My mother-in-law died on November 4, and I miss her so. She was a radiant, life-giving servant of Christ who loved me—and many others—with all her heart. I wish I could call her. I wish I could ask her advice again. I wish I could hear her pray for me. But she suffered physically in her final weeks, so Ray and I are truly grateful for her earthly release and warm welcome home. We walk in mournful joy these days.
Now it is my turn to mother our family. Her memory will continue to influence me until I see her again. Here are a few of the biblical life principles she taught me:
1. Open-hearted acceptance builds strong family bonds.
I was a twenty-year-old Wheaton co-ed, head over heels in love with her handsome and gifted son. She didn’t know me well, but the week Ray proposed to me I received a card from Mom in the mail. I still have it today. On the front is a little girl planting a sweet kiss on the nose of a seal. The inside reads, "You have our seal of approval." That card began a forty-three year relationship of affirmation and love. She believed in me because her son chose me, and that freed me to draw close to her in this new relationship. She flexed with me and supported me and told me time and again how blessed she was I would marry her son. Imagine! She lived out Romans 15:7 and extended grace to me time and again.
2. Be excellent in everything.
From punctuation to punctuality, Mother strove to do her best no matter what. She spoke at Bible studies and Bible conferences, she wrote books, she helped Dad in his pastorates and then at Renewal Ministries, she discipled many women, and she loved Daddy well, along with her children and their families. And she did it all with purpose and conviction. She was working for her King, and her grateful heart was joyful as she labored (Col. 3:23).
3. Live lightly.
Whether she was packing a suitcase for another overseas ministry trip or packing boxes to move her home and office, she taught me to "eliminate and concentrate." She didn’t let worldly things weigh her down. She knew her citizenship was in heaven, and she was laying up treasures there for Christ’s sake, because that is where her heart was (Matt. 6:20-21).
4. Marriage matters.
Mother didn’t interfere. She let Ray love me first and best. She knew her son’s relationship to me was more important than hers to him. And she tended her own marriage beautifully. She loved Dad with all her heart. She submitted to him, respected him, esteemed him, listened to him, complemented him—and complimented him! (Eph. 5:33; Heb. 13:4). She showed me the purity and power of a real romance; a life-long, unbroken love affair with the one you promised God you would "love until death do us part."
5. Fear not.
She taught me worry is a sin. Through financial stresses, life-threatening illnesses, fatigue and failures, losses and longings, she taught me to fix my eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2). She would tell me there are 365 "Fear not’s" in the Bible. (I have never counted them—I took her word for it.) "One for every day, Jani." She helped me see that Jesus is enough for any and every circumstance I will face this side of heaven, and "He rewards those who seek him" (Heb. 11:6).
6. Never stop growing.
Even in her final years, she wanted to grow in Christ. After Dad died, she spoke often of how much she missed him and how she couldn’t wait to see him in heaven. During one visit not too long ago, she confessed to me that her heart focus had been wrong, and the Lord had gently redirected her thinking to let Christ be her chief delight and longing of her heart (Ps. 73:25). She was always looking for more of Jesus. She never embraced a "theology of scarcity" (as my husband, Ray, put it in a recent sermon); hers was a theology of the fullness of "grace upon grace" in Christ (Jn. 1:16). And now she is in His Presence forever.
What about you? Perhaps you don’t have a mother-in-law, or maybe your relationship with her is strained. Don’t despair. Begin a new pattern in your own family, spreading the fragrance of His grace as you love those God brings to you.
This article was originally posted on True Woman.