Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thoughts on New Year

If winter comes,
can spring be far behind?
-Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ah... winter. She's settled in at Freeman House, making my house creak and my nose and toes impossibly cold. I have the thermostats set on 61, and my new-ish heat pumps are working overtime to keep the indoor temperature there. I layer. Heavily. Even Mae is buried under covers to keep warm....

Did you have a wonderful Christmas? Hope so. Mine was peaceful and ... merry. It truly was merry. Friends so dear... family gathered near... all that. It was very Dickens-like. I'm thankful for a peaceful and uneventful holiday. (Those can be answers to prayers too, you know.)

But I'm relieved it's over. Christmas is already packed and stored away, replaced by new year's hats and confetti. Given the circumstances of my life this past year, I'm eagerly waiting for that midnight ball to drop. I've purchased bags and bags of multicolored confetti and noisemakers. What is it about a numbered square on a calendar that makes me feel as though I can start anew?

Someone stopped by Freeman House yesterday to ask if I had any new year's plans. I replied with a hearty "yes!". I've been hoarding movies, magazines, two new Amazon books, and a half gallon of Blue Bell. I plan to spend the entire day in my pink snowman pajamas watching Ingrid Bergman, tearing apart my spring seed catalogue and a biography of Jane Addams, and getting sick on Chocolate Brownieaholic... or some related flavor. (That way I have additional tonnage to low-carb off starting January 2nd. Happy sigh.)

Seriously, though. I'm thrilled to see 2006 go. It was a growing year, as growing years go. Good riddance! Now all we have left to do is bundle up, pray, and send this little winter on its way...

And you know what they say about winter, right? If it comes, can spring really be all that far behind?

Happy New Year! -b

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Merry Christmas!

Ah, the eve of Christmas Eve! The bustling has gradually slowed to a rhymic shuffle around Freeman House, and I'm pleased to report that all is ready for the holiday. Wish you could be here!

Today is actually a very relaxing day, in spite of the piles of sheetrock, scaffolding, and tools that have to be maneuvered around in the front half of the house. (In addition to the huge entryway tree... see right.) Men have been working on the ol' place all week, and the hallway and sitting room off my bedroom are nearly done! Yea! Anyway, this morning I brewed hot tea, took a long, leisurely bath in the clawfoot tub, and washed sheets and towels. Oh! Reminds me... they're still fluttering on the line underneath the magnolia tree! Better grab them before it gets too dark....

...Okay. Back. So, anyway, I opened and read all my Christmas cards on my outdoor patio while the Methodist church bells downtown played Christmas carols. Friends and their beautiful children all seem to be doing well. It's funny how Christmas cards - unlike anything else, it seems - record the evolution of a life... a family. One year my college friends are sending quick, stylish, girlie cards. Six years later, the cards are simple Kodak picture cards with grinning toddlers on the front, and there are typed newsletters enclosed, too. Times change, and I'm glad.

A last minute shopping run this afternoon produced some hand-quilted stockings, a stash of classic DVDs and an old, shabby chic flour tin. Score! I rushed home to stuff, wrap and distribute to the neighbors up and down the street. My walk, accompanied by Cornbread and Okra, my neighbor's dogs, took just over an hour. In and out. Fun.

Again, too bad you're not here. Tonight is homemade dinner followed by hot chocolate and carols at the organ. I love having friends and family around! Then the plan is to watch old holiday movies until bedtime. Yea! I hope the sheetrock allows for people to make it through the house without breaking their necks... or knocking over the tree.

Speaking of the tree, I was walking by it yesterday and noticed that an ornament was moving. Oh... wait... that's no ornament. There was a real, live BIRD sitting on my Christmas tree! I screamed and screamed. The bird flew into the library and the cat shot into the dining room. I slammed both doors to the library shut, but not before retrieving Maebelline (the cat) and putting her in there with the bird. After several minutes, I expected to open the door to find Maebelline standing over a still, silent bird. Ha! I cracked the door open just enough to poke my head in to see Mae lounging on the floor and the bird perched on the scaffolding. Shoot.

I finally realized that perhaps I could open one of the ancient library windows from the outside, (I could), so I pulled Mae out of the window as if the house was on fire, and ran screeching into the yard. The bird soon followed. Whew. Close call. I almost had an Alfred Hitchcock Christmas.

(By the way, one of my presents from the neighbors today was a wine cork/sealer kit. No wonder. I'm sure with all the weird-looking things I do -pulling my cat out of a library window and run screaming into the yard- the neighbors must think I drink. A lot. )

Ooooooh boy. Anyway, all is well here, and I say all this to say that our holidays -whether break-your-neck hectic, or lovely, leisurely, and peaceful - are too often taken for granted. We are blessed - truly blessed - beyond measure, whether we recognize it or not. Praise God for His goodness and His ultimate Gift! During this blessed, long Christmas weekend, I wish you all a special time full of peace, love, safe travels, sweet dreams, and much, much happiness and joy!

Happy, Merry Christmas! -Brin

Monday, December 18, 2006

Identity Story #1

So, okay. I know I should be writing Christmas blogs. I realize this is - oddly - timed. But the other day I saw a preview for this new show airing on NBC entitled Identity. I was strangely captivated....

I was so taken, in fact, that I had a dream last night about this woman. It played out in my dream like a sort of identity game... like I was supposed to guess who she was. Really weird, huh? I wish I could have recorded my dream so you see it, too. It was incredible, as dreams go.

So here's the deal. I'm writing identity blogs, apparently. And I'll bet you'll guess who these people are before I did.

Happy reading! - Brin


Who am I? That's difficult to say. Perhaps I should start at the beginning. But where, exactly, does a beginning begin? My birth was not the commencement of my life. Not the life I now know. I suppose that for me – for my story – it begins here:

Same place. Different day.

Do I come here often? Yeah. I do. I come here every day for a drink. Not to sound melodramatic, but it’s called for – coming here and all. My life isn’t terrible, yet it isn’t especially remarkable. It’s life, or what I’ve made of it, anyway. So I’m here again. Same place. Different day.

I wait my turn. It’s not so busy today. I wish it were. There’s anonymity in numbers, and I find relief in the swallowing effect of a crowd. The regulars here can be shamelessly nosey, and I tire of their knowing glances – their tacky, judgmental stares. As if they are living perfect lives. I don’t think people grant allowances for the fact that life smiles on some, ignores most, and preys on a few.

And I’m among the few. Undoubtedly so. I’ve lived my share of failed marriages and messy relationships. Life doesn’t care. My heart seems to be in the right place, but ultimately, that never matters, does it? Men have their way and then go about them. Take this guy I’m living with now. He’s assuring but unsure. Solid but uncommittal. Present but neglectful. And me? I’m lonely. I’m lonely but I stay. Wouldn’t dare leave. Everyone knows how hard it is for a woman – even in this day and age - to make a good life for herself. No, I’m lonely, not stupid. I’ll stay.

Ah, my turn. Finally. It isn’t until I step up to retrieve my drink that I notice him. That man. Over there. See him? He’s not familiar. In fact, it occurs to me that he’s not from around here. He’s one of those type men who wouldn’t dare show himself at a place like this, you know? Wonder what he’s doing… hanging around.

I don’t wonder long. He approaches me slowly. Calmly. “Will you get me a drink?” he asks.

Oh, please. Figures. I don’t even look up. Not today. “From all appearances, you’re not from around here,” I say sarcastically. I can’t believe he’s hitting me up for a drink. Me, of all people.

He begins to talk… something about how I should know who he is and how I should be the one asking for a drink. Wow. Men. I reply as politely as I can and turn to leave.

Over my shoulder, I hear his voice. Apparently this man is determined to have a conversation. I refuse to look at him as he gestures toward my drink and persists with his barely coherent nonsense. Now he’s talking about how, if I asked him for a drink, he could give me something… some magical, living stuff, I suppose… that could take care of my thirst and make me live forever. Yeah. Hmm. If he's looking for money he picked the wrong girl. I close my eyes and wish there was somewhere else – anywhere else - to grab a drink in this town. I think I feel a headache coming on.

I hear myself say, “Okay, sir. Give me what you’ve got. Give me this… stuff… so I won’t have to keep coming here.”

The man doesn’t flinch. I feel him looking at me. I stare at my hands. “Go,” he says. “Get your husband and come back.”

Oh? Oh, really? Is this a joke? My cheeks burn. Someone around here got this stranger to pull one over on me. I’m done. I’m more embarrassed than angry when I shoot back, “I have no husband.”

“You’re right,” he says. “You have no husband. In fact, you’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re with now is not even your husband. You’re right.”

Time stops. His words hang in the air for what feels like an eternity. I feel myself exhale, and realize I must have been holding my breath. His words… this man’s words… it wasn’t what he said, but how he said it. It wasn’t accusatory. It wasn’t condemning. It was just… he just said it so… knowingly. So easily.

“Look,” I say slowly, evenly, still refusing to look his way. “It’s obvious you’re some kind of … prophet, or something….” My insides are screaming. How did he know? How could he? I'd gone to great lengths to ensure no one around here knew I was on future husband number six....

If he can read my thoughts, he doesn’t let on. If he’s a prophet, he doesn’t say. Instead, he tells me the things I know – the ways people around here do things - will change. I stand up straighter when he mentions God. I listen as he says that someday people will worship God in “spirit and truth”.

Oh. Okay. I get it now. For the first time, I turn to make eye contact. “Hey, I've heard this. I know that when this Messiah comes He will explain everything….”. I stop suddenly as our eyes lock.

“I am He,” He says.

I can’t look away. That look. Those eyes. Even as His words reach me, I know. It’s Him. He’s the One. The One for me. That look in His eyes… it’s as if He’s known me all along and loved me forever….

A tingle plays on the back of my neck before rushing to my toes. I can’t look away. I choke on a sob. This Man before me is no man. No man at all. Tears drip from my chin to the dirt between us as I realize I’m face to face with the Lover of my soul. And I want to tell Him. I want to tell Him that I’ve looked so hard… so long… for Him. I open my mouth to speak but have forgotten words. It doesn’t matter. None of it matters. Those eyes. He knows. He knows, and yet He found me. He found me here. The Christ… the Messiah… He found me....

Same place, very different day.

It wasn’t until that night that I realized I left my water jar behind. It wasn’t until the next week, as I continued retelling my story, that I began to shake – physically shake - at the remembrance of His promises. And it likely won’t be until eternity – if even then - that I’ll grasp the magnitude of the power and majesty of the Man I encountered that day.

I still come here. Every day. Some mornings I run, hoping He’ll be here, asking for a drink. Sometimes I wait here, hoping He’ll show up with that same knowing look in His eyes. Until then, you can find me here, telling my story.

And really, now that I tell you all this, I guess it’s not all that difficult to pinpoint where my beginning began. My birth was not the commencement of my life. My story begins with that day at the well. The day I met the One who told me everything I ever did. The day I met Jesus.

Who am I? My name’s not that important. But the day I met Jesus is. I suppose that’s why I’m the woman generations of Christians will simply come to know as “the woman at the well”.

Read my story in John 4.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The List

See, I have this list. It's entitled: Ten People To Meet Before I Croak. Maybe you have one, too, (albeit with a different title). These ten individuals are people I must meet before I die. Anything less is unacceptable.

It's strange, I think, how universal our fascination is with other people. Crushes, celebrities, authors, athletes... people can be absolutely engaging. Inspiring. Cute.

Enter #8 on my list: Rachael Ray.

I awoke yesterday with the dreadful realization that Wednesday was a Dallas doctor day. I had a colposcopy and an ECC scheduled for the afternoon. Yuck. I bribed myself to get out of bed with the promise of a patio lunch with my aunt at Terilli's. It worked. Before I knew it, the aunt and I were headed to Dallas.

Once in Big D, we ate and then hurried to Central Market, where we met a tweed-covered butter salesman from New Zealand. While I stocked up on jelly beans and knobs of ginger, my aunt bought some of his butter, although I'm pretty sure the purchase had far more to do with the salesman's accent than the quality of his grass-fed cow butter. No matter.

Upon leaving, my aunt hangs up her cell phone and announces we should check out my Aunt Lu's reported Rachael Ray book signing. It was later in the evening. I could barely breathe. "You know," I said as casually as I could, "Rachael Ray is one of my Ten People To Meet Before I Croak." My aunt wasn't surprised. I'm weird like that.

Time for the doctor. Suffice to say, it involved what looked like a terrorist/death row holding cell, complete with assorted sterilized torture devices. And when I saw what looked like one-foot long cuticle scissors, I squished my eyes together and prayed, "Please Lord. Please let me live. Please let me live long enough to meet Rachael Ray tonight." As the torture began, my mind became a sound stage for repeating the name "Rachael Ray" over and over. It must have been a reaction to the pain. Finally, I hobbled out a thoroughly examined woman, having conquered the worst of an Endocervical Curettage (ECC), and doubly determined to meet Rachael Ray.

An hour later, a book signing revealed a line of hundreds of culinary-genius fans, and walking past their chatter sounded like a multi-national replay of my mental exam room mantra. "Rachael Ray!" people yelled. "Rach!"

But not me. Or my aunt. We didn't have tickets. Apparently 300 golden tickets were distributed prior to the event, and we didn't have one. This would be harder than I thought.

Inside the book store, I "lucked" upon a misplaced Rachael Ray cookbook, and hurriedly bought it. Bypassing the hundreds waiting for signed copies, I walked up to the rope to behold #8 on my list, and was shocked at how cute and personable she was. I shamelessly took a picture - right as she lunged for her coffee cup. Guess that would be as close to Rachael Ray as I'd get.

Or would it?

Our picture place near the rope "happened" us upon none other than Kirk, Rachael Ray's driver. And although he was no butter salesman, my aunt struck up a conversation. After asking the poor guy as many questions as we could about Rachael, the driver had pity on us (I guess), and suddenly we were in line as the next group to meet Rachael Ray. So, we did. A fellow crazed fan snapped my picture with Rachael, with promises to email them. So far, no luck.

But I met Rachael! I shook her hand. I even told her that she was on my list. (I didn't mention that she was #8, though.) "Rock on," Rachael said. "Awesome. You can knock me off the list now!" Indeed I could....

After staring at her illegible signature with a smiley-face "YUM-O!" scrawled in my new cookbook, I began thinking of all the cool things I could have said to her. Or asked her. I could have asked her how to store ginger. Or if she ever uses New Zealand butter. Or how she can have published 140 burger recipes and still be smaller than a sixth grader. Or...

... but I didn't. I mutated into a star-stricken dork with nothing better to offer Rachael than the fact that she was on my list. Gosh. Idiot.

It's funny... the people we admire. It's curious, the things we find enamoring in people. It's sad, the priority we place glimpsing/meeting/impressing ... people. I hope I can apply that same enthusiasm to someday meeting - face to face - my Creator. Rachael Ray's Creator.

I can't wait. Truly, I can't! Until that day, I've decided that I'll try to think now of cool questions to ask Him. Like... what Jesus did between the ages of 12 and 33. And where the Ark of the Covenant was all this time. Heaven forbid - literally - that I, along with hundreds and hundreds of God fans, get my chance to shake His hand someday and the best I can come up with is:

"I love you. You're on my list."

Saturday, December 9, 2006

My 10-Year-Old Self

If you spent the day with your 10-year old self, what would she (he) think of you?

That question, posed to me so innocently awhile back, hit me in the stomach. My 27-year old self paused. Hmmmm. What would I think of me? How would my 10-year old self perceive the grown-up me? Would I think I was kind? Rude? Fun? Stuffy? Smart? Idiotic?

Would I like myself?

I woke up thinking about it again today. Surely, I think, she would like my closet. I noted with satisfaction my gigantic mountain of Container Store boxes, all filled with beautiful shoes, and thought that she would be enamored with my shoe collection. Cool.

In the living room, I noted my DVD stash. Certainly there was plenty there to keep my 10-year old self spellbound. Beauty and the Beast... Charlie Brown... Little Women... Polar Express... Clue... Uptown Girls. Movies? Check!

Oh... and books. I have dozens of fun and educational children books... many from when I was ten. I know she'd love those.

In the kitchen, maybe my 10-year old self would help me make cookies. Big, beautiful snowflake cookies with sparkly sugar tops. Of course, no cookie would be complete without a mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. So... okay. My 10-year old self would be thrilled with the kitchen.

But all that... it's just stuff. Just things I own. It's not really me. And the question was would she like me, not my accumulation of junk.

Huh. Okay.

I was still thinking about it when I pulled into the overcrowded, chaotic mega-mart to grab some Christmas things. Inside, I passed a swarm of kids with dried snaught on their faces. A few of us made eye contact and I wondered: Do I looked perturbed? Do I look tired? Can children tell the difference? A little girl glanced up at me. I smiled. She, after all, might have been friends with my 10-year old self.

Rounding the milk/yogurt/sour cream/juice, etc. aisle, I nearly crashed into the back of my own basket. There, in front of me, atop a throne of bright red Coca-Cola, was Santa Claus. His beard was crooked and he was impossibly young, but his cheeks were rosy and his boots were shiny, so he was Santa alright. I hesitated, then began to wheel briskly by him.

"HO, HO, HO, Merry Christmas," Santa bellowed as I walked by. I stopped.

"Merry Christmas, Santa," I said, looking Santa square in the beard.

"And what would you like for Christmas this year?" Santa asked.

"ME?" I questioned, looking around. Surely impossibly young Santa wasn't talking to me.

But he was.

I almost snickered and wheeled away. Or I could have given him a don't-you-dare-hit-on-me-Santa look, and then wheeled away. But I didn't. Instead I left my cart by the yogurt and walked up to his Coca-Cola throne.

"What do I want for Christmas?" I asked.

Santa nodded.

I almost said I wanted a wireless internet router. Or a garden cart. Or a dishwasher.

But I didn't. Instead, I heard myself whisper:

"I want to be the kind of woman my 10-year old self would be proud of."

That's the real trouble with the world,
Too many people grow up.
They forget.
They don't remember what it's like
To be ten years old.
-Walt Disney

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Stable Background

I love Christmas. I love everything about Christmas. So tonight, not being able to stand any more outdated Thanksgiving cheer, I turned on some seasonal music and hauled down my Christmas boxes. I was giddy. Especially when I open the nativity box.

Last year, my Grandmother - the same one who bestowed upon me the now infamous toothpick holder - culled her Christmas collection. I was excited to get one of her nativity sets. The one I've displayed for a thousand Christmases is one I bargained for years ago in a market in Mexico. It's carved from soapstone, and baby Jesus is missing half His face. (Maebelline, my cat, abducted baby Jesus and His manger back in 2004. I freaked out for a week before finding Him under the bed. That night, I told Maebelline she'd better repent of swiping and biting Jesus or she'd have a lot to answer for. Let's hope she did.)

That aside, suffice to say that I was due a new nativity scene. Sentimental or not, you just can't display a gnawed-on baby Jesus.

So the new one went up tonight. I carefully arranged the figures atop a piece of furniture Mae never jumps on, and retired to the living room where I began watching television. Within moments, I was yawning to a show that mentioned a set of twins: one successful, one trouble. The psychologist and the host argued the whole nature versus nurture issue, and I switched the channel. Predictable stuff. I thought they'd proved long ago that we, as humans, are a product of both nature and nurture...

I walked back into the entryway and looked at my nativity. Sure was pretty. And as I stared at baby Jesus, I realized: forget nature. Forget nurture. It's all about a stable background.

Hear me out. I believe the Bible is clear that we are all born with a sin nature. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Romans says. Even perfectionists are a joke. We're all sinners. Me. (Especially me.) You. We all mess up. I guess that's why we all had such a fundamental, all-encompassing need for... baby Jesus. Talk about a nurturer. Sure, children with affectionate, doting parents statistically tend to grow up to be more loving, responsible adults than their ignored, neglected counterparts. But all of us, regardless of upbringing, need a Savior. A "Comforter". An ultimate nurturer...

A stable background.

I'm not sure where you started out, but it's kind of irrelevant, don't you think? I mean, all of us... you, me, everyone... has the same chance - the same access - to the Child born in that manger so many Christmases ago. We may not have had stable, nurturing backgrounds, so He offered His. God became man - was born in a stable - just so we could come to know the nurturing love He offers. I could bore you all day with my past, but the truth is, nothing really matters save the day when, as a child, I accepted Jesus as my Savior; the day I realized His stable background could become my stable future.

Yep, that nativity means a lot to me. It's the embodiment of a level playing field. It's the hope of emotionally banged-up, bruised, and hurting grown-up children everywhere. And the neat thing this Christmas? A stable background... well, it's yours for the taking, too.

Just ask that Child in the manger.

The Toothpicks and The Nutcracker

It's odd what people remember about you when you're gone. Take, for example, what we remember about Laura Ellen Pearson Caviness and the great Peter Tchaikovsky...

My Thanksgiving week was weird and wonderful. The week started with a grand performance of E.T.A. Hoffmann's The Nutcracker as set to music by Tchaikovsky. My aunt and I bundled up and drove to the Strand in Shreveport, Louisiana, to catch the night performance. It was spellbinding, and I didn't take a single breath during the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies. (If you ever get a chance to see the Moscow Ballet, go. Even if they're doing a ballet rendition of Hee-Haw. Go. Those Russians know how to dance.)

I got home from the performance and went to bed. Then I got up. I'd read The Nutcracker years before, but I was suddenly curious about the author. What was his story? How did he meet up with Tchaikovsky? The dork in me had to know.

So I found out. Turns out E.T.A. Hoffmann was a civil servant turned composer/musician who nearly starved to death before publishing The Nutcracker and the King of Mice in 1816. His version was much darker than we know it today. It was so twisted, in fact, that Tchaikovsky refused to compose for the piece until a French writer edited the story and added a Sugar Plum Fairy. (I should add, too, that Tchaikovsky was bribed with the promise of the production of his opera Iolanthe should he complete the ballet.)

Anyway, Tchaikovsky finished the music for The Nutcracker in 1892. He hated it. It was "all ugliness," he wrote. The public at the time agreed. His opera was deemed a success, but the newspapers poked fun of his ballet.

Odd how 100 years later that's all the average person remembers of Tchaikovsky. Bet he never would've guessed it.

Just like my own Great-Great-Grandmother probably never would have guessed that in 2006 she would be remembered for her toothpicks. My family made a quick trip to Paris to clean out my Great-Grandmother's home, and my Grandmother returned with a "surprise" for me. From behind her back she produced a tiny, cut-glass toothpick holder. "This used to sit on the dining room table in Paris when I was a little girl," she said softly. "Your Great-Great-Grandmother, Laura Ellen Pearson Caviness, kept it stuffed with toothpicks," she added.

I took the toothpick holder over to my Grandmother's picture of Laura Ellen Pearson Caviness, trying to put a face with a toothpick holder. Laura Caviness reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Weird. I could just see my Laura running through the prairie with a handful of toothpicks.

On my way out the door this morning, I reminded myself to grab some toothpicks. You know, to stuff my new toothpick holder. It can't just sit on my dining room table all empty-looking.

I'd hate to be remembered in 2206 as the girl who bored people with the history of The Nutcracker yet couldn't remember to fill her own toothpick holder....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bridge to Thanksgiving

I will give You thanks with all my heart; I will sing praises to You.... and give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth.
-Psalm 138:1-2

Thanksgiving. It's all we hear this week. Be thankful. Give thanks. And we will, too. I mean, someone will say the blessing before we eat....

Ummm... We are missing Thanksgiving.

I was sitting in church Sunday listening to the Thanksgiving message. Our pastor has just returned from doing some work in Kenya, and he related a story of the indigenous people killing two goats (a feast, indeed) and offering our pastor the head. To eat. I inwardly gagged as he described the ceremony in which these folks devoured whole goats. No thanks. My idea of a feast is cheeseburger with a side of cheeseburger. But I'll settle for turkey and dressing tomorrow. You know, if I must.

Anyway, our preacher went on to say that during their time away, a fellow pastor was asked if he was rich. No, the pastor said, laughing, Not hardly.

Do you have a house? the same man asked.

Yes, yes, I have a house, the preacher replied.

How many rooms? continued the man.

Three bedrooms, a garage... the preacher answered.

You have a car? the man asked, incredulously.

Yes, my wife and I both have one.

What about children?

Two, replied the preacher. One's in college and one's still at home.

You all healthy? Not sick?

No, no, everyone's fine, the preacher said kindly.

Sir, you are RICH, the man said, awestruck.

It hit home. I would say the same if someone were to ask me if I'm rich: ha, not hardly. But... I have a huge house - all to myself. I have high-speed internet and a nice vehicle and great clothes and comfortable furniture. My family is healthy and safe. Suddenly my plans for a flat panel TV and spa bathroom seem as shallow as those goat fire-pits in Kenya.

We are rich beyond measure. Why in the world are we not thankful? Going through the motion of this week, it seems like I'm on one side of the water, and a spirit of true Thanksgiving is on the other. I need a bridge. A bridge to Thanksgiving.

I complain too often. My house is cold, I grumble. So I go out and buy insulation. (Sure, I don't read the directions and end up with black, sticky fingers for a week, but still. Insulation is in.) And I moan, I need money. For what? (I caught The Nutcracker at the Strand this week. I have plenty of food in the fridge. No one should pity me. I'm not needy. At all.)

Point is, I'm blessed. My salvation is secure and until then, my needs will be covered. So why in the world does my voice join in with the chorus of complaining crap that daily reaches God's ears?

I consulted my Bible. It seems to say that the answer to Thanksgiving... to being in the true spirit of Thanksgiving... is to meaningfully say those words that were drilled (beaten) into us as kids: thank you.

Thank you, God, for Your provision. Your salvation. Your lovingkindness (that's a cool word), and Your truth. You are faithful, and I am grateful.

There. Even as I type it, I feel all Thanksgivingy inside. I could be a pilgrim. The more thanks I proclaim, the more thankful I become.

Pass the turkey. We've relocated the bridge to Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Doors of Thanksgiving

They didn't have a door to welcome them home. Not even a door.

So I'm reading this book about the years leading up to the first Thanksgiving. (You know, the first "official" one... in 1621.) I was reading of how these people... these normal, every day folks... walked aboard a boat and set sail with the collective dream of living and worshiping their God in freedom and truth. I've read it all before. We all have. It's the Thanksgiving story.

But I'm reading along, considering the Pilgrims' horrible voyage, and a black and white picture dances into my mind. It's odd. I suppose I've always had this mental picture of dirty, poorly-clothed Pilgrims sliding around inside a dirty, leaky Mayflower, hudling together and singing hymns. (You can almost see them there, eating bug-infested food and wishing for a bath and fighting back tears as they prepared to toss yet another of their dead overboard.) But then... but then... they landed at Plymouth. Finally! Home.

Only... it really wasn't. Their home was across the ocean. The picture I viewed in my mind was like a crackly, black and white reel that watched as these men and women silently clamored out of their leaky ship in time to see nothing but water behind them and dead overgrowth before them. I've been to Plymouth Rock. That shore is desolate. I mean, the Pilgrims were home, but... not. There was no front door to walk through. No floor to crash on. No leftover stuffing to look forward to.

I can't imagine. No front doors. No homes. Where were they to sleep? According to history, William Bradford wrote that on November 11, 1620, when the Pilgrims finally dropped anchor at Plymouth, he "stood half amazed at this poor people's present condition,... Being thus past the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles.... they had now no friends to welcome them nor inns to entertain or refresh their weather-beaten bodies. What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace?"

Indeed, what could?

This week, we'll all be thinking of what we're grateful for. So I'll tell you: I'm grateful for the doors in my life. The door (pictured above) that leads into the kitchen at Freeman House. The door at my folks' house. The door at my job and grocery store. The door of my church. And maybe, too, the door God opened to allow these normal, every day men and women to seek a door-less greeting on those desolate Plymouth shores.

By the way, I should add that William Bradford went on to write about the Pilgrim's landing that cold November day. He said that after they tumbled off the Mayflower - with not a single door in sight - "...they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth."

I pray for blessings on the doors in your life. Happy Thanksgiving! B

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Dress

I don't care what it looked like, what size it was, or where you got it. It doesn't matter if it cost you the world or cost you nothing. I don't think a girl EVER forgets her wedding dress.

My wedding dress memories will always be bittersweet. But no matter. I loved my dress. I've kept it for awhile, wondering how to store it... where to keep it... which closet to smush it in. It's a hard thing to let go of... you want to keep it, yet keep it out of the way. But finally - this week - I gave up. I decided to let it go.

What to do with a wedding dress that holds so many memories? I moved it around Freeman House as I thought it over. Of course, I could always consign it. It didn't have to be altered, so it's very likely someone else could wear it on her big day. But, then again, it seemed disrespectful to sell it somehow. I always hoped I could pass my dress down to my daughter... or maybe granddaughter, if it came to that. (My own Grandmother used parts of her wedding dress to make angel dolls for her granddaughters. I keep mine in my top dresser drawer, and see it each morning when I dress.) But in my situation, there will be no daughters. No granddaughters. No, there's no reason to keep it. I must let it go.

So I wrapped it as beautifully as I could and boxed it up. Then I started making some calls. I discovered that Brides Against Breast Cancer has a donation program that privately sells wedding dresses to benefit brides fighting, or recovering from, breast cancer. That did it. After doing some checking, I addressed my special box to Portland and walked to the Post Office.

I was brave. I didn't cry (or even whimper) as the postal employee checked off the usual questions: "Priority mail? Signature confirmation? Insurance?" No, no, no. Please hurry before I collapse over the velvet waiting rope and cry on your floor. And please see that my beautiful dress gets to someone who can use it to win her fight with cancer....

On the Post Office sidewalk, I lost it.

Bittersweet. My wedding dress memories will always be bittersweet. But thinking of another woman conquering... triumphing... living... makes the dress seem sweeter still.

If you have a dress, veil, or any wedding apparel you'd like to donate, check out the Brides Against Breast Cancer program at:

Wednesday, November 8, 2006


I was thinking today about banners.

Strange thing to think about, I know. It's just that I drive past this quaint country church every morning and am puzzled by the building's lack of identification, save this sign: His banner over me is love. That's all it says. No "First Political Baptist". Or "First Un-United Methodist". Or "We-Hate-Instruments Church of Christ". Nothing. Nothing except, His banner over me is love.

What a curious thing to spell out on the front of a church, I always think.

But this morning, I didn't have time to dwell. I was speeding off to work, listening to election coverage/results. Yawn. Sounded to me like everyone hates everyone else, and took turns today criticizing and labeling everyone else. I even heard some donkey (democrat) on NPR say he would march through the street with a banner declaring the "culture of corruption" was over.

Banner. There was that word again. It was bugging me.

I looked it up. Banners, that is. I found that the earliest mention of banners occurred in the Old Testament, where Exodus 17:15 refers to them as a rallying point in a battle. Then I read that the Japanese used them in the 15th and 16th centuries. They were apparently big in the Crusades, too, and even made an appearance in our own Civil War. I guess in battle a banner is a clear indication of whose side you're on. Of what you stand for. In the midst of battle, or in the dead of night, a banner is a visual reminder of what you're willing to do for the cause for which you stand.

Huh. Song of Solomon 2:4 says, His banner over me is love. Take Song of Solomon as an allegory for the love God has for us - His children - and what you get is a visual picture of God marching with a banner that simply says...


I nearly cried at the thought that if God were to organize a parade and invite us to march alongside Him, the only thing that blowing banner above our heads would read is: love. That if God were to organize a modern day rally, the only sign He'd be holding would say: love. That if a reporter were to ask God to spell out His platform... His agenda... He'd smile into the camera and pat His campaign button, which would simply read: love.

And when that same reporter asked about His record in office, He'd point to the cross...


I'm going through a really difficult time. My marriage is ending, and the remains are not pretty. The marriage wasn't either. It has been, and will likely continue to be, a hard-fought battle.

I suppose that's why the message on this little church sign followed me around all day. It's a visual reminder of what God paints on His banners. Of what God is willing to do for you... for me.

His banner over me is love.

My cloud of battle-dust may dim,
His veil of splendor curtain Him;
And in the midnight of my fear
I may not feel Him standing near:
But, as I lift mine eyes above,
His banner over me is love.
Gerald Massey, 1863

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


It was a dark and stormy night.

(Or, it could have been. It was dark anyways.)

Okay. So... it was a dark and not-stormy night. Last night. I sat alone in Freeman House, decked-out in rubber-duck flannel pajamas. I sat in the dining room, contemplating my yearly Christian Halloween dilemma. Should I participate in the church's fall carnival? Watch The Birds and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, until I fall asleep? Sit at the organ, light only one candle, and scare children to death by playing the creeeepiest music ever when they knocked upon my door?


(And I must say... last year, at Halloween, I had several parents come to the door. Their little ghosts and Disney princesses stood huddled together under the street light in front of the house, too terrified to come close. I think one passed out and another choked on his candy when "the lady in the scary house" came to the door. Priceless.)

Anyway, it was a dark and not-yet-stormy night, and I sat clad in rubber-duck pajamas pondering my 2006 Halloween situation... when....


Just like that. Two little thumps, back-to-back. I straightened up in my chair. The thumping came from the library. I would go check, but two things stopped me: one, there's no electricity in the library; and two, it was a dark and not-stormy night. No way was I opening that creaky door off the hall and venturing into that big, dark room. No way.

...thump... thump... CRAAAASH!

I jumped from the chair. The cat ran under the chair. The old house echoed with the noise.

...clang... swish swish....

I would have called the cops, but last time I heard screaming under the house and called the police, it turned out that a real, live donkey was trapped underneath. (Yeah. I couldn't make this stuff up.) I've never seen uniformed cops laugh so hard. In fact, I avoid making eye contact with any of them when I go to City Hall now to pay the water bill. They know. They all know.


The silence was more terrifying than the thumping, crashing, clanging, and swishing. The thing... whatever or whoever it was... was still, too. Listening. Waiting. It was a stand off. In my house.

I lowered my duck butt back into the chair. I waited. And waited. And waited....

About 3 o'clock this morning, I awoke. Silence. I figured the fact I was still alive was reason enough to attempt to reach my bed. I tiptoed to the hall and stared across at the closed library door. It was dark. Silent. I looked down the long, empty hall. It was dark. Silent.

I ran.

When I awoke some three hours later, the house was still silent, but the dark was starting to crack a little. I crept to the library door and listened.


I placed my shaking hand on the knob and flung it as hard as I could.

There was no one there. I smiled. Chuckled, even. I went in and sat down on a stack of sheetrock and felt almost giddy. No one was there. An evil hobo was not living in my library. An escaped murderer was not sleeping in the library. Why had I worried? I'd probably imagined it all anyway.

But then, I noticed. I noticed this trail of ... prints... in the sheetrock dust. They outlined a path out of - and back into - the library closet. Animal prints. Little buggers. Raccoon? Squirrel? Giant Halloween Eve rat? Maybe you can tell.

All I know is that it was a dark and almost-stormy night last night. And I in my duck pajamas, and my trusty old cat, were just settling down for Halloween Eve nap, when out in the library there arose such a clatter...

And apparently the creatures were stirring... maybe even, a giant mouse.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Showers... er... um... Bath... Blessings

OhgoshOhgoshOhgosh... Freeman House finally has a bath!

You couldn't find a happier person right now. Or a cleaner one. After bathing outdoors (or trying to bathe indoors - in a sink) for over a year, I have a bathtub. Freeman House finally has its old clawfoot tub back. It's newly restored, even. See?

It's funny; if you'd have asked me two years ago to name the blessings in my life, a bathtub would not have been among them. Today, it's Blessing # 4. I'm glad God cares about our everydays. It's nice to pray to the God who cares about baths. (Of course, I guess He can smell, too. He was probably just tired of smelling me....)

So, in honor of my bath blessing from above, I sat it in last night. I sat in it this morning. In fact, I only got out to snap this picture. My hands are so pruney I can barely type. I may stay in here forever. In fact, when I die, please just throw a towel over me and bury me in the tub.

You know, I've always said there's little a good book or brownie can't cure. Please add "bath" to that list, too. I should now read: "There's little a good book, brownie, or bath can't cure."

Awh yes. That should do it...

Have a good weekend, everyone, from my bath to yours!

"I will bless them.... I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing." -Ezekiel 34:26

Thursday, October 26, 2006


"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way. Walk in it." -Isaiah 30:21

I like Isaiah. I like the way the Scripture within that book seems to grab at you from its tissue paper-like page, promising victory and guidance and companionship via an all-powerful Deity. I love the assurances Isaiah often relates. I love the hope it gives. But tonight I'm dining with doubt. Tonight I'm supping with skepticism. After all, what happens when we can't hear a "voice"? What do we do when "the way" isn't self-evident? Or, horror of horrors, what if there's more than ONE WAY?

Not to snub Isaiah for the ramblings of Robert Frost, but, like the beloved poet, my life is diverging into two roads. I must make a decision - very soon - that will impact the course of the rest of my life. Really. And the way I see it, I have two choices: the road less traveled, and the road most traveled. And, like Frost, I'm also certain my choice will make all the difference. So where's my sign that points to my ONE WAY? Where's that voice behind me?

Remember that movie with... oh, it was Gwyneth Paltrow, wasn't it?... that had the different endings? (Something with doors or windows or revolving doors or .... Man! I'm getting old. Please pass the Ginkgo Biloba.) Anyway, remember the movie had vastly different outcomes that hinged on her split-second decision? I fear moments like that - those all-defining, life-encompassing moments that dictate the remainder of our future. I fear them. I loathe them. And yet, here one is, shattering my serenity....

Two roads. One choice. And no voice behind me.

When I was a kid, I wondered if I'd have a made-for-heaven movie waiting on me when I died. I pictured God holding the remote... angels passing out popcorn... and people who knew me best clamoring to get a good cloud-seat. After all, this would be a once-in-all-of-eternity viewing of my earthly life. The un-cut, un-edited version. (Here, I reasoned, my Dad would finally find out who really drove the 3-wheeler into the front of the house. And here, I realized, I'd finally find out if I really was supposed to take over for Barbara Walters.) But later, as I grew older, I worried: would my choice of colleges be one of those moments where God would stand, pause the picture, and elaborate on how my life disintegrated upon that very decision? Would my cloud-seated spectators wince and gasp as they viewed the alternative ending to my life... what I could have been... could have done... had I only chosen the ONE WAY?

Again, two roads. One choice. Where is that voice that's supposed to be behind me?

I don't know about you, but I'm finding myself in a hushed, ears-peeled state of prayer. That's why, when my Jeep rambled by this sign, I had to stop and snap a picture. ONE WAY, the sign says, go left. THE WAY, Isaiah says, walk in it.

If only it were that easy.

But, hey. Hey. Maybe it is. Just maybe it is. As I meditate on that verse, I notice how Isaiah tells God's people how "gracious He will be when you cry for help". (Isaiah 30:19.) How "as soon as He hears, He will answer you," and "whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice...."

You know, maybe the point isn't the ONE WAY. Maybe it's not all about the minutia of our lives or our tedious decisions. Not at all. Maybe it's all about whether we cry for help and then boldly choose a direction - right or left... traveled or less traveled - and then listen for that voice behind us and walk in it.

Yeah. Maybe that's it. Maybe Isaiah is onto something....

ONE WAY. ONE WAY?? It's something to think about. And in the meantime, I have a road to choose.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Autumn is my favorite.

There's something about the fall that grabs me every year. Maybe it's autumn's stillness - the way trees whisper and leaves dance and new becomes old - that reassures me. Or maybe I sympathize with autumn's decay... its helplessness as it watches itself turn beautiful... then tattered... then gone. Whatever the reason, autumn is my favorite.

In fact, I'm thinking of taking a foliage trip. The idea of bundling up and wearing mittens and drinking gallons of hot chocolate and taking in the burning-colored leaves appeals to me right now. I guess I even got an early start Thursday when I took in this sight in the Ozark Mountains. (Hey! Maybe I could turn leaf-peeping into a younger version of bird-watching. You know... make it cool again. We could sell "autumn is cool" t-shirts and leaf-flavored bottled water and things.)

Or not.

Really, I think I like autumn the best because it's such a visual reminder that we have a gorgeous and glorious heavenly Father. A harmonious, all-knowing season keeper. And as I consider how today's leaves fall to make room for tomorrow's growth, I think, surely, surely, Someone who can orchestrate this season can turn the decay in my life into something new... something beautiful... again.

Surely He can. Surely He can....

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." -George Elliot

Friday, October 20, 2006

While We Wait...

Waiting, waiting, waiting. All my life, I've been waiting for my life to begin, as if somehow my life was ahead of me, and someday I would arrive at it.
-Camryn Manheim

Waiting. It is what we do. We spend our lives waiting. I'm curious what number God would offer if I could only tap Him on the shoulder and ask, "Please, God... do You know how much time I've spent so far just... waiting?"

Camryn Manheim may have a lot of holes in her ears, but not in her reasoning. I agree with her; we spend our lives waiting.

We wait at traffic lights and grocery stores and doctors' offices.
We wait until Friday, payday, and Christmas day.
We wait for a spouse, then children, then grandchildren.
We wait for guidance or patience or ... God.
We wait... and wait... and wait....

This morning, I waited for my bath water to get hot. Then (having left my hair dryer two states away), I waited for my hair to dry. At Sonic, I waited in the drive-thru before pulling out to wait for a wreck to clear. I waited for hundreds of miles to roll by. When a trooper pulled me over, I waited for him to run my tags. Then I waited for him to write me a warning. (And it says, under the violation part, "speed over 70". Umm... yeah. I think they should at least have to write your actual speed. "Speed over 70" seems like the guy was too busy gorging on jelly donuts and listening to his new Jeff Foxworthy CD to note my actual speed.) Anway, once home, I waited for dinner to boil (note to self: don't buy the Kraft Asian noodles again. Kraft does good cheese, not good Asian.) Then I waited for bathroom grout to be groutable enough to grout my new tiles so that tomorrow the plumber can come and install the clawfoot bathtub I've waited 13 months to use. (Just so I can get up another day and wait for my bath water to get hot....)

Waiting for my point?

It's this: that somewhere, in all this waiting, is life. My life. Your life. Somewhere... amid all our grocery lines and paydays and hopes for somedays... is the life we've been waiting for. Sure, it may not look like we expected. And sure, we may still be waiting to arrive at the life we always imagined, but in the meantime, life isn't waiting on us. It's here. Now. And it doesn't perch on park benches waiting for us to happen by and invite it to tag along.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. I'm waiting, too. And even though I should be good at it by now, it's the hardest thing to do...

"And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You." Psalm 39:7

Sunday, October 15, 2006


If I was a true optimist, I would call it an "adventure".

If I was a poet, I'd call it my Wanderjahr... my time spent wandering or traveling itinerantly.

But today I'm not an optimist. Today I'm not a poet. So I'll call it like I see it: today, I am - lost.

This past week, I woke to find myself in a place I never thought I'd be. I've stumbled onto a road I never thought I'd find myself traveling. But my denial... my bewilderment... my disappointment... none of it changes the reality of my circumstances. I am lost. I am in the midst of an unpoetic, unwelcome wanderjahr.

And I'm not graceful enough - not polished enough - to deny it. There's so much pressure as a modern, educated individual... as a modern, educated Christian - to maintain the facade of a perfectly-blessed life. To maintain the ideal of a graceful existence and divinely-led walk - even when your life is seemingly in shambles and your very core is shaken. And sometimes, even when acknowledging that you are blessed... abundantly blessed... and you do live grace-filled existence, you just want to cry out: yes, but I hurt too! I struggle too! I wonder... and wander.. too!

And I am. I do.

I won't speak for all modern, education Christians out there. I wouldn't dare. But I will speak for myself: life isn't perfect. My life sure isn't. Even as a Christian, life is hard. I hurt. I struggle. I wonder. I wander.

Some days, I wake to find myself in my own personal wanderjahr. Is my life divinely led? Yes, maybe. Is it divinely accompanied? Yes, assuredly. But you see, my comfort for today and my strength for tomorrow hinges on one ever-present, never-changing fact: that my itinerant travels - like those of the early nation of Israel - are never time spent alone.

I snapped this picture one day when I found myself starting out on a new chapter of my life. I liked the way the heavens nearly broke open above the barren landscape... above that desolate road. It reminded me... and reminds me to this day... about God's promise to Joshua. About God's promise to me. The promise that says that no matter the struggle... no matter the hurt... no matter the feeling of being... lost... no matter where my unwelcome wanderjahr leads ... I am divinely accompanied.

We wanderjahrers (!) are divinely accompanied.

I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you. -Hebrews 13:5

Monday, October 9, 2006

The House Helper... with Pattern

Ah, the knitted, round cloths. These are a staple at Freeman House- so much so that I've begun calling them House Helpers. I use them for everything around the house.

Ah, the knitted, round cloths. These are a staple at Freeman House- so much so that I've begun calling them House Helpers. I use them for everything around the house. I dust with them. I wash and dry dishes with them. I scrub windows with them and wipe mirrors with them and clean, clean, clean with them. They're perfect, and oh so pretty drying beside the sink or hanging from the clothesline.

Do you knit? If not, do you know someone who does? Find them, or find your knitting needles, and whip up a few of these. Make them for yourself. Make them for friends. (Christmas 2004 was all about three of these tied with a bow and a bottle of Bath & Body Works Anti-Bacterial Soap and given as gifts. Big hit.)

House HelpersWorsted Weight Cotton (100% cotton)
Size 8 or 9 Knitting Needles

Cast on 15 sts
*Knit 1 row
k 3, yo, k 11, leaving 1 st on needle
Turn, knit across
k 3, yo, k 11, leaving 2 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
k 3, yo, k 11, leaving 3 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
bo 3 sts, k 2, yo, k 8, leaving 4 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
k 3, yo, k 8, leaving 5 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
k 3, yo, k 8, leaving 6 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
bo 3 sts, k 2, yo, k 5, leaving 7 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
k 3, yo, k 5, leaving 8 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
k 3, yo, k 5, leaving 9 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
bo 3 sts, knit to end (15 stitches)*
Bind off all sts

Repeat sections * to * six times more (for a total of 7 sections or 21 points). Draw up center of cloth and sew together first and last rows. Weave in ends.

And there you have it! I hope you enjoy these cloths as much as I (and my gift recipients!) have. Happy knitting!  -Brin

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The Immutable Moon

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator. -Mohandas Gandhi

I was looking at the moon last night. I was thinking... praying... hoping I was being heard - hoping this particular prayer wasn't getting stuck in God's inbox. This prayer was important, and I needed God's ear.

I stood there - underneath that brilliant moon - for some time. It was strangely comforting. I was comforted because even though my problems and prayers have changed with the circumstances in my life, that brilliant moon never changes. I mean, sure - some nights the moon is barely a sliver in the sky, but regardless of how big or small (or near or far) it seems - its presence is constant. It's always there. The same moon I played under as a child, wished upon as a teenager, and married under as an adult... it hasn't changed.

That's something. When you think about it, there are very few things in life that are permanent. Think back five years. Ten years. What's in your life today- or is not in your life today- that wasn't (was?) there then? More than likely, you can think of something. Like one of my favorite singers says, everything is temporary if you give it enough time.

But I'm glad. I'm glad some things are fleeting. Life would be unnavigable if everything and everyone stuck around forever. And yet... and yet... I'm thankful some things are immutable. Like the Creator. The Creator who decorated His sky with a sun to guide us by day and a moon to comfort us by night.

So as I stood last night... looking at the moon... appreciating its enduring beauty... I gave thanks for the temporary - and the permanent - in my life. [Change is nothing to fear, and constants are nothing to snub.] And just as I did, I felt my soul expand... expand in worship, and in awe... of my Creator.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Hope and Hurricanes

So... um... gosh! A lot's happened since we were last here, huh? Israel's in a rapidly-escalating war. Campisi's was voted the 'Best Pizza in Dallas'. David Hasselhoff has quit drinking. The 2006 Hurricane Forecast is out. (And didn't we just get through watching all the lame celebrity Hurricane Katrina fundraisers on TV?)

Wow. Life happens so quickly. I really had no idea it had been so long since I last blogged. Seems like some days our rumps barely leave the bed before we're jumping (or falling... or crawling) back in. Do you ever have those deja vu moments when you open the refrigerator... or pull back the shower curtain... and feel like you were just there... even though it was yesterday? Yeah. Life comes at us pretty fast. Somedays it's downright exhausting.

But back to that 2006 hurricane forecast. It's crazy stuff. Did you hear that NOAA is predicting 8 to 10 Atlantic storms this year, with 4 to 6 of them being "major"? Oh goody. Hope those people down on the Gulf are building houses with wheels. And fast motors.

Seriously. Didn't we just start rebuilding? Didn't we just survive last year's hurricanes? And yet here comes a new season of storms. MSNBC was interviewing a guy yesterday who stared straight into the camera and shrugged, "What's the point of rebuilding? I'll just get blown away again this year."

Hmm. We've all felt like that at one time or another, haven't we? Maybe we didn't lose our homes to Katrina, but we've all lost something to an unexpected event or misfortune. Some of us have lost jobs. Others have lost spouses. Or finances. Or dreams. It's hard to rebuild after devastation - be it emotional or physical. It's hard to find the motivation to start again. And besides, sometimes we do wonder what the point is - I mean, won't we just get blown away again?

A good friend just lost her younger brother in a car accident. She's devastated. Any of us would be. And she's also wondering: where do I go from here? In a time where everything is subject to change... in a place where nothing is guaranteed... where do you rebuild? How do you start over?
Gosh. A hurricane victim... a grieving sister... you... me... we all have the same fears. And hearing their questions reminded me of a childhood Sunday School story. The one about the "wise man". Jesus told it like this: A wise man built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. A foolish man built his house upon the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great CRASH!...

See, that's our answer. That's the difference. That's why - and where - we rebuild. That holds true in my life, anyway. Because, you see, when I've built my life... my home... my hopes... my dreams... upon the sand - upon the shifting shore of my wants and needs... on circumstance and come-what-may - the storms get me everytime.

But when I place my life... my home... my hopes... my dreams... upon "nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness" (as the old hymn goes), my house on the rock stands firm. It does not fall. It does not fail. Not ever. Why? Because its foundation isn't in this life. It isn't built on what happens today... or what will happen tomorrow. It isn't affected by hurricanes. Or death. Or lay-offs. Or divorce. It's firmly rooted in the promises and character of THE Foundation... of THE very Author and Finisher of my faith.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just exhausted. But as Katrina victims still struggle with why to rebuild; as my grieving friend still struggles with how to rebuild; as others of us still struggle with where to rebuild - I just needed a reminder. A reminder that amid hope and hurricanes, there is some stability. There is a House on the rock that will stand firm....

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
-Edward Mote, 1834

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Perspective Point

I have a headache today. The kind of headache that parks itself between your eyes and threatens to punch its way out through your peeper-sockets.

I've been engaged a very short time, and already I'm surprised by what it takes to plan a wedding. It's fun, but the walls have closed in fast. (A lot like that ride at Six Flags. You know, the ride park officials "retired" because the spinning, closing walls killed that old lady?) Yep. Like that. Already I can't see the forest for the trees. Already I'm sweating over the guest list. (Great Aunt So-And-So, or... no?) Already I'm second-guessing my menu. (White Cheddar Corn Chowder or... Crab Bisque?) Already I'm stuck on colors. (Moss green... or cranberry?) Don't get me wrong. It's a wonderful kind of stress. A happy stress. Wouldn't trade it. (Really, darling, I wouldn't.) But his idea of an elopement is sounding more tempting by the day. Gosh. No wonder they have TV shows about this stuff!

I think I'm letting it get a little out of hand, though. And no one likes things getting out of hand. Not brides, not nice, normal people... not anyone. So with that in mind, I decided I could use a little perspective. A put-down-the-bridal-magazine-and-evaluate-what's-really-important-here kind of moment....

...Oh yeah. This is nice.

It's funny how - in the grand scheme of things - this wedding is just a little blip on my life's radar. It's just a few hours, really, in a whole lifetime of moments and experiences and... life. Sure, it's important. I want to get it right. And sure, it's meaningful. I'll only do this once. But in terms of our lives, it's just a few hours. We'll blink, and all this will be over.

I pulled out this picture just now. It's of Inspiration Point, outside Eureka Springs, Arkansas. (Which is where we're getting married, by the way.) I took this picture on our second date. I remember looking through my camera lens at this lush, picturesque valley and marveling at how big God is. How high He is. How better-than-bird's-eye His perspective on everything must be. And at times like this, I wish I was with Him... sitting on His lap... reading through His glasses... seeing things from His vantage point... viewing things from His perspective....

There's a verse in Jeremiah I've always loved. Jeremiah 24:6. God says, "My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them."

Boy, life gets crazy. Some days you sit down with a headache between your eyes and wonder how you'll make it through another week. And still other days, you're high atop Inspiration Point, marveling at the peace that comes from a higher perspective.

Yep, life's crazy. But no matter where you're standing today in your own crazy life, I hope you take comfort - and strength - in knowing that God is divinely preoccupied with watching over you for your good. That from His perspective, the point is to watch over you, guide you, build you, and plant you - all so you will have a heart to know Him. (Jeremiah 24:7)

I don't know if it helps you, but it helps me. Wedding plans and eye-ball headaches or not - it helps me. And I guess that's the beauty of the view from perspective point.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Old School

Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.
-Abigail Adams, 1780

There's something so dispirited... so sad, I think, to a school that no longer fosters learning... that no longer welcomes new ideas and lessons and hobbies.

I was standing in the knitting aisle of Hobby Lobby when a woman close by startled me with a question.

"Which size needles would you use for this?" she asked, holding up a picture of a knitted baby bag.

Surprised, I answered her, to which she replied, "Thank you. I'm just learning to knit, and still don't know all the rules."

There was nothing spectacular about that brief exchange- save for the fact that the woman couldn't have been a day younger than 80. Really. And there she was, learning to knit.

She's my hero. I don't know that woman's name, but she's my hero. I get the feeling she's a true Renaissance woman. She has something I aspire to: a unappeasable desire to learn - an insatiable yearning to do - that apparently hasn't relented with age or time.

It's strange how we all graduate from school, start jobs (or families), and figure that our days of intensive learning are over. After all, we have diplomas on the wall... see? Or we've potty-trained kids and done half their homework for years... see? No, that's not the type of learning I mean. I'm talking about the type of education... the type of knowledge... that rounds-out your list of abilities. That shoots your capable-quotient to the moon.

What are we good at? Lots of different things. Maybe you can drive a stick shift. (I can't.) Or maybe you can speak French fluently. (I'm still working on my English.) Or maybe you make jewelry. Or cabinets. Or really great jazz. (I can't, can't, and don't.) Good for you. Your personal resume is varied already. But... isn't there more? Isn't there something... beyond what you can do now... that would delight you? Thrill you? Fulfill you?

I'd love to learn to make great chili. I'd love to learn to dance. (Right now, I do a great Elaine from Seinfeld.) I'd love to learn Italian... and how to properly fold a fitted sheet. I want to conquer the violin... the guitar... the art of gift-giving. I want to discover the beauty of all our national parks. I want to learn to string Christmas lights without losing my temper. I want to make the best Peach Salsa in the world. I need to re-learn beloved songs from my childhood and save them up for my kids.

I know. Call me old school. Diagnose me with Adult ADD. Whatever. There are just so many things out there to learn. There's so much out there to explore - to seek 'for with ardor and attend to with diligence'.

This abandoned school off a lonely Kansas road troubled me somehow. I took a picture of it to remind myself to keep learning. To remind myself of the 80-year old knitting student.

After all - there's something so dispirited... so sad, I think, to a person who no longer fosters learning... who no longer welcomes new ideas and lessons and hobbies....

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Battle of Pea Ridge

From the ends of the earth I call to You, I call as my heart grows faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. -Psalm 61:2-3

The view from atop the Pea Ridge National Military Park is breathtaking. I took it in (along with my handsome tour guide) over the weekend. It was an experience I'll never forget.

Pea Ridge was the site of an 1862 Civil War battle that saved Missouri for the Union. It's one of the most well-preserved battlefields in this country, and looking across the site you can easily imagine how bitter and beastly and bloody the battle must have been. Beyond this picture, the footing in some parts is treacherous. Where I stood, rocks jut out of the side of the moutain like daggers. I would hesitate to hike the site where I snapped this picture; I certainly wouldn't want to do battle there.

And yet they did. On this ground, men aimed their cannons and lost their lives to see a cause fought and won. For some of them it was their final battle. For others, it was one of many, and they went on to cry their battle cries from every end of the country.

I can't imagine what a Civil War battle must have been like. I really can't. It's hard enough to wrap my mind around some of the daily battles I fight. After all, it seems like we have our hands full waging our everyday battles. First we take on the enemies we can see. We battle against deadlines. Laundry. Bills. Kids. And then at the end of the day - when the gunsmoke clears and everyone puts down their weapons for the night - we battle the enemies we can't see. We fight loneliness. Defeat. Exhaustion. Desperation.

It's not just you. It's all of us. Some days it seems we've set up camp in the middle of Pea Ridge. And some weeks it feels we're unwilling and untrained soldiers caught in a bitter, beastly, and bloody battle.

But it's okay. It is. It will all be okay. Even though our hearts grow faint, there's always a place - there's always a Rock - that is higher than the battlefield on which we're encamped.

And as you can see from the picture, even the worst of battles don't last forever.

Oh! sometimes how long seems the day,
And sometimes how weary my feet!
But toiling in life’s dusty way,
The Rock’s bless├Ęd shadow, how sweet!
O then to the Rock let me fly
To the Rock that is higher than I
O then to the Rock let me fly
To the Rock that is higher than I!
-Erastus Johnson, 1871

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Summer Sissies

It's a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do. - Walter Winchell

Ah, summer. Within the next calendar week we'll be heralding summer's blazing return.

Or... well... you might be. Not me. I'll have my faced smushed up against the air conditioning vents in my Jeep, staring in shocked wonderment at the precious elderly gentlemen who still mow their lawns in long sleeves and slacks. Tell me, how did society function before all these "modern" barber shops had air conditioning?

A guy I'm seeing mentioned that it would be awfully fun to romp around Eureka Springs this Saturday. I immediately agreed. It will be fun. Fun, but hot. Surely he'll be understanding when the makeup runs and people start smelling, right?

Gosh. Listen to me. When did summer become the enemy?

You know, the older you get, the less fun summer seems to be. Case in point: our infamous summer family reunion is now held indoors because... well, everyone's getting old. Suddenly the elderly pass out. The kids get sunburned and develop carcinoma. The mayonnaise in the macaroni salad poisons everyone. Gosh... I remember the good old days when family members weren't ancient and a sunburn peeled and went away and Great-Aunt Bidge's mayonnaise macaroni salad didn't kill any of the cousins.

You know what's happened? We're all turning into summer sissies.

Remember when you were a kid? Hot weather meant summer vacation, and I'll bet you spent quite a bit of it outside, right? I did. My mom wouldn't let me stay indoors and watch TV much. Of course, we didn't have 1,500 channels and all these video games and MP3 players. Heck no. We made mud pies and stirred them with sticks.

And remember our other archaic ways of playing? Sure, we rode bikes and girl-talked, but we didn't have GPS bike helmets or camera cell phones. And if our parents needed to find us when we were riding bikes or girl-talking, they went outside and yelled. Or they called Janie's mom and Bobby's mom and Sandy's mom (on rotary phones) until they found us.

Oh, yeah, we went swimming, but most of us splashed around in a public pool or a questionably-sanitary body of water. Only "paranoid" and "overprotective" moms made you use sunscreen. The rest let you burn to a crisp, then covered you with slimy aloe vera leaves and made you sit still. (We looked like leech-covered brats, I'm sure.)

And remember when you finally did go inside after playing in that hot summer sun? Our mothers didn't then cram us in an SUV and buy us iced lattes or Maggie Moo's frozen custard. Oh no. We froze grape Koolaid in ice cube trays and waited 3 days for a "popsicle".

Oh gosh. Now that I think of it, this isn't good. This isn't good at all. I've forsaken my first love (summer vacation) and become quite the summer sissie. Maybe I should freeze grape Koolaid and spend as much of this summer as possible out in the heat.

Yeah, I guess I could.

Of course, there is that beautiful verse in Ecclesiastes 3.... What does it say? There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven....

Wait. That's better. Maybe the season for activities like mud pie making and bike racing and grape Koolaid-freezing is over. Maybe this is a time for summer sissies.

I'll go with that, anyway.

Happy summer 2006, everyone... summer sissy or not! -Brin

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Contrast of Thoughts and Ways

'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord.
'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.' -Isaiah 55:8-9

I took this picture (as I do all the pictures on this blog), and was struck by the contrast between the sky and the ground - between the heavens and the earth. I stood there looking. Thinking....

We've all considered and debated some big stuff here lately. We've urged and argued and accused and I think it's great. It's made us think. It's forced us to put on paper what we believe. It's compelled us to draw our lines and choose our allies.

But maybe, just maybe, I think it's gotten away from us that at the end of the day, most of our thoughts are just that: our thoughts.

I don't have the answers. I don't. I'm more than willing to admit that I'm just another curious Christian relying on faith - hoping for knowledge - depending on the words printed in my Bible. I don't have a clear idea of how God works things - in this "reality" or the next. Oh no, folks. I don't have the answers.

But I'm willing to bet you don't have all of them, either.

Why? Why would I not bet any of my dollars - much less my bottom one - on either of our opinions?

Because. Because we're both just people. And at the end of the day, we just have our people thoughts and our people faith.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not disparaging your thoughts. Or your ways. Or your good intentions. After all, I know many of you reading this are very well educated. I know still others of you have invaluable life experience... the things under your belt are things I'll never do... or see... or have under my own belt. Most of you have read far more than I have. You've worked more. You've lived more. No, please - I mean no disrespect. Like I said, I don't have all the answers. But neither do you.

Only God does.

Someone asked me yesterday if God would readily welcome a Christian who'd permanently turned his or her back on God. I don't have the answer. My thoughts are not His thoughts.

A guy I dated in college was conflicted over predestination. Does God choose us, or do we choose God? I didn't have the answer. Neither did he. His (God's) ways are higher than our ways.

How - a friend asked recently - could God allow those who've never heard of Him to spend eternity outside His presence? I couldn't answer. I didn't have the answer. Do you? After all, His ways are so much higher than our ways, and His thoughts our thoughts.

Of course, it does say in Amos that God can (and does) choose to let us in on some things. Amos 4:13 says, He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man, He who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of earth - the Lord God Almighty is His name.

It's there. I believe it. I believe God reveals His thoughts to man. But still, will I bet my bottom dollar that I'm a lucky recipient of divine revelations? No sir. No ma'am.

Yeah. Lest I get bogged down in my own opinions and my own intentions, let me be among the first to say that I don't have answers. Like you, I can only split open the Word of God and try to call it like I (as a person) see it.

But hey. Maybe we'll all be standing around together someday when the deep mysteries are revealed. I hope we are. And maybe I'll be alongside you when we're struck by the contrast between the heavens and the earth.

Don't worry. You'll recognize me instantly. I'll be the one standing there looking... Thinking....

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Oh! Hello! Glad You're Here!

Hi there. Welcome to my blog! Running since 2005, this blog is a meandering chronicle of my messy life. So... hey! I'm Brin. And I adore adventures. Big ones, small ones, happy ones, messy ones... I adore them all.

And I've had a few. As a girl, I worked on a blueberry farm, traveled Mexico, decided I wanted to be a follower of Jesus, and graduated high school at 16. In college, I studied law, was a Sumners Scholar, and got hired by an ABC News affiliate after the news director glimpsed me on our campus TV station. I reported on robberies and shootings and executions, testified in trials, and was escorted to District Court and put on the stand after sneaking a recorder in (and out) of a closed trial. From there, I went on to CBS News in Dallas where I anchored for KRLD, wrote for the nationally syndicated America at Night, and generally stayed in trouble. I interviewed George W. Bush and Martha Stewart, covered wars and chased suspects, threw up on Senator Phil Gramm (I'm allergic to shrimp), was written up in Time magazine, and got into one hot mess after another.  

And for the record: Martha Stewart seems nice in person. And Senators are complete jerks after you vomit on their shoes.  

By age 25, one thing had become clear: my life would never be boring. Or ordinary.

After leaving Dallas and my reporting career, I bought Freeman House- a home with slanted floors in a small town in Texas that time forgot- and set about restoring it. (You can read about those days here on my blog.) I learned to knit, began food blogging for AOL, planted a garden, and became a Terrorism/WMD Public Information Officer. That was also about the time I discovered oil and gas brokering and began a new career. When the economy tanked in 2008 and let the wind of my career's sails, I gambled on the small town economy and opened a bakery called Henrybella's. It was wonderful but woefully short-lived, as was Freeman House. I transferred ownership of my beloved house to its current owner and moved out in 2009. 

So by that time life began making things clear: my life would be crazy... and nothing lasts forever. Nothing except God's grace and goodness. And by His grace and goodness, after surviving soul-killing marriage and divorce, I am happy to report that God - ever in the restoration business - restored my heart when He brought Matthew into my life.

And oh, is THIS ever a story for the ages. :D

If there's anything Matthew and I believe in, it's the grace and goodness of God. That, and that we couldn't wait to begin the rest of forever together when we married in May 2019.

So these days, Matthew and I are setting up a home less than 10 miles from Freeman House, on a small parcel of land that Matthew is the fourth generation to own. I run a small honey bee and farm business called Balm and Honey Farm, and help run The ROCK Collective, a non-profit Matthew and I founded in 2018, and try not to concern myself with much beyond loving Jesus and keeping my home and heart open to the abused, forgotten and hungry.

And there you have it. Have you ever heard such?

Welcome to My Messy, Thrilling Life!

(Want to start at the beginning? Grab a comfy chair and click here.)

Field of Schemes

I overheard a farmer yesterday talking about this year's corn crop. Apparently the USDA is forecasting that 8 million fewer bushels of corn will be harvested this year than last. The guy was distressed. He thought he'd come out ahead by taking a government payout instead of growing a little corn, but with the price of corn pushed higher due to a smaller supply, he bargained wrong.

Ah, yes, Robert Burns, you were right: The best laid schemes of Mice and Men oft DO go awry.

Blowing by some corn fields on my way out of town, I began thinking about some of my own 'best laid schemes'. Many, of course, did go terribly awry. I guess we've all experienced that at some point though, haven't we? Relationships are a gamble and sometimes the house wins. Money is a cruel master and most always calls your bluff. Dreams are risky bets and seem to cash out only the persistent... or the lucky.

Or do they?

I love the story of Joseph. (In Genesis. In the Bible.) The guy was a dreamer. He was also his father's favorite son. His brothers (understandably) resented that display of favoritism, so they did what any of us would do - they came up with a scheme to sell Joseph to a caravan of gypsies and tell their father a wild animal must have eaten him. The scheme worked. Joseph was not a "lucky" guy.

But he was an incurable dreamer in for a few rollercoaster years. He went from being the top aide of an Egyptian government official to a top prisoner in the king's pokey. (All because Joseph's boss had a scheming, cheating wife who wouldn't leave him alone.) And just when it seemed like things would look up for Joseph, his world would collapse around him.

But finally, he made it. He ended up the governor of Egypt. Seriously. And wouldn't you know that his scheming, bitter brothers ended up unknowingly petitioning Joseph to bail them out of a famine. Turns out their fields didn't produce enough to see them out of a corn and grain shortage. Thankfully though, God used their nasty scheme (as Joseph later told them), "to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance". (Genesis 45:7)

It's ironic how our fields of dreams often collide with fields of schemes to produce one interesting life. And hey, if you're like my farmer and settled for a payout when you could have been growing corn, don't worry. Robert Burns isn't right all the time. Just look at Joseph.

There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere. - Jane Austen

Friday, June 9, 2006

Bridled Belief

It was Mark Twain who said, "In religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination."

It's true, I think.

In the last 24 hours, I've gotten emails and phone calls and comments over the last blog. I'm honestly a little amazed by the response. But above all the information and opinions I've taken in over the last day, I'm struck by one thing: it seems most people's beliefs are so curbed - so bridled - by what they've been told. They're bridled by the ramblings of a fifth grade Sunday School teacher. Or hearsay they've borrowed from an old book... or pastor... or old boyfriend. And still others are relying on regurgitated philosophies from elderly college professors and parents. These people are wielding their beliefs like borrowed crutches - like hand-me-down props they pull out only when they're having a hard time standing on their own.

I'm shocked. I'm shocked at the number of grown adults who don't know what they believe. Who lean on passed-down ideals. Gosh, you might as well be a horse on a bridle, because when you depend on the knowledge (or lack of) of others, then their ideas and opinions - well, they're steering you, honey. And the sad thing is you can't even turn around and see what you've allowed yourself to be saddled with.

Seriously. Beliefs - spiritual or political - are not inherited. They're not bequeathed. You're not a Baptist because your parents were. Somewhere along the way you kept going to that church, too. Do you know why? And you don't vote Democrat because your grandmother loved Lyndon Johnson and believed Republicans would steal her social security and then beat her with a rubber hose. No, you chose which candidate you liked. Do you know why? There are two kinds of beliefs, I think: the ones you should hold and the ones you were sold.

The Bible has a few cents worth, too. Proverbs 14:15 says that "a simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps". I didn't say that, the Bible did.

Point is, I don't care what your folks believe. I don't care why your grandma brainwashed you into voting for Democrats. I don't care if you agree with me or argue with me until we're both blue in the face. (I welcome the debate, by the way!) I do care, however, that you show up with some beliefs you can proudly call your own.

So please, next time you email me comments, tell me what YOU think. Let Nana and your fifth grade teacher and your creepy ex-boyfriend speak their beliefs for themselves.

Besides, if you don’t believe for yourself, who will?