Defining Family

Defining Family

My mother-in-law, Phyllis, passed away this past Friday. My husband and I were blessed to know it was coming and were able to be with her at her passing which was very peaceful. Although she had suffered with Alzheimer’s for the last 8 or so years, she was still able to interact with us in her own way up until the last few months, and we were blessed to have this time with her. She was 88 years and 7 months old…a life well lived.

Unfortunately, my husband’s entire immediate family is now deceased, both parents and a sister who died in her sleep at age 21. He is alone. Of course he has me and our two boys, but in terms of childhood experiences, trips and memories, we weren’t there. Even close friends never truly experience the intimacy that is shared among family members. This reality that his family is just him is difficult. He has cousins and an aunt and uncle who all live in another state but again, although they have some shared memories, it’s not the same as parents or siblings.

It’s got me thinking of how we define family. There’s the reality and the truth behind what I wrote above, about the intimacy and special memories shared, but there’s also the truth that our Heavenly Father knows all and is with us through all so isn’t that also family? I know what you’re probably thinking, “Yes, God is there, but you can’t verbally talk about a trip you took to the Grand Canyon and remember when Dad got sick and threw up in front of a school bus of children?” That is true but frankly probably not a story that needs to be remembered anyway! Seriously though, although others you might share the story with weren’t there, they can relive it with you just with your sharing about it and they can ask questions and seek insight as to what made that time so special.

What makes family, family? Is it blood…sometimes, sometimes not. Is it shared living space…sometimes, sometimes not. Is it liking each other’s company…sometimes, sometimes not. The intimacy that is created in family has to do with opening our hearts to one another. It has to do with being real with one another, sharing our good selves and our not so good selves and loving each other anyway. It has more to do with how much of ourselves we choose to share and the honesty with which we share it.

If you agree that what I said above is true, then family is anyone we choose to be authentic with, share our hearts with, and be honest and open with. Family are the people around us that we can laugh with, hang with and love. God created us to be in relationship with others, that’s why He made Eve for Adam. He recognized that it was not good for Adam to be alone. It’s the same today. We are meant for relationship and that’s why it’s so important to be part of a church community, the family God has chosen for you to do life with. When our nuclear family is no longer with us on Earth, we have our extended family, our new family of spouse and children, our church family and our community family.

John 1:12-13, “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn-not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (NLT)

God never designed us to do life alone…and you never truly are because God is always with you. You are His child. He is your family forever.

Tina Dorward About Tina Dorward

Tina Dorward is a fully-devoted follower of Christ who loves spending time with her husband and two sons and volunteering at her local church. In her free time she reads, writes, paints and cooks.


  1. Tina, I like your comments about family. God certainly knew His business when He designed families didn’t He? I thank Him often for this gift.

  2. Wonderful thoughts and well written Tina. You are a huge part of my children’s family and mine. Thank you for being my sister in Christ and a great Auntie to my children – whom you get to see regularily – and almost always in need of your love! 😉

  3. Great post on family, Tina. I lost two of my family members this year within a few months of each other, my mom and my husband. Those losses make me more acutely thankful for my other family members and my church family!

  4. Tina Dorward says:

    Thanks for commenting Jude and I agree…God knew what He was doing. That’s a good reminder that He always does and sometimes I think we forget that, or at least I know I need that reminder. God bless.

  5. Tina Dorward says:

    Thanks so much Jeanne! Love your family too and so glad I am able to be a part of it even if in small ways. Love you ????

  6. Tina Dorward says:

    I’m sorry you’ve experienced such loss Patti and those are precious relationships so to lose them so close together must be truly difficult and challenging. I’m glad you have others in your life to help support you and a great reminder why God designed us to be in relationship with others in many areas of our lives. May God’s peace and comfort be yours especially as we approach this holiday season.

  7. So sorry about losing your Mom. I pray for the comfort of your family.

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