book-lundberg graceEditor’s note: Gary Lundberg, a marriage and family therapist, and his wife Joy, a writer, are authors of the new novel Meeting Amazing Grace. which has become a regional best seller and is in it’s second printing in only12 weeks since release. This unique novel is already helping many families, not only with their in-laws, but with all family relationships.

Nearly everyone is an in-law- either a mother or father-in-law, a son or daughter-in-law, a brother or sister in-law, a grandparent-in-law, an aunt or uncle in-law, or a cousin in-law. As you can see, most of us are pretty much surrounded by in-laws, and many struggle with some of these relationships. For several years clients and others have been asking us when we were going to write a book about getting along with these in-laws. Even when they had good relationships with some of them there almost always seemed to be at least one that was a challenge.

As a result of this need, we spent the past four years collecting stories of many people experiencing a variety of in-law challenges. In the process we also met many who have loving, happy relationships with their in-laws. While interviewing these lucky folks with great relationships, we found they weren’t nearly as lucky as they were just plain smart in how they dealt with family members. As they opened their hearts to us they also opened windows of understanding regarding how they created such harmonious and enjoyable relationships, and we did our best to capture their wisdom and add it to what we had learned through the years.

In the process of our interviews we found there was much to be gained from both those who struggle and those who don’t. We found that many of their solutions applied to all family relationships. Since our book was released just twelve weeks ago we have received several letters. One from a divorced man who said, “Your book is not just about in-law relationships but the wisdom contained therein applies to all human relationships. I wish I’d had it 35 years ago.”

How to capture the reader

Once we had gathered the stories, we spent serious contemplation on how to present this information to readers. If we wrote a traditional self-help book on how to get along with in-laws it might end up being as fun to read as a book on mathematics. We knew we had some vital information that people needed to know and in order to get it into their hands and hearts we had to be creative. The scripture from Matthew 19:26, “with God all things are possible,” came to our minds and we prayed for His help.

That’s when we realized it needed to be a novel, one with an intriguing love story running through it. And it had to be filled with the experiences of the real people we had interviewed.

The thing about novels is, they’re fun. We wanted our readers to enjoy our book, to curl up with it and escape from the world. We wanted to capture them with an intriguing story and gently draw them into seeing new ways to handle some of their own family challenges. In reality, we wanted to reach into their hearts. One reader, who called herself a mother-in-law-in-training, said, “It’s the most painless learning I’ve ever experienced. It was like a spoonful of sugar.” We were thrilled! That was our hope.

We found out that writing the book as a novel opened up an exciting new door of options, even magical ones. We didn’t presume to automatically know how to write a novel. We both love a good novel and have read many, but that wasn’t enough. We studied about how you write one, we talked with successful writers and learned much from them. Then we said more prayers and went to work, counting on the help of great editors along the way.

Creating Grace

Thus a charming and amazing woman named Grace, actually Grandma Grace, was born, as was the title of the book Meeting Amazing Grace . As the story unfolds, and before you meet Grace, you meet a young woman named Lindsey who is in love but afraid of marriage because of her boyfriend’s-you guessed it-mother, who just happens to be more than a little on the possessive and controlling side.

Lindsey has heard too many in-law war stories at work and from friends to be brave enough to take the giant leap into marriage. One of her divorced friends, who lays her failed marriage at the feet of her former husband’s mother, warns Lindsey when she says, “My ex-mother-in-law was a doozie. You think I’m going to jump into that cesspool again? Uh uh. No Way . If I remain single for the rest of my life it will be far better than what I just bailed out of.” So you begin to see why Lindsey is so troubled.

Through a series of fascinating events, Lindsey is led to the doorstep of Grandma Grace, whose welcoming charm gives her the confidence to open up and share her fears. Grandma Grace, nicknamed Gigi, is endowed with magical powers, and, knowing just what Lindsey needs, she uses these powers to take her on an incredible journey of discovery. They go right into the lives of people struggling with family and in-law issues. Lindsey and Gigi can’t be seen, but they can see what is happening and how these families work through their problems and achieve happy relationships. All of these encounters are based on the real stories we had collected. To the reader it will be as if you have a crystal ball showing you what can be done to bring peace and love between you and your own family members and in-laws.

Why it matter to you

Without giving away too much of the story, we want to share two of the many situations they encounter, situations that some of you, or someone you know, may also be dealing with. Of course, we must condense them to be able to include more than just one in this article hoping that even this small sample of experiences may be helpful to you right now.

The chapters are divided into windows. This particular experience takes place in the Window of Forgiveness . We see Gigi and Lindsey, much like flies on the wall, watching what’s taking place in someone’s home. This scenario begins:

They were standing inside a kitchen where an attractive woman-I’m guessing about forty-years old, dark hair-sat at the table writing a letter.

“Do I know her?” Lindsey asked.

“No. Her name is Meredith, and she has two daughters and one son. I want you to see this because what she’s about to go through will increase your understanding and help you through future challenges that, though different, may be quite difficult.”

“Who’s she writing to?”

“Her son, Matthew. He’s been divorced twice, the last time only four months ago, and already he’s talking about marrying a woman he met just a few weeks ago.”

“Gigi, you don’t think Jeff and I will end up like that do you? Is this a warning?” she said, not at all happy with this situation. “I don’t like this window.”

“Stop worrying. This isn’t about you. It’s simply a truth I want you to discover. Meredith is very concerned about her son. Read her letter out loud and you’ll see,” Gigi said.

“Should we be doing this? Don’t you think this is an invasion of privacy?”

“No, because it happened many years ago and much can be learned from it.


“Okay, if you say so.” She cleared her throat and began.

“Dear Matt, I’ve been thinking about our conversation the other day. You said you were thinking of marrying Sharon . This worries me, son. I love you very much and I don’t want you to make another mistake. I’ll never forget the day you told me your first wife had left you. You stood at our front window and cried like a baby. There was no way I could comfort you. We all thought your marriage would work, but when she found someone else, well, no words can say how my heart ached for you. Then you found Elizabeth . She wasn’t at all what you expected and that ended almost before it began, leaving you broken-hearted again.

“Matt, I can’t bear the thought of you going through anything like that again. I love you too much for that. So all I’m asking is that you take it slow with Sharon . Please don’t rush into anything. You can’t possibly know the kind of person she is until you’ve known her much longer. She may be just fine, and it may all work out, but please take your time. I can’t bear to think of you suffering a broken heart again.

“Please know this letter is written with the greatest sense of caring. I just want what is best for you, son. With love, Mother.”

“I can understand her concern, Gigi. She doesn’t want him hurt again.”

“The letter is not the problem, Lindsey. It’s what Matt did with the letter that’s the problem.”

“How’s that?”

“He read it to Sharon !” Gigi said with a definite note of disgust.

“You’re kidding!”

“And Sharon was incensed. She and Matt got married soon after that and have stayed together for eighteen years and have two beautiful children. However, she has never forgiven her mother-in-law for that letter. It has created a terrible wedge between them.”

“That seems so silly. Surely she can see that Matt’s mother was just trying to give him a little motherly advice.”

“Oh, Lindsey, if only people could see things as they really are. Some just hang on to an ill feeling through the years like a drunk clutching his whiskey bottle. And look at the sorrow it causes.”

In a flash, they were in a bedroom where a gray-haired woman was lying on the bed, sobbing softly. Judging from her hands and the lines in her face, she was probably about seventy-something. Just then her husband walked into the room and came over to her. She turned to him.

“That’s Meredith!” Lindsey said.

“Grown older, and still pretty as a picture,” Gigi said. “Listen.”

“Meredith, what’s the matter?” her husband asked, as he sat on the edge of the bed, tenderly taking her hand in his.

“I don’t know what to do, Phil,” she sobbed out the words. “I’ve tried so hard to win Sharon over . . . for years. I just called her to invite them over for dinner again and she was rude, like always, and said they wouldn’t be coming. She still holds a grudge, even though I’ve apologized several times for writing that letter. Years ago she said she’d never forgive me for it, and she’s holding to it. I told her it was nothing against her. I’ve even told her that I think she’s been a good wife for Matt, but she won’t listen. She just says, I know what you think of me and I’ll never forgive you.’ I don’t know what to do.”

“I know what I want to do,” Phil said. “I want to go over there and give her a nice little punch in the nose and wake her up.”

“Gigi, I think he’s related to you,” Lindsey said. She looked out of the corner of her eye at Gigi and saw that wry smile again.

“Well, not really,” Phil said. “I’m just sad that she has the power to make you this miserable for such a long time.” He put his arms around Meredith and held her close, to comfort her.

“At least she has a loving husband,” Lindsey said.

“Thank goodness for that. He’s talked to Sharon , too, but just keeps coming up with an empty bucket.”

“Meredith seems like such a nice person, why would anyone treat her like that? Why won’t Sharon forgive and forget? It’s such an unimportant thing to carry a grudge about for so long.”

“I’ll show you the reason,” said Gigi. “Take my hand.”

The reader then sees what happened to Sharon as a child, how she was physically abused by her father, who continually let her know how disappointed he was in her. Now we return to the dialogue.

“Oh, Gigi. That poor little girl. I can’t stand what he did to her. How can anyone do that to a child?”

“He’s a cruel man with his own story to tell, but we’re not going there,” she said.

“Is this little girl Sharon?”

“Yes,” Gigi said. “Meredith’s daughter-in-law Sharon. And ever since that day, she has felt inadequate, certain that she never measures up. When children experience abuse from a parent it leaves them responding to an inaccurate perception of the thoughts and feelings of others. In Sharon ‘s case when anything happens that may indicate she is less than what’s expected, she becomes that little ten-year-old girl again and recoils to protect herself.”

“You mean when she read that letter, she saw Meredith as a symbol of her father?”

“Exactly. The letter to her was like the whipping on her legs,” Gigi said.

“But Meredith didn’t even really know her yet.”

“Doesn’t matter. The past becomes the owner of the spirit, until it’s put in its place,” she said.

“So what can put it in its place?”

“There are a couple of ways to do it, Lindsey. You can look it straight in the face, acknowledge it and say, This happened to me and it was terrible.’ And then say, So what! I’m through letting it control me. So now what? And then move on with your life as though it didn’t happen. If the pain returns, acknowledge the horribleness of it and again say, It happened. So what! Now what?’ and go on without letting it own you.”

“That sounds simple enough,” Lindsey said.

“Yes, but it isn’t always that simple for some folks.

Sometimes they need professional help, particularly if the experience was terribly damaging to their spirit. The past can be conquered. Let me show you another way.”

The reader then goes with them to the office of a therapist. For the sake of time, we won’t go into what he accomplished there, but it was significant, a concept a psychotherapist shared with us in a similar case.

The story continues, but we’ll just say at this point that as a result of prayers and patience something simple, yet vitally important happened to Sharon one day that filled her heart with forgiveness. The sweet scene between her and her mother-in-law can’t help but bring a tear. Many scenarios in this chapter show the importance of the principle of forgiveness, and how to help make it happen.

Looking through another window

We need to move on to a different window where Gigi helps open Lindsey’s eyes in yet another way. It begins:

In no time at all they were standing on an empty lot, next to a rather large house. Cows were grazing in a pasture only a few yards away near a big red barn with a rooster weather vane on top. No question about it, they were on a farm.

Out of the house came the farmer wearing blue overalls and his aproned wife in a pretty print dress. Close behind came a young couple, the father carrying their baby.

“Billy, this is the property we promised you when you had your first child. You and your wife can build your house right here next to ours.”

“Gigi, even I can see this is an in-law problem in the making,” Lindsey observed.

“You mean you wouldn’t like to live right next door to your mother-in-law?”

” I’m concerned about living in the same city,” she said being out-right honest.

“Well, let’s see how this plays out.”

“What is this window anyway?” Lindsey asked.

“I’m going to let you guess as we move along.”

“Okay, I’m game.”

“Good. I’m not squandering any time here. Let’s get right to the heart of it,” she said. “The whole family and the neighbors worked hard and that house was up in no time at all. You see, not only is Billy’s dad a farmer, he’s a builder. His building skills actually pay more bills than the farming, but he does love farming on the side.”

Suddenly they were standing by the finished house. “Gigi, I wish we could build a house this fast. It’s beautiful.”

“They did a nice job and the little family is all settled in. Now watch what happens, Lindsey.”

“Oh, Billy, I do love our new home,” said the young mother as she stood at the bay window burping her baby on her shoulder.

“Gracie, this is a dream come true.”

“Did he call her Gracie? Gigi, is this you?” Lindsey asked a bit shocked.

“Well, I was young once, you know. I know all about this window. This is where I learned so much about being an in-law.”

“Gigi, Billy’s a handsome dude-you did good!”

“He was my man! And we were so in love. Besides that, his dad taught him well and he was a fine, respectable builder himself.”

“And you were so pretty.”

“Thank you kindly, but that was a long time ago,” Gigi said with a chuckle.

“I think you still are, just a deeper kind of pretty.”

“Yeah, the deep wrinkles kind.”

“Stop it,” Lindsey said. “And look at that baby, she’s so adorable.”

“He. But cute enough to be a girl.”

“Did you have other children?”

“Twin girls next, and four babies after that. All in this house.”

“Wow. How did you do it, Gigi?”

“It wasn’t easy, but who said life was supposed to be easy? We wouldn’t be worth a lick if it was all a bed of roses.

Still certain things happen that are like little bouquets along the way, and that makes all the difference. Watch.”

The scene changed to a few years later, and they were in the young couple’s bedroom. Draped over the end of the bed was a colorful patchwork quilt. Gracie was lying in bed with a baby in each arm. Billy walked over to the bed, reached down and took one of the babies in his arms.

“The good Lord has double blessed us, Gracie. How are you feeling?”

“Better. It was a bit of a task bringing these two little angels into the world, but I’m getting stronger every day.”

Just then there was a knock on the front door. A woman opened the door slightly and said, “Hello. It’s Mom. May I come in?”

Billy went to the open bedroom door and called out, “We’re in the bedroom, Mom. Come on back.”

A little blond-haired boy was at her side. “What have you got there, Mom?” Billy asked.

“Timmy and I have been busy. We brought you a pot of your favorite beef stew and . . .” She looked down at the little boy, nodding to give him a cue.

“Me an’ Grammy cooked up some muffins!” he shouted handing up a basket full to his daddy.

He awkwardly took them with one hand while balancing the baby in the other arm. “Thanks, Timmy,” he said. “They smell good.”

“They are good. I ate some already,” the little boy said, grinning.

With a look of nostalgia on her face, Gigi said, “My mother-in-law was remarkable. Let me point out a few things to you. She knew how to be there when I needed her and gone when I didn’t. When we moved our things into this house she and Billy’s dad were right there to help, and the nice thing was neither of them put things in place without asking us where we wanted them. Since that day she never entered without knocking first, and we showed them the same respect. She was very conscious of our . . .” She waited for Lindsey to fill in the blank.

“Privacy,” Lindsey said. “So this is the window of privacy!”

Stopping here is hard to do because so much more happens in this window, but we’re already getting too long winded. We get excited about sharing the many stories and the lessons they teach. Suffice it to say there are dozens of stories, all with a different focus to help families get along.

We share concepts about how to set boundaries in loving yet firm ways, how to be accepting of differences, how to communicate effectively, the vital roles of respect and patience, the importance of having faith in God and gratitude for what you have, to name of few.

A surprise twist

Throughout the book the love story develops, but you’ll never guess the conclusion. In the words of the artist/graphic designer of the cover, Jana Winters Parkin, “The surprise twist at the end gave me chills!” We had a lot of fun writing this book and we’re confident you’ll enjoy the surprise at the end.

The book was written for a general audience-people of all faiths, so that it can be freely shared without any bias, though Latter-day Saints will feel right at home from beginning to end. Meeting Amazing Grace, was not only named after our heroine Grace, but also for the grace you will find as you follow the teachings of Christ that are so much a part of what happens in this book.

[To find out more about Meeting Amazing Grace and how to purchase your own copy at the Christmas Special price click on It’s also available at most bookstores, including Deseret Book, Costco in Utah, Seagull Book, Barnes and Noble, and On the Lundbergs’ site you can scroll down to see their book signing schedule.]