Hope, birthed in an Easter Candy Hunt

Easter.

What does it mean?

I awakened this morning to the wonder of this day, Easter. A day when we Christians celebrate the resurrection of our Saviour.

For me, a day filled with warm childhood memories during the early years in Mexico, before religious traditions put an end to Easter egg hunts. Was it an annual tradition? Or did it happen only once? I don’t know. But I remember searching for Easter candy as a preschooler. Tagging along with older siblings, the place I remember with greatest fondness is the straw bales, and finding candy there.

Life was harsh, back then, with family violence and struggling parents. But those moments were sweet. It wasn’t just the candy. My memory of the day held much deeper meaning than candy, though, back then, I did like the sugar rush too. (Less, now). The sweetness was a blend of the treats and a reprieve from the mundane, struggling, ordinary life. A life I would grow up to discover was not ordinary at all. But back then it was.

Easter morning, long after the candy hunts ended, or hunt as the case may be, became a day of hope for me, starting in childhood. We moved to Canada the summer before I turned six. If we ever did an Easter candy hunt again, I have no recollection of it. But I distinctly remember the hope.

Hope that filled my chest one crisp Easter morning when I was around eight. There was no particular reason for it, other than a feeling that I had been conditioned for, in Mexico. It was a day set apart. I was dressed in my Sunday best, with little white ankle socks and shiny black patent shoes, with straps. It was the straps I liked the most. They made me feel pretty. I went outside that crisp Easter morning, and as I breathed in, it was as if I breathed in new life. It had been cool enough the night before that a thin shell of ice had formed over the puddle. I tapped it with my shoe, breaking it, and picked up a piece to feel the coolness.

It was a happy morning.

My father stood chatting with someone who had dropped by. I listened without hearing, and watched them. And then I ran off to play in the old car, with no wheels, sitting amongst dad’s junk collection. (Or ‘prell’ as we called it in Plautdeutsch, rolling the ‘r’).

I’ve often wondered why I recall that morning so vividly, and still, at 50, feel it when I think back. The scene, forever etched on my memory, is profound only for what I felt. Joy. Peace. Hope. That same feeling is associated with a special yellow dress I had in my early teens. And every Easter, most of my life, since childhood.

Easter. What does it mean to me?

In childhood, Easter was the silver lining in a hard life. It took me years to understand why it filled my chest as it did, long after the candy hunts ended, no longer part of our family’s tradition. Even before I truly understood the symbolism of its spiritual meaning. 

Today I understand.

That special day, searching for candy among the straw bales, hope was birthed in me. In stark contrast with the harshness of life, the simple celebration of that morning, wandering our property in search of candy, was a blessed relief. It promised a better life is possible.

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Somewhere in my teens I started to grasp the deep spiritual significance of that childhood hope. The stirring in my chest transitioned from that childhood unknown, to a powerful awareness of what Jesus did for me on the cross.

I, a sinner. He, God eternal. And He chose that broken path to the cross, for me. For my sin. My redemption. He chose trauma, death, and suffering. For me. To offer me reprieve from the brokenness of my life. Dying for my sin. And, not only for my sin, but all the brokenness that I would experience. And yours. He stepped in, unhesitatingly,

A promise of love, that declared I am worth being loved. Of being valued. So worth love that He would die to buy my freedom to know love.

We call that day, “Good Friday”. I read the story, and ponder the path He walked, His suffering, and I think there’s not one good thing about that day. Nothing. How can it be good when they kill an innocent man, and it is my sin and shame that played a hand in it?

It is the darkest of days in our Christian. history. It is symbolic of my life before I knew Him personally. That day. It feels like the days when violence ruled my childhood. Heavy. Broken. Tragic.

That Day.

I remember it. I acknowledge it. I worship my God on ‘that day’. I am deeply, deeply grateful for that day. But it is not ‘Good Friday’ to me. No offence to my Christian heritage and chosen lingo. It was a Friday (or Thursday, depending who you ask), from hell. It was evil, at its lowest depths, attacking the sacred like it never had before. Like it never would, or even could, again

That Day was the epitome of evil, the height of spiritual darkness.

Oh… but Easter was coming!

On that third day, when hope of a fulfilled promise, seemed to have died… When death would have begun to set into the corpse… When the rituals of spicing the body of The Christ had been delayed because of the Sabbath, and would not be so pleasant with decay having begun…

That Easter morning. Hope was dead. The harsh reality of practical burial rituals beckoned Mary to return and begin the process of grieving properly.

There, in utter hopelessness, He was. A promise fulfilled. Risen from the grave. Fully alive.

In that moment, as His body breathed in deep of our fallen world, He took in, again, the sins and sorrows of the generations.

And as He exhaled, He breath filled our world with His Eternal Presence.

Hope, birthed in an infant, snuffed out on the cross – or so it seemed, came alive in His resurrection.

Hope breathed the eternal into our fallenness. Our brokenness. Our sorrow. Our lostness.

Hope.

That’s what Easter means to me.

Hope. A promise fulfilled. New life.

This Easter, wherever you find yourself in the midst of this present chaos, I pray His life will breathe hope into your heart.

I pray that…
Where there is fear, may you be filled Hope. Where there is brokenness, Hope will touch you with His healing. Where there is fallenness, Hope will cover you with forgiveness, grace and redemption. Where there is betrayal, Hope will surround and fill you with love. Where there is emptiness, Hope will rise victorious in you; that your life will be the testimony of the empty tomb giving birth to new and greater things, of eternal value. Above all, I pray, that you will know the Jesus of the resurrection, personally. No matter who you are (or think you are), or what you have done, Jesus died, for you. But He did not stay in the grave! He conquered death so that you, so that I, would know eternal life with Him.

This is my prayer for you today, and for me.

Happy Easter!

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As I wrote this, Broken Vessels crossed my YouTube playlist.  I will leave it here for you to enjoy, if contemporary worship is your thing. It is my testimony. The revelation of His love. The wonder that He would lay down His life to raise the broken to life.

What a Saviour!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

An anniversary glimpse into our marriage; Love, nightmares, comfort, losses and commitment

On this day, at about this time (12:00 noon), 26 years ago, Tim and I faced the congregation. We had just said those forever words, “I do.” As the bishop introduced us, we took that first step into our future….

The night before our wedding, our church had been broken into. I remember the surprise when our pastor, Glen Jantzi told us. Someone caught that moment on camera, my mouth hanging open. No wedding gifts were stolen, but the sound system was taken, but somehow that was all taken care of too.

Somewhere between that moment and walking down the aisle, the photographer caught me sneaking an After Eight chocolate mint. I was giddy with excitement, yet calm and at peace.

Having sat through the sermon, trying hard to sit still, the moment finally came…

Vows were said. And having made that forever promise, “I do”, we faced the congregation, waiting for the bishop to introduce us.

We took that first step into our future as the bishop spoke….

“I now present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Tim Harder!”

We stopped, only one step into our marriage, startled, and swung around, in sync as if a perfectly rehearsed act, to look at the Bishop.

The congregation erupted in laughter! The bishop realized what he had done, and set about correcting himself, reintroducing us as, “Mr. and Mrs. Tim Metzger!”

And so began the adventure of a lifetime!

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I love you with all that I am, Mr. Harder… um… er… I mean… Mr. Metzger! You are the most treasured gift God has given me in this life. And I’d do it all again, with you! The bumps. The scrapes. The thrills. The joys. The losses. The successes. The tears. The grief. The grace. The thrill. The peace. The crazy. The calm. The uncertainty. The unmovable and unshakeable.

You have been my rock. My tender and safe place. Twenty-six years of being lost in your arms and found in your heart… Thank you.

*****

Tim and I have had our share of challenges, or ‘bumps and scrapes’. Life has not always been easy. We went through the normal struggles of trying to blend two lives into one, especially those first few years.

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Several mornings in, I recall a moment of panic, for no particular reason. Tim had been nothing less than a gentleman those few days, just as he was in courtship. But the magnitude and finality of this life change hit me in a new way.  Would I be enough? I never had been…

In the first four years we had as many conceptions. Two healthy children, and two miscarriages. And with the role of motherhood, came the awakening of terror and nightmares, fears and anxieties. Would my father come, one day, when Tim was at work, and kill me and my baby? In my sleep I would again be at home, now pregnant, running from the man who had threatened to kill me. But now I had another life to save. I would awaken from my nightmares, shaking and having been weeping in my sleep. Always Tim welcomed me into his arms, no matter the hour, and held me til the trembling and tears stopped. Always.

I felt guilty. It wasn’t right that he, a man younger than I, should have to carry this. It wasn’t right that he lose sleep when he had to work all day to provide. There was nothing fair about the aftermath and consequences of the abuse I had suffered, invading his world and disrupting our marriage.

While rare, a few times I had to fight through flashbacks during sexual intimacy. Feelings. Sensations. Scents. Images. All things that go with fighting past the hell of the past. And I would vow that the past will not dominate me, or steal our relationship, and I would push through. The triggers, while awful, I determined would become my healing. Rather than running from intimacy, I committed to finding healing through it. And the only thing that made this safe was the gentleness of a husband who consistently laid self aside for my wellbeing. This compassion gave me a safe place to continue to pursue intimacy, never fearing that I would be used or abused, belittled or shamed. My heart was always safe. In 26 years, not one time has he made me feel objectified, indebted (aka obligated to have sex), or used. For this I thank God.

When we lost babies to miscarriage, two different times in that first four year stretch, we learned how to grieve. We learned that we grieve very differently. And we learned to hold each other and create space for that difference. For him, expressing emotions and feelings (in word or otherwise) was hard. For me, tears and talking through it helped me process and release. It took patience.

Five babies in seven years, with two more in heaven, took its toll. Life became increasingly more demanding. I still had my share of unresolved wounds from the past. Then health crises struck. Losing half my blood in a haemorrhage in 1999. Toxic mould poisoning in 2003. Heart attack in 2006….

It all weighed us down and at times we drifted apart. But always we found our way back to each other. And in the rise and fall, our love grew stronger. With every battle we fought through together, we emerged stronger and more in love, more deeply committed to “come hell or high water, we are in this for the long haul”.

It’s how it all began, just before our engagement, when out of fear I wanted to break up. I started to withdraw from Tim, and told him what I truly felt; that he would be better with someone else. I didn’t think I had it in me to get married and go through all the emotional upheaval it would bring. Dating, alone, had stirred things up to the point I could hardly cope. Marriage, I concluded, was not for the faint of heart. And I figured I should get out while I’m ahead. Besides, by the time he really knew me, I supposed he would break up and not want me. So sooner would be better than later, I told myself.

Having stated this to Tim (in much less detail and fewer words), attempting to break up, he took me by surprise. He stepped forward, rather than away. And ever so gently he reached his arms around me, locking both arms at my side, and then held me firmly.

“Trudy, I am in this for the long haul”.  He said a bit more, but those words echoed through the years. Tim has patiently lived that commitment through the best and the worst of times, always inviting me into the same…. always loving me patiently when I didn’t feel loveable.

Twenty-six years in, he remains the wind beneath my wings. In all that I do, he is my sounding board, my rock to lean on, my cheerleader and my encourager. I could not do what I do without his constant support.

So, today, for all you survivors of abuse I’ve supported over the years, I want to honour the man who has made it possible for me to do this. He cares well for me, first, and he cares for you also. It is his wisdom and compassion that allow me to pour my heart and life into serving you.

My first thanks goes to God, who called me, healed me, and fills me with grace and courage. On the heels of this, is deep gratefulness for the Love of my life.

Happy Anniversary Honey! Here’s to the next 26 years!

PS. Having just completed this blog, as I attached the photo, Tim walked in carrying this gorgeous bouquet of flowers. Giving flowers isn’t his strong suit, but today he did. And there was I, all tender after writing from such a deep place in my heart… and the tears started. The flowers truly are beautiful! But it is his heart I celebrate.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

 

2020: Trusting God in the unknowns

Christmas 2018 our youngest gave me a coffee mug with ‘Kindness’ written on it. I hadn’t chosen a ‘word of the year’ for 2019 yet. By New Year’s Day I did, though I honestly don’t remember what it was without digging back. 

Partway through the year I realized how often in 2019 I would find myself thinking or saying, “God is kind. Always. So very kind.” In the hell and the hard times, when my heart was enveloped by loss and sorrow, that awareness would settle deep in my spirit, no matter what I was feeling. In the good times feeling.

When dealing with abuse and abusers, my prayer was, “Help me to be kind.” Exposing corruption is not seen as kind. But it is. When there is no hate or animosity, exposing evil is one of the kindest things we can do. It gives offenders opportunity to get help and take ownership, and it gives victims permission to speak and heal.

Before the year was over, I’d look at that mug on my shelf and know that my word for 2019 was “Kindness”, or “Kind”.

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It’s 2020. I’ve not really looked for a word for the year. God brings themes into my life without me choosing a word, as He does for others. Yet I find myself looking ahead into the unknowns, and without searching for it ‘Trust’ appears.

In many ways I do already trust God. I trust Him deeply. But. truth be told, the thought of Trust being my word for 2020 disarms me a bit. I really don’t want to have to learn too much more trust. Usually that word is associated with loss and hard times.

I’d much rather choose Vision, like so many others, whether in humour or sincerity. Vision sounds so noble and un-suffering. It sounds so ‘together’… leading to growth and success.

But Trust it is.

I’m returning to university in spite of ongoing concussion-like symptoms. (In fact, only a few weeks ago my doctor stated that she is certain I sustained a concussion when I was rear-ended August 1st.  Somehow, in spite of that, I need to complete my last term of university courses. And then I need to prepare for comprehensives. That takes trust.

I have a brother fighting pancreatic cancer. We pray for miracles.Watching him suffer is heartbreaking. In spite of our prayers, we don’t know what lies ahead. That takes trust. Believing God knows best, that especially takes trust. That trust requires a willingness to suffer, to lose, to grieve, to be deeply wounded.

There are other unknowns…. Other uncertainties…

So, ‘Trust’ it is….

Praying that, in 2020, God meets you in your story in ways that undeniably show you His incredible love for you! That love is what makes trust possible for me. No matter what, I always know He loves me. And nothing can take that away from me.

As always…

Love,
Trudy

© Trudy Metzger 2020

 

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SURVEY: For those interested, we only need 50 more responses to the survey on Conservative Anabaptist (CA) Leaders’ Response to Abuse before analyzing the data. (The goal is 200 respondents for richer data). If you have been sexually abused and interacted with a CA leader regarding the abuse, this survey is for you. I am preparing several other surveys and will release them on our SURVEYS PAGE.

 

 

 

 

 

An Empty Tomb: A promise broken or kept?

For a university assignment I looked at the empty tomb in a way I never had before. For me, it has never been anything but Good News. From earliest memories hearing the story, my heart thrills! My Jesus is alive!

But, for Mary, what did it feel like to find the tomb empty, and be robbed of ritual and grief in a moment of deepest loss? Her friend, her rabbi, her Lord had been ruthlessly slaughtered…

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Wishing you all the blessing of an Empty Tomb and a Gardener who speaks your name, that you may know Him!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Christmas: a Widow, a Church’s Kindness, and a Washing Machine

The day after Christmas seems a perfect time to pause and write a seasonal blog, and wish you all Christmas blessings. Yesterday was full, with no time to sit down with my computer until later in the evening. That, to me, is a good thing, to be busy in real world relationships that the virtual world becomes secondary. With being in school, continuing with speaking engagements and trying to do the basics at home, social media has taken a back seat for a while, so that has become more normal for me. But that does mean the blog I intended to write for Christmas never happened.
Even so, throughout my day, I thought of many of you, my friends. Especially those of you who find this season difficult. Those who have suffered great losses this season, whether this year or years gone by, saying goodbye to family members with whom you won’t share another Christmas… or maybe never spent even one Christmas… wee ones, recent or in the past, who slipped away before you heard their laughter, their cries, their chatter…  And those who are rejected by family, or just far away, and lonely this season, wishing your world was different; praying for healed relationships, or maybe having given up hope, yet unable to shake the longing for what could have been.
Christmas can be the hardest of times, and it can be the sweetest of times. Sometimes both at the same time. That was our Christmas this year, for reasons I won’t and can’t get into, but just to say you are not alone, and there are others who understand. As much as we had a wonderful Christmas, there was an emptiness and an ache, the reality of unknowns as we head toward 2018, that is unsettling. Even as I write this, I know that every day is an unknown for every human. Our last breath, some great sadness or loss, or the opposite: some unlikely kindness and grace that falls on us. We never know the future, and yet it is an unsettling thing to have it written on the walls of our lives where we must read it every day, and wrestle with the realization that the outcome may be far from what we long for, and somehow to find peace in it, if not with it.
They talk about coming to peace with things, but I’ve concluded some things we cannot make peace with. We can only find a way to be at peace within the existing reality, in spite of the unknowns, even as we grieve the reality that is. And sometimes grieving is that peace, or at least a part of it, because it’s the facing head on of a thing you’d rather run from, and knowing you will be okay, even when your heart stops beating every now and then, and you catch your breath from the pain. And then it starts to beat again, out of rhythm and out of time, because a heart can’t beat right when a piece of it has died. But it can beat, and it can still give love, and find hope. And maybe, having experienced loss, it can give more, love more, and find a greater hope. Because where all is as it should be, or as we desire it to be, there is no need for hope. Hope is the thing that makes the heart keep beating, willing it to live, when everything else makes it stop.
Speaking of love and giving, one of my favourite things this Christmas had a rather tragic  beginning… It was early November – the 6th, I believe – when I came upon an accident. It happened only a few vehicles in front of me, and I stopped to make sure there was someone there with First Aid and CPR, and that 911 had been called. The one woman involved in the accident spoke Low German and seemed very distressed, so I asked if it would mean something to her if I stayed to support her. Her conversational English was excellent, but trauma can make communication difficult. She borrowed my phone and made a call to what I understood was her husband, and when she handed back the phone, she said the name and that he is on his way. A bit later, when she seemed to be slipping into shock and struggled to communicate, I asked where her husband works and how far he has to drive. She looked at me, eyes filled with unspeakable pain, and said, “he died four years ago”, and began to weep. Shocked, I said, “I am so, so sorry! I thought that’s who you said you called”. I stayed composed, but writing it now, I weep. She slipped into a state of complete shock and confusion, repeatedly expressing worry over the injured driver of the other vehicle. I stayed with her and her young daughter, and later went to the hospital to offer what support I could, when other children arrived and made certain they had food and drinks. I left, then, and told them to call if they need anything at all, and especially if they have to go to court.
It was almost two weeks later, I sat at Tim Hortons waiting for the woman to arrive. We were meeting for coffee to discuss her ticket, a first for her, which she couldn’t read and understand. It was a fine, due the next day. I was heading in, so I offered to deliver it, and support her in a meeting with the prosecuting attorney, to discuss options. Before we parted ways, I asked if she needs anything else, and she mentioned needing a wash machine, and might I know anyone who has a used one that wouldn’t cost a lot. I put the word out that evening, asking friends if they might know a place to find one. There were several leads, but nothing came together. Several weeks went by and I came across a message I had missed.
Faith Mennonite Church near Wellesley heard of this woman’s need, and offered to get her a wash machine. I connected them with the woman and this week she messaged saying how much she appreciated the machine they brought, and how she feels so undeserving. “You’re one of the kindest people I ever know”, she wrote. I didn’t do anything except put a need out there, so I felt I didn’t do anything, and told her it was the church, not me who gave the gift. Even so, I thanked her for her kind words and told her she deserves the gift and I’m very happy for her. What touched me most is that a church would take Acts 6:1 and James 1:27 so seriously as to reach out to someone not even in their congregation, or a church in any way affiliated. It was about a woman in need, and a passion to exercise the religion that God honours (James 1:27) and spread the love of Jesus in a practical way.
That is Christmas. That is the Gospel. Whether delivered to a believer, or one who has never heard of Christ, that is the love of Jesus, packaged in language that humans understand, through meeting practical needs. It’s not the only way, but it’s one way. And because so often it seems Acts 6:1 is the greater reality, where widows and orphans are neglected and overlooked, while the religious systems pressure them to give and barely survive, this touched my heart deeply. In a world where religious systems seem often to absorb more than they live generously among the broken, this blessed me to happy tears.
I posted recently that choosing thankfulness sets apart those who overcome, from those who are victims. Today I am thankful. Thankful that Faith Mennonite church met this woman’s need, and for other churches like it. (My friends at Westpointe Church Grand Rapids Michigan have a house they offer to single moms! Check it out: Gold House Project) I’m thankful that I am surrounded by people I love, and people who love me – from here at home, to Mexico, to Africa, to Australia and New Zealand and beyond. And I am deeply thankful, for the kindness of God in my life and His promise to walk gently with us, to lead us, carry us, hold us, and never abandon us.
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For Christmas our youngest son had my name, and he gave me a blue coffee mug with one word on it. My favourite mug cracked a while ago, and he knew I had looked for a replacement. He also knew how much I love words and writing. The mug said “Kindness”. So that’s the word I am taking with me into 2018. Kindness. My prayer is that God will help me live this word, daily. It won’t be perfect. It never is. Because I’m involved and I’m human, but it is my prayer and I trust God will teach me, walk with me, remind me and love me through my failures. And I will choose kindness.
Merry Christmas! And may 2018 be a year filled with kindness even in the pain, sorrow, and hard times that are inevitable in human experience.
Love
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2017

Have a Real Mother’s Day!

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!

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

 

Dear Victim: When Thanksgiving is Lonely & Hard…

This day is about gratefulness, a time of celebration, food and family get-together celebrations. Some of you will laugh, love and party together, in a safe and loving environment. And so you should! Without guilt. Because you are blessed to be with people who care and protect you; your abuser is not a family member, and you look forward to these gatherings.

But for some of you it is a painful day, and you find yourself  ‘giving thanks’ through tears, and loneliness, in the middle of deep trials, trauma and tragedy. It is a day that makes you reach deep for the next breath, through threatening panic, as family drama unfolds, or you find yourself in the room with the person(s) who abused you. Or maybe home, away from family, swallowing hard on yesterdays leftovers in solitary communion, because they have chosen the offender over you. And when you do go, the manipulation and sexual advances are present to this day…

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Today, if that is you, I encourage you to look deeper, not to avoid the pain but to strengthen your heart.

Remember who you are; you are courageous, resilient and redeemed. Remember Whose you are; you are a son, a daughter, of the God of the Universe, held in your Father’s heart. God is intimately present with you and interested in every part of your life. He is not afraid of your raw feelings, and invites you to share them. He is not intimated by your anger; trust Him with it. Remember that you are not defined by the crimes committed against you, or the person(s) who committed them; you are defined by the Love of the Highest Being ever to exist. You have purpose and value.

Draw from that well of truth, drink deep until you are giddy with drunkenness from it. Let them think you are crazy…

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Happy… Day! (A Valentine’s Day Afterthought)

First thing Saturday morning–using the term ‘first thing’ somewhat loosely–my husband kissed me (after brushing his teeth, and me having brushed mine) and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Oh yes… that’s today... I thought. “Happy Day to you too,” I said, laughing. He grinned, knowing I’m torn between the romantic notions of the day, and wanting to boycott the obvious marketing ploy. “Happy our Day”, I added, just to make my point.

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We’re pretty down-to-earth people, Tim and I. Mostly, what you see is what you get. So, if you don’t like what you see, run. Because it isn’t going to be much of a show beyond the obvious. Tim is laid back, yet strong and determined. He’s not overly social, but enjoys time with close friends in a ‘not too big’ a group. He steps out of that box for ministry, and pushes himself to be ‘present’ in bigger crowds, reaching out to hearts that are hurting. He is always a calm and peaceful presence. Being a man of few words, the few he speaks carry weight, and what he says is direct.

I’m outgoing and crazy, sometimes, and love crowds, sometimes. When it comes to speaking, the bigger the crowd, the more energized I am, though I’ve learned to enjoy the smaller groups and not feel suffocated by the ‘nearness’ of the people. The intimacy of it is growing on me. There are also times when I’m somewhat recluse, and prefer alone-ness, and, if the whole truth must be told, I return from most social events, depleted to sheer exhaustion. Like Tim, I speak directly, but haven’t mastered the art of condensing an entire book into a chapter, a chapter into a paragraph and a paragraph into two or three words… or a sentence, to be generous.

Life at home reflects who we are; practical and fairly direct. So, when days like Valentine’s Day roll around, we don’t get too caught in the hype. Sure, we’ll exchange cards at some point, and there might even be some little gift of flowers, chocolate, candy or even boxers and a negligee–in spite of the fact that the latter never gets its value in wear–or some such thing.  We do these things, some years, and other years it’s a card only, and we’re just as happy. (The bigger fuss was a big deal, years ago, but with time Valentine’s Day became more about our family, with little gifts for our children and a special family dinner.

Last year we went all out and decorated something crazy and I thought we’d do it again this year, but, alas, the busyness of life took over. One child is dating and she and her boyfriend pretty much boycott the Hallmark holiday, calling it a silly money-grab. While they’re gracious about others fussing over it, they celebrate their relationship other days and other ways. Another daughter headed out to a friend’s house, one son is in Germany for three months, leaving us with two boys.

That said, this Valentine’s Day, we stayed in our everyday duds, chilling at home and doing things that need doing, like cleaning, writing and tax preparation stuff. (Yay!) And we organized everything for a huge dinner, which we enjoyed at noon Sunday. There was turkey–with cranberry sauce, of course–dressing, corn, squash, and mashed potatoes for first course. And, for dessert, lemon meringue pie, banana cream pie, and my personal favourite, chocolate cream pie–all homemade. (Okay… I cheated on the crust and used Tenderflake.) Dinner was delicious. But more importantly, we were together as a family–minus our son in Germany–and shared love and laughter together.

No matter the day, Valentine’s Day, or how we spend it, I know this, I am loved. While I welcome special dates, from time to time, I would choose the ordinary, every day kind of love that we have, over one day of fuss and 364.5 days of mediocre co-existence, if it had to be one or the other. And I’d rather wake up each morning next to the man who loves me practically and sincerely all year, and indulge in genuine kisses, than to look at the flowers on the table the week after Valentine’s, eating lonely chocolates kisses, having never had his heart.

For those who choose to celebrate the day large, and live that love daily, good on you! The rest of us shouldn’t feel jealous, cheated, or guilty.  It is a wonderful thing to celebrate love and relationship in a way that is meaningful and personal.

For us, one day soon, it will happen… as it does, spontaneously, two or three times a year…  I will look at Tim with pleading eyes, probably somewhere around 9:00pm on a Friday or Saturday night, and the words will pop out, “I’m hungry for mussels.” And he will know exactly what that means. As much as he likes the quiet of home and the comfort of his chair, he will slip into a coat or jacket–if the weather still demands it when it happens–and we’ll drive to Kitchener for a late night date at the Symposium. Or maybe he’ll walk in the door this summer with a handful of gladiolas or some other roadside stand flowers, and I’ll pretend he spent a fortune, and laugh when I remind him that the first time he brought them, he announced with great pride that they were 25¢ a piece. And the moment will be filled with love and memories of days gone by, and I will know, again, that I am loved.

And, who knows? Maybe next Valentine’s Day we’ll leave the kids a few treats and a note saying, “We love you, there’s soup in the pantry–stuff for grilled cheese if you want to go all out–and please don’t lock the door when you go to bed.

Now off to enjoy this new Canadian holiday, Family Day… Tim plans to take our youngest skating, the teens are chilling with friends, and I have more writing, laundry and cleaning to do. In that order of preference…

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

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Of Past Traditions & Rescuing a ‘Ruined’ Christmas

Our family has Christmas traditions. Some we’ve adopted in recent years, and some go way back. Some are things we all love to do, while others are traditions a few love and the rest of us endure for the sake of those who love them.

With me coming from a conservative Mennonite background–and having the influence of both Old Colony and ‘white bonnet’ Mennonite–we kept decorating down to a bare minimum the first eight years of marriage. We did so out of respect for my culture, not out of a sense of personal conviction, especially with Tim being raised in a United Church family. When we left the Mennonite church–into which Tim had been baptized two months before marrying me–we gradually adopted the practice of putting up Christmas lights and various decorations.

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Starting two years after the transition, we purchased a Christmas tree that looked gigantic back then, when the children were small. I remember well turning out all other lights, so that I could enjoy the sparkle of that tree. We had picked it up on December 26, when Boxing Day sales brought the price down to something we felt was reasonable, and manageable for us. And, rather than save it for the following year, we went home and decorated it. Thus began our Christmas tree tradition.

Several years ago, we adopted a new Christmas tree tradition… The smell of pine, and the delight of the fluffy white stuff beckoned me into the man-made woods–a tree farm–to pick out a real tree. It was going to be a family affair, trekking through snow, choosing just ‘the perfect one’ for us. We would all fall in love with ‘that one tree’ and drag it through the snow together…. the way they do in picture books and in the movies.

But my whole family does not love winter and fluffy white stuff, like I do. Nor do they all love real trees. And certainly the matter of falling in love with ‘the one perfect tree’ was a pipe dream.  Five children, ranging from about age nine through sixteen, agree on only a few things. And that day they agreed it was cold and miserable outside, and that each had a very particular opinion about what made for a nice tree. One liked a crooked one. Another a short fat one. Another a tall fat one… and so on. And there I was, chasing our family with a camera, trying to capture the moments.

Why I chose still pictures and not a video, I can only chalk up to lack of thought. Because, had I videotaped it, I would only have needed to insert the clip, and words would have been unnecessary. You would have seen children frustrated with each other, and with us. You would have seen our youngest son’s ‘Charlie Brown’ tree choice. You would have seen tears and anger, exasperation and hurt feelings. But, more than that, you would have seen a family do real life together. Parents trying to hear their children, through their own frustrations, and wishing they could turn five trees into one perfect representation of a wide array of opinion. Children learning to hear each other, and us, or at least trying. You would have seen us finding a shiny new iPod in the snow, and turning it in at the front desk, in the event that the owner would come looking. You would have heard laughter… much laughter, and clever jokes and one-liners that most of our children are quite gifted in. You would have seen us inside, wandering through the store of Benjamin tree farm, warming up, and sipping hot apple cider and eating cookies, all bundled up in our winter clothes….

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As we left the tree farm that day, some children declared they hoped it was a first and last such outing, convinced that the hullabaloo of the experience left much to be desired and we couldn’t agree anyway. I left that day already looking forward to the next year. We did real life together, and we found a tree we could all enjoy; a medium sized fat one.

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The Charlie Brown one landed somewhere on the front porch, for a while, if my memory is accurate. Granted, over the next few days, now and then, a comment would be heard, “I think we should have gone with… ” and a particular tree would be described, but we all came to peace with ‘the one’.

Several years earlier we had begun another tradition…. Our children finally talked their Daddy into letting them open just one gift on Christmas eve. From the start, that gift held pajamas. Of course, after the first year, it wasn’t a surprise anymore, but we all–including me–acted as though it was the most original gift. We did manage to videotape it one year but, alas, I haven’t the faintest idea where the clip is, and, besides, our children would be very displeased if I shared it. But I’ve seldom laughed as hard with my family as I did that night. Year after year, this remains a tradition. It has gotten harder, over time, and as our daughters have grown–one taller than me–to find pj’s that fit. As a result half of the laughter is in modeling the pj’s I chose. That tradition was kept again tonight–opening one gift–but with a bit of a twist to it. One daughter, for whom it is particularly hard to find pj’s that fit, received a pair of slippers. And for the first time in several years, I think I hit it right.

Christmas Day we always do  a small brunch, mid morning, because later we will go to Grandma and Grandpa Metzger’s for a big turkey dinner. But brunch doesn’t happen until we’ve had a small assembly in our bedroom. When our children wake up, they get their stockings and bring them into our room. All seven of us gather on our king-sized bed, and someone reads the Christmas Story, or tells it in their own words, as the case me be. This has been the cause of much laughter as well, when the telling of it gets jumbled. It isn’t a religious formality, requiring somber and serious reverence–though appropriate on occasion. It is a celebration of a baby born, some two thousand years ago, to bring us life and hope. And, in my opinion, laughter and joy are most appropriate.

After the story, Daddy usually prays for each of us. Mostly because the children vote for him to pray because when I get chattering to God, there’s no telling how long we’ll be. So Christmas morning Daddy prays, after which the stockings are dumped and contents inspected. It works out much like the Christmas eve gift. Predictable, for the most part. Candy. Chocolate bars and treats. We’re not a family to have candy and treats around all the time. If for no other reason than for fear of what would become of me, home alone several hours most days, with candy. So I don’t feel badly splurging a bit and loading them up with a stocking full of it, which, hopefully, they will spread out over time. But not necessarily. I try to look the other way a little bit. I remember eating too much one Christmas, when I was about five, and regretting it. I had been warned. And my children are too. If they get sick, I’ll hold the bucket. And then they will slow down. But it’s never gotten that far.

After all that, and when brunch is over, we meet in the family room for presents. First we do our family name exchange, followed by us giving each child a gift. If the children have purchased gifts for each other, or us, they hand those out, but this is not an expectation. In fact, with one in college and the other applying to university for next fall, the value of the Canadian dollar has gone up considerably in our home. There is a new appreciation for the cost of living and, as a result, we lowered the name exchange to spending $15 each, from $20-25. This financial awareness is a very good thing!

Tim and I are not big into gifts. It isn’t my love language, and it isn’t his. I delight in ‘getting it right’ with our children, and watching them beam at their gift being ‘just what they wanted’, but the’ getting gifts’ part, while appreciated, doesn’t thrill me nearly as much. Truth be told, because it is not my love language, I struggle with giving meaningful gifts. And that makes ‘getting it right’ even more exciting. None-the-less, Tim and I always exchange gifts of one sort or another. This has ranged from some item we know the other really needs or wishes for, to a ‘home-made certificate’ that the other can cash in on. For example, I still have a day in Stratford, wandering the shops with my Love, and having lunch together, waiting from one year. The gift thrilled my heart, for the thought put into it–because my husband would never wander a city window shopping for his own pleasure or entertainment–and I knew the thoughts behind it were all wrapped in love in love for me. And one day we’ll do it… I just need to remember at the right time.  One year I gave him a ‘car cleaning kit’ with an offer to detail his vehicle, from time to time. I did it once and our one daughter did it another time. She is a perfectionist, and no vehicle looks better than when she has touched it.

When gift giving is over, we prepare to go to Grandma’s, arriving there mid afternoon.  Soon after, the excitement of gift exchanging begins. It has become a far more civil event, now that the children are a bit more mature, than it was back in the day when gifts were ripped open with gusto, and paper lay strewn everywhere. I miss the less civil, at times. The children still get excited, but there is something beautiful about the unrestrained excitement of a child. It is so unpretentious. A big turkey dinner is followed with games, watching TV or some movie, and staying at Grandma’s until well past bedtime.

Boxing Day morning we always have Tim’s family over for a big brunch. There is not a meal I enjoy more–whether making it or eating–than a giant brunch. Even so, December 26 is the only day of the year when we go all out. It includes any combination of breakfast casseroles, bacon, sausage, ham, potato patties, toast, a large fruit platter–this is a must–pancakes or french toast instead of toast, possibly homemade cinnamon buns, and always coffee. A lot of coffee. Occasionally another special drink like Mimosa.

Year after year, our Christmas looks something like the above. And, year after year, we look forward to some of the most predictable events of the year as though it were a first. But this year is different. Tim’s brother and his girlfriend are off to see her family in Peru, so they will not be home. And Tim and I are off to Pennsylvania, leaving the morning of December 26 to attend my niece Emily Hursh’s wedding on the 27th. This means no Boxing Day Brunch. And, since I was still busy painting our house–my Christmas gift to Tim and me–and since we would be away a few days, we decided against a real Christmas tree this year. We still have the one that looked so big when the children were little. It now looks pretty scrawny, and sits on the landing of the stairs.  Our son did a great job of decorating it with beads and ornaments in a fun and free manner. In our living room is another tree I found for a  few dollars at a second-hand store last year, a big, full tree. It is colour coordinated, in red and gold, blending in with the room in which it is situated…. In the place where the real tree would have been.

When I broke the news to our son Todd, about all the changes this year, he did a fake pout and said, “Christmas is ruined!” He went on to lament the losses this year, with the best brunch of the year, time with Uncle Tom and the tree–all his favourite things. I  assured him we would do our best to make Christmas special and did the ‘good Christian mom thing’, and explained what Christmas is really about.  (Kept it down to a few pleasant sentences, not an annoying lecture.)

Soon it started…. Kordan, twelve, asked if we could ‘at least make those sugar cookies’ and put icing on them. “Sure,” I said. I didn’t do them last year, and it’s a little thing to  make the holidays special. Bryan, sixteen, jumped in, too, asking for shortbread cookies. “Of course!” And then Todd asked for his favourite cookies, adding peanut butter cookies to the mix. I had already committed myself to making peanut butter ball cookies, and didn’t even think to ask who all likes them. I like them. A lot. So I made a double batch. And that is when I discovered that only about half of us like them. The peanut butter cookies–Todd’s kind–inspired an experiment, which didn’t go well, when I decided to add flour to the Kraft recipe, to give them more substance. The failure wasn’t beyond redemption, however. Kordan searched the internet for a recipe that would incorporate the ingredients already in my experiment and with a little adjusting, I had a lovely batter… but enough of it to make well over 100 cookies. With two of the other kinds producing over 100 each, we ended up with just under 400 cookies in total, and three happy assistant bakers. Our daughters, being away most of both baking days, missed out on the fun without regret.

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I pulled the peanut butter cookies out of the oven, and, within minutes, there was Todd, munching. He closed his eyes and made some very male-like sounds that accompany eating. “I haven’t had these in years!” he said. I disagreed, but he insisted it had been years, so I let it go. Granted. It had been a while. No more had he finished his cookie and he started reminiscing and declaring that there is nothing like the nostalgic feeling of eating favourite childhood foods, while recalling good times past. As I watched him indulge, and listened to his stories, my heart-felt warm. It may be a different kind of Christmas, but Christmas isn’t ruined after all.

And, as long as Love lives in our home, no matter how imperfect we are, and what traditions must be sacrificed for other important events, Christmas will be exactly what it was meant to be. After all, didn’t love compel the God of heaven to humble Himself and come into the world, as an infant, to dwell among us, and give us His love? … Isn’t that love the very essence of Christmas?…

Jesus… Emanuel: God with us. Love with us. For God is Love.

 

Merry Christmas!

Love,
Trudy 

© Trudy Metzger

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