Human Beings

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 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 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:

Grace + Rain

I like to think of rain as the grace I need to rest. In California, there’s so little rain that my local friends seem to have their own built-in discipline to rest; or as they say—“relaaax;” or as we transplants say—they are “California Chill.” I’ve not yet come to fully embrace my own California Chill, so the rain last weekend was a welcomed reminder to take it easy and to slow down.

As a Northeasterner, rest is not so kindly looked upon. It’s even seen as a weakness. During this time in our lives, I’m grateful for being taught the California Chill, and for the reminder that I’m not designed to be on the go always, but that there’s grace in my life to actually enjoy rest. My reminders always came from the weather, like rain and snow.  Where I grew up, these were some of the only realities in life that could get people to slow down just a little bit—to take it easy.

I love that the world is full of little signs urging us to slow it down. There’s grace for rest in red lights and traffic, in flat tires, and getting sick. There are reminders all around us to work out of a place of rest. There is even humbling proof that the world will go on even if we’re not controlling every little piece of the puzzle—funny concept, I know…

There’s so much evidence out there that rest and productivity, not multi-tasking and focus each go hand in hand. It’s pretty amazing, and yet still we avoid the signs. We get impatient, angry even, at the reminders, and we ignore the research. Even when my nearly-two-year-old refuses to nap, I leave her in her crib for a time. She’s usually talking or singing, but even when she gets upset, I encourage her through word and action that it’s time to rest. We’ll see how this pans out in her life, but for now it helps build rest into our home culture.

I've recently been spending time at Allegro Coffee in Whole Food on Gilman St in Berkeley. They have a great setup of tables for groups of people to meet. They also serve until 9 o'clock and let their customers stay until Whole Foods closes. How cool is that? It's much later than any other coffee shop I've found in the East Bay. Hooray for later-night gatherings. And Hooray for places to rest.

Allegro Coffee Roasters // 1025 Gilman St, Berkeley
IG // FB // #ACR
 

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.

Delayed Responses

Over the past month, I’ve gone through an assortment of grieving and questioning. This process, in great regard, put all writing on hold. Upon our arrival back to CA from a visit to the east coast, I went through both culture shock and homesickness--neither of which I'd yet undergone since our move 10 months ago. This experience was just one area of emotional processing.

In the midst of settling back into our life here, I was struck by a conviction involving part of my life’s calling. While watching the movie “Spotlight," my heart was incredibly burdened. If you haven't seen the film, it's about the journalists from the Boston Globe who uncovered the sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church around Boston in the early 2000s.

If you know me, you may be as surprised as I was to discover which aspect of the film burdened my heart. There is no question that learning about impoverished children being sexually assaulted for decades was heartbreaking. But more than anything, the story gave me this overwhelming sense that I somehow missed the mark in my undergraduate studies.

During my college years, I was in the perfect position as an editor to pursue writing and journalism. In many ways, I knew I wanted to educate others and communicate the world’s darkest secrets and deepest hurts, but I was scared. I acted out of fear and listened to voices that said journalism was a waste of a degree and that there were too many unknowns in pursuing the arts. My unwise answer was to study a little bit of this and that, travel a great deal, transfer schools several times, and incur massive amounts of debt in the process. It was a pretty chaotic four years. Don't get me wrong, in many regards it was also a beautiful hodgepodge of life experiences—an expensive hodgepodge, but beautiful nonetheless.

The second occurrence of my convictions came as I continued reading Makoto Fujimura’s, “Silence and Beauty” the day after watching "Spotlight." Simply put, it’s a book about Christian persecution in Japan, the cultural role of art and beauty, and a reflection of Shūsaku Endō's novel, "Silence". It’s a worthy read involving the intricacies of Fujimura’s life as a Japanese American child, student, and artist.

On the page where I left off, Fujimura shares the story of a journalist who was held hostage and later killed while searching for a friend he suspected was taken captive by ISIS. It turned out that this journalist was also a Christian working to tell the stories of children and orphans in war-torn zones. What an incredible image of living out the Christian call to sacrifice all comfort, even to the point of death, while working within one's gifts and passions.

From both stories, I was reminded how doing the work of love and justice could look like so many different paths. I was challenged in how hard I fought to avoid surrendering to the call to work in the field of publications. In college, I was in the perfect place to follow out this call and to receive the training in the art of journalism. Instead, I denied that desire to continue pursuing other areas of academia and intercultural studies. I had a job in publications that helped pay for my degree, and later more opportunities to grow and be mentored in the field, but I threw it away time and time again.

I don’t share this to say that it’s necessarily too late or that I necessarily missed my chance. I share it to say that I recognize my disobedience in my college pursuits. I share it to say that this past month has been one of grieving, questioning, and processing.

I’m all for being present wherever it is I find myself. But friends, there are also the realities of obedience and disobedience, of putting up a fight and of knowing when to surrender.

Sometimes in life there is a fine, beautiful, and grace-filled line in these areas of our lives. And yet, the outcomes will look different depending on the paths we choose. In many ways, I chose chaos for those four and some odd years, and only now can I look back and seek to discern what that means for my life and my family now. In all of this, where I am right now is in the questioning, considering, and praying as to whether or not the time is now to continue writing, growing and stretching out these muscles that were on the shelf for nearly seven years or if perhaps that time is later, or sadly, but potentially not at all.

What I'm talking about in all of this is the reality of life's consequences. I think the sooner I can question and deal with life's consequences, the sooner I can step into fuller joy and contentment of living in the present.

Have you had experiences like this? Experiences where you look back on life and wonder how things may have panned out if you made a few, slightly different decisions?  I’d love to hear about them and how you navigated your thoughts during that time.

In considering the areas of life that seem a bit random + hodgepodgy, check out
The Random Tea Room & Curiosity Shop // 713 North 4th St. Philadelphia, PA


To order "Silence and Beauty" by Makoto Fujimura or "Silence" by Shūsaku Endō's through my affiliate links, click below.

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!

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

Beauty and Eggs // Featuring Highwire Coffee Roaster

Tonight, while my daughter was asleep and my husband was at our Good Friday Service, I dyed eggs. I experimented with ingredients from around my kitchen: beets, spinach, green tea, turmeric, paprika, salt, crayons, and markers. I knew my husband didn't care (although he did humor me the other day when I thought dying brown eggs would work) and my daughter is too young to have much fun with it. So, I dyed them by myself. And it was completely worth it.

IMG_4169.JPG

This weekend, we're reminded of the sacrifice of Jesus for the sake of humanity. I'm reminded of his grace, his humility, how he defeated death, and how he is a perfectly loving, gracious, and just king. When I think about the kingdom of heaven, I just have to let out a sigh of relief, a sigh of hope that there is more than this place.

Dying eggs tonight was a reminder of that image of restoration, of new life, and of beauty. Beauty is all around, giving glimpses of the God who created it. Acknowledging and creating beauty is never ever in vein. Beauty has purpose simply for it's own sake, and I'm so incredibly grateful for that.

This week, I got to linger at a coffee spot I've been DYING (tee-hee) to go to, and it was all I'd hoped it would be. It was simple and beautiful. The sunshine helped and the plants were perfect company.

Highwire Coffee Roasters is located at Flower Land // 1330 Solano Ave, Albany, CA

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

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
-the gospel of Jesus according to John

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

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

Entering the Sacred Space

Have you ever found yourself in a sacred moment, not necessarily realizing you were heading there or how you ended up there? In my life, I find that moments shared around a table often end up being sacred.

 Sacred moments in life are never hindered by the imperfections of the space (or the quality of photos taken in an attempt to remember), but they are always etched in our memories by the presence of those who were there.

Sacred moments in life are never hindered by the imperfections of the space (or the quality of photos taken in an attempt to remember), but they are always etched in our memories by the presence of those who were there.

Sharing Dinner at a Local Cafe | Partaking in Communion | Savoring a Beverage and an Early Morning Conversation

These are the moments when heaven feels a little bit closer and life a little less lonely.

Beginning next month, it is here where I will endeavor to share some of these moments. By honing in on the heartbeat of some local (and hopefully not-so-local) coffee shops, we will seek to capture these moments and what it is that led us there.

The Space | The Person | The Drink | The Atmosphere

Because you never know...The place where you are standing just might be remembered as one of These Sacred Grounds marked out in your memory as one that came to define a beautiful aspect of your life or your future.

It is in these places, in these moments, where we might have a defining conversation, encounter love through a stranger, or where our souls might be inspired by the beauty of humanity.

Thank you for joining me.

b.g. cook | Oakland, Ca