Family Feuds: Redeeming the Moments

Finding God in the Chaos

Last night we had a situation in our home that stirred up chaos and turmoil. It felt for several hours as though all hell had unleashed its power on us. Out of respect for my children, I will not share details or names.

Having grown up in a home where unbridled rage had us all walking on egg shells, we have tried to make our home a safe place for everyone. Safe from violence and abuse, but also safe to be real, to struggle, to share feelings and express ourselves. What is stuffed down and bottled up has the most potential for destruction. What is spoken and addressed can be worked through.

Our home has an abundance of love. Each child has unique love language, unique needs and the desire to be validated. Hugs, tons of them, are what the youngest two prefer every day. Our older three children no longer like hugs all the time. We try to honour and respect that need for space, even though my love language is physical touch and hugs are an important part of communicating affection.

In parenting we try to set healthy boundaries while still encouraging age-appropriate independence. My guess is we err on the side of caution, without being totally over protective. We try to encourage our children, communicate with them and stay in touch with them through the various stages of their young lives.

Our home is normal. We have disagreements, spats, and days when we wouldn’t mind space and distance from each other. Sometimes the spats get out of control, though not often.

Last night was one of those nights for several children. We went out for dinner as a family and were enjoying ourselves when it started. A little teasing, a little antagonism here and there, gradually escalated to hostile behaviour between two siblings.  Tim & I took turns playing ref and coach, trying to get them to see things differently, getting in the middle when necessary–not literally, as it would have been rude to get on the table–and hoped for a peaceful resolution. When Tim went to pay, one of them had to accompany him. On the drive home, one sat in the front seat of the van with Tim, the other in the very back. I was in my own car, which, even though my A/C wasn’t working, was a pleasant and peaceful drive.  I played my favourite music, at my favourite volume—loud. (Some teenage habits die hard… especially if you lived through them in the 80’s.)

We dropped the children off and I joined Tim in the van to head out for about an hour on our own. Things between our ‘Cain and Abel’ were not entirely resolved, but there was no reason to be concerned. We’ve walked this way before and wouldn’t expect things to escalate to a dangerous level.

Sitting in the living room near the front window, when we returned home, was one of the two feudists, looking like a violent thunder-cloud in human form.  One of our youngest sons ran to me and announced that the other child had run away while we were out.

That’s a jolting announcement when you return home from a quick outing. My mother heart immediately prepared to abandon the rest of the world in order to find my child in the dark. Tim tried to assure me that there was nothing to worry about and if I waited, our child would return soon. Not easily detoured from my agenda, after calling out a few times, I jumped in my car. I’ve had friends lose their children for months at a time. It can happen to anyone.

I was barely out the lane when I saw a shadow running barefoot toward home down the sidewalk. Relief. Pure, relief.

I backed into the driveway, parked the car and headed for the front door. We were barely on the porch yet when our second youngest son flew out the front door, tried to grab his sibling. At first I thought it was a wrestling move—his way of handling the stress. Just as suddenly, he turned, ran toward me, threw his arms around me and began sobbing uncontrollably.

That is when I realized just how terrified he had been.  After we spent some time exploring the emotions and fears, saying bedtime prayers and doing good-night hugs and kisses, I asked if they were ok and ready to sleep.

They nodded. “But I was really scared,” one said.

“I know. It is scary,” I said. My own childhood memories were pushed aside, needing to deal with the situation, but I was very aware that this would be a trigger. I’ve learned to recognize the signs, to lay them aside so that I can be there for my children and support them in their own struggles.

Fighting for the Next Generation

Back downstairs the real battle was waiting. We had not yet heard the details of the story. We took them, one at a time, to hear them out and explored their hearts, the triggers, and their feelings about what had taken place.

Both of them have been bullied in school and the way they have chosen to deal with it, the vows they have made, played powerfully into the events of the evening.

We asked a lot of questions, helping them to understand their own responses but also helping them understand the other party’s needs and perception of what had happened.

Partway through the first conversation, our second youngest son reappeared, holding his Bible. He is quiet by nature, a very deep thinker. He held out his Bible and showed me the verses I had underlined when I gave him the Bible for Valentine’s Day.

Hope and release welled up inside of me as I read the verses, not to mention that my heart burst with pride. He had turned to truth, to his Heavenly Papa, when all seemed so wrong in his little world. He found peace and comfort in the Holy Spirit. I knew he would be ok.

1 John 4:16,18-19
16 God is Love… 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him[b]because He first loved us.

Something happened to my heart, as my little guy turned and disappeared, as quietly as he had appeared, and went back to bed. The tears started and would not stop. We have fought hard for our children, so that the chains of generational darkness I come from would not be passed on. That the violence, aggression and hate would end with us, and not destroy our children and the generations to come.

I was overcome with grief and yet just as powerful was the awareness that the love of God is the answer.

After we discussed the events of the evening, we asked three main questions, and together explored the answers.

  1. What do you think God thinks of you?
  2. What do you think Daddy thinks of you?
  3. What do you think Mommy thinks of you?

We followed the same process with the second child, affirming each of their identities as God’s children and ended with Tim and I each praying a blessing over each of them.

They apologized to each other and the older one went to the younger siblings and took ownership for the fear and trauma brought on them by the evening.

 

“Remind Me Who I am”   ~ Jason Gray~ 

When all was said and done, I thank God for last night—all of it—because it opened the door to doing battle at a new level for our children and the next generation. Everything that came out, we discovered, had been there for many years. It would have gone with them for life, but instead God allowed healing to begin.

Superficial ‘niceness’ does not compare to the bond that is created by going to the next level, unearthing the lies that are hidden there, and finding our true identity in God. I am so proud of my kids for being willing! I saw their hearts at a whole new level last night!

Don’t fear the hard times in family. Behind each battle lies territory that we are meant to reclaim. If we look beyond the battle to the reward, and dare to fight for our children rather than with them, it’s the best thing that can happen!

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Mother’s Day Blessings to the Happy, the Sad and Everything Between

Like any other Holiday, Mother’s Day stirs a range of emotions. I love Mother’s Day! It isn’t the same as Christmas, with near-tingling excitement for the joy of the occasion and the thrill of watching our children open presents. Or even to open mine—especially since I’m not really a gifts person. (Except for flowers–they are the exception.) If someone gives me a gift, I appreciate it, and definitely value the thought behind it, but it’s not my main love language or ‘need’. So Mother’s Day isn’t about the gifts.

My 10-year old son, Kordan, anxiously awaited the dawn of ‘the day’ to give me the gift he made at school. I get excited just watching him. He returned from school Friday with a neatly wrapped package, all done in my favourite colour—purple. “When do I give this to you, today or Sunday?” he asked.

“Definitely on Mother’s Day,” I said. It didn’t matter that much to me, but I am quite certain that Sunday morning he will wish he had saved it. So we waited. First thing Saturday morning he announced that ‘it’s only one more day!’ Seeing his excitement, made me look forward to the moment he hands me his gift. It is obviously filled with a ton of love!

Even though it’s not about the gifts for me, the little tokens of love are always delightful. Whether it’s a dandelion bouquet, a homemade card or any other little ‘something’, it always communicates love and appreciation. So I look forward  to Mother’s Day.

I will have a (relatively) quiet day at home with my husband and five children, followed by a visit from Grandma and Grandpa for dinner in the evening. I will try to call my mom at some point, as well as a few ‘mom figures’ in my life, to bless them in their roles. The feelings, all around, are positive and peaceful.

For many of you the feelings are very different.

Some of you, who are mothers, find today filled with sadness and grief. You may have lost an only child recently, or in the past, and the vacancy cannot be filled. There is no child to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day today, whether as an infant who giggles and gurgles and coos, or as an adult who appreciates you. Your heart today is lonely, empty and you feel abandoned. Today I think of you.

Maybe you lost a son or daughter, recently or in the past, and even though you have other children, there is still a vacancy. You find yourself filled with conflicting emotions as your heart thrills at the children you have, and breaks for the one you have lost. You feel guilty for the grief, worry your other children feel they are not enough, and wonder if you will ever embrace this day again. Today I think of you.

Maybe your son or daughter has abandoned you, emotionally, and spoken unkindly of you or to you. They are alive, but your relationship is broken. Gone.  You wonder if you will ever see him or her again. You wonder if they even think of you, or only think of you long enough to entertain a hateful thought or dark curse. The grief and the ache in your heart are more than you can bear. You feel regret. Fear. Loneliness. Anger. Shame. Sadness. Loss. Deep, deep loss. Today, I think of you.

Maybe you are a mother who has lost sight of the value of your role. You feel disdain for it. You are angry. You fail your children, or have failed them terribly in the past, and you can’t find it in yourself to care or say, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”. Your children are wounded, lost, abandoned. They wonder if you will ever ‘come home’ again. Will they ever know you, be loved by you—accepted? They wait, almost hopelessly, for you to be there for them, to talk, listen, and do life with them. And so they wonder as you wander, far from their hearts. Today I think of you.

Or, it could also be that you are the abandoned son or daughter. Maybe your mother gave you up for adoption, withdrew emotionally, or perhaps she died and was taken against her will. All you feel is a deep, empty, lonely ache…. and anger. You long for even one person to look at you on Mother’s Day and say, “I’m sorry she isn’t here for you today. Can I give you a hug?” Today I think of you.

Finally, maybe you are the son or daughter who has abandoned your mother. Your hurt and anger may be justified. Even so, she is still your mother and you need her as much as she needs you. It may be that you are the one who will have to take that first step. She may be so consumed with guilt and regret that she fears you will never forgive her. She may feel she doesn’t deserve you anymore. Or, the tragic truth may be that she is not willing to restore the relationship.  You may reach out, year after year, and always arrive at the same rejection. Today I think of you.

Today I would like to offer you hope. For many years I seldom communicated with my mom. I had completely withdrawn from her emotionally, because of our very traumatic home life. I wasn’t able to handle the pain. Ultimately, I was not able to forgive.

About seven years ago I called my mom, not on Mother’s Day but on a random day. We started to talk at a depth we had probably never spoken before. Eventually, in the course of conversation, I shared my hopes, my dreams and my plans with her. I talked about how I wanted to do ministry to help others work through pain and trauma. I told her that I wanted to teach people about healthy sexuality, so they would not suffer what I went through. I told her that I dream of ending abuse and violence or, at the very least, breaking the silence and shame surrounding the topic.

When I finished talking, there was a pause and then my mother spoke these words, her voice filled with grief and regret, “Ah… I wish someone had taught me all of those things.”

That heaviness in her voice told me more than words could have. She longed to go back, to do things differently, but she cannot. She praised me in the path I have chosen, blessed the things I shared and for the first time in many years, if not the first time ever, I felt connected to my mom. There is always hope.

I don’t know your story, but I do know this, there is healing and restoration available if your relationships are broken. Today, if you are struggling, my prayer is that you will invite Jesus and friends into your grief and struggle. My prayer is that you will find the courage to extend forgiveness and accept it, if you need it, and that this Mother’s Day will be the beginning of a new relationship for you.

Be blessed this Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day: The Power of the Father’s Affirmation

Zephaniah 3:16-17
“[…] Do not fear […], let not your hands be weak. 17 The Lord your God […] will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

On Wednesday evening I attended Sozo, a ministry training video series that teaches what it means to be saved, healed and delivered. This week they taught about ‘The Father Ladder’ and how our perception of God is shaped, to a large degree, by our relationship with our family.

God, Our Daddy-Father, Provider and Protector Who Delights in Us

Our perception of God whether distant and harsh or near and loving, comes largely from our earthly fathers. When our fathers provide, protect and affirm our identity, we tend to see God that way. If Daddy adores me and is proud of me, I am more likely to believe that God adores me and is proud of me.

When our fathers fail in these areas it is in forgiving them that we are freed from that misconception about God, and rediscover Him.

They talked about how many wounded women choose partners that have the same negative and abusive behaviours of their dads had. I thought about past boyfriends. I almost made that mistake. I remembered Howard, a man who stepped into the ‘Dad role’ in my life before I met Tim. I have never known a man more like Tim than Howard is. I thanked God, again, for the example Howard was in my life.

I thought back over the years to childhood… the pain, the disappointment and the deep wounds that are now healed. And then a new revelation hit me: I have never dealt with abandonment. I have always known that I felt abandoned. Awake at night, as a little girl, terrified by the shadows in the doorway, I had to do it alone. I could not cry out for my Daddy to come and protect me. In fact, I feared the shadow was his, and he was coming to hurt me. At six…seven… eight… nine… and until 15 when I left home, I could not call out to him. I was alone.

I had forgiven him for hurting me, for terrorizing me, but I had never forgiven him for abandoning me and not being my protector. No wonder I struggle to believe that God will protect me when I am in a bad situation. No wonder, when I face a difficult situation, whether spiritually or practically, I struggle to believe that He will come through for me and protect me. In that moment of revelation, I chose to forgive my Dad….. again.

The timing couldn’t have been more significant. I needed to know that right now, to believe that God has not and will not abandon me.

Jesus, Our Brother and Friend

Next we learned how Jesus, our Friend and Brother, can seem distant and hard to connect with depending on our childhood wounds from siblings and friends.

In a family with sixteen children, each in survival mode due to violence and dysfunction, wounding is inevitable. Sure, we forgive, let go, move on and understand what we all lived out of, but the scars remain for a time. Healing comes, one layer at a time.

I thought back to my wounds. I’ve forgiven my siblings and moved on. I abandoned my family the month before I turned sixteen and in the next two years they only saw me about a handful of times, if that. Then I suddenly reappeared. For almost two years I lived close to home but spent very little time there. And then I disappeared again, keeping limited contact.

I’m sure I have done my share of wounding my siblings. It was survival of the fittest, and my survival was in taking care of myself, to remove myself from the reach of my family so that I would not continue being wounded.

Now, all these years later, I love my siblings, I care about them. Still, the reality is that an element of bonding never happened under the circumstances of our home life. Again, the woman said, forgiveness is key in freeing us in our relationship with Jesus.

Finally, we learned how the nurturing, comforting and teaching mother represents the Holy Spirit and, when misrepresented, there is confusion. I heard this part of the teaching, but stayed stuck on number one and two. Not because there are not things to look and work through in my relationship with my mom. Not because there are no wounds. There are. But the first two were all I could handle in one evening. My mind was tired, and my spirit needed time to process it all.

The Father’s Affirmation

Thursday morning I intended to get several items  from the grocery store first thing. I should have slipped out at 8:30 in the morning. I was out of detergent and laundry piles were waiting. And I was almost out of cream for my coffee. But I stalled.  An hour passed. And another. Still I stalled. For no particular reason. Another fifteen minutes.  Finally, at about 10:45 I slipped out, regretting slightly my late start, but only  until I discovered that God had His own agenda taking shape.

I grabbed my items, and headed for the check out. Slipping my card in the chip reader, I saw a gentleman across the store. Howard? I squinted. (Should have worn my glasses!) I wrapped up paying for my purchases, squinted again and was confident it was Howard.

When I was twenty-one, Howard and his wife Alice stepped into my life and helped me unravel the pain and trauma of those early years. Together they showed me love, acceptance, grace and offered me hope for healing.

I walked across the store, abandoning my big box of groceries. The thought occurred to me that they were paid for. Someone could walk away with them. That was a risk I was willing to take.

Howard saw me and his eyes lit up. With pride beaming from his eyes, he told me how proud he is of me. He had recently spoken with someone whose wife had attended a women’s retreat where I spoke. He encouraged me and blessed me. A second time he said, “Trudy, I am so proud of you! And I love you very much!”

I felt like a little kid again, but this time I was soaking up the blessing. There was no fear, no pain, no abandonment.

A great big Howard-kind-of-bear-hug later, I walked out the door, more empowered than a kid after eating a bag of candy and a Red Bull to wash it down!

It wasn’t until I walked away that I felt God saying, “I’m proud of you too. I sent Howard today, just to remind you that I am here. I know what you’re going through. I see your struggle. Your fears have not escaped my attention. I am here. You are loved. I bless you.”

That alone could have taken me a long way. But God wasn’t done.

At home I unpacked my groceries and had just tossed the empty box in the hall, to be taken to the garage for recycling, when the doorbell rang. There, peaking through the side panel, stood my ‘little’ brother, grinning from ear to ear. He’s thirty-five now and taller than me, but he will always be my little brother.  Some things never change.

We spent several hours together on Thursday, talking, laughing and sharing heart to heart. He’s a wonderful young man and I’m so proud of him. Proud to be his sister. Proud to be his friend. Proud of how honest he is, how authentic, how transparent. Proud of his heart , his kindness.

He told me I am easy to talk to. He shared some cool ideas he has and wondered if I wanted to be part of making them happen. Of course I do!  And then he left.

As he drove away, the previous night’s Sozo lesson returned. Jesus, my Brother… my Friend. He is as willing to interact with me, to be part of my life. I love Jesus. He lived transparently. He stood for Truth. He lived authentically. His heart is kind.

In one day two unplanned meetings, both relating to the previous night’s teaching and my struggle, had affirmed a deeper truth about God in my life.  And in that affirmation, my heart was strengthened for the battle we call life.

As I thought about this post, and it being Mother’s Day weekend and all, I wasn’t sure how appropriate it was to share right now. On further thought, I realized how much fathers hold the power to influence their daughters—the mothers of tomorrow.

This weekend, while Howard is not my Dad by birth, he did give me an amazing gift by showing me the gift of being valued. I observed how he did this with his birth daughters years ago, when I first moved into their home. He told them how beautiful they were, how proud he was of them. I had never heard a dad talk that way before but that example changed my life and shaped my expectation. I saw that I have value and should be treated with respect.

My brother gave me that same gift of respect and value. While he was here on Thursday, he told my fourteen-year-old son how fortunate he is that we can discuss sex. Understandably my son mumbled something about it not being cool, to which my brother replied that it’s very cool. He told my son that he is fortunate. While he may not have thought of it, he blessed me in my role as a mother.

I love being a mom to my kids! I thank Howard, my brother and all those who influenced and empowered me on this amazing journey!  Especially the godly men in my life who bear the image of God and represent the Father’s heart.  Through you I am reminded that God is my #1 cheerleader—that He delights in me.