Friday, April 27, 2012

Faith and Cornfields

I had a blowout about 3 hours from home yesterday while on the way to a super-rush, highly stressful work project.
Yesterday evening, tire repaired, emergency work completed, and utterly worn out, I was driving to spend the night with family I rarely see. When I passed this cornfield, I pulled the car over.
Sometimes, when you have a bad day, you just have to pull the car over at sunset and walk through a cornfield.
As I walked toward the sinking sun, fingertips brushing corn stalks, I repeated this verse over and over. (And it's almost as if I could feel the words escape from deep inside me and push themselves into the soil.) Let the record show it's one of my favorite, and one of the most beautiful expressions of faith I believe was ever written. Psalm 27:13 says I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
I will see... I WILL see... I am CONFIDENT I will see... I will see Your goodness, Lord. With my eyes. Down here. Maybe not today. Or tomorrow. But one day we WILL see Your goodness here. I can't wait, God. My soul waits to see the goodness and glory of the Lord. I remain confident. I will see it, God...
Sometime, when you have a bad day, try walking through a cornfield at sunset and planting the faith and hope of that.
It works.
Happy weekend.  <3 Brin

(And to the owner of this cornfield, whoever and wherever you are, I apologize for wandering around uninvited. I promise I didn't damage anything... and I prayed for your crop and your family. May God abundantly bless your harvest!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gardening Day

Pulling: baby onions. After about 100, I quit for the time being.

Planting: squash, more potatoes, and Moon and Stars watermelon.

Watering: green peas, Zipper Cream peas, tomatoes, potatoes, pinto beans, green beans, Strawberry popcorn, Green Dent corn, and Smoke Signals corn.

Watching: herbs, the new lime basil and strawberries.

Wanting: an artichoke bed so I can make this, and rain barrels like this placed throughout the garden.

Wishing: I'd planted more flowers. Can a girl ever have enough flowers?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Meals. Laundry. Feed animals. Water garden. Pray. Care. Sleep. Repeat.

Happy rhythm...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Soothing Oatmeal

It's raining today, the kind of rain that trickles. I keep checking out the window to make sure it hasn't changed its mind and blown away, realizing this is Texas and ooops, this is historic drought country and what am I doing here? But no, still here. 

It feels like a baking day. A day to run the vacuum and then put on mellow music and flip through recipe cards. Maybe I'll make oatmeal cookies. There's something soothing about oatmeal, isn't there? They're my favorite. But heavy on the brown sugar and vanilla and definitely no raisins. (Shudder) Yes, I think those are going in the oven soon.

Things have been strange around here the past few weeks, as if my world has spun off its axis. Routines disrupted. Usual meals forgone. The ever-silent TV always on.  Strangers in and out. Last night I came home to new faces in my house. They were great, and I expect them back again. But giving up my privacy is proving difficult for me. It gets under my skin into bone. I feel uptight. Earlier I read my devotional from my usual Jesus Calling, and was reminded- as ever- that my stability is not circumstances... the rhythm of my home... days going as I expect... it's in my relationship with Him. 

That makes me breathe easy. It makes me calm. It makes me get up from the computer, turn on the oven, and make cookies for strangers. 

Oatmeal ones, without raisins.

Monday, April 16, 2012


For You have been a stronghold to the poor,
    a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
     a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.
-Isaiah 25:4

I meant to reward myself with a day of knitting this yarn, but oddly enough shelter became the governing issue of the day, so the I-just-gathered-my-tax-stuff-and-then-filed-an-extension celebration time never happened.

Several months ago, the strangest thing started happening. Things, I should say. See, as eager as I am to get to my little place in the wilderness, stretch out a clothesline and begin planting roses, I can't. Not for the time being. God decided I needed to be right here, in this little red house just off downtown in the place I grew up. Since January, the house has been open to people with nowhere to go. And tomorrow, Renee comes.

Renee has grown children and used to have what you and I would consider a normal life, if there is such a thing. Then two years ago she was riding a horse and the unthinkable happened: she fell off. And her right leg poked into the soft ground when she fell, and she couldn't pull it out quite fast enough to avoid the trampling horse.

She lost the leg.

As if that wasn't traumatic enough for anyone, her husband decided he was less than thrilled with her new situation and took off. Fast forward to now, and we found her getting picked on in a nearby homeless shelter. Ladies who can't chase are easy prey for thieves and meanies, apparently.

She's coming to stay with me tomorrow.

Renee's the second person in as many weeks that's needed to access this house from a wheelchair. It's not the easiest house to do that in. So I spent the day dragging stuff around, rearranging, and worrying about what we'll do with the bathroom.

We'll think of something...

Oh God, You are my stronghold, my shade, and my shelter. Help me love You and Renee well.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Quilts, Cats and Cabins

My spring quilt should be finished over the weekend. And you've no idea the hours that went into being able to type that sentence. (!)

I decided on the log cabin design for this quilt since, whenever I have a spare moment for my brain to switch to daydream mode, I'm dreaming of my cabin. I'm itching for a huge stack of handmade quilts in the cabin, especially since I never seem to have enough blankets.

Just ask Marple. You can never have enough blankets. Or quilts. What is it with cats and quilts, anyhow? If your cat ever goes missing, skip the neighborhood signs and set up a big quilt-stitching party in your yard. (Or balcony, whatever.) Within moments your cat will come running, I promise. Dogs, definitely not. Cats, yes. They can't resist the understated power of the handmade quilt.

See the little gizmo in this picture above with the loopy handle? That is a Goal Zero, solar-charged power station, and it powered my sewing machine as I pieced this quilt. I'm slowly figuring out small ways to cut my electricity dependence in anticipation of living in a cabin off grid, and this little station has enough juice to run my sewing machine for hours on end.

Oh! Speaking of. I've gotten several letters asking about my cabin plans. In case I never said, I have just over 5 acres of remote land that is bordered on the north and west by a national wilderness, and I hope to eventually have 5 cabins total: one for me and the others for women who have come out of abusive/desperate situations. For now, I'm taking my time salvaging building materials, supplies and necessary fixtures. Right now it's windows and a kitchen sink I'm after. The more character and the cheaper, the better! (It's so much fun! Wish you could come sale and flea-ing with me.)

If you're curious about what I'm going for, check out my Cabin board on Pinterest, and feel free to pass along any pictures, articles, or how-to things you think I may like.

Right. Better get back to this quilt. My self-imposed deadline is Sunday, and that will be in our faces before we know it. Happy Thursday! -Brin

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Raising Chickens

If I hadn't started painting, I would have raised chickens.
-Grandma Moses

It was an otherwise normal day. I woke, drained 4 cups of Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee (because I'm shamefully addicted), put on a slightly rumpled shirt, and went to the local feed store for a bag or two of garden compost. Only I came out with 24 baby chicks.

Here's what I can tell you: raising chickens is one of the coolest things you'll ever do. Yes, they poop everywhere. And yes, they can be a little more to maintain than, say, a lazy goldfish. But totally worth it. They're totally worth it.

For one, chickens are entertaining. Forget TV. Once you have chickens, you can cancel that cable forever. Instead you can snoop on their play time and catch them establishing the pecking order. The tiny, strange chickens are no match for the loud, stuffed ones. I watched as the small, most peculiar looking chicken ever- Haskins, the white one below- was put in line by an older, heavier breed chick named Hamburger. Not to be outdone, Haskins sneaked up on Hamburger while she was at the feeder and plucked out one of Hamburger's largest feathers. She then tore through the coop like a felon with bank loot with that feather clasped in her beak. The others crowded around and chirped Oh no, you didn't!

Oh yes, she did.

 When you look like an angel/feather puff/clown with a chicken head, you'll do what you have to do to survive in the coop, apparently.

I have dual purpose birds, which means they'll be sufficient egg layers and chicken dumplings, depending on how it goes. I'm still many weeks out before I get my first eggs. I can't wait.

Here's what I can say after a month or two of raising baby chicks:

1. They grow. Fast. Quicker than quick. Have your brooder (the thing you raise baby chicks in) ready when you come home. And plan to have an alternate place prepared for between the time the chicks are too big for the brooder but too small to go in the coop. I wasn't ready for that and they actually had to come inside (shudder) for a few days.

2. Have a few good resources to help you out. Of all the books I bought, I like Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens the best. About three days in, I noticed two chicks moving a bit slowly. Not to gross you out, but Storey's Guide immediately told me they had pasty butt, and after dunking those chicks in a little warm water, drying them off and snipping a few feathers, they were back in business. To this day I haven't lost a single chick.

3. Chickens drink and eat tons. In fact, I think they should be called "Devourers" instead of "chickens". Be prepared. They can wipe out your spring herbs, strawberry bed, and 50 pounds of feed in a weekend.

4. You have to protect your devourers from predators, drafts, and drowning. Think like an overprotective Mom and you should be fine. 

5.  If you garden, expect instant, amazing results when you begin adding your own chicken manure to the mix. :)

6. Be prepared to fall in love with the little chicks. And, if you're in to such things, be prepared to think of strange/amazing names for them. All my chickens' names begin with "H", and my family and friends had fun helping me name them. They are, in no particular order: Haskins, Hamburger, Hank, HoHo, Honey Badger, Happy, Haggai, Habakkuk, Harold, Hazelwood, Horace, Hobbit, Hulk, Helen, Hotteedot, Hamlet, HoneyBun, Hadassah, Colonel Heaven and Henrietta. Some remain nameless as they might be gonners later and I can't even think about seeing someone with a name on my plate...

And yes, I know that most of my chicks are hens and most of those names aren't lovely. In my defense, I only named a few.

So all this to say, if you've been thinking of getting a chick or two, DO IT. And if you already do raise chicks, tell me: what's your favorite part of the whole mess?  -Brin

Monday, April 9, 2012

My New Address

Guess what, y'all? My website is finally live! Not finished, by any stretch, but it is up. And it has words. And a picture or two. And this neat little "contact me" area where you can type me until your heart's content and we can send secret messages and letters over the web. I'm excited. Please go over and say hello if you feel like it!

Eventually my blog, shop, and entire web presence will live there. For now- like my thighs- I'm spread all over the place. :)

I'm in the (slow) process of taking pictures of stuff again- stuff I'm doing, stuff I've made, stuff I'm working on, stuff that shows you my life now. I have so much to show and tell you! 

We'll get to it all, I promise. ...

Did you have a happy Easter? I did. Since my birthday and Easter fell on the same day this year, my weekend was full of wonderfulness. And by that I mean that after all the hullabaloo was through, I was able to sit on my couch with a slice of birthday cake and watch two Miss Marple movies on Netflix without having to pause them. Not even once! That hasn't happened in ages. It was incredible. (It also reinforced the realization that I'm nearly to my mid-thirties and am officially an old lady. Knitting while watching Miss Marple didn't do anything to contradict that realization, either.)

Ah well.

It's about to rain here, I think. I can tell by the low clouds, the determined wind and the way the birds in the cedar tree are singing to each other. On my TO DO list today is weeding the garden and hilling up the potatoes... neither of which would be fun to do in a downpour. Guess I should shove off the computer and get outside. 

Have a good day, okay? I'm off to dig in dirt before it turns to mud. -Brin

Friday, April 6, 2012

An Update, As It Were

These last few months have been strange and exhilarating. I don't know another way of saying it.

About two years ago, a casual meeting happened between myself and a man named Walt Meyer. We spent about 20 minutes talking, during which I expressed some frustration at not knowing what God had for my life. He nodded, kindly, and then said: If you knew, you would walk away. 

I love how God reads our thoughts like we read a newspaper and knows our hearts like we know our own home.

If God had made plain, two years ago, what I would be doing now, I would have walked away. Undoubtedly. I tend to do this panic thing when I get far out of my comfort zone and skill set. So God did this ingenious thing where He held His cards close, only revealing one when it was ready to be played.

I am, now, the director of a small but fierce House of Prayer in the town where I grew up. Coming home to the place I was so grateful to have left: that was humbling. God threw that card down on the table in October, and since then a small group of us have been praying, singing and playing, and making new friends among the lonely, the struggling, and the forgotten. It's been amazing and agonizing all at once. And on Saturdays we're setting up under a bridge nearby and feeding our homeless friends, sharing in their lives, and telling them about how much God loves the broken, the down-and-out, and those who feel lost.

So I guess you could say I'm trying to be about my Father's business, kinda like Jesus was. Only my efforts are weak. Laughable, really. I constantly have to remind myself that while this isn't the life I would have chosen, it's the life to which I've been called. And do you have any idea how settling and fulfilling that has been?

Besides that, when I have time, I have perfected my cookie baking skills. (Recipes to come, definitely.) I'm still knitting like a grandma in a yarn factory. (Have you seen Jared Flood's new stuff? Gaw!) I've almost finished piecing a new quilt. I have tons of new books I have to tell you about. I'm growing new flowers and my garden this year looks promising. (Have you heard of this Strawberry Popcorn everyone's talking about this year? Mine's getting on a foot tall already!) My cabin plans are finalized. And I have to tell you about my animal adventures. There's so much catching up to do!

My birthday falls on Easter Sunday this year, so I have a scary busy weekend ahead. I'll catch you on the other side! Until then, Happy Easter. Have a blessed Passover. And please know that I am so, so glad we're here together again.  <3  -Brin

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Chick Makes A Comeback

Hi there. Well gosh, it's been forever! Where in the world have you been?

Oh my. Oh my, oh my, oh my. So many things have happened since we talked last! So many things.  I, for one, got chickens. Real ones. The kind with downy feathers and tiny beaks and little feet that stomp through herb pots without any regard to carefully-tended dill grown from seed. (ahem)

How about you? Did you get chickens, too? Or maybe a raise? Or a life-changing circumstance? ...How about a sunburn? A birthday present? A little rain? A surprise? Or a new wrinkle (or two)? Wow, in the course of a year you could have gotten any number of things...

Let's catch up. It's been too long. Be back soon. I have to go pick up Marple from the vet.

(That's my cat. I got one of those while you've been away, too...)

See you soon!  -Brin