Scenes from a Cornerstone Christmas Program

Just in case you haven't had enough Christmas spirit in your life these days, this should do the trick.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the City of David, which is called Bethlehem because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed who was with child.

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to a son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in that same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with  fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born today in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." . . . And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." 
And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
 3 You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
 4 For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
 5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.

 6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon [4] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called [5]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.


A Davis Family First: Photo Christmas Cards!

The blogging world has been good to us this Christmas! Our good friend Rebekah, author of the beautiful blog Honeysuckle Life, is building a photography portfolio so she did a fun photo session (with the Paul-man) for us this weekend. If you live in the Birmingham area and are interested in getting family pictures taken, check her out! You may remember, she and her husband, Frank, recently got back from the mission field in Nicaragua and we love them! Even though being photogenic isn't one of the Birmingham Davises' strong suits, she made us feel comfortable and captured our personality.

We'll be using one of Shutterfly's super-cute designs to make our cards, and as you may have heard, they have a promotion right now for bloggers. Thanks Shutterfly!

I really like this simple design! And their prices are great!

Check out Shutterfly's Christmas card designs here. Their photo calendars are also a fabulous Christmas gift idea of family and friends. And if you've already sent your Christmas cards, there's always Birthdays!

If you'd like a Christmas card from us this year, reply with your address! We'd love to send you one!


Jesus Was Born

We were so thankful to get to see the Davis side of the family for Thanksgiving, including our niece Catherine, whom many of you prayed for when she was born with a congenital defect called CDH. Well, she's "better" now, completely! And the funnest little thing ever! We told a lot of freinds about how one of our favorite things that she's doing these days is saying "Jesus was born. Made Cat-n better," whenever anyone talks about Christmas, and now you can see it in action!

A sweet advent-reminder that when Jesus humbled himself and came to us as a small baby, He made us "better". He made a way for healing each of us that is even more miraculous and glorious than the way he healed Catherine's tiny body.

(If you're reading in google reader, you'll need to click on the post title to see the video on my blog)


Adventures with Paul

Ahhh . . . Fall.

The temperature cools, we slow down a little bit. Visions of reading by a fire wrapped up in cozy blankets, the smell of leaves, whispy clouds of breath on quiet mornings. It all makes me so darn pensive and sentimental. Enough to make me want to come out of my blogging hiatus and do a little creating.

A lot has happened. Hopefully we'll get adequately reaquainted.

But first thing's first. I'd like to introduce you to someone.

Meet Paul.

Paul came to us via a friend from the farm. We weren't really looking for a dog, but what can I say? It was fate. Besides his obvious good looks, Paul has a lot going for him. After some enthusiastic playing, his favorite place to be is lying right at our feet. We take him to restaurants, friend's houses, and about town, and generally he has delightful manners. He can jump higher than my head. We rest easy with Paul holding down the fort a home. In his bag of tricks you'll find sit, stay, lay down, shake (with both paws), jump, speak, come, and Keith is currently working with him on turning off the light and fetching his specific toys (duck and moose) on command. We're pretty taken with him, and generally so is the rest of the world. He increases our social appeal many-fold. This weekend we took him camping, and I think it's safe to say he had the time of his life.


New Home Preview

Hello Everyone! We moved in last weekend and are settling in nicely. We're pretty much unpacked, we've had our first dinner guests, and we've begun to tackle the back yard. Little by little we're making it our own, and I'm trying to remind myself to let that happen at a natural pace. It's good.

However we do have very limited internet, so until we get it really up and running and I can upload more pictures, this little preview will have to do. We painted the living room, and the color turned out great!


Workin' on the Farm

(photo of the Park Place farm from Jones Valley's website)

This summer Keith and I are interning on an urban farm in Birmingham, that also has a satellite campus in the 'burbs. We're really excited about learning more about sustainable organic agriculture, and especially how to farm. We are lucky enough to be participating in a work-trade agreement, that means we get a CSA bag full of farm-fresh veggies every week. Along with the general goal of learning, we've set a few other goals for ourselves, such as eating as locally as we can, and making our new home a little greener.

I've decided to set up a new blog, entirely devoted to this aspect of our lives, that will hopefully also be a conglomeration of local and national resources for sustainable living and eating, recipes, tips, and links that you might find interesting.

Check us out at urbanfarmplate.blogspot.com !


Deep Roots

It's official! Keith and I closed on our very first house yesterday! A cute little house with a red door right across the neighborhood. Until yesterday, owned by our dear friends. We'll move in May 29th, allowing for Stephanie to finish up the school year with the little day-school that currently occupies the basement. And we are super excited. Garden plans, couches, paint colors . . . there's so much to think about!

Ultimately, the house is not about all that though, but steadily following after the Lord as he leads us to plant deep roots in this neighborhood, and faithfully fills up our hearts with love for this city.

"Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce . . . multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." Jeremiah 29:5-7


.weeds schmeeds.

I just call them pretty. And Birmingham boasts a particularly vibrant display this time of year.


730 days

. . . of waking up next to my best friend.

Rich, full, happy, musical, hilarious, sanctifying, abundantly-thankful, growing . . .


Street Life in Nicaragua

One of the things I really loved about Nicaragua was the life that filled the streets day and night. We were only there for a week and already we recognized many of our "neighbors," and spoke to them, if only in simple greetings, several times a day.


Ensalada del Tigre .or. Clemson Coleslaw

Inspired by the delicious staple of Nicaraguan cuisine, simply called "ensalada" (which translates "salad"), I went on a search for the simple combo of cabbage, carrots, and white vinegar on my first grocery shopping trip since our return. I ended up choosing the purple head, because I have a sneaking suspicion that anything that purple must be packed with antioxidants, and well, it's pretty. When I came home and started blending, I noticed that the outcome bore a strikingly nostalgic color-combo harkening to my 4 and some years spent in the South Carolina Upstate.

This essentially non-mayo based slaw has quickly become a crunchy, tangy staple for the Davis household as well. Keith loves it, and I whipped up my second batch today. Pictured above with a veggie burger topped with buffalo mozzarella and pico de gallo, I ended up stuffing the slaw in the pita as well, and it was pretty special.

Clemson Coleslaw:
1 half head of purple cabbage, shredded
1 about 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots (I used a large handful of baby carrots and shredded them in the food processor)
1 TBSP finely chopped cilantro
1 tsp finely diced or graded jalapeño
squueze of honey
squeeze of lime juice
about 3/4 cup white vinegar
about 1/3 cup olive (or whatever you prefer) oil

Combine oil, vinegar, lime juice and honey. Toss with veggies, add a big pinch of salt and pepper to taste. It gets better (and purpler) the longer everyone has to hang out together in the fridge.



We made it to Nicaragua. From what we've seen so far in Granada, the life here is pretty sweet. So far we've seen an amazing sunset over the city from the Cathedral's tower, ate some extremely tasty street food, biked several miles off the beaten track to a laguna, and enjoyed it all with our dear friends. It's hot. We're sweaty and happy.


Coming and Going

Where I'm coming from:

Jekyll Island, Georgia; 8th grade trip

Where I am getting ready to go:

Granada, Nicaragua to visit these fine folks



Scene: Breakfast duty monday morning talking to the little kindergarten-cutie pictured above.

Me: So, Cameron, did you have a good weekend?

Cameron: (Emphatic) Yes. 

Me: Oh yeah? What did you do?

Cameron: I went to church. And they be doin' the holy ghost. I love it when they do the holy ghost. (Every time he says "holy ghost" he balls his hands up in fists and waves them around at ear level.)

Me: What does that mean? How do you do the holy ghost?

Cameron: Oh, you know. Everyone be all cryin' and runnin around like crazy and stuff. (Extra emphatic) The holy ghost!

. . .
Today I tried to get a picture for you of him "doing the holy ghost," but lets just say there was too much movement involved now that he was standing to take a picture in low light.

On Sunday I head off on the 8th grade field trip to Jekyll Island, GA for 3 1/2 days. Pray for us!


Cornerstone Yearbook Preview

I've been busy at school working on the yearbook. Taking a lot of pictures. Here are some of my favorites so far!


Snow in Birmingham!

I'm absolutely giddy and childlike about the mere possibility of snow. I check the weather forecast and the windows, oh, about every 5 minutes. And I always, always remain optimistic. When you start becoming cynical about snow, a little piece of your spirit dies. And snow visited our little ham again. In a beautiful, tree coating way. And we rejoiced. Here are some pictures, along with a few of Crestwood's finest snowmen. 


Keith's Weekend Thoughts: Wild Things Have Hearts Too . . .

I'm sorry that I missed two weekends ago and that I am late for this past one. As you can tell, Elaine wears the "blogging" pants in our marriage.

So I hope everyone knows that I have a new friend that lives outside our appartment. Toby is a beagle. One of my favorite things about being friends with Toby is how encouraging he is when I come home or leave in the morning. It's so great to have this great dog who is so glad to see me. He sort of looks like this...

Most Saturday mornings I take him for a walk to Crestwood park. We are working on playing catch. He can't really look up well so if I throw it up he won't chase it. We're working on it. Anyways when I put him back up after the walk is over he goes through this routine where he howls nonstop for 15 minutes. It's really pathetic but it sort of makes me feel good inside. I feel like he's saying, "I had so much fun and I don't want it to end." I appreciate that.

So that's where Where the Wild Things Are comes in. I LOVED the part at the end when the wild things howled for Max. It communicated so much that words would have left out. There is just this deep groaning that needs to get out.

All this to say that if I start howling when you say you have to go home after an evening of hanging out, know that I'm not angry at you but it's my way of telling you I think you're awesome.


Photo Friday:Guatemala meets Cornerstone

I have these two pictures from our recent trip to Guatemala  up in my classroom, and the kids ask about them a lot. They've asked all kinds of things, including are they my kids?, but I love getting to tell about them. I love getting to talk to my students about the opportunities I've had to travel, and what a mission trip is all about. I love telling them the ways that these kids are different than them, and how they're the same too. How the boy in the lower picture makes his home in the city dump, but is also very joyful and kind, and how the families in the top picture live in tin houses with dirt floors, but they know their needs are met in Christ. 

This week with my 4th and 5th graders, we're reading about what it's like for children to go to school in Guatemala. How often, they have to walk a very long way and have class with children of many ages all packed into one room. Also, how very few families can afford to send their kids to school past 6th grade and how many of the villages only have primary schools. We also talked about how this leads to a cycle of inaccessibility to education that keeps many villages in poverty. It made my students feel very lucky and thankful for the opportunities that they have for education here, but they didn't stop there. They immediately began brainstorming about how we could raise money, like we're currently doing for Haiti, to help kids in Central America out with their education. I don't know how much of a notion these students have of their own families' struggle to provide a better education for them. What they could see is that there is need somewhere else, and they wanted to do what they could to help in the face of a need like that. And I was really proud of them. 

And, by the way, these types of conversations are one of my favorite things about being a Spanish teacher.

Birmingham: Grey Haven Community

Some of the most encouraging, inspiring, and optimistic things that I've observed and been a part of here in Birmingham collide in a gathering called Grey Haven Community. Grey Haven is a community for local musicians to collaborate, support, and perform with one another. I have over and over again, both as an audience member and now as a performer, been delightfully surprised by the genuine atmosphere of creativity, community, humility, and over-all good vibe surrounding this thing. And all that aside, the music is dang good. I say all the time that one of the things I love most about Birmingham is the accessibility to get involved in good things going on here, and Grey Haven is a great example of that. 

So, if you're lucky enough to live in the 'ham, I'll be making my humble Grey Haven debut singing some background vocals with some really rad people (Neil and Havilah) who I just met a week ago, exclusively through this community (which is cool enough in itself). Don't come to hear me, come to hear a great variety of gooooood music, and witness something beautiful coming together before you're eyes.

Friday, January 29. 7:00@Urban Standard.

Mid-Week Quotables

"Senora iz a b!%#$ from the entire 6th grade."

Yep, that's right. Scrawled into the back inside cover of one of my Spanish textbooks. And not so tactfully edited, I might add. Welcome to the not so glamourous side of teaching middle school students. I guess something like this was bound to happen sooner or later, and my reaction is mixed. It's hard not to take something like this personally, to avoid wondering, "does the entire 6th grade really think that about me?" "Golly, what did I do to make a student so mad?". But then what I realize is that it's not about me. A lot of what it boils down to is my students are constantly confessing to me that they have no idea how to maintain self control in the face of one, raging emotion: Anger. It leads to fights, both physical and verbal, causes them to become so distracted and upset that they can't concentrate in class, and I suppose leads to destructive behavior such as treating a textbook like a bathroom stall.  And when I think about that I'm moved to pray for my students and I'm reminded of my own need for the Lord to prepare my heart every day to deal with my own anger and frustration in a way that sets an example for them of self-control, gentleness, perspective, and love. 


Tuesday Tastes: Two Food-Blog Recipes Meet

(photo from fresh365)

Tonight's dinner was a result of combining two recipes that I've been wanting to try from a couple of blogs that I read. And it was soooo tasty. I don't know If I've ever been so excited about leftovers.

The first recipe, Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, is from smitten kitchen, and has been sited on several other blogs. I was drawn to both the simplicity of it and the hype. It contains 3 ingredients, and no chopping! All you do is throw a can of whole tomatoes, 5 Tbsp of butter, and a halved yellow onion in a pot. Let it simmer for 45 minutes, season with a little salt, and you've got a really delicious, EASY sauce! I'm not sure I'd go as far as some of the bloggers go on about it, but if you proportion the taste with the ease, it's a winner for sure!

And then . . .

I used that as the sauce for a baked penne recipe from fresh365. Instead of making a spicy garlic sauce, I kept the sauce simple and toasted the breadcrumbs for the topping with garlic and red pepper flakes. I also cut down on the cheese a lot because the sauce was so rich. 

It turned out great!


Photo Friday

Some of my 8th grade students on the day of the Christmas Program.

It's pixelated because I couldn't figure out any other way to post larger pictures. Any solutions out there?

Catching Up

So already I'm behind, but that's okay, we just keep movin' on.

So, to combine quotables with a focus on Birmingham, and as we celebrated his life this week, I bring you a few quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail. It's amazing that so much monumental history occurred here in the city where I call home. I wish I could walk the streets and see it all happening overlaid on the life that I live here now. Sometimes I feel the scars of hatred and division and injustice as I drive past block after block of empty, dilapidated buildings, but I know I can never know the full weight of it. I think about how Birmingham was a place of change and of hope and dreams. And I feel that too. These words, written in 1963, are so relevant to our time.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."
. . . 


Tuesday Tastes: A tiptoe into the world of cheese making.

In Kingsolver's book, in a chapter I haven't even gotten to yet, is a recipe for making your own mozzarella cheese. What could be more intriguing than that? I checked it out, and the stuff has four ingredients in it. Three that I just about guarantee are sitting in your kitchen right now (lemon juice can be used instead of citric acid). The fourth is called rennet, and I must admit that this little mysterious guy intimidated me. I'll look for rennet next time I go to Whole Foods, but in the meantime my researching lead me to discover another Italian cheese that is made with only two common ingredients.

That's right! Mascarpone cheese is made from these two simple ingredients: cream and lemon juice (although you have to be sure that the cream is just pasteurized and not ultra pasteurized). 

My lovely friend and kitchen inspiration, Stephanie, came over yesterday and we got down to business. Our little bag of tricks included a large skillet, a glass bowl, water, cream, lemon juice, a kitchen thermometer, paper towels, a sieve, and another bowl.

We followed this recipe as closely as we could, and just as the author describes, we were pretty certain by the time the whole process was over that we had totally ruined it. It was difficult to get the cream up to a high enough temperature and difficult to tell if the cream actually curdled when we added the lemon juice. Just as she says, it looks exactly like a custard or creme anglaise. Then, we totally made a mess trying to use cheesecloth instead of paper towels and the liquid went straight through. (So I highly recommend using heavy paper towels instead of cheese cloth to line your sieve. )

But, in the end, it worked! I checked it about eight hours later and it was creamy, thick, sweet and buttery . . . cheese!

Basically the process goes like this . . .

You heat the cream to 190 degrees F in a double boiler-like contraption. At that point add lemon juice and stir for a few more minutes until very thick and creamy.

Take it off the heat and let it cool for 20 minutes. Then you place a metal sieve over a bowl and line it with four layers of cheese cloth or paper towel. Spoon the mixture into the sieve, cover and let it set over night. Not very much liquid comes out, but it gets super rich and creamy, almost like cream cheese. 


The hilarious thing is that I've never actually had store bought mascarpone, so I have nothing to compare it to. Try it and let me know! Hopefully we'll be trying mozzarella soon, maybe even with local milk. In the meantime, I'll be using my mascarpone to make this lemon mascarpone blondie recipe for community group tomorrow night! 


Monday Musings: Good Food

Around this time last year I began thinking about the connection between food and God's word. After all, scripture calls itself edible, sweeter than honey in fact, and in Revelation (10:9-10), John is even commanded to eat it. And stranger still, Jesus tells us to eat his flesh, and to remember him whenever we sit down to break bread and share drink with other believers.

I want to eat scripture. To desire it and savor it and devour it. To ingest it and have it become part of me. And at the same time, I want to think about what it means to remember Jesus when I eat. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are choices in the way we eat that will either help or hinder remembering him, and even affect the way we sit down to the meal of his Word. Fast food versus slow and savored. Seeking the welfare of the city by investing in local food. Considering where our food comes from: Were the people who worked to produce my food treated fairly or kept under the yoke of oppression as I consume ease, efficiency, and low prices? Were the sources of my meal grown or raised in a way that reflects good stewardship of the plants and animals that God created for us to care for and to eat? Are the calories I'm putting in my body a cheap imitation of real food, or lasting, healthy goodness?

These are questions that I'm thinking about in new ways all the time. I'd love to hear your thoughts, and I'm sure you'll hear more of mine as we continue together.

Two books, woven together with story and not just information, have educated me, inspired me, and kept the wheels of my thoughts turning. Eat this Book, by Eugine Peterson (author of The Message), and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (The author of several great books including Poisonwood Bible).


You're in for a treat.

I told Keith about my new blogging plan, and he was so supportive that he agreed to post every weekend!