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

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cool Cucumber Conundrum

It will not always be summer;
build barns.
I'm here, under a pile of cucumbers. Hey there.

The cucs are going crazy this summer. Every day, I come in with my nightgown or shirt or basket (depending on the time of day) weighed down like too many kids on a saggy trampoline. My, do we have the Boston Pickling cucumbers. Cool cucumber conundrum, though, huh? So I did what any pioneering housewife would do: I made pickles...
...and I made pickles...

...and then I pickled more pickles. Spears and slices and whole cucumbers. If you even so much as looked my way this weekend, you got salted and pickled in vinegar and spices. 
Have I told you that I think war is coming? If one does, come to my house and we'll eat pickles and blow our pickle breath on anyone that gets too close. That's my strategy, anyway. We'll outlast everyone. You'll see.

Anyway. Have you ever made pickles before? I hadn't. I followed the super easy directions for Dill Spears in Put 'em Up! and was very pleased with the results. Quick and crunchy. If you like to can anything at all- or if you want to try- I can't recommend this book enough. It will help you turn your cool cucumber conundrums into... what-the-heck-do-I-do-with-all-these-pickles-would-you-like-a-jar-of-homemade-pickles-please-PLEASE? conundrums.

I'm here for you like that. ;) Happy pickling and canning this summer! -Brin

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday Moment: These Earthly Bodies

This body that I live in decided to come down with bacterial tonsillitis. In June. The nerve! Super high fever in June in Texas= blahyucknasty. It also equals turning down the A/C to the mid-60s while sitting in front of a box fan hugging one of those frozen ice blocks you put in coolers to keep drinks cold. Yeah. I've left this view from my couch only to work, shove a few dishes in the dishwasher, keep the laundry going, and pet and feed dogs. 

These earthly bodies we're staying in, huh? They're incredible, perplexing, exasperating, beautiful things. I'm amazed at how age draws lines on our bodies. How injury and illness carve parting scars. How blood lines birth predispositions. I'm in awe of how vulnerable bodies are... how fragile breath seems, and yet how strong these bodies can be... how resistant to attack and how indomitable the spirit they house can remain.

I have a friend who believes war is coming. Hunger. Illness. Suffering unlike anything we've seen. I'm inclined to agree. Some days I give in to fear for my body... and those of the ones I love. So I drag my carved-fragile-resistant-indomitable body to the couch, sigh a sigh, and pray. And I read. And somehow, tonsillitis and threats from within and without and worry about these earthly bodies quiets and I am confident again...

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies 
we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. 
Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, 
for then we will be at home with the Lord. 
So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please Him.
-2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Unwritten Rule of Summer

It's the unwritten rule of summer: when it's warm and you're driving under a sky filled with lazy, puffy clouds, you must pull over at the country roadside stands. You must.

Especially when they sell strawberries you can pick yourself. And peaches they just picked themselves.

And especially when they have red new potatoes, still dusty from the soil. And jams they canned right there. And cold, bottled fizzy drinks from yesteryear. Then you really must stop. It's the rule.

If you're ever in Pittsburg, Texas, stop at Efurd Orchards. And when they offer you a free peach still warm from the tree, think of me.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

No. Just...No.

Sauerkraut is tolerant, for it seems to be a well of contradictions.
-Julien Freund

Let me tell you about a well of contradictions. Because I can. Oh, can I!

First of all, sauerkraut is not tolerant. At all. Does it look pretty in the garden? Yes. Is it fun when you cut it open? Uh-huh. But I tried to make sauerkraut, y'all. I narrowed my eyes and cracked my knuckles and sharpened my knife and I tried. After carefully picking, washing and slicing my home-grown heads, I salted and pounded and cheese-cloth'd and waited and ... ... and... Sauerkraut does not naturally happen like all those online recipes say. My batch sat for two weeks and never so much as changed color. Still green. Still crisp-ish. Still... odd. I threw it in the back compost before anyone discovered it and mercilessly teased me. Or, heaven forbid, ate it.

You know those girls who make their own poptarts and tea blends and such? You girls ridiculously rock. For me, some things are just better from the store.

Well of contradictions. Harrumph....

Monday, May 26, 2014

If We're Gonna Lose Our Skin...

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; 
perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; 
struck down, but not destroyed.  
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, 
so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
-2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Awhile back, I planted onions. I started their lives in a dark, hostile environment and watched patiently as seed turned to tiny, weak wisps of green that would collapse every time it rained. I got down with them when it was time, pulling away weeds that would choke them... chasing off pests that would kill them... nurturing life and waiting, patiently, for them to respond and grow.

And then, you know what happened. Just as the onions appeared to be coming into their fullness, into their good place, the heat came. In Texas it comes early and hot. And the onions do what onions do- their proud, tall tops bend under the conditions and that beautiful green ends up in the dirt. All that growing, all that height, and it shrivels away. The dying begins. And you know what? That's when I know they're ready.

See, an onion is supposed to come to life. It's supposed to grow. But what's of use to me isn't really all the showy, green tops that everyone who's visited my little garden bed comments on. No, what's of use to me is the root. What I'm after is the deep stuff that's been tucked away where no one can see. And it's only after all the pretty/showy dies away that I know my onions are ready to really be used. That's when I know they're mature.

A lot like God does, I guess, with our lives.

The Gospel of Jesus is radical. It's hard. But our American culture has been sold the lie that a weepy-eyed Jesus is off in heaven just waiting to give everyone good lives if only they'll try hard and be great examples and not mess up their lives and raise good kids. But the Bible paints a different picture. The Bible paints an onion picture. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.

Come. And die.

I pulled onions this week and braided them into thick, gnarly braids so they can dry and I can use them. And the entire time, I thought of how my life, really, has been so much like those onions-- growing, getting wiped out by rain, growing again, bending in the heat, and finally learning to die.

Clarke's Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4 says that we are "every moment in danger of losing our lives in the cause of truth, as Jesus Christ was. We... are ready to offer up our lives for him. There is probably an allusion here to the marks, wounds, and bruises which the contenders in those games got, and continued to carry throughout life." It goes on to say that it's so the life of Jesus might be be made openly known, so "that in our preservation, the success of our ministry, we might be able to give the fullest demonstration that Jesus is risen again from the dead."

So we are living the life of an onion, we are struck down but not destroyed, we are bid to come and die, so that we may be poignant, air-permeating, bring-tears-to-eyes-strong demonstrations that Jesus died, but now He lives.

I don't know what you're going through. I don't know where you've been this past year. I don't know if you're seed... a thin, wispy bit of green... a top-flopped in the dirt... or a pulled-and-hung-on-display-to-die so that you can be used person. Gosh, I don't even know if you're an onion. But I do know that those who are have a 2 Corinthians 4 "so Jesus may be revealed in your body" moment coming, and that's spelled: immortal, heavenly and blessed.

So hey you. You take heart. You lift your weary head. You raise your voice and cry out to the Onion Maker that You hear His call, and that you will live a life and die a death worthy of the calling you have received. If we're gonna lose our skin, let's lose it well.

You have my heart and prayers, fellow onion.  -Brin

Monday Moment is a little devotional to help kick start your week. See you again next Monday!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Moment: Simple Like a Strawberry

There's a gal I really admire from afar that you have to meet.

Her name is Abbie Jean.

If you like my Monday Moments, you'll love her entire blog, Simple Like a Strawberry.  When I read this post, it made my heart happy. It also made me realize there's no way I could have said it any better.

So in lieu of Monday Moment, I'm sending you over to Abbie's. I hope you guys are blessed by her heart as much as I am.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wildseed Farms

It is cold today. Cold and drizzly. In Texas. In May. It's crazy. I love it.

The weather is reminding me of our visit to Wildseed Farms. Josh and I took a Texas tour on our honeymoon and drove wherever we felt like. It was so much fun. We found this cafe that served the most amazing breakfast ever and went there three days in a row. We floated the River Walk in San Antonio and drank Dr. Pepper from the original bottling plant in Dublin and ate killer pizza in Dallas and stayed at The House of the Seasons in Jefferson, among many other things. Not bad for November, we thought.

One of the places I was hoping to visit- but really didn't think we'd have time- was Wildseed Farms outside of Fredericksburg, Texas. In my mind, we could load up on pumpkins for Thanksgiving... but most importantly, flower seeds. Seeds I could plant and then save so one day our grand kids could be picking flowers alongside an old farmhouse and tell stories about how Granny Brin planted the seeds from her honeymoon and would you believe the flowers still bloom today... (and so on, etc.). At least, that's how I explained my two buggies full of seeds and pumpkins to Josh. Ahem.

If you're ever around Fredericksburg, make a trip out to this farm. It's gorgeous. Their seed store is so inspiring! I browsed here while Josh made use of the awesome restaurant and brewery on site. Win, win.

If you can't make it down to the farm, you can always order online and plant a little piece of Texas no matter where you are.

I think I may go and plant some of my Wildseed seeds now while it isn't too hot. I promised Josh a legacy garden, after all...

Happy Wednesday!