I used to listen to women talk about their mothers-in-law. I heard them speak about going to lunch together. How they took cooking classes together. The way they planned family holiday dinners together. And I always felt so left out.
You see, my own mother-in-law was a person who had favorites. And I wasn’t one of them.
One day, my heart so broken, I asked God to send me a new mother-in-law. Someone who would love me. Someone who would find value in me. Someone who would want to do things with me.
“Oh, and God, don’t get rid of Tim (my husband). I just want a new mother-in-law – not a new husband.” I didn’t know how God was going to pull this one off, but I had every confidence in Him. “And one more thing, God: hurry. Please. From what I hear, I’m missing out big-time.”
What a tall order, huh? Well, I had a big need. I prayed a lot, but an entire year went by, and no new mother-in-law appeared.
Ever notice how slowly God answers some prayers? Well, don’t give up on Him. When He doesn’t answer right away, it just means He’s working behind the scenes.
One day, out of the blue. Oh, come on. Who am I kidding?! With God, there is no out of the blue! My phone rang and it was Jean, the mother of Patty, one of my husband’s childhood friends. Jean and Patty had lived on the same street as Tim’s family, and Jean was like an aunt to Tim. Jean had never called me before. So why was she calling now?
“Did I have time to talk?” she asked. I half-whispered an “Uh huh.”
“Well, honey, I just wanted to say that I think of you and Tim often. I’ve known Tim since he was a baby, you know. Because you two live so far away now, I thought it would be nice for you to know that Patty and I miss you both.”
Jean had such a soothing voice. I could have listened to her talk all day. And she had a gift for conversation. She knew just how to draw me in and make me feel good. When she was ready to hang up, she asked if she could call back in a few days.
That was the start of it. Jean kept her word and called back several days later. We talked and talked. We began calling each other frequently and soon learned that we had so much in common.
She asked me to come see her and I traveled five hours to do so. We talked and laughed and went to lunch and dinner together. We sat on her lovely shaded porch and talked for hours.
On 9/11, my mother and I spent the entire day with Jean at her house. We were glued to the television as we watched horror unfold in our country. I had brought my mom to Jean’s so we could celebrate both of their birthdays. Instead, we huddled together in Jean’s family room for hours. Although we spoke very little that day, we felt comfort in being with each other.
Jean had traveled all over the world. She and I oohed and aahed over her photographs. Her stories of adventures in foreign lands were mesmerizing. She gave me a photo of her riding an elephant in the jungles of Thailand. She was in her 70′s at the time. The picture continues to inspire me to keep reaching, to keep growing no matter what my age or circumstances.
She wrote beautiful letters to me telling me how much she loved me, how I’d brought joy to her life, how proud she was of me.
My daughter, too, had felt a void. If only she could have two grandmothers like her friends. I took Megan with me to visit Jean and my daughter was quickly smitten with her. From that time on, she was ”Grandma Jean” to Megan.
One day I realized that Jean had been handpicked for Megan and me. You see, the Master Himself had carefully selected her. God knew that Jean had a tremendous gift for filling voids.
The love and joy and devotion that she has brought to our lives can never be measured. And no one could ever take her place. She is the perfect mother-in-law. My lovely, wonderful mother-in-law.
Jean always says that we are making memories in whatever we do or say.
Jean turned 91 years old on September 3. Make that years young. Someone like Jean never really ages; they just become more precious.
God, I knew You were up to the task. Thank you.
Who has a void that you can fill? Ask God to show you. And when he does, don’t be afraid to reach out.
“If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2011