Friday, September 28, 2007

Blessed Peace

Freeman House is off the same road and less than two miles from what I consider to be the most beautiful state park in Texas. It has camping grounds and picnic spots and swimming holes and fishing coves and boat slips and... most importantly, if you ask me... peace. Blessed peace. I love to be there as the sun rises and sets. It's one of my favorite places in the world.

I go there often. Usually I park alongside the swimming holes and veer sharply to my right to an out-of-the-way place on the lake that I like to call Canoe Corner. It probably has an official area name or something but I don't know it. All I know is the canoes line up here to sleep at night and I like where they bed down. I'll bet you would, too.

Most of the time I sit on the grass, or sometimes on a nearby bench, and watch the sun slip and fall and the water ripple and roll. But last night I didn't stop at the canoes or at the grass. Even though it had just rained, I kicked off my flip-flops and smooshed my way through the mud to the water's edge.

I stood there for what seemed like an hour's worth of watery, golden minutes. I didn't think, really, or wonder or pray or cry. I just stood as the water rolled into v-shaped ripples around my ankles and the silt swirled and fell around my feet.

Then I waded forward - swishswishswish - until I was so far in I couldn't see the silt swirl. I could almost reach the lily pads. Then, slowly, I gazed up at the burning-away sky and whispered, I'm here, Lord, at the water's edge. Holy God, please part this sea of loneliness. Part my red river of pain.*

And He will, I think. I think He was just waiting for me to ask. And I think before I ever did He was already stirring the waters.

Thanks for hanging in with me these last few days. Hope you have a weekend of blessed peace. -Brin

*Lyrics from Moses as sung by Patty Griffin on Living With Ghosts.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Heartfelt Thanks

It's as if I'm nursing a shattered limb or broken appendage, the way I've gingerly gotten around these past few days. I sound like I'm coaching a toddler or a brain-affected adult, the way I'll say -Okay, go check the mail. Good. Great. Now g0 put on a bra and change your shirt. Cool. Okay. After hours upon hours of berating myself and blaming myself for all the ways I could have - and should have - been there for Mae in the past few weeks, suddenly I've become so beaten down... so completely down... that I suppose I've instinctively maneuvered into self-preservation mode. -Good coffee this morning. Way to go.

Just to be on the safe side, I avoided most public venues until today. I chanced a trip to the grocery store during church hour, when I knew most people I knew would be tucked inside rows of pews, praying and Bible studying. As I slowly moved through the aisles, I noticed I was acutely aware of the faces of the people I passed. As carts rolled by, I'd search people's eyes, thinking, Are you destroyed, too? Are you hurting, too? No one appeared to be, but then again, maybe I didn't either. We all made it out of the store with little more than nods and soft hellos.

Two of my three shopping bags were in the car - on the same seat my sweet little Mae peed all over Sunday as she was dying. As I reached back for the third and final bag, I heard my name.

"Oh, I heard about your cat," my acquaintance breezily began. "I sooo know exactly what you're going through. We got a few barn cats back in the spring and something got one of them. Hadn't had her but three weeks or so. I was beside myself thinking about that little thing. The kids buried her and all. Broke my heart. Good little cat," she finished, loudly.

I nodded and half-smiled and turned back to the car. Then I turned back. Did I ever. "Actually," I said coldly, "I don't think you do exactly know. My cat wasn't some barn cat. She was my first pet. My only pet. She slept alongside me for nearly six years. When I took a bath, she sat on the edge of the bathtub. When I ate, she sat in the chair next to me. When I read, she swatted at the paper. When I played piano, she sat on the bench. She went home with me for the holidays and came right along with me on business trips. She was my girl. My confidant... my comedic relief... my companion. She wasn't a stupid, wild barn cat. She was my family. My only family. And now she's gone."


"Oh, honey," she said.

We stood in the grocery store parking lot for what seemed like ever as I wetted her shirt with tears and she hugged me and patted my back. "I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry," I wailed.

And I was. I am. I'm so, so sorry. Sorry, and thankful. Thankful for her compassion and your compassion and everyone's compassion as we've gathered here to tell our stories and offer up our words. I've read every last one of your comments... more than once... and have been so moved by all of our collective losses and griefs and pains. Seems each of us has a story or a memory or a moment that's etched into our hearts by the loss of ones we've loved and ones who've loved us.

Yes, my heart's been warmed and touched... so deeply, permanently touched... by your words and thoughts and prayers and cards and flowers. They keep piling up, these quiet pledges of support and understanding, and I want to say thank you, you know -thank you for carrying me through this week. I want to send you my best thanks but it seems too little when you've all given so much. Your comments and promised prayers and long-reaching hugs are coming together like pieces of a community quilt - covering me and comforting me during this terrible week. And I can't think of words enough to tell you how much it means. How very much it means.

But thank you anyway.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. -Brin

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Slipping Out...

I'm slipping out for a few days.

Thanks for understanding.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm devastated.

Please forgive me for not having any words for you today. I try to find them but have -thus far- ended up in a heap here alongside my desk... a pile of shakes and sobs. I feel like a wrung-out sponge. Ain't nothing to see here today. Sorry.

After the Cowboy game I tried to sleep. I really did. You'd think 10 straight hours of crying would drain enough out of a girl to induce a few fitful hours of sleep. Nope. You'd think two hot toddies would, too. Nope. This big old house is just too quiet. Doesn't feel right. Is this what alone feels like? I don't like it.

So to drown out the silence... to cover up the stillness... I sit at the piano and play. Two o'clock comes. Then three. Then four. And finally, when my fingers can't keep up with the music in my head, I drape myself over the keys and hang on as the bench rocks with my sobs.

We're never prepared for loss, are we?

I'm trying to compartmentalize. I'm trying to view this as a stand-alone loss that has nothing to do with the heartbreaks this year has seen. I'm trying to separate the sadnesses as you would strands of yarn, but they keep twisting back together. Singled out, they are easier to deal with. Together, they bind a seemingly strong strand of sadness.

And I wonder... since they're already fused together in my brain... if the parts equal a whole. If the separate incidents make an event. I wonder what's coming down the pike as pieces of the life I've tried to build crumble and fall away. As I sit at the piano and hear my fingers come back, time and time again, to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, I hear the composer's own words echo through my head:

O God, give me strength to overcome myself,
nothing must hold me to this life.

I suppose that's my prayer today as well. As I hear a noise, just now, and glance up from the keyboard expecting to see Mae come pawing in, I suppose it's my prayer, too.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name....
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
-Edward Mote, 1834

Sunday, September 23, 2007

She's Gone

And just like that, she's gone.

My Maebelline died today. My precious, constant companion for the past six years is gone. I buried my face in her fur and clutched the steel table at the vet's office as they put her down. "I'm sorry," he said, looking sympathetic. She jerked and went still. Very still.

"I think I need to take a walk. Sorry for pulling you out of church," I mumbled, and made it as far as the waiting room before sliding down the wall into a puddle of tears.

We buried her alongside the hydrangeas beneath my bedroom window. It began to rain soon after. My little kitty... my friend in fur pajamas.... outside in the rain. Tied in a plastic bag beneath the dirt.

It can't be. It just can't be....

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fall Fancy, Part Two

The Earth has rolled around again
and harvest time is here,
The glory of the seasons
And the crown of all the year.
-Carolyn Wells

Turns out the first day of fall this year is Sunday. September 23rd. Oddly enough, it's always an exciting day for me, as if the calendar has just written me a permission slip to drag out my sweaters and make pumpkin lattes and stitch quilts in earnest. I love fall. I love everything about it.

Sometime during the week, although I'm really not sure how, I managed to whip up one of those ever popular Yo-Yo Garlands that are sweeping the countryside boutiques and craft blogs. It was so much fun. I did this one in purples and oranges and sage-y greens and got it posted on the Freeman House Etsy site this morning. I have one of these handmade garlands draped across my bed. It's adorable... so simple and old fashioned and whimsical. Too fun.

Remember several weeks back when I asked y'all what outdoor feature you'd prefer: a water feature, a croquet lawn, a brick fire pit, or an outdoor theatre? The vote was tied - even steven - between a water feature and a brick fire pit. How cool. I have a guy coming 'round tomorrow to help me with the brick fire pit. Can't wait. I'm going to whip up some of Susan Branch's homemade marshmallows (I like them with Amaretto and with peppermint mixed in), and set out platters of chocolate and cinnamon graham crackers. Yum. S'mores over an open fall flame. Sounds like a good Friday night, doesn't it?

Speaking of Susan Branch, have you ever gotten your hands on a copy of her Autumn from the Heart of the Home? If you haven't, you must. Seriously. You must. This time of year this little book follows me everywhere as I constantly refer to its recipes, ideas and pictures. It's happiness between covers is what it is. It's one of the reasons I adore fall as much as I do.

By the way, Country Living has a fabulous spread (October issue) on Susan's Autumn book. You'll want to see it. The Potatoes Anna is worth the price of the magazine alone.

Hmm. Okay. Need to be off. (Shelley, I'm headed your way.) Hope you have a wonderful fall inaugural weekend. Breathe deeply and make something yummy to drink and get some good sleep.

See you Monday! -Brin

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Luster on the Porch and Tree-Dotted Sky

There is a harmony in autumn,
and a luster in its sky,
which through the summer
is not heard or seen.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley

One down. One to go. The second party is tonight and I'm a busy blur this morning trying to get tea brewed and mop water run and decorations out and up.

The porch is getting some attention, too. The sagging, crumbling, old-as-dirt-so-it-is-almost-dirt front porch. We found a board underneath the porch... nailed to a support bea... that reads: PAUL 1913. Local history says Freeman House was lowered onto logs and rolled down the hill to where she sits now in 1912, the year the Titanic sank. Apparently they slapped this porch on the front in 1913, which makes it 94 years old. Really needs to come down. I'm afraid she won't make it to see her 100th.

I'll worry about it another day. For now, I'm busy with decorating for fall without the use of mums and pumpkins. Our little produce stand gets them in tonight, I'm told. Darn. A day late.

Are the leaves beginning to turn where you are? They are here. It's beautiful. Tomorrow is the first day of autumn, isn't it? I can't wait.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Two Days, Two Parties

I love parties. I love a good time.
-F. Murray Abraham

Two parties in two days. At Freeman House we're either crazy or really loving life. Hmm. Can't decide which.

The silverware is clean and shiny. The floor is swept. The yard is mowed. The ice trays are cracked. The Coq au Vin is bubbling away. (Thanks, Grace.) Even though the dining room isn't yet decorated - not formally - she is painted thanks to Amber's Saturday save. Reckon this old mid-renovation home is about as ready as she'll ever be for another influx of hungry, happy people.

Do you entertain much? I notice I have ... increasingly so... since buying this house. Perhaps it's because I have the space. And a good location. And no one, on a daily basis, to cook for. Of course, it's more fun when you find ways to do it on the cheap. Here are my three stand-by rules for dinner parties:

1. Skip pricey bottled water for pretty pitchers filled with cool tap water and lemon slices or rosemary sprigs. And brew your own tea and coffee. Pre-bottled drinks (water, sodas, etc.) will run up a tab very quickly. Likewise, the more food you handle yourself - even breads and salads - the more you'll save. Pre-packaged food, including bagged salads, is so expensive. This week my grocery store had bunches of lettuce on 2-for-$1. Compared to $2.99 for a little bag of wilted-looking greens, DIY salad was a no-brainer.

2. Use cloth napkins and your own dishes and utensils to save on paper products. And look for things around the house or yard or park to serve as centerpieces. Throw in some candles and great music and call it a party.

3. Most importantly, I think, is shying away from buffet-type meals when you're the only one paying and cooking. (Occasionally I'll do a dessert buffet with a hot chocolate bar. Something like that. That's one thing; all-you-can-eat, serve yourself feeding frenzies are another.) When you're doing a knife-and-fork meal and dish up the plates before they leave the kitchen, you can really control the amount of food that's prepared and consumed. And you don't have to deal with leftovers.

It all adds up, doesn't it? Even the napkins and bottled water. I like knowing I can throw a great party on a tight budget. And I like knowing people can come over and enjoy a good meal without me skipping the water bill next month.

So, yeah. Two days, two parties. I've promised myself that this weekend I'm going to be impossibly lazy. I'm going to sleep until 8 o'clock in the morning and eat a cheeseburger and watch Catch and Release and start reading The Glass Castle....

...But first we have to get there.

Party on.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pools of Cream... and Cakes

Cakes keep appearing around here. It's a bit like magic, really. A pour and a mix here... a scrape and a slide there... and suddenly a cake is sitting closeby. Is it just right? Is it moist? I'll sneak a forkful and chew and shake my head and pour, mix, scrape, and slide again until, finally, it's just right. Not ready to photograph, of course, but yummy nonetheless.

This one is Gingerbread Cake with waves of Cinnamon Chocolate. It's served in a pool of chocolate sauce and piled high with cinnamon-dusted whipped cream. Last night, after it had dried a bit (due to my careless storage method), a friend and I cut slices and she doused them with cream. She's done it since 1978, she said, when she lived in England and watched them habitually drown things in pools of cream. Yum. The English are brilliant.

Yup, cakes everywhere. I'm really trying to wrap up the cookbook so I can move on to something else. I have this fear, though... I really do... that the moment the book is done and sent off I'll think of something amazing I've left out. I've lost countless hours walking myself through my childhood meals and treats wondering, what was my favorite? What was the most memorable? Delicious? It's wonderful, actually. A wonderful exercise... to think back on the meals and foods that were most important or delightful growing up. Some of mine were biscuits, chocolate cake, southern smothered steak, and mashed potatoes.

What were yours?

Better run. Have a list of very pleasant chores to tackle today. Well, except for mowing the yard. We all know what an ordeal that is for me.


Enjoy your day! -Brin

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday Moment: The Little Children

Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them, for the
kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
-Luke 18:16

I'd wanted to teach teenagers. I really did. Back during the summer when the church was looking for Vacation Bible School teachers, I signed up for sixth graders. "That's the youngest I'll go," I said. Of course, I ended up with both third and fourth grades. I wasn't, to be honest, very pleased.

They were squirmy. Never stopped moving. And loud. Gosh, were they loud! Never stopped talking. I quickly realized that - since college - I've wrapped myself in a world completely insulated from children. I'd have to get used to the squirmy. And the talking. At least for the week.

Of course, VBS led to an invitation to teach third and fourth grade girls' Sunday School. "Um... really, I prefer the kids you have to get to talk... not the ones you have to get to shut up," I said. Something like that. It didn't work. "I'll do it, Lord," I said, "but don't expect me to like it."

I wonder if God ever rolls His eyes? Or if He ever thinks, Man, the talking. They never stop talking...?

So I dove in. Started the first week with seven girls. The next week, we had eight. We're having a Pool and Pajama Party, I told the girls last week, come Friday in your swimsuits. Fifteen girls came. They swam and splashed and smiled. After swimming and making our own pizzas and playing Sondra's Bible Bingo, we headed upstairs for midnight makeovers, complete with new hair styles and glitter fingernail polish. Egad, the glitter. I looked like one wild-haired sparkle by the time they finished with me.

We were getting ready for bed when the secrets started pouring out. These angels were happy and bubbly one minute and despondent or morose the next. One told me she hadn't seen her Mom in two weeks. She's busy working, the sweet girl stated, flatly. Another told me her parents might be getting divorced. Her chin quivered. I hugged them tightly and stayed close. "This is not my thing, Lord," I prayed, "but please use me to show these girls how much they're loved."

And these children - the children near you... the children near me - how desperately they need our love. Our time. Our attention. And how - even more urgently - they need to be told of the love only a Heavenly Father gives.

Let the little children come unto Me, Jesus said. And no wonder. They are, after all, going to go somewhere. Someone's going to reach them. Someone or something will try to make them feel special. I pray it's the Gospel. I pray it's the message that a holy and loving God knitted us together in our mother's womb. That He breathed us to life - all fearfully and wonderfully made. That He first loved us.

Lord, please use us - no matter how unwilling we think we are - to tell another generation of Your love.

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

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dear CS:

I listened... bound by your spell... as you told me about standing atop the continental divide. I loved the words you used. The picture you painted. It was as if - if only for a moment - I saw it, too. It was as if your voice and the letters you strung together lifted me and sat me atop the divide, too. I asked you, before you said it was like being "in the eye of a storm", if it was like being in a donut hole. Of course I meant to say the hole of a donut. (A donut hole. Sheesh.) Makes me laugh now, how easily you hear the ridiculous things I say but how readily you understand me anyway.

The continental divide. It got me thinking. All Thursday night long. It got me thinking that - after all these years - it's almost as if I'm standing on our own continental divide. Of sorts. Here I am... all this mess and all this storm around us. Some of our own making. Some of it not. But here we are, you and I, in this chaotic calm, this holding place of waiting for storms to pass or rain to fall or skies to righten. Here we are... here where nothing can happen. Where the two can't meet. And I'm okay here for now. I'm content, I suppose, to wait in this place of nothingness while fronts collide and the fallout chooses a side. I'm fine with waiting here while we see how - and where - things run off to.

I found one of our crossword puzzles yesterday. Who knows exactly how old it is. Do you? I don't. I remember starting to throw out the paper... however many years ago... but pausing just before it hit the can. I remember unfolding it, smoothing it out on that 1960s' yellow, wobbly kitchen table, and cutting our puzzle out and tucking it inside a book. I wanted to remember the day.

And I did. It was the mention of meatloaf that made me remember. Caused the memory of that Sunday to come dancing back. You were watching TV and looking at the paper and I was trying to preheat the oven for a meatloaf I'd just mixed. "It's not heating," I think I said, and you stood, right away, and pulled open the door and tinkered until it did. I remember watching the back of your neck and your shoulders as you righted the oven, and stood. I remember the feel of your heroic hand as you rested it against my cheek before leaning in and kissing my forehead. I remember watching as, without a word, you walked back to the paper. I remember thinking, I love this man.

The meatloaf was fine. We ate it and sat, my back against your chest, for most of the afternoon. You called me "sunshine" as we did the dishes. Then we returned to the paper, playing at the crossword together before abandoning it. Did we get busy or bored? That I can't recall. I do remember leaning against you on that terrible old brown couch and thinking, this is the perfect day. This is exactly the sort of day I always wanted.

The crossword was cut out to remember it all - the meatloaf... your hand... that day. That sweet day. Later I had an idea that I would tuck the puzzle inside a card and someday we'd finish it. On our honeymoon, perhaps. Or our first official Sunday together. But it's still here. Unfinished, like we are. Unfinished, and here in the hole of a donut - in a chaotic calm - with storms all around.

13 DOWN. The clue for 13 DOWN is "questions". That Sunday you wrote asks. This Thursday you said, "The heart knows what it wants." Just like that. No questions or asking. The heart knows what it wants. Or who, I wanted to say. Or who.

Will you read this? I'm not sure. You will, probably, although it may take days. Weeks. That's okay. Not much we can do for now anyway. Nothing but meet words and wonder.

And talk. We can always talk. Even if it's just about the weather this side of the continental divide. Your words evaporate once they reach me, anyhow, leaving my ears heavy with the sound of ... you. Did I ever tell you? Not certain I ever did. I meant to tell you Thursday amid all the questions and asking and... nothing. I meant to tell you this then but I'll tell you this now: the sound of your voice is the drug of my choice.

I miss you.


Friday, September 14, 2007

The Task of Making Pretty

It's just beyond there... through this door. Can you make it out? The dining room? We begin tomorrow, in earnest, the task of making her pretty. We have until Thursday. The big party Thursday night. She must be restored to her former glory by then. The clock, she is a'ticking.

Wish us luck. And if you're breezing by Freeman House tomorrow, please stop. Especially if you are of the tall persuasion. I still need someone to stand atop the ladder. [Grin]

Happy September weekend! -Brin

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sewing... and Other Wonderful Things

a needle swift enough
to sew this poem into a blanket.
-Charles Simic

There's a great deal of sewing and cutting and sewing and cutting going on in Freeman House this week. Scrumptious sewing with sumptuous fabrics and swift fingers and a speedy machine. The projects are piling up, all new and soft and colorful. Scraps are everywhere. The cat's having a field day. As the windows squeak open and the fall-ish air whispers through, the rooms seem to be breathing again. They seem happy again. Comforting. Colorful.

There are several projects to tackle this Friday and weekend. The mammoth screen door needs re-screening. The flower beds weeded and turned to fall. The dining room finished. Leaves raked. Yup. Already. My weekend is split between my to-do list, an inn-sitting commitment, and a slumber party Friday night with my girls. My Sunday School girls. I've promised them a pool and pajama party before it gets cold, so tomorrow's it.

But that's tomorrow. Today is sewing and leaf raking and cupcake packing. (I think, after all, that cupcakes are perhaps the most wonderful food. And so incredibly inexpensive compared to store-bought goodies. Today I've used a plastic baggie to pipe on frosting, sprinkled the frosting with 3 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1 drop food coloring (red, in this case), and instantly have pink-glittered cupcakes. Done, cheap, and delicious.) Bring on the girls.

...And more sewing. There's something about picking up a needle as soon as the temperature begins to drop that just feels so... right... somehow. And there's something about sleeping beneath a handmade quilt that's so... settling... somehow. Like sleeping under pretty history. Or a poem. Sleeping beneath a quilt in the fall is like sleeping beneath a well-loved poem....

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dropping Dreams

Not sure what's going on this week. Last week, either. I'm restless and jumpy and... expectant, somehow. Nervy, I guess. I've eaten little and slept less.

It started one day last week. Can't remember which - all the days look the same once you're into new ones. All I can say with certainty is I awoke with a start and exclaimed, aloud, "What in the world am I doing here?" Just like that. And once said, it was as if my words continued to bounce around the room - like tiny, rubber balls - and spring back into my ears again.

Is there really such thing as a quarter-life crisis? I need to look it up because I think, perhaps, I'm in one.

I used to be a dreamer. A go-and-do-er. Not sure what's happened, exactly. Somewhere along the way I think I dropped some dreams, as an ailing car litters parts along a highway. As a child, I never doubted what I would be when I grew up: a reporter. I started, unofficially, with a hairbrush for a microphone in our living room in Oklahoma. I started, officially, in 1997 -ten years ago - at a small ABC radio affiliate in Texas. The newspaper came one day to take my picture and I remember stopping, turning in my chair, and smirking. (Jim? Do you remember taking this photo?) You can see it in my face. The thing that grabs me about this photo is that my hand is still holding a pen and resting on my mouse. I wouldn't stop multi-tasking, even for the picture. I thought I was busy and had things to do. Places to go.

And, as it turned out, I did. I moved along to bigger markets and tougher assignments. I ate dinner with Walter Cronkite and interviewed the president. Judges. Law enforcement. Martha Stewart. Once I even threw up shrimp on Phil Graham and got in trouble for being rude (unknowingly) to Roger Staubach. I hated the hours and the commitment but loved the thinking and the writing. So it captured me and I went, willingly, further and further down its path until one day it - stopped. I left it altogether. I came here.

Some friends and I sat down, just before college ended, and wrote down where we wanted to be - and where we thought the others would be - in five years... ten years... twenty-five years. My friend Lisa, of course, decided she would be eyeball deep into covert operations with the CIA, and was promptly dubbed Special Agent Lisa. SALL, for short, because her initials are "LL". She's now a school teacher who sews and wears her own aprons to her classroom every day. I think she also has 7 Master's degrees.

Another friend... the one who believed she'd be a foreign missionary in a hut in Belize... lives not too far from the school we graduated from. She's built a wonderful life there and delivers makeup to the masses. She sells Mary Kay. Quite successful, too. Drives the car and everything.

Another suspected she might settle on a ranch in Wyoming or Montana and spend her days with horses and rugged terrain. She fell in love and wrangles twin boys now. They say she's a wonderful mother.


I suppose we all, along the way, see our fair share of dream dropping, don't we? Can't see why I'm having such a hard time with mine - such a hard time finding and running with my new dream. I am, after all, the same stupidly fearless girl I always was.

Who knows. Maybe sometimes we need time to reflect. Wrestle. Decide. Maybe I'm in the calm before the dream storm and I just don't know it....

As you look back at your life,
there are just a million different things
that have happened, just in the right way,
to allow you to make your dreams come true.
And you know, Someone has all that under control.
-Michael P. Anderson

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering Today

What happened on September 11
compels us to focus on
who we are as Americans,
what we stand for,
what really matters in our lives -
family, friends, faith and freedom.
-Bob Taft

I'm remembering today. Guess we all are. Remembering where we were. Who we told. Who told us. Remembering the shock... the numbness... the incomprehension and the disbelief. Not here. Not us. Not today. Not our America.

It affected us all, didn't it? Whether we ran, in shock, through NYC's ashy debris or ran, in shock, through the halls of our homes and offices - it split us open. Grief, fury, and patriotism spewed forth, and suddenly the worries of the day... the deadlines and bills and annoyances... all crowded insignificantly in the backseat to our worry and horror and fear. And it was as if, for the first time in a long time, we were awakened to the sense of people again. The people we lost. The people we saved. The people who stepped up. The people who were brave. Suddenly, we looked at the ones next door to us. In the store lines in front of us. Suddenly, we were all people again. We were a nation again. A nation of scarred yet determined citizens, but a nation of people nonetheless.

We'll never forget the images of that day, will we? We'll never forget the images and we'll always remember the people - all the people - who became heroes and leaders and friends. The people who brought terror and the people who fought terror. And today, six years later, as life's returned to normal and we're consumed - once again - with our deadlines and bills and annoyances, I pray we'll never forget the tragedy of September 11th. I hope we'll always remember the call we felt, that day, to pray. To pray for our safety, our country, and our people. For our soldiers, our saviors, and our officials. For during the morning, evening, and at noon - when we pray and cry out loud - He shall hear our voice.

We'll never forget to remember that day, will we? Where we were. Who we told. Who told us. I hope we'll never forget. I pray we'll always remember.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday Moment: The Window

She didn't have much. But she did have a window. A window along a city wall. And with that window, she helped God's people take Jericho.

Her name was Rahab and her story is straightforward. She was, the Bible says, a prostitute. A prostitute who lived along the wall of mighty Jericho. A prostitute who, as was her custom, took in strange men at night. Only this particular night, the men she welcomed were no ordinary men. They were enemy spies. Spies sent from the camp of Israel - at the bidding of Joshua himself - to "search out the country". To do surveillance work. And she, Rahab, took them in. She didn't know it, but she and her window were about to be part of God's plan to deliver Israel.

I wonder what she thought, then, as she heard the king's men at her door. We're hearing things, they said to her. We hear you're hiding spies. Send them out.

But she was already a step ahead of them. The spies were hidden - between her ceiling and her roof. And she had a story. Yes, they were here, she said, her heart pounding in her ears. But after dark - about the time the gate closed - they left. You'd better hurry if you want to find them.

And they did. The king's men hurried away. And under the cover of darkness - using Rahab's rope - Israel's spies repelled out of her window, down the city wall, and escaped.

I love this story... the story of how Israel took Jericho. There's such drama: the spying, the near-capture, the escape, the "battle" itself. It's The Hiding Place with more twists and a happier ending. But even more than that, I adore how this story turns on the courage and obedience of one woman... just one woman. And notice that she wasn't perfect. She wasn't Beth Moore. She was just a woman who lived along a city wall and had a window.

This story from Joshua 2 encouraged me this morning. It encouraged and challenged me. It caused me to realize that, perhaps, it's not who we are but where we are that may put us in a position to be used of God. And it's not what we don't have (money, seminary training, time) that God needs, it's what we do have that God may use. It's what we have, what God's already given us, that He may require. Things like our prayers. Our kitchens. Our hugs. Our couch. Our words. Our cars. Our courage. Maybe even our windows.

It's something to think about. It's something, perhaps, we need to think about. And as we look out our windows today... however and wherever they may be ... may we remember Rahab. May we remember her and pray that we, too, will be willing when the opportunity to be obedient to God knocks on our doors.

Our doors, or our windows.

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

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Pine Cones, Cheerleaders, and Mac-N-Cheese

Leisurely September Saturday. Now that all the sheets are billowing out on the line... and my recipe for fall macaroni and cheese* is finally perfected... I'm settling in to make Pine cone Wreaths for the library.

What's that, you say? Not yet time to make pine cone wreaths? Of course it is. When I had to dash to the grocery store for extra pumpkin this morning, I was nearly flattened by men hauling off bundles of firewood and sacks of deer corn. Well, that and the throng of people lined up to meet the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. The Cowboy's Pro Gear truck made an appearance in our little town today, complete with their mobile Hall of Fame display and their girls in lots of makeup and hairspray and very thick pantyhose. I don't think I'd ever seen a Cowboy cheerleader up close before. It was disturbing, to be honest.

But that's not the point. The point is that once we're talking deer corn and firewood and football it is time to make pine cone wreaths. Besides, make them now and they're good through the New Year. Just use neutral ribbon or change it out before Christmas.

Of course, I had to explain this to my sister on Monday as I dragged her away from the television and cell phone to help me collect the pine cones. This is the piney woods of East Texas, after all. Pine cones are everywhere. "What do you want with these dumb things?" my sister kept asking, followed by, "OUCH! Why do mine POKE?!"

Better get busy. I'm thinking these wreaths need to be spectacular after all the yelling and pricked fingers that went into making them possible.

*My recipe for fall macaroni and cheese began with this Country Living inspiration, but since has taken on a taste and method of its own. Omgosh. It's good. The recipe will be in my forthcoming cookbook.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Leaf in My Cup

The light is beautiful this morning. I know this because I'm actually here to see it - not racing to the car, hair flying and documents fluttering. I adore the way this house wakes up. It's reverent, almost. As leaves drift and birds and squirrels stir, the soft light slips under doors and through windows with the most hushed, gentle glow. I hate the mornings I miss it.

I have several things to accomplish this weekend, the least of which is getting the trim painted and up in the library, the curtains lined in the bedrooms, and some pre-fall cleaning and throwing out. What I really want to do, though, is bake bread... and maybe a pie... and put together a fall reading list. I've already started, you see, by piling up a book here and there on the library chair.

How do you get ahold of the books you read? Are they borrowed? Checked out from the library? Purchased? All of the above? I'm terrible in that, while I "shop" the library for titles and sit on the library board, I've never once checked out a book in this little town. The librarian once handed me a book and said, "read this", but I didn't. Didn't look like something I'd enjoy. At all. I'm not much of a book checker-outer. I buy most of my books in used book stores and sales and Amazon. Once I've enjoyed pages, I hate to give them up. I just can't. Besides, I got into the habit, several years ago, of inscribing my books with a simple phrase or two: usually the place I read it, the date, and what I was doing. Like, "November 2005. Wichita, Kansas. Read through one bitter, windy weekend alongside pumpkin lattes with cinnamon... and David." And, "April 2001, my 22nd birthday. Boston. Bought on cart outside Globe and am reading in Quincy Market as the violinist plays." This is how I know that I read the Legend of Sleepy Hollow at Sleepy Hollow. And The Mercy of Thin Air in the mountains... where the air was thin.

I think, if ever I have a child, I'll do this for her, too -inscribe her books. "September 2011. Texas. Fell asleep in Mom's lap by page seven, before she got to the pigs - my favorite part." That way she'll always know where, when, and who she was when she first heard Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod. And first read Nancy Drew. And The Velvet Room.

Anyway. Forgive me for rambling. It's been an awful week.

Guess that's why, as I waited for another dreaded meeting yesterday at Starbucks, I ended up with this mug in my lap. I'd just started a new book and didn't want to inscribe it with, "September, 2007. Starbucks. Waiting for a stupid meeting for my stupid job on a stupid day." I already have books that say that... things like waiting at the doctor's office. Or driver's license place. Or worse. Anyhow, I wanted something else to say. So when they offered to put my drink in this mug for just a few dollars more, I said okay. Then I walked to my seat and wrote, "September, 2007. Starbucks. Began one conflicted summer/fall day while a leaf sat in the bottom of my cup."

There. Much better.

So okay. The week is almost over. Thank God. Thank, thank, thank God! And the fall reading list is taking shape. Any suggestions? Thoughts? Must reads?

Have a restful weekend - you and your leaves - whether it's with a book or not.

My best, Brin

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Stampin' Back

I've been so excited to show you these. My big weekend purchase. My enormous bag of antique stamps... words, phrases, pictures and numbers. Found them, buried alongside old thermoses and baking soda canisters and stained hankies, in a junk shop on Saturday.

Aren't they grand?

I paid $18 for the entire bag. When first I saw them, I was on them like a fox to a chicken. But then I debated. Eighteen dollars? That's seemed steep for a bag of stamps. But there are hundreds... literally hundreds... of stamps. Some are names. There's John and Mary and George. Most are animals. I think there's bird, hen, rooster, chick, chicken and owl. And that's just in the fowl category.

There's food, too: bread, cheese, egg, milk, meat. And then there are places. Places like home, school and church.

You know that stamping/scrapbooking company Stampin' Up? (My friend Lacy is really into them and makes the sweetest cards. I keep all of them.) Well, these are like old-school Stampin' Up. More like stampin' back, I guess.

But oh, I think they are great. I've already dreamed up dozens of ways to use them. For cards, of course, and Christmas tags and household labels and little notes. Can't wait to get started.

Yep, it's the simple things, you know? It's skipping the mall and the predictable movies and spending eighteen dollars on a sack of stamps that I'll keep and use forever. That's where it's at, if you ask me.

Huh. Wonder if I can find the stamps to make a card saying that? [Smile]

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Chicken and Biscuits Sort of Day

I love cooking,
I love being at home.
-Lisa Snowdon

So do I. Today especially. Especially today as the rain trickles down my wavy windows, making me feel all clean and quiet inside. Yes, today I want real things: strong coffee, a quilted throw, my sturdy dining room table, the big sewing machine, and ... solitude. I crave the quiet solitude of a rainy Wednesday morning.

I'm making Chicken and Biscuits today for my cookbook. It's peaceful here, what with the bubbling pots and the falling rain. I just added two arm chairs in front of the dining room fireplace. If you came over we could sit there and sink deep into the chairs and listen to it rain and watch the biscuits turn golden.

I'll let you know how it all turns out. Until then, have a peaceful day. -Brin

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Simple September Saturday

I love September,
especially when we're in it.
-Willie Stargell

I really do love September. I tried not to love it after September 11th but eventually decided that - of all the things the terrorists took that day - they could not take and carry off my adoration for a month I hold so dear. Therefore, I loved September then and I love her still.

Especially on days like we had this weekend.

The sun shone, the breeze blew, and it rained once... no twice, even... and I drank it all in. Ah, September weather. Saturday we browsed Old Mill Antiques, one of my favorite "antique" places in all the world. Everyone agreed: it was a fine day for being out and a fine day for treasure hunting.

And I found a few things. I found an old, beaded necklace, a garlic keeper, a mantle and a bag of wonderfulness that I'm saving to show you later. I also found the old general store with its blue Chevy pickup...

...and fluttering bunting...

...and promises of Pralines, Sodas, Ice Cream and 5 cent coffee inside.

Well thanks, don't mind if I do.

It is September, after all... a month of simple afternoons and simple finds and simple scoops.

I'm so happy it's all finally here.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Monday Moment: Church

Going to church doesn't
make you a Christian
any more than going to a garage
makes you an automobile.
-Billy Sunday

Where did we come down with the idea that going to church makes us Christians? Makes us "saved"? Makes us right before God? Where did that idea first take hold?

What I'm going to say today might shock you. Some of you may not pick up what I'm throwing down. But here it is, regardless, just like this: church won't save you. Going to church won't save you. Having your name on a church roll somewhere doesn't make you any more special to God. Go... don't go. Show up... or don't. Whatever. Church has no bearing on where you'll spend eternity.

I was reminded of this Saturday as I walked alongside a beautiful church in Jefferson, Texas. Boy, we spend a lot of money on our churches, don't we? Making them beautiful. Making them functional. Making them attractive or breathtaking or cool. And maybe we should. Maybe we should. But at the end of the day, a church is just a building. It's just a place.

Yep, we can spend a lot of effort thinking about church. Whether we go or don't go. We can spend a lot of time grumbling about church, too. A lot of emotion and judgment and controversy surrounds churches today. Do we go on Saturday or do we go on Sunday? Do we wear jeans or do we not wear jeans? Do we sing choruses or do we sing hymns? And how do we handle women? Different races? Homosexuals? Divorcees? We're passionate in our opinions and convictions about church and how it should be conducted, aren't we? And it's important. Absolutely, it's important. The church is the bride of Christ. The church has a specific and special part in God's kingdom. He's used her before and He will use her still. But is it everything? No way. It's just church. It can't save.

I go... to church, that is. Some weeks I can't wait to go and other weeks I can't wait to get back home. But I don't define my relationship with God... I don't hang my salvation... on my church attendance. On which church has my name on the roll. Church helps convict and teach and encourage me. It gives me an outlet to get plugged into something God is doing in my community. And while I'm thankful for the opportunities we have, as a democratic society, to worship in public, I don't expect a seat in heaven just because I've held a seat in church.

Here's the point: spend too much time thinking and worrying about church and whether/where/why you should/should not go and you'll miss the point completely. Church won't save you. Only Jesus will. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian. Believing and calling upon the only begotten Son of God - that makes you a Christian.

Church is good. Praise God for His church! But there's so much more to this Christian life than that. There's so, so, so much more to this than church.

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8

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