Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On teacups and forgiveness...

My mother-in-law wasn't easy for me to love.
Due to her own brokenness, she didn't love her oldest son well.
That made it hard for me to love her well, 
since I'm married to him.

She's the only living parent that we have left.
Sometimes I almost forget she's still alive.
She's lost to us in so many ways, and us to her.
Alzheimer's is a cruel thief life that.

She was the opposite of my own mama in many ways 
so that made it hard for me to accept her, too.

My mama wasn't a collector.
I don't think she ever owned more than one set of dishes at a time.
She set the table for every meal, but never added a centerpiece or flowers.
To her those things were a waste of her hard earned money.
Mama had had a tough life, and raised us kids on her own after Daddy left her when I was nine years old.

My mother-in-law, on the other hand, was a sentimental over collector.
Every greeting card everyone ever gave her was saved.
She kept all of the sentimental belongings from her children's upbringing, including their baby teeth.
She loved flowers and lace and bone china and crystal.
She had stuff, stuff and more stuff, all of which were her treasures.

Where my mama had to be strong and learn to care for herself and us kids, 
I viewed my mother-in-law as a well taken care of stay at home mom.
She had a husband who loved and served God and loved and cared for her.
He had a great job and was a great provider.
She had a lovely home.
She had three children who grew up to love and serve God.
She lived to see her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Yet, in my eyes, she seemed to be ungrateful and unhappy with her lot in life much of the time.

When she had to be put in assisted living, much of the stuff she collected had to be thrown out.
Anything especially sentimental or of value was put in a rented storage unit.
This fall, the siblings decided it was finally time to deal with her things.
Her English bone china teacup collection was dispersed amongst the females of the family, 
us all getting a chance to pick our favorites.

Since I don't have a place to keep them out on display, they are kept safely in her cedar hope chest, 
which we also ended up with.
Today,  I enjoyed getting them out and photographing them.
What I didn't know was that God, who does all things well and at the right time, 
would use this to take me another layer deeper in forgiveness towards her.

Probably due to Mama's influence my tastes run more towards farmhouse rustic
than to my mother-in-law's English cottage style.
I'm attracted more to pottery or ironstone than china,
to homespun fabric more than lace.

Yet, today as I photographed her teacups I thought about all the lovely ways my mother-in-law has influenced me.

She taught me to love and appreciate beautiful things.
She taught me about the joy and beauty of setting the table for a family gathering with china,
a centerpiece and candlelight.

She taught me that buying flowers for your garden or your home is not a waste of money,
that touches of beauty are worth buying.

She taught me that a leisurely bubble bath in a candlelit bathroom is a little touch of heaven, 
and reading in the tub...even better!
(I don't think my own mama ever thought of bathing as more than a necessary way to get clean.)

She taught me to love to eat and to cook lamb, now our choice for Christmas dinner every year,
along with little baby potatoes roasted in bacon and green onion, yummy!
She shared many of her recipes with me which are family favorites to this day.

She taught me to can fruits and vegetables,
even though I never enjoyed doing it like her.
And when she guilted me into trying to sew for my own three little girls,
it taught me that I simply do not like sewing!

(I kept her "August" cup because she and I were both born in August.)

She taught me to play like a kid with my grandkids.
She camped with her grandkids, ran and played outside with her grandkids,
cooked, crafted and played games with her grandkids.
(Yes, emotionally, I thought at times that she got just a bit too much down to their level, too.)

Because she never reached out to my mama, but instead thought of her as competition,
she taught me to do the opposite.
My daughters' in-laws, my grandchildrens' other grandparents, are a blessing in our lives,
to our children and to our grandchildren.
They are part of our family and deserve to be treated as such.

She, along with her husband, gave her son a good spiritual foundation.
She taught him Bible verses and the books of the Bible.
She taught Bible clubs and Sunday School.
He is who he is, in part, through her influence.
That, of course, has been a blessing to me as well.

She taught me the difference between just tea and good tea.

She taught me that everyone has their gifting,
their area where they can shine.
She was great in dealing with the elderly and terminally ill.

She also helped teach me to try new avenues of creativity.
She tried everything from tole-painting, to wood working, to knitting and crocheting.

Above all, she taught me that God even uses the most difficult to love people in your life
for your good, if you'll let Him.
I love her and I thank God for bringing her into my life.

I hope you enjoyed her lovely teacups today.

(top image edited with one layer of Kim's 1111 texture screen mode,
 50% opacity, and one layer of 1011 multiply mode, 50% opacity)

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  1. Those cups are exquisite. I saw a little of my mom and mother-in-law in this...and me, too.

    1. Oh, friend, thanks. Sometimes I spill my heart and then doubt myself.

  2. Great Post Elizabeth..........
    I had a similiar situation with one of my step-Mom's..........I never really felt she
    liked me as I was growing up and that she was always comparing me to my step
    sister, and she also said a lot of hurtful things to me, and when she was around my kids would say things like I was a lil brat.......and I never ever
    gave her any trouble other than one time.......when she was combing my
    hair and was hurting me, as I was very tenderheaded......so one day not too
    many years before her passing, it was just her and I and she made a statement once again about me being a lil brat, and I believe the Lord led
    me to say to her.......you know, there was only one time I remember giving you a hard time, and that was when you were combing my hair......and I didn't just give you a hard time to be giving you a hard time. I was very tender headed
    and it was really pulling and hurting.........and she was very quiet, and then
    said, that is true..............that was all she said, but I felt free at last and she
    never did ever say that again. About a year before she passed away the Lord laid it on my heart to give her a Bible and to write her a letter.....as I wrote the
    letter........all the things I learned from her came to the surface and it really amazed me, like your mother-in-law, she had taught me to celebrate, cause
    my own Mom was a single parent like yours, and really we didn't celebrate
    anything........my Step Mom also taught me much about loving my children,
    cause she loved her children very much, not always in the right way, but in
    many many ways the right way, also how to keep house, and the importance of family gatherings and even more...............
    So God is so good to give us those enlighted moments because those years
    of hurtful struggle somehow make sense...........and I had completely forgiven her years before but just struggled with why she always said I was a brat.
    When she was in the hospital dying my step sister that she used to compare me to..........asked me if I would pray for her as the family was all gathered
    around.......and by this time I knew she was a believer......and so I prayed
    that if she was ready to go that it was okay with the family because we
    had the Lord to lean on if we but would. She died 5 mins. later, my step
    brother said, if I ever had any doubts about her salvation I don't know.
    What a wonderful gift that was to me that the Lord allowed those moments.....................He truly does work all things together for good for
    those of us who love him, sometimes it just takes some time!! lol
    Too long for most of us, but God always had his timing.
    Thanks for sharing your lovely story................and enjoy those teacups and
    all the lovely things she taught you.
    blessings, Nellie

    1. Thank you so much Nellie for telling me your story. God is so good the way He works in us, the way He heals and comforts us.

  3. Love the tea cups. So special. I always pray that the Lord will allow me to see things from his perspective. That in and by itself, will allow me to forgive, to appreciate and to love.
    Great post ~ blessings

    1. Yes, to see others the way He sees them is what I desire.

  4. Elizabeth. Beautiful Tea Cups! Thank you for opening your heart. God is good in using the hardest people in our lives to do a work in & through us. Blessings.

    1. Thank you, dear Carol, for being a great gift of encouragement to me!
      Your doily is in the top photo!

    2. It shows in the photo mid way down the post!

    3. Yes! Thank you. So happy you like it!

  5. I loved your photos...thanks for sharing them! I love the August teacup - I'm an August baby, too. Makes me want to get August, January and October cups for me and my girls so we can have tea parties.

    I'm currently learning about God using difficult to love people to draw us nearer to Him and grow in Him. (my one and only sibling has been very difficult to love the past four years...)

    1. I'm sorry to hear about your sibling. It's so hard! Now I want to look online to see about other month tea cups.

  6. Thank you so much for you kind words about Mom! She has not been easy to love through the years and she did not make it easy for you to become a part of our family.

    I am so thankful for you. You are a blessing to me!

    I love you and am glad you are my sister-in-love!

    1. And I am so thankful for you. You are a blessing to me and to our family AND you make the best sweet pickles in the whole world!

  7. Elizabeth--isn't it funny the story teacups can tell? (and I'm an August birthday gal, too. It's the best month.)

  8. I enjoyed the lovely teacups and your beautiful reflection of what you learned from your mother-in-law. And I'm pausing on these words..."Above all, she taught me that God even uses the most difficult to love people in your life for your good, if you'll let Him." Such beautiful truth there.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

    1. It still doesn't make it easy! But, God uses what and who He needs to to shape and mold us!

  9. Each photo image went with each word beautifully and moved me completely in remembering how dear my mother In-aw was from the very moment I enter into their lives. Each image shoot is very well done - you gave me some ideas and tips to watch for next time I shoot a still life.. Thank you for sharing.. very well written too..

    1. Thank you so much! Shooting still life is my favorite....it's those wiggly people that challenge me! 😊

  10. Such a beautiful post, Elizabeth. Beautiful in every way. Despite having to deal with a difficult mother-in-law, you managed to find the good in her, and it only illuminated the good in you.

  11. What a blessing, that you've chosen to fill your cup with joy and gratitude rather than bitterness. Thank you for sharing!


    1. It really is true that hurting people hurt other people. She has childhood wounds that she's never let go of...in all honesty, I think her bitterness and ingratitude escalated her memory loss problems.

  12. Wonderful post filled with beautiful pictures and stories and most of a mother's memory.

  13. Such a beautiful post and thank you not only for the beauty of it but also for the honesty. I had a very difficult mother-in-law who was never able to really love her family. I was able to assist my other sister-in-law in taking care of her during her last hours for which I am grateful, and was able to tell her I loved her before she died. I am most grateful to her for her son and his desire to be a very different parent to his children than he had.

    1. I'm so grateful that you had that kind of closure with your mother in law. As I mentioned, mine is still living but doesn't remember who we are anymore. Still, I feel God has given me closure in my heart, though she wouldn't understand if I tried to communicate it with her.

  14. Thank you for sharing such a personal history. Very heartfelt and honest. At least you have this gorgeous collection as a pretty and pleasant reminder of your mother-in-law.

    1. Yes, I'm grateful for these reminders of her. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking time to comment!

  15. Beautiful post. I love teacups and all things tea! Hugs, Beverly

    1. It was a lot of fun to capture all of my mother in laws different cups. Seeing them in the photos really reveals their beauty in a way I sometimes miss in looking at them in real life.

  16. Those cups are beautiful! I love the way you photographed them. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks, friend. I love photographing "still lifes", which are so much easier to capture than people who wiggle!

  17. This was beautiful Elizabeth... I do stand in amazement how God can take simple things in our lives to bury forgiveness deeper in our souls.

  18. It's so beautiful that you could be open to what God had for you when you photographed the teacups. Thank you for being so transparent. There were some gentle reminders in there for me.

    I own a few of those teacups in different colors.

    Blessings from another Elizabeth. ( I followed your link-up from Four Simply Living.)


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