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It is the middle of summer, or at least the middle of warm weather, if not summer exactly, here in Ontario and apart from the extreme dryness, it has been a beautiful summer! Roses are loaded with blooms! One bush I counted to 74 buds before concluding it has ‘a lot’, and the actual number doesn’t really matter. And the Limelight hydrangeas are about to bloom, as the delphiniums slowly die off from their first splash of colour.
Seasons are filled with wonder, and then they pass, each bringing in a new season with new wonder. And in each there are things we can long for or miss in another season, while fully embracing the one we’re in. At least I find myself doing that. I look at the evergreen, while sitting barefoot on my front porch sipping a glass of ice tea or some other summer love, and imagine it in winter with sparkling lights. But even as I imagine it, in that moment it is summer I am in love with the warmth.
Til winter rolls around, however, I’m happy to wear boots and a coat, with no desire to sit on my front porch, quenching summer’s thirst. And I certainly don’t sit there in bare feet.
Life experience isn’t that different. When changing of seasons is necessary, whether we like it or not, we are wise to adjust to the new season. And, figuratively speaking, I may have sat in the snow, barefoot, for a while already.
It has been six years now, since working closely with trauma victims, listening to broken stories, encouraging victims, trying to keep healthy boundaries in place–which can be easier said than done, for some. And they’ve been the best six years of my life, on so many levels. They have also been the hardest in other ways.
One of the things I encourage in clients is healthy boundaries, both in personal experience and in respecting the boundaries others set, which can be a difficult thing to learn when boundaries have been seriously violated, and we’ve been taught to give and sacrifice until we drop or burnout. But it’s critical to take steps that are in the best interest of personal well-being and family before such a thing happens. In the past two weeks, after trying to make adjustments and find other ways to ‘make it work’, it quickly became evident that the changes I was trying to make would bring more stress than relief and my lessons on boundaries needed a close look and personal application. So, after seeking counsel from several individuals, including my doctor who is a rather amazing woman, I knew it was time to take my own advice, and that of everyone I consulted. In the uncertainty of what is best right now, I saw these words, “Do the next right thing” and the words stuck. If I am to be healthy for my family, for university and to continue advocating for victims, I must do ‘the next right thing’. And that next right thing is to take a step back from working with trauma clients for the time being and focus on family, writing and then to University of Waterloo in September.
I have heard other individuals talk about needing to leave trauma support, due to secondary trauma, and am thankful that in this area God has given me resilience, rarely experiencing it. Admittedly, the area(s) I have struggled are in dealing with blatant manipulations, as well as when boundaries are ignored and violated, so that our world is invaded as a family and couple, or when focusing on personal commitments. Manipulation can only be faced as it happens with clients, and boundaries set to bring about healthier habits. And fortunately there is much good information out there, about healthy boundaries, how to set them, and when to ‘draw a line in the sand’ if they are violated. And on this front I have been blessed beyond words, having had very few problems with boundaries being violated. For this I am most grateful, and thank God, so that I can look back at six years of client relationships and see predominantly positive relationships, and wouldn’t hesitate to return to one-on-one sessions, when school is less intense for having had the most amazing opportunities to walk with victims and see healing come.
So, while I am making changes, I’m not ‘going’ anywhere, and will continue to blog occasionally, and focus more on doing public speaking engagements as far as Generations Unleashed goes, though more one-off engagements in various environments to create awareness, versus church-focused conferences. And, God-willing, I will be able to follow through with travel plans for this summer, where I’ve made commitments. And though I am making myself available to several past clients, and welcome requests from other past clients, to meet from time to time, I will not currently be taking on new clients, or working in intense and high-trauma cases. And it is unlikely that I will consider taking on any full time clients during the first four months of University, starting this September, as I will have 5 courses and must maintain 75% average or higher in each one, to be accepted into the 16-month Master program in January.
These changes leave me with a summer calendar that has nothing but ‘family, friends, and writing’ booked besides travel. While this feels odd and a bit sad in a way, it also feels right and necessary, especially as I focus more on finishing several writing projects and prepare for school.
I am thankful for these six years, and the many people I’ve had the honour of knowing in places of pain and journeys of healing, and only time will tell if this is ‘the end of an era’ or whether God will lead me again to this. While I sense it is ‘an end’, I also try to hold these things in an open hand, and not control every step and outcome, so that God can open the door again in the future if He needs me.
And I imagine I will sit on my front porch at times, figuratively speaking, sandals on my feet, and sipping a summer drink, imagining lights on the tree, all covered in snow. And I will long for it. But I will rest in knowing that ‘doing the next right thing’ will take me where I am destined to be, to accomplish a purpose higher than my own.
~ T ~
NOTE: Due to so many of my clients finding me through my blog, or word of mouth, I an sharing these changes here. (Clients have already been notified, in person or via message, of any changes.)
Finding God in the Chaos
Last night we had a situation in our home that stirred up chaos and turmoil. It felt for several hours as though all hell had unleashed its power on us. Out of respect for my children, I will not share details or names.
Having grown up in a home where unbridled rage had us all walking on egg shells, we have tried to make our home a safe place for everyone. Safe from violence and abuse, but also safe to be real, to struggle, to share feelings and express ourselves. What is stuffed down and bottled up has the most potential for destruction. What is spoken and addressed can be worked through.
Our home has an abundance of love. Each child has unique love language, unique needs and the desire to be validated. Hugs, tons of them, are what the youngest two prefer every day. Our older three children no longer like hugs all the time. We try to honour and respect that need for space, even though my love language is physical touch and hugs are an important part of communicating affection.
In parenting we try to set healthy boundaries while still encouraging age-appropriate independence. My guess is we err on the side of caution, without being totally over protective. We try to encourage our children, communicate with them and stay in touch with them through the various stages of their young lives.
Our home is normal. We have disagreements, spats, and days when we wouldn’t mind space and distance from each other. Sometimes the spats get out of control, though not often.
Last night was one of those nights for several children. We went out for dinner as a family and were enjoying ourselves when it started. A little teasing, a little antagonism here and there, gradually escalated to hostile behaviour between two siblings. Tim & I took turns playing ref and coach, trying to get them to see things differently, getting in the middle when necessary–not literally, as it would have been rude to get on the table–and hoped for a peaceful resolution. When Tim went to pay, one of them had to accompany him. On the drive home, one sat in the front seat of the van with Tim, the other in the very back. I was in my own car, which, even though my A/C wasn’t working, was a pleasant and peaceful drive. I played my favourite music, at my favourite volume—loud. (Some teenage habits die hard… especially if you lived through them in the 80’s.)
We dropped the children off and I joined Tim in the van to head out for about an hour on our own. Things between our ‘Cain and Abel’ were not entirely resolved, but there was no reason to be concerned. We’ve walked this way before and wouldn’t expect things to escalate to a dangerous level.
Sitting in the living room near the front window, when we returned home, was one of the two feudists, looking like a violent thunder-cloud in human form. One of our youngest sons ran to me and announced that the other child had run away while we were out.
That’s a jolting announcement when you return home from a quick outing. My mother heart immediately prepared to abandon the rest of the world in order to find my child in the dark. Tim tried to assure me that there was nothing to worry about and if I waited, our child would return soon. Not easily detoured from my agenda, after calling out a few times, I jumped in my car. I’ve had friends lose their children for months at a time. It can happen to anyone.
I was barely out the lane when I saw a shadow running barefoot toward home down the sidewalk. Relief. Pure, relief.
I backed into the driveway, parked the car and headed for the front door. We were barely on the porch yet when our second youngest son flew out the front door, tried to grab his sibling. At first I thought it was a wrestling move—his way of handling the stress. Just as suddenly, he turned, ran toward me, threw his arms around me and began sobbing uncontrollably.
That is when I realized just how terrified he had been. After we spent some time exploring the emotions and fears, saying bedtime prayers and doing good-night hugs and kisses, I asked if they were ok and ready to sleep.
They nodded. “But I was really scared,” one said.
“I know. It is scary,” I said. My own childhood memories were pushed aside, needing to deal with the situation, but I was very aware that this would be a trigger. I’ve learned to recognize the signs, to lay them aside so that I can be there for my children and support them in their own struggles.
Fighting for the Next Generation
Back downstairs the real battle was waiting. We had not yet heard the details of the story. We took them, one at a time, to hear them out and explored their hearts, the triggers, and their feelings about what had taken place.
Both of them have been bullied in school and the way they have chosen to deal with it, the vows they have made, played powerfully into the events of the evening.
We asked a lot of questions, helping them to understand their own responses but also helping them understand the other party’s needs and perception of what had happened.
Partway through the first conversation, our second youngest son reappeared, holding his Bible. He is quiet by nature, a very deep thinker. He held out his Bible and showed me the verses I had underlined when I gave him the Bible for Valentine’s Day.
Hope and release welled up inside of me as I read the verses, not to mention that my heart burst with pride. He had turned to truth, to his Heavenly Papa, when all seemed so wrong in his little world. He found peace and comfort in the Holy Spirit. I knew he would be ok.
1 John 4:16,18-19
16 …God is Love… 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him[b]because He first loved us.
Something happened to my heart, as my little guy turned and disappeared, as quietly as he had appeared, and went back to bed. The tears started and would not stop. We have fought hard for our children, so that the chains of generational darkness I come from would not be passed on. That the violence, aggression and hate would end with us, and not destroy our children and the generations to come.
I was overcome with grief and yet just as powerful was the awareness that the love of God is the answer.
After we discussed the events of the evening, we asked three main questions, and together explored the answers.
We followed the same process with the second child, affirming each of their identities as God’s children and ended with Tim and I each praying a blessing over each of them.
They apologized to each other and the older one went to the younger siblings and took ownership for the fear and trauma brought on them by the evening.
When all was said and done, I thank God for last night—all of it—because it opened the door to doing battle at a new level for our children and the next generation. Everything that came out, we discovered, had been there for many years. It would have gone with them for life, but instead God allowed healing to begin.
Superficial ‘niceness’ does not compare to the bond that is created by going to the next level, unearthing the lies that are hidden there, and finding our true identity in God. I am so proud of my kids for being willing! I saw their hearts at a whole new level last night!
Don’t fear the hard times in family. Behind each battle lies territory that we are meant to reclaim. If we look beyond the battle to the reward, and dare to fight for our children rather than with them, it’s the best thing that can happen!
© Trudy Metzger 2012
I have been pondering ‘authority’ in relationships and the need to set healthy boundaries. Specifically when the person with whom we need to establish those boundaries is someone who has authority over us, or is in a co-leadership position with us. It is a sensitive thing at the best of times, and more so when someone in authority over us violates us and boundaries need defining.
We all have the ‘right’ to be respected. It is not just a human rights issue—it is a right that God has given us. He made us in His image, to reflect His heart and His likeness. Each of us, in our individuality, is made to uniquely represent Him, here on earth. This is true whether we are Christians or not. The effectiveness and impact of that, whether we allow that God-likeness to flow through us or not, is to an extent dependent on our faith in Him, but regardless of our beliefs, God’s likeness is in us.
When we function under leadership and authority, whether that person is a boss, a father or mother, a husband or any other leader, we should expect to be treated with dignity and respect. When that doesn’t happen, we have a choice; we choose silence and allow victimization—usually ending up feeling sorry for ourselves, or we confront (hopefully gently so that we are heard), or sometimes we may need to first reach out for help. We may not initially have the strength to confront, or, alternatively, we may come off too strong because of personal defences.
Years ago, as a young woman working as a secretary, someone in leadership asked me to do something illegal—I was to ‘fudge the books’ to make things look differently than they really are. I was the person that signed off on documents for the government reports and to do so would have not only risked the company being slapped with a huge fine, but I would have been responsible. In submitting documentation I always signed the typical ‘I confirm that the information contained in the report is true…’ and to sign that, knowing I was intentionally doctoring reports, was not something I could do.
However, because it was a leader who asked me to do this, I was in a conundrum. Should I defy my leader and not say anything? Should I do what I was asked? Should I confront?
Me, being me, I opted for confrontation. It’s not that I like confrontation, but silence, either way, would have made me feel victimized and I don’t tend towards accepting that role.
I walked into my boss’s office, defences high, and asked him to explain exactly what it is he wants me to do. Again, he outlined the exact steps I was to take in reporting.
“But that’s illegal,” I said.
He mumbled something that didn’t support me doing the right thing and, without a further thought, I leaned over his desk, handed him the reports and told him, quite boldly, “It’s illegal, and if you want it done that way, you will have to go do it yourself!”
Stunned, he looked at me without a word. After the pause, he told me to go do the right thing.
Back at my desk, my heart was still beating like a drum in my chest. Had I really just done that? My head was spinning. I was proud of myself for taking a stand but felt bad… almost sick, over how I had done it. And yet, it had been the truth.
My boss’s son, having heard the exchange, walked over to my desk. A quiet gentleman, only a few years older than me, he spoke with great wisdom a lesson I have taken with me for life, “Trudy, what you have to say is often bang on. If you would learn to say it differently, it would be easier to receive and would have more impact.”
I don’t remember if those were his exact words, but they were pretty close. That advice has changed the way I address leadership. The Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren..”
In my pursuit of healthy boundaries I made some pretty big mistakes. And that’s okay. I was learning a new and better way. It is better to make mistakes on the journey, than to choose apathetic disinterest in growth. It is in making mistakes that we learn to do it right.
The next time my boss asked me to do something sketchy, I calmly rose from my chair at my desk, looked him in the eye, ushered him to sit down and calmly said, “If you want that done, you will need to do it yourself. I find it offensive.”
Again my boss looked surprised, but this time was different. With a new respect he said not to worry about doing it. He never again put me in that kind of a position.
When it comes to family, especially a father, mother or spouse, the familiarity can cause us instinctively to do one of two things. It can make us defensive, angry and disrespectful, or cause us to completely withdraw in fear or anxiety. Like their wives, this can be a very real part of a husband’s journey. If we overcome these tendencies and learn to calmly speak the truth—that we have value and are not willing to be a doormat—we will have much more impact.
Recently, watching a video series on working through various issues, the one example jumped out at me, illustrating how to do this well. The speaker guided her audience on a gentle approach to establishing a strong boundary. In her example she was addressing a father, and the words were something to this effect: “Dad, I have worth. God sees value in me. I am His daughter and He treats me with respect. You need to treat me with respect and talk to me with respect. Until you can do that, I am not willing to subject myself to abuse.”
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” More is said in the tone of voice than in the words we speak. The truth, when spoken with calmness, has authority. The same truth, when spoken in loud or angry tone, loses impact.
The key to ending the doormat lifestyle is to first see that we have worth and value, and then to live a life that commands respect, in word and in deed.
© Trudy Metzger 2012