Yet More Family Reunions…

I had intended, in my previous blog post, to carry on into Saturday, June 21, but ran out of time. Besides, over 2000 words is enough for one sitting., both to write and to read. Too much, for some people….

Following the excitement, noise and shenanigans of my side of the family, we had our Annual Summer BBQ on Tim’s side of the family. It’s a different experience entirely. The Metzger family, while a strongly opinionated–whom Tim would playfully describe as ‘determined’ in contrast with the Harder ‘stubbornness’–are a very peaceful group to spend a day with. Pleasant and peaceful.

No wrestling. No throwing water at anyone, or playing tricks. No rambunctious nonsense or people laughing until they can’t talk. What I’m really saying is that they are more self-controlled, mature stock than I come from.  I enjoy both worlds equally.  That Saturday, however, I was quite ready for the world I was in, to unwind from the busyness of the preceding week.

We met at noon, but our family was late. Tim, Nicole and Bryan had to work until noon. Everyone brings food to these events. Lots of it. And, true to the reputation of Mennonite cooking, it is good food. Frighteningly good, for someone trying to make good food choices.

We sat in the shade, in a haphazard circle, to eat lunch. The weather couldn’t have been much more perfect. Hot and sunny, with a nice breeze.

After lunch–which really had more dinner qualities than lunch qualities–Uncle Amsey hooked up the wagon and offered to take willing participants on a ride to the back of the property. A good number climbed on board, and away we went.

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Amsey’s farm was the childhood home of John and Lavina Metzger, Tim’s grandparents. We listened to the uncles and aunts reminisce, when we stopped at the back of the property, going back down memory lane of ‘how things were’ back then and what has changed. It’s hard to picture parents–in this case in-laws–and uncles and aunts as little Old Order children, running around the farm.  If the property could tell stories and produce images of days gone by, it would fascinate me to spend a great deal of time knowing those stories.

I jumped off the wagon to get a few more pictures. No more was I in the long grass when one of the uncles warned, “Look out Trudy! There are snakes in the grass!” Immediately others chimed in.

For one brief moment they spooked me before I realized they wanted a reaction, and resisted the urge to dive for the wagon again. Okay, I take that back about there being ‘no shenanigans’ in the Metzger family…

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The young boys went exploring for a few minutes, several nearly hidden by the tall grass. A picture perfect moment

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Kordan lasted a few minutes in the long grass before returning to the wagon to sit with his daddy, and watch his the others wade through it. I managed to capture a father-son picture, as well as a close up of my love.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way back,  cousin Jen–a fun and beautiful friend–sat with her father’s farm, and the Macton Catholic church  in the background, creating  a lovely picture. And several other interesting shots…

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack at the house,  a few aunts and one cousin sit in a circle of now mostly empty lawn chairs. They seemed quite happy to have stayed behind in the shade. And two nights later, when my sun-burned shoulders awakened me to a sharp stinging, I understood why.

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We kept the annual tradition of ice cream mid afternoon. There was popcorn again, as well, and I wonder if it is becoming the new annual tradition. That’s two years in a row. And that suited me just fine, since I’m not much of a fan of ice cream… unless it’s mixed in with popcorn.  I totally grossed Jen out, but Uncle Dave Metzger and cousin Lorna tried it and concluded it wasn’t too bad.

(Before you say, “Eww gross!’ and write it off, I suggest you try it and then form an opinion. When my daughters brought this idea home from a sleepover with their friend Cherry, I was totally disgusted… until I had one bite… In my opinion chocolate is best, and it’s best with super cold ice cream, when it’s not so hot that ice cream melts quickly. That way the popcorn stays crisp and crunchy. )

Tim and I engaged in a deep conversation with Uncle Dave Metzger, hearing his heartbeat on everything from faith, to family, to the culture of his childhood.  Uncle Ab and I had a short conversation as well, sparked by a column I had printed in our local paper, and he shared of the discussion it triggered among some of the men from their church.

He wondered if I’d speak for them sometime, and I said I’d love to! We’d even do a Q & A session, I said, if they’re interested. From what he told me of their discussion, it would be a mutual learning experience and a delightful time.

There were many other interactions, but those two stood out. In both instances the uncles instigated the conversation… With age and time there is much wisdom. While these uncles are still young, they have lived long enough to have that wisdom and I enjoy the dialogue.

As I left the gathering, it struck me, again, how important family is. I left home a month before sixteen, and never really bonded again the way healthy families bond. Even what bond was there before I left, seemed lost. In some ways that can’t be regained, but with time and age the awareness hits me of what was lost in that process.

I find myself, especially in the past year or two, enjoying time with family–whether Harders or Metzgers. A cousin with whom I had lost touch in my early teens, has become one of my dearest friends since 2010, when we reconnected via Facebook and she attended the first conference we did for women. When I’m with siblings, I’m at ease again and truly enjoy the time.. And my in-laws are among the people I love most and enjoy being with.  I call my mom a few times a month–in spite of the fact that I can’t tolerate phone calls and phone conversation because of restlessness and distraction issues–and we talk for an hour… or two… or more… At the end of the day it is true that blood is thicker than water.

After the reunion our family spent a few hours at the Crane Lake Discovery Camp annual BBQ fundraiser. It’s always a great time, and an opportunity to connect with friends we don’t see often. That could be another thousand words, but I’ll spare us all.

I had parked beside the grave yard so I took a few more pictures.  I find them quite beautiful. And they carry many an untold story that would capture the mind and heart, if it were to be told. Dreams lie there, unfulfilled, unexplored. Others lived with passion, changing someone’s world. Tragedies. Promises. Hopes.

These all create a sense of mystery and wonderment for me, when I see the tombstones, marking the memory of someone resting there. And always I think about my life, and the unknown, and pray my dreams will not go to the grave with me, but that I will keep living them, no matter the  battles I fight for them.

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Those happy and determined thoughts in mind, I started for home. Heading toward Wallenstein, the light caught my eye between the trees and I pulled over once more, to take a few final shots of the evening sun.

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As if promising of ‘tomorrow’ the sun slipped behind the horizon in the west, bringing to a close another beautiful day.  My heart was full at the realization that the world is most beautiful when shared with those we love, and those who love us. When we hold on to the things that matter most, and embrace difference of opinion and culture. When diversity is not a threat, but an opportunity for richness and sharing.

These past few days, my world was most beautiful!

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Are You Pursuing Your Dreams?

There is something inspirational about attending Graduation and seeing young people, with passion, energy and dreams. Listening to the valedictorian took me back in time, six years and two days ago, when I graduated from Adult High School at age 37. I searched my computer for my valedictorian speech and am sharing it with you.

 

Every individual has a dream and a destiny. If your dream lies dormant, you are the only one standing in the way of fulfilling that dream. You alone hold the key that will make your dream become a reality. If you can overcome your fears and believe in yourself, you can overcome anything that stands between you and your dreams. All other obstacles will be your stepping stones, if you see them as an opportunity.

Each one of us must choose to unleash our dreams, but we cannot make them a reality without the help of others.

[…]

In life we cannot always choose our circumstances, however, in every circumstance we choose either to surrender or overcome. The difficulties we face in life have the potential of becoming our greatest assets, if we allow them to stimulate our creativity, challenge our determination, and have a positive affect on our lives.

To make this very practical I will share with you something that happened as I was redecorating our master bedroom. I was painting when I turned and tripped against an open one-gallon bucket of red paint and left our carpet looking like a violent crime scene.

After 10 minutes of shock and frustration, I put my arms around my husband and said, “Well, we’re finally going to have that beautiful hardwood floor I wanted.”

Life, for many of us, has been like a bucket of red paint spilled all over the floor, and we have decided that now is the time to do something positive about it, and write the happy ending to our story.

For many years I dreamed of earning my high school diploma but fear held me back. I doubted myself and my ability to succeed, and above all I feared failure. Coming from an abusive home, where the importance of education was minimized; and a school where many of the teachers had no passion for teaching, I was left to believe that I was stupid and incompetent. This belief held me prisoner until about seven years ago when I started doing online IQ quizzes to test myself in an environment where no one would know if I failed. Little by little, my confidence grew and I realized that I was held back by lies. I started to replace those lies with the realization that I was capable of accomplishing anything I set my heart and passion to doing.

Four years ago I faced my fears publicly and took the GED tests to earn my high school equivalency diploma. I discovered that in facing one fear I found the courage to face the next and I soon registered at the Open Door Waterloo Campus to do my Grade 12 English – just to prove to myself that I could do it.

I want to thank my teacher, Ms. Forwell, for staying after class to answer my questions, and most of all for believing in me and encouraging me through that first course at the Open Door. She gave me a profound gift – it was the first time in my life that a teacher believed in me the way she did. Having successfully completed this course I met with the guidance counsellor and discovered I only needed 3 more credits.

I realized then that I couldn’t afford to pass up the opportunity to officially earn my diploma.

I completed my Biology and Chemistry November 2006 and was two weeks into earning my co-op credit, when I had a sudden heart attack , that we believe was caused by medication I was taking. However, because my job allowed me to work from home, and thanks to the fact that I was able to continue my co-op assignments at home and hand them in, even this did not stop me from finishing my final credit. In early January 2007 I handed in my final assignments.

Each one of us has a story. For various reasons, and at different ages and stages of our lives, we have chosen to complete our high school education at the Open Door Centre For Learning. Some of us were not given the opportunity to finish high school in our teens, and some of us chose to drop out. However, we all have one thing in common and that is our determination to finish and earn our diplomas. It took many hours of studying and I applaud each of you for your dedication and hard work.

I could not have done this without some key people and I would like to take a moment to thank each of them.

First of all I would like to acknowledge my husband for his incredible support. Thank you for carrying more than your share of responsibility at home so that I could study and get the most out of my courses. I also want to honour my five children, who are not here tonight, for sacrificing a lot of time with Mommy so that I could study.

[….]

In closing I would like to leave you with a few thoughts to inspire and challenge you as you leave tonight.

  • Always believe in yourself and never give up.
  • When you look back on your life, celebrate your accomplishments and learn from your mistakes.
  • Pursue your dreams with passion and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Welcome Clarity! Good-bye Fog!

It wasn’t until I stumbled out of the fog that I realized how tired I was of squinting to find my way. It had been too long, far too long, since I had seen clearly.

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There is something about a lack of direction–a lack of clarity and truth– that drains the life and passion right out of the soul, suffocating the spirit. In so many ways life has the ability to slowly lead us into a fog–whether it’s unhealthy manipulative relationships, too many commitments or just the mundane reality of day-to-day living.

It’s as though we wander in and out of the fog as we journey and each time we emerge we are shocked that we didn’t see it develop.  If we stop and evaluate life experience, we realize that even ‘fog’ serves a purpose: It is a reminder to stay focused, be alert and keep a firm grasp on truth–much the way a rope is used in a snow storm–so that nothing and no one can lead us away from our destiny.

***

As the sunshine of truth casts her rays on the fog, something beautiful happens. The refreshing wonder of light shining over the lifting fog inspires new courage, new hope and a new day!