Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Whatever else be lost among the years,
Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing:
Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears,
Let us hold close one day, remembering
Its poignant meaning for the hearts of men.
Let us get back our childlike faith again.
-Grace Noll Crowell

Cookies don't tell the story, however lovingly sugared and wrapped. Presents don't either. Lights, guests, travels and carols don't even come close. The true magic of Christmas is a heart thing, a realization that sinks to your core before swirling around your heart and surging to your senses. It's knowing that God could love someone like you... someone like me... deeply enough to show us. To come down here - here with our death and sickness and heartbreak and struggles - and offer up Himself... His love... in the most spectacular way. Cards, trees and egg nog don't tell that story. Reindeer and tinsel don't either.

God came down... God came close... and love, finally, had a name: Jesus.

Hoping that - whatever else may be lost, doubted, mourned, feared, or unrealized - you will join me in holding close this shining thing, this blessed Christmas day, until we feel the surge of that childlike faith again.

Happy, happy Christmas, dear one. -Brin

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Taking the Steps...

I don't suppose I'm unlike other girls out there... grappling with things life has dealt me, wrestling with pain people (mostly men) have introduced, struggling with questions that don't have answers. I have days when I look in the mirror and am struck by my nobody-ness, days when I feel the weight of rejection and failure in my bones. Then I have days when I look in the mirror and am struck by the realization that I was specially created in God's very image, days when I feel the wholeness of Jesus' love and acceptance cover me like skin.

Sunday night I got an email from my friend Scott who was, in his words, "deeply disturbed" by the Painting post. Do you not realize the price that was paid for you? he wrote. I do. He knows I do. And as a Christian with an audience, myself and others feel it's my duty to ensure my writing reflects that. Only some days I'm discouraged. Hurt. Angry. Careless. If, like Scott, you were horrified or disappointed by that, my apologies. This is a messy, thrilling life you're following.

So we take the steps slowly as we endeavor to get to a higher place. Some days we fly up the steps two-at-a-time. Some days we sit down on the steps and take a rest. Other days the climb seems too much... too steep... and we stumble down a few stairs before remembering where we're headed, then we put one foot in front of the other and start climbing again....

At least I do. At least that's how I'm taking the steps.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Painting

In my dream you were there. But she was, too. I woke up tangled in sheets, my pillow wet with tears.

I decide to go shopping. Still have so much to buy before Christmas. I drive to Jefferson, snatches of my dream sailing by like the cold, foggy scenery outside the window. I park the car. I'm careful to stamp my feet on the mat. Bells jingle as I lean into the shop door. No, not looking for anything in particular. I'll know when I see it. Thanks though.

In a dark stall by the back door I spot it, leaning against an old chair... dusty, forgotten. A painting. A mother and her child. My breath leaves me. The chair creaks as I sink down. I stare, seeing snatches of dream, hearing words in your voice. How long do I sit? When I stand up, my mittens are heavy and damp with tears.

It's only a few dollars. The painting. It wasn't special... or wanted. Just like me. It's meant to be. I drive it home and hang it on the wall.

At home, I gaze up at her and the baby in her arms. I muse until it's dark outside and the wine bottle is empty. I realize: I had such hope. I had such faith. I prayed wrong would fail and right prevail and in the end, I'd have you. You'd have me. And we... we'd have a family.

Instead I have a painting.

From the little that's left of me to all that lives with you, Merry Christmas. That's all I have to give.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

At Christmas play and make good cheer,
for Christmas comes but once a year.
-Thomas Tusser

Tiny sweaters, stiched from felt scraps and embellished with thread, buttons, scrap fabric yo-yos, and string. Could anything be more simple, inexpensive, and of good cheer?

I got the idea from Sew Pretty Christmas Homestyle, a book Carla snatched out of my Amazon book shop in a Christmas Eve minute. (Thanks, Carla! Here's one of the projects I loved from the book....) The pattern for these sweaters is small and the teeny sleeves can be hard to fiddle with, but a cold winter evening under a blanket with fiddly handstitching spells ultimate comfort to me. Thus, my Small Sweater Garland was born.

Originally I'd intended to hang these individually from a small tinsel tree, but settled on stringing them from this string for now and hanging them from my dresser. (They have the string at Michael's, too.) The more I think of it, the more I think I will make enough for ornaments and a garland. Wouldn't this make a sweetly treasured heirloom for a special little girl you know? I thought so.

So I intend to add more as the month wears on: snowflake sweaters, embroidered sweaters, maybe even a polka dot sweater. Christmas time is here, after all. Time to play and make good cheer....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Brin's Bargain Books

Okay. Strange time for this picture, I know, considering it was taken last summer as I lazily napped and read alongside the Dolores River in Colorado. Not Christmasy at all.

But here's the thing: while this little house is warm and Christmasy, the boxes of books scattered around are not. This little place is woefully short on space! So I've decided to fill my little book shop powered by Amazon with some titles I've lovingly read from the past few years at Freeman House. Some books were ones I've read and am ready to send along. Others were gifts or duplicate copies. Others were craft or cook books that I learned from and think someone else should get to as well....

If you're so inclined, hop on over to the book shop and grab something for yourself or a friend. (Click the link above... or the "my book shop" icon on the sidebar.) And please note that some of the books have my inscriptions or scribbling in them (where indicated only), or that if you'd like me to inscribe the book or write a special message, I'd be glad to do that, too. I even have some Freeman House cards left, the others destined for the history books...

Wishing you a cozy afternoon. -Brin

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Happy Thanksgiving

It was the best Thanksgiving I've ever had. I held no hopes or expectations going into Thursday - what with the nightmare this year has been - but maybe that's why. It was a perfect day, and thinking of it now makes me gulp back happy tears. The day was just what I needed, and I'm still warmed by the comfort of it all.

I hope yours was just as wonderful.

Before it's back to the real world tomorrow, I'm settling in near the glowing tree tonight with a stack of books, a mug of hot chocolate, the flicker of candles and lots of Christmas music. Let the holidays begin....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Five Days of Thanks

I've had such abundant beauty in my life. All my life. It may be a simple offering, but today I'm thankful for the quiet beauty I've seen, breathed, experienced, lived. There are so many instances I look back on, but these are a few favorites from the past two years:

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
-Folliott S. Pierpoint, 1864

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Five Days of Thanks

Though I ebb in worth, I'll flow in thanks.
-John Taylor

It's a simple thing I'm giving thanks for today, this first of five days I'll offer up something I'm deeply grateful for.

Today I'm grateful for meals. Humble meals, family meals, hot meals, short meals, fancy meals, early meals, alone meals, big meals. When I look back on the tables I've pulled up to this year, I see faces and places I treasure. I recall favorite dishes and new dishes. I see hearty breakfasts and lunches with friends and dinners small, cozy, and contented. I taste drive-thru tacos and homegrown salads, Japanese cuisine and Mom's pot roast...

I see the faithfulness and blessing of a generous God, who never fails in His provision to me.

As I start seeds for another year of meals, I look back on this year's and feel my heart grow heavy with thanks. Never has someone who deserves so little been given so much.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Lessons Learned

The Pilgrims made
seven times more graves than houses.
No Americans have been more impoverished
than these who, nevertheless,
set aside a day of thanksgiving.
- H.U. Westermayer

This year's Thanksgiving centerpiece, made from things I had, things I gathered and things I've been given. I wanted to enjoy it all week long, not just the day of.

This year has afforded me many opportunities to examine my heart. Am I truly thankful? Do I live a life of thankfulness? The answer was, predictably, not always. But to my surprise, I found seeds of thanksgiving I hadn't known were there:

I found that raw, honest thanks sometimes proves itself in the midst of tears. In the midst of new graves and lost houses.

I found that it's one thing to hope on blessings, but it's an entirely different thing to hope on the Blesser.

If the Pilgrims - who spent days digging graves while their houses lay unbuilt - can be thankful, so will I. So must I. And the thing for which I'm most thankful this year? That while seasons change and blessings and loved ones come and go, I am justified by grace...

...and still I stand.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sick Day

Sick, I think, so I'm taking a slow day.

Here I sit with the ottoman, covered with my chocolate brown blanket (a gift from the beloved Sall). Chai tea is steaming, tissues are nearby. I'm reading this. I'm flipping through this and making plans to copy the Ralph Lauren room for my new little study/home office. They look odd in this picture, but I adore those dark walls.

Also getting some knitting done. How appropriate that it's the makings of a hot water bottle cover? It's this one, by Sarah Dallas. I can't wait to finish and show you, but it may be a week or two.

(No, it's not your eyes. My camera's playing out on me. Must, must get a new one for Christmas!)

Millie's under the weather, too. A nasty allergy. Poor thing had to get a cortisone shot. I heard chocolate labs are prone to skin rashes and allergies. Is this true? She's at my feet, gnawing on a peanut butter-flavored dog chew. And sighing. Lots of doggy sighing down there.

The tea's cold. Going to risk getting up for a warm refill. The heat doesn't get turned on until Friday and I have to carefully plan trips outside my cozy cover comfort....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Millie and her best friend, Bella the Chihuahua, adore road trips.

But the open road can get tiring.

Our soldiers and their families know that all too well.

I cried with you today, Ft. Hood. Continued prayers going up for you all...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pecans, Pie and Pony

A gray, gusty, golden-leafed afternoon. When lunch was done, I drove the short drive to family land on O'Farrell Road. I was on a mission. I had pie on my mind.

Surely I've mentioned it before - how I love picking up pecans, coming home to roll out pie crust, drizzling warm chocolate and a bit of cream over my fresh-from-the-oven pecan pie. Only I'm running out of pecans from my Freeman House stash. Time to hunt for more.

Pecan picking isn't as easy as it sounds. For one, pecans are clever. They wear these tan-and-brown jackets that perfectly camouflage them among the damp earth and crunchy leaves. But look carefully enough and you'll find them. You'll go cross-eyed several times in the process, but you'll find them.

I started my hunt near the property fence under a canopy of pecan and cedar trees. Traces of my Great Grandfather remain stamped here at his old homestead. A barbed wire-scarred tree tells of a long-gone fence. The shed in the background reminds me of garden and farm implements, fishing lures, seedlings. I started here, among my memories, and began filling my cotton bag with pecans. Within an hour I was done. Seems the squirrels and worms had first hunt.

As did Pecan. He's one of the miniature ponies now living on Henry and Belle's farm. He plodded alongside me as I picked. He caught me up on the goings-on at the farm. It was a good talk.

I'm off to make pie now. Time to narrow down this year's Thanksgiving pie offerings. Besides the stand-bys (Bourbon Pecan, Chocolate Creme, and Pumpkin), I'm considering two others: Joy's Buttermilk Pie and Lisa's (Sweet) Pinto Bean Pie.

Glad I still have a week or two to think on it....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

B, E, R, and B: until we're all together again... and until the day it all makes sense... my heart and prayers are with you at Fort Hood.

For the LORD comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
Isaiah 49:13

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


So I've jumped on board with the wristwarmer craze. How could I not? Over the weekend I began working up a knitted prototype using stash yarn. I still need to finish out the thumb hole... and work out the pattern... but I think I'll be very happy with these. (Click your colors and your row preferences in Biscuit and Jam's Random Stripe Generator and get stiching. Easy!)

Hands. While using mine to make something to keep them warm this winter, I began studying my ole mitts. I've always loved hands. Grandma's hands. My piano teacher's hands. That guy I (stupidly) married's hands. Some soft, some skilled, some capable. I have a thing for hands.

Have you heard this song? Your Hands? It's a big favorite on the iPod right now. I listened to it all morning on repeat.

As I go about my day, using my hands, it's good to know I never leave His....

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Keep your eyes open to your mercies.
The man who forgets to be thankful
has fallen asleep in life.
-Robert Louis Stevenson

This morning my eyes blinked open and I found myself wishing for henrybella's. A homemade muffin and hot coffee sounded good. I rolled over and pulled the covers up and made a blanket tent over me.

I've been in such a funk lately. The dust has settled and I've realized: I've been angry. Angrier than angry. I miss waking up in Freeman House, letting Millie out to play, and walking to the bakery.

I miss opening the doors... putting the coffee on... heating the oven... writing the day's menu. (Gosh, a Downtown Turkey Sandwich and Butterscotch Brownie Fridae sounds good.)

Or whatever. It all sounds good.

I miss the people, too. Old friends and new popping in. Such a happy time. I imagine book shops and sweet shops must be among the happiest places to be. Mine was, I'll tell you that. Henrybella's was a great place. I miss it today.

But I also realize that if I'm not thankful - or worse, if I'm angry over loss - I'm shutting my eyes to mercies. I'm bedding down in a tent and falling asleep in life, a life that holds new mercies every morning.

Today I remember. Today I may cry. But today I will breathe a prayer of thanks that I had any of it at all. What mercies! What joys! And what could today possibly hold?

Maybe it will hold a muffin. And some hot coffee. That really does sound good.