Thanksgiving: An Intimate Affair

Thanksgiving 2This is one of those posts I call “evergreen” – it’s applicable year after year and in so many different ways. When I wrote it last year, we were preparing for an unusually small Thanksgiving gathering. But for many, small is the norm. You may be away from family, or perhaps your family is not super-sized. My motto is: “If you can’t fix it, feature it!” So here are some benefits of an intimate turkey day gathering. Enjoy!

This will be a different kind of Thanksgiving holiday. Many of our family members (and some oft-included friends) will be traveling this year to see family in other places. Instead of our usual table for 35 or so, we will be fourteen for turkey. Different.

Especially since the chief turkey briner/cook will not be present. No worries, our matriarch will step in to baste that bird into glorified goodness. I don’t need to double or triple the side dishes, and we will cut the recipe for pumpkin cheesecake in half. An adjustment here, a time-saver there.

So instead of feeling blue over the crowd that won’t gather, I’ve decided to treasure the pleasure that will come with a small assembly. No scrambling for the white meat. No gravy shortage. Fewer dishes and less time in the kitchen. But that’s the low hanging fruit. What about something a bit meatier? Here are three differences I’m looking forward to this year.

  • Less focus on food and more on family. When you’re cooking for 35, it can be all about coordinating the timing so the turkey is ready to carve at the same time the sweet potatoes are bubbly hot. It can be stressful and I’ve been known to snap at my loved ones who wander out to the kitchen and ask, “Isn’t it ready yet?” It’s an aggravation I’m still learning to manage. So I’m grateful there will be fewer folks to watch the clock as their stomach growls. I plan to hold a few babies, visit with my sweet mother-in-law, and hold my hubby’s hand while we watch some football. If the schedule gets off a bit, I’ll add microwaves to my gratitude list for the day.
  • The opportunity for meaningful conversation. With 30+ folks milling around, the discussions are often more small talk and catching up. I’m looking forward to a hearty discussion or two on world events and updates on new homes or jobs for some. I may even take a shot at debating with my brother-in-law, someone I love dearly, but with whom I rarely agree. I don’t want to miss asking my 7-year old great-niece, “what’s new in second grade?” as it always yields a great discovery, along with a smile over just how grown up she is these days.
  • Time to reflect on the immeasurable goodness of God. The name “Thanksgiving” implies we should be focused on the gifts and blessings in our lives. Gratitude is the attitude that helps us keep the little things from becoming the big things. An awareness of the goodness in our life calibrates our thinking and balances out the occasional icky stuff without catastrophizing it. And with a small crowd, we can take a few minutes around the table to share our greatest blessing of the year. The food would be cold if we tried to do that with our usual group, so I’m hoping we can include it in this different kind of year. I love to hear how God’s working in the lives of those I treasure.

Colossians 3:15 encourages us: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” I pray your holiday brings you a refreshed awareness of God’s presence in your life – no matter what your circumstances. He sees you. He loves you. So while this Thanksgiving might be different – He remains the same, yesterday, today and forever. Happy Thanksgiving.


Play It Again, Sam!

Do Over 2

There are days we long for a do-over. Yesterday’s poor food choices or the thoughtless remark made in a heated moment. Small things that add up. But what about the big stuff? Like a look back on your parenting and wondering if you’d do it all again in exactly the same way. Time provides insight and often, important lessons.  I’m pleased to introduce my new friend, Sharron Cosby. She tells her story with transparency, as she looks back on her life as Mom. You may want to take a moment to learn from her story – and change yours while there’s still time.

by Sharron Cosby

A friend recently asked, “If you were granted a do-over with your children, what would you do differently?”

My first response, albeit unkind, was, “Probably not have any!” I quickly let her know I was joking, but there were days when the thought played dodge ball in my mind.

The question was posed after I shared my story of our addicted son. The heartaches our family suffered wreaked havoc on me spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. I feel like I have PTSD. Even now, with five years clean, his arriving late for dinner or coming into our home when we’re away jerks my memories back to the dark days of his active addiction.

I’ve often wondered what I’d do if a time machine appeared and afforded a second chance at child rearing. Here are a few things I want to believe I’d change:

  • Employment outside our home. If I had the freedom to choose, I wouldn’t work outside the home. As our children got older, my presence in the afternoon was needed. The three-hour gap between school dismissal and the work-whistle blowing left space for mischief— our home became the shenanigans gathering place. I don’t think it would have been had I been at home. At the very least, I would have worked part-time.
  • First things first. Each of our three children had their own vehicles. They had to work to pay for insurance and gas. Anything left over was fun money. Instead of focusing on earning money, their first focus should have been school. Our daughters worked in restaurants with college-aged kids. They participated in activities inappropriate for their teen years, but since they worked together, they were part of the crowd.
  • Delay cars for kids. Cars aren’t a necessity if they’re not working. Of course then, I couldn’t work because they would need transportation. Already my resolve is fading. The responsibility to haul kids around isn’t alluring.
  • Meet their friends’ parents. I allowed our children to stay overnight at friends’ homes without ever meeting the parents. I had no idea what kind of values and standards they had. They probably wondered the same about me.
  • Ask the hard questions. I didn’t ask because I was afraid of the answers. In my heart of hearts, I knew there were problems, but I hoped by denying them they would go away. Or at least not be as bad as I envisioned.
  • Work on my issues. I realize now, I parented out of my own hurts and hang-ups. My white picket fence dream of a perfect family drove my actions and inactions. I was unwilling to face my own inadequacies, side stepping them in hopes our family’s ship would right itself.

As I pondered a do-over, I came to the conclusion that even if I had made these changes I wasn’t guaranteed a different outcome. I could have been Mother of the Year, cooking, cleaning and chauffeuring kids all over town, but at the end of the day, my children had choices to make, independent of me. Would they still make the same heartbreaking choices? I don’t know.

One thing I do know is that I loved them and had their best interests at heart. Their father and I taught them to love God, their family and friends. They were never unloved. There were days I didn’t like them, but they were always loved—and they knew it.

I don’t need a time machine to provide me with a do-over. God’s Word tells me, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23a NIV.

Every day I have fresh opportunities to know Him deeply, to love unconditionally and to extend grace. I’m still their mom. They’re still my kids. There’s always tomorrow.



Sharron CosbySharron Cosby: With southern charm and a hopeFULL heart, author/speaker Sharron Cosby reaches out to families desperate for an anchor in their storms. Read her story in Praying for Your Addicted Loved One: 90 in 90 available on Amazon.

Podcast: The Power of Commitment

Internet Radio

Listen to Deb’s latest podcast with Susie Larson of Faith Radio. Here’s the link:

THE POWER OF COMMITMENT If you don’t listen to Susie you are missing out! Here’s the info to tuning in regularly:

Live the Promise with Susie Larson can be heard on Faith Radio online at the following times (CT):

Weekdays at 3:00 pm and 11:00 pm
Saturdays at 2:00 pm and 12:00 am

I Choose You Today, Ron!

DeArmond-27Happy Birthday to my sweet husband, Ron.
Nearly five decades of Godly wisdom resides in this man. As many noted today on his Facebook page, he is a great guy and gives the best father hugs ever. Being married to me for forty years has been a workout. It’s not always been easy, but it’s always been worth the effort. His commitment, love, and loyalty has never faded. Neither has his pursuit of me. He’s good at this one, me, not so much. So today, I wanted to acknowledge a side of Ron many have never experienced. It’s from my book, I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last.


Another business trip, another city. The worst part of that first day on the road is taking my clothes out of the suitcase, hanging them up and pressing those that didn’t fare well in the travel process. I had just mentioned to my husband, Ron, that morning how much I dreaded that task— sometimes twice a week, as I moved between client locations.

And now, as I pulled the as advertised no-wrinkle blouse from my bag, an envelope fluttered to the floor. I fetched it from the carpet as I threw the blouse in the ironing pile.

Ron’s handwriting: Mag. His pet name made me smile immediately. I sank down on the foot of the bed and turned the envelope over. “I love you” was written across the sealed flap.

A sweet note inside reminded me of his love for me, how he much he missed me every second I was gone, and dreaded the empty side of the bed. A little flirting, a little prayer for my upcoming week. A sweet surprise, but not a first. Ron has pursued me consistently in the last 38 years.

He’s the romantic; I’m pragmatic. He can recall the date of our first kiss, never forgets an anniversary or special occasion. He has created elaborate romantic surprises for me over the years, capturing my heart again and again.

I could take a page from his book. I’ve been guilty sometimes of saying to him the morning of his birthday, “I didn’t get you a card. Will a kiss do?”

I should be better at this. I grew up in a home where everyday my father said to my mom, “Dottie, did I tell you today I love you?” Her response was always the same: “Yes, but you can tell me again.” They were perfect together. Mom would often appear annoyed when Dad (at age 75) would say to the waiter, “Hey there, bud, look around. The most beautiful girl in the room is with me tonight.” She said it embarrassed her terribly. Truthfully, she loved every moment of his pursuit.

That envelope got me to thinking about the impact Ron’s pursuit made on me. Knowing he always has me at the forefront of his thoughts and affections have created a great confidence, not only in our relationship, but also for me, personally. I’m not 25 anymore, but he still sees me as beautiful; he is still attracted to me. I trust his heart (if not always his eyes!), but it’s his heart he uses when he looks at me. I never wonder whether or not he truly loves me, needs me, and wants me. His pursuit speaks volumes and it draws me to him time after time.

Doesn’t he deserve the same from me? That confidence that comes from being relentlessly pursued? He owns my heart; he knows it. But I want him to feel it. I want him to experience the same thing, the same confidence, and the same assurance that my affection and attraction to him have not only remained steady, but they’ve grown over the years.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” Eph. 5:25 (NIV). I know this is addressed to husbands, but Romans 8:29a says, “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son,” (NLT). God is in relentless pursuit of those He loves. He sent Jesus to pursue us and I am called to follow His lead—to pursue those I love.

So what does it mean to engage in a pursuit? Merriam-Webster defines it like this: to follow and try to catch or capture (someone or something) for usually a long distance or time. I want to capture my someone’s heart for a very long time. I want to be in love with Ron every day I draw breath.

I will admit, it doesn’t come naturally for me. I’m a list maker, a busy girl, and I’m not necessarily wired for pursuit. So it’s a choice I want to make on a regular basis—even if I have to plan it. Spontaneity is overrated anyway.

I find him hard to resist when he’s chasing my heart. I’m betting I can create a major distraction when I’m in full pursuit.

So . . . what will you choose?

Ron DeArmond, I choose you!


Three Tips for Great Family Getaways

vacationA recent girl’s night out included some shared appetizers, cool beverages and tons of conversation. It had been a while since this group had all been together and we had a lot of catching up to do.

Eventually the conversation focused on “what I did for summer vacation.” A big birthday and significant anniversary had been celebrated with a trip to Portland. An upcoming New York weekend, including a Broadway show, was discussed. And two shared their version of the Chevy Chase “Family Vacation.” You know the ones: rock-hard beds in tiny shared quarters where you learn way too much about one another. The kayak river trip in a mostly dried up creek, or the beach trip that featured six straight days of rain. People can get cross with the circumstances—and with one another.

We laughed till we cried, but later I thought about the tradition of family vacations. We laugh at Clark Griswold’s family because we’ve most likely been there at some point. All that togetherness can be a challenge.

Vacations with little ones can be stressful; they’re away from the familiar, routines are disrupted, and the items that comfort them are unavailable. Our own summer getaways when our boys were young were spent in the 113 degree heat of Palm Springs at the Oasis Water Park and Resort. Sounds swanky, right? In the winter, we’d have paid a premium price. But in July, $99 a night bought us a two bedroom condo with maid service and daily water park passes for the entire family. Living big, I tell you.

We continued the tradition as our sons became adults, adding their wives and little boys as they appeared on the scene.  We’ve enjoyed snowy mountains at Christmas, Florida’s DisneyWorld, and the many attractions of Southern California. Each trip offered a challenge or two, but we enjoyed them and recall them fondly. It’s been two years since our last trip, and we’ve added four more little boys to the mix in that time, but we look forward to the next opportunity to do it again.

Traveling with adult children is a very different experience and requires a process that varies from when they were little. And even though the traditional summer vacation season is drawing to a close, three day weekends and trips for the holidays are year round. We’ve gained some insights over the years, so  I’m sharing some ideas that surfaced as we’ve traveled together. Here are three tips we’ve discovered that can make a big difference.

  • Include EVERYONE in the planning process. You might be surprised to learn that your services as travel director and tour guide are not always welcome. You may prefer to hit the beach while others would rather see the museums or area theme parks. Let everyone weigh in; we all like to be heard. Does everyone have to do everything together everyday? Or is there room for a freestyle day when the group splits off to pursue varied interests? A break from all that togetherness can be a great bonus!
  • Clarify expectations. What are the financial arrangements? Will the cost be shared evenly across the family? What if one couple has three kids, and another has none? Will they pay the same for the lodging, rental car, and meals you prepare in your condo or cabin? Do the math well in advance so everyone knows what to expect. And what about chores? If you’re in a rental home, consider creating a plan. Rotate cooking, clean up and trash duty. Discuss it before plans are made so no one is surprised. A family meeting to discuss the details will make a big difference.
  • Be flexible. The cabin might be a bit musty, hikes gets rained out, and rental cars break down on occasion. Know going in this stuff happens, and if it does, make the best of it. Air out the cabin, do a rainy day movie marathon, and tell Hertz you expect a big upgrade in the replacement vehicle. Remember the unofficial beatitude: Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break!

The “vacation” might simply be a family visit to celebrate the holidays together. Will the grandparents be expected to be on-call babysitters? We usually offer a time to let the big kids have some time together while we enjoy our grandsons. Recently we split it up: the girls stayed in with the six little boys one night, and the guys were on duty the next. Again, communicating is key; make no assumptions.

Lastly, remember that one of the big benefits is the chance to be together, to enjoy one another’s company. It should be a feature of the vacay, not a cross to bear. Whether it’s a Thanksgiving weekend, a Christmas trip seeking sunshine, or a traditional summer vacation, a little pre-planning can make it one for the scrapbooks!

Normal’s Overrated!

DeArmond40th-69Ron and I recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. It doesn’t seem possible. We were teenagers when we met and are still best friends and very much in love.

Since we’re often asked “How did you do that?” I thought I’d share our big secret.

It came from an unusual and unexpected source – our son, Cameron. Along with his two brothers, Jordan and Bryce, Cameron took a moment to say a few words and share a memory or two at our anniversary celebration.

His first few words took me back a bit: ” I’ve titled this: Anything But Normal,” he said. “Twenty years under their roof proved to me my parents are not normal—at all. Not in an Adams Family kind of way. More like an America’s Funniest Home Videos, kind of way.”

I admit, I got a little nervous in that moment. Was he going to share our most embarrassing moments? Our fumbles as husband and wife or parents? Oh Lord, there are too many for me to even remember! 

I need not have worried.

Cameron continued, “I lived in a house of honest conversation—not necessarily always quiet conversation, but honest. You knew where you stood with Mom and Dad and you knew where Mom and Dad stood with each other. I lived in a house where “I’m sorry” and “Will you forgive me?” were modeled daily. That’s not natural, not normal.”

I took a deep, sweet breath. He went on to illustrate our many abnormalities – a tribute to the fact we did things differently in our home than in others he knew. He nailed it.

If I had to identify one consistent practice that held us together, and molded our individual lives into one – it would not be that we never argued or became upset with one another. We did. Often. Sometimes loudly with a bit of ugly thrown in for good measure.

No, the one thing that has made God’s crazy math (1+1=1) possible, would be that we took responsibility for our behavior. “I’m sorry” and “Will you forgive me?” are not magic, but they are transformative. In those brief sentences we morphed from adversaries into allies – aligned with God and defeating an enemy who loves to divide.

Try it – own your upset, admit you’re wrong, acknowledge, “I got a little over the top in that discussion.” Just follow the light from His word and you’re there. Join the ranks of the abnormal; come on over to the bright side.

Normality is overrated anyway.



Use Your Words!


“If you’re upset or need something, don’t whine or complain. Use your words.”

I raised three sons in a busy household. A kindergartner, a toddler and a newborn in one thousand square feet. It could be the best gig ever on good days and so defeating on bad ones. Missed naps could create crabby kids. Meltdowns were rare, but an empty peanut butter jar or a lost toy could push even the best behaved into tantrum territory.

Little has changed. Kids are the same today.

“Use your words,” is a phrase I hear directed at young ones with a cranky complaint delivered via non-verbal communication. Pouting, sulking, whining and crying seem to be among the favorite methods to express dissatisfaction with life in the moment. I’m embarrassed to admit I avoid young families in the grocery store checkout line. It’s that “impulse” aisle—those candy and chewing gum infused shelves right at eye level for kids. It’s the perfect storm; a melee in the making.

I recently watched a sweet mom at church remind her three year old to “use your words if you want me to listen to you.” It made me wonder, does God ever feel that way about me?  

Perhaps like you, I have my moments. Times I’ve needed a nap, or a meal, or maybe a chill pill. Times when my communication devolves to the toddler-toned whine or the full-blown tantrum. “I’m tired” or “I was upset,” are the excuses that accompany the inevitable apology. God’s not impressed, but He’s faithful to forgive – and He’s equipped us to do better.


  • Words are a gift.     

 The Lord’s given us the ability to express our fears, our hurts, our hopes, and concerns. Among His most valuable gifts (especially when feelings run high) is our voice. Our words. Words are certainly an upgrade over the grunt or groan of the caveman. And James certainly agrees: “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it,” James 3:5 (MSG).

  • Words are powerful. 

God spoke the worlds into existence. Our confession that Jesus is Lord transforms us into new creatures in Christ and changes our destiny forever.

  • Words matter.

Jesus is the living word. His words in our mouths are the mightiest communication we can create. His words change circumstances.


When life is discouraging, disappointing, or downright devastating, His words give us hope: “ For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength,” Philippians 4:13 (NLT).

When financial issues pile on and the numbers don’t add up, declare His words, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:19 (NIV).

I’ve always delighted in words. I love finding the right ones, the perfect turn of phrase to express delight or dismay. To praise or petition. Turns out not only does our Abba Father listen to us, He provides us the perfect words.

His words.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path,” Psalm 119:105 (NLT).

Powerful. Effective. Always successful.

“It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it,” Isaiah 55:11 (NLT).

Now, that’s quite a promise!

What words will you use today to find favor, comfort, direction, or success?




Margin For Error


Margin for Error

 My husband and I recently completed what may have been the most significant collaboration of our marriage, with the exception of creating three marvelous human being with our bare hands. Well, perhaps that’s not exactly how it worked, but you understand what I mean. We’ve written a book together. Two heads, two hearts, but only one set of hands on the keyboards. It’s only practical. Four hands could create a lot of words, but few would result in in chapters that made sense.

The topic of the book? Marital conflict. Trust me when I assure you we’ve personally tested every idea and approach in the book. We did it contemporaneously with writing the book.

At one point, we realized we’re incredibly qualified to author such a work. We’ve been disagreeing for years. Forty-plus years, to be exact. We’re both strongly opinioned people who are not hesitant to share our thoughts. Intensely, at times. But at least no one around here can say, “Gee, I didn’t know you felt that way.”

Those intense moments of fellowship, however, have not dimmed the intensity with which we love one another. It’s as fierce as it’s ever been.

Recently, however, during one of those “he said, she said” conversations, I stopped to consider whether it might be time to cut one another a break now and then. The issue at the heart of the discord was insignificant; it was a matter of principle. Or so I thought.

The Lord pulled me up short and encouraged me to examine which “principle” had placed me on my high horse, as my mom might say. “Was it love?” His Spirit inquired. “Or patience? How about selflessness or humility?

Um. No. It was the I’m right, I know I’m right, and you need to know that too, principle.

It’s not there. In the love chapter. Or the Beatitudes. Or the gifts of the Spirit.  I looked. Ugh.

Because He’s a good, good Father, He didn’t leave me there. He brought a turn of phrase to mind. You two need to create a margin of error for one another. What does that mean? Isn’t it a financial term? Math is my third language (apparently High Horse is #2). But I looked it up. Here’s what I found:

Margin for (of) error:

  1. an extra amount of something, such as time or money, which you allow because there might be a mistake in your calculations.
  2. an amount (usually small) that is allowed for in case of miscalculation or change of circumstances.

An extra amount of something? Like humility, patience or love, perhaps? In case of a change of circumstances? Isn’t that where we live these days? At the corner of empty nest and why don’t you listen to me anymore? 

When I consider our years together, I’m convinced we’ve beaten the odds of most who marry as teenagers. We had no clue what we were saying “I do, to” that day at the altar.

And when I consider our years, our age, while we’re certainly not old, I recognize we have a lot of stuff on our hard drive, better known as the brain. We walk into rooms without recalling why we entered. And there do seem to be more frequent, “You never told me that!” “Oh yes, I did,” conversations recently. So how do we fix it? How do we inject kindness, patience, and mercy into our interactions?

Create a margin for error. We must accept there is a possibility, no matter how slight, that you said it and I didn’t hear you. Abdicate the need to be right; send the high horse out to pasture. Release the dogma. Gumby up—be flexible enough to deposit a bit of extra love to smooth the path.

Here are a few tips to help create that margin.

  • Face to face communication. Ditch the drive by interaction with 10 assorted and unrelated topics on your way out the door or while he’s brushing his teeth. The eye contact makes a difference in retention.
  • Write it down. I’m a list maker. If it’s not on the list, I’m not responsible for it. If it’s there, it gets done. My husband doesn’t use lists, but science tells us something magic happens between the brain and the hand. We get it. It’s a done deal. Plus there’s a written record in the event you need evidence in court, “I’m sorry, your honor, I had to put him in time out. Dry cleaning pick up was definitely on the list! Please review my exhibit A!”
  • Check for understanding. Confirm you both heard and understand the details in the same way. “So, we need to leave for the airport by 4:30pm. Is that right? You’re comfortable with that?”
  • Let. It. Go. I can hardly type the words without hearing the Disney darling belting it out. Let it go. It’s not my gift. Ron once said to me, “It’s not enough that I eventually just agree with you. You want me to believe that you are right!” Why is that a problem for him? I mean, I was right, right? So it shouldn’t be difficult for him to acknowledge it. Don’t you agree? And then I hear the Holy Spirit, tapping His toe. I got it.

Another definition tells us that margin is a place of safety or something that makes a particular thing possible. Like loving one another, fiercely, all the days the good Lord gives us with fewer bumps and scrapes. Or scraps.

And you know I’m right about that.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Fonda MILToday I am sharing an abridged excerpt from my first book, “Related By Chance, Family By Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships. I hope you enjoy it. You can find the book at Amazon with this link: Amazon

“This is my mother-in-love, Deb.”

The young woman behind the counter in the green apron smiled at me and waved. She was Sarah’s Starbucks boss, and I was glad to meet her. I was thrilled, however, with my daughter-in-law’s introduction of me. “Mother-in-love” was a sweet surprise, and I was once again reminded why this lovely girl has captured not only my son’s heart, but mine as well.

Mother-in-love is what Sarah calls me when she introduces me to friends or coworkers. It touches my heart and makes me smile when she says it. It is a wonderful honor. It also made me think about the terms in-law and in-love. I was intrigued by the contrast of these two titles. Love versus law. The more I meditated on them, the more interested I became. Where did the term in-law originate?

The explanation is simple: we are in-laws because of the legal joining of the couple. We are related according to and through the law.

Next on my quest was to understand what the term law means. What are its attributes? How does it serve? Who does it protect? The law has specific qualities and characteristics that distinctly define it.

• The law limits and excludes.
• The law is a finite thing: black and white, inflexible, ?focused on minute details.
• The law is conditional: if you, then I.
• The law is of the mind and intellect.
• The law seeks to benefit itself. Its only fulfillment is to ?be obeyed.
• The law is without emotion and without mercy, and it ?pronounces judgment.
• The law demands a high price to be paid if it is not ?observed correctly.
• The law is designed to rule by power; it enforces norms ?and standards of behavior.

The purpose of the law includes a coercive effect in regulating conduct. ?If a personal or family relationship is ruled by law, it leaves a lot to be desired, doesn’t it?

The law is inflexible and coercive, enforcing standards established through harsh penalty. It is relationship based on the conditional proposition that if you do as I require, then I will not punish you, or I may even provide you with some benefit. Wasn’t that the arrangement between God and man after the Fall in the garden and before the death of Christ on our behalf?

Relationship between God and man before grace was built on the Law given to Moses. The book of Leviticus provides a thorough and detailed description of the requirements by which man could maintain relationship with God. There was a lot of blood involved. It required daily attention and a constant investment of time. The next required act of obedience was never far from one’s mind, because the penalties for failing to follow the Law were substantial.

Sounds like some in-law relationships I know. Characterized by demand and obedience, inflexibility and personal preference, these relationships choke out the potential for family unity and harmony. Grudges are nursed like babies at the breast. Walls are erected, bridges are burned, and the structure of the family divides like the waters of the Red Sea.

But love is quite another matter. The characteristics of love are very different.

• Love is a living thing.
• Love overlooks, forgives, and grants pardon.?• Love includes and gathers in.
• Love is easily satisfied and does not demand on its own behalf.
• Love is unconditional.
• Love is from the heart and seeks to benefit others at the expense of itself.
• Love is fulfilled when it’s invested and given away.
• Love is full of mercy.
• Love pays the price.

Now that’s more like it. There’s an element of promise, hope, and possibility in a relationship rooted and grounded in love.

So, the burning question is this: Should we be living our in-law relationship in love or under the law?

It’s not a surprise the Word of God provides us direction.

“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law,” (Rom. 13:8). “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works,” (Heb. 10:24).

Love accomplishes what the law cannot. And love is a choice.

Christ chose to love us when we were anything but lovable. He knew every last secret, every shred of pride and rebellion, every ugly thought. All of it. He loved us still. And He asks us to do the same to a lost and dying world. Even with our woman-in-law.

Demonstrating love on a daily basis is not easy. Some people are hard to love. They are difficult, arrogant, opinionated, prideful, selfish, and the list goes on. It does not matter to Christ. To love those who are lovable is nothing special—those who walk without Jesus can manage that. He asks us to love those whose behavior is hurtful and damaging.

That’s a tall order. Being civil is not sufficient. Love those who seem determined to take you down, to hurt and demean you. Pray for the ones who use you in a spiteful way. Remember that before we trusted in Christ, we were just as unlovely in the eyes of a perfect and spotless Lord Jesus. If we can’t or won’t make this our goal, we are failing to follow the foundations of life in Christ.

Love is a choice.

I hope you will make an important choice. If you desire to live your life aligned with God’s word on the subject of MILs and DILs, this book can be a very helpful tool. You can find Related By Chance, Family By Choice at this link: Books by Deb