These past two and a half weeks have been tough ones for us. Andy’s mom died last Monday after ten days in the hospital battling pneumonia and a few other health issues. Never have I been more grateful for family, friends, and our amazing church. Never have I been more keenly aware that peace and loss are not mutually exclusive. Never have I been more in love with my husband than after watching him tenderly care for, and love, and tease, and sing to his sweet, frail mom.
The term mother-in-law always seems to carry a bit of a negative connotation, but with mine, none of those typical mother-in-law things were characteristic. Anna was never nosey, or bossy, or prone to dispensing unwelcome opinions or advice. In fact, she was such a wise and gracious lady, I would have gladly received more of her guidance, had she been well enough over the years to give it.
Anna’s health issues kept her from being able to spend a lot of time with her grandchildren, but when she did, she made it count. I’ll never forget one particular night she babysat our kids. When Andy and I returned home, she told us that after reading some Bible stories she decided it was time to tell the kids about the devil. So she did. Anna left and we went upstairs to check on them. Every light and lamp were on, and all we could see of the kids were little bits of brown hair, and little bits of blonde hair sticking out of the covers of one twin bed!
One very significant connection that Anna and I shared was the role of pastor’s wife. Being a pastor’s wife is unique and can be hard. People tend to have expectations. They watch closely how you behave, what you wear, how you parent… Anna helped me understand that I didn’t need to feel responsible for everything going on in the church. I didn’t need to worry about what everyone thought about every decision I made. In many ways she freed me to make Andy and our kids my priority over ministry.
I believe this one powerful thing has significantly impacted my relationship with Andy, my relationship with my children, and my relationship with this church that I love so much.
I will be forever grateful to my Heavenly Father for the gift of Anna Johnson Stanley—my kind, generous, funny, and very wise mother-in-law.