Diversity

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 a Wanderers Christmas: A Sharing Sesh // Day 5

Do you remember your senior thesis in high school? Learning to research, find good sources, and build up enough information that could somehow fit together in the form of your biggest paper up until that point, and eventually needing to present it to the class? It was kind of a big deal at the time. I wrote mine on the one experience that was, and still is, the single most influential part of my life.

I wrote about traveling.

My parents were the ones who taught me the value of traveling. Even by my senior year in high school, I knew that nothing in life compared to traveling; there was nothing greater than diversifying my experiential assets, if you will. I’ve since come to believe that reading is a close second, and perhaps film a further behind third, but in my book nothing can replace travel.

Traveling expands everything. It broadens every part of life—even the part that wants nothing more than to be a homebody, ironically enough.

In regard to traveling, I have this soapbox about how vacationing is not the same as traveling. You might do some traveling while vacationing, but vacationing, in and of itself, brings no increase to the human experience. Vacationing doesn't expand the imagination, doesn't make you a more empathetic person. Traveling involves exploration and discovery. Traveling is stepping into an insider situation as an outsider. Traveling takes time.

Traveling also has a reputation of belonging to the free spirits of the world and of costing a lot of money. I’m here to tell you that those two assumptions are not true. Traveling is for everyone who is willing to prioritize it.

When I was in college, I studied abroad a couple times, and I specifically remember being told by a few people that I was “always meeting people.” Back then I wasn’t interested in sticking with the group. Groups had this way of keeping to themselves in an isolating fashion, of getting bogged down in being choosy and taking forever to split a bill. ((Can I just say that if I ever have the kind of job that allows me to do so, I will always just pick up the bill? I know this about myself because I loathe splitting checks and I love giving people gifts. I give you permission to hold me to it.)) Because of the simple fact that I felt large groups brought me down, I did in fact meet a lot of people---a lot of local people, wherever I went.

Traveling gives life so much...more than not traveling does. We are in this amazing time in history when besides having cars, trains, and planes, we also have the Internet. We have Google and other sites that connect us to the rest of the world like never before. We have this resource that helps us figure out how to get places--and how to get to them cheap. There’s no reason not to embrace traveling—even if just a little; even if just on occasion. Traveling is rarely an issue of not having enough money and often an issue of life's priorities.

I guess there’s no way for me to know this for certain, but in my opinion nothing will develop a person’s perspectives in life like traveling. There is nothing that can give you an inside look at the lives of others like going to them and spending time listening, talking, and sharing ideas about the world and everything involved in it while being in their space.

It doesn't take long for traveling to make it evident just how small our perspectives are on the most important aspects of our lives: everything from how we date, how we celebrate and mourn, how we parent, how we worship—even specifically how we worship within the Christian faith.

Have I convinced you yet with this roundabout rant that you should take time to travel?

It really is a must, but it also really needs to be a priority if it’s something you’re ever actually going to do. I read a quote by Tina Fey earlier today and it’s been sitting on me, reminding me of how my mom raised me, and it’s this: “Say yes, and you'll figure it out afterwards.” This is how you travel—you say, “YES!” Yes to buses or trains, to sleeping in tents or in the house of a friend of a friend of a friend. It's saying yes to putting every spare cent in the proverbial piggy bank and yes to the hospitality of others. You buy an Ergo, strap that baby on, and go for it! Even if all it does for you is give you greater level of gratitude for your own community, it will change you. All you have to do is give it the chance and the time that it deserves.

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!!

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.

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

On Being Human

It’s so easy to fall into the temptation of wanting to “have it all together.” I literally cannot count how many times I’ve wanted to be in a different stage of life, a different place geographically, to have a career that I loved, or to have more time with friends because I felt lonely. I can’t count how many days I spent wishing I was just…happier.

The reality however, is that we’re not meant to be happy all the time. There are times of struggling, wrestling, and scrapping just to get through the day. This reality is part of what makes us fully human. Accepting where we are, and seeking to be fully present in our trials instead and fighting to do anything we can to move past them is what makes us present—it’s what gives us contentment in life. Trusting that where we are is where we’re meant to be, that no one else could take our place, is part of the pilgrimage.

The difficult days and months and years are part of the beauty of being human.

When I look into the past, I don’t regret the poor decisions I made because of course, they are a part of what made me who I am now and who I will be in the future. The only things I regret are the times I wasted any energy on wishing I was somewhere else, which quite honestly takes up a good portion of my history.

It was so important for me to learn to accept when it was time to hustle and when it was time to surrender. It can be so good and necessary to persevere to reach our dreams and goals, but it can also be terribly detrimental when those goals were never meant for us. For five years, I applied for hundreds of dream jobs and masters programs, wanting desperately to be more valuable than I believed I was at the time. Though my fight was fruitless, it wasn’t fruitless because I didn’t get one of those jobs or funding to go back to school. It was fruitless because it’s not where I was meant to bear fruit. I’m grateful now to know that even if I’m in a place and space that doesn’t meet all my desires, it’s more fruitful to surrender than to do whatever I can to be somewhere else--in an ideal land I’ve imagined should be my reality.

I'm so excited for this Oakland Coffee Roaster to setup their cafe at their roasting site in Fruitvale. Being fully present for their employees, those they are mentoring in other ways than in being baristas, is incredibly inspiring and their presence in the Oakland community is a sweet gift and blessing. Check out their site for all the locations you can get their beans.

Red Bay Coffee Roasters // 3098 E 10th St // Oakland

Also, check out their Facebook Page

(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.
-A letter from Paul to the Roman followers of Jesus