Family…That’s What It’s All About

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Just a few of the family members gathered for July 4, 2012, including the neighbor’s dog!

I have a large family reunion this weekend in New Mexico. This one will include the families of my dad’s siblings and first cousins on his mother’s side. Or, to put it another way…the families of my paternal aunts and uncles as well as the families of my dad’s maternal 1st cousins. Did I lose you? That’s okay b/c I’m lost as well! Let’s just say there will be a lot of cousins getting together this weekend! I am making safety pins with rings to designate what generation we are each from and so far I have made 200. Did I mention this is just from ONE side of my dad’s family?!

I come from a very large extended family of origin. That doesn’t have any automatic meanings except that there are a lot of us. Families are a very interesting thing when you think about it. Some are large while others are small. Some are very close-knit while others hardly keep in contact. Even in the close-knit families, there are some family members that are almost strangers within their own family.

Growing up I had the picture perfect image of my dad’s family. Anytime there was a family gathering, ALL of his siblings were in attendance. I never witnessed any ugly arguments or nasty talking behind someone’s back about another sibling. They were a parent’s dream of close siblings…or so I thought.

It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I finally learned that they were not the Cleaver family after all. They did actually have disagreements amongst themselves. But, out of respect for their parents, those were pushed aside for a few days at a time so we could all be together and enjoy family time.

Michael J. Fox once said, “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” What he did not specify is what ‘family’ means. There are a number of definitions in the dictionary, but I think the one that best describes family is this: a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation.

While I do have a large family of origin as I’ve described, they are by no means my only family. Nor does it mean that they are the ones who have always given me the most of what I needed. I’ve been fortunate to be part of several different families so far in my life.

Remember the quote about friends, “We have three types of friends in life: Friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime?” I believe the same is true for the various families we become a part of throughout our life.

Family for a lifetime:

Most people are fortunate to have a family of origin for many years. For some, though, that is not the case. There are children that are orphaned at an early age while others are kicked out of their family of origin for one reason or another. But, by and large, we will have some original family for a lifetime. Hopefully, we are able to value and foster these relationships so that they are nurturing for us.

Family for a season:

The best example of families for a season would probably be our work families. The ideal work environment would be one where you feel you are part of a family. Not all bosses allow for that, but the better ones do. I was privileged to be part of a great work family for a while when I first worked at Purdue University. We truly looked out for each other. When someone was out with surgery or to have a baby, we would have a sign up to take dinner a few times a week. Periodically we would close the office a little early and go out for dinner. We really valued this time out of the office to get to know each other even better.

That season came to an end for reasons beyond our control. As a matter of fact, I recall stating that it felt like our parents had gotten a divorce and we were being made to pick sides. It was not a good feeling.   Ultimately, I was very glad to leave what became a dysfunctional family when I got the chance. I’ve not kept in close contact with most members of that family, but I do keep up with almost all of them on Facebook. Some I had to drop like a hot potato for my own health.

Family for a reason:

The quote related to friends is expanded a bit and says, “When someone is in your life for a reason, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. S/he has come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually.”

I’m sure you can think of many different situations where you have developed a family out of a need. Support groups are a great example of this.

The interesting fact about friendships and families that begin as a reason, is that they have the ability to move into seasons and lifetimes.

When I first went to First Baptist, it was for a reason. I needed guidance and support. I needed help emotionally and spiritually. Everyone quickly became my family by giving me all of the above. They became my family for a season. And while I still have my family of origin that will be my family for a lifetime; I do pray that they will be my family for what’s left of our lives together.

This year and in years to come, make a point to spend time with ALL of your families because family IS everything!

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