- Family is big. Our family isn't just Cathie, myself and the kids. The kids spend a lot of time with their cousins, my brothers/brother-in-law, my sister/sisters-in-laws and our parents. Cathie, the kids and I just started attending the family reunion in Iowa to try and expand it.
- Family is connected. My whole family (Brothers, Sisters, Parents Brother/Sister-in-laws) all talk to each other weekly if not daily. We communicate through our blogs, through e-mail and on the phone all the time. If we're watching a movie or TV show and see something funny, we call each other. We genuinely like each other.
- Family is inclusive. One of the things that my family does a great job at is including people that aren't blood relatives into the family and make them feel connected. Those friends that are an extension of our family (Will, Kasey, etc) are welcomed into my larger family when we get together for holidays, birthdays, etc.
- Family spends time together. We get together with my family any chance we get. Memorial Day, Birthdays, Holidays - you name it, we get together for it. We just enjoy hanging out together.
- Family helps each other. In my opinion, there's no greater love than helping someone move. When someone in the family (or extended family) is moving, we're all there. Whether it's building decks, roofing a house, whatever it is, we all pitch in. Even those of us without skills in the handy-man arts(me).
- Family shares. My brother Jon is a great example of this. If he has something laying around that he's not using, like a TV or piece of furniture, he finds someone who can use it in the family and gives it to them.
- Family celebrates. My family has this awesome tradition around birthdays. We get together and have a birthday party for every nice, nephew, aunt, uncle, brother and sister's birthdays. The other great part of this is that on your birthday, you must receive a phone call from every member of the family, no matter where you are or where they are. If you don't make the call, you'll be shamed for the rest of the year. It sounds goofy, but if it's your birthday, it's fun.
- Family has traditions.We have all these goofy traditions (like the birthday phone calls) that are too many to name, but you quickly pick up on them after hanging with the family for a few minutes.
- Family is accepting. We've got a diverse family with lots of people with lots of flaws. We're committed to each other for the long haul, though, and we're able to take each other's flaws in that context. If you're commited to someone and know you're "stuck" with them forever, you take their flaws and deal with them, knowing that you're not perfect as well.
The more I look at how we define family, the more I see ties into what church looks like. Cathie and I have been at the same church for 12 years and watched people come and go for different reasons. I think part of the reason we've stuck it out is because we approach church with a lot of the same values that we approach family. I want our kids to see the church as a extension of family, to understand we love each other where we're at, we're committed to each other, and we love and give as need exists, like the early church described in Acts 2. I think that's part of why I've taken it so personally in the past when I've seen people bolt from our church for petty reasons, because it feels like someone leaving a family. In the end, we have a group of diverse people at our church that my kids have grown up around and seen that we're committed to each other through thick-and-thin, just like family.