by Louise Tucker Jones
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Ruth 1:16 NASB
On March 4, 1966, my late husband, Carl and I were married in a little Army chapel, just hours before he was deployed. It was nearly a year and half before we saw each other again. Not having grown up together, I barely knew his parents and contemplated waiting until Carl returned home before trying to build a relationship with them, being as I was away at college most of the time.
But thankfully, the Lord nudged me to visit their home on weekends. Carl’s mother was as lonely as I was. We baked cookies and made fudge to send overseas, then we popped popcorn and watched the late movie on TV. We looked through photo albums and talked for hours on end about the person we both loved most—my husband and her son. One night she explained the illness that had been slowly robbing her of life since she was a young adult.
Growing up in a small, coal-mining town, Etta Mae developed severe emphysema and was advised to never have children. She did anyway—just one. Doctors told her she would never see that child grow up, but Etta Mae had a secret weapon. She trusted a powerful God and had long ago asked Him to allow her to live long enough to raise her son. We talked about it at length. She needed new lungs and in 1966 there were none to be had.
I had only that year with Etta Mae. In the summer of 1967, Carl was called home on an emergency leave as his mother made her way to heaven. I am so thankful I did not put off building a relationship with her. It never would have happened. I’m glad God plopped me in the middle of a lonely mother’s prayers. I flourished under her love before she ever put words to it as she lay in a hospital bed and whispered, “I couldn’t love you more if you were my own daughter.”
My mother-in-law’s faith and tenacity taught me much about God’s promises and loving others. I truly believe that as she sat in that little Army chapel and witnessed Carl and me exchange vows, she whispered to the Lord, “Mission accomplished!” Then she went about teaching me how to love a daughter by marriage with the days she had left, just as Naomi did for her daughter-in-law, Ruth.
I have now been a mother-in-law for twenty-five years and I’m forever grateful for the godly wisdom Etta Mae modeled for me. I’m also thankful that I listened to God’s gentle whisper to build that relationship, even when it was hard. I realize it can be scary to make that first move. To love someone who is different from you or someone you don’t know well. But the Lord has a way of putting people together who need each other.
Whether you are the mom-in-law or daughter-in-love, you both already love the same person and that’s a beginning. Like Ruth and Naomi in the verse above, God has purposed wonderful blessings in our relationships with our in-laws. He’s not just putting people together at random. He’s building a family!
God sets the lonely in families… Psalm 68:6 NIV
About the author: Louise Tucker Jones is a speaker, columnist and author of four books, including The Gift of Christmas. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise writes extensively concerning people with special needs, co-authoring the Gold Medallion award-winning book, Extraordinary Kids. Married to Carl for 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands. LouiseTJ@cox.net http://www.LouiseTuckerJones.com
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