"Extended family is a wondrous thing because their love and influence is a choice." ~Christina Olachia
Our family has been blessed many times over by an extensive extended family. Through the years, as close as we were to our family, those bound to us by blood we were also separated by hundreds of miles more often than not. This is where we learned ,"home is wherever our bunch of crazies are." The wonderful thing about growing up in an environment like I did was even as an only child, I was never lonely. I was in fact surrounded by unbelievable and generous brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and second moms and dads. Today many of those same folks are still part of our lives, entwined and defined simply as family. In fact many of these extended family members are not only an extension but an intricate part of who we are, who I am today.
It's been said, "Family isn't always blood. It's the people in your life who want you in theirs; accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what, without an agenda." And I have found this to be true in my life. Growing up so many times away from my biological aunts, uncles and cousins and without biological siblings I could have been a recluse, an introvert or even a hermit. keeping to myself, unattached to anyone. While I may have been born an only child, I wasn't ever truly one. I learned to share,to give and to think of others before myself because my parents believed in the importance of extended family. Proverbs 17:17 says this, "A friend is always a friend, and relatives are born to share our troubles." This not only describes our biological but our extended family as well. This is how I was brought up, to love unconditionally, to share one another's burdens, to give and to make room for everyone at the table. The truth as I see is the same as Mike McHargue does,"People grow when they are loved well. If you want to help others heal, love them without an agenda." This is why the importance of extended family is invaluable and their love priceless. I am so grateful to have always been loved well by both my biological and extended family. You could say our extended family, gave me the confidence to be myself. They are the reason I'm the the open-minded, glass half-full, light-hearted woman I am today. What I learned as a child and know now as an adult is sometimes in life we just need to know we're loved, no strings attached, no conditions or demands. Just pure and simple love born of choice, not obligation.
The beauty of my life is that it's a tapestry of brilliant, bright, beautiful and imperfect people. Our family album is a collection of the good and the tough times, of love and loss, of friends and family and all the moments in-between. Collectively, our family album holds our memories of those who have stood by us, through thick and thin, without flinching. What I know is this, I've been given more family than I could have ever hoped for. My parents not only have friends, but friends who have become family. I have more aunts and uncles than I could dream of. I may have been born my parents only biological daughter but I am by far not their only child. In fact I have dozens of siblings who I gladly share my life and my parents with. I have been blessed so greatly I couldn't begin to name them all. I can tell you without a second thought because of my sisters, the women who are absolutely the other halves of my heart I'm not afraid of what today may dish out. "My sisters remind me, by their very steadfastness that truth, beauty and goodness exist in the world. That no matter what there are and always will be people loving people through thick and thin." Because of the love of our extended family there's always a light on, a home that can be found anywhere and a place where we can be ourselves, imperfect and all. And this is how love is suppose to be, open, giving and accepting. I'm blessed today as I was yesterday and will be tomorrow by these very souls who have taken this journey of life with us. And you know what I've learned above all, "The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart." ~ Elizabeth Foley
And so today, Life Lesson #124 ~ The Love & Importance of Extended Family is a love letter to all those who I can't see my life without. Maybe we all need to tell our extended family how much we love them while we still have the chance. These are the very people who see you for who you really are and still love you, by choice, faults and all. These loved ones in no way take the place of our family by birth, No, they simply add, compliment and expand our circles, broaden our horizons, adjoining and uniting our family trees together. I guess I see it this way, there's always a way to make more room at the table. True family is always a blend, a merging of hearts, lives, DNA and love. Today, I am just one person, an individual piece, part of a very large extended family puzzle. I have siblings, aunts and uncles from all over the world, from diverse cultures with countless different stories of how their lives blended into ours. The amazing thing is we're all connected, part of something bigger than ourselves. As an extended family we have one heart beating together even when we're separated by hundreds of miles. And what's even more incredible is my children have inherited this family, my family, their family... our extended family.
After all as Micheal J. Fox says, "Family is not an important thing. It's everything."