Grab the Rope!

(dreamed of walking through the jungle on a muggy, buggy, humid, damp, oppressive kind of day.  Stumbled into quicksand and quickly dug myself deeper.  Then I heard someone I could vaguely make out on the far shore telling me to “grab the rope”)

The noises of the jungle seem to echo in my ears

As I sink a little deeper in the quicksand of my fears

In the mire of self-destruction, the abyss of black despair

Feeling abandoned – like no one really cares.

I scream out to the silence, to the hot, unmoving air

“Won’t someone come and save me?  Is anybody there!?!?!?”

Thrashing, struggling, gasping I try to make a way

Needing deliverance and strength for today….

Hope almost gone – no will to go on.

A quiet voice whispers–

(It seems like a song):

“Grab the rope, weary pilgrim, strength is gone.

Grab the rope of surrender, it is strong.

It can save you from destruction if you let your struggle cease…

I’ve come to deliver you and give you My peace

But you must surrender – accept what I’ve planned.

Grab the rope, weary pilgrim.  Take My hand!”

1988

The Nowhere Track (Poem)

She’s looking back
to the nowhere track
That self-made hell
where drunks and addicts dwell.

Torment inside —
Emotional downhill slide.
Didn’t think to make a call.
Set herself up to fall.

What a fearful place
Alone again to face
That choosing the easier way
Means with her life she’d pay.

Thank God, she can’t forget–
(The memories haunt her yet)
As to her knees she falls
And for deliverance calls:

God of my sanity,
Quick! Calm the storm in me!
The waves are oh so high.
I cannot see the sky.
The boat is shakin, Lord.
I cannot find the oars.
Help me choose life again,
Let go and let you in.
I surrender, Lord,
‘Cause I can’t afford
To do it any other way.

1988

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.
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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

Landmines

How many times through the course of a day
As I make my way through the country inside
Where the darkness lies
Will I step in a place where I have to face
The landmines buried so long ago?

In tormented fear I cry out in the night–
This can’t be life! God, this can’t be right!
I’ve been “set free,” “walk in victory”
(But all that stuff just isn’t enough)!
Deep scars….so hard….
I curse the day the mine was laid!

Still, cleanup crews come to a land where there was war…
Mines are dug up…disconnected…traps sprung….
Dangerous work is done.

God, let it be done in me.
Send Your spirit to detect
The mines that lay there yet.
Protect those who are so unaware
Of the trip-wires, booby traps, tracers and flares
That lurk in the rubbish I’ve tried so hard to hide.
Come, grace of God. Come and abide
In the places where the darkness lies.
Let Your spirit disarm the alarms that still go off…
The carefully hidden mines that lay in wait
For someone to walk into my life…
Make me a safe companion!
Don’t let me destroy
An unsuspecting one again!
Protect them, God.
Help me, Jesus.
I stand in need….to be freed by Your love.

Teresa Norman 1996

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

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

Staying with the Story (Poem)

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
Even they 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 rose again.

Teresa Norman 2020

Higher than the Heavens (Poem)

Higher than the heavens, wider than the seas
Grander than the oceans is the Love who cares for me
Tender as a shepherd’s touch, gentle as the rain
Softer than a summer breeze is the Love that bears my shame.

When destruction threatens all I value and hold dear
And my heart is crushed beneath the burden of my fears-
Save me, Lord, oh rescue me! Please show me what to do.
Erase my sin and help me, Lord! My only hope is you….

Higher than the heavens, wider than the seas
Grander than the oceans is the Love who cares for me
Tender as a shepherd’s touch, gentle as the rain
Softer than a summer breeze is the Love that bears my shame.

When I am too weak to stand before the coming storm
Hide me in Your presence-keep me safe from death and harm.
My foes rejoice in victory they think that they have won
(Until they see Your presence give me strength to overcome).

Higher than the heavens, wider than the seas
Grander than the oceans is the Love who cares for me
Tender as a shepherd’s touch, gentle as the rain
Softer than a summer breeze is the Love that bears my shame.

Teresa Norman 1998

The Betrayal (Poem)

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 desperate for 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 truly comprehend?

(Unless they too have been betrayed by loved one 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 that 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!

 

Watching friends present a mime of the Passion of Christ years ago, I was struck HARD by the thought that Judas, the betrayer, was one of the 12 disciples Jesus had spent the last three years pouring his life into.  He was one of the guys, probably was treated like the other guys.  He wasn’t some random stranger.  In the words of “Why?” by Michael Card, “Only a friend can betray a friend….a stranger has nothing to gain and only a friend comes close enough to ever cause so much pain.”  Jesus knows what DV survivors, abuse victims, and all those who have been betrayed by someone they love feel.  (I am a slow learner…..I never realized in my guts until this week, that He hung there naked in front of his abusers.  He knows.

Uncle David and the Daffodils (reposted)

Easter always reminds me of daffodils.  Daffodils always remind me of Uncle David. 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.

Communion Song

Lord, what does it mean,
In a world so full of fear and greed
With countless folks in need
To serve you?

Instead of seeking so much STUFF
Teach me how much is enough
And how to share the blessings
You’ve bestowed.

Jesus, please forgive me.
Please show me what it means
To walk your way.
I bow down, I lay before you.
I cannot rise again
In my own strength.

Lord, what does it mean
To take the bread and wine
And worship you on Sunday
If the rest of the week is mine?
Lord, my life is in your hands.
Teach me to live as you command,
To be one of your servants in this world.

Jesus, here I am lord.
Offering what I have and what I am.
Let me be poured out for You
As you were poured out for me.
Show me how to be your loving hands.

All of my longings, all my desires
I place on your altar.
Consume them with fire.

Change me; teach me
So the world can see
More of you, Lord, and less of me.

By Teresa Norman 2004

Wolfie (a kindness story)

In a world that’s kind of FULL of all kinds of bad news, I wanted to share a kindness story from two of my favorite ambassadors of goodness…..

Wolfie                                                                                                                             2/26/2020

Today was just another day, (except for the tears and the sadness). It started with no sleep, continued with too much work and ended with missing house keys, puppy vomit in the back of the car, (And an off balance feeling like walking on marbles waiting to fall).

But there was a bright spot – today was the first day of hanging out with my fabulous grandsons after school.

When they got off the bus We were met with enthusiastic slobbery puppy love… Brandy, the St Bernard puppy, and Penny, the gentle loving guardian greeted us with wild enthusiasm, and a distressing cough. Has Penny’s cancer spread?   (Sadness). (My MRI results tomorrow should answer the same question…)

Austin, the wise gentle 10-year-old, explained things to me – “Penny’s cancer might be pushing on her lungs. That’s what the cough is from…. Soon she’ll be up with Tiger (his other guardian puppy that died) and she won’t be in pain anymore.” (Tears)…Grandma lost it.

The sweet wisdom and acceptance, the wise beyond years;  how well mom & dad prepared him. So proud of this guy!

As Austin tried to comfort me, Wyatt, the 7-year-old fire cracker, went and got me four quarters out of his valuable stash to make me feel better.  That didn’t seem to solve it so he brought me one of his loved stuffed animals, Wolfie, to take home for tonight to make me feel better. (If I promised my puppy wouldn’t eat him).

 So lucky to be loved by this tribe.

(Turns out Penny is OK! and so am I)

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)

When the Dr. is Being Too Nice…

Yesterday was the one week follow-up after surgery.  There was good news and bad news.  First the good news….I got one of my surgical drains removed.  Yay!  That is exciting because that one hurt every time you moved a hose.  The other good news was that the surgical margins (edges around the pieces of me they amputated) were clean – no cancer all the way out to the edge.  This means no more surgery.

But that wasn’t all….out of the 18 lymph nodes they took out, 10 of them still had cancer that had not responded to treatment.  That means my response to the trio of chemo drugs they had used was only partial.  The oncologist will make the final decisions on what happens next, but it looks likely that radiation will be postponed in favor of more chemo with different drugs.  Since radiation just attempts to kill whatever cancer cells are left in the area where surgery was (local treatment) , that becomes a second priority to killing whatever ones may have wandered through the lymph system and set up shop in distant locations and may be preparing to become a metastatic nightmare (systemic treatment).  This may also involve another PET scan or CT scan to see if there are areas of problems in other organs that weren’t big enough to show up when they did the original scan in March but are now.  We have an appointment with the oncologist next week.

Have I mentioned how grateful I was to be done with chemo?  That no matter how anxious I was about the disruption, logistics and potential exhaustion of radiation 5 days a week for six weeks while trying to work full time, I could always comfort myself with “at least you’re done with chemo.”

We were looking at Facebook last night as a way to distract ourselves from the news of the day that we didn’t want to marinate in, and a post from a dear friend who lost his wife to cancer a few months ago was there saying how much he missed her and how relationships are really all that matters in life.  Tears.  Fears.  Hard to keep  emotional distance from that at the moment.

Glad I’m walking through this with an amazing family and some very supportive friends.  But wish we were all walking somewhere else instead of down this road.

 

The Biggest Relief

I don’t know if I can even start to describe how big of a relief it was to wake up last Tuesday afternoon in my hospital room, looking at my loving husband, one of my fabulous sister-in-laws, and one of my daughters grinning at me, with no tube in my throat, able to talk and smile.  My previous surgeries had been disasters, and this one went phenomenally well.  The palpable sense of relief kept me smiling and empowered and energized for the next three days.

When your airway is a mess, it gets complicated.  But Dr. Daniel Liu, anesthesiologist, did a fabulous job giving me the right drugs so I wouldn’t remember the camera he put down my throat the show him how to put the other tube down without making a mess.  I was awake, but sedated, so I could follow directions and so my airway muscle tone wouldn’t collapse like it does when you’re out.  There are now directions in my chart for how to intubate me safely, in case I ever need surgery again.