Father’s Day Blessings, to all the Broken & Imperfect Ones

“You patiently loved me when I was difficult… You celebrated my achievements…” The card in my hand spoke all manner of nice things about fathers. I put it back, picked up the next one. “You were always there for me, loving, caring and teaching…”

Every year it was the same thing, standing in front of the card rack, trying to find a card that said, ‘In spite of everything, I love you! Happy Father’s Day’, without all the other niceties that didn’t fit. Every year the same quiet breaking of something inside and the wishing I could either experience the wonder of having that ‘Daddy’, or say it as it really was…

“Dear Dad, 

Every year when this day rolls around my heart hurts a little… because every year I am reminded of what a father-daughter relationship could be. I am sad, not only for what I lost, but what you missed out on. In fact, if I am perfectly honest, I feel more sad for you than for me… It must be lonely, surrounded by children, but with walls around your heart, that keep them out…

I know you’ve been hurt, and it is hard for you to risk relationships, hard for you to trust, even your own children. And you have hurt us–hurt me–and you find it hard to forgive yourself, or accept forgiveness, because you feel helpless to overcome the cycle of abuse. Truth is, I can’t imagine living with some of the things you have done, and I don’t know what to do with it, in our relationship…. In spite of all of this, you are my father, and I love you. There is a deep desire within me to have a relationship with you that is real; to face the brokenness of what has been, with honesty…. and that desire will never go away. Because every little girl wants to be her daddy’s princess.

Today I will settle for being your daughter, and love you and bless you, broken and imperfect, believing that one day our relationship will heal.  

With Love on Father’s Day, 
Your daughter

Dear Daddy_All I ever wanted

I never found a card that arranged those kinds of thoughts in poetic verse, or incorporated them into something ‘Father’s Day appropriate’. And I never had the courage to write these things out or even say them, other than quiet whispers, through tears, to my Heavenly Father–my ‘Papa’–when I shared those deep desires, hoping one day He would heal.

And God granted my request. Every Father’s Day I remember with deep gratitude sitting by his bedside numerous times in his last eighteen months, watching him weep, listening to a broken man speak from a place behind the walls of his heart. His grief, at who he had become and what he had done, and all he had lost because of it, along with gratefulness for mercy, poured out in those tears. And almost every year, on Father’s Day and the anniversary of dad’s passing, I think of ‘Living Years, by Mike and the Mechanics‘ and thank God we had some healing and some conversations in the living years.

Harder Family in Mexico

Granted, there was so much history that all we could really do is acknowledge it, and each deal with it in our hearts. There is no undoing it, no ‘unremembering’ or forgetting. There was only ‘remembering with grace’, and working through the trauma, one layer at a time, with the ‘knowing’ that God will redeem it, somehow. And I thank God for this redemption.

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Today, to all you dads–the good and whole ones, and the imperfect and broken ones–your daughters and sons long for relationship. They may have tough exteriors and broken hearts, but behind those fronts is a deep longing, buried under the pain. In fact, their anger is a sure sign of a deep desire; betrayal can only happen when their should be trust, and it can only hurt when we care, or once cared. So maybe they will need space from you because you wounded them; give them permission to find that space. Maybe it will take a long time, and even the humility and patience to release them and wait until they are ready; be willing to wait. But never stop believing that they long to know you.

To all you sons and daughters who couldn’t find a card that fit, because not one touched on that deep pain… or who didn’t even bother to look for one this year, because he wouldn’t even care if you did try…. Today, I remind you that you are worth more than he did to you. You are worth being acknowledged… loved… embraced… held. You are worth being celebrated. Your Heavenly Father–your ‘Papa’–celebrates you. That’s true whether you believe in him or not. You are created in His image, to reflect His heart. He delights in you! And the joy you bring Him, causes Him to sing over you with deep affection. (Zephaniah 3:17)

To all you ‘daddies at heart’ who were never able to have children, or maybe even marry, I pray blessing over you, as you mentor and ‘father’ the orphan children in your life who need someone to listen and care.

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And to all you daddies whose children have passed away, and the sons and daughters whose daddies have passed away, may God comfort you today. Alone or surrounded, and possibly celebrating the relationships you have, today is a reminder of a lonely ache in a place in your heart that could only ever belong to that one person. I pray that God will fill your day with kind words, hope,  and understanding friends, and much love from those around you.

To my husband, thank you for showing me what the word ‘Papa’ means, in the way you love and care for your family. Each year I am more thankful for you and the love you live in our lives. I would choose you all over again, and walk this way again, with you.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Father’s Day: To be Affirmed & Loved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…I am His daughter, He is my Father.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Why We Shouldn’t Cancel Father’s Day…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The six gifts were:

1. Love their mother

2. Spiritual Direction

3. Encouragement

4. Time

5. Consistent Discipline

6. Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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©TrudyMetzger

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Father’s Day Redeemed

This morning I wrote in honour of my husband, and the wonderful Daddy he is to our children. Now, while Tim is out with his two daughters for a few hours, I am thinking about my dad.

It has been almost ten years since Dad passed away suddenly, of a heart attack, at age 73. It doesn’t matter how many years go by, on a day like today, we remember as though it was yesterday. Even if Father’s Day was never really celebrated as a big deal, we remember.

For years, this day stirred in me so many emotions—mostly sad and pained—as I watched happy dads and daughters, or dads and sons, celebrating what fatherhood is and should be. Father’s Day sermons have always had a way of making me realize what I missed, what I longed for, and I often cried silent tears, hoping no one would notice.

When the ‘right things’ are celebrated and talked about all around us, the lack, for those of us who ‘missed out’, can be completely overwhelming and cause deep struggles. This is why I cannot write about the celebration, without being sensitive to those who are hurting. I know what it feels like.

This afternoon I want to focus on the good in my earthly dad, even though he was a very cruel and abusive man, for many years of his life. I left home the month before I turned sixteen, and never returned to live with my family again, other than for the short-term stays on several occasions between ages 17 and 19. Many of my memories are filled with fear but a few good memories stand out, and they impacted me powerfully.

I was about 13 years old, sitting at our dinner table doing homework, when Dad walked up behind me. He paused, looked over my shoulder, but said nothing for a time. I didn’t dare say anything, and tried to focus on the math questions in front of me as questions went through my mind. Why was he there? Was I doing something wrong? What did he want? What was he thinking? I squirmed. An audience was bad enough but looking over my shoulder, so that I could not see what he was thinking, was worse.

Focus! He’s watching!

At length he spoke. “You do very neat work. I’m happy to see that. Maybe someday, when you’re out of school you will be my secretary. I need someone to do my bookkeeping for me.” Dad went on to tell me that I should finish high school, something that was not common for girls in the Mennonite culture, and that I was highly intelligent.

My first ‘real job’ was working for a construction company, Country Lane Builders, as a secretary/bookkeeper. I loved that job! I had no experience and no training when I went for the interview but somehow I had confidence.

Months after I was hired, the owner met with me to discuss how it was going. At the meeting he told me that he hired me because I kept eye contact throughout the interview and, in spite of a lack of experience, I was confident. I have always believed that Dad’s faith in me influenced that moment.

As it was, I had dropped out of high school when I left home at fifteen, having only completed the ninth grade. I returned in my mid-thirties as a mom of five children ages 4 through 12, only three years after Dad passed away. I worked hard and  graduated with the Governor General’s Award for highest academic average in the graduating class, as well as the Valedictorian’s Award.

I thank my dad for the gift he gave me that day, in my early teens, when he told me he believed in me. That day he taught me to believe in myself, in spite of the negative that I learned through violence and abuse.

Later, as a mom to five young children, Dad again affirmed me, this time in my role as a mom.  I visited him in the hospital several times a week eighteen months before he passed away and, on one occasion, with tears in his eyes, he asked, “How did you do it? You gave your children so much that we never gave you.”

“Dad, I started out just like you. Angry. One day I lost my temper with Alicia, when she was two years old, and that day I asked my friends for help at a Bible Study. Someone told me that I should stop trying to be better than my parents, and start being the best mom I can be,” I said. “Dad, I forgave you and that changed everything.”

Dad and I spent a lot of time talking over the months of his illness. During that time he wept numerous times, grieving his years as a violent, angry man. He asked me to forgive him, and I assured him was forgiven, and had been for years.

One of my last conversations with Dad was when he called me, struggling to believe that God had forgiven him for all he had done and been. He needed to talk, to be reassured. That is the greatest honour I received from my dad, that he would trust me to speak into his life regarding the assurance of his salvation.

The pain has served its purpose in my life, and continues to. I thank Him for the good Dad brought into my life, and that He, as my Heavenly Papa, redeems all things.

© Trudy Metzger 2012


I Love Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day. I love this day!  In fact, I love it so much that I almost feel guilty. Why do I feel badly? Because fatherlessness is wreaking havoc in today’s society, destroying hearts and lives. And I and my children enjoy the gift of a ‘present’ father.

Today I want to honour my husband, Tim, a man among men, who has my deepest love and respect.

I have thought of doing this the past few years, but chose not to because Tim is a reserved man who prefers to stay out of the spotlight. Occasionally he gets caught in it, because of the ministry God  has called us to, and he winds up on stage speaking to an audience of women. He does this willingly, but even at conferences he much prefers to work in the shadows, always serving, always making certain that I am cared for, that things run smoothly.

In our home, Tim is the anchor. When he walks in the door my world feels complete, safe, peaceful. Our five children know they are loved, that they matter to their Daddy. His steady commitment to his children—who have mostly taken after their mother and are not as quiet and laid back as he is—is something for which I thank God and His patience is unbelievable. (Thank God for that!  I can’t imagine what it would be like if we had me… plus our five outgoing, chatty children—some who like experimenting and living on the edge—and a father with a temper… Let’s just say it would not be good!)

Even our dog—the house dog Tim never really wanted—takes excitement to a new level and follows him about, wagging and sniffing. I can’t say he appreciates it, but she seems to agree that he’s pretty awesome.  (Smart dog!)

I am especially thankful that our children have an amazing Daddy because of my own childhood. In watching Tim, my heart has found healing, as I see the ‘Papa’ heart of God, in Tim’s life. For this I am thankful beyond words.

Today is Father’s Day. I love this day! Still, I feel a bit guilty for loving it so much… for being so blessed… for being so secure in my relationship with Tim and my Heavenly Papa, that I have no fear. Oh, we do real life. We get frustrated, and grumpy. We’re human. But in that humanity, we are truly blessed and we know it. Together we fight to make our life together awesome.

Today, while I celebrate the wonderful man I married, I pray for those who are lost, wounded, lonely, fatherless. For all who want so desperately to be Daddies but cannot, for whatever reason. My prayer is that Papa-God will be your safe place today.

© Trudy Metzger 2012