Love, wrapped in a sandwich: Anabaptist church in Bronx NY, serves healthcare workers at Medical Centre

Rich Schwartz, the lead pastor of BELIEVERS IN JESUS CHURCH, a small Anabaptist-type outreach church in the Bronx, NY, shared the following last evening:

** On my way back from a site inspection in Manhattan, I stopped in at the ER at Jacobi Medical Center here in the Bronx. I had some very helpful interactions with a police officer who has been stationed there 18 years, a nurse who is a 30 year veteran, and two H.R. people with 30 and 16 years experience. All of them said they have never faced such difficult times at the hospital as they are facing now. There is a very real shortage of every kind of PPE. As the police officer walked me from the main building over to Building Four, we passed a refrigerated tractor-trailer that had the back open. The police officer grimaced a bit as we saw dozens of bodies taking up probably 70% of the floor of that trailer. They weren’t stacked on top of each other, but it was surprisingly full of bodies in body bags. Eerie.

Tomorrow (03/31/2020) at 12:30 p.m., we are hoping to bring in individually wrapped sandwiches, coffee/tea, and juice to the nurses and doctors at the ER of Jacobi Medical Center. I have a contact there who said they would welcome this. Rich **

This is church. Living. Breathing. Giving. Loving. No walls. No pews. Those things have their place for encouragement. But this is church that I can get behind, 100%.

This morning, interacting with Rich via Messenger, he added this:
I would advise the public to pray, meditate on Psalm 121, and look for ways to love others well.

It takes courage and compassion to walk into such a space surrounded by death, when you are under no obligation to o so, humanly speaking. When practical, hands on, frontline duty could be left, by virtue of their training, to doctors, nurses and others who ‘signed up’ for this through their profession. This pastor’s visit to the Jacobi Medical Centre opened up doors to serve and show love in practical ways, so that his congregation is now making food for the healthcare providers at the medical centre. (I asked if there was a place for people to donate. The following email is the church’s PayPal, if you would like to help with the costs of this ministry: bjcgive@gmail.com).

After my exchange with Rich, I received the following message from his wife:  This is Sandy, Rich’s wife chiming in. 😀 There is a possibility that we will be able to video call patients in the hospital to pray with them. Pray that we can do that! Such an awesome opportunity!

Let’s pray for them as they reach out to the sick and hurting, and the medical team looking after their needs. To step into the suffering of others is not easy. Pray for the church as they show the love of Jesus to those around them.

We can’t all go to medical centres and offer assistance. For one, it would be counterproductive and become saturated, creating extreme and unnecessary risks. But we can all listen to the nudging inside of us, and do the next right thing, and care for that one person within our reach. We who are believers ‘signed up for this’ when we accepted Christ as our Saviour and Lord, and committed to walking in the Way of Love.

*****

COVID-19 THOUGHTS, MUSINGS & NUMBERS:
I’ve followed the numbers closely from the start. There is much public speculation about whether the numbers of cases are ‘real’, and comments like, ‘most of these people would have died anyway’, and that kind of thing. Or, ‘they’re fudging the numbers to scare us’ and take away our freedom. Or, we can’t stop it anyway, we might as well let it run its course, live our normal lives and see what happens.

We’re all entitled to our thoughts. That’s one of the beautiful things about free will. We are even granted freedom of speech (at least in relation to this, for the most part, as far as I have seen and know). We won’t all agree, and that is ok too. Ideally we disagree respectfully.

For all the memes and jokes we’ve seen (or created) about the toilet paper shortage — because that truly is funny, at least until you run out of TP in your house and are left to scramble — the disease itself is not funny. It is ruthless and harsh. Whether the people all would have died or not is not the question. Based on what friends in healthcare are seeing, the answer to that question is, “no’.  A friend who works in a hospital watched an otherwise healthy individual, almost ten years younger than me, succumb to COVID-19. There was no underlying heart disease, diabetes, or other disease that made this person high risk. No medical reason for someone so young to die. Young. Healthy. Gone.

Reading Rich’s experience, how he saw the truck with bodies lined on the floor… That’s not a normal death rate. That’s not a ‘they would have died anyway’ situation. That is the outcome of a high risk disease spreading at unmanageable rates, taxing the healthcare staff. We can’t afford to have our medically trained professionals burning out. For that reason alone, exercising caution is the most respectful and loving thing we can do for our neighbours.

On the other hand, hearing  Rich’s experience, what he saw on that truck, is no reason to live in fear. I do not say this for that reason. I say it as a call to ‘love in action’ and to encourage respect for others’ wellbeing during this time. Just because I am not afraid to die does not mean I have the right to impose such risk on others.

The restrictions by governments across the world are to protect the public, by preventing rapid spread and unnecessary infecting of countless people. To the argument that they don’t protect the unborn, making them hypocrites for pretending to care now, my question is, “What bearing does their failure in one area have on our duty to protect life in every situation?”  Regardless of the failure of government in any area, my duty is to protect life always, as much as I am able. If they are comfortable killing babies, I should be no more comfortable causing unnecessary death and harm to others. My duty is to Christ, first and foremost, and to show love and grace in whatever situation I find myself. Right now, the best way to love those around me is to not put them at unnecessary risk.

I’ve seen strange claims that this is an attack by government on our faith and religious freedom as believers. No it isn’t. It isn’t persecution against the church. We are not victims here. God is not taken off guard by the scenario, and I have a hunch He’s trying to speak to the church, but some of us are too busy playing the victim to hear him. If it really was persecution for the sake of Christ, we should rejoice, not fight for our freedoms. But it isn’t that. We are all shut down together, along with our friends who are atheist, Muslim, Sikh, and every other religion.

So saying we are being persecuted is a bit of an embarrassment to Christianity, as though somehow we should have special rights. First of all, it isn’t persecution. Secondly, a life of ‘special privilege’ is not what Jesus said His life would offer us. Thirdly, in everything that happens, God is about pursuing hearts, and if we align ourselves with His vision, we don’t have space to play the victim. We have only an opportunity to love well.

Sin and death have done a number on us, on our world. Disease is part of the curse of sin. But God…

These difficult times are an opportunity to show love to others in ways we do not normally see. We tend to be so busy about our own lives that we don’t see opportunities to share the love of Jesus in practical ways. Right now, if we stop fussing long enough to see and hear, there are countless opportunities to bring the love of God to people, even from the quiet of our homes. Seize the moment, as a Jesus-believer. Show His love and grace.

Let’s pray for the countless sick across the world and in New York. New York been hit hardest in USA, with over 75,000 sick in that state alone, with over 180,000 across USA infected. New York, alone, has almost as many cases as have been reported in all of China. Even with fudging numbers, if such a thing would be happening, there is a staggering number of sicknesses and death, with evidence Rich writes about to validate that it is a significant and traumatic number of infections. They need our care and our prayers.

And let’s pray for the many struggling with suicidal ideations as a result of fears surrounding COVID-19. There have been numerous high profile suicides — including the finance minister of Germany’s Hesse state, and a nurse who feared she had infected patients — which has the potential for ripple effects. The hopelessness that comes from not being able to see their way through the present pandemic and inevitable aftermath speaks to a deep need within the human heart. Our desire to feel safe, secure, cared for is normal.  When that is shaken, we need a deeper hope. We need to know that in our need we will not be abandoned. In Jesus we have that hope. And if we are in Him, and carry His hope, we have something to offer. Not in preaching condemnation. But in loving generously and in prayer.

Admittedly, there are moments I don’t know what to say to God, or how to pray, in all of this. And the simple prayer that rises from my heart is this, “We need you Jesus. We need you. The world needs you.”

We need Him desperately. And the world needs Him. We are His hands and feet, ‘living among them’; the brokenhearted.  It is our opportunity to show the world that Jesus is kind and generous. He is hope. He is peace. He is love. He is present. … present, through our love.

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!

*****

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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

24 years ago we made a vow…

Tim and I promised each other, twenty-four years ago today, that no matter what, come hell or high water, we would stay and fight for our marriage. Hell has come and the water has risen until it was so deep we had to learn to swim… or float… or doggy paddle; anything to keep our heads above water. We’ve struggled to hold true to those promises in various ways, and multiple times.

t&t126

Our first baby was born nine months, one week, one day and two hours after that ceremony. (But who’s counting? Especially when eight months and 3 weeks would have raised the eyebrows of more than a few.) In the 6 years that followed, God blessed us with five more healthy children, and carried us through losing two others. We cried. We misunderstood how the other grieves, and at times felt hopelessly lost in this thing we call marriage.

Over the years we both have been in situations at various times that, if we had been so inclined, could have led to infidelity and unfaithfulness. But we communicated and risked opening our hearts to each other. Sometimes it meant one of us seeing the risk the other was in, and sometimes it meant seeing it ourselves and together working through navigating those relationships… and ending them.

We’ve each failed the other. We’ve looked out for our own interests instead of the other. We’ve had to own our wrongs, and say “I’m sorry”. And, when we could have walked away from each other, always we chose to stay and forgive, and support each other.

We’ve had crises and challenges and blessings, all blended together into a sometimes confusing mosaic. But when I step back, I see beauty, love and grace. We’ve hurt each other and been disappointed, and wondered if we’d make it through. Yet we’ve never, even in the hell of life, stopped loving. Even in our ‘fights’ – such as they tend to be with both of us not liking conflict – we have kept our love alive. (Yes, you can be angry and love someone. You can hurt deeply, and love them. And you can look at them and say “I still love you… I just can’t keep doing life this way”.)

I am, by nature – or maybe because of past experience – a hedgehog with rhino tendencies. I extend grace, and more grace, and more grace, and then something tips the building blocks neatly stacked, and it all comes tumbling down. And when it all erupts, we haven’t much choice but to stumble through the mess on the floor and work through it. Tim is, by nature, a hedgehog. That’s how we did the first ‘many’ years of marriage, as two hedgehogs – one with rhino tendencies.

Gradually we have learned (and are learning still) that if we talk about things as they happen – which we have done times since all hell broke loose nearly two years ago -things are so much better. When I’m cranky, I take inventory about what’s happening to my heart. Sometimes it’s just hormones. (Seriously! this middle-aged stuff…!)  But it’s not all bad. As my naturopath Dr. Jim Farquarson told me, it’s a time when God invites us to the past and heals a lot of stuff that we’ve ignored. (Okay. I can do that!)  Sometimes when I’m feeling hurt it is the result of a subtle little thing that I’ve decided ‘isn’t a big deal’ because I want to be mature. Many times that works and such grace is good. But sometimes, if it lingers, the best thing for me to do is to tell Tim. I’ve learned that often if I tell him, it breaks that negative power, and it’s over “just like that!” with the little things that build up and cause explosions. So we have less and less ‘Mt. St. Helen’ moments in our marriage all the time, and more peace.

Through it all, we’ve never stopped holding and loving each other. Sure, a few times there were several days of space and distance while we sorted ourselves out, but rarely did that stop us snuggling, even if in silence, and often falling asleep in each other’s arms. That intimacy of physical closeness – with or without sex – has been critical to us thriving. (Please understand, Tim has never violated me physically or sexually. Not in word, not in deed, not in an affair, and not by using pornography. This deeply impacts my trust in physical touch. He has hurt me in other ways, but not sexually. If that is your marriage, I encourage you to seek help. And, in any case, please don’t compare with us. Every story is different.)

Our closest friends have seen our struggles, and I’m thankful for that. I don’t know if we’d have survived if we had kept it all secret. (Special thanks to these closest friends who knew the battles and loved us anyway. In part it is thanks to you we survived those times and came out thriving!) I’m good with confidentiality, but I’m not good at ‘hidden things’ and ‘secrets’, so having safe places to process hurt and anger has been a lifesaver for me, and for us. Twenty-four years later, I spend my life with my best friend because we pushed through those struggles, and are pushing through still.

Tim, you are my best friend. I can imagine my future a thousand different ways and be excited about it. From continuing in our ‘extraordinary ordinary’ life… to pursuing my PhD (scared as I feel at moments), or being rejected from the PhD program… From staying where we live now, to downsizing as our family continues to shrink… I can imagine staying home more, or working a 9 – 5 job, or pursuing my current line of work more – or some variation of it….

I can imagine my future a thousand and one different ways and be excited. But I cannot imagine a future without you…  without my heart breaking.

You are my best friend, my lover, my constant support. In the past two years you have carried me through deep loss and grief. When my heart was so crushed it physically hurt to breathe, you held me. I don’t cry easily, even when life hurts like hell, but in your arms the tears unlock and I am comforted by your love. You have healed me and built confidence in me. You’ve showed me that amazing men exist; men who don’t worship sex, porn and control. (And as I said last week… thank you for staying away from that stuff. In this you honour our marriage so well, and spare me the shame and betrayal many women feel.)

Because of you I generally view men as trustworthy in spite of my past, and because of you I feel respected by all men. You have taught me the stability of faithfulness through the certainty of your love. You call out my strengths, you challenge, you encourage and above all, you bless me. You have learned to fight for me… for us. And you have, in all of these things, showed me the heart of God. Because of you, I trust Him with all that I am… because you have showed me that He is trustworthy. Your faithfulness replaced fear and terror of Him, with love and trust, and helped me see that He adores me.

And if next week some hell hits, or the crick begins to rise, we will paddle and swim and float… And we will fight our way forward. I love you, with all my heart! Happy 24th Anniversary!

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

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

Happy Father’s Day

Father’s Day….

It was Sunday evening when the text came in asking me to listen to some ‘Father/daughter’ dance songs for the wedding. In the seven months of wedding prep, I’ve been shockingly composed. In fact, I was starting to wonder if there’s something wrong with me because I’ve not been all weepy about seeing our first daughter get married. I feel good about it, actually, having observed them these past few years, and how they accept each other, idiosyncrasies and all. And, yes, they do have some. We all do. I’ve observed how Andrew cares for Alicia, and that detail stands out above all things. So maybe it’s okay that tears haven’t been a big part of this journey. Still, I was a bit worried it would hit out of the blue on wedding day.

And then the text came in.  A list would be on the way shortly, which I didn’t realize, so I searched the web. I should have expected it, but I didn’t. I found “Daddy’s Angel” and the emotions started. The memories…

Alicia used to come into our room and make a bed on the floor beside daddy when she couldn’t sleep at night and I had other babies, and with five in seven years plus to miscarriages, it was pretty much always. She would show up at our bedroom door, or beside our bed, blanket and pillow often already in hand. Daddy would reach his hand over the bed and hold her hand until she fell asleep, and her little heart would be at rest. As she grew to independent adulthood, through successes and struggles, Tim loves the little girl who made him a daddy for the first time.

It all took me back to the healing of my heart as I watched him, first with her, then with Nicole. An independent soul from the day she was born, and he patiently worked with her persistence and determination. That’s not said she didn’t win her fair share. In fact, one day she announced to her siblings, when she was six or seven that praying to God we have to be kind of like with Daddy, and keep coming back over and over again, until He gets tired of it and gives us what we want.  While her theology wasn’t 100% accurate, she spoke with sincerity, celebrating her own determination. And she should. God made her with that determination for His purposes. And always Tim loved her, as generously as he loved his first.

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And then came Bryan with a curiosity that led to a thousand and one answers to the question”Why?” and a whole new kind of rambunctious. An opposite to his daddy, with my spunk and crazy, he challenged and stretched his daddy in the rough and tumble of life. Rough-housing, which had never been something I saw in Tim, wasn’t optional. Granted, it tested his patience at times, but seeing them wrestle and roll, was delightful. It ended several years ago with Bryan sitting on Tim’s chest, having finally overthrown him, and having tested that patience to a whole new level, Tim looked up at Bryan, clearly at his son’s mercy, with arms pinned beside his head, and sternly said, “Have you had enough?!” And we all erupted in fits of laughter, regretting only that there was no video camera. In it all, with oreo cookies flying against the fridge like a hockey puck, and a soccer ball shattering the one and only expensive candelabra in our home, and the teasing and laughter, Tim loved Bryan well.

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Todd, the fourth son, came with a quiet temperament, and eventually we would discover an incredibly busy mind. A youngster of few words, big deep eyes, and unspoken curiosity, he gave us both a run for our money on more occasions than one. Whether daring to explore a big department store alone, the instant we turned the other way, and scaring the life out of us, or hiding in the back of our friend’s van at four because he so badly wanted to go along with them, or curling up behind a chair and falling asleep, he kept us on our toes. Through the scares, the laughter and a whole lot of affection, Tim loved his fourth with the same dedication as the first three.

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And about the time when we thought we were done, and ready to solidify our family of six with surgery, it happened, that thing I said I would not do. It all began when we dated, and discussed our hopes for having a family one day. Tim said four was a good number, and I wanted six. But, if not six, then four would have to do. Tim suggested a compromise, that maybe we could have five, but I had a list of reasons why five wouldn’t be a good choice, not the least of which would be the loneliness of being the odd number out.

It was almost three years after our first four–all of which were less than two years apart–and my feeling about odd numbers wouldn’t have been any different than during courtship, if I had contemplated a ‘plan’. Fortunately for us, God had a plan that superseded my logic.

Kordan was, from the start, a content and affectionate child. Physical touch, from day one, comforted him, but on his terms. One adult finger, held in tight grip, offered him the security he needed to relax and falling asleep. He was fortunate to be the fifth, and three years on behind the others, because practice and experience, not to mention age, relax us parents, so he faired well. The bumps and scrapes were fewer and farther in between, and life was a bit easier for him than for the others. And through it all, Tim loved Kordan as much as he loved the first four.

“Daddy’s Angel” plays in the background and my heart is full of thoughts from yesteryear. Memories of a handsome young man fathering so tenderly our five children, wrap around my heart and squeeze so tight that teardrops spill from it. Thoughts of yesterday, working side by side with that same man, attaching barn board, twinkly lights, burlap and lace to wedding things, creep in, and I am as crazy in love with him today as I was back then.

I told a friend about the song… about the tears and how it took me off guard to cry like that. “And it brings back memories of your own father too,” she said. And that’s when I realized those painful old memories of an abusive father, though long replaced by forgiveness and grace, were now officially replaced with memories of a kind man loving is children well. The man I married 22 years and five months ago this week.

This father’s day I honour Tim above all men I’ve ever known. And I’ve known some pretty amazing men in my lifetime. But not one holds a candle to the kindness of my husband. Sure, he’s imperfect, and I could point out some idiosyncrasies. But the one thing Tim taught me over the years, by his example, is to focus on the good and the strengths, and loving well. Thank you, Tim, and Happy Father’s Day! You’re the best!

And because of my own broken childhood, and not having a daddy to run to with safety and confidence, I can’t go through this day without thinking of those whose daddies are missing, for whatever reason. Tim can be many things in my life, but he can’t be my daddy. Watching him parent can warm my heart, but I’ve learned that I have to let my Heavenly Papa fill that one place that only a Papa can fill. This comfort is my prayer for all lonely children

For the fathers with empty arms, having lost children to death, miscarriage or due to infertility,  and those whose children have turned their hearts away without just cause, I pray for you, that God will be near and that people will be compassionate and sensitive to your loss and loneliness.

My prayer is that if you are lonely and hurting this father’s day, whether you are a father, a son or a daughter, you will find Him faithful and feel His love in your loneliness.  And if your heart is full and everything is perfect, that you will feel blessed and celebrate that joy this Father’s Day.

In memory of my father who has been gone fifteen years now, I’m listening to ‘The Living Years‘ by Mike & the Mechanics. It’s pretty much a tradition now, to think of Dad on this day and listen to that song… among others. There are things I would say, if I knew what I know now and had a day with him. I would keep the same boundaries, and I would still hug him and tell him I love him, in spite of all the abuse. It’s how I’m wired, a part of who I am, to be able to do that. Not everyone has to make themselves do these things. But if I had that one day, I’d tell him how much it hurt, and I’d ask more questions about his story, not to excuse what he did, but to have a better understanding. And I’d take him out for a day to some outdoor event with old machinery. But he’s gone, and what I have is the memory of God’s grace in his life and in mine. And that’s enough in a fallen world, where things are not as they should be. It will all be different on the other side of this life.

And, finally, a very special Father’s Day blessing to Tim, who is preparing his heart to watch his first little girl walk into the arms of another man, this Friday, for the rest of her life. Alicia will give up her father’s last name, and take on Andrew’s name to become Mrs. Martin. And there’s a thing about this whole process that tugs at a Daddy’s heart. It is a good thing–we know from experience–but the adjustment is worthy of mention, even while we bless her. Praying, Tim, that God will be near you this week and always. Thank you for loving your children well, and teaching me what a father should be. xoxo

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

 

 

Manipulations, Rare Confessions, Horrific Stories and Freedom to Worship

[Trigger Warning]

There isn’t much that worship can’t soothe in my spirit, in the day to day. The key and the challenge is to be diligent in setting aside time for intentional worship in the chaos of this thing we call life, which can quickly feel more like a slow and painful death if we’re not careful. Especially for people in ministry, whether pastors or other ministries. There is something spiritually and emotionally draining about ministry, apart from taking time to refuel and ‘drinking deep’ from the well of God’s love, whether through worship music, meditation and prayer, or reading truth.

Hearing horrific stories of child rape, or watching adults weep or go into shock to the point of physically going pale and clammy, as they recall someone forcing themselves or some harsh object inside of them, tends to wear on the soul. In the past year I’ve heard so many of these tragedies it leaves my head reeling, and my heart aching…. though, in honesty, something of my ability to ‘feel’ was destroyed in childhood, so it is usually more of a ‘factual’ pain, than a feeling one. That is, until it is incorporated into art or music… there, and in God’s presence or Tim’s arms, I am able to feel pain. Rarely any other place. But back on track…

In recounting details with a local police officer regarding the third or fourth case involving forcing objects inside children or youth, the officer looked at me and said, “Yeah… what’s with that about forcing objects inside kids? That’s just crazy!” I couldn’t agree more. It’s insane, actually. And I realized when he asked, that this and molestation is the horror I listen to or deal with, in one form or another, almost daily. And when it gets too much, or hopefully before it does, I escape into a place of worship, filling my heart with a truth greater than the wickedness all around. If I didn’t do that, I would burn out relatively quickly.

And I’m not alone in the intentional battle against burnout. While painful to hear, I’ve listened to pastors confess the struggle that goes with their role. I’ve heard the admission that sometimes it seems atheists are more at peace with life than believers, and live to the fullest with greater kindness than those in the Body of Christ. I’ve listened as they told how difficult it is to be attacked or back-stabbed by their congregants. While that is not something I am familiar with, since I have no congregation, my imagination works well enough to know it would be hard; much harder than ‘distant’ attacks from those who oppose what I do, I imagine.

That is one of the things that has given me the courage to press forward in ministry, knowing the deep appreciation of clients. At least most of them, and most of the time. I’ve been very blessed with good outcomes in working with clients, walking them through to healing and developing longterm relationships. In five years of 1:1 ministry, most clients continue to keep in touch from time to time, letting me know how they are, and sharing struggles and victories from time to time. In fact, only one case has truly gone wrong, either due to sincere misunderstanding or blatant lies–and I am uncertain which–and it is the one case that made me realize how blessed I am that attacks are virtually never part of my life, with clients. (Attacks from strangers, or from ‘friends’ behind my back, and attacks on our ministry  don’t bother me much any more. They’re par for the course.) Nonetheless, initially it is jolting to be thrown into a world of unfamiliar accusations and it can feel like God has let you get hung out to dry… Giving 12 hours in one day, and extra time and expense over a period of time, all pro bono, to the person who ends up stabbing you in the back is disheartening.  And in that moment, questioning why I would continue, the thing that carries me through is the knowledge that God knows the truth… that God sees all our hearts–not only mine, not only theirs, but everyone of us… And, again, my heart is drawn to healing worship and I am refreshed.

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In contrast with the ‘fatigue’ of fighting against the darkness so often covered up, a man spills his story without being confronted, and tells how as a teen he molested numerous children. We end the conversation and of his own accord, as I prepare to leave, he says he would like to talk to a police officer.

“Are you sure you want to do this? What if he has to charge you?” I ask, feeling a sense of duty to let him know the potential consequences, and to see if that changes his mind. “I thought about that before I said anything,” he continues. I tell him I will talk with an officer, and get a time set up and other details if that is what he wants. “If it takes making an example of me to stop this, then I am willing,” he says. And with that we part ways. A day later I have a time, and all the details of what this will look like. He responds with the admission that it looks pretty scary and overwhelming, and I tell him it is up to him. I don’t have enough information to do anything; it’s entirely up to him. He asks for a night to contemplate it.

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The next morning, first thing, a text comes through saying he wants to proceed. And with that it’s a plan. As I type out the message to the officer, tears flow generously. I realize the man is not one of the ones who is a greatest threat to our community. He came forward of his own free will and asked for the police without so much as a hint of it from me. And through the tears, I worship a God who sees hearts and understands my struggle with knowing that many hide vicious crimes while a rare contrite soul exposes wickedness out of a desire for truth and freedom. And that one chooses to pay the price publicly, if that’s what it takes, to help end the epidemic.

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Ah worship… it makes ‘right’ a world all wrong. It’s necessary to worship when the heavy stuff of life lands on us like a bucket load of bricks… or worse. It’s easy to worship when things are good. But when we sacrifice and are met with not so much as a passing thank you, but rather an attack, worship is critical. Drinking the toxic sludge of lies, rumours, manipulations and growing bitter quickly sucks the life out of us, so that we have nothing to give. And when the darkness hides in the crevices of Christian cloaks, it is worship that turns my heart back to my Heavenly Papa, and I am again lost in love, clothed in righteousness that is not mine.

So tonight I bask in the wonder of the ove of Jesus, who died to give me life… who died to give life for the one who comes back to say ‘thank you’… and for the one who manipulates and takes for granted sacrifices made on their behalf. He understands each of us with equal affection, and grants extravagant grace for our various struggles and burdens. And suddenly I realize that I have no enemies, only brothers and sister with pain, struggling through their story. And I pray that Jesus will meet each one in the place of their battle, and lift up the weary hearts and breathe life into us, every one, so that His purposes are fulfilled in us.

With confidence I move forward because Jesus didn’t stay trapped in a grave: Christ is Risen from the Dead, and that gives me hope for every one of us. Deep, eternal hope.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Turn Down the Noise to Hear Love’s Whisper

This morning on the way to church, when ‘Stand By You’ played, I looked at Tim and said, “I’m sorry… bear with me here…” And with that I cranked the song like a teenager. (I would have said ‘like a boss’ because that’s a cool thing to say right now, but it really was more like a teenager.) I offered Tim an apology like that because I was fully aware if there was anything he hoped to say, it would be lost in the loudness of my moment, and would need to wait or go unheard. In essence I was tuning him out, not because I don’t love him, but because I wanted a moment of indulgence in a catchy tune, with a message that feels like our story.  

The song offers a bold declaration that ‘no matter what, I’m sticking with you… we might never attain that perfect relational ‘heaven’, but I’m committed to walking beside you in the ‘hell’ of what you’ve suffered, scars and all”. Tim, who sat beside me drowned out and unable to effectively communicate with me in that moment, has lived that very grace and tenderness in my pain.

Moments later, Hillsong’s “With Everything”played at a far more reasonable volume: a gentle cry for God to break down walls, to help us see the things that touch His heart, to restore hope:

“Open our eyes,
To see the things
That make Your heart cry,
To be the church
That You would desire.Light to be seen. 

Break down our pride,

And all the walls
We’ve built up inside,
Our earthly crowns
And all our desires,

We lay at Your feet.

So let hope rise,

And darkness tremble
In Your holy light,
And every eye will see
Jesus, our God,
Great and mighty to be praised.

God of all days,

Glorious in all of Your ways.
Your majesty, the wonder and grace,
In the light of Your name. 

With everything,

With everything,
We will shout for your glory. 

With everything,

With everything,
We will shout forth your praise.
 

Our hearts they cry

Be glorified,
Be lifted high,
Above all names.
For You our King,
With everything,
We will shout forth your praise.
Woah…”

 

Suddenly my heart was drawn to worship, not war…to being fought for, rather than fighting; to a deep inner need for a Saviour , not being someone’s saviour; to breathing in deep, not exhaling; to inviting in, not drowning out. But more than that, I started feeling deeply in ways that the past few weeks have not allowed, and was able to communicate with Tim about my heart, and the emotions welling up inside me.

The moment showed me just how much ‘noise’–even good noise–has filled my life since early November. Intense client situations. Meetings with police and organizational directors to brainstorm on ways to help ‘closed’ cultures–including but not limited to Mennonites and Amish–in a way that honours the culture and works with them, rather than against them. Travel to US. Clients moving here from US. Sitting with suicidal victims and encouraging them, speaking life and hope into the darkness. Inviting Jesus into places long held hostage.

So much noise… So much good noise. Noise that the mind and spirit are not created to hold inside longterm, without a place to release and process, and yet some things must remain private and be processed very personally to protect all involved…

In a moment of worship, I heard God speak. And when God speaks, the darkness turns to light. It doesn’t just scatter; it becomes light to Him. Tears spilled over, releasing the weight of the pain I touch daily.

By the time we pulled into the parking lot, I was appropriately composed, knowing well that later I will listen to worship, meditate on the truth of God’s promises, and the tears will spill again. Because God will speak. And when God speaks, burdens grow wings and become butterflies, and my heart releases its burdens. When He speaks, tears of gratitude water the soil of the heart, creating a tender place where we are touched by needs around us, and risk emotional pain to help others.

Rising from that place of worship, my heart will be strong and the identity of the One who first spoke purpose and promises into my life will fill my spirit with all that I need for the week ahead…. Because I already know that this coming week will require more courage, more dependence on the Spirit of God, and more resilience than any other week in ministry, so far. God has called us to places that are uncomfortable and that come with great risk to us and to others. Meeting with victims and abusers is not something I do lightly, and the ripples that follow often turn into full blown waves that threaten to destroy people… regardless of the grace and gentleness we exercise in that moment.

I know that God is with me. I know He goes before me, to protect from harm and to guide; and He comes behind, wiping up the ‘spills’ and redeeming the places I fail or am failed. Learning to trust Him at this level has been a journey of faith, and one that I continue to grow in. In it all, a most critical piece is  turning the noise low, hearing His voice and allowing Him to restore my heart and strengthen me.

We say we cannot hear God… that He isn’t speaking to us. But the problem isn’t that God is silent; it is the very nature of God to desire relationship with us, therefore God speaks with constant loving invitation. The problem is we can’t hear Him, because we’ve turned up the volume with an “I’m sorry… bear with me here…”

My prayer for you this week is that you will turn down the noise in your world, so that you are able to hear God speak love and affirmation over you.

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger