Family Culture

Family Culture

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” Philippians 1:9 (NIV)

I wish I had a penny for every time I said the phrase ‘family culture’ during the last few months. I’d have at least a dollar. It started when we visited my father’s extended family last September. Just my parents, my brother, and I. This gave me a chance to experience uninterrupted adult conversation… which was a real novelty for me (a mother of three small children).Lphone july to oct 2014 392

We talked about family culture, our roots, our heritages, and the way our parents and grandparents were raised. We visited the hometowns of my great-grandparents, stopped at graveyards with tombstones of family, saw houses once lived in, but no longer, and the barn my dad helped roof when he was young. We noted the similarities in our heritages, but even more, we noted how families are so different. As a child, we make the assumption that all families are like ours.

But they’re not! And it’s shocking. And it’s a good thing. And sometimes you might think it’s not that great of a thing… (because you may be biased about your family? Or was that just me?).

Here is an easy way to sum up (my mom’s side) of our family:

My uncle recently said, “Well I reacted as we all do. The Norwegian in me kept my opinion to myself, until the German got so upset about it, that the Irishman just had to go and let it all out!”

On a whirlwind tour of families this Christmas season, I tried to appreciate our differences. And to remember that ‘different’ does not mean wrong. Different just means different. Because in our differences, we find strengths. We find blessing.

I also tried to remember that family culture is complex. It’s not just how a family acts, it’s their shared values, traditions and norms (those unspoken rules). No wonder families vary greatly!

Learning your own family culture takes time. We learn our family culture through many, many shared experiences. For example:

My family has one norm which indicates we should communicate clearly by saying what we really think and feel. This is good… and sometimes, maybe not so good.
We have another family norm that indicates that at times we should not say what we are thinking and hold our piece to keep the peace. This is good… and sometimes, maybe not so good.

Learning what to do, when, is part of the great family experience.

So, taking time to travel and visit family helped me think about our shared family journeys and our blended cultures. I have a greater appreciation for the differences which make for different strengths.

So here’s to a new year. A year filled with the ability to appreciate our differences, to take note of one another’s strengths, to recognize our own strengths, and to keep the shillaly* to a minimum. Let love abound! In Jesus Name, Amen!

Not a great picture, but this is the trestle bridge my great-grandmother had to walk across to get to school.
Not a great picture, but this is the trestle bridge my great-grandmother had to walk across to get to school.

*My mom says ‘shillaly’ a lot. It means, to our family, ‘silliness’ or ‘ridiculousness.’ Especially if we are talking about actions. For example, when we were little and my siblings and I were causing a ruckus, my mom would come in and holler, “What’s all this shillaly!” At other times, when there was bickering between us over insignificant details, she would say, “That’s enough of this shillaly!” Because what was causing us to argue wasn’t even important. When I looked up the word, I found out that it has to do with an Irish walking stick or club? Not sure where the connection is… or if my spelling is way off. But, if you need a more specific line, then let us say: may your reasoning and actions be those of a well formed mind, and not a bitter heart.

The barn on our family's homestead
The barn on our family’s homestead


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