Thursday, December 18, 2014

Updated: A Letter at Christmas

I got a comment today. No, actually, we got a comment today. You and I did. We got a comment on the Christmas Candy post from a dear lady. I read it before I even got out of bed this morning and it took the breath right out of my lungs. While I'm writing a response to her, please read her letter/comment. And please, let's love this woman and pray for her together.

Here are her words. Click her letter to enlarge.

Dear "broken",

First things first, it's going to be okay. You are going to be okay. Things may not look better today, and they may not tomorrow, but you are going to survive this. Beautiful lady, you can do hard things.

You mentioned in a follow-up comment that you feel you have no right to the feelings you shared above. After all, aren't people throughout the earth living unspeakable horrors? Let me stop you right there. You are completely justified in feeling everything that you are feeling. Feeling broken... sad... hurt... overwhelmed... empty... at the brink... these are very real emotions. God you gave you your emotions. He gave them to you for a reason. Please don't minimize what you're feeling just because someone somewhere else has it "worse". You have every right to feel exactly how you feel today. Please give yourself that.

In 2009, I went to the office of a trusted counselor and pastor. I dumped my enormous heart-load of grief over losing my beloved Freeman House, my Jeep, my bakery business... and then seeing death take someone I loved... at this person's feet. And then I did the same thing you are. I apologized. I felt guilty. I said, "Who am I to whine and cry when women are being held as sex slaves? When women are struggling to feed their near-starved children? I hate myself for crying over my sad little first-world grief.". 

And I'll never forget with this man said. He looked at me for a moment, searching my face, and then leaned forward. "Hey. Wait a minute," he said. "Forget for a moment about them. Forget about people you see on the news. Look at your life. Is this an extremely difficult time for you?" 

"Yes," I whispered.

"The hardest time you've lived through?" he asked.

"Definitely. Yes," I answered.

"Then that's all that matters. For you, for your life, this is as hard as it's been. This is the biggest, all-encompassing difficulty you've faced. These are your hard times. No wonder you feel as you do. You can't compare your grief with someone else's. You can't grade your emotions based on some cosmic sliding scale. Emotions don't need to be justified. Your heart doesn't work that way. This is the hardest blow it's taken, and that's all that matters. It's okay. Really, it's okay."

I say the same to you.

No one knows exactly what you're going through... exactly what today involves... but you. Well, you and God. But my gosh, I swear that I understand that empty, God-less feeling you described. I remember feeling so raw... so open... and so devastated that the loving God of heaven seemed so far when I wanted someone most. The only thing that comforted my mind- not even my heart, really, but my brain- was that Jesus knew what I was feeling. That He hung, raw... open... and seemingly devastated that His loving Father of heaven seemed to be fading out of the picture when He wanted Him most. My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me? Now I'm not Jesus, and my suffering could in no way be compared to His, but I borrowed His words anyway and took some solace in the realization that, just as He did for Jesus, God had a plan for me.

He has one for you, too.

Why does it involve cleaning your proverbial slate? Removing jobs, cars, comfort, home, and people you love? I don't know. Why is He allowing it all at once? No clue. I can say, though, that it was some of the same for me... that sudden, Job-like devastation... like a life tornado that ripped away everything. I don't know why He allows that to fall in some of our lives... except that He sees all, knows all, and is working it all for good for us. Blech. That's the last thing you want to hear in the middle of the tornado- when everything's whirling- but it's truth. It will all come right, some day or night.

I'm glad you commented. I'm so, so glad you did. Because now I know your name. Because now, because you shared your story, I see that God is still in the business of working in lives in dramatic ways and that I am not alone in my story. But mostly, I'm glad you commented because now I can pray for you- pray hard for you- and pester God about you and your situation and your devastated heart. And when you can't pray, I can. When you have no words for Him, I'll have plenty. When you can't complain, I'll complain. When you don't have the faith to trust that God will hold you during this time, I will. I will stand in the gap with and for you, G, until He gives you a crown of beauty for your ashes and a beautiful dress of praise for your old pajamas of despair

Please know you're not alone. Please know God hasn't left you. And please know that even in your despair, your beautiful heart is testifying to the courage, strength and might God has placed in you. You are going to be okay.

"Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on their God." Hold on, my heart. Hold on, hold out.



Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas CrockPot Candy Recipe

I couldn't go on and on about this deliciousness and not post a recipe again, right? Where's the Christmas fun in that? So please, take this recipe and run to the store and then home to your crockpot. 

For more information (including tons of comments and other tips!), see the original post about this candy here. Happy candy makin' and eatin'!

Christmas Crockpot Candy. Yes.

 Y'all. I made Christmas Crockpot Candy this weekend. Oh my. Y'all. Oh my.

Just looking at these pictures makes my mouth water. Is it time for lunch yet? I want to go home and sneak a piece now....

What are you doing tonight? I'm planning to sit in front of the tree and continue addressing Christmas cards while drinking foamy, marshmallow-y hot chocolate and chowing down on this candy. Y'all. Do yourself a Christmas favor and make this ASAP.

It's Christmastime! Can you believe it?

Monday, December 1, 2014

December Already?!

It's December already, folks. December! Already! Can you believe it?

How was your Thanksgiving? Our Thanksgiving was a blur of blessings. Family, food, friends... it was crazy. I told Josh last night that I would give anything to be able to take Monday (today) off. That I-need-a-vacation-after-my-vacation thing, you know? Ah well. I'm grateful I have a job to go to!

Sunday afternoon, I was determined to get a great picture of Millie and Maggie for Christmas cards. A great one. Like, great. Well. Um. Ahem. No. Didn't happen. Millie rolled on the ground until her hat came off. Twice. Maggie's Santa hat either slid down onto her back or covered her head so well that once glance had you asking: What is that thing underneath that hat? Ha. In the end, I got this picture and decided to go with it. Merry Christmas, Christmas card people.

Pet photographers, you have my deepest admiration. 

My goodness, y'all. Can you believe it's December already?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's Okay Again

I am amazed by the effect of lighting candles and serving dinner at the end of a long day. No matter how tired, frazzled, frustrated or overwhelmed a person is, a hot meal and time at a candle lit table seems to set things right, if only for a moment.

In an effort to get out of debt and buy a ramshackle house with a big porch, Josh and I are doubling down on our finances. This means I am working overtime trying to get super affordable, no-nonsense homemade meals on our table every night. (Super affordable because.... hello. And no-nonsense because the old guy does not do pumpkin ravioli or roasted butternut squash thingies, no matter how hard I try. Ahem.) I'm learning that as long as I treat meat as an ingredient- not the star of the show- I can stretch our meal budget much farther... and not hear him in the kitchen two hours later fishing crackers out of the cabinet. Oh yeah. I got this.

Last night I made Cheesy Ham and Scalloped Potatoes in the crock pot. Turkey ham ran $4.50 at the store, and I used half of it. By making my own soup/sauce and using the ends of random cheese in the fridge, I figured this cost about $8 to make four large servings. Very large servings. Although I wouldn't call this health food, I would call it It's-30-degrees-outside-and-this-was-warm-and-cheap-and-filling-and-the-crock-pot-did-it! food. 

To avoid the gray, Campbell's blob in a can, I made my own cream of mushroom. Yay! Creamed soup is okay again! Usually I use fresh mushrooms, but today I used canned organic ones like these in water. Fraction of the price, and comes with mushroom "broth". Takes just a few minutes and we control the ingredients. Win! Try it if you have the time or inclination:

Love this. Especially since every good holiday recipe has cream of something in it. Green bean casserole, anyone? 

I tell you: we girls at home are powerful. We put the home in a house. We turn straw into gold. (Or stuff in the fridge into dinner.) We are amazing. Let's light our candles and fire up our crock pots and show the world that family, home and love are alive and well and matter.

We got this, girls.  -Brin

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

We Need More ____________.

Be devoted to one another in love. 
Honor one another above yourselves.
-Romans 12:10

It all comes down to love. 

A year ago, Josh and I stood under this arch and said we'd love each other as long as we breathed.

I've decided, though, that I could use even more love in my life. Even more devotion in my world. Even more honor in my home. 

I've decided I'm going to start a revolution of love and hope. If you need more love, devotion and honor in your heart, I invite you to join me.

Details soon.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Paper and Clocks

It is not your love that sustains the marriage,
but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I read the other the other day that a first anniversary is the paper anniversary.  Tradition says you give paper for that first milestone- stationery, a journal or the like. The modern take is that clocks are appropriate for a first anniversary. 

Guess we'd be good with either.

This wacky guy (above) and I are about to celebrate an anniversary. My, what a year it's been. Take two complete opposites, marry and move them in together, then throw in a new business, an illness, a ministry and community to participate in, a new puppy, and a obligatory settling-in period as a new couple, and we've had one hectic, crazy year.

Here's what I've learned: the man will eat almost everything... sleep through almost everything... and be there for definitely everything. This guy is remarkable.

We've had to teach each other a lot already. On paper, we were successful, accomplished adults. In reality, we're both stubborn first-borns with a lot to learn. He's pushing me out of my introvert comfort bubble. I'm forcing him out of his bachelor one. He's showing me things about myself I didn't know. I swing the mirror around and show him things about himself, too. We argue and we laugh. We disagree and we cuddle. We wonder why- how- we ended up together, then we talk and remember and know.

Sometimes I look at that paper marriage license and wonder how something so fragile can bear witness to something so monumental-- two lives becoming one. Two hearts becoming one. I suppose only the clock will tell. Love will not sustain a marriage, but a marriage will sustain love. 

Here's to both. 

May that paper we signed a year ago testify of something that lasts the test of time. Happy anniversary, Josh.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thoughts and Hands

My thoughts are on Thanksgiving- family, hymns, a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, the turkey, blessings, and pies. But my hands are a whole other story. 

My hands are on Christmas.

I'm making ornaments for the nieces. Knitted things for friends and relatives. Crafts for loved ones....
...And a small Christmas quilt for us. I pieced it while still at Freeman House but never got around to finishing it. Don't you think it's time?

I love November.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Canfest of 2014

I think I just picked my last tomatoes of the year. And my last strawberry. It is November. Thank ya, Texas.

Know what I've discovered in the last (almost) year that Josh and I have been married? That we eat a LOT of tomatoes. It's astonishing. From raw in salads and on tacos and sandwiches, to stewed in chili and soups, to crushed in goulash, pasta sauce and salsa- we know how to massacre a tomato crop.

Which is all fine and good. Except by August, I was so sick of canning tomatoes that I started freezing them. Then our small freezer got so full that we went and bought a chest freezer. Now IT is so full that I'm giving frozen quarts of stewed tomatoes away and I've gone back to canning them.

What an incredible problem blessing to have, right?

I can remember writing Proverbs 14:23 as a handwriting exercise in second grade: All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Today I would write: All hard work brings lots of tomatoes, but mere talk leads only to paying $2/can at the store so I guess it's worth it if you don't go crazy first.

Good thing I didn't write the Bible.

If you're interested, a how-to for the best stewed tomatoes on the planet is here. Heck yes.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Moment: Hard Won, Not Bought

Stores have beautiful roses. Markets have gorgeous tomatoes. But I usually grow my own-- roses and tomatoes. I grow them because I like gardening, even if it is hard work. Year after year, there I am, planting, weeding, staking, pruning, and watering.

Some things are sweeter- better- when you've gone through something for them, I think. 

Maybe truths work the same way.

I read Streams in the Desert nearly every day. This morning there's a beautiful reflection on how truths, values and character come into our lives. They are not "blown randomly across our path by wayward winds", Mrs. Charles Cowman writes, "for great souls experience great sorrows:

Great truths are dearly bought, the common truths,
Such as we give and take from day to day,
Come in the common walk of easy life,
Blown by the careless wind across our way.

Great truths are greatly won, not found by chance,
Nor wafted on the breath of summer dream;
But grasped in the great struggle of our soul,
Hard buffeting with adverse wind and stream.

But in the day of conflict, fear and grief,
When the strong hand of God, put forth in might,
Plows up the subsoil of our stagnant heart,
And brings the imprisoned truth seed to the light.

Wrung from the troubled spirit in hard hours
Of weakness, solitude, and times of pain,
Truth springs like harvest from the well-plowed field,
And our soul feels it has not wept in vain."

My oft-plowed heart field has seen truth after truth spring up: that God is good, even when I doubt it the most. That we are perfectly loved, even when we feel it the least. That the places where we've lost hope are simply the places where we're believing a lie. And that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living.

The common, "group think" in life comes easy. Let's be the people who live by truths.

Let's keep planting our tomatoes and fighting thorns for our roses.