Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's Okay Again

I am amazed by the effect of lighting candles and serving dinner at the end of a long day. No matter how tired, frazzled, frustrated or overwhelmed a person is, a hot meal and time at a candle lit table seems to set things right, if only for a moment.

In an effort to get out of debt and buy a ramshackle house with a big porch, Josh and I are doubling down on our finances. This means I am working overtime trying to get super affordable, no-nonsense homemade meals on our table every night. (Super affordable because.... hello. And no-nonsense because the old guy does not do pumpkin ravioli or roasted butternut squash thingies, no matter how hard I try. Ahem.) I'm learning that as long as I treat meat as an ingredient- not the star of the show- I can stretch our meal budget much farther... and not hear him in the kitchen two hours later fishing crackers out of the cabinet. Oh yeah. I got this.

Last night I made Cheesy Ham and Scalloped Potatoes in the crock pot. Turkey ham ran $4.50 at the store, and I used half of it. By making my own soup/sauce and using the ends of random cheese in the fridge, I figured this cost about $8 to make four large servings. Very large servings. Although I wouldn't call this health food, I would call it It's-30-degrees-outside-and-this-was-warm-and-cheap-and-filling-and-the-crock-pot-did-it! food. 

To avoid the gray, Campbell's blob in a can, I made my own cream of mushroom. Yay! Creamed soup is okay again! Usually I use fresh mushrooms, but today I used canned organic ones like these in water. Fraction of the price, and comes with mushroom "broth". Takes just a few minutes and we control the ingredients. Win! Try it if you have the time or inclination:

Love this. Especially since every good holiday recipe has cream of something in it. Green bean casserole, anyone? 

I tell you: we girls at home are powerful. We put the home in a house. We turn straw into gold. (Or stuff in the fridge into dinner.) We are amazing. Let's light our candles and fire up our crock pots and show the world that family, home and love are alive and well and matter.

We got this, girls.  -Brin

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

We Need More ____________.

Be devoted to one another in love. 
Honor one another above yourselves.
-Romans 12:10

It all comes down to love. 

A year ago, Josh and I stood under this arch and said we'd love each other as long as we breathed.

I've decided, though, that I could use even more love in my life. Even more devotion in my world. Even more honor in my home. 

I've decided I'm going to start a revolution of love and hope. If you need more love, devotion and honor in your heart, I invite you to join me.

Details soon.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Paper and Clocks

It is not your love that sustains the marriage,
but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I read the other the other day that a first anniversary is the paper anniversary.  Tradition says you give paper for that first milestone- stationery, a journal or the like. The modern take is that clocks are appropriate for a first anniversary. 

Guess we'd be good with either.

This wacky guy (above) and I are about to celebrate an anniversary. My, what a year it's been. Take two complete opposites, marry and move them in together, then throw in a new business, an illness, a ministry and community to participate in, a new puppy, and a obligatory settling-in period as a new couple, and we've had one hectic, crazy year.

Here's what I've learned: the man will eat almost everything... sleep through almost everything... and be there for definitely everything. This guy is remarkable.

We've had to teach each other a lot already. On paper, we were successful, accomplished adults. In reality, we're both stubborn first-borns with a lot to learn. He's pushing me out of my introvert comfort bubble. I'm forcing him out of his bachelor one. He's showing me things about myself I didn't know. I swing the mirror around and show him things about himself, too. We argue and we laugh. We disagree and we cuddle. We wonder why- how- we ended up together, then we talk and remember and know.

Sometimes I look at that paper marriage license and wonder how something so fragile can bear witness to something so monumental-- two lives becoming one. Two hearts becoming one. I suppose only the clock will tell. Love will not sustain a marriage, but a marriage will sustain love. 

Here's to both. 

May that paper we signed a year ago testify of something that lasts the test of time. Happy anniversary, Josh.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thoughts and Hands

My thoughts are on Thanksgiving- family, hymns, a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, the turkey, blessings, and pies. But my hands are a whole other story. 

My hands are on Christmas.

I'm making ornaments for the nieces. Knitted things for friends and relatives. Crafts for loved ones....
...And a small Christmas quilt for us. I pieced it while still at Freeman House but never got around to finishing it. Don't you think it's time?

I love November.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Canfest of 2014

I think I just picked my last tomatoes of the year. And my last strawberry. It is November. Thank ya, Texas.

Know what I've discovered in the last (almost) year that Josh and I have been married? That we eat a LOT of tomatoes. It's astonishing. From raw in salads and on tacos and sandwiches, to stewed in chili and soups, to crushed in goulash, pasta sauce and salsa- we know how to massacre a tomato crop.

Which is all fine and good. Except by August, I was so sick of canning tomatoes that I started freezing them. Then our small freezer got so full that we went and bought a chest freezer. Now IT is so full that I'm giving frozen quarts of stewed tomatoes away and I've gone back to canning them.

What an incredible problem blessing to have, right?

I can remember writing Proverbs 14:23 as a handwriting exercise in second grade: All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Today I would write: All hard work brings lots of tomatoes, but mere talk leads only to paying $2/can at the store so I guess it's worth it if you don't go crazy first.

Good thing I didn't write the Bible.

If you're interested, a how-to for the best stewed tomatoes on the planet is here. Heck yes.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Moment: Hard Won, Not Bought

Stores have beautiful roses. Markets have gorgeous tomatoes. But I usually grow my own-- roses and tomatoes. I grow them because I like gardening, even if it is hard work. Year after year, there I am, planting, weeding, staking, pruning, and watering.

Some things are sweeter- better- when you've gone through something for them, I think. 

Maybe truths work the same way.

I read Streams in the Desert nearly every day. This morning there's a beautiful reflection on how truths, values and character come into our lives. They are not "blown randomly across our path by wayward winds", Mrs. Charles Cowman writes, "for great souls experience great sorrows:

Great truths are dearly bought, the common truths,
Such as we give and take from day to day,
Come in the common walk of easy life,
Blown by the careless wind across our way.

Great truths are greatly won, not found by chance,
Nor wafted on the breath of summer dream;
But grasped in the great struggle of our soul,
Hard buffeting with adverse wind and stream.

But in the day of conflict, fear and grief,
When the strong hand of God, put forth in might,
Plows up the subsoil of our stagnant heart,
And brings the imprisoned truth seed to the light.

Wrung from the troubled spirit in hard hours
Of weakness, solitude, and times of pain,
Truth springs like harvest from the well-plowed field,
And our soul feels it has not wept in vain."

My oft-plowed heart field has seen truth after truth spring up: that God is good, even when I doubt it the most. That we are perfectly loved, even when we feel it the least. That the places where we've lost hope are simply the places where we're believing a lie. And that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living.

The common, "group think" in life comes easy. Let's be the people who live by truths.

Let's keep planting our tomatoes and fighting thorns for our roses.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lessons from the Hospital, and Where I've Been All Summer

I am grateful that I didn't let fear get the best of me. 
It only holds you back from possibilities.
-Mariska Hargitay

It started in June. Life was fine. Busy, but fine. And then one bright, hot day in June, I started bleeding. And I bled. And bled. And bled.

We knew something was wrong by July. Josh wanted to go look at a pickup truck he was interested in buying, so we drove about an hour away to check it out. I fell asleep on the drive up. I never fall asleep in cars. Never. Not ever. The next morning, he asked me why I wasn't getting ready for church and I told him I didn't have the energy. He took one hard look at me and announced we were going to the hospital.    

It took two nurses trying three cuffs to find my blood pressure in triage at the ER. I remember feeling tired but otherwise okay, but suddenly I was in a wheelchair getting hooked up to machines. Hours later, the doctor came in. Lab work had some markers and as soon as they stopped the bleeding and got my blood pressure up, he was releasing me to see my doctor. And then he asked if I had a family history of endometrial/uterine cancer. I told him my maternal grandmother had recently undergone chemo. He looked down at my chart, and said quietly, "I wish you both the very best." And he called the nurse in and left.

Thus began the biopsies. The ultrasounds. The hysteroscopies. I'd leave work, go in for a test, and get back to work. I focused on running my small business, making dinner, folding laundry, getting the dogs to the vet, and keeping up with our church and social life. I threw fits sometimes in the shower. And I prayed often, but usually for other people, because when I thought of myself, I'd cry. 

Then came the call. The doctor wanted to go over results with me and could I come in blahblahblah? Nurse friends had already told me that if I got that call, it was over. I had cancer. Because if you don't have it, they'll just tell you over the phone. So I trudged in to the doctor's office, was shown to an exam room, and sat in the chair closest to the old magazines, staring at the floor tiles and trying to think of everything- anything- outside of that exact moment.

And in that moment, I realized something that shook me profoundly. I felt like someone was blowing a trumpet inside me, filling my ears and shaking me to my core. I was living lazy. Who was I to live so... nonchalant and purposeless? See, there was still so much I wanted to do. There was still so much I wanted to be. For instance, I've always wanted to kayak. To be a kayak-er. To be one of those girls who shrugs into a life jacket and slides onto the water and looks out at the deep and paddles toward it. And what do I do? Pin things on Pinterest and watch Netflix. I wanted to be the girl who sees the world and writes it down. And what do I do now? Take the shortcut home from the grocery store and lock myself inside the house. (Ebola and ISIS is out there, for heaven's sake.) I was losing myself and losing my dreams, and it took this cancer nonsense to scare me back to reality.

By the time the doctor pushed open that exam room door, I felt like a new girl. So when she told me that we'd need to re-do a test and start me on this medicine but it didn't look like cancer, all I could do was nod. And think about my kayak. I couldn't wait to get out of there and go to a boating store.

That was August. We still don't know what's wrong with me, but for now, medicines do seem to be helping. I talk to my doctor every three weeks and we're still watching for cancer and searching for an answer.

And in the meantime, I shrug into a life jacket and slide onto the water and look out at the deep and paddle towards it. Josh and I have bought kayaks and hit the lake when we can. I'm trying to collect experiences- moments- laughs- and put them in my treasure chest of a heart. I'm trying, as Jesus advised, not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. I'm grateful, and I'm not letting fear get the best of me. 

It'll only hold me back from the wonderful, wonderful possibilities.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hats and H-U-G-S for the Homeless

Knitting not only relaxes me,
it also brings a feeling of being at home.
-Magdalena Neuner

I have been knitting a lot this summer. A LOT. Like my fingers are on fire. I knitted Alicia's bunny dress and a gorgeous cowl and, most recently, hats.

Hats, hats, hats. Big hats, baby hats, hunting hats, soft hats, and... 'homeless hats'.

You may remember a few years back when Renee, the homeless lady, moved in with me for a while. Since, I've had homeless friends who have shared their hearts and their concerns- safety, having enough, family, being wanted. (Turns out, we're all the same.) But you know one thing I keep hearing? That people need socks. Underwear. And with fall quickly approaching, hats and gloves.

So Hats-Underwear-Gloves-Socks (HUGS) for the Homeless was born.

Check us out on Facebook. If you're a knitter/crocheter and want to help, we'd gladly accept your donations of handmade hats and gloves. There's more information on Facebook under HUGS for the Homeless.

In the meantime, I'll be here knitting and feeling grateful for my home and praying for those who have none. Me, and my supervisor Maggie. 

*wink*  -Brin

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Giraffes and Birthdays and Summer and I'm A Terrible Blogger

I know, I know. I'm a terrible blogger.

Later this week, I promise to come back and fill y'all in on my summer. It's been...- insert that one perfect word I can't come up with to describe this summer here-. Yeah boy.

In the meantime, please occupy yourself with beholding the giraffe I cobbled together from this pattern for our niece, Ella. She turned four on Sunday. When I asked what she wanted for her birthday, all I got was a long pause...and then something about "raffes".

Our other niece's birthday is in three weeks. She requested an elephant. Looks like felt and fabric pieces will continue to be swept under the couch for awhile.

See y'all soon. Honest. -Brin