27 December 2007

A Christmas To Remember.

Friends who feel like family...late night laughter...rewarding work...lots of white twinkle lights...and joy. That's exactly how I will remember this Christmas 2007.

Steven and I started a new tradition of giving each other one gift each morning for 3 days leading up to Christmas. My amazing husband got me a shiny red tea kettle, some delicious teas from Tempest Tea (including a luscious Chocolate Mint Rooibos-mmmm!), a subscription to Rachael Ray Everyday Magazine, and wildflower seeds to fulfill one of my dreams - a wildflower garden in our own backyard!

On Christmas Eve day, I cruised the surprisingly sparse freeways of Dallas to finish my Christmas shopping, and then it was time for the other 2 couples in our community group (Craig & Bonnie and Jason & Erin) to arrive for our Christmas Eve feast! They came toting gifts, their dogs, dog crates, and piles of pillows and blankets for our Christmas Eve sleepover! Greta led her doggie friends out the back door to their play yard, and the humans began constructing the feast. Pots and pans flew all over the place and every cutting board was in use as all 6 of us pitched in. When it was time to sit down and enjoy the fruits of our labor, we paused to be thankful for such an abundance of food, and friends to share it with. The joy and freedom we have in our marriages and friendships can only come through Christ, who walks through our struggles with us and brings us through them with peace, if only we will trust Him.

Our Christmas Eve menu:
Turkey slathered in herb butter and cooked in a brown-in bag
Orange-scented green beans
Prosciutto & Asparagus salad
Prosciutto & Melon salad
Green salad with pecans
Twice-baked potatoes
Corn Fluffs (a Bailey special-occasion staple)
Kahlua Rum Cake (Erin's specialty)
Chocolate Pie (Bonnie's specialty, made with Rapadura instead of sugar)
Talenti Gelato in Tahitian Vanilla Bean (made in Dallas, delicious!)
Chocolate Yummy Cookies (made with chocolate pudding instead of our traditional butterscotch)

After dinner, we opened our gifts to each other, and I put on my new apron from Erin, another Anthropologie gem! It goes well with my red tea kettle, don't you think?

Then, the boys piled wood into our firepit, grabbed their guitars and cigars and headed out to the back yard. Bonnie, Erin, and I fixed dessert and coffee. As I poured the cups, I paused and thanked God for giving us exactly what we have wanted for the last 3 years: community. Friends to hang out with, be silly with, just do nothing with. Friends who give us a chance to be to them what they are to us.

We joined the boys in the backyard, and for the next several hours, we sang every favorite 80s song from "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" to "More Than Words" at the top of our lungs. We've been kept up many a night from the dog barking and thumping bass noises in our Oak Cliff neighborhood and felt zero remorse for making a racket on Christmas Eve :).

Craig & Bonnie

Erin & Jason

The Baileys :)

After staying up until 3am (probably due to all the caffeine and sugar we consumed!), we slept like rocks and awoke at 9:30am for Christmas morning brunch. Erin and I made sugared bacon, omelets, and coffee while I reveled in the scents of my Christmas candles and the sounds of our Christmas music mix in the background. Making breakfast for a full house of people is one of my favorite things to do in the entire universe.

After breakfast, the guys prepared the back yard for our Christmas Day project: building a shed and laying our wildflower beds. Erin used to be the manager at a tree farm and didn't hesitate to start hauling dirt in the wheelbarrow while I finished laying the bricks and raking in the soil.

Here are the guys laying the shed foundation...

Partially assembled brick wall and wildflower bed...

Hot dang. Ain't nothin' like a man with a cigar and a power drill.

Greta already found her new "spot" next to the brick wall :)

Resting on the hammock after a long day of manual labor...

I have a quote framed on my desk that my dear friend Christina gave me when I moved away from Nashville. It says,

"I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with the roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frostwork, but the solidest thing we know." ~ emerson

When I left Nashville, I thought I would never find that kind of friendship again, and God has surprised me. Our friendships are real. We speak courageously. We haul dirt with each other. And we love our spouses better today because of this group of friends. So this may not have been the "traditional" Christmas, but it was the perfect one. I can't think of a better way to honor Christ's birth than by spending time with people who consistently and courageously point us back to Him.

22 December 2007

"It has to cost you something."

A little over a week ago, I returned from a pre-Christmas trip to Nashville. I left Dallas on a Saturday morning and trekked 600+ miles in my VW Rabbit with my new Colbie Callait CD as company. The best part about the drive was that the entire state of Arkansas smelled like burning wood. I opened the moon roof and inhaled the luscious scent for a good 4 hours. Heavenly.

I was anticipating this trip to Nashville more than usual because it meant that on Sunday I was going to be reunited with an old friend, Regan, who I met in the summer of 1995 when I had just graduated high school. Regan was from Alabama and was the cool, older summer missionary who worked with our youth group that summer. We were intrigued by her accent and vice versa. She and I were both creative types and immediately kindred spirits. I was 17, and she was 19, and we stuck together that summer driving to the Jersey Shore in the big 'ole hooptie that a church member had loaned her. She invested in me and was the first person who helped me realize I didn't just draw or paint, but I was an artist.

So I left for college, we kept in touch when we could, and then 10 years ago, we suddenly lost touch. I wondered about her a thousand times since, not only because she is a uniquely beautiful person, but because her very presence in my life was a turning point that God used to completely form my future. "If I hadn't met Regan, then _______" - insert about a million things that wouldn't have happened if not for her, leading me all the way up to this day, sitting in Dallas as Mrs. Bailey. But mostly, I missed her and wanted to find her again in this life.

I'm not sure what it was this past May that finally prompted me to Google her name. But in two clicks, I had found her, where she worked, and her email address!! That day, we reconnected over email and were simultaneously shocked by how amazing/scary the Internet is and the incredible timing of our virtual reunion. As I poured out the summary of the last 10 years and explained how much she has contributed to my life, tears filled my eyes. We vowed to meet up the next time I was in Nashville.

And we did! This trip! We reunited at Fido in Hillsboro Village with a long hug and exclamations of,"Oh my goodness, you look the same, but different!" Then, over egg breakfasts, we shared our real 10-year-stories of both joys and struggles. It didn't take long to realize that after all these years, we were still us, just seasoned, a little bit changed. Since the last time I knew her, I have realized that the cookie-cutter Christianity I once thought was real, actually wasn't. And as I finished sharing the struggles I had walked through the past few years and how I had learned true faith and surrender through those things, she said something that impacted me deeply: "Well, Christine, it has to cost you something."

It has to cost you something. Wow. How true that is. I sat there for several minutes drinking it in. Of course it does. True faith, true authentic faith has to. Not until many of my dreams were stripped from me, until I had to give something up, did I find the peace that can only come without them.

Then I realized how ironic it was that I was having this conversation in a coffeeshop in Nashville, because my life there was the very epitome of "easy" and "ideal". Nashville has cost a lot of people I know "something". For me, things were so good that it skewed my reality and raised my expectations so high that it was hard to deal with "normal" after that. For others, it has cost them years of dream-searching. For others, years of waiting for the right man while they continue to get jerked around by the non-committal "Nashville guy." However, I'm not saying cost is bad; I'm saying the opposite - it has to be that way. Thank God for the cost - I wouldn't be where I am today without it.

So, Regan and I left Fido and spent the rest of the day as if no time had passed, eating lunch, shopping, and strolling the Belmont Campus. Without a doubt, it was worth the wait.

The rest of the trip was filled with more incredible times with old, dear friends...

This is where Suz lives in downtown Franklin. Can you say "Family Griswold"? :) That's her cute apartment balcony on the top right...

Suz is a total stud-ette. A few days before this photo, she broke some boards with her fists and a sidekick at her martial arts class! I love how feminine she looks in this picture, and then with her bad-a** busted lip!

Me, Suz, and Christina before the lovely Christmas concert of one of my favorite bands of all time, Over the Rhine at the Belcourt. I'm not ashamed to say we all had crushes on Karin Bergquist, along with every other guy and girl in the room.

Then it was off to the enchanting Opryland Hotel for my yearly tradition with Angela & Christy, and her two adorable kiddies, Caleb & Emily! In 12 years of knowing each other, we've only missed one Christmas!

Even though it's sometimes hard to return to you, Nashville, you are still good to me.

20 December 2007

Greta in her Christmas shawl.

I can't tell if she's feeling sophisticated or totally mortified. What do you think?

07 December 2007

I love this picture.

This is random, but I found this photo from a May '07 shoot that Threads Media did with Steven and I for a "Profiles" project this past fall. The photo was taken at Portland Brew in Nashville in by the extremely talented photographer & designer, Micah Kandros. I just love how it captures both of the Baileys so well!

I'm off to Nashville for a few days! I'm sure I'll have lots of photos and stories to share when I return!

29 November 2007

Celebrating and being celebrated!

It's been a wonderful two weeks. It all began on November 16th with a surprise 30th berfday party pour moi, which included my parents, many dear friends, and an amazing gift: a beautiful blue & white cruiser bike with an "S" on the seat for "Stine" (well, the S is really for Schwinn, but whatever)! I love it! Most of all, I felt loved and honored, which was the best gift a girl could ask for.

The fun continued on to Thanksgiving/my actual birthday and then the ritual of decorating for Christmas! Here are some photo highlights...

First, the surprise party.

After the party, a bunch of people came back to Casa de Bailey where we sat around the firepit in the backyard and talked until 3am. For some weird reason, I still awoke the next morning at an early hour and made my way to the kitchen as I dodged bodies scattered all around the house under mounds of blankets. We gave a wake-up call and decided that brunch was in order. After all, Tara Leigh was staying over, and we know how important brunch is to New Yorkers! Bodies started rustling, doors started opening and closing, and soon enough we were all ready. So we headed to one of my favorite restaurants in Dallas: Breadwinners in Uptown. Our friend Paul generously treated us, too! The food and coffee were scrumptious, and we even saw a woman eating with her toes at the next table over. Seriously.

For some reason, this photo makes me look like I just had Botox. Haha! I know I just turned 30, but I swear I didn't!!!

Random cute hubby pic:

Here I am showcasing a few birthday gifts...an amazing apron from Anthropologie and the book, Eat Pray Love: A Woman's Search For Everything Across Italy, India, & Indonesia from Victoria, and a cute dandelion tee from Amy! Also notice my new favorite pair of footwear, these amazing slippers from Target. I want to wear them everywhere. I tried riding my bike with them and wearing them to bed, but Steven wouldn't let me. Darnit.

On Thanksgiving, we were visited for the third year in a row by our dear friends Chris & Julie Bennett. Here, Julie and I are being domestic and about to go on a sugar binge with freshly baked Yummy Cookies:

...and how could a single holiday go by without the lips face???

A few days later, we spent some family time decorating the tree at my brother's house with my nieces. Here's Ashley with her favorite ornament, the ballerina of course!

We all think my brother looks exactly like Mr. Incredible. What do you think?

My cute mom & sister-in-law...

And each of the girls with their Aunt Stine...

Ashley thought I was turning 13 on my birthday, by the way. 17 years off, but I'll take it! I still feel 13 on the inside, especially when I'm riding my new bike!

Back at the Bailey residence, we decided to spontaneously paint our front livingroom on Saturday! Justin & Autumn helped us, and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. It's the perfect brown called "Chocolate Sparkle".

Here's the view from the Chocolate Sparkle room into the Warm Glow livingroom that I posted before...

Then it was time to decorate for A Bailey Christmas!

26 November 2007

"Though I questioned the sky, now I see why..."

"...had to walk the rocks to see the mountain view
Looking back, I see the Lead of Love"

This Caedmon's Call song has meant a lot to me throughout the last decade. It's been blasted from my '86 Oldsmobile with the plush red seats as I left my college home in Nashville for the freeways of Houston. I sang it aloud as I then drove away with Houston in my rearview mirror back to Nashville. And it made me cry a little when I left Nashville for the second time to embrace my grown-up life in Dallas.

On Thanksgiving Day, I said goodbye to the twenties and turned Thirty Years Old. I left behind a decade that has formed me. In my twenties, I became an adult. I have been blessed with friends near and far. I began to find out who I was and what I wanted my life to be about...what my gifts were and how to best use them...how weak I am and how much I need to continue becoming a better person, friend, daughter, wife.

I admit, there is a small aching feeling deep in my chest when I realize I will never in my entire life be Twenty-Something again. I can't ever take back all of the moments I spent in college or living a carefree life of single girl in Houston and Nashville. Turning from 19 to 20 is so different. It's more like, See ya later teenage years, don't let the door hit you on the way out. But turning 30 is such a watershed moment in one's life. I thought I was becoming an adult when I turned 20, but what I'm learning is that I haven't really become a woman until now. Even though it's bittersweet, today I would not trade the confidence I have as a 30-year-old. I do like who I am. I look forward to finding out how God is going to use my little life in this world.

I love this time of year, too. Not only is the weather cooling to the soul, but it's such a time of celebration! I have several friends with birthdays including my mom, sister-in-law, dear friends Jenni and Brett, and new friend Victoria. It's so fun to celebrate them. I remember sitting on the floor of Brett's apartment in Houston in the summer of 1998 when I asked her age. She answered, "25." Nearly 5 years older than I, she seemed so much wiser, more like a mentor than a peer. Now, she is 35, I am 30, and many things have changed. I am blessed with an amazing home, family, husband, doggie, several kindred spirits, and more friends than I can count scattered around this globe.

A few months ago, I started making a list of all the things I've done or accomplished in my twenties...like "Lost 50 pounds," "Bought a house," and "Traveled to India, Kenya, Uganda, France, Italy, Monaco, and Switzerland." I considered posting them all here but decided to keep them in my journal to enjoy on my own. Who am I, if my last ten years is just a list of things I've done and seen? As I was reminded last night while reading When The Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd, who I am is not defined by what I have, what I do, or who is in my life. Because what if it was all taken away? Who would I be then?

I am thankful I can look back and genuinely smile, laugh, and thank God for where I am today. There has been struggle and sadness, and there are circumstances in my life that I would not have chosen on the front end...but everything that really matters, I have securely, and that is a gift. So really, what else needs to be on that list other than "I Learned to Love And Be Loved"? As I face the next thirty years, I hope this is the one thing I keep in sight.

20 November 2007

There's nothing like Autumn in the Northeast (final chapter!).

(See part 1...)
(See part 2...)
(See part 3...)

The rest of our trip was spent in lovely Jersey. My parents took us to Lake Hopatcong and Lake Mohawk which is just a short drive from our house in Madison. It was gorgeous. Many people would be surprised to know a place like this exists in Jersey!

Lake Mohawk looked like it could have been a hamlet in Germany or Switzerland (except for the speedboat - ha!)...

We also got to spend time with my most favoritest cousins in the whole world: Paula and Steve, and their kids Brian, Colleen, and David. Paula is my first cousin. This is me with Colleen and Paula. We are definitely cut from the same cloth!

Me and my Godson, David:

Our mutant family. See where I get it??

This is one of my parents' 3 cats, Sarah, a.k.a. The Fattest Cat You've Ever Seen. She could feed a family of four with plenty for leftovers.

She likes to perch against the arm of the couch and "direct traffic," as my dad says.

Next, we went to the gorgeous Princeton University campus to visit an old dear friend, David "Keas" Keasler. What a wonderful, refreshing time we had - strolling amongst historic buildings, admiring beautiful tall trees, and talking about life and faith. Perfect.

And finally, an autumn walk around my parents' house and the town of Madison, NJ. The backyard of my childhood...

The variety of leaves we found on our walk!

H A P P Y A U T U M N, F R I E N D S !