How soon it was, after we moved to Canada, that my parents bought that old daisy clock for our kitchen, I don’t recall, but I was enthralled by it. In my little mind it was the prettiest thing on earth, just like the real daisies outside. I would have one just like it when I was all grown up. Mom liked it too. So much so that when it stopped working, sometime around my late preteens, she set out to fix it. There was also the little issue of not having money for frivolous things so what Red Green’a duct tape couldn’t fix, my parents found a way to redeem. Whether it was lack of finances or love for the clock, now useless, mom took it upon herself to fix it. She pulled it apart, every little piece, and put it back together again. And, sure enough, it ran again. Backwards. We kids laughed and joked about that for a long time.
Now, at 47, I look at the picture of that daisy clock and think to myself, if but for a moment, how I’d like to take the ‘clock of my life’ apart and put it back together differently. Maybe go back and do some things differently with a second shot at it. Especially as a mom. That’s me and almost every other mom, with presumably a few exceptions.
Not because of Mother’s Day, but just because of mothering and humanity, this topic has toyed with my mind more than enough lately. My failures stare me in the eye, time and time again, and more so with age. I see who my children have become and are becoming and I am amazed by God’s goodness in spite of my failures, but the awareness of generational sins, cycles and dysfunction are pretty glaring at this stage. So, yes, if I could pull down the old daisy clock, reset it, and go back with all that I’ve learned and…
Truth told, Adam and Eve would eat the apple again, and I would fail as a parent again. And we mothers would look back with regrets, losses, and wonder how God will ever redeem the impact of our generation, and the generation before us. Somehow he just would. Because God is amazing that way.
So that old daisy clock, which looks much less appealing today than it did then, can keep moving forward and I will choose to trust God to be enough for this generation and the next, even as He continues to redeem our generation and the ones before us.
And I’ll take a step back and look at the messy parts with new hope. More like that cake mom made when I was around 8 years old. The old yellow bowl was filled with batter and mom stirred enthusiastically, trying to beat out every lump. (So help us God if cake should ever have a lump in it…) And just like that, having been a bit too enthusiastic, she sent the bowl flying and chocolate batter spread everywhere on the counter, running down the counter and onto the floor. The bulk of it stayed on the counter, fortunately. We were not wealthy by any means, and wasting a cake would never do! So, after much fussing and gasping and exclaiming – while her children watched in humour – mom scraped the batter from the counter back into the bowl, cleaned up the rest of the mess, and baked a lovely cake for us. We kids who witnessed it, and those who heard the story, laughed many times over that moment.
Life is hard. Really hard, sometimes. And we moms have a habit of beating ourselves up pretty good. We look at our failures and see only the batter running down the cupboard and the mess on the floor. We forget that the bowl with batter running down it’s sides still has much in it to give, and what is spilled on the counter, God will redeem and make something beautiful out of it. The spills, He will wipe up.
Mother’s Day is the hardest for me to blog about, or write about, and I pretty much never speak publicly about my mom. There are so many unanswered questions, so many pains left in limbo, so much loss that I must give to God constantly, that it would be easier to look the other way. That is true in my relationship with my mom, and it is true in my own journey as a mom. And I’m not alone. I hear story, after story after story. I’ve chosen to forgive even where the story has never been acknowledged. When I see mom I hug her and tell her I love her, but my arms feel empty even as they are wrapped around her, knowing some things have never been and will likely never be. Mom is old now, and because she is still living, I carry the story quietly within me out of respect. It’s something I did for dad, and it’s something I will do for mom. And when she is gone, I will speak, but I will speak respectfully as I have about dad. I bless her as she lives out her remaining days, months, years, and possibly decades (in fact probably decades… she’s pretty stubborn, or determined, depending on point of view). And I trust she has made peace with her God. I hear it in her, and bless her. But there are scars that cannot be addressed. So I trust God to wipe up the spills, scrape up the batter that remains, and make something beautiful.
This Mother’s Day, if you grieve for whatever reason, I pray for you. If you are the mom who failed and feels beyond redemption… If you are the mom who never had babies, or lost them all, or lost any… If you are the mom who is unappreciated, abandoned, or used and abused… If you are the mom who is in the thick of the mess of those early years, or struggling through difficult teen years (not all are, but some are)… If you are daughter or son who is estranged, rejected, or manipulated and repeatedly wounded… This day you are worth being celebrated.
And, this Mother’s Day, if you are the mom whose life is idyllic, beautiful and ‘perfect’…. You are worth being celebrated.
Motherhood is a beautiful thing, made up of more joy and more pain than any human can possibly imagine exists in this world. Nothing has made the miracle of God and the wonder of spiritual life more real than motherhood. Nothing has broken my heart in deeper places. And nothing has caused me to reach out to Someone greater and say, “I need You. We need You!” And I trust that Someone with my life, my children, my mother and our intertwined stories, to bring something beautiful out of all things.
Happy Mother’s Day!
© Trudy Metzger 2017
(Continued from previous blog. And final dog episode)…
The first dog to enter Kaiser’s oversized personal bubble was a giant, well filled out, tan and black German Shepherd. He had the straight back and full body and a general look of authority and confidence. Kaiser is lean and slanted with a bit of a wolfe-like face and mane area. Especially when his hair flares in aggression. And it did.
This shocked me.
Kaiser lived with seven or eight other dogs at camp, I was told, and did well. He went to obedience training and spent time with other dogs. He did well there too, I was told. So when he bristled at the sight of one old, unconcerned Shepherd, and looked like he was ready to slaughter him for lunch, I gulped. And I certainly didn’t know what to do besides pull back while he tugged forward, barking viciously .
The gentleman with the other Shepherd looked as unconcerned as his dog, and moved forward, even as I apologized for my dog’s behavior, which was drowned out by the raucous. At length the world was quiet, and before I could say a thing, the gentleman spoke.
“You have a pretty vicious dog there?”
I explained that I had owned him for all of under three hours, and still had quite a drive ahead, and I really didn’t know he was vicious. “When you look at him, does his face look vicious?” I asked him, because I couldn’t see my dog’s face with him pulling ahead of me like that, and besides, he owned a Shepherd. He was far more likely to know.
“Yes, he looks quite vicious, really,” he said.
“I’m beginning to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into,” I said. “No one mentioned any of this to me. I wasn’t expecting it.” I apologized again, this time without the racket, and said I would take him to another corner and figure it out.
But the gentleman encouraged me to stay. “Give them a chance. My old guy here can handle him. He’ll calm him down.” So, instead of moving further apart, we moved closer together. Nervously I watched as Kaiser barked and threatened, teeth bared, his bark carrying for miles around. And then he calmed again. We moved closer, letting both dogs move until they were face to face, and that is when I witnessed a most miraculous thing. Kaiser bristled a bit and barked loudly again. The older Shepherd returned a gentle authoritative bark, and kept walking. He walked right past Kaiser’s face, brushing gently against him–at which point the usual dog greeting ensued, which I shall not describe–and then the old fellow walked around to the other side and brushed right up against Kaiser again, ever so gently again. The barking stopped instantly, and Kaiser had a new friend. It gave me a shred of hope that I had not purchased a dog that would maul anyone and anything that approached me.
The other Shepherd went and stood at his master’s side. Kaiser came and stood ever so slightly in front of me.
“Look at that! You have yourself a protector. He’s already bonded with you and will defend you,” the man said.
I wasn’t sure if that was comforting or terrifying, after what I had seen, and with picturing a family and neighbourhood of children back home, but at least there was a bond. It was a starting point. We chatted a while before we each walked our separate ways. That’s when other dogs came. Not one. Not two. But dogs. Plural, way too many, walking around. I wasn’t ready to drive with Kaiser, and I wasn’t ready to deal with his aggression. I opted for the latter and kept walking, trying to keep him focused away from the other dogs, but he was on high alert, and it started all over again. The gentleman and his Shepherd walked our way, the old shepherd walking between Kaiser and the other dogs, and again Kaiser settled down, only distracted momentarily, to bark, when a new dog came too near.
We returned to the car, after about an hour of play, and a drink–his drink, not mine, because I knew I had hours of driving with no break–and headed for home. He nuzzled close to my hand when I reached back each time he showed signs of distress, and calmed right back down.
About an hour from home I noted my gas tank was running low, and stopped at the last rest stop to get gas and rid Kaiser of more energy. I pulled up to the gas bar, opened the door and Kaiser again dove recklessly at me. And at that moment I stopped being his comforter and I became his master. I pushed him back into his seat with great determination, much like a kid trying to force a heavy spring loaded jack-in-the-box into its container, and closed the lid. I mean, the door. I waited a moment and tried again to open the door and get gas. Again he tried to bolt. So I belted myself in and drove across the parking lot. And that’s when he figured out I don’t like his behavior. I talked to him like I would to any toddler in a tantrum, and knew he didn’t understand a word of it, but I felt better. And I was certain he understood my displeasure, because he whimpered and barked a quiet, sad little bark and then settled down when I told him, “No! You can’t behave that way and there is no way you’re getting out. You will learn to sit quietly and wait.” And he sat back in his seat in resignation.
We sat there for what must seem like ‘forever’ in dog minutes, especially a young one like him. And then I spoke to him before I opened the door. I explained that he needed to wait, and I would help him out on my terms. Amazingly, it went sort of okay. I wasn’t as ‘in charge’ as I wanted to be, but more than earlier, and that was progress. And all progress is good progress. This is what I tell myself daily right now.
We played for a good twenty minutes, after which I pulled back to the gas bar. I told Kaiser he would stay in the car, and I would get out without him, and commanded him to ‘Sit’. He sat. I held up my hand and said, “Wait”. And he waited. He watched me closely as I moved out of the car and filled up, but he waited politely.
I had opened the window a few inches and spoke before going in to pay–because of course the ‘pay at the pump’ wasn’t working. He sat there, all proper, and watched me. “Wait’ in Kaiser’s world means I will return soon, and you may move around while you wait.” He practiced in the next few minutes.
The guy in front of me was on a mini-winning streak, buying lottery tickets and spending the money faster than he was making it. He used his winnings and added from his pocket, before finally wrapping it up, whether due to boredom from not winning, or out of change. Either way, he shuffled along and I paid for my gas.
In the car Kaiser sat as properly as an Emperor should, in a fur coat and four legs, and waited, eyes on me with every move. I sat in with no lunging. He rose to his feet, kissed my shoulders generously, as if to thank me for coming back, and then settled down again.
The final stretch home was completely uneventful, until that moment when we pulled in the lane. Incorporating a German Shepherd dog with fear issues, into a family of seven humans and one other canine, is a very different challenge entirely.
It has been almost a month now, since getting Kaiser, and he has overcome most anxieties in the day to day. Nighttime anxieties still come and go, and, speaking of coming and going, that’s still not his favourite thing, to have changes to the household ‘pack’. So our last big hurdle is to have all of us leave him several hours a week, when the children return to school and I begin university next week.
Aside from this he has made himself at home enough to sneak into Tim’s chair, wear Bryan’s hat, and allow our 10-yr-old cockapoo, Akira, to visit his ‘house’. Keeping in mind that she despised him and would have had him for a snack if she wasn’t a quarter of his size, so some of that ‘allowing’ is her growth.
His favourite thing in the world is playing ball, of any sort but in particular soccer. And especially with our youngest, which has been a very good thing, drawing the youngest teen off the couch to play. I read that German Shepherds do their best to draw a family together, and that is accurate. His self-appointed job–because he is bred to be a working dog–is to engage the whole family in play. Everything from keep away, to high jump, to hide and seek, and whatever entertainment we can conjure up, he’s in. When playing ball we count down, “Three, two… play ball”, so that when our son randomly counts, he studies him closely, appearing confused as to why there’s no ball to play.
All around, I am glad I made that trip to Montreal four weeks ago, and glad that we acquired a dog of his intelligence, obedience and affection. He is a guard dog, however, so if you plan on ‘popping by’, call first and don’t walk into the house uninvited, or without an ‘inspection’ from the Emperor himself.
And now, having adjusted to life with a dog like Kaiser, and before I become the crazy dog lady if it’s not already too l, I will move on to a new chapter of life. Where the road will lead, after my next two years of being invested in intense study, doing the University of Waterloo Master Peace and Conflict Studies, I am not certain. Still, I am glad I made that decision to move in a new direction even though I do not love the uncertainty of dramatic change. That said, I am confident it will be good and a step forward… it always has been in the past.
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger
It came out of the blue, the big German Shepherd dog sitting on my lap. And while driving at 120 km an hour down the 401, on my way home from Montreal. Well, almost out of the blue.
For the first few hours, things went well after we left the doggy camp, where Kaiser had stayed for some time, because his master had developed an illness. Without any fuss he left both camp leader and previous master without a fuss. He laid down, just like his master said he would, and went to sleep. Up to two hours or a bit more, she figured, he would be good before needing a break. And right she was. I made one stop within the first hour to fuel up and get a Timmies coffee and snack while Kaiser sat quietly in the car, windows down, and waited until I returned, then promptly settled back to sleep. We had passed the two hour mark, with no place to pull over, when he started pacing.
For two peaceful hours he had settled quickly whenever I reached my one hand back, rested it on the seat–which he had understandably slobbered on in his nervous state, panting furiously–and always laid his head up against it. His breathing calmed each time, and his panting slowed, and then he went to sleep. Ever so carefully I pulled my hand forward each time, and ‘Voila!’…
On an occasion or two, maybe even three, when I made this transition, I allowed my car to drift ever so slightly to the right shoulder, over the ribbed pavement. And we all know what happens then. That loud startling racket. Now imagine it for a nervous sleeping dog. After the momentary startle, each time, he settled nicely again.
What started it at that particular moment, I don’t recall. Was it leftover nervousness from that startling sound a bit earlier, or did I bring my hand forward and drift slightly again, hitting the ribs at just that moment? Whatever it was, the shock of a giant dog attempting to lunge into the front seat, wiped my memory of whatever preceded that moment. He stood in the seat, pacing as much as a dog can pace with a seatbelt on. I recall that much. His panting escalated. He whined and whimpered. In my rear view mirror I watched as he looked out the back, then side windows, then up at me, eyes wild, and then repeated the cycle pacing. It all happened in a matter of seconds… much faster than I can tell it.
We had just passed the sign: 2 km’s to the next rest stop, and I was relieved to see it, wondering how long before he would need a stop desperately. When he suddenly grew frantic, I reached my hand back again to comfort and calm, but that wasn’t going to cut it. Not this time. Sweet talking and charming him was off the table. I tried food. Rejected.
And that’s when he lunged. I felt it. Saw it. And I reacted as quickly, blocking the small space between seats with my shoulder and elbow, so that he rammed into me, full force. He pulled back and dove with such determination I didn’t know what hit me. I thought his seatbelt was designed to prevent what happened next. But it didn’t. His rump planted itself firmly on my lap, his head still facing back, where the seatbelt held him. And then he jerked his face forward, throwing his bulk to the front. All of it. Leaving his head draped over my stick shift. Whimpering and panting and half wailing. and gagging ever so slightly from the choke collar he wore.
Fortunately, I still had control of the steering wheel, and did the only thing I could do. I popped in the clutch and coasted, then pulled over, hitting those darn ribbed spots, before coming to a stop.
By this time Kaiser was borderline hyperventilating. With sheer force of will, I shoved him back to the back seat so I could get him out. He then lurched forward against my seat as I reached for the door, and wouldn’t back off for anything. The flow of traffic was steady and I knew if I opened the door–which I attempted–he would lunge again, and, I feared, break the belt and make a run for it. Then I would be left to find a spot for a gorgeous corpse. I swung the door shut, and tried to talk to him. He panicked all the more.
Finally traffic moved to the far side, and I held him back while I unbelted him, and led him to the grass. We paced there for about 15 minutes. I told him to go pee, but he just paced and looked at me with those wild eye.
In that moment I was sure I had picked up a possessed creature, the way he was. He never did go pee, even though it had been a long while since I had stopped earlier to give him a drink. I sweet talked him into the back seat, belted him on as short a leash as possible, and drove the 2 kilometers to the rest stop.
I’ve never been more relieved to see a rest area. And I don’t mean that ‘relieved’ in the way I usually would. No, that wasn’t going to happen. My bladder would be just fine the whole way home.
Reasoning with him was pointless, so I didn’t bother. I only made sure I had his leash, firmly in my hand, and let him make a run for it. He dragged me around the grassy area like I was his pet, for the first few minutes. And then I took charge. Well, mostly.
It went well for a while, but he was bored and I knew he needed to get rid of some energy. So I grabbed a ball and tossed it, careful not to go beyond the reach of the leash, so that he wouldn’t break away, or yank my shoulder or some such thing. This went well. Until that moment when I forgot that I used to be a baseball pitcher with a good arm, and I threw the ball way too hard.
I saw it coming before it happened, but there was nothing I could do to stop it. I had to roll with it. Almost literally. I was in crocs, flopping around in the grass, not in running shoes like I used to wear for sports and still wear for long walks. And I’m almost 47 now. Not 14, 17 or 23. Also, I don’t run anymore. I still walk briskly, if I’m so inclined, but since surviving a massive heart attack in 2006, running pushes up my heart rate higher than it’s supposed to go. So I don’t run. Usually.
But that all changes in a moment like that, when you throw the ball and you have a leash firmly in your grip, wrapped about your hand a few times. Especially if the force at the other end of that leash is a muscular German Shepherd with anxiety and brutal pent up energy. In a moment like that you run again. Fast. And clumsy. Dragging those flip flops awkwardly and wishing to goodness they would fly off. But they don’t. No. They flap about carelessly and try to trip you, and you find yourself running and lurching forward most awkwardly, bent over in what should really end in a nose dive. But you are stubborn and fight back. You keep that leash firmly in your grip, and schlop along behind him, because this dog you just met… well… only God knows what he is capable of or what he will do if he is on the loose in the middle of God’s green earth with no one at the other end of the leash… so you run awhile at that angle, feeling more like ninety than forty-seven. And you don’t even have it in you to pray, because you’re focusing so hard on holding the animal back and staying on your feet. Until finally you surrender, let that leash fly and gradually bring yourself to an upright position. If he perishes, he perishes, you tell yourself. Which is almost biblical. And you’re no Esther willing to go down for the cause.
You stand there a brief moment, relieved to have landed upright, and, then, promptly bend over laughing so hard you cry. And being who you are, you look around to make sure you didn’t have an audience. But it’s a public rest stop and there are people here and there. Quickly you realize you are not alone; there are several bikers dying laughing with you. So you take it all in stride, and you wave, because what else can you do? And then you grab your dog, who now has the ball and is ready for another round.
In mere moments you become much older and wiser, and you set your forty-seven year old bottom firmly on the grass, like a tree well rooted, grab that leash yet more firmly, and throw the ball. Ever so gently. Because there is no way you will have that happen again.
No more have you started to play, when the other dogs start coming. And it’s almost like every dog traveling the 401 have timers set, to stop right then, and traumatize an already troubled, overgrown puppy.
…to be continued.
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger
It was Sunday evening when the text came in asking me to listen to some ‘Father/daughter’ dance songs for the wedding. In the seven months of wedding prep, I’ve been shockingly composed. In fact, I was starting to wonder if there’s something wrong with me because I’ve not been all weepy about seeing our first daughter get married. I feel good about it, actually, having observed them these past few years, and how they accept each other, idiosyncrasies and all. And, yes, they do have some. We all do. I’ve observed how Andrew cares for Alicia, and that detail stands out above all things. So maybe it’s okay that tears haven’t been a big part of this journey. Still, I was a bit worried it would hit out of the blue on wedding day.
And then the text came in. A list would be on the way shortly, which I didn’t realize, so I searched the web. I should have expected it, but I didn’t. I found “Daddy’s Angel” and the emotions started. The memories…
Alicia used to come into our room and make a bed on the floor beside daddy when she couldn’t sleep at night and I had other babies, and with five in seven years plus to miscarriages, it was pretty much always. She would show up at our bedroom door, or beside our bed, blanket and pillow often already in hand. Daddy would reach his hand over the bed and hold her hand until she fell asleep, and her little heart would be at rest. As she grew to independent adulthood, through successes and struggles, Tim loves the little girl who made him a daddy for the first time.
It all took me back to the healing of my heart as I watched him, first with her, then with Nicole. An independent soul from the day she was born, and he patiently worked with her persistence and determination. That’s not said she didn’t win her fair share. In fact, one day she announced to her siblings, when she was six or seven that praying to God we have to be kind of like with Daddy, and keep coming back over and over again, until He gets tired of it and gives us what we want. While her theology wasn’t 100% accurate, she spoke with sincerity, celebrating her own determination. And she should. God made her with that determination for His purposes. And always Tim loved her, as generously as he loved his first.
And then came Bryan with a curiosity that led to a thousand and one answers to the question”Why?” and a whole new kind of rambunctious. An opposite to his daddy, with my spunk and crazy, he challenged and stretched his daddy in the rough and tumble of life. Rough-housing, which had never been something I saw in Tim, wasn’t optional. Granted, it tested his patience at times, but seeing them wrestle and roll, was delightful. It ended several years ago with Bryan sitting on Tim’s chest, having finally overthrown him, and having tested that patience to a whole new level, Tim looked up at Bryan, clearly at his son’s mercy, with arms pinned beside his head, and sternly said, “Have you had enough?!” And we all erupted in fits of laughter, regretting only that there was no video camera. In it all, with oreo cookies flying against the fridge like a hockey puck, and a soccer ball shattering the one and only expensive candelabra in our home, and the teasing and laughter, Tim loved Bryan well.
Todd, the fourth son, came with a quiet temperament, and eventually we would discover an incredibly busy mind. A youngster of few words, big deep eyes, and unspoken curiosity, he gave us both a run for our money on more occasions than one. Whether daring to explore a big department store alone, the instant we turned the other way, and scaring the life out of us, or hiding in the back of our friend’s van at four because he so badly wanted to go along with them, or curling up behind a chair and falling asleep, he kept us on our toes. Through the scares, the laughter and a whole lot of affection, Tim loved his fourth with the same dedication as the first three.
And about the time when we thought we were done, and ready to solidify our family of six with surgery, it happened, that thing I said I would not do. It all began when we dated, and discussed our hopes for having a family one day. Tim said four was a good number, and I wanted six. But, if not six, then four would have to do. Tim suggested a compromise, that maybe we could have five, but I had a list of reasons why five wouldn’t be a good choice, not the least of which would be the loneliness of being the odd number out.
It was almost three years after our first four–all of which were less than two years apart–and my feeling about odd numbers wouldn’t have been any different than during courtship, if I had contemplated a ‘plan’. Fortunately for us, God had a plan that superseded my logic.
Kordan was, from the start, a content and affectionate child. Physical touch, from day one, comforted him, but on his terms. One adult finger, held in tight grip, offered him the security he needed to relax and falling asleep. He was fortunate to be the fifth, and three years on behind the others, because practice and experience, not to mention age, relax us parents, so he faired well. The bumps and scrapes were fewer and farther in between, and life was a bit easier for him than for the others. And through it all, Tim loved Kordan as much as he loved the first four.
“Daddy’s Angel” plays in the background and my heart is full of thoughts from yesteryear. Memories of a handsome young man fathering so tenderly our five children, wrap around my heart and squeeze so tight that teardrops spill from it. Thoughts of yesterday, working side by side with that same man, attaching barn board, twinkly lights, burlap and lace to wedding things, creep in, and I am as crazy in love with him today as I was back then.
I told a friend about the song… about the tears and how it took me off guard to cry like that. “And it brings back memories of your own father too,” she said. And that’s when I realized those painful old memories of an abusive father, though long replaced by forgiveness and grace, were now officially replaced with memories of a kind man loving is children well. The man I married 22 years and five months ago this week.
This father’s day I honour Tim above all men I’ve ever known. And I’ve known some pretty amazing men in my lifetime. But not one holds a candle to the kindness of my husband. Sure, he’s imperfect, and I could point out some idiosyncrasies. But the one thing Tim taught me over the years, by his example, is to focus on the good and the strengths, and loving well. Thank you, Tim, and Happy Father’s Day! You’re the best!
And because of my own broken childhood, and not having a daddy to run to with safety and confidence, I can’t go through this day without thinking of those whose daddies are missing, for whatever reason. Tim can be many things in my life, but he can’t be my daddy. Watching him parent can warm my heart, but I’ve learned that I have to let my Heavenly Papa fill that one place that only a Papa can fill. This comfort is my prayer for all lonely children
For the fathers with empty arms, having lost children to death, miscarriage or due to infertility, and those whose children have turned their hearts away without just cause, I pray for you, that God will be near and that people will be compassionate and sensitive to your loss and loneliness.
My prayer is that if you are lonely and hurting this father’s day, whether you are a father, a son or a daughter, you will find Him faithful and feel His love in your loneliness. And if your heart is full and everything is perfect, that you will feel blessed and celebrate that joy this Father’s Day.
In memory of my father who has been gone fifteen years now, I’m listening to ‘The Living Years‘ by Mike & the Mechanics. It’s pretty much a tradition now, to think of Dad on this day and listen to that song… among others. There are things I would say, if I knew what I know now and had a day with him. I would keep the same boundaries, and I would still hug him and tell him I love him, in spite of all the abuse. It’s how I’m wired, a part of who I am, to be able to do that. Not everyone has to make themselves do these things. But if I had that one day, I’d tell him how much it hurt, and I’d ask more questions about his story, not to excuse what he did, but to have a better understanding. And I’d take him out for a day to some outdoor event with old machinery. But he’s gone, and what I have is the memory of God’s grace in his life and in mine. And that’s enough in a fallen world, where things are not as they should be. It will all be different on the other side of this life.
And, finally, a very special Father’s Day blessing to Tim, who is preparing his heart to watch his first little girl walk into the arms of another man, this Friday, for the rest of her life. Alicia will give up her father’s last name, and take on Andrew’s name to become Mrs. Martin. And there’s a thing about this whole process that tugs at a Daddy’s heart. It is a good thing–we know from experience–but the adjustment is worthy of mention, even while we bless her. Praying, Tim, that God will be near you this week and always. Thank you for loving your children well, and teaching me what a father should be. xoxo
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger
It’s a funny thing how a daughter’s wedding becomes a life-focus for a time. Since their engagement, November 1, 2016, my subconscious has been busy planning, dreaming, experimenting and scheming, in an effort to make her and her fiancée’s dreams come true. Rustic and beautiful, burlap and lace, twinkling lights, old jars and doors and windows, tree stumps and slabs, and barn board. And food. Of course! A menu planned by our almost-son-in-law and approved by his bride-to-be…and blessed by the mothers. Those are the main ingredients for their day, from a planning perspective.
The past six years of my life have predominantly revolved around heavy, painful and intense ministry, inviting Jesus into the messy of people’s lives, and writing about it. And it has been a very good thing. It also has been heavy enough to squash some of my creative side. A thing this wedding has re-awakened. The more I plan and dream, the more the creative juices flow, and I find myself enjoying the therapy of projects, little and big. as I run them by our daughter for approval and bring to life the ideas in my head, matching them to their dreams.
From mini jars of jam for favours, to sewing cushions without patterns–because I can’t follow patterns anyway, if only because I don’t want to when I can make it up as I go along–to hammering wood together, cutting burlap, and various other little details, I’m enjoying the process. I forgot how therapeutic manual labour and brainstorming can be, and how freeing. I continue to meet with clients and offer support, though I’ve scaled back considerably on the number of sessions I do in a week, but all my spare time is invested in various projects.
So many creativities that once were part of my life, long dormant, and now one life-changing event has awakened them and I’ve not had more fun in years! Weekend after weekend, Tim and I have spent time at Mom and Dad Metzger’s place, and weekend after weekend, Dad, Tim and I have measured, sawed, and swung hammers, bringing to life these dreams and ideas that will give birth to the wedding of Alicia’s and Andrew’s dreams.
It’s been fun, spending that time with his parents, and teaming up for projects. At 79, Dad Metzger is still impressively active, and a brilliant man, pitching in with the building projects and throwing in suggestions. I realize again how blessed we are by their support and engagement in our lives.
And Tim, as always, remains my hero. And a saint, the way he walks with me, and partners together to unscramble all the crazy ideas in my head, improving upon them as we go along. He’s organized and wise, and patiently listens to my scrambled thoughts–which are all neatly organized in a perfect picture inside my head until I try to tell him what I see–and helps me create that picture. And of course we sneak in moments of hugs and kisses, all covered in sawdust and straw… because barn board has to be collected from a barn… and taking time to remember how crazy we are about each other is vital in the busyness.
And in the middle of all this, with busy things happening, God has offered unexpected little surprises and blessings. We needed a dance floor, because the wedding is outdoors and unlike King David, we have no street for dancing, only grass, so I started to dream up this idea of building one instead of renting one. Mostly because the children didn’t rent one and I was worried about just using the grass, or the risks involved with laying down plywood. So I searched Kijiji and in a matter of a few days the items we needed appeared, saving a bundle on the dance floor. But the best part of all was the night we took our daughter to Hamilton and stopped to look some flooring. There wasn’t as much as advertised, and therefore not enough for our project. We contemplated matching it because the price was decent, but I felt unsettled and in the end Tim said we should listen to my gut feeling. We started for home and I spent the drive on Kijiji, and that’s when it happened….
An ad popped up at just that moment, offering 300 square feet of flooring for free, set at the end of a lane. We detoured from our beaten path and there it was; gorgeous laminate. Lots of it and in excellent shape, like new.
Other little blessings have been sprinkled throughout each day, and every part of this planning phase, right along with the challenges. I’ve concluded that permits and bylaws are an unnecessary evil that must necessarily be lived by once you find out they exist. Still, you wish you had no idea when it all comes down. Putting up a tent for one day of celebration causes great stress when the rules come into play, when a township is religious about the laws, unlike other townships all around. But we got through it, and Rae Ann was nothing short of kind, in spite of the temporary migraine the stress of it all induced. And I step back and thank God that this really has been the biggest stress and drama we’ve encountered, because I’ve heard nightmare stories about wedding planning. I don’t think I could do all that, and stay sane while trying to pull it together.
I thank God for being part of everything in my life. He is gentle and tender, always present, in everything I am and do. It is humbling, really, to think about that. God, the Creator of the Universe, the One who made the heavens and the earth, chooses to dwell with us… with me. He enters into my journey, every step of the way. I talk to Him about the flowers I planted for the wedding, even though for some unknown reason they are scraggly and struggling to get rooted. A few have died. And every day I send a little plea to the heavens, asking God for a miracle, to make them do well, like past flowers have. And every day they look scraggly, and I realize that I’m still chattering to Him about how much it would mean to me if they did well for that one day. And if they don’t do what they should, we’ll say they have that ‘rustic’ look, which is the theme anyway, and all will be well. And God will still be good.
All in all, we are 7 days in from one of the biggest events of our lives (are we really old enough for this?!) and as the climax builds, I have moments where I catch my breath with all that needs to be done. There are moments of mild anxiety. But each moment I tell myself that it’s not about the details, it’s about two young people who love each other and are starting out like Tim and I did 22 and a half years ago. And I pray that they will be as blessed as we are, and even beyond, in their love for each other and in all things. I pray that she will always adore him, and he will always protect and cherish her, even when they are frustrated, hurt or confused, and when hard life hits. I pray that they will know God together and individually, and sense always His affection for them. Because He has carried Tim and me through loss, trauma and hard times we never imagined that January day at the altar. And He has, undoubtedly, smiled and laughed as we bumbled along doing life as we do it. Above all, He has walked with us and blessed us. For this we are thankful, and that is my prayer for our two young lovers.
And now off to one more week of burlap, lace, barnboard, food-making, and pulling together those final details.
….What in the world will I do when this is over?
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger
Holidays and special days are a funny thing. We run around saying the ‘right’ words for the occasion without much thought for the other person, unless we know them well. Cheerfully we greet women with a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’, if they have children, at church, at the grocery store, or just about anywhere we see them.
I think about this every Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. But, with today being Mother’s Day, I will focus on Mothers. Some of us are blessed with good relationships with our mothers or children, some of us struggle through broken or dysfunctional ones, some have been completely abandoned and rejected, and some are a blend. How does a chipper ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ greeting even begin to honour every mother?
In this stage of life I feel blessed to have a communicating relationship with my mother. For years it was virtually non-existent. And the scars and aftermath of the first fifteen years of my life–the years before I left home–remain, but have healed over and now remind me of God’s grace. What was lost then has not been fully restored, but God has redeemed it in my life. And I am blessed with five children who will be home for brunch today, and a mother-in-law whom I’ve grown to love deeply over the years, who will also be here later. These years are blessed and Happy Mother’s Day fits. It is, just that. Not perfect, but happy. And ‘blessed’, by the way, means happy or filled with joy.
It isn’t that because I have been a perfect mom. Not one of us is. Though it can seem like some are, and it’s easy to look around and start comparing with a friend who is ‘the perfect mom’, or judge ourselves or our mothers harshly for failures. But not of us are perfect, and we never will be. We vow to be better than the generation before us, and in our zeal we ‘perfect’ one area, while missing another, and we still fall short of becoming that perfect mother we want to become. Still, we are blessed if we have children, and have a relationship at all.
Today is Mother’s Day. And there are women–many who are my friends or family–who woke up this morning with deep dread and pain, because today is not their day. They have prayed and wept, like Hannah of the Bible, for an infant to be conceived in their womb, but the prayers seem to have a rubber coating, as they bounce off ceilings and echo from wall to wall. Disregarded. Ignored. Forgotten. That is how it feels to the ‘mother at heart’ who sits in the rocking chair of her early dreams, with empty arms. No child to hold. No grandchildren to dream of. This pain is real and it runs deep.
So this Mother’s Day I challenge myself and others to be mindful of those in places of grief. Don’t stop celebrating what is right and good and beautiful; wish mom’s a Happy Mother’s Day or some other blessing. But take a moment to say a word of encouragement to the mom whose child has passed away, or whose children won’t acknowledge her today, or the one whose children are but a dream in her heart. Bless the one who fosters or ‘adopts’–legally or emotionally–the abandoned children and gives them a place in her heart.
Today is a beautiful day. It is a sunny, warm Mother’s Day here in Ontario, and it couldn’t be more gorgeous! I pray that the One who made this day, and who gave us the honour of birthing children and raising them, will meet you, every one in your personal inner struggle or celebration, and lift you up, encourage and bless you. For those trying to conceive, I pray that God will grant you the desires of your heart, and fill your arms with a child. It is a good and beautiful thing, and a God-given desire. To those who are lonely and abandoned–whether mothers, or children longing for their mothers–I pray that God will fill your hearts with His love and grace. To those who have lost their mothers, and to those mothers who have laid their children to rest, I pray God will comfort you in your tears and sorrow.
Today is a beautiful day. It is sunny and warm, and couldn’t be more gorgeous. But even beautiful days welcome tears, grief and sorrow, in the midst of laughter all around you, when that is where your heart is. Whether it is a day of laughter or tears, or a blend of the two, I wish you God’s blessing! You are valued, you are loved!
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger
Because of our Heavenly Papa’s merciful heart, we are
not utterly destroyed, His compassion is never ending.
His mercies are as fresh as the morning dawn.
“God, your faithfulness is astounding!”
Lamentations 3:22-23 (paraphrased)
August is a month of change at our house. Big changes. Our oldest daughter, Alicia, is moving out and renting an apartment in K-W, shared with her ‘bestie’ Sue Horst. Heading into year two of Community & Criminal Justice, she decided she wants to be closer to her school. And I can’t say I blame her; time on the road is lost time when life is already full of demands.
Our second daughter, Nicole, is moving to Hamilton to start year one of Social Sciences, and living on res, sharing space with someone she has yet to meet. She plans to spend several weekends each month back home, working for Floradale Feed Mill, where she started as a co-op student several years ago.
I’m happy for them. I’m also a bit uneasy at moments, when I think about what this all means. Adjustment. Change. Change. More change. Will they live home again one day? Is this it? Our family forever changed, as we knew it for the past 13 years, since Kordan joined us, making us a family of seven? Will it be the four gentlemen and I, until they too start to venture on their own, eventually leaving us as empty nesters?
It is odd, to contemplate such a thing, but I remember how quickly it all happened at the other end of things… Nine months, one week, one day and roughly 3 hours after we said “I do”, Alicia joined us, and then seven years later we had 5 beautiful children, with two in heaven through miscarriage. So it would be naive of me to think it happens any slower at this end. In some ways, it seems already, it happens faster.
Yes, I’m happy for them. I was on my own a month before my sixteenth birthday, a troubled teen with no life experience to speak of, and somehow made it. That ‘somehow’ is the wonderful grace of God and His mercy. I’ve thought much about that this last little while as I look at the dramatic changes around the corner….
It is the goodness and mercy of my Heavenly Papa that saw me through some seriously rough times, and it what I rest in for our children. I am proud of the responsible young women they have become! And I know He has a good plan for them, and a purpose beyond what I can dream or imagine!
So I release my children to spread their wings and find their way, knowing that every now and then–no matter what life brings or where the road leads them–they will call me and tell me they are coming home… and they’ll ask me to make a specific meal… or can they do laundry here… or some practical thing that will remind me we are family, and always will be.
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger
It’s a funny thing… some of the most amazing things in life, I find almost impossible to put into words. At least soon after they happen. Given enough time and space, I am usually able to ‘tell the story’ of it, but at the time, it all gets locked away someplace sacred until such a time as my heart finds words to tell it. And that’s my dilemma about some recent events. How do you put into words experiences that are completely exhilarating and as fully unbelievable? But I will try…
I wrote in my previous blog about the notes that have started to trickle in from former neighbours in Mexico, many of whom are referred to in my book, or their families if not their names, specifically; and the notes keep coming in. As a result of those connections a book signing was scheduled at The Central (most amazing restaurant in Aylmer, IMO) on Saturday May 2nd from 11:00am to 2:00pm. But the action and excitement started the previous day…
I drove to Aylmer late afternoon for an interview with Craig Bradford, with the Aylmer Express, who was very kind in his questioning. Not having had the opportunity to read the book in advance, he needed a brief overview of my story, to know where to take the article. With Corinth, a small hamlet about ten minutes from Aylmer, being a significant part of the first half of the book, he was very interested in those years, while establishing family dynamics and context. We parted ways within an hour, with the promise that he would return in the morning to speak with a few people from my past.
My cousin Helen Knelsen and I had agreed we would meet after the interview, and go see her parents, my Uncle Jake and Aunt Anna Peters. They are the sweetest couple, those two, and always had a special place in my heart in childhood and early teens; something many years of separation did not rob from me. I’ve connected with Aunt Anna numerous times in the past few years at my mom’s, and promised one day I would show up at her house. This was the day.
We pulled in the drive and it hit me, “Do they know we’re coming?” I asked. Helen burst out laughing and said she figured I had contacted them. A surprise visit it would be, then, we decided.
Seeing Uncle Jake working in the yard, I jumped out of the car and waved and called out enthusiastically, “Hi Uncle Jake!”
Uncle Jake squinted, “Wha… What?” He paused. “What?… Uncle?” he asked, clearly not recognizing me, and wondering why this stranger called him uncle. Walking toward each other I said, “I’m Peter Harder’s Trudy”.
“What?! No…!!” he said, chuckling, and threw our arms around each other in a warm hug. We wandered to the house and Aunt Anna arrived at the door just at that moment, shocked to see me, and we indulged in a few more hugs. Sitting at their island and chatting, Uncle Jake would walk by every now and then and squeeze my shoulders, still trying to absorb it and struggling to believe it was me. It was delightful!
“I’ve grown up and out,” I said, at one point, laughing. Last time he saw me I was a scrawny teenager, slightly underweight. Well, not anymore, I told him. I’m a mom of five healthy children, which played a role, but being on heart medications did more than seven pregnancies to contribute to weight gain. He kept laughing and telling me I don’t look like Trudy, and I kept giggling, delighted by his antics and lingering shock.
Aunt Anna asked if we had supper. Helen had, but I had not. Not that I was very hungry. Of course, with aunts and moms and grandmas, it will never do to not eat, so she set to work making more tacos. And I’m talking the real deal, not that packaged powder stuff. She seasoned the meat to perfection and served them with the real Mexican tortillas. They were incredible!
We women retreated to the living room, afterwards, relaxing on the couch and chatting. Soon Uncle Jake joined us, but went to a card table in the far corner of the room to work on a jigsaw puzzle, where he could still join in conversation, but keep himself busy. We sat there a long while, listening to stories, telling stories and reminiscing. Their solid faith is such an encouragement, affirmed by their testimony that salvation is only through Jesus, not church or denomination, though they are ‘at home’ in the Old Colony church.
“Your Grandpa Wall was like that,” Uncle Jake said, “and visited many different churches when he traveled away from home.” Aunt Anna jumped in, then, and said Grandpa visited everything from Baptist, to United to Catholic, and always he worshiped God without criticizing the church.”
What a legacy, I thought to myself! No wonder my heart always felt safe with Grandpa Wall, who seemed truly to be a godly man with a kind and tender demeanor, and who always treated Grandma with gentleness, to my memory, even using endearing terms.
Such a stark contrast to Grandma’s father, Great Grandpa Dyck, who was a desperately wicked man, beating up his wife until she developed a permanent growth, and eventually ordering his second son, Peter, to push her to her death, from the metal staircase that led from their upstairs to the ground level. She died a week later and Henry, the oldest son, sat by her bed to support her in her suffering. Aunt Anna pulled out photos of Great Grandpa, and another with Great Grandma standing between her parents, and her then very young Henry. Great Grandma is positioned to show only a side profile, in order to hide a deformity that resulted from her husband constantly punching and beating her. It is utterly heart-wrenching to think this would continue, relatively unchecked.
We ended the evening with a few snapshots and even talked Uncle Jake, who despises all things technological, to take a few shots. (And he did a a great job!)
More hugs all around, and with that we drove off to Helen’s home in St. Thomas, where I spent the night to save on driving the following morning. I crawled in bed a bit before midnight, fulfilled and happy and almost too excited to sleep.
I tried to set the alarm, fearing I’d fall asleep too soundly, with my heart meds. It blared loudly in Spanish, startling me. I quickly shut it off, fearing I’d wake Rick, Helen’s husband, who had to work early in the morning. I set the volume to ‘off’ and tried again. It blared just as loudly. I made a few more adjustments and tried a third time. Again it blared, and I decided to take my chances. What were the odds that I could actually sleep in on a day like that?
I was about to meet an unknown number of people, many of whom had been friends and neighbours in Mexico and whom I had not seen in forty years…
Saturday morning I awoke, bright and early. No alarm. No noise. Just adrenaline, I presume, because my medications generally drop my heart rate and blood pressure so low that it takes more than a little racket, poking or prodding to wake me up.
Helen and I enjoyed a coffee and a heart-to-heart chat, as we tend to do, when we’re together. Some days I can hardly believe that she was one of the ‘older cousins’–though only 4 years older than me–with whom I lost touch in my late preteens, at a time when 4 years is a huge age gap. Now she is one of my best friends, since reconnecting in 2010.
A few minutes after 9:00am I gave Helen a bye hug, and headed for Aylmer, where I was scheduled to meet someone for an hour, prior to the signing. The meeting went well, and before I knew it, we were setting up for the book signing. The Central isn’t just a restaurant. True, their food is delicious. I’ve tried many items in the past months of meeting clients there, in a quiet corner, to talk, or sitting with friends, and I’ve never been disappointed. But the restaurant is about a bigger vision for families and relationships. (And if you keep cell phones away during dinner, you get a discount!) To learn more about the restaurant, visit: The Central, and to learn about their Charity mission, click HERE.
My good friend, and faithful sidekick, Helen Reddekopp arrived bright and early, buzzing about, setting up and organizing the best ‘flow of action’. What would I do without her? And then the action started. People came and went. Names, faces, memories and new introductions blurred together. Some faces offered an instant familiarity, sending my mind back to an undefined time and place, trying to make connections, others a vague niggling of having once known them, and yet others drew a complete blank. And then one couple walked in….
Mrs. Wolfe. The sweet neighbour who always welcomed me into her home, between the ages of 6 and 9, and who offered us a safe place that fateful day when my dad threatened to kill us. Millie walked in, all dressed up, with her husband Charles by her side. Her eyes sparkled and danced. After chatting a while, I gave them a book, signed with much love and a thank you for that day. She accepted it, reminiscing of a time gone by, when life was much harder. “I never thought I’d be in a book,” she said, and explained that she simply did what she could, knowing life was hard, but never realized how much impact it had. “And do you remember I told you that Cheerios were donut seeds?” she asked. “You even planted some, didn’t you?”
The reporter, Craig Bradshaw, came by and asked a lot of questions, trying to get the story from Mrs. Wolfe’s perspective, and how it felt back then, with the threat of death before us. Then he asked Mrs. Wolfe how she feels about me writing about it in a book, and her specifically. Eyes beaming with pride, she looked at me when she answered, “I’m so proud of her. Very proud of her!”
There were many pleasant moments at the book signing, but there is nothing like sitting with a woman who saved my life as a child, and gave my heart a safe place in a chaotic world. I will always have a special place for her, in my memory. A place filled with love and inspiration.
Time moved quickly, and by mid-afternoon, we had packed up and headed to Peter and Mary Froese’s home. They had graciously offered to host an after party, with neighbours and friends. What a delight that was! I met many of the Froese siblings as well as a few of the Hildebrandt family. A gifted lot of story tellers, they shared story after story, of Mexico, and we laughed at the shenanigans of my siblings and their friends, in days gone by.
After the guests left, Mary and Peter pulled out photo albums and shared more current pictures of the neighbourhood where we lived. It helped me place many memories, and stirred up new ones.
It was late when I returned home, at about 12:30am, and my heart was full to the brim, and spilling over, with thankfulness for what God has done, and how He has redeemed and restored my life. Out of the darkness that once was, He has brought blessings beyond what my mind can grasp, and more than words can tell.
As doors continue to open, and requests to travel and speak trickle in, I pray that God will continue to redeem and restore, not only in my life, but even more in lives around me. I pray that the ripples of His grace will spread far beyond anything I will ever know about, and reclaim sons and daughters whose lives have been devastated, so that people will know Jesus is the Healer. He is my reason for reaching out. He not only gave my life back, but He gave me a new and better life filled with hope, knowing He loves me. He offers the same to all.
Jesus loves you.
~ T ~