My mom and dad sold everything and moved to Panama two weeks ago. Not bad for 70- and 74-year olds. Here’s what happened…

Free-spirited adventurers, they decided to nestle into an ex-pat community for their last whahhooo. They’ve whahoooed most their life, many of the adventures described in The Organic God.

I grew up thinking that living in Appalachia, spearing lobsters while living on a sailboat, and rehanging bikinis in your parents surfshop—all by the age of 9—was normal. I thought everyone’s parents moved because they were restless and needed a new adventure. So what if I never learned to play kickball.

All that moving—from Cocoa Beach, Florida, to the Exumas, Bahamas, to Maggie Valley, North Carolina, to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and other places between expanded my horizons.

My parents bestowed a rich legacy of adventuring to me.

But in just a few days families will gather round tables and talk and share and bicker and reminiscence. My parents in Panama. Us in Utah. And that’s okay.

Why?

Because they are being embraced by an ex-pat family of friends. And we will celebrate together another year.

Plus, we have family, here, too. They aren’t blood relatives. We share no DNA. These precious saints have taken us in. They’ve welcomed us arms wide open, hearts wide open.

Shortly after we moved here, one particular couple boldly announced, “Your parents aren’t here, so we’re going to be your parents.”

I felt like I didn’t have a choice in the matter, and truth be told, I didn’t want one.

My response, “Yippee!”

They’ve done just that. This family has taken us under their wing as their own and I’ve loved every moment.

Why is this so important you and me?

Because sometimes our definition of family is too narrow. We think of family in terms of bloodline, heritage, last name. But the New Testament reminds us the ultimate family is the family of God.

My friend, Jonathan Merritt, in his upcoming book, Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words Have Vanished—And How We Can Revive Them, explains:

“Family can describe a group of humans who claim each other and are committed to each other and, if Christian, are jointly intent on witnessing to the glory of Christ.”

Families sometimes share DNA but sometimes not.

Families may include biological children, foster children, adopted children, or those who are childless.

Families may include neighbor’s kids, friend’s kids, or your kid’s friends’ friends. (Yes, you may need to read that twice).

Families may include orphans, single-parents, or ex-pats.

Families aren’t determined by socio-economic status, ethnicity, or nationality.

Families are defined by those who fling open the doors of their hearts, the doors of their lives.

As we approach Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas, my hope and prayer is that you will fling open yourself to compassion like never before. That you’ll make room for those are new, different, and not appear to fit perfectly at first glance. My hunch is that those are people and lives—including your own—where God may be at work the most.

And that somewhere along the way your family will grow and blossom into all God intends.

As for us, we’re joining a family that’s taken us in and we’ve already warned them with the RSVP…we have a plus one or two or three.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Don’t forget Advent starts on December 3. Our stock on Celebrate Wonder and Joy: 25 Advent and Christmas Devotionals will run out soon. Or your copies today and spread the Christmas joy.

And if you order a 10-pack of Celebrate Wonder and Joy, you’ll receive a free pack of Jesus is the Best Present Ever Christmas cards.

Together, let's prepare our hearts for Christ's arrival as we stay on the lookout for wonder and joy all around. 

Thank you! Check your inbox for your Advent Family Acitivity Calendar now.