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!

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

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.

Stay With the Story

Too easy to leave the scene on Good Friday
Convinced Hope has died and the story is over …
Even the disciples,
These ones who were chosen
Who had seen water turned to wine,
Loaves and fishes multiplied
Dead people raised
Blind people seeing and lepers cleansed
Still left confused and afraid…thinking they were abandoned.

I am so like them….
When dreams die or hope is buried
When I am dead
In my woundedness
Or pride
Or failures
Or unforgiveness
I so easily lose my way-sink back to the pit I came from…

But the finder of lost sheep (and lost disciples)
Does not abandon us on the shores of our desolation
Because He knows our hearts better than we ever will
He will meet us on the shore with fresh fish on the fire
To feed our hungry souls. He knows we are human.

Hope will rise again.

Teresa Norman April 2020

Legacy

Legacy

There’s a little girl in a country church watching Daddy today
Wondering why he lifts his hands and tears fall as he prays.
She’s still too young to understand why Daddy’s heart does break
As he’s praying for the wisdom he knows raising her will take…

“Father God, I’m asking you for wisdom from above
To write a living legacy in the heart of these ones I love.
Please use my life, my words, my prayers
To show them how much their Savior cares…
Let them know they are precious in your sight.
And that trusting you can bring them through the night.”

The little girl is a woman now with children of her own
Life hasn’t always been easy but there’s something she’s always known:
She knows there’s a God in heaven who watches her each day
And that He sees her tears fall when she prays…

“Father God, she’s asking you for wisdom from above
To write a living legacy in the heart of these ones she loves.
Use her life, her words her prayers
To show them how much their Savior cares.
And let them know they are precious in your sight,
That trusting you can bring them through each night.”

When we stand before you on that great and final day
And look upon your splendor, all tears will be wiped away,
The heartaches will be over, the loneliness be gone
As together with the angels, we worship at your throne…

Father God we’re asking you for wisdom from above
To write a living legacy in the hearts of those you love
Use our lives, our words, our prayers
To show this world how much you care…
To let them know they are precious in your sight
And that trusting you can bring them through the night.

Teresa Norman May 1999

Hand Lotion in the Afternoon

(My mother has been gone for three years now, but as mother’s day approaches tomorrow, I am reflecting on her strength at living her whole life with mental health challenges in a society and a time where those were often neither talked about nor treated effectively. One of the times she was hospitalized, a nurse explained to me that there was nothing we could have done that would have made it easier. She said it was a biochemical malfunction and she cycled between episodes too quickly and unpredictably for medication to have been effective. I will always be grateful to that nurse.)

Tired hands
Dry from weeks in a hospital
In a coma
Heavily medicated
Restrained…
Life and death fight for preeminence
Life wins
Her eyes open
As I am rubbing lotion on those hands….
Instead of words of assault, criticism or disgust
She speaks coherent words
Words of appreciation:
“for angels like me….”
She’s back, and she is aware
Wondering what happened
Wondering where she was for “all those years”
(in a coma six weeks but “gone” so long before that)…
A new stage in her life begins
One where, for brief periods
She does not fight the universe and all that’s in it
Brief periods where we talk
Only God knows why, for her
Normal was never an option
Grateful she came back
No matter how short the time.

Teresa Norman Nov 2019

The Caterpillar’s Prayer

(One spring when my kids were little, we had a plague of caterpillars that left brown squishy road-killed splats all over the driveway, fuzzy fellas to pick off each kid before they came up, and a cabin covered with an unappealing wiggly mess. As I watched them from the garden one day, I realized how much like the caterpillar I felt sometimes – like something destined to become road kill instead of a beautiful work in process)…

I’m a little caterpillar
With a crazy urge to fly.
Don’t need to understand it
(Don’t have time to question why!)
It just looks so inviting
Rising up above these stones,
Not risking getting squished or squashed
Just trying to make it home.

“The time has come,” my Maker calls,
“To come away with Me
And let My love transform you
Into what you soon shall be.
It is a natural process
Done according to My plan—
(Although it may seem crazy
To the broken heart of man).
But from the very first,
My goal has been to make you new—
The urge to fly is part
Of what I’ve always planned for you!

So even when you wonder,
It’s OK to trust in Me.
You shall be changed—
It’s been arranged!
I’ve come to set you free.
You’ll rise above the struggle
That for so long has kept you down.
You’ll see a new perspective
When you’re not quite so earthbound.
The darkness and the struggle
To emerge from where you’ve been
Will lead you to a new day—
It will all be worth it then!”

©Teresa Norman 1988

As A Sparrow Falls

The world is full of big problems
I am small, like a sparrow…
I can do only small things
But I can learn to do them with great love.
My actions may not make a difference
To anyone except the person I love and listen to,
Pray with and care for, feed or walk beside.
But to that one, it matters.
Just because I am small and insignificant,
It doesn’t mean the love God has given me to share
Does not matter. It is still His love
And those I love are still important to Him.
God doesn’t abandon or forget even one small sparrow.
He will be with us. We are valuable to Him.

#####################################################################
Luke 12:6-7 “What is the value of your soul to God? Could your worth be defined by an amount of money? God doesn’t abandon or forget even the small sparrow he has made. How then could he forget or abandon you? What about the seemingly minor issues of your life? Do they matter to God? Of course they do! So you never need to worry, for you are more valuable to God than anything else in this world.” From The Passion Translation

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.
*****************************************************************
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

At Water’s Edge (Poem)

Standing here beside the ocean
Staring at the sea
Wondering how the God who made all this
Could still use me….
And yet, I hear your voice, Lord,
Even as in days of old
Promising a harvest—
More than my net can hold!

“Cast your net into the water.
Put your trust in Me.
Diverse fish in diverse places—
Trust Me and you’ll see!
It ain’t over yet, My child—
The best is still to come.
As I always have,
I still hang out with fishermen!”

©Teresa Norman
8/3/01

Lullaby for My Unborn Child (Poem)

Written for my unborn child….1/25/1984

My child, God loves you as a father
You are the clay-He is the potter. (Is 64:8)
You are the work of His hands–
Let Him shape you as He has planned. (Jer 18:3-6)

He knew you even before He formed you. (Ps 139:13-14)
Before you were created, He called you.
He set you apart,
He had it planned from the start.
It is for His pleasure that you were formed. (Rev 4:12)

He even numbered the hairs on your head. (Matt. 10:30)
All your days are written down in His book. (Ps. 139:16)
His angels have charge o’er you (Ps 91:11)
To keep you each day.
Surely He who sees the tiny sparrow fall (Mt 10:29)
Will help you find your way. (Ps 37:23-24)

(This was written while I was pregnant with my son, and I’ve prayed it over his life for years now. But recently, God reminded me this is how He feels about each of us every day, even when we don’t feel too lovable or valuable or successful or….fill in the blank with your favorite self-accusation. Grateful for His love.)

Like Water for the Thirsty (Poem)

Lord, you know there’s times I’ve tried to run
But now I come to give You thanks for all You’ve done.
I don’t know why it is I couldn’t see before
That the hands that were reaching out to me were Yours.

I guess that sometimes pride gets in the way—
We turn aside to try to hide the pain.
So much is lost I know You gave Your life to gain,
So now I come to give thanks in Your name.

Now when my little girls ask how to see You,
How can they really know that You’re around.
You’ve given me an answer I can share with them—
They can see You in Your people—
That’s where You’re found.

Thank You, Lord, for all You’ve done.
You gave me friends that brought me hope again.
Their kindness and their mercy
Were like water to the thirsty.
I’ve seen You in my friends
And I thank You, Lord.

Teresa Norman 1988

Kaleidoscope (Poem)

Broken pieces gathered together
Reflecting the love of the Father of Light
Each carries a portion
Of the grace that sustains us-
Brings beauty from ashes,
And songs of deliverance
In the darkest of nights.

We have been rescued
From the things that have shattered
The lives that we thought we had planned.
Brought back from destruction
Redeemed and forgiven
Made vessels of honor
To be held in His hands.

Light of the spirit
Shine in our darkness
Bring forth Your beauty and light
May these broken pieces
Empowered by your mercy
Serve with rejoicing
Listen with humility
Walk in love out into the night

Teresa Norman  June 2017

Where Are Your Poor? (Poem)

“Where are your poor?” our Honduran guest said.
I was humbled by his words.
His eyes had observed that our country is rich,
Richer even than what he had heard.

In his country many are poor,
Much more than we’ll ever see.
His church gives away what little it has
Trying to meet their needs.

We give a little while they give a lot
(Seems like the reverse should be true).
Forgive us, Lord, for failing to see
How many times we ignore You.

Give us hearts to see You, Lord,
In the hungry, poor and cold.
Give us hearts to gladly share
Our lives and the things we hold…
To value our brother more than our comfort.
To know when we give, we receive,
And that we can never out-give Your provision—
Help us live what we say we believe!

Teresa Norman , July 2000

The Pearl of Great Price (Poem)

There are times I set my eyes
Upon the things I see
And it’s then that I lose sight
Of how You died for me.

Circumstances pierce me through
When I take my eyes off You
And the victory You won
Does me no good.

But when I lift my eyes to see You
I am changed within.
And Your radiance and Your peace
Replace my despair.

I’m reminded that it’s true–
It’s worth it all
Just knowing You.
Jesus, You are everything I need.

Jesus, You’re the pearl of great price,
The author and the giver of life,
The faithful and the true—
There’s nothing worth more
Than knowing You.
The greatest joy of all
Is knowing You.

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God
You are the Prince of Peace—
You give such peace.
You’re the Bread of Heaven,
Living Water
Lord and so much more!
Thank you, Jesus
For all You are!

Teresa Norman 1984