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Archive for the ‘Mother In Law’ Category

In the previous post on The Mother-In-Law Chronicles, we discussed how the bride and groom each left their family – she legally, he spiritually because he was integral to his family congruity due to inheritance laws. The purpose of  The Mother-in-Law Chronicles is to promote awareness of biblical honoring of the husband’s family community. In most instances regarding biblical families – the husband’s family community/history-was the seat of identity. Generational Curses were passed down from the husband’s sin, not the wife (Exodus 34: 6-7). Blessing was passed down through the husband’s family line. Even Moses had to discover his own family community in order to lead that community out of bondage, to become who he was destined to become. The husband’s family community needs to be cultivated just as thoroughly as the wife’s family community in the 21st century.

and the bride Rachel stepped from under the canopy
back into her father’s community for 20 more years
for mandrakes she sold a night with her husband,
yet demanded this husband give her
a son or she would die
who didn’t know her husband’s community
didn’t know the stories
didn’t know Jacob was conceived
because of a faith prayer
his father prayed over his barren mother
who 20 years later with her husband
left her father’s house with false Gods,
stolen trinkets that couldn’t answer prayers,
had no idea the faith of her husband’s community
blended into her own
and to Rachel Was born
Jacob’s favorite son
a son who would ultimately save
Her husband’s community during famine
A blending of two families
Into one

How are You Leaving?

Entering a new community requires relationship reaching, relationship building, boundary establishment and blending. Before you can blend, though, healthy boundaries need to be established. Incongruous-sounding, yes, but that’s how things with God work sometimes, somehow.

Jacob found himself in a quandary. He had run away from his father’s community and was now ready to return to face his past, ask forgiveness, restore honor, and claim his spiritual heritage and community.

20 years earlier, Jacob had come to his mother’s family community, found a wife, well 2 wives, and, well, he really had no peace. Isn’t that the way it is when you are not where you are supposed to be? Things just don’t go quite right. You can still move forward in your faith walk but it’s just not quite as graceful as it could be? That’s where Jacob was.

His place in his father-in-Law’s community really was not one of honor. He had lived 20 years in his wives community without a wedding contract that separated his wives from their family. Rachel and Leah’s ultimate authority, in many ways, was still their father.

Jacob had worked for his FIL, promoted his FILs interest – and the profit from those interests would be the inheritance to his brother-in-laws – not his wives. Jacob was not in a position of power and authority. As a matter of fact, his position was so weak, his FIL tricked him into 2 wives.

It is when Jacob decided to return to the home of his inheritance, his father’s community, that we start seeing a man of wisdom, power and leadership emerge. It is through his paternal family that he would find God’s plan for his life.

Rachel and Leah had not separated from their community until Jacob returned home. No legal contract had ever been drawn up – and, as such, Laban considered who they were and all they had his.

A healthy boundary situation did not exist until Jacob started the journey to return to his own family community, which really symbolized stepping into the leadership role of not only his family but his community.

Three days after Jacob left with his family, Laban chased down him in the desert. He was mad. He considered Jacob’s wives still his property, albeit his daughters. Laban knew there was no letting-go contract. He knew.

 “Laban answered Jacob, ‘The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne?'” (Genesis 31:43)

Jacob stood up to him, became the man his wives needed him to be. 20 years later, Jacob found himself in the desert creating healthy boundaries with his father-in-law. The marriage journey needed those boundaries, letting the bride become fully her husband’s – a covenant bride.

Laban, Leah, Rachel and Jacob knew it was time to set healthy boundaries for their marriage.

 There was a lot of letting go in the desert that day. A lot of healthy boundaries being set.

“It was also called Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other”(Genesis 31:49.) If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me”(Genesis 31:50). This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me” (Genesis 31:52). Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home” (Genesis 31:55.)

20 years after Jacob entered Laban’s community, in a caravan packed with all sorts of dysfunctions, some hidden, some out in the open,  healthy boundaries were established. Rachel and Leah legally no longer belonged to their family community; they now helped define their husband’s family community.

Would Rachel’s story been different if it had happened sooner?  Would Leah’s story been different? Did they miss out on something better because of delayed boundary setting? Would the dance turned into a more graceful marriage dance?

and the bride Leah, stepped from under the canopy
back into her father’s community
Bought a night with her husband
With mandrakes her son collected
Wanting  her husband’s love,
one way or another
And found God’s
Left her father’s house 20 years later
with faith packed
into her soul
she joined her husband on the road
To his reclaim his community
Where the son born of her faith,
Judah, for whom she praised the Lord
through the line of his family community
would the world be saved
A blending of two families
Into one

Join me next Wednesday for “The Mother-in-Law Chronicles III: Threads in the Tapestry

  • The Mother-in-Law Chronicles: Under the Canopy and into the Community, click here
  • Prayer for My Son’s Wife, click here
  • Gasp! The Mother-in-Law – What to Do With Her, click here

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This is the first post in a series on the relationship between mother-in-laws and their daughter-in-laws as shown through the bible. While some stopping by might not have the MIL/DIL relationship  as described biblically, I encourage you in faith to claim these relationships as God describes and one reach at a time, find fulfillment and blessing in those relationships.

At exercise, one mom of sons said, “UUuugghhh! My MIL is coming.”
“Do you have sons,” I asked?
“Yes – 2” she answered. They were still little guys.
“Do you want your future DILs to talk like that about you?” I countered.
You could see her processing this – that shoe on the other foot.

I’ve also had the following phrase bandied about in family circles all my life, “A son’s a son Till he takes a wife. A daughter is a daughter All her life.” Every time we had a son, someone would pop that phrase out – and, well, it’s not only a curse; it’s not biblical.

Please journey with me through the scripture to see exactly what the scripture has to say about a mother and her sons, about a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law. Hopefully, you will find it a beautiful, hopeful journey, stepping stones to blessing.

Before the bride ever stepped beneath the canopy of the marriage ceremony, she had already legally left the community of her mother and father.

and the bride Sarah stepped under the canopy
into her husband’s community
to live a life rife with dysfunction
and the amazing blessing of God
who would send angels to sit at their table
in the midst of their dysfunction
where sometimes, Abraham would cook
for God and where Sarah learned God loved her,
was faithful to His promises even
though she laughed at the impossibility of God’s plans
plans that gave her a son to love, to raise
to find fulfillment

and the bride Rebekah stepped first
into the tent of her mother-in-law, Sarah
before she ever first stepped under the canopy
of her husband because that is the first place
he took the woman who had already legally left her family
to join his, to meet his mother, that he loved
before he met his wife under his canopy
to live a life rife with parenting dysfunction and faith
faith enough for him to pray for his wife
to conceive in her barrenness
because He knew God had sat at the table with his Father
and because of her husband’s faithfulness and belief
she was doubly blessed with twin sons

Twenty-Nine years ago Monday, I stepped under that figurative canopy, married my husband, left my community and moved into my husband’s community over an hour away. Three things happened. First, because his family was closer, by default we spent more time – and by spending more time, reaching out to embrace, to learn his family who had different traditions, different ways of doing things, because I reached, I learned about unconditional love. I learned my heart is big enough to love as many people as I choose to love. Second, I learned that I honored my husband by choosing to build that relationship with his family. Because he loved them, I needed to love them, too. Lastly, honoring your father and mother means honoring his mother and father as you would yours.

My grandmother gave me her copy of Amy Vanderbilt’s Book of Etiquette when I married – while good manners can help people feel welcome (which is a good thing), I have learned more from the bible about how to love those God gave me to love – like my husband, my children, my family and my husband’s family.

Abraham’s servant told Rebekah’s family leadership what he needed in the daughter-in-law to Abraham, “Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left”(Genesis 24:49)

Would she embrace her husband’s family? Embrace with steadfast love and faithfulness?

“Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has spoken” (Genesis: 24:51)

Before she stood under the marriage canopy, the legal contract was already sealed, her allegiance belonging to another community.

“I will go,” (Genesis 24:58) – Rebekah said. I think it meant more than just the action of leaving. It meant that she in the going, in the accepting of the contract, she would show steadfast love and faithfulness to her husband’s parents, to his community – if she couldn’t do that – the servant would have left without her. This was the culture, not something unusual, not an act of long-suffering self-less-ness. This was as much a part of her role as a wife as being a Proverbs 31 woman.

“So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
“Our sister, may you become
thousands of ten thousands,
and may your offspring possess
the gate of those who hate him!”(Genesis 24:58-60)
Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man. Thus the servant took Rebekah and went his way”(Genesis 24:67).
Leaving her community to support her husband’s community did not diminish who Rebekah was – it enabled her to become more than she ever imagined – her family supported this, blessed her, did not hoard her to themselves.

“Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death”(Genesis 24:67)

A heart is big enough to love as many people as you choose to – Isaac loved Rebekah, loved his mother – there wasn’t a conflict there. What kind of relationship Rebekah must have had with Her mother-in-law that she could comfort her husband when his mother died? Comfort means sharing good stories, good traits, recognizing what each other saw in the life of person . I rather think she must not have been jealous of his son-love for his mother. I imagine they both grieved someone they loved – that is the only good way to comfort.

“Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’”(Genesis 2:23-24)

It is a beautiful thing, a holy celebration when a son finds a wife to complete him, to make him whole. God designed us that way, incomplete alone, made whole together – I rejoice at the thought of each of my sons finding that relationship.

Scripture admonishes the husband to take good care of his wife, to develop a close relationship, to become one – I assume that means best friends, too. Legally, he didn’t have to – but this scripture inserts the importance of heart in legal things.

The definition of the husband leaving his father and mother and holding fast to his wife is not walking away from his community, though.

Biblicly, the first-born to inherit his father’s business and wealth, he works alongside his father within that community – and if the father has enough wealth stored, he provides portions to his sons. A blacksmith teaches his son the trade. A king teaches his son to rule. A carpenter’s son is trained to take over the business.

The husband sets up his own tent with his wife (really, sometimes there were multiple tents for a couple) – that is what the canopy is all about. The new couple setting up their own home, giving her gifts and traditions she brings with her a place to grow freely. Each generation of wives bringing a new thread into the tapestry of the family history – a thread by itself is beautiful but does not add dimension to a story. A thread included in a tapestry story can create a striking effect.

I imagine settling into a new community is uncomfortable – because new things are. New traditions growing with older traditions – it takes grace, reaching, making room – but I think the culture then trained women to handle that transition.

There is much talk in today’s culture about the effects of an absent father on a family. It is more than an absent father, an absent husband – it is an entire community, a heritage of provision.

A son does not grow up to become fatherless. He grows to fill his father’s shoes in the community – shoes that walk the path of leadership for the following generations.

A groom leaving his father and mother is not a “Bye – it’s been great knowing you – not an “I’m outta here” kind of leaving.

It is a setting up a tent, setting up individuality yet growing into leadership within the community that grew you.

What kind of leaving have you and your husband done since your marriage – a leaving that left empty gapes within the family community – or a leaving that has grown the community?

For the rest of this series, please click on the below articles:

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E-Mom at Marriage Monday has invited me into this MIL fray. It’s a Monday, if you’re feely scrappy for a good fight – you won’t find one here. But maybe you’ll find some encouragement to make your week a little sweeter. Stop by her place for an elephant-in-the-room discussion of the MIL.

Nanny's Peonies

Miss Manners suggests that one veer away from such highly charged subjects as sex, religion and politics.  The blogahood definitely has  no fear of addressing either in seriousness or humor those said subjects.  However, there is one subject rarely mentioned, that carries an elephant-in-the-room-esque quality – everybody recognizes it but nobody mentions it – The Mother-in-Law.

I have a gripe about The Mother-in-Law – from the view of the mother of 5 sons, and, now officially The Mother in Law to a delightful daughter-in-law whom loves my son to distraction, I have some street credibility, some skin in the game – Oops! I’ve been around my boys just way too much.

A few months ago, a mother of sons was rolling her eyes about her mother-in-law who was coming to visit. And, maybe I should not have, but I just could not help myself.  I pointed out that she had sons – about 3 of them. And, well, hhhhmmmm, did she want her sons to grow up and marry daughter-in-laws who talk about her like that?

Her eyes got big like saucers and she paused, answering, “I had not thought of that.”

Wearing Grey at the Wedding

The MILOS (Mother-in-law-of-Sons) starts at a disadvantage – she is the one everyone tells to shut up and wear grey at the wedding.  In what other job or social event does someone say, “You are not valuable or important enough to be noticed.”  The mother some mothers love cursing with the following line: “A daughter is a daughter all her life but a son is a son until he takes a wife.” Yes – I will hang up on you if you call and tell me that. If you write it in a comment, I will delete it. That is speaking a curse over any mother’s life. It’s akin to kicking puppies who only want to love you.

Historically, the son did not disengage himself from his family. This attitude is really a post- WWII attitude. From biblical time to WWII, the daughter left her husband’s family and was grafted into his family, leaving hers behind. Even when widowed, the first legal step was to remarry into the husband’s family. Returning home was the last choice.

Why anyone would gleefully tell another mother, “Hey, mom, you’ve poured your life blood into this person but you are on the outside of the family circle now – you are not even part of the family – only under duress” – well, that just boggles my love-your-neighbor-as-yourself little Christian woman mind.

Rock star mom fades. Snuggle time disappears. The quality of hugs even changes. They hug someone else.  Snuggle with someone else.  See stars in their eyes over someone else – The Girl. (Hint, make sure your daughter-in-law knows you are joking when you say you want to be the mother just like in Love You Forever – who will take her ladder, climb it, crawl through the window, just so you can rock your son when he’s all grown up, saying, “I will love you for always.  I will love you forever.” – it’s a great book for children who cannot imagine life without mom, but it a book that has the potential to freak out your daughter-in-law – LOL).

Nanny's Iris and The Apple Tree that must be climbed by every child

A heart is big enough to love completely as many people as one desires to love.  That is one of the lessons I have learned as a daughter-in-law.  I will admit that when I married my magnificent husband, that I wanted to hang out with my family, celebrate with my family and let my son spend more time with my family.

I was young, growing inside me things like true confidence in myself, unconditional love, generosity of spirit, self-less-ness, wifely things, and, when my first son was born, motherly things. Luckily for me, we lived in my in-law’s home town.  Because of that, I had to spend more time with the “in-laws“. Just because they were the closer family.  Not necessarily because I wanted to, though I liked his parents.

And, I was so blessed because of it. It takes time and effort to build relationships. Time and effort on both sides. Effort is a reach. reaCH. REACH action by BOTH sides. Relationship cannot be built without BOTH sides reaching toward friendship, chosing love. The MIL/DIL relationship is one of those Unconditional Love Relationships where both sides choose love.

My mother-in-law and I are like night and day.  One thing we have in common is we have a heart for people.  How we go about having a heart for people is different.  She has shaken her head in exasperation over me, I’m sure.  Like the time I called and asked, “How many legs are on a tick?” One, I really wanted to know because, lucky me, I found one.  And, second, because I wanted to connect – and it was a conversation opener.

According to the Don and Katie Fortune’s book on developing spiritual gifts, my mother-in-law’s spiritual gift is compassion.  Mine is the gift of exhortation.  And, according to the book, the compassion person avoids the exhortation person like a person allergic to poison ivy.  And, poor thing, she got me for a daughter-in-law.

However, when my 4th son was born via a crash c-section, resulting in a very healthy baby boy and days of excruciating pain for me – there is one memory that remains indelibly seared on my heart that epitomizes the beauty of my mother-in-law.

The last thing I had heard before they knocked me out was, “I don’t have a heartbeat.” They were talking about my son. When I cam to, the pain was overwhelming.  Crash C-Sections hurt. My husband was concerned because I hadn’t asked to hold our son.  I was still laying on my side, barely conscious.  I wanted to hold my little miracle when my mind cleared – but, I was also a mom with a mission.  My other little guys were going to Day Camp the next day for archery, swimming, shooting, canoeing.  I did not have lunch stuff – delivery was unexpectedly early. My mother-in-law rested her hand against my cheek, just rubbing my cheek gently, like my 4th son loves for me to do.

She didn’t have to say anything; she just comforted me without words, unconditionally loving me. And, she listened to her nutty daughter-in-law rattle off a list of things needed for lunch at camp, what they needed to take, but, most of all, she just loved me in her quiet way. But it was like she understood the pain I was battling and it was so hard to talk.

We both have made effort, in our own different ways. We might not go shopping together, but she’s going to help me make my first quilt. I am so excited she is going to teach me to quilt.  She has made my sons amazing quilts, quilts made with love they wrap about themselves. A child can never have too many people love them in any love language with any Spiritual Gift. Diversity equals embracing and seeing the beauty in differences – even embracing those MIL and DIL differences.

We might look at how to celebrate birthday’s differently, but we celebrate together. She is a Christmas decor minimalist; I create traditional Dickens extravaganza decor. She plants her tomatoes one way, me another.

She’s a cornbread dressing-kind of cook, and I’m Italian Herbs and Spices-dressing-kind-of-cook. She’s a go-with-the-flow kind of lady while I am into time-management. However, we both love flowers.  And we both love her son.

Love requires sharing – and we share. It also requires not looking for offenses, not inviting the little foxes in to chew the legs off that family table. It also requires a forgiving heart – because, well, people are just people, communication is not perfect.

However, I think we both invite each other into the family circle. We each have a welcoming seat at the family table. We accept and because we accept we belong and in that belonging love grows.

Being a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law is all about embracing the differences. Loving despite the differences.  But, most importantly, it is about choosing to love, forging a relationship one conversation at a time.  Keep in mind, one day you will be one!

By the way, a tick has 8 legs!

(If you have time, please stop by and read “Prayer for My Son’s Wife.”)

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