Hats off to the New Kids

This series on in-laws has stirred my heart. The messages I’ve received from people have been varied:

  • One woman said she reached out to her daughter-in-law and had “the best conversation we’ve had…maybe ever!” that included honest dialogue, asking of forgiveness and a commitment to starting fresh with their relationship.
  • Another reader honestly disclosed her heartache and feeling that I have a “perfect life” that she and many can’t relate to. My heart broke as I read her weighty words. She has had a hard life with many trials. But I was also reminded of painful situations through which I have walked that I would never write about on a blog…my life has been and is blessed but far from perfect. But I have a Day to look forward to when it will be!
  • God has used my own words to tenderize my heart about my mother-in-law moving in with us in the near future. I have fresh faith to love and serve her, and to live out the truths about which I’ve been writing. I still have concerns and bouts with selfishness — but my faith is rising. Smile.
  • Another reader skillfully encouraged any DIL to honor a MIL’s request to call her Mom. (You can find her words in the comment section.) She admitted that when this request came twenty years ago she was hesitant, but she now enjoys a closeness with her MIL that only years can bring.
  • A young friend who recently moved out of the country has gotten surprised reactions from total strangers when she mentions they live very close to her mother-in-law. So cultural negativity about in-law relationships isn’t just an American issue.

The main way my heart has been stirred has been with fresh appreciation for PJ, Rachel, Rebekah, Lauren and Eric. I never thought I could love someone else’s children like I do them. And things have certainly been imperfect. My strong affection for family times has tempted them to feel obligated to participate at times to avoid disappointing me. Their lack of expressed gratitude sometimes for things I do has been disappointing. There have been hurts both ways that just wouldn’t appropriate to share here through which God has helped them or me to work.

Yes, our family is imperfect. The trials we have endured have been many. We have offended, lied to, yelled at, been disloyal to, held bitterness toward and critically judged one another. We’ve had family meetings to discuss offenses and share concerns. Things have happened that have required forgiveness we had to receive grace from God to extend. We have wept together over painful situations and been the recipient of critical accusations of being too close.

So when you see our family vacation pictures or read about our close relationships, please know there’s a back story. A story of flawed sinners and God’s faithfulness. A story of insensitive comments, tears, angry words, unspoken disappointments, resentments, questioned motives, wrong conclusions, selfish choices and “what were they thinking???”

Yep, just like in your family.

To have kids who endure this is one thing. But for my New Kids to persevere through it all is another.  Yes, they’ve brought their share of all of the above to the table but they’ve also been patient and forgiving. I’m sure they’ve gotten more than they bargained for on many fronts by marrying a Phillips.

Every time I look at the picture of all of us on the banner above, I’m amazed. An infertile woman had six children. A dad who believed God would have us adopt trans-racially had his prayers answered and the family’s baby girl just turned 18. Five of my children are married and have given me eleven grandchildren.

They are My People. Eighteen of them are blood relatives and five of them are not. Those five are the New Kids and I am forever and always their mother-in-law. They joined a family who loves the Redskins and Auburn when they love Duke, UF, Miami and…at one time…Dallas, but thankfully that’s pretty much over. They have a mother-in-law that thinks the fam should get together for every holiday that is written on mass produced calendars and who likes taking three hours to open all the gifts one by one on Christmas morning. Their father-in-law started a new church at nearly age 60 that resulted in them having to pray through whether God was leading them to come…and they did, which meant leaving the church they loved where they hoped to raise their children.

I love them. As I’m typing tears are coming because God has knit our hearts together through years of their patience and understanding. And I was able to write a blog series on in-law relationships without anxiety about how they would interpret something I said. (Well, I did run a couple of things by them to make sure…smile.)

There are two New Kids to come. When they are added I will be a mother-in-law to seven. Wow. They can call me whatever they want and I’ll share Jake and Julia with their family on holidays. There will be more stuff to work through and I’ll make more mistakes. And gift opening on Christmas morning will take even longer because of a couple of extra gifts under the tree.

I want to be a part of a counter-cultural, gospel-centered and Christ-honoring group of in-laws that admit the struggles but refuse to isolate our relationships as being untouched by biblical truth.

Help us, Lord.

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