Almost twenty years ago, Gary brought me back from America to meet his family. I was very nervous, but I was thrown into the hustle and bustle of a family large enough to be described as a tribe. I will never forget that first meal I had with all of the Stewarts. Banter went back and forth, between siblings, between parents and between parents and their (adult) children. I hadn’t a clue what everyone was saying, but I did know that there was an absence of tension that had pervaded every meal in my own house. I was accepted into the family immediately, without question. The teasing began straight away, and has not stopped to this day.
I finally belonged to a family. And I began, in that moment, to have a vision for my own family.
Gary proposed to me just three months later. My family and friends were aghast, and tried to tell me I was rushing in and probably making the biggest mistake of my life. I knew with a certainty I had never known before that belonging to your family could never be a mistake. I had found a place I could call home. Not in Northern Ireland, but in the arms of my new family to be. Their reactions were in huge contrast to your own. When we told you, I just remember your tears, and the hugs.
A year later and you flew over to attend our wedding. I remember you and Tom saying to me, that today you were not losing a son, but gaining a daughter. And that is exactly how I have felt ever since. I feel honoured and blessed beyond measure to be called your daughter in law.
You have been my Proverbs 31 woman ever since. God gave me three life passages shortly after Gary and I married – Proverbs 31, Titus 2:3-4 and 1 Thessalonians 4:11. I know you will not need to look any of these verses up, because you have hidden each and every verse of the Bible deep in your heart. You are my Proverbs 31 woman. You are my Titus 2 woman and you are my 1Thessalonians 4 woman. You live these verses every day of your life. And you do it quietly, without need for any kind of recognition. You live this way for your God and your God only.
You will never know the impact you have had on my life. God has used you to help miracles happen, the main one being the restitution of my relationship with my own father. God did much, but I would not have been as open to His work if you had not prepared the ground before hand, with your wise council and your prayers.
So today, on your last day here in England, I wanted you to know just how much I love you and appreciate you. I want you to know how incredible I think you are. You are my mother-in-love. Your family allowed me to see the possibilities for my own family. Your heart allowed me to see the possibilities for my own heart. Your life has allowed me to see the possibilities for my own life.
You have always loved me just as I am, with all my faults, with all my baggage. You loved me. I watch you with my own children: the obvious enjoyment you get by spending time with Thomas; the joy and laughter when you are with Charlotte; the council and friendship you offer Lillie (who likewise sees you as her Proverbs 31 woman); the sensitivity and love you show Abigail and the encouragement you give to Becca.
You have affected each and everyone of us deeply. You have helped to make us who we are today
Gary, Thomas, Lillie, Charlotte, Abigail, Rebecca and I arise and call you blessed; Tom also, he praises you: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman (like you) who fears the Lord is to be praised. I honour you today for all that your hands have done, and today your works bring you praise (Paraphrased from Proverbs 31!)