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

 

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.

****

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.

canstockphoto27624517

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

When Christmas Cheer Brings Christmas Tears: A Season of Pain for Victims

There’s no denying it! The Christmas season is upon us! And, though it didn’t last, the winter wonderland  that made its bold appearance well before December, put some of us in the mood for it. As more and more twinkly lights appear, and Christmas music plays in stores and on the radio, the cheer of the season gets inside of me. I love the thrill of Christmas, with happy sounds in the air, and beauty all around.

canstockphoto16722863-edited

Unfortunately, for many people, the season is one of the most difficult of the year. With festivities and ‘happiness’ everywhere, to them it is a bold declaration of loss, a reminder of pain and grief. Often unacknowledged. This can be the result of any number of losses—whether the death of a loved one, loss of employment, or family abuse and violence—all of which deserve acknowledgement—but, for the purpose of this column, and not to diminish other losses, I will focus on the loss of innocence, through sexual abuse. While many thrill at having parties and family gatherings to attend at Christmas, for victims of sexual abuse these events often cause anxiety and panic attacks. As adults get together with their siblings and parents, their children who have been abused by these family members, dread it. And, because there is so much cover-up and secrecy surrounding abuse, the victims often carry the anxiety in silence, unable and unwilling to disrupt family ‘peace’.

This need to protect family ‘peace’ at all cost, is something that is ‘caught’ more than taught, as the pain of victims is overlooked, often starting in early childhood. When ‘Uncle Joe’ comes by, and little Sarah doesn’t want to say ‘hi’, shake his hand, or give him a hug, mom and dad are quick to insist on being polite, and force the interaction or even punishing her, without so much as a thought that maybe Sarah is justifiably afraid of Uncle Joe. When little Jason doesn’t want to sit on Grandpa’s knee, or throws a fit when aunt Mandy wants to take him for a walk, the same coaxing or discipline is applied. Rather than taking children aside, and exploring their feelings and fears, we force ‘niceness’. As a result, many years later, that same forced niceness continues, as does the loneliness of dealing with sexual victimization. Both parties—victims and perpetrators—act as if nothing ever happened. And victims shed lonely tears after the gatherings, or, worse, simply shut down.

canstockphoto12454805

Adding to the confusion is the religious focus of Christmas, and celebrating the birth of the Messiah, all while the sins of fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, cousins and neighbours, remain carefully cloaked. The sin that this Holy Child supposedly came to save us from, is protected at all costs. This begs the question, did Jesus really die for that sin or do we believe, somehow, that it is one sin He can’t handle? Or, more likely, do we excuse the sin and overlook the devastating impact? Either way, the wonder of the Christ-child is lost behind shadows of shame, false guilt, and emotional angst, leaving victims feeling abandoned by God and angry with Him. Rather than stirring love, and ‘goodwill toward man’ the Christmas season becomes a burden.

It is not uncommon for me to receive emails and messages from abuse victims, this time of year, sharing the pain, grief and loss they feel, and the dread of needing to attend family events. It isn’t self-pity; it is deep trauma. Most victims long for one thing, more than anything, and that is to have the burden of silence lifted, their pain acknowledged, and to have the abuser say, “I’m so sorry for robbing you of innocence. It was my fault. I have no excuses.” For many, this is the gift they long for most, this season.

If you have victimized someone, sexually, consider taking ownership for your crime this Christmas. Find a mediator to communicate with the victims, so that you don’t add further trauma, and tell them you are sorry, offering no excuses for your crime, and without demanding forgiveness. It won’t undo the past. It won’t ‘fix’ the victim’s ongoing trauma. But it will give him or her permission to grieve, without self-blame for something you did against them. It will be awkward, for a while, but you’ll stop tripping over the elephant in the room, all decorated with Christmas lights and superficial festivities, and discover the real meaning of the season.

 

canstockphoto11755557

(For the Elmira Independent: December 4. 2014)

© Trudy Metzger

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church

(Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)

Trudy’s YouTube Channel

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Return to the First Post in ‘Abigail’s Story’ Series