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In-Law Week: Wrapping it Up

We’ve reached the end of the series on in-law relationships. Thank you so much to all who contributed to this series. Today I’m just going to post links to the various posts and resources, and then leave us with a few quotes and thoughts from friends.

First, what’s the purpose of this relationship?

What’s the Goal?

Here are three guest posts and one extra link on showing grace and the love of Christ to our in-laws (relevant for every relationship):

Guest Post by Kim Shay, whose mother-in-law was instrumental in her conversion

Guest Post by Rachel Lonas, who didn’t fit her mother-in-law’s expectations, but was shown love and grace anyway

Guest Post by Kyle Castro, whose in-laws gave him a second chance at family

The Generosity of Centered Love, by Beth Impson

Then, some thoughts on what causes these relationships to get off to a rough start:

How Do We Go Wrong?

But what about those relationships that just aren’t working? Is there hope?

Guest Post by Marci Preheim – for when your marriage isn’t big enough for the three of you

Finally, here are some thoughts from a few friends about their relationships with their in-laws:

On the Initial Meeting:

My first encounter with my MIL was me taking the first step in writing my future in laws a short thank you note telling them how grateful I was to them for raising my husband in a godly home and with character that I admired and had come to love. I told them that I had been praying for a man like him and was really looking forward to meeting them (Was invited up to MI for Thanksgiving) Not sure what prompted me to do that other than I really did feel grateful and wanted to express it to them. Anyway, when I got there she welcomed me with a huge hug and seemed genuinely happy to see me. When she showed me the room she had set up for me, there was a gift bag with a blanket, a light sweater and some University of Michigan slippers. (She thought since I was coming from FL, that I might be cold since I wasn’t used to the weather.) – Theresa

On TV Viewing and In-Law Relationships:

Daughter-in-Law: You need to IGNORE hat the world says about MIL’s, block “Everybody Loves Raymond” on TV, it will only poison you towards your MIL. You may be landing a great MIL, sometimes that relationship just takes time to blossom! 

Mother-in-Law:  Be patient. Watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” and vow to NEVER EVER be like Marie. Wait for your DIL to ask for your advice, or start up conversations and see if it leads to her asking you for help/advice. – Melissa

On Bringing Together Families:

I always keep the story of Ruth in my mind & on my heart—-especially on the bad days. I included verses from Ruth in my wedding vows that I wrote: “your people shall be my people”. I meant that when I said that to my husband almost 33 years ago. – Wanda

I hope this series has been an encouragement to others, as I know it has to me. I’m still irrational about giving up my son one day. But at the end of the day, he was never mine to begin with. I’m so thankful for the love of Christ that draws us into His family and brings strangers together. Our physical families may never be close and our in-law relationships may be fraught with pain. But His bride–the church–is our eternal family. And He is our brother, our friend, our bride-groom and our savior. What joy there is in knowing Him!


This Marriage Ain’t Big Enough For the Three of Us: Guest Post by Marci Preheim

Up until now, the guests posts featured during In-Law Week have all been positive accounts, detailing how each writer’s in-laws showed grace and the love of Christ to their new family members. This was undoubtedly not always easy, especially considering how each person did not exactly fit the mold of their new family’s expectations. 

But maybe you’ve been reading and you’re thinking, “That is not my experience at all. I’m trying and trying to love, but it’s a one-way street and I’m exhausted.” Today’s post is for you. My guest today (and precious friend), Marci Preheim, shares some loving, grace-filled wisdom for how to handle those intense in-law relationships (or ANY difficult relationship). 

Romans 12:18 says this: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The first two clauses in this verse speak volumes. They reveal this truth: 1) it is not always possible to live at peace with everyone, and 2) you cannot control other people’s behavior. You can only control your own.

This little verse has brought comfort to many young newlyweds who have found themselves in a surprisingly difficult in-law relationship. My best-friend (I’ll call her Jane) and I used to joke that, until we got married, we had never met anyone that we could not MAKE like us. We used to flip our hair back, look in the mirror together and laugh: “What’s not to like about me?” Even though we were being facetious (and obnoxious), there was some truth to our jesting. You cannot MAKE someone love you.

I suspect there is very little written about the difficulties of in-law relationships in Christian circles because no one wants to dishonor their parents or their spouse’s parents. After all, most writers write about what they know—what they have learned from experience. Many articles I have read about in-law relationships sum it all up with an exhortation for mutual love, and boundary setting. They give examples of Christ-centered respectful relationships that we should all pattern our lives after. For those who have exhausted every effort to live at peace with their in-laws to no avail, these exhortations are like a dull knife to an already sensitive wound.

Jane’s mother-in-law is one of those ladies in the church who cooks and serves and has people over for dinner and spoils children with sweets and gifts. Everyone loves her. There was a little evidence during the wedding planning that mom-in-law had a controlling side. She gave her opinion much too readily and could snap your head off without warning. Jane wrote it off as wedding stress. Things settled down after the wedding. It was smooth sailing. . .until babies came along.

All of a sudden a tolerable relationship turned unbearable. Jane and her husband had moved six-hours away from his parents (which was a crime in itself), but when babies came along so did the expectations. Mom-in-law decided she was going to visit every six weeks and stay for a week each time so she and her grandbaby would be close. This was hard on Jane, but she wanted to honor her mother-in-law. Gradually with more visits, came more expectations. Jane began to feel like she and her husband were just two more children for his mom to parent.

Men don’t often see the complexities of female relationships. Jane’s husband thought his wife could use the help and he enjoyed having his mom’s cooking and affection. His mom behaved well when he was around, but when he wasn’t, she was cold and critical to Jane. She made Jane feel like she was an unworthy mom, wife, and person for that matter. She unapologetically slandered Jane to other family members. Jane felt guilty for not wanting her around. When she broached the subject with her husband, he suggested that she might be over-reacting. He urged her to be selfless, grateful for the help, and asked her to keep the peace. After all it was only one week out of every six.

I can almost hear the female voices of those reading this article. Trust me, every word of advice that is about to drop out of your mouth, Jane has tried. What do you do when you have done everything possible, as far as it depends on you, to live at peace with your in-laws? The more Jane sacrificed, humbled herself, kept quiet, the more intrusive mom-in-law became.

When we talk, in Christian circles, about loving one another and sacrificing for one another, what does that mean? Should Jane honor her mother-in-law by letting her take leadership over her home once every six weeks? Are we commanded, as Christians, to let other people take control of our lives for the sake of peace? There is not time to sacrifice to this extent for everyone in our family, in the church, in the world. How much sacrifice is enough?

In my own (much less severe) relationships with extended family, I have had to take refuge in the Lord. I have had to cling to Him as my rock and my salvation (Psalm 62:6). There are times when I have felt such immense pressure to do something, and yet when I ran to the Lord, His word said: Wait. . .wait. . .wait! “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him. . . Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”

Dealing with in-laws (or any difficult relationship for that matter) cannot be remedied with a simple command to love and sacrifice for others. Most of the time, these relationships reveal our utter inability to do so. Our confusion should drive us to the cross—to the only One who ever truly loved sacrificially. James gives us this invitation in his epistle: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). The hard part is waiting for the answer and believing it will come.

I don’t have to give communication tips or a flow chart of who’s responsible to talk to who about what. In difficult circumstances people naturally pull out every tool in their arsenal of wisdom—human or spiritual. Sometimes Christians act in the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes they explode with their own impatience. We do anything to escape suffering. At the end of all this striving and effort a sweet surrender to the Lord can be found. It is the moment you cry uncle and hand it over. It may be a moment by moment surrender, but it is the kind of surrender that trusts that someone else sees the situation. Someone else has the power to fix it but has chosen, for some good reason, not to. Someone else will care for me until it is fixed. I don’t have to do anything.

I give the same counsel that the Psalmist gave to himself: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. . .My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. . .Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 43:5, Psalm 62:1, 8).

Marci 19Marci Preheim was born in Lincoln, Nebraska but moved to Hollywood, California as a teenager. It was there, at the age of 21, that she came to know the Savior through the ministry of a local church. Within a couple of years of her conversion she became involved in a women’s prison ministry and discovered her passion for sharing the gospel publicly. Marci has been married to Arnie Preheim since August of 1993. Shortly after their marriage, Arnie and Marci moved to Nashville, Tennessee. They have 2 children, Brock (born in 1995) and Paige (born in 1998). Marci regularly teaches the women’s Bible study at Community Bible Church. For ten years, she has also led a monthly chapel service for women at the Nashville Rescue Mission (Hope Center for female recovering addicts). You can find more of her writing at and in her book, Super(free)Woman: From Fundamentalist to Failure to Faith.

In-Law Week – Guest Post by Rachel Lonas

Today’s guest post is by Rachel Lonas, a friend from my time at Bryan College. Much like Kim’s post from Monday, Rachel describes a mother-in-law who loves her well with the love of Christ, even though she didn’t fit the picture of the wife she initially might have chosen for her son. Once again, a testimony to the power of grace in the lives of two very different people.

Rachel's mother-in-law and her oldest daughter

Rachel’s mother-in-law and her oldest daughter

There are so many reasons I could list my mother-in-law as wonderful. There are the packages she sends every holiday for our family, filled with funny handmade cards, family inside jokes, and small personalized trinkets. There is the transparency and humility she exudes that make her so relatable. As I said, I could go on for days, but as my husband and I approach our 7th wedding anniversary this year, I’ve been thinking about something more than just kindness and personal touch. I’ve been thinking about how thankful I am for her servant’s heart and ability to trust her son who chose me.

Though both from Christian homes, my husband and I came from very different backgrounds. Different schooling background, different family conflict management styles, different temperaments. It seemed like a reasonable case for “opposites attract”. We had become close friends in college, so we both wanted to date with the intention of getting married after graduation. Everyone on our small Christian college campus (professors included) were excited for us, which may be why my husband didn’t remember to communicate with his parents about how serious we were getting; we lived in a “bubble” and it seemed normal to us and everyone who interacted with us every day.

When my husband did tell his parents his intentions, they were taken aback, but I think his mom took it particularly hard. She still had two daughters (12 and 16 at the time) at home and her only son and oldest child just officially declared his intentions for complete independence and full responsibility for his life after college. He was adding another woman in his life that would be a role model for her girls. That’s a lot for a mom to take on all at once! I also think they thought (before I came into the picture) he’d find a homeschool girl from back home to marry and settle down and have kids to homeschool some day. And yet his prospect was a public schooled, strong personality who dyed her hair red and refused to even consider homeschooling! As I said, my husband and I probably seemed like an unlikely match if you just put us down on paper.

I know it wasn’t always easy for her to trust her son’s judgment (i.e. to see what he and others saw in me and know it was a part of God’s plan), but if there was distrust in her mind, it never showed up in her actions. Every time I visited with his family, she served me as the most honored guest and really tried to get to know me and love me well. I never once felt like I didn’t meet her expectations or that I was unwelcome, even when I know I exhibited immaturity. She gave me the benefit of the doubt and tried to encourage me spiritually through devotional books and personalized gifts. My mother-in-law showed Christ’s love and acceptance from the very start.

I believe her thoughtful pursuit of a strong relationship with her daughter-in-law, without trying to fashion me into someone I was not, was the biggest help to our relationship. Instead of constantly criticizing me (which I tend not to receive well) or giving my husband an earful (an inappropriate thing for any mom to do) when I needed work, she just loved me for me and trusted and prayed for the Lord to work in my heart. She saw me honestly striving to love her son well and how together we desired to serve the Lord. The more time I spent with my husband’s family, the more his mom took the time to see how to love me best (in the big and little ways) and I learned how to do the same for her. God has used our imperfections to teach each other much in these 7 years. We are so close now; it’s hard to imagine how different we seemed back then!

I look back and see how much I have learned from my mother-in-law and how she chooses to serve with the love of Christ. I have seen her serve her parents by taking them into her home and giving the most intimate care (even when it’s difficult, both physically and emotionally). I have seen her serve friends and children of friends. Her generous spirit, her sense of humor, and her desire to trust in the Lord when things seem very unclear are always an encouragement to me. God has already blessed me tremendously with my own mother who serves friends and family with open arms, but I am thankful for another “mom” who my daughters can also look up to as an example of Christ’s love.

rachel lonas

Rachel has been married for 7 years to her husband, Justin, and has two daughters. She is a homeschool mom and part-time insurance agent who lives in Chattanooga, TN. She blogs at One Room Schoolhouse.

In-Law Week: How Do We Go Wrong?

'Cat fight' photo (c) 2010, Tom Taker - license:

I asked my husband for a photo idea, and he suggested a literal “cat fight.” So here it is.

 In the midst of hearing some really great stories about in-law relationships, there are also so many that just aren’t good. Reasons run the spectrum, and I’ve seen many truly difficult in-law experiences play out with close friends. It’s not helpful to dwell on those situations that are bad, but there is wisdom in learning from the mistakes of others. So today we’ll just look at a few things that can cause this relationship to get off to a rocky start.


Mother-in-law – Maybe you’ve always wanted a daughter. Maybe you see a lot of things you’re excited to help your daughter-in-law with. Maybe you expect things to stay mostly the same with your son, just adding a new person to the mix. Maybe you’re dreading the whole thing because of your friends’ experiences.

Daughter-in-law – Maybe you’re scared to death because you’ve heard horrible tales.  Maybe you’re excited to have a mom who will be more involved in your life. Maybe you’re afraid your mother-in-law will pop in uninvited and tell you how to do things. Maybe you feel like you’ll never measure up.

As with most life experiences, our expectations can kill a great thing before it even starts. If you’ve ever felt the weight of someone’s expectations for you and thought you could never live up to them, then you will know how important it is to give those expectations up to the Lord before you get any further into this relationship. Take time to pray and examine what is really going on in your heart–are you judging the other person harshly? Are you expecting something bad to happen, even though it hasn’t?

Ultimately, we have to remember Who is sovereign over this relationship. God is bringing two families together, and even the most difficult situation is not out of His hands. Rather than expecting something amazing, or something terrible, from the other person, we can just expect grace and love from our Father. We will make mistakes, we will not measure up, we will hold one another to impossible standards. And His grace is sufficient, even then.


One friend wrote this about her initial relationship with her mother-in-law (which has since improved dramatically), and I think it really illustrates the idea that we easily misinterpret others’ motives:

Once the vows were made, it was hard for me to get used to the idea of ANOTHER mother. I already had my own mother and a step-mom (who is really great). I am incredibly (and often sinfully) independent and self-assured, and I want to do things MY way, fail or not. It was not helpful when she would offer suggestions around our first little-bitty condo about where to put things, how to decorate, how I should do the laundry, etc. I already knew what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it. The main problem, looking back, was that her advice, however good or even appropriate, was thrust upon me, instead of her waiting for me to ASK. It came across to this 21-year old bride as criticism, each piece of advice felt like a jab saying I was not taking care of her son as well as I should or could. Back then (14 years ago) I could not see that she was trying to love me, trying to help.  

What the mother-in-law thought was loving, the daughter-in-law saw as criticism. I know I was insecure as a new wife and wanted to do everything perfectly, so I can see how it would be so easy to feel that way (although I didn’t, Carol Parks…don’t worry!).

Our interpretations of others’ actions are almost always going to err on the side of us perceiving we’ve been wronged. I can have a whole conversation with another person in my head and then feel very hurt or bitter toward them, even though they weren’t even around for the argument. My friend once had a dream where I betrayed her and the next day she could hardly speak to me. We are really great at playing the victim–my imagination is amazing, I assure you.

But what if we were so secure in our identity in Christ that we didn’t have to play the victim? What if we knew we were loved so perfectly by our Father that we didn’t have to obsess over the actions and words of others? What if we reminded ourselves that Christ gets it–He suffered greater pain and sorrow than we ever could, for the sake of those at whose hands He experienced such pain.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, when I’m able to forget myself for just a minute and remember that I am in Christ–adopted, betrothed, and so greatly loved–then I experience amazing freedom to let my interpretations of the motives of others go. I can just give it up and run to Christ. I can choose to believe the best, because God has freed me from worrying about myself all the time. He’s got it. I can rest.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

Mother-in-law – It’s hard to let go. When my son was two days old, I sat in the hospital bed holding him, in a room by myself, sobbing (people, don’t leave a hormonal mom alone for long periods of time…not much clear thinking comes out of this scenario). I just kept saying, “Don’t leave me. Don’t go off and marry some girl and leave me. Stay with me.” Not my best moment. But I get it just a little bit now that I have a son. Of course he’s just three and still thinks I hung the moon, so I don’t really get it. Anyway, your relationship has already changed, but it’s going to change even more. And that is super hard. I can’t even think about it yet.

Daughter-in-law – It’s hard to see your husband’s mom holding on when he’s supposed to be leaving and cleaving to you. She’s telling you how to fold his underwear and you’re thinking, “Oh my sweet goodness, please let me be his wife, Lady.” You have waited so long to be in this role–a wife and helper for your husband–but his mom just won’t give it up.

So just take a minute and consider what it’s like in her shoes. Mom, what was it like to be a new wife? How was your mother-in-law? Daughter, how do you think you would feel if your son had just grown up and walked out the door with his new wife? She still remembers his first steps like they were yesterday!

And then PRAY. There is something so incredible about praying for someone. Not praying that God will change her, but praying FOR her. When I pray for people (normally people I’m mad at and don’t want to pray for), something amazing happens. I start to really love them. I start to care about their needs. And my little Grinch heart grows and grows. Try it. It really works.

So what are other ways we get off track in this relationship? Have you seen any of the above in your own heart? (I know I have…)

In-Law Week: What’s the Goal?

In preparing for this series on mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships, I asked several women what they thought was the ultimate goal of their relationships with their in-laws. I loved the responses and wanted to share a couple here today:

To bond together by means of our families, through the eyes of Christ. To see one another as equals, knowing that grace levels the playing field. To care for one another, showing support and interest in one another’s lives. Building one another up, for the sake of the Gospel. Being her Ruth, and her being my Naomi. Together, worshiping Christ at the foot of the Cross. – Lauren

To enjoy and love each other. When you are both believers, to enjoy fellowship with each other in Christ. Visits with my in-laws were a tear-bringing, anxiety and anger-inducing event when we were first married. It was taxing and stressful on me and my husband, and even within my relationship with my husband. Now, as we’ve both grown in our relationship, it is fun, pleasant, a blessing, and enjoyable for everyone involved. – Melissa

I think, particularly in difficult situations, it’s easy to have a “grin and bear it” mentality about in-laws. Yes, we’ve heard the idea that you’re not just marrying the man, you’re marrying his family. But you probably didn’t know his family when you first decided you might want to marry him.
What I love about the two quotes above is their focus on the ultimate purpose– redeemed relationship, bonding, blessing worshiping.

You may have a great relationship with your in-laws, or it may be just horrible. You may be misunderstood or falsely accused. But as my friend Lauren said, grace levels the playing field. When we see ourselves as sinners, undeserving of love and grace, it becomes easier to love others. We love God because He first loved us. And we love and forgive others through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, empowering us to take the love we’ve been given and give it out as well.

As we continue in this series, we’ll look at the hard stuff as well as the good stuff. We’ll see more examples of what Christ has done in these relationships. Hopefully we’ll all be encouraged to give out the grace with which we’ve been so richly blessed.

She Chose Grace – Guest Post by Kim Shay

Below is the first in a series of guest posts and thoughts on the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. This post, written by Kim Shay, was such a blessing to me and I pray it is to you as well. So many good things to take from this. Be sure to skip over to the links at the bottom of the post to check out some of Kim’s other writing.

I began dating my husband in 1984. I liked him because there was something very different about him. When I found out he was a Christian, I was even more interested, because I wanted to know who Jesus was.

After a few months, I wanted to meet his family. He had met mine, and I could not understand why he was so hesitant to introduce me to his. I know now that it was because he knew his parents would not approve of him dating an unconverted girl. When it became an issue of  “you either introduce me or we’re through,” he took me to meet them.

As a mother myself now, I can only imagine what it was like  for her to meet me. Her son, who should have known better, had brought home an unbelieving girl. This is the not the ideal situation.  What she thought, I don’t know, but not once did she give a hint of the angst she must have felt.

When she discovered that I had an interest in spiritual things, she was happy to answer my questions. She purchased a bible for me; a burgundy, leather, King James Bible. As I opened it, I saw the notation she had made directing me to a verse. At that verse, there was a note to go to another verse; and so on. She had basically given me the gospel message. She gave me that bible at the end of March of 1985. I was converted in May 1985.

She had no idea that this unbelieving girl who had been brought into her life longed to understand who God was, who Jesus Christ was.  All she knew was that here was a young woman in need of a Savior.  Despite the fact that she was probably not entirely happy with her son, she treated me with love and grace. I was always treated with kindness every time I saw her from the very first occasion meeting her. She could have been cold toward me, mistrustful, wondering what kind of awful influence I was going to be, but she did not do that. She chose grace.

Later, I was a young woman redeemed, but still with many rough edges:  I didn’t always say the right thing, I didn’t always dress with the most modest of attire, and I talked too much. But she never lost patience with me. Her desire for me was to grow in the things of God.

She has continued to show grace with my children. Teenagers often make bad decisions, and my kids were no different. She never criticized or rejected them, but loved them as a grandmother, showing an interest in their lives. Even when I am quite certain she didn’t like what they were doing, she loved them, and let them know it. It’s not always easy loving a teenager, but she always managed to look past whatever immaturity was there.

My mother-in-law has loved me well because above all, she loves the Lord. There is not a doubt in my mind that her source of life and breath is in the relationship she has with Christ. The reason why she has been so patient with me is because she loves me as Christ loves her. A lot of mothers, when their kids bring home unbelieving friends, want to chase them away. I have known some who threaten to cut off contact unless the unsaved friend goes. I’m so thankful my mother-in-law did not hesitate to embrace me, even when I know it was hard to accept me initially.

My mother-in-law continues to overlook my faults, my outspoken nature, my lingering tendency to talk too much. She continues to be a loving woman to the girl who still has a lot of rough edges.  She has been my example in so many ways. I have one of the very best pieces of her: her son, who is so much like her. I guess I’m doubly blessed.

In my room, I have a cedar chest that belonged to my grandmother. Inside, I have a collection of precious items: things like the kids’ favourite stuffed toys, a blanket that was mine as a baby, my wedding shoes. Also among this collection is a very battered King James bible that was used to guide me to Christ, her gift to me. It was a gift of grace that continues. I’m so thankful for my mother-in-law.


Kim has been married for 26 years to her husband, Neil, and has three young adult children. She is a bible teacher and blogger, and lives in southern Ontario, Canada. She blogs regularly at The Upward CallOut of the Ordinary, and is a contributor at  Karis.

In-Law Week

I’m deeming this “In-Law Week,” but it may turn into “Weeks” because I have several great guest posts and comments lined up to share with you. There is so much negativity out there regarding this relationship, so I hope we can redeem it somewhat in this space.

What we won’t do, however, is give a check-list of “How to Be a Great Mother-in-Law” or “Daughter-in-Law.” It’s not that simple, or rather it’s actually much simpler. When the love of Christ invades our hearts, all relationships are radically changed. No check-list will produce heart change, but being adopted by our Father and loved by Christ so dearly can change even the hardest heart.

So this week the posts you’ll read here are not about women we should all try to emulate. Rather, they are examples of what the love of Christ can do. He’s done it in other hearts and relationships, and hopefully reading these accounts will give hope that He can do it in your situation as well.

The guest posts will start tomorrow, but first I want to invite you to participate by writing a post about your own mother-in-law or daughter-in-law and sharing the link in the comments this week. Or, feel free to just leave a comment telling us about what God has done in your life through your in-laws. I think it would be so encouraging to read these things, even if they are in difficult circumstances. He works through those too. Thanks for joining us and I pray you’ll be encouraged!