The Rainbow of Home: Vancouver Island

The Rainbow of Home: Vancouver Island
We lived on Vancouver Island for three months during our first year of marriage. A few years ago, my husband’s family moved to the island, planted some palm trees in their front yard, opened up a bed and breakfast and called it home. As they dig their roots in deep in their new home, we also begun to call it home – home is where people we love are, right?

On this trip, we only got to spend five days with our family on the island but it was both restful and memorable. We got to explore local coffee shops (photo above at Regard Coffee Roasters in Nanaimo), visit an Indian spice store (we bought rose water, but it was later confiscated when we accidentally left in a carryon), window shop at the thrift store (and wish we weren’t tight on luggage space!), and spend good time with family. Again I tried to keep mindful of the colours around me (spelt with a “u” because this is Canada, after all) and found that by doing so, I felt even more grateful for the beauty we saw!

Red: My in-laws live within walking distance of a quiet lake. There’s a path around the lake and an area to swim. When we go, we see people walking dogs, people on paddle boards, people jogging, talking, children playing, it’s a lovely place to be and breathe. A few weeks ago, after much research, Dad bought a red tandem kayak. He rigged up his truck to carry it and even bought some equipment to bring it on the ocean (which also isn’t too far from their house). We got to take it out on its maiden voyage at the lake during our visit – taking it to the middle of the lake, surrounded by pine trees and quiet. A perfect place to breathe.

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Orange:
When we visit, we get to stay in the bed and breakfast. It’s a large room with two big beds, an elegant chandelier, and an electric fireplace. The rug, bedding, and and two large housecoats in the closet are fluffy and white and the accent colour found in the throw pillows are a lovely shade of orange (you can see photos of the room, and book your next trip, at their page on bookings.com!). With cozy colours, textures, and lighting, it’s the most comfortable room in the world. (Shout out to my mother-in-law who has an incredible eye for decorating and hospitality, both of which she passed along to her son!)

Yellow: Off of the room where we stay (where you, too, can stay if you wish!*) is a small patio area with adirondack chairs and a small table with a potted plant. There’s a tall fence around the yard so you can’t see or be seen by the neighbors, and the grass is a lovely shade of green that’s sprinkled with dozens of yellow dandelions. Each morning, I made a cup of tea and took my journal to sit outside, reflecting on our trip and meditating on God’s word. It was just the perfect place to rest and slow down before the day.

*While I wasn’t paid or even encouraged to give an advertisement, I will also add that the breakfasts provided here are delicious and nutritious.

Green: Something I love about the West Coast becomes more noticeable in the winter, but is also a delight all year round: evergreen trees. The lake is surrounded by green year round. This trip, we also drove up to a look out point, looking out onto acres and acres of evergreen trees in the middle of the island. First of all, I didn’t realize Vancouver Island was so big. And also, we found it fun that both Trent’s dad and I went out close to the cliff while both Trent and his mom stood back, eagerly beckoning us to not stand so close.

Blue: We rode the ferry to and from Vancouver Island from Vancouver. Going there we traveled at night and missed out on the view, but we left the island on our last day on a sunny, clear afternoon. The sky was a radiant blue and the water was a deep indigo making for a stunning two hour boat ride onto the mainland. (Note: While BC Ferries is definitely the way to travel, two years ago we took float planes from the island to the mainland and that was an incredible experience! Plus, it gets you there in just 20 minutes.)

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Indigo:
There’s a new coffee shop in town! Well, new to us as it opened just as we left for the Philippines two years ago. Regard Coffee Roasters is where we went once a day, with Trent’s sister, Shae, and got to try their delicious coffee and tea.  Inside their shop (which has just two benches and a long table) in their roaster, an old Probat they bought from Drum Roasters in Duncan, BC (another awesome shop we visited last time). It’s indigo and metal and from what we tasted gives the roasters a tasty cup.

Violet: One of our adventures was to the mall with Trent’s other sister, Kay. She came to hang out with me for a bit while I was writing this list and she wanted to make sure I mentioned how lovely she is. Kay is a teenager and wonderful. She’s hilarious, creative, and deeply cares for people. I love watching her serve her family around the house and see what she’s drawing and writing. My sisters-in-law are all so cool. When we were with Kay at the mall, we ate lunch at the food court and then did some browsing. But after our meal, we took our trays to throw away our trash and we met with six bins. One of them was violet (making me think it was a good story for this rainbow). I stopped before them with my tray in hand and stared for a good, long, while. Kay stood next to me and laughed. “Compost, trash, recyclable, paper, plastic…” In Manila, you leave your trash on your table and someone cleans it up. In most places in Connecticut, you throw it all away into one bin. I really like it when recycling options are available (I’ve carried around plastic bottles before until I could find a recycling bin), but in that moment – I felt overwhelmed. Kaylee helped me figure it out and we may have thrown stuff away we shouldn’t have, but we laughed about it as we walked away.

We’re so grateful for such a good time with family. In the midst of these five days, we also got to host a coffee cupping of Philippine-roasted coffee, meet a couple in town who are setting up their own coffee shop (with a focus on cinnamon buns!), visit a new tea shop along the harbour front, and have many conversations and meals with family.

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The Rainbow of Home: Wisconsin

The Rainbow of Home: Wisconsin

I didn’t expect Wisconsin to feel like home. I’ve known it for a while as other people’s homes. And I’ve heard of its cheese. But something about spending time with new family in a new place and helping dear friends start their new lives together as husband and wife makes a place feel like a new kind of home.

I noticed the colors here too. The fields of corn stalks that went on for miles and the dark blue star-lit nights took my breath away and again I tried to capture their beauty and the way they made me feel small. We drove through towns with populations like 185 and stayed in a place where the only fast food chain for miles around was a Subway. We ate farm fresh corn and poured maple syrup on our breakfast plates that was just poured form the tree itself.

We strung lights and set tables and ate food and made friends and worked together to celebrate some of the most wonderful people I know – a guy that I’ve gotten to call “brother” for the past two years and his new bride. And while the colors for their day were a light blue, mint, and lavender, the colors of my week were even more numerous.

Red: Greg and Susie got married in an old, white wedding chapel in the middle of a small town. The couple who run it have operated their business as a wedding chapel for over twenty-five years and know the show. They take pictures throughout the day and sell them afterwards (printed, framed and all!), they decorate the pews and offer rentals of unity candles and whatever else you’d need for the perfect ceremony. And out behind the chapel there’s a small gazebo covered in bright, red roses that were the perfect photo backdrop.

Orange: This week was one of food-on-the-go. We grabbed granola bars often as we ran out the door and stopped a few times for a snack at a local store. We ate a light dinner of fresh corn-on-the-cob one afternoon to hold us over until a late night dinner. One of the foods we always had on hand was oranges. These were easy “throw in my purse” type foods that were also a good immunity booster for an intense wedding week.

Yellow: I wore my wedding shoes for the whole weekend. They went with the blue dress I wore for the rehearsal and I wore them with my long blue and yellow dress for the day of wedding festivities. When I bought these shoes for our wedding day, I wanted them to be something I could wear again and again and again – not just that one day. I love that I got to celebrate another wedding, of two people I think the world of, while wearing these yellow shoes!

Green: The fields! The trees! The grass! Susie’s family owns a golf course just down the hill from their house and one day we got to go to the putting range. It was my first time to hit a golf ball, aside from mini-golf, and it was way more fun than I expected. We loved learning from Susie and getting to experience that part of her life.

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Blue: Greg and Susie’s wedding theme was travel. For their engagement photo shoot, they used maps and their passports as props. They met in Haiti and got engaged in the Philippines (with us!), traveling between the U.S. and Canada while dating (long distance is tough, yo). One of my favorite multi-purpose props during the weekend was this set of suitcases that was probably scored at a thrift store. Multiple suitcases of varying sizes fitting inside each other – and they were used for things like collecting cards and serving bags of chips. It suited the travel theme and added a little vintage flair!

Indigo: The sky always makes me feel small, in the best way possible. Living in a city, we don’t see a lot of stars at night (but often I can see Orion from our rooftop!). Out in the fields, driving around the empty streets, I’d catch a glimpse of the indigo sky as the sun was completely gone and the moon in its proper night time place, and I’d go weak at the knees. The pinpoint stars covered the indigo sky in white glitter every night and I couldn’t take it in enough.

Violet: Susie showed me pictures of her flower girl a few days before she joined the wedding adventures in Wisconsin. At the time she met Greg, Susie was living and working in Haiti at an orphanage called God’s Littlest Angels. That’s where she first met the little girl who would walk down the aisle before her in an adorable violet dress, diligently sprinkling violet rose pedals to grace the white path for the bride. Now adopted and living a few hours away, this little girl beamed with each flower-girl task and also skillfully led the dance at the reception by showing us how to whip and nay-nay.

We loved our time with Susie’s family and ours in Wisconsin. Not only did we grow in our love for cheese and breathe deep in the open spaces, but we gained a whole new group of friends to thankfully call home.


Greg and Susie had a wonderful photographer (and friend) capture moments from their wedding day. You can see photos of those red roses and the beautiful flower girl dressed in violet on her blog here!

The Rainbow of Home: Connecticut

The Rainbow of Home: Connecticut

A few days after my plane touched down at JFK International Airport and my dad picked me up and drove me to the house, I received a package in the mail. I saw the box on the front porch and thought little of it with our flurry of Amazon package deliveries happening. But then I saw the paint swatch. Alison’s paint swatch.

For as long as I’ve known her, Alison’s powers of creativity and thriftiness have collided with the use of paint swatches – you know, the ones you grab at the hardware store before making the huge decision of what color to paint your living room. She’s used them for cards, for signs, for prayer requests, and on this particular day she used it as an address label. And there was my name and address front and center.

I hurried inside to open the package (carefully, as to not disturb the lovely blue paint swatch) and inside I found a pile of things that made my heart feel KNOWN. Books, journals, a pen, chocolate (dark!), and a magazine.

alison package

This magazine is one that I’d never heard of before and once I skimmed through the contents and flipped through the photo-filled pages, I realized that this was my thing. The best of all blog posts bound in actual, tangible paper. I could flip through it as the plane was taking off and when I wanted to step away from technology for the afternoon.

While I soaked in my time at home, trying to capture and bottle each memory, smell, and conversation, I read one of these delightful articles from a woman noting her surroundings in this life’s season through the colors of the rainbow. As her rainbow looked like a laundry load of blue washed jeans and her daughter’s favorite purple glasses, I wondered what my rainbow looked like. I looked around my on my parent’s back deck and began to focus my eyes on the colors: the blue sky, the green leaves, the beige umbrella that both kept me cool and dry. As I sat reflecting, I realized that I could capture these memories after all, in broad strokes of small stories, from the colors around me.

Red. We ate entire meals of strawberries and raspberries. Every trip to the grocery store brought joy and gratitude of those affordable red berries (blueberries too!). We ate them with delight on my family’s back deck – putting them in yogurt, pancakes, and eating them straight from the basket.

My mom’s car is red. It got us back and forth from church, the lake, and on family outings for ice cream (once or more it was for dinner). Dad drove it multiple times to and from the airport whether to pick us up or my brother from his internship in Brooklyn. That red car contains of lots of conversations, laughter, and empty Dunkin Donuts bags.

Orange. We took a day to explore a few coffee shops in Manhattan and started our day with espresso drinks from Cafe Grumpy in Grand Central Station. They have the most beautiful orange Synesso from which I enjoyed a delicious cappuccino!

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My family is big into breakfast and orange juice was also an important part of the week. Though toward the end, my little 5 year old friend, Asher, observed that our orange juice was actually more yellow, leaving me confused as to its category and us with a new joke about “yellow juice.”

Yellow. We were in Manila when we watched the Netflix series, Cooked, describe the process of fermentation. One of the places featured on our screen was a quaint abbey in Bethlehem, Connecticut, a mere seven miles from my brother and his wife. And at that abbey, there is a nun who makes cheese. After learning about her process, her technique, and the unique way she makes cheese from a wooden barrel with unpasteurized milk, we wanted to try! So one day on our trip, my three siblings and our two our spouses piled into a couple of cars and went to go buy cheese from the Cheese Nun. After getting a little lost in the woods, and marveling over the simplicity of the abbey, we bought the last two wedges of cheese from that week’s batch – celebrating all the way home. (P.S. It’s delicious – especially paired with honey that we bought from the abbey.)

Green. My parents have a large collection of mugs that we’ve donated to them or given as gifts through the years. They display our colleges, activities, and some inside jokes. My favorite one, though, is the smallest of the bunch, a green mug that fits perfectly in my hands and holds the right amount of coffee. My favorite place to sip is on the back deck, surrounded by a sea of green leaves from the maples, birch, and other trees that I know by their shape and smell.

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Blue. My husband needed new shirts during our time in North America, since it’s hard to find his size in the Philippines. One day while we were preparing to go out, I glanced at his shirts hanging against the wall in the room where we slept: each shirt he brought was blue. Later that week, as he stepped inside the dressing room while we shopped, a hangers in hand, I noticed again that each shirt he had chosen was blue. He looks fantastic in blue (against his brown eyes), but we also took advantage of the opportunity to buy some other colors for his closet.

Indigo. The color of the ocean and of the giant comforter in my parents’ living room – both have certain and distinct smells of home and make my soul relax the moment I allow myself to be enveloped by them. It was Trent’s first time to the New Jersey shore and he walked to the water’s edge out of love for me. The comforter can also fit two of us at once. It used to keep my brother warm at night and since he moved out, it’s made its way to the stack of blankets for the family to use used while curling up with a cup of tea or a favorite television show.

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Violet: I ordered a flavor called “Unicorn Poop” at the cupcake shop just miles from where our wedding reception was. Now, two years later, we were able to go back to the bakery who catered our cupcakes and smiled at their new cupcakes, each trying one that had come out since we sat for our tasting just before saying “I do.” The frosting was a soft shade of violet while the inside a delicious cotton candy flavored cake. Not only were the cakes sweet, but so were the memories that they brought back to us – eating the cupcakes after we shoved them in each other’s faces, surround by a sea of friends and the sea itself.

Our time in Connecticut was filled with family time, delicious food, and colorful memories that I know I can’t carry around in jars, but I get to paint them in my heart for years to come.

Stuff Worth Sharing: Hong Kong

Stuff Worth Sharing: Hong Kong

One of the perks of living in the Philippines is the seat sales on Cebu Pacific. Not the most on-time airline unless you fly out early in the morning, but it gets you where you need to go and at a great price. Last month we found a couple of round trip tickets to Hong Kong and jumped at the chance to get a little vacation and explore another city.

Hong Kong is just a two hour flight from Manila but drastically different. Less traffic, more trees, and a beautiful mix of east and west – it was my first time to explore this city and I found a few things I think are worth sharing.

Octopus Card

I heard about this helpful piece of plastic before we arrived, but I didn’t realize how convenient it actually would be. The Octopus Card is a reusable card used for payment on public transit around Hong Kong and it’s also so much more. It’s accepted at most restaurants and stores like 7-Eleven, leaving you more worry free about needing to carry so much cash. The public transportation system feels flawless (especially coming from Manila) and we never waiting more than 5 minutes for a train. You can buy the card at any train station (we got ours as soon as we arrived), loading up the minimum amount of $100 HK. You also pay a $50 HK deposit which you can get back when you return the card at the end of your trip in addition to cashing out any left over money on the card (we returned ours at the train station where you catch the airport train). Simple, convenient, and looks cool too.

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Mingle by the Park

We watch HGTV and we saw the common theme for Hong Kong dwellings: small. Even still, finding an affordable place to stay wasn’t hard (Trent did a lot of online research). With the expectation that wherever we stay in the city would be tight quarters, we weren’t disappointed with what we found at Mingle by the Park. Located just a few blocks from the Wan Chai MTR station on Hong Kong Island, it was convenient for walking and transit. We found a close by market with fruits we bought for breakfast each day (cherries!) and multiple nearby coffee shops (see below) to choose from. Rooms were clean, bed was comfortable, price affordable, and I liked drinking the complimentary tea while standing on the balcony each morning.

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McDonald’s Next 

This. Blew. My. Mind. McDonald’s is most notable for convenience – with their drive throughs and literal fast food. In Manila we often order for delivery and have it come right to our condo door (dangerous ability, I know). But here in Hong Kong (and I’m told in Singapore too), they have leveled up their game.

Touch screens to place your order, cell phone charging stations at each table, staff who deliver your food to you in a presentation which rivals any Chili’s or TGI Friday’s I’ve experienced. More than a place to grab a quick bite to eat, this McDonald’s is an experience – and one I hope is just a glimpse of what we’ll see from them in the future.

For coffee enthusiasts, their espressos are made on a McDonald’s-yellow Victoria Arduino Black Eagle (the machines used at the World Barista Competition). Don’t expect light roasted coffee, but this is definitely a giant leap above other McCafes.

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McDonald’s Next is located just off of the Admiralty MTR station.


Coffee

Filters Lane  (111 Caine Road, SoHo) – We stayed here the longest – partly for the coffee, and mostly for the friendly service and connection we made with the owner and barista. We loved hearing the stories of the Hong Kong coffee scene and getting business advice from the owner of this well designed cafe with delicious coffee. Another favourite part: these cups that are served on a wooden tray that holds them upright. But set it down on the table and it also won’t tip, leaning on the handle of the cup in a perfect weight design.

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The Cupping Room (32 Swallow Street, Wan Chai) – A speciality chain with the best tasting Americano I’ve had in my life: smooth and sweet, a blend of coffee from South America. They champion their 2nd place win in the World’s Barista Competition a few years ago and they deserve it: well designed spaces and well presented beverages. We were impressed by how they elevate their barista position as well, explaining to us that certain beverages couldn’t be made that day because their barista was at a different shop at the moment.

Omotesando Koffee (this is Trent’s favourite website of all time, be sure to click!) – INTERIOR DESIGN HEAVEN. Minimalist. Quiet. Light. Oh, and the coffee is just as delicious. The customer flow is notable as well – as soon as you walk in the front door, you’re greeted by a person behind the counter who is ready to take your order and answer any questions. He inputs your order to a computer and hands you a printed ticket that you take up the stairs to hand to the barista. While your coffee is being made, you can watch and chat with the barista who’s attire resembles a mad scientist. Taking your drink to an empty table, you swing a stool out from beneath the table top and have a seat to drink the beverage and relax in the quiet surroundings.

Hazel & Hershey (Shop 3, 69 Peel, Central) – If you need to know where to get coffee gear in Hong Kong: this is your place! Here you’ll find helpful staff who advise on the perfect brew method and and an entire wall filled with your heart’s desire in home brew equipment and espresso machine accessories. If you’re there to drink some coffee, I recommend ordering the nitrous cold brew. We also may have geeked out a little over the fact that they sell coffee from Project Origin, World Barista Champion Sasa Sestic’s coffee distribution company.

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Tea

As she brewed us a remarkable aged puerh tea, the woman at Gong Fu Teahouse explained that while their company has been around for a while, they are trying to brand themselves now in such a way that appeals to the younger generation. Our friend at Filters Lane also told us that tea, it seems, is more for the older generation while the millennials are gravitating toward coffee. We’d love to highlight both of these delicious beverages at Narrative Coffee Company, so we’re always up for exploring both worlds!

Bonus HK Tip: Try the duck and egg tarts from any restaurant where you can’t read the menu.

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Waiting and Arriving

One year ago today we landed at NAIA in Manila, Philippines. Our pug, Gordon, made it through immigration, as did we. Johann picked us up from the airport and drove us to the guesthouse where we spent our first week.

It feels like a blur, to think of it now. Scary and exciting and very much high on adrenaline and low due to jet lag.

We brought coffee from Canada which we brewed in our room. Trent looked for condos online while I tried to sleep. We explored a little and ate as much as we could and I grasped, only as much as I could, how my world was changing.

We’d spent those last few months in Canada raising the support to go. We’d spent the last few weeks waiting for the green light to book our flights. We’d spent the last few days finishing our packing and spending time with family.

Arriving in Manila, we’d reached the time and place we planned and waited for; the time we’d spoken and dreamed of from the time we were dating – we were together in the Philippines.

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Photo: @trentrollings, Instagram

One of those early mornings I sat on the guesthouse balcony with my cup of coffee, grateful for its flavor and familiarity, and reflected on this transition and this new season through writing. The words ring true and powerful in my heart, even still, as God testifies through it that He’s at work in us and is faithful to provide and to show us glimpses of what He’s doing as we follow Him. Here are those words, typed close to a year ago today:

I know this feeling, I’ve experienced it before – once, though it only lasted a year or so. I had just started my job as a mobilizer. I just moved into my apartment and finally had things unpacked, settled, and semi-decorated. I was stable. There was no more support to raise, no more classes to take, and no more “So what next?” questions from friends and strangers. I was where I was. I had a job, a place to live, and a decent amount of student loans tethering me there for at least a few years.

I had gone through elementary school to get to middle school, middle school to get to high school, high school to college and college to a career. Now what? The feeling was uncomfortable for about four seconds and then it was freeing – no more “next.” I learned to paint a room, to manage money, and to get upgraded to first class on domestic flights – but only on Saturdays.

But the feeling only lasted a year (and the first-class upgrades along with it). There was this lingering sense that this wasn’t it forever, the desire was still present and growing stronger – I wanted to be married and I wanted to live overseas. Those two things, at the time extremely out of my control, drew me closer to God as I began to ask the One who guides my life for what His plan was in all of this.

One Advent, the season of waiting, I did a word study on the word “waiting” in the Bible. What I found intrigued me – throughout the Old Testament, it wasn’t a particular thing that people were waiting for – they were waiting on God. And while, for most, their longings targeted a specific thing – a home, a child, a spouse – the object of their waiting was God Himself.

So while I sat and began to wait on God for my future, He used the waiting to tether me to His heart. What I thought was waiting for a spouse or an opportunity to travel, was really waiting on God as He drew me closer to Himself.

When Trent and I started dating in late 2012 and when the doors started opening for me to move with him to the Philippines, the waiting took a different shape. No longer was I waiting for something intangible – but for something that seemed more possible, more comprehendible. The waiting then drew me to Jesus in a deeper way – as Trent and I dated from across the world and as I began learning more about a country I’d only visited for a couple of weeks.

Then once we were married, waiting continued as we traveled from state to state, from the U.S. to Canada and from providence to providence, raising support to return to the Philippines. We waited on God to provide our needed support and prayed with faith that we would be able to leave by the time my visa in Canada expired.

My visa would have run out in the middle of April and now I sit on a balcony at a guesthouse in Quezon City. We’re here – barely into our second day and about to go look at some condo units, our first stable place of our own in seven months of marriage.

So the thought strikes me – we’re done. We’re done waiting. We’re married and here and may have a condo by the end of the week. God provided our support and God provided each other and favor at the check-in counter so that all our bags and our pug arrived safely. But there’s a thought that immediately follows – we’re never done waiting on God. We may be entering a season where what we’re waiting for is not tangible, but that has never been the foundation of our waiting. We wait on God daily for provision, whether we can see that or not. We wait on God daily for each breath we take – which would feel clichĂŠ if it weren’t for Abby’s story of waiting on God for her daughter to be healthy and have her lungs and heart do what they’re supposed to do. We wait on God daily for grace toward each other, in sickness and in health, when waiting for something tangible or waiting on God Himself directly.

And so in this season, we continue to wait on God with expectation for Himself, His provision, His life, and His grace. We also wait to overcoming jet-lag, but that’s another story.

(March 2015)
Waiting looks different now. Sometimes I consider these thoughts when I wait for the train or in traffic or in line for the toilet. (I laugh at myself – “Waiting? We live in the Manila, we’re never done waiting!”) I think of it also when I wonder God’s timing for the coffee shop and when I’ll feel comfortable speaking Tagalog. We have our condo now, and life is more stable than it used to be, but we’re still waiting for tangible things and for God Himself, who continues to draw us while we wait.

Iced Coffee at Christmastime

Iced Coffee at Christmastime
With cold brew coffee all the rage I’d nearly forgotten about iced coffee, especially the possibility that I could make it at home. During my Tuesday shift at EDSA, we received an order for two iced coffees. Eli reminded me of the simple process as we prepared the two drinks side by side using the Aeropress. As Eli was by my side, she was on a stool she created to reach the pour over bar at an appropriate level. That’s not pertinent to this story, but I think it demonstrates her creativity even more than it does her height.

Thursday morning was an early one as I prepared to travel across the city for a morning language class – one where the whole school gathers, not only celebrate Christmas, but to learn about culture and traditions of Christmas in the Philippines. I wondered what morning traffic would entail, as I don’t normally travel during rush hour and I’m still learning the impact that Christmas has on traffic (hint: it only makes it worse).

The coffee addict that I am, I knew I’d need some before or during my trek across town. My main hurtle: the MRT. The Metro Rail Transit doesn’t allow food or beverages, so even if I made my coffee in the morning to take with me, and successfully stored it in a tightly-sealed mug in my backpack, it may no longer be the desired temperature as I drink it on my walk from the train to the jeepney.

You see where this is going.

So this morning, through the fog of my sleepy brain and as the pollution dances in the early morning sunlight, I approach my home coffee station with the freezer door open. Grabbing a small pitcher and filling it with ice, I turn on the kettle and measure the beans.

(Cue rabbit trail: These beans are delicious. When Carrie came to visit a couple of weeks ago, she brought them from her friend, Cedric, who roasts them in his garage. Not only does he roast them in his garage, but he sells his beans and roasts them to order. You order, he roasts, he ships them. You pay him for something like that too, that’s how it works. He also posts on his Instagram roasts he do that are for her personal stash, just to make you jealous.)

I wet the filter, pouring the heated water into the Aeropress to warm it. I swirl the ice in the metal pitcher to cool it. It’s a strange yet wonderful contrast of temperatures, much like the difference between the December temperatures I’m used to and the ones I’m experiencing now (hint: I’m making iced coffee in December).

I grind the beans, their sacrifice for my energy and delight. The fresh grinds then cascade into the warmed Aeropress, awaiting their fate of a warm bath before the icy cool down. (I hear that’s good for muscles too.) The magic of this recipe variation is this – split the weight of the 270 grams of water between the warm water and the ice. My one hand holds the condensation covered pitcher, my other hand grasps the steamed plastic syringe. I wait the appropriate time. I push the plunger slowly, releasing the aroma and the warm elixir.

The recipe is from Heart Roasters. Earlier this year, we sat at the bar (in front of the roaster!), on a coffee stop while passing through Portland. I sat beside my husband who is a better differentiator of tastes than I. (When I taste “fruit,” he tastes “granny smith apple.”) He clutched his cup filled with what he declared to be a chocolate orange. Smooth mocha and an espresso that blossomed into notes of citrus. He missed the coffee before he finished it.

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Roaster at Heart Roasters. Porland, Oregon

I trust a recipe created by these crafters of deliciousness.

The icy variation is a simple one from EDSA. Next time you walk up the stairs to the coffee bar, after sitting on the bus or standing on the train in the hot afternoon, order an iced coffee at the counter. Stand there and watch the process. See Eli assume her perch and craft your beverage.

I took my coffee to go. It accompanied me across the city along with the tray of brownies I made for the Christmas party. I stored the travel mug carefully in my backpack as I inserted myself onto a packed train car, and its removal added a spring to my step as I walked to the jeeney terminal. I sipped it on the ride to the palengke, where I would get down and finish my travel by foot. I cherished each sip of the cool, refreshing flavor, bursting with honey-apricot nectar. (Though It took me the length of the jeep ride to recognize the apricot.)

Arriving well-caffeinated and in good cheer, the warm-weather Christmas celebration will bring with it new traditions and delights – like making iced coffee for Christmas traffic adventures.


* No photos were taken during the actual events mentioned in this post. I can explain. In the morning, I was just too tired. And while traveling, I didn’t want to stand out any more than I already did. I mean, picture this: a foreigner with a backpack, a grocery bag filled with brownies, and a travel mug. Okay, so I was self-conscious and I also didn’t have a free hand.

Divine Invitation

Divine Invitation

Over a year ago, I was sitting on the couch journaling about our upcoming move.

I wanted terribly to be able to write whole-heartedly, “God is calling me for this specific purpose!” I wanted to point to passage of Scripture and know deep in my gut, “Here is my command to go!” I wanted that to bring me comfort, to make leaving easier. Instead, the ache in my heart was louder than anything. I was leaving my parents, my siblings, my church, my friends. I was leaving the leaves as they began to change and the Atlantic Ocean being just a short drive from my house. I was leaving affordable raspberries, my cousin’s new baby, and a friend who was just diagnosed with cancer.

And I couldn’t quite put to words WHY.

A few years ago, I had a meeting with the director of the group of churches in my area in the U.S. My job encouraged me to meet with church leaders and discuss what God is doing around the world and I always walked away from these times encouraged and having learned something. This one was no exception. As we prayed together at the end of our time, this gentle man who pastored churches for decades and raised four daughters (which is the more challenging task?) prayed words that have always stayed with me: “Lord, I see You using Christine to connect churches and bridge cultures around the world.”

One night a couple of months ago, I stepped out of the gathering as the noises rang loudly in my ears. Combining with the jet lag this was a dangerous combination: I couldn’t think in English, let alone try to understand and use Tagalog. My body felt exhausted while my heart felt full. With the chatter buzzing in the background, I looked up at the sky and the tall buildings looming over. I noticed the streetlights and the unfamiliar architecture. We had just met with a group of Filipino believers in the Middle East.

This is just one glimpse of why. This is only the beginning.

The day I sat journaling, I realized God was giving me an invitation. He was inviting me to a story He was planning where He would use me and teach me. He was offering a life of unknowns and complete certainties. I finished my writing that day with this sentence, and now a year later I am beginning to see its truth: “When the One who calls is the One who goes with and the One who leads, and when He is the One who created and knows – what lies ahead is nothing short of beautiful.”

sunset middleeast