29 December 2006

14,000 Things to Be Happy About.

The post-Christmas doldrums have hit me again, accompanied by several cloudy, drizzly (and at times, torrentially downpour-y) days here in Dallas while Steven has been gone with his staff at the Urbana missions conference in St. Louis. Yesterday, I had finally had enough. I decided to quit ho-humming around the house and regain some perspective.

I put Greta in her crate so I could have some "me" time. I then gathered my charming December issue of Coastal Living and a little gem of a book called 14,000 Things To Be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kipfer and locked myself inside the bathroom. After filling my pedestal tub just below the drain line (so the water doesn't make that funny sucking noise) with cotton-puff-piles of bubbles and about 20 drops of lavender oil, I soaked. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. And soaked and soaked and soaked.

For some reason, the Happy book usually resides in the shelf nook of the telephone table in our livingroom. I have no idea why. No one touches it, or picks it up to enjoy a few pages, or even realizes its there. But yesterday, it was the perfect remedy.

The Happy book is a conglomeration of Barbara Ann Kipfer's 20 years of "happy thing lists." It's written as a list of word pictures with no capitalization, line after line for 612 pages of things that make you smile. It's a chubby book, indeed. As I soaked in my aromatheraputic haven and read, I was reminded again how much more I have than I deserve. So many of the moments described in the book made me smile because I had already experienced them!

Here are some of my favorite lines from the book, scattered with my own photos showing how I've experienced them...

* a lake catching the last flecks of sunlight coming in over the pines

* a boat tour to see picturesque little ocher-and-red villages

* brand-new notebooks

* braiding-gimp at camp

* the delicious smell of cooking food and the hustle and bustle of the preparation

* doing your own thing

* lakeside roads with farm stands offering apples, pumpkins, pears, and other fruits and vegetables

* splendid "dunkers" with coffee

* hymn-sings

* cinnamon coffeecake

* dinner with laughter

* rooms with polished pine floorboards and doorjambs that tilt and slant and extra touches like silk flowers and current issues of antique and wildlife magazines

* stopping being a perfectionist

* personality profiles

* the first week of school

* a shrug of the shoulder when things don't get done

* a new canvas

* braking for rainbows

* a cardinal's brilliance against the snow

* a cathedral of trees

* seeing happy parents

* a "winged" hairstyle after wearing a baseball cap

* spending the morning in bed, watching old movies, collaborating on the crossword puzzle, making popcorn, napping, exchanging long stories of childhood, ordering in pizza, and just being lazy

* the cool underside of a pillow

* panoramic murals

* taking a walk when the world is too much

* running down a beach

* cinnamony aplesauce

* old childhood books

* people knowing where they stand with you

* wet babies

* feeling witty, confident, devastatingly feminine

* washing the car while barefoot

* carrying cups of coffee out to the porch to enjoy the morning sunshine

In only 29 years, I've seen more places than some see in a lifetime. Although I would characterize myself as an introvert, I've been blessed with many friendships around the world and more memories than I can count. My life has been filled with many joyful celebrations. There is so much more life to live. In fact, if I compiled a book of all of my happy things, I'd have way more than 14,000 lines.

* B/W dinner photo taken by Jeremy Cowart.
* Rainbow photo taken coincidentally by Stephanie Woodward on our wedding day, before we knew her! Same rainbow Steven & I saw on the way to our reception.
* B/W pic of me on a walk in NYC with the umbrella taken by Susan Bill.

28 December 2006

Christmas with the Baileys.

We have been blessed this year through thick and thin. Not because of the new "stuff" in our lives...in fact, I want to keep decreasing the amount of "stuff" we have. For instance, we have a new home, but what good use is it if people aren't welcome here? We've been given gifts such as a greater understanding of how God is working in our lives, friends we can call at any hour of the day or night, and a family who loves us unconditionally. My marriage is more intimate than I ever pictured it could be. All of that means more to me than any wrapped gift.

(Above: A few days before Christmas...me with my sister-in-law and 4-year-old niece, who is wearing the new pink cowgirl boots from her Aunt Stine & Uncle Steven.)

Steven with Dalton and Seth, two of his best buddies from high school:

Me & Steven with my brother and Trish:

Dad & our friend Paul, whose family owns the Cherry Laurel in Athens, TX and makes some killer food :). Shortly after this, I found my dad standing in the doorway with a funny look on his face. I asked him what he was doing, and he said "Oh, just holding up the wall..." Perhaps a 'lil too much of that wine, Frankie?!

Cute Mom!

Brad & Mary came in from Waco a few days before Christmas to have dinner with us...here I am with mary at Tillman's Roadhouse, a new AMAZINGLY chic restaurant that just opened in the Bishop Arts District near our house. They serve coffee in thermal glass Bodum mugs on a silver platter, each with its own personal ceramic cow filled with milk! (This picture was taken before we devoured the tableside S'mores with homemade marshmallows!)

My other 1-year-old niece in a dress from Aunt Stine & Uncle Steven :) She sure thought she was cute stuff and wanted to wear it immediately!

Greta on Christmas morning....of course I made her wear this bow!

My own Clark Kent :)

Gifts from Steven...a LOVELY necklace and earring set from India, and Home Alone...finally! It's a Christmas essential, is it not?!

Steven & Greta: a Christmas afternoon stroll at SMU:

22 December 2006

Almost-Christmas Thankfuls.

Things I am thankful for...

~ Neighborhood walks with Greta in the dark, quiet, early morning. How peaceful it is to walk past all the cozy cottages with Christmas lights still glowing outside and the tree lit in expectation.

~ Worship and prayer time with friends in our living room last night...to put my heart back in the place where it needs to be right now...

~ The Christmas channel on Sirius radio that I'm playing through the TV, and especially "The Christmas Song"..."Chestnuts roasting on an open fiiiire..."

~ My sweet friend, Jennifer asked me to take Christmas photos of her and her doggie last week...

~ A bundle of Christmas branches and leaves that I got at Central Market for $5. One vase of them is sitting atop the armoire and the other on our kitchen table.

~ This man that I love...

~ ...And the best gift of Christmas...

20 December 2006

Our girl, Greta!

Merry Christmas to us! Here's our Christmas present to each other - our Doberman named Greta! We got her from the Doberman Rescue, and she stole our hearts immediately. Contrary to popular myth, Dobermans are not vicious all the time (hee hee!). They are really wonderful people dogs! Greta was found roaming the streets of Ft. Worth as a stray. She is already adjusting to our home, and loves eating eggs, carrots, celery, and peanut butter :). That's my kinda girl!

12 December 2006

Who am I supposed to be?

Rosie Thomas' music is what it would sound like if my dreams had a soundtrack.

I recently purchased her latest album, If Songs Could Be Held, on iTunes, and there is something so amazingly beautiful about it, something so pleasantly haunting, that I simply can't stop listening. I've loved Rosie for awhile now, but this album takes the cake.

Here's a strange thing about Christine. For ten years or more, I've had these recurring dreams of different "scenes." I'm not really sure how to explain it but that I have the dreams every now and then at unpredictable times, and they so vividly evoke all of my senses that I can almost hear the sounds and feel the air on my face right now as I talk about them. For instance, one is a scene of a small yellow house in the south, and it's sweltering outside. I can see myself in a flowy skirt walking down the sidewalk in front of the house. I never go inside. I've passed by that house so many times in my dreams that I almost believe I've actually been there.

Then, when I first heard Rosie sing a few years back, something awakened deep in that untouchable place where I store my dreams. A soundtrack to my dreams. Someone I'd never met seemed to understand my innermost thoughts. And that is one of my favorite things about music...its power to draw the artist and the listener to each other in an identifying moment that occurs simply because they are both human.

A few nights ago, I had another one of those moments of clarity . You know how you sometimes drive to a familiar place "automatically," not really remembering how you got there? I was driving to meet my husband for dinner, and the plink of the piano keys and Rosie's haunting vocals were filling my car. Track 10 "had me" at the first piano chord. I turned it up. Having returned from Africa over a month ago, I've still had trouble explaining what it did to me...what being there did to change my life here and now, today. When I listened to "Death Came And Got Me," I heard the words that so perfectly explained my feelings (this battle I've been going through of who I'm supposed to be) even more than I, myself, could articulate.

I can't, I can't stop crying
Every day I’m so afraid, afraid of dying
Death already came and got me
Because I’m not living, I’m not living anyway

And who am I supposed to be?
Everybody seems to see, except for me
Who cares anyway?
Because when it’s over, it’s all over, and what you gain you throw away

When will love every find me?
All my life, all I’ve craved is to be seen
Who cares anyway?
Cuz when it’s over, all that matters it the love you gave away.

To me, it doesn't mean real "death" or the desire for an earthly love. I've already found love in my husband, and I do want to keep living on this earth for as long as I can. But that's also where the challenge lies. Sometimes I feel dead inside because I'm too in love with the world. Sometimes I truly feel that "death" came and got me, and I'll never be able to love like the One In Whose Image I Was Created. It disturbs me that a month after returning from Africa, I'm back into so many of my old ways...getting stressed about stupid things, being moody, caring too much about how things look or how I'm presented. What will it take for me to change? At the same time, although it sounds contradictory, I also have this sense of sadness over the fact that I'm starting to have a feeling of detachment as I struggle through these things. As I encounter God more by being led into countries and situations where I am at the end of myself, I realize I will never be the same again. And the more that happens, the less I feel like I really fit here in this world.

As I listen to the song again, it occurs to me that perhaps that's how it's supposed to feel...that it's in the struggle, rather than the solution, that I begin to truly find God.

New photo album design...

29 November 2006

Christmastiiiime is heeere.....

Visions of Charlie, Sally, Linus, and Peppermint Patty are dancing in my head as the Bailey home fills with Christmas music and anticipation of the arctic front that's blowing into Dallas late tonight. It should be 38 degrees and wintry when we awake in the morning!

In honor of the chilly weather, I thought I'd share some photos of our tree-trimming this past weekend. Doesn't decorating for Christmas seem a lot more exciting when it's not 75 outside??

Typical Steven-being-silly-with-the-twinkle-lights pic
(note the new olive green color I painted above the fireplace!)...

Michelle and I...

I found these stocking hooks at Target and was quite pleased!

The adorable nativity Steven's sister, Michelle, sent us from Gobbleville - check out Joseph's turban!

...and the finished product :)

26 November 2006

Capturing autumn.

There's nothing like autumn in the Northeast. Every time I revisit my hometown, I'm reminded of why I love small town life and the changing of the seasons. I miss walking out the front door, up the street, and around the corner to go downtown, sitting at the counter eating a melt-in-your-mouth corn muffin at C & J's Deli with the other Italian locals who have known me since I was 3, and the quaintness of the shops and surrounding farms as they showcase the latest products of harvest. No, New Jersey does not all look like Newark Airport, thank goodness! Steven and I, with our friends Brad & Mary, had a glorious few days enjoying autumn in Madison, NJ and strolling around New York City with latte's in hand...

Here are a few of my favorites...you can view all of the photos here.

16 November 2006

I left my heart in Africa.

It seems I’m missing something. After I returned from 10 days in Kenya and Uganda on November 5th, Steven and I immediately left the next morning for our short vacation to New Jersey and New York City. Now that we’re back and “real life” has set in again, I think I'm just now starting to process what's happened. I find myself wandering around our new home aimlessly…searching for something I can’t seem to find. Not in the bedrooms, not in the office. Something is missing, and I think I know where it is.

I have several friends who have been to Africa, and it's common to hear them say, "I left my heart there..." with a distant look of longing in their eyes. And I never understood it, really. Sure, I left my heart in Italy in the magical piazzas or on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, but in the slums of a third world country? At an orphanage where I wore the same clothes for 3 days and washed my hair in a well? Yet, it's true.

Now, I can’t get Kibera off my mind. I can’t stop thinking of the putrid smells of the slums mixed with the intense joy of the people there. I remember the moment of driving up to Mercy Home and all the children flooding the car, eager to grab my hands and tell me their names. I went there to love and serve them, but I was the one who was loved and served.

I saw Jesus so clearly there...in the brilliant sunsets, in the faces of the abandoned babies just wanting to play and be loved, in the singing voices of the kids at Mercy Home. And certainly in the face of Margret Harriet:

In Africa, stress and anxiety weren’t even an issue. My only job each day was loving people, and my face hurt from smiling. I realize it was only a short-term trip. And I don't want to bash life in America, because we are very privileged and provided for. Just trying to make sense of it all. With such deep contrasts – the greatest joy amidst the greatest poverty and struggle – beautiful landscapes and horrific slums – children redeemed from their circumstances and those still living in violence - it seems whenever I try to describe it, it comes out as...not enough. So hopefully my photos and video will do a better job than I can:

My photos.

Video of Mercy Home children singing.

05 November 2006

A surreal day.

Yesterday I was washing my hair in a well at an orphanage in Uganda while the children watched in curiosity, and today I have just sunbathed on the shores of Lake Victoria at a five star beach resort. The contrasts of this week have been confusing and surreal to say the least. Last night after a very tearful goodbye to the orphans at Mercy Home of Children in Kajjansi, Uganda, all 9 of us on our team went to the airport in Entebbe to return back home via Amsterdam. Thirty minutes before departure, they delayed our flight because all the lights on the runway had gone out (Don't they have replacement bulbs?? And do they really ALL go out at the same time?). After sleeping on the floor of the airport for a few hours, any "innocence" we had gained by staying at the orphanage for 4 days had quickly left us, unfortunately, and we were cranky. We found out our flight was totally cancelled and groggily entered the complimentary shuttle to take us to our hotel for the night. Little did we know we'd end up staying at the Imperial Resort Beach Hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria! While we were so thankful for the accommodations, we were not sure what to think about the situation since it was such a contrast from the places we have been this week with the poorest of the poor. I admit it's been a very relaxing time that was much needed. I just wish we could have stayed one more night at the orphanage if we had known about our flight.

I can't wait to write more, but for now I'll say I've experienced so much joy this week that my face actually hurt from smiling! I want to adopt Margret Harriet from Mercy Home and tears fill my eyes every time I think of gripping Margret's hand out the window of our van as we left the orphanage. I didn't expect to love Africa this much or want to stay so badly or continue to hear the children's songs echoing in my head. This morning when I awoke at the hotel, I read the card Margret wrote me that said, "How are you? I hope you are doing fine. Me I am not fine because I am missing you." The tears came again. Uganda is an unbelievably beautiful country and it seems like weeks ago that we were in Kenya. So many photos and experiences to share with you! Until then I'll go back down to the beach and enjoy the last few hours of my surreal Uganda one day "vacation" before we head to Amsterdam tonight and try all of this over again! If you read this today, please pray for us to get back to the U.S. on Monday! I love you all from Africa!

23 October 2006

Our new abode.

The Baileys have moved! We are so thankful for our new home, which God most definitely provided! May you all be welcome here. We've only been in it 2 days so we haven't had a chance to paint or totally organize yet, but here are a few pics of the progress. Rest assured that there are more pics to come soon...I'm ready to decorate this "blank canvas"! :)

26 September 2006

The perfect time of day.

It’s when the sun gets slower in the sky and casts a golden glow on everything, from the pavement to a flower petal to your eyelashes. Suddenly, that which was washed out and garish in the midday sun or shaded by gloomy clouds is completely new again, as if highlighted by the sun itself in a way that says, “All is better now. Calm down. The day is going to end peacefully.”

Sunday afternoon, it was 79 degrees. I took the most glorious nap on a blanket in the grass at SMU…the kind of nap where you can faintly hear voices in the background and planes zooming overhead and you know that your hair is gently blowing and you can’t remember a time you felt more relaxed. When I awoke on my belly with my head resting on my arms, I looked to the left and saw the 5:30 PM sun drenching my hair in light so it was transparent and suddenly golden. I saw my husband’s hand slightly opened and resting on the blanket, his palm faced upward, his eyes closed peacefully in the direction of the baby blue sky much like it was in New Mexico.

This is what I call the perfect time of day.

I propped myself up on my elbows and removed my handy notebook from my purse (along with a snack from Whole Foods - Bobo’s Oat Bar in Coconut-yum!) and was inspired to make a list of all my favorite experiences that have taken place at this “perfect time of day.” You know the time…7:30 PM or so in the summer…around 5:30 or 6 PM in the fall and winter…how many times have you looked at your surroundings and had that moment of pause, realizing the golden-ness and feeling utter peace in its light? Here are some of the moments I remembered….

Fall soccer games in high school. As the Girls’ Varsity Soccer Manager, I sat on the bench keeping score, noticing the shadows on the field changing slightly with each minute as the sun crept lower. I would eventually grab my windbreaker and notice the goose bumps start to form on my legs beneath my Umbros. The end of the day in autumn.

Closing time at Madison Community Pool. Happy and weary from a day of diving and handstands, I reclined on my mom’s lawn chair in my damp bathing suit and a sweatshirt, eating carrot sticks as she took her last few laps back and forth.

Road trips to Florida. We’d been traveling since early morning, and we were getting close to the utter freedom of that first drive across the intracoastal waterway to our weekend haven. We happily put on our sunglasses as the glittering water blinded our eyes.

Summer camp. All through junior high and high school, I spent a week each summer at church camp in Cazenovia, NY. Beautiful upstate New York...small towns and farmland. We stayed on the campus of Cazenovia College (affectionately referred to as “Caz”) and spent our days doing trust falls and ice-breakers. As evening began to fall, it was break time. This was the time of day when we left our Bible Study groups of random teens from the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania/Maryland area and went back to our rooms. I remember the walk back to the dorm before dinner…I would shout goodbye to my newfound friends across campus and feel my skin still emitting heat from being outside at the peak of the day. What would they have for dinner in the caf? Would I get to sit next to the cute boy in my group?

Going for a bike ride. Mom and I would ride bikes in our hilly neighborhood after school several days a week. I can still remember that “outdoors” smell on my hair and skin after peddling fast up the hills in the wind...then coasting as fast as I could down the hill on Chateau Thierry. It was so great biking at that hour – driving past the houses where people were just arriving home from work and smelling Italian dinners being prepared.

Leaving port. In high school, my mom and I went to Hawaii on a cruise. At the “perfect time of day” every day, we set sail from wherever we were docked to our next port of call. I distinctly remember relaxing at a an open-air table on the huge deck, surrounded by the beautiful Pacific, cold beverage in hand, listening to the live band play their Jack Johnson-esque serenades as we slowly sailed away. The ocean was cast in a golden glow as we wondered what we would see when we woke up tomorrow...

Wedding day. After a joyous backyard wedding ceremony in a torrential downpour, Steven and I drove away in our Beetle to Maggiano’s for our celebration dinner with our closest family and friends. Immediately after our vows, the rain had stopped and at about 7 PM, and the sun peeked out, revealing a rainbow that I hope I never forget.

Here are some of my favorite photos depicting the perfect time of day. I’d love to hear your own memories, or what the perfect time of day is to you…

I took this of my niece, several winters ago. I love how the light is hitting her face.

A live oak dripping with light on a plantation walk in Charleston, SC.

Circa summer '03? Me, Suz, Allen, and Jeremy relaxing in the back of the Andrews family's speedboat on Smith Mountain Lake. Look at the water behind us to the left...

After a day of exploring, here is where we had tea & popovers on the lawn by a gorgeous lake in Acadia Nat'l Park in Maine...

Leaving the blueberry farm in Athens, TX with several buckets full!

Taking a nice break with Suz at Cafe Lalo in NYC after traipsing around Manhattan all day...

The evening my second niece was born.

The sun is setting over Florence...my view from the Piazza Michaelangelo.

At Peace City Orphanage in India. I remember feeling so content here with these children.

View of the field across the street from my house in New Jersey, in winter. We would get the most beautiful sunsets.

In Destin, when the light gets this low, it's time to clean up and get ready for dinner out on the town...perhaps at Harry T's or The Back Porch!?

Getting engaged in Central Park late on a chilly December afternoon...

Me, my sister-in-law, and my niece at the park (photo by Susan Bill).

Enjoying late afternoon in New Mexico...

First weekend with Steven in Waco.