To Love, Honour, and … Whoa!! … ‘say what??’ (A glimpse into our marriage, on our anniversary)

t&t127Twenty-one years ago, today,  I walked down the aisle of Countryside Mennonite Fellowship, alone, toward my ‘soon to be husband’. In our culture the father didn’t walk the bride down the aisle, back then.

I was on the verge of the most amazing years of my life, and making promises, most sincerely, with no concept of their experiential meaning.  How could I? It was all new, uncharted territory. But I understood the words, and I meant every one. And I still do.

My expectation of marriage was simple: love and be loved. I had longed my whole life to feel safe, loved and valued, and that’s what ‘love and be loved’ meant to me. In this way, I entered marriage most practically, and that worked out well because my husband is a practical man. For Christmas, weeks before our wedding, he gave me an apron. He gave me some other gifts too, but it’s the apron I remember most. And I still laugh about it, just like I did then. It’s in my kitchen, having lasted all these years because I’m just not an ‘apron kind of girl’. My kids wear it, now end then, and always it makes me smile. Only recently I told them the story for the first time and one of my teens laughed at the idea of their daddy giving me an apron. “And it was free!” I added, drawing another burst of laughter. Tim had won that apron at a curling bonspiel. What else was he to do with it? The dusty rose colour, with quilted pattern, really wasn’t his colour.

We’ve never been the kind of couple to indulge in the constant spilling of endearing terms. We tried it. And we still do, on occasion, but it’s not really us. The most likely to come from me is ‘My Love’, and it warms my heart if it does nothing for his, just to say it, because he is my one true love. I’m crazy about this man I married. And sometimes I’m just crazy in a whole different way, and he still loves me. He calls me ‘Precious’ and ‘Beautiful’. But not often, and that’s okay. When he does my heart dances in a little flip-flop, all out of rhythm and off-beat, because I know he’s practical and there’s nothing practical about that language.

My favourite thing is when he squeezes my toes when he walks by our bed…  or when he sees me coming, and positions himself with arms open, just because he knows how much I love hugs. Simply being held can make my very upside down world flip upright pretty fast, when he has his arms around me. And he knows it. When I’m sad, and he holds me like that and kisses my forehead, I know I’ll get through it. In these little ways he calms storms in my heart and my spirit, and offers security. Or when he randomly starts praying for me, and I don’t even realize at first that it is a prayer, and I’m about to ask, “What was that?” and then it registers, he’s praying… talking to God about me.  When things are really hard and he’s praying, and says to God “Your daughter is tired”,  or some such thing, I remember Whose I am, first and foremost. And I wonder if it makes God smile, just a little, to have Tim hold me up that way, as if reminding Him I belong to Him. Or maybe it’s Tim’s way of saying, “God, this one is over my head… You take it from here.” Either way, my heart feels safest in those moments.

Every day isn’t like that. Some days we are busy and forget these things. Some days we’re struggling through our own things, or in our relationship, and we overlook each other or take our love for granted. Sometimes we’re even cross with each other. Those days we have to work a lot harder at seeing all the wonderful and beautiful things God has blessed us with.

And then there’s the days when we flirt with each other all day long, in little ways… or maybe sneak in just one moment… Like last night. Tim looked at the wishbone on the window sill and commented on no one having made a wish. I liked the wishbone when I was a kid. We siblings tried to sneak it away to dry, because it breaks so much better, and I always loved that mom kept it. So I keep it too, most of the time.

“Let’s do it!” I said, picking up the wishbone and offering Tim one side. I made sure our grip was fair, and then we pulled. He won. That was my wish, that he would win. But I didn’t tell him that. I always make dumb wishes because I don’t believe in it anyway, and it’s more fun in my head. He smiled, a secret “I had a cool wish’ kind of smile.

“So, what was your wish?” I asked.

“I can’t tell! Then it won’t come true!” he said.

“That’s for birthday cake wishes,” I said. “It works differently with wishbones.” He looked skeptical and I tried to look as convincing as I could, to no avail. I kept asking, making flirtatious eyes at him…. I tried the sassy wiggle… But he just grinned and defended his position. And then I saw the twinkle in his eyes and I knew…

“Ha!” I said, “I know what you wished for!” I had been away for the weekend, and felt unwell upon return, and then was busy for a few days…. and each night we hit our pillows…  “I know exactly what you wished for!”

“I’ll never tell,” he said, and kept grinning.

“You don’t have to! …but… I bet I can make your wish come true!” I said.  It ended there, until much later,  and we moved on to other things, to the normal busyness of life, as is necessary with a family. And I wouldn’t have it any other way, because we love these five people God has brought into our home. But sneaking in these moments of playfulness and secret flirting is a healthy part of marriage, and keeping our love alive and young.

Back to all those promises, made many years ago… I’ve had no difficulty loving Tim, most of the time. I’ve been more of a challenge, with all my broken pieces to heal, though Tim never let on how hard it was, loving me. He just kept on loving. And when it got difficult for either of us, even when it would have been easier to quit, we battled through the hard times together. We have no regrets for pushing through and learning to tread water when we felt like we were drowning! Those hard times only made our love stronger.

The honour thing has also been easy for me, but not because I am some saint. It’s been easy because Tim has made it easy. In twenty-one years of marriage he has made mistakes, just as I have, but he has been a leader like I’ve never known in my life. His gentle, patient love and acceptance have showed me the heart of God, my Father… my Papa… in a way not one other human has. And there are others who have done well. But not as well as he has…. as a husband, and as a daddy to our children. So I honour him easily.

In practical reality, I have a policy to never confront or correct him in public, or speak in a way that belittles him, or is critical. It’s a decision I made a few weeks after our wedding when I heard a woman challenge her husband when he exaggerated in his story telling, and I saw the look in that man’s eyes. I vowed then I would respectfully ask Tim about it in private, if I felt he misrepresented facts or needed correcting. Even in this way, the ‘honouring’ has been about as easy as the loving, because Tim is not a man to inflate a story, for the sake of his ego. His weaknesses are in other areas, but they are my little secrets.

The third part of the vows, the ‘obeying’ part has always bewildered me a bit, in all honesty.  I get it about honour, respect and love, but slip in that word ‘obey’, and it all gets a bit murky for me.  And it’s not because Tim is a ‘lord it over people’ kind of man. He’s not. He’s a servant at heart, and what’s in his heart comes out in day-to-day living. Even the word ‘reverence’… yeah, that one I can understand, especially with a husband who is so kind. A long time ago–when I learned that in one culture, in Egypt I believe it was, a woman greets her husband at the door, kneeling before him while he places his hands on her head in blessing–I asked Tim if I could do that. To meet him at the door every day, and kneel before him, and have his hands on my head so he could bless me sounded like a wonderful thing! He grinned and, in an almost exasperated tone, said I wasn’t  allowed to do any such thing. I still think about it sometimes, but I’m kind of glad now, because my knees aren’t very good and he blesses me just fine standing up. Anyway, I get the reverence thing.

Letting Tim lead makes sense. Sharing the responsibility of parenting and each of us having a unique role… For sure! I’m not too threatened by our gender differences.   Not agreeing all the time, and ‘submitting to one another’ is about partnership, and it’s biblical, so we try to live that way.  And, believe it or not, giving him a lead role and ‘submitting’ to that leadership… even that doesn’t frighten me. He is easy to submit to, because he lives a life of surrender and Christ-like servant-hood, and always takes my heart into account when he makes decisions. He listens closely to my desires, my dreams and my fears, and he looks to me for input, so when he makes a decision it is balanced with all of those things. It hasn’t always been, but most of the time it has, and is. So his ‘authority’ and my ‘submission’ means nothing to me in the way of being degraded or demoralized, as some view ‘submission’ and authority. Rather, it means there is someone watching over me, offering me protection, care and support. And I like that! It means that when he blesses what I do, I do it with personal passion and his blessing. Bonus! And when he says ‘no’ or ‘wait’, I trust he is doing it for my best interest.

So, regardless of the wording we choose, and whatever is or is not lost in translation when we say ‘obey’, I am blessed to have a husband whom I love and honour, and under whose authority and leadership I willingly place myself. I am blessed that he never takes advantage of me, or abuses my trust or his leadership. Rather, it is to him that I owe my thanks, for using his place in my life to empower me, launch me, and bless me. I have accomplished more because he is in my life, than I would ever have done on my own!

If I had to make the decision again, to walk down that aisle alone, as I did 21 years ago, I would! And if I was to say vows again,  understanding their experiential significance, I would still promise to love and honour Tim, and accept him as my leader, to be protected and empowered by his authority.

tim & trudy 1994

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Thank you My Love. Happy Anniversary! 

Love,

~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger

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So I Skipped Church… Part 2

I had not more than taken that glimpse into young love, when a family happened by. Two energetic teenagers soon climbed up the railway track–or whatever you call the structure holding it up–as mom stood by reminding them to be safe.

I smiled. Boys will be boys. And sometimes girls will be ‘boys’ too… ‘tomboys’… I would have been the first in line to try the shenanigans one day. Too old now, but not too old to remember catapulting from on top of the stable in the barn, as a pre-teen and young teen.

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Mom said something about wishing she had brought a camera just as I offered to take some pictures and we stood there, with our cell phones, exchanging emails to make sure we could connect and get the pictures to them. I took a few of them as a couple, and heard a little tidbit of their story. They told me the pictures would make it all the way to Australia, where he was from, as he would definitely want to share them with his family.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI continued on then, to my car, where I sat a while just watching the creatures and the people. An elderly couple, whom I had met on my walk, sat under a tree, resting. (People with their backs turned don’t really count, when it comes to rules about taking pictures…) Though older, he reminded me much of Steve Masterson, and I found myself missing Steve and Jackie who, like Howard and Alice, had a powerful impact on my life, and on Tim’s. They were most delightful conversationalists, and I thought how bitter-sweet it is, to meet people only once and never to really know them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI snapped a shot of the view we shared, then packed up my camera and headed back to Elmira…

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Tim–who went to church with our boys–texted and asked if I would pick up a coffee at Tim Hortons. A double-double. As I pulled in, an Old Order gentleman walked out, carrying his tray of coffees. Across the parking lot, two friends waited–one on a buggy, one on a bike. I make exceptions about taking pictures of people where there are horses and/or buggies involved. Or bikes. (Okay… I just made that up, but hey, it works.)

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After picking up Tim’s coffee, I did the final jaunt home. Nicole had baked the ‘Potato Flake Sourdough Bread’ that I had put in pans the night before. (An outstanding ‘friendship bread’ type recipe that I was given starter for this week, and we all love. I wish I didn’t… I’d rather stay away from bread.)

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My heart was full. I met God in ways and places that are as beautiful as worshipping Him in a traditional church service. I value and believe in the importance of believers gathering together to worship God, as a God-family, but maybe salvation and ‘measuring up’ are not so closely linked to the ‘where and the how’ as we might imagine.

I’m not like the pastor who proudly announced that he never missed church a day in his adult life–not even when his wife had given birth the day before. I’ve missed church when nobody in my life gave birth and nobody was sick… I just played hookie. And not only once. I’ve done it  a few times for no reason at all. Quite a few. And I’ve done it because church was too difficult when hard times caused me to struggle and I didn’t feel safe with people….

And that thought takes me back to the beginning of my little escapade…

Just off of our street, shortly after Barnswallow Street turns to Whipperwill, is the most gorgeous apple tree. I had stopped there on my way out, to capture the apple blossoms. As I contemplated how life, with all of its bumps and scrapes, seems at times to contradict the promises of God, I thought of one of those photos, and that is the extent of my ‘morning sermon’ that I would like to leave with you, in the form of this picture.

God's PromisesGod does not lie. His promises are forever. And, as some of my dreams are coming true, I remember the many times I doubted and struggled. Times I was sure God used me as a pawn in a giant chess game. But always He has carried me through–sometimes kicking and screaming–but always with purpose and destiny.

Wherever you find yourself in your journey with God, and no matter how difficult it is to keep believing in Him and His purposes, hold on to the truth of His promises.

© Trudy Metzger

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So I Skipped Church… Part 1

I reckon this post is going to make a few people want to scold me… (Feel free… my email is trudy-dot-metzger-at-rogers-dot-com… or post it in the comments.) ….Going for a walk on a beautiful Sunday morning, when I should/could be sitting in church. Especially with being in ministry and all.

But, to be perfectly honest, I had no inclination to go sit anywhere for any length of time, listening to anyone, no matter how gifted, how eloquent, how sincere…or, perhaps–though far less likely–completely broken.

It is broken and quiet I long for these days–if not broken, then quiet. Sit me down with a struggling Christian, the homeless, a prostitute, even a murderer, and suddenly my heart is at home. (Yes, I have sat with murderers. Very nice ones, too, who in a moment of desperation killed someone because they snapped. One of them has slipped into glory and, I have no doubt, is dancing with Jesus… or waiting for that dance in some ‘intermediate state of sleep’, depending on who is right on that ever-debated theological  view. (Not that either one is of great consequence… if she’s sleeping, she needed a rest, if she’s dancing and singing, she is in everlasting wakeful bliss. Either way God isn’t much going to ask our opinions on the matter.)

But that is just the kind of thing I was in no space to listen to, or even some neat and tidy sermon or good Christian testimony, when I could go walking with God, enjoy creation and perhaps meet some of His children, out on that same trail.

It isn’t that I don’t love a good sermon. I really do. In fact, having attended the Gospel Express fundraiser on Saturday evening, I already had a wonderful message to contemplate.  Two, really.

Chaplin Rosemary Redshaw spoke first, sharing stories of how God works in prison. One young man, in segregation on charges of murder, wanted to meet with her. When she went in, she took a Bible and prayed for him, at his request, after hearing his story. The young man could barely read, but she left the Bible any way. She didn’t see him often, after she was replaced in that department.  Eighteen months later she was asked to go see him again, and to her amazement, he had taught himself to read and had accepted Christ. The fearful young man who had greeted her that first encounter, was no more. He had grown strong and confident. What was most amazing, to me, is that he was innocent of the crime, and acquitted. Now that’s a testimony! An innocent man, goes to prison to be set free from bondage.

She told other stories of how God moved among inmates, and encouraged the audience to continue to support Prison Ministries.

Melvin Kuepfer was asked to share next and, as he did, the Holy Spirit moved powerfully again. I don’t know the man. Not more than who he is. But I know some of his children, though not well, and have met his wife and find myself always drawn to her.  He shared an overview of a seminar they teach in prison, offering four 2-hour sessions.

I found myself wishing he could launch into all four, right then, and give us the eight hours of teaching. I would have sat there a long while hearing the kind of truth he shared. The kind that is direct, gentle, Holy Spirit-filled and life-changing.

But it was a bit like that friend who lets you ‘taste’–meaning one little lick–their lollipop or some treat, when you’re a kid and that’s all you get…

As they walk away, leaving you with the desire for a lollipop of your own, all you’re left with is that bit of sweetness, and the awareness that there are more, somewhere, just beyond your reach.

And that is just what happened… I dreamed of ways to get him to teach these sessions… Maybe in our home… Rent a room in a church… I thought of the many people I know and work with, who would drink deep from that well of truth.

My heart was challenged and filled as I left home at 10:30 for my walk on Sunday morning. And, at the Mill Race, the world was peaceful. Few creatures scurried about at that hour. Maybe they had gathered for their own service, and only a few rebels, like me, played hookie.

I met Howard and Alice, the couple who took me in when I was a hurting twenty year old. We spoke for a few moments, and parted ways. I walked to my favourite place, the bench where I spend time with a little chipmunk every time I walk the Mill Race. I had different shoes on yesterday, and he wasn’t too sure about me…. Sniffed my shoes and took off like a bullet, but returned after a bit and joined me on the bench again. Only one chickadee showed up. The rest must be more religious about services.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a bit of quiet time, just sitting in the sunshine watching a few critters and all the people walking by, I wandered back toward my car, leaving seeds on various tree stumps, as I walked along.

I stopped at the railway track to put down some seeds, when a young couple walked by. I hadn’t planned to–because I mostly don’t take pictures of people, out of respect–but as this young couple walked away, their sweet young love drew me in, and I found myself sneaking some shots. Later, when they returned, I made a confession and told them where to find the pictures. That assuaged my conscience quite a lot, and I didn’t make any silent promises never to do it again.

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The first picture was a bit blurry. How appropriate. It is just like life and love. We start out with slightly blurred vision, when it comes to relationships. Some go so far as to say Love is blind, but I disagree. It’s only blurred vision. And maybe that is just as well, or most of us would be single for the rest of our lives. None of us are perfect and if we focused too much on it before being madly in love and deeply committed, we would never make it. I hope this couple never loses that closeness, even if, now and then in life, they drift apart for a moment as in the third picture.

To Be Continued

© Trudy Metzger

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