Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday Moment: Heart Desires

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
-Psalms 37:4

The (secret) desire of my heart: land. This land. Far-stretched, wide-open, greened-up land. Five miles from Freeman House. Land.

Land to build cottages. Cottages that will house women - hurting women, hard-pressed women, healing women, hungry women, hopeful women.

This was not my desire even, say, a year ago. Strange. I thought of Psalms 37:4 this morning, even though I usually groan when I hear this verse. (I think this stand-by has been used - too often - as a cutesy, good-luck charm, toss-away verse.) So my question is this: does God... who created us and knows us better than we know ourselves... wait (like a genie) to grant us all those deeply-held desires of our hearts? Or, as we come to know His purposes, plans, and ways, does He tweak our desires accordingly, therefore accomplishing His express purpose while simultaneously thrilling us?

I only ask this to say that He holds my heart, and its desires are strangely... suddenly... changing. A womens' getaway retreat? What? (I used to desire shopping sprees at Super Target. And as a girl, I wanted for nothing more than to grow up to cut fabric at Wal-Mart.) So desires do change. But when did this desire manifest?

Instead of me telling you this week, you tell me: what's your take on Psalms 37:4?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Thoughts On Coming Home

If you sweep a house, and tend its fires and fill its stove,
and there is love in you all the years you are doing this,
then you and the house are together, that house is yours.
-Truman Capote

I wish I could describe to you all how I feel about this old house. I try. I think of words, but then they all line up shout "crazy! You sound crazy!" when I say them out loud. My heart belongs to this old house, really. I know, with all strange certainty, that I belong here.

Such a ramshackle of a place, too. Look at her: missing chimney... chipped, discolored paint... cranky old windows, some painted shut. Don't forget that roof that needs re-roofing. Freeman House is... well, she's been neglected. But she still has the beautiful soul and bones of a fighter.

I forget how much I adore this place until I leave and come back. Sometimes I want to cry just pulling into the driveway. This morning, the old black-top drive was dark and damp and looked like someone pulled out a giant water color set and painted it. Morning rains had swirled yellow-green pollen with redbud blossoms and it looked... lovely. It was pretty. And the house seemed to sigh when I stepped off the pretty drive onto her steps. Oh good, I imagine her thinking. I haven't been forgotten.

It's unhealthy, isn't it, to hold so tightly to a place? Yet even while I know it is, I can't help it. And maybe I don't care. The house and I are together, it seems, and it is mine. I remind myself of this when I'm away, and rejoice in this when I come home....

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cheddar Comfort

Not home. Not home and haven't been for a couple of days now. But I want to be. I'm back in the city, working a job I swore I'd never take. They couldn't pay me enough to take that job if they had all the money in the world, I think I said. Then they called with a number and there I went, taking the dumb job. I truly hate it. And I miss my crazy house. I miss sleeping with the windows open. I miss picking fresh, organic mint every morning for my iced tea. I miss watching blue birds eat my stale bread. I miss the slow, dream-like pace of Freeman House.

I want to run home. But I can't. Not yet. So how about a little cheddar comfort tonight? I think it's the only way to go....

I've only recently become a big fan of risotto. And I mean, a BIG fan. Sure, you have to stand around and stir until your arm falls off into the pot, but that's what I love about cooking anyway: I have to stand still. I have to be there. (I think I'm the only gal in the world who turns up my nose at bread makers. Why in the world would someone not want to knead bread? It's so relaxing to me. But then I've always been a bit off, you see.)

Anyway. Risotto. I love stirring it and I love eating it. If you've never tried either - at least not at home - maybe you should. Honest. It's a great way to get some veggies and some creamy, naughty-feeling food down all at once.

My favorite recipe for risotto, thus far, is Nigella's. I just love her. And I just love her Three Cheese Risotto. I don't pay attention to the kinds of cheeses I have, I just use whatever's in the fridge. It's always good. All by itself. It's a simple, satisfying, lovely supper. I'm sure any of these would be, too.

So. If you're thinking of ever making this and live near Fort Worth, Texas, please email me so I can invite myself over. I'll do all the stirring and all the dishes and everything. But you'll have to ignore me if I tear up or nod off in my bowl. Been a crazy few weeks, and lately I've just been in need of a little cheddar comfort....

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hoping to Help

Visitation was last night for little Boomer. Heart wrenching. We stood in line with hundreds of other people waiting for a word with Josh and Christina. Josh stood at the front, nodding and hugging and smiling. "My son's gone home," I heard him say. "It's a celebration." And from her chair, propped up on pillows and feverishly hot, Christina added, "It is, although it's hard to accept."

A few yards away sat a tiny white casket, a teddy bear, a Tonka truck full of small footballs, and dozens of pictures. The cutest little guy you'd ever see anywhere. We all choked down sobs and blinked away tears and flipped through a photo album and then exited the side door. What do you say to a young couple who's lost their only son? Tell them you love them and are grieving with them, my friend Mary said. And hug their necks.

The funeral's today. My church is still stunned, and doing our best to help and comfort the family. Saturday I got a call from folks determined to get every dollar of Josh and Christina's looming bills paid. They had the birth of their daughter on Tuesday, my friend said, and then Boomer's care flight and hospital bills on Thursday... and now the funeral expenses. I agreed. We have to make sure they're not carrying a financial burden on top of everything else, I said.

So we're all trying to do what we can to get these bills paid. I'm working on adding to my little shop, and I'm donating every cent of what's sold in the Freeman House Shop on etsy - every dime - to the account set up in Boomer's name. If you've been thinking of purchasing something listed... including the Creamsicle and Cartwheel tote... know that your money is going straight to the account to cover this family's hospital and funeral expenses.

Sorry for the sad post. It's been an emotional week here in my little town. But Josh and Christina are right: it is a celebration. We've always prayed that the Lord would hurry and take us home, Christina said this week. Boomer just went sooner than we expected....

Update: Wow. Y'all are overwhelming with your generous support and prayers. The shop sold out in an hour. From the depths of my heart, thank you. Thanks for giving to this precious family. (And for those who have inquired about further giving, here's an option: To donate five dollars, email me at and I'll send you a link to complete a donation through Paypal. All contributions will be directly forwarded to the account set up in Boomer's name.) Again, thanks.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday Moment: The Cookie Missionary (Or, Silver and Gold I Do Not Have)

Then Peter said,
"Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."
-Acts 3:6

I first heard this Bible story as a child. It was during a program Southern Baptists have for young girls: Girls in Action (GAs). I adored Girls in Action. We took on projects and learned about missionaries and there I heard the story of Acts 3: Peter Heals the Crippled Beggar.

It goes like this: One day, Peter and John were walking to the temple and passed a crippled man. He was lying outside the temple gate called Beautiful, and every day the man would be carried there to beg from those going to the temple courts. As Peter and John were about to pass through the gate called Beautiful, the crippled man asked them for money. And then Peter got the man's attention and uttered what I believe is one of the most fantastic verses of the New Testament: Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.

And he did. The crippled man was crippled no more. For while he lay at a gate called Beautiful, hoping just to get by... begging to get through another day, God had a plan to heal him. To restore his life.

What a powerful, powerful account of what God is able to do in our lives. And what a powerful account of what God is able to do through our lives, too. So the thought today is twofold: sometimes, on our way and just on the other side of a place called Beautiful, we can be a bit crippled ourselves. Crippled by any number of things: loss, debt, failure, fear, heartbreak. And when we are... when we're down and to the point of begging for someone - anyone - to help, that's often when God's already on His way. (For surely nothing rings louder in God's ears than His childrens' sorrow.) So sit tight. Sit outside that gate and call on Him. He won't pass you by.

And if you're a Christian reading this today and thinking, I'm not crippled. I'm not begging for help, that means YOU are the Peter or John. Notice the men were on their way to pray. As they were seeking Him, He was using them. And, like Peter and John, you may not have money. Or a lot of time. Or a theological degree. But you do have something. God has equipped you with something to advance His kingdom. I realized this week that He equipped me with a lawnmower and an oven. Laughable, right? It's not much. I can't give wads of cash, but I can mow a yard and take someone some dang good cookies... along with the message that they are seen, loved, and desired by Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the God who still heals.

Funny thing. When I was a GA, I always thought we were kind of like Christian Girl Scouts, only without the cookies. And I remember deciding that one day I would be a sort of grown up Christian Girl Scout, only instead of selling cookies I would give them away. A sort of cookie missionary, you understand. I remembered all this Saturday as I rested my fingers on a plate of freshly-baked cookies. Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you....

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, or Fudge Chocolate Chip? Here we come.

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

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Hope

The great gift of Easter is hope -
Christian hope which makes us have
that confidence in God, in His ultimate triumph,
and in His goodness and love, which nothing can shake.
-Basil C. Hume

Wishing you a blessed and happy Easter, and praying that the victory of His empty tomb changes your life, as it has mine. -Brin

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rosemary Focaccia

Yesterday, before the tragic news started pouring in, I was happily working in the garden. I got beds prepared and sage and fennel and peas planted. And as I worked, I kept thinking about the Greek Oregano that grew from the crevices and stones in the streets of Istanbul. Joy of the mountain, is what oregano means. I understand now. I wanted, so desperately, to bring a cutting home.

The more I got to thinking about it, the more I could almost taste Istanbul and its fresh-baked bread. I loved the food there - so simple, straightforward and spicy. Lunch is typically bread, cheese, vegetables. Fresh bread, creamy cheese, and ripe, honest veggies. Oh gosh. We're at a good stopping point. Let's snip some rosemary and make some homemade focaccia for lunch.

So I did. I hadn't made focaccia since college, and I now know this to be the trick: you have to start with the recipe. You can have the best flour in the world. You can be the best kneader ever. But use a recipe for focaccia that's too heavy or too sweet or too eggy and you're wasting your time.

I think fellow blogger Stephen has hit upon the recipe for homemade focaccia. I'd go to the trouble to reproduce it here, only his blog has tips and topping suggestions and he seems to answer every question before you ask it. So here's the link to his Quick Rosemary Focaccia.

Bread baking really is simple, especially once you try it. I love to bake my bread on days I have other plates in the air. Mix dough... weed carrot bed. Knead dough... take out trash. Form loaves... fold laundry. Bake bread... pay bills. And by lunch you have freshly-baked bread, just as if you were in Istanbul.

Wish you were here to join me. This stuff makes the best bread ever and the recipe makes two - one for me and one for you. We could consider it my Good Friday offering....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

How Does My Garden Grow?

Freeman House saw a few inches of snow as I was preparing to leave the country. Snow? Here? I'd never seen the old place wearing white before. So the night before I left, I was out in the garden at 1 AM overturning bowls and buckets and containers onto delicate lettuces and seedlings and baby herbs.

I'm so thankful it worked. I inspected everything yesterday to find that I'd lost only two lettuces, one flower, and an oregano. I can live with that.

Today will be a gardening day. It's brilliantly sunny and after a cold, angry storm, a forecasted high of 68 F sounds lovely. I need to work wheelbarrow loads of my own organic compost into the beds. I need to get peas, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes and squash in the ground. (Butternut squash, anyone? Ha ha.) I have high hopes for my garden this year.

Did I tell y'all about one of the books I just finished devouring? It's called Living the Good Life by Linda Cockburn, an Australian mother who decided to embark on the ultimate live healthy/save money/ be-there-for-her-family experiment ever. While it's not a practical how-to book for every household, this book inspired me more than I can say. I'm excited, again, about gardening. I'm excited about the benefits of a "waste not, want not" year. I'm excited about the seven little spring projects I have sketched out to show you. I'm excited about making this simple live even simpler.

Better head out. I'm burning precious daylight, and my gallon glass jars of tea are ready to brew in the spring sun. If you need me, my apron and I will be out in the garden.

Boy, I've missed saying that....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sprouting, Dinner, and Jet Lag

Everything sprouted while we were away. Outside the redbuds and magnolias and hydrangeas and irises and violets are blooming. Inside even the onions and potatoes are coming to life.

Looks like we'll be having country-fried potatoes and onions, purple hull peas and cornbread tonight for supper. Maybe we'll throw some homemade honey butter in there, too.

Ah, Texas. Can't take you out of this girl. I missed you.

But for now all the sprouting and dinner will have to wait. I'm heading back to the magazine-and-knitting pile on my bed. (Can you believe I went 10 whole days without knitting? And wait. Wait a minute... Easter is when? THIS Sunday? Who pulled that off?) What in the world did I do with that giant bottle of Advil? Jet lag's got me and got me good.

I know. Poor, poor pitiful me. *wink*

One Last Look at Istanbul

I have more memories
than if I were a thousand years old.
-Charles Baudelaire

... and just as suddenly as I showed up, I flew away. I've crossed back over the ocean with Istanbul now a thousand beautiful memories - flashes of stone and spice and sea.

Looking forward to showing you spring at Freeman House. We'll meet back there tomorrow. Thanks for hanging in while I flitted about. -Brin

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

If I Were...

If I were an Ottoman Empire princess, this would be my castle. Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. I'll spare you all the history and geography. Let's just imagine, if only for a second, that we're 15th century royalty...

First off, if I were a princess, queen, or other notable royal woman, you'd find me in a tower or turret overlooking the gardens and the sea. No question.

When I did come down from a tower, I'd glide down long, marble passages...

... until I got to ivy-covered balconies. From there I'd watch the boats and nature and my corner of the kingdom.

Then I'd find another balcony and watch the soliders and the people. I'd let down my hair and lean far, far over and hum something melodic... something that went with the wind.

When I got tired of that, I'd go for a swim in the royal pool, assuming someone didn't forget to fill it.

And I'd follow that with a perfumed bath in a palace bathroom. Of course, they'd have to bring in the tub first.

After I was clean and robed and beautiful, I'd wander through all the doors. Especially the ones I shouldn't.

I'd gaze out windows and up at ceilings and think important, lovely thoughts.

Then I'd warm up by the fire....

... before going to my hat room to try on all my royal hats:

When dusk came, I'd head to the couch and call for musicians and poets and dancers and jesters. We'd point and giggle and sing and clap until we cried.

But if the jesters weren't funny or the singing was off-key or the dancers stepped on each other's toes, I would slip out and find a quieter couch. I'd make medieval s'mores around the fire, even though I know I shouldn't.

And after dark, I'd creep quietly to the guard tower near the back gate and wait for the clopping of hooves to come and whisk me away.

... and all you'd see is the blur of my carriage and the burn of its torch as I sailed by.

If I were an Ottoman princess, that would be my day.