Only One More Sleep…

The fall after we moved to Canada, back in 1975, I couldn’t wait to start school. It was just before ‘the big day’ when mom took me aside, and explained I would need to wait a little longer. My head felt light. A lump formed in my throat. And her explanation, that I needed to wait and start with my fourth cousin Kenny Guenther, made no sense to me. I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to go to school. I had waited since I was about four, or even younger, when I watched my brothers and sisters leave, and secretly wanted to go with them. So whatever mom said after explaining I would need to wait, fell on deaf ears and a sad heart.Looking back I understand that it was only a short wait. But that wait seemed like an eternity…
I loved kindergarten. And grade one… and two.. and three… and four.. And I loved parts of grades five through nine. And then I left home and school. But I never stopped dreaming of it.
In my late twenties, maybe early thirties, when I found the courage and confidence to get my GED. But the longing to hold a ‘real’ high school diploma in my hand, never died.
In 2006 I returned to adult high school to take Grade 12 University English, just one course, to prove to myself that my grammar and writing were at least close to ‘on track’. The young woman taking my information at the desk asked if I had done grade eleven. “No, M’am, I only went to grade nine.” She informed me I would have to do ten and eleven first. I asked if they could make an exception, give me two weeks to prove myself in grade 12, and if I was in over my head, I would take her advice. She smiled. “You seem pretty confident. We’ll register you.”
Ms. Forwell was an outstanding teacher. I approached her before the first essay and asked for advice on how to write an essay. She looked bewildered. “But you know how. You would have done them throughout high school.” I explained that I had dropped out at grade nine from private school, and had never written an essay. She gave me permission to come to her any time if I had questions, and she would help me.
For my first essay, I hired an English teacher to proof and edit my work and give me feedback, and got a decent mark, somewhere in the 90’s. And after that I was on my own. I kept his feedback handy, and used it to edit my next one, and handed it in as early as possible, to get the bonus mark. Classmates supported each other. And the principal was an outstanding cheerleader for all students. She believed in us. She believed in me.
It was then, when I wasn’t even looking, that my dreams coming true, started to take shape. The guidance counselor wanted to meet with me. What were my dreams, my goals, so far as school were concerned. For the time being, I said, all I wanted was my Grade 12 University English. Nothing more. I had a young family–five children between 12 and 4. The counselor looked at me then, intently, and asked, “Do you realize how close you are to getting an official high school diploma?” I had no clue. The documentation I handed in included Life Insurance and Mutual Funds Licensing, a variety of college courses, and a resume. “You only need for credits, Ms. Metzger. Are you sure you don’t want to do this?”
That evening I shared with Tim. Only four more credits! I would take Chemistry, Biology and do a Co-op and with my English course that would earn me a diploma. Tim agreed that while it was inconvenient, I needed to get it done, and his parents helped with
babysitting. Thanks to Ms. Day, who patiently helped me grasp the concepts of Chemistry, and made Biology class interesting, both classes went very well.
Fall of 2006 I finished my final course at an adult learning centre. The principal called me not long after, and asked if I would take on approximately 10 students struggling in math–the one subject I had skirted by using my mutual funds & life insurance licensing, and the various bookkeeping systems I knew as credit. I made excuses but in the end her faith in me gave me the courage to try it. “I’ll try anything once, and if I am in too deep, I’ll let you know.” And with that I was ‘in’. To be honest, I haven’t a clue how she got by with it, with me not having my diploma, but she did. And I taught.
Our classroom was a blast. Each evening Tim taught me the lesson, and the following day I taught my class, with the support of a genius student. And by first tests, all students who previously were failing, had pulled marks over 80’s. All tests were sent away for marking, leaving no room for questioning. It wasn’t my brilliance that transformed their marks; it was the reality that I too struggled and once having it explained, I was able to connect with struggling students and explain it in a way that made sense to them. (God forbid I should be asked to teach those same lessons now… Tim would have to teach me all over again!)
Unfortunately, before the term was up, I suffered a massive heart attack, ending my short-lived career as high school teacher. By the following school year the adult high school closed down. I was in the last graduating class.
June 27, 2007, I graduated, having completed my co-op earlier that year, and handed in my final projects, and received my official high school diploma. The school honoured me with the Valedictorian Award, and the Governor General’s Award for highest academic achievement in the school. The experience of pulling off high marks in my courses, and successfully teaching grade 10 applied and academic math,  boosted my confidence. I was no dummy, after all, as I had long believed.
I started dreaming more of university and what I would do next, but with my heart and health, it wasn’t the right time. I looked into it, but laid the dream aside for a time. For nine years I left it ‘on hold’ and in that time I took medication for my heart. It was summer 2015 when we suddenly discovered I had lost much of my short-term memory, which was mildly frightening. A little research into my meds and I found one with the side effect ‘may cause short term memory loss’. My heart sank. What if it never returned? What if it continued to deteriorate?
By September 2015 I had weaned myself off of all medications, determined to live whatever time I have to the fullest. It was then I decided that I would rather have my life cut shorter, and have a memory and feel well, than to take meds and live to ninety, but with poor quality of life.
In November a gentleman who had read a review of my memoir connected me with Michelle Jackett of University of Waterloo, and encouraged us to meet. In December we met and in the course of conversation she recommended I take some undergrad courses in the Peace & Conflict Studies. But within a day or two she emailed and encouraged me to consider applying to the Masters program, as a mature student. There were no guarantees, but it was worth a try.  I met with the director and assistant to ‘ask a gazillion questions’ and in January I applied.
It was a long wait from January when I applied, to May when the email came in telling me I had been accepted on the condition that I was willing to do a 5-course term of undergrad studies, and prove that I am able to maintain a minimum of 75% in all 5 courses.
Tomorrow is the big day. I will go for a full day of orientation, in preparation for the first three months of study. I am excited. Mildly nervous… or at least with butterflies in my tummy… I don’t know what ten years of medication has done to my memory in the context of studying, but I know I will fight through and give it all I’ve got.
For the next two years my family plans to eat grilled cheese two nights a week, sandwiches two nights, pizza one night, and eat big meals on weekends. (Which my men will cook.)
In all seriousness, the course schedule is such that it feels very do-able. I will be away less with school than I was with one-on-one clients,  and home for all dinners except Tuesday evenings. The rest of my week will be spent with my nose in a book, right here in the comfort of home.

 

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

And tonight there is no one telling me I have to wait a bit longer. It is time..

To Be A Published Author… And Offer Hope to ‘My (Mennonite) People’

Dutifully I placed all my workbooks on the table before me, then seated myself in front of the stack. Grade 6 was over, and I had a long summer before me. Long enough to write a story, I thought to myself.

Flipping through the pages, I tore out all the used, marked and badly worn pages, and set them aside for the burning pile, leaving behind lined paper for my writing project. I soon learned to cut out the pages, instead of tearing them, to avoid losing the pages at the back of the book.

Having completed this task, I transferred the workbooks into double grocery bags to be used as my book bag. Next, I collected a handful of pens. I would need blue or black for writing, and read for correcting. And I’d always want a few extra. Just in case.

Finally, I picked up my emerald-green Pathway Publishers book. I had saved up my own money to by it at John Martin’s book store. How I treasured that book! It was the one book I could call ‘mine’. Such a beautiful green. And perfectly spotless when I purchased it. With that book as my guide, I would learn to write a good story…

I had access to countless books, growing up, Whether the school library, the church library, old Reader’s Digest–not all of which were age appropriate, however interesting–and even the old Encyclopaedias. I mostly liked reading about birds, animals and the human body. It was the source of my more explicit, though not necessarily damaging, sex education.  Not that I fully understood what I read, and that was just as well.

Always books played a role in my life. Some good. Some bad. And always I dreamed of becoming a published author, starting back at age eleven or twelve, a little Mennonite girl on the farm.

“You have a way with words,” people told me then already. When salesmen came to the door, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was the one who most often spent time dealing with them, or debating and challenging. Now, an adult, I wonder what they must have thought to have this young 12-yr-old as the family ‘spokesperson’. (The Filter Queen salesmen called me that.) I would enjoy such a debate, if the tables were turned.

Mind you, I said all the ‘right things’ that I was taught and indoctrinated to say, not necessarily having challenged my own mind to explore. Still, the exercise was good for me in that it did present me with other views and taught me to think critically of my own beliefs, and the beliefs of others, rather than accepting every thought and opinion shared, as my own.

Words and book. Two things that influenced my world like nothing else. In earlier childhood books opened up a fantasy world before me, stirring the mind and imagination. But by my pre-teens and teens, most of what I read had powerful life lessons, evoking feelings, emotions and convictions that continue to influence and shape me, to this day.

And through those years the dream of becoming a published author have never died. Oh, they’ve gotten booted around in frustration, when the dream seemed impossible. I have, figuratively, cast the dream at God’s feet and given it a few extra kicks before turning my back on the crumpled heap. But always, somehow, the dream comes back to life, like that hardy perennial that exudes determination no matter the fierce weather it has endured.

So it was, in August 2011, at the John Maxwell Team conference, that I looked at my group of new friends and blurted out, somewhat randomly, “I have a great idea!”

In the minutes that followed I shared my dream of writing a book, but suggested the seven of us–Babak, Danny, Dennis, Elias, Eric,  Sheri and I–all write  our stories of overcoming  struggles and challenges and arriving at living our dreams. That seemed so much easier than writing a whole book. And we’d be a built in editing team for each other. It was brilliant, they said.

We never did write that book, though we worked on the concept a while. It wasn’t the dream everyone else was meant to live. But it awakened in me a new determination. And I said it publicly. This time I would do it, no matter what. And that was what it took. Knowing that people were expecting it to happen. That there were people I had never met, in other countries–people I would never meet–who, together with my friends at home, cheered me  on. A note here, a word there, a little reminder, “When will you publish your book?” A promise to my Amish friend, Rosemary Gascho, that one day I would drive to her farm and deliver a signed copy.

All of these thing propelled me forward. But, ultimately, it was God’s call that fueled my vision. The desire to tell others it isn’t over when it feels over. There is purpose in the pain and hell of life. There is redemption. There is hope. There is Jesus. And, for those who don’t believe in Him, my story will offer a glimpse into a religious culture and faith experience that even an atheist, I expect, will find inspiring. We don’t have to agree to be moved, challenged and inspired by one another. And that ‘touching of lives and hearts’ is my motive for sharing the story of the first eighteen years of my life.

It is also the reason I have dreamed, for years now, of publishing in my mother-tongue, Low German, and offering a book in story form, to ‘my people’. Only in recent years has it become a written language, and my dream is for my story to bring hope to my Low German, Russian and Mexican Mennonite friends and relatives.

And these dreams are beginning to come true, though not without challenge and hard work. Yesterday, May 27, 2014, I signed a publishing contract for my first book. The working title is “forgiveness for A Secret Sin“, but this may well change at the Publisher’s discretion, as well as the cover.

A Secret Sin--Working Title 2

For the translating part of my dream, I invite you to join me. The cost, because it is a virtually unwritten language, is prohibitive. The translating and editing of it will be very time-consuming and a work to which I cannot contribute much. (I speak quite fluently, but have nothing to offer in the way of actual translating.)

For several years I have been in touch with a team of people who are able to make this happen, and reach many of my ancestors. The copyright of the Low German book will belong to Generations Unleashed, and the funds generated will support the ministry, financially.

To give you opportunity to be part of this amazing ministry, and join me in changing many lives, and offering them hope, we have set up a crowdfunding event, through Indiegogo. To read about it, and support the cause, visit our fundraiser HERE.

Please tell your friends, and contribute in any way you are able–whether financially or by sharing the event–every effort helps make this dream possible. There are ‘Perks’ for specific donation amounts, but if you wish to make a donation for another amount, simply choose the ‘contribute now’ button.  (Sharing is made easy when you visit the site, with buttons just below the photo.) 

Words changed my life. Words gave me hope. Please join me in giving a word of hope to ‘my people’. Together we can make dreams a reality. Together we can change the world.

Thank you, and God bless!

© Trudy Metzger

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2014: Embracing A Year of Adventure & Change

Each year New Year’s Eve rolls around, and we gather with family or friends, or both, and celebrate all that has been in the 12 preceding months. The good. The painful. The devastating. The incredible.

Through laughter and tears, we thank God for it all; it blends together to shape our lives, to make us who God wants us to be, if we give it all back to Him.

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Looking back over 2013, it is with mixed emotions, particularly from a ministry perspective. We did more retreats and conferences than any other year to date, and that growth seems to be continuing in 2014. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, a few more thoughts about 2013…

There was a time I said I would never do ministry among ‘my people’–the Mennonite culture–because I feared rejection. Still, when God laid it on my heart in late 2012, I found myself, almost instinctively, planning a conference for this spring as though it was everything my heart had ever dreamed of. When fears surfaced, I pushed them down, reminding myself that the thing God calls us to, He also gives us the strength for.

The conference took place in April, and went off pretty much without a hitch. Worshiping God with so many believers from my background is one of the most wonderful things I’ve experienced in my life. There was life. The Holy Spirit was present, without question, healing hearts, stirring souls, and denominational barriers were broken. At least for some of us, and for a time.

That weekend opened a floodgate, and many new doors to ministry. I was busier with one-on-one sessions in the months that followed, than I had ever been, and that continues to this day. With those open doors, and those sessions, came more stories of abuse, violation, and violence against children. And as we worked through those stories, and mediated between victims and perpetrators, resistance grew.

Since April 2013, we have experienced more attack, more resistance, more lies circulating than we have in three years ministry. That tells me something. We’re getting dangerously close to exposing something the devil has a vested interest in hiding. It has nothing to do with Mr. & Mrs. Martin, or Mr. & Mrs. Weber, or Mr. & Mrs. Bauman or Mr. & Mrs. Wagler or some Ms. Anybody, or Mr. Anybody Else. Sure, they and their families might slip into a rage over the exposure of hidden sin, or they might retreat in shame and silence, and some will hate on me and spread lies,  but it’s not about that.

It’s about God and the Devil. Ultimately God loves truth and justice, and the devil hates it. When lies come against truth, those walking in the truth continue to walk in the love of God and the truth of Christ. But when truth comes against lies and the devil, those walking in lies get all riled up and begin letting the enemy use them as tools to spread darkness and hate. And they suddenly busy themselves trying to cover their evil at any cost. And that brings backlash to anyone involved in bringing that darkness to light.

I said I expected it, when I went into ministry in the area of sexual abuse in the church. And I thought I did. I thought I was prepared. But when it came, it still blind-sided me. I wasn’t as noble as I desire to become, in how I responded or reacted. From time to time, when I met the people who were responsible for spreading hate against me, in stores or churches, and they glared or turned and walked away, I struggled. It took the grace of God to be kind, to wish them well, when, at times, I would have rather ‘said my piece’.

And that struggle is okay. God never asked us to not feel the anger, hurt or pain. He asked us to walk in the Spirit in spite of those feelings. I failed at moments, but constantly my heart cries out to be more filled with the Holy Spirit, and become more like Jesus.

It has taken a lot out of me, the battle in the mind. Hearing absurd lies about oneself, and having friends turn their backs, gets a bit wearing. But it has not changed anything as far as vision is concerned. Whatever God leads me into, even if it ends in twice the ‘hell’ I’ve fought this year, I embrace it.

Having said that, it appears as if 2014 may be a different flavour, and He may not be asking me to do any conferences here, with the local hostility. I’ve felt no ‘pull’ to find a host church for a similar conference, and don’t feel the slightest bit compelled to plan anything of that nature. (That will change in an instant, however, if God speaks the word.)

The only exception is a women’s conference, if it works out. We have a dynamic Old Order Mennonite woman from USA, who I hope will speak at a conference for women. She has a powerful testimony and is an anointed, Spirit-filled believer with a gift for speaking. If that works out, we will have her come join us for a local conference in late 2014.

All other conferences, so far, are scheduled out of the country, beginning with a mixed audience, Shatter the Silence Conference in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. We will work in partnership with Pastor Dale & Faith Ingraham, of New York, whom we had at our conference in April 2013. With true ‘servant hearts’, they will join us in sharing through testimony, and teaching.

Chambersburg conference posterChambersburg conference brochure outside

brochure insideAfter the conference,on Saturday evening, we will also do our first ever sessions–like a mini-seminar–for married and engaged couples. We will teach God’s design for marriage, and share vulnerably about the impact sexual abuse has on marriage.

It is exciting (if not a bit scary) to think about opening that part of our story to the public. Exciting in that I know it will help other couples, and scary because we’ve never shared that part of our story. Even my closest friends know only little snippets of our journey, and the hell we went through. I’ve never even written much about it. There was so much trauma, at times, and it was where the ‘hell of childhood’ came out in night terrors, flashbacks and angst like I had never known or acknowledged in my life. I think of those early years with Tim as my safe place to ‘feel the past’, really, for the first time.

Even now, as write, I’m back in that era… I even went back in time and purchased Silverwind music on iTunes, and am listening to ‘Only Jesus’. How I remember listening to that song, over and over again, knowing there was truth in the words. “Like a bird, whose wings are broken, wishing I could reach and touch the sky, Then the word of God was gently spoken, Suddenly my heart was free to fly… Only Jesus…. Jesus… makes my heart soar like a bird… Only Jesus… Jesus…  can free my soul with His word…”

Tears pour unashamedly as I listen to the words, the music, and remember what once was, and the healing God has brought into my life. And the sweet truth that, when His word was spoken, my heart was healed, set free.

And that is the message we will share with couples in Chambersburg Pennsylvania, who are fighting the demons of past abuse, and hiding the shame of that struggle. That part thrills me.

There are several other ‘out of country’ events in the works as well, including a 4-week conference/speaking tour in New Zealand and Australia this fall, God willing.

Writing will continue to be a big part of my life. Possibly even more than in the past. A friend awakened an old dream to write fiction–something I tried years ago and did not enjoy then, and didn’t feel was my niche. But I may just give that a ‘go’ again, when I finish my current projects.

There is also ‘rumblings’ of a bill being passed that will prevent me from continuing with one-on-one sessions, as I do them now. While I have never called myself a counselor or psychotherapist, the reality is I work with trauma and using a Christ-centered approach to working through that trauma with people. It’s effective. It produces results. It’s life changing for my clients. But soon–I’m not sure when, exactly–it will be against the law for me to do what I do, as I do it now, I am told.

This will change my life dramatically, unless we work around it. Instead of sitting with clients 3 to 5 days a week, I will look at moving into doing more conferences and speaking. It’s a tragedy, in my opinion, though I’m sure the motivation is to protect the public. Or at least so they say.

Makes me wonder what the world was like before the government controlled everything. Probably some negatives, but maybe some positive things too?

The only way around it will be to do fundraising, and offer a free service to people in need of a listening ear. And, as donors get on board with Generations Unleashed to make that possible, we may just end up being busier than ever. What I know for sure is that God has redeemed every potential negative in my life and in ministry. No doubt this is a set-up for something very different than it appears to be.

As this change and the unknown lie before me, and our ministry, all I can say is, I can’t wait to see what God has in store. Each year brings with it pain and tears, intermingled with great joy and celebration. Looking back there isn’t a year in my life that I would erase if I could. Some are hard to remember. Very hard. Particularly those early years of marriage and parenting when the hell of the past revisited me mentally…. If it were not for the husband God gave me, with a patient and godly heart, I don’t know what might have happened to me.

But even those years God is redeeming and using for His purposes and His glory. Knowing this about Him gives me confidence that 2014 will be a Kingdom building year. A year of relationships. A year of Redemption. A year of Change. A year filled with God’s blessing in every trial and every success.

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2014, I welcome you, with all you offer. My God has given you to me, and I am jumping in with passion, purpose and commitment!

© Trudy Metzger

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When Life Disappoints

It’s an easy thing to write about trusting God, and share all kinds of happy thoughts, when life is good. But what about when life disappoints? When you’re fairly certain God opened a door, and just as suddenly it swings shut. Maybe even pinching your fingers, or slamming you in the face

That’s when trust requires faith.

For the past several years I have wanted (almost desperately) to study. But always the doors have closed, before they even opened. The advantage to that was that it never hurt too much. No fingers caught, no bruised nose. Eventually, I laid that dream down, intending not to revisit until my children are fully grown.

And then it happened… the door cracked open again, and I stepped in. Yes! This time I actually got in the door. Just the front door, but in the door none-the-less. I signed up to ‘audit’ a class, with the option of completing for credit, on the condition I register for full time next year.

This would have been completely impossible, financially, except for one thing. The Seminary will fore-go (or cover) one third of the tuition cost, if one third of the cost is sponsored, and as long as the student pays one third. On top of that they have payment plans that don’t rip people off, and that’s how they help students follow their dreams in ministry.

That’s a bit more manageable, for someone like me, being in ministry and raising a family. I felt hope rise up. But there was one catch….

They encouraged me to enroll for one class and see what I think. In the meantime they would see what they could do about ‘the catch’ in the plan. The sponsor must be a church, not a person, not a business. I have businesses, and individuals who believe in me enough to sponsor me, from time to time, and I have not exhausted the list of possibilities. I was quite confident I could raise $7000. No problem, I thought. So they said they would see if they could work something out.

I started studies, and immediately fell in love with it. I knew I would. I’ve always loved studying. Even exams. As long as I get to choose the topic. Throw some trigonometry or calculus at me and my tune might change, or I may doze of altogether. But anything to do with English, Science, Religion/Faith, or Politics, and I’m right there.

So when we jumped into studying Second Temple Judaism, and learning about Alexander the great, and how he ruled from 356BC to 333BC…. and how he conquered from Mesopotamia to India with an army of 35000 men… and how those men trusted him with such loyalty that they would line up and march over cliffs to show that allegiance and strike fear in the hearts of kings… and about Josephus… I was so excited. Several years of intense study for a Masters Degree. Yes! Couldn’t wait!

That’s when the door swung shut, suddenly. I learned, that, having looked at their policy, the Seminary cannot accept donations from people willing to sponsor. The donation must come directly from a church, to them. A local congregation has to believe in me enough to put up $7000 for me to have them sponsor a matching amount, and leaving me with the same.  My heart sank.

First off, many churches don’t want to touch a ministry like mine. It’s probably the most awkward ministry that exists, and it disrupts ‘image’. No, the work I do, thrives in the secular world, far more readily, where social justice is fought for, than in ‘the church’, where acknowledging such things is still quite scary for many, if not most. (God bless the churches who dare to go there–I am connected to a small handful.)

(I learned a few hours later that they would also accept multiple churches going together to sponsor that portion. But it has to be churches, and one church would need to be willing to collect the money and send payment.)

I ran the list of churches that I know who are comfortable with this topic. I had a few. They exist. But not many that I know. And to follow all the CRA rules and make it happen ‘above board’ is the next hurdle, with no easy solution.

It’s hard, when life disappoints, and the dreams you could almost taste and feel, wake you up to a new reality. I haven’t given up. Not yet. Not even on the sponsorship thing.

They say, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.” But I say, “Where it is God’s will, there is a way.”

And since I believed with every ounce of my being that this was God’s will, and that He was opening a door, I can’t let it go ‘just like that’, without another step forward, and another prayer. I will see what creative ideas God sends my way, and give them all I have.

Then, when I have done everything in my power to follow this dream, if the door still swings shut, then I will let it go. But not a moment sooner. Because even when life disappoints there is reason to give our best, to go as far as we can, and not lay down and die.

But always, always, we must choose to trust God, no matter the outcome, if we want to live in the fullness of His blessing.

©TrudyMetzger

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Don’t Let Your Blind-Spots Kill You

I looked to the right, then to the left, and back to the right a second time, then, as I looked, I started to crawl forward. Just as quickly, I slammed on my brakes, my heart rate increasing slightly.

The other driver gave me the look and… oh dear! Was that the birdie? I mumbled an apology out loud, knowing good and well he couldn’t hear me. Still, it seemed appropriate, having nearly caused an accident… again.

My Mazda 3–the cute little car that won my heart with a ‘hug’ when I sat in it for the very first time almost seven years ago–has a blind-spot that has almost cost me more than once. No other vehicle, that I have ever owned or driven, has a blind spot quite as bad.

But blind-spots can be overcome.  I learned as child, when my father crashed our station wagon, the importance of that second look to the right. And that second look is the only thing that has spared me crashing in those situations. Only once, that I recall, have I missed it with that second look, and pulled out only to meet the other vehicle in the middle of the road. From that time on, I started taking a bit more time with that second look, pausing an extra second or two. And that is all it takes.

In life, in ministry, in the ‘day to day’, we have blind-spots too. I have them. And you have them. Those character flaws, personality quirks, and habits that drive people crazy, risk relationships, and wound people around us. And, most of the time, we don’t see it coming until we crash, or almost crash.

Lately, it seems, I come face to face with these realities in my personal life more often than I wish. Events happen that expose my blind-spots. Relationship struggles. Reactions to things people do, things that catch me off guard, and bring to the surface feelings and the temptation to respond in ways that are not healthy.

I might, in fact, most likely I will, push down those reactions, and count to ten… or a thousand, depending on the situation. And I’m glad for that. Self control is not a bad thing. But when it’s over, I am left to look at the black spots on my heart, and see my humanity in all its sinful realities.

And in that ‘assessing’ of things afterwards, I see, too frequently, that I said or did something to create the struggles in the relationship. An oversight. Some neglect. A selfish moment. A thoughtless word, or poorly articulated thoughts, and countless other things I do, but miss, until I ‘crash’, or almost crash.

And when it gets up close and personal, like that, and I discover that it was my blind-spots that created the mess in the first place, I struggle. I struggle because I want to help people, and never hurt them, or make them struggle. I want to be better than that for there sake. But also for my sake. Even for my pride, if I’m honest. And that is probably one reason God lets me be this human.

What I’m learning with my blind-spots, is to acknowledge them, one at a time, and not be overwhelmed by them. To say, “I am human”, but never use that as an excuse. To choose to grow. To take ownership. And, never, never quit.

Blind-spots, they kill you. They kill you in so many ways, if you don’t take that second look, and pause with that extra second, to assess what is happening. They kill you by making you hate yourself, or feel defeated. They kill you by making you retreat into a shell, where you can’t hurt anyone, and no one can hurt you. They kill you by making you hang up your keys, and taking no risks.

Don’t let your blind-spots kill you. That’s exactly what the enemy wants you to do. To give up. To surrender. To believe that God is done with you, and you have no purpose.

canstockphoto5236726

But God has a better plan. When you choose to grow, to learn, and to release the outcome, God will use those blind-spots to teach you. But He won’t stop there. He will teach the other person too.

That ‘near run-in’ may be the very thing that shakes the other person to reality, and makes them pay attention. It might be the thing God uses to teach them, so they don’t go through a greater tragedy in another relationship.

Release the outcomes of your failures, your blind-spots, to God and let Him use you broken and imperfect. His name is Redeemer for a reason. Because we need Him to redeem. Redeem us. Redeem our mistakes. And redeem the impact of our blind-spots on ourselves, and on others.

I’ve made my decision. I will keep going, serving God, and try my best to do it well. When I fail, and I will fail, then I will hold my life in an open hand, including those failures, so God can redeem the outcome.

©TrudyMetzger

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Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

If You Keep Silence… You Will Perish

When all is said and done, by the end of this week, if all goes according to plan and schedule, I will have had my busiest week to date, for meeting with people. The reasons range from relationship coaching, to offering a listening ear to teens who have suffered sexual assaults, attempted murder, and attempted suicides to meeting with middle-aged individuals working through childhood abuse and violence, to cases of extreme spiritual abuse.

I anticipate I will have heard more stories, more pain, and more secrets exposed in one week, than ever before. As it stands, I have heard things already that shocked me. And I am not easily shocked, particularly in the front of spiritual abuse. So much so that, when one woman who called from southern USA and shared her story, I told her that what has been done to her is reminiscent of KKK.

What ‘Christian’ community sends messages to an ‘outcast’ member, involving dead animals with the heart gutted? Repeatedly. And then spreads the lies that the individual is a witch. It is the most shocking, most extreme thing I have heard, to date, coming from a conservative Christian community. And there is more that I won’t share.

A young boy is suicidal because he has been raped. Violated. Demoralized. A young girl has lost hope, and wishes to die because her uncle used her. A mother is in tears because her son’s violent outbursts leave family and friends, cowering in corners. Her son is but a child.

And all of these things happen behind closed doors, in the Christian community. Is it any small wonder that the enemy of our lives, the predator of our souls, wants to keep silence in the church in the areas of abuse and violence? The power this gives him is second to none. Because he can make God look like pure evil in the minds of victims.

When I read the story of Queen Esther, I think of the church of today and how enslaved we have become to the enemy. I hear the questions Mordecai asks her, and imagine God’s desire to free us from the death trap of all the abuse and violence to which we have turned a blind eye. I have no doubt that God is asking many of us, as Mordecai asked Esther, the hard questions found in her story. Questions that come with a warning, that if we choose silence, we and our children will perish. The generations to come will pay a price.

Esther 4:13(b)-14
“Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the (church) you will escape …. 14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief… will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were (born) for just such a time as this?”

Queen Esther takes the challenge and warning to heart, and responds with:
16 “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.”

Oh the difference we could make in the lives of the children who have lost hope, the middle-aged who struggle through the memories, the elderly who tell their secrets for the first time, and the mothers who fear their sons. If only we said, “I was born to take a stand against evil. And if I perish doing so, I perish. My life is not worth more than freedom for my children and grandchildren.”

As I face the third day of this week, I anticipate great things. I expect God to move.  Not because somehow I am ‘all that and more’. I am human. Broken. But I know this, that when I go to the King on behalf of one of these suffering individuals, and He extends His sceptre as a sign of His blessing, their world will change forever. They will know freedom.

The busy-ness does mean I won’t have time to write much. I won’t put out a daily blog this week. But I will embrace the purpose God has set before me, knowing that I was born for such a time as this.

© Trudy Metzger

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First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

I Will Set My Children Free

In 2006 I visited Ethiopia, travelling with a ministry team, through seven prisons, ranging from the harshest environments, to the best facilities in the country.

We entered a small room, and, to my horror, it was filled with children–the offspring of the real prisoners. I had been fore-warned. But nothing could have prepared me for that first day, the first scene. I had sunglasses with me. Thank God. I wore them. And I smiled. But the entire time tears threatened.

Before we left, I was asked to pray a blessing over them. I kept my voice steady and sweet as I prayed. And I wiped the silent tears that fell as I prayed.

On my bed that night I fell apart. I sobbed. And I told God that if I have to see that kind of thing one more time, He will have to make me stronger. The children didn’t need a puddle on the floor. They needed hope. Courage. Encouragement. For someone to believe in their future, to see them free, by faith…..

Sometimes I hear things from friends or family, and it all hits so close to him. The trauma, the tragedy, the violence and the evils of sexual abuse…

We have created a prison of our own, in the walls of our own churches. And I see children, free to run, to come and go as they please, trapped in the walls of that prison of shame, silence and victimization. And I see that they need hope. Courage. Encouragement. For someone to believe in their future, to see them free by faith…

It is hardest when it hits so close, and you can’t even reach out, because it’s too close. This, for me, is the hardest thing when it comes to abuse.

When I meet with people who are not part of my inner circle, or immediate family, I am able to remain calm and objective. But, for some reason, when it’s too close, my mind cannot separate myself from the trauma. I find I have to guard myself more closely, so that the past does not regain power over me. It is a very helpless feeling.

Like with the people I mentor, I am committed to confidentiality and letting ‘their story’ be just that–their story to tell. But it is the hardest thing in the world to be silent when people close to you, suffer like that, and your hands are tied. And you watch hearts break, and lives shatter….

These are the things that are hard to bear.

And when I hear the evil that is said and done, after abuse takes place in the church, I am undone. Completely.

One mom told me last week how she recently discovered her child was abused by someone in the church, a man in his twenties. In its own neat and tidy way it was ‘taken care of’ in the church, careful to guard image and protect  the church name, the conservative Mennonite church. Wisely they took it to court and let a fellow church member know that he is not above the law. A crime against children is a crime to be dealt with by the laws of the land. (Bless them!)

Not long after, the older teen-aged brother of the young victim was told, by another man in the church, that what happened to his little brother ‘isn’t a big deal’, because there was no penetration. This is a cruel thing to do to someone who is grieving what happened to a sibling. As if ‘survivor’s guilt’ isn’t enough to deal with. Turns out that, years ago, the man had violated the man who abused the young boy.

How long will we turn a blind eye? How long before churches take a stand, openly, publicly and fearlessly? How long before we stop sacrificing our children on the altar of pride, religion and sexual perversion. How long before we release them from the prison we have created for them, through silence?

My heart can only cry out for mercy. And pray that God will Set the Children Free .

© Trudy Metzger

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First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

If I Could Choose My Past, I’d Choose the Pain

If I could go back to my childhood, & choose any ‘story’ I wanted to be my story, I wouldn’t change a thing. If I could look ahead & see what I know now, I would choose to relive the violence and abuse. It has made me a more compassionate person & opened doors to help people in ways that no ‘fairy tale’ story could do.

It’s easy to say these words now, with years and years of healing behind me. (Okay, take out the second ‘years’ in that sentence… that makes me sound too old.) Many have said that ‘time heals all wounds’ but I don’t believe that to be accurate. I don’t attribute my bold statement of being willing to suffer, to the time that has passed. For that I give God all the credit, all the glory.

Even with the healing that has taken place in my life, it is not something I would offer to go through again, without purpose. And that purpose is the people I meet with, many who have gone through much worse than I. It is in hearing their hearts, and encouraging them, that my story finds meaning.

For this reason I will continue where I left off, in Finding Jesus in the Shadows Part 3, and share with you more of what it was like to be thrown into the turmoil of dealing with childhood sexual abuse, and having memories resurface after many years of denial.

With the distraction of a boyfriend behind me, I was free to focus on coming to terms with my past. But first I had to go through the grieving process. It isn’t possible to spend almost three years loving someone, dreaming of a life together and watching it go from wedding plans to history in mere months, or weeks.

The first four weeks following our break up were consumed with that grieving process. Fortunately I was in a safe place to do so. Howard and Alice had asked me to come live with them several weeks before the break up, so I was surrounded by a loving family.

Having made other arrangements for the old army Colonel, I left his home and was officially jobless. That wasn’t all bad for the short-term. I spent time helping Alice, reading, and visiting Howard’s parents, especially his mom, Maryann, who lived in an apartment in their home. I would sit on a stool, at her feet, and listen to her stories, or chatter her ears off. She talked about my ex-boyfriend, and about the process of letting go, always encouraging me. Always reminding me that God had a good plan for my life.

When I was in Bible school she had sent me a letter and included in that letter the verses:

Isaiah 43:2

New King James Version (NKJV)

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.

Sometimes when I visited she would have me comb her hair and put it up in a ‘bun’ on her head, before placing a prayer cap–white bonnet–on it. Her shoulders were bad, making it difficult for her to do it. I enjoyed doing it for her. Any excuse to be with her was a good one.

These simple things, as well as spending time with Howard and Alice’s family, are what carried me through those weeks of adjusting to my new life. No job. No boyfriend. Traumatic memories and emotions. It all lacked direction, or so it seemed.

One day Alice announced that she had heard a construction company in town, Country Lane Builders, was hiring a secretary. She encouraged me to apply. I cringed. Not because I didn’t want to do it, and not because I didn’t think I could do it, but because I had no training.

Photo Credits (Country Lane Builders)

“Oh, you would do fine,” Alice said

I pulled together a resume` and hand delivered it. The owner, Orlan Martin invited me for an interview. Confident I could learn, that is how I presented myself. To my delight, and surprise, Orlan hired me within days. It was the best thing that could have happened to me!

I soon learned that Orlan and his sons take great pride in excellent workmanship, .  Their customer service was second to none, and in my three plus years with them, there were few disgruntled customers. The few issues that arose, were resolved quickly.

Photo Credits Country Lane Builders)

I loved my job. I trained myself to recognize voices and memorize names, so that, when a customer called, I could greet them before they introduced themselves. (Back in the day we didn’t have call display.) Orlan frequently passed on compliments, telling me how much customers appreciated me, giving me constant encouragement–something I so badly needed.

Bookkeeping, using the McBee manual system, was much easier to learn than I had imagined it would be. For three months I followed the formulas  the previous secretary, Karen Bauman, had written down for me during the 3-day crash course. I balanced to the penny month after month, never quitting until I did. They day I was a penny off and couldn’t find it, was very upsetting for me.

This new job would have been of little consequence, as it relates to my healing journey, but for one detail. The office manager–my supervisor–Murray Martin, who is now the President, was a gentleman among gentlemen. Somehow he found out that I was working through abuse, and gently asked questions. He was kind, compassionate and eager to learn about the healing process.

What inspired his interest, I don’t know, and it may simply have been his nature. It fits to him. It all served a purpose, several years later, when he ended up on a committee in his church community, working with perpetrators of abuse.

As I worked through the aftermath of abuse, my life intertwined with a gentleman who treated me with utmost respect on that healing journey, while welcoming openness and daring to go below the surface. It was encouraging, and gave me hope when he allowed God to use him. One can never know the mind of God in a situation, and the ways He will redeem….

And that was only the beginning…

© Trudy Metzger

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Spiritual Abuse Series, Introduction

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Are You Pursuing Your Dreams?

There is something inspirational about attending Graduation and seeing young people, with passion, energy and dreams. Listening to the valedictorian took me back in time, six years and two days ago, when I graduated from Adult High School at age 37. I searched my computer for my valedictorian speech and am sharing it with you.

 

Every individual has a dream and a destiny. If your dream lies dormant, you are the only one standing in the way of fulfilling that dream. You alone hold the key that will make your dream become a reality. If you can overcome your fears and believe in yourself, you can overcome anything that stands between you and your dreams. All other obstacles will be your stepping stones, if you see them as an opportunity.

Each one of us must choose to unleash our dreams, but we cannot make them a reality without the help of others.

[…]

In life we cannot always choose our circumstances, however, in every circumstance we choose either to surrender or overcome. The difficulties we face in life have the potential of becoming our greatest assets, if we allow them to stimulate our creativity, challenge our determination, and have a positive affect on our lives.

To make this very practical I will share with you something that happened as I was redecorating our master bedroom. I was painting when I turned and tripped against an open one-gallon bucket of red paint and left our carpet looking like a violent crime scene.

After 10 minutes of shock and frustration, I put my arms around my husband and said, “Well, we’re finally going to have that beautiful hardwood floor I wanted.”

Life, for many of us, has been like a bucket of red paint spilled all over the floor, and we have decided that now is the time to do something positive about it, and write the happy ending to our story.

For many years I dreamed of earning my high school diploma but fear held me back. I doubted myself and my ability to succeed, and above all I feared failure. Coming from an abusive home, where the importance of education was minimized; and a school where many of the teachers had no passion for teaching, I was left to believe that I was stupid and incompetent. This belief held me prisoner until about seven years ago when I started doing online IQ quizzes to test myself in an environment where no one would know if I failed. Little by little, my confidence grew and I realized that I was held back by lies. I started to replace those lies with the realization that I was capable of accomplishing anything I set my heart and passion to doing.

Four years ago I faced my fears publicly and took the GED tests to earn my high school equivalency diploma. I discovered that in facing one fear I found the courage to face the next and I soon registered at the Open Door Waterloo Campus to do my Grade 12 English – just to prove to myself that I could do it.

I want to thank my teacher, Ms. Forwell, for staying after class to answer my questions, and most of all for believing in me and encouraging me through that first course at the Open Door. She gave me a profound gift – it was the first time in my life that a teacher believed in me the way she did. Having successfully completed this course I met with the guidance counsellor and discovered I only needed 3 more credits.

I realized then that I couldn’t afford to pass up the opportunity to officially earn my diploma.

I completed my Biology and Chemistry November 2006 and was two weeks into earning my co-op credit, when I had a sudden heart attack , that we believe was caused by medication I was taking. However, because my job allowed me to work from home, and thanks to the fact that I was able to continue my co-op assignments at home and hand them in, even this did not stop me from finishing my final credit. In early January 2007 I handed in my final assignments.

Each one of us has a story. For various reasons, and at different ages and stages of our lives, we have chosen to complete our high school education at the Open Door Centre For Learning. Some of us were not given the opportunity to finish high school in our teens, and some of us chose to drop out. However, we all have one thing in common and that is our determination to finish and earn our diplomas. It took many hours of studying and I applaud each of you for your dedication and hard work.

I could not have done this without some key people and I would like to take a moment to thank each of them.

First of all I would like to acknowledge my husband for his incredible support. Thank you for carrying more than your share of responsibility at home so that I could study and get the most out of my courses. I also want to honour my five children, who are not here tonight, for sacrificing a lot of time with Mommy so that I could study.

[….]

In closing I would like to leave you with a few thoughts to inspire and challenge you as you leave tonight.

  • Always believe in yourself and never give up.
  • When you look back on your life, celebrate your accomplishments and learn from your mistakes.
  • Pursue your dreams with passion and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.

© Trudy Metzger 2012