Friday, August 17, 2018

Spinning and Telling: Symbols of a Beginning, Part Two

Ruins, for me, are the beginning.
With the debris, you can construct new ideas.
They are the symbols of a beginning.
-Anselm Kiefer

Ruins. Debris. Call it what you will, but these last few years, my life - my home, my plans - were a wrecked mess. They were unmade.

Each day, all day, I yearned for one thing: life. Color. Movement. I longed for anything that showed me promise of growth or renewal or that stubbornness to live ... that unyielding, seek-the-sun-reality our Creator bred into nature. I clung to realities such as Seeds have to be buried to grow, and What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly. Things like that. Whatever. It helped.

But from that season while I was away from you, friend, ideas were born. Then they grew into a dream. And then that dream had a name and a purpose and a life of its own. I officially started Balm and Honey Farm.
It began with the bees. With honey. Then it morphed into a small market farm with an active CSA program and weekly farmer's market. It took off so quickly I didn't have time to think. Or breathe. One minute it was an idea, and the next I was delivering crates of food to beloved customers. (That's how it seemed, anyway.) That first picture up there? That was my first season at market. The picture just above was the second season. And this here? This is one of the weekly CSA shares that soon followed:

 I loved every minute of farming. All of it. The challenges, the growth, the pressure, the living on a prayer. God used the work to busy and sustain me. The food was just bonus. 

But man, was it a bonus!

The vegetables and flowers and honey were fantastic, but I couldn't just leave those old henrybella's recipes in the past, either. (Remember that old bakery?) Some of those old favorites came out and were featured at market, too: the Country Bread..

... and Honey Cinnamon Rolls...

 ... and it was good. It was fun. In the midst of a death of a marriage and the loss of my home, a purpose and a vision were exploding into life. And strangely, all those small and seemingly disparate hobbies and interests and tragedies and setbacks throughout my life were coming together into a cohesive objective: to nourish, to house, to live simply and work with my hands, and to make lives better.

All along, He was doing the same to me. And He wasn't done there.

This past May, I had coffee with a childhood acquaintance who wanted to pick my brain about farming. He wanted to start a residential and occupational place, he said, for the disabled in our community. As a teacher and attendant for people with disabilities, he had watched too many times as his precious, misunderstood, undervalued students and clients were shuffled into homes or lost in the system, simply because they didn't have a place or a purpose. My heart burned as we talked and realized we had been carrying the same vision: to farm, and to house people there who had challenges, or at-risk behavior, or recently survived life situations like we had.

Then that dream got a name, and this new adventure swept onto the scene. We're calling it The ROCK Collective, and it's an emerging non-profit that seeks to provide homes and jobs and dignity to the overlooked and underserved in our community. We're starting a tiny home community in a farm setting. Balm and Honey Farm will merge into this mission. I can't wait to take you along for adventure. I can't wait to welcome you out to the place. 

Yes, ruins, debris... call them what you will. But from them, my life - my home, my plans - are being remade.

Symbols of a beginning.

Have a great weekend and we'll talk again soon. -Brin

Oh! You can follow the farm @balmandhoney on Instagram or Balm and Honey Farm on Facebook. Also, check out the new project on Facebook by searching: The Rock Collective or clicking here. Website is coming soon!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Spinning and Telling, Part One

You mustn't live so lightly.
Spin your stories, tale your tales,
Let them dance across the oceans
And set the wind upon your sails.
For every truth found on your travels
And in the pits of your despair,
Is a shout into forever
Of "I existed", and "I cared".
- Erin Hanson / The Poet Underground

I've been living lightly these past months (turned year). Sometimes sleeping, sometimes not. Sometimes eating, sometimes not. Sometimes feeling free, then later that day: captive. I've blinked. I've cried. I've wandered. I've been paralyzed. I've sat at the edge of the dancing ocean, tentative, and then I've plunged in so deep I didn't know if I'd make it out. But through it all, I've kept breathing. I exist, after all. And I care.

This absence, friend, is simply explained like this: I married a textbook cerebral narcissist, and the week of Christmas in 2017, he (blessedly, overwhelmingly, tragically, thankfully) filed for divorce, changed the locks to my beloved house, and left me on the porch with... almost nothing. And it was impossible - I'm telling you, it was impossible - to narrate someone through that story when I couldn't even read the lines myself. 

But I'm better now. I am better now. And the pages of these past years are telling tales now. And lately, I feel a wind upon my sails whispering me back to all the familiar and beloved places. Including here. Especially here.

Welcome back, dear one. I'm glad to see you again. Let's talk and I'll catch you up. -Brin

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hurts and Verses and Candles

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, 
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken 
nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, 
who has compassion on you.
-Isaiah 54:10

My heart has been so crammed full lately, and anxious and troubled and hurting. Daily- sometimes more than once or twice- I've hit my knees and just cried and cried out to God. Anyone else experiencing the same sort of days? I was talking to someone yesterday and we were discussing the hope we have as followers of Jesus, and the importance of living by faith in these dark days. I know we can have hope in the midst of trouble, and heart-settling peace in the midst of chaos. I know this because my anxiousness and trouble and hurt always feel temporary in the light of God's promises, and underneath my feelings I sense the presence of a sure and firm foundation that's solid and unshakeable.

I memorized the above verse recently and feel as though it will be important in the days and weeks to come. Psalms 121 and 91 are now on my refresher and memorize list. Fellow believer, if you haven't heard of or read The Heavenly Man* yet, oh, I so recommend it. It will inspire you- especially to continue or start memorizing verses in earnest. After reading that book, you will WANT to. Or want to even more than you currently do.

While making my first ever hand-dipped beeswax candles last week, I got in a memorizing rhythm. Ha. Whatever works, right? I finished my first round of candles and lit one and sat at the table. And wow. As wonky as it is to say, that little beeswax candle was such a beautiful touch of solace in that moment. Isn't it strange how people, for centuries, have been lighting candles and saying prayers... or gathering or worshiping in the flickering glow of candles? I'm making them more for preparedness... and beauty, but I see why people enjoy lighting them at home as they eat or pray. I hope to have bundles of these 100% pure, chemical-free beeswax candles in my soon-to-be relaunched shop, and I hope you experience the same bit of peace and solace as I am with them!

If you have hurts, or if you can offer encouragement for those who do, I welcome you to comment, friends. Regardless, I pray peace over your heart and mind today. -Brin

*This affiliate link is provided to give you quick access to information about the books or music or things I'm currently enjoying or using. Amazon pays a small pittance if someone orders through links on this blog, and that money helps keep the blog online. You know the drill, right? Thanks!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Birthday Week

The great thing about getting older
Is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been.
-Madeleine L'Engle

I had a birthday during my blog break. 37. Where has time gone? I was 25 when I started this blog and... wow. I've lived a LOT of life in the 12 years since. But I suppose a blessing of getting older is that we get to keep all those ages and all those places and all those people we once were....

My birthday was wonderful. The day began with heading downtown to visit some homeless friends who've started a bakery out of our local homeless shelter. Oh wow. Their signature cupcake was a Vanilla Honey with local honey drizzle. We supplied the honey, and upon one taste of this mythical, magical cupcake, I began stuttering and promising them all the honey they needed. I think they said okay. My world was kind of fading in and out between bites of that amazing cupcake. Oh my, y'all. These men (and their genius leader, a local baker named Cathy) can BAKE....

In addition to homeless people and their gourmet cupcakes, the birthday celebration also included balloon sculptures, Indian food, antique shopping, plant buying, lunch with a friend who's more like my BFF/older sister, kissing on the nephew, lots of faces I love, strawberry drinks, and a party. With my Mom's from scratch chocolate pie. It was a weekend to remember. (And I think I'm just now coming down off all that sugar. Heh.)

So back to a "normal" routine this week. A new normal. While I was away, I began teaching piano lessons out of the big Front Room of Hedge House. So much fun. My first student, Emma, a super smart 9 year old with endless energy, thinks this house is "PERFECT for Hide and Seek" and has asked to play more than once. It's made me think back to my piano teacher, a firm (and somewhat terrifying to my 10 year old self) woman who expected perfection, no nonsense, and painfully short fingernails. I try to be stern piano teacher Brin, but so far it's not happening. Maybe I just have to hit my stride, though. We'll see.

Enough about me. How are YOU? I hope your April is off to a wonderful start. Anyone planting anything yet? Celebrating anything? Do keep talking back. One of my favorite parts of the day is hearing from you....

Here's to a good week! -Brin

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday and Easter Keeping

See the land, her Easter keeping,
Rises as her Maker rose.
Seeds, so long in darkness sleeping,
Burst at last from winter snows.
Earth with heaven above rejoices...
-Charles Kingsley

I found purple, Easter-egg colored bluebells blooming just outside the garden this morning. 

Earth with heaven above rejoices. 

Because He lives, I can, too. Because He rose, one day we will, too. We are an Easter people and this is our song. 

Blessed are you, Jesus, for paying my debt. 

Wishing you all a special Good Friday and a joyful Easter. -Brin

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

He Still Gives Grace

From His fullness we have all received
grace upon grace.
-John 1:16

Haven't we? I mean, absolutely: life is tough now. Sin, sickness and Satan are having their way with our world and, to some degree, our very lives. But even through it all- especially through it all- His grace glitters. His fullness flourishes. God is on His throne and He still gives you and He still gives me grace upon grace out of His fullness.

Sometimes we just have to quit complaining and questioning and stressing long enough to see it....

Praying His front-porch-sitting grace and solace will fill your mind and heart today. -Brin

(And yeah... I definitely need to mop and decorate this porch. What can you see here? Tell me in the comments and look for the porch reveal in April!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.
Read more at:
Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.
Read more at:
Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.
Read more at:
Great works are performed not by strength
but by perseverance.
-Samuel Johnson

Oh my. You all should have seen the state of this third of an acre when we bought the place last May. Although there was evidence that someone once loved and doted on the old home and grounds-- i.e., the rose garden, the hidden path, the brick-encircled trees, the scalloped bed edgings-- that time was obviously long ago. Everything seemed choked with weeds and poison oak and invasive shrubs and murder vine.

But that is slowly changing. I'm making plans now to landscape the front and side of the house, as well as a (partially missing?) back brick patio. Such fun! A friend gave me a copy of an older edition of Texas Home Landscaping and I'm getting a LOT of good ideas from it. Highly recommend. Since my budget is limited, I'll be relying on plants I can start from seed, garage and junk sale finds, and plant cuttings from friends and folks about town. (And maybe a few roses from Antique Rose Emporium for my birthday. But that's just a wild thought I had, Josh. *cough*) Vicki mentioned over on Facebook that she could see ferns and geraniums on the porch. Absolutely. 

(Oh. And that reminds me! If you're on Facebook, don't miss the porch picture I posted last night. Such a relaxing and pretty spot to sit a moment...)

Won't this be a great project? 

For now, I start with a relatively clean slate. Check out the "Before" in the picture above and the "Now" right here:

Little by little!

Happy Spring, dear friend. Hope you are well and persevere today. -Brin 

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link for the purposes of sharing exact products I'm using and enjoying. You know the spill, right? If you click and buy, Amazon gives me a small kickback for the referral to their site, and that money helps me keep the blog going. It doesn't cost you or impact you in any way. Thanks!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Small Things, Diligence, Love, and B.E.D. Part III

A corner of Hedge House that I need to tackle this weekend. Hey: Better. Every. Day.
 Thank you all again, so much, for keeping the beautiful comments and messages coming. I've always thought this MMTL readership is among the most kind and thoughtful of all in blog land, and this week you all have proven that again.

Your comments resonated deeply with me. April was among those who came by yesterday, and I wanted you all to see what she said in case you missed it:
Oh, what a precious poem. I saved it to my file for our children to learn during our homeschool time. It's funny that you mention the laundry getting in the way of making your homestead better every day. I have struggled with that as well (oh the things I could get accomplished if it weren't for So. Much. Laundry!) But the Lord has been softening my heart and showing me that clean laundry is simply love made visible. Cooking is love made visible. And love always, ALWAYS makes things better. So, any act of love is so important and so valuable to God. Oh, I hear you...there are so many projects I'd love to get done and things I'd rather do than laundry, but seeing God in the piles of colors and whites reminds me that the work I do when I serve my neighbor (my children, my husband) is an act of faithfulness that doesn't go unnoticed in the Kingdom.
Love that, April. Thank you. And she's right, you know. It is the little things. It is all about the daily, small, little things. They add up. Maybe we've forgotten the impact of these small things. Maybe we needed to be reminded that oftentimes the people who make a difference... who achieve much... who live a life faithfully before God and others... are the ones who wake up every day and do it all one more day. They keep doing. They keep fighting. They start that washer one more time and head back to the job one more day and turn and face that project one more weekend. They see the purpose in small tasks and being diligent and giving what they can every day.

I think that's what God's saying to me this week. Shazza reminded us yesterday of the verse in Zechariah where the people were instructed not to despise the days of small beginnings. Absolutely. And the widow and her tiny/huge offering came to mind, too. Do and give what you can today, and it will matter. These things we do, every day, they mean something. They catch God's eye. They help build a home. They love-up hungry hearts.

Yes. If there's anything that matters- that really matters in this hour- I think it's diligence. It's love. It's staying the course and standing firm and resolving within ourselves to keep going, no matter how small or insignificant what we're accomplishing seems. That acorn will become the forest's pride. That tiny offering will be noticed by the God of heaven. 

So, as we head into the weekend, I just want to encourage you: keep going

Blessings in Jesus' name, and thanks for being here, friend. Have a great Palm Sunday weekend. -Brin

Also... as a weird aside, I can't get this song out of my head this week... especially that first line: God, I give you all I can today...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Better Every Day - The B.E.D Mantra, Part II

Thank you- each of you- for your kind comments yesterday. I read every one and every word, whether you commented or emailed or Facebook messaged me. Thank you, really. Thank you for being here. Thank you for taking the time to write back. It means so much to me, and to the others who come here looking for a little something heartening.

I wanted to make sure I didn't give the impression yesterday that my BED mantra always results in the accomplishment of something... dramatic... or significant. Some days, my Better Every Day is a tiny victory. Some days, it gets diminished by laundry and cleaning and my long list of To Dos. Some days, Better Every Day is just shredding an old stack of mail. Or organizing a corner cabinet. Some days it's making a decision on something I've been putting off, or buying something that will help with a project. Weekend before last, it was holding a yard sale and getting rid of some junk and unnecessary things the previous owner left behind. The point is, every night at bed I want to be able to point at some step I took or task I completed and say, Yes. That made this place and our life here better today. No matter how small or simple.

This attitude is especially important to those of us taking on big projects, I think, in our get-it-now society. I mean, one episode of Fixer Upper has the potential to leave an overwhelmed DIYer discouraged for days. You know? They have an all-in budget of what? Chip and JoJo presented them the perfect home in how long? And then we look around, bewildered and frustrated, at our own projects and get lost in the magnitude of slow progress and what remains before us. Yikes. I adore the Gaines family and thank God for their testimony and putting Jesus and His goodness on display. (I mean, truly. God is showing off with that family!) But let's be real: some of us are living in and through fixer uppers on tiny budgets or hard circumstances and tackling small projects as we learn the necessary skills on the odd weekend or week off, right? Better Every Day is just something that encourages me to be patient, trust God's heart, and be thankful in the midst of overload or overwhelm. After all, sometimes our miracles and transformations play out over years, not days.
Do you know the poem Little By Little? I had to memorize it when I was 9, and it hasn't left me. Here's the beginning:

 "Little by little," an acorn said
As it slowly sank in its mossy bed;
"I am improving every day, 
Hidden deep in the earth away." 
Little by little each day it grew, 
Little by little it sipped the dew; 
Downward it sent a thread-like root,
Up in the air sprung a tiny shoot. 
Day after day, and year after year, 
Little by little the leaves appear: 
And the slender branches spread far and wide,
 Til the mighty oak is the forest's pride.

So I just wanted to encourage you: You can do this. Not today. Not all of it. But today you can do a part of it. Little by little. Day after day. Do what you can, and one day you'll look back and realize you have your miracle. Your tiny acorn will be the forest's pride. Better every day.

I'm right here with you. -Brin

-     -     -     -     -

Not to bog you down with children's lit  today, but this is another (on topic) childhood favorite:

Do your best,
And leave the rest,
'Twill all come right
Some day or night. 
-Anna Sewell, Black Beauty 

Oh! And the reason for the strawberry picture is this: today my BED project is painting these strawberry stones.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

My B.E.D Motto

So maybe, like me, you're dreaming of a place in the country where you can stretch out and have a flower garden, a mini milk cow, and some independence, but for now you must bloom where you're planted and such. Or maybe you're pleased as punch to be right where you find yourself but want to add a bit of the country life where you are. Either way, I think you might be interested in what I have coming up on the blog.

And what's coming up is this: putting a pretty, functional garden on a 1/3 acre lot in a busy city that makes you get a permit before you sneeze. We're going to have to be very creative while building this little urban homestead. We can't keep chickens here (although we've formed a coalition to overturn that ordinance) or keep bees here. Yet. I anticipate this changing soon. So we will prevail, and I will show you how as we go along.

I think I've spent several months being sort of let down and upset over this place, to be honest. (I've always been honest with you guys, I think. To a fault.) After all, I gave up my cute cabin to get married... with the understanding that a place in the country would be an option soon. But friends, as you probably know all too well, life usually doesn't work out as it does in our heads. Josh and I compromised and bought an old house on this double lot in town. I must make the best of it!

Yeah. Josh and I had a difficult time during our 2015 house hunting days. A bit of background: my husband is a brilliant guy-- he's in administration and teaches computer stuff at a college. In fact, he may skin me for telling you this, but he got a call from Google last year and was invited to interview for a position at the Googleplex. I mean, he's that brilliant. I'm proud of how hard he works and how smart he is. ...But then there's me. Fly by the seat of my pants, every day is a new day, don't you dare ask me to sit at a desk, me. We could not be more different if we tried to be.

All this to say, Josh is an indoors, studious, spends-18-hours-a-day-in-front-of-some-type-of-computer-screen person. Outdoors isn't his thing. And while he pitches in when something is too heavy or too hard, I'm kind of on my own with this place. Which is how many of you are, too, I'm sure- whether you're single or widowed or divorced or are otherwise daily managing the homeplace, too. Girls, unite! We can do this, just as our pioneer and frontier and resourceful city grandmas did before us. While we may not be where we dreamed, or have the help we'd prefer, or may be fighting with other health/budget/life circumstances, we can still do this and do it well. We can! Watch us, right?

My first goal on this homeplace was to get a clothesline, stat. Not having to run the dryer all week saves me real dollars every month on my electric bill and, in turn, give me an excuse to slow down. Hanging laundry, for me, is therapeutic. Most days I even fold it straight off the line. For now I have this retractable clothesline running between the house and a nearby tree, and it's getting the job done until we can get a permanent one built. If you're renting or don't have a clothesline yet, I highly recommend going this route. Baby steps, friends. Baby steps.

The goal I'm tackling now is what you saw in the picture above: putting in a combo raised bed/in-ground bed vegetable garden. I'm making progress every day and can't wait to show you once I get it completed. I'm shooting for a completion date of my birthday, April 8. It's a big, big task, but I am determined. Today I'm preparing the second in-ground bed, Back to Eden style. I'm also getting some herbs in those well-used terra cotta pots you see in the picture above. Between the clearing out and the putting in and the garden bed making, I've come up with a motto for these challenging, early days. Better Every Day, is my recent motto. BED= Better.Every.Day. I ask myself each night as I get in bed, Did you do anything to make this place better today? Elementary, I know, but it helps. It really helps.

Do me a favor? Talk back to me: tell me what project you're working on or what you're doing around your homeplace. Help encourage or inspire me/us to keep going. I find it wildly heartening to see other women talk about their challenges, their projects, and their hopes for their homes. It sort of helps us chin-up and tackle our own mountains knowing that someone else out there is climbing hers at the same time, too.

Off to tackle that second garden bed before I ask myself my BED question at bed tonight. Have a good Wednesday! -Brin

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link for the purposes of sharing exact products I'm using and enjoying. You know the spill, right? If you click and buy, Amazon gives me a small kickback for the referral to their site, and that money helps me keep the blog going. It doesn't cost you or impact you in any way. Thanks!