Friday, July 31, 2009

Blessed Be Your Name

When I have news, I call my Mamaw.

This is just how it is. Some people call their moms. Some people call their sisters. Me, I call my Mamaw.

I like the fact that no matter what time of day I call, I can lean into the receiver and catch--in just a few seconds of air space--the ambiance that gives me a complete picture of what I'm missing. The hum of a fan? She's in the kitchen, flour-dusted apron tied 'round her ample front, heavy black cast iron skillets sprawling on the stove top. Stillness? She's leaned back in her salmon-colored LA-Z-Boy napping with my Papaw at her side in his own, toffee-toned chair. The rumble of a train approaching? She's on the front porch, a too-tall tumbler of iced tea at her side and her Frank's Funeral Home paper fan spread out on her lap, waiting for action.

On Wednesday, it was very hot. Hot enough to break our local record. Hot enough, apparently, for a homeschooling family down the street to test the "fry an egg on the sidewalk" notion. Hot enough, in other words, to be news.

So I picked up the phone in a quiet moment and called my Mamaw.

In the second it took for the ringing to stop and my Mamaw's voice to be heard, there was a still silence. Ah, I smiled. Nap time. I conjured images of my Mamaw tilted back with her feet in the air, her Bible open on her chest, mouth slightly agape. This is how she naps. This is how she has napped for the 28 years of my grandfather's retirement: fully, deeply, with no aspirations of anything but total rest.

"Hell-uh," she answered.

And immediately, I knew that something was not right. Because when you know someone well enough to taste the flavor of their day in the space of a simple word, you can feel such things.

I did not ask immediately what was wrong. Hear my heart here and know this: there are things too fearsome of which to speak. Things grown-ups hide from. Things you will cover over with small-talk about the weather, the babies ... anything but the silence that will invite the bad news to come.

"It's hot here. Real hot. You watched the weather station?" I rushed, slipping comfortably into the accent and speech pattern that makes my children wrinkle their noses.

"I seen it," she told me, her voice still distant. "Over a hundred. And you with no air." My grandmother suffered through thirty years of no air conditioner, and she counts it among one of life's greatest luxuries.

"Yeah. It's 90 degrees in my house right now."


Then, pinching my eyes closed so that I could shut out the whirling madness of the fans around me, I asked.

"What's wrong?"

"Bad news, Baby," she croaked, using the family name that has followed me into my coming middle age. I didn't have to hear the rest, but she had to tell it. Our prayers had gone unanswered. The surgery she'd endured just a few weeks before to rid her body of the cancer clutching her insiders had failed to free her. Radiation would be necessary.

"No." I didn't just think it, I said it. Because when our hearts kick against our chests and our tears want to come crashing out, we let meaningless words stand guard. "No."

"That's what the doctor said." Her voice was small and quiet, like a child explaining something they would rather not.

I had looked up the odds when the first announcement had come. Good odds. As long as the surgery makes headway, you're home free, the websites said. So I put my hope in YAHWEH first, the surgery second, and my Mamaw's fierce reputation as a fighter third.

I prayed as hard as I ever have. God, please heal her. Please, make her better. Please, let her be o.k.

And for a few short, sweet days, I listened on the other end of the phone line and felt as if the prayers of hundreds of His people had been answered. My grandmother was one of those blessed to dodge the bullet. She's fine. It worked.

Except that it didn't.

I told my Mamaw on the phone that I'm not ready to let her go. That I love her too much to imagine a world where all of the memories we share just between us two are held in my mind alone. We prayed together--a wet, choking prayer on my end that the Holy Spirit took to the throne. My grandmother's voice held firm and fast:

"Father, you know I don't want this. I was lookin' forward to a few more good years on this nice earth that you give us. But if I'm comin' home, then I'm comin' home. Your will, Jesus."

Your will, Jesus.

Shortly after my most painful miscarriage--the one in January '06-- I had a profound, awful, amazing worship experience. As my church family raised their voices to "Blessed Be Your Name," I found myself on my knees, unable to even give voice to the lyrics that so clearly spoke what was between my heart and the Lord's:

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

I wasn't sure I could ever stand again in the presence of such a mighty, powerful, good and just God. The carpet bit my knees as I cowered and cried out to Him. Every hurt of the past month washed over me as my church family sang the words for me.

Talking to my grandmother brought me back to that place. If you've ever hurt in places words alone can not heal, then you know the place I'm talking about. The aching, raw spots that God's hands alone can reach. The place where you truly end ... and He begins.

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

The Lord gives. Oh, does He give. I hold in my arms and heart two beloved little boys given to us only through the grace and healing joy of Jesus. A good measure. Pressed down. Overflowing.

But He also takes away. And someday--maybe soon-- He will call my Mamaw to Him. She will go with great celebration: the life of a woman whose prayer warrior reputation precedes her into heaven rejoiced over. She will wait for me and for countless others that she has led to Christ with her patient, quiet witness, her tending of the sick and her visiting of the shut-in.

She will sing again. She will be free. Oh, how I long to see that day. The day when the ravages of age slip away, and I can look into her clear eyes again. A day when maybe, if heaven is what I think it is, I will taste her chicken and dumplings again and not feel guilty for all the pain her arthritis caused her as she labored, hunched over a hot stove just to see my delight in her skills.

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Man does not know the hour. But truthfully, even if I did, I would be no more ready to let my Mamaw go to a place where I can not call her when it's too hot, or a child says something cute, or I need a recipe. Maybe this is why God doesn't bother letting us in on His timing. What good would it do our selfish hearts, after all?

I'm trying, right now, to be ready. I'm praying--constantly, day and night--that His hand of healing holds fast over my Mamaw. I'm asking for twenty more years with this woman who is so much to me.
But oh, I'll take whatever you have to give, Jesus. Just ... not today.

But the day will come, of course. Now, or 10 years on. It's coming. And when it does, I need to hit my knees, then find my way back to standing. Because He gives and takes away. But my heart must choose to seek my Creator's face and choose to say, "Blessed be Your name!"


Anonymous said...

I just got home from my grandfather's funeral. With tears in my eyes I watched the video (a song that I know well). My heart chooses to say, "Blessed be Your Name."

It hurts to have him gone, it hurts to see those I love hurt, but when God calls you home, you go.

Thanks for posting this.

Liz said...

you have certainly been blessed by God with an eloquent hand. you express things so poetically and wonderfully! thank you for this today.

Rachel said...

I've sobbed through that song as I know now both spectrums! And while I cried, I raised my hands in praise to my Almighty Father.

Praying for peace for you and your Mamaw,

Fatcat said...

My dad's been in the hospital 3 times this month and he's 79. I'm having a hard time dealing with it.

Christian music is a lifeline to me too.

Sarah (Perky7) said...

Many thanks for the blessings of these words, MG.

I pray God's rich blessing on you as you walk these days with your Mamaw. We, too, are facing 'going-home' days, as my dad will be going off of his life- sustaining dialysis treatments next week. He is so tired, simply ready to go home to Jesus.

Music and scripture are so comforting. I also choose to sing/say....blessed be your name!

April said...

Mary Grace, Your words have touched a very tender place in my heart. My grandma, who sounds very much like your mamaw, went to be with Jesus 12 years ago. It was, and still is, the deepest loss I have ever known. The initial shock of her death rocked my world in ways I was not prepared for. And still today when my children do something exceptionally cute, or when I feel sad or hurt, or when I just want to hear her voice, I have to keep myself from moving to pick up the phone and call her. Yet at the same time I rejoice because I know that at long last she is with our Savior and is waiting on me.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Renee said...

Oh I am so sorry. I am praying for you and your Mamaw...Jesus loves you both so much I pray you can feel it in a powerful way.

D said...

As much as it hurts, it is so much better/easier to know that the one leaving us, knows and loves our Lord. When my granny went home, I had peace, knowing I would see her again. She loved the Lord and in her way taught me to also.
I've also had loved ones I knew did not know the Lord...that is hard.
I will pray for your mamaw, for healing and peace.

Anonymous said...

You know I have been there, and I'm praying for your Mamaw.

If I'm comin home, then I'm comin home.


Jenn @ A Country Girl's Ramblings said...

Absolutely touching! I will be praying for you and your Mamaw and may His name be blessed in each and every moment you and your Mamaw have.

nicole said...

I'm sorry that you and your Mamaw did not get the news you wanted. I pray that I have the faith that is so evident in your post. And I love that song.

Vicki said...

I have nothing profound to say but if you were in the room I'd offer you the biggest most comforting hug and a shoulder to cry on.

Mom Of E's said...


Sorry to hear this news. I was raised by my grandparents, and I know this kind of pain. Fortunately, my prayers for healing have so far been answered. I hope when that sad day comes for me that I will have the strength of faith to say blessed be Your name. Thanks for sharing your faith.


Melissa said...

I'm praying with you MG. It's wonderful to know she's ready and you KNOW where she's going but it doesn't make it any easier to let go :(

Lady Lovas said...

I read this with tears in my eyes; my grandma is also recovering from a surgery in Mexico and I can only hope to see her one more time before she goes home to Heavenly Father.

Her life, too, was a quiet life; a life of service and of prayer. and that's what I'll remember the most; her peace, her steady temperament and her unrelenting faith..

But today, I will call just to hear her voice one more time.

I pray it all goes well.