Friday, December 29, 2023

Freeman House


 Hello, you. How are you? We have some catching up to do. Namely, because, let's get right to it:

 I went back to Freeman House.

I went back, y'all.

I hadn't meant to. It wasn't even remotely a thought as I went about my day yesterday, running errands and rushing everywhere. It was a distracted, hurried day, so it's no wonder my frazzled  brain gave the wrong name at the dry cleaners. Brin Wisdom, I told the lady twice, before realizing my over-drive brain mistake and correcting it so she could locate Matt's shirts. And as she handed them over, she studied me closely and said, thoughtfully: Brin Wisdom. You're the girl they almost made the movie about, aren't you? That girl with the house?

I gave it no thought, quickly assuring her there was no movie, and no, that couldn't be me. But as I was tapping the chip of my debit card to the reader, she persisted: Yes you are! Did you know your house is for sale? They're selling it.

And suddenly, it all clicked- the debit card reader... Brin Wisdom... "the girl with the house". My brain quit spinning and stopped with a big arrow on this singular thought. She meant Freeman House. Freeman House was for sale.

Understand: in the almost fifteen years since I bought her, I've driven by Freeman House three times. And one of those times I couldn't even turn my head to look. So I can't say exactly why I ran to the car, abandoned my errand-running, and drove straight to her. But suddenly, there I was, braking hard in front of her much-altered yard, dry cleaning hangers rocking wildly on the hook behind me.

There she was. With a realtor sign in the front yard. I started crying.

 - - - - -

Not as hard as I did when, hours later, Matt and the realtor waited inside Freeman House's front hall as I stood on the porch repeating, I don't know if I can. I don't know if I can go in. But as Matt joked the realtor began pointing out features, I took a deep breath and willed myself inside.

She's changed so much.

I hated it. I hated it all.

The original woodwork and doors? Gone. The enormous, wavy-glass windows? Ripped out. 

The library? Now a dark, odd "primary suite". 

The cozy living room? Chopped up into a bathroom, walk-in closet, and storage area.

The kitchen? Well, the brick fireplace is gone. So is an entire wall and doorway. The upstairs stairs are in a different, crammed place. There are doorways added and doorways missing, rooms altered and rooms missing. And that enormous wavy-glass built-in in the old dining room where I spent my first many nights after I bought her? Astonishingly, it's nowhere to be found. Instead, there's an empty cove in the wall with a wifi router/TV cable outlet.

I wandered the place, trying to be present in the conversation, as memory upon memory flitted just beyond sight. Here's where the break-in happened. There's where the range used to sit. This used to be the dining room. That was my desk area when I got that email about being on the Dr. Phil Show. No, no... this used to be the back porch-turned sitting room where I sat in the mornings and drank up the sun with my coffee.

We tried, as best we could, I guess, to tell the realtor of this house being so much more than just... a house. So much more. But how do you? How do we tell someone, twenty years later, about the time I saved the house and the house saved me?

How could we all possibly tell the story of Freeman House?

So. Here we are. We all have a decision to make. Freeman House is for sale, again. The owner is motivated to sell quickly, so there isn't much time.

Do we see this as God restoring all things and bringing us full circle? Do we buy it and open her for guests as I intended before? 

Do we let her to go the interested family from Kansas looking at her now, trusting that this new life will bring its own new blessings?

 Vote your heart. I'm listening. And somehow, I think she is, too. -Brin

Monday, September 7, 2020

What He Said

Come to Me,
all you who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
-Jesus, Matthew 11:28

He didn't say:

            Come to Me, all you who
                            Have a meal plan
                            Got your finances in order
                            Stay caught up on laundry
                            Hit your goal weight

He didn't say:

            Come to Me, all you who
                            Are killing it at your job
                            Have the perfect home life
                            Keep your house spotless
                            Are a model spouse/parent/sibling

He didn't say:

            Come to Me, all you who
                            Never lose it
                            Got the credit cards paid off
                            Have it all figured out
                            Are living your best life now
No. He didn't say any of those things.   

He DID say:

               Come to Me, all you who
                            Labor (weary)
                            Are heavy laden (carrying big burdens)
If this Labor Day finds you weary - finds you carrying heavy burdens at home... at work... in your heart - Jesus has a place for you. It's next to Him. The Savior of those who are tired, overworked, weak, and weighed down. 

Take heart, fellow laborer. We have a Savior who has a place of rest for us. Go to Him. Carry your weariness and your worries to Him. 
                            He wants them. 
                            He wants you
                            He said so.

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

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Frankie and Charlie

I think of them every day, throughout the day. Frances and Charles. Frankie and Charlie. Our children. In heaven.

It was mid November last year, and something wasn't right. I did a tele-doc appointment, and the diagnosis came back quickly, easily: Shingles. Only the doctor wouldn't prescribe me any "hard" medicines because my period was late. Could you be pregnant?, the doctor asked. I grimaced, and explained that I was 40... and childless.

How wrong we all were. The "Shingles" was a pregnancy rash. I was pregnant.

I found out the week of Thanksgiving and told Matthew Thanksgiving day. It was a day I'll never forget. We joyfully celebrated the holidays-  we were giddy, in fact- and I started knitting a baby blanket. We told immediate family selectively, knowing the risks associated with our geriatric pregnancy, and asked them to pray with us for this tiny miracle. 

Mid-January. Sonogram appointment. I started worrying when the sono tech grew quiet, then stopped talking. I started shaking when she wouldn't look me in the face. My world fell out from under me when the doctor walked in the room and quietly shut the door behind her.

We lost baby Frances on a cold winter's night, at home. 

- - - - -

Fast forward to spring. In the height of the Covid-19 quarantine, I got another rash. Not as severe as last time, but this time around, I knew it wasn't Shingles.

I heard a heartbeat in June. Due to the pandemic, Matthew wasn't allowed to come with me to my appointments, so I watched the screens alone as the tiny baby with its perfect heart beat developed. Your rainbow baby, a dear friend said. Everything was good, the baby seemed strong - a miracle at my 41 years old. The week we planned to tell the world, I woke up and instantly knew something was wrong.

Same sonogram room. Same doctor. This time she told us and then left the exam room, quietly closing the door behind her.

We lost baby Charlie on a blistering hot summer's night, at home.

- - - - -

I'm going to write, in the coming days, about my experience with loss and how I believe we can respond when loved ones are going through it. Things we can do (and should not do). Things we can say (and should never say). But right now it's still too recent and still too... hard. 

For now I simply needed to tell you about our sweet babies. I needed you to know the things that have happened FOR us, not TO us. And I hoped you would rejoice with us in the precious lives that I can't wait to see on the other side of all of this.

- - - - -

Revelation 5 talks about heaven - as a literal place, of course - and how every created being in heaven and on earth will vocally praise God. I truly believe I will stand with my children one day and hear their sweet voices as we all praise God, together, fully knowing and fully known (1 Corinthians 13). 

What a day that will be.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Monday Moment: Right Where We Are

Ah, Monday. We meet again.

And you and I... we do, too. :) Hey there. How are you? I'm glad to see you back. How's your day looking? Mine's looking like a long day of cleaning and laundry and trying to wage war on farm mess + dirt + mud in the house. And I have about 10 quarts of peas to can for the pantry for winter. Agh. You know, farm life.

Which brings me to the point of today's Monday Moment, because something lit up my faith radar recently and it has me even more fascinated with how God sees and how God loves you and me as women, especially.

It's this: when God encountered women in the Bible, He sought us out and showed up in the minutia of our daily lives. And instead of telling us, "Follow me", or "go", as He did many men, He seems to have met many women where we were, encountered us, and strengthened us to continue in our lives and circumstances.

I mean, look at Hagar. Mary. Anna. The woman at the well. Women going about their day-to-day lives. In the midst of their own crisis, their own heartbreak, their own sin. All in the midst of their own stories. And then Love Himself showed up on the scene of their daily grind.

To Abram, He said: "Go." To Jonah, He said, "Go". To Peter and Andrew, Jesus said: "Come." To the disciples, "Follow me." And later, "Go." But I can find few instances in Scripture where God made the same call to women. He worked in and through us where we were. Was it because of the role of women and the culture of the times? Was it due to the circumstances of the women? Was it because He sees us differently?

Of course, I'm not suggesting that God has never or will never call women to go... or otherwise disrupt our lives in the course of following Him. That's ludicrous. What I am saying is that He beautifully seeks us out in the midst of the obligations we shoulder and the reality of our days, and He meets with us there: in the wilderness (Hagar), at church (Anna), on our errands (woman at the well).

Obviously there is much we could pick apart and discuss on the topic. But here's the message to tuck in your heart pocket today: He sees right where you are. And He loves you right where you are. And He is known to be a God who will show up in the midst of it all.

Take heart. Lift your weary head, dear one. You are divinely seen. You are intimately known. You are eternally loved. Right where you are.


If you have a few moments and your heart could use it, give this a listen today. It got me.

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

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Miracle and Mystery in Farming A Legacy

We signed the papers the week we got back from our honeymoon. The homeplace that has been in Matthew's family for the last three generations is now entrusted to us.

Wedged between main street and 150+ acres of abandoned ore mines, our little place is odd. It's in town but it feels rural. We see deer graze daily, yet we have neighbors. We deal with traffic noise, but we grow crops and keep chickens. It's strangely right for what we need and where we want to be.

Immediately after buying, we set about trying to put the house right and plant a garden. (I'll be sharing so much more about that in the coming days.) And one of the first things we planted?

Nannie peas.

You all have to hear this story. The story of Nannie peas.

At least that's what Matthew and his identical twin, Mark, grew up calling them. Their Nannie and Papa grew these peas in their garden for decades right here in Cass County. The family grew up with them on the table every family gathering and holiday meal. The tiny cream peas were a staple, and no one ever really considered what they were... they were just there. Papa bought them the first time from a long-gone feed store in the county seat, faithfully saved the seed each year, and grew and cooked them for decades. What were they actually called? No one knew. They were Nannie peas, they went alongside mashed potatoes and meat, and that's all anyone cared about.

In the 1990s, when Nannie and Papa died within months of each other, their children - Matthew's mother, included - found bags of peas from their last garden in the deep freezer. They divided them up and Matthew's mother carried a ziploc bag of the peas home. But cooking the last bag of her parents' peas? That would warrant a special occasion. And, as these things go, the peas waited in the freezer until, 25 years later, she came across them this summer. 

We all stood around and looked at the little battered bag of peas. The bag Nannie herself had shelled and packaged. Would they grow?, Matthew's mother asked. We were planting our garden and had space, but would these peas germinate after 25 years? Could they?

Miracle of all miracles, y'all, they did. The peas came back to life.

In July, we all gathered around the table as a family and had our first taste of Nannie peas in decades. The family said that the house even smelled like Nannie's. As I looked up and watched Matthew eat the fruit of his labor, I wondered how proud Nannie would be of her handsome grandson, all grown up now, growing her favorite heirloom crop and feeding her family once again.

All the feels.

After the cooler temperatures and the rain Hurricane Laura brought us this week, I expect the Nannie peas to set out one last good bloom before fall sets in. Tonight I plan to can about 10 pints of peas for the pantry, and shell several quarts more. It's a labor of love, and one I'm happy to help carry on.

It's a strange legacy, but one I'll gladly help pass down.

Hope you have a wonderful Friday and weekend, friend. If you need me, I'll be in the pea patch or the kitchen.


P.S. We still haven't been able to identify Nannie's pea, and plan to send it off to the experts at Texas A&M this fall. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

More Ahead

Hope is not wishful thinking.
Hope is the audacity to believe:
"After all I have been through, there is more ahead of me." 

The garden is still producing - still hanging on - despite the August temperatures and general lack of any rainfall. At all. I walked the rows this morning, delighting over the swelling black eyed pea pods and colorful peppers and okra I had to jump to reach. (It's on my Instagram stories, if you care to see: @brinwisdom.)

We have farm kittens now. A stray wandered up in spring, starved for food and love, and it was our joy to give her both. Marble, as I named her, was pregnant, it turns out, and had her kittens one blistering day in June. There were seven. These two kittens, Exxon and Mobil, they're now called, were inseparable from birth. Their antics and adventures are equal parts hilarious and adorable. They're staying. Welcome to our little farm place you two.

I'm busy today trying to put up garden produce and batten down the hatches for Hurricane Laura, which is promising to visit us with wind and rain. There's a tropical storm warning (watch? I never remember the difference) in effect for our region, although technically they drew the red line zone 10 minutes from our house. Regardless, prayers are being said today for all in Laura's path.

Gardens... kittens... storms: all simple reminders that, even after all we've seen and been through, there is yet more ahead of us. <3    

Audaciously hoping you have a good Tuesday,

Monday, August 24, 2020

Monday Moment: "For", Not "To"

It took my breath away. Stole it right out of my lungs. Still does, in fact, when I think about it.

Matthew and I were dating. We had been to a rose garden earlier, and the beauty of that perfect summer day was still with us. We were talking, then, about life - about how everything hadn't exactly come up roses. And that's when, quietly, he said it:

"You know those things happened FOR you, not TO you, right?"

Right then, my heart began to bloom again as that scriptural truth settled on me: Things happened FOR me, not TO me.

- - - - - 

Romans 8:28 has made me roll my eyes for years. Is there a more cliche verse in the Bible? It says: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. We Christians hear it so often it can make us cringe. 

Why? Because it gets twisted. Misused. Some well-meaning people can invalidate your circumstances or hurts by sing-songing that verse until it's a mockery. Others quote it at you as if all things are good, so put on a happy face and deal because everything's fine. But no. No. All things are not good. Losing a child is not good. Cancer is not good. Financial hardship is not good. A global pandemic, lockdown, unrest, violence... these things are not good.

But God - how He weaves and wields and works these not goods together into something beautiful- well, THAT is good. 

Adrian Rogers, a longtime pastor and follower of Jesus, put it like this: In the chemistry of the cross, God takes things that, in and of themselves, are bad, and He puts them together much as a chemist might take chemicals that, in and of themselves, may be deleterious and mixes them to make a medicine that brings healing.

- - - - -

Listen, dear one. These things you're going through today... these sore things, these sad things, these stress things: they are happening FOR you, not TO you. FOR YOU, NOT JUST TO YOU. Preach it to your heart. Sing it to your soul. Remind your mind that things are happening for your good and His glory. Today. Always. The cross chemist God who also makes the roses is working even now to make good in your life.

For you, not to you.

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

Friday, August 21, 2020

True Love and Homegrown Tomatoes

Only two things money can't buy:
That's true love and homegrown tomatoes.
-Guy Clark

It's true love and homegrown tomato season over here, big time.

Agh. God is preposterously wild with both His plans and His goodness. For our good and His glory. I'll spend my life trying to understand it all....

Hey you! Hello again. If you missed it yesterday, I'm back. I'm so glad - truly, glad - you stopped by today. I have so much to tell and show you in these many many days (er... years) since we talked last.

First things first: I hope you'll find some grace in your heart to forgive me for my absence.
Second things second: I hope, in the days to come, we'll find we're like the oldest and best of friends in that we hardly miss a beat and take right back up where we left it.

In truth, though, I know we've been through some things in our gap time. Life. Pandemic. Heart things. Hard things. Hopeful things, too, maybe. And I want to hear about it all. 

Me? I've been working hard building a life and a home I love - utterly, bewilderingly love - about 10 minutes from Freeman House. Much more on that to come. Last May, I married Matthew (who someone in town dubbed #thehunkyfarmer which is now an Instagram thing). Matthew is an identical twin... an insanely gifted musician/actor... a licensed minister/seminary graduate... and a Behavioral Specialist for people with special needs - Autism, especially. And yes, a country boy who helps me farm... thus the overalls and tomatoes above. (And... heavens. Did you catch those eyes and how they're looking at me? Swooooon.) 

Annnyway. We can't wait to share our story with you. It starts way back in 1993 when we were both 14, so we have some ground to cover.

So. Other things coming at you:

-All things gardening
-All things HOME
-Monday Moments 
-Frankie and Charlie
-Farm animals
-Honey bees
-... and just every day life. 

But most of all, just us. You and me. Friends through a LOT, right?

I missed you. Hello, friend. Thanks for being here. Hang on through the weekend and I'll see you Monday.


Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Long Hello

It's been so long. Two years. How has it been two years?

Hello, friend. I've missed you. I have missed you. And... I'm back. Are you back, too? Let's come back together and sit and talk in these coming days.

I have so much to tell you. So much to show you. And there's so much I need to hear from you: are you okay? When was the last time you took a deep breath? What's on your mind? ...

But for now, I just wanted to wave the first of a long hello.

It's good to see you again. Meet back here tomorrow?


P.S. Are you on Instagram? If so, please come find me @brinwisdom. 

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!