23 July 2009

Peaceful morning.

I am learning how to pray again. Thank you to Tara Leigh for the book recommendation...

"But the best reason to pray is that God is really there. In praying, our unbelief gradually starts to melt. God moves smack into the middle of even an ordinary day. He is no longer someone we theorize about. He is someone we want to be near."

~ Clinging: The Experience of Prayer
by Emilie Griffin

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16 July 2009

Four years.

Four years ago at this moment, the closest people in my life were in a cozy room together at Maggiano's, stuffing ourselves with mushroom ravioli and Nonna's Pound Cake. And celebrating...celebrating the fact that two people can be picked out for each other in this crazy world where it seems to be a one-in-a-million chance.

And today, I am here in our cozy little home, so thankful for the last four years of life, of growth, of love. And boy, do I have a story for you from this past week, the week before our anniversary...

Wednesday night is date night around here, a tradition we began when we first got married and vowed to keep no matter what. So this Wednesday, he took me out to dinner to an Asian tapas restaurant, Nandina. Then, when we pulled up in front of our house after dinner, he told me I had to wait in the car because he had a surprise...

"What? What kinda surprise?" I asked as I clasped my hands together like a 4 year old.

"Just wait here. I'll come out and get you..." he said.

So I sat in the car and waited. And waited and waited. For 10 whole minutes. I looked out the window. Checked out the house next door that is being remodeled. Noticed how dirty our dashboard is, picked up wadded up pieces of paper from the floorboards. Wow, we really need to clean the car...

Until he finally came out and got me, walked me to the front door, and put a sleep mask on my face as a makeshift blindfold. He opened the front door and grabbed my hands, facing me, and walked himself backwards through the house as he led me to my destination. Frank Sinatra was playing in the background, and I could smell tons of candles burning. Through the livingroom, into the hallway, down the hall, turn right...and we landed in the guest room.

He sat me in a chair and took some photos of me. What on earth is he doing?

And then, he read a letter he had written for me. It was beautiful. It was obviously very personal, but this line, I just had to share...

"Tonight I want you to know how creative and lovely your life is. That you bring the silly, fun, and warmth into our home that so many have enjoyed. Christine, I never want you to be anything that Jesus doesn't want you to be. And I hope He can inspire you..."

When the letter was finished, he removed the blindfold, and I could hardly believe my eyes....there it was...the painting that I fell in love with over 2 months ago!!!!!

"He Drew Me Out Of Mighty Waters" by an artist named Carolyn Rekerdres.

I was literally speechless. For ten whole seconds, I just sat there with my mouth wide open, shocked, with tears in my eyes.

It was "my" painting! The one that inspired me so much, the one that spoke to me of summer days and freedom. And then I realized the room was aglow with about one hundred candles...which explains why I waited so long in the car!

Next, I stammered, "How...wait...what? How did you do this? Where did you get this?" I knew that the original painting the artist made was 7 ft. x7 ft. - huge, like the size of an entire wall. In my mind, it was just fantasy, really. Then he told me how he took all the money he had been putting aside to buy a Compost Tumbler and scrounged around for as much extra he could find and offered it to Carolyn, the artist, hoping she would take it and paint me a copy of my very own, in my own size. She graciously agreed!

Steven said he had picked it up at her studio that morning. And then while we were at dinner, our friends The Fletchers had sneakily come over and hung it for us above the bed!

And the most inspiring thing is what this painting symbolizes to me. Its title, "He Drew Me Out of Mighty Waters," comes from the Psalms. And one of the greatest challenges I've been working through recently is finding my own voice. I love to blog because it's a place for me - on my own - to speak, and to share. But written communication comes easily for me. Verbal communication, not so much. I have a great fear of being bold verbally, of speaking out. And I've seen a million ways lately how my God wants to draw me out of that fear into a place of courage.

Even in the painting, you can't see her face. Her body is submerged still, just reaching the surface, but her face, her voice, has already surfaced.

It's a daily reminder...

"He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
he drew me out of deep waters."

~ Psalm 18: 16

I am thankful to be married to a man who loves me, encourages me, and infuses my life with hope and goodness. He challenges me in the many ways I'm weak. Oh, but it's a very good thing.

Any struggle we could face is like a dandelion in the wind measured up against this kind of love.

The man responsible for it all...

12 July 2009

Dinner tonight...

Another delicious creation by my husband, the true chef out of the two of us. These tomatoes from the garden were so incredibly juicy! Add a glass of merlot and some slow-cooked brisket that he made into spiced chopped beef lettuce wraps with raw milk cheese melted on top. YUM!

07 July 2009

Bike ride tour of North Oak Cliff.

Today, after work, I needed to look at anything but my computer screen. How about some trees? Leaves? Grass? Heck, even a blank wall...just anything but pixels and pop-up windows.

I went into the backyard and saw that it was actually cooler than usual, a pleasant byproduct of the recent drizzle of rain. So it seemed like the perfect time to retrieve my dusty cruiser bike from the shed and take a ride around the neighborhood. Besides, I've been writing a lot about other places lately, and it's high time I wrote about where I live, my neighborhood in Dallas that I love so much.

We live in an area called North Oak Cliff, in the King's Highway Conservation District, and honestly, it's my favorite thing about this crazy, congested city. On most days, living in our own little bubble of Dallas makes all of that concrete seem like a distant memory. I feel a sigh of relief as I leave downtown behind, cross over the Trinity River, and exit Sylvan Avenue off I-30. Turn left on Sylvan, up a steep hill, and instantly I'm transported into a land of tall oak trees and rolling hills and porch swings and doors painted blue and red and purple.

Yet, it's still urban in its cultural diversity. There are so many different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives represented on my little street. And I love that.

So I dusted off my bike seat, the one with the "S" on it for "Stine" {or "Schwinn" but "Stine" sounds better...}, and set off to explore.

Here's a little tour for you, including some of my favorite homes that I pass all the time on my walking and biking route.

Let's go!

Across King's Highway down into the Kessler Park neighborhood and underneath a canopy of trees, past Rose of Sharon flowering in abundance...

First, we find homes flanked with cypress trees that look like they belong in Tuscany...

...a contrast to the Prairie-style homes with wide front porches.

There are also cottages like this quaint little number with the sprawling lawn and coral-painted door...

...and others with funny-shaped roofs that seem to belong in England.

Time to cross busy Colorado Boulevard: look both ways, and then gun it! I kept riding into the heart of the Kessler Park neighborhood, down the hill where I can always take my feet off the pedals and coast...

I saw that the Crape Myrtles and Oak Leaf Hydrangeas were in full bloom, and the sprinklers were on full-blast.

Around the circle, I passed one of my favorite magnolia trees, with a canopied area perfect for reading. I've never seen anyone beneath it though...

...and this Southern mansion, our very own version of "Tara."

As I passed on by, there was a woman walking out to the curb with a newborn baby in her arms. I saw a friend park in front of her house and run over; I could tell it was her first time meeting the new baby. Another neighbor across the street waved and then put down his watering hose to join in the fun. A lovely picture of community. I coasted past them and smiled...

At the end of the circle, one of my very favorites: the "Zen house" as I've named it, which makes me pause every time. It looks so peaceful and woodsy, like a staging home for the Gaiam catalog, with walls of windows, a chimnea, and a clean Asian style.

And then finally, I came to a sitting spot that begged me to park my bike and rest awhile under this enormous tree.

Time to head back home. On the way, I passed a VW Bus with "The Club" fastened to the steering wheel for security. Only in Oak Cliff.

Home again, home again, to wonderful 6-1-4, with beads of sweat on my forehead and awakened muscles in my legs. So glad I took this bike ride. I have realized that I'm the worst version of myself without a day full of some kind of nature, some kind of exploring.

I return home with a renewed thankfulness. I love our humble abode and everything about our little area of Dallas, Texas. It may not be Colorado, but it's home enough for me.

03 July 2009

Final day. (Colorado trip part 4)

(see Part 1: Colorado morning.)
(see Part 2: A mountain ride.)
(see Part 3: From the heights.)

Oh, how I loved our last 36 hours in Colorado. From Telluride, the drive to Rico was chilly and drizzly, the mountains misted over so we could no longer see their peaks. But that's okay, because everything was shrouded in a mountain-cabin-mystery, a coziness that we felt on the entire drive to Rico. We had no idea what to expect...

When we arrived in Rico, population 205 {yes, I said two-oh-five}, the clouds had broken, and the air was filled with a mountain crispness once again. Rico's population reaches close to a whopping 500 in the summertime, and practically all of those people must have come to dine at the Argentine Grill. Who knew this one-horse town contained such a trendy 4-star restaurant, using organic and local foods, with a chef who apprenticed under Wolfgang Puck? And lucky us, we were staying in the Rico Hotel {the only hotel in town}, which was attached to the restaurant...

We dragged our suitcases to our room through a hallway bathed in dark, calming colors, and just a few steps further found another hallway that led to the restaurant - an open kitchen, the warm, homey sound of people gathering, forks clinking on plates, laughter. We seriously couldn't wait for dinner that night...

First they brought sliced baguettes with fresh real butter and a head of garlic that had been halved across the diameter and slathered with olive oil and sea salt and roasted to crispy mouth-watering perfection. I dug in, while my mother, not as well-versed in unconventional food presentation,
asked in her Jersey accent, "What is that? A pomegranate?" {Really, mom? And you're married to an Italian?} It was meant to be scooped out and spread on that delicious bread, of course.

I had 4 slices.

Next was the appetizer: carrot ginger soup with pesto cream.
For dinner: charred spicy beef tenderloin taco with mango, avocado and cilantro. For dessert: vanilla crème brulée with candied hazelnuts and caramel sauce. Oh, heavens....

We stayed for hours and talked to our adorable hippie waitress who was wearing a hair turban, along with a few bikers from California. And then we learned that we would get to come back in the morning for our complimentary breakfast! With all that delicious food in my tummy, I would have slept perfectly that night if my mom {who is a night-shift nurse by profession} hadn't woken up at 3am and declared, "Well, that's enough sleep for me for the night. I'm ready to get up," as I grunted, moaned, and pulled the pillow over my head.

The next morning, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast {baguettes with fresh butter and homemade jam, eggs, bacon, and fruit} and lingered a little longer in Rico...

On the way back to Durango, we passed the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park, full of weird rock formations and unique landscapes...

At 3pm, we finally arrived back in Durango, the origin of our entire trip, and savored every last bit of our final Colorado afternoon. We had left our swimsuits on the back seat, ready to go, because we knew we were going straight to the mineral pools at Trimble Hot Springs.

The next two hours we spent there were so precious to me, because it reminded me of my seemingly endless summer days growing up at our town pool in Madison, New Jersey, and swimming with my mom. Trimble Hot Springs seemed more like a pool for the locals than a tourist hotspot, with a clubhouse, bathhouse, a regular chlorine pool with lap lanes, and another pool area just for soaking in the mineral springs. The stone walkways were bordered with hollyhocks and black-eyed Susan's and other wildflowers. It was the perfect end to our trip, soaking in those warm waters together at the base of the mountains.

Since you are only supposed to soak for 20 minutes at a time, we retreated to the grassy lawn where children were cartwheeling and throwing Frisbees. Fluffy white puffs of something floated through the air like snow, and I lay back on my towel and closed my eyes. A folk singer who was serenading us from underneath a tent began to sing one of my favorite songs, "Love At the Five and Dime" by Nancy Griffith, and I wondered if this afternoon could get any better.

As the sun set, we went back to our beloved Logwood B&B, exactly where we had started on that first, fresh, crisp morning when I had opened my journal to a blank new page. Since then, I had filled those pages with a thousand memories.

I understand now, I wrote. I understand why everyone is in love with Colorado. And as sure as the valley is wide, I know I will be back here again