Faith Spilling Over… Into Everyday Life

9 Secrets to a Life Worth Celebrating


9 Secrets to a Life Worth Celebrating

Our family’s greatest treasure is a 90 year old stick of dynamite. Ofelia Cruz may look like a fragile, elderly lady, but my sweet mother-in-law is a powerhouse of faith and a testament to the overcoming grace of God. Spunky, witty, and wise, she’s STILL sharp as a tack. She can roll off some one-liners that leave us all in stitches.

However, doctors tell us her frail body won’t be with us much longer.  Our family’s brightest light is fading, and my husband just flew home to El Salvador to spend three weeks with his mother. We can’t imagine life without her. We’re crying and rejoicing at the same time. Ninety years of glorious life and a glorious future with Jesus are worth celebrating.

Remembering her shining example of love and a positive attitude, I’m sharing 9 of my mother-in-law’s Secrets to a Happy Life:

Boda Ofe y Champion-page-001

1. Keep your chin up

Ofelia’s an overcomer. Hardship and sorrow didn’t derail her when her husband died, leaving her with four boys to raise alone. She kept going and she kept those boys in line. With her family’s help, she sent them to a good private school, and all four went on to college.

2. Keep Knocking

Back in 1963, no one wanted to give a job to 37 year old, inexperienced stay-at-home mom, so Ofelia went to the top. She wrote a letter to the President of El Salvador to ask for employment. It worked. The ministry of finance hired her, and she was able to provide for her family.

Rather than giving up when I face a challenge, I want to go to the top. I have a connection with the King of Kings.

3. Keep Praying

Several years after her two youngest sons met Jesus, my mother-in-law came to Christ in her early 50’s. She prayed 30 years for her oldest son to enter the Kingdom. It worked. He finally gave his life to Jesus too.

4. Keep Serving

When I met my mother-in-law in her late 60’s, she worked full-time and volunteered at a church health clinic on Saturday mornings. She taught Sunday school for 20 years.


5. Put on Makeup and Fix Your Hair

We always laughed that the employees at department store makeup counters recognized dona Ofelia.  In her late 80’s Ofelia still went to the hair salon weekly and spent time each morning putting on makeup, skin cream, and perfume. She’d wear a pretty dress each day. As a result, she always looked fabulous and felt better too.

6. Keep your sense of humor

My mother-in-law loves to joke. Before a trip to Spain, one of her sons asked Mama Ofe what he could bring back for her. We still remember her answer: “A handsome Spaniard with plenty of money!”

7. Keep Moving

Arthritis slowed Ofelia down, but she surprised me when I took her to the supermarket last year. I was worried about how on earth I was going to help a woman who could barely walk navigate the store.

“Oh no, I don’t need help,” she insisted. She took off down the aisle with her shopping cart, leaning into it like a walker. I didn’t see her until 30 minutes later at the check-out.

8. Keep Learning

At 88, my mother-in-law finished a two year Christian leadership study program.

9. Keep Affirming Others

Just last week, lying flat on her back, Ofelia told my husband on the phone, “You’ve been a good son.” Tears welled up in his eyes, and I marveled to see that even a middle-aged man wants to hear he’s a good son.

Am I speaking words of encouragement to the people I love?

life worth celebrating

Our family’s stick of dynamite may leave earth quietly, but she’ll enter heaven with a bang. I suspect the angels will set off fireworks to celebrate.

Now it’s your turn: What kind of lessons have you learned from the role models in your life?

I love linking with these communities: Holly Barrett’s #TestimonyTuesday, Kelly Balarie’s #RaRalinkup,  Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory, Dance with Jesus, and Grace and Truth.  Check them out for more encouragement.

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Fireworks Photo Credit


Author: betsydecruz

I want to enjoy the everyday life God is giving me as best I can, even when the road gets bumpy. I love having fun with my teenagers, learning almost anything, and drinking dark roast coffee with my friends.

51 thoughts on “9 Secrets to a Life Worth Celebrating

  1. Oh, what a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman. I love the list- especially the affirming words and sense of humor. I pray that such a list will describe me after 90 years of life. May God comfort her in this last season of life- and comfort you and your husband as you prepare to say good bye to her. And remember… dynamite never exits quietly or without changing the place where it was lit. 🙂

  2. With tears in my eyes, I am nodding my head to your beautiful story of your mother in law. You see these words remind me of my own mom and the life lessons you have learned from your MIL could be the same ones I learned from my mom. The advice about putting on makeup and fixing your hair is exactly what my mom did until the day she died. I know, I was with her every last step. This beautiful picture of your MIL has blessed me and I know that her example has blessed you. Thank you for this tribute today. I am praying for you, your husband and your whole family as you walk these steps with her one last time.

    • Oh, Mary, I’m sorry about your mother. Thanks for your prayers. I appreciate you so much. Isn’t it wonderful that we’ve had such such beautiful beacons of faith in our lives. I’m giving thanks now that you had such a wonderful mom, Mary. She must have rubbed off on you!

  3. This brought tears to my eyes. I really liked your grandmother nine secret tips. I am going to start using them in my life. I am praying for your grandmother and your family.

  4. What a wonderful testament to a woman who is undoubtedly truly remarkable, Betsy! Thank you for sharing such wisdom, and for sharing your mother-in-law with us. It strikes me that almost every one of the secrets you shared with us begin with the word “keep”. It’s so much more than doing it once. We have to do it over and over – to make it our lifestyle – in order to impact others the way this beautiful lady has impacted you. Visiting this morning at #RaRalinkup

  5. Oh how I love this tribute!! And the 9 secrets are awesome. I especially love the one about putting on your makeup and fixing your hair. Even on my “jammie” days, I wash my face, brush my hair, and at least put on clean jammies!! 🙂 ‘Cause it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you don’t take care of yourself! Great post, Betsy!

    • That one is big for me too, Holly! I don’t wear makeup and dresses EVERY DAY, but I do try to look like the best me I want my kids to remember. I’m with you, washing your face feels good even on jammie days!

  6. Awe, such an inspiration! My mother-in-law is 90 as well. My husband just came back from a trip visiting her. She sounds so much like your mother-in-law! Still wise and such a powerhouse of faith, even though her body is becoming weaker each day. These women are a wonderful example for us, aren’t they? I love her advice you shared. Perfect way to start the day, thank you!

  7. Betsy, what a beautiful description of a wonderful lady. I am so thankful that Jose will have time with his Mom before she goes to her heavenly home.
    Her children rise up and call her blessed—isn’t that what we want too? I’m thankful that your family has had this precious role model and her life has been well lived.
    Praise the Lord for her.

  8. What a sweet tribute to a godly lady! She’s so cute! Ah, I know you will all miss her. My godly influence was (and is) my mom. She was a pastor’s wife and she still acts like one, praying for everyone and encouraging them in the Lord. Everyone knows she prays for them and she never forgets a request nor to ask about it when she sees them. And she forgets a lot of things – but never that! These days, since dad can’t drive anymore and she has to, she gets out some but mostly lives on facebook to connect with others and pray for them. Every time I see her she has a new update on someone she’s praying for. Nothing is ever about her, she doesn’t talk about herself – it’s all about everyone else and how the Lord is working in their lives. 🙂

    • Wow, what a wonderful mother you have, Ruthie! Facebook has been a blessing to your mom! (And to many of us.) I’m inspired and encouraged to read a Dbout her prayer life. Does your mom live near you? My dad just lost his wife 7 months ago, and I call him at least weekly. Even across the distance his positive outlook and optimism bless me every time I talk to him!

      • Yes, after their health crises, we added an apartment onto our house which they are very happy with, and I can keep an eye on them (and run them to all their appointments!

  9. Heart warming and amazing story of a beautiful soul who chose to follow Jesus and look at the life it produced. Worth re reading!! Holding you all in prayer during this season of beautiful, sorrowful transition. Blessings and hugs xxoo

  10. What an incredible legacy Ofelia is leaving for her family. She sounds like a woman of God who has truly fixed her eyes on her Savior and lived well. She must be so proud to see the family that you and her son have built based on those same principles. Praying her remaining days are filled with God’s grace as He ushers her into His kingdom.

  11. She sounds like an amazing woman, Betsy! I’m glad to hear your husband is able to be there for a few weeks. All these 9 secrets are great, but the “keep learning” one particularly struck me. May we never get to the point either where we think we know it all, or where we don’t even bother anymore. There’s so much to experience in this wonderful world. Thanks for sharing about your mother-in-law, and I pray for all of you at this time of sadness and joyful reflection.

  12. This is wonderful. I lament our cultures infatuation with youth and what’s “now”. What an amazing legacy she’s passing down! I want to hear more stories like this!! My 82 year old grandmother loves to write. She’s going to guest blog in a couple of months and that advice will be priceless! Thank you so much for sharing with the rest of us Betsy. God bless you and your family!

    • Hi there, Meg! Thanks for reading today. So true that we’re a youth culture and often overlook the wealth that could be could be ours through appreciating older people more. What a great idea to have your 82 year old grandma post! When that post comes out, tweet me on it @BetsydeCruz if you think about it.

  13. Oh Betsy, I will be praying for you and your family during this time. I know it’s difficult. I could see so much of my grandmother in this post. She lived to be 92 and had all of the characteristics you mention here. What an inspiration her life was. Thanks for inspiring us with such a beautiful tribute. Blessings and hugs to you, friend. xoxo

    • Thanks so much, Abby. We’re hanging in there. Giving thanks and hanging in there. I talked to my husband today. How wonderful that you had a 92 year old grandma!

  14. Such a beautiful tribute, Betsy. Prayers lifted for you and your family. Thanks for sharing these 9 wonderful secrets. Blessings.

  15. Love this Betsy. What good insight she has. My mom is 91 and I know she won’t be around much longer. Treasure the moments.
    Great pictures by the way. You are beautiful.

  16. Yes, yes, yes!
    I have a couple of dear ladies in my church (one 90+ and one nearly 90) who challenge me all the time with their positive attitude and spirit of thankfulness. Truly, we will be less here on this planet when that generation leaves us. I ask myself all the time if I’m ready to take the next step on the generational ladder.

    • Yes, my husband and I are at the age (he’s 61 and I’m 51) where a lot of our “fathers, mothers, aunts, and uncles” in the faith are either failing or passong on to the next life! I’m thinking this too: I’ll have to step up to the plate and lead next! 🙂

  17. I’m resonating, Betsy, as my Dad just walked through heaven’s doors 11 days ago. Praying for your family even as we speak. This is a bittersweet time, yes?

  18. Your mother-in-law is an incredible woman, Betsy. She sounds like the kind of person I want to be … not just when I’m much older, but right now! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family …

  19. Betsy – Thanks for the beautiful tribute – what a legacy! I like #1 best “keep your chin up”. Funny how life looks different when you are looking up! Great post!

  20. Thank you, Sandra! Keeping my chin up here!

  21. What a blessing to have such a wonderful mother-in-law. My own MIL died of breast cancer just three years into our marriage, but I watched her journey through the illness that took her life. She was an example of trusting in the Lord and finding her strength in Him. Praying for your family, Betsy!

  22. This is a beautiful post, what an amazing woman! I feel quite emotional, thinking about her life, and the immense legacy that she has created. What an amazing story about her writing to the President! From my Dad I have learnt about working hard, and being kind, loving, and light hearted.

    • Those are great things to learn from your dad, Victoria. I’m learning about being light hearted and positive from my dad too lately. He amazes me with his perspective.

  23. I really enjoyed pictures. It brings your tribute to life.

  24. Love this post, Betsy! What a wonderful legacy your mother-in-law has left in her many circle of influence…it was my Daddy who passed on to me his love for Jesus and His Word…one of his favorite hymns was “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” and he would “take everything to Him in prayer”… many blessings to you and your sweet family!

  25. I love these practical life lessons! I actually keep a secret journal of these once sentence lessons that I hope one day my kids will find and remember me from. — oh and they are mostly things I tell them , so hopefully they will evoke memories and not be new revelations! haha thanks for a reminder to keep investing in others all the way to the end!

  26. What a tender sweet story. My mom and dad taught me to be a good worker by always gently guiding me to do my best job. I have my mom’s love of reading because she fostered that in us by taking us to the library every two weeks where we brought home piles of books. My mom also loved to sew and started me at 4-H when I was a small girl and I still to this day love to sew. Such wonderful memories of family treasures !!! Thanks for sharing your story and allowing us to share ours. Stopping by from Dancing With Jesus.

  27. Oh wow -I loved reading this article! As a young woman I greatly appreciate any advice and wisdom that can be passed down from older generations. Thank you for sharing!

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