Now, neither of us are coffee connoisseurs by any stretch. But we love coffee culture. a lot. We love the environment. The people. The freedom to sit and read and talk and people watch. We live across the street from a coffee shop now. We spend a great deal of time (and money) there. Also, I am probably way more guilty of this than Rene. But I digress. We like coffee.
We also like trees. We love this gorgeous earth God's given us and we know how easy it is to forget to take care of it. In fact, we usually don't do a very good job of that. So... you probably see where I'm going with this...
Here are a few tips on going just a bit greener and taking better care of the planet when it comes to your coffee (or tea) consumption.
1) Get it for here.
Most coffee shops (Starbucks included) will give you your drink in a real life mug. Then when you're done, they wash them and use them again like in normal restaurants. Crazy eh? It's true. So if you're not in a hurry, ask for a mug! You won't be creating any unnecessary paper waste and you'll feel extra comforted and cozy with a real mug in your hands. promise.
2) Re-use your paper cups.
When I do get paper cups to go, I take them home, give them a quick rinse, and use them again when we make our own coffee before leaving the house. It's easy and saves me both the use of another paper cup and an extra coffee purchase. It may seem like a small thing, but if you only re-use your cups once each, it will cut your paper cup waste down by half!
3) Make it at home & go organic.
We have a Keurig at home. And we love it. But however you make your coffee, by the cup or the pot, it's definitely worth it to make it at home. Both for your wallet and for the planet. We recently started getting fair trade, organic K-cups for our Keurig and they're wonderful. What you buy may seem like a small thing, but you as a consumer say a lot with your purchase. Buying "fair trade" means you're getting coffee that supports environmental sustainability through organic practices that reduce or eliminate the use of harmful toxic agrochemicals, pesticides and other chemical additives. You can read more about it here.
So there you have it. Just some small, easy ways to make less trash and support a healthier earth. and still enjoy your coffee.
I started this painting yesterday as something completely different when Rene saw it half way through and said "It looks like Katniss."
And so it became my tribute to Hunger Games. The books were one of the best stories I've read in a long time. And they have a lot of significance for me. you can read more about our thoughts on them here.
Painting is really where my heart is and has been for a long time. As long as I can remember. But it's something that I don't do nearly often enough for how much I love it. That's something I know I need to change and that I hope will change this year. So sharing more here as an artist will be part of it... You can keep me accountable to my resolutions.
We've grown up in an age of social media. Where information is shared at a faster rate and higher volume than at any other point in human history. There is no longer a universal source or organization that provides us with education and information. We have become the information providers & the educators.
For instance, say I need to learn how to cook something for a dinner party we're hosting. I have a few cookbooks that I love and try things from occasionally, but that's not where I turn for the information I need. Instead, I type pinterest.com into my browser of course. Then I find a blog written by a girl on the other side of the country and thanks to her, I know what I'm making for dinner and how to do it. With some personal tips and witty humor thrown in. Or if you're like my husband, & you need the chords to a song you haven't played before or advice on how to hack an iPhone, you google. you find a forum or blog where someone walks you through it. And you learn. Not from an institution or a textbook, but from another person just like you...
So, dear friends with facebook and twitter and pinterest accounts and blogs where you share your life and thoughts, do you realize that you are teachers? That you are an influencer? That this thing called social media is your stage and your microphone? your platform. your voice. amplified.
Now, what would you like to say?
That is the question I have been wrestling with this week. We have such a precious opportunity before us. We have audiences of strangers and friends who are literally reading our thoughts daily as we share them. Will we take this opportunity to inspire, educate, encourage, and challenge our peers and our successors? Or will we simply add to the noise?
By God's grace, I want to be doing those first things. always.
Yesterday I was hit with a bad cough in the afternoon. By the time we got home from dinner in the evening I was feeling much like I got hit by a bus & landed on the couch with a cup of tea and a Cake Boss marathon on Netflix.
It's so easy to curl up on the couch in some cozy socks and do absolutely nothing when I'm feeling under the weather. That's actually what I was planning on doing all day when our sweet neighbor invited me on a walk with her. A walk. Outside. Meaning not on the couch.
I really didn't want to go. I went though. And I am so glad I did. The easy exercise, fresh air, and conversation did me good. Now, I'll rest and take vitamins and not go insane because I was inside... all. day. long.
Sometimes what we need most is the last thing we want to do at the moment. But when we do, it's worth it. So here's to doing what we don't want to do... and being quite happy about it.
It was the summer of 2008. I was 18 and I had just gotten the email that told me I would be able to go to Romania even though my assigned team could no longer make it.
I sat there on my parent's porch, with the breeze gently pushing against me, letting it sink in. I was going to fly half way across the world by myself. I was going to go to a strange country by myself for two weeks. I was going to go because I'd read stories of the children there who have no one to love them or care for them and it broke my heart so deeply that I did everything I could to find my way to them.
My plane landed in Bucharest. I rode into the city in a small car driven by a sweet man who spoke to me in broken English of how much God had changed his life. I spent a few days a week in the small, outdated hospital in the city where little ones were abandoned and the nurses took no notice. I helped to change and feed them, but mostly I just held them and played with them. Just loved them.
This is Elena. She is the most beautiful child I have ever seen. Someone abandoned her. I don't know the circumstances of that, and I don't pretend to. But I was able to do something to help, if only for a very small portion of her life. My heart was broken over her story, one that is so common there. My heart was broken and burdened into action.
This June, it will be four years since I took that flight and held Elena in my arms for the first time.
Since then I've gotten married and moved across the country. I've become caught up in school and friends and home and to-do lists. And most days, I don't think of Elena. I don't remember the little ones who are still homeless and uncared for like she was. They are far away. And I am busy. And my heart forgets why it was once broken.
This past week I came across this post on abortion and this post on adoption... My heart broke again as I was reminded of that burden I used to feel for the abandoned and unwanted. I may not be able to fly to Romania tomorrow, but I can still act. I can still remember and be burdened and live differently because of it. Shame on me for not doing so already. &Lord, thank you for the reminder.
Have you ever felt a burden to fulfill the needs of others? Do you still remember what your heart has broken for in the past? Do you still act upon that passion?
May we never forget the unwanted and abandoned. May our hearts be continually broken and burdened into action.
p.s. If you'd like to read more about the organization I teamed up with in Romania, you can find it on their website here.
Just when it felt as if the biting cold would always be here and no one would ever want to go outside again, spring arrived in all its warm, colorful glory.
We welcomed it with open arms and windows.
And with a St. Patrick's day trip to Washington DC.
We visited our long-time, Californian-turned-east-coaster friends Jordan and Kristy and spent the afternoon in DC, walking along the path where pink and white blossoms lined the streets and water for miles.
Kristy & Jordan and Rene & I on our walk to the monuments...
The Jefferson Memorial... I've been before once. But this day we took the time to read the quotes inscribed on the stone walls of the interior. The words were so beautiful and rang so true.
If you've never seen them, you can read the full inscriptions here.
My favorite was this.... "God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free..." There's something about hearing those words spoken by men at a time that seems so long ago. About standing on the same steps as those who read those inscriptions for the first time. It makes me see myself as much smaller and my potential as far greater. We can look back at history and see so much change. We see how men and women saw the injustices before them and did something to make things different. And we still see injustice now. So then what? What is stopping us from speaking out, from creating and being change? What is stopping us from paving the way for those after us just as it's been paved by those before us? Someone will.
Let it be you and me.
I'm thankful for men like Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr. Thankful that we can be reminded by these memorials of their lives that injustice ought not be tolerated and that individual people can make a difference.
And I'm thankful for Cherry Blossoms and sunshine. Happy St. Patrick's Day xo Jess
You've likely learned by now that we're fans of reading. Well, in honor of that fact, we're giving away a $15 Barnes & Noble gift card HERE.
Laura invited us to participate in her crazy-over-the-top-awesome group giveaway. 18 bloggers joined up to create this giveaway & there are some very sweet prizes to be won. I'd highly recommend taking a look! Also, while you're there, let Laura know what you think of her new blog design! [I just created it for her last week & was very excited about it.]
Do you ever wake up and feel stuck? Rush out of the house to work and all of the sudden half your day is gone? I feel like we have those all the time. If I don't start the day off right, I always feel like I'm collapsing beneath my to-do list when I should be the one in control of it.
So I am protesting. no more wasted mornings.
For me, that means a cup of tea [or a latte if I'm lacking sleep] and some quiet Bible reading [& also some C.S Lewis]. Perhaps a walk down our street. Fresh air. Bird songs. Prayer. That makes for a better day every time.
[me and one of my oldest, dearest friends circa 1997. Yes, be jealous of our bangs.]
So often we don't realize what a huge part of our life something is until it's no longer there. We were living where we both grew up in California. We were surrounded by friends and family who had known us for years and been with us through our ups and downs. We had history.
We were prepared for & expecting to miss those people. We definitely do. And it's difficult, but at least expected. I don't think we realized how much we would miss that history though. No matter how much you "click" with a person you've just met, nothing can replace those years of memories that built our relationships before.
Now, I am naturally pretty shy, but I love people & I love being close with them. I can also be a little socially awkward in unfamiliar/group situations. So in our first couple weeks here, I would ramble. If I felt a connection with someone new, I would get instant word vomit. I just wanted to tell them everything about my life and be instant best friends. (Thankfully God is gracious and it's likely that only a couple people think I'm a complete narcissist).
I was trying to force myself and others into deep relationships that take time to develop & cannot (& should not) be contrived because I was so afraid to be without those relationships. It took becoming that socially awkward, rambling version of myself for me to recognize that fear for what it was: a lack of trust in God.
I still have that fear, but I can choose to let it control me or to give it up to Jesus on a daily basis. I can choose to be a slave to that fear (or any other!) or I can choose freedom in Christ & listen when He says:
Let me sustain you in this time. Let me use it for the purposes I have planned for you.
It takes time to build history with people. I will never have a friend here who can reminisce with me about our 2nd grade teacher. Who can laugh with me about our awkward adolescence. Or even who was at our wedding. But I know that God is faithful. I know that he will provide those strong, deep friendships that we need. But it will be in His time. And until then, I will learn not just to wait but to wait on Him and be free from fear and uncertainty.
Dear friends, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1 NIV) If we will only let go of our own fears & trust that God will provide for us, we can experience a freedom like no other.
What is controlling you? What is it that you need to give up to God? Pray that He would give you the strength and faith to trust Him and not give into fear. He will do it.
Where do I stand on the Kony controversy? Well before I do that (if you don't already know), here's what really bothers me: The fact that if someone disagrees with the opposing side, they automatically view that person as the enemy. I mean seriously, I've seen some comments and words exchanged that would make people seem like they were writing them to Osama Bin Laden, or Saddam Hussain - but they're simply to a fellow American or Christian.
These words are lashed out in anger/hate. Names are being called. There's demeaning going on, mocking at, etc. I've seen it all over Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Youtube, etc. People are fighting - in a harsh way, about a fight over seas that some people care about, and others not so much. You know what I think? I think people are free to think however they'd like, and will continue to do so regardless of how convincing an argument.
The problem is you aren't going to argue someone into believing what you believe; it's very difficult to do, and usually leaves people feeling beaten up, rather than feeling like they've found truth. Think about it. If you want to convince or persuade someone of something, insults and offensive language aren't the way to do it. You will more likely turn someone off to your idea rather than get them to agree with you. The moment something hurtful has been said, that person will go from a potential source of influence to becoming someone harmful.
Just like I'm not supposed to condemn a person for rejecting Christ - but to love them, I'm to do the same with someone who disagrees with me on any other matter: diet, organic foods, musical taste, immigration laws, etc.. Understand that I'm in no way implying that I succeed at doing this all the time. I know I struggle with loving those who disagree, but lines have definitely been crossed and I feel as though people have turned fellow Americans, or fellow Christians into a Kony they can attack through the internet & behind the protection of their computer screen.
Disney's The Little Mermaid was released the same year I was born and is the first movie I ever remember seeing. When I was about six years old, I genuinely considered swimming into the bay and becoming a mermaid but opted out because I didn't want to leave my family. Part of me still wants to believe that's actually possible.
I grew up just down the street from the sea. It's always been a part of my life as long as I can remember.
Have you ever had a place that, every time you are there, just leaves you in awe of God's beauty... That leaves you standing star struck by the vast, amazing work of art before you... That place for me has always been the ocean. I've never lived farther than fifteen minutes away from it and now that I no longer do, I realize how much I took that for granted.
But to be honest, missing the sea has made me realize how closed minded I have so often been to beauty of another sort. The same God who created the majestic coast of California also created the ever changing hills that surround me now. He created waves and sandy shores, but He also created trees and sunsets and seasons. All of which didn't have to look pretty in order to be practical, but are. God has created a beautiful world for our enjoyment and His glory. So who am I to say that any single stroke of this painting we call home is of lesser beauty and value than another?
I still miss the ocean as much as ever. But I am learning to stand in awe of golden light shining through intertwined branches. of snow that blankets hills in pristine white. of bricks and rooftops laid three hundred years ago still standing. I am learning to find beauty in the everyday things that are not yet familiar to me. And I am learning to see God's workmanship where I never thought to look for it before.
Recently, I've had a lot of time on my hands. The husband's now at work full time. School hasn't started yet. And a social life takes time to form in a new place.
So what do I do with all my time? Well, I've been trying to put it to good use and into the proper pursuits. And of course, things that make me happy.... Read more books. Take more walks. Spend time outside. Make new friends. Unpack. Keep house spick and span. Organize. Unpack more. Organize what I just unpacked. Keep in touch with old friends. Make new ones. Make art. Decorate house. Bake vegan cookies. & lots of other great things.
And I've been doing those things. They really are great. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with them. But to be honest, they don't make me happy.
Here is what I'm learning... When it comes down to it, no amount of books or walks or artistic or social accomplishments will fill my heart. They provide temporary smiles, but they do not fulfill. They do not define. They do not sustain. I pursue these things to pursue happiness, but if I'm honest, I rarely find it there.
And while I am giving my time to all these good things, there is a loving God who desires a relationship with me (and you!) and promises us true fulfillment and joy if we would only find it at the source, in HIM.
Here's a quote from a sermon by C.S. Lewis & one of my favorites...
"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
We must be willing to abandon the pursuit good things, for the pursuit of what is best. We are far too easily pleased.
For me, this means giving less of my time to those good, artistic, beautiful things, so that I can spend more of my time with my Creator and Savior. The only source of true and lasting Joy.
What does it look like for you?
Ps. We quote C.S. Lewis a lot around these parts. If you've never read anything by him, I would highly recommend it.
I suppose this is technically thingsIlove about photography (I, being Jess). But I'm sure Rene would agree, so we'll pretend it's things we love. I could list a lot of clichés about capturing moments and love and sweet things like that. But I won't. Not to say that I don't mean them, I do. But you've probably heard them before so I'll save the fancy spiel for my website.
The thing I love most about photography is not the fact that you can capture a moment, but that you can create one.
Photographs have a dream-like quality to me. They always have. The light play. The short depth of field. The grain of film. The blur of a long open shutter... We can't see those things with our own eyes. They don't exist in our world at all until they're brought into existence through a lens. And with a camera, we can create and control them. We can imagine and commemorate a dream world all our own.
Just wanted to give you all an update as to what life is like up here in the northeast, and where my thoughts have been lately.
I really can't believe it, but today marks exactly two months that Jess and I have been in Pennsylvania. Exactly two months ago we said goodbye to our families, our friends, & our home. We said goodbye to our old hangout spots, the places we would go on dates together, our memory lanes & our Monterey county culture. Everything that I knew, my whole reality, was in California. And If I may be honest, I was deathly afraid I wasn't going to be able to get on that plane and leave it all behind.
The only real comfort was the thought that I wasn't going alone. I would constantly look over at Jess and see that she was going through all these emotions with me. She's going with me too, I would think. Which moved me to try and comfort her as we dealt with that very difficult day. I'd try my hardest to prevent those tears building up in her eyes from rolling down her face. I'd smile and tell her that we would be okay; but even I caught myself having to work at believing my own words. And when I couldn't keep the tears from falling, I sometimes would join in. But at least we were together. She was the only piece of my California that was going with me. And I was hers. Every other aspect of life would have to change and mold to something else.
Fast forward two months from that day, and you'll find me sitting in an office, learning the ropes of a church called LCBC. Jess is found in our new apartment, either updating this blog, unpacking boxes, editing photos, or cuddling with our new cat Atticus (yes, like the character in to To Kill a Mockingbird).
Although we've gone through these last few months together, I'm certain that we've had completely different experiences and encounters here. I think that just comes with the territory of having one spouse working full time and the other not.
But there are things we've experienced alike. I know for me, and I think Jess too, two months have seemed like two weeks. February seemed to be nothing but a sign along the freeway, and I was going 70 MPH. We made eye contact, then it was gone.
So where am I now? Well, I could make this post very long and go into vast resources of thoughts on many of my experiences so far. But to continue with the theme of this post, I'll simply say moving is hard. I don't think it's possible to fully prepare for a move across the country if one has never done it. I know I thought I was, but I wasn't.
Believe it or not, but the easiest adjustment was the physical move. Although moving an entire house isn't easy, it's probably the easiest to put in place when compared to the mental life, and spiritual life. I've adjusted to the time zone. Yes it's cold, but thankfully there are scarves, teas, coffee, and the concept of layering clothing to keep me warm. A cold house is fixed with heaters and blankets. And the deprivation of authentic Mexican food (which is ridiculously hard to deal with!) can be fixed by making it yourself. The winter here is very dry, but I drink lots of water so my voice is fine.
Mentally however, I'm not nearly as content. Let me explain like this. Imagine your entire life is in the shape of cup. This cup represents the capacity of what your life can hold in the sense of time; relationships, God, work, hobbies, sleeping, friends, etc.. Whatever you devote time to in your life goes in this cup. However, your cup can overfill and spill; this is when you realize there is too much going on. This leads to possible burnout, exhaustion, and fatigue -physically, mentally, & spiritually; so we cut things, or people out in order to stay sane.
In California, my cup and Jess's was almost full. We had plenty of relationships in there, a great church with church activities, family & events, hobbies, and many close friends who go years back. And to be honest, there wasn't much room in our cup, or life, for many other genuine relationships. I could probably squeeze in a few hangouts once a month with people, but most my time was already taken by someone else, or something else.
Well, in Pennsylvania our cup is much much closer to being empty than it is to being half-full. We have a great church, we have a cat, we have a few T.V. shows we watch, and we've met some great people; some of whom we think have the possibility of being friends.
But it's the genuine relationships that we feel we're still missing.
You see, people here are like how we were in California. Their cup, their relational capacity, for most, is already full. They have full-time jobs, and families (which can already be enough to fill a life). They have the best friends that they've had for years. They have family they're with on holidays. They have their hobbies and things they do for fun, and the people go along with them. Their lives are already set. If they were to allow Jess and I to take space in their lives, for most, their cup would overfill. Simply because they don't have room (or time) in their lives without having to cut out something else.
I don't hold it against them. I know when I was in their place in California I was the same way. When I was at FPC, there would be people who would pursue a genuine relationship with me. But for most, I couldn't fit them into my life. I already had the relationships that revolved around music. The friends who I'd call for game nights. The people who I would catch up with over lunch. And those who I would call every other day to come over. If someone new tried to squeeze in, most of the time they wouldn't fit, or would have to take the slot of time & space that someone else previously had. Oh how complicated relationships are!
So here we are. Searching to fill the voids in our relational life. Trying to find not just people who have time, but people who should have relationships with us and us with them. People don't just become great friends because they have time, they need to have things in common, mutual perspectives, and mutual things going on in life. Otherwise it just takes more time and effort in order to relate to the other person. The good news is, I have Jess, and she has me, and that goes a long way. It's forced us to get along better, communicate better, and simply have more fun together, even if we have to compromise with each other for what "fun" is.
I know this is a failed attempt at making a short post, but it's where my heart has been lately. I think for both of us.
But how do you relate to this? Are you also searching for people to do life with? Who go beyond being being an acquaintance? Someone to share things in life with that make you smile, cry, and laugh? If not, do you realize how blessed you are to have those people? I would encourage you to let them know how much you value having them in your life (yes even if it's nothing but a bunch of dudes who do manly things together). Everyone longs to be valued and appreciated. And If you have the time in your life, would you try giving some of it to someone who possibly has too much of it to themselves? who may not have what you have?
As far as the spiritual transition goes, I'll set that aside for another post.
If you wouldn't mind, would you pray for Jess and I? That we would find people here to help make this place our new home. I know we'd appreciate it.