Twenty five years of living with my mother-in-law was not part of the plan when I walked down the aisle. I anticipated white picket fences, a la Home and Garden. I imagined a loving family that would heal my heart. I hoped that removing generational sin burdens would happen simply because I wanted it to, because I needed it to. I wanted a short cut.
Spending two and a half decades sorting though someone else’s hoarding treasures wasn’t my strategy for living and neither was carrying the burdens of someone else’s choices. I had enough of my own, thank you.
I didn’t suppose that by marrying my husband I had embarked on a long, arduous journey to, at last, be biblically “one” with him; and I didn’t know that there was a mountain of family debris to sort through and scale over for he and I to find the true him – the God-imagined him; a beautiful man.
A person can make choices, walk through the stages and outcomes and be completely surprised at where it leads them. That’s where I find myself tonight.
I’m sitting next to my mother -in-law, typing by candlelight. In between rubbing her feet with lavendar scented lotion and singing her hymns, I type to keep from busting an emotional seem. It is the end. An end I had a vision of but reality is so much different than the dream.
I wanted it to end by doing what her other daughters-in-law wisely did… escape. I wanted to be far from the dysfunction and far from the pain. That was where the happiness was. I just knew it. I didn’t want to be the one sitting here.
The pot of good life at the end of the rainbow beckoned me but the plan was for me to pay out by waiting for my dream-come-true ending and to find it at the bedside of someone who I thought would be the end of me.
The plan was for me to learn how to love by living with a woman whose idea of love needed some redefinition. The plan was for me to learn endurance and patience in the process of digging out from under years of trash and treasures heaped in my husband’s childhood home.
The plan was for me to learn to love a man, my father-in-law, whose idea of affection was to stare you down with eagle wing eyebrows and then remind you that you are fat. The plan for me was to live the bulk of my good years saying no to me and yes to them. I was clearly not consulted on this plan.
So, here I find myself, on a hot, muggy night in so-called paradise, thinking about the years of strife, years of praying and hoping to be anywhere but here. It wasn’t at all what I expected but, as it turns out, it’s how I’ve been perfected.
Sitting by the bed of the woman who has been my nemesis for all these many years, I feel the press of the hand of God on my shoulder, the whisper of His Spirit in my ear saying,
“For such a time as this…”
As she labors for breath I feel a love for her that comes from familiarity, from going through hard times together and from the Spirit of God. It’s a love born out of still being here even though I never wanted to be. It’s a love shaped into the form of mercy. God’s mercy.
I didn’t anticipate this life up to this point. I didn’t guess that in staying when I wanted to run, in loving when I wanted to hate, in caring for her when I wanted to pass on the burden to someone else, I would find one of the greatest expectations of all…peace.
Peace that comes from knowing that, though I wanted to quit, I didn’t. Peace in knowing that if He can bring me through the last twenty five years, He’s got the next twenty five years covered. Peace in seeing that much of my depth as a writer comes from wrestling with this woman, fighting her demons and praying her home.
And, peace that His love can truly bring good out of the seemingly impossible. Peace that as I sit by her bed, not wanting her to die alone, I realize that I love her, just for her and not because I have to.
Now, that, I wasn’t expecting.
Authors note:This is non-fiction and I wrote it "unexpectedly" late last night in the setting described after having already decided to not enter the challenge. At the time of this entry, my mother-in-law is still with us, still teaching us endurance and still showing us that the practice of love comes in many forms.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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