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

God Doesn’t Play the Daisy Game

“He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me…. “

As a little girl, when I had a crush on a boy, I would play the daisy game. With each ‘he loves me’ the anticipation grew. But, as I neared the end, if it looked like it was going to end on ‘he loves me not’ I would throw the faulty daisy to the ground and start all over with a new one. Seems to me, as I recall it, that sometimes I would pull two petals at a time, if I grew impatient, just to get to the end faster. However, if it seemed to be in my favour,  I would go back to removing petals one at a time just to hear ‘he loves me’ in the ebd. Having heard what I wanted to hear–that I am loved–I would skip away happily.

It occurred to me recently that I used to play the daisy game with God.  Unfortunately when  I landed on ‘He loves me not’ I actually believed it. It wasn’t as simple as moving on until I ended with ‘He loves me’. I thought of my salvation as a fragile petal that could be plucked at will when something wasn’t right in my life. If I sinned or was angry, for example, a petal would fall and the echo in my heart would proclaim a resounding ‘He loves me not’. I didn’t have the courage to grab the next petal, clutch it in my hand and say “He loves me! Yes He does!” Instead I sank in defeat and as I did all the petals began to scream “He loves me not!” The moment I repented or had a happy-mood-swing, I felt loveable and claimed the next ‘he loves me’ petal, but they were fewer and farther in between with the passing of time.

My expectation at age 12, when I first ‘responded’ at Revival Meetings, following a hell fire and brimstone message, was that God would make me good. I thought He would miraculously make me perpetually joyful, obedient and victorious. As days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months and months turned to years, I discovered that the miracle cure didn’t work. Terrified of hell I kept trying but with no one to disciple me in my faith or mentor me, I became discouraged and by age fifteen I took the ‘God daisy’ and stomped on it. The hope of being loved or loveable was gone.

I left home a month before I turned sixteen and spent the next two years ripping bouquets of  daisies out of God’s hand and shredding the petals. Hurt, angry and desperately searching for love, I ran as far from God as I could, grabbing broken petals as I ran and begging for just one that would tell me I was loved.

A month after my eighteenth birthday I had a profound revelation through the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. As He spoke the words “neither do I condemn you” something happened in my spirit. In that instant I realized that every petal on every daisy I ripped from His hand and shredded said “I love you”.

God doesn’t play the daisy game. The moment we receive Him as our Lord and Saviour we are saved. Our salvation does not rise and fall, based on our humanity, nor our perfection or the lack of it.

The petals in His daisy bouquet simply say: “He loves me. He loves me lots!”

© 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!