How do you tell a story?
I don’t have any answers on this one….just questions. I recently read a book called “The Girl Behind the Gate” that was a total surprise. I stumbled onto it on Kindle Unlimited and could not put it down until I was finished. In non-overly dramatic fashion, it told the story of an unmarried young woman who got pregnant in the days where her society did horrible things to her, where (as always) it was her “fault” and her “moral failings” and never mentioned she didn’t do it herself. This is personal to me, since one of my ancestors went down that road with horrible, tragic disastrous results that have left consequences subsequent generations are still impacted by. It took my breath away to see the parallel to my relative’s story but to see this woman walk out of hell with the help of a courageous therapist and find a measure of peace and stability and worth and LIFE. A worthwhile but dark read….
The other story that totally floored me and made me seriously consider the art of storytelling was called “The Old Man” – a popular TV show that came out recently (only seven episodes so far). This is fiction and drama but the breadcrumbs the story teller weaves through this forensic tale of family secrets, hidden agendas, buried details and the strengths and weaknesses of the characters with their ability to sacrifice, deceive, and delude themselves….so well done. Dark drama, somewhat violent without showing heads being lopped off (implied, not displayed violence), but SO well done.
The grip of these two stories on me got my attention. I am usually given to poetry (telling a story in a snapshot, not a novel) – giving a glimpse of a picture, a feeling, a relationship. This got me thinking – how do you tell a story? Some things don’t fit in a poem. In my life there have been many of those things. Times where grace has invaded my space, even in the midst of tragedy and loss and shame…where a person has shown up out of my past to confirm things I had no way of finding answers to on my own. There are people who have told me my story is worth telling. I just don’t know where to even start….
Suggestions? How do you approach telling a story?
The ABCs of Privilege
I’m participating in a book study with some friends using “Subversive Witness” by Dominique Dubois Gilliard, “Scripture’s Call to Leverage Privilege. He talks about how privilege is “stackable” – there can be layers. As a white American woman I have many privileges. That doesn’t make me a bad person-it makes me someone who needs to be responsible to “leverage” that privilege in ways that will help bring change to the injustices around me. I am just starting the journey of learning what this means and how, as a Christian, I am supposed to live. It’s about faith, not politics, but politics affects policies, so it can’t be avoided really. This book makes being a Christian make sense – I’ve always wondered why there is so much talk about the “afterlife” and how to “get people saved” – then what…you just wait for death so you can go to heaven? NO! There is so much more….there is a call to discipleship and doing justice and actively loving mercy and walking humbly with God and using your privilege to advocate for change….probably rambling here….work in process…opinions?
I used an acrostic to list some of my privileges below:
(need to research statistics on some of these – how many people don’t have access to clean water, medical care, infant/maternal mortality, feeling safe at.home, indoor plumbing and so many more of the privileges I possess…)
A. Access to medical care, medical insurance and a hospital if I need one
B. Birthed three babies, all three lived.
C. Clean water piped right to my home where I turn on a faucet to get it (didn’t always have that!)
D. Dog-able to love, feed, care for and enjoy the luxury of a dog
E. Electricity wired to my house and the ability to pay the bill
F. Freedom of speech, religion, the press, assembly and the right to petition the government, the right to vote
G. Awareness that God has been good to me throughout my life, even the bad times – He has never left me or forsaken me even when I couldn’t see Him
H. Homeowner of a safe, modern, pleasant home living with my husband (not having to have a bunch of rotating roommates to afford a place to live)
I. Indoor plumbing (didn’t always have that!)
J. Job-had a job in a wonderful diverse community working with people I respected, doing something that mattered, and having a boss who was an advocate, not an obstacle
K. Three kids who all live within a 2 hour drive of where we live
L. Law enforcement do not stop or profile me due to my race
M. Married almost 44 years to someone who still loves me
N. No more cancer (7 years)- was able to obtain diagnosis and treatment for aggressive cancer, have insurance through my job to help pay for it, a clinical trial that kicked it’s butt and amazing people (husband, kids, friends, church community) that helped me get through it
O. Organic food (if I want it) to purchase in my community or grown on my own land and the money to buy it
P. Indoor plumbing (didn’t always have it!)
Q. Quality furnace that works and that I can afford to pay the bill to run it
R. Refrigerator in my house, retired
S. Safe in my home and community
T. Travel-two working vehicles and legal license and insurance for them, can travel by other means as well if there is $
U. Natural born United States citizen
V. Vaccinated and registered to vote
W. World Wide Web, a computer, internet access at home and on my phone
X. Many Examples of living faith observed from friends/pastors/people in my life and communities over the years
Y. Yearly physical – a doctor to go see in my community and insurance to help pay for it
Z. Zoning that let me buy a house in the community I wanted
Hope Will Rise Again
God of the paradox
Lion and lamb
You came as a servant
But hold the world in your hand
Through your death you bring life
At such terrible cost
The Shepherd who searches
For all who are lost
They tried to take your life
But you willingly laid it down
To make a new beginning
For these humans that you love
You carried our sorrows
You felt every one
Paid the price, bore the pain
For all that’s been done
You made a way
For hope to arise
In those who’d been buried
By the enemy’s lies
Creator and Friend
You hung in our place
Now we live again.
Teresa Norman 2022
Gray fog dissipates on the horizon
Torrential rain beats on the roof-
Drips with splashy drops into the gray canal
Seagulls squack, more gray and white color
In a shaded collection of potential gloom.
Slowly gliding by, a seal fishes for breakfast
As I have coffee and watch the gloom rise….
December…a strange time of year.
Hustle and bustle and jingle bells
And dashing through the snow
Searching for things and bargains
And happiness in places it can’t be found
Seems so unrelated to my world today —
(a simple world of slopping through the rain
as I try to get my dog to do her thing so we can go back inside)
I give thanks for being removed from the bustle
Even for a moment
As my puppy snores blissfully back on the bed
And we get ready to meet with people we love
And celebrate how far so many have come
To be here today in so many ways….
A Lament for the Displaced
See the mother as she’s running, tiny baby in her arms,
Fleeing from the soldiers and their tanks and guns and bombs…
She’s exhausted, cold and desperate, her children hungry, full of fear –
How can she know You love her-that You walk beside here there?
Her enemies surround them. Her city’s being burned,
The bombs fell on the church as well… So many have been killed.
Their food and homes are taken because the government wills
To destroy them as a people and make them disappear.
God of justice, are you hiding? Can you hear these people cry?
Where is Your wrath and anger as the bombs fall from the sky?
Are You sleeping or on a journey? (This mother waits to hear.)
Help us welcome You and her family if injustice brings them here.
In her, I see You hungry,
Clothe her children, we’re clothing you.
Her husband is a warrior
Fighting evil to bring rescue
Protestors go to prison
Please God, hear their cry
Let them know they’re not alone
Let Your people cry with them…
Lord, forgive us for our silence as dictators scheme and bomb
Forgive us for our silence as the weak are crushed by the strong.
Let us cry out against this evil, loud enough so that you hear,
Help us quit arguing with each other
About what doesn’t matter, making ourselves important
As you stand and wait….
As hungry, displaced, frightened people
Seek help….we argue about laws and who is worthy
You are the truth – banish our lies
You are the light-drive out our darkness
You are the way. Help us! We are lost!
We ask for your mercy, which we don’t deserve.
Help us stand with those who need to know You are near.
Bread From Heaven
Like the Hebrews in the desert,
I look at the bread You provide
And ask “What is it?”
So often (like the disciples of old)
I do not recognize You…
In spite of your provision
I think I am alone
I remain blinded by my unbelief,
My hardened heart, afraid.
Help me see who You are-
The living bread
That came down from heaven
Help me see You-
Your body broken for me.
Help me see You
In Your body,
Though broken and scattered
Bound together as one loaf in You.
You have fed me in my wilderness
Open my eyes
to see those who are also hungry
Abandoned, alone, afraid
Bread of heaven-
You’ve given me loaves and fishes
They are not much in this world of need
It’s all I have, Lord.
But I offer it to You.
Assailed By Words
(I wrote this one during college but stumbled across it this morning cleaning files…this was the days before computers were everywhere, there was 24/7 news and STILL it seemed we were being accosted by words at every turn…)
The world is full of many words, their voices crying to be heard
Sometimes they laugh, sometimes they moan –
It makes you want to be left alone!
It’s hard to think and understand
:neath the constant input that’s at hand.
You wonder why it must all be aid –
Does it really matter or just clutter your head?
There’s words to read, to sing or prayer.
There’s words that will not go away.
You type them, CRUSH them, SHOUT them or mail them-
You try to deny that you feel assailed by them…
It takes so much energy to let them in –
To sort then, respond to them or comprehend.
Why won’t the words just go away
or at least slow down-is there THAT much to say?
Teresa Norman 1977
The Wet Butterfly
The wings unfurled slowly
As the chrysalis fell away
(or she struggled her way out)
As a whisper of wind
Lifting her to a new place…
What I really am is a wet butterfly
Still unfolding her recently found wings
And learning to fly…
I have only begun!
As the scene unfolds…..
We’re like so many actors in a play, roles to struggle through each day…
Wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend, child of God –
(Oops….train wreck again….)
Tentatively tiptoeing into each new scene as the curtain opens wondering what it will bring…
A Roman candle with sparks that fly or a purring kitten on your lap to lie…
Hurricane winds or a beach with palms, raging waves or soft breezes that calm….
We try to live without doing harm but when focus drifts it can raise alarms
Then God redirects, and we reconnect with the script He’s written to worship Him with the lives we’ve been given.
Undivided (an Easter poem)
Seer of all things, even the small-
You knew my heart was divided.
My sins were forgiven by your mercy and grace
(But I still tried to hide my disgrace).
I wondered why, (with my heart made of stone)
So often I felt isolated, dead and alone…
But landmines buried in a small child’s soul
Can lay hidden for years and shape how her life goes…
Still, your grace comes in so many ways….
With a step of faith, a journey began,
To examine with Scripture what was really God’s plan.
Instead of a weapon to further my shame,
Your Word brought new life-a new heart, a new name.
I always knew you had carried my sins
But you let me see that my sorrows and shame
Were also banished when you rose from that grave.
They weren’t mine to carry – you paid the price.
Today my heart is undivided.
By new life in you, this grateful child is so excited!
April 4, 2021
A Refuge in Times of Trouble
Psalms 46:1 says “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”
I’ve been thinking about that this morning, because tomorrow, I may be in trouble. There have been several instances of medical mistakes and total screw ups and some life threatening incompetence on an intubation that almost made me a statistic and could have made my husband a widow. Because of that event, I have done my best to avoid surgery. Tomorrow, I’m not avoiding. I’m going for a repeat of the surgery they failed at the first time.
Fifteen years ago, they tried to remove 1/2 of my thyroid due to a massive goiter. We thought it wasn’t going to be that big of a deal, but our pastor, God bless him!, wanted us to come in to be prayed for before I went in. Ok. That was kind. I believed in prayer, but really, no big deal. BUT, things went radically wrong – obstructed airway, I hemorraghed and ended up with a trach for a five day hospital stay instead of out the next morning. Scary event. Really scary! (The hidden blessing – some of the amazing people from our church took the time to come to the hospital and visit (since in those days you could) and I got to know them better, even though we had to communicate by taking notes, since I couldn’t talk).
Six years ago, when I was diagnosed with Stage III Inflammatory Breast Cancer, I was more scared of surgery than I was the cancer. I know quite a few people who have made it through breast cancer. Surgery, the way my goiter has misshaped, obstructed and narrowed my airway, not so much good news there. The surgeons/anesthesiologist who did the cancer surgery were amazing. When I woke up in my room and saw my family there and could TALK to them (no trach), I was ecstatic. It didn’t matter I was missing a breast and a whole bunch of lymph nodes. (As I told my girls, they had already served their purpose).
But having had a medical situation recently where surgery was recommended sooner rather than later, but the hospital I was taken to was unable to deal with the risks my airway presented, it was time to make some new choices. I need to get the goiter out so the airway is not so lethal, so they can safely do the other surgery I need. Since I’ve been working at home and not taking patient calls all day, my voice wearing out really fast hasn’t been an issue, but it may also be something that gets solved by this surgery (if it goes well). I’d put this off partly because I didn’t know what I would do for work if I lost my voice completely….
I was thinking about God being our refuge this morning. I am afraid. But there are people praying, and so many times in my life, I have felt those prayers like wings holding me up. It’s hard to explain. But He is with us. Grateful for praying friends.
The Man of Excuses
In the dream last night, I saw the disabled man in John 5 sitting by the pool-the place where he had lain for 38 years (an invalid, some translations say). When Jesus saw him there, he asked if he “wanted to be well.” (What a question! Only Jesus can get away with that.) Of course he wanted to be well, didn’t he? Wouldn’t we? But the man explained to Jesus that “other people” had someone to put them in the water so they could be healed. That meant “other people” got help and he didn’t. Other people had opportunities but he was stuck, paralyzed in his circumstances.
I thought, at first, that this dream was about a woman I’d talked to recently who so SO angry….angry because, like this man, other people got all the opportunities, other people kept her from getting the job she wanted, other people took all her opportunities. They made her dreams invalid. All she saw was what she didn’t have and thought she could do, and it was all because of those other people.
God is so loving and kind (and firm). He gently pointed out the beam in my eye while I was focusing on the speck in those of my friend. When I awoke, I immediately knew the dream wasn’t about my angry friend – it was about me.
God had graciously reminded me of the healing and deliverance He had brought to my life in the last year and the many victories His presence (and the time and prayers of patient people) had brought. But even though He broke the chains of my past, I have to make sure not to put them back on. I have to keep making the choice to live the change.
God gave me an opportunity, spiritually, to get up and walk. He said my live is not in valid (I am not a spiritual invalid!). I need to keep choosing to walk, even if sometimes it takes me to places I’m not familiar with and gives me opportunities to do things I’m not comfortable with. I was reminded I am only an invalid if I accept that my life is invalid and let the enemy rob me of the ability to speak of the good things God has done.
Invalid and invalid are spelled alike, but you’re not an invalid until you think your life is invalid.
New Year’s Reflection
New Year’s Reflection…
When we moved to our lovely little town four years ago, we started attending a small but loving church a block from our house. One of the first sermons I heard Pastor Mac preach was one I still have not forgotten…
He has a beautiful view of the mountains from their house…stunning, really. And, as a good photographer, he had taken pictures of the mountains in various weather and times of day and used them as a sermon illustration about the unchanging faithfulness of God (or at least that’s how my heart remembers it).
On the shores of loneliness, in the fog of depression, God’s loving-kindness is unfailingly with us.
When the mountains crumble (and what we thought was stable is shaken), God’s loving-kindness is unfailing with us.
1 I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
your Protector will not slumber.
4 Indeed, the Protector of Israel
does not slumber or sleep.
5 The LORD protects you;
the LORD is a shelter right by your side.[a]
6 The sun will not strike you by day
or the moon by night.
7 The LORD will protect you from all harm;
he will protect your life.
8 The LORD will protect your coming and going
both now and forever.
(from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
and from Lamentations 3: 22-24 (CSB)
Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
24 I say, “The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in him.”
So this year, once again, I will think about the mountains in Mac’s sermon, in all kinds of circumstances and weather, and hope to remember with the song writer, Great is your faithfulness, oh God, my Father.
From the Ashes
There is brokenness-frail humanness
In relationships entangled
By biting, angry bitter words
Screamed from a heart that’s wounded
But Your presence, Lord, brings clarity,
Dispels the fog of dark delusions
The oil of joy gently given
Poured out onto the hurting
Soothes the soul in mourning
And the heaviness is lifted
You give beauty for ashes,
But first we go through fire
As by Your hand our lives
Are delivered from the Liar.
Spirit of the living God,
So gratefully I praise you.
You do for us what only You can do-
You call us from the ashes
And make us new.
December 27, 2020