philly coffee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, check out their Instagram

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

I'm not a Minimalist, but I Embrace Simple Living

I spent my whole life living in excess: owning clothes I never wore, having rooms and surfaces cluttered with stuff (read—“have surfaces"), and attics full of boxes. It wasn't until my husband and I experienced a house fire that I even began to embrace a simpler lifestyle. After losing some items we used and cherished while not losing a bunch of junk we'd (I'd) collected over the years, it suddenly all seemed really silly to hold onto. While I don't live a minimalist lifestyle, there are the three main reasons I value simplicity:

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1.     Love of God // Living with all my wants, needs, and desires is not life giving. I find that living in excess has a way of making me spiritually lazy (or maybe all-around lazy?). When I’m constantly trying to clean up, maintain, and reorganize a bunch of stuff, I have less time and energy to focus my heart and mind on what really matters most in my life. Along with that, the more stuff I own, the more distracted I am on a daily basis, having my focus pulled in a million directs. For similar reasons, we've never had cable (don't let me sound too snobbish--we do have Netflix...and ad-free Hulu, both of which we deactivate during summer months.)

2.     Love of Neighbor // I have a really hard time with this one because there aren’t any tangible, obvious solutions. But, living in excess when my neighbor is in want just doesn’t sit right. I certainly still have way more than I need in this regard, so over the years I’ve sought to live with less and less while also consuming less and less. The consuming less is the key piece. It’s liberating to go through a household purge, but keeping off the excess is no easy task. This is why I have to be intentional about where I spend my time—both around town and virtually. It’s too easy to get sucked into adorable baby gear on Instagram and antique goods at the flea market.

3.     Being a Good Steward // The more we consume, the more waste we produce; the more waste we produce, the more we fill up land and waterways with non-biodegradable materials that will long outlast my life here on earth. This also plays a major role in why we sacrifice eating more of the foods we love for choosing to eat food we believe to be morally-made/grown/raised. What I mean is food that is local, organic, and natural when possible, and containing real ingredients. This might include grass-fed or cage-free meat or milk from cows that were not pumped with growth hormones (ideally grass-fed as well because…Mmm Mmm, it. is. delish!)

While gradually embracing simplicity of living, I’ve read a lot of material on becoming a minimalist, and here are the two areas I usually get stuck // Home and Wardrobe

1.     I like my home to feel cozy // I have paintings and tapestries on the walls, and an excess of blankets for friends. I keep funky and unique, ceramic mugs for the mornings and for when friends visit. I have hand-woven baskets to keep things in, and plants in all the windows. Oh--and string lights; there will always be string lights.

I have an eclectic taste, and I just like it that way. It's what I would call an outdoorsy, vintage, international, grandmom-kind-of-cozy space. That totally makes sense, right? As my friend Jill once said, I put all different stuff together and it just works.

2.     I like a little sunshine in my closet // I’ve looked on Pinterest endlessly for inspo on having what is known as a “capsule” or minimalist wardrobe. Maybe I just have yet to find the right source (and have considered becoming the source on the topic for this reason), but all the whites and blacks and tans just don’t cut it. I’m still figuring out what my goal should be on this one, but keeping some fun colors in the closet feels necessary for my style.

I've only ever been in one minimalist home, and when I say it was stunning--I mean, stunning! It was clean and there was nothing to trip over as I walked through and nothing to move when I set down my cup. The closets were so simple that there was no need for a dresser. There were no dishes in the sink because when home life is that effortless, and there aren't a million things to juggle, doing dishes isn't such a big deal. Because of this home, I will continue to seek to live a simple, and maybe even someday--minimalist, life.

Featuring a Philly Coffee Roaster this week, the ReAnimator Coffee space is the kind you want to go to get stuff done. There's no distraction and the decor is minimal--perfect for focusing on your work or a good read. Clean, simple, and beautiful. Click the link below for locations and more info:

ReAnimator Coffee // 310 W. MASTER STREET // Philadelphia // 19122

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

"As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments..." And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property."

There's No Such Thing As Cheap

A photo posted by BG Cook (@brittanygcook) on

An idea I wrestle with constantly is that there's no such thing as "cheap". In some way or another, everything has a cost. When we as consumers buy cheaper versions of products, there are several ways that this lower cost is made up. The sad and unfortunate reality is that the cost is usually made up in what is considered to be unimaginable conditions for the people producing the products. The other alternative, though not mutually exclusive from the first, is that a consumer is paying for their product by giving up quality and longevity.

By being "cheap," both human ethic and quality are sacrificed.

Nothing is cheap. Somebody is paying the price for our purchases and for the lifestyles we chose to live. When it comes to food and drinks, the same realities apply. As consumers, we choose where we compromise:

Farmers' Living Conditions | Land & Waterways Pumped with Chemicals | Animals Raised Unnaturally

Everything has a cost. Just because we as consumers think we're saving money and therefore doing a good thing by being frugal, we're actually being fooled into letting others pay the cost. And yet, in small and BIG ways, change is taking place everyday.

I had a friend in Philly who owned a coffee shop--actually two.

Blew is a coffee shop owner committed to using ethically sourced goods: coffees, teas, pastries, art...Her commitment to sourcing ethical and when possible, local goods for her shop, she is setting an example for us all that living a little less selflessly isn't so impossible after all. In her words,

"Everything in the store follows our 4 values: local, organic, relational trade, and made with love. We want to encourage that it is possible to live simply, healthy, and aware lives. "

It's my tendency to think on a global level, to think in terms of how everyone and everything is connected. Because of this, I'm especially drawn to coffee shops like Frannie Lou's that hold to the same values. It's all too easy for us humans to think that our actions don't cause ripples that effect others around the world. That just isn't true. In fact, I'm starting to think that our individual actions and choices are perhaps the only way to make a difference worldwide.

Personal sacrifice in our daily lives is necessary for the sake of compassion and justice, and for the sake of our neighbors--near and far alike.

Featured Shop: Franny Lou's Porch
2400 Coral St // Philadelphia, PA