I believe in the power of story.

I love once-upon-a-times and remember-whens and me-toos and what-ifs.

I believe that writing down, speaking up, typing out all give life and color and meaning to ideas that need to be shared.

I love when a turn of phrase or a perfect analogy lodge in my head for days.

I believe that stories give us connections – to our past, to our future, to folks we’ve never met halfway around the globe or the guy on the corner or the lady down the street.

I love pressing a book into someone’s hand with an urgent “you have to read this” and I love retelling my favorite memories with my favorite people for the hundred-millionth repetition, with no urgency at all.

I believe that my heart contains sparks of story that are begging to be told, shared, repeated & remembered.

I love storytelling.

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Last time I blogged, I wrote: I’m praying for full healing of Susannah’s kidney cyst, or that if it’s still present when we get to nephrology that they’ll decide it’s a simple cyst which needs no intervention. I’m praying for the results of her echocardiogram, that it would show her little heart beating in perfect rhythm. I believe God is able to give us both those good gifts.

And in the past 21 days, God has answered both of these prayers. On June 28, Susannah had her echocardiogram, and the results were completely normal. No arrhythmias or anatomical problems. Her heart is perfectly healthy. Praise the Lord!

On July 19, we met with the nephrologist about her kidney cyst. It is small (6mm x 7mm) and appears to be simple. (This terminology is in contrast to a complex cyst, which is more likely to be precancerous than a simple cyst.) At this time, the cyst does not require intervention or treatment. Praise the Lord!

However, simple renal cysts are rare in children. So Dr. Shah has recommended the following plan:

–immediately discontinue the use of ibuprofen/Motrin/Advil (because anti-inflammatories can be nephrotoxic; she may still use Tylenol/acetaminophen for pain or fever)
–monitor blood pressure any time she is seen by pediatrician (our pediatric clinic already does this because they are the best)
–encourage her to stay hydrated and to not “hold it” when she needs to urinate

plus:
–blood work (a renal function panel) and urinalysis (checking for protein in urine)
–renal ultrasound (to have baseline measurements of the cyst)
–follow-up visit in 6 months to include repeating labs & ultrasound.

 

If her labwork now is normal, we maintain the care plan until her 6 month follow-up. At the 6-month visit, if the labwork is still normal and the cyst is unchanged, then she will need only yearly or biennial monitoring.

So, how can you pray for us? Please pray: that Susannah’s bloodwork would show healthy renal function; that her ultrasound would confirm that the cyst is simple in structure and size; that her blood pressure would remain normal; and that the cyst will not grow or duplicate. 

 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  ~Philippians 4:6-7

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We went to Susannah’s MRI. The radiologists who read it determined that she doesn’t have a tethered cord. (The backstory is here, if you missed it.)

This is good news, right? It means that she doesn’t need neurosurgery.

But it also means that we didn’t get an explanation for all her symptoms, and it means that we can’t resolve all her symptoms with one surgery.

The MRI found a cyst on her right kidney, so we now need to follow up with a pediatric nephrologist.

Additionally, we went back to the rheumatologist who first discovered her scoliosis to ask about a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I thought, from my reading, that Susannah (and I) had a lot of the hallmarks of EDS. The rheumatologist ruled out EDS, but did order an echocardiogram for Susannah based on my history with mitral valve proplapse. There are a number of other connective tissue disorders which present with hypermobility, scoliosis, and heart problems – so we need to check that out.

At the moment, there’s no healing in sight.

However, we’re thankful that the echocardiogram can be done here in town (so we don’t have to add another day trip to Louisville to the calendar) and thankful for every big diagnosis that has been ruled out. I’m thankful that Susannah’s pain levels are manageable and seem to be a little improved lately (my hypothesis is that the warm weather is helping).

I know, it seems a little crazy to write about believing for full healing and then to come back with a report that my kid is still dealing with chronic pain and to talk about being thankful. It seems a little crazy to say that I believe that God uses every part of our stories for our good and for His glory. But I really do feel thankful for the good things and I honestly do believe that. Because I believe this:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21 NIV

God can do – and usually does! – immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. Have you ever experienced a holiday or birthday when folks asked what you wanted? And maybe you couldn’t think of anything, or maybe you didn’t want to ask for anything outrageous, so you named a small little trinket or memento you might like. But the day rolled around and you were absolutely blown away by what you unwrapped. It was way more, way bigger, or more lavish, or more ‘perfectly you’ than the little thing you had asked for. God is in the business of giving out gifts like that. He not only knows what we’re asking and imagining — He also knows how the whole story ends. So what He gives and when He gives it all make sense when you

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Y’all, I’m in love with a new ‘gram. I mean, I’m still on Insta, but my heart belongs to another.

Have you met… the Enneagram?

Folks. Folks! This thing has blown me away. I heard about it first online somewhere. (Probably Instagram, honestly. I follow a lot of thinkers and writers and I’m not sure who first mentioned it there.) Then a college friend, who’s now an awesome pastor doing amazing justice work in Atlanta, mentioned his Enneagram (pronounced: any-uh-gram) number on Facebook – which perked my ears up a little. If he’s into it, it must be something worth a look.

I remember Googling it and immediately feeling skeptical and distrustful. Like, who needs another personality survey in her life? I’m an INFP and my love languages are time & touch; I’m a Red and a Phlegmatic. What good is a number?

Then Jen Hatmaker interviewed Chris Heuertz on her podcast and he talked about the Ennegram as a whole and his book, The Sacred Enneagram, which delves into how the Enneagram works as a spiritual development tool.

And my brain exploded.

Unlike the Meyers-Briggs, the Enneagram doesn’t just tell you where you fit in a little box (or in this case, on a little circle). The Enneagram is dynamic – it’s all about movement.

The idea, as I understand it, is that we’re all born with something of every number in us. But over time during childhood, we begin to use one number as our primary means of coping with the world. This personality is a mask, a shield, and we use it to function. As adults, we can “live” right there in our number – but when we are healthy emotionally & spiritually, we move across the circle and take on the “high side” characteristics of a different number. And conversely, when we are in stress or in an unhealthy spiritual and emotional zone, we move across the circle to embody the “low side” or “shadow” characteristics of yet a third number.

Lightbulbs all over the place.

Furthermore, every number on the Enneagram has a primary sin to grapple with – and thus, every number needs to practice a different spiritual discipline in order to grow.

The Enneagram, you guys! It doesn’t just slap a label on you: “Hi, I’m A Four!” It takes your hand and says, “You’ve been moving through the world as a Four, but that’s not your true self. You’ve been using Four thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to avoid grappling with the sin that plagues your soul. Move in this direction, friend, and discover the true self that God wants you to be. Teach your spirit how to do this thing, and discover the virtue which counteracts that sin.”

Intrigued? Oh, goody! I’m a newbie, guys, but here are my recommendations (I don’t do affiliate links; I’m not making any kickbacks. I just love these resources):

The Road Back to You, by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile — super easy read. Funny and conversational in tone. These folks love people and love

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Oh, y’all. Buckle up, this one’s going to be a rambler. I need to talk about what’s going on with Susannah’s health, but before I do that we need to back up to Sunday, March 18, 2018. That morning, I sat in a sanctuary hearing a sermon about healing.

Jamus Edwards, preaching at Pleasant Valley Community Church, taught from Matthew 21:21-22.

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

(I’m paraphrasing here, from my sermon notes):

1. We are supposed to pray big, bold, mountain-sized prayers. We pray for healing because Jesus told us to.
2. And yet — we know that God is sovereign and has a mysterious will that we don’t understand. Sometimes faith is the means to bodily healing, but God doesn’t choose to heal everyone in this life.
3. Therefore — we believe that our prayers may change the course of God’s hand, and we accept that our prayers may not. (We might use the language of “Thy will be done” or “not my will, Father, but yours be done.)
4. HOWEVER, while it is possible to pray in faith for healing and not doubt, while humbly submitting to the will of God… sometimes we overqualify our prayers.

OVERqualify. Mmmm-hmmm. In other words, we rest so solidly on our laurels in that sweet spot of “thy will be done,” that we never get around to asking God to do those big, bold, mighty healing works. And the whole time, we’re feeling really good about ourselves because: gosh, isn’t that just so Christian of us to pray for the Lord’s will and not our own?

That hit me right where I live. I do that.

I keep God in the boxes that medicine hands out. When a doctor tells us, there’s a 75% chance of thus-and-so, well, I don’t usually pray outside that box. I pray, “God, help us to deal with thus-and-so with grace and give us the strength to bear our thus-and-so and Lord, if it’s Your will to cure this then we know You can, but mostly, help us to trust You through the pain of it.”

Real talk: when Chris’ oncologist told us his fertility might not come back after chemo, I did that. I kept God in that little box and didn’t hardly dare to pray for complete healing. (Praise the Lord, His plans were bigger than my scared, trifling little heart and mind could manage. i.e.: three blessed Nebel babies on earth and three more in heaven.)  And when my mom was told “terminal ovarian cancer,” I did that. I kept God in that little box and didn’t hardly dare to pray for complete healing. (Praise the Lord, He gave us eighteen months together before He healed her on His side

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In the fall of 1998, I went off to college and found my tribe. The hills of Shorter College and the sisters of Epsilon Sigma sorority gave me an amazing three-and-a-half years of growth and love and challenge and grace and support and meaning. Ep Sig was a huge part of my identity during college, and when I got a few years out of school and didn’t feel like I could keep wearing all my old college T-shirts, I also couldn’t bear to throw them away.

Me in Sept. 1998 wearing a borrowed EpSig jersey on Pledge Night. Since it wasn’t a national sorority, there was no Bid Day stuff to deal with back then. Any unpledged woman could choose to join one of my school’s three sororities. On Pledge Night, she declared her choice in a ceremony that involved, among other things, racing through a series of dormitory hallways and hollering out of a 2nd story window. She received a jersey or shirt in her org’s colors and waited on all the other new pledges to declare, and then the real fun began.

Two years later on Pledge Night. 2000 was my FAVORITE year. In 1998, as a pledge, that night was busy and crazy and fun and stressful – we learned what felt like a million ceremonies, rules, songs, and cheers. In 1999, as a Prospective Big Sis, it was busy and crazy and fun and stressful – we were observing all the Pledges and figuring out who we were going to adopt as Littles (we had so many pledges in ’99 that I actually ended up with twins!). But in 2000, I was a seasoned pro and as a Grand-Big Sis, I got to calmly support my Littles while they were busily and crazily choosing their own Littles (one single and one set of twins).

A friend and sorority sister posted a photo on Facebook last week of her college shirts, transformed into a T-shirt quilt. A few days later, my Big Sis sent me a package in the mail saying “happy 20th anniversary.” Together, those two events prompted me to get my box of shirts off the shelf and finally do something with everything I’d been saving. I did a little bit of googling around and found that this was my favorite tutorial/how-to/tips post. (I will say that I’m regretting that I didn’t go get a Plexiglas square cut out at Home Depot like she suggests, because some of my squares were off and I have a little measurement issue I’m going to have to fix.)

So this is the shirt fronts and/or backs cut into squares, backed with lightweight interfacing, and stitched into

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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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