motherhood

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.

 

 

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.

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!

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

A Mother's Day Gift Guide // aftcra

In light of my love for all things American and locally made, I wanted to share a site with you I recently discovered. In their words,

"aftcra is an online marketplace where you can buy and sell American handmade products. Our mission is to support local artists and artisans living in America by connecting them with handmade admirers across the globe."

In hopes of spreading the word about this up-and-coming American artisan site, I've created this Mother's Day guide featuring products from aftcra. Don't worry, don't worry--you didn't forget; Mother's Day is still about five weeks away. But, in order to support artisans, it is important to look ahead for the necessary turnaround time for production.

I know my husband and I often forget to show appreciation for the moms in our lives. For this reason, I'm taking some time to think about all the things I'm grateful for about them, and beginning to plan which of these aftcra treasures might show them our love when May 8th arrives. You can click on any of the photos to go to the artists' links, none of which are affiliate sites. Enjoy!!

For your Crunchy Mamas

 Coiled Rope Basket with Handles Made in North Carolina Price Tag: $58 (plus $10 US shipping)

Coiled Rope Basket with Handles
Made in North Carolina
Price Tag: $58 (plus $10 US shipping)

For your Wine-Loving, Hostess Moms

 Handcrafted Wine Rack with Early American Finish Made in Texas Price Tag: $62.50 (plus $18 US shipping)

Handcrafted Wine Rack with Early American Finish
Made in Texas
Price Tag: $62.50 (plus $18 US shipping)

For your Homebody Mamas

 Coffee Books and Rain Tee Shirt Made in Ohio Price Tag: $22 (plus $5 US shipping)

Coffee Books and Rain Tee Shirt
Made in Ohio
Price Tag: $22 (plus $5 US shipping)

For your Gardening/Homesteading Gals

 Reclaimed Glass Honeycomb Sun Catcher Made in Minnesota Price tag: $100 (plus $12.50 US shipping)  

Reclaimed Glass Honeycomb Sun Catcher
Made in Minnesota
Price tag: $100 (plus $12.50 US shipping)
 

For your Ladies who are always behind the Lens

 Business Card Pocket for Camera Strap Made in Oregon Price Tag: $10 (plus $4 US shipping)

Business Card Pocket for Camera Strap
Made in Oregon
Price Tag: $10 (plus $4 US shipping)

 Camera Lens Cap Pocket Made in Oregon Price Tag: $10 (plus $4 US shipping)

Camera Lens Cap Pocket
Made in Oregon
Price Tag: $10 (plus $4 US shipping)

For your Eclectic, Book-Loving Ladies

 Industrial Desk/Nightstand Lamp Made in Illinois Price Tag: $65 (plus $20 US shipping)

Industrial Desk/Nightstand Lamp
Made in Illinois
Price Tag: $65 (plus $20 US shipping)

And of course...your E-Book Worms too

 Oak Wood Valet Charging Stand Nightstand Dock Made in Virginia Price Tag: $49.99 (plus $13 US Shipping)

Oak Wood Valet Charging Stand Nightstand Dock
Made in Virginia
Price Tag: $49.99 (plus $13 US Shipping)

For the Mothers who taught us the value of Traveling

 A Custom Passport Holder Made in Utah Price Tag: $69 (plus $4 US shipping)

A Custom Passport Holder
Made in Utah
Price Tag: $69 (plus $4 US shipping)

 A Custom Driftwood Collage Made in Ohio Price Tag: $149 (plus $14 for US shipping)

A Custom Driftwood Collage
Made in Ohio
Price Tag: $149 (plus $14 for US shipping)


For the Mums who've always wanted to live in a Hobbit Hole: "Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
-
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 Barrel Top Twig Coffee Table Made in Kentucky Price Tag: $175 (Includes Shipping)

Barrel Top Twig Coffee Table
Made in Kentucky
Price Tag: $175 (Includes Shipping)

And lastly, for the Moms in your life who've heard far too many times, "I can build you that!"

 Pine Wood Dining Room Table with Hairpin Legs Made in Michigan Price tag: $555-$635

Pine Wood Dining Room Table with Hairpin Legs
Made in Michigan
Price tag: $555-$635

I'd love to hear your ideas for great Mother's Day gifts! Fill me in by commenting below :)...

Thanks for joining me, and don't forget to check out aftcra!!

 

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

My Favorites // Baby Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unsolicited Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zooptopia // An Attempt at a Movie Review

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

  A cup of Verve.

A cup of Verve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Momlife // Featuring Zocalo Coffeehouse

Since having my daughter a year ago, I have learned that being a mom to our little girl is no easy task. Nothing and no one in life had me pressing the pause button so many times in a given day. In fact, my own apathy was probably the only real contender when it came to hitting "Save Draft" in the years before my daughter's arrival.

IMG_2352.jpg

After college, I didn't get a career doing anything particularly life changing and I never got hired for a job that required much sacrifice or passion. In time, this is something I came to appreciate about my places of employment; I liked the fact that my job could stay there when I clocked out and I could focus my energy on the other areas of my life.

And then came motherhood...

I'm writing about this new life as a mom for one main reason: there are some moments in life when I just have to make something--make anything--happen for the sake of my own identity. In these moments, I know I'm not going to change the world or even anyone's day, but just sticking it out has to be enough sometimes. Persevering for the sake of passion seems like a worthwhile move, so here I am.

I'm a woman full of passion, a dreamer--perhaps even an idealist. Being a parent is hard. I don't end everyday feeling like I've accomplished something great, and I don't even like it all the time. It's not a job: I don't have to answer to a boss when I'm late or when my shirt is wrinkled, but it is hard work. It is one of the few things in life that requires intentionality, even when I don't feel like giving it my all. It requires much patience, grace, and the willingness to press hold many times in a given day.

So for now, these are my thoughts. This is my effort to do something to make the world more beautiful today in a way that speaks to who I am as a person--not as a mom, but as a creative woman wanting to add to the beauty of every day life.

For the other mama's and papa's out there, I'm intensely grateful for this little toddler haven:

Zocalo Coffeehouse | 645 Bancroft Ave San Leandro, CA, 94577

Thanks for joining me,

B.G. Cook