Jesus calls us to "love the unlovely," and commands us to "honor thy mother and father." During one of my MOPS meetings, it was so graciously pointed out that honoring thy mother & father included the in-laws! hmmmmmm....I thought with great hesitation....does this mean I have to honor my live-in father in-law?? It most certainly did! UGH! I knew it! I can no longer have any excuses for not treating my father in-law with any less respect than he deserves!
For those of you who are not aware of my living situation, here is a bit of background. After my husband and I were married in September of 2001, we got pregnant right away. We were living in a one bedroom basement apartment in Albany. We knew we would need to find a house & move as soon as possible. That Christmas, my husband was laid off, so our plans were put on hold. Eventually, he did get another job, but it was in Glens Falls! One week after Nick was born (July 2002), we moved into our first home in Whitehall, NY. A beautiful 3 bedroom colonial with an inground pool, 2 hours away from any family or friends. We lived there for 3 years. Long enough to have two more babies, and for Hank (my husband) to leave two jobs and finally settle on a job in Greenwich, NY...over an hour driving time to work!
We soon realized that we were in over our heads, with 3 little boys, a very long commute to work, no close family or friends nearby, & a hefty mortgage and car payment. So my father in-law (FIL) made us an offer we were hard-pressed to refuse!
He would "gift" us his home in exchange for a life estate clause. That means, that he would have the right to live in the home for as long as he lived. And even though the house was over 120 years old, and needed a huge amount of rennovation, we would have no mortgage to worry about! We thought it was a good idea at the time. Desparate times called for desparate measures!
I really should have known what we were getting into. However, my husband reassured me that we could do it! I had high hopes of making this old, falling down delapidated house, that we graciously inherited, a warm and welcoming home for our little family...along with making our lives work around living with my FIL. My high hopes were just that--"hopes." The house looked like it hadn't been cleaned in over 20 years...and it hadn't! And there was soooo much "junk" around the outside, it took 2 dumpsters to get it cleared! And that is not to mention the clutter of old furniture and clothes throughout the upstairs bedrooms, and over 20 years worth of dust, grime and dirt, because my FIL did not go upstairs AT ALL!
From what I could see when I met my FIL, was that he was a kind, generous & funny man, who wore a bit too much cologne. He seemed to live a simple, happy life. That is, until we moved in. It was going to be a big adjustment for all of us, including my FIL. I knew he was not a great housekeeper, but I had no idea that he lacked proper hygiene as well!
We've been living in this house now for about 3 1/2 years. It still is not completely rennovated. In fact, we have so much more to do, it will probably take another 3 years! But that is another story entirely! As weeks turned into months, and months turned into years, I developed a hardened heart towards my FIL. He rarely cleaned his room and it always smelled in there like wet towels. His personal hygiene was not very good (I will not go into details). He smells of newspaper & constantly clears his throat. He hacks and coughs several times in what seems like minutes! It's very disturbing. He has an obsession with food. Not just eating it, but shopping for it. He grew up during the depression in German-occupied Poland. So he had a sort of "save everything" and "buy a lot of something on sale" mentality....even if we didn't need it!
After that blessed MOPS meeting, I came to realize that I had been a "B" with an "itch" when it came to accepting my FIL for who he is. My negative thoughts and pessimistic attitude were taking over my days & affecting the way I reacted towards my boys and husband. Everytime I cleaned up after my FIL, or had to rearrange the freezer & pantry after he came home from yet another shopping spree, or had to pick up another dirty tissue that was stuffed in his chair, I regreted living here and wanted to move. I was so frustrated and angry, and all I wanted was for my husband to "fix" it all! But how do you change a 73 year old man??
I have fought through many prayers asking God to deliver me from this situation; laid awake in bed unable to sleep trying to come up with solutions. It was awful. Talk about migraines! Then it occurred to me...all I needed to do was change my attitude. Change my heart! Change the way I look at my FIL! Yeah right! Easier said than done! It's also amazing how God uses other people to answer prayer and teach valuable life lessons. My children are teaching me tolerance and acceptance through their relationship with their grandpa. What a blessing!
With just a little shift in my heart, I can now see all the benefits of having my FIL live with us...the most important of which is the strong relationship that is developing between him and my boys. That is something I never had as a child with my grandfather. The boys are getting much more than I had ever hoped for from my FIL. He plays ball with them, he reads to them, he tells them stories of his childhood, and helps them with little things throughout the day, especially Jacob. Jacob and grandpa have such a close bond. It's wonderful to witness. The joy on Jake's face when grandpa comes home from work, & the look on my FIL's face, is absolutely priceless. My FIL is also an extra pair of eyes, ears and hands when it comes to the boys, and has certainly been there for us during a crisis.
So, all of my nit-picking, insignificant complaints, and half-heartedness in regards to my FIL, have taken a back seat. In thinking about my boys & God's commandment, it takes "loving the unlovely" from a possibility to a reality. No doubt the road will still be difficult at times, but it means a happier mommy for my boys, and a more peaceful life for us all.