“X” is for X-panding the X-tended Family

XIn today’s world, the idea of a “nuclear” family, consisting of a mother, father, and 2.5 kids seems to be just that, an idea; one visualized in Normal Rockwell paintings from generations past.

Rockwell’s paintings illustrate a world of Xanadu, an idealized place of great beauty or perfection.

While we could easily frown upon the loss of the traditional family, I’ve discovered that there is still a kind of Xanadu in the new generation of families.norman rockwell 1

Whether we refer to them as blended, mixed, or X-tended, families today consist of dozens of people who otherwise, would never have shared the term “relative” with us.

Changing the definition of Family in an X-treme way!

In my twenties, I held a belief that the word “family” should be occupied by only a select few. It was a word that should not be tossed around, nor taken lightly. To be called “family” was to be considered an honor.

You didn’t hear me telling my kids to call my best friends “auntie so-and-so”. After all, they weren’t my children’s aunts and, thus, the title should not be bestowed upon them.

Family was family. Others were not.

While I still believe that family should be held in high regard, I now know that it’s X-ceptable to love others who would otherwise be X-cluded from the family circle.

X-tending the Face of Family

In my mid-twenties, I got divorced.

Uh oh.

That meant that, technically, my family just shrank. Even though I still held my in-laws fondly in my heart, if I were to abide by my narrow definition of family, that would mean that my beloved X-in-laws were no longer family. Suddenly, they went from family to simply, close friends.

That felt strange.

So, I decided that, in this unique situation, an X-ception could be made. I tweaked my definition of the word “family” so that my former in-laws would still fall under that precious title.

The Evolving Family –

Not So X-clusive but just as X-cellent!

Then, I remarried just before turning 30. Now, suddenly, I had a handful of new family members, whom I barely knew. According to my definition, they were now my “family.” Even though there were no memories, no emotional ties, and no prior commitments to one another, we were legally related.

In time, I came to know and love them, but it was interesting that, overnight, with the signing of a marriage certificate, practical strangers had “earned” the coveted title of “family.”

Arrrgh. The technicalities tied to my definition of “family” were becoming more and more complicated! How was it that those who felt like family were no longer in that category? And those who did not, carried the honor?

Suddenly, “family” was not so cut and dry.

But thankfully, over time, those who were once strangers soon came to feel like precious family.

Once again, life was good. My definition of family was X-ceptable.

But then …

X-tending Our Family, According to Christ

My walk with Christ evolved. I came to realize that we were to love others – even strangers. While we may not sacrifice in the same ways we might for our actual family members, we are called to care for all people wholeheartedly and welcome them into our lives … which means, welcoming them into our family’s life.

I began to look at my children’s friends as my X-tended children. I considered my church friends, family. My life-long acquaintances even fell into the treasured category.

Family had become much more than a technical term, bound by legal documents. It had become a decision in my heart to love and accept others who would never actually be “family”, yet were family none-the less.

Ed and I spent this past Easter with four friends. It was the first time we’d ever spent Easter with people who weren’t “legal” family members. Even so, the love in that house was the same that we would have experienced had we been surrounded by “real” family.

Even though my actual family is an incredible blessing, I’ve learned that, when people choose to be your family, an X-ceptional love comes along with that.

Family 2

X-pounding my X-panding Family

The other day, I posted on my personal Facebook page about how much I love my children. Yes, it’s X-tremely cliché, but that’s not the point!

I stated that I’d be there for my kids, no matter what. I then tagged my six children, as well as my future daughter-in-law.

In response, I received a comment, reminding me that my future daughter-in-law was not one of my children. In essence, I was being told not to consider her my family.

While it typically takes a lot to offend me, as anybody who knows me will attest, I couldn’t believe that somebody thought that they needed to tell me who I should consider my family. The most interesting part of it …. The commenter was a “real” family member.

Thinking back on it today, I regret that I X-cluded so many of my “non-family, family members” from the tags. Had I been thinking more clearly, not only would I have included my future daughter-in-law, but dozens of others who I consider my children, including my daughter’s boyfriends, my children’s lifelong friends, and even the kids of my own close friends!

While my legal family is always going to be a priority in my life, and you can count on me to love and defend them, you can also bet that I will do the same for my X-tended family, whether or not they will ever carry my last name!

I’m thankful that God has opened my heart to X-tend love to ALL of my family members, no matter where we stand in terms of legalities or technicalities.

God calls us to love one another, to respect each other, and to care for our brothers and sisters (even if there is no legal document to prove we’re siblings).

Blogging – A Whole New Family!

As a new blogger, I’ve come to realize that we’ve got a great, new opportunity to love others. Thanks to my blogging X-periences, I now have an online family, who I cherish.

Family (real family, X-tended family, non-family family, blogging family, friends that are family) … I treasure you.

Thank you for being mine. Thank you for making me yours.Family 1

While we may never experience the X-ceptional Xanadu of a nuclear family, we can set others in a place of X-cellence and love them with all we’ve got! We’re called to do that, no matter their last names, DNA, or family tree!

Let’s challenge ourselves to X-tend ourselves to those in need! There’s somebody out there, waiting to be blessed and who will bless us in return.

 

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4 thoughts on ““X” is for X-panding the X-tended Family

  1. I’ll admit I’m a little closed up with regard to my definition of family…not necessarily because I should be but due to an inclination toward reserve. That said, it’s good that you’re a more x-pansive person. Very nice post. 🙂

    Like

    • Anna, thank you for the comment. I’ve struggled with being reserved in terms of family, as well. I still think family should be held in high esteem, but now I also strive to love others more and include them in my “circle” more than I’ve done in the past. It’s turn out to be a huge blessing for me … very fulfilling.
      I appreciate you!
      Shawny Lou

      Like

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