging my mind and making me laugh. You have a true servant’s heart, the soul of a poet, and I pray for the change you will cause in a world that needs so desperately to see God’s love.

Margaret – Your artlessness is absolutely endearing. You love life, enjoy life, and live your life in such a manner that makes me envious. You love freely and live fearlessly, and someday I hope I can a bit like you in this way. I know you’ve been hurt by people close to you, but your strength is beautiful. You are insanely adorable. I love you as you are.

Sophie – You won’t read this most likely, since you are only eight after all. But I want you to know that even though I sometimes don’t know exactly what I’m supposed to be for you, I love you. You are my baby sister, and I shall protect you always. I will never stop being your big sister, no matter where life takes me. I adore you, and you are quite brilliant. Never forget that.

You are all a piece of my heart. I’m happy to know you, better for loving and being loved by you. You are my best of friends, and I wouldn’t trade any of you for anything. I’m here for you. And I will always be your sister.

Sincerely,
Cassi

Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter. I’m pretty entertaining.

To my future brother(s)-in-law,

We’re really close, the six of us sisters. And in some ways, it will always be the six of us. I’m not sure any of us have ever really understood what it would mean to let someone else in; to trust someone else enough to show them what we’re really like when we don’t have to be polite and normal in front of “company.” We were all single for so long, that the idea of any of us dating and even marrying was something we talked about in hypothetical. We would talk about the weddings we would get to plan. We would fight over who gets which names for their children. We would place bets on who would be the cool aunt (obviously me) and who would always get stuck babysitting for free (Sophie, because she’s the youngest). But we never really brought anyone around. We never took anyone seriously.

But you took my sister seriously. You looked at her and saw something wonderful. You had the courage to take a chance and the faith to see it through. Out of all the other girls in this world, you chose her, and I compliment you on your good taste. But what’s more, my sister chose you. She let you into her heart and into our family, and she made promises to you. She accepted you for everything you are, and she gave you everything she has and everything she is. And if you’re the kind of guy I think you are, you gave her every part of yourself, holding nothing back. I commend you for it. It’s how I know you deserve her.

There’s probably something you should know, since you’ve vowed to love my sister forever: We’re a bit weird. I should probably apologize for it, since I’m the oldest, and my mother will tell you everything is my fault of course, but it’s probably just better if you become accustomed to it. We probably tried to act “normal” around you in an effort not to scare you off with our special brand of craziness, but I doubt we were that successful. But if you’re the sort of guy I think you are, you’re probably just a little bit weird yourself. I can’t really picture any of my sisters falling in love with a guy that doesn’t have a bit of craziness hiding somewhere inside of them.

However, in an effort to make your transition as our brother (and we will call you our brother often and excessively, because we’ve been waiting for one for decades), here are a few things you should probably be made aware of:

· We do everything together. And when I say everything, I mean anything from running to the bank to going on vacation. None of us really like to be alone, because we’ve never really had to be. So be ready to be constantly in the company of your wife and possibly your new-found sisters. (But don’t worry, because we do understand the importance of privacy.)

· Most of the things we say are quotes from a movie, television show, comedy sketch, or random things we’ve made up. It may sound like a secret language, but you’ll pick it up eventually. Also, we talk quickly and some of us (cough…Maggie…cough) at a higher decibel than most humans can hear. Feel free to jump in when you can.

· Disneyland is and always will be the happiest place on earth. If you disagree, it’s probably better if you keep that to yourself and just smile and play along as we plan family vacations to the most over-priced and crowded vacation destination in the entire world. (And no, Disneyworld is NOT the same thing.)

· Anything you do that is embarrassing, ridiculous, and/or awkward is going to end up on Twitter, Facebook, instagram, and any other social networking site we can think of. Feel free to retaliate accordingly.

· We are a bit on the competitive side, whether it’s deciding who remembers more Harry Potter trivia or who is the most clever. And we tend to fight dirty. And we remember everything.

Also, and this is important, you can never abuse my sister. You cannot demean her, take advantage of her trust, or treat her like anything less than the amazing and beautiful person she is. You don’t have the right to do that. You are her husband, her partner, her lover, her best friend. She loves you more than anything in this world, second only to God, and you have a responsibility to protect her.

But you’re human. So you’re probably going to make a mistake. You’re probably going to hurt her, maybe even make her cry, and sometimes you might not even mean to. And in that moment, I’m going to take her side. I will always take her side, because that’s what sisters do. I will listen to her, calm her down, and reassure her. But I won’t try to fix it for you or for her. I won’t tell her what to do. I won’t get in the way of your relationship.

And I’ll never tell her you aren’t the man for her. I’ll never tell her that she chose wrong or made a mistake. I’ll never tell her she deserves better, that she settled for you, that you aren’t worthy of her. I wouldn’t do that to you, and I would never do that to her.

You are her family now. You are in this together, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do you part. You made vows to each other, promises. And I’m so excited to see you both honor them. I’m excited to watch you grow with each other and with God. I’m excited to watch your family grow, one beautiful baby at a time.

So, here’s some advice from you perpetually single sister-in-law. (Hopefully by the time you exist, that won’t be true.) But until then…

Laugh often.

Love fiercely.

Speak patiently.

Listen carefully.

Care deeply.

Be spontaneous.

Be adventurous.

Be passionate.

Travel together.

Make music together.

Read books together.

Create life together.

Pray together.

Grow every second.

Smile every minute.

Kiss every day.

Treasure each moment.

Know that your wife is the most wonderful, gorgeous, loving, extraordinary woman in the world. Know that you were meant for each other, that God created you for her and her for you. Know that you deserve happiness, but you’ll have to work for it. Know that marriage is anything but easy. And know that, with God, your story as husband and wife will be beautifully written.

Sincerely,

Your new favorite sister (in-law).

Thank you for reading! Feel free to let me know what you think. And maybe follow me on Twitter?

sticks and stones

Girls are mean. Especially, or perhaps more particularly to each other. We can cut each other down with a single word or look. We know these things because we are aware of exactly what it would take to make ourselves feel terrible. Women all have the same insecurities, though different people have some more than others. But we know what hurts, and we all too often will let our mouth run away with the evilness.

I have five sisters, all younger. I cannot count the number of times we have deeply hurt each other, sometimes to the point of tears. Since we know each other so well, have known each other for our entire lives, we know everyone’s vulnerabilities and can get to them easily. Each of my sisters, myself included, has what we refer to as “the tone.” This tone is vicious. It is a cross between “I’m disgusted with you” and “I want to make feel as stupid as possible.” We often accompany this tone with a rolling of the eyes, which evokes indifference. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing will make you feel worse in any moment than if you think someone is indifferent. It is heartbreaking.

As sisters, we have learned to forgive and forget. We have to. There would be no living with us otherwise. But sometimes those words leave behind scars. Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was (pardon my ironically harsh words) a moron. Words wound deep, sometimes beyond repair. If we allow them to fester, to remain alive in our minds, we will never move on. Sometimes we don’t even want to. We cling to our wounds, allowing them to define us, creating an identity around insecurities and inadequacy. Eventually, we begin to believe them. We lose ourselves.

As sisters in Christ, we should speak words to encourage, not to tear down. We should spread joy and kindness rather than spite and hatred. We will be forgiven if we speak out of temper, but we should not speak expecting that forgiveness. We should not knowingly and willingly hurt our fellow sisters. Instead, we should strive to offer love and support. Jesus said that the second greatest commandment, after loving God, is to love your neighbor as yourself. Of all the things Jesus could have picked to be the second greatest commandment, the one thing He wanted everyone to pay attention to and follow, He chose loving each other. He didn’t ask us to give money to the church or go to services every Sunday or to read our Bibles or to pray. No. He just wants us to love each other. And He didn’t say we have to love our neighbors the way He loves us. He didn’t put that pressure on us. We just have to love our neighbor the way we love ourselves.

But we don’t make this easy. We treat each other cruelly, often causing the most harm to those who love and care for us the most. Paul often spoke of treating our fellow Christians with love. At the end of Galatians, he urges, “as we have the opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (6:10). In Ephesians, Paul says, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk… but be filled with the Spirit, addressing each other in  psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (5:4,19). We are to walk in love. We are to uplift each other. We are to encourage, to show our love through singing. We should never use our words to harm.

Throughout Paul’s letters, he compares the church to a body. Each of us, male or female, young or old, plays a different but still very important role. We are each blessed with different gifts, because God has different plans for each of us. But the roles we each have in the church, no matter how big or small, are equally valued by God. What right have we to make each other, with our words, feel insignificant? God created each of us specifically, Christian or not. He took His time to make us into exactly the person He wanted us to be. We are each significant to God’s plan, each beautiful in His eyes. Should we really be wasting our time and talents bringing each other down, when He created us to build each other up?

Woman can be just as cruel to the men in our lives. In fact, there is a special for the ability of a woman to cut a man down: emasculating. Such a terrible word. It makes me cringe a little bit. I’ve seen many definitions for this word, but the one that most affected me was “to deprive of strength and vigor.” Wow. How dreadfully horrid. One of things I love most about men, about their personalities and character, is their strength. Not physically (though we ladies swoon a little at the thought), but mentally, emotionally, spiritually. God made them this way. I’m not saying women can’t be strong (protect me from over zealous feminists), but I’m saying one of the things that draws women to men is their strength, their ability to protect, their possessive (within reason) nature. I cannot wait to meet the man I can lean on, depend on. I don’t expect him to take on all of my problems, but I will love him for offering me strength as I go through the frustrations of life.

Now ladies, if we love this strength, if it attracts us, why do we seek to destroy it? Why do whisper such things as, “You’re not a real man,” or “You aren’t enough for me.” Why do we cut them down, taking away from them the one thing that gives them identity?

Look at what Jesus says about loving our neighbor. We are to love them as we love ourselves. Oh dear. The one problem many of us women come back to, the one thing we universally struggle with is loving ourselves. We are never satisfied. We are never happy. Rarely do we look at our reflection and think, “I love myself. I am beautiful. I am lovely.” We struggle with this. Daily. And without God’s help, without accepting His love, we find that we don’t really love ourselves at all. We are simply tolerant.

If we can’t love ourselves the way God, the God of perfection who loves us in spite of our faults and sins, intended for us to love ourselves, we can’t love others. We can’t love our sisters, our brothers, our parents, our friends, our spouses without first loving ourselves. And we should do so without guilt, without feeling conceited. God has given us permission to love ourselves (though in a strictly non-narcissistic way). He wants us to love ourselves. He created us. He wants us to love His creation. Our purpose in life is to love and glorify God. What about that isn’t to love? If we can give up our insecurities, throw off our feelings of inadequacy and insignificance and give them to God, He who carries our burdens, maybe then we can truly begin to love the way God created us to.