Category: faith

This morning, Susannah wanted to call Granddaddy. “Hey, Granddaddy! You wanna do a video chat?” Of course, he said yes, and we got the laptops fired up for a nice, pajama’ed, messy-haired chat session. Susannah was her silly self, making up words and enjoying watching herself on the picture-in-picture box. Jonas was not himself at all. He barely talked to Dad, and kept acting out aggressively (growling at the screen when Granddaddy asked him a question, antagonizing Susannah while she was trying to talk). After we hung up, Jonas was slouched on the sofa, curled into a grumpy lump, with his back toward the room.

“Jonas, are you upset? Because you seem really grumpy.”

“Yes. I’m grumpy. I’m angry.”

“Are you angry at Granddaddy?”

“Yes.” His eyes glistened with little-boy-trying-not-to-cry-tears.

And I knew. I knew the conversation we were going to have today. I’d sensed it coming, even before Mom died. When things got bad around Thanksgiving, and I tried to explain brain tumors and cancer in spinal fluid to an almost 6 year old, I knew that soon I was going to have a very angry young man on my hands.

I sank onto the couch beside him. I lowered my face so that our foreheads touched. And as carefully as I could, I told him, “You don’t need to be angry at Granddaddy. I bet seeing him and talking to him makes you think about Grandmama, and that makes you sad and angry. Is that right?”

He nodded.

“But, baby, it is not Granddaddy’s fault that Grandmama died.

Jonas sat upright. His cheeks flushed, and he blurted out, “I know! I know it’s not his fault! IT’S GOD’S FAULT THAT SHE DIED. And when I get up there, I am going to BREAK HIM.”

And then the tears did come – hot, angry tears. Maybe tears of shame at finally confessing this anger, this wish to see God face-to-face and break Him into pieces as punishment for taking away Grandmama. And my tears came, too. Mine were tears of sadness of missing my mom, sadness for my son’s hurting heart, and tears of desperation for how to explain this big, big situation to a little boy.

So I grabbed him and I held him and I told him I understand. We turned on a show for Susannah to watch and we went to sit on the stairs, so we could talk in private.

I did my best.

When I asked Jonas how he feels, he said, “ANGRY.”

“I know, but how does the anger make your body feel? Does it make your tummy hurt?”

“Yes.” He looked relieved, maybe to know that the knot in his belly was related to the anger bubbling in his chest. “My tummy hurts. And I feel… I just feel…. all half.”

“Half.” I thought about that for a second. “You feel like half is missing? Do you mean, you feel like something is missing inside here?” I touched his chest. He folded into me for another hug. “Yeah.”

“Think about how much Grandmama loved God. Do you know what I mean?”
Jonas’ head was pressed into my shoulder, but he nodded. “Yeah. She loved Jesus.”
“Yeah, she did. She talked about Him a lot. And she loved songs about Him, and she read her Bible, and she taught kids at her church about the Bible. And as much as Grandmama loved God – well, God loved her back, even more than that.”
“Baby, it is not God’s fault that Grandmama died. God didn’t give her cancer. God designed us, designed our bodies, and He wants us to have good health. But this world we live in has problems. There are germs, and bees that sting us, and accidents where we get injured, and diseases like cancer. Sometimes it just happens – people get cancer. And some of those people get healthy again, and some of those people don’t.”

“Grandmama’s body just got weaker when the cancer got stronger, and when her body couldn’t live anymore… that’s when God just let her come to Heaven. Her body died. Her spirit lived – it will always live, and when we go to Heaven (a long, long time from now, I hope) we will all be together there.”

We talked about being angry and sad, and how it’s okay to feel that way. It’s okay to talk about how you feel, and Mommy and Daddy and Granddaddy can all listen and help. We talked about what’s NOT okay (like yelling at your sister because you feel angry about something else) and we talked about pretty soon Jonas will probably feel less angry but he might feel sad for a while still.

And we prayed together, asking God to bring comfort to Jonas’ heart. Thanking God for loving us and watching over us even when we are angry at Him. Telling God how sad we are and how much we miss Grandmama.
So. I know this will take time, and we probably have more conversations ahead of us. Keep Jonas in your prayers, that he’ll be able to release his anger in appropriate ways, that he’ll feel the love of God even in the midst of his hurting, and that he’ll get to a point of acceptance and understanding. And if you can spare a prayer for a mama who’s trying to guide her little man through grief, I’ll take it.

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I’ve had a lot of time to get ready to type this.

I’m still not.

My mom is entering hospice today.
I keep trying to write about it, but what comes out is either way too intensely personal to post on the blog, or else is so generic and stilted that it sounds awful. Maybe this horrid numbness will wear off and I’ll be able to write about it eventually. Until then, my dad’s words will have to do.
I’m sure you know we covet your prayers. Thanks, friends.

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Our family lost a dear woman on Monday night. A long time ago, we called her Grandmother Nancy – but when Jonas came along as a young talker, he renamed her “Yaya” out of the clear blue sky. We don’t know where he came up with that moniker, but it stuck and pretty soon we all called her Yaya.
About a month ago, Yaya was diagnosed with AML – acute myeloid leukemia – about a month ago. This past Friday, she was hospitalized with what appeared to be pneumonia. Monday night, she passed away. While it was sudden, it wasn’t totally unexpected because of this form of leukemia.
We are so sad that she’s gone. Last night when I was lying in bed, I remembered one year (was it Thanksgiving? or Christmas time?) that Yaya had found a recipe for Chex mix and she wanted to try it out. Donna and Missy and I were all there – and maybe Laura and Andrea? – and we had all the ingredients spread out all over the kitchen counters while the guys were watching football. Karl made some joking comments about how it would have been cheaper to just buy a bag of pre-made Chex mix, and Yaya told him, “We are not making Chex mix here! We are making memories.” She was so right. 😉
Her funeral will be this Friday in Cedartown, Georgia. You can view her obituary online by clicking here.

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http://judandcheryl.blogspot.com/2011/02/and-news-is-good.html

My mom is in remission! My heart is so full. The odds were not with us on this – but our God certainly has been with us every step of the way. She still has to have bloodwork and scans next month, and then repeat tests every three months, but we’ll take it. Just knowing that she’s okay for now is AMAZING!
~~~~~~~~
“Then Job replied to the Lord, ‘I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.’” Job 42:1-2

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“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17

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“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” Matthew 19:26


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Leo Donald Maxwell
(my paternal grandfather)
September 14, 1921 – November 10, 2010

“13-14And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.

15-18And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.” ~1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Today, my family is sad. We will miss Granddaddy so much! We know that Grandmama will have many hard days ahead of her. They were married when she was still a teenager and just celebrated their 59th Anniversary; it will feel so strange to come home to an empty house after all these years. We have known that Granddaddy’s heart was failing, that his body was wearing out, so this isn’t completely unexpected. But still, we are sad. We will cry, we will share old photos and old stories (like this one: when we were kids, every time we asked for seconds of something at the dinner table, he would quickly answer, “Nope.” To our surprised faces, he would continue: “You might EAT IT!” and then break into a teasing grin as he handed the dish our way. Every.single.time.) and we will hug each other and sniffle together.
But we do NOT mourn ‘like those who have no hope.’ We know that Granddaddy had a deep faith – he knew Jesus as his Savior! He was a quiet man (at least during the years I’ve known him – I wonder if I’ll hear stories from his youth that are different?) and he wasn’t prone to preaching or lecturing. But he knew the truth: that he was loved by God, and forgiven by God. And today, he walked into the arms of God. As hard as it is for those of us who remain, we are comforted to know that he is worshipping Jesus face-to-face after 89 years of doing it from a distance.
Please keep the Maxwell family in your prayers over the coming days. My grandmother’s name is Erma, and their children are Twila, Daniel, Jud (my dad), Angie, and Alice. There are also numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and their first great-grandchild is due in four months.

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I posted on Facebook today that I heard my mother’s voice flying out of my head today. We were leaving the library, and Jonas had a stack of five books in his hands. As we passed through the automatic doors and neared the parking lot, I said, “Jonas, you have to pay attention to where you’re going. Don’t walk and read – you can read that in the car.”

WHAAAA—–????!!!!
I cannot count the number of times I heard some variant of that growing up. Don’t read and walk… don’t read at the dinner table… don’t read in the bathtub. (Although now they make these cool things, and since I read in the tub anyway, flouting conventional wisdom, how cool would that be? I digress.) The funny thing was, after a short period of time adjusting to my 5-year-old bifocals [CURB!] I was good at reading while walking. I don’t recall ever bumping into anything – anything major, that is. It was just “one of those things” my Mom always said. And today, without even thinking about it, it came out of MY mouth.
*****
Later today, Susannah was picking at a tiny scab on her leg. (This child is constantly dealing with bruises and scabs and various little injuries. Welcome to my world.) Now, here’s a dirty little secret: I’m a picker. I cannot stand to leave things like that alone. I don’t think I’ve ever just observed how long it would take my body to heal a little scab like that; I always mess with things on my skin.
But as I sat beside her, do you know what flew out of my mouth?
“Susannah, don’t pick at that. You’ll open it to infection!”
Hello, Dr. Chris Nebel, when did you take up residence in my Broca’s Area?
That was wierd.
*****
Yesterday, we had a few big rumbles of thunder. Jonas was having quiet time – not asleep, not absorbed enough in a major activity to ignore it. Down the hall he sped, onto the couch and into my arms he jumped. “Mama – it’s a storm! I’m scared of storms!”
I patted his back, and do you know what came to mind immediately?
“I know, baby. But remember: God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. We’re okay.”
Hmmm. Yeah, that wasn’t an original thought either.
*****
So here’s my take on losing my voice: in this case, it’s a good thing. They say that when we’re children, we think our parents know everything; when we’re teenagers we think they know nothing; when we’re parents ourselves, we realize they knew a whole darn lot. I think that this co-opting of my words is happening because the more I grow, the more I realize that the best wisdom comes from outside myself. Opening up to the wisdom of others, especially to the Creator of wisdom itself, and making it our own – that’s the only way to have a voice that matters.
Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Proverbs 3:13-16

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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