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)