The word family took on new meaning for me last year—when a sister, whom my mother had given up for adoption 47 years earlier, came into my life along with her two children.

It took me a minute (more like a month, really) to wrap my brain around what this meant. Days before, if I'd unknowingly encountered those who were now my relations, what would my response to them have been?

Does having a DNA connection automatically make you family?

For me, the answer is no. The roles we play in each other's lives are only as powerful as the trust and connection between us—the protection, safety, and caring we are willing to share.

So in building a new relationship, my "sister" and I started with trust. For three years before I knew about her, she had known we were related. But she kept it a secret with her children to protect me, until our mother was willing to meet her.

That is character. I have great respect for the way she managed the whole situation. Her doing so created an open space for us to build a relationship. And have what Dr. Phil calls a soft place to fall.

No matter how hard the trial or difficulty in your life, your family should be your soft place to fall. Your true family, whether they're biological or acquired, holds a sacred trust for you. There's a holy covenant of unconditional desire for you to be all that you were meant to be.

That, I know for sure, is one of the most meaningful aspects of love. When someone truly can be trusted to see who you are and want what's best for you, no matter your official relationship, they are family.

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