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.

Conquering Humiliation

With all the witnesses surrounding us-
(Those who provided wisdom, comfort and courage)
Who show overcoming is possible,
(because they have done it!),
We let go of the wounds that pierced us.
Then we don’t fall back into the familiar sins,
(trusting ourselves instead of God,
isolation, deadness and locking everyone out).

Then we can run the marathon He set out for us
With passion and determination,
Journeying to the high places with the Shepherd of love-
The One who loved us even before we knew what love was.
He delights in us, He wanted us, He came for us
And calls us out of our darkness into His light.
He endured the agony of the cross
for the joy of knowing we would be his
And conquered its humiliation.
Because of Him, we can conquer ours.

If we focus on Him,
We will not be overcome
By the evil of those who oppose their own souls
Or be worn down or cave in under life’s pressures.

Thoughts on Hebrew 12:1-3
Paraphrased from the Passion Translation

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.

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.

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

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

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

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