About Abby Norman

I live and work and love in the city of Atlanta. Former teacher, future preacher, current wife and mother and writer. Always looking for more Jesus.

What if I am Remembering Wrong?

Today I am writing for the mudroom about how I am learning to re-remember events into a truer version of myself. My friend from school called herself “a little extra” and then said “who doesn’t want a little extra” and suddenly all of my am I too much shame just melted away. I told my sister this. She told me I might be a whole buy one get one. I told her “you are welcome” if there is a person in this world who can resist I buy one get one deal, I sure haven’t met them. Anyway, I love this post.

The first time I ever remember feeling shame for who I was, I was in early elementary school. My sisters and I were playing some wild game where we were all running around the house screaming. Or was it just me? Was I the only one out of control? (These are the questions my memory asks me.) Anyway, I was yelling. Not angry or scary or mean, just yelling because it was after school and we were playing. My oldest sister’s best friend came down the street and into our home to hang out like she always did. Only this time, she wasn’t alone. Her little cousin, just a few years older than me, was with her.

According to my memory I shouted very loudly at him. HELLO!!! According to my memory he bolted. I probably got my child face a little too close to his child face. I probably was not controlling my volume. (I still struggle with that.) My sister’s friend and my sister went searching through the neighborhood looking for this poor frightened boy. I went to my room and cried. I had ruined everything. I had scared this boy. He was going to be lost forever and this was ALL MY FAULT. If I could just be calmer. If I could just be quieter. If I could just be smaller some how, this would all be okay.

Read the Rest Here.

To Priscilla on her 5th Birthday

Dear Priscilla,

Today is your birthday and you are resolutely 5. Now. Today. But not on Saturday. On Saturday you had your birthday party and you didn’t want 5 on your cake because you weren’t 5 yet. Not until the 20th. You had a lot of opinions about your party. When I told you we didn’t have a bounce house you shrugged your shoulders. I guess we will have my party at Aunt Jill’s house. At three you cried because you were not ready to be the center of attention. At 5 you assume your party demands will be met.

This is how you are. When you decide something, it is decided. Most of the time this works out for you, but when it doesn’t it is a challenge. For everyone. Uncle Calvin set up the bounce house at our place. This one was a win. He was quite happy to do it. Please always remember that you are not a burden. The things you want and need are not a burden to the people who love you.

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This year, you went to school. You spend most of your time learning what life is about from people I trust, but not people I have picked. You have a particularly beautiful relationship with a the para-pro who has known you since you tagged a long with Juliet two years ago. You tell me she calls you sweetie-heart. You tell me that she calls you hard-head sometimes. You know this is because she loves you. She does. She adores you.

On the second day of school you told me you were not going. You had already gone. What did I mean you had to go everyday? I tried to explain to you about the weekend, as you were lying prostrate on the floor. I told you we went five days in a row, and then you got two days off. You told me this was inherently unfair. Five is a lot more than two. You aren’t wrong, my girl. You certainly aren’t wrong. It is often hard to correct you, because you aren’t often wrong. You deal in facts and statements of fair and unfair. You always have a very good point.

This summer though, there was a turning point in your sense of justice. We spent a lot of time with a younger kid who was also having a summer of great transition. On her toughest days you could sense, and would make sure to advocate for her. It was remarkable. You learned this skill by advocating for yourself, but you did not stop there. You turned it outward.

Priscilla, you have inherited so many of these characteristics from me. I have strong and visceral memories of my own early years as I try to contain you howling “it’s not fair.” People will use the word fierce to describe you. I admit I already do. Please tuck away somewhere in your heart that you love as fierce as you fight. You care about people as deeply as you care about injustice. Honoring principles matters to you because honoring people matters to you.

You are fierce. You are strong. You are a force to reckon with. All of this comes out of your capacity for love. When you apologize, you mean it. When you realize you have hurt someone, you are deeply sorry. When you love someone, you want them to know. Know that these things are descriptive, not what you have to be all the time. Your motor runs hot (just like mommy’s); don’t let it overpower you.

We need you in this world my girl, people who can fight like you, people who know when things are not fair. I woke up today to news of deep and horrible racial injustice, of innocent people shot. I do not know how to reckon celebrating your birthday with mourning these losses. I do know that you are teaching me to demand justice. I know that your presence is desperately needed in our world.

I looked back over your birthday messages, the things I have put on Twitter and Facebook. Surprise is the word that I use most often. I was surprised I was pregnant. Surprised you were not a boy. I was surprised we were naming you Priscilla, and surprised you had hair and the most perfect dimples. Not a day goes by where you don’t surprise me. The thoughts you have, the expressions you use, the way you laugh and joke.

You continue to surprise. You continue to delight. Mothering you is one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I am so grateful you are mine.

Much Love on Your Birthday,

Mom

To the Teachers Already Tired

It is September 15 and I am no longer in the classroom. But my teacher friends are always, always very close to my heart. I am in seminary, you minister every day to children, and you are in my prayers. If you are tired, I am praying for you. From me in 2013, to you right now friends. You are doing good work.

It is the middle of September and you are already tired. It is scary isn’t it? This tired feeling so early in the school year. If this is what September feels like, how will we ever make it to Thanksgiving? How will we ever survive until May? There is just so much to do. So many new programs to learn, new formats to master, new IEPs and 504 Plans and accommodations to keep track of. It isn’t that you don’t want to do all of things, it is just. There are all of the things. All of the things all of the time, and every year it seems as though there is a new system in place. It will get easier, they say. Once you get used to it. You would like two years with the same program and the chance to get used to it all.

In the midst of all of this you have names, personalities, and needs to learn whether written down officially or just recently discovered. It is all you can do to keep it all straight. You remember what it was like to be sure that you could save kids one desk at a time, one lesson at a time. You remember, vaguely why you took this job. You remember the teachers who made school great for you. You still hope to be that for some of your students. You still hope you can make a difference; you just wonder if there is time to make that difference when you are so busy making lesson plans, and making sure your instruction is data driven.

You wonder if doing all the right things is really what it takes to do right by your kids. You’re tired, and you feel a little bad about that. You don’t want your students to have a teacher who is tired. You want them to have the best.

I know it is hard right now. But please remember, what you do matters. Desperately, you matter. I don’t want that to be one more thing that exhausts you. One more reason you do too much. Just showing up matters. You are doing a good thing.

Education is the quickest way out of poverty. It is still the best way to get a leg up in this world. 75% of prisoners don’t have a highschool education. The more success a kid can have from kindergarten all the way through high school, the more likely they are to avoid jail. I need you to remember that, you keep kids out of jail. Wanting to be there, showing up coffee in hand and a little low on sleep is making a huge difference in the world. You matter.

I know your classes are maxed out in a way they have never been before (and three years ago wasn’t even legal). I know the curriculum gets pulled out from under you just when you are able to stand on it without wobbling. I know that the paperwork is enough to drown in. I know. But I also know you matter. What you do is important. It saves kids from going to jail. I just want to make sure you know you make a difference.

What a Lady Preacher Looks Like

Hey y’all. I miss you. Seminary is going great. Intense, but great. I am totally sure I am right where I am supposed to be. Lately I have been thinking a lot about how I got here and why it took me a while. This week at She Loves we are talking about representation, so I am talking about what it meant to see myself in a pulpit.

I was in the car on my way home from a women’s conference, when I locked my eyes on the road so I wouldn’t have to look my passenger in the face.

“So, I think I want to do that. I think I am called to do that. Like … I think I would be really good at standing up on a stage and preaching like that. I just … I just really want to.”

The year 2013 was my year of Unashamed. After choosing it as my theme, I spent the rest of the year doing things I had always wanted to do, saying things I had always been thinking but was too ashamed of. I got my nose pierced. I started calling myself a writer. I submitted toSheLoves Magazine, and I went to a woman’s conference and saw Jen Hatmaker preach for two days.

I had never seen a woman preach like me before, or rather like I was sure I would. Jen had big earrings and bright lipstick. She talked with her hands and she spoke with her whole heart. She got choked up, she cried sometimes, she laughed at her own hilarious stories just because she was delighted in the remembering. It was pretty much the way my students had been describing me for the last eight years. And there she was, right in front of me.

This too, was what a preacher looked like. I could be what a preacher looks like.

Read the rest here.

Let the Soft Animal of Your Body Love Your Pumpkin Spice Latte

With apologies to Mary Oliver.

Perhaps the most life changing lines of a poem I have ever encountered are from Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Could this be true? Was this allowed? Did I even know what my body loved.

This, I think, may be my life’s work. To let the soft animal of my body love what it loves. Aren’t I supposed to be ashamed of those things?

Today is September First, and according to my Facebook timeline and Twitter Trending patterns, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are being sold at Starbucks. Pumpkin spice donuts, pies, Pop tarts, candles, and anything else people think we might buy are headed our way. And also the mockery is about to begin, of people’s unabashed love for all things Pumpkin Spice, but specifically the lattes.

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It will not just be the mocking of the deep love for Pumpkin Spice. It will be the mocking of the love for Apple Picking, Flannels, comfortable boots, leaf pile jumping, pumpkin patch going, and exclamation over the trees. It will all be mocked as basic and ordinary.

Love your Pumpkin spice latte anyway. So other people love what you love. So many people in fact other not lovers (otherwise known as haters) will be annoyed by your love of whatever it is you love. Love it anyway. Especially if you are a woman. Especially if other people find it trivial and feminine. Love the apple picking because it smells good and the sun is just warm enough. Love the way your coffee tastes and the way your boots feel on your feet. Love the way you look in the soft light at the pumpkin patch.

For the love of all things holy. Love what you love. 

It has become increasingly clear to me that Pumpkin Spice Latte love is mocked because it is loved mostly by women. Just like music and books that teenage girls like are dismissed, movies and books grown women love aren’t “serious.” You don’t see anyone making fun of men for their rich obsession with fall craft beers, or their excitement over the summer super hero movies. It just is. They are allowed to just be.

But the things of women are silly. They are mocked until we feel like we are not allowed to love those things anymore. Until we are not allowed to share that we love those things. But what you love is not inconsequential, it is of the utmost importance (at least to you)  because you love it. 

So get in the Starbucks line, grab a Venti! Bust out your flannel and your Uggs because they make your body feel good. Take your selfies in your apple orchard and the pumpkin patch because you are happy there and you are going to need to remember what you look like when you are happy. Do not let you tell you that things you love don’t matter.

Let the soft animal of your body love your pumpkin spice latte.

You Didn’t Miss the Bus

My friend is a year ahead of me in seminary, and she is generally far more organized than me. She too is a #seminarymom (It is a thing. Trust me.) and she gives me all of the information you really need. Mostly I have been following her advice. But I forgot to get my parking spot as quickly as she suggested. She was right. The lot right next to the school of Theology sure does fill up fast.

So, at least for this semester, I drive out of my way to get to the lot further from my house so I can pick up a bus that drops me off right in front of the parking lot I missed out on. Yeah. It is as much of a bummer as it sounds.

The bus that I need is called the Loop Bus. While the C-Route runs every five minutes, the Loop Bus runs every fifteen. And even though I have never missed the bus, and even though the bus has never not come, I am constantly afraid that I will miss it, that it will not come when it is supposed to, even when it has always come before.

What if it is late? What if it doesn’t stop where it says it will? What if I sit here forever and wait and wait and wait and it just. never. comes. What then? What will I do? What if someone is depending on me?

The other day, after I stayed late for a dinner and a speaker, I was waiting by the bus stop. My phone was dead and I could not check how late the route ran (even though I was pretty sure it ran to at least 10). I was afraid I had missed it. It was a long way to walk. How did I catch the other bus again? It comes every fifteen minutes. How long had it been? Surely not fifteen minutes. But maybe. What if I have to wait here on the corner forever?

In the midst of my existential crisis about the bus, one of my class mates asked me if I wanted a ride to my car. Boy was I relieved. Except, I didn’t know how to get to the other garage and I wasn’t even sure how to search for it. Right when we were figuring everything out, the Loop Bus came. Right on time, and I was no longer at the corner because I was afraid. My gracious classmate figured out how to get me to my car, and I was grateful for the time to get to know her. But I need not be afraid that the bus isn’t coming.

In this new space and time I find myself fighting scarcity again. I am afraid I am too old, too loud, too much for seminary. I am afraid I will not be able to balance it all. I am afraid that I have missed the bus on the whole career change thing. And I am afraid to wait. What if God doesn’t come? What if I sit there forever? What if I get to the end of this thing and there is no bus to get on.

God has not showed up for me the exact same amount of times the Loop Bus has not come. Exactly zero. Scarcity is such a stupid liar. First of all, missing God isn’t a thing. You won’t miss God, you won’t miss the bus. There will be another boat. But even if you do show up at the corner you are supposed to be at just the second you see that bus moving on, let yourself rest in the gift of waiting. Another bus is coming. God will show up again. If God calls you to something, you will not miss out. There is always another chance. Another bus is coming. I promise.

Now, the hard part. Pray that I will be able to practice this, publicly, just standing on the corner in faith.

 

 

The Work of Mothering

I was sitting in Old Testament when I couldn’t take it anymore. Thursdays are my long days, out of the house before the girls leave for school, I come home right in time for bedtime. But I had a welcome dinner for the certificate I am considering. So, I didn’t really get to see them.

Priscilla had stayed up too late the night before and was not thrilled with the idea that she was going to have to go to school despite her complaints of a multitude of ailments. Her tummy hurt, her arms were too tired to lift above her head, her feet hurt. She was just too tired.

On paper I would have told you that natural consequences are a way we parent and this was a perfect opportunity for her to learn them. On paper I would tell you that it is important for my girls to watch their mom follow her God into the wilderness. How else are they going to learn how to do it? On paper (and multiple times on this blog, and in the class I teach, and all kinds of other places) I would tell you that my daughters need their whole mother and they have a mother that God sent to seminary. This is not an accident on anyones account.

And I believe that. I do. But it is so much easier to believe something on paper than it is to live it out in this world. It is so much easier to think something with your mind, then it is to act it out with your body. And while you would tell your daughter, your husband, whoever would listen that it is time for you to go back and you believe this is what the Lord is asking of you, that doesn’t mean you don’t sit in Old Testament and cry. It doesn’t mean you don’t let the tears run down your face while the jovial professor in the front snaps his fingers and asks everyone in the room to sing a long to a little Hebrew alphabet song he made up.

The lies about motherhood are ancient and persistent. We must sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice. We must always, always make sure everyone else has their needs met. We go last. We get up first. We say we didn’t much want that pie anyway.

I don’t want to be that kind of mother. I wasn’t raised by that kind of mother. I was raised by a woman who said “I think we can probably make this work.” And “If it is really this important to you, we will figure out a way.” I was raised by a woman who taught me how to do my own laundry at 12 and expected me to cook dinner once a week in High school. Not because she was super busy (she was) or because she couldn’t do it herself (she totally could) but because she wanted me to grow up as a contributing member to our house hold.

I did those things because it was my turn and my responsibility. I was expected to contribute because the weight of what belongs to you can at first feel overwhelming and too difficult, but if you learn to step beneath it you will find it is where you belong.

I don’t want to raise daughters who shirk from their work, and part of that is not constantly doing it for them. And I want to be the kind of mom who bears the weight of her responsibility well in front of my girls. On Thursday that looked like telling her I was sorry she was sad but she absolutely had to go to school. Because I had to go to school. There was work to be done. And it felt for a moment as though I wasn’t mothering well. But I came home and they were fine. Of course they were. And we managed. All of us. To do our work that day.