A Little Dog Named Courage

If I were an artist, I would draw a large dog crate with no bars on it, no door.
There would be a blanket provided, and food and water, but never kind words or a comfort or pet.
Courage would be led there at night and told to stay until morning.
The “stupid little bitch” would be alone with her fears, guilt and shame.
(At least the darkness hid her).

Morning’s light would not provide relief. The Accuser could still visit whenever he pleased.
He’d come to confirm her lack of value, uselessness, failures and guilt.
She’d never had sex with a boyfriend. (No, she was waiting for marriage.)
Instead, she had slept with a married man.
(She was going to hell).

Only now does she see there are no bars or door on her crate.
Only now does she see there is an escape.
Only now does she see the hand of kindness extended-
A Savior who sees the child He died for – one that He loves still.
(Does it still “count” as “having sex” if:
You are watching from the ceiling?
Your body is numb?
You say you don’t want it?
You don’t know you can say “NO!”)

Learning to give back the shame is courageous. (It is not hers to carry).
Learning to say “I didn’t deserve this” is courageous. (Abusers manipulate).
Learning to walk out of the cage and embrace freedom is courageous.
Learning to live is courageous. (Her life is in God’s hands).
(This simple, twisted man doesn’t get to take it away.)

Romans 8:38 (from the Passion Translation): So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!

The Father Who Made You

Grieving for a friend today…

Little child, crying in the dark
Wondering when the bitter words
And tears will end…
Wondering when it will be safe
To trust again–
There is a Hope! There is a Friend!

The Father who made you
Will not betray you
But longs to enfold you in His love!
His love will heal you,
Restore you and free you.
His love will do you no wrong.

Why won’t he stop?
What have I done?
Is there anywhere I can run?
Is there any place I can hide?
There is One who calls you to His side….

The Father who made you
Will not betray you
But longs to enfold you in His love!
His love will heal you,
Restore you and free you.
His love will do you no wrong.

To The God Who Didn’t Leave Me There

Last night I dreamed I built an altar on the ashes of the house where my nightmares came from…a place where people who seemed normal, spiritual, responsible and reasonable in their public lives abused and tortured children in the quiet, dark, hidden places.

In an act of divine justice (figuratively speaking in the world of my dreams), the house and barn where these things happened were burned to the ground. Nothing but ashes and a few bricks left. No more hidden places for memories to pop out of-no taunting, intrusive interruptions to the serenity of a reasonable life of gratitude and peace acquired the hard way.

On the altar, I engraved “to the God who didn’t leave me there.”
(A line from this poem “From the Child” I wrote years ago when this journey to healing began…)

…I surrender, God, not to what they did,
But to the need to choose each day to live.
I surrender to the need to grow
And face the things You choose to show.
I surrender to the loving care
Of the God who didn’t leave me there,
Who calls me, one day at a time
To walk with Him and face what I find,
Knowing, as He did before,
That He can lead me through each door
And give me the tools I need to live–
To choose to grow and the grace to forgive.

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

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.

Stay With the Story

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
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 will rise again.

Teresa Norman April 2020

Legacy

Legacy

There’s a little girl in a country church watching Daddy today
Wondering why he lifts his hands and tears fall as he prays.
She’s still too young to understand why Daddy’s heart does break
As he’s praying for the wisdom he knows raising her will take…

“Father God, I’m asking you for wisdom from above
To write a living legacy in the heart of these ones I love.
Please use my life, my words, my prayers
To show them how much their Savior cares…
Let them know they are precious in your sight.
And that trusting you can bring them through the night.”

The little girl is a woman now with children of her own
Life hasn’t always been easy but there’s something she’s always known:
She knows there’s a God in heaven who watches her each day
And that He sees her tears fall when she prays…

“Father God, she’s asking you for wisdom from above
To write a living legacy in the heart of these ones she loves.
Use her life, her words her prayers
To show them how much their Savior cares.
And let them know they are precious in your sight,
That trusting you can bring them through each night.”

When we stand before you on that great and final day
And look upon your splendor, all tears will be wiped away,
The heartaches will be over, the loneliness be gone
As together with the angels, we worship at your throne…

Father God we’re asking you for wisdom from above
To write a living legacy in the hearts of those you love
Use our lives, our words, our prayers
To show this world how much you care…
To let them know they are precious in your sight
And that trusting you can bring them through the night.

Teresa Norman May 1999

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

As A Sparrow Falls

The world is full of big problems
I am small, like a sparrow…
I can do only small things
But I can learn to do them with great love.
My actions may not make a difference
To anyone except the person I love and listen to,
Pray with and care for, feed or walk beside.
But to that one, it matters.
Just because I am small and insignificant,
It doesn’t mean the love God has given me to share
Does not matter. It is still His love
And those I love are still important to Him.
God doesn’t abandon or forget even one small sparrow.
He will be with us. We are valuable to Him.

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Luke 12:6-7 “What is the value of your soul to God? Could your worth be defined by an amount of money? God doesn’t abandon or forget even the small sparrow he has made. How then could he forget or abandon you? What about the seemingly minor issues of your life? Do they matter to God? Of course they do! So you never need to worry, for you are more valuable to God than anything else in this world.” From The Passion Translation

Soul Menders

Recently, I dreamed I had on a beautiful white satin dress
And I was standing on a small stool.
There were tears, rips, and messy jagged gashes
Torn in the beautiful garment I was wearing.
It looked like I had been in a fight–
Like some terrible violent thing had happened!
But as I stood on the stool, leaning into strong arms
I saw several sets of gentle, competent hands
Equipped with needle and thread
Skillfully repairing the tears in my beautiful garment.

At first, I couldn’t understand what was happening,
But as I woke up, I understood –
God saw me in my weakness and my trouble
And brought me to this place
Because He loved me.
If I didn’t panic,
Didn’t run from the help being offered,
If I stayed with the process,
(even when I thought I could not)–
These loving repairers of my tattered life
Would be the hands of Jesus to help mend my soul.

Dear God,
Help me to be a soul mender
(not one those who make the tears in the first place).
Help me to be one of those who lift up the broken,
Providing mercy for the memories
And a place of safety for those who need to heal.
Help me never take for granted Your grace.
Only You can make us whole.
Thank you for the soul menders in my life.

Teresa Norman Apr 2020

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.

At Water’s Edge (Poem)

Standing here beside the ocean
Staring at the sea
Wondering how the God who made all this
Could still use me….
And yet, I hear your voice, Lord,
Even as in days of old
Promising a harvest—
More than my net can hold!

“Cast your net into the water.
Put your trust in Me.
Diverse fish in diverse places—
Trust Me and you’ll see!
It ain’t over yet, My child—
The best is still to come.
As I always have,
I still hang out with fishermen!”

©Teresa Norman
8/3/01

A Heart Divided (Poem)

Lord, I need an undivided heart –
Pieces of mine still lay in the rubble
Of the damage done
By those who came before-
The destroyers,
Abusers,
Molesters,
Bullies,
And monsters
who tortured a little girl
Who, instead of singing songs about a sunrise,
Now cowers from its light.

I know you as a Father-
A loving, gentle Savior
(I’m sure I do-
The evidence of your great faithfulness
Has sustained me this far) …

But a piece of my heart,
(the piece still under the wreckage
In the far corner of my not-quite-outrun past)
Questions if maybe you are a bully….
(Not the kind who does the damage –
Not the kind who cheers on the others,
But the kind who watches and maybe holds their coats…
You don’t speak.
You don’t make them stop.
You stand in silence…)
WHY?

How can my heart be in two places?
I cannot repair it myself. I have tried.
God, I need you.

Teresa Norman 2020

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