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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As catch-up blog posts go, this one is really fun.

In August 2016, I blogged about how I had started running for fun. Also fitness. Also I had signed up for a big race. I wrote about how much I enjoyed it and hoped it would be something I could stick with long-term. And two years after I started… I really love it. I’m not great at it. But I love it (almost 100% of the time. Maybe 92%. There are always bad days, bad runs, whatever). I’m pretty slow. I’m too socially anxious to join a running group. I’m never going to win any medals, is what I’m saying. Oh, and I’m injury prone — probably as a result of living most of my 35 years as a non-athletic, naturally fairly petite couch potato. Now that I’ve gotten more active, I have to do a lot of work to keep my body moving without aches and pains.

Since taking up this sport in January 2016 I’ve run four 5Ks, one 15K, and one half-marathon.

I’ve missed weeks on end with iliotibial band syndrome, complications of hypermobility syndrome, a sprained ankle, and a fractured talus. (That’s a little bone in your foot, and that’s a ridiculous story. I’ll tell that some other day.) I’ve missed at least two races signed & paid for that I DNS (did not start) because of injury.

Yet I’m still running. I now try to run 3 or 4 days per week, and I try to do some cross-training, strength training, and yoga two days a week. I get a massage every single week, chiropractic adjustment once a month, and I’ve got my physical therapist on speed-dial in case I re-injure myself (or injure something new, just to keep life interesting).

I’m training now for my second half-marathon in May. I’ll try to remember to check in afterward and report if I’m still in this.

I kinda hope I’ll be one of those little old ladies still running when I’m sixty. (Maybe by then the field will have narrowed and I’ll win an age group medal. Ha!)

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Writing is a weird hobby pastime obsession activity. On the daily face of it, writing fiction is this radically isolating lone endeavor – which one simultaneously thinks of as deeply intimate and private but also hopes that many eyes will eventually see. It’s a little bit perverse. It’s a little bit holy. It’s almost like a relationship, in the way it elicits emotional responses: the ebb and flow of writing makes me euphoric and amused, catty and cranky, edgy and angry, calm and contented. It’s a good thing I’ve already come to terms with having a brain that’s a little bit abnormal, or else I might seriously worry that writing was driving me bonkers.

I’m still working on a novel – not the one I’ve blogged about before, a new project. Hmmm, wait. It’s been ages since I dusted off the password for this place. Have I blogged about it?

Quick recap: so a while back (holy smokes, it was 2015!) I won NaNoWriMo and I worked on that project until it was query ready in 2016, but after months in the query trenches I decided to shelve that manuscript. I started working up a new idea, reading and researching, but I never got off the ground to write a single scene. I proceeded to spend the first half 2017 bellyaching about how I wanted to be a writer but life was too much in the way. I did all my other jobs to the Nth degree, but I let writing slip to the margins. And that sucked. So at the beginning of this school year (fall 2017), I decided to dive back in. I blocked off time in my daily planner to write – 3 schooldays per week – and I plotted and planned and character-sketched my way into a new manuscript. About 13,000 words in I just… fell out of love with it. I spotted a giant plot hole and I couldn’t think my way through it. There was no way to tidy up those jaggedy edges and darn that opening back together. And thus, that manuscript got shelved, too. My mood got worse – writing makes me crazy in some ways, but now that I’ve started it seems like not writing makes me worse.

I had a giant meltdown about a week ago I don’t wanna talk about it, there was ugly-crying involved, and despair and hopelessness and frankly a lot of melodrama and then I sort of snapped out of my funk. I don’t know what happened. It’s like the meltdown was a giant bolus of emotion that pushed away whatever was clogging up my spirit or my muse or whatever you’d like to call it. I got up the next morning feeling excited to write something new. That night in bed, I checked in with my online writer’s group and clicked a link to an interview with an amazing woman – she’s the author of multiple novels and memoirs as well as a teacher of writing

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I’ve taken up running.

Did I mention this? Probably not. It’s been a minute since I posted here. It started in December. A friend asked me if I’d consider running with her. She was transitioning between a gym and a personal trainer and was considering just saving all that money and switching up her fitness routine by running instead.

I had never considered running. I was always one of those people who joked that if you saw me running, it was probably the zombie apocolypse. But I had really loved going on early-morning walks with this friend (we had worked our way up to 3 miles a day, 4-5 days a week) so I said yes.

I started reading a little bit, I made sure my walking shoes were okay to run in. I bought a headband-ear-warmer thing, and when January 1st rolled around I texted her. “Running tomorrow?”

Err, umm, actually, no. She had found a different gym and wasn’t going to do the running idea after all.

Well, poop. I had psyched myself up for it! I wanted to see if I could do it! So… I did it.

At first, I couldn’t run a full mile without stopping to walk. I used a highly scientific method for “training.” I left my house walking until I felt like I needed to jog. Then I jogged along until I felt like I was going to throw up, at which point I downshifted to walking again. I made myself get outside as often as the weather cooperated.

In January, that was about 4 runs. And in February it was only about 5 runs. But the weather turned pretty eventually, and in March and April I started to really be able to go running with consistency. I started challenging myself for little victories: the first time I ran a full mile without walking! the first time I ran a 5K distance (3.11 miles)! I got an app that tracked my distance, and as I saw my miles tick toward 100, I realized something:

I like this.

As workouts go, I can’t rave about it the way I did P90x3. I did that workout for 90(ish) days and saw insane results. With running – well, see, I want to run a few times a week and still eat pie. So, I haven’t made any big shifts to make myself overhaul my nutrition the way I did during X3. Also, I did x3 six days a week almost every week. With running, I get out there between 3 and 5 days a week. I have lost a couple of pounds, I have lost a couple of inches, but nothing drastic or noticeable to most people.

I like it as a hobby. I like it as something FUN to do. And I think that’s what has made the difference. I’ve never had a physical activity that I’ve stuck with for this long. I’m eight months in to running, getting close to the 200 mile mark, and I really don’t want to quit.

The problem

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Abigail and I were in the van a few days ago, and she told me that when she grows up, she wants to work at Orange Leaf (it’s a frozen yogurt shop where you can put as much froyo as you can fit in your cup, top it with lots of crazy candy toppings, and pay by the ounce – pretty much heaven to a four-year-old).

“What job are you going to be, when you grow up?” she asked.

“I’m already grown up, and I already have a job,” I answered.

“What!?” She started to laugh. “You don’t have a JOB.”

“Yes, I do. My job is taking care of you kids. I think it’s a lot of work.”

“That is not a job, Mama. You have to go somewhere and get paid for a job.”

“Well,” I said, “maybe one day I will get paid for being a writer. Can my book be my job?”

She shook her head at me, hardly believing that I needed these details spelled out. “If you want to be a AUTHOR, you gotta make a stand.”

I was not sure how to process this. Does my kid want me to write a book about a hard-hitting social justice topic? Is she telling me to take a stand for something important and honorable?

“What do you mean?”

“You need to get some boards and nail them together and stand there with your book and people give you money. Like when girls sell lemonade!”

Ah, of course. An author stand. How silly of me.

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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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