Wedding Plans, Old Talents & a Big God Solving Little Problems

It’s a funny thing how a daughter’s wedding becomes a life-focus for a time. Since their engagement, November 1, 2016, my subconscious has been busy planning, dreaming, experimenting and scheming, in an effort to make her and her fiancée’s dreams come true. Rustic and beautiful, burlap and lace, twinkling lights, old jars and doors and windows, tree stumps and slabs, and barn board. And food. Of course! A menu planned by our almost-son-in-law and approved by his bride-to-be…and blessed by the mothers. Those are the main ingredients for their day, from a planning perspective.

wedding plans blog

The past six years of my life have predominantly revolved around heavy, painful and intense ministry, inviting Jesus into the messy of people’s lives, and writing about it. And it has been a very good thing. It also has been heavy enough to squash some of my creative side. A thing this wedding has re-awakened. The more I plan and dream, the more the creative juices flow, and I find myself enjoying the therapy of projects, little and big. as I run them by our daughter for approval and bring to life the ideas in my head, matching them to their dreams.

From mini jars of jam for favours, to sewing cushions without patterns–because I can’t follow patterns anyway, if only because I don’t want to when I can make it up as I go along–to hammering wood together, cutting burlap, and various other little details, I’m enjoying the process. I forgot how therapeutic manual labour and brainstorming can be, and how freeing.  I continue to meet with clients  and offer support, though I’ve scaled back considerably on the number of sessions I do in a week, but all my spare time is invested in various projects.

So many creativities that once were part of my life, long dormant, and now one life-changing event has awakened them and I’ve not had more fun in years! Weekend after weekend, Tim and I have spent time at Mom and Dad Metzger’s place, and weekend after weekend, Dad, Tim and I have measured, sawed, and swung hammers, bringing to life these dreams and ideas that will give birth to the wedding of Alicia’s and Andrew’s dreams.

It’s been fun, spending that time with his parents, and teaming up for projects. At 79, Dad Metzger is still impressively active, and a brilliant man, pitching in with the building projects and throwing in suggestions. I realize again how blessed we are by their support and engagement in our lives.

And Tim, as always, remains my hero. And a saint, the way he walks with me, and partners together to unscramble all the crazy ideas in my head, improving upon them as we go along. He’s organized and wise, and patiently listens to my scrambled thoughts–which are all neatly organized in a perfect picture inside my head until I try to tell him what I see–and helps me create that picture. And of course we sneak in moments of hugs and kisses, all covered in sawdust and straw… because barn board has to be collected from a barn… and taking time to remember how crazy we are about each other is vital in the busyness.

And in the middle of all this, with busy things happening, God has offered unexpected little surprises and blessings. We needed a dance floor, because the wedding is outdoors and unlike King David, we have no street for dancing, only grass, so I started to dream up this idea of building one instead of renting one. Mostly because the children didn’t rent one and I was worried about just using the grass, or the risks involved with laying down plywood. So I searched Kijiji and in a matter of a few days the items we needed appeared, saving a bundle on the dance floor. But the best part of all was the night we took our daughter to Hamilton and stopped to look some flooring. There wasn’t as much as advertised, and therefore not enough for our project. We contemplated matching it because the price was decent, but I felt unsettled and in the end Tim said we should listen to my gut feeling. We started for home and I spent the drive on Kijiji, and that’s when it happened….

An ad popped up at just that moment, offering 300 square feet of flooring for free, set at the end of a lane. We detoured from our beaten path and there it was; gorgeous laminate. Lots of it and in excellent shape, like new.

Other little blessings have been sprinkled throughout each day, and every part of this planning phase, right along with the challenges. I’ve concluded that permits and bylaws are an unnecessary evil that must necessarily be lived by once you find out they exist. Still, you wish you had no idea when it all comes down. Putting up a tent for one day of celebration causes great stress when the rules come into play, when a township is religious about the laws, unlike other townships all around. But we got through it, and Rae Ann was nothing short of kind, in spite of the temporary migraine the stress of it all induced. And I step back and thank God that this really has been the biggest stress and drama we’ve encountered, because I’ve heard nightmare stories about wedding planning. I don’t think I could do all that, and stay sane while trying to pull it together.

I thank God for being part of everything in my life. He is gentle and tender, always present, in everything I am and do. It is humbling, really, to think about that. God, the Creator of the Universe, the One who made the heavens and the earth, chooses to dwell with us… with me. He enters into my journey, every step of the way. I talk to Him about the flowers I planted for the wedding, even though for some unknown reason they are scraggly and struggling to get rooted. A few have died. And every day I send a little plea to the heavens, asking God for a miracle, to make them do well, like past flowers have. And every day they look scraggly, and I realize that I’m still chattering to Him about how much it would mean to me if they did well for that one day. And if they don’t do what they should, we’ll say they have that ‘rustic’ look, which is the theme anyway, and all will be well. And God will still be good.

All in all, we are 7 days in from one of the biggest events of our lives (are we really old enough for this?!) and as the climax builds, I have moments where I catch my breath with all that needs to be done. There are moments of mild anxiety. But each moment I tell myself that it’s not about the details, it’s about two young people who love each other and are starting out like Tim and I did 22 and a half years ago. And I pray that they will be as blessed as we are, and even beyond, in their love for each other and in all things. I pray that she will always adore him, and he will always protect and cherish her, even when they are frustrated, hurt or confused, and when hard life hits. I pray that they will know God together and individually, and sense always His affection for them. Because He has carried Tim and me through loss, trauma and hard times we never imagined  that January day at the altar. And He has, undoubtedly, smiled and laughed as we bumbled along doing life as we do it. Above all, He has walked with us and blessed us. For this we are thankful, and that is my prayer for our two young lovers.

And now off to one more week of burlap, lace, barnboard, food-making, and pulling together those final details.

….What in the world will I do when this is over?

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

 

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day; Christian Singles & Sex Drives after Molestation

[Trigger warning]

Romance. The word practically dances out of your mouth, when you say it, like a sweet lover’s invitation. The definition of it makes hearts skip beats. Heads spin. Reason and common sense all but disappear in the wind, when it strikes. And it does. Out of the clear blue sky, sometimes, when we least expect it, that little ‘rush’ that makes us crazy about someone, and all we want is to be with them….

So we’ve set aside this day, February 14, as a time to celebrate love and romance. A time to acknowledge our significant other, and show them how much we love and appreciate them. And that’s all good, in and of itself.

But for the singles–whether never married, divorced or widowed–Valentine’s Day is yet another reminder of the segregation they often feel. (For this post I will focus on the unmarried who have been molested.) I think of it more the past few years because I have the honour of sitting with singles each week listening to their hearts, their stories, and their dreams. And the one dream many, if not most, express is the desire for marriage and companionship. Rightfully so. Who wants to be lonely?

As we work together through the pain of past abuses, or current ones, we unravel many beliefs victims hold about themselves, about God, about the opposite gender and about sexuality and marriage. Almost always, if not always, there is guilt about the whole thing of desiring marriage. And, in particular, the desire for intimacy and love. Sexual love.

I’m not of the ‘free for all’ mindset, where you grab a lover for the day, to feel good about yourself. If that’s you, it isn’t my business, but the people I work with are trying to wait until marriage, and that is what I encourage, so I write unapologetically from that perspective. My reasons are not to be a party pooper, but honouring God’s plan as well as personal awareness of damage done emotionally and psychologically with multiple partners. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

In sitting with Christian young adults and working through difficult past stories, or current struggles, at some point I usually ask if they desire marriage–because not all do, believe it or not, but if they do I want to bless that desire and pray with them. Answers range from enthusiastic affirmative responses (though rarely) to a cautious, “Yeah… Is that okay?”

Keep in mind that I spend pretty much 7 days a week talking about sexuality, in one form or another, with a broad range of people. From clients, to bishops or preachers and their wives, to police officers and (more occasionally) medical professionals, to grandmas and grandpas, this is my world. Inevitably in talking through abuses of sex, the topic of healthy sexuality comes up and with it the many forms of sex. (One pastor’s wife asked me, “If you talk about it all the time, don’t you think about it constantly and want to have sex? Because I sure would!” Umm… ask a chocolate maker how much they crave chocolate every time they see it. Without crossing the lines to ‘TMI’, let me just say that when it is part of every day conversation, the only thing that makes me desire it is being with my beloved. So, no, talking about it doesn’t do that.) So when the topic of marriage comes up, the topic of sex is already on the table, and becomes part of the discussion.

When I ask if they desire marriage, some logically process what that would mean and conclude they wouldn’t be happy in marriage; it would be too restricting when there are so many dreams they want to fulfill and the odds being low of a marriage partner wanting to be part of that. For the majority, apart from the few who enthusiastically desire marriage and declare it boldly and without apology, we explore the cautious admission that they long for marriage.

The caution is, admittedly, due to the vulnerability of acknowledging the desire for a relationship that offers companionship, commitment, shared dreams and sexual intimacy. All of those are good, and seem good, except the desire for sexual intimacy. For some reason, in the world of Christianity, we’ve communicated the message that a desire for sexual intimacy is perverse or inappropriate, when the person desiring that intimacy is unmarried. And that’s true even if they don’t want to go there before marriage.

This seems wrong to me. In every way. Sex is a beautiful gift of intimacy between husband and wife, and to desire that intimacy should be blessed, along with a blessing on the desire to wait. We present this immaculate ‘don’t need sex and certainly don’t desire it because I’m not married’ image that is entirely unrealistic. Even Christian singles desire sex. Trust me. You’re not alone, if you are a Christian trying to wait for marriage to experience sexual intimacy, and yet have a powerful sex drive. It’s normal. It’s how God created you. And it’s beautiful and good. When God finished creating mankind, He said, “It is very good”. That includes your sexuality and your desires. We have this infatuated notion that marriage is about sex, and once we have the freedom to enjoy that intimacy without guilt or shame, knowing we are committed to that person and they committed to us, then all will be right in our world and our sexuality will be blessed by God. But it is already blessed, as a single who struggles with it and desires a marriage partner. The key is to master those drives, and bring them under God’s design, and take authority over them, rather than to be driven and mastered by the desires. I explain this to every client who struggles with sexuality.

When sharing these struggles, it is common to hear an exasperated and defeated, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” And the first time I say, “Nothing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. Your desires are blessed by God,” they look stunned. By the time I’ve explained why it is good, most readily accept it as God’s truth–because I pull it straight out of the Bible–while others need time. I also explain how, through abuse and molestation, their sexuality was prematurely awakened and they have had, usually from a very young age, knowledge of sexuality that they shouldn’t have need to know.

When singles have, since childhood, offered sexual services–oral sex, anal sex, masturbation and much more–for teens and adults (often in church), and then suddenly try to shut down that sexuality, often harshly judged by their churches for the struggles, all while the molester is overlooked, there are serious battles to fight through. When the people they ‘serviced’ show up at church happily married and have that intimacy, often never confronted by their crimes, and the victims are left to struggle with the memories and aftermath, things feel pretty dark, pretty fast.

The one gift we can offer these victims–and it’s the least we can do–is affirming their sexuality and desires, and bless what their desires were created for; a committed, God-blessed relationship. In doing this we remove the shame unnecessarily imposed on them by sins committed against them. We bless who they are, as image bearers of our Creator. And thereby we bless God, standing in agreement with Him in saying that His design is very good.

So, today, if you are single, lonely and struggling with the heavy romance focus that is Valentine’s Day, I want to acknowledge and bless you. I bless you as a child of God, with human desires for sexual intimacy, and bless you in your struggle to master that desire. And where your sexuality was prematurely awakened, intensifying those desires and making it difficult, you need to know you are not alone, and it doesn’t make you perverted or ‘sick’. Where you are overtaken and a slave to that sexuality and long for freedom, there is help available; you don’t have to stay entrapped. God sees beyond the struggle and sees you. He sees your humanity, and it draws compassion from Him. (Psalm 103:13-14) He loves you and delights in you, and welcomes you into His presence. You are not ‘less than’, you are not unworthy. Your desires for love and intimacy are God-given, and my prayer is that God will meet your needs and grant you the desires of your heart.

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

 

Will You Marry Me?: When Childhood Sexual Abuse & Violence Impact Marriage

In the weeks and months that followed the relational breakthrough with Tim, life became a whirlwind of change and activity. A whirlwind that would continue spinning for years.

My brother Wil was moving into the area, from Clinton Ontario, and asked if I might be interested in renting a small cottage-style house with him. I was thrilled! Having left home the month before my 16th birthday, I had never again had a real home, without invading someone else’s space. He and I would share space.

Wil and I would remember how to ‘live together’ from years gone by, right down to little details like the way he spread peanut butter on his bread, careful not to get any on the knife, past the first several inches. I, on the other hand got into it half way up my elbows. (It’s just that good.) These quirks and habits would be familiar, and our temperaments had always blended well. He was my best friend most of my life until I escaped from home.

I anticipated we would share the cottage for a year or two, then one or both of us would get married. But God had other plans, and when he revealed them to Tim, so did he. And soon I did too.

It was Tuesday August 17, only days before our fifth ‘month-iversary’. Tim had a baseball game that night, and I went with him to watch. He wore his blue and white baseball suit, that hugged his body the way baseball suits do. Coincidentally, I matched him, in a blue and white T-shirt dress, as we called them. It was a dress made of T-shirt fabric. It broke the church rules, ever so slightly, having a fake ‘cape panel’ at the front and no cape at all at the back. It was the last small piece of fabric at the store, barely enough for a dress at all, but I loved it so much I was determined to make it work. I wasn’t trying to break the rules.

After the game we returned to Tim’s home for a few hours. Sometime, just before midnight, I prepared to leave. Tim walked me to the door, where we stood and chatted a while. We talked about our friends who had gotten become engaged on the weekend. Sunday night, to be exact. We were both very happy for them. And then Tim told me something that took me off guard. He had planned to propose that week, but when our friends announced their engagement, he decided he didn’t want to steal their thunder. And, besides, he told me, he didn’t want it to look like he was trying to keep up the pace with them.

As we continued talking, I had this sense that Tim was about to do the first impulsive thing I had ever seen him do. He was about to propose. Right there. Right then. No perfect plan. No dinner out. No candlelight and roses. Just love.

It wasn’t like him to be impulsive, and I’m not sure why I sensed it coming, but I suddenly chattered incessantly. There was no way I would let him do that. He would regret it. He’d wake up the next morning and wish he hadn’t done it. I had to say ‘Good night’ and leave.

Tim was as perceptive. He raised his right hand slowly, placing his index finger on my lips. “Shhhh…” There was a twinkle in his eyes. He dropped down on one knee, holding my gaze. And then he popped the question…

“Trudy, will you marry me?”

I wanted to shout it. I was ecstatic! But only a whisper emerged from my lips. “Yes!”

The clock had slipped past midnight. In the wee minutes of August 18, 1993, Tim and I were engaged to be married. Dreams burst to life in my heart….

© Trudy Metzger

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The Romance Begins: When Childhood Sexual Abuse & Violence Impact Marriage

Where to begin…

The shaping of a marriage begins in courtship, when two people ‘fall in love’, in the fairy book sense, and are immediately taken with each other, and blindly pursue relationship based on that infatuation. Eventually reality sets in. But not in the fairy tales. That’s only in real life. And in real life, not everyone follows the fairy tale beginning.

Tim and I didn’t ‘fall madly in love’ with each in an instant and never look back. It was much more gradual than that. I had lived too much life by that time to be quite so easily ‘swept off my feet’, and his nature isn’t one to be driven by feelings and emotions. (What feelings and emotions? he might have asked, back then.)

Tim has been described as stoic. Which he appears to be, but really is not. He has depth of soul and character that one only discovers with time and relationship. He can be intimidating for those who do not know him, because of his quiet nature, his depth and strength when he does speak, and because he is hard to read.

I am spontaneous, and on the surface can appear flighty and shallow. Well, less so now, having ‘matured’ with age, but that certainly was the case back then. I was as carefree as they come, as bubbly and outgoing as anyone, and outspoken, at least on the surface.

The contrast made us an interesting, and somewhat unlikely, couple. Not so much because of the extremes in our personality and temperament–since we really are well matched–but because of the social circles our temperaments tend to get caught in.

For me, the intrigue with Tim was there, the first time we talked. But it wasn’t a romantic intrigue. It was something very different. He was strong. Steady. Spoke with confidence, even when what he said was in direct conflict with popular thought. This stood out especially, because I was Mennonite, and he was with the United Church of Canada, and there were plenty of differences, creating opportunity for expressing such conflicting opinions. He did so without a tone of antagonism. He respectfully stated what he thought and believed, not threatened by our ‘rules’ and belief systems. This gradually led to an attraction that took me some time to admit, or even recognize, because it wasn’t that ‘crazy in love’ feeling of infatuation. It was much deeper.

For Tim, I’m not sure when that first moment was, when he ‘noticed’ me in a romantic sense, since he has never quite been able to pin-point it. It was gradual for him as well, with both of us carefully hiding, or denying, our feelings…

The first time I saw Tim, we didn’t speak. Not even a ‘hi’, that I recall. It was at a baseball game with the Countryside youth. I was the pitcher. He was the hind catch.

The second time was a youth event, in June of 1992, at Countryside school, and that is where and when that intrigue began. We met in the food line–hot dogs and salties–then walked together to the camp fire, where we sat until late at night, getting to know each other.

He left for Northern Ontario, shortly after that event, and I didn’t see him again until late August. We connected again, soon after, at another youth event. I observed how reserved and quiet he was with the youth, and how he opened up with me, so I made a point of finding him every time, and chatting.

I did the thing that women in conservative cultures are not really encouraged to do. I invited him over for coffee. Invited him over when I had other friends over. Now and then we went out on ‘friend’ ‘dates’–not boyfriend-girlfriend, just friendship–something that was also unheard of in our circles. And then I looked up his phone number, called his house, and talked with his dad. I told him I have something to deliver for Tim, could I get directions to their home. He gave them.

There was a concert in Toronto and I was going with another friend, and I hoped he would he want to come too. I delivered a stuffed grey mouse, holding a ticket for him, and a note with instructions on where to meet and other necessary details.

His mother met me, and gave me the tour of the farm. She took me to the back of the barn, where we found Tim. When he saw me, he pulled his cap a little further down over his eyes. It amused me. Clearly, having me show up had rattled him a bit, which was not my intent. I had hoped to deliver the ticket and disappear without seeing him.

We enjoyed the concert, with the other friend. Looking back now, I see that I had more feelings for him than I was willing to admit at that time. But, fearing his quiet nature would not be able to handle me and my story, I pushed them aside. In the process of trying to deny my own feelings, I attempted to set him up with a friend. Or, more specifically, I tried to create opportunity for them to connect. I was quite sure she had feelings for him, and, if he didn’t already have feelings for her, I was confident he would.

Unbeknownst to me, he had been told that my friend had feelings for him. And then there was me. I wouldn’t know it for almost six months, but he chose me back then already.

Our relationship remained that of casual friends, until March 20, 1993. Though, during that time, we went out almost weekly, just to talk about life, God, our faith journey. There was never a mention of our relationship, and we both seemed happy with where it was at.

That night in March was different. I had been to a family gathering that day, at my brother Cor’s farm. When we made the plans I don’t remember, but somehow Tim and I ended up walking The Mill Race, a lovely walking path in St. Jacobs Ontario. It was a beautiful winter night, with snow falling steady, creating the perfect romantic setting. (I love snow… as long as I am warm.)

We were bundled in ski suits, mittens, scarves and warm boots. We returned and had hot chocolate, and chatted awhile. When it came time for him to go, our whole world suddenly changed.

During the six months of close friendship, and weekly ‘friend dates’, we never once held hands. Only once had he hugged me, and that was on a previous visit when he asked about my family and I told him a bit about my dad and what life was. When he said good night, he stretched out his arms, offering a hug. (He says I tripped over everything in my path to dive into his arms. It’s not how I recall it, but I’ll give him that… just because it sounds so romantic.)

In reality… I calmly stepped into his arms. In that moment I knew how much feeling was behind the hug, for me. I knew I had ‘fallen in love’ somewhere along the line, and I was in too deep. But I let it go again, and chalked it up to friendship and care.

That March night, the eve of spring, Tim again stretched his arms to offer a hug. He wasn’t my boyfriend, but I had been with my family that day, and knowing what he knew, it made sense that he would give me a hug again. He looked down and his forehead rested on my lips. He said then, that he didn’t do it intentionally, and because he has always been a man of honour, I believed him then, and believe him still.

Without telling all our secrets, (though I’m sure you’re curious), in that moment our feelings were revealed. I don’t know who was more shocked. Each of us had guarded our feelings so well, that we both believed it was a one-sided attraction.

That night Tim asked me to be his girlfriend. And so the romance began. It was a night I will never forget, right down to the smell of his burgundy leather Lancers jacket.

But the journey had only just begun. The terror and hard work of ongoing trust lay ahead of me. If ever I was going to love a man for the rest of my life, he would have to prove himself worthy and trustworthy…

© Trudy Metzger

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