Why I'm Thankful for Susan Smith (My Awesome Mother-in-Law)


I believe the general rule of thumb dictates that you're not supposed to like your mother-in-law. Every sitcom in existence replays this banal plot line of the belle-mère detestée (hated mother-in-Law). So it's with ridiculous delight that I can honestly and whole-heartedly declare that I adore my husband's mom, Susan! (Take that, pop culture!) Before I launch forward with why I think Susan is pretty much amazing, let me backup to spring of 2007 (yikes! Five years ago already). On our very first date on Feb. 19, 2007, Justin told me all about his family, their ski trips, and their hilarious encounters with bebe guns. Just from the way his whole face lit up when thinking about his family, I knew that he truly liked them. I don't mean "loved" because you can love all sorts of people that make you utterly miserable. I mean that he genuinely enjoyed his family as both relatives and as people. That blew me away. At the time, my family relationships were at a pitiful all-time low and I couldn't begin to imagine what it must be like to actually desire more family time.

I finally met his family two weeks later and shortly thereafter, saw them again when my (body? brain? ) fritzed out and landed me in the ER 3 times in 24 hours. This was NOT how I wanted to be introduced to them: drugged in a hospital bed, with no idea (then or now) what precisely was causing my chest to feel like it was being repeatedly stabbed by a large knife. What made it worse: the doctor assigned to me pretty much believed I was making up a dramatic scene for attention. (Aside: He obviously didn't know me very well, since at the time I was so painfully self-conscious that I suffered severe anxiety over dumb things like answering our home phone when it rang. The last thing in the universe I wanted was "hospital attention.")

So here I am, crazy about this handsome 21 year old and now appearing literally crazy to his family by having some sort of psychological melt down. I was utterly mortified. I was 98.8% sure Justin's family would advise him to get away while he still could. With this morbid view, I had major emotional breakdowns right before we went to any family event (which happened nearly 2 - 3 times a month). Our first two years together, we had more fights about Family birthdays and holiday get togethers than anything else. Travis, poor guy, was around for more than a few of these. It made us always arrive late and leave early. My long-suffering husband did everything in his power to reassure me that I was not hated, but I just couldn't believe it.

Through all of it, Susan welcomed, loved, was patient, gentle, and infinitely empathetic toward me. It took almost two years, but sometime just before our wedding, all her kindness and love finally broke down my fear. All of a sudden, family events were amazing and enjoyable. I wanted to get there early and hated leaving. I still don't know why she accepted me throught those two years of emotional hurricanes on my side, but I thank God that she did!

I'm so incredibly thankful for the woman, wife, mother, daughter, and friend that Susan is. She loves with every corner of her heart, holding nothing in reserve. She is incredibly joyful in all circumstances, patient, and compassionate. I tell Justin constantly how happy I'd be if I could be half as good a wife and mom as she is. There are so few people willing to just pour out love regardless of what they get in return. God yet again showed me great favor by placing such a wonderful woman in my life.

Susan, I never imagined I'd be able to feel this way, but at 27, I completely agree with Ruth:

But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16 ESV)

Thank you for blessing me in millions of ways and for welcoming me in even when I didn't know that I wanted to come in at all. I love you so much and always thank God for giving my boys a terrific grandmommy!