She loves country music, enjoys entertaining numerous friends, and has endless patience for the young children she watches in her home daycare. She loves talking on the phone, sends birthday and Christmas cards promptly and is disciplined in her approach to a healthy diet and exercise.
I am none of those things. I admire all of her qualities (except the first) and wish I had the gift of sending a card that's not belated.
We moved from Maryland to Mobile, Alabama, in 1977. I remember the banana tree in our backyard and the green and white playhouse with Holly Hobby wallpaper. Jennifer and I spent many hours playing house with our dolls in the Alabama heat.
As time progressed, the fact that Jennifer and I were four years apart in school started to wear on our relationship. We grew apart: I was the overachiever, earning straight A's and playing the piano in various competitions and in church. Jenn will readily admit that school wasn't easy for her, and she found it difficult to find her niche within the cliquish social network of our private school.
Jenn and I fought a lot. Even when I left for college in Ohio, there was tension when I came home to visit. High school was hard for Jenn, and I know that even to this day she hasn't shared much of her high school experience with me because it's too painful to remember.
My parents and Jenn moved separately back to the east coast, while I remained in Joliet and began a music business, started a band, bought a house, and got married.
Jenn attended college in Maryland and became a nanny to pay the bills. She discovered a love for photography and spent many hours working on her camera skills. We talked occasionally and saw each other when Caleb and I would drive out to visit my parents.
Caleb and I, along with my parents, insisted on giving this guy our stamp of approval. After spending some time with Pete, we found that he met our top three criteria: he loved God, he loved Jennifer, and he was an amazing cook. He proposed that year, and they got married the following June of 2009.
But in the last four years, through testing and numerous meetings with her doctor, she has struggled to make peace with the probability that she will never have a child naturally.
Jenn is careful to hide her emotions, but I know her heart breaks whenever a close friend or relative announces a new pregnancy. Although she's genuinely happy for those of us who have children, she has a huge unfulfilled ache to hold her own child.
She and Pete have been a great aunt and uncle to Hayden. My daughter loves going to Aunt Jenn's house to bake and color and swing on her playset. We regularly call Aunt Jenn on the phone to find out how her four kitties are doing.
Jenn and Pete have made every effort to support our family through the tragedy we experienced last year. The day my conjoined twin girls were born on September 21, 2012, Jenn and Pete were there to hold the girls and say goodbye to them.
Though these past four years have held tremendous heartache for both Jenn and me in regards to growing our families, I find that it's also brought us closer together. We don't talk often, but when we do, it's deep and meaningful conversation. She has been a great encouragement to me as I've picked up the pieces through the grieving process.
I, in turn, want to encourage her.
During my last visit to Wisconsin in July, Jenn and I had a long talk about how much it costs to adopt, and how difficult it would be to come up with $21,000 in adoption fees from just her home daycare business and the income from Pete's job.
That's a lot of money.
But it's not impossible.
Jenn and Pete have set up a site to tell their story and to ask for help in raising the money they need for a child.
I want to encourage my sister in this journey by sharing her story with you. We big sisters have to watch out for our little sisters every once in awhile.
Would you consider giving just a small gift toward Jenn and Pete's adoption fees? Give up Starbucks for a day and send something their way. When I last checked, they had raised $2209 of the $21,000.
There is a child in Wisconsin right now who might never know the love of a parent because money stood in the way of that love. I don't want to let that happen.
You can give at: https://www.adopttogether.org/theohlingers
Jenn has set up a Facebook site about their journey at
Even if you can't contribute financially you can help. Share Jenn and Pete's story on Facebook or Twitter and get other people behind this family.
Most importantly, you can pray.
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Do you have an adoption story? Do you want to adopt? Have you been adopted? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the journey whether you're a parent of an adopted child or an adopted child yourself.