How to Handle the Holidays with In-laws

How do we handle any of the holidays with In-laws? As each holiday is approaching, we think of so many different things. Who is going to come? Are we eating at home or are we eating out? What will be the schedule? It is probably almost comical to God that I am even writing this article. This mother-in-law has had a hard time with the holiday issue.

For many years in my married life, we tried to share the holidays with both families. We would eat Thanksgiving Dinner with the Autry’s on Thanksgiving Eve and with the Bennett’s on Thanksgiving. We would have Christmas Eve with the Autry’s and Christmas Day with the Bennett’s. When we lived long distances away, we would drive after Christmas to both families to have Christmas. For me, it was just natural that the time was shared. I took those thoughts into the in-law relationships after I became a mother-in-law. Which in the end, caused a huge struggle in my life. Did I say huge? I really mean Huge.

The first thing that will help you and me during the holidays is to accept the time you have or don’t have with your children, spouses and grandchildren at the holidays. This has been a long rode for me. I wanted the shared time with my children that we did during the holidays with our parents.  I wasn’t asking to be the favorite parent just to share in the time. My husband has told me many times, “do not expect anything and then you will be pleasantly surprised if something happens.” The expectations were there for me.  It was very important for me to have all the family to be together at Christmas. As children were married, I worked hard to have all the family together. At points this door was slammed before I could get my toe out of the way. The acceptance was a long rode for me and many years it was not there. I would cry from a broken heart. I worked to get everyone together.  I would plead and ask God for us all to be together just once at Christmas. Last year, it was just to be together once during the year. With the many no’s, came God’s comfort and assurance. He was going to be there regardless if all the children were or not. He would give me the peace I needed and heal my broken heart. If you want to handle the holidays well, lower your expectations with others and raise your expectations with God. Throw out the feelings of rejection and put in God’s comfort and peace. Accept the time you have or don’t have and enjoy God’s peace within.  “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30)

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The second thing that will help you and me in the holidays is to never go nuclear. When we do throw down the gauntlet, it is hard to recover and go forward in the relationship. There are many things that make it hard in in-law relationships. Deception and lies not only hurt but are hard to deal with. At points there is not another word to describe another’s behavior except meanness. I understand it hurts worst when someone in your family is being mean-spirited to you but just smile and nod with God’s love. I do realize there are issues of physical and sexual abuse that you do have to take a serious stand on. During family times concentrate on what you are responsible for. In the end, you are not responsible for the other persons actions, they are. You are to practice restraint and respond in kindness.  When we get into a heated argument, little is usually accomplished in relationships.  In Psalms 103, God tells us what are actions are to look like. “God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him.” God models for us how we are to respond. It is very easy to respond in anger when we are mistreated and attacked verbally. God does not easily get angered. For us to be able to remain calm and respond in love takes a lot of prayer especially for me.  This means pray in the morning, in the noontime and all throughout the day. God doesn’t treat us as we deserve but as we do not deserve. We are to treat family with love even at times we feel they may not actually deserve it. I am so glad God doesn’t treat me the way I deserve sometimes. There are times when I am very ugly but God treats me with love anyway. When we look at relationships with our responsibility and God’s treatment of us, it makes it easier to smile, bite our tongue and walk away.

 

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The third thing that will help you and me during the holidays is to remember that everything cycles. Relationships tend to cycle. The relationship that we thought was hard at the beginning may be easier several years later. The relationship you thought would never be a problem, may be the one five years later is a difficult relationship. Relationships take many different turns. Why? The easy answer is relationships are made up of imperfect people. Relationships are a work in progress that include many challenges along the way.  When relationships start many different things come into play past and present. This affects how a relationship start. As time goes along different people in the relationship work through the challenges and a relationship grows and molds together. This only happens when the relationship is not given up on. Relationships that tend to not have as many challenges in the beginning may develop challenges as the years go by through life events, unforgiveness and hidden things that arise. The challenges happen in any relationship but we often are surprised at when they happen or what it is over. Challenges can be talked through but that does not always work.  Sometimes what you want in a relationship has to be put on hold while you give the relationship some space. As you pray and accept the way the relationship is at that time then sometimes the relationship starts to have a little growth. When I was in tears over a relationship, my husband as assured me that everything cycles. As you are going through the holidays remember that the relationship that may be like walking through a mine field  may not always be that way.  Have hope and do not give up.

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The fourth thing that will help you and me during the holidays with in-laws is don’t sweat the small stuff. There are plenty of big stuff that we may have to deal with during the holidays so don’t get hung up on the little things. This is coming from a woman who has made big deals out of little deals a plenty. In 2 Cor. 12:9, Paul says he boosts gladly about his weaknesses because of what God has done in his life. I can share with you about my failures because of what God has taught me in the midst of them. Just recently we were to be all together on Thanksgiving day. This was also a great time for a family picture, I thought. I asked my daughter about what the dress would be or what the colors would be. She replied, “Mom, just be thankful we are all going to be together. Don’t add to this.” Instead of sweating that the colors wouldn’t match or the dress would be all different, I was just thankful we were all together for a picture. To not get hung up on the little things take a thankful heart of the big and little things that happen. It is easy to get hung up on meals, schedules and people instead of being thankful for what is happening. There have been plenty of times I have been hung up on the number of people present instead of being thankful for the ones that were present.  Mother Teresa tells us, “We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love.” We need to realize that a lot of things are actually small and showing love through all the small things is huge in our life. We cannot change the past or predict the future. We can choose to make a difference in the here and now with a loving thankful heart on the small and big things that happen in the holidays with our family.

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The fifth thing that will help you and me is not to get hung up on comparison expectations. What do I mean by this? Before and after the wedding the spouse expects the other parents to do holidays like their parents. They expect meals to be similar. They expect the family to be noisy or quiet depending on what they are used to. They expect the gift exchange to be done similar to what they grew up with, a lot of presents or a few. Some of the tension during the holiday season is due to the comparisons. The comparisons can be overwhelming to us as we find out the expectations on us for the holidays. The person doing the comparisons can become frustrated when there are so many changes. After all the persons involved have done Christmas the same or similar for many years, change can be hard for people especially the holidays. Holidays are sacred aren’t they. What do we do with all of these comparisons? For me, having five kids can bring a lot of comparisons into the holidays. With now three daughters-in-law and one son-in-law that have been added to the mix, we have been compared to many other parents on how we do the holidays. As parents we have formed our own holiday traditions over the years, so we may be very sensitive to the comparisons that start rolling in. It is easy to let emotions run high during the holidays. There are three things that have helped me to not get hung up on the comparisons. The first is prayer. Time spent discussing all the issues with God is huge. Be careful what you discuss with family, it can come back to bite you. The second is be open to changing some during the holidays. Changes may communicate that you understand and they may not. Even small changes help you know you are trying. The third thing is concentrate on the positives and not the negatives. It is easy to get hung up on the comparison expectations and not enjoy the holidays. Please take it from someone that has realized she is very different from the mothers that she is compared to, we have to be who God wants us to be and not the other mothers we are compared to. God has made you very unique. When we please Him, we do not get lost in trying to be another person. Enjoy the holidays with the blessings God gives you and do not let the comparison expectations take the joy out of the holidays.

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This article was written from hurt, tears and many struggles of mine. I hope it will be a blessing to you as you navigate through the holidays.

When Are the Wedding Photos?

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When Are the Wedding Photos?

With five adult children and four of the children married, I have had a little bit of experience with wedding photos. Four of my five children are boys, so I have had the experience as Mom of the Bride and Mom of the Groom and as a bride myself. My experience starts as a bride in 1977 and runs through the experience of being the Mom of the Groom in 2017. Let’s just say all the experiences are totally different.

As a couple getting married, Rodney, my mother and I were trying to plan the perfect wedding including the photos (within budget that is). Rodney and I scheduled a new photographer that was starting out in photography. He was new, good and cheap which was a great combination for us. On the day of the wedding, he took photos during the wedding and all the couple and group photos right after the wedding while our guests went on to the reception. After the honeymoon, we went and looked at the photos. We picked what we wanted and then showed the proofs to all the parents. The parents decided what they wanted to buy, and we decided what we would give as gifts to family. Everything seemed to work out perfectly.

When my children started getting married, the issue of photos took different turns. I expected everyone to know what was going to take place. That was not always the case. I expected everything with photos to work out perfectly. That was not always the case either. I have learned that many times the key to life is being flexible. This goes with weddings also. To protect everyone and to keep me from getting in too much trouble with family, I will share the experiences without names and without being in order.

One of my experiences as a Mom with photos for a wedding started with asking questions. Who is going to take pictures? When were they taking group photos? A professional wedding photographer was hired to take all the photos. Group photos would be taken at different points of the day. We were going to be given a wedding photo and could also purchase photos from the photographer. The big day arrived. I had a camera ready, so I could take some photos before and after the wedding. I do recommend taking some photos yourself or having a person take photos for you of special moments that a professional photographer may not take. With having five children and many grandchildren, the weddings are full of family. I took photos of family before and after the wedding. After the wedding some group photos were taken, I asked when our family photo would be taken by the photographer. I was told, “Later.” During the reception, the photographer was busy taking photos. I asked several times when our family photo would be taken. I was told, “Later.” Our family photo was taken at the end of the reception with the bride and groom. When pictures were taken the little ones were tired and asleep, so the photo is with sleeping preschoolers. After the wedding, we were given the photographer’s link for the wedding photos, we could purchase whatever we wanted. The earlier family photos can be taken, the better. Having both families included when family photos are taken is better for all.

Yes, I have many stories to tell. The second experience starts the same: with questions. A professional wedding photographer was decided on months before the wedding. Emails were sent with a list of the photos the photographer would be taking. The day of the wedding, my phone was ready to take photos of special family moments. The photographer had the list of photos to be taken at the wedding. Both families knew they would have group family photos after the wedding ceremony. After the wedding, a coordinator helped the photographer move people in place quicker. During the family photos, a family member became angry. Normally during wedding photos, you hope everyone will be happy during the big day. Things don’t always go according to everyone’s expectation, but people normally try to be happy through the big event. One family member caused a happy occasion to turn tense. Some people who were around the anger were hurt. The photos could not end fast enough. The day moved on and we tried to make the day a happy one. When people react to something that is beyond your control, do all you can to be Christ-like and save relationships that could be damaged. After the wedding day, flashes of the wedding photos were sent to the parents and the wedding couple. This made it easier for family members to upload photos and print. The photographer also had online access to the photos with the availability to purchase photos.

The third experience with wedding photos I am sharing is totally different than the previous experiences, of course. One of the first questions is who is doing the wedding photos. It was not clear who was doing the photos. Closer to the wedding, it went back and forth if there was a photographer or not. The month before the wedding, I was informed that yes there was a photographer for the wedding. An email was forwarded to me to include family photos that I would like taken. It was nice to be included for my thoughts of family photos. The photographer’s name had not been given to me and I was unclear if I would be allowed to purchase photos. On the big wedding day, it was not clear when group photos would be taken. My phone was active before the wedding with plenty of family moments. After the wedding, group and family photos were taken in the church. I was thankful to have all family photos done at the same time. At the end of the wedding day, I was still unclear about the name of the photographer and seeing the photos he took. Professional photographers can be understandably protective of the photos they take. The month after the wedding, a flash with all the photos taken at the wedding were sent to us. This was a special surprise. I was so thankful to be given the photos of the wedding. Each family is different. There is not always a rule book for families to go by at weddings. Working together is huge at weddings for everyone involved.

The last experience I am sharing is different from all the others. As the wedding plans progressed for this wedding, I began to ask about which professional photographer was going to be chosen. The closer we moved to the wedding, the more I realized they were not using a professional photographer. Weeks before the wedding, we were informed that a person studying photography was going to be taking the wedding photos. As I began to ask more questions about when photos were to be taken, the questions went unanswered. On the day of the wedding, the camera was ready to take photos before the wedding of our family. After the wedding, we stood around waiting for when the family photos would be taken with the wedding couple. We were not told of a time or place. We went on to the reception. After the reception, we found out that family photos were taken after the ceremony, but our family were not included. We ended up with no family photos with the wedding couple. Weeks later I attempted to buy photos from the person who took the photos through a third party. It was communicated to me that photos could not be printed and purchased. At the end of weddings, sometimes we regret of how things turn out, but we must make the most of what we are given.

Why am I sharing my four experiences with you? My experiences with wedding photos are not perfect and yours may not be either. In many family events, we have certain expectations. If you read any of my experiences, it is obvious they were not always happy. With weddings, expectations and personalities from many people come into play. To have happier wedding photos at weddings, everyone must be willing to give up some expectations. We also must use that big word a lot: “flexible”. We must be flexible with the unknown, patient with the time and bear with one another. All the one another passages come into play in a wedding like love one another, forgive one another and be at peace with one another. As we work through wedding photos, move on past the hurtful and enjoy the good. Move pass the negative and enjoy the positive. Whether you have one wedding or ten weddings, make the most of the day you have been given. Every time realizing that God is sufficient to supply every need you have for each wedding day.

 

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Having a Heart Like God’s

 

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Having a Heart Like God’s

Missing Puzzle Pieces

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20 Ways I Loved My Mother-in-law by Lynn Autry

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20 Ways I Loved My Mother-in-Law

 

 

1. She’s my mother-in-law. She was a mother first and then a mother-in-law. She was the mother of the man I love. She was the mother who has loved,  sacrificed and lost for the man I married. She is to be loved and not despised. “. . . do not despise your mother when she is old.”(Prov. 23:22) “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”(Ex. 20:12) She was my mother-in-law who I loved.

2. We made each other laugh. We all do humorous things. We need to be able to laugh at each other at times without becoming upset. Laughter is good for your health. Laughter relaxes your body, boosts your immune system, relieves stress, strengthens relationships, reduces conflict and more. We have enough serious stuff to deal with in families so enjoy the laughter and the benefits. We sure did.

3. She was patient with me. We have not always been patient with each other. Patience is something we have both strived for even in the tense moments. If one was not patient then the other was, thereby, creating a calming environment. Patience is the ability to accept or at least tolerate another without getting upset or angry. “Love is Patient. . .”(I Cor. 13:4) We showed our love by being patient with each other.   

4. We enjoyed each others cooking. Our cooking was very different. She has cooked with little spices. I cook with spices. She made awesome layer cakes. I made good layer cakes. We do not have to cook alike and we were ok with that. Why can we do that? We had accepted differences. Christ has accepted us all the way down to our toes. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”(Rom. 15:7) When I have sat down and ate my mother-in-law’s food, I have brought praise to God. Praise God we have even learned from our differences.

5. She had a sacrificial attitude toward her parents. She loved her parents. Her father died before he needed extra care. Her mother moved a trailer beside their home. She sacrificed time, money and social events to care for her mother. When her mother needed extra care she was right there to help even when she would have to give something up. She left an example of sacrificial love for us to follow. In a world when nursing homes are full, Mattie made sure every need of her mother was met. She showed Christ love to her parents.

6. She was always glad to see me. She wanted to see her son but she also wanted to see me and our children. We always enjoy being around people who want to see us. I knew every time I saw her, she was glad I was there. Aren’t you glad we have a God who sees us. Not only does He see us but He enjoys seeing us. Hagar said the LORD  was the God who sees her.(Gen. 16:13) He had seen her in her need. He was her El Roi (God who sees). Mattie and I have a God that see us.

7. She was always truthful. I could always count on my mother-in-law telling me the truth. I may not have always liked how it was told but she was truthful. In many families, lies are a part of the family life. Mattie was an example for her family on the importance of truth. Her speech showed that God was truth. David said in Psalm 26:3, “.  . . I walk continually in your truth.” Mattie followed God’s example and walked in His truth.

8. She loved her husband. Paul and Mattie were married 53 years when she died. They loved doing things together. They served at church together, went on trips, and did day to day activities together. When Paul was in the hospital, she was right there to. She was there to love and help her husband. This wife stood by her man.

9. She loved her sons. It was obvious anytime you were around her how much she loved her sons. She took time to help her sons anyway she could. When her sons were in school, she would take time to help with school projects or school activities. All of her sons did not live close but her heart was with them wherever they lived. “Being a mother means that your heart is no longer yours; it wanders wherever your children do.” ~Author Unknown

10. She loved to go to church. Church was a big part of her life. She had over the years been a Sunday School teacher, VBS teacher and many other jobs. She could say as Mary had said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Even in later years of her life, when she could not hold teaching positions, she would send cards to people in her church. Excuses  for not serving  did not come out of her mouth. I was told by many how her cards had ministered to them. From High School until she went into the hospital, she did what she could, to help out at her church. An example to you and me.

11. She enjoyed life. Her life was not filled with fancy cars, big houses or lots of money to spend.  Her life might be called a simple life. She enjoyed raising three boys, taking care of family members and serving in church. She laughed, smiled and enjoyed her life. She looked forward to simple things like good grades, church programs, and good gardens.  She enjoyed fellowship with friends where ever she was. Jesus said, “. . . a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Mattie’s life was so much more than her possessions.

12. She never raised her voice to me. I could always count on a soft tone from Mattie. There were times when she was upset with me but a soft tone always came from her lips. Proverbs 15:1 tells us “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” We shared a relationships that was filled with gentle answers and I loved it. Gentle answers helps a relationships to grow and blossom instead of die and decay.

13.  She enjoyed caring for plants. When plants would come to Mattie’s home, they would immediately grow. She would be very tender in caring for her plants. They would grow and flourish. She watched her mother care for plants from a child on up. She would even throw out used dish water on her plants and they would still grow. Her plants were beautiful. I never have enjoyed that same green thumb. She had a green thumb and more. Her plants were enjoyed by each person that visited her home.

14.  She took care of her health. She listened to her doctors and tried to follow the doctor’s orders. When her doctor put her on a special diet, she followed it even to the point of giving up all deserts. We have been brought with a price and we are to honor God with our body. (I Cor. 6:20) Mattie honored God with her body. She would refuse to eat a desert in the midst of areas of deserts. This was dedication to protecting her health.

15. She made the best cakes. She would make a Strawberry Cake and German Chocolate Cake that was to die for. She never could give me the recipe. She had made them so long that she just knew the recipe. When we were all together for special occasions, we looked forward to her cakes. The best Strawberry Cake and German Chocolate Cake I have ever eaten was made by her. I can just taste them now.

16. She loved her mother-in-law. She kept her mother-in-law in her life. Her in-laws were her husband’s parents but she also accepted them as part of her life. Ruth told Naomi in Ruth 1:16, “Your people will be my people.” Mattie could have said this. She helped her in-laws whenever they needed her. She was an example for me on accepting them.

17. She was kind to animals. She would have stray and wild cats to come around over the years. She didn’t have the heart to not feed them. She would start putting food out for them and sooner or later she would be able to start petting them. She help take care of animals that her sons had for fun or 4H. She did not have money to lavishly spend on pet supplies but she would take care of the need they had. Love is kind and Mattie was kind.

18. My mother-in-law cooked two suppers to meet the hunger pains of her family. Her sons were hungry when they came in from school. Her husband was hungry when he came home from work. She had a meal ready at two different times to please her boys and also please her husband. She sacrificed her time to make sure all the males in her house were fed when they were hungry.  Some of us would have said to her sons, “Just wait or have a snack and wait.” Mattie was there when the hungry mouths wanted food. Wow, what a mom.

19. She was willing to work outside the home when it was needed. Mattie was willing to worked in a mill and care for her family. During Paul and Mattie’s married life, times were hard and an extra income was needed. Mattie saw the need and worked outside the home and inside the home. When they could afford it, she quit work and cared for elderly parents. She was willing to do whatever was needed to care for her family.

20. Mattie suffered gracefully through illness. During the later years of her life, she had illnesses through an automobile accident, respiratory and stomach cancer. She was patience, kind and graceful to everyone around her. The Doctors and nurses enjoyed having this patient. She had much she could have complained about and even yelled about. I once watched several nurses try to take blood from her arms and hands. She was kind to them instead of kicking them as they took it from her foot. God had given her grace and she could give it to others during her pain.