There are LOTS of women in my life. But it has not always been this way. You see, God gave me sons, no daughters. The only other females in our house when the boys were growing up were the dogs and cats. My husband and sons always treated me like a queen. If anything, I was treated with more respect because of the absence of daughters. Being the only woman in the house can have advantages!
Here we are on vacation when the boys were 9, 13, and 16.
As my sons grew up and especially as Sam, the oldest, began to look for a wife, I began to seek the Lord from a different perspective about a subject that is painful for so many women: “the mother-in-law.” I had had a mother-in-law, but I had never been one! All I had heard about the role was negative, but surely there must be some way to have a POSITIVE relationship with a daughter-in-law! The more I listened to people, both men and women, the more discouraged I became. So I went to the Bible.
The first verse the Holy Spirit led me to was Genesis 2:24, and it has become the cornerstone of my relationship with my sons’ wives.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
God said that when a man gets married, he must LEAVE the home of his birth and, in union with his wife, establish their home and family. I had heard a little ditty all my life, “A daughter’s a daughter for all of her life, but a son is a son ‘til he takes a wife.” Like a lot of folk-sayings, this one had some truth in it!
As I prayed over this verse and asked the Holy Spirit to impart the wisdom contained in it to my heart, I began to see that, like the mother of Jesus, I had treasured things in my heart concerning my sons since their birth. (see Luke 2:19 and Luke 2:51) There were things God had spoken to us about them, prophetic words that had been released over them, there were insights I had cherished about their individual personalities as they grew up, both strengths and weaknesses. All of these things and more I had treasured in my heart and prayed over since they were born. I was a kind of “keeper of the vision” for them, looking for ways to feed the things God had put in them and thwart the attempts of the enemy (and their own flesh) to derail them. I believe that this is part of the God-given mantle entrusted to mothers, and Mary is a good example for us.
But when sons get married, the role of the mother changes. She ceases to the “keeper of the vision” for her son as soon as he says, “I do,” and that role is passed by the Holy Spirit to his wife. If mom doesn’t understand this essential change and tries to hold on to her old role, tension between mother- and daughter-in-law is inevitable.
With each of our three sons, there was a place in the wedding ceremony where I had an opportunity to communicate release to my son and a passing of the baton of vision keeping to my new daughter-in-law. In all three weddings something powerful happened then, and a freedom to form a loving relationship with my son’s wife was secured. Competition was deleted from our relationship because God did a work our hearts. I am so very grateful.
I am blessed that my sons have done me the HUGE favor of marrying 3 beautiful, intelligent, strong, independent women. My three daughters-in-law I love as if I had birthed them myself — but I am so glad I didn’t because then they could not be the tremendous blessings they are to my sons! I love spending time with them and I think they enjoy me too. We are very good friends. They love Jesus the way I do and we love one another. They enrich my life. Let me introduce you to them.
Martha Margaret (married to Sam) looks like a Southern Belle — beautiful, gracious, and with a charming smile. On the inside, she has a great capacity for friendships that is combined with the opinions and debating skills of a defense attorney. Awesome! She is an accomplished dancer and dance teacher, a skilled and creative maker of STACKS of photo albums, and mother to four kids who include both the oldest and the youngest of our grandchildren. I think she can organize anything and make it run efficiently, even, at holiday gatherings, our family! She has stood beside Sam as he pursued a seminary education over the last 4+ years — what faith for a vision! And she has persevered through the multiple traumas and surgeries of our precious Ethan, her third son, now 8, who was born with life-threatening heart defects. If she has struggled with bitterness, it has never shown, but instead we’ve seen her choose to trust God and declare Him good at every turn. Martha Margaret is one of my heroes.
Heather (married to Ben) is a beautiful redhead, called by her lovely mother “my strong-willed child”, with a singing voice as big as all outdoors, an incredible talent for organization (boy do we need that in this family!), a leader and discipler of women who is fast becoming my right arm at Wellspring Women’s Ministry, and mother to the other three of our grandchildren. She is a creative song-writer and vocalist, a pastor’s wife who is LOVED by their congregation (especially the women!), an encourager with faith especially for the most-unlikely, and an incredible baker. In addition, we watched her endure several long seasons of unemployment for Ben when she kept her faith in both God and Ben! Heather has a blog too (www.heathercotten.com) where she is boldly transparent about the things God is talking to her about and generous with the wisdom God gives her about all the areas of her life, especially parenting.
And then there is Jessica (married to Joseph) who has more creativity in her little finger than I do in all of me. Every time you go to Joseph and Jessica’s house it looks different. That’s because Jessica is constantly tweaking things, adding art work that she creates and photos that she or Joseph have taken, rearranging the furniture, changing the wall color, because she seems to live in a state of constantly exploding inspiration. I love to talk on the phone to her (I think she is the only person in the world I can say that about because I generally hate talking to people I can’t see) because she always challenges me to get outside of my box. She sings like a bird, leads worship at her church, and writes songs, music, and beautiful prose. She has a blog (www.jessicacotten.com) where she posts beautiful and inspiring thoughts that will grip your soul. She has a new album out, all her own songs, all her own vocals, all her own accompaniment (except for one song where Joseph plays guitar), and it expresses the burden God put on her heart for the persecuted church. (The album is called Space of Brightness and you can buy it on iTunes.) She is amazing.
I am a blessed woman to have such women in my life. And the fact that these three are my daughters-in-law is a particularly precious blessing. I am grateful beyond words that God showed me that essential principle of the mother role that some call “cutting the apron strings” but Michael and I refer to as “leaving and cleaving” — leaving father and mother and cleaving to a wife.