Ruth’s Song

(Grateful and proud of the adult, woman, mom my daughter Ruth has become! Tomorrow is her birthday)

Like Hannah in the Bible promised long ago
If she could only have a child, she’d give him to the Lord,
I prayed that God would give to us a baby girl to love
And promised we would care for her and teacher her about His love…

So God, in love, looked down on us and brought you to our lives.
I’ve thanked Him ever day since then and I’ll thank him all my life.
I pray that you will know Him too as your Savior and your friend,
Because, little Ruth, Jesus loves you with a love that has no end.

Lord, I give to you this child that you have given me —
Please help me mold and shape her into what she’s meant to be.
Keep her safe throughout each day-keep her in your tender care.
No matter what may happen, let her know you’re always there!

Teresa Norman May 1986

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

Mary In a Martha World

The baby cries, her mother runs—
There’s just so much to do!
You know I wouldn’t make it
Through the day, Lord,
If I didn’t have you!

The kids are in the bathroom—
Oh, I wonder…what’s that sound?
It couldn’t be! They haven’t!
Every time I turn around!

The dishes would try to take over
If they were left to themselves too long.
It seems like another stack’s waiting
Just as soon as the first one’s done.

The laundry pile keeps getting higher,
It seems like it never will stop.
I think I remember that somewhere
Adults sometimes sit and talk?

But as I pick up my crying daughter
And hold her close to my heart,
I feel Your love and Your smile of approval
For I’ve chosen the better part.

Teresa Norman 1983

Pajama Feet

It’s 3 a.m., here she comes again –
That little sleepy head is sneaking in my bed.
“I want you, Mom.” That was all she said
As she snuggled up as close as she could get to me.

“Rock me, hold me, cozy me, ” her favorite words…
Her thumb pulled out just long enough to say,
I need to know you love me – that I’m special to.
She says it in her very special way…

Little one, the day is going to come
When times like this are but a distant memory
So for tonight, I’ll hold you close to me
So thankful that you’re here and everything’s alright.

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

A Tribute to My Dad (poem)

The times we live in, and some opportunities I’ve availed myself of lately, have given me a chance to reflect on the legacy my ancestors have left me…my dad passed away at the age of 90 on April 5, 2016.

What I Learned from My Dad (one way or the other)

You taught me to solve problems and value my independence.

You taught me self-esteem is earned by living a life I can be proud of.

You took me to church where I learned God is good, some people suck, and even when they do, God is still good.

You let me make music that gave my heart wings.

You made me responsible to know my options in any situation and always have a Plan B.

You taught me to be grateful and that whining will never solve anything.

You taught me that, in the end, kindness matters (a lot!) and, by God’s grace, I get to choose what kind of person I want to be.

Thanks, Dad.

Not for sale (poem)

Money doesn’t make you a better person-it just gives you better choices.  In some cultures, having no money and no rights makes you a target for traffickers. I first heard of the organization “Not For Sale” shortly after I had met some of my young refugee friends. It made their presentation pretty non-theoretical. I could picture some of the young people I care about and the choices they may have faced if their parents had not chosen to become refugees and take the risk of resettlement to America.

Not for sale…..
Humans as commodities, stocks to exchange,
inconveniences, expendables to be thrown away.
Their lives for sale…choices determined by $.
No! Their lives are a gift. Their lives have value!
Children of God, created with purpose-
whether they know it or not!

They have captured us, adopted us, let us love them.
Priceless treasures beyond measure…
These sharers of laughter, of humbling moments…
Yahtzee played, meals shared, loving acceptance offered and received.
We talk of woman things and what it means
Of relationships and guys who are good
And those who are not.

Transitions negotiated like minefields….
New experiences played out each day….
We talk of Christmas trees and manger scenes–
Of Jesus, a refugee whose parents fled to safety to keep him safe.

They watched our daughter with her baby
And reflected on a mother who loves instead of leaves…
They have little “stuff”- but their father loves them.
With courage he brought them here in spite of the challenges.
They live in a “big” house (smaller than most living rooms),
grateful their father cooks for them….
Grateful for food. For friends…. for choices.
If different choices had been made,
They could be some of those who are for sale in another land…..

How do you determine the value of a human?
Of their love?
It is priceless.
It should not be for sale.

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.

You Never Quit Being A Mom….(poem)

For my unborn child….1/25/1984

My child, God loves you as a father
You are the clay-He is the potter.
You are the work of His hands–
Let Him shape you as He has planned.

He knew you even before He formed you.
Before you were created He called you.
He’s set you apart,
He’s had it planned from the start.
It is for His pleasure that you were formed.

He even numbered the hairs on your head.
All your days are written down in His book.
His angels have charge o’er you
To keep you each day.
Surely He who sees each sparrow fall
Will help you find your way….

(there’s scripture to back up each line and thought of this prayer, written a long time ago…so grateful that God does not forget His promises, and that He helps Moms remember them on days we need hope)

Standing by your bed (poem)

Standing by your bed
Watching you breathe
Holding your hand
Preparing to grieve
As slowly your life
Is slipping away
It may be soon
Or some other day
The gift of your life
Brought me my greatest joy-
(I’m the lucky girl
That married one of your boys)
Now as you embark
On this journey unknown
That probably soon
Will carry you home
Please know you are loved
Know how much we care
Know the God who made you
Will greet you there

Uncle Ralph….and the politics of nothing new

Amazing what you can find out about your family (and politics) when you start sorting and shredding the collected documents of the last 50 years….

When I was a kid, I knew Uncle Ralph had died in a logging accident. When I was a teenager, I found out he had had the audacity to run for governor. I also knew this was not looked at as a good thing in the 1950’s-people from our side of the tracks weren’t supposed to dream that big or do anything that noticeable. I was very surprised when my brother told me Uncle Ralph had actually gotten 3000 votes. (Judging by the level of family embarassment, I had expected it to be 3 or 30 votes-not 3000). But it wasn’t until today (stumbling across a couple of articles from the Seattle Times) that I found out why he ran, what he was about, and why there really is, like Ecclesiastes says “nothing new under the sun.”

Uncle Ralph had concluded elections were mainly popularity contests and that the party who wants to get elected makes extragant promises to get elected, then when they’re in office, finds they can’t deliver what they promised without raising taxes, even if they meant to. Then, according to him, the party who’s not currently in power does the same thing and this goes on, and on and on and now it’s 60 years later and it still goes on……

My uncle had some unique ideas….having been really really poor, he was sympathetic to poor people. He thought there should be surplus stores (food banks?) where poor people who needed food could get food and pay whatever they could afford (even if that was nothing) and that they should also be able to get help heating their homes. He thought some of the things being wasted should be turned into other things (recycled?) so people who needed them could use them ….. he thought there should be a limit on campaign expenditures ($1000 tops) so rich guys couldn’t just buy the office.

Uncle Ralph paid his whole life savings ($200) to file as a candidate because he thought doing something was better than just complaining about what wasn’t being done….

Not sure what Uncle Ralph would say about today’s political insanity-my guess is he would probably say taking care of the poor is important and remind me of the words in James 1:27 “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” God, please help us be the change we want to see!

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