Did you know there are only 7 Wednesdays left in 2017? I’m committed to getting out a #WCW blog for every one of them! ‘Tis the season for gratitude and I’ve still got so many friends I need to write about!
Today, I’m writing about my mother-in-law, Mary Jeane Kraft. It was her birthday on Monday. Incidentally, I now personally know FOUR people with birthdays on November 13th, all different years. It’s a little crazy! So, while all those others are wonderful as well, we’re just gonna celebrate her for a little while here today.
I’m trying to remember the first time I met Mary Jeane and I honestly don’t remember! Tom and I began dating in high school and before we officially started dating, we did a lot of hanging out at his house for movie nights. Of course, I had no way of knowing that this “tradition” of movie nights at the Kraft house mysteriously appeared when Tom began showing interest in me. I did seem to notice that while the friend groups shifted from movie to movie, somehow I was always invited. Anyway, I digress…
I mainly remember her during these times as attending to Tom’s younger brothers, trying to keep them from being too underfoot, bringing snacks, wandering through the room with laundry or a school paper she was grading or something else. Now that I’m a parent myself of a teenager, I see what she was doing. Just inconspicuously keeping tabs on what was going on with a bunch of teenagers in her house, noticing the one person who kept showing up, watching out for her son’s heart, and trying to make her domain a place her son could feel comfortable filling with his friends.
Her intentionality towards her family is now something so obvious and so dear to me. She asks great questions and listens intently. She never inserts herself where she knows she’s not needed. But, that doesn’t mean she is unwilling to say hard things if she feels that the situation needs a course correction or for another perspective to be pondered. I’ll never forget the conversation Tom and I had with his parents when we told them we were thinking about planning to get married. (If that sounds confusing to you, welcome to my world. When you’re long-distance dating as a freshman/sophomore in college, it feels scary to say out loud that you want to marry someone, but also foolish to not consider the seriousness of the relationship). Anyway, sometime during that conversation, she looked at me and asked if I had ever considered any other man besides Tom as someone worth pursuing. Talk about a deer in the headlights moment. And she wasn’t trying to catch me in some sort of duplicitous moment – she was just making sure she wasn’t talking to two moony-eyed teenagers. She wanted to know if I had been looking at my options objectively. (The answer was yes I had and no one held a candle to her son and yes I do think I handled that very well thankyouverymuch.)
And then we got married. I do not think there is a relationship in modern American society with more baggage than the “mother-in-law”. What in the world are we doing to the next generation with such negative stereotyping?!? It’s terrible! I do have friends that have fraught relationships with the in-laws, ones even that border on the abusive, so I’m not discounting that many have serious issues there. I am saying that I think we could do better as a society to honor this special relationship.
Over the years, I’ve just come to love my mother-in-law more and more. She remains intentionally focused on the well-being of her children and her grandchildren. She proactively seeks out relationship and opportunities to be with us. She notices the things that are important to people and makes an effort to make things happen. She does not offer empty praise, but instead sees positive attributes and the calls them out specifically. I have watched my children beam under her affirmation, not in an entitled, smug way, but in the way that shows they feel truly seen by her.
In the era we find ourselves now with people in power grasping tightly to whatever piece of the pie they can hold on to at whatever price, I notice that my parents and in-laws are going another direction. The only thing they are holding tightly to is their faith and conviction that God is good and that He is worth following. My in-laws have uprooted their family to move across the country, following a call to be part of a ministry they believe in. They left that ministry at personal cost when it became clear they needed to do that to find God’s flourishing in their lives again. They’ve continued in a limbo situation for a couple of years now waiting to see where and to whom God would send them next. Their faith is encouraging and convicting. Watching what they hold dear is a lesson they are teaching to us without having to use a single word.
My mother-in-law is someone I’m proud to know and enjoy hanging out with. She has fostered a strong sense of faith and connection to family in my husband and his siblings that is so evident today. She continues to learn and grow, sharing with us her nuggets of wisdom and passing along favorite books or passages that we may enjoy. She values service and hospitality, making sure everyone who enters her home feels welcomed, seen, and known.
When you fall in love with someone, you really don’t know what you’re getting with that person’s family. I count myself among the most blessed to be a part of the Kraft family now. Mary Jeane, I love your son and I love being part of your family. Happy Birthday week – I hope you get to keep celebrating! XOXOX