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.

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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

What I Know (ramblings)

While my currently reconfigured life seems to require a crash course education in dealing with dementia after dark with grace, faith, and gentleness, it’s not something I was ever really prepared for.  In stressed out times, I usually revert to some basics learned a long time ago….

1.  A lot of theology, people have argued about for centuries.  Do I care?  No.  There is enough of the simple things I do understand to keep me busy the rest of my life figuring out how to one day at a time love God, my family, my parents, my coworkers, and my friends/enemies/peripheral encounters.  Keep it simple. 

2.  While some people may be inspired by the beauty God created in rocks, mountains, trees, sunsets (and I love those things too), or the magnificent oratory in a good sermon, the applied grace of God that gets through my anxiety/depression/exhaustion/attitudes/questioning usually comes in a song.  Songs change me.  My soul meditates on them and it washes my brain.  I can remember scripture portrayed in a song better than 95% of a lifetime of sermons I’ve heard.  The song that has sustained me this week is on “Year of Grace” by Robin Mark, written by Johnny Parks and Claire Hamilton (check out the album…..every song on it is fantastic!!!!

“All Is Well…..He lowers us to raise us so we can sing His priases.  Whatever is His way all is well.  He makes us rich and poor that we might trust Him More.  Whatever is His way all is well.  All my changes come from Him-He who never changes.  I’m held firm in the grasp of the Rock of ages.  All is well with my soul.  He is God in control.  I know not all His plans, but I know I’m in His hands.  He clothes us now then strips us, yet with His Word equips us.  Whatever is His way all is well.  And though our seasons change, we will exalt His name.  Whatever is His way, all is well. ”

A wise friend once said, “What you magnify gets bigger-let’s magnify Jesus.”

That’s the goal.  That’s the perspective.  That’s the anchor.  Nothing else is gonna make it happen.

The Things You Learn By Listening (ramblings)

Well, it’s been almost two months since we started a new stage of life (one that includes having my 85 year old father living with us)….I am incredibly grateful to have married a man with a large enough heart and enough personal integrity to love those who need it.  He is my example.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride (including an ER visit, a visit to a small country church a lot like Dad’s old church,a couple of holidays with four generations present, lots of paperwork, some bad news, and a little good news-God bless the social worker who did what she said she would!).

Dad’s a good story teller.  If you ask the right question (and are prepared to sit and listen for a while after breakfast), you can hear “the rest of the story….” the stuff that makes parts of family history make sense.  I never knew one uncle was a medic in World War II (giving shots of morphine to guys who were dying and picking up the remains of those it was too late for). Makes him make a lot more sense now…. I knew Grandma had lived with us for a while, but I didn’t remember being a little girl sneaking out of my toddler bed and going to snuggle with her in the middle of the night in the little room off the living room.  I just knew she was always a nice, kind, loving person even to people who were sometimes pretty awful.

In the days when Dad was young, the options were different for family members who had mental illnesses (or angered the wrong person and were sent away).  Counselling, medication, understanding, love and acceptance don’t seem like they were readily available in that cultural/chronological/familial/theological context.  That sucks!  I proudly wear the wedding ring of the black sheep of the family….never knew she was actually one of the “Rosie the Riveter” ladies….the stories I had heard about her before were of the “other” kind.

Sounds like Dad’s dad was a good farmer.  Hard working, God-fearing, German immigrant…wished he had settled on the other side of the mountains where there were mile after mile of prospering farms instead of 10 acres of rocks on Whidbey Island.

I have a lot to learn about loving, listening, caring….appears a lot of opportunities have landed in my newly configured life.  I pray, with God’s help, that I get it right.

God Better Be in Control or I’m in Trouble!

I’ve always been drawn to the passage in Isaiah 58 that is copied below:

 “… this is the kind of fasting I want:
   Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
      lighten the burden of those who work for you.
   Let the oppressed go free,
      and remove the chains that bind people.
 7 Share your food with the hungry,
      and give shelter to the homeless.
   Give clothes to those who need them,
      and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

 8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
      and your wounds will quickly heal.
   Your godliness will lead you forward,
      and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
 9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
      ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.

   “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
      Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
 10 Feed the hungry,
      and help those in trouble.
   Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
      and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
 11 The Lord will guide you continually,
      giving you water when you are dry
      and restoring your strength.
   You will be like a well-watered garden,
      like an ever-flowing spring.
 12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
      Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
      and a restorer of homes….”

And I’ve always thought it very wise of God to put in that line about “not hiding from relatives that need your help.”  The path ahead of me has some new “opportunities” to practice what I preach and treat other people (difficult relatives) the way I would want to be treated (even though I am the family “black sheep”) .  In the end, this will be a blessing.  Right now it just looks hard.

It looks hard to tell my father he is going to have to leave my mother and the comforts he has known in the past several years and move off of his beloved Whidbey Island and into our house in Lynnwood.  He never wanted to live in the city.  He knows no one here except us.  This sucks.  The next couple of weeks look really difficult for Mom, him and the rest of us.  Work today is paid mood altering (going and spending 8 hours doing something I have some control over!)….

God is in control.  My head knows that, my heart will catch up.  Grateful for grace yet to be revealed….but still a little bit afraid.

Betrayal and Job’s Friends (poem)

One of my favorite relatives sent me a message last night that it was her cousin whose exhusband  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

Daffodils and Uncle David

Daffodils always remind me of Uncle David.  Easter always reminds me of daffodils.  When I was about 4 or 5, Uncle David gave me a beautiful book of poetry (it had daffodils on the front and lots of pictures of beautiful flowers).  I was trying to learn to read at that point, sitting on the couch, when I asked my Mom, “What is d-o-g spelled backwards?”  She told me that was God.  I knew this was significant. 

It’s even more significant that Uncle David is thus directly tied in my little kid brain to finding out about God.  Uncle David was not on everyone’s A list.  He was, in the terms of the day, “slow” or “different” (not dumb, just not quite functioning at the mental complexity his particular decade and community preferred.  He had gotten in some pretty awful spots when someone misunderstood his assessment of different situations (think “padded room”).  Uncle David spent a good part of his later life shuttled off to a halfway house on Capital Hill in Seattle.  Some of the relatives breathed a sigh of relief, and except for coming to the island to pick blackberries and thimbleberries and huckleberries once a year so I could make him a pie, we didn’t see much of him for quite a while.

Uncle David died quietly at home.  A funeral was planned for our little community, with some folks figuring immediate family would be the only ones who showed up.  Boy, were we surprised!  From David’s delightfully diverse community, carloads of people came to our small town and filled the funeral home.  After the formal part of the service was over, someone from the back spoke up and said, “We would like to say something…..”  The minister let her come to the microphone.  One by one, a parade of people came forward to speak about how David’s simple ability to love and encourage those around him, to do practical things, to serve, to help in any way he could had blessed their lives over and over again.  We sat their dumbfounded, humbled and incredibly grateful for the profound lesson unfolding in front of us. God, in typical fashion, chose the humble of the world to teach us that his ways aren’t our ways.  That we had missed the point entirely by talking more than we listened.  That there had been much to learn from a humble man with no guile who sought to love his community.  I am grateful each Easter, especially, as I think of the lessons Uncle David gave me on living in the grace of God.