Natasha Metzler

where the brokenness of life meets the glory of redemption

3 Things My Daughter Taught Me

Parenting, I’ve decided, is God’s way of showing us His heart– we just have to listen.

Right now my daughter is outside, happily doing her chores. I can hear her singing snatches of her Bible verses accompanied by the squeal of the wagon tires as she loads up hay to feed to the cow. A few minutes ago she came inside and asked for a drink of water. “You know, Mom,” she told me, “usually I beg you for milk or juice or soda, but when I’m doing hard work– nothing sounds better than nice cool water.”

She’s adorable, isn’t she? I know.

Right this moment, everything is good. But this is the aftermath. This is the reason my husband and I spent all morning with our little girl. There are so many things we want her to learn, so many truths we want her to claim for her own. But these things don’t just automatically get transferred from parent to child. These things have to be instilled. And many times it’s a battle.

Today was a knock-down, drag-out fight. In her mind it was her vs. us, but the truth is that it was the enemy vs. our family and we had to draw the line in the sand and say, “No more.” Putting your foot down is so much harder than overlooking things. Ignoring is easier than facing.

Mostly because taking your child head-on leaves you questioning every decision you make. Am I right? Am I being too harsh? Too lenient? Does she feel loved? Should we give her more grace? Will she truly understand what we’re trying to teach her?

At one point I found myself practically begging, “Please, please, sweetheart, listen to our words. Choose to discipline yourself into obedience so we don’t have to.”

It reminded me of God’s plea to the Israelite people, “I am offering you death or life, blessing or curses. Now choose life! Then you and your children will live.” I can feel His desperation in the words, His heart aching for them to choose good. It’s the way I feel as I watch her face, as I see the battle parade through her eyes. There is no making the choice for her, but there is the greater war for her soul that we can keep fighting– giving her every chance, every moment she needs to choose life.

And I was struck by how true this is of God. He is fighting on our behalf, day in and day out– giving us every chance, every moment we need.

When our daughter finally gave up her pride and submitted her will, there were three huge lessons she demonstrated for me. Three things that I needed to be reminded of again. And just maybe you do as well.

1. Be Thankful for Discipline
After all of the battle, all of the confrontation, all of the tears– we sat down to eat lunch and she asked if she could pray. In her prayer she said, “Thank you, God, for allowing me to be disciplined so I can learn. Thank you for loving me enough to help me change my attitude. I’m sorry it took me so long.”

As she spoke, my husband’s grip on my hand grew tighter and tighter. My eyes stung. Oh, sweet Jesus, thank you. This lesson, the one I didn’t even know she was learning– to be thankful for discipline– this is a lesson I need to be reminded of.

Can I fight off my pride long enough to admit my need for God’s discipline? Can I humble myself enough to acknowledge His grace present in the middle and take time to thank Him for it?

2. Doing What Is Right Brings Blessings
When she finally settled down and went to do her chores with a good attitude, it wasn’t an hour later before she came bouncing back to the house. “Mom, Mom! Guess what?! I am so blessed! A butterfly came and landed right on my foot! A butterfly, Mom! And then I found a woolly bear caterpillar. And then I saw a red-winged blackbird. Oh, Mom, I think God is blessing me for choosing good things. He always wants good for me, because He loves me. He is just blessing me and blessing me.”

Shouldn’t I remember this always? God’s ways bring blessings. Oh, they don’t make everything cotton candy and roses– after all, the work still has to be done, and hard work costs us something. But there will be pieces of glory along the way.

In fact, I think He delights in dotting our paths with reflections of His glory. Little things that capture our breath and swirl His love into our beings.

3. God Will Guide Us When We Ask
Just a few minutes before I sat down to write this post, the front door swung open. “Mom,” I heard her say, “I really need to talk to you.”

We sat down and faced each other and she carefully explained that she’d been talking to God as she worked. “I know I usually say that I don’t know what God’s voice sounds like, but today I think I heard Him. I asked Him what I could do to stop screaming at my dad, and to stop trying to sneak stuff behind my parent’s backs. And you know what He said, Mom? He said that I needed to apologize to Dad. I needed to call Daddy right up and say I’m sorry. He told me that He gave me good parents and I need to listen to them and obey them. Do you think that was God, Mommy? I just felt it right inside. I felt like God was talking to me and loving me as I worked. Is that what He does, Mommy?”

Oh, Jesus. Can I ever thank you enough for taking the time to speak to my little girl’s heart? Can I ever thank you for loving her even more than we do? Every day You show Yourself greater and more wonderful than I ever imagined.

I needed the reminder today that God is here. He disciplines because He loves me. He dots my path with glory. He answers my questions, filling my heart until I know His words “right inside”. He’s here. Right in the middle of the battles and struggles and laughter.

And wherever you are, dear ones, He is there as well.

 

4 Simple Alternatives to True Worship

Not sure how much of a Christian you are (or want to be)? Worried about giving God a little too much? Take some advice from Pharaoh (Yep, that Pharaoh, who had a showdown with Moses and lost), and use these four simple alternatives to keep yourself from true worship.

1. Stay where you are.

When Moses requested to leave to worship God, Pharaoh offered this priceless suggestion,

“Sacrifice to your God here in this land.”

In other words, stay right here where the idols and false gods fill up your life and just add worship to the Living God into the mix. Oh, did we mention that this is also where you’re a slave? But no worries, slavery is kind of fun. I mean, besides the way your mind is controlled by the enemy, your body broken by demonic forces, and your hope for a future crushed into pieces. But it’s fun, in a twisted sort of way, because there aren’t any commandments. You can sleep around, treat others inconsiderately, be demanding, gossip, lie, steal, covet… whatever you want. 

The alternative, of course, is to leave this place of sin. To pick yourself up and get out of there– racing into freedom where you can worship God with abandonment, without sin holding you down. But that takes self-control and the killing off of the sinful nature. It takes hard work and surrendering.

It’s much easier to just wallow right where you are.

2. Don’t go too far.

Okay, so you’re not sure about sitting around in the slimy pit of your sin. No worries. Pharaoh has another alternative,

“You can go, but not very far away.”

Go ahead and worship God… a little bit. Leave sin, but don’t go too far away. Then you can follow the commandments, sorta. But whatever you do, don’t get too radical. Don’t get too involved. By george, don’t become one of those religious people. 

Those who move too far away from sin, they’re hypocrites you know. They think they’re so good. Don’t they know they’re slaves too? Well, maybe they’re not *quite* so controlled by the enemy. I mean, they can’t be because the enemy can’t really get to them, but they were slaves too, so they should know how much fun sin is (and how much easier).

Who wants to have complete freedom? Who wants to be that far away from the enemy of their souls? Who wants to be able to see sin for the disgusting and controlling habit it is?

Exactly. Don’t go too far and you won’t have to worry about it.

3. Send a representative.

Okay, if you don’t want to stay, or even stay close, how about this charming option,

“Only the men can go.”

Since we’re in modern times (sorry, Pharaoh) you can even pick whoever you want. Just the women? Just the children? Just the grandparents? Send them off to learn about God and worship Him. Then the rest of you can stay right where you are and still get some benefits. Whenever it suits you can claim Christianity. “Oh, yeah,” you can say, “we follow God.”

“We” meaning whoever you chose to represent you.

It’s a perfect solution. You can “worship” while still doing whatever the heck you want. You can watch the movies, serve yourself, enjoy the pleasures of sin– all while being represented in God’s family.

Of course, I’m not so sure that God will count you as one of His, but eh, whatevs. It’s all good. And way easier than going yourself.

4. Leave your stuff behind. 

Even with all these solutions, I can understand if you’re feeling a bit uneasy. They don’t exactly create peace or freedom. Don’t be concerned! Pharaoh has one last option for you!

“Leave your flocks and herds.”

Go ahead and leave, be set free from slavery to sin, go far enough to get out of the enemy’s clutches, go yourself– but by golly, don’t allow your religion to affect your possessions. 

Keep your things separate. Keep your stuff there and waiting, just in case you need to fall back on it. Just in case this Living-God-Who-is-Actively-Present happens to fail you.

Besides, if you take it along, God might ask for it. He might demand your fancy car and ask you to walk. He might request that you leave your comfortable house for a hut in North Africa. He might ask for your bank account and you’ll be left to depend on Him for your daily bread. You might be left without stylish clothes and money to buy what you want. Maybe you won’t be able to get your hair done or take that vacation. And if He asked that of you– oh, horrors, you might not have time to play video games or watch the newest movies or get pizza for dinner.

You’re better off to make a deal with God. Tell Him that you’re willing to compromise. You’ll give Him your life, but not your stuff.

He should be satisfied with that, right? I mean, besides the fact that you’re showing Him that you trust your possessions more than you trust Him.

 

After all, the only other alternative is to actually worship Him for real. To get out of the world’s grip, get far away from sin’s enticement, to go yourself, and to give Him control of all your possessions along with your heart.

And if you did that, you might actually find freedom. You might actually learn to know God personally. You might actually find life and truth and grace and beauty and hope and peace.

And who wants that?

 

This post was inspired by a sermon by Elmer Lehman. 


I was exhausted that night; so tired that the milking units seemed to weigh thirty pounds each. I grabbed a five gallon bucket and tipped it upside down in the alley, sitting on it between switching machines. I may have fallen asleep a few times.

Half the cows still had to be milked when his voice came across the tie-rail, “All done, Hon.”

Relief flooded through me. My husband’s chores were done. Now he could lift milkers for me.

Except he didn’t show up. I changed milkers, and then looked around. There he was, by a cow. But what was he doing? Clipping cow tails? Now? When all I wanted was for him to come and help me? Why in the world would he decide to do that when I had explicitly told him how tired I was?

I bit back frustration. For the next set of changes I rehearsed confronting him. I needed to explain that when I say I’m exhausted showing me love meant coming to me– not picking some random barn chore to accomplish.

I carefully constructed the conversation. How I would talk about The Five Love Languages. Maybe even offer to read it to him? How I would discuss the concept of the “love tank” and the fact that he was leaving mine dangerously low. I needed his presence and his help, not random acts of service.

It would be a good conversation. I would share my heart. I would be honest. I would be real.

Then the whisper came. What about giving thanks for what your husband is doing? I shrugged it off. Remnants of One Thousand Gifts and… Oh, right. The Bible.

I sighed. Okay, God. I understand. I need to give thanks even for the things that aren’t what I want. So, thanks that he is clipping the cow tails. They’ll probably look nice. Not getting a face-full of manure is beneficial. It’s not what I need right now- but it’s good.

There. I was thankful. Even in the middle of something hard.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Explaining to my husband about the love languages. Because, after all, this is a really important concept. And he really needs to know how to show me love in the language I speak.

The pin-pricks started about then. The voice that [some days] I am desperate to hear and beg to speak… and [other days] I want to shush.

Is it your husband that needs to change, or you?

Does he need to show love differently- or do you need to accept the love he is offering?

I looked over at him. He smiled brightly at me. “Don’t they look nice?”

I mumbled something that was affirmative and went back to milking. A few minutes later I was done and came out of the milk house to tell him I was going inside.

He said he was going to finish. I said okay. I went in. I sat on the sofa and read a novel.

A little while later he came in and went into the bathroom. I heard rustling around, and then, “Tash?”

I stifled a groan and went to see what he needed. My breath shortened. His hand was held out. It was blistered and bleeding. “I got them all done,” he said brightly, “it’ll be so nice for you. But the scissors were a little small.”

I carefully washed red welts and burst blisters and the cloth was streaked with blood. And my heart broke.

Oh, God. Oh, God. Why do you even bother with such a selfish sinner like me? You give me a husband who bleeds for me and I try to accuse him of not loving me?

But it’s nothing new. Isn’t this what people have been doing for generations? We look at the man whose hands bled, whose side was pierced, whose back was torn to shreds for us and say, “That’s nice but what I really needed from you was… [fill in the blank]…. and you didn’t do it so, probably, if you’re there at all, you don’t really care about mankind (and especially not me).”

 And it’s true and I’ve said it (Oh, God. Oh, God.) “What you’ve done is good, Lord, but what I really need from you is–stop my pain. Take some of the weight off me. Give me some relief here. Show me you’re there. Show me you love me.”

Give me relief? Show me love?

No. No. No!

 Teach me, God.  Teach me.

Teach me to feel the love you’ve given. Teach me to accept your bloody hands as the deepest offering of love.

And Lord? Teach me to accept whatever love my husband gives.

Teach me the languages of love. All of them. 

Let my kind of love be the kind that accepts what others offer- no matter the language. Let my kind of love be the kind that gives and gives and gives. Because the ultimate love language is the ability to see true and to accept what is before you with thanksgiving.

May we all learn to embrace this type of love. 

 

edited re-post // a version of this story was published in Proverbs 31 Woman in 2012

Hey, Lord, it feels like all I get is the hard stuffThe day was hot, sticky. Like a film was in the air that rested on everything.

It was the first time I had seen her in almost a year. She called me over, right outside the grocery store, and told me all about the past months. About the new baby that filled her life and her arms, about the way her relationships were growing better, the way God was working in her life.

And I’ll be super honest with you all: I felt a bit perturbed.

See, I was the one who gave up time for her and cared for her son when she could not. I was the one who sacrificed and said the hard things and stared her right in the face and told her that God had a plan for her that didn’t involve getting beat up by a drunk boyfriend.

Then one day she disappeared from my life. I didn’t know what happened or where she was.

And for a year, my story didn’t intersect with hers.

When it did, on that humid summer day, I wanted to roll my eyes at God. “Why,” I wanted to say, “did I have to wade through the rough stuff without getting a chance to be part of the turn-around? Why did I get the crap and other friends get the joy?” Continue Reading

Let'd Do It God's Way

 

It was an early night. You know the kind I mean, when the day has worn down every bit of reserve you have and there’s nothing left. I sent the girly to bed at 8. I sat on the couch and drank deep of quiet and stillness.

A few minutes later my husband called. “Let’s go to the fireworks in town,” he said. The ones that start after 10pm. I almost said no. Almost. A war raged in my mind. Finally I lifted my hands in surrender. I pulled myself up and climbed the stairs. She was snuggled into bed, glasses off, flowered nightgown standing out bright against the dark sheets. “Come on,” I whispered, pushing the headache away, “get up and get dressed.”

Her eyes widened. Her mouth opened and closed.

“Hurry,” I told her, “Daddy will be here in a few minutes to get us and take us to the fair for the fireworks.”

“But,” she stuttered, “but I was really naughty today. And disrespectful. And I didn’t listen. And you said I lost the privilege of going to the fair.” Continue Reading

A lifetime of reading books (a type of memoir)

**this post contains affiliate links. Read my disclosure here.

 

One of my earliest memories takes place in Jasper, NY at a little log cabin, built by my father. My family is sitting around the living room and Mama is reading. I don’t know the book, just the sound of her voice and the way it rises and falls. She’s falling asleep and her words are drawing out further and further. I’m pressed up close beside her, running my fingers up and down her arm. I stop and tap her. “Mama,” I say, “Mama!” She blinks her eyes at me and one of the boys states, “You were sleeping, Mama.” The book lifts again and she begins reading but we all know it will only last a few minutes.

Some mamas read their babies to sleep, but our demand for books and stories was never sated and it was always Mama who slept first.

Continue Reading

Remember This: An Epiphany About Lists

It stormed the other night. Waves of rain that fell in sheets and lightening flashing from cloud to cloud. The world is still thick and heavy with moisture, the air filled with fog and damp humidity.

It’s spring rushing into summer.

And sometimes I feel like it’s spinning out of my control.

I stood in the bathroom the other morning, my hair still dripping, and saw the cobwebs in the corners. Standing on my tiptoes, I swiped a washcloth along the walls, scrubbing away the evidence of my neglect.

I should be more organized. More scheduled. Have a calendar somewhere that I can write, “clean bathroom” and actually remember to look at it and accomplish it that day. 

Instead of finding a calendar, I just rolled the washcloth into the pile of dirty laundry and lugged it to the bedroom where the over/under machine sits in the corner. At least the laundry is caught up, I think– until I open the lid and realize I started a load yesterday and forgot about it.

Sometimes I just run out of time and memory space. Continue Reading

when you just want to know why you have to face this storm

So many times I wondered, “Why, Lord?” Why the storm of infertility, why the pain of loss, why the trial of physical issues?

In the midst of it all, I truly felt as though God was sleeping while a furious storm (of hurricane proportions) swept through my life. What did I have to do to wake Him up?

I knew the God who commands the wind and waves was more than capable of calming the seas in my life. He could heal up my pain, ease my trials, touch my broken body. But He seemed to sleep on.

Did I need to pray more? Believe more? Why was God allowing this when I had surrendered all to follow Him? What more did He want?

I was reading through the Bible, searching desperately for an answer, and I read the story of the storm in Matthew 8. The disciples, fearing for their lives, woke up Jesus. “Oh, you of little faith,” He said to them, “why are you afraid?” That’s me, Lord, that’s me. I’m terrified. Won’t you wake up and calm this storm? Continue Reading

When your father fails you @natashametzler

It’s easy to talk about Father’s Day when you were born into a family with a gentle spiritual leader, brave protector, and wise man of God at the head. But this weekend I couldn’t help but think about all those who have grown up in homes very different from mine.

From birth fathers who never show up, to present fathers whose hearts and minds are far removed, to abusive fathers who use words, sarcasm, physical or spiritual manipulation to control their families– the list feels endless and heart-wrenching.

Wounds left by fathers will follow their children far into adulthood. In fact, sometimes it is not until adulthood that the full weight of a father’s failure will press into a person. When you have the ability to look around and realize the dysfunction that covered your childhood, the previously-unrecognized wounds will tear wide open. And oh, the agony that old, newly recognized wounds can cause! 

This past Father’s Day we worked to create beautiful memories. We made fun creative gifts, sang together, and danced with daddy around the kitchen. But someday my daughter will be forced to face the heart-breaking realization that she had a birth father who failed her.

And no matter how much we love her, no matter how much we pour into her– it will be impossible to stop the pain. She will have to face it, to stare it down, to fight the lies that will come with it. Our love will surround her and comfort her, but it cannot go back into the past and prevent the wounds from happening.

But there is one thing I will tell her when she is forced to face the primal wounds caused by some people she will never remember and others who she will never fully forget, and right now I want to say it to you too– to all of you who hurt. Continue Reading

Sometimes fears quiet me still. They race through my mind quicker than I can breathe and it’s all I have to keep myself hushed.

When I get agitated, I clean. Dishes cleared from the table and dumped into water. Soap and bubbles and scalding warmth as I scrub and fume. The floors get swept. The cupboards washed. My hands move so my mind can think, can fathom what is going on and why.

Sometimes my husband asks me to hold still, to stop and speak. Even then my feet bounce, my hands wring. My words usually stumble because they are racing through my mind faster than I can form them from my lips.

And always, always it is fear that is the root. Continue Reading

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