Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Savoring small joys.

Yesterday I had every intention of writing a post, but I opened my laptop and then just sat here staring at the screen. For a long time.

I'm fighting this emotional funk that threatens to suck the happy and content right out of me ... and I'm employing every resource I have to keep it at bay. Christmas music playing, our colorfully-lit tree glowing, cinnamon-scented candles burning, a mug of something yummy in my hand (great coffee, special hot chocolate, or a fizzy Diet Dr. Pepper, depending on the time of day), household tasks - the few things in life I can control - under way. I've been using a lot of this quiet time during the day to have some pretty deep conversations with God, too. And it still seems like more work than it should be.

Part of it is just my body's chemical makeup, and I know that. When the skies are grey and gloomy like they were yesterday my mood often matches it. Proof: today the sun is shining brightly and I'm much more active than I was yesterday when I loafed around most of the day and went to bed early.

We can't control the sun. Sometimes we can't control our circumstances. But I strongly believe that most of the time we can control our own attitude, which some days can make things a little brighter.

It can be the smallest thing that makes a difference. Yesterday, despite feeling like there was a black cloud hanging over me, I had a few moments of sheer joy which I so appreciated. One of them was enjoying the scent of freshly laundered clothes - MY clothes. The smell made me happy. The stack of clothes reminded me that even though I have a limited wardrobe these days, I still have choices. Another of those moments was wrapping a gift for a friend's birthday. It's nothing big - something I saw during my travels over the summer that reminded me of her - but I found some pretty paper and pulled out my scrapbooking supplies to make it a cute little package. It was fun. I got some creative juices flowing and it felt good to complete a task, even one so small. I've learned to savor those moments.

I have a feeling it will be my task in the weeks ahead to have more good days than not-so-good days. It might require some effort and a lot more hot chocolate, but it will all be worth it.

Now I think the sunshine is calling my name. We have precious few of these beautiful days left before the snow comes back with a vengeance, so I'm headed out to enjoy this one.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Clean Slate Sunday: 11.27.11 edition

We've had a nice weekend, but I am ready for the kids to go back to school and for all of us to get back to our routines. I have a tendency to extend "holiday" mode and continue to eat more than I should and resist getting back into the daily grind of laundry and tidying up around the house and whatever else needs to be done.

So it's time to ditch the last of the pumpkin pie and start working off all those mashed potatoes and gravy. *ahem* Starting tomorrow morning.

I have a lot on my mind tonight and I'm trying to sort through it all. It is part of my nature to want to figure out the whys and hows and to fit the puzzle pieces together, but I also know that's not necessarily what I am meant to do. So I struggle during moments when my son, now officially a teenager, flexes those "I wanna be independent" muscles, and I thank God my husband is here to put him in his place.

But I can't forget the fact that Steve is here only because he is unemployed right now ... with Christmas just a few weeks away. And then there is our concern for his dad, back in the hospital after having trouble breathing ... they're working on dissolving blood clots in his lungs and he will hopefully be home later this week ... this latest bump in the road yet another reminder that his condition is rather fragile. And that's just not something you want to think about someone you love.

I've been thinking about my grandma a lot lately, too. Last year at this time she spent Thanksgiving with us, the first time she hadn't been in Florida for the holiday in decades. She would also spend Christmas with us, and see snow - again, for the first time in years - and welcome the new year, and then her health worsened and by February she was gone. I miss her dearly. I miss her more than I can even express.

Rachel and I put up a small Christmas tree this weekend - one I had found at a thrift store and thought would be perfect for all the kids' homemade ornaments and 1st, 2nd, 3rd Christmas ornaments, etc. It's in a corner of our living room and as I look at the glowing lights tonight it reminds me of how happy I was to have grandma here with us. In fact, last Christmas was one of the happiest I can remember.

It has been a weekend of giving thanks, and we certainly have plenty to be thankful for. At the same time, I look forward to celebrating even more in the coming weeks. I am confident there are big things in store for the Pipe Lifers, and when we look back at this Christmas season we will all remember it as one of our best.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the season of waiting that leads up to Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Today our pastor told the children in the children's sermon it is a season of hope and anticipation.

Hope and anticipation. I'm hanging onto those words. I'm looking forward to the next few weeks. And I'm looking forward to a celebration of grand proportions.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ten things for Thanksgiving.

In no particular order ...

1. My family. If I mentioned them all by name I would go way beyond 10. Not only am I blessed with an amazing husband and two wonderful children, I have my parents, siblings, in-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins. I will enjoy spending time with many of them this weekend.

2. Our home. It's warm. Spacious. Comfortable. Us. It's always a work in progress, but that's OK. We have plenty of room for the kids to run and play outdoors. Just this morning Steve and I watched three deer hanging out just steps from the back door. I love being here.

3. Health. It might not always be perfect, but I and the people I love are generally healthy and able to get around. I am thankful I can get out of bed every day and not have to think too much about whether I will be able to make it out the door.

4. Faith. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe God places people in our lives and makes provisions for us long before we know we're going to need them.

5. Laughter. Few things in this world make me feel as good as hearing my children laugh, or laughing with Steve, or all of us laughing together. And we did as we watched a movie together last night - Smokey and The Bandit, of all things - and it was awesome.

6. Animals. Yes, they drive me crazy more often than not. But there is nothing sweeter than seeing one of the cats curled up in a patch of sunshine or watching the dog twitch and whine from dreamland. And the wild ones, too ... I love to watch the birds gather at the feeder in the back yard, spot a bald eagle overhead, see the deer grazing in the field.

7. Technology. When Steve is working out of town, technology allows us to keep in touch more than we would be able to without cell phones and laptop computers. Beyond that, technology provides some relatively cheap entertainment via computer and television.

8. The basics: food, water, heat, electricity. Warm showers, a light to read by. Dinner on our table every night. The kind of stuff we so easily take for granted.

9. Friends. Steve and I are fortunate to have many people we consider true friends. A good handful of them would be at our sides in a heartbeat if we needed them, and will celebrate alongside us during times of triumph.

10. Talents. God blessed each member of our family with talents, and I am happy to see those talents developing in our children ... and being polished in me and Steve.

My wish is that everyone reading this has someone they love (or at least someone you like ... ha!) to spend the holidays with. Look around ... there is plenty in our lives for which to give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Putting those lessons to work.

I have been known to shed a tear during special services at church - weddings, funerals, baptisms, or even the children's program at Christmas. But yesterday was the first time I can remember tearing up over an ordinary Sunday service.

Perhaps I am just in an emotional state right now and it would take the tiniest little thing to make me cry. Maybe I'm just overwhelmed - not just about Steve losing his job, but about life in general. Kids growing up and constantly testing their boundaries. Holidays approaching - and all the expectations that come along with them. The pocketbook is tight and the house is a wreck (I'm working on that one today). Some days it's just a little too much ... though I have to admit it is somewhat easier to handle since Steve is here by my side.

Anyway, what touched my heart yesterday as I sat in that pew were some familiar words from Ephesians, chapter 1:
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (v. 15-19)
I bolded that last half for emphasis, because that's what really stuck with me.

And there was more. Between the Gospel lesson (Matthew 25:31-46) and the pastor's sermon, the same thing kept running through my mind. Don't worry. Don't live your life concerned with what you can or cannot do here on Earth, but focus on eternity. Allow life's trials to bring you closer to God through prayer. Continue to do for others. Be thankful for each and every blessing, and confident in His promise to provide.

I'm listening. And I'm trying.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A day of rest?

We have had such a full weekend and the busy-ness continues until later this afternoon so I thought I'd take the few quiet minutes I have right now to scarf down a piece of leftover birthday cake update the blog.

I was so tired this morning and really would have liked to reset the alarm clock for our later obligations, but I am so glad I got up and went to church because I really needed to hear today's message. (More about that tomorrow.)

Our service starts at 9 a.m. and it's about a 40-minute drive, so we try to be out the door by 8:15. That's asking a lot of our teen/tween kids, I guess. Even Rachel, who was the only one to make it to church with me today, lamented on the way home that she has no time to rest, even on the weekends.

Being the sympathetic mother I am, I offered to not take her to her bowling league next Saturday morning so she can sleep in. But no! That's not what she meant! I suggested we turn down invitations from friends so we aren't tempted to stay out too late on weekend evenings. Oh no. That's not what she meant, either.

"But we always have to go to church," she says.

Yes, and the service is over by 10 a.m. and then we can go home and rest, I reminded her. Then I asked if she would like to skip her Girl Scout meeting this afternoon so she could rest.

Ummm, no. Not what she meant.

Bowling leagues, birthday parties, visiting with friends, hunting, confirmation class, Girl Scouts ... and compared with so many other families my kids are hardly "involved" at all. They don't play any after-school sports or do dance or gymnastics or martial arts or any of that. But a few different activities each requiring a minimal commitment can add up to some very busy days. So yes, I do sympathize with Rachel. Trust me, I would choose rest over most other activities including eating ... and really, I don't miss very many meals.

For me, joining my church family in a familiar setting, sharing hugs and handshakes and laughter, and catching up with each other and sharing the Gospel is as good as curling up with a blanket in a comfortable chair with a mug of hot cocoa and reading a book. It makes me happy. It lifts me up. I feel rested and cared for and loved when I leave, and I take that feeling with me out into the world.

Whether my children realize it or not, they do the same thing. I see it in the smiles on their faces when their Sunday School teacher seeks them out for a hug before they leave, or when one of the older gentlemen shows interest in Sam's hunting experiences or a picture Rachel drew. That's why I ask them to go with me. Someday they will make their own decisions and might choose a different path no matter how much I insist they follow the path of faith in God. If that ever happens I hope they eventually find their way back to a place where they feel safe and loved - a place they can lay down their burdens and rest. Yes, getting out of bed early on a Sunday morning is a pain in the behind, even for me. And no, we don't make it every single Sunday. But when we do it is so, so worth the effort.

 Here's wishing you a blessed - and restful - day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sammy!

Today our boy turns 13. As I write I have cinnamon rolls baking in the oven for him while he is out hunting with his daddy. Later we'll have a party at the bowling alley, complete with the double-layer rainbow confetti cake he requested and several of his friends.

Thirteen is a big one, isn't it? Sam is becoming a young man right before our eyes. Where we once had a teeny five-pound baby there is now an adult-size being living among us. It sure does give me pause.

There is so much I could say about Sam. We have had our share of struggles, he and I. But for as much as he resisted anyone's attempts to soften him up with hugs and kisses and love beyond measure over the years, he has transformed into one of the most amazing, compassionate and loving children I know.

I am particularly touched by Sam's gift with younger children. He has this comfortable way of engaging kids that makes me believe teaching or a similar occupation may be his calling.

I am proud of this young man and who he is becoming. Even if I still call him my baby boy, I know day by day he is gaining independence and establishing his own place in this world. It will be a while yet before he faces it on his own, but I know after one more year of middle school, once he hits high school it will be over in the blink of an eye. That's why I'm taking time to enjoy it - and him - while I can.

Happy birthday, sweet boy. Today is your day. We love you.

Friday, November 18, 2011


I've had just over a day to process all this, so here it is.

Steve was fired. Let go. Cut loose.

Was it related to the economy? No. Work performance? Absolutely not.

Steve lost his job because of personal differences with the company's corporate blowhards. Because he is, in their words, a "disgruntled employee."

WHO DOES THAT?? What is this, the sixth grade?

Listen. We have a son who will turn 13 years old tomorrow. He's in middle school. Sam is at a point when we are teaching him it is a fact of life that he will encounter difficult people. That's just how the world works. We tell him it is his job to always handle himself appropriately and do his best to be kind and respectful to others, no matter how badly their personalities may clash. Sometimes it is helpful to simply walk away, but you can't always just gather up your toys and go home.

Unhappy relationships are tough, but even the best of relationships take work to maintain.

Steve has said working for this company is like being in a bad marriage; nobody communicates, and everybody blames someone else for any infraction.

My husband tried. For months he has set a positive example by going straight to the sources of gripes and grumbles and insisting on working through issues so everyone can move on. In his supervisory role he was probably too kind at times, giving second (or third or fourth) chances and plenty of corrective instruction in order to keep people working.

But he didn't buy into the corporate BS. He is a man of high morals and is driven by things far greater than money: Integrity. Kindness. Family. That's what I see. If you ask him? He was taught to do things the right way - to do the right thing - no matter who was or wasn't watching.

As it turns out, his former employer talks a great talk about putting people first, but their follow-through stinks. In fact, the company's motto is People first 24/7. In our house we've added to it a little: People first 24/7. Unless you're not the right people.

In an interesting twist, my brother worked for the same company, on the same crew as Steve. They fired him, too.

Oh yes they did.


In the grand scheme of things we will come out on top. Today I am angry and feeling defensive, yes. (And if Steve wasn't disgruntled before, he sure is now!) Because in 17 years of working in the pipeline industry - and I mean working, putting pipe in the ground, operating equipment, not giving orders or pushing papers from an office - Steve has never come close to being fired. Ever. Has he butted heads with some higher-ups? Of course he has! That's life. The people who have to keep everything within budget and on deadline don't always see eye-to-eye with the folks who have to stand knee-deep in the mud with rain pouring down while they try to bail out the hole so they can work. That's just how it goes. But each has their job to do and most adults can learn to overlook their differences and work alongside each other toward a common goal.

So yeah. I'm pissed off that of all the crappy employees they could have chosen to weed out, they picked two of the best workers in the field. Apparently your work ethic means nothing if you refuse to drink the Kool-Aid.

Whatever. Life goes on. The natural gas industry is a great one to be in these days. Business is booming and it won't be long before both of these guys have settled into new jobs, hopefully far, far away from the corporate madness. The paychecks might be a little slimmer but as long as we can feed our family and keep the bills paid, we're good.

Yesterday I teetered briefly on the edge of madness just thinking about how we'll make it through the next few weeks. Between Steve having some time off between work projects, then coming home to be with his dad during brain surgery, and now being cut loose altogether, we are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

But then the phone started ringing ... friends sent messages of support ... prayer warriors added us to their lists ... and so many people we love collectively took my face in their hands and forced me to focus on what is important: Steve. Sam. Rachel. Me. Our faith. Our family and friends. We are warm and well fed, and we have much for which to be thankful. Praise God.

I'm no Pollyanna, but I can say with confidence today that I know everything will be OK.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Time to circle the wagons.

I am angry.

I'm hurt and feeling defensive of my family and I wish I could tell you all about it but now isn't the right time, so could I just ask you to pray for us?

Know that my marriage is strong and that in itself will sustain us through much. We are healthy (well, OK, some might question my mental state but that's nothing new) and our children are fine. We have hit a roadblock but we will push through it together. And, God willing, we'll come out stronger on the other side.

 Today? Some inspiration. Turn it up, baby.

When the darkness tries to get me
There's a light that just won't let me
It might take my pride, tears may fill my eyes
But I'll stand back up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Feeling festive?

Is it too soon to be thinking about Christmas decorations?

Steve would say YES.

When I was in stores and saw Halloween candy on clearance on one side of me and Christmas stuff going up on the other side, I would have said YES.

But now that Thanksgiving is just around the corner I'm starting to get that itch to pull out the boxes.

I don't go crazy with Christmas decor, but I do like our home to look and feel festive. I have friends who decorate a tree for every room of their home - and those trees are absolutely gorgeous - but you will not see my house in the pages of Better Homes and Gardens anytime soon. Or ever.

Alas, we have our own brand of decorating style. It's cheap. It involves many hand-me-down and homemade ornaments and, at least the last two years, a tree plucked from the nearby forest. The first year we did this - too broke to go buy a tree - a friend tagged the monstrosity Steve brought home "aggressively festive." It took up half our living room.

Funny how they always look so much smaller ... until you get them in the house.

But she was beautiful, wasn't she? Every lopsided branch of 'er.

As it turned out, we all loved that tree. I discovered my children didn't give one wit about whether they had a perfect tree. They had only two requests: that we actually decorate a tree before Christmas Day (admittedly sometimes a struggle), and that the tree be real. In fact, they are so adamant about having a real tree that when I brought home a small, pre-lit tree I found for $5 at a thrift store recently, the first thing they both asked was, "Is this going to be our only tree?!?" I assured them it would not be.

The joy of an artificial tree, though, is that I can set it up and fluff it and decorate it at my leisure. I don't know yet where this new one will go, but I'm pretty sure I will be getting it out soon to satisfy that itch to start decorating. I would like to try my hand at a themed tree. What theme? I have no idea.

Wait. Is "aggressively festive" a theme?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Today is a big day.

Sam's 13th birthday is approaching. It has caused me to do a lot of thinking about this boy and how he has grown and changed over the past few years. Shoot ... one can hardly call him a "boy" anymore; he is at least as tall as anyone else in the family and taller than several. But it's not just his stature. He is becoming more thoughtful and responsible every day.

It is with that in mind that I hesitated only a little when he asked me if he could sit by himself when he went out to hunt this morning. It's opening day of the firearm deer season (the kids have the day off school for it), and for a mama like me the thought of sending her firstborn out into the woods before dawn ... and carrying a gun ... can be a little unsettling. Because accidents happen. And he really is just a kid, isn't he? That means above all it is my responsibility to keep him safe.

The older he gets the harder it is to make those decisions that could mean the difference between keeping Sam tucked inside this safe little bubble at home or allowing him to go out into the world (or the woods, as it were) and face the potential to be hurt - physically or emotionally - and to learn some tough life lessons. Maybe to make some big decisions on his own. And hopefully, to learn what success feels like.

He is not alone today. We are fortunate to have within our extended family some wonderful men who have taken Sam under their wings while his dad is working so far away. We are also fortunate that deer camp is a big old school house down the road within walking distance from home. Sam has been there since Saturday afternoon - I literally have not seen him for more than a few minutes at a time. I hear about what he's doing in bits and pieces - hunting with his bow (archery season precedes firearm season) the last few days, going out with the uncles to move trail cameras and check bait piles and tidy up their stands, I guess. And when he came to the house to get his gun last night and to check with me that he could sit by himself today, he was practically glowing. When I told him he could as long as the uncles were nearby, he came to me and hugged me and said, "I love you, mom."

I'll take it.

I have not seen that boy so happy in quite a while. He is in his element. He's with the guys, away from mom. He is free to be who he wants to be (within reason) and to experience some independence.

It's a big day for both of us.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Increasing our (God-given) talents.

I usually reserve my Sunday writing until later in the day, but I had to sit down and make note of this before it slips my mind.

With Sam doing his man thing hanging out with the guys at deer camp, and Rachel having spent the night at Nana's last night (and me too battle weary to want to force her to get up and be ready) I went to church alone this morning. My preference is always to have my family beside me, but these occasional days when I attend worship by myself are a bit of a treat, too. (Shhh! Don't tell the kids.) I'm able to listen without distraction and focus on my own actions rather than always pointing out where we are in the hymns or coaxing tired kiddos to stand when appropriate.

As it turned out, this morning was the perfect time for me to be able to soak it all in because I really needed to hear the Gospel lesson for today.

In the book of Matthew, chapter 25, verses 14-30 we read the parable of talents. In short, three slaves were given unequal portions of their master's money. While the master was away, two of the slaves increased what they were given and when the master returned he praised them for increasing his wealth. The third slave didn't fair so well.

"And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.'" (v. 24-25)

Because the third did nothing with what he was given - except bury it - the master called him wicked and lazy, suggested he could have at least invested that money to earn some interest, and took back from the slave the little he had been given.

"For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (v. 29-30)

"Fear robbed him of his potential," our pastor said.

Fear robbed him of his potential.

Something to think about: what "talent" is planted in you? Are you allowing it to grow, or is fear causing you to bury it?

We as Christians are all blessed with the gift of faith. We are not all equally blessed with talents (or money or beauty or children or fill-in-the-blank). It is our responsibility to nurture the talent (or money, etc.) we are given to make it thrive and to honor God. So that when our Father does the final tally we can say, "See? You gave me this and I turned it into this."

And He will respond, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Friday, November 11, 2011

The first snow!

I love waking up to the first snow of the season. Love it!

In Michigan we are blessed to experience the best (and yes, sometimes the worst) of the four seasons, and right this moment I can't think of anything more inspiring than going to bed with big, fat, fluffy snowflakes falling, and then waking up to a layer of The White Stuff covering everything.

OK, so it's not that pretty when you can still see the brown grass peeking out from underneath, but the trees! Oh, the trees are beautiful. And the snow gives everything this glow. Including my children who are so happy they could burst. They stood outside last night with their faces turned to the sky and their tongues sticking out to catch those fluffy flakes. By the time they came inside their hair was soaked and their hands were red and cold.

This morning when I parked at the bus stop Sam and Rachel jumped out to get in a few minutes of running around in it. They scraped what they could off the hood of the truck to toss a few snowballs at each other. I relished in Rachel's squeals and Sam's laughter.

Now that the house has calmed (save for the cats chasing each other around) I am beginning my day with some quiet reflection, glancing out the window frequently while I sip a cup of Mexican hot chocolate.

By the end of February I will be singing a different tune. But not today.

Hello, snow. We're happy to see you.

Monday, November 7, 2011


We have so much for which to be thankful!

I'm sorry if I kinda' left y'all hanging after my last post about my father-in-law, but I'm guessing most folks who read my blog also find me some other way - like through Facebook or church or e-mail or whatever. Anywho, the great news is dad came through surgery just fine and as of this afternoon it sounds like he might be home by tomorrow evening.

Can you imagine? Brain surgery, and then home just four days later. Whew.

And I'm laughing at myself a little because I said he did "just fine" but I can tell you Friday was one of the longest days of my life. The whole process was not without its hiccups, and dad certainly isn't completely out of the woods yet, but the surgery to remove what the doctors are pretty certain were cancerous tumors from his noggin went very well. We were able to see him Friday evening after he woke up and it was such a relief that he recognized all of us and talked and laughed with us. He even cussed a few times, which I told him he had a free pass on for a few days. Because of the location of the tumors there was a concern that he might lose his speech and/or ability to understand speech, so I didn't care what he said, and neither did anyone else ... it was just so good to hear him speaking.

The past week has been hectic and I'm exhausted - physically and emotionally. And for as much as I love turning the clocks back and gaining that hour of sleep again, I despise it getting dark at 5 o'clock in the evening (or whenever it gets dark now ... much sooner than I'm ready for).

So, I've got some catching up to do around here and a few blog posts rolling around in my head I'll try to get written over the next few days. In the meantime I'm basking in the blessings we've been showered in recently. Praise God.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

'Pleasant words' in life's stormy times.

If I wanted to write all about me I'd lay it out for the world to see like the open book I am, but when it comes to others I try not to get too personal. So I tread lightly today.

Steve's dad is sick. Not a I should make him some chicken noodle soup kind of sick. It's not something extra rest and a few aspirin can conquer. No, we're talking more like a team of doctors and a pretty risky, yet potentially life-saving surgery. On his brain.

My father-in-law has had his share of health struggles this year and we have weathered them as a family, each one of us offering support and encouragement in our own way. We live next door to Steve's parents and our children see them nearly every day, so they are hyper sensitive to any break in routine or disruption of their time with Nana and Papa. That means I am, too, because when their grandparents aren't around I get drilled with questions about where they are and what they're doing.

Oh, it's not like we watch for Nana's car to pull in the driveway after work.

Wait. Yes they do.

Well, not in a stalker-ish kind of way, anyway.

And yes, I suppose the kids do wander over there some afternoons just to see if Papa has filled his candy jars with lemon drops and Tootsie Roll pops. Hey, they're kids after all. But the sweet treats and the always-stocked pantry are just a bonus to spending time with two people who adore them like only grandparents can.

So the thought of something being seriously wrong with their Papa is scary. And to their many questions I can offer few answers. We're all shaken. Nobody really wants to think about how fragile life is.

But today I am reminded through my little book of daily devotions that sometimes all it takes is a few kind words to lift someone up when the world has knocked them down. (OK, and sometimes it takes medical intervention, but then kind words wouldn't hurt, either.)

Proverbs 16:24
"Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body."

I've never been one to sugar-coat the truth for my children, but I can certainly comfort them - with my words and lots of extra hugs and kisses - in the midst of a crisis. They look to the adults in their lives for safety, for a sign that it's OK to be scared and hopeful at the same time. This week I have encouraged them to take their worries to God, and to do their best to focus on all the good in their lives.

And I'm doing my best to take my own advice.

Father-in-law's surgery is planned for Friday. He's hanging out in the hospital being waited on and keeping up with his soap operas and bantering back and forth with the nurses until then. Afterward? I guess we won't know until the time comes. Maybe life will eventually get back to normal ... whatever that is. Or maybe we'll have to learn a new normal.

One thing is for sure: we'll face it together, this extended family of friends and neighbors and ... well, extended family. We'll lean on each other. We'll pray. And I will make a point to speak "from God's honeycomb" to each of my loved ones.