Brewing My Coffee Passion: From the Grounds Up

“I am a coffee fanatic. Once you go to proper coffee, you can’t go back. You cannot go back.” – Hugh Laurie.

I remember the first time I drank a cup of coffee. My grandma made it for me as part of my breakfast one day. She came over to my house to watch us kids. I think I was in middle school at the time. Like most children, I grew up hearing adults rave about the wonders of coffee. Now, keep in mind, my parents did not drink it. The coffee I did try that fateful day was some she brought with her. Of course, I thought the coffee was gross. I remember wanting to spit it out because of the bitterness. My grandma, as any devoted coffee drinker would do, assured me it was only bad because I did not have any crème, milk, or sugar. Even after adding milk and sugar, I was not pleased.

Nearly 10 years later, I absolutely love coffee. I could not imagine a day without it. I cannot tell you what changed my opinion. But, what I can tell you is why I named this blog coffee soothes the soul and why the beverage is important to me now.

Drinking coffee is more than part of my morning routine; it is a passion. Aside from writing, nothing relaxes me and calms me more than a good ‘ole cup of joe. Essentially, that is why I named my blog in reference to coffee. Someone can learn insurmountable life lessons when in fellowship with another human soul and a cup of brewed goodness. Someone can also learn insurmountable life lessons when processing ideas and thoughts in written form. In my eyes, both are essential to who I am and who I aspire to be.

Often times, one can find my husband and me at a local coffee shop. Trying out local shops is one of our most treasured bonding activities. We thoroughly seek out the richest ingredients and flavors. At any new place, my instant choice is the vanilla latte, while my husband prefers a chocolate mocha. We solely base our opinions of a location with those select drinks.

It may seem strange to some to continuously use the same drink. There is a logical reason. I know what I am looking for in an amazing vanilla latte; therefore, I go with what I know and strive to make it even better than the last. There is nothing wrong with building on greatness already present. Half the fun of our coffee shop hopping adventures is wondering if a drink can improve. Of all the joys in drinking coffee, I think the journey of finding another satisfying brew is what makes it my passion. There is nothing like that first sip upon finding the ultimate vanilla latte from that hole in the wall shop, creating a masterpiece my taste buds have never known before.

Currently, the most flavorful vanilla latte I have ever had comes from a locally owned business in Estes Park, Colorado called Inkwell and Brew. I bought a mug there so I would not forget where to go next time I am in Estes Park.

To this day, I am continuously amazed at my passion for coffee. Some, if not most, may think this is weird, and that is okay with me. As for me, I am grateful that I found a simple beverage that can positively impact my life and those around me. Stay tuned, next week, I will share how my passion has turned into one of my greatest ministry tools.

Blessings,

Renata

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Travel. People Watch. Observe. Reflect.

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert.

Unfortunately, I am not someone who travels often. Growing up in a family of seven, traveling came far and few between. Actually, we did travel, but hardly ever was it for pleasure. We usually traveled for distant appointments with specialty doctors that all of us kids saw.

Needless to say, despite my few travels, I LOVE traveling. Even though I am an introvert, I love traveling to places. The biggest reason is because I love people watching and absorbing myself in an unfamiliar environment. Just as the above quote says, traveling forces you to see how small you are in a big world. The world has so much to offer—so many people, so many foods, so many cultures, and so many traditions.

For me, taking vacations is not about the greatness of the city or the marvel of monuments there but soaking up the small things. You do not need to go to the biggest and best destinations in a travel magazine to have a good vacation. You need to have an open mind to seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. A true traveler will let the destination make their plans, not make their plans around the destination. An item on my bucket list is to drive to any place I have not been. Pick any place on the map and go. I would also drive here, not fly. After all, as cheesy as it may be, it is true—traveling is not about the location, but the journey to get there. One of my most favorite trips I have ever taken was a bus trip to Atlanta, Georgia. That sure forced me out of my comfort zone. Half the fun of the trip was wondering what I would find in my next pit stop.

Often times, I like to think I gained my love for travel solely because I was born in a foreign country. When I was adopted almost 16 years ago, I woke up in Russia and fell asleep in America. There were a lot of unknowns, yes. But it was exciting. It was exciting to learn what all my new place of residence had to offer.

If we look at life through the right lens, each activity outside of our home, wherever that may be, is a reason to travel. Each errand trip is never the same as the previous one. Yes, that may take a little imagination and a time outside of oneself, but it is worth it. To travel is to be modest. To accept and embrace fully that the world is not all about you—your life in this city or that is not all that is out there.

Whether or not you travel for business or pleasure, make the most of the opportunity. I am not saying you have to enjoy the people or the experience with rainbows and sunshine. Simply, make it a goal to point out one thing you liked or maybe did not like. Point out one habit or person you found interesting and why. People watch. Reflect. Be observant.

Blessings,

Renata

Effective Work Ethic: 100% v. 1,000%

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Growing up, people almost always referred to me as my mother’s daughter. Many times people associated me with her long before they saw me as an individual. This is relevant because she was a teacher. Being a teacher’s child came along with unspoken pressures to excel academically. Fortunately for me, I was one of the most devoted and studious students with or without the pressure.

Although academics came naturally for me, I still put in 110% percent towards my grades. I cannot even count the hundreds of times my peers called me a goody-two-shoes. Being a perfectionist drove me to near excellence.

My dad always jokes with me about the time I purposely tried to fail in school. In grade school, I intentionally did horrible on an assignment. Looking back now, I think I did it to get attention. My screwed up efforts to NOT work as hard as possible did not last long. In fact, my dad says I came home crying and threw a fit when I saw the bad grade on my homework. I practically hated myself for doing so poorly. I cannot help but to laugh at that story. At the same time, though, it shows how much I valued working hard towards goals even in grade school!

Countless years later, I consider myself that same hardworking little girl. I believe someone’s level of drive, motivation, and work ethic stays with them for life. Certainly, my years in grade school prepared me for my future in more ways than I can count.

With that said, though, there were many times I resented my work ethic. I got upset at myself for how much time and energy I gave to certain assignments or tasks. Sometimes, I thought God wired me incorrectly! For years, I tried to convince myself I was not acting how I should. I degraded my strengths and turned them into weaknesses. I thought, “Hey, if you stop working so hard maybe people will like you, and stop making fun of you for being who you are.”

As I got older, I realized my persistent drive is not a flaw. It is part of the foundation of who I am down to my innate core. I am who God created me to be. It is not right for me to resent His masterpiece that is my life.

Earlier this week, a college peer of mine understood that I put in the effort to succeed in class. She understood that I will complete assignments as they are asked of me, even if it is reading from the textbook. It is important to note this occurred recently. When this happened, I faced a fairly new challenge in my academia. I had to ask myself, “Why do I put in this hard work? Why do I complete assignments as I should?” If you asked me that question in high school, I would have said, “I do it simply because it is required of me. It makes me look and feel good about myself when I reach an accomplishment.” However, now my answer is, “Everything I say and do should glorify God.”

The moment I say, “I completed this assignment or task to glorify myself,” I need to stop and take a look at my relationship with Christ. Even though I am still the same diligent person I have always been, my motivation for what I do could not be more different. Instead of resenting myself when someone made fun of my work ethic this week, I chose to let it go. Whether I give 100% or 1,000%, if it is not for the glory of God, it is all in vain.

Blessings,

Renata

The Two Glasses of Worry and Trust

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” – Matthew 6:27.

I am a self-proclaimed worry-wart. Often times, I think I spend more time worrying about this or that than I do trusting God. If you think that sounds extremely straight forward and you have a hard time swallowing those words, good. That was my point.

I worry the most when I am in a new environment and see the potential of failure and rejection. For example, if I befriend someone, enter a different workplace, or start a semester, I worry A LOT. For some, those moments may seem trivial and minuscule, but to me they are monumental. If I had to pinpoint an event in my life that began my worrisome behavior, it would be the day I was born. On my birthdate, my biological mother left me in the hospital before a nurse took me to a local orphanage in Russia.

I have spent YEARS trying to overcome the rejection I felt. Though I do not actually remember the day I was born, I do know what occurred in my life. However, the true repercussions of my mother leaving me in a hospital are for another day and another time. I mention this occurrence, though, to show why it is so valuable for people to be honest with themselves.

Because I “think” I know what causes my worries, I tend to believe I am better off than most who cannot say the same. However, I could not be more incorrect in my philosophy. In fact, that is selfish and prideful of me to think my biological mother is to blame for my tendency to dwell. She may be a contributing factor, as Satan constantly leads me to believe, but she is not the ultimate reason. Honestly, the true person to blame for my worrisome behaviors and attitudes is me. Only me.

Just as blaming others for my worry is selfish, so is the act of worrying! When we worry, we turn our eyes away from God. Just as His Word says in Matthew, we do not benefit our lives by worrying. All we do is betray God. We say, “God, your promises, your Word, and your forever faithfulness are not good enough for me.” The moment we begin to worry, we rely on our own strength and not God’s to carry us through life.

As a fairly new believer still, fully trusting God in EVERY season of life is extremely challenging. As much as I would love to write, “I fully trust God in every season of life,” I do not all the time. However, I do know He is in control, ultimately. Although it may take me no time at all or days to believe this Truth in some trials, and even joys of life, I know He is in control. Although that may be the reality of my walk with Christ now, I continuously challenge myself to believe in His promises without ceasing. I challenge myself to believe them of every moment of every day. One day, with God’s gracious power, I will be able to say, “I fully trust Him always because, ‘I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.’” — Philippians 1:6. In God’s perfect timing, I will no longer struggle with this. He is not finished with me yet! Brothers and sisters, you are not alone. No one’s walk with Jesus is perfect. If it was, we would not need to lean on Him.

Picture this: There are two glasses. One is three-quarters full of worry and the other is half full with trust in God. For every moment that we worry, we take more trust away from God. May we spend our entire lives making the cup of trust overflow and make the glass of fear and uncertainty run dry.

Blessings,

Renata