community

12 Days of Christmas: Day 8? Day 9? // Are you still counting?

Tonight, I want to begin discussing a particular topic I've started writing on more times than I can remember. It's a topic that has too many facets to count, can easily become convoluted, and is so big that I usually end up calling it quits after a couple of hours because I can't wrap my mind around the vastness and simplicity of this philosophy.

Jesus said, "love your neighbor as yourself." When asked which neighbors he's referring too, he goes on to tell the story of the good Samaritan, pointing out that even those we perceive as our enemies are the ones he's telling us to love as ourselves.

I'm going to begin small here by saying that every purchase we make is an opportunity to love our neighbors both near and afar. There are companies out to make a buck, and there are others out to change the game, both in business and in the lives of those they employ. The question of course is why do we feel the need to buy from big, greedy companies? Well, for one--we're greedy and we buy into advertising that tells us that we need to make every purchase our heart desires. That's probably a whole other subcategory for another day (case in point on trying to write on this topic).

I'm going to the roots of These Sacred Grounds tonight by sharing my first coffee shop in the 12 Days of Christmas series. This is a business whose mission is to support those coming out of foster care, and whose instrument is coffee. I want to encourage you to check out their website, but more importantly support their work and the work of those like them.

If you don't know much about the foster care system, I'm not going to bog you down with statistics, but I will encourage you to do some research. I will also paint a simple picture for you: a human child is taken from their home due to some form of abuse or neglect. Child is sent into a foster home where they may or may not experience love and care. Child goes back home. Child is taken from their home again, but because there is no room in their original foster home, they get put in another one. Child goes back home. This cycle could easily go on for well over a decade, never giving this child a chance to know love, security, or deep and safe family bonds. Child turns 18, and is on his/her own. Child may or may not have experienced a plethora of abuses, substance abuse, or homelessness growing up, not including the aforementioned lack of love and care that all humans need. This creates a lot of problems for this child--now grownup. Where do they turn? Do they have any opportunity to go to college? Have they had any professional counseling? Did they graduate high school? Do they have any job prospects? The issues for these "state kids" is overwhelming to say the least.

Every corner of the internet these days is preaching the #village, the #tribe, the #squad, and yet what does it look like to have deep community where even the foster children know they have a safe place? By supporting coffee shops The Monkey & The Elephant, we can truly live out the gospel of loving our neighbors as ourselves in community. Can we all take in a foster child or orphan? Can we all go into prisons and show love to those living inside cell walls? Can we all support to needs of the widows, the abandoned, the abused, the sex trafficked? In the most perfect of worlds with the most perfect of communities, yes we can. In fact, I encourage you to take a moment to consider if your family should be doing any one of these things.

The truth is, for one reason or another--or at least a million and one excuses, we are not doing these things. I can't get into all the reasons we (weeee all) need to surrender and do the dirty work of the gospel because that's not the purpose of this post. The purpose of this post is to say that through creative thinking, intentional buying decisions, and by not giving into big companies telling us how we should live, we CAN do all of those things by supporting businesses and non-profits like The Monkey & The Elephant. There are many out there, and with the internet they're easy to find.

This may just be one tiny step in the direction of living our neighbors as ourselves, but we can't have a revolution without taking a step.

The Monkey & The Elephant
1218 South Alder Street
Philadelphia PA, 19147
IG | FB

12 Days of Christmas: A Sharing Sesh // Day 6!

I started this 12 Days of Christmas series for two reasons: 1. I wanted to share parts of my life that I love with the world, and 2. Since deciding to step more fully into my desire to write, this was a little challenge I gave myself—write 12 days in a row.

So, here I am: Day 6. It's 11:25pm and I honestly don't know if I'll have this finished my midnight, but since I've already chosen what I'm sharing with you, I should be able to bang this puppy out.

I told you once before, in my first recipe post, that sharing recipes--sharing many things in life is not easy for me. It doesn't come naturally for me to say, "Here's something I know that you don't, so let me share it with you,"

Why wouldn't I want to share the things I know with others, any sane and healthy human might ask? Because then you might not need me. And if you don't need me, you may not want me.

There are a few aspects of being in community with others that I believe to be fundamental. In order to stay in a community (of any kind) a person must feel wanted, needed, appreciated, and have an overall sense of belonging.

Now, mind you, by me withholding parts of myself in order to manipulate others into needing or wanting me IS NOT the heart behind true community, and therefore not a part of myself I want to embrace. It's a part of my life that I've gradually surrendered over the years, but every time I share something I love with the world, it's still a difficult step forward for me.

Tonight, I'm sharing not one, but two recipes involving chai. I don't think tea comes naturally to Americans. Many cultures around the world have created and sustained customs around tea: customs that involve special cups and spices, some that involve special straws and others that use the drink as their cultural cue to leave soon.

The two recipes I have for you are two that I can safely say have no right to a special custom. In fact, I'm pretty sure they were both personal experiments in the kitchen at some point. That's why I don't bake, by the way (except for chocolate chip cookies); baking is too precise for me; there’s no wiggle room in baking, so the two of us don't create great results. Experiments though, that’s where the kitchen and I mesh—up until I want to make something a second time. Dilemma of dilemmas.

Both of these beverages are on the sweeter side, but can have a little kick with the chai depending on the type you use. You can play with the ratios too, in order to get them to your tasting preferences. Experiment away!

Recipe 1 // Chai Hot Chocolate

  • Make hot chocolate as you usually would. That is assuming you would absolutely and always make it with milk on the stove or else, go without. If you're response to that is, "no, I make it with water then we may need to talk."
  • Allow one chai teabag to steep in the hot chocolate pot.
  • Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!

Recipe II // Chai Apple Cider

  • For this one, I usually use those boxes of chai you can get at TJ's or Starbucks or where ever, but it will also work with a lightly sweetened cup of steeped chai as well.
  • So, get whichever chai you choose
  • Get your bottle of apple cider
  • Cut them 1 to 1 in a pot on the stove
  • Repeat the last step from the first recipe.

I know, I know…both of these are essentially rocket science :). Enjoy, my friends!

12 Days of Christmas: A Sharing Sesh // Day 4

I’ve been writing for several hours this evening, and while I thought I was going somewhere very specific on this 4th Day of Christmas (5th on the East Coast; sorry, friends!!), it turns out that the somewhere I thought I was going should wait.

For this reason, my fourth share with you is the thing that makes me love Netflix more than anything else. Yes, more than House of Cards and Fuller House put together. For me, the gem of Netflix is the documentary selection.

If you’re still of the mind that documentaries are just “boring movies,” it’s time to catch up, my friend. There is a whole world out there of people telling incredible stories in beautiful and compelling ways. Documentaries are the peoples’ stories. They are research and they are art. Documentaries make for great discussions with friends and with people we otherwise may not know how to find a connection. Through the screen, documentaries teach us about a topic in much less time than personal research.  Maybe that’s their key selling point, that we can get information quickly and beautifully right from our own television in an afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong, documentaries are not the end all of learning about a topic. But, if you’re interested in learning more about food, education, the prison system, farming, other cultures, or anything else under the sun, documentaries are a wonderful gateway. They help us begin good and necessary conversations.

I’m going to keep this one brief, and I highly doubt this post is changing any lives, but if you haven’t embraced the world of documentaries, I encourage you do so. Go out (by staying in, of course), and learn something new today. Maybe it will spur you on to greater things tomorrow.

Have you ever watched a documentary that helped change your life or views on something? Tell me about it!!

12 Days of Christmas: A Sharing Sesh // Day 2

Community is not everything. Community is not everything, but it is necessary for a full life. Community is not easy, but is hard work. Nay nay, it is extremely hard work. It is hard work to fall short, to be humbled before others, to live so closely in the presence of others that we cannot hide our deepest, darkest selves. It’s easy to give up and walk away instead of face our inner selves with others.

Community is something that is formed, it is molded, and it changes over time. Community welcomes joy and celebration over jealousy. Community welcomes suffering and empathy over self-centered thinking. Community prioritizes the choosing of love. It calls us out and tears us down, while also lifting us up.

Community is made. It is made with those whom we chose to make it. Community is a two-way street. It is not always gentle and sometimes it is a downright pain in the ass that you kind of want to punch in the face; it is seemingly unworthy of the suffering it may cause.

Community is created in our homes and on the streets. It establishes itself in parks and on city streets, in public and in private. Community is a recipe made for a slow cooker. Community is read about in books, but seldom lived out. It’s too hard; people don’t want it. Not truly. We are selfish. We get caught up in the things of this world; we get by just fine living our lives, never embracing our deepest selves.

Community is shaped around the table, in conversation, in getting to know one another, in living alongside one another, in choosing one another. Community is doing one another's dishes before we go back to our own dwelling. And not to force this horribly obvious transition, but what a joyous occasion when those dishes can be kept to a minimum.

I love this meal I’m going to share because it does just that. This meal is like community. It’s simple, yet profound.  It is a dish full of grace, which let’s be honest—all communities need to be. This dish looks at it’s own imperfections instead of pointing out the imperfections of other dishes. To top it off, it has all the necessary pieces of a well-balanced meal while sticking to one casserole dish and maybe a bowl or two. It has the veggies, the meat, the potatoes, and the bread. In my eyes, it is truly the perfect community dish. And now, I share it with you to share with your community as it was once shared with me.

Chicken Pot Pie:

1. Set the oven to 375 degrees.

  • Sauté 1/2 cup of chopped onion.
  • Add 1 cup of butter—Usually two sticks.

2. Once melted, add dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ tsp-1 tsp. pepper

3. Stir in wet ingredients:

  • 3 cups chicken broth (or veggie!!)
  • 1.5 cups of milk (or non-dairy sub)

4. Stir until thickens

5. Add:

  • 1 bag of frozen veggies. I usually do Trader Joe’s Organic Foursome
  • Shredded chicken (leftovers are GREAT for this!!)

6. As those ingredients are combining, I place those little frozen, garlic potato pods (also from Trader Joe’s) along the bottom of a large casserole dish with a splash of milk).

7. Pour the blend from the pan over the potatoes.

8. The Topper: in a medium sized bowl, whisk the following:

  • 2 cups of your favorite biscuit mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk.

The consistency should be a little thick, but not too thick. This part may take a little practice. You should be in love with the topper. If you’re not, try the recipe with halved, uncooked biscuits instead.

9. Put in oven for 30 minutes:

10-15 minutes in, put slits in the topper. I don’t know if this does anything to the meal itself, but it sure does look pretty!!

Enjoy this meal. Love one another deeply. Pray for and with one another.

For dessert, I recommend a round of Ticket to Ride :)

Overall shopping list:

  • 1 onion
  • butter
  • flour
  • milk (or non dairy sub)
  • chicken broth (or equivalent)
  • salt, pepper, and thyme
  • 1 bag frozen veggies
  • chicken
  • frozen potato pods
  • biscuit mix
  • eggs

OH YEAH! One more thing: This is a great recipe to take to people's homes if they are sick, just had a baby, lost a loved one, etc. I suggest doing so in a throw away tin dish so as to not burden them with cleaning and keeping track of dishes afterwards.

 

 

12 Days of Christmas: A Sharing Sesh // Day One

ahh, my people! It's been too long. I've been thinking about my blog and all of you every day since I last wrote you. I've been thinking about what to write, what to possibly share in this chaotic time.

This year's presidential outcome, racism, devastation, terrorist attacks, and war seem to be overtaking our world. It's all been on my heart and mind, and in my prayers, but what could I say? Every direction I turned, people were talking, people were hating, judging, and pointing fingers, so I stepped back, breathed deeply, and searched for my direction.

I've had an amazing few months with my two daughters and husband: laughing and delighting in one another, stretching and growing as a family of four. I've been tired and at a loss. I've had margin, but in all honestly that margin has been used to make up for sleep-deprived nights. Over this past year, my heart drew deeper and deeper into my desires of researching, writing, and sharing, and for this reason, I am thoroughly excited to see what awaits in 2017.

But! In the meantime, I have so many things and people and passions I want to share with you! When I found out last week that the traditional "12 Days of Christmas" begins on Christmas day, I was excited to bring a writing idea to life. Only now, that idea looks slightly different than it did initially. At first, I was going to share with you 12 coffee shops, no—books, no—coffee blends, no—coffee shops in the East Bay...Uhh, do you see my dilemma? There are SO many things I love and want to share with all of you for the 12 Days of Christmas. So now, I'm just going to share 12 anythings I love: some coffee, some people, some books, some organizations. I have a few passions swelling up in my heart; and now--they are my gifts to you.

I want to start today by sharing a person: a writer and fellow saint of the Christian faith who passed into eternity 20 years ago this past September. As I laid (lain? lyed? l...?) awake at 4:45 this morning, I picked up one of his books where I last left off some time last week…in the introduction. After reading through a couple chapters, I began to think that this man might be the single most influential writer for me in 2016. Over this past year, this man's words brought healing and restoration for both my husband and for me. His words have been an arrow pointed towards, and shooting us full force into the direction of, grace and redemption.

I have had a bumpy relationship with Henri Nouwen over the years. Craziness--I know. I first picked up one of his books, Return of the Prodigal Son in 2009, and I couldn't even finish it. I remember something about his voice bothering me, and I put the book down. I picked it up and put it down again. Though it screamed redemption, art, beauty, and story telling, I couldn't hear him. I was distracted, and I never finished it.

A couple years later, my girlfriend lent me a copy of Reaching Out. Ugh, this guy again. His voice. I couldn't read it. I couldn't read it, but I also couldn't let it go. Three years—maybe four years later, when the cross-county move and therefore, the Great Book Purge came upon our family, it was one of the few I held on to. I didn't know why; I didn’t even like this guy's style. Maybe because I wasn't the book's true owner or because the original owner was now living in New Zealand and the friend who lent it was up in New York, and yadda yadda. It was small enough in size, wasn’t mine to give away, and so I brought it over 3,000 miles with me.

This past spring, I decided to read it. No, I needed to read it. It stared at me like a portrait in hush hush art museum. Shh, don't speak. Listen. What is the art saying? I don't know because it keeps following me around the room. Haha, I'm somewhat joking—I love museums. But really, the book had this you-must-read-me-now sense about it. It had a voice that whispered, "I will bring you healing. I will help you rest in the love of your Heavenly Dad." It said, "I know you couldn't hear me in the past, but the time for healing is now, right here, in the midst of my very few pages."

And it was right. It brought to light, it convicted, it healed, it encouraged, and it spurred me on to the deeper life. It was JUST what I needed right when I was ready to hear it.

After I closed the last page of the book, I hoped my husband could hear it too. I hoped that he too could hear that we were arrogant and self-centered, that we were living out of a place of loneliness. And again, it did.

A few months later, he (Kris) says that he found another Henri Nouwen book that is slaying him. "I have your next book," he says to me.

"Ugh, I don't want to be slain again. We're going through all of this wonderful Emotionally Healthy Spirituality material with the church, and that is already doing a great work in me. Do I really have to?"

Enter: Christmas Morning 2016. 4:45am. The children all tucked under their blankets with care. "What the heck, man? Why am I awake???!!!" Usually. Ok—sometimes, and really only on my best, most devoted, deep, and obedient days, these early-morning moments beckon me to prayer. But this morning, at the early hour of 5am, I was beckoned into the world of Henri Nouwen once again. I was called into the world of Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World and oh. em. gee.

Like, the literal Gee. Does he ever slay me with His love? I am a beloved of the great I AM--the God who is with us, which we are reminded of every year on this very day. Many of us will sit in church buildings and hear the message of the good news of Jesus, our ultimate beloved One, but will we hear? Will we understand? Will it change us?

I know, I know, shouldn’t I be talking about baby Jesus and the manger and all things Advent and Christmas for these next 12 days? The truth is, these are the things that point me to Jesus. The everyday moments and people, books, coffee shops, and conversations that point me to my Beloved.

Merry Christmas, dear friends, family, and strangers alike.

Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply. It is like discovering a well in the desert. Once you have touched wet ground, you want to dig deeper. -Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World

If you're in a place of hearing him too, here are some of my personalized links to a few of Nouwen's works:

Getting Out // Four Barrel Coffee, S.F., CA

// An Update for You Lovelies: While generally adapting to being a family of 4, we had a special anniversary event, a large family camping trip, oh—and a move; we also moved. This all took place in a couple week span.

Anyhow, the point is that I’m here; I haven’t gone anywhere. With the exception of the move, that is. I now have a two-month old daughter along with my almost two-year-old daughter, and I’m back. So, Hello! and Happy Fall! \\

So...Do you ever have those mornings? The ones that have you saying, “Whelp! There’s always tomorrow” before it even hits 10 o’clock?

What do you do on those days? Do you try to get out of your funk and start over? Maybe you take a shower or make a fresh cup of coffee? Do you accept that the day is not going to change, hit up Netflix for the remainder of the day, binging on cereal and a decade’s worth of television?

For me, it’s some of both. When I wait to get up at the same time as my daughter, I automatically feel like my whole day is gone before she’s even finished breakfast. There’s something about beating her to the punch when it comes to starting off my day. I don’t need to shower to feel ready for the day, but getting dressed—like, actually dressed, having coffee, and spending some time in prayer are three things that can set my morning off to a start like no other. But if I’m honest, it’s easy for me to give in, stay in my sweats, and call the day a wash. On those days I probably get on the verge of crying at least once, watch more New Girl than I care to admit, and accept a general disliking towards myself for the day.

This morning, I decided to do the other thing. I got off the couch, washed my face, got dressed, and got out! It can be so hard to get out of the house. I have a friend Becky who I so admire. Sometimes it seems like nothing gets her down, and she’s always ready to get her boys (and now girl) out for another adventure. I know this isn’t true, and it’s not always as easy as it appears to stay motivated. I know it takes effort for her to pull off this mom strength magic. But isn’t that reality all the more inspiring? To know that it isn’t easy for this woman to get her three children out to play and learn and grow, and yet she finds a way? Even if they’re all still in their PJs and one child is super grumpy, she finds a way to make the day worthwhile. For me, that’s some serious inspiration right there, to know that I can get out too. And even if just for a walk—it is possible and it is worth it.

All this to say, there is no such thing as a wasted day. Some days do require us to stay in, stay chill, and give ourselves some grace. But other days do require us to get up, get dressed, and get out—get anywhere!, though it may take every ounce of motivation we can muster. For me, not much can change a day, and really—an attitude, like a little bit of prayer, a lotta’ bit of surrender, and some sunshine, cityscapes, and conversations around the neighborhood.

Not much inspires me to have a beautiful day quite like a beautiful space.  I went to meet a friend recently at this lovely and inspiring space in San Francisco. It also seems worth mentioning that Four Barrel is the first S.F. coffee shop I've decided to feature. If you're in the area, check out one of their three locations.

Four Barrel // 375 Valencia St, S.F., CA

What's in a Name? // Featuring Common Grounds, Waco, TX

I’m slightly obsessed with names. I love to know the meaning behind a name and the process by which a name was chosen. This is true of people’s names as well as the names of shops and businesses, books and other forms of human creation. My brain can barely handle picturing the process by which one human may have named every creature and plant in the Garden of Eden. That may have been the most creative time known to humanity—the beginning, a completely blank, pure and precious canvas. What fun!

When starting this blog, I made list upon list of words and ideas that eventually found their way to These Sacred Grounds. As the blog’s first birthday approaches, I received an email from Squarespace regarding the renewal of my domain name, and therefore—the blog’s name. It’s made me think about names a whole lot these last ten days.

Throughout my own life, I’ve gone through a series of names so far: my parents and childhood friends had their nickname for me; in college, I adopted a new variation of my name that friends knew, and still know me as; only recently have I begun introducing myself by my given name again as I did in adolescence.

Names are important. My imagination consistently dreams up other forms of my name I might be known as. Or better yet—known for.

I sometimes wonder if other new names will come along with different stages of my life. My daughter calls me "mama" and someday will likely morph that to "mom," but what will my grandchildren call me? I’ve always loved that my name means strong, but not that it was one of most popular in the years surrounding my birth.

Because of its commonality, I haven’t embraced my own name. This makes me wonder if parents ever regret the name they gave their children. If so, would they ever admit it and risk having their child question the identity tied to their name? Naming humans is no easy task, and naming this blog wasn’t either. The difference being that I can change the blog’s name much easier than I could either of my daughters. I was reminded of this upon receiving the previously mentioned email. Choosing the names of both daughters and this blog consisted of meaning and namesake and purpose.

I’ve questioned the name of These Sacred Grounds several times throughout this past year, considering whether or not I’d change it when the domain expired. As I considered, I looked back to my process—to one of the many lists I initially created. I remember going back and forth as to whether or not it should include some cheesy, coffee-themed word or if it should be something more obscure—less obvious. I’ve debated this decision specifically several times since last September.

As I think about the name now, I think about Moses taking off his sandals as he recognized the sacredness of being in the presence of the Holy. I’ve encountered more sacred moments in the everyday, simple moments of life than I can remember. As a few specific examples, I’ve seen the sacred hand of God in other humans, in hospitality, and in various forms of creativity. Sometimes these moments are referred to as “thin spaces.” This idea of thin spaces, as I understand it, is a moment or place in life when the divide between heaven and earth, between the holy and unholy, the peaceful and chaotic, the spiritual and unspiritual or whatever other terms you choose is closer than usual.

So here formed the idea of These Sacred Grounds. It’s an encapsulation of the profound and the simple, the everyday and the momentous. It involves both the legacy of the ancient world and quirkiness of the coffee-themed “grounds,” opposed to an equally suitable synonym.

I think, at least for this year, the name shall remain. Thank you all for reading along this past year, for your support and your encouragement to just keep writing.

This post's Coffee Shop feature is for a place that makes up 1 of only 2 reasons I'd ever want to go back to Texas (sorry not sorry, TX). The other is to see a sister's family, so this place is kind of amazing. Plus, we share the commonality of "grounds," which means we're both a little bit quirky, a little bit common, and a lotta bit embracing the everyday simplicities of life.
Common Grounds //
1123 S 8th St, Waco, TX 76706

For a glimpse of their space AND music venue (what?!), check out their IG here.

B.G. Cook: Mom of Girls

As I peruse through various social media profiles, I often notice an assortment of titles that women place in their bios. I’ve seen labels such as, “mom of boys,” “mother of…fill in the blank number of children,” or maybe “mom to multiples.” By no means do I believe mothers of daughters love their children any less when they don't put "mom of girls," I just don’t remember seeing this same title claimed by those who only have daughters.

Before my husband and I had children, I had an idealized view of a boy being the firstborn and girls arriving second or later. With no scientific tracking, I noticed that this was the birth order in many families I admired—specifically because sibling bonds seemed closer. In these families, whose Christmases I imaged to look like some combination of The Family Stone and The Sound of Music, a boy was usually the oldest with girls or boys following after that. Long before I even met my husband, I also had the not-so-secret dream of marrying into a family of brothers. While I hadn't yet processed all of the subliminal thinking that went along with my view of males, when it came down to it I eventually realized how many lies I believed about what it means to be a woman.

As time went on, I married an only child--so there’s that. But when I found out I was pregnant—literally the moment after seeing those two red (blue?) lines, something else changed. Within those first, take-my-breath-away moments, I prayed and I also knew my firstborn was a girl. You know how the saying goes—I just knew she had to be a girl. I wasn’t as confident with our second, though I had both a desire for another daughter as well as a sense that she too was a girl.

As my first pregnancy went on and I eventually learned that she was most definitely a female, I was filled with so much awe and gratitude that I had the honor of mothering a daughter. I thought about some of my husband’s former students from different parts of Asia and how they felt unloved in their families compared to their brothers or male cousins. I thought about all the unwanted baby girls around the world and the epidemics that some countries will eventually face of having a drastically uneven amount of men and women within their populations because of abortions and abandonment. I thought of the suffragists and women’s rights. I considered all the little girls around the world who are trafficked and those who aren’t allowed to get an education because of their sex. Overall, I thought about how women are the most violated, abused, and vulnerable “people group?” in the world.

On the contrary, I also thought about all the amazing, world-changing women I know--either first hand or through the media and realized, “wow, what a privilege it is to raise a daughter in this world.” What a privilege it is to know that I have the opportunity to teach my girls about their self worth and identity, their strength and how to be brave. What an honor it is to shape these two into women who will know that they can pursue their dreams and callings like any man, only with the added reality of being that much braver and stronger on the other side. Not only that, but that they too may have the opportunity to fight for their own rights and the rights of others as they grow up. They too may have the chance to stand up against injustices, to persevere and to strengthen their characters over the years simply because they too may need to work harder than the men around them in order to follow their dreams. I am overwhelmed and humbled by the simple thought of having the opportunity to shape the future image of women both in the U.S. and elsewhere by being a mother of daughters.

Choosing names for these girls was a long process. We wanted to take into account both namesakes and name meanings. Both girls are named after incredible women who fight (fought) hard to show the love of Jesus, to live lives that are (were) sacrificial and outward focused. None of these women are or were perfect, but that’s part of the beauty of this whole conversation. The beauty is that in the midst of life's already existing struggles, being a woman in this world can mean that much more hardship, making these women that much more bad ass, strong, and brave to lead the lives that they do and that they have. At different points, I was sure that both girls would have a middle name that meant warrior. It turned out that we named the first to mean, “a noble light” and the second—“beauty, love, and freedom.”

Through each of these attributes as well as looking to their namesakes, I want my daughters to know that wherever they go and whatever hardships they overcome, they are capable of stepping into the legacy of women who leave the world better off than when they arrived.

This feature is long overdue, but for the most beautiful English Garden-esc setting, check out Julie's Coffee and Tea Garden // 1223 Park Street, Alameda, CA 94501

For a glimpse of their space, check out their IG here.

How To Find Your Community Using Hashtags

About this time last year, my husband and I hit an unexpected turn on our path that led to a 3,000-mile move across the country. Going from Philadelphia to Oakland, I knew nothing of the city I would soon call home, but three weeks after deciding to make the move, we hit the road with our then 9-month old daughter. In that decision, we left behind family, lifelong friends, and the rich community we had in our church and neighbors. It wasn’t long after our arrival in Oakland that we began to see how our community life here would look exponentially different than it did in Philly.

I’ve written several posts about community on this blog, about how it requires commitment, sacrifice, and time. I've also written a couple posts on motherhood and how I think it's hugely important for moms to have a diversified group of friends, so as to not lose sight of their identity. The question that may still linger in your mind is, “how do I find my community?”

During our time in Oakland so far, I have come to love this city. I love the neighborhoods, the art, the local businesses. I love the people I’ve met in various settings, and the cool, laid back culture everywhere I go (well...let's be real, Jersey girl still adjusting to that one). I love that this city is a hodgepodge of Oakland lifers, artists, transplants, young and old. I love that Oakland melds together the beauty of ancient Redwoods, vast rolling hills and the salty bay breeze with the downtown feel of any quickly changing, vibrant, yet forgotten city that up until recently was more likely to be known as the dangerous city across the San Francisco Bay. The city of Oakland is a beautiful place with beautiful people who make up its unique identity.

These are all characteristics I know to be true of Oakland now. But when we moved here 11 months ago, all I knew of was the reputation that preceded it of being violent and undesirable. As I set out to start this blog, I did so in large part to meet people in my new city—to find local hangout spots and feature them within my writing.

And now enter: The Hashtag (for me, mostly on Instagram):

As I set out on this project, there were a few basics I started with: #oakland, #eastbay, #oaklandcoffee, #eastbaycoffee, and #norcal. These five helped in my initial search to find local coffee shop favorites in the East Bay area.

Eventually, I discovered more specific hashtags and their associated IG profiles for locals in the city, like #weloveoakland and #Oaklandish. With these two, I began to find people online who also lived in Oakland as well as beloved local businesses, shops, coffee roasters, and events. As time went on, I had the opportunity to begin building both an online community with fellow Oaklanders as well as meet people in the community based on common interests through hashtags like #cmOak. "Cm" stands for the international organization called Creative Mornings while "Oak" stands for the Oakland branch of that organization. Creative Mornings is where creative minds get together monthly for talks on various topics.

This is where the real meat of the hashtag takes place—when it leads you out into your community, meeting others face to face. There are loads of organizations, shops, and events I discovered through hashtags and want to attend, but have yet to begin even scratching the surface on visiting them all.

As you get more specific (but not too specific) in your use of hashtags, you can begin to seek to diversify your community. By using various online forums, it would be much easier for me to attend advertised playgroups with my daughter and thereby only connect with other moms. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a need for playgroups and for moms to connect, but I also believe there is potential for more. Instead of stopping there, I've been able to connect with others who have a broader range of commonalities--some with children, some without, some with similar faith backgrounds, but by and large--not, some who are also transplants from the NE, but others with completely different cultural backgrounds and upbringings. The hashtag is incredibly helpful for meeting others with the added bonus of living an intentionally diverse lifestyle.

One final aspect to using these hashtags is discovering important local events; there are things happening in Oakland that I would not know about without the use of hashtags. Not even two weeks ago, a local man, Twon Shavers was shot and killed. It was horribly sad to read about this young man’s life, his love for his daughter, and his commitment to Oakland. By discovering #pray4Oakland, I was inspired by this beautiful legacy left by a man committed to seeing change in his city. Discovering a person's story, being inspired by their life, and having important conversations all based on a hashtag is an incredible resource for our current place in human history, so why not take full advantage of that?

Each of these examples led me to finding and following others who love the city of Oakland. These individuals may also be raising small children here; they may also be artists or love the outdoors. By starting broad, then honing in on local love, and eventually focusing in until I found others with more specific commonalities as myself, I've been able to find gems of places and people in a relatively short time. Everywhere I turn on Instagram and Twitter, by way of using various local hashtags, I’ve been amazed by this city, it’s people, and how quickly I’ve taken pride in calling my home.

A couple of real-life friends I’ve made by way of hashtags are from Slojoy Coffee.

They are currently sharing their roasts by way of events and pop-up shops throughout Oakland. These guys love this community. They are committed to spreading joy, to providing local roasts from small batches of coffee to their subscribers, and did I mention--they love SPREADING JOY in the city of Oakland. I love them a lot and hope you’ll check them out and SUBSCRIBE to have their coffee delivered to your doorstep.

Cold Brew + Summertime Feels // Featuring Heritage Roasting Co.

I mentioned a few posts back how I'm struggling to carve out space to write regularly. Update: this is still true, and that's all on that. What I'm really here to tell you is that when I was pregnant with my daughter, the idea of ingesting anything hot made me want to throw up on the spot. Literally (like, really…literally), simply the thought of something hot made me gag. And when I say gag, I don't mean first trimester, just in the morning gagging. I mean all day, every day, month upon month upon month gagging. It was truly a joyous time of creating life. . .

Fortunately—and this is a big fortunately, the smell of coffee didn't bother me. So, that spring I started making regular batches of Cold Brew Coffee for my early morning shifts. At the time, I was concerned I would forevermore avoid cold, coffee beverages like many women do with edibles they eat and drink a lot of during pregnancy sickness. I am happy to report two years later, however, that I'm still on the cold brew wagon. I’m also thrilled to report that this second pregnancy is nothing like the first as far as the nasty all day, every day sickness. P.T.L.

So far this spring, I've made a couple batches of cold brew and still love it. And while part of my brain is now saying, "uh oh…the humid, NJ/Philly summer must be upon us," the other part is celebrating because it knows this isn’t true, knows that I now live in Bay Area, and understands that I can simple enjoy this coffee beverage sans the sweat and 100 degree weather. Again, hallelujah! That part of my brain and I are pretty excited about this. Stay cool, my friends and enjoy!

To make your own, super easy Cold Brew:

  •  Mix 1/3 cup of fine coffee grinds to every three cups cool water in a glass container with a lid
  •  Allow it to sit covered on the counter overnight
  • Filter it and put it in the fridge the next morning

And now, for a longer list of side notes than recipe instructions:

  • I only like dark roasts when drinking hot coffee, but I like using medium roasts for cold brew—don’t know why; there’s probably science involved.
  • I use a French Press to filter out the grinds.
  • C.B. tends to be less bitter than hot coffee on account of using cold water—or again, something equally scientific like that.
  • Lastly, this should be fairly concentrated, so it may be too strong for your taste. You can add more water when you drink it or do as I do and add milk. I drink hot coffee black, but I prefer milk in my C.B.

That’s it! As always, thanks for you reading.

The coffee I used for this batch comes from the lovely people of Heritage Roasting Co.
These folks in Shasta Lake, CA seriously love their community and are continuously expanding their community center to serve the needs of those around them. What's not to love about people who make great coffee and love people so well? Check them out:

Heritage Roasting Co. // 4302 Shasta Dam Blvd, Shasta Lake, CA 96019
IG // Facebook

Reading, Books, & Freedom // Featuring One Shot Coffee & Cafe, Philadelphia

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading, lately. As I've mentioned before, I only started reading in my 20s. Now, as soon as I finish a book, I'm on to the next (no promises this will last, but I'll take it for now). Here are a few thoughts I have about reading, books, and for that matter--freedom.

First, there's prioritizing which books to read. HOW do you choose? Seriously, how? Please share your insight...As someone who has not been a lifelong reader, this is a difficult process. It's also why I recently challenged myself to only read one book at time. I am a sloooow reader, so picking just one book is tough! Do I go back to the classics that I missed? Hop into what my peers and friends are reading? Do I focus on the spiritual life, social issues, continue reading books based on authors I like, or go to my personal fave--books on intercultural studies? It's no easy task choosing the next book to start, and this is why I start so many at a time. But! I've chosen this new way, and am now a more productive reader overall.

Next, is that I cannot afford to buy all the books I want. When Kris and I packed up our Philly apartment to move across the country, we gave away and sold more books than anything else. I'll be honest, besides not wanting to spend all my moneys on books (most of which I'll read once), I don't want to go through that process again. Books, especially cherished, written-in ones were by far the hardest items to let go. My answer to these dilemmas today was the go to the library. Getting out into the community AND saving money--when does that happen??

In the same vein of collecting and holding on to books, I find they’re an easy source of pride. When I walk into a home with a lot of books on display, I assume certain attributes on that family--that they're well-education, smart, will probably want to talk about things I don't understand, and that overall they're...better than me. Do you know the feeling I mean? I've DEFINITELY had the experience of loving books for what they might tell visitors about me more than I cared to read the content within. It's such a silly thing, but it's humbling to know that any material thing (albeit, one as important as books) could do this to my character. It's like, why don't I also put down my window and turn up NPR while displaying TED stickers on my back window, so my fellow drivers might also know just how smart I am…? Oh brother, how do I even begin to take myself seriously?

The last thing I'll share about reading is that I think it's helping me to become a better listener. Did you ever experience this? For me, it was sort of an unexpected surprise. I was wondering this week if people who are better readers are also better listeners. From personal experience, I know this isn't true across the board, but it got me wondering if it might not also be the case for some others. Thoughts?

Anyhow, I'm grateful for books and reading and libraries. Sharing knowledge and information freely is such a sweet gift. As someone who isn’t terribly patriotic, freely shared knowledge is something I take for granted in the U.S. Why wouldn't I take full advantage of books, lectures, and the radio? For that matter, why wouldn't I take full advantage of conversations with strangers, social movements, social media, national parks and natural reserves? There's so much freedom in the Western World to share, preserve, and explore, all of which are areas I want to show more gratitude. Reading seems like a good step in that direction.

Tonight's Coffee Shop Feature goes to one of my old Philly spots. They have every kind of sitting arrangement possible (definite perk), delicious food, and loads of books. I have lots of photos from the upstairs of One Shot Cafe, and have never once asked the purpose of all their books. I always assumed it was a "take one, leave one" situation, but also like I might be stealing if I took one. I always forgot to ask before I left what purpose they served. Either way, it's a beautiful display, encouraging a home-like feel.

One Shot Coffee & Cafe // 217 W. George Street, Philadelphia

Also, check out their Instagram

As always, thanks for reading. Would love to hear about your relationship with reading,
books, libraries or generally...whatever else you'd like to share.

To Mother // Featuring The Stirring Coffeehouse

Many say that to mother is to sacrifice—to give all of our selves to give our children all their wants, needs, and desires. It’s an image I’m unconvinced is healthy in regard to motherhood, but I see it all the time—women losing sight of their own identities regarding anything outside of their children. It’s an image that easily turns our children in to our idols, ends marriages over time, and one that I’m unconvinced is truly what’s best for our children long term.

The stay-at-home-moms // I have friends whom I admire for their desire to mother their children both as their role as well as their work. They are fully confident in this type of mothering, not giving in to the pressures of society and feminism to be working moms. I have great respect for them and appreciate how confident they are in the role of mother, knowing fully how much value this place holds. I know these friends have received push back from others—from family and society who say that they should get a job, that they're wasting their degree, their talents, and that they’re not doing justice to their calling. I’m here to say that’s bogus, and it isn’t what I’m talking about when I mean loss of identity.

There are many ways for mothers to lose sight of identity, and I see signs of it all over. I see it in expectant moms, new moms, working moms, stay-at-home moms, empty nesting moms, and it saddens my heart. Seeing the loss of other passions and desires to grow and learn and keep living out the other areas of life that need these women saddens me.

What this currently looks like for us // As my daughter and I go about our days, I notice that she’s usually more into what I’m doing than her own toys and stuffed animals. She’d rather be present alongside me than do anything else. I remember being the same way with my mom: sitting, pretending to type on a typewriter while she did work in her office. For this reason, making room for my daughter in my life, welcoming her into my space, is key. She’s so happy going out and about with me to the grocery store or a coffee shop (one with a children’s section always helps. Who am I kidding--it's required!), to sit alongside me chattering and looking at books while I type on my computer, to mix flour and sugar and water together while I make dinner; we have so much fun exploring and adventuring together.

Through these interactions, I can’t be afraid of messes happening or projects taking longer, because they definitely will. But this doesn’t stop me from being open to how my daughter can take part in my life while I also take part in hers. Because of course, this goes both ways—I have to be willing to play and cuddle with my child in her specially designated spaces in the world while also inviting her into mine. The point is, there’s room for both. There’s space for me to create a playful atmosphere in the midst of my life so my little one can join in as I take care of the needs and desires and passions of my soul.

In this conversation, I haven’t even touched on community outings, volunteering together, and the other child-toting ideas I have. My only hope is to encourage some mamas out there that there are many creative opportunities to open up spaces for your children to engage the world alongside you. There are nooks and crannies all over life where you can both thrive. She doesn’t need you to entertain her every second, and maybe she just wants to be present alongside you—regardless of the activity. What I’m saying is simply that I don’t believe being a sacrificial mother has to look like shutting down who we are as women—as people, but can mean being a passionate, fill-in-the-blank human who also mothers well. You can love, protect, and care for them, while still being you.

To the not-yet-mothers // Part of the reason I share this is because I was terrified to become a mom. I knew that if I had a child it meant giving up everything else that I cared about. Another friend of mine who doesn’t yet have children once told me that she thought new parents became too inward focused—too selfish. And isn’t that just it? Isn’t it the case that so many parents lose site of their life, their friends, and their community in the name of parenting? I want to encourage you too, not-yet-mothers, that there are other ways of parenting. It isn’t selfish to have desires alongside being a mother. I want to give you permission when that day arrives, that you are empowered and equipped to live your life with your child alongside you. They have needs—it’s true, but they also have many wants often misconstrued as needs. You don’t have to be fooled by Toys-R-Us and Pinterest as to which is which; you may move confidently in being who you are called be while also living out your role as mom.

Last week, my husband, daughter, and I attended a conference in Redding for regional church leaders. During one of the main sessions, a local woman spoke about mothering. As a leader in the area, she shared that while mentoring and teaching are important, they aren’t enough. She said that above those things, we must be willing to mother and father the generations coming after us. She spoke about being alongside them, showing them, leading them, and guiding them through life’s trials—persevering alongside them, praying along with them. It was a beautiful image she painted of mothering, and it’s an image I’m grateful to hold onto--one that reeks of a secure identity. I am grateful for her words, and I am still grateful to the conference organizers for knowing the importance of what I’m talking about here by providing childcare during the sessions.

The church who hosted the conference also runs a meticulous coffee shop, "featuring local vendors and roasters."
If you’re in the area, I encourage you to stop by, grab a coffee, and linger in this space.

The Stirring Coffeehouse // 2250 Churn Creek Rd. Redding, CA

As always, thank you for joining me. And Happy Mother's Day!

When Life Gives You Lemons...Make Coffee // My First Recipe Share

I will start by saying this: I don't like sharing. As someone who LOVES being around people and hosting people, I specifically don't like to share recipes. In fear that I might miss out on hangout time, it's like I want people to rely on my presence for certain delicious foods and drinks. Totally insecure and delusional--I understand. Fortunately, there's enough love in my life that I'm slowly able to let these irrational ideas go (yes, ideaS--there are others). So, this is me saying--I want to share this thing I love with you even at the risk of losing some time spent with you.

Now that that's off my chest--here goes...

A couple years ago, I stumbled upon a drink recipe on the internet. I sadly don't remember where it was, but I remember that the blog writer who shared the recipe said it was a drink they discovered in a cafe in Sweden.

The drink was Coffee+Lemonade.

WHAT?!

In Germany, I had cola mixed with a certain type of beer, and that was weird. A couple Christmases ago, I started mixing Egg Nog with Ginger Beer--again, strange. But, learning about lemonade mixed with coffee was a whole other category of combinations I'd never think of on my own. You know..."Like lamb and tuna fish."

Or was it...?

It most definitely was not. This drink quickly became my dearest, most refreshing coffee friend. I've made this recipe more times than I could keep track, and have won over many-a-convert to the lemonade + coffee blend.

Since discovering this fresh, home-made deliciousness, I've done a lot of experimenting. I've tried:

  • Cutting out the need for fresh lemons by making lemonade in advance and adding it to the cold brew.
  • Mixing a bottle of yummy Trader Joe's Organic Lemonade with my cold brew.
  • Adding more lemon to my simple syrup, so as to cut out the need for a fresh lemons come drinking time.
  • Using oranges since I always have those on hand. It was WAY too sweet and lacked the tartness that makes it so great.
  • And lastly, and worst of all, forcing a cup of hot coffee to get cold quickly by adding ice (yuck!).

So, when I tell you that making this refreshing twist of a coffee beverage from scratch is a necessity--I mean it. That also means there's a need to prepare for all of the ingredients in advance.

Last thing: if you're weirded out by the idea of coffee and lemon, think about the fact that adding lemon or lemonade to black tea is completely normal. That usually helps people get past the weird factor.

And...ENJOY! Also, thank you to the one who originally shared this recipe online, so others could too!!

Coffee Lemonade //

Based on your sweet, bitter, and sour preferences, you should totally play with the measurements on this, but here's what I do:

  • 1 Cup of Ice
  • 1/2 Part Cold Brew Coffee (Stir 1/3 cup fine coffee grinds to every 3 cups cold water in a sealed container and let sit overnight on the counter. Strain and place in fridge. I use a glass jar with a lid for the brewing and a French Press to strain).
  • 1/2 Part Home-Made Lemon Simple Syrup that has cooled in the fridge (Boil 1 cup sugar to every 1 cup water to every lemon juice and zest from half of a FRESH lemon for one minute or so, and let sit until it thickens.)
  • Top each serving off with juice from half of a lemon.

Cold Coffee + Sweet + Tart. Yum!!

Just to reiterate, I promise you I've tried every shortcut in the book on this recipe, and this is truly the way to go. IF (and it is a big IF) you're reallllly craving some Coffee Lemonade and never seem to have lemons on hand, getting good. I mean--GOOD. Lemonade and mixing it with cold brew can work. BUT, everything fresh and made by your hands is definitely the best way to go.

I hope you enjoy!! Tag me if you decide to make yourself a delicious batch--I want to hear what you think :) Also, do you have any weird recipe combinations that you love? Share below!!

Thanks and Blessings from Oakland.
 

Visitors, Community + Writing // Bicycle Coffee Co.

My husband and I are big on visiting. We enjoy long car rides together, and usually choose them over date nights. Historically, going back about eight years, we take at least one road trip a year for visiting—sometimes two…other times, three. We’ve been known to take many weekend drives to see people or spend several hours in a car just to hang for a few hours. We once drove from New Jersey to Michigan for a “long” weekend of…well disk golf, but I went along to visit friends.

As a visitor, I often forgot that even though we could take time off to go gallivanting around the eastern side of the country, our various hosts didn’t necessarily have that same time to set aside all that life entails. Having recently moved across the country, I’ve been facing this sad reality a lot. Over these past seven months, we’ve had eight separate out-of-state visits happen. These visits, while I obviously love them, are proving it difficult to prioritize the areas of my everyday life that I value—namely community and writing.

When we transferred coasts, I didn't expect that having visitors would require so much adjusting. So far, I'm finding that there are plenty of aspects of everyday life I can sacrifice during visits (showering, laundry…all-around basic hygiene). In this adjusting however, I’m reminded that community can’t be put on hold. Thriving community, unlike sleeping schedules and showering, can’t be set to the side while I soak up every waking moment with those I share a history.

Having visitors is challenging me to live out what I talk about endlessly in regard to community. I can't expect to have community sitting around waiting for me. Community requires sacrificing the areas of life that may be more convenient or comfortable for me. In this case, it may mean trimming down on out-of-state guests for awhile (insert extreme sad face and plots of doing whatever I can to merge all my worlds).

As I mentioned in my community posts awhile back, it was really difficult for me to accept that my faraway friends aren’t my community. As they come to visit, there are some things I can do in advance to prepare. Like, I can do a good deal of my job and some extra grocery shopping. But, maintaining the communal priorities in my life becomes a little trickier. Of course, there are set, weekly gatherings that are easy to tow friends along to, but the spontaneous time of community gets difficult to maintain. All of a sudden, days pass and I haven’t checked in on my local tribe, shared meals, or lived everyday life alongside those who are becoming my village.

Along with more or less abandoning my community for 10 days during this most recent visit, I abandoned the online community I’ve been building this year. Instead of writing, I chose my visitors. I realized during this time with my parents, that writing is not a definitively scheduled area of my life. Things were going really smooth—2-3 posts a week with some article submissions over the last few months, and all of a sudden-BAM! No writing. I even kept up with some daily tidying, but didn’t write a single word. With only 10 days together, and 20 hours of work per week to maintain, I didn’t want to think about doing my normal life things. Instead, I wanted to spend as much time as possible with those who set their lives aside to come see us.

And now, ten days later, I’m making lists of all the writing I want to catch up on. I thought about it everyday, forming sentences and pulling ideas together. But, instead of actually taking a little time every night, I chose board games and a trip to Yosemite; I chose hanging around the house together and a drive to a Spanish Mission.

As a ridiculous extrovert, I still wonder what it looks like to carve out this time in my life. Since spending time with people trumps just about any solo activity, I’m still learning where to say no and where to take breaks for silence. I’ve come a long way the past three years, but with building a new community and frequent visitors, I don’t yet know what this space looks like in our new life.
If you've lived far from your people and have any insight, I'd love to hear it!! Thanks, as always, for reading along, and apologies for the hiatus.

For today’s post, here’s a local Oakland spot that also takes to the road--on bicycles!! Check out Bicycle Coffee if you're in the Oakland, LA, or Tokyo areas. Also, fun fact, I've only been to Bicycle with out-of-state friends.

Bicycle Coffee // 364 2ND ST. @ WEBSTER // OAKLAND
And, check out their IG here.
 

Legacies + Cemeteries // City Lights Coffee, Charleston, SC

I like wandering through cemeteries. Not the new ones with perfectly manicured grass, but the old ones. The ones with grungy tombstones and vine-ridden mausoleums; the ones that are slowly being taken over by nature and slowly falling into the backdrop of the cities being built up around them; the ones where bodies found rest long before my parents were born. I find these old cemeteries to be great spaces for personal reflection.

 Photos from the cemetery at the Unitarian Church in Charleston // By yours truly

Photos from the cemetery at the Unitarian Church in Charleston // By yours truly

While wandering through these places, these contemplative questions inevitably arise: "What will be left when I'm gone?" and “What will my parents and those around me leave when they’re gone?” They are questions that both excite and challenge me. They are questions that remind me that I have no idea how long I have, and yet ask myself, “Does it really matter?”

Does the amount of days I have actually matter compared to what I do with those days? Usually, at this point in my life, thinking about death doesn’t scare me. But thinking about how I spend my days before that death arrives, DEFINITELY makes me question my choices and my path. Within, what I would consider, my Christian, Western, socially minded, internationally focused, far-from-perfect worldview, I think about legacy a lot. I think about eternity a lot.

And mostly, I think about how my legacy will affect eternity. In reality, this is why Kris and I decided to move across the country--why we left everyone we love for this new city. It was all in hopes of having the most eternal impact possible, of stepping out in humility (something that is not natural for either of us), and being the most like Jesus as possible. It's much easier to say that we moved here to work at a church—for a job, but really that's not it. In reality, we moved here to sacrifice our immediate comforts for the sake of the spiritual—for the sake of eternity. Our move might be considered a kind of spiritual fasting—sacrificing our physical, emotional, and mental desires for the sake of spiritual growth.

Did we have to move across the country to be a part of this eternal kingdom? No. But, we felt like it's where we were meant to be for this time. For this reason, we chose to surrender our own wants for the sake of something greater. This example is only a dime a dozen. There’s nothing extraordinary about it, but it’s our example; it’s our story.  It’s an example that is simply intended to make us all think a little bit more about the lives we're living and the focus of our legacies. It’s also an example in my life that I question just about every day.

Is my legacy always eternally focused? No way, man; no. way. But, when I think about legacy, this is what I think about. I think about eternity, and about planting seeds of Jesus's love and justice and faithfulness, and about how to do more of that. I think about how I want that radical love to be commonplace in my daily life. And, I fail. Like, a lot. I don't even leave my house many days of the week to spread this so-called love.

On those days, I try to focus my heart of prayer and on being prepared for the good deeds that do lie before me, and being prepared for the trials and hardships that will inevitably come. I try to be intentional with those days that I don’t encounter other people. And really, even these eternal thoughts (let alone, actions) only happen on very particular days, usually days when I’m weakest and loneliest and in need of reminders of that kingdom which is to come—the one where I want my legacy to dwell.

When I visit grave sites and think about life and about death, I will continue to think about legacy. I will think about those who left destruction, chaos, and selfish ambition. And I will seek to reflect those who left a legacy with an eternal impact--a legacy of great sacrifice and selfless ambition, whether they had one day or one century to do so.

There is one graveyard in Charleston, SC I always make it a point to visit. It’s so stunning and in the midst of that beautiful city, it’s a place for great reflection. Right near by, in walking distance, is also City Lights Coffee. So, next time you're in Charleston, grab a cup from City Lights for your wanderings, and swing by this gorgeous cemetery for some time of introspection.

City Lights Coffee // 141 Market St, Charleston, SC 29401
Unitarian Church in Charleston // 4 Archdale Street, Charleston, SC 29401

(Please do not assume that this post reflects the thoughts or philosophies of the above featured shop. Thanks for joining me!)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew

Books and Reading // Influence

For 20 years of my life, I didn’t read. Like, ever. Before this last decade, my life was confusing, chaotic, and in need of some serious changes. But, as the years have gone on and as I have seen spiritual, emotional, and mental growth, I’m really grateful that I made reading a priority. I'm specifically grateful to certain authors and books and articles that helped redefine my character and being.

A decade ago, when I only started to see glimpses of myself as a whole person, reading was a big part of my personal healing. Sometime in that first year of cultivating a relationship with reading, a friend gave me a book written by Shauna Niequist. I still remember the day we spent at the art museum and the conversation that led to her giving me a copy of Cold Tangerines.

 This post includes affiliate links. This means, when using the links to purchase books, I will receive tiny bits of moneys from Amazon at no extra cost to you.

This post includes affiliate links. This means, when using the links to purchase books, I will receive tiny bits of moneys from Amazon at no extra cost to you.

This book is full of stories that have been encouraging and challenging over these years. It is a book I’ve brought along on my travels, given to friends, and read chapters from over the phone. As I think back on my first read through of Cold Tangerines, I’m reminded of cafes and greens around Cambridge where I read from its pages; I’m reminded of the situations I was in when the words struck me, and how they made me feel a little less like a crazy person. I’m reminded of the songs I listened to that year and the places I visited. It’s funny how a book can do so much for a person, isn’t it? Like a song or smell might bring a distinct moment to our minds, I have books that do the same for me.

I think in many ways, Shauna Niequist was the first one to show me the importance of cherishing time spent around a table, gathering with friends, and embracing sacred moments. The vulnerability in her stories have always made me wish I could sit and share a meal with her—or even be a passive spectator as she communes with friends. Over these past ten years, as I’ve grown and changed, I'm so grateful she’s continued to share her life and her heart with her readers; along with the book that initially captivated me, she's also written:

I’m writing about these books this week for two main reasons. One being that they were a source of nurturing for my soul during many years of growing pains, so I mean—why wouldn’t I want to share them with you? The other is that Niequist is scheduled to publish another book in August of this year. What this means, is if you haven’t been formally introduced to her writings yet, I'm doing so now. You officially have about four months to catch up and prepare for her next publication:

The title itself reflects who Shauna Niequist is as a writer, and why I’ve come to feel like she’s been my friend and mentor over the years. The title alone reflects what that These Sacred Grounds is all about—cultivating moments that come to define our lives and being present in them; about community and friendship and struggle, and about finding beauty in everyday life. In many ways, this blog involves so many lessons Shauna Niequist taught me about living as a human—both in my brokenness and my wholeness.

Because her books have been so influential in my life, I want to continue sharing them. Since I’m only just beginning to find my online community as a writer, I want to provide two opportunities to get some of these books into the hands of this little Internet community of mine. The first way is on Instagram and the second is on the blog:

On Instagram: follow me, like the Cold Tangerines photo from today, and tag a friend who you think would like the opportunity to win a copy (you may tag more than one friend in separate comments for more entries).

On the blog: Come August, when Present Over Perfect releases, all of my faithful subscribers (either via Bloglovin’ or my email subscription) will have the opportunity to win a copy of her new book as well as, in true These Sacred Grounds fashion, a lb. of coffee from a local Oakland roaster. And who know, maybe some other goodies when the time comes...

I’m grateful to all of you for joining me on my writing journey so far, and I'm excited to continue cultivating relationships in this space as time goes on. Thank you for being here with me. I would also really love to hear about some of the books that have changed your life in the comments below.

BGC

My Favorites // Baby Edition

When my husband and I were preparing for the arrival of our daughter, there were so many items that friends and family graciously sent our way (we had three baby showers!!). Our people are seriously incredible. Some items we received and bought were incredibly helpful and I'd choose the same brands all over again. While other items, I probably returned or eventually gave away.

As we get ready for child number two, I've been thinking about the items I can't imagine living without, and here's what I've come up with (The links below are affiliate links: if you make purchases through the links, Amazon will pay me a little bit at no extra cost to you :-)). This list doesn't include things like clothes and toys, so much as the bare necessities. Although as far as clothes and toys--hand-me-downs for the win!

We tried SO many binkies with baby girl, and this is the ONLY one should would take. We weren't for or against using one in the first place, and waited several months for the sake of steering clear of nipple confusion. When it came to it, our girl was WAY fussy and so we were all for using a binky to help in those early days. These ones are made by a family business in Italy from 100% natural tree rubber.

I'm obsessed with our bottles. Again, Miss. fuss never took milk from a bottle, but we were eventually able to use these puppies. They are 100% plastic free, made of stainless steel. This means they won't break, don't leak gross chemicals, and are super lightweight. They're also compatible with quite a few different nipple brands if babe doesn't like theirs.

I've had six different baby carriers, plus one I made myself. Along with a very lightweight, bouncy wrap that I have (which you could find similarly at Solly Baby,) this is my favorite. We're on the go a lot, so strapping the mini on has made it possible for being active and some pretty strenuous hiking. This carrier is great because it isn't bulky or heavy, and it's machine-washable. Apparently there's even a 4-position carrier now, which is pretty sweet.

This is the only balm I use on basically everything. While our newborn had some pretty nasty baby acne, everything I read said leave it alone. But, in one place I read, it said to keep it moisturized, which made way more sense to me. So, I used this and it was gone in two days. Obviously this isn't medical advice, but it totally worked for us.

I decided to give cloth diapering a try, and it worked really well for us. I've put it on hold since moving to drought-ridden CA where we pay for our laundry. But, I'm so glad I chose these ones. They aren't bulky and we've never had a blowout.

I included this water bottle simply because I couldn't believe how thirsty I was during pregnancy and nursing. Nobody informed me of this and I didn't read it anywhere, so I learned really quickly to always have water handy. I'm not totally in love with glass water bottles, but I like that this one has the pop-open flippy top and a silicone sleeve. 

I'm sure everyone gets a pack 'n play these days, I just remember having NO clue how to decide which one. We were given and borrowed several. This is the one we ended up buying, and I'm really glad we did. It's compact, and includes a bassinet, a napper and a diaper changer spot. Baby girl slept in this puppy every night for about 8 months, and still sleeps in it at a year and half when we travel.

Heidi girl loves books, and it's been wonderful reading her stories out of this Jesus Storybook Bible. The illustrations are great and the stories give simple summaries of scripture, with each one pointing to Jesus.

What were your baby essentials? Was there anything you felt like was a waste of money/space or anything you never expected to want, but fell in love with?

I haven't been to this cafe yet, but cannot wait to check it out. According to their website, they have built in baby and children sections where parents can watch over their children while getting some work done. Srsly? This sounds like a win.

Small Talk Family Café // 1536 Newell Ave, Walnut Creek, Ca

(Please do not assume that this post reflects the thoughts or philosophies of the above featured shop. Thanks for joining me!)

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.a
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
-A psalm of King David

Unsolicited Advice

Any expectant parent knows what it's like to hear the unsolicited advice of strangers on what to expect in pregnancy, delivery, and parenthood.

I know I get pretty antsy while other moms, grand moms, and aunties stop to give me their opinions while walking through the grocery store. Sometimes it's hard for me to remember that these women want to share their past experiences of motherhood with someone who just might want to hear about them. I'm also quick to forget that we're only in the first and second generation of soon-to-be mamas who have the Internet as a child-rearing resource, further devaluing the raising of children as a communal village.  

While I was pregnant with my daughter and working in retail, I heard the thoughts of many-a-customer on cutting grapes in half and not lifting a box of apples; some days it seemed the opinions of others were never ending. Out of all the things I heard during that 6-month time period however, there was one dear customer whose advice I will always cherish, both in motherhood and life.

Remember that it's all temporary. The nights that you're up all night because the baby is teething are temporary, and you will get through them. But also remember that the cuddles and baby giggles, the tiny clothes and sweet, soft baby skin--those are temporary too.

What my sweet Thursday-morning customer was telling me was, "live in the moment and cherish each stage by remembering that the hard stuff, along with the good, are but a passing moment." The joyous memories and lessons learned will be experiences I may look back on someday, only to stop a young mom-to-be in the grocery store in hopes she'll want to share my memories as well.

It's easy as humans to want to rush the hard stuff and pause the good stuff, but the hard stuff holds so much value. When we rush, we miss out on the gift of preparation that those experiences are providing us.

To go along with this reminder that we should be present wherever we are,
even in the midst of difficulties, I am featuring a coffee shop whose motto is "The place to be." Wherever you are in your life, it is the place you are meant to be.

Hive, The Place to Be | 2139 MacArthur Blvd | Oakland | 94602

(Please do not assume that this post reflects the thoughts or philosophies of the above featured shop. Thanks for joining me!)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
-Paul, in a letter to the Roman church

Zooptopia // An Attempt at a Movie Review

As my husband and I pulled out of the drive-in after watching the recent Pixar film Zootopia, many different thoughts of the film arose in our conversation. Here are a few:

  A cup of Verve.

A cup of Verve.

As a parent // Like my parents did for me, I want my daughter to know that she can pursue any dream she has for her future. Be it a career, an educational path, a desire to travel or move to the big city, I want her to know that we will support her and guide her to pursue any calling she believes to be hers. More importantly though, I want her to know that who she is matters more than anything she comes to do in life.

We hear all the time about miserable millionaires, dissatisfied celebrities, and hearts corrupted by greed and power. In the like, I've seen plenty of people who say they've "arrived," and yet have no more joy than they did before they even began to seek their success. And yet, on the opposite hand, I've heard stories and met people who struggle day in and day out to get by, and yet the joy that they have is contagious. They are full of integrity and generosity.

Of course, neither of these situations are mutually exclusive nor are they a guarantee on either part, but that's the point. No matter where my daughter's path leads, I want her to know that who she is as a human far outweighs whatever she comes to accomplish. Though the heroine bunny's goals were not money or fame, the focus was on her career path over her integrity and character as a future bunny police officer.

Title // As we talked about Judy Hopp's parents and the fear-filled values they were instilling in their daughter, we asked, "what happened to "'No Farms No Food?'" The writers of this movie had an incredible opportunity to show an example of parents who could encourage their daughter in her dreams, while also not belittling their life as farmers. Being portrayed as small town, back country bunnies, wanting their daughter to stay put and "settle," never risking anything for the betterment of the community was a huge disappointment. The movie made the farmers out to be fearful instead of strong and influential in their own community. For shame, Pixar. A big city officer is no better than a carrot farmer. Both are good and necessary, but again--who they are as bunnies is what matters and is the piece that will determine what legacy they leave in this world. A job title cannot do this.

Social // Oh dear, do I dare? I do. This movie made a great attempt at touching the heart of many a human struggle one might experience. If your battle is being a woman in a "man's field," if it's your socioeconomic status, cultural background, or job title, there is a beautiful message that says you can pursue your dreams, and if you persevere through the trials and the discouragement of others, there is a chance you just might make it. Awesome, yes. I greatly appreciated that this film told viewers that things don't always seem as they appear, and that you can rise above your situation, and that even that which seems impossible can be possible.

So, my pros for Zootopia are that through hard work and determination, you can pursue your dreams, and that not all is what it seems to be--even a bunny can overcome the scary big-city. But really, much of that message was hindered by putting down the farmers and by not sharing the message that who we are as humans outweighs what we do for a job. I haven't even started on how tired I am of Disney for starring strong willed, independent children who are never supported by their parents, and yet always end up being the "good guys" while the parents end up somehow changing their perspective, instead of the other way around (or both/and). In too many of these movies, the parents have either died or or are fear filled in their ways of parenting. To name a few, The Little Mermaid, Brave, and Finding Nemo. Don't get me wrong, I like these movies for other reasons, but I would find it refreshing to see more loving, supportive, and wise parental guidance. Some all time favorites include Meet the Robinsons, Monster's Inc., Cars, and Lilo and Stitch.

Have you seen the movie? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Today, I'm featuring a CA-based coffee roaster known for their commitment to Directly Traded, relational coffee buying practices. In their words:

"The Farmlevel Initiative is vital to the future of coffee. At Farmlevel, it shows farmers that their work matters, their attention to detail is noticed, and that we support them every step of the way. It supports paying our farmers premiums for quality coffees through direct trade relationships. Our direct trade practice allows us to exceed Fair Trade minimums every time, no exceptions."

You can find Verve coffee at several cafe locations around the Oakland area. In the meantime, check out their informative website to learn more about what it means to support Directly Traded Coffee, "Farmlevel" coffee.

(Please do not assume this post to be reflective of the thoughts or philosophies of the above featured shop. Thanks for joining me, friends!)

"And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
-Jesus replied with the Story of the Good Samaritan.