Category: faith

God sent His son, they called Him Jesus.

He came to love, heal, and forgive.

He lived and died to buy my pardon;

An empty grave is there to prove my Saviour lives.


Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living, just because He lives.
When I was five-and-a-half years old, our church hosted a production of a play about the life of Jesus; it was the first time that my little heart grasped the graphic reality of Passion Week. Before that, of course I had heard the Sunday School version of the Easter story. My parents had talked about Christ’s death on the cross, and I’d sung the hymns about it. But seeing that young man in a robe and sandals “healing the sick” and singing with the disciples, taking that jug of water and “turning it into wine,” breaking bread during his last Passover, and then walking down the center aisle between the pews… carrying a back-breaking heavy cross on his shoulders. Being whipped, bleeding as thorns pierced his head. Hearing the hammer strikes ring through our sanctuary as his hands and feet were nailed to that tree. And then those final words spoken – the room went black – and I cried harder than ever before in my life. When we went home after the play, I had a long talk with my parents, and my Daddy led me in a prayer to ask Jesus into my heart.

On Easter Sunday 1986, I was “buried with Christ in baptism – raised to walk in the newness of life.”

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives.
But greater still, the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because HE lives.


Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living, just because He lives.

My mom loved the song “Because He Lives.” During our year(ish) living in Oklahoma, we were members of a church with a vibrant Deaf ministry, and Mom and I learned American Sign Language. Over the years, I’ve lost a lot of the ASL I used to know, but Mom continued to sign many of  her favorite hymns. She was almost on autopilot when those songs began – her hands started to fly even if she wasn’t singing aloud. When I close my eyes, I can picture sitting by her side during this song. Her voice was wobbly and warbly, hitting and missing the notes with abandon. But her hands were strong and sure, fluid and beautiful. She believed every word, and I think signing became a form of

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(for the conversation I had with Susannah after we dropped Jonas off at karate, click here)

When I picked Jonas up from karate, he told us all about learning the next eight steps of his kata. And then the conversation turned to building a tower high enough to reach the clouds. Which reminded me to tell him the story of the tower of Babel. Which led to the topic of the invisible nature of God, and that we can’t see or reach heaven. And then:

“So what happens when everyone, every person, everyone, is just dead and in heaven? What happens to our Earth then?

I tried my best to explain the New Heaven and the New Earth, not that I’ve got a perfect theological grasp on it myself. But I figure “A+ for effort,” right?

“So. We get new bodies… Will it have skin?”
“Will… your body have skin? Hmm. I don’t know, exactly. I’m not sure what our new bodies will look like. The Bible says they will be glorified bodies, like Christ has in heaven….”

“I hope we have skin. What color will it be?”
“I don’t know.”

“I hope my new skin is brown. And a little ‘fleeesh.’”
Then Susannah chimed in, “And I hope mine is blue! And purple!”
“You guys are awesome.”

{*Jonas’ word “FLEEESH” is how he pronounces the color-word on that Crayola crayon that’s sort of pale pinkish. I think I like his version better, since it always struck me as unfair to call that one “flesh-colored” when actual human flesh comes in such a beautiful array of shades.}

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I’m struggling, again, with a growing dissatisfaction about the way my Sundays feel. This is an ongoing thing for me – it crops up every so often, and I read and pray and read and pray. Honestly, though, Chris has never shared my burden for it, so actually implementing changes has never happened. Eventually, life gets busy or something else comes along and my focus shifts and I forget about it… until something reminds me, and I circle back around to this.

I want Sunday to feel “set apart.” I want a Sabbath. I want rest.

Oh, not necessarily literal rest. Every mom of a baby would enjoy an extra day just to catch up on her naps, I guess, but that’s not the issue here.

Usually, Sunday goes like this:

5:30 a.m. Jonas wakes up, creeps into our room, and whisper-asks if it’s time to get up. We tell him no, he goes back to his room, and we roll over and try to doze off again.
6:00 a.m. Chris gets up and goes to the hospital. If he’s on-call, he’s likely there all day. If he’s not, he either makes rounds and races home just in time to hop in the car as we leave for church, or he makes rounds and does a small case and misses church but is home for the afternoon.
6:30-ish a.m. I get up and tell Jonas he can get up and open Susannah’s door; we all head downstairs for breakfast. The next couple of hours are just like every other day – fixing two separate breakfasts for the big kids, gratefully sipping a cup (or three) of coffee, letting the dog out and in and feeding him, at some point Abigail waking up and doing diapers/dress/nurse with her. I usually flip the TV on, even though I’d like to have at least ONE day without it, and try to catch a weather report before the kids start clamoring for PBS versus DVR versus whatever-the-current-video-obsession is. The benefit to giving in to the clamoring is that it usually buys me a few minutes to get myself dressed (and possibly even put makeup on) while they’re watching something. I wish I didn’t feel so dependent on a screen to accomplish that, though.
8:30 a.m. I start wrangling everyone into “church clothes.” Jonas is pretty capable at this point of assembling an appropriate outfit that matches, and only needs help with combing his hair, cleaning his glasses, and tying his shoelaces. But Susannah tends to wiggle and muss and undress and pull ribbons off and generally takes twice as long to get ready, so it evens out. Abigail is still at a cooperative stage for getting dressed, but at least 50% of the time has a last-minute diaper-change needed just as we head out the door.
9:20 a.m. I grab Susannah’s bag, Jonas’ worship bag, my diaper bag, (and my Bible if I’m lucky) and shepherd my little animals toward the garage. Queue up at least one lost

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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

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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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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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