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.

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

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

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

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)

A tribute to my mother (reposted 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 or tomorrow may be her last day….she was exhausted, sick and in pain this afternoon but knew we were there).  The call where I was asked to confirm it was OK to give her morphine, avatar and just keep her comfortable and let her failing heart fail came today……praying you find peace, Mom.