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.

************************************************************

(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….)

THE CAPTIVE TREASURE

Crouching in the darkness, In the nighttime of her fears
Struggling 'neath the burdens that have kept her bound for years....
Captive to the Liar -- the accusation she's received
That her life has no value -- not aware she's been deceived.

Hands that reach to hold her in her loneliness and pain
Are feared as those who've come before to hurt and crush and maim.
Her broken heart lies bleeding...the Accuser shouts with glee
For her captive heart confirms the lie she never will be free.

But the Lord of Life is calling His anguished daughter's name.
He feels each wound she's suffered and He died to bear the shame.
This precious captive treasure is a jewel in His hand
(Though her blinded eyes and shattered heart cannot yet understand...)

"You are not your own, My child, I bought you with a price.
Purchased as a special gem -- for you I gave My Life.
I've come to be your Champion -- the Accuser has no part!
If you place your life into My hands, I'll free your captive heart."

Afterflash (a poem)

No longer helpless, unloved or alone—
A woman with choices.
Redeemed to the bone.
I’ve come through the fire-
Felt the heat of the flame.
But I am God’s daughter,
Called by His holy name.

Empowered by His Spirit
By grace I can stand,
My face towards the future
Fulfilling His plan.
A channel of mercy,
A bearer of light
Redeemed by His goodness-
I will not fear the night.

The God of creation
Walks each day by my side.
I will trust in His mercy-
There is nothing to hide.
Though chaos surround me
And angry winds roar
I am safe, I am strengthened
For He is my Lord.

The Lamb is a Lion,
The servant, a King.
He is my shelter.
Of His grace I will sing.
He will lead me and guide me-
I have nothing to fear.
Jesus is victor.
He loves me…He’s here!

5/21/93

Betrayal and Job’s Friends (poem)

One of my favorite relatives sent me a message last night that it was her cousin whose ex-husband  killed her at a church in Federal Way this week.  A mom with three little kids….a big loving extended family in SO much pain….what can you say?

If one of the lessons in the Book of Job means anything, it might best to not say too much.  Not think there is an answer to why, or what it means, or how this could happen.   Job’s friends came to “comfort” him and ended up making him feel worse.  They talked too much.  Said things they had no right to say.  In the end of the story, God toasted them for misrepresenting His heart.  The only time they really did Job any good was when they sat in the ashes with him as he grieved.  There is a lesson there about presumption and talking way too much….there is a time to talk and a time to listen.

Years ago, I was present at court while a young friend told of her step-dad’s crimes against her humanity. Going home from that experience, I was struck silent by the depth of his betrayal of her and of her mother.  As a person of faith, I wanted to encourage, but words seemed so USELESS!  This poem was the result…..

The Betrayal

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 frantic 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 really comprehend
Unless they too have been betrayed
By lover 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 from sin 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!

©Teresa Norman 1988

The Many Voices and Choices of Christmas

Christmas brings up a lot of stuff for me this year.  We have three wonderful adult children, a brand new healthy grandson, and some Buddhist friends (a dad and two young daughters) who will be spending their first Christmas here in America.  What should I be trying to communicate to each of them as someone who loves them? How do I explain to our Buddhist friends that the American Christmas craziness doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the baby in the manger, but that the baby and the manger are really really important?

 Memories of Christmas past play in my head….my brother and I under a Christmas tree gleefully getting a bunch of stuff we may or may not need/want or use but that Mom was really excited about.  Christmas shopping leading to outbreaks of violence, name calling, threats and adult temper tantrums, robbing some of the joy from the gifts we received which seemed so grudgingly given. 

As a little kid, one of the best parts was always the Christmas program at our church.  Little old ladies dressing up us kids in weird nativity costumes to stand around a little manger and sing and recite poems about the little baby Jesus….That was always good.  The truth that Jesus came to a poor, seemingly unimportant family (not just important people), in a country where life was hard and that God was there even in less than ideal circumstances.  God noticed the oppression of His people and sent a deliverer ‘cause life was meant to be different and peace on earth was part of the plan, even if it wasn’t yet a daily reality in the lives of His people.

As a grownup and a mother, Christmas didn’t become magic to me until the year my husband’s mother passed on some of her Christmas ornaments to us.  I had no idea what the treasured strings of gold beads, some red velvet bows, and some ornaments that (part of a family’s rich history) could do to bring such joy to a little (really little) wood-warmed cabin in the woods and to three little kids watching the “twinkles”  in their daddy’s eyes when he looked at the tree and told stories.  He told us about his Christmases as a boy at his aunt’s huge house playing with her five sons and all the other extended family; about putting olives on all his fingers and making the grownups laugh.  It was like life on a different planet.  The “twinkles” in his eyes helped the magic spread to my hearts too. 

My friend, Mac, taught me years ago that one way to redeem (buy back)the memories of the holiday season was to do something nice for someone else that you WANTED to do things for–not just the ones you HAD TO do for.  That trick has always helped.  This year it meant giving a gift to Heal Africa and One 4 One  (folks that hang out with their non-housed friends in Nickelsville). 

The cute little grandson and his parents are going to Montana to totally surprise the other grandma and grandpa.  It should be pretty awesome.  I get to rejoice in how blessed I am that they live within a one hour drive from us, and in how excited his Grandma Norma is going to be!  I’ll miss them, but thinking of the joy they are spreading there makes me very happy too.

For our Buddhist friends, I’m letting those who have a better grip on Christmas cheer (and a more positive attitude) do most of the explaining and just taking them a couple of small gifts.  Open to conversation, but not sure how to proceed…. What I most hope to communicate is how thankful I am for the gift of their friendship, while each day I pray that the amazing love of God revealed in Jesus will become part of their life.  That they will come to know, as I have, that life is not a random accident, but that He has a plan for each of us.  May His kingdom come and His will be done.  Peace on earth.

Reasons to Swear

I stopped swearing once, for a really long time.  I thought it was the thing to do.  You know, Christians are supposed to talk nice, and not use bad words with a lot of gusto and expression?  But there are no nice ways to say the guy threatened to kill his girlfriend and then spent some time pounding her in the stomach and dragging her around the house with their toddler screaming while Mommy got beat again.  There’s no nice words!  There are also no nice words to describe the actions of a stepfather who took a heavy object to his 15 year old stepdaughter’s head and left her needing 20 staples and stitches.  Some of what people do to each other is indescribable!

I suppose there are people who have never known a victim of domestic violence.  To them, that’s just a news story, a statistic, or something that happens to some unknown little understood “other” out there somewhere.  This week, I see the faces, the arms, the stomach bruises of the friends mentioned above.  I give thanks that they are alive with minimal permanent physical damages.  I give thanks for the community that is surrounding one of them and loving her and walking with her through this stage of her life, and look for opportunities to encourage the other one to look towards faith-that she is a child of God, imperfect but of infinite value,one who deserves way different than she has accepted from this #($&^! who broke his promises yet again.

The Unite To End Violence Against Women Campaign of the UN (click on the link) states that the most common form of violence against women is the one inflicted by an intimate partner–that women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria, and that half of all women who die from homicide are killed by their current or former husbands or partners.  It is so widespread, we ALL probably know victims, even if we don’t know it.

I loved hearing Pastor Eugene say in last week’s sermon that a woman who is being beat doesn’t have to stand there and take it.  That SHOULD be a no brainer, but too often churches have blamed the victim (and guys can be victims too-my Dad was).

I know swearing doesn’t really help.  But, I’m not sure what other kind of words to use expressing absolute frustration, outrage, and powerlessness to God on this one.  Would rather stick to the important words–like “You don’t deserve this!” and “WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP!!!!!?”

(Too little, but better than nothing?: Childcare while Mom goes to counseling or court, help with paperwork, drop off a meal, help find a new apartment….listen, love, listen some more, speak truth, include her and the kids in your family, pray, provide bus passes)  Ideas??

How to help?

National Domestic Violence Hotline (resources and contacts in all 50 states)

Because It Matters (resource site for those in the church experiencing domestic violence or other forms of abuse)

A tribute to my Mom (poem)

You taught me the power of words-
You made me a poet.
You taught me compassion-
To see and to love those who are in pain.
You taught me to value diversity-
Helped me understand how it felt to be different.
You taught me the value of community-
Helped me learn to notice the lonely and left out.
You taught me to love mercy-
To treat people how I wanted to be treated.
You taught me to love my children-
To value who God made them as individuals.
You taught me to listen with my heart-
To hear the wounds of others that were hard to express.
You taught me that you don’t always
Get to choose how the lessons come
But to keep my heart open to God
And try not to miss them.
You taught me to value humility-
And to seek to do justice.
You helped me learn to look for the “jewels in the ashes”
and light in the darkest of places.

Today, I am grateful you’re still with us.
Out of CCU, still on the journey.
I love you, Mom.

It’s Not Your Fault….

When kids are little, and all hell breaks loose, it’s developmentally normal to think whatever just happened is their fault.  There’s all kinds of twists that journey can take….”Daddy wouldn’t xxxx if you weren’t a bad girl”….”Mommy wouldn’t xxx if you did/didn’t xxxxx“…  A powerful burden some kids carry in silence, trying to keep things together so the world doesn’t fall apart.  Sometimes acting out, other times acting like angels….

I was 30 years old when I heard the speaker say: “It wasn’t your fault-and, you didn’t deserve it.”  They spoke  to the kids/adults who kept asking themselves why; what they could have done different; what they did to deserve “it”.   I never realized before how I’d stuffed/packaged it, but I guess I always figured if I  tried harder, worked smarter, believed better, didn’t need anything , wasn’t a bother….it would have been different.  My logical/rational/non-emotion admitting side, resonated with it.  But  the hidden, reserved, removed, guarded part of me, fell on my face before God and tearfully said “Thank you.”  The questions remained as to why some things in life had been the way they were, but I could start letting go of thinking it was because I was defective or insufficient or had failed to measure up to the task.  

Today, in the CCU, an angel in a nurse’s uniform gave me an explanation I didn’t think I would ever receive in this lifetime.  She explained about the “elephant  in our living room,” that had lived there undiagnosed and nameless for so long.   It’s an illness- a biological/physiological malfunction.  There is no medication or treatment that would have controlled it for long.  The changing cycles were too rapid.  It wasn’t our fault, but it wasn’t hers either.  It’s just the way it was.  Nothing has changed, but everything is different, understanding that she really couldn’t help it.

Today, I give thanks, and explain to my kids how grateful I am they have learned to live with grace and tolerance and love a somewhat challenging person who has loved them the best she could.

Who am I?

I don’t remember  the purpose of the meeting, but several hundred of us were gathered in the meeting hall at  Langley United Methodist Church, during the days when Tom & Claudia Walker were pastoring there.  Different now forgotten things went on during the meeting, but then Tom and Claudia got up to sing one of their songs, “Child of God.”  This was probably 15 years ago, but my life has never been the same. 

“I am a child of God-nothing can shake my confidence.

I am a child of God….no one can take my inheritance.

Never alone I’ll stand, strengthened by God’s own hand.

I am a child.  I am a child, a child of God.

My name is Marie, now I can see

What this relationship’s doing to me

Last night he hit me, I fell on the floor–

Just like he’s hit me so often before.

He says he’s sorry.  He brings me flowers…

Things will go fine for a couple of hours…

He says I’m nothing.  He says I’m scum.

Then he hits me because that’s what he does.

I am a child of God-nothing can shake my confidence.

I am a child of God….no one can take my inheritance.

Never alone I’ll stand, strengthened by God’s own hand.

I am a child.  I am a child, a child of God.

My name is Manuel.  My hands can tell

The story of how you’re living so well.

I work every day but my family is poor

So you can have coffee bananas and more.

The landowners say if I don’t mind my ways

They can find substitute workers to pay.

They say my soul will only be free

In heaven some day, that’s what they say.

 I am a child of God-nothing can shake my confidence.

I am a child of God….no one can take my inheritance.

Never alone I’ll stand, strengthened by God’s own hand.

I am a child.  I am a child, a child of God.”

There were at least three of us who wept and wept, even after the song  and the beautiful, worshipful, expressive  dance Carol did during it were over.  Something had happened….in this song, by the grace of God, we saw a new reality for how God sees us, even in our brokenness.  He loves us all, even in our failures, poverty, isolation, differentness, or in other groups excluded in their society.  He sees us not as life’s incidences and conflicts had taught us to view ourselves, but with through the lens of the dignity He created us for. 

(Sorry I have lost the third verse (the story of a man being disowned by his family for admitting he was gay-very powerful! ), or the music to share with you (it was beautiful).

Thank you Tom & Claudia for sharing your gifts.  Wherever you are, hope you are well and blessed with the kind of grace you have shared with others.

“Not Rape” (a tough read)

For any man, woman, husband, wife,  teenager, sister, parent, brother, teacher, pastor, friend….please click on the link here to the instructive but tough read on what the writer calls “Not Rape“.  Unfortunately, this experience is too common, too untouchable, and too often, those who experience it are blamed for causing it and have nowhere to go.  It’s not written as guy bashing, but as someone’s story, and worth acknowledging.  It happens to people of faith as well as those who claim no faith.  It’s a human thing gone wrong.  The gift of sexuality misused….abuse of power….

The Faces of Domestic Violence

Facts and figures about violence against women are overwhelming and maddening, but, it’s the faces that give me the nightmares.  There is a new face added to the gallery of survivors I remember…a women spending the night on her friend’s couch in a new town with her three kids,  trying to sort out what kind of future is possible that will keep them safe from her husband’s rages.  I see the faces of those who ended up in a shelter a friend started, or on the couches of friends or strangers, exhausted, afraid, ashamed, looking for temporary safety for themselves and their children…those who, even though they have won in court lost everything except their futures and their children and had to figure out how to build a new life out of courage and not much else. I cannot imagine how powerless that must feel, or how much courage it takes to seek help.  I see those who have survived.  

And the Mom’s aren’t the only ones who suffer.  Dad’s can be abused too.  Kids may or may not be being hit, but they are shaping their view of themselves, of relationships, and of God based on what they see and hear.  

If you’re reading this, and you’re one of those being abused, please tell someone.  Tell a pastor, a friend, a crisis line…get help. Don’t stop trying til someone listens.   A new life is hard, but it can happen.

http://www.metrokc.gov/dias/ocre/dvresources.htm

http://www.way2hope.org/domestic_violence_facts.htm 

http://www.faithtrustinstitute.org/index.php?p=Domestic_Violence&s=28

Jesus Loves the “Other” 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 I 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.)

 

We smile and look normal

As we walk from the car.

No one knows how bad things are.

No one can tell me

Why I feel so bad-

Like Jesus can’t love me

And neither can Dad.

 

From the Child:A Child’s Perspective on Child Abuse

(Used by permission)

Facts and Figures on Violence Against Women

Today is the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.” For a minute, let’s imagine a world where at least one out of three women and girls were not subject to being “beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetimes, usually by someone they know”.  Violence against women is reported by the UN’s Say No to Violence Against Women” campaign to be “perhaps the most pervasive human rights violation that we know today“.  (The following paragraphs are taken from their report)

Statistics paint a horrifying picture of the social and health consequences of violence against women. For women aged 15 to 44 years, violence is a major cause of death and disability [2]. In a 1994 study based on World Bank data about ten selected risk factors facing women in this age group, rape and domestic violence rated higher than cancer, motor vehicle accidents, war and malaria [3]…. 

Domestic and intimate partner violence includes physical and sexual attacks against women in the home, within the family or within an intimate relationship. Women are more at risk of experiencing violence in intimate relationships than anywhere else.

In no country in the world are women safe from this type of violence. Out of ten counties surveyed in a 2005 study by the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 50 percent of women in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru and Tanzania reported having been subjected to physical or sexual violence by intimate partners, with figures reaching staggering 71 percent in rural Ethiopia. Only in one country (Japan) did less than 20 percent of women report incidents of domestic violence [7]. An earlier WHO study puts the number of women physically abused by their partners or ex-partners at 30 percent in the United Kingdom, and 22 percent in the United States [8].

Based on several surveys from around the world, half of the women who die from homicides are killed by their current or former husbands or partners. Women are killed by people they know and die from gun violence, beatings and burns, among numerous other forms of abuse [10]. A study conducted in São Paulo, Brazil, reported that 13 percent of deaths of women of reproductive age were homicides, of which 60 percent were committed by the victims’ partners [11]. According to a UNIFEM report on violence against women in Afghanistan, out of 1,327 incidents of violence against women collected between January 2003 and June 2005, 36 women had been killed — in 16 cases (44.4 percent) by their intimate partners [12].

According to the Secretary-General’s In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women, by 2006 89 States had some form of legislative prohibition on domestic violence, including 60 States with specific domestic violence laws, and a growing number of countries had instituted national plans of action to end violence against women…

Limited availability of services, stigma and fear prevent women from seeking assistance and redress. This has been confirmed by a study published by the WHO in 2005: on the basis of data collected from 24,000 women in 10 countries, between 55 percent and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted NGOs, shelters or the police for help [13].”