A Little Dog Named Courage

If I were an artist, I would draw a large dog crate with no bars on it, no door.
There would be a blanket provided, and food and water, but never kind words or a comfort or pet.
Courage would be led there at night and told to stay until morning.
The “stupid little bitch” would be alone with her fears, guilt and shame.
(At least the darkness hid her).

Morning’s light would not provide relief. The Accuser could still visit whenever he pleased.
He’d come to confirm her lack of value, uselessness, failures and guilt.
She’d never had sex with a boyfriend. (No, she was waiting for marriage.)
Instead, she had slept with a married man.
(She was going to hell).

Only now does she see there are no bars or door on her crate.
Only now does she see there is an escape.
Only now does she see the hand of kindness extended-
A Savior who sees the child He died for – one that He loves still.
(Does it still “count” as “having sex” if:
You are watching from the ceiling?
Your body is numb?
You say you don’t want it?
You don’t know you can say “NO!”)

Learning to give back the shame is courageous. (It is not hers to carry).
Learning to say “I didn’t deserve this” is courageous. (Abusers manipulate).
Learning to walk out of the cage and embrace freedom is courageous.
Learning to live is courageous. (Her life is in God’s hands).
(This simple, twisted man doesn’t get to take it away.)

Romans 8:38 (from the Passion Translation): So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!

The Father Who Made You

Grieving for a friend today…

Little child, crying in the dark
Wondering when the bitter words
And tears will end…
Wondering when it will be safe
To trust again–
There is a Hope! There is a Friend!

The Father who made you
Will not betray you
But longs to enfold you in His love!
His love will heal you,
Restore you and free you.
His love will do you no wrong.

Why won’t he stop?
What have I done?
Is there anywhere I can run?
Is there any place I can hide?
There is One who calls you to His side….

The Father who made you
Will not betray you
But longs to enfold you in His love!
His love will heal you,
Restore you and free you.
His love will do you no wrong.

Conquering Humiliation

With all the witnesses surrounding us-
(Those who provided wisdom, comfort and courage)
Who show overcoming is possible,
(because they have done it!),
We let go of the wounds that pierced us.
Then we don’t fall back into the familiar sins,
(trusting ourselves instead of God,
isolation, deadness and locking everyone out).

Then we can run the marathon He set out for us
With passion and determination,
Journeying to the high places with the Shepherd of love-
The One who loved us even before we knew what love was.
He delights in us, He wanted us, He came for us
And calls us out of our darkness into His light.
He endured the agony of the cross
for the joy of knowing we would be his
And conquered its humiliation.
Because of Him, we can conquer ours.

If we focus on Him,
We will not be overcome
By the evil of those who oppose their own souls
Or be worn down or cave in under life’s pressures.

Thoughts on Hebrew 12:1-3
Paraphrased from the Passion Translation

To The God Who Didn’t Leave Me There

Last night I dreamed I built an altar on the ashes of the house where my nightmares came from…a place where people who seemed normal, spiritual, responsible and reasonable in their public lives abused and tortured children in the quiet, dark, hidden places.

In an act of divine justice (figuratively speaking in the world of my dreams), the house and barn where these things happened were burned to the ground. Nothing but ashes and a few bricks left. No more hidden places for memories to pop out of-no taunting, intrusive interruptions to the serenity of a reasonable life of gratitude and peace acquired the hard way.

On the altar, I engraved “to the God who didn’t leave me there.”
(A line from this poem “From the Child” I wrote years ago when this journey to healing began…)

…I surrender, God, not to what they did,
But to the need to choose each day to live.
I surrender to the need to grow
And face the things You choose to show.
I surrender to the loving care
Of the God who didn’t leave me there,
Who calls me, one day at a time
To walk with Him and face what I find,
Knowing, as He did before,
That He can lead me through each door
And give me the tools I need to live–
To choose to grow and the grace to forgive.

My Origin Story

Recently, I was given an opportunity to tell how I came to faith in Christ. That’s kind of a tricky story…when you come from a family where there is mental illness and domestic violence, nothing is ever simple.

As a nine year old girl, I had the privilege of going to a church camp for a week. This was probably my first time away from home that long, and I was pretty quiet (some girls tried to block the cabin door and not let me back in saying “You know, people would like you better if you talked more…”). But the Bible study part and the singing part and the part where you got asked if you wanted to “give your life to Jesus” drew me right in. I thought maybe if I put Him in control of my life, I could go home and not fight with my brother and not yell back when I was yelled at and be “really really good” and then maybe my family would not be so angry all the time. Here’s a glimpse into a little girl’s world:

Jesus Loves the Little Children

Jesus loves the little children?
Oh really? Yes, I see…
He must love the other children
(This don’t look like love to me!)

In the car, while Mom hits Dad
And we sit in the back
Afraid and sad
As we drive to the church
And park in a row
Where all those nice people
That Jesus loves go…

I think of the words
Those nice ladies say,
“You can get what you want
From God if you pray.”
So I pray, and I pray,
And I pray and I pray….
(But it never makes
The pain go away).

So sometimes I wonder
Why I am so bad
That Jesus can’t love me
And neither can Dad.

After camp, I went home filled with hope that things would be different. That lasted about two days, so I kind of decided God didn’t answer my prayers, that I wasn’t good enough, and gave up on faith. It’s normal for little kids to think everything is their fault, but that’s a lot for a little kid to try to sort out!

Our family still went to church every week, but my heart wasn’t really in it. Our new Sunday School teacher when I was 14 was a young mom with a big heart and a lot of enthusiasm. She kept telling us God loved us and that He had a plan for our lives and that faith was the only reasonable response. She seemed sincere, but it still all seemed like just words.

Then, three weeks after a friend of mine hung himself, her beautiful 18 month old daughter was killed in a tragic accident. I thought surely she would give up her hope and faith. I mean, how can anyone make it through that kind of loss and still believe God is good and kind and loving or even watching!?!?! But she did.

Seeing her still cling to God and not just give up was pretty powerful. One night we prayed together and I gave faith another chance. God answered this time. Hope began to sprout from all those seeds Sunday School teachers had planted in my heart, even when the ground was still pretty hard and dry.

I am very grateful.

Soul Menders

Recently, I dreamed I had on a beautiful white satin dress
And I was standing on a small stool.
There were tears, rips, and messy jagged gashes
Torn in the beautiful garment I was wearing.
It looked like I had been in a fight–
Like some terrible violent thing had happened!
But as I stood on the stool, leaning into strong arms
I saw several sets of gentle, competent hands
Equipped with needle and thread
Skillfully repairing the tears in my beautiful garment.

At first, I couldn’t understand what was happening,
But as I woke up, I understood –
God saw me in my weakness and my trouble
And brought me to this place
Because He loved me.
If I didn’t panic,
Didn’t run from the help being offered,
If I stayed with the process,
(even when I thought I could not)–
These loving repairers of my tattered life
Would be the hands of Jesus to help mend my soul.

Dear God,
Help me to be a soul mender
(not one those who make the tears in the first place).
Help me to be one of those who lift up the broken,
Providing mercy for the memories
And a place of safety for those who need to heal.
Help me never take for granted Your grace.
Only You can make us whole.
Thank you for the soul menders in my life.

Teresa Norman Apr 2020

A Vessel Of Honor

A noise was made in heaven as the way parted and the Accuser entered the throne room. He came with a list…”See that little pot in the corner? It was made from defective materials. It is too small and weak for any good use. It’s broken now. Surely you have no remaining purpose for that one….It will never amount to anything…Can I have it? I’ll dispose of it for you…take care of the problem…It should be discarded. Surely there is no use for it…” (He inches slowly toward the pot and bends over to grasp it when the Lord’s strong voice booms out saying, “Silence! This one was made for My use. I designed it. I am not done with it yet. I have a purpose your eyes will never understand. It was bought and paid for with My blood: I ransomed this one! It has been redeemed! You will speak no more against it! It is mine!”

Satan slithered away and the Lord went and tenderly picked up each broken piece of the fractured vessel, missing nothing. He carried them to a workbench. The Holy Spirit came and together they labored with love over their broken vessel. The blood of the Lamb and the oil of joy covered each ragged edge as God reconstructed what the enemy thought he had destroyed. Slowly, from a pile of broken pieces, God fashioned a beautiful vessel of honor. At the banquet celebration He held, this vessel was on the table of the King of Kings — a beautiful goblet full of new wine. Its delicate, intricately shaped stem and ornamented sides were beautifully decorated with scenes declaring the victory of the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously.
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From Psalms 30:8-12 NLT
I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
9 “What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”

11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

Teresa Norman April 6, 1991

A Heart Divided (Poem)

Lord, I need an undivided heart –
Pieces of mine still lay in the rubble
Of the damage done
By those who came before-
The destroyers,
Abusers,
Molesters,
Bullies,
And monsters
who tortured a little girl
Who, instead of singing songs about a sunrise,
Now cowers from its light.

I know you as a Father-
A loving, gentle Savior
(I’m sure I do-
The evidence of your great faithfulness
Has sustained me this far) …

But a piece of my heart,
(the piece still under the wreckage
In the far corner of my not-quite-outrun past)
Questions if maybe you are a bully….
(Not the kind who does the damage –
Not the kind who cheers on the others,
But the kind who watches and maybe holds their coats…
You don’t speak.
You don’t make them stop.
You stand in silence…)
WHY?

How can my heart be in two places?
I cannot repair it myself. I have tried.
God, I need you.

Teresa Norman 2020

Deer Song (Poem)

Frightened eyes, face with no name.
Hope buried ‘neath the guilt and the shame
Slipping through the darkness now
Wanting to change-not knowing how.

Little girl, now woman grown.
Her restless heart seeks for a home.
She screams so quietly deep inside.
No one can see the tears that she’s cried.

How long, oh God? When will it end?
Her desperate voice cries for a friend.
Will someone ever comprehend
The damage done by selfish men?

Headlights flash in her frightened eyes
As beneath the crushing wheels she dies.
Laid to rest on a country road-
In death she can finally lay down her load.

No more running from wolves that tear,
No more wondering why no one cares.
No more hiding and running scared.
At rest with Jesus, she’s finally there.

Her passing unnoticed, ‘xcept one bloody stain.
Her body for scavengers now feels no pain.
Her mind finally emptied of all of the fear.
So is the ending of the life of a deer.

Teresa Norman 1991

Genesis (Poem)

Here in the quiet
as I kneel beside my bed
Waiting for directions,
He calms the noises in my head
And with a heart of gratitude,
I give Him thanks again
Because He gave me a new beginning
when I thought I’d reached the end.

Genesis, a beginning
When I thought I’d lost it all-
Strength for the journey
(Even though sometimes I fall)
Feet on the pathway-
I don’t have to walk alone
Because the God who loves and care for me
Has given my heart a home…

The end was the beginning
Of a brand new way of living-
He gave me back the will to live again.
Now a Higher Power I cannot see
Reminds me that He cares for me
When I spend some time with the people of Genesis.
I see His love in the people of Genesis.

Teresa Norman 1992

Tamar’s Prayer (Poem)

(Taken from thoughts in II Samuel 13–after Tamar was raped by her brother)

Father, my heart is broken and torn
Sackcloth and ashes are the clothing I’ve worn.
My guilt and my shame are too heavy to bear–
They burden my steps with the weight of despair.

I tried to be good-I tried to obey!
Now used and rejected, I’m sent on my way.
How can I bear it? God, what can I do…..?
(Except to pour out all my grief before you!)

Hear my cry, oh God, give ear unto my prayer!
Incline Your ear to hear, please hear!
Oh God, if You’ve even there…..do You care?

The future is changed now because of the past.
The hope that I had for my life has been dashed.
I cannot look up or accept what I see
Unless You come quickly and give strength to me!

Hear my cry, oh God, give ear unto my prayer!
Incline Your ear to hear, please hear!
Oh God, if You’ve even there…..do You care?

Teresa Norman 1992

Seasons of Change (Poem)

The scene is sparkling white, but icy cold.
The glacial grip of seemingly endless winter
Entraps the river of life that once flowed
Through the depths of my soul.

In other seasons,
It surged freely —
A life-giving torrent.
Now layer after layer of ice
Covers the frozen wasteland —
Its emptiness and desolation
Reminders of what’s in my heart.

The glowing sun tries vainly
To shed its life-giving rays
On the icy scene.
The shadow it casts gives an eerie feel
To the bleak expanse.
Then it sinks beneath the horizon,
Waiting for another chance.

Maybe next time the meager warmth
Will make the first crack in the ice
And signal the beginning of spring.
Maybe tomorrow the thaw will come.
Lord, why not today?

Sun of Righteousness,
Risen with healing in Your wings,
Shine on me…come quickly, Lord!
I stand in need of You!
Cause my icy heart to burst forth
In the song of new beginnings.
Repair my shattered hope!
Let Your Living Water
Flood my thirsty soul.
Turn the desolate scene
Into a picture of growth,
And bountiful fruitfulness.
Melt this silent, frozen, barren place in me.

Teresa Norman 1999

The Betrayal (Poem)

The night is dark and stormy, there’s a cold wind in my soul

Seems like I’ve been torn apart and never will be whole.

The suffocating weight that rests upon my broken heart

Holds me in my silence–Lord, when will the healing start?

 

I cast about in desperate for hope that there might somehow be

Someone who can reach out to break these chains and set me free.

But who can know the torment? Who can truly comprehend?

(Unless they too have been betrayed by loved one or by friend?)

 

As I cower in desperation and in fear of what shall be,

A picture comes to mind I know that you have given me…

 

I see you hanging on a cross

In agony betrayed,

Naked, torn and bleeding

So that we can be saved.

The one who lived and walked with you,

With whom you shared your soul

Was the person who betrayed you—

All my agony you know!

 

Watching friends present a mime of the Passion of Christ years ago, I was struck HARD by the thought that Judas, the betrayer, was one of the 12 disciples Jesus had spent the last three years pouring his life into.  He was one of the guys, probably was treated like the other guys.  He wasn’t some random stranger.  In the words of “Why?” by Michael Card, “Only a friend can betray a friend….a stranger has nothing to gain and only a friend comes close enough to ever cause so much pain.”  Jesus knows what DV survivors, abuse victims, and all those who have been betrayed by someone they love feel.  (I am a slow learner…..I never realized in my guts until this week, that He hung there naked in front of his abusers.  He knows.

Fleeing from the Shadows

Little girl, hiding in the shadows
Listening to the terrors of the night
Pillow o’er her head–wishing she was dead
Praying that the darkness doesn’t win….

Half-grown girl, living in the shadows
Trying to be “good” (not knowing how)
Afraid of what it means–the way her life has been
Afraid that she can never be made clean…

Wife and mom, still fleeing from the shadows,
While silently inside she dies each day.
Half alive at best–feeling different from the rest
But not yet understanding what it means….

There is a Light that drives away the darkness
There is a Hope that rises like the dawn!
There is a God who loves you–even though He’s seen it all.
He’s there for you and longs to be your friend….
You can begin again…..to live.

(In honor of Aunt Eleanor, who suffered greatly and is now at peace)

People Like Me

Little girl, needing her father’s care
Vulnerable, trusting, and not yet aware
Willing to believe what the grownups say
(But paying a price, even to this day).

Seduced by abusers with smooth, cunning lies;
Next 20 years, got no tears left to cry.
Carrying for them the guilt and the shame,
It’s cause long forgotten–
Just a wound with no name.

“Nice Christian Women” don’t have problems like this!
So you think God’s forgotten (or has no help to give).
You deny it. You numb it. (But it won’t go away).
Their choice to abuse you left a high price to pay!

Now when I remember what I’d rather forget
I feel some of the anger (but it’s not over yet!)
I still want to shake those who stopped up their ears
When I tried to get help for the heartache and fears!

I want them to listen. I want them to know!
Little girls don’t ask for this! Dear GOD let them know!
It’s when people around them are too scared to see
That little girls grow up to be people like me.

They swallow their anger, give it to their guts
Then get in their 30’s and start going NUTS!
When flashbacks take over the hours before dawn
They grab a soft pillow and try to hold on.
Inside they lie screaming with rage and with fear
(But there’s no one to show them the way out of here!)
They want to do something to destroy who they are
But there’s nowhere to run to get away from the scars.

The “powers of darkness” the “Prince of the air”
Laughs at their tormented, weak little prayers.
He says they were purchased that day long ago
And he’s come to lay claim to their charred little souls.

The lies they believed long ago call their name
As the guilt separates them from God and their friends.
Religious pride tells them they must LOOK o.k.
(But honest confession is the only real way).

Unless they feel safe to speak out with the truth,
They are bound by the lies Satan knows how to use–
Like: “God doesn’t love you! You’re dirty and bad!”
(All the things that they learned from “dear loving dad”)

But Messiah, Redeemer, by His power and might
Can deliver from bondage those that give Him the right.
He purchased them, claimed them that day long ago
And He’s waiting to free those who give Him control.

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(Wrote this a long time ago, when memories were still a bit overwhelming….haven’t done much writing the last few years but it’s time to integrate the pieces of my life….)