Thursday, August 13, 2009

Extending Love to Family

Recently, I have been reading "A Wife After God's Own Heart" by Elizabeth George. My goal is to finish the final three chapters this week while I am on vacation with my family at the beach. You may remember an earlier post of mine titled "Like Apples of Gold"  that defined how we communicate with our spouses. This chapter greatly impressed me and definitely challenged me to better communicate with Kyle. Yesterday morning I read a chapter about extending love to your family, and it had many great principles that I hope to apply, and thought I would share these with you as well. George uses one of the ten commandments as the basis for extending love to our families. "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you." (Exodus 20:12) George said, "God asks for obedience to His command to honor parents, and He promises a spiritually blessed life on the way to the higher blessings of eternal life." Using the relationship of Ruth and Naomi as an example, George gives several principles of a God-honoring in-law relationship. Ruth married Naomi's son, which made Naomi her mother-in-law, but I believe these principles can apply to each of our relationships with family (mother, father, mother-in-law, etc.). 

1. Ruth RESPECTED her mother-in-law
Ruth's pledge of loyalty shouted her respect for Naomi: "for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God , my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried (Ruth 1:16-17). 
George asked, "How high is your respect level for your mother-in-law?" She says, "A good exercise is to sit down with your notebook or journal and write out 'Ten Things I Appreciate About My Mother-In-Law' (or mother...or father...or father-in-law). Believe me, as you focus and dwell on the positive strengths of your husband's mother, you can continually thank God for her qualities and verbalize them to her...and to your husband. This will sweeten your friendship with both!"
I happen to have a wonderful relationship with my mother-in-law. I am very thankful for her and for the friendship we share. She has especially been a great encouragement to me recently and for that I am extremely grateful. I hope to share my "ten things" list soon.

2. Ruth was LOYAL to her mother-in-law
To seal her loyalty, Ruth uttered an oath, "The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me" (Ruth 1:17). How can you express loyalty to your mother-in-law? George said, "The number one way is to say nothing negative about her. Determine that you will not gossip about her. You are on a mission to love, cherish, honor, and respect your family members. That's God's assignment--and commandment!--to you." 
George also said, "Don't get involved in mother-in-law bashing. It poisons your heart, fails to embrace God's perfect plan for your life, hurts her reputation, and leads to no good."
Here are two verses that I am going to memorize to increase my loyalty: Ephesians 4:29, 31 and Titus 3:2

3. Ruth wanted TO BE WITH her mother-in-law
Ruth followed Naomi to Bethlehem instead of staying in her homeland. George said, "Words are one thing, but actions are quite another." George's challenge is to "express to your mother and mother-in-law your desire to be with them by doing something as simple as extending an invitation to a family dinner at your house or for a lunch for just the two of you."
This is just a simple example, but I believe there are many things we can do to "be with" our family. George asked, "Can't you give up something and spend more time with your parents on both sides soon...before it's too late?"

4. Ruth SERVED her mother-in-law
How can you serve the parents in your two families? George said, "ours is a life of service to anybody. That's what a woman after God's own heart does. And a wife after God's own heart serves her husband first...and then extends that circle of love to include her parents and her in-laws."

5. Ruth TOOK her mother-in-law's ADVICE
George said, "In Ruth we are allowed to behold a truly humble and teachable daughter-in-law. She followed Naomi's counsel to the T...and God worked everything out for Ruth's--and Naomi's--good." 
This is a principle I really strive to obtain, that is to be teachable. Proverbs 12:15 says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise."

6. Ruth BLESSED her mother-in-law
"Ruth shared her happiness and her new life as a family unit with the elderly woman she respected, followed, served, and listened to. And then Ruth went one more step in blessing Naomi..." (she let her help)

7. Ruth LET her mother-in-law HELP her
"Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him" (Ruth 4:16). George said, "Ruth entrusted her most precious treasure to her mother-in-law. What a daughter-in-law!" George asked several questions. "Do you share your little ones with their eager grandparents on both sides? Do you work at finding ways and means of making sure your children are linked to their grandparents? Do you welcome a helping hand, no matter how rusty and out of practice it is?
Kyle and I do not have children yet, but for now I think there are other ways that I can allow my mother and mother-in-law to help. These questions are definitely something to think about for the future. 

Lastly, George shares six simple points that can help us extend love to our family:
1. Say yes as often as you can.
2. Budget for family get-togethers.
3. Visit your parents.
4. Stay in touch.
5. Take lots pictures.
6. Pray for your family.

I was hoping to summarize the chapter (ha!), but I pretty much wrote it all out! There was just so much good stuff that I felt the need to share all of it, and I did not want to take away from anything Elizabeth George had said. I hope you will find these principles as applicable as I have. I have always had a deep love for my family, but I hope that as I practice these principles I will be able to further extend love to both of our families. 

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