Happy Father’s Day

Father’s Day….

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

 

 

Father’s Day: To be Affirmed & Loved

Father’s Day. Each year it rolls around, a reminder of all that was, all that should have been and wasn’t, and all that could have been.

My mind wanders in every direction. This is my twelfth Father’s Day since my dad passed away. Oddly, I think of him more now that he is gone, than I did most of his living years–the last two or three being the exception.

Just like Mother’s Day, we didn’t celebrate Father’s Day, growing up. Except for that early childhood stuff we did in school. And when I handed dad whatever gift I had made, or some little card, he’d accept it graciously.

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He’d hold the item, especially if it was a card, and study it carefully. He was a perfectionist. A man who attended to great detail. Watching him write his name took patience for me. That’s how meticulous he was. Every letter was a piece of art, in his mind. And it was with the same attention that he studied a card.

At length, having absorbed every jot and tittle, he would look up, thoughtfully, and say, “Thank you very much”, always in Plautdietsch. And you could tell he meant it.

In those moments my little heart would skip a beat, and feel happy, and my feet wanted to skip too. But I held back those urges. At least until I was out of sight.  And in those moments everything was right in my world. All the pain, trauma and dysfunction, instantly forgiven.

In contrast I have watched my husband be a daddy to our children for almost twenty years. His patience, love and compassion have taught me much about my Heavenly Father, and helped me accept and receive Him as such. Tim isn’t perfect. But then, who is. There are areas he struggles–particularly in communicating his heart and feelings. His actions say it all,  as he lives what many say but never act on. We are truly blessed by his faithful representation of God’s grace and kindness. He loves his children, and their mom, with never a hint that we should be anyone other than who we are. In his heart, we are loved and accepted.

And that is what every child longs for: affirmation and acceptance. It’s in-born. We were created to have intimate relationship with God. No pain. No disappointment. No shame. No rejection.

That same love and acceptance was supposed to be ours in our earthly family too. But sin robbed us of that relationship with God, and brought tragedy and dysfunction into human relationships.

As a result we find ourselves struggling in the relationships that matter most. The ones that link most closely to our identity.

If you find yourself, this Father’s Day, in a difficult place as a daughter or son, you are not forgotten. I’m sorry for your grief and loss–no matter the reason for it, whether death or broken relationship, or distance geographically.  I pray that redemption will come, sooner rather than later. And I pray that you will find your hope and your identity in your Heavenly Father.

And if you are a father, like mine, who has failed your sons and/or daughters, it isn’t too late to do your part in healing that relationship. My father tried and failed, many times, caught in a cycle of abuse. And it wasn’t until he came face to face with God’s love and grace–completely apart from religion–that his heart found peace. Only then did we enter into any kind of heart relationship, in the last two years of his life. But it wasn’t too late. I hold on to those memories, of talking and crying together in spite of many years of broken history.

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This Father’s Day I am thankful for the memories of dad that remind me how much God loves His children. Amongst the memories of abuse and violence, these moments lie buried like diamonds, waiting to be discovered. And more than this, I thank God for Jesus, who has redeemed even the hard times.

But most of all I am thankful that God is my Heavenly Papa. That I can run to Him with anything, and He simply loves me. Whatever gift I bring Him, He accepts graciously, taking in every jot and tittle. And, having done so, He looks at me with love… and I know…

…I am His daughter, He is my Father.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Why We Shouldn’t Cancel Father’s Day…

In the last few days I saw a ‘No Father’s Day’ sign, and various blog titles boycotting Father’s Day for a variety of reasons. One that stands out was a young mom whose husband did nothing for her, therefore she will do nothing for him.  Another was targeted to punish delinquent and abusive dads. Yet another was a dad who had a ‘lost/missing child’, with nothing to celebrate. His world was turned upside down, and without his daughter, Father’s Day has become meaningless.

These various reasons for cancelling Father’s Day, or boycotting it as several said it, played in my mind this morning before church. One seemed a bit petty, to me, say ‘he forgot about me, therefore I will punish him’, and yet I understand that it is painful and disappointing to be forgotten, especially in the early years of marriage and parenting. The others are a big deal. A very big deal.

Only subconsciously, at first, did my mind slip back to my own childhood… life at home.. terror of dad, and all the other reasons I should boycott Father’s Day. But I was too distracted by the very idea of it, to really think about what life was. It just seemed wrong, somehow, to boycott a day celebrating dads, because my experience was tragic.

When I wake up Father’s Day morning, next to the Daddy of my children, my heart is filled with joy. Tim is a calm, quiet, gentle, understanding man, who parents with patience… most of the time. Sure, he gets exasperated now and then, but rarely, and when he does, he guards his heart carefully. I’m proud of him, and blessed by him.

(As I write this, our fourteen year old son walks across the room, curls up on the couch, puts his head on Daddy–his ‘pillow’, he says–and snuggles a minute before running off. Admittedly, there is a part of me that watches, and wonders… What would it be like to have that kind of safety and trust with a father? The thought isn’t a jealous one… it is just foreign to me, and I can’t imagine such a thing.)

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In church, two gentleman a father-and-son-in-law duet, did a special song–“Lead Me” by Sanctus Real. It was not only beautifully done, it was deeply moving. Men who care about the ‘heart cry’ of their wives and children… Men of honour. I held Tim’s hand, squeezed it a bit tighter. Thankful.

They ran a video clip before the message, of children of every age, paying tribute to their fathers. The first messages were warm, sweet. Good fathers. Just like my husband, I thought, and then the pain of what I never knew pierced my heart, for just an instant, stirring up memories and emotions of loss. A tear fell, but I willed the emotions to go away.

Father’s Day is a day I celebrate my husband and the men in my life who showed me what God is like, by their respect, their love and their integrity. I don’t deny the pain, I just don’t give it my full attention, and let it rob me of the good I know, by being consumed with the negative.

As the video progressed, the clips included children whose fathers were absent, whose fathers had hurt their families. Again the emotions surfaced, and more tears spilled. Conflicting emotions are the worst.

“Why the tears?” Tim whispered in my ear.

I smiled, shrugged. How do you explain to the man you love that you’re crying because he’s such an amazing man, and your heart ‘hurts like hell’ because you can’t imagine having had a dad like that? He didn’t need an explanation. The question was a sign of caring, more than looking for me to explain.

The service was good. Pastor Dan spoke about six gifts a father should give his children. Ironic, I thought to myself, it’s Father’s Day, and dad is being encouraged to be the gift giver.

The six gifts were:

1. Love their mother

2. Spiritual Direction

3. Encouragement

4. Time

5. Consistent Discipline

6. Prayer

Rating my husband on these, he gets a seriously high-end average. Rating how this played out in my childhood, I recognize the neglect, and all that I lost, and how much those losses have impacted my life over the years. And still do, from time to time.

It occurred to me, that if I boycotted Father’s Day, and focused on the negative and the ‘darkness’, then, inadvertently, I would set this day aside to celebrate that darkness. By celebrating what is good and right, despite the fact that so little was good and right in my childhood, in my relationship with my father, I put the focus on what is right, and promote what is good.

So today I focus on the moment when my father, in his old age, said, “Will you forgive me…?” I won’t deny the pain, but I won’t let it take more from me than it already took in childhood.

Having said that, we should continue to advocate for truth and justice. We should continue to stand against violence, abuse and neglect. We should not turn a blind eye to evil, nor deny the pain, but never should focusing on evil rob us of celebrating that which is good and right.

If for no other reason in the world, then for the sake of honouring what is good, and right, for the sake of promoting what fatherhood was intended to be, we should not cancel Father’s Day, or boycott it. We should honour all the fathers who sacrifice and fight for their families, their churches, their communities, their countries. And on Father’s Day we should thank them.

Thank you, and Happy Father’s Day, to the men in my life who represented fatherhood well, even though you were not my ‘real dad’. Some of you came and went quickly, passing through my life for only a day, an hour or a brief moment, but you blessed me in that time. Some of you were there for months, or years. Some of you have stayed to this day.

You are the men who impacted my life in a positive way, and I am indebted to you. Today I honour you.

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©TrudyMetzger

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