Saturday, September 20, 2008

In-law Woes

My in-laws love their son, and their grandsons, they really do. I know it. I do.
It's just, they don't like me so much.
As a mother, there are things I can see now about that, that I understand more. My MIL does not want to share her son. And now that I have three sons, I can see that. But my sons are little, and I don't have to share them now. But my job as their mother, is to raise them to be good husbands and fathers someday. And how can I do that if I don't learn to share?
The first time my MIL met my mother, a few months before my wedding, MIL asked my mother a question. Mom wisely did not tell me about this question until many years later. MIL wanted to know if I was going to get in the way of her relationship with Hub. My mother stammered out some sort of reply and the conversation moved on. Mom told me that inside, the answer she was gave was, "I sure hope so!"
You see, I was taught that when you get married, your spouse became the person who came first in your life. After all, God even says so:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh. Genesis 2:24

But it's not actually true for my MIL. I remember many conversations I have had with her over the years. She has said that her children are more important to her than her husband. She even did her darnedest to raise her two boys to dislike their father and think he was a mean, spiteful, vengeful man. To this day, Hub worries about how his father will react to anything he might tell him that is different than FIL wants to hear, but always thinks his poor, delicate, flower of a mother is always there to soothe his brow.
My MIL sits on her sons' laps; she lays her head in their laps and caresses their faces. I have even seen her play footsies under the table with Hub. It is often disturbing.

Unfortunately, the past year and a half has been even harder to deal with my MIL. You see, now she is physically sick. She was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in March of 2007. She had a good first year of chemo but now things aren't going as well. This illness has made her even more manipulative. She and my FIL are working on their wills. They have a considerable amount of money and land to leave to their sons. At one point, everything was to be split evenly between Hub and his brother. Now, not so much. One day, about 6 weeks ago, MIL finally told Hub why his 50% inheritance had dwindled to about 15%. She is very angry because he did not move back "home" when she got sick.
My sweet, soft-hearted husband, the peacemaker in his family, is heartbroken. He already feels guilty because he can't be there more often, but to have it spoken, and thrown in his face in such a way is terrible. His brother is even chewing him out over it as well. Every time we see them now, or talk on the phone, there is some reference to how Hub isn't doing enough.
Because Hub and I (together, I might add) have chosen to live a simple life, to put our faith and trust in the Lord instead of the world, Hub is told that he doesn't understand about money. That he is too simple minded to "get" the real world. And that he needs to be back home where his family can take care of him. I am viewed as an outsider, an interloper, weird and different. They think that I have corrupted him. After all, he never talked about God answering prayers, or homeschooling, or working two jobs so his wife could stay home with the kids before I came in the picture.

When Hub and I first met, we wanted the same things. We wanted a big house, nice cars and the money to take a nice vacation every year. We even discussed going on a long European vacation.
But then God started working on us. We were both raised in Christian homes, even if those Christian homes were just for looks. We knew God, and had both even made a commitment to follow Him. But only in the general sense. Then we started talking about having children. We knew we wanted to raise them in church, but we weren't actually going to church. But that still small voice was there telling us there was something different out there. And we started searching. We eventually landed in a non-denominational, full gospel church, where Sunday service started at 10:30 and ended whenever the Spirit let us end. Both of us having been raised southern baptist, this was a change, a drastic change. If not for the fact that my mother and step-father were attending the church, we would have run for the hills. But God had plans for us.
And we stayed.

I had decided to go back to college a few years before this and was in the midst of getting my bachelor's in accounting. Hub was teaching 6th grade. So, we were still on the career driven path. But then Dino came along. And everything changed. My world shifted. Suddenly, I realized my role in life. No longer was mediocrity okay. God had given me the greatest gift and I wanted to be worthy of it. Of course, there is no way that I can ever be worthy. I am here by grace, there is nothing else. But I came to realize that no one else would be able to instill in my child the love of God like I could. And if I started from the beginning, maybe I could spare him untold heartache. I know that I cannot protect my children from pain, but if I can lead them to God, from the beginning, and help them realize that He is the only thing in this life that truly matters, then I have done the greatest thing a mom can do.
It is all about God. He is the one and only thing that matters in this world. No amount of money is going to get me to heaven.
But even more than that, I want to be intimate with Him. Just getting to heaven, just getting in the door isn't enough for me anymore. I want to be close to Him, I want to know that I have done all that He has asked of me, I want Him to be pleased with my life.
And how wonderful it will be to know that I helped my children along their journey too.
What more can I do? Or even better, how could I do less?

There is nothing I want for my children more than intimacy with their heavenly Father. And if I have to give up the world and it's money to do so, then so be it.
Most importantly, my husband, the head of my household, feels the same way. He is striving toward a closer relationship with God. And together, we have found that what the world thinks is important, isn't quite so important. Gone are the dreams of big, fancy houses and big, fast cars. The dream of traveling through Europe isn't gone, it's just postponed until God gives us the green light. Maybe someday, it will be a mission trip instead of a trip-around-the-world. And that's okay. In fact, it's even better!
But I can't ease Hub's pain and the words of his family. Every time we see them, every single time, FIL takes Hub aside privately and tells him that he has to make me go to work and put the children in school. And now that MIL is sick, everything has the added pressure of doing things to make her happy. And nothing would make her happier than if Hub and the boys moved back "home."
Yes, that's right, her happiest would be without me. But she would grudgingly accept it if I had to come, too.
But that's not what God wants for me and Hub and our children. And my in-laws just don't understand.

It's taken me a long time to be able to let go of some of my anger toward my in-laws. And as this post shows, I still haven't let go of all of it. When my MIL was first diagnosed, I couldn't even pray for her. I have finally worked through that and I do pray now. And I pray that I can let go of my hurt and anger toward her and my FIL. It is what I know God wants of me. God wants me to be the best wife and mother I can be.

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