Happy Halloween!

I went on a halloween walk today on my friday off (which is every other friday for me:). It was beautiful, a perfect fall day. I'm not much for this spooky holiday, so I kind of forgot about it. Lucky for Melissa, cuz after a dinner date (at the Fish Market), Keith and I will be baby sitting for their cute little bug.

Cute kids = the best part of halloween. Too bad I don't have any pictures of cute kids . . . just pretty things from my walk!

Doesn't this tree look like a face??


To learn to listen

"On the ministry of listening: The first service that one owes to others in community consists in listening to them. Just as love for God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God's love for us that He not only gives His Word but also lends us His ear. …Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and, in the end, there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words." 
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together 


Oh glorious Weekend

This weekend was quite a treat. The recipe for such a delight included: 
  • A long drive with my best husband-friend through AL, GA, TN, and NC.
  • Landing in the beautiful town of Asheville, NC.
  • One of my favorite people from high school marrying one of my favorite people from college.
  • Singing at said ceremony with another beauty of a friend and the bride's aunt and uncle jamming on the fiddle and banjo/madolin. (picture, not mine, from facebook)
  • Seeing where the famous Patrick Sewell comes from and having a free place to stay on Saturday night.
  • And enjoying a hike and a sweet time on a rock with a great view in Cloudland Canyon with Keith on the way home.


A Rabbit Trail of Web Wanderings

A few noteworthy tidbits from my web wandering this week.
  • A really eye-opening and incredibly well-done media presentation about urban slums called The Places We Live.

  • If you liked that one, there is also a fabulous website with many more media presentations like this one called Media Storm. A recent story called Common Ground, about an elderly farmer whose land is sold to a subdivision developer and the family whose new home is built in the exact spot where the farmhouse used to stand, is especially poignant.
  • Like I said before, I discovered this week that narwhals are real, thanks to the Big Picture, a blog on Boston.com that posts amazing, really big images from around the world. About 30 are published every other day in different theme.
  • Speaking of narwhals, which may frequent Alaska from time to time. Don't miss the latest installation of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live.
  • And speaking of Sarah Palin...what in the world is up with the $150,000 shopping spree? I'd love to hear your thoughts. By the way, I would like to consider myself an expert on this matter because I watch a fair amount of TLC's What Not To Wear, and I saw the $50,000 episode. Spending that much money on a wardrobe is quite a feat!! Then I saw this statement from a news blog, "But is $150,000 unreasonable? New York magazine's fashion blog breaks down outfit costs from Saks and Neiman Marcus and discovers that just six outfit combinations alone cost over $16,000. For $150,000, Palin could purchase approximately 34 outfits." Really... words escape me.
  • And last but not least, A peek into the life of the Birmingham Davises' Net Flix Queue:
First, 3 we've already watched...
  1. Persepolis (2007) - A black and white cartoon about a young girl growing up in Tehran, Iran at the time of the Iranian Revolution.
  2. Outsourced (2006) - Kind of a random pick, but a delightful movie about a guy whose telemarketing job (of cheesy patriotic knick-knacks) gets outsourced to India, and the culture shock (and eventual acceptance) he goes through while working there for months to set up the new office.
  3. Man from Snowy River (1982) - Keith's favorite movie from childhood. He attributes many lessons in manhood to this tale.
Right now we have...
  1. Cool Hand Luke (1967) - A classic favorite for Keith that I am looking forward to seeing.
And on the Queue:
  1. Young at Heart (2007)
  2. The Visitor (2007)
  3. Edge of Heaven (2007)


Reason #6,789,231 Why My Husband is Awesome: A Tale of Two Messy Room Conquerors

For those of you who know me well, you’ll know that I am, ahem, a little bit of a mess. I apologize to any college roommates who are reading this. Kind people chalk it up to my “creative nature,” but for most of my life I have been able to bear absurd amounts of clutter without really even noticing it. And when I lived with an equally messy roommate one year, disaster ensued. You literally could not see our floor, and quite often our beds, for the entire year. Looking back, even I find it hard to believe.

Thankfully, marriage has purged me of a lot of this lazy lifestyle, and I’m happy and proud to say that we keep 3 out of 4 rooms in our apartment spic-and-span a comfortable majority of the time. Keith helped me start out our life together with a “home” for just about every last thing that we own, so cleaning is really pretty easy. We can clean the whole apartment as a team, starting with the living room full of junk and the sink brimming with dishes, in about 25 minutes. My favorite part is Lysoling the counter tops. Ahhh, lemony, germ-free freshness.

But about that 4th room… The bedroom. Where my clothes live. I HATE folding and hanging up clothes. H-a-t-e i-t. So often, clean clothes remain in baskets for an undetermined amount of time, the piles growing and multiplying with every morning of trying on about 3 outfits before adorning something acceptable. And of course, attempt #’s 1 and 2 end up clean, in the piles (not good for clothing longevity!). At last count I had 4 of these pile-monsters in various corners of our bedroom. Poor Keith, he’s so good at putting up with me. And, SO great at helping me overcome my weaknesses!

Last night we went crazy ghost-buster style, head-to-head with these piles. We dumped out every last article of clothing that I own in the middle of the bedroom and dove in. The pile was about 5 feet wide and 3 feet tall. (And I’ve given HUGE bags to Goodwill about 5 times in the past 2 years. Ridiculous!) I really couldn’t have done it without Keith. When faced with the enormous monster I just kept groaning, “I don’t want to!” Seriously people, this was like some kind of therapeutic intervention.

But piece-by-piece the pile shrunk. I folded, armed with a new t-shirt technique (the one that everyone in the world uses for sure, I am just “special” when it comes to folding), and Keith hung the hang-up clothes. In the end every last bit of my wardrobe was folded or hung, and organized in a pragmatic fashion. I even woke up this morning and folded my last load as soon as it came out of the dryer! I may be well on my way to reformation.

Last night I sighed a deep sigh of relief and went to sleep in peaceful bliss. Keith said the room felt lonely without the piles (I think he’s afraid of squelching my “creative nature.”:) But no worries babe, sin piles is a good way to live—even leaving more room for creativity. A blank canvas if you will.

Next time you see me, you may notice that my threads are significantly less crumpled. :)

(not how I fold t-shirts...but one can have aspirations.)


.expanded view.

I took this picture on a flight from Madrid to Prague about 2 years ago. I was kind of amazed at how it turned out. We were flying over the alps. I have never seen the alps other than on this bird's-eye occasion. I remember thinking at the time, that the earth from above looks like it was formed out of modeling clay. I'm delighted at the vision of God forming creation, and us, in his warm hands with his sweat and loving concentration and life-giving breath. I also remember thinking at the time that I wanted to be down there.

Today I'm feeling fairly restless. Not unusual. Longing to be somewhere other than in front of this computer, a 90-page proof beckoning me on my desk.

But everyday, even a day like this, is an opportunity for creativity, noticing beauty, stepping into identity and gift-utilizing purpose. I need grace to realize that. Excuse the scattered thoughts. I'm looking forward to something, but I don't know what it is yet. More details as it comes into focus.

In other news: I found out this week that Narwhals are real. In my case, one could liken the experience to the discovery that unicorns are real. And lets be honest, what's more believable? A unicorn, or these ridiculous creatures???
(photo courtesy of the Big Picture, a great photo blog on boston.com.)


a FALLtastic weekend!

Take a deep breath. Do you smell that? It's fall. Joy fills my heart. Chilly weather. The boots and scarves have come out from hibernation. I am a happy and cozy girl.

On Saturday, Cory hosted the 2nd Annual Day of Fall Fun. A spectacle of plaid wearing, pumpkin patch picking, hay ride riding, jack o'lantern carving, fall treat tasting, cider sipping, psycho screening fun. And what a better day to celebrate than the first day that it has truly, 100%, without a doubt felt like fall.

Before picking my pumpkin I asked Keith was his usual criteria for the perfect pumpkin are. To my surprise and dismay, he responded "I don't know. I've never picked a pumpkin or carved one." Oh my. I've never been a huge fan of halloween or anything, but never picked a pumpkin before!? I was so excited to introduce Keith to the joy of reaching in that nasty gourd, pulling out the slimy guts, saving the seeds for a tasty treat, and turning it into something beautiful and fun! Though the slime was a bit of a shock at first, he took right to it and ended up carving most of it himself. Artists at work...and our final masterpiece...! (sorry for the weird picture...it was dark!)

(all photos courtesy of Cory and Amanda's facebook pages. More to come when I get my film developed.)

Sunday was our 6th month anniversary! Half a wonderful year. It felt like Christmas. Keith woke me up with coffee in bed and a poem (he writes one for all of our big days! And they are amazing!). We spent the afternoon at Oak mountain, hiking around and talking about our hopes and dreams for the next 6 months, and then topped it off with a nap by the lake. It doesn't get much better than that!

Happy Fall!



*note* If you can't see the images on my blog, will you let me know? I've had one friend point this out, and I need to know if it is happening to other readers. thanks!

I am captured by the beautiful sadness of this image. Do you ever have days when the weight of the world's brokenness seems a more noticeable heaviness on your shoulders and heart than usual? Today is one of those days for me. In a way the burden is sweet. I want to be broken by sin and suffering. Salty tears on my face and tongue and an aching in my heart, and for once, not for my own worries or complaints. But it hurts. Held up from being overwhelmed by the hope and faint belief that redemption is alive in Jesus. The Gospel is desperately beautiful. No other blood-drenched, sorrow-filled, beautiful, reaching, heart-wrenching, life-giving, thirst-quenching mercy can save us from this dark, murky blackness--darkness to be felt.


sweaty soccer saturday

A few Saturdays ago Keith and I went to play around in a field with our friends. Amongst are friends, this is an activity that warrants hours and hours of blissful, childish, forget-all-your-cares, dont-stop-until-you-drop fun. I'm not quite there yet. But as Keith has expressed to me that playing frisbee is his primary love language, I try to muster up all of the grassy, run-around play that is in me. On this particular day, we knew that the soccer ball would be our primary muse, but we (I) didn't necessarily know that there would be an actual somewhat organized game involved (cleats and everything, though I was wearing chacos). It didn't really cross my mind to play... not my thang. But I got coerced into it in the dire circumstances of uneven teams.  So, after not having played a lick of soccer, or any organized team activity involving a ball for that matter, since 2nd grade, I found myself playing a 3 on 3 game with friends who played in high school. Terrifying...but strangely fun. We played again the next weekend. It just might be my new favorite saturday afternoon activity. Bonus: after this game some mexican's asked us to play. So I sat on the bench with the women and chatted en espanol about soccer and pet bunnies.  (from the same roll of film as yesterday's post. I'm loving film...and! Stephen let me borrow his HOLGA this weekend!)


girl days: flower picking

These days are about long conversations winding from the depths to the details. Flowers and beautiful things. Friendship and long walks and new adventures. Creating and learning and dreaming. Exploring uncertainties of world and heart. Laughter. Stories. Encouragement. Growing up. These days are a delight. 

There will be more days and evenings like this one. Perhaps tonight on Lauren's porch.


The Budget Post: From Keith Davis

This is my first time as a guest blogger on Elaine’s site. I hope the reader does not have great expectations that this post will be in any means comparable to the creative, thought-provoking posts Elaine so consistently sends our way.

I noticed the other day that I am beginning to recognize the way that our friends’ careers and passions are expressed in everyday life. It’s really funny and at the same time such a blessing. For example, when someone asked Ryan how his hurt knee is feeling, he went into a ten-minute explanation about which movements are now possible with his new knee brace and the PT explanation of how each muscle, tendon and ligament works together in the knee. Matt, working as a worship leader in a college ministry, makes awesome CDs of mixes containing incredible new bands that he has recently found. Patrick, who works at an architect firm, tells us why he hates Dubai and Larry Langford so much and who out of our friends will be best suited to survive if the global economy totally crashes so that we have to survive off the land and our wits. Elaine arguably writes post after post in the best blog ever created. Everyone knows that Aaron, who works as a video editor, is our official event photographer. I could go on and on.

The point is that I want to contribute. Everyone knows that my best skill is “saying something really nice that doesn’t make sense”. I’ve think I’ve got that mastered and have shared my gift with nearly everyone I’ve met. One of my other gifts is attention to detail.

Elaine and I decided to start working on a budget at the beginning of the year. It was a lot harder than I at first thought. I assumed that it wouldn’t be too challenging, especially with my accounting background. It was much more complicated than I anticipated to make the budget useful yet simple at the same time. I think it has changed in some way every month for the past 10 months, but I think we have finally come to the point where we are happy with it.

When we went through a marriage counseling retreat, our leaders really made an impression on how being intentional with how you spend money brings freedom. It allows us to measure how much we’re spending and to see that most of the time even though it seems like we are using our money wisely, in general we are often too quick to justify purchases as things that we “need”. The leaders of the retreat emphasized two things that have sticked with us: when we use discipline to control our spending we have more money to give away and we are able to pay off debts. Both of these are great joys and I am convinced are healthy Christian desires. It’s not just about greed or being cheep. And it’s not just for married people ☺

So to keep this short, Elaine and I have created a link to an outline of our budget, with very detailed explanations of how to use it, on google documents here. We have inserted explanations of what each line means and how to make the budget work for you individually. If you want to use the budget just email us (dkdavis2@gmail.com or Elaine.faith.davis@gmail.com) and we’ll send you an excel file of your own. Or, you can create a google documents account and upload it there by copying and pasting (I think that should work). We like google documents because the file is saved online and you can access it from any computer. Please let us know if something doesn’t make sense or if you have any questions.

We are so thankful for how God has provided for our needs. We want to learn what it means to glorify God through our finances. We want to learn how to see needs in our community and to have extra money to give as the Lord leads. We also want to, as quickly as possible, be free from major debts. We want to be ready to serve God wherever he wants and we can’t do that while living under large debts or while spending money according to our perceived “needs”.

With this said, to clarify, oatmeal squares and peanut butter M&Ms are not luxuries but are necessities for a happy, healthy, Christian life. :0)


Watch Out Dave Ramsey!

Today I have the great privilege of introducing a guest blogger! This is a man of great talent, charm, and heart: my husband Keith. There are many reasons why I think Keith is the awesomest. One, is that he is a really great budgeter! Keith has worked really hard at making a budget that works for us where giving, saving, and living within our means are the top priorities. He might not admit it, but he gets quite a thrill out of working on it throughout the month. He's taught me, a reformed non-budgeter, so much--both about budgeting and giving with a generous and joyful heart. I've always valued living more simply than extravagantly, and avoiding debt, and loved the idea of giving generously, but I was so disorganized, that I just didn't always keep track of it, and therefore couldn't do any of the above. Do you know what most often got me in the biggest trouble in college? Coffee! I rewarded myself for studying with a latte in the library cafe almost every day--and frequently blew up to $100 a month on coffee alone! $3.45 at a time. Craziness.

Now I actually look forward to the days when we count up our receipts and see how we're doing on the budget. It has a comfortable place in my mind when I'm shopping for anything. We have been privileged to set very reasonable goals, so it's not stressful, just intentional.

A few of our friends who know about our budget have recently requested that we help them set up under the same system. We decided it's something that we'd love to share with anyone who would want it, so we've made a template on google docs, that is applicable to Excel. It's pretty much geared towards an individual or couple with fairly uncomplicated expenses, but I think it's simple enough that it could be easily adapted to any lifestyle. Keith's post up after the jump. Enjoy!


What I want to be when I grow up.

You know how sometimes something can make perfect sense in your head and your heart, but then when you try to explain it, it becomes all jumbled? I feel a little bit that way with having to answer what my "academic interests, career ambitions, and relevant background experiences" are in the essay portion of my application to UAB's graduate program. (Yeah, in case you didn't know, I'm applying to grad school to get a Master's in Education through UAB's 5th year program.) Anyway, I thought I'd share what I have of the essay so far, first of all, to share my heart and thoughts about why I want to be a teacher, but also to see if it makes sense outside of my brain.

I studied English and Spanish in my undergraduate studies. I loved being an English major. I loved all of my classes on the spectrum of the Humanities—Literature, Art, History, Religion, etc. (in both languages). I loved reading an assignment and being completely baffled by it at first glance, and then experiencing the pieces coming together as discussions in class worked as a catalyst for the connections in my mind. But for most of my undergraduate study, I had no idea what I wanted to do after college. “After college” was a far-off place, and I just wanted to enjoy what I was learning.
It wasn’t until late in my undergraduate career that I started to realize that I wanted to teach. I have always wanted to do something that would have a real impact on people. I often pictured that as helping people at the most basic level—feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, giving to those in need. I served in many of those ways through international mission trips to India, Guatemala, and Peru, and at home volunteering locally at homeless shelters and soup kitchens. But as I was faced with the problems that oppress people, I began to see that when you give a hungry man food, he is hungry again the next day. And when you shelter him for the night, he goes back out on the street in the morning. There was more to the cycle than just meeting basic needs.
It was in one of those class discussions that the wheels started turning in my mind, and I began to realize that education is a major break, if not the major break in that cycle. And that education is not just an answer to poverty, but the only chance for any of us to become critically thinking adults, beneficial professionals, informed political participants, etc. That fateful class discussion was on John Milton’s Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, and a line from the very first sentence has remained fixed in my mind ever since. If men within themselves would be governed by reason, and not generally give up their understanding to a double tyranny, of custom from without, and blind affections within; they would discern better... We are all influenced by custom and tradition and “blind affections,” and it’s not a bad thing to be influenced by those things. But we need education to help us engage our God-given reason, to balance our customs and affections, and think critically.
I want to encourage thoughtfulness and critical thinking. I want to be a part of stopping a dead-end cycle in a child’s life and giving them a fair shot at hope. I was lucky enough to have parents who cared about my education and I can still list for you the names of the teachers who made a difference in my academic success. And though it sounds fairly cliché and idealistic, I want to make that kind of difference in a child’s life.
I’ve gotten little tastes through volunteering with an elementary after-school program in rural South Carolina, teaching community English as a Second Language classes, and becoming a literacy tutor for an adult literacy student. I’m looking forward to learning more, experiencing more of those mind-altering class discussions, and hopefully becoming an educator who makes a beneficial impact in the academic success of her students no matter what other advantages they find themselves endowed with in life.

A different way of looking at the world.

I can hardly describe what churns in my heart when I look at these photos. They make me want to look at the world in a different, more beautiful and graceful way. They make me want to capture that beauty and tell a story about creation and redemption. I think if I looked at these images everyday, I would become a better photographer. Here's to inspiration.

1. Le Parc, 2. summer tans are awesome..., 3. Jessie Enjoying the Rain, 4. Fashion, 5. 1st frame, 6. The Philosophers Way, 7. little girl in white dress skipping alongside the Tiber, 8. spot, 9. the faint and precious sound, 10. Freckles, 11. Day 127. White out., 12. Dan Sartain, 13. step one, 14. [Stars in the Water], 15. Niñas en Quiché, 16. cafe, 17. Untitled, 18. zuhaitza, 19. Rural Decay, 20. orange, blue, green, 21. in two places at the same time, 22. [The Shadow Proves the Sunshine], 23. 2/52................as reflected in the art institute doors, 24. some salvation, 25. IMG_2651, 26. Untitled, 27. angry, 28. xmas game, 29. family of hands, 30. stride, 31. Untitled, 32. NJ Hot Air Balloon Festival - Inside The Balloon, 33. The monk and the girl, 34. as the world passes by, 35. The distant light of reason., 36. Book of Longing


Some things that make me happy.

Mucha (and my office calendar of his art, which reminds me of Prague)

Chilly mornings with golden sunlight though the trees.

Checking the weather and seeing that it will only get up to 73 on Wednesday. I love cold(er) weather.

Argyle and plaid, and seeing people at church clad in these fallfull patterns.

This song.

Being woken up gently by Keith every day rather than an alarm clock.

School. I can't wait to be in class again. I love being a nerd.

...Mondays require a little bit of extra effort, so this is the kind of post that I needed today... :)


My Stint on the Soapbox: The Bright Side of "The Economic Crisis"

(photo from NYtimes.com, a stock broker reacts to plummeting numbers on monday, one of the worst days in the history of the New York Stock Exchange.)

When asked to characterize our home country's biggest vice in a class in Spain, every american student's answer was greed or materialism. It's no secret to any of us, or anyone watching us in the rest of the world.

Is there a bright side to the economic crisis? Economic brainiacs predict that our generation will be the first since the depression to experience less wealth than our parents'. This sends many into a full blow panic attack. I had a professor who would stand in the front of the auditorium absolutely shaking with fear as he warned us of this imminent danger.

But, what have we to fear? Recent analysis has shown that the point of diminishing returns in the equation of wealth and happiness bottomed out long ago. Money is not making americans happier, it's making them richer (and now slightly poorer and far more anxious), busier, more stressed, more isolated, more wasteful, and more selfish. Moreover, the sector of the economy hardest hit by the crisis is our culture of credit and debt, fake money, making americans feel richer than they really are, drowning in debt to look and spend like the wacked-out celebrities that our society idolizes.

I don't want to be insensitive to the real hard spot that this will probably lead to in many families in terms of lost jobs, homes facing foreclosure, and emptied-out retirement funds, but I think money has long become an idol in this society, and I want to look at what good it might to for us to see a big crack in it, if not the whole thing crumbling to the ground.

I've been reading Jeremiah lately. Its all about the Lord's heart brokenness over Israel and Judah's idolatry, and His vengeance, which was ultimately merciful, in destroying their idols. I'm not trying to claim that the economic crisis is God's hand destroying the idols of our society (though it may be), but I think there is mercy in the shaking of our dependence on our economy's ability to make wealth, in terms of big houses and extravagance, an easy and ultimate thing to be grasped, a.k.a "the American dream."

It seems to me that where prosperity has left us isolated and unhappy, surrounded by mass-produced, fast-food-esque, fabricated versions of creativity and community, a little bit of crisis could actually draw us out of isolation and into an actual neighborly dependence on one another. It might even lead to us having to slow down a little and think a lot more about how we consume. What if we were even forced to make things rather than buy them--meals, gardens, clothes, gifts? I think that could be beautiful.

What are your thoughts?


Who do you see!?

If you haven't been keeping up with Catherine's blog, I just wanted to give an update on our precious niece! So you can know just how good Our Father is at taking care of her and join us in much rejoicing and thanksgiving! She is doing great. Isn't she adorable? This week she discovered her reflection in the mirror :) (a picture Katie just posted today.) There have been a few little bumps in the road here and there, but overall she has done outstanding at every obstacle she has faced, including surgery to fix her diaphragm and put all her little organs back where they belong, slowly getting off of certain medicines and treatments, and finally getting that yucky intubation tube out of her throat and switching to a CPAP machine (hence the cute blue elephant nose). Her pulmonary hypertension is getting better and better and her lungs are expanding. Praise God! We are truly amazed and so thankful! Thank you so much for all of your prayers. Keep 'em coming!