Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sunshine Daisy Pinwheel Presents

My first memory is of the brightness of light -
light all around.
I was sitting among pillows
on a quilt on the ground.
- Georgia O'Keefe

I'm working on a quilt for someone very special. A Christmas gift, of sorts, made with more love and hope and excitement than I would have believed possible.

Hancock's was busy this past Friday, but I braved the long line at the cutting counter and returned home with enough yellow yardage to make my pretty pinwheels. I'm hoping to get this sweet thing pieced in the next two weeks and then drop it by the long-arm quilting shop to finish the rest. (Hey. It's Christmas. And after eyeing my still-to-be-knitted list, I know my limitations.)

I've never pieced a quilt like this before. Have you? I got the idea from Susan Branch's quilt pattern, and then ran with it... planning every detail down to the yellow polka dotted binding. I've been eager to start it - so eager - and even more eager to see it take shape. I want it... just the sight of it... to conjure up sunshine. Sunshine and soft, buttery morning light. And daisies. Hundreds of little daisies. Fields of daisies nodding in the wind....

Kind of like that perfume ad with Gweneth Paltrow and the puppy. I want the quilt to conjure up that.


Can you believe it's already Christmas gift time? I feel as though I'm down to the wire, although there are several calendar squares yet to check off. What about you? Have you finished shopping or making? Are your sunshine/daisy/pinwheel presents coming together?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

O By Gosh, By Golly...

... it's time for mistletoe and holly, y'all!

Or... if you're a visitor at Freeman House... it's time for sugared cranberries dunked in fizzy, sparkly drinks or straddled atop steaming, frothy mugs. And how happy are we? How happy are we to swirl our sugared cranberry sticks and watch candles burn and snuggle close as the stars come out?

I should tell you: I'm a big proponent of sticking ordinary things on a stick, dusting them with sugar, and passing it off as tremendous creative kitchen effort. Like the weekends I make golden cubes of french toast, thread them on wooden skewers with whole strawberries and slices of banana, and dust it all with powdered sugar and serve over a pool of Blackburn's Syrup. Pretty things just taste better, don't they? Especially when they have their sugar coats on.

Anyway. After putting another 1300 miles on my Jeep, I'm back in snowman's land. And you should hear (and feel) the wind. I keep telling myself, as I button up my cranberry red coat and head outdoors, that I'm walking into a world of blowing, wet sugar flakes and will be as wonderful as a sugared cranberry stick in a world of champagne. But the truth is, I already miss Freeman House and her pretty delights and sweet moments.

But o by gosh, by golly: it's Christmas time no matter where we are! It's time for mistletoe and holly! And as the wind wails and whistles outside this cold, cold window, you can hear me, right? You can hear me as I whisper "Merry Christmas"... to you...?

Christmas is not a time nor a season,
but a state of mind.

-Calvin Coolidge

Monday, November 26, 2007

Quick Recipes, Quickly...

Ah, the holidays. Happy, happy Christmas everyone! I vaguely recall the promise of recipes, so turn on the printer or grab a pen because here they come....

Remember these peaches? My Thanksgiving table sure did!

I love it when summer bounty becomes a holiday table rock star! My version of Nigella Lawson's Peaches goes beautifully over or alongside Christmas ham, and takes 10 minutes from start to supper:

Christmas Spiced Peaches

2 (14 oz) cans peach halves in syrup (not water)*
1 T. balsamic vinegar
3 sticks cinnamon
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. peppercorns (I used pink)
3 whole cloves

Drain one can of peaches and add to heavy-bottomed pot. Add second can of peaches, syrup and all. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring mixture to gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for three minutes or until syrup thickens a bit and peaches are heated through. Reduce heat and keep warm until ready to serve. *If you're using fresh or frozen peaches, as I did, replace canned peaches with 12 fresh peaches, adding 1/3 cup water and 1 T. brown sugar to the pot to get it all going. Yum. Lucky you.

(These peaches are also great as leftovers with cold ham. Or, ladle remaining beauties - with the syrup - into pretty jars and tie with ribbon. They make great foodie hand-out gifts and will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.)

Hmm. Okay. Not a peach fan? Chew on this: an updated sweet potato recipe. I got my hands on a Weight Watchers stab at Sweet Potato Fries and made it faster and more holiday appropriate. Try my:

Thyme-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Blue Cheese

6 sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1” cubes
4 T. olive oil
1 T. dried thyme
½ t. salt
½ t. black pepper
½ c. blue cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place sweet potatoes on lined baking sheet or rimmed stoneware. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with spices. Toss lightly to coat. Roast in oven for 40-50 minutes, stirring halfway through, until soft, tender, and beginning to brown. Transfer to bowl and crumble blue cheese atop the potato pile. Serve warm.

These are a winner, but if you don't do blue cheese, try them anytime alongside Chipotle Ketchup. Simply add 1 t. ground chipotle to 3/4 c. good quality ketchup. Stir and refrigerate for 30 minutes to combine flavors. (This is my favorite low-fat snack. My favorite ever.)

Darn. I have my Apple and Sage Stuffing recipe sitting here, too, but must be off. We'll get to that later this week. In the meantime, check out Nigella's recipe for ham (glazed with Coca-Cola). There's a reason I read her cookbooks in bed, I'm telling you...

Happy cooking! (Or drooling. Or wrinkling your nose in disgust. Whatever it is you're doing!) -B

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007, Or A Grateful Heart

O Thou who has given us so much,
Mercifully grant us one thing more:
A grateful heart.
-George Herbert

Amen and amen.

The table is set for tonight's dinner. I just pulled a Pumpkin Praline Pie from the oven, made just now from Jolene's recipe. Potatoes are bubbling and dressing is browning and biscuits are resting and cheese and fruit and wine are coming to temperature. It's cozy and, despite the renovation mess and third-finished dining room, it's quietly beautiful in here. Gosh. How did I get to be so blessed? At what point did God, in His everlovingkindness, decide to make such a happy creature and drop her, feet first, into this wonderful old place?

This is my first Thanksgiving with this table and these chairs. I found them at a roadside junk store in Lone Star, Texas, for less than $200. They seat eight comfortably, and I can't wait until they hold all the precious, hilarious people coming tonight. Friends are coming from 7 hours away and 7 houses down. I'm so ready to sit and eat and talk and laugh. Y'all hurry!

(We're going to have to talk later about the menu, because I've found some super easy recipes I must show you before Christmas. I mean, easy recipes. Remind me later and we'll talk.)

For now, I'm off. I have flour coating my ratty Old Navy sweatshirt, so I need to change and find some earrings and perfume. And take my hair out of these velcro rollers. People can't eat when they're scared to death.

From a warm, snuggly, and oh so happy Freeman House ... to your house... happy holidays! -B

Friday, November 23, 2007


Home! Home after a wonderful Thanksgiving with family. How about yours? I hope it was wonderful and cozy and happy and all the things holidays should be.

I awoke this morning aware of these three things: first, that I was home but I was freezing. Second, that it wasn't quite morning after all, and third, that the room was fluttering. Of course, the heat had gone out and it was 44 degrees inside, the clock proclaimed an ungodly hour of 4:00 AM, and there was a little wren perched atop the blades of my ceiling fan. Perched, that is, except for when it would fly its desperate and fluttering-winged self straight into the walls and windows.

Needless to say, I was one of the crazies who shopped before daybreak on Black Friday. But hey. I have most of my stuff for tomorrow night's party and was home by noon. (All this after, of course, I de-birded Freeman House, which is no small undertaking.)

I am renovation holiday woman. Hear me roar!


So here I am, home at last, and busy preparing for tomorrow. I still need to:

Sugar the cranberries
Wash glasses
Shine silver
Pretty up the buffet
Get out all three artificial Christmas trees
Um... clean
and, Um, cook

Would love to sit and chat but... can't. Maybe later, when the bathroom is clean and the dressing is mixed and all the dead plants are disposed of and replaced with glimmering, bejeweled trees. (I'm doing a Partridge in a Pear Tree tree this year! I can't wait for you to see!)

Happy holidays from Freeman House!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Warm and Wonderful Wishes

Hot Drinks for Cold Nights? Sound perfect, thanks. Especially since, this very hour, it's *snowing*. Really. I'm about to settle down in the gathering room's chaise lounge for an evening of B&B talking and snow watching. Heap on more wood -The wind is chill; but let it whistle as it will, we'll keep our [holidays] merry still!

Actually, I'm a flurry of activity tonight, trying to pack and load the car and get ready for a long, long drive back to east Texas for the holiday. I'm dreading the 12 hour haul but am eager to lay eyes on family I haven't seen since this time last year. Like my little cousin John Mark, who prefers mice cat toys from PetSmart over real toys from Toys 'R' Us. And my uncle Mark, who makes the best coffee and always steps on my feet with his enormous boots. And my Grandmother, Nina Faye. Her homemade Macaroni and Cheese all but makes up for the fact that she keeps her house so stinking stuffy we can scarcely breathe.

Of course, for every face I see and neck I hug, there will be several I'll be missing. Like Sara's, my dearest childhood friend who just shipped me this book from far-flung Asia. She thought it would be a great addition to my ever-expanding, delightful cookbook collection. And Sara, you were right. Really right. (More right than that time we played When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves From Alabam'. More right than that time you told Misha Duke to fire me from the daycare because I was immature. :p) This book is cozy and creative between covers, is what it is. There's a recipe in Some Like It Hot for Gingerbread Men. And Hot Buttered Rum. And Mistletoe Mist (with sugared cranberries). And Sugarplum Punch. And Pumpkin Potion. And S'more Meltaways. (All hot, beautiful drinks, every one.) I adore this book, and it will be my winter drink concoction go-to until it's time to put away the sweaters and the electric blankets once again. Thank you, dear friend!

(By the way, you can click on the book titles within this post to buy copies of these heart and house and throat warming books -for less than $5!- from Amazon.)

Wow! Can you believe the holidays are here? I leave you, reluctantly, with a shot of Some Like It Hot's Cookies 'n' Cream, the drink we've made to sip alongside the fire tonight. Well, that, and wishes for a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving, wherever it may find you and yours tonight.

Happy, happy holidays! All my love, Brin

Monday, November 19, 2007

Monday Moment: Thanksgiving of Freely Giving

Freely you have received,
freely give.
-Matthew 10:8

Ah, the week of Thanksgiving. Time for giving thanks. Time for bowing our heads and rushing through prayers so we get to the gravy before it gets cold and the game before it goes off. Ah, Thanksgiving...

I've been thinking about it these past several days. Thanksgiving, that is. I've been thinking about the importance of giving thanks. The importance of giving, period.

The importance of giving...

Here's what I've re-decided: Christians should be the most generous people on earth. Really. We should. Christians... those who've accepted the grace of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord... should be the most hospitable, compassionate, and generous people in the world. We should be the biggest givers. The best tippers. We should be falling all over each other to be the first in line to donate. The first in line to volunteer. And we're... not. We're not.

It's tragic, I think. It's an indictment on our faith. It's a slap in God's face, I think, whenever waiters dread seeing the church crowd come in to eat. ( Why? Because we can be some of the most demanding eaters and worst tippers out there. Shame on us. Christians should be the friendliest and most generous.) And the Salvation Army bell ringers? They should be able to pick us out of the crowd. And the coat drive and Toys for Tots workers? They should be hopping up and down when our Jesus-fished cars pull alongside their trailers.

Why don't we give more? Have you ever thought about it? Here we are, you and me, the unworthy recipients of a heaven's load of grace, love, and sacrifice. The undeserving takers of security, provisions, and peace - not just for this life, but also for the next. Here we stand, under a gushing shower of blessings, yet we can't seem to pass it on. Not even a small part. We can't seem to cast our bread upon the waters. Heck, half the time we forget to give thanks for our bread.

Hey, I'm raising my hand here. I'll admit: I do a shoddy job of giving. I try, sometimes, to remember to give: to give thanks, to give time, to give money, to give prayers, to give love, to give a hand. And sometimes I do give. (But freely? No. Probably not.) And I try to remember those less fortunate than me. I remember them, and then order vanilla in my Diet Coke and an upgrade on my Netflix account.

We've forgotten, haven't we? In our busy, materialistic, instant-gratification society, we've allowed ourselves to be swept away by the ungrateful, I-deserve-everything-I've-worked-for, I really don't have that much anyway, current. And wow. If you slept underneath a roof last night, you're better off than 80% - 8 out of 10 - people in this world. Shame on us. We've forgotten how much we've received. We've forgotten to give.

I don't know about you, but this week I'm trying to put the "giving" back in Thanksgiving. Sure, giving thanks is vital, but giving itself... well, giving goes to the very heart of Christianity. Giving should be who we are, not what we do.

It's just a thought. Just a thought as the convictions tumble and rumble from my head to my heart, much like my clean, pretty clothes are tumbling and rumbling around in my fancy electric dryer in the next room....

Freely we have received. How much more freely, then, should we be giving during this time of Thanksgiving!

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

Friday, November 16, 2007

*Snow* and Warm, Comfort Things

There's *snow* in the forecast for the next several days. Snow! Texas gals don't see much of the wet stuff, so a weather report containing any mention of the word snow is cause for considerable excitement. Of course, since I'm planning to abandon ship and return home to Freeman House for Thanksgiving... and a subsequent hot chocolate bar with tree trimming!... I'm snow nervous.

I'm planning the menu today for the Freeman House Thanksgiving Bash a week from Saturday. I sent several invitations, knowing that folks and friends are usually occupied with traveling and family and would not likely make it. Boy, was I wrong! I broke down and called the local meat man yesterday and ordered a bone-in ham that will feed 28 people. Something like that. I have another turkey breast on back, smoke-order, too. What fun! Freeman House alive once again with music and candles and food and friends. It warms my heart and makes me giddy. Can't wait.

Until then, I'm staying warm and cozy with heaping helpings of Chicken Tikka Masala, a recipe I got back when Alicia was jonesin' for Indian food. Wow. Good and good for you. (Recipe note: I make it with lime juice, having a strong aversion to anything lemon. But that's me. I'm sure it's cozy and delicious either way.)

Hmm. Love this time of year!

Wishing you all a tidy weekend of comfort and warm things. -Brin

Thursday, November 15, 2007

More Fantastic Than Any Dream...

Stuff your eyes with wonder,
live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds.
See the world.
It's more fantastic than any dream.
-Ray Bradbury

I lead a somewhat fantastical life. Truly. Always have. Some nights I crawl into bed and think about what happened that day: what I saw... what I heard... what happened to me or around me. And sometimes even I don't believe it.

In 2000, I worked at a small ABC affiliate station south of Abilene. I got home one night around nine, and got out of the car with two sacks of groceries in my hand. It was December, and dark. I was just about to slam the car door shut when someone grabbed my elbow. He silently began pulling me down the driveway toward the street. I yelled, and swung the plastic grocery sacks across my body as hard as I could. He gasped as the sack of canned goods hit him square in the pants' zipper. Even today I close my eyes and remember the glare of the street lamp, and underneath it a plastic sack splitting open and cans of green beans rolling toward the street and him stumbling backwards.

Later, after the cops left and my boyfriend came hurrying over, I told him the story. He was, I think, already used to my life. He sighed and I remember wondering if he was simply tired of believing my life. Then the next day he found the guy's wallet near the stairs of my above-garage apartment. My would-be attacker was named Jeremy Damon Kelsey, an ex-con who served time for possession and sexual assault. I let my boyfriend hand the wallet over to the police. Even I was tired of dealing with my life.

And so it's gone. I met President Bush today, I'd say. My friends would roll their eyes. Today I talked to Martha Stewart, I reported one May day. (If I hadn't worked for CBS Radio, no one would have believed me.) And, Two bailiffs hunted me down and hauled me in front of Judicial District Judge Steve Ellis today because I sneaked a recorder into his courtroom. And, I have a cervical cancer issue, I told my family in 2001 and again in 2003. Again, disbelief. But I did, I did, and I did.

That's about the time I decided I needed to start carrying around a camera. About the time I realized my own life was as big a story as I'd ever get. The darn thing just won't stop.

In yesterday's comments, Grace said my life reminded her of Nancy Drew's. After all, I'm always in some tangle or another, and trouble has a way of finding me. She would know. But sometimes I wonder if even those close to me get tired of the stories and the impossible. Stories like, Today on the way home to Freeman House I ran into a herd of Arabian camels and one yelled at me...

Well, I did. And unfortunately for you all, I now carry my camera.

This life. I'm telling you. It's more fantastic than any dream....

Book of Days

Some days you must learn a great deal.
But you should also have days when you
allow what is already in you
to swell up and touch everything.
- E. L. Konigsburg

I've kept a diary since I was 12, which was about the same time my Great Grandmother, Mary Tankursley, advised me to always use moisturizer and keep a diary. These two things, she said, you'll never regret.

I haven't. Throughout my teen and college years, I dutifully wrote in my diary several times a week. The pages are full of big letters and heavily underscored sentences that spell out detailed exasperations with parents, first loves, and school. As I transitioned into my 20s, the writing grew smaller... tighter... stressed... and shorter entries mentioned money and job and boyfriend woes. When I turned 25 and bought Freeman House, diary keeping as I had always known it came to a stop. If you, I thought, plan to continue to ink all your daily frustrations and challenges, you will fill all the books in all the world....

So I did this: I bought a small but thick - blank and fresh - leather bound book. I bought a brown pen. And I made a point, several times a week, to open it and write... or even sketch... not what frustrated me, but what delighted me. Not what tore my soul apart, but what made my soul sing. Instead of detailing a bad day, I went back, back, back in my memories and thought of a good one. When I had a particularly horrible day, I made a list of the most wonderful days of my life. (I refer to that list still, whenever I have a bad day.) Poems, scriptures, quotes, jokes, fortune cookie predictions, paper clippings... they've all been pasted and penned inside. And slowly, over the last two years, this tiny book has filled with the sweetest moments, the loveliest memories, and the happiest thoughts and dreams and wishes a life can hold.

I call it my Book of Days, and it's one of my favorite things.

Thanksgiving is a week away. A week away! As we count it down, I hope you're finding plenty of thoughts and thanks to fill a book, too. But life is funny in this way: it's all in how you see it. Guess the art of thanksgiving and a key to a lovely life is that way too: it's all in what you remember and where you set your thoughts. It's all in how we record our book of days...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In High Cotton

Not a breath of air stirred
over the free and open prairie;
the clouds were like light piles of cotton;
and where the blue sky was visible,
it wore a hazy and languid aspect.
-Francis Parkman

It's cotton pickin' time in north Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. The time of year - beginning in late October - when the harvesters descend upon the prairies and dusty cotton fields like grasshoppers did Egypt... scurrying and hopping everywhere... gobbling up everything in sight, leaving only tall sticks and spindly stumps behind.

It's another world up here. Up here in high cotton. Tufts of the bloomed, land-grown marvel blow across streets and make pillowy piles at curbs and gutters. A good strong wind is likely to hurry both tumbleweeds and wisps of cotton at you. They sail through the air here instead of leaves, striking you with the feeling that you're glassed inside dusty, cotton-balled snow globe. Strange feeling. Makes you want to wear calico skirts and dark, pointy-toed boots and be Mary Poppins, carrying a parasol to shield you from the wind, tumbleweeds, and cotton. Or at least float you above them.

Cotton really is magical. It's the strangest thing you've ever seen hanging from a plant. Or picked from a plant. I'm wondering if I can snag a cotton-producing wonder or two to take back with me to Freeman House. Don't know why, except I think it would be wonderful to look out my tall, tall windows and see both roses and cotton blowing in the wind.

Ah, okay. Maybe not. But it would still be interesting to grow cotton one year. If only to pretend you're a millennium Mary Poppins, bringing home-grown stuffed stuffies and spoonfuls of sugar to lonely, bored children.

I've been a terrible tour guide of late. Sorry. But I did want to take you out to show you the cotton. The high cotton.

It's a marvelous, strange place, that gives a strange, marvelous feeling. You'd know what I mean. If you were standing here alongside me this morning, watching it all sail by, you'd know what I mean.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pink Knitting, the Dixie Dog, and Matt Damon

Pink, pink, pink. Everything's coming up pink today: pink cheeks, pink nose, pink fingers, pink toes. Yipes! The overnight temperature keeps flirting with freezing, so I've taken unusual pleasure in peppermint hot chocolates, warm-from-the-dryer quilts, and the clackclackclack of knitting needles.

Luxury. Pure, pink luxury. (Sigh)

I'm making some progress on my Christmas gift To Make list. 'Course, it would go a lot faster if I wasn't trying to simultaneously knit gifts and write a few beginner knit patterns at the same time. I was reminded, back during Freeman House's Summer Knitting Classes, that there aren't many knit patterns out there for brand-spanking-new knitters. I mean, "how many needles is knitting, again?" knitters. And wow. There needs to be. There needs to be more I've-never-held-needles-before... spell. this. out. for. me beginning knitter projects that don't involve endless scarfs, you know? So I'm trying to .pdf a few projects for us... projects that are all done with two needles (not circular or double-pointed), that are all knitted flat (not in the round) and can all be completed using two stitches and two skeins of yarn. Like the pillowy-pink baby bonnet. Love it.

... Oh. Hang on...


... Okay, back. Heard my name called from the deep recesses of the B&B kitchen. Apparently tonight is the Dixie Dog followed by a late-night screening of the Bourne Identity. Pink toes and baby bonnets welcome.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday Moment: Dealing and Healing

Would not God have discovered it,
since He knows the secrets of the heart?
-Psalm 44:21

I was getting out of the shower the other morning and grumbling a prayer. Really, I'm not so sure I like it here, God, I said as I grabbed a towel. The water whirled like a funnel cloud around the bathtub drain, then... silence. I bent over and roughed up my hair and thought: I still don't understand why I'm here. Why You wanted me here. This is stupid. ... Silence... Then, as I hung up the towel, I said aloud: I mean, it's hard here. There aren't many distractions here. No one's around. I'm having to think about things and remember things, Lord. Things that hurt. Things that make me cry. Things that make me angry. It isn't cool here. It's like a massive emptying of my heart and my head, God, and I'm surrounded. I don't want to be here. I'm having to deal with all this here.

Exactly, He said, and it felt like the word was pressed into my heart like two fingers press into play-doh. Exactly.

In the past ten months, my marriage ended, I got laid off, and my cat died. I've lost a love, a livelihood, and a friend. The future I thought I saw that moment, as my Mom adjusted my wedding veil and my face smushed up to cry, went crumbling through my fingers and I've stood as piece after piece of my heart has broken and blown away.

Trouble is, I'm not a deal-er of things. I'm just not. I'm a bury and run-er of things. I ignore fears and out-distance hurts and side-step sorrow. I don't want to deal with heartbreak. I don't have time. I don't want to face my feelings. It might take awhile, and it might not be fun. So before yesterday, I hadn't looked at my wedding pictures. Not really looked at them. Not since we got them. And before yesterday I hadn't allowed myself to look at my accounts and crunch numbers and figure out how much that summer lay-off set me back. And before yesterday I wouldn't sit still and remember little Maebelline. I wouldn't stop to acknowledge all the missing. Before yesterday, I hadn't laid in the bed and cried.

Isn't it funny how, once hurt finds us and life catches up with us, we want to hold it behind our backs and play good with God? We want to pray for soldiers in Iraq and Betty Jane's cancer and all the lost sinners of the world, yet we won't stop and examine our own hearts and hurts and turn and "look" God straight in the eye and say, "Hey, I'm hurting here. I need You here. I need Your help with this mess"? Why is it that we ask God for world peace but won't ask for His peace in our life? Why is it that we expect Him to intervene in others' circumstances but don't count on Him to move in ours? And how is it that we plead with Him to answer the hungry and the hurting but don't plead with Him to answer our own deepest hunger and hurt?
Exactly. Exactly.

I'm glimpsing a side of my loving God that I hadn't eyewitnessed before. I'm seeing the side of a Savior that treads atop angry waters just so He can reach out His hand and clasp onto yours. (Matthew 14) I'm seeing the side of a God who weeps at the death in your life, and comes and calls out your name... calls you into a new set of days. (John 11) I'm watching as the hand of God leads to another place... a barren, empty land... just so He can sit awhile with you - in the quietest of quiet - and gather up your broken pieces and mend them as you cry.

We want, sometimes, to be so good before God, don't we? So brave and faithful and unemotional. Instead of showing Him our bruises, we put on long-sleeved shirts. Instead of owning up to our sin, we flush the toilet and ignore the stink. Instead of facing our problem, we take another drink. And instead of having our pain looked at, we busy ourselves with dark rooms and Advil. Ridiculous us. Would not God have discovered our bruises... our sin... our pain... since He already knows the secrets of our hearts?

So, here I am. Here in the middle of nowhere. Here in the town of let your "secrets" be made known unto God... the God who already knows. Here on the street of cast your cares upon the Lord, idiot, and quit trying to outrun them, because He cares for you. But -wow! - what a place to be. Amidst wedding pictures and dug-up, buried hurts, and side-stepped memories, I'm blown away by the depth of God's compassion in the depth of my crying. And I'm blown away by a God who would take the time and love enough to bring me to a place of dealing so that I can find His measure of healing....

We never know where He's leading. Sometimes, it's simply to a time of dealing and healing.

, He said.


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

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Spinning Straw...

Still here, trying to spin straw into gold. We'll see.

I apologize for not checking in much this week. Being on the road has its thrills and its aggravations.... namely no internet, which I've found to be both freeing and frustrating. But here I am and there you are. We're still here. Hello.


Last night I got checked into a little B&B known as the Perry House. It's in the middle of nowhere. It was recommended by a friend of the family whom I was supposed to meet for dinner Tuesday night. "Meet me at the steakhouse north of town off Pancake Boulevard," he said.

"Pancake Boulevard?" I asked, spelling p-a-n-c-a-k-e.

"Yup," he said. A pause. Then, "they have annual pancake parades up here, you know, and toss pancakes and roll their children up in giant pancakes."


Some people jump from planes. Other people run with the bulls. We, my friends, get in pancake-flinging contests with people from Kansas, the "oz-some" land of the pancake.

I found the "steakhouse" off Pancake Boulevard. It was a hole. I pushed the jingle bell-laden door open and walked into a wall of smoke. I was the only woman in there, and definitely the only person under 40-ish. I walked to the front and sat at the bar and told the waitress I was waiting on someone. A man with dirty fingernails slid into the chair beside me.

"What are you doing over this way?" was the first question out of his mouth. I'm in the oil business, I told him, and politely asked what he did. "I'm in the farming business," he replied, and, without taking his eyes off me, asked: "Can I buy you a glass of milk?"

A glass of milk? What am I, five?

Just then the waitress, from somewhere behind a greasy wall, hollered, " *$#(@, Brown! Leave her alone!"

Wow. I'm in a dive off Pancake Boulevard where Farmer Brown is offering to buy me shots of milk. Crap. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

I left. I wasn't rude about it, but I left. I was glad to get to the Perry House.

Only it's not a real B&B. It's clean and I feel as safe as a girl can a bajillion miles from home, but it's no B&B. I have yet to meet the owners, my room has only a bed and two dressers - no chair, lamp, nightstand... nothing. I was trying to get settled when the guy staying in Room 3 knocked on the door and introduced himself. As soon as he said his name I forgot it. Tired, I guess.

He knocked on the door a few more times throughout the evening. First to tell me the internet was down. Second to tell me the internet guy was coming tomorrow. And third to ask if I'd had dinner and, if not, would I like to go grab a combo basket at the Dixie Dog?

I have three rules for living: don't spend more than you make; trust, but verify; and never, ever, go out for Dixie Dog combo baskets with a creepy B&B guy whose first name you can't remember.

"Darn," I told him. "Already settled in for the night. Thanks, though."

He didn't speak to me this morning.


Yep, still here. Still here trying to spin straw into gold. We'll see.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Monday Moment: The (Avoidable) Tragedy of Life

The tragedy of life
is not that it ends so soon,
but that we wait so long to begin it.
-W. M. Lewis

I'm one of those people who has a hard time being in the moment. I struggle with seeing what's in front of me. I fail to be where I am. I miss summer wishing for fall. I blow a lovely night worrying about the next morning. I rush through lunch thinking about what's for supper. I spend this vacation dreaming about the next one. I mail November's electric payment already dreading December's.

I'm a moment killer. I chase off the life I have now... today... by worrying about or longing for the one that's to be. I'm working on it, but I do: I live in moments that don't yet belong to me.

Sure, thinking ahead is good at times. It's important to plan for tomorrow. To take a vitamin and eat broccoli. To change the oil in your car. To tuck money away for college and retirement. It's important to plan for tomorrow, but not at the expense of completely missing today.

How is this a devotional? Well, missing today for tomorrow happens in our spiritual walks, too. Every day. How many times have we missed small blessings looking for big ones? How often do we pass by people who need our help, all the while praying for purpose? How many times a day... a week... do we ignore the opportunities to serve that God's set before us, while self-righteously proclaiming that we're waiting on "God's will"?

Of one thing I'm sure: God is a God of details. He's a conductor of a staggeringly complex and multi-faceted orchestra: His universe. Our lives. And despite how it may appear to our limited, unseeing eyes, God has plans and purposes. For you. For me. For the lives of those around us. And in spite of our deepest-held expectations or carefully-worded prayers, God's watch doesn't run on our time. His map doesn't look anything like ours. And His purpose, while looking a long way off, could, really, be the very thing ... the very life... that's right in front of us.

Not sure about you, but I mourn the moments I've lost while waiting on others. I'm ashamed of not fully loving the children around me while longing for a child of my own. I'm embarrassed by the times I haven't given when I've been in a position to. I kick myself for the people I could have hugged, or prayed for, or taken cookies to, or met for coffee, but failed to because I was "busy" or tired or hurting myself.

Lewis is right: the tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it. And the tragedy of being a God-adoring, people-serving, Bible-reading, fervent-praying Christian is the same: it's not that it all ends too soon, but that we wait so, so long to begin.

But it doesn't have to be. That doesn't have to be your tragedy or mine. We can turn it all around today. Start with someone you pass. Or sit next to. Pray for someone who needs it. Hug someone who could use one. And instead of going to God with what you don't have, hold up what you do and say thanks.

It doesn't take much. God can use our moments. A moment here... a moment there... and suddenly we've begun to live a life of purpose. And I don't know about you, but to me, that's hope. That's the hope of one tragedy in life I can sidestep.

Praise God. Praise God....

For if we are faithful to the end,
trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed,
we will share in all that belongs to Christ.
Remember what it says:
Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts...
-Hebrews 3:14-15a

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The One Day That Is Ours...

There is one day that is ours.
Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.
-O. Henry

This American has Thanksgiving on the brain today. I gasped and then gulped upon walking into my hotel late last night and seeing a lobby full of not one... or two... but three decked out and glowing Christmas trees. But what about Thanksgiving?! I cried. What about the pilgrims and the turkey and the giving of thanks?!

I backed out of the hotel and jumped in the car and didn't come back in to face the Christmas trees until I had not one... or two... but three Thanksgiving magazines in hand. Ha. There.

Don't you just love, love, love Thanksgiving? Truly. And to help get us there, the Martha Stewart Living this month is excellent. Look at these candles! Don't they make you think of a beautiful lady in a long, calico-and-eyelet skirt, dipping candles and singing Sarah Brightman songs to her dog?

Oh. Well, I do.

Hmm... Since we're flipping through the magazine, don't forget to check out the pie on page 32. This is, after all, the one time of year you can justify the time it takes to make a Martha Stewart pie.

The rest of the year, it's pile and poke and pies. As in, pile in the filling, poke holes in the crust, and bake until done or until someone snatches it out of the oven and dives in. Just a few weeks ago I made the mother of all Texas Thanksgiving pies: sweet potato and pecan in one. Hoo boy. There were no words. None. Not one.

This picture was before I poured the frothy sugar pecan pie part on top and then added a braided crust and baked it. I would have an after picture, only a friend and her friend came by as the beauty was cooling and I didn't have time to grab the camera. Darn. Guess I'll have to make it again, huh?

But not today. Today I'm sitting in my still-appropriately-fall-decorated Kansas hotel room and planning an afternoon excursion to Dorothy's house - both the real Dorothy's house and the one they used to film the Wizard of Oz. I'll be fun and silly and see as much as I can while I'm here because Thanksgiving is just days away....

And I don't want to lose a moment. I want to find as much to be thankful for - magazines and Martha and pies aside - as this American girl possibly can...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

An Ordinary Life of Un-Missed Magic

When you arise in the morning,
think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive -
to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
-Marcus Aurelius

I cast a long-legged shadow across the Kansas plains today as I took a walk and drew deep, full breaths. I like the openness here. I like the music of the prairie. I like the wail of the wind at your back. I like that I can swallow and absorb the very winds God stirred into being.

There's something quietly powerful about this place. About packing a picnic dinner and pulling over alongside a deserted farm and spreading your mother's quilt over last season's wheat. About tucking your knees to your chest and eating a ham sandwich and watching the sun sink like a stone. It was romantically magical - like a swarm of fireflies or a glittering, watery rainbow - and over and over I thought of that line from my favorite Jamie Cullum song: how 'when I look back on my ordinary, ordinary life, I see so much magic 'though I missed it at the time'.

And I don't ever, ever want to be a magic misser. I want to be the girl who tucks her knees underneath her chin and breathes and thinks and enjoys and loves as the sun falls to its golden bed beneath a world of wind and windmills. I want to be that girl... the girl with an ordinary life of un-missed magic.