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!

*****

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.

tim and trudy

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

 

Is Love a Commitment or a Bouquet?

Rarely do I go to the grocery store in the morning. However, as fate would have it, I stopped this morning to pick up some critical items for the office—namely coffee, cream and milk.

The first thing I noticed, to the point of distraction, was the number of men in the store. Many congregated around the flowers, either deciding on the perfect bouquet, or doing the math to figure out which would put the smallest dent in the wallet, for the biggest ‘wow’ from a sweetheart. Hopefully most were giving thought to the intended message.

There were businessmen in suits, casually dressed men, and those who looked like they had crawled out of bed against their own will but with a good awareness of self-preservation. Mostly they carefully avoided eye contact with each other—probably hoping no one would recognize them or judge the fact that Valentine flowers were being purchased at the grocery store. (Relax guys… you’re all buying them at the same place! Who is going to judge you?? Oh, and, BTW, don’t forget to remove the ‘grocery’ sticker.)

The scene humoured me. Maybe it shouldn’t.

Seems to me I had to stop at the grocery store on Valentine’s Day last year too. The scene was similar with men rushing about, looking just as distressed.

This got me thinking about the whole ‘Valentine’s Day thing’, and romantic relationships in general. The purpose for it is to set aside a day of the year to focus on celebrating the romantic love in our lives. And that’s not a bad thing.

However, as I observed the frenzy of activity, I realized that each of these men have a story, a ‘someone’ who shares that story with them. For some, hopefully for most, the flowers are a meaningful expression of the love they live daily.

You may be thinking, “….but with flowers from a grocery store?” Sure, why not? It isn’t breaking the bank that makes the thought count. It’s the other 364.5 days of the year and how he has cherished her.

For others, I presume, the flowers, or their romantic purpose, are given little thought, and serve mostly to keep him out of the doghouse with ‘the wife’.

And that mental wandering led me to thinking about my marriage. My husband and I are pretty normal people. Make that very normal. Our lives are busy with work, family–5 kids and a dog, to be precise–ministry, committees, and hobbies. We have normal ups and downs in our relationship, just like everyone else. But the one thing my husband has done every day for the past 18 years, other than the rare day that we did not see each other or speak on the phone, is tell me he loves me. That is approximately 6,579 times, minus a few days, plus add in the countless days that he told me numerous times a day. We have rarely parted ways without a hug, a kiss, and an ‘I love you’—even on the days that we were ticked off or hurt.

I reciprocate, or even initiate, the same gesture, but I have him to thank for it. Early in marriage, when I asked why he insists on giving me a good-bye kiss and saying ‘I love you’, just to go to the grocery store, Tim told me that he wanted us always to part ways, affirming our love for each other. “You never know when will be your last good-bye’, he said.  

This act of love has served our marriage well. It has taken discipline, sacrifice and the choice of will, on the days where feelings didn’t match our commitment. Other days it has threatened to make us late for work or other responsibilities when passion out-measured time available to celebrate our feelings. But , regardless of our feelings, it has always reminded us that we are in it for the long haul, that there is no competition in our love for each other and, no matter what happens, we have each other’s heart.

Today, in spite of what other Valentine’s Day celebrations we do or do not make happen, or whether I get flowers from a grocery store… or none… I am thankful for the love of my life. Truth be told, I can’t even recall what he did last year to celebrate, but I remember all the ways he helped me the other 364.5 days in between, and how special he makes me feel every day of the year. That is the love I celebrate today.

Happy Valentine’s Day!