When I am desperate, God is till enough

It got a little dark around these parts on Wednesday.  I have the strong desire to tell you that when my sister therapized me she pointed out my nature to catastrophize things and then make some self deprecating joke or point to my own sinful nature and laugh it off. Isn’t Abby silly, she gets so worked up over stuff when God really has it. Sigh. Maybe one day I will learn. (Insert patronizing head shake and finger wagging at myself here.)

But today the Spirit is leading me to leave it. In that moment, it was that bad. It was worse. Some days this Jesus-filled-spirit-lead living thing is hard. Whether it is because you have as many diapers that need changed as hands every morning, or you drive into work everyday thinking that if you got into an accident you could skip today (hello, first year of teaching), you feel like you are suddenly in a situation that you did not sign up for and you have no idea how to get out.

Even though I try desperately to be a Jesus Lover, to live by the Norman Family Creed, to dismantle the Failure Siren, it all came to a head last week. I now understand better than ever before why the Lord implores us to humble ourselves. Being humbled by the reality of your own sinful nature totally sucks. The difference between knowing in your head that you are a sinner, and watching your sin punch someone you love in the stomach is severe.

In the midst of that I called out, Is God enough? And my call was answered. Because He is enough. He is enough and He is faithful. Not in that, yes, yes, the Bible says He is faithful so it must be true kind of ways, but rather in a visceral I did not deserve His grace and the Lord chose to lift me from my pit of self loathing anyway kind of faithful.

God was enough when  I confessed to my small group ending in “my heart is so ugly”, and they all laid hands on my head and chose to love me anyway. He was faithful in the Peanut placing her little hand on my head and patting. “Okay, mommy? Okay?” and “Jesus, Jesus, Amen.” I hope she never grows out of praying more Jesus over people. I have yet to run into a circumstance that wouldn’t be helped by more Jesus.

Meanwhile the Rooster was tickling my foot and checking for smiles. Bringing me joy, being the change she was insistent on seeing. I suppose you could say that a 7 month old was only grabbing what was right in front of her, but I wasn’t the only one who noticed her looking. I wasn’t even the first. Her looking and tickling and smiling, that is what was right in front. God is enough. He is faithful.

Thursday I received an email from Sarah Bessey.  I hope to never get over how much this means to me. There was a marked change in the way that I write out my life when I read hers. Her honest living and writing gave me permission to be the me God is molding me into. The Lord saw fit that I receive her words to me on my lunch break and cried big fat ugly tears on the keyboard until the bell rang and my freshmen were about to walk in the door. (The only crying that is acceptable in my 9th grade class is the crying I cause.)  She did not smack my hand for bringing her name into all of my mess, but instead offered prayer, understanding that grad-school is hard for the wife too, and assurance that as loud as we howl, it is enough. God is enough.

Then, Friday another email. Grace extended that I do not deserve, hope and restoration chosen when death and excommunication would be easier. Understanding and assurance and the door left open when I was sure it would be slammed in my face. There is no clearer way to see Jesus in a believer than when they extend unwarranted forgiveness to you.

Sometimes God has swooped down and healed my heart. BAM. Done. I am forever changed. I can mark the day on the calendar that He healed my body. It is finished. This change, this enough, God’s faithfulness that I am sure I do need and will need all the days of my life, this is a healing that God is asking me to choose, that He offers in this moment, and this one until the “and this moments” are linked in an eternal chain that I must continue to grab on to.

And I will, continue to grab on to that glorious chain. Because today I know that falling is hard and it can get lonely in those moments when you are no longer sure where that healing is. That chain gets covered in the muck that is the moment right here. But it will be unearthed because my God, He is faithful. My God is enough.

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Thoughts While Zumba-ing

I have been to Zumba twice this week. I seem to think a lot during it. Here they are those thoughts

This is what I like to think I look like doing Zumba.

This is probably more accurate.

– This song keeps saying “I found love in a hopeless place.” That right there is an accidental devotional if I’ve ever heard one. I did find love in a hopeless place. This has to be talking about the cross…right? Even if it wasn’t, it is now.

-I cannot figure out what this instructor wants me to do. Yelling “rhythm” at me certainly isn’t helping anything. I wonder what I yell at my students that is not helping.

– She said she needed to see more booty, but this is the East Lake Family Y. I see plenty of booty in this classroom.

-Oh, that is what she means. White booty don’t shake like that.

-Why do I have a repeating track in my head that says “you can’t dance, you can’t dance.” Who put that there? That is stupid.

-The Peanut definitely thinks she can dance, and the Rooster already spends her time bopping around. I wonder if I can do something to protect them from that sound track. It sure is stupid.

– See, look at her. I am not the most awkward person in the room. I need to get over myself. No one is in here thinking about me.

– Here comes the nursery worker, I hope that is for me. I am dying. Nope, not me…guess I have to finish the workout.

The Cleaning of the Wound

“It is like a festering sore,” she said. “It’s just going to keep bubbling; you’ve got to do something about it before the infection spreads. It isn’t going to get better on its own.”

This is an interesting dynamic for sure. Lately I have been the one speaking in spiritual similes, and I am not sure how I feel about the sudden role reversal. But it is accurate, this description. Sore and stinking pretty much sums up my attitude these last two days. My anger is bubbling, refusing the healing that I know I need.

The grossest part is the way I have been treating this wound. Red and puss filled I present it like some kind of righteous badge. “Look at what has been done to me.” The pain pulses through it and around it to the rhythm of my heart. Theirfault Theirfault Theirfault. When bumped tears roll down my cheeks. Angered flesh mirrors the way I have convinced myself I am entitled to feel. The truth is I have been nursing this infection, unwilling to clean it out. I want to ensure my pain stays with me. A constant reminder of my wound.

The people closest to me begin to smell the rot that is in this wound. My husband, my sisters, they warn me of the infection they sense, it is evident in almost every conversation we have. The poison seems to be spreading to places it does not belong. I had planned on keeping it contained, I thought I was controlling it, but it is damaging things I never intended it to get close to. Spots of red flesh are cropping up in seemingly unrelated places, and the hurt is threatening to invade my veins, join my very blood on a path straight to my heart.

Still I protest. I have a right to this infection. I have a right to feel this wound. I was hurt after all. If I allow this to heal it will be as though I was never wounded in the first place. Isn’t that the point of healing?  I hear the Spirit whisper. I am tempted to tell God to shut up.

I feel like it happens just moments before the infection joins the path of no return. I decide it is time to let go of the pain, and let the Lord clean out my wound. I am well aware it is only His prompting that allows me to ask. It is my nature to cling to this angry wound until it destroys me. It is a little scary, asking the Great Physician to clean me out. I am ashamed at how long it has taken me to ask, how bad I let it get. I know from experience that this is certain to sting. It does sting. This wound is cleansed with an apology that humbles me. In order to release this stench I also must release my pride. My pride it turns out, has been fueling the infection of anger.

As I release my own pride and allow God to pour healing into my wound I can suddenly breathe again. It turns out I had been holding my breath against my own righteous stench, and I didn’t even know it. The Healer leaves my wound raw but clean. The sting was temporary and gave way to relief. I was not aware of how bad I was hurting. How much of that hurt was the infection, and how little the actual wound.

I am left with a pile of clean white cloth, instructions to tend the wound. Keep it bandaged, change them often, watch carefully for signs of infection. The wound is still there, but it is healing. It is not my responsibility to heal the original wound, but it is my responsibility to protect from infection.

Trayvon Martin and Identifying My Own Racist Thoughts.

In my first weeks of my first year of teaching, when I was still adjusting to being the only white lady in the room, I asked the kids to get out a pencil. A boy in front, so dark that the students around him referred to him as “Black” as though it were his name, with thin, chin length locks bouncing around his head, stooped down to his backpack.

In that split second my heart began to race and my palms began to sweat, as though someone were coming after me or my not yet born baby girls. “He has a gun” I thought. “He is reaching for his gun.” I calculated how many steps it would take to get to the emergency button…too many. “What are you doing?” I snapped, saying his name sharp and loud like the gunshot I feared.

“I thought you told us to take out a pencil,” he replied showing me his brand new mechanical pencil in his favorite color. A splurge for the beginning of the school year.

I am sure my face turned red. I learned that semester that blushing is a hazard when you are the only white girl in the room. My shame crawled onto my face, hot and sticky.

In the spring of that year I heard the tale of an older brother being shot for making the mistake of reaching for his vibrating cell phone out of habit. The assumption was he was reaching for the gun he did not carry. He died in the arms of his little sister, the white dress she wore to school for her seventeenth birthday stained with the memory of her brother’s death. I know because she was in my poetry club. She wrote about it. That story never made the national news; no newspaper in the country was interested in the tale. So I keep the story in my filing cabinet. I want to make sure that someone remembers.

Two years later, between my second and third years, I found out when checking my email a few days before school started that one of my former students had been shot and killed over the summer. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong skin color. His death hadn’t even made the local news. My principal had to email me about it, just in case I cared.

Trayvon Martin is not the first young black man to be shot simply because of the way he appears. And sadly, he won’t be the last. Everyone keeps asking, “How could something like this happen?” But sometimes not only does this happen, it doesn’t even make the news.

I am a woman who wanted to teach in an all black school. I chose it. I was raised by parents who didn’t blink an eye when my sister started dating a black man. Uncle Calvin is one of my daughter’s very favorite people.  I would never hesitate to ask him to watch my girls. Yet, when a certain type of student, classified that way simply by his dark skin color his hair and his propensity for saggy pants, reached into his bag I assumed he was reaching for his weapon. Even when I had instructed him to get a pencil.

My parents did not teach me to think that way. I didn’t even know I did think that way until I had the thought. No one in my college classes suggested to me that I needed to fear my black male students. And yet, I did. Where did that come from?

Everyone wants to talk about how horrible George Zimmerman is (and he is) and how terrible his actions were (and they were). But not very many people are talking about how we live in a society that teaches us to fear black men. Not even men, any black kid over the age of 10 or so could be a threat. If we look into our own selves we can identify just an inkling of the thoughts that sparked George Zimmerman’s behavior.

We live in a society that perpetuates thoughts. The things that I have watched and listened to my whole life have encouraged my mind to think one way. The wrong way. I don’t like admitting that I have racist thoughts, but the only way to get rid of them is to identify them. Once those thoughts are identified, we can start calling other people out on them. We can refuse to watch things that perpetuate those stereotypes. We can begin to call things as we seem them. As unacceptable.

I would like to believe that Trayvon Martin’s murder is just the case of one crazy vigilante. It would be easier for me to see it that way. But I would really like for this to never happen again. That has to happen one person at a time, one mind readjustment and I am starting with me. And I am coming after you next.

I still need to grow up

Pinned Image

This pretty much sums up my maturity level by seventh period....

We were teaching limmericks. And there was a kid who kept suggesting names that would get me into trouble. Like “there once was a young boy named chuck, how about itch Ms. Norman,” then he would start cracking up so I would start cracking up.

And my 6th period class came up with this as a class that I wrote on the board:

There once was a doctor named Bill
Who wrote a prescription for Jill
She only missed one
And she now has a son
She now always remembers that pill.

One of my students misspelled the word tests. I laughed until I cried when he asked me to proofread his poem “Girls are like school, you have to study before they put you to the testes.” I didn’t recover for the rest of the day.

I love Freshmen. Probably because I am one.

Secrets aren’t any fun

I am teaching ninth grade this year for the first time. I really enjoy the kid’s willingness to try just about any crazy activity I can come up with, and the fact that most of them don’t have pre-conceived notions about any of the literature, means I have the chance to convince them that it is in fact interesting and applicable to their lives. I like that. It suits me.

I especially like when the ninth graders suddenly realize that Shakespeare is not as wholesome as they once assumed. Among other hilarious commentary that has been blurted out in my classroom:

– Somebody told me that when they were talking about swords they meant something else, is that true?

– Romeo’s talking about doing it!

– Did the Friar just ask Romeo if he hit it? (To which one of my students replied: What does hit it mean?)

– She doesn’t want to die a virgin!

It is amazing to me that every year a few parents complain about the adult material we are reading in class and yet no one ever complains about Romeo and Juliet which is easily the baudiest thing I have ever taught.

I hadn’t read Romeo and Juliet since I was in the ninth grade, and this time around I am struck by the secrecy of the whole story, and how Shakespeare uses that as a vehicle for the drama and urgency. The whole play takes place in four days.

I think secrecy does make everything more dramatic, feel more urgent. When I look back at the terrible decisions I made, the dumbest stuff I did was done, at least initially, in secret. (The reason we didn’t tell anyone about the timeshare we no longer own is because we knew everyone would tell us it was stupid. Because it was stupid.) I am 28 and this is still true: If I can’t tell my mom about it, I shouldn’t be doing it.

But I think the Bible covers that too, that things in the darkness are brought in to the light. I used to think that was a warning to the wicked and I would cling to it and yell it when I was sure there were dirty dealing going on. But lately I have been seeing it as a gentle reminder to me, that it will be better if I am just honest about it. Whatever that it may be.