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...