Setting Back Time (literally), Cake Batter Disasters, and Other Mother’s Day Musings

How soon it was, after we moved to Canada, that my parents bought that old daisy clock for our kitchen, I don’t recall, but I was enthralled by it. In my little mind it was the prettiest thing on earth, just like the real daisies outside. I would have one just like it when I was all grown up. Mom liked it too. So much so that when it stopped working, sometime around my late preteens, she set out to fix it.  There was also the little issue of not having money for frivolous things so what Red Green’a duct tape couldn’t fix, my parents found a way to redeem. Whether it was lack of finances or love for the clock, now useless, mom took it upon herself to fix it.  She pulled it apart, every little piece, and put it back together again. And, sure enough, it ran again.  Backwards. We kids laughed and joked about that for a long time.

Now, at 47, I look at the picture of that daisy clock and think to myself, if but for a moment, how I’d like to take the ‘clock of my life’ apart and put it back together differently. Maybe go back and do some things differently with a second shot at it. Especially as a mom. That’s me and almost every other mom, with presumably a few exceptions.

Not because of Mother’s Day, but just because of mothering and humanity, this topic has toyed with my mind more than enough lately. My failures stare me in the eye, time and time again, and more so with age. I see who my children have become and are becoming and I am amazed by God’s goodness in spite of my failures, but the awareness of generational sins, cycles and dysfunction are pretty glaring at this stage. So, yes, if I could pull down the old daisy clock, reset it, and go back with all that I’ve learned and…

Truth told, Adam and Eve would eat the apple again, and I would fail as a parent again. And we mothers would look back with regrets, losses, and wonder how God will ever redeem the impact of our generation, and the generation before us. Somehow he just would. Because God is amazing that way.

So that old daisy clock, which looks much less appealing today than it did then, can keep moving forward and I will choose to trust God to be enough for this generation and the next, even as He continues to redeem our generation and the ones before us.

And I’ll take a step back and look at the messy parts with new hope. More like that cake mom made when I was around 8 years old. The old yellow bowl was filled with batter and mom stirred enthusiastically, trying to beat out every lump. (So help us God if cake should ever have a lump in it…) And just like that, having been a bit too enthusiastic, she sent the bowl flying and chocolate batter spread everywhere on the counter, running down the counter and onto the floor. The bulk of it stayed on the counter, fortunately. We were not wealthy by any means, and wasting a cake would never do! So, after much fussing and gasping and exclaiming – while her children watched in humour – mom scraped the batter from the counter back into the bowl, cleaned up the rest of the mess, and baked a lovely cake for us. We kids who witnessed it, and those who heard the story, laughed many times over that moment.

Life is hard. Really hard, sometimes. And we moms have a habit of beating ourselves up pretty good. We look at our failures and see only the batter running down the cupboard and the mess on the floor. We forget that the bowl with batter running down it’s sides still has much in it to give, and what is spilled on the counter, God will redeem and make something beautiful out of it. The spills, He will wipe up.

Mother’s Day is the hardest for me to blog about, or write about, and I pretty much never speak publicly about my mom. There are so many unanswered questions, so many pains left in limbo, so much loss that I must give to God constantly, that it would be easier to look the other way. That is true in my relationship with my mom, and it is true in my own journey as a mom. And I’m not alone. I hear story, after story after story. I’ve chosen to forgive even where the story has never been acknowledged. When I see mom I hug her and tell her I love her, but my arms feel empty even as they are wrapped around her, knowing some things have never been and will likely never be.  Mom is old now, and because she is still living, I carry the story quietly within me out of respect. It’s something I did for dad, and it’s something I will do for mom. And when she is gone, I will speak, but I will speak respectfully as I have about dad. I bless her as she lives out her remaining days, months, years, and possibly decades (in fact probably decades… she’s pretty stubborn, or determined, depending on point of view). And I trust she has made peace with her God. I hear it in her, and bless her. But there are scars that cannot be addressed. So I trust God to wipe up the spills, scrape up the batter that remains, and make something beautiful.

This Mother’s Day, if you grieve for whatever reason, I pray for you. If you are the mom who failed and feels beyond redemption… If you are the mom who never had babies, or lost them all, or lost any… If you are the mom who is unappreciated, abandoned, or used and abused… If you are the mom who is in the thick of the mess of those early years, or struggling through difficult teen years (not all are, but some are)… If you are daughter or son who is estranged, rejected, or manipulated and repeatedly wounded… This day you are worth being celebrated.

And, this Mother’s Day,  if you are the mom whose life is idyllic, beautiful and ‘perfect’…. You are worth being celebrated.

Motherhood is a beautiful thing, made up of more joy and more pain than any human can possibly imagine exists in this world. Nothing has made the miracle of God and the wonder of spiritual life more real than motherhood. Nothing has broken my heart in deeper places. And nothing has caused me to reach out to Someone greater and say, “I need You. We need You!” And I trust that Someone with my life, my children, my mother and our intertwined stories, to bring something beautiful out of all things.

Happy Mother’s Day!

With Love, 
Trudy

 

© Trudy Metzger 2017

A Conference for Sex Abuse Victims With The Anabaptist, the Baptist, and Me

God willing and the crick don’t rise, on May 19 – 20 we plan to do a conference at Erb Mennonite church, Lititz PA, for survivors of sexual abuse, as well as those who offer support. This includes pastors, teachers, friends, family, mentors and anyone who wishes to offer understanding.

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Some years ago, when going through a particularly dark time in dealing with the abuses in my past – the sexual, physical and spiritual abuse – I cried out to God, as I have often done over the years. I don’t expect God to write on the wall, take away my grief or pain, or even say a whole lot in those moments. It’s mostly just a trusted place where I release my heart and know I will not be brushed aside, judged or disregarded; He always listens and always loves me just the same. But somewhere in that time He whispered something to me. And I just knew it was Him, and I just knew it would happen. Deeper healing would come from the place of my suffering, but the ‘how’ of it was not revealed. I shared it with Tim, a bit hesitantly. I didn’t know what it meant, but believed someone from ‘within’ would play a role in that healing and acknowledge that the problem is real. I didn’t hold my breath, but I held on to hope, knowing such a thing would have significant impact on many.

Being told it doesn’t happen or isn’t so bad, thus downplaying the impact of sexual violence, adds to trauma while also escalating the problem. And maybe it is the latter that makes it the denial so hard; we who were once victims know it continues and there’s no way to stop it from happening to other children. That thought torments us. So for someone within my culture to boldly acknowledge the problem, without excusing the offender, minimizing the trauma, or blaming victims, would have been enough. But what happened was so much better.

The note came at a difficult time. The challenge of helping victims is wearing, because exposing it disrupts people and systems, and anger is directed at those trying to help. And exposing the darkness is particularly exhausting when I’d rather be friends with everyone and believe there isn’t any evil in religious cultures. The fatigue of that resistance had set in when the note came from a conservative Anabaptist lay pastor; a simple apology for the attacks on our ministry, and on me as a person, simply for following God’s call, a thank you for daring to follow that call, and then speaking into that calling and affirming it.  I was overwhelmed.

Weeks earlier someone shared an incident where they heard a leader in our local community speak evil of me and our ministry. Because they are a couple I held in high regard, I contacted them and asked to meet and try to come to an understanding. They declined and till all was said and done, I felt inadequate and genuinely believed maybe God was telling me to walk away from my calling, that I was unqualified.  On the heels of this, I was astounded to receive the random note of encouragement, apology and blessing from the conservative Anabaptist leader. He even included the very verses God used many years ago to define my calling; verses which are documented and engraved in every phase of this ministry, and which always seem to resurface from random places when something is at stake.

That conservative Anabaptist leader was Kenny Kuhns.

Some time later, when I heard Kenny speak, I wept. Hearing a leader from ‘among my people’ speak such life and hope into the harsh reality of my past, and the past of every survivor of sexual violence in a religious setting, deeply moved me and gave me hope. For a second time, God used Kenny to bring deeper healing into my own experience. I’ve been in ministry a long time, and sometimes people ask if the past ever causes struggle. The answer? Of course it does. From time to time, something triggers the trauma. While this ever less frequent, the truth is that humans have moments when we are confronted with the past, and we must grieve, or run. I used to run. Where there is grief and pain, there is a need for healing, and that is something we need never be ashamed to admit, no matter how long we are in ministry, or how ‘healed’ we become. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is enough for me, and the power of the past is broken. I am not a victim. And I believe just as confidently that He sends representatives to unveil His love in new ways to bring deeper healing when needed.

After seeing Kenny’s heart, we invited him and Irma to join us at our upcoming conference at Erb Mennonite church in Lititz, to speak to the victims as a ‘voice from within’ who understands both the magnitude of sexual abuse in our culture and the cost to those who were victimized. Having worked with survivors for many years, he sees the damage done, but also sees the potential, the place for hope, and the power of Christ to restore and renew. His compassion for survivors serves as a life-line for those often misunderstood and unheard in churches, as he acknowledges the deep suffering. But he doesn’t leave us in our suffering; he honours the hard spiritual battles we fight and acknowledges speaks the life and hope of Jesus into that darkness.

We’ve also invited Pastor Dale and Faith Ingraham from New York to join us again. We’ve had the privilege of working with them numerous times in the past five years, and are always blessed and encouraged. Faith’s story of overcoming abuse at the hands of her father, also a Baptist pastor, while painful, is also a story of resilience, courage and faith. Their heart for the wounded is as genuine as any I’ve encountered, and the gentle message of hope God has given them, brings healing and life.

We are honoured to partner with Kenny and Irma Kuhns for the first time, and especially thankful for the long-term support and friendship of Dale and Faith Ingraham. We look forward to what God will do. It’s going to be good!

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red brochure inside

All are welcome to attend. We acknowledge sexual abuse, however, what we focus on and talk about is God’s love, His grace and His redemption; that is something we all need. Registration is by donation until May 5. After May 5 it is $65. Refreshments and a noon meal will be provided on Saturday May 20, but attendees must preregister for this. This is to make meal planning possible, and avoid last minute stress for the organizing team. Register online: http://www.generationsunleashed.com/events or by snail mail to: Generations Unleashed 15 Coral Gables Crescent, Elmira Ontario N3B 3P4.

For further information, call Dave Miller at: 519-669-3126.

Love,
~ T ~

Ps. Because of the unusual nature of this conference, in that we have invited a conservative Anabaptist leader to come speak, we are aware this may stir up questions, concerns and even fears for some who have suffered abuse at the hands of leaders within the culture, whether spiritually, sexually or otherwise. We acknowledge this risk and are open to questions, concerns and addressing those fears. Please feel free to contact any of our speaking team at:
Trudy: trudy@generationsunleashed.com
Kenny: kenkuhns@nls.net
Dale & Faith Ingraham: dfingraham@speakingtruthinlove.org

Dear Victim: You are an overcomer!

As I thought about nearing the end of this commitment, I thought of how victims of abuse don’t have an ‘end’ to reach for; it’s a lifetime kind of thing, dealing with memories, forgiveness, flashbacks, tears, more forgiveness, and a blend of victory and struggle. I’ve talked with enough elderly victims to know that, while healing comes, there are aspects of what happened that never leave us.

The past cannot be undone. The story cannot be done away with. The pages are written, and they cannot be edited. The steps taken, cannot be backtracked. And the scars etched on our spirits and psyche are a testament to that harsh reality.

Truth is, the road looks long, many days. There are seasons in the healing journey that feel like there is no hope of ever reaching that place of purpose, redemption and being an ‘overcomer’. It seems far away… and we move at what seems a snail’s pace toward it…. And in those moments hope has a way of escaping us.

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But there is a sweeter truth; an overriding reality; our title isn’t an earned one. It is a gift, given to us by the One who already overcame on our behalf; the One who took upon Himself the curse of what was done against us.

In school, when we played ball, if we had an injured student who couldn’t run, they were allowed to have a ‘runner’. They would hit the ball, and the runner would take off the instant that ball connected with the bat, and when the runner made it to home plate, the diamond symbol we used for score keeping was drawn next to the batter’s name, just as if they had ran the bases.

Jesus was our ‘runner’. He ran the diamond, landed on the home plate, and gave us the title ‘overcomer’. On our worst days and in our lowest moments we are overcomers and have purpose because of Him. And in those moments He is our hope. When we feel nothing, He is our hope. When we crush beneath the pain and cannot breathe, He is our hope.

He demands nothing in the way of performance or proving ourselves; He invites into a place of resting and being held. There’s no ‘washing up’ to be presentable. He invites us stained and bruised.

And there, held in His grace, stained, bleeding and wounded, He whispers peace and reminds us of the only thing that really matters, “You are loved, eternally and completely…. just as you are. You are mine. You are an overcomer.”

Ah, yes… You are loved, completely and eternally. I am loved… We are are loved. And together we can press forward, some days at a snail’s pace, but never abandoned, never alone. We’re in this together.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Pastor Tullian (Billy Graham’s Grandson) ‘Caught in Adultery’; What headlines don’t tell you…

The headlines of Pastor Tullian Tchividjian committing adultery kind of hit me in the gut. If it was Joel Osteen, it would have far less impact. I am probably about 350 degrees removed from Joel; I don’t know anyone who knows him personally. If it was Joyce Meyer, that gap would close somewhat for reasons I won’t get into. And, while Pastor Tullian is less known than both, it had greater impact; he is one degree removed, and the ‘man in between’ is someone I deeply respect.

My first thought when I read it wasn’t, “Hmmm… another mega-pastor has fallen…” or some such resigned rhetoric. My heart squeezed a bit tighter in my chest, and I choked up a little. Not because of personal disappointment, but because of what sin has cost him; what it costs every one of us. Relationships take a hard hit, when ‘spiritual giants’ fall. Faltering Christians are confused and feel lost when heroes and mentors ‘betray’ what they teach. Husbands and wives struggle and ache. And the children… they always hurt like hell. Every time. When leaders fall, their children and young Christians under their leadership pay a high price. And that price is even greater depending on our responses… and the responses of believers at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

I will never forget that feeling… In my early twenties several women in our church took me under their wings, so to speak, spiritually and emotionally. I had started working through the aftermath of sexual abuse when they stepped in and mentored me. One on one, I talked as openly as I knew how then. Several years went by, and our connections had weakened, by the time it happened, but after all I had shared, it still felt very personal. Tim and I were dating, and the husband of one of these women was his Sunday School teacher at the time….

It was a Wednesday evening when our bishop rose to make the announcement, disclosing that this couple had fallen into sexual sin. How much detail was shared there, and how much was shared with me after I am not sure, but I knew more than I needed to know. I was crushed. Tim was stunned. And after church we sat on the grass, under the stars–a young couple wanting to save sex for marriage–and had a numb conversation, our minds reeling. It was a moment of grief at having trusted so deeply. “I talked with her about my struggles… the abuse… I had coffee with her… I trusted her…”  It all spilled out like a cup of tipped coffee, hot and scalding, as I absorbed what it all meant.

Hard as it was, those were not the defining moments of that event. Thank God. The defining moments came when I heard the couple sought counselling. The defining moments came when someone believed in grace enough to say, “It’s not over. God will redeem this mess.” My heart still felt hesitant, granted. It still needed time to heal from the shock of it, but the greater message was in the redemption. And I watched as God turned that evil into good, and now uses the woman to bring healing to others.

Pastor Tullian and I never met for coffee. He never sat and patiently listened to my broken story, reassuring me. And he was never Tim’s Sunday School teacher. But I have been blessed by his wisdom and words of grace, ‘from afar’. (A grace I pray he and Kim will hold onto most tightly, in this time.) But, more than that, he is a brother to the man who wrote the foreword to my book, BETWEEN 2 GODS. And, if Pastor Tullian was one to do book reviews, I would have had him do one of my book in instant. (I checked into it.) Because he believes in grace and redemption, I would have trusted him with my story.

pastor tullian

I, too, believe in grace and redemption. And I believe it for Pastor Tullian and Kim Tchividjian. Yes, it is sad, I won’t downplay that; looking at King David’s life there are and will be devastating consequences for such sin… But I hold the atonement of Christ in high regard. The only Gospel I offer is that Jesus is more than enough. I will not judge, but I will pray. I will not condemn. I believe that the Jesus of John 8 is the Jesus of today, and if Pastor Tullian and Kim were brought to Him for judgement, He would again kneel in the sand and begin to write… And in that humble moment, accusers would scatter, leaving only Jesus and the bystanders to witness and hear what the headlines don’t tell you; divine grace, flowing from tender eyes, and lips speaking with Heaven’s affection, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

And I believe that the God of King David–a very broken man whom God called ‘a man after His own heart’–is still God today. Like King David, Pastor Tullian and Kim, and the woman ‘caught in the very act’ of adultery, I too needed grace. And I need grace still; we all do.

I only hope that men and women of God who fall into adultery and sin, rise up again, like King David, to serve God with greater vision and passion… and broken. Because broken men and women are of far greater service to the Kingdom of God than great, strong, unbroken leaders. Our sins do not disqualify us from serving God, if we repent and fall harder on grace than we ever fell into sin. The grace of God is enough, whether alcoholism, gossip, adultery, gluttony, homosexuality, arrogance, or any other sin….

Because Jesus didn’t die for nothing. 

Love,
~ T ~

TO REGISTER for Lancaster Pennsylvania Conference,  July 10-11, 2015 visit: GenerationsUnleashed.com
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© Trudy Metzger

When Sex, Abuse Scandal & Religion Meet Jesus…

When sin collides with grace, redemption is the inevitable outcome. When Jesus met the woman at the well… when He had a woman, whom we believe to be a prostitute, wash His feet with her tears… a prostitute, draped all over Him… When a woman was brought to Him for stoning–caught ‘in the very act’ of adultery (how much more embarrassing and shameful can it get?)… And when the Samaritan woman, who believed herself to be nothing more than a dog, because that was what society taught and believed, begged for her daughter’s healing… Even Nicodemus, the ‘uber-religious’, cream of the crop law-keeper, a Pharisee, when he humbled himself…

In each case, when the broken, discarded, and sinful encountered the Messiah, something beautiful happened. And when the religious came, with humility–the Pharisee calling Jesus ‘Rabbi’, or teacher–even then, sin met grace, resulting in redemption. Only the arrogant missed out, like the rich young ruler came, having kept the law to perfection, but having missed the heart of God’s religion…  And even he, I suspect, was transformed in ways that only showed later; the part of the story never written for us know.

And that is what happened to me, when my sins, and the sins committed against me, met Jesus. I had an encounter with grace, in that moment, that changed the trajectory of my life, and the lives of the generations to come. I didn’t know, immediately, that it also impacted the sins committed against me; I would learn that over time.

In my memoir, Between 2 Gods, I tell that story, boldly, unapologetically. The things that were done against me, and the things I did, should never appear in black and white for the world to read, many would say. Yet the Bible is full of scandalous stories that, if the ‘forgive and forget’ teachings were biblical, could not be told. So I tell my story, knowing Peter cursed Jesus and Jesus’ only response was, “Do you love me? I have a ministry for you to do”; no condemnation. I write it knowing King David, a man after God’s own heart, had sex with Bath Sheba while her husband was murdered at his hands. And I write it knowing Dinah was vindicated when her rapist was brutally murdered by God’s people.

I should not be able to meet those who have read my story and be able to lift my eyes, without shame or the desire to run and never look back. But I tell it. And men and women alike have read it, and I’ve faced them, without shame. But they were friends, mentors, and publishing contacts. Now I have told that story, in black and white, for the whole world to read, and I still feel no shame. The reason I feel no shame is because, in that moment, when I met Jesus and collided with grace, I lost my footing and He caught me. My identity, in that instant was restored , as He took my sins upon Himself and did the walk of shame for me, up that hill to Golgatha: the place of the skull, or ‘death’. He died for my shame and paid in full.

Because of that redemption, and because He removed my shame and restored my identity, I tell the story of sex, abuse ‘scandal’–as we would call it–and religion, and that one amazing encounter with Jesus, with Grace. And I tell it for you, who are struggling with your own story, your own sin, or those committed against you–which was never your shame in the first place–so that you will know you can be free. Your story can be your friend. You can be free.

I write from my Mennonite experience, sharing the beautiful and the broken openly, knowing full well abuse and violence are present in all cultures, some more and some less. My book is written for every culture, but exposes only my own. It is written for the broken, who cry without a voice. It is written for the religious, in every culture, who love Jesus and celebrate His redemption. It is written for those who have never experienced trauma but wish to understand and support those who are wounded. It is not written for the religiously arrogant who have no compassion and only wish to cover up and hide sins; it will do nothing but feed their arrogance.

 

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tim & trudy 1994

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Between 2 Gods is now available for pre-order, Kindle, on Amazon. To pre-order (USA) click Here and for Canada click Here

It is also available for pre-order, Paperback, at eLectio Publishing: Here

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To Be A Published Author… And Offer Hope to ‘My (Mennonite) People’

Dutifully I placed all my workbooks on the table before me, then seated myself in front of the stack. Grade 6 was over, and I had a long summer before me. Long enough to write a story, I thought to myself.

Flipping through the pages, I tore out all the used, marked and badly worn pages, and set them aside for the burning pile, leaving behind lined paper for my writing project. I soon learned to cut out the pages, instead of tearing them, to avoid losing the pages at the back of the book.

Having completed this task, I transferred the workbooks into double grocery bags to be used as my book bag. Next, I collected a handful of pens. I would need blue or black for writing, and read for correcting. And I’d always want a few extra. Just in case.

Finally, I picked up my emerald-green Pathway Publishers book. I had saved up my own money to by it at John Martin’s book store. How I treasured that book! It was the one book I could call ‘mine’. Such a beautiful green. And perfectly spotless when I purchased it. With that book as my guide, I would learn to write a good story…

I had access to countless books, growing up, Whether the school library, the church library, old Reader’s Digest–not all of which were age appropriate, however interesting–and even the old Encyclopaedias. I mostly liked reading about birds, animals and the human body. It was the source of my more explicit, though not necessarily damaging, sex education.  Not that I fully understood what I read, and that was just as well.

Always books played a role in my life. Some good. Some bad. And always I dreamed of becoming a published author, starting back at age eleven or twelve, a little Mennonite girl on the farm.

“You have a way with words,” people told me then already. When salesmen came to the door, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was the one who most often spent time dealing with them, or debating and challenging. Now, an adult, I wonder what they must have thought to have this young 12-yr-old as the family ‘spokesperson’. (The Filter Queen salesmen called me that.) I would enjoy such a debate, if the tables were turned.

Mind you, I said all the ‘right things’ that I was taught and indoctrinated to say, not necessarily having challenged my own mind to explore. Still, the exercise was good for me in that it did present me with other views and taught me to think critically of my own beliefs, and the beliefs of others, rather than accepting every thought and opinion shared, as my own.

Words and book. Two things that influenced my world like nothing else. In earlier childhood books opened up a fantasy world before me, stirring the mind and imagination. But by my pre-teens and teens, most of what I read had powerful life lessons, evoking feelings, emotions and convictions that continue to influence and shape me, to this day.

And through those years the dream of becoming a published author have never died. Oh, they’ve gotten booted around in frustration, when the dream seemed impossible. I have, figuratively, cast the dream at God’s feet and given it a few extra kicks before turning my back on the crumpled heap. But always, somehow, the dream comes back to life, like that hardy perennial that exudes determination no matter the fierce weather it has endured.

So it was, in August 2011, at the John Maxwell Team conference, that I looked at my group of new friends and blurted out, somewhat randomly, “I have a great idea!”

In the minutes that followed I shared my dream of writing a book, but suggested the seven of us–Babak, Danny, Dennis, Elias, Eric,  Sheri and I–all write  our stories of overcoming  struggles and challenges and arriving at living our dreams. That seemed so much easier than writing a whole book. And we’d be a built in editing team for each other. It was brilliant, they said.

We never did write that book, though we worked on the concept a while. It wasn’t the dream everyone else was meant to live. But it awakened in me a new determination. And I said it publicly. This time I would do it, no matter what. And that was what it took. Knowing that people were expecting it to happen. That there were people I had never met, in other countries–people I would never meet–who, together with my friends at home, cheered me  on. A note here, a word there, a little reminder, “When will you publish your book?” A promise to my Amish friend, Rosemary Gascho, that one day I would drive to her farm and deliver a signed copy.

All of these thing propelled me forward. But, ultimately, it was God’s call that fueled my vision. The desire to tell others it isn’t over when it feels over. There is purpose in the pain and hell of life. There is redemption. There is hope. There is Jesus. And, for those who don’t believe in Him, my story will offer a glimpse into a religious culture and faith experience that even an atheist, I expect, will find inspiring. We don’t have to agree to be moved, challenged and inspired by one another. And that ‘touching of lives and hearts’ is my motive for sharing the story of the first eighteen years of my life.

It is also the reason I have dreamed, for years now, of publishing in my mother-tongue, Low German, and offering a book in story form, to ‘my people’. Only in recent years has it become a written language, and my dream is for my story to bring hope to my Low German, Russian and Mexican Mennonite friends and relatives.

And these dreams are beginning to come true, though not without challenge and hard work. Yesterday, May 27, 2014, I signed a publishing contract for my first book. The working title is “forgiveness for A Secret Sin“, but this may well change at the Publisher’s discretion, as well as the cover.

A Secret Sin--Working Title 2

For the translating part of my dream, I invite you to join me. The cost, because it is a virtually unwritten language, is prohibitive. The translating and editing of it will be very time-consuming and a work to which I cannot contribute much. (I speak quite fluently, but have nothing to offer in the way of actual translating.)

For several years I have been in touch with a team of people who are able to make this happen, and reach many of my ancestors. The copyright of the Low German book will belong to Generations Unleashed, and the funds generated will support the ministry, financially.

To give you opportunity to be part of this amazing ministry, and join me in changing many lives, and offering them hope, we have set up a crowdfunding event, through Indiegogo. To read about it, and support the cause, visit our fundraiser HERE.

Please tell your friends, and contribute in any way you are able–whether financially or by sharing the event–every effort helps make this dream possible. There are ‘Perks’ for specific donation amounts, but if you wish to make a donation for another amount, simply choose the ‘contribute now’ button.  (Sharing is made easy when you visit the site, with buttons just below the photo.) 

Words changed my life. Words gave me hope. Please join me in giving a word of hope to ‘my people’. Together we can make dreams a reality. Together we can change the world.

Thank you, and God bless!

© Trudy Metzger

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church
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The Revealing, Exposing & Redemptive Truth of Our Heritage

I’ve made an interesting observation, as word gets out that I have written my story and that it reveals some less than noble truths of my cultural upbringing. That observations is:

We are comfortable with telling the ‘ugly truth’ of redemptions stories, as long as they don’t incriminate ourselves, our culture, our belief systems and expose things we are not willing to look at.  We protect tenaciously that ‘exposing truth’ that makes our lives uncomfortable… 

Some years ago, when my mother found out I was writing, she said something, gently, about not telling the ‘evil things’ that happened, that it is best to forget those things and move on.  This led to a heart to heart discussion, and it is the first time I recall thinking the whole thing through, and the beginning of this observation that the telling harsh truth is only comfortable when it doesn’t incriminate us.

That mention is not disrespect for my mother. In fact, quite the opposite is true.  Over the past few years some of the deepest, most meaningful and honest discussions I’ve had with anyone, have been with my mother. That day was one of them.

I asked her why the Bible tells ‘bad stories’, and I named some for her.  She thought about that for a moment. I then asked her how we can tell accurately the amazing redemption of God, and the wonder of who He truly is and what He has done, if we don’t tell the stories of what He has redeemed us from, saved us from, and the tragedies and sins He has helped us overcome.

Again, she thought about it, and said she sees what I’m saying, that God really didn’t hide the dark truths of Bible stories.  It was a new thought.

Many of us have been programmed to believe that ‘family secrets’ should ‘stay in the family’ and not be shared. And within our churches and cultures, the same thing is true, for many of us. It is one of the most crippling realities, in that it holds people hostage in silence.

It leaves us with no place to turn, no one to reach to for help–beyond those who are ‘approved’, whose agenda is often more about self-preservation than it is about truth, healing or redemption.  The result is generation after generation of enslavement to the same corruption, sins, addictions and strongholds.

Those ‘within’ who do ‘rise up’ and try to address things, are labelled as unforgiving, rebellious, or some other thing that justifies silencing them.  Some surrender to this control, others walk away. Of those who walk away, many remain in bondage to that silence, terrified of the cost that comes with telling the truth.

And those of us who begin to tell it are quickly ‘tackled’ on our motives, our methods and  judged as having ‘an axe to grind’ or being bitter, and again encouraged to retreat into respectful silence.

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One of the things that alerted me to the hypocrisy in this whole thing–since one can argue that the Bible is written under God’s authority, and no human has that right–is the stories that go back to our Anabaptist beginnings.  We are taught the evil of our ‘oppressors’ and ‘adversaries’–particularly the Catholics–and in these stories our heritage is shamelessly protected. Never, in all my studying or listening to our history, do I recall the dark side of our heritage and fore-fathers mentioned. And never do I hear the ‘good side’ of our oppressors and adversaries mentioned either. To share both, creates a richness that a one-sided story will never tell.

Perspective is a fascinating thing…

We mostly like to be ‘saints and heroes’ working against the bad guys. And to get that position, we tell their ‘bad’ stories to show our good. But what if telling our bad stories could show the goodness of God, through Jesus? What if our identity wasn’t wrapped up in keeping our ‘name’ untarnished?

The truth is, there was and is much good in our Anabaptist heritage, going all the way back to the beginning.   But there was also much corruption.  When I read in the Complete Works of Menno Simons, some time ago, something about how people should be dealt with, who murder, I was a bit bewildered. Most of our churches don’t have explicit instructions on how to deal with murderers, and we might be inclined to find a new church if such instruction was a necessity.

It wasn’t until I began discovering Anabaptists like Bernhard Knipperdolling, Jan Van Leiden, Jan Matthys,  Bernhard Rothmann among other less-than-noble-Anabaptists, particularly by the standards of my upbringing, that I started to see both sides had corruption, and both sides carried rich heritage and values.

Knipperdolling, a  follower of Rothmann–who came from very wealthy stock, and a ‘proud and bold Protestant–sued the Catholic Munster town council, in 1528. A few years later he became mayor of Munster and played a part in the Munster Rebellion.

Rothmann, if my memory is accurate, was very disturbed by the sexual indiscretions he saw in the priesthood, and spoke against it and,  after being censured by the Catholic church, he aligned himself with the Reformed faith in  1531. A few years later he joined the Anabaptist movement and in 1535 fought in the reconquest of Munster, where he is believed to have died, though his body was never identified.

The stories are too complex to paint a bigger picture accurately, without a lengthy dissertation, however, these realities give us a glimpse into a side of the truth that is often overlooked. I look at it, not with judgement for Anabaptists, or even for these men. They seem sincere men in their pursuit of God. But their behaviour matches closely, if not exactly, the very thing we have used against the Catholics.

I’ve heard the argument, “Ah, but they were not true Anabaptists. We mustn’t align ourselves with them in history, by acknowledging them as part of our heritage”–or some similar statement. Fair enough. I can grant that.

But then, should we not also offer the Catholics the same grace? Is it possible that there is good and evil in both? That their ‘corrupt ones’ are just as corrupt as our corrupt ones, and ours as corrupt as theirs?

Going back to the two examples I use–Knipperdolling with his ‘power’, thanks to money and prestige, and Rothmann with is ‘concerns’, which were legitimate, over abuse of sexuality–I find it intriguing that the two things that most corrupt our Anabaptist churches today, from what I have seen, are the abuse of power (and money) and the abuse of sexuality.  I have seen three cases of litigation–brother going to law against brother–in our local conservative churches, completely defying the ‘non-resistance’ we profess, and I have watched countless times as power and prestige sway the direction of leadership.

And the sexual abuse I’ve written about and made abundantly clear in past writings, so I won’t start into that, other than to go back to Menno Simons. In his writings, Menno Simons addressed immorality among Mennonite men with their daughters, maids and neighbours wives, after hearing it happened, saying he could not believe it would be among Anabaptists, and that was the reason he had not addressed it sooner. He had a higher expectation, and seems devastated to discover that ‘godly’ men would do this. Even this exists in our early history.

From Menno Simons, Complete Works, Excommunication:
“I would earnestly admonish the reader, that about 18 years ago I published an admonition , in which I made no distinction of sin; […] I say inexperience; for to the best of my knowledge I neither heard nor knew at that time, any thing of fornication, adultery, and such like. […] it is evident that […] concerning such gross, offensive abominations, we would make many great hypocrites; for I hear that there were some within a few years who carried on their horrible roguery and infamy in secret, till time and circumstances could no longer conceal them; yea, as I have understood, if some of them had not been detected by great wisdom, they would, I fear, have continued on their old course; but as soon as it was disclosed they began to wail and weep. Who could ever be so blinded, that when he has disgraced his neighbour’s wife, daughter or maid… that he would not say “I am sorry that I did so”.’

And finally, our silence surrounding our own corruption in Anabaptist history, and ‘picking and choosing’ which part of our heritage we will acknowledge, in order to make ourselves look like saints, has opened doors to corruption, in some ways.

(Granted, this all exists in other churches too. But they are not my history, my heritage or my struggle. I feel no need to make myself feel better about our heritage by saying it exists everywhere. I am only interested in facing the truth about myself, my people, and my heritage.)

I have believed for a long time that the answers to the roots of some of our strongholds lie with our early forefathers, and am more convinced now than ever. I also believe that if we name the name of any other person or movement, apart from Christ, and take pride in it and try to protect it, then we live in idolatry, and should repent. Furthermore, that makes us accountable for all things associated with that name, and we would do well to repent on behalf of our forefathers, as we see done by Nehemiah, in the first chapter, when he repents of his sins, and his fathers.

And to do that, bringing this full circle, we must be willing to tell the painful truth of our sinful past and present. Until we face our own corruption–as individuals and as ‘the Anabaptists’–and stop investing our energy in trying to silence those speaking truth, we will remain in bondage to sin.

Truth that reveals and exposes is not evil. It was never meant to be protected in a shroud of silence or secrecy. It was meant to be brought to the cross of Jesus, for forgiveness and redemption, and then declared as a victory on the mountain of God’s people.

We overcome the enemy through the blood of the Lamb, and by sharing the word of our testimony, the story of sins forgiven, addictions broken, sexual abuse buried, leadership used for manipulation, and any other thing that Jesus has done for us.

There is no shame in the truth. There is only shame in hiding it.

When we strip ourselves of all our pride, the image of perfection, the pretence of sinlessness, and stand naked before God, then we are in a position to have Jesus look on us with compassion, and slip on us the cloak of His righteousness.  Then, and only then, does God see us as holy and acceptable.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Why I Write About My Mennonite Culture & My Life Story

Criticism, as addressed in my previous blog about my bold telling of stories from my time in the conservative Mennonite churches, is inevitable.  If it isn’t the criticism about bashing Mennonites,  then there’s the risk of making some churches (or ‘brands’, if you please) look good and others look bad.

This leaves me with a few options: Stop writing. Misrepresent the truth. Or keep writing and take the criticism. I’ll go with option three.

I am also criticized for not speaking the truth in love. Of all the accusations that have come my way, this is the most common. Still, compared to the encouragement I receive, it’s minimal. And, since there is no truth in it, it deserves no defence. I know the love and compassion I have in my heart, and that is the fuel that keeps me writing.  I admit that I’m a fairly direct communicator, which can be misinterpreted by those who would prefer if I softened the blow and downplayed the truth.

The thought of doing so wearies me to the point that I would never get my writing done if I had to write pretentiously, so I will decline to invest great effort in making it less extreme.

When I write, I spill my heart onto the screen, or paper, as the case may be, and not a hint of hatred for my culture resides there. None. I say I am Mennonite with the same confidence and boldness as I’ve ever said it. In fact, more. While I no longer attend a Mennonite church, I am very aware that one doesn’t become a ‘non-Mennonite’ by leaving. I always was… I still am… and will be, to my death, a Mennonite. There is no way to ‘unlearn’ the cultural experiences that shaped me. Nor would I wish to. Not the good, the bad, the beautiful or the ugly. All have contributed to the person I am today, and I embrace the experience and the outcome.

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I am the product of the culture I was born into and lived in, refined by God, for His purpose–the exposure of sin, and the redemption and healing of many broken hearts. What’s not to love about that? Sure, the tears exhaust me at times. The pain overwhelms my soul, at times. The accusations, though few, crush my spirit, at times.

But I would do it all again, for even one of the friends I have had the honour of leading to the Father, through Jesus, for healing. (Most of whom continue to do life in conservative Mennonite churches, and are among my most appreciated friendships.)

That healing, that hope, and that redemption of stories, is why I write about my Mennonite culture. It is why I write honestly and acknowledge the shame, the pain and the abuse that still hides in the shadows of an otherwise beautiful culture–because it offers a voice and healing to those trapped, voiceless and oppressed.  For any offence–however unintentional–I cause in the process,  I am confident I will be forgiven, if it needs forgiveness at all.

It is for this same reason that I have written a memoir of my life story, up until age 18, and am currently working with an agent to find the right publisher. To bring hope and redemption to many, not only in the Mennonite culture but Christian culture in general, where abuse lies hidden and voices are silenced, giving the enemy an unfair advantage, and leaving believers sick and dying spiritually. It is unnecessary.

Furthermore, it is one thing for people to pop on here, and read a blog, and judge me as harsh or hateful toward the culture, while not taking time or having time to read nearly 400 blogs just to see what my heart is in it. It is another thing to read a book, beginning to end, and see the horrible truth mixed with love and respect for many in my cultural background, who have shaped me, blessed me, and still have a special place in my heart.

My hope is that, with the release of my life story–and the sequel is already in the making–there will be a better understanding of my passion for Jesus Christ, in the middle of the truth of life experience.  While I know it will stir up more anger towards me, I am also confident that the wonder of Jesus’ love, and the power of the cross, will be magnified and lifted high.

Jesus said, “I, if I be lifted up… will draw all men unto me.” Being lifted up on that cross, 2000 years ago, Jesus  drew men and women of every generation to Himself. And when we lift His name, and raise Him up in our words and deeds, we point others to Him, and He draws them to Himself, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And that is why I write about my Mennonite culture… Because Jesus is being lifted high, His name is being raised up, and He is drawing many to Himself in the process, and they are finding He is the Saviour, the Healer, the balm in Gilead; a safe place.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Safe From the Accusing Tongue

I opened my text messages at approximately 9:30 this morning. Only one message from a client. It said, quite simply, “Job 5:21  Psalm 31:20”. I opened my Bible app, searched for the verses.

Never in all my life had anyone sent me more appropriate verses, without knowing how they fit into my life at that particular moment. She knew nothing. I had only told Tim….

***

It was 5:30am, earlier this morning…

The lightning flashed. The thunder rolled, moments later. I didn’t really want to be awake. I value my sleep. And need it, really. If I want to invest the best of me into the women I meet with, daily, to walk through the ‘trauma and hell’ of life–whatever that trauma or hell may be–then I have to stay caught up on my sleep.

And this week especially so. Each day was filled with appointments, even the days I usually set aside for my family, and our home. And, whether I like it or not, there’s always the administrative ‘stuff’ to do. Not my favourite, but it has to be done, and I’m good at it. Besides, a ‘change’ is good in my line of work. It brings balance.

Fortunately, most nights, when I crawl in bed, my brain is  ‘off’ before my head hits the pillow. I sleep, uninterrupted, for 7 to 9 hours, on any given night. That, I recognize, is a huge blessing. Especially now that I am ‘middle-aged’. (Funny how 40’ish isn’t nearly as old as it used to be.)

When I awakened, thanks in part to the thunderstorm, and in part to the fact that I drank too much water at bedtime, I wasn’t impressed. I rolled over, willing the storm to end and my body to pretend there was no need to get up. Sometimes it works. (I know… not healthy…)

Almost immediately, however, my brain started up. At will, I can often turn it off. A short silent lecture about the hour of the morning, and a reminder that the day will take care of itself, and I’m usually off to sleep. But not this morning.

The thoughts that tumbled through my head, were the words of a client with whom I have worked, for the better part of the year, very consistently. She was quite vulnerable when we met, working through a lot of stuff. But within the year I watched as she became strong, secure and ‘healthy’.

She was in the Mennonite church then, and still is. If ever she indicated any interest in leaving, it was brief. I don’t recall that it was more than a passing thought, even though she had people in her life who had left, and more who wanted to leave. If ever I had wanted to influence her strongly to leave, that is when I could have done so, and would imagine I would have, most likely, been successful.

Because of her age, I encouraged her to wait to make a decision like that for a few years.

The ‘yo-yo’ that comes with that kind of decision is not easy. (I left home just before 16.) The world is a harsh place. And unless there are solid people to help you really ‘plug in’ and find a safe place, and connect with a supportive church, it is a very lonely journey. Not to mention the risk. The reality is that our Mennonite lifestyle leaves us ill prepared to face life in a harsh world. We are not, usually, very street smart, and the risk of getting lost, and terribly hurt, is very high. There are other factors, but these are the ones I usually mention.

When we met, yesterday, she told me that she had been cautioned–or warned–about meeting with me.

I smiled. Amazing how you can get used to these ‘warnings’, and not take them personal, for the most part. “Are they worried that I’m going to lead you astray, away from the culture?” I asked.

She explained that supposedly I was very bitter toward the Mennonite people, and she was to be very careful of my influence.

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If I’ve heard the accusation once, I’ve probably heard it a thousand times. And usually from someone who has something to protect. So the words fell flat. But the source cut deep, and the betrayal that it brought.

A minister and his wife, with whom we met a few months ago and shared, heart to heart, and in whom we invested a deep trust. We spent time in prayer that night, and left, amazed by God, and profoundly impacted by the meeting. That she would accuse me of bitterness shocked me.

I returned home from that session, delighted to see how well the young woman was doing, yet bewildered by the accusation.

‘Like water off a duck’s back’ came to mind, and I knew I should let it go, just like that, as I often do, but I couldn’t. This time it was personal, far more so, than any other shallow accusation I have encountered. Most often they come from people in whom I have invested very little trust, if any, and who have family members I know are perpetrators. (Though they often have no idea I know this.) This was different. I had invested my heart, my trust, personally.

As I thought about it, I began to pray for the minister and his wife. And then I sent a text, telling them I am praying for them, the church they lead, and the broader Mennonite church. I told them that I hold no bitterness in my heart toward them, or the Mennonite church. And then my heart released the burden. I was at peace.

As the memory of their accusation tumbled through my mind at 5:30 this morning, my heart again felt sick, and sad. I have searched my heart, and asked God to search it as well, for any hidden bitterness, and I cannot find it. So I prayed again. And again I asked God to bless them, determined that every time the enemy attacks me with lies, I will simply turn to prayer and blessing. I will not be controlled, intimidated, held back, or made bitter by lies. I choose, instead, to live a life of forgiveness and blessing, and that was and remains my prayer.

Eventually I fell asleep again, peaceful, and encouraged by God.

***

Hours later I opened that text with only two references. The verses held promise, hope and encouragement, as if God himself had sent me the text, and I knew that He had not neglected to notice the false accusations, and affirm that, indeed, they are false.

Job 5:21

New King James Version (NKJV)

21 You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue,
And you shall not be afraid of destruction when it comes.

Psalm 31:20

New Living Translation (NLT)

20 You hide them in the shelter of your presence,
safe from those who conspire against them.
You shelter them in your presence,
far from accusing tongues.

As I read them, gratitude flooded over me. And in that moment, I knew I had learned a profound lesson, in the preceding 17 hours. A lesson that will serve me well for the rest of my life.

When false accusations had cut like a knife in the preceding hours, and the enemy had tried to discourage me, I had turned in prayer to the One who knows all things. And in Him I found hope, in Him I found protection.

He is my Rock, my safe place, from the accusing tongue. Nothing, and no one can touch me there, in His Presence.

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©TrudyMetzger

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