My Journey with Coffee

I was nine when I first fell in love with coffee. It was the spring before my family moved to Oklahoma and we were in Southern California for a relative’s funeral. My mother and grandparents had taken all four of us kids with them and therefore ran the risk of there being a few interruptions during the service. My mom promised us that if we behaved, she would let us have coffee at the lunch afterwards. Sure enough, we were on our best behavior and each enjoyed an individual cup of coffee. I still remember how thrilled I was to be sipping steaming hot coffee out of that little styrofoam cup, a huge smile on my face all the while.

Over the years, my love of coffee grew. Mom or Josiah would brew a pot while we were working on schoolwork during mine and Josiah’s high school years. A coffee pot was one of the first things I purchased when I went to college. In those days I bought Folger’s, which was a luxury for a freshman at a private college. I even settled for cafeteria coffee on occasion, which was usually not very strong and very watered down by my favorite hazelnut creamer. Sophomore year I became very familiar with Gilmore Girls and began talking very quickly along with upping my coffee intake.

As I went through nursing school, coffee became more than just a drink to enjoy when I needed to stay up late to study or write a paper. It was pretty early on in my relationship with coffee when I discovered that it is the perfect agent to create and attract community. Pretty soon I was going to coffee shops in my college town to study and drink coffee with friends. I started having “coffee dates” with friends whom I wanted to get to know better or hadn’t caught up with in a while. I went on late night coffee runs to the nearest convenience store just to be with people.

My senior year, I was in charge of a missions prayer group on campus. One of my favorite faculty members led the group and I was the student leader. I had been part of the group in past years, but realized it was hard to attract students because we met over breakfast early in the morning, before most students were even awake. Since we had a budget that we could use, I suggested that we meet in the campus coffee shop once a week in the afternoon. Each person could buy a coffee or a treat in the shop on a running tab and then we would meet together and pray for our brothers and sisters serving at home and abroad. Not only was it a hit, I think I drank my weight in dirty chai lattes that year.

When I became a nurse and started working all kinds of hours in the emergency room, coffee became even more of a necessity in my life. Morning, noon, and night were only a few times in the day that I would enjoy my favorite beverage. When I moved to New York for seminary, I started inviting people over for coffee. We would sit on my bed and chat and sip on our big mugs of liquid joy. I wouldn’t trade the conversations I’ve had over coffee for anything in the world.

When I first met Josh, one of the very most important things to me was that he love coffee as much as I did. The very first time we hung out together, we went to Dunkin Donuts and he drank black coffee, by which I was very impressed. The day we were married, he vowed to always make me coffee – a vow he keeps every day. All of our adventures together include coffee, which is just one of the many reasons why we are best friends in addition to husband and wife.

Coffee is more than a caffeinated beverage. It is a friend on a cold, rainy day. It is the bridge between people of differing cultures. It is comfort in a new home where everything but it is unfamiliar. Coffee creates community. And that is a beautiful thing.

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Turning Failures into Victories

I realized this past year that I don’t usually try things unless I know I am going to be successful. I never even played a full game of Monopoly until this summer because I didn’t want to play a game I might lose. After some soul searching, I decided that this season of life is going to be different. I determined that I will try new things, even if they scared me, and even if there a chance I will fail. The Lord has reminded me over the past few weeks that He has already prepared the way for me to live a victorious life. All I have to do is walk in that victory, declaring that it is mine and that I was not made for failure. Along with that, I’m also okay with trying new things, failing, and trying again. The goal is to not remain in failure, but to turn it into victory.

My senior year of college, I decided that I wanted to run a 5K. I didn’t care where or when, it was just something I wanted to accomplish. What I didn’t anticipate was how scared I would be training for a run, or that I would hurt my back (the Lord has since healed me) and quit after a month. Running is something I have considered a failure in my life. I always think it looks fun and feel like I want to do it, but quickly tell myself that I am not a runner and go on my merry walking way.

Today, I participated in my first ever 5K race. It was a Mud Run, meaning that it was not just a run, but also an obstacle course. My goal going in was to do every obstacle and finish the race. I walked most of the way and got a few epic scrapes and bruises, but I did it! I finished the race, only skipping the very last obstacle. Walking a 5K may not seem like much of a victory to most people, but it is a big one for me. It was 5 years in the making, and it was a failure that will now forever be a victory. Maybe next time I will be able to run the whole thing!

We were made for victory, friends. Walk in it!

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California Home

At the moment, I am sitting in a locally owned coffee shop in Shasta Lake, California. Six months ago, Joshua and I made the decision to follow God’s call to California, where Josh was offered a ministry opportunity. Five months later, we supervised as movers placed most of our possessions on a giant semi-truck and then we packed up our little Civic to head across the country. Here is the story of our past month in pictures.

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Last time at the Jersey shore, the day we left for our cross-country journey.

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Coffee and flowers at a diner in Chicago, where we visited our friend Andrew.

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Andrew! It was so good to see him!

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My cute little grandparents, whom we visited in Sioux Center, Iowa. We had such a fun visit!

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We got to stop to have lunch with our friend Quinn in Omaha on our way to see my family in Oklahoma. She’s such a sweet friend!

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Nebraska storybook clouds.

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Coffee break in Boulder, Colorado at Boxcar Coffee Roasters.

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New wallet for our first wedding anniversary!

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Denver Zoo!

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Salt Lake City, Utah

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One of our last days in the car – – we took a total of 12 days

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Finally reached our new home state!

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Enjoying the lake near our new home.

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Loving the fact that Josh now works at a specialty coffee shop! I have fallen in love with cappuccinos.

When God Changes Your Plans

Hello there! I am back after a long hiatus, during which I was busy studying for my final comprehensive exam that determined whether or not I would graduate from seminary. The good news is….I passed!! It took one long month of intense preparation, but after 7.5 hours of furious typing about topics such as the theology of mission and contextualizing the Gospel in different settings, I am now approved to graduate.

The two years that I had planned on spending in seminary turned into three, but they proved to be far better than I could have ever anticipated. When I moved to New York nearly three years ago, I thought I would be here and gone in two years, heading to Africa or some far off place. What actually happened when I arrived is that God turned my world completely upside down. I experienced Him in ways that I never thought possible, learning what it meant to be an “everyday” friend of God. It was during lonely nights in my apartment first semester that I began having out-loud heart-to-heart conversations with God about life and love and anything else I could think of. My second semester I met Joshua, a man whom I thought was just a random acquaintance but turned out to be the love of my life.  Over six semesters, I worked in Long Island and the Bronx in busy emergency rooms, nannied for three beautiful families, and learned what it looks like to trust in God as my Provider.

If anyone had spoken to me three years ago and asked where I would be in three years, my answer probably would have sounded very different than my actual life looks today. At that point in my life looking forward, I may have been devastated or disappointed or confused. Don’t get me wrong, the process of God changing my direction and revealing that His plan didn’t actually look much like mine was long and painful. But it was also incredibly beautiful. God has been asking me to trust Him with my life, to let Him write my story, and to dream with Him instead of just telling Him my dreams. I used to think that I always had to have my own plan and worked endlessly to execute said plan. And you know what? It was exhausting. It was only when I surrendered my future and my plans to the Lord that I began to live in peace. Yes, sometimes God gives me a choice. And sometimes He makes it really clear which path is from Him.

As I reflect on the past three years, I am so thankful that they unfolded one day at a time, with God quietly whispering and directing as they did. It is a truly humbling experience to realize that God cares about the little details, that He never leaves my side, even in the seemingly insignificant moments.

DIY Bride

View More: http://andresvalenzuela.pass.us/charissa_josh

I am so pleased to announce that our wedding was featured on DIY Bride! Joshua and I are beyond excited. We (and our AMAZING friends and family) put so much work into making the day fabulous. I’ve shared many of our pictures and our story here, but take a look at this blog!

It is a sunny, happy day here in New York. I feel like I should be sunbathing, except for the fact that it is still under 40 degrees. I’m still convinced that sun means warmth, which means that I am always surprised by the cold breeze, even if it is the dead of winter and there is still a foot of snow on the ground. I’ve never quite gotten used to the cold here and often miss the weather in Oklahoma, something I never thought I would be admitting (I’ll take sun and humidity over gloom and rain any day). Enjoy the sunshine and have fun browsing more of our wedding pics!

Winter Adventures

Winter has surely been an adventure! The past couple of months have been so full of clouds and snow that I have had little motivation to write. But today the sun is shining and spring is just around the corner, so here I am! Spring means that my best friend’s wedding is also just around the corner – something I am so excited for and have been anticipating for months! I flew to Las Vegas the end of January to surprise her for her bridal shower – it was a success and a great time! It was so nice to get a break from the cold weather and relax with my dearest friend for a bit. 17 years of friendship with a lifetime more ahead of us!

IMG_0012The theme for the bridal shower was Breakfast at Kaity’s (Tiffany’s originally), planned mostly by her beautiful sister Kristin. The entire day was so lovely, and the bride-to-be looked radiant!

When I returned home, we celebrated Josh’s 27th birthday. I threw him a little game-night party with a few of his friends so he could play his new favorite game, Family Business. Complete with all his favorite junk food, it proved a huge success! The next night, on his actual birthday, I made two different kinds of fondue (he had never had fondue before!) and a giant homemade ice cream cake. Definitely the best ice cream cake I have ever made, which was a good thing, since we were eating it for a week!

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The last weekend of February, Josh took me to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. I have dreamt of visiting Ellis Island since I was a little girl, so Josh gave me the trip as a Christmas present. I was not disappointed! It was amazing to walk through the same halls as immigrants from around the world a hundred years ago, including some of my ancestors. Even though it was cold, it was a very sunny day, which helped make it a spectacular adventure!

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This past weekend, I spent the night in Astoria with my cousins and aunt. We had such a lovely time getting pedicures and eating brunch at an amazing Greek restaurant. It was a much needed girls weekend and was so great to catch up with my cousin Bekah, whom I hadn’t seen for almost three years!

The greatest adventure of the past couple months has been our Whole30 journey. Josh and I started on February 17 and are still going strong! I had been feeling like I had gotten into some bad eating habits and was feeling groggy and tired a lot of the time. I decided Whole30 was the solution, and Josh agreed to come along for the ride. I must say, the first few days were definitely the hardest. We both missed desserts, but the hardest part was thinking far enough in advance for each meal. Once we got the hang of it, it was a breeze. We’ve eaten yummy meals such as bean-less chili, buffalo chicken stuffed peppers, almond flour chicken tenders, and chipotle chicken stuffed sweet potatoes. YUM! It has definitely given me a greater appreciation for foods in their whole forms and taught me that cooking is indeed an art!

Enjoy the sunny day, my friends!

January Pie

If you cannot tell from the past two posts, baking is one of my favorite pastimes. A couple of weeks ago, the grocery store ran a sale on blackberries and blueberries, something I found to be odd in the middle of winter. However, Josh and I were thrilled to be able to have fresh berries this time of year. I had a pie crust in the freezer leftover from my Christmas baking exploits, so we plotted how we were going to turn the berries into a delicious pie.

I have not attempted recipe-creating very much in my life, especially not when it comes to baking. As tempted as I was to look up a recipe for a berry pie, I decided to wing it. I thawed the frozen pie crust, rolled it out, and placed it in the pie plate. I am still perfecting how to make the pie edge beautiful, but it turned out pretty well. In a small bowl, I mixed together the blackberries and blueberries – about 3 cups altogether. I didn’t have any lemon juice, so I added a splash of orange juice for a bit of acidity. I put in about 1/4 cup of white sugar and 1/4 cup of honey, mixed it all together, and poured it into the pie plate. Since I didn’t have a top crust, I made a “crumble” topping from brown sugar, oats, butter, and flour. I popped the whole thing into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, until the crust and crumble were golden brown.

I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about how it would turn out, but it certainly did surprise me! It took us about a week to finish it, but it was delicious to the very last bite! Though simple, I was quite proud at my first recipe-creating attempt!

Black Blueberry Pie

1 Pie Crust

Filling:

3 Cups Berries

2 T orange juice

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup honey

Crumble Topping:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup oats

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out pie crust and place in 9″ pie plate. Mix berries, sugar, and orange juice: pour into prepared pie plate. Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl. Add flour, oats, and brown sugar until it is all mixed together. With your hands, scatter the crumble on top of the pie. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy with a scoop of your favorite ice cream!