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 above picture was Saturday morning- before coffee- as Josh and I were in the car headed 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

Perseverance

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/search_results.html?q=perseverance
Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/search_results.html?q=perseverance
Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/search_results.html?q=perseverance
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!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Bees, Spring, and Allergies, Oh My!

I've just finished coating two hives worth of top bars with beeswax in anticipation of splitting a hive this afternoon. It's incredible, if you think of it: just before a colony of bees swarms, you intervene- taking baby bees, worker bees, and honey/nectar/pollen stores and making a new hive. Hopefully, then, the bees will raise their own queen, acclimate to their new digs, and establish a new happy and healthy colony. It gets technical and the failure rate is real and ugly, but it can happen. Hopefully, today, it will.

Due to a lack of information out there for beekeepers wanting to transition from a Langstroth hive to a Top Bar Hive without having to buy a new nuc of bees, I'm conducting a grand experiment. A video will be forthcoming, but for now, it's all very speculative and risky, this bee experiment I'm hoping to pull off. I'll update soon.

Otherwise, it's spring already here in the East Texas piney woods. Ugh. Pollen is everywhere and most everyone feels awful; our eyes are puffy, our noses run, our conversations are constantly interrupted with someone sneezing or coughing or blowing their nose or their kid's nose or asking if you need to blow your nose. Ha. This year seems especially allergy troublesome. I must find some raw honey remedies that cut down on the boxes of Advil allergy relief and trash cans overflowing with tissues. I know they're out there.

(To do: concoct raw honey allergy relief solutions. Noted.)

Anyhow... how are you? It seems as though it's been awhile. I've been struggling much with finding a rhythm and deciding on priorities and I know that's apparent here. I've missed you, though, and hope you're well as we collectively usher in this warmer, busy bee season.

Off to the hives now, but I'll be back tomorrow with some new pictures. See you then. -Brin

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Back From the Fair (Sans Cow)

Oh friends. I have so much to tell you and so much to write down now that I'm back from my time at the Fair and visiting loved ones. So much.

Until I can sit down and get it all down, I thought you might enjoy seeing this sweet little Jersey cow. (Full grown! Is anything cuter than a miniature milk cow?) My Dad and I visited her several times during our days at the fair, and had she not been $3,000 and already sold, I know we would have tried to find a way to get her home.

Some girls buy shoes. Me? Coffee, books, plants, and now homestead animals and equipment, apparently. Glory.

Talk soon, promise. Happy March!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Faring and Fairing

There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, 
do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. 
The keeping of bees, for instance.
-Henry David Thoreau

It's hive inspection day at the Balm and Honey bee farm. I'm getting ready to climb in my truck, rumble down some county roads, put on my bee suit and crack open a hive. I can't wait. Today I find out how the bees fared this winter... how they're faring headed into the spring honey flow. Today I see how many splits, or new hives, I'll be able to make for the coming year. Today I will taste the sweetness of victory or the bitterness of (temporary) defeat.

I think of beekeepers like I think of firefighters: they're just not normal. No rational person runs into a burning building, and, likewise, no rational person sticks their head into a hive of stinging bees. Both require (at varying levels, sure) a bit of bravery- a deep-seated assurance somewhere inside that you have to be among those who do something about dire situations. Firefighters are more glorious, honorable, and brave, yes. But beekeepers are savers in their own quiet way. I am humbled to join their ranks. 

So today I get bee answers and tomorrow I hit the road for the Mother Earth News (you know that magazine, right?) Texas Fair-- a two day homesteading extravaganza. I'll be taking a cheesemaking class and attending lectures on farming from Joel Salatin (what?!) and diving in to beekeeping and poultry production methods. I think there's a specialty kombucha brewing lesson thrown in there somewhere, too. Pretty sure I won't sleep a wink tonight, I'm that excited.

Will report on bees and the fair next week. Until then, be safe and well, friends. -Brin

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Clover and Creeping


It's actually Oxalis, but we always just called it clover growing up. It's blooming now, here in the piney woods of east Texas. I picked a fist full yesterday from the farthest corner of the third-acre, back where the ivy is creeping over everything, and near where the tiny pink roses are, finally, taking a rest from blooming. 

The clover is actually for a small lookbook I'm putting together for Balm and Honey. I've found the most incredible yarns that sing, softly, of spring, and I'm knitting them now into cloths to sell. I have plans of setting up at the local farmer's market after the spring honey comes in and my herbs and flowers are ready. Looking forward to that, definitely.

When I was working in Colorado and living in that tiny cabin (remember those days?), I would drive into Cortez every week for the farmer's market. It was a glorious one. There was a girl who ran a vegetable booth there who probably came to think of me as a creeper before the summer was over. Oh man. She was the coolest. Her clothes were handmade and colorful and imaginative and messy and perfection. She cut her own hair, I heard her say once, and it was the best, most beautifully styled hair I've seen on a person outside of the theater. In the winter, this girl worked as a ski instructor, but in the summer she was an organic farmer and grew her own food and made her own trail mixes and tea blends. She drove this rusted Jeep and had these two spotted dogs that sat at her feet and only moved at her command. She was impossibly awesome. I think of all the people I've met and would like to have lunch with, she is among the top on my list. See? Creeper. I told you.

Speaking of cool people and creeping, I'm heading to the Mother Earth Fair in Texas on Friday with hopes of meeting up with the likes of Joel Salatin and Wranglerstar and Claudia Lucero. Heck yes. If you'll be there, too, please drop me a line at brin@brinwisdom.com and let's meet up!

Spring is on its way, friends. It is, it is. Take heart. -Brin

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Calling All Instagrammers!

Tuesday came knocking this morning, dragging a brilliant sun and a biting chill in behind her. I'm happy to see that blue sky, though, and the light in here this morning is perfect.

The latest Valentine's Day cloths from Balm and Honey. Love!
Are you on Instagram? If so, I want to tell you about a giveaway I'm doing over at Balm and Honey. Follow @balmandhoney on Instagram anytime now through Valentine's Day and be automatically entered to win one of the handknit House Helpers above. What? Yes. No purchase required or anything, just pull up Instagram right now, follow @balmandhoney, and your name goes straight into the drawing. The winner will be announced Valentine's Day at 8 PM on Instagram. So... follow @balmandhoney... live your life... then watch Instagram Valentine's night to see if you're the lucky winner!

If you've been wanting a chance to try these cloths, now's your chance to win one. (Have you seen the super fun feedback that's coming in from my Balm and Honey customers? Agh. So fun. I think it's my favorite part of being an Etsy gal... except for the knitting, of course.) The only caveat: domestic US entries only, please. I love you out-of-the-US-gals, too, but our USPS is getting grumpier about shipping outside our lower 48. Thanks for understanding!

See you Instagrammers in a few. And everyone, hope you have a perfectly nice Tuesday. Thanks, as ever, for your support and love. We need each other. -Brin 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday Moment: Beautiful God

And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: 
and establish thou the work of our hands...
-Psalm 90:17

He is a beautiful, beautiful God Who makes beautiful, beautiful things. Among them: roses and lemons, which I used over the weekend to make some blushed, fragrant rose petal jam.

Soon we will see His beauty face to face! But may you be encouraged by God's beauty today, even as He works around you. -Brin

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Great Wall of the Front Room

There's something about these winter months that draw me inside and inward, I think, wanting stretches of quiet and solitude and time to think. Space to just... be. I apologize if my winter wantings have left you feeling lonely around here as of late. As way of a proper apology, I have a bit of a Front Room update.

Ah, the odd, long Front Room. Remember this picture from the summer? This room has been such a challenge. It stretches almost the entire width of Hedge House and is a surprising room to step into from off the breezy porch. I felt it the first time the door swung aside and let me into this funnily carved-out house. Whatever you're expecting to find inside, it isn't what greets you. It isn't this room. Everyone who visits experiences it, too. I know this from the startled "ohhh!" or "wow" or "huh" sounds that sneak out of first-time visitor's lips before they're in with both feet. This house is a hodge-podge of oddly proportioned and strangely positioned rooms and corners and doors. I adore it.

But back to the Front Room. It is long but shallow, with an enormous fireplace and mirror on one side (the "Great Wall", as I call it), and a gigantic picture window on the opposite end. In between the imposing mirror and its opposite window sits a room with original parquet wood floors and a looming ceiling. It's impossible to arrange furniture in and harder, still, to decorate. It was also difficult to choose a paint color; my go-to colors looked chalky by the windows but almost violet by the mirror. I finally settled on Sherwin-Williams' Neutral Ground for the walls and Westhighland White for the trim. These, too, I adore. 


This past weekend, my Dad stopped by and helped disconnect and remove the 70+ year old Reznor gas heater from the fireplace. (At some point, the fireplace was outfitted for natural gas and a jet was run into the fire box.) It was a sad-looking relic and I was glad to see its grimy self eased out the door. In its absence, I got my first real look at the fireplace box. It appears as though a 1960s/1970s update saw busted tile cemented to the hearth floor, and faux tile paneling slapped on the front facade. This, obviously, needs updating. Soon.

There has been much discussion, too, about the mirror above the fireplace. Some family and the odd visitor insists it must stay. Others look at me quizzically and (try to) casually comment on how they're surprised the mirror wasn't the first thing I removed. One of Josh's cousins even refers to it as the Elvis Mirror. Truth: I don't like it at all. But, it does bounce a lot of light around the room. I think I'd have to frame it out... give it some side panels to match the original mantle below and some thick, appropriately beautiful crown molding along the top. I just don't know. Where everyone agrees is that the mirror cannot stay as it is. 

 So, an ongoing project for sure. (What I wouldn't give for Chip and Joanna Gaines to break down in front of my house one random afternoon this week. But... wouldn't we all? Ha.) Once I address the mirror and the mantle and the firebox, and once I arrange the shelves as I intend to, I think I'll call this wall done. And then it's back to the kitchen. Oh man. Could I ever use Joanna for the kitchen!

But that's a whole different story for an entirely different day... 

Hope you're well, friend, and staying warm today. It's good to be back. -Brin

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Mess Of Life

The meaning of life. The wasted years of life. The poor choices of life.  
God answers the mess of life with one word: 'grace.'
-Max Lucado

I'm still here. Just wrapped up in warm blankets and big questions and consuming projects. Hope you are well, friends.  -Brin

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Handmade Feelings

 When you buy something made by a person,
there is something special there, and you do feel it.
The consciousness with which a thing is made
is often more important than the thing itself.
- J. Donald Waters

I agree with that first part, for sure: when you hold something made by hand, it is special, and you do feel it.

In the process of rebranding Balm & Honey in time for this spring's big honey/candle/soap/lotion introduction, I was told to write 150 words or less on what my little business is about. Uhhhhh... hmmm. It took awhile. Eventually, I typed: 

Balm & Honey came from a heart-aching yearn for simple, authentic products. 
We knit, keep bees, make soap, and dip candles for beloved customers.

It isn't quite what I'm going for, but it's a start.

Last week, I finally (!!) received an invitation to venture inside Ms. Nell's house. Oh, y'all. That place came straight out of a book. Everything she has tells a story... is a story. Whether we were standing in her little sitting room with the coal burning fireplace, or chatting in the huge, bright kitchen, every item came from someone or was made by someone. You could feel it in her house- that special feeling. She knits, too, so we compared handknit cloths. What is that intangible presence we sense when holding something another has made? It's recognition, maybe, that the thing had a life even before it got to us. That someone, somewhere, used their breath and brain and being to add something to the world that wasn't there before, and never would have been had they not been born. Ugh. Call me ridiculous, but I don't know if there's a way to overstate how much this means to me.

Anyway. A big batch of colorful, handknit cloths is in the shop and ready to start their life with someone new. Hurry over if you want to take a peek... five have already sold since I started typing this post!

Wishing you that handmade-special-feeling sort of day. -Brin

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Masters and Keepers (The Beauty and Necessity of Bud+Bee+You+Me)

Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made
and forgot to put a soul into.
-Henry Ward Beecher 

We had to chase the Master Gardeners out of my beekeeper's association meeting last night so we could begin on time. The Masters (as I call them)- revered, wise, and weathered- are a motley crew of wrinkled old ladies, sun-beaten old men, and the odd, fresh-faced hipster. I'm in awe of them. They know Latin names for everything and there's nothing they haven't seen.


The Masters line up their latest obsessions in our shared gardening/beekeeping room. (The Masters and the Keepers- as beekeepers are called- are graciously respectful of each other.) The Masters also keep wild-looking, experimental plants under sagging, beaming grow lights in the corner of our room. There are new specimens every month: in January and February there are yellow and white bulbs nodding in test tubes and expertly labeled. March through May ushers in seedlings of all kinds: tomatoes, peppers, squash, and melons. Along June until October, herbs and grasses and so.many.flowers and every vegetable God gave a seed sprawl into the room. November and December roll around and they've vased up Henbit or Camellias or Red Maples. I'm fascinated, always.

Even if you've never given a solitary thought to flowers and bees, both are necessary for your life as you know it. Truly. Buds and blooms provide carbohydrates (nectar) and protein (pollen) for the bees. With it, they make food (honey) to sustain their colony. In doing so, they pollinate roughly one out of every three foods you'll eat today... and many of the wild plants you'll never give a thought to today. The bud-bee-you-me relationship is beautifully symbiotic. God may not have put a soul in flowers or bees, but He did intersect them with ours.

It occurred to me last night, while looking carefully around the room of Masters and Keepers, that these people are the unsung heroes of life as we've come to know it. Forget the athletes and crooners and celebrities. These people, with their borage and bent backs and bee suits, these people are changing the world. While the Masters plant and prune and pull nourishing plants, the Keepers breed and box and bolster the languishing bee. Together, they are fighting a tidal wave of chemicals and disease and urbanization and every dreaded and terrible thing man is doing to kill-off nature and wellness.

God help and bless the Masters and Keepers....

-     -     -     -     -

Yesterday's bee meeting and this morning's Floret Flowers announcement prompted the writing of this intro to a manifesto. (Forgive me.) Want to support or join the Masters/Keepers? Start by planting some bee-friendly seeds this year- in a pot, in a bed or garden, or in a vacant lot. Floret's now selling their beautiful seeds, and, of course, I'm an occasional visitor and longtime fan of Wildseed Farms. Their regional wildflower mixes are perfection. I beg you: plant something, feed a bee, and do what you can this year to support our unsung heroes.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday Moment: Daily Bread

Give us today our daily bread.
-Jesus, Matthew 6:11

Commentaries and controversies abound regarding Jesus' model prayer in Matthew 6. Give us this day our daily bread. It sounds straightforward in English. It is not, however, in Luke's Greek or Matthew's (purported...maybe) Hebrew. (Pastors and seminary people, don't crawl out of your skin regarding that last sentence, okay? I'm aware it's fraught with debatable goodies.)

I've done a little reading up on this innocent-seeming verse because it's slammed me so hard this new year. My prayers, I've realized, have gotten selfish. Ridiculous, even. Much of what I'm hearing myself pray for is... telling, I guess... of where my heart has wandered and what treasures I'm wanting to lay up. Ouch. 

What have you been praying for lately?

"Truth is, I think, if God just gave us our daily bread, many of us would be angry. 'That's all you're going to give me? You're just going to give me enough to sustain me for today? What about tomorrow or next year or 10, 20, 30 years from now? I want to know that I'm set up.' And yet Jesus says just pray for your daily provisions." -Francis Chan

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

(The bread pictured is what we had for yesterday's "daily bread" and is the standard boule recipe made from my favorite bread book of all time.)*

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Stillness, Noise and Chasing Out the Agony

In the summer she kept roses in a vase on the piano, 
huge, pungent roses, and when the blooms ripened and the petals fell, 
she put them in a tall Chinese jar, with cloves and thyme and sticks of cinnamon.
-Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping
 
The roses are still blooming. I mention it again because it's such a marvel to me: frothy, pungent roses in January. I realize, intellectually, that this is a symptom of chaotic weather patterns and even, perhaps, a petaled harbinger of strange weather to come. But today it doesn't matter. Today, I have roses, and today that's beautiful enough for me.

I've been drying and saving petals, just like the "competent" character in Housekeeping. I've also started making my own rose water (watch this pretty 2 minute tutorial here) and using it in a room spray and in a honey-infused, natural face wash. And yesterday I added the delicately scented water to a beeswax and comfrey salve I'm making for my dry, winter-stricken hands. I literally, seriously, gasped when I smoothed it on my hands after washing dishes last night. Oh my. I must, must, must figure out how to make bigger batches and share with others. That salve was... instant solace.

It's quiet here this morning but my mind is a noisy, churning machine. I suppose that's why I appreciate the stillness of an empty, hushed house when I'm alone here; it's so loud in my head that additional sound competes and frustrates. Does anyone else experience that?

Perhaps it's because I'm also knee deep in the book. Ah, the book. The characters are alive now... seemingly as real to me as friends I seldom see. Maya Angelou once said that There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. That agony has weighed so heavily on me these past 8 years, but the load is shifting now, and soon I'll be able to put it down. The story will, in a couched-in-fiction sort of way, be told this year. It terrifies me and vindicates me and affords me the chance to give that real-life story the ending it will never have. Is this why others write? I sat in Starbucks last week, face toward the wall, silent tears burning channels down my cheeks, and became so overcome by the emotion of it all that I got up and left. Right then.

Okay. So roses and a tutorial and a salve preview/plug and a working book mention. Does this count as a blog post? I'm hitting that bright orange "Publish" button anyway....

Is it Wednesday? Ah. Happy mid week, friends. -Brin

(There was an Amazon affiliate link in there somewhere. I think we're supposed to say that now, right?)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The 2016 Threshold

Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering 'it will be happier'...
-Alfred Lord Tennyson

I was so glad to see 2016. It was welcome even if it did come barreling over the threshold first thing- without knocking- and yank open the drapes and say, without so much as looking over its shoulder, I'm here. Get up and say hello.

Hello, 2016. Come on in. We all just hope you are happier than your predecessor.

How were your holidays? Mine were stuffed- stuffed with miles and meals and masses and musts. I was relieved to pull down the tree this past weekend and start getting the place back in order. I have hopes and prayers and goals for this year. More so than in many years, I'd say. I'm eager to move forward. This year, my heart knows the new year is here.

I've been taking courses, lately, on things I want to accomplish in these dazzling 360-some-odd days that stare blankly back at me from the calendar on the fridge. One course I took was on how Make Your Blog Take Off! and Earn Six Figures From Your Blog and other bright pink and glittery headlines like that. I realized, three minutes in, that the "proven formulas" would never work for me and apparently I don't want to Make My Blog Take Off after all. The advice included things such as: pick one topic and only blog about that one thing... become an expert in your field. There was also talk about thousand dollar branding and social media platform plug-ins and paid content and coding your own sites and areyoukiddingyoudon'tuseyourowndomain and... ugh. No. I slammed my laptop shut and realized, anyway, that the blogs I read every day are just real people blogs... and none of them are professional content payers or paid photographers. I guess I'm the only one left who clicks off things that seem too slick. I explained it all to Josh, who believes fervently that I can monetize if put the effort in, and told him it isn't me. It's just not (even 2016) me, I said. I don't want a blogging empire. I just want a rose garden in that back corner over there.

One thing I am trotting out, however, is a re-launched and beautifully branded Balm and Honey. (Which is bare-shelved for the next few hours because you wonderful people keep buying me out. Thank you!) I am excited about that. This spring will see, God willing, the rolling out of honey and honey-based products: raw, natural Texas honey... beeswax candles... natural soaps... and lotion potions. And more House Helpers, of course. (Always those. Always.) I tried out my Vanilla Latte honeyed soap as gifts this year and got some rave reviews, which gave me just the confidence I needed to decide to go all out. I suppose I just have this vision of having one of those creaky, old houses that has furniture polished with beeswax in rooms that smell faintly of beeswax candles, honey soap and flowers. I want that, and I want the world to have that, too. Balm and Honey. Solace and sweet for the home. Hope that whispers from the thresholds that this year will be... happier. 

We can only pray and stubbornly hope.

Happy new year, friends. Praying God's kindest and best presence and blessings in your life this year.  -Brin