#21DaysofEnough: Eating Animals

During the Minimalism series at our church Canvas, Brendon and I remembered that we're super thankful that years ago on our own, we decided we no longer wanted to shop cheaply: we wanted to shop for quality and be more ethically-conscious when purchasing items. As a couple it's been wonderful being able to find quality pieces to purchase to build our home together as well as purge items in our closets of things we no longer need or use (Brendon explains more in our post here about the Minimalism series, sharing about companies we love to support that are either small businesses or where proceeds of every purchase go to a cause we believe in). Not only did this series open our eyes to what we wear but it shed light on how we're utilizing our time in our work and what we're putting in our bodies. 

During the teaching series I began reading a book called "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer. This book has made me uncomfortable, challenging and changing my perspective on the things that Brendon and I are putting into our bodies daily. Just two-thirds in and my eyes have been opened to the realization that some things are just wrong. Perhaps others will disagree with me that animals are more than just food, but the highly-documented torture of animals is just unacceptable and the human cost Foer describes in his book, which I was unaware of, is universally-compelling.  In a nutshell this book begins with Foer, a content meat-eater, who is about to have his first child and decides to investigate eating animals. "What stories do we tell ourselves about eating animals? What do we tell ourselves that makes this OK? Finally, and of most interest to newer vegetarians; what do we tell ourselves about the absence of meat on our family table?" 

It pains my heart to think about the mass production that takes place to produce meat, eggs and poultry at farms. Did you know that only 1% of meat will actually come from family owned farms? 1%! If that doesn't make you uncomfortable...well it should. The typical cage for egg-laying hens is an 8"x 8" cage. Nearly all cage-free birds have the same amount of space as well. "To be considered free-range, chickens raised for meat must have "access to the outdoors,” which, if you take those words literally, means nothing. (Imagine a shed containing thirty thousand chickens, with a small door at one end that opens to a five-by five dirt patch–and the door is closed all but occasionally.) I could keep a flock of hens under my sink and call them free-range."  

Before this #21daysofenough fast I solely thought I would be ethically-conscious on what I am buying to wear or place in my future apartment, but never confronted my food ethically or where it came from really.. For the most part we eat fairly healthy when Brendon and I are together or separate, shopping for foods that are "organic" and "cage-free" for the most part (which apparently are just words). We also eat meat in moderation and due to Brendon being lactose intolerant and me not drinking milk on a consistent basis for the last two years, it's become more of a treat that sneaks in more frequently as of late (hehe, we love our ice cream).

But if I could be real with you, we love our food! We're big foodies! We love meat, we love fish, we love chicken and I don't know what life would be like without eggs! As I read page after page of Foer's book I'm challenged with the question: Why? Am I turning away from where my food comes from so I don't have to confront the reality? Or I do I love it so much that I don't care the cost?

So what's the solution?  I don't know quiet yet. I don't have all the answers. Whether Brendon and I change our lives completely or do nothing, we have responded. "To do nothing is to do something." 

Ways you can be more ethically cautious of the foods you eat if turning vegetarian isn't an option for you: 

  • Shop at local farmers markets or family farms
  • Check out this awesome website here to check products 
  • Be more aware of terms like "organic", "fresh", "pastured" "cage free", "free range." 
  • Educate yourself on what you are putting in your body
  • Find what works for you

 

 

 

 

A Jar of Pickles

I've had this thing for greeting cards over the last several years. There's something about taking a moment to write a hand-written note to a friend or a family member that is so much more special than a text or e-mail. I had a pen pal in Nebraska six years ago and we'd exchange letters and greeting cards back and forth.

I love browsing places like Paper Source or boutiques here in San Francisco like Lavish or Gather (those could be bar names or millennial church names, too) for well-designed and clever greeting cards.

One brand that I absolutely live by is A Jar of Pickles. These greeting cards are simple, fun, cute and very punny.

What I didn't realize was that the creator of this company is a girl named Kirstie, and she's actually good friends with my friend from SLO, Grace! When I made that connection, it made me appreciate A Jar of Pickles even more because I knew that my purchasing of these greeting cards were going to support a small business owner who I knew by a degree of separation. And seeing A Jar of Pickles products in various boutiques around the Bay Area made me really happy: her products are widely-distributed and attract a following.

The other month, Ashley and I had an opportunity to see Kirstie at an event at the HoneyBook office, hosted by HoneyBook, Weebly, and Brit + Co about building your personal brand online. Kirstie was actually a part of a speaking panel on the topic, which was great to see her be able to speak from her profession and expertise.

Check out the product offerings on A Jar of Pickles and send someone you know a clever greeting card today!

Weekend Recap: June 23-25

Okay, it's a little bit of a cheat, but this Weekend Recap extends into last week as well because there were a few notable events that we want to share that happened.

If there was a theme to our month of June, it would be Double Dating. Last month, we scheduled so many double dates, extending from close friends to friends we don't often share time with. A central component of our relationship is using our time, talent and treasure to bless others as a part of our ministry as a couple. That often materializes as a double date. Ashley and I love to share a meal or a drink or an experience with another couple. We recognize that it can be way too easy to turn inward and simply focus on each other, but I think Jesus calls us to a much higher calling as a couple.

Last Tuesday night, we met up with Maci, a girl from my community group (and founder and CEO of On Second Thought) and her boyfriend Ettie, at a restaurant around the block from me in Lower Pac Heights called Out The Door. This was our first time meeting with this fun couple and we had a blast sharing about our lives over tasty Asian-inspired dishes (we recommend the Hue Dumplings, Spring Rolls, Dungeness Crab Cellophane Noodles, and Fried Chicken!). 


On Thursday night, Thomas invited a few of us to come over to his apartment in Noe Valley to hang out and play Mario Kart on his Nintendo Switch. It ended up being just Thomas, Brian and I but we had a great time bonding nonetheless. Thomas put together simple drinks of vodka tonics and gin and tonics as we raced each other through the Mushroom Kingdom.


Ashley went on an overnight retreat up north with the girls from her Community Group from Friday to Saturday, so I just sat on the couch in my apartment and waited for her to come back.

When she came back to the city, we met up with Dia and Brian for an afternoon pint at Hopwater Distribution.


Sunday was a full day, starting with a beautiful morning with our Canvas family. Ashley got a small group of volunteers from her Kids Ministry to go to Alta Plaza park for a post-church picnic but she opened the invitation to others as well. We got sandwiches and snacks and laid out blankets on the grass at the park.

A small group of us branched off with a plan to go to Biergarten in Hayes Valley, so we walked and made the trek across the city. It didn't fully hit me that because SF Pride was happening that Biergarten (and Hayes Valley, in general) would probably be packed. And sure enough, when we finally made it to Hayes, every bar and open area was packed with people. Our backup plan? Buy a bottle of wine and drink it somewhere else. We stopped in at Arlequin Wine Merchant for a bottle of rosé. We didn't want to pay a $8 corkage fee so we ended up walking around Hayes, our eyes on the lookout for someone who might have a corkscrew.

With no luck, we ended up contacting Will, who lives a 20 minute walk from Hayes, and asked if we could come over to his apartment and open our bottle of wine there.

It turned out to be a wonderful idea: we set up a blanket in his backyard and sipped our rosé together. And after watching an episode of Friends back inside, we stopped in at a Thai restaurant right around the corner from Will's in Lower Haight called Thep Phanom for some Pad Thai and Pad See Ew.

And then to top off the day, Canvas was hosting a Worship And Prayer Night just down the block at First Baptist Church, where we were partnered with Crossroads, a Foursquare church in Fairfield. It was a beautiful night filled with grace, love and power.

Weekend Recap: June 16-18

Looking back at this past weekend, I can find a lot of moments that Brendon and I really loved. There were just so many good ones, like when I spent two hours laughing until my ribs hurt with my two darling cousins about future, past and new adventures; an hour meet up that ended up lasting two; or hearing about Brendon's hangout with our dear friend Jayme and all the sweet encouragement she fills our hearts with time and time again and the moments that we can invest in her life as well.

Then there were the few seconds in-between going to dinner with new friends, Gio and Monica (who are just the cutest): after not seeing each other for a few hours, when Brendon whispered  "missed you" as we walked into restaurant (gosh, I can't wait to marry this fella).

Or how about that time we decided to host a "Moana" movie night with some of the best people and the most bomb food: Pulled pork slides sandwiched between sweet Hawaiian rolls, macadamia nuts, coconut LaCroix, plantain chips, cake and piña coladas galore. But my favorite out of all of the favorites would have to be that single moment when our friends were so engaged in the film and songs...haha I glanced over at B across the room and caught him starring at the group with this look, the look that he gives when he's really happy to see others being filled. 

If you don't know yet, Brendon loves to host. He loves providing fun environments for people to connect whether it's a roof top shin dig, a casual themed movie night, cooking dinner for friends or entertaining people for just a night of conversation. He'll go above and beyond, out of his way to make sure friends, new and old, are taken care of, if that means filling their water cup a million times over before eventually washing it (hehe) or providing snacks, blankets or a cushion to sit on if we run out of seating. 

Brendon loves to host and he's great at it. 

It's one of the things I admire most about him. His love for people, his love for hosting and love for creating fun experiences for others. Since dating, it's been a fun challenge to continue to remind him to lean into the enjoyment of these great moments and worry about the dishes after our friends say goodbye...;P  

Anyway, hope this post inspires you as you head into your weekend. 

 

#21DaysofEnough: Intro

Our church Canvas is in the middle of a teaching series called "Minimalism," a 4-week series on living less in a more world. We started the series asking the question of whether we have stuff or stuff has us. As Americans, it's no secret that we love to acquire and hold on to things. On average, we have 300,000 items in our household. We spend $1.2 trillion on nonessential items a year. We have so much stuff that we need housing and storage for more of our stuff.

We've been challenged to check our hearts, seeing what idols might have made their way into our lives. Broadly defined, an "idol" is anything that has taken the place of God. It could be any good thing that's been made an ultimate thing.

As idolatry relates to our "Minimalism" teaching series, we're practically and tangibly looking at our everyday lives to eliminate things and reduce unnecessary spending. We want to do this because we believe it's 1) a better way to live, as people who can live on less; 2) we can make more informed purchasing decisions that benefit those who produce the goods we buy; 3) we can be more deeply connected with the heartbeat of God by releasing the grip that stuff has on us and simply enjoy stuff for what they are rather than putting our identity in them.

Simply looking at your bank statement can reveal what you truly value. For me, I've felt a strong conviction to:

  1. Reduce my reliance on Uber/Lyft and walk to my destinations more.
  2. Reduce my coffee-purchasing habits and make more coffee at home, with enough for both the morning and afternoon.
  3. Clear out clothes and items I haven't used in awhile (yay Christian spring cleaning haha)

And again, while taking stock of the things that you have and evaluating what you can purge is important, making informed purchases is also a habit to incorporate into your life. Here's a list of companies and products that we support as consumers (we've either shopped with them, plan to shop with them when we make a new product purchase, or simply admire their work):

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Warby Parker

With stylish frames at a great price point, I've been a Warby Parker customer for several years. I love their buy one, give one model in that every month, they tally up the number of glasses they sell, and donate directly to their nonprofit partners (primarily VisionSpring). This donation provides training for people in developing nations to give eye exams and sell glasses at affordable prices in their communities.

Learn more about Warby Parker's Buy A Pair, Give A Pair

Harry's

I've been shaving my face pretty regularly (up until recently, that is) and I live by Harry's high-quality 4-blade razors and durable handles. They give 1% of their net revenue to organizations like City Year, closing the gap between what schools are designed to do and what students actually need, and Year Up, empowering students to move from poverty to professional careers in a year.

Learn more about Harry's Give A Shave

Soma

I remember first seeing a Soma water carafe at a Community Group at a church I had been visiting in San Francisco many years ago. I loved its minimalist design and magical pour system. What I didn't realize was that Soma also supports one of my favorite charities, charity:water, a nonprofit in which 100% of your giving goes right back out to support clean water-building and water project maintenance in developing nations.

Learn more about Soma's partnership with charity:water

Sky + Arrow

We've been eyeing the blankets at Sky + Arrow for some time, whether that's a blanket to keep us warm on the couch or to bring out to a picnic with friends. With every blanket purchase, Sky + Arrow gives a blanket in need through Compassion Covers California, a great Christian organization that aims to provide comfort, hope and relief to hose living in poverty in California.

Learn more about Sky + Arrow's mission

Everlane

Everlane's products are wonderfully basic and minimalist. Ashley and I both have their classic Weekender bags and some assorted basics like tees and pullovers. Everlane boasts "radical transparency": They partner with factories around the globe and build strong relationships with them in order to ensure quality of both products and workers. They also show the true cost of manufacturing their products alongside their own markup.

Learn about the individual factories that Everlane is partnered with.

Nice Laundry

Looking for fun socks for either casual or dressy occasions with an ethical mission? Look no further than Nice Laundry. When you place an order, they'll also send you a return shipping label to send back some of your old socks and underwear, and they'll give those old garments new life through their partner  2ReWear.

Learn more about Nice Laundry's textile recycling initiative

Krochet Kids

We love Krocket Kids hand-knit, woven beanies. They've kept us warm in the winter months and during San Francisco's foggy summers. We also love that the products have a direct impact on empowering women in developing nations, providing them with jobs with a sustainable wage, education and mentorship.

Read more about Krochet Kids' impact

It's worth noting that living a minimal life goes beyond material things: living minimally is being generous with other resources you have, like your time. For Ashley and me, we've been actively making it a practice to use the time that we have as a couple on other people as much as we can. This has become a priority for us, even in the midst of planning a wedding: we recognize the value of community and the importance of investing in others' lives. As a taster, check out this blog post that Ashley wrote up about how we recently had a weekend of double- and triple-dates.

Weekend Recap: June 9-11

First thing's first: last weekend, despite how busy it was, was one of my favorite weekends in a long time. Brendon and I were able to spend a lot of quality time with friends in many of our favorite neighborhoods of the city. 

I was lucky enough to begin the weekend with a morning spent in Bernal Heights with almond croissants and walks to the library with the cutest little babe. The day continued with an adventurous day in the Mission, full of iced coffee, bus rides, running down hills, eating all the strawberries, plantain chips and basking in all the sun, afternoon cappuccinos with her tia's and long naps in between.  It was a whole day of summer, the best type of day, and boy was it exactly what was needed after a full week of event-prepping.

The day wrapped up with a happy hour with Jenn. We love having opportunities to spend time with her and be present to what's going on in her life. We are so thankful for her friendship and the life she pours into us individually and as a couple.

We tried a new little wine gem called Terrior, a was super quaint wine bar tucked away in South of Market, with a menu filled with Old World wine. When asked how long they'd been around they said they'd been there for over 10 years. I've walked by it many times, so having a chance to step in for the first time and be greeted in French was pretty whimsical. 

Then we went to Lower Haight where we met up with Betz (also known as Will, one of our members of our Squad) for some yummy Thai food. Brendon ordered Pad Se Ew and I was so jealous that I didn't order it as well: it was the best I've had in the city so far. Getting to spend some time with a few of our best friends for unplanned dinner is always such a treat to be able to connect and grow together over yummy food and so many laughs, couldn't ask for more. 


Saturday could be broken down into four major parts: 

1. Bread Crawl

2. Birthday Celebration, Uno

3. Canvas Family Event

4. Birthday Celebration, Dos

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The day was full of fun and not-so0full of picture-taking, but we did snap a couple of photos here and there when we remembered. Sometimes we just need to put the phone down and be in the moment and Saturday was for sure one of those days. 

The morning began with eating at, not one, but three bakeries all around the Mission and Church Street with a few of my favorite BS people (I'll explain what that is in a future post...hehe). We ate pastries and baguettes and all the toast we could handle, paired with hot and iced coffees. It was just the perfect morning to not worry about carbs or sugar but to indulge in these perfectly-made little pieces of goodness. This Bread Crawl was all planned by Will, who took an idea and crawled with it! ;P 

We continued the day with celebrating our friend, favorite intern, and sometimes pretend child (we keep tabs when she eats, sleeps and takes care herself when she forgets): Little Miss Lauren in Golden Gate Park for a birthday picnic. We just love this girl and getting to spend time and invest in her as much as we can. She has such a beautiful heart and we just know she is going to continue to be such a world changer. 

From there Brendon and I headed across town for an event I was hosting for our Canvas Families a "Kick Off To Summer" Shindig. I can't say enough how amazing this event was to see families connect and grow together over food was just amazing. It reminded me how thankful I am to have a job where I can invest in family community and to have a fiancé that would be supportive and present in what fills my heart. We had full attendance for this event and all I could think about was how I shouldn't be surprised, because let's be honest: the Lord was all over that event and so thankful to be called to do what I do. 

We then wrapped up the evening with one other birthday celebration across town, deeper in the Mission to celebrate our girl Gina at a brewery that we love called Southern Pacific Brewery. It was so sweet watching so many people come out to celebrate this girl and she is one to celebrate: she loves people and one of the most thoughtful people we know. To see others celebrating her was just so great. We are so blessed by her and her boyfriend of 8 years Douglas' friendship. 

Then there was Sunday, and we LOVE SUNDAYS!! After serving two services and having an afternoon meeting two new Canvas Kid recruits, I helped to organize one of my favorite events we do at Canvas: COMMUNITY LINK. It's a night where we celebrate everyone that is heading into a season of community. Gosh, it's my favorite and I just love that we dedicate an event to bring people together and celebrate what it means to grow together.

I recruited Brendon weeks before to take photos and b-roll for this event and gosh, he has such a serving heart. I can't brag on him enough: he is more of an "I" (Introvert) at times after too much social engagement and even though his tank was running really low and needed alone time, he pushed through and no one could tell. He connected, stayed present and did it all with laughs and smiles as if it were the first day of the weekend. I'm so blessed by this guy and thankful to partner with him.

I was still in need of two more volunteers for the night and without hesitation, two of our good friends Trixie and Will postponed Sunday chores (grocery shopping, laundry, Facebook...) to greet, check-in and setup with other volunteers to make this event happen. Gosh, we are blessed with such great friends, I just can't say it enough! We had 36 new people join community groups this past weekend and to see their faces and how excited they were just filled my heart. Such a great way to end the weekend!! 

Last weekend, I wouldn't change anything for the world; busy yes, but so worth it to spend time with people we love and serve full heartily. 

*Monday was definitely spent in slow mode 

Assembling Our Save The Dates

Ashley and I have been incredibly excited to tell our friends and family about our wedding as soon as we could. After knocking out our engagement photos (thanks to Lauren) and booking a venue in the beautiful town of Sausalito, we were ready to have our Save The Date cards created.

We asked Brian to be our graphic designer-of-choice to deploy his creative abilities for this task. Ashley sent him a few designs that she was attracted to for inspiration. We asked him to to create designs for both the front and back of a two-sided card, sized at 5"x7". The backside would have our wedding details and and the frontside would be style like an instant Polaroid photo, with one of our engagement photos pasted on it. Within a couple of weeks and after a couple of iterations, Brian delivered a design that we were all very happy with and proud of.

A few weeks ago while Ashley and I were taking a walk around the block in Pac Heights, we came across a local design and printing shop called Copy.net. In general, I've been trying to spend my dollars at local businesses as much as possible so I decided to go with them to print our Save The Dates. We were able to bring in our own card stock from Paper Source that they could work with: instead of 5"x7" cards, they asked us to bring in 8.5"x11" so that they could fit two cards per page. And in a matter of hours, we had our printed Save The Dates in-hand!

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With photos printed from Walgreens in 4"x4" squares, Ashley and I spent one afternoon physically hand-mounting each photo to a card, using glue sticks with permanent adhesive. The next day, we had some of our bridal party stop by to stuff envelopes, address and stamp them to be sent out the following business day.

We sent out the Save The Dates in a few phases and asked our recipients to take a photo of their Save The Dates once they arrived, using our wedding hashtag #brashbash17. We've been seeing photos of some of our friends receiving them, scattered about over the last few days!

That One Time We Had a Triple and a Double Date in One Week

Brendon and I always talk about how thankful we are to have such good friends who have surrounded us through our dating season, now engagement season, and soon-to-be-marriage season.

Two weekends ago we had a triple date and double date in one week. Yay, people! We love meeting up with people either together or one-on-one. 

First up for the weekend was our triple date that included our good friends Chris and Camille Bandy who've been just a constant example of loving your partner in a selfless way, like how Jesus loves. I met Chris and Camille around the same time I met B, when they first came to visit Canvas, our home church. I remember being in "awe" of their love for each other in their dating season and thought so many times, "Wow, their love is inspiring!" Brendon's known Chris and Camille for years: they attended college together and were actively involved in college ministry together and he's been able to watch their relationship blossom from friends, dating, engagement and now marriage.  People fuel them the same way they fuel us as a couple, so any chance we can get on their calendars in a huge WIN! We just love these two. 

Our friends Kevin and Lara Kleine also joined us for dinner and I just can't say enough about these two: they fill a room with so much laughter and sincerity in everything they do. We met the Kleine's a couple years back at Canvas as well and almost from the start they've been actively serving. I was lucky enough to go on my own date with these two over a year ago, in which we ate an excessive amount of Mexican food and sipped on the most delicious margaritas. They were so kind to invite me to their neighborhood where they fell in love: The Richmond. I was able to get to know who they are as a couple and saw just how beautiful their love for one another was. On one of their first dates, Kevin bought Lara a love fern that they still have till this day and it just sits so nicely in their adorable studio apartment. That night they invited me to their home where we ate a dessert I dreamed about for days that for the life of me, I can't remember what it's called. I remember after leaving that I couldn't wait to hangout with them more. When B and I first started dating I told him many times that we had to double with these two sooner rather than later because they are seriously two of my favorite people. These two have been just a joy to get to know. They have such servant hearts and really inspire us to love outside of the walls of our city and country. We look forward to building a closer relationship with them during this season for us. 

The Bandy's were kind enough to host dinner for us: butternut squash pasta with shrimp on the side, paired with a tasty green salad prepared by Kevin and some really yummy red wine brought by Brendon and me. 

It was such a fun night of connecting over hearty food. As we ate and laughed I sat and watched how wonderful this was to have such a good friends along side us. And before leaving we asked them for future marriage advice Below is what we got: 

Bandy's: Always have your own blanket. 

Kleine's: Buy separate ice cream so yours doesn't get eaten up.

These are a bit silly and of course they shared other tips but these two were my favorite because it's the little things that make you realize "WOW! I don't live alone anymore and not everything belongs to just me anymore" haha.

That same weekend we were able to have another date with our good friends Thomas and Abby Daniels, two of favorite people ever! We met Thomas and Abby a couple of years back: we all attended a Community Group together in the Mid-Market area. Thomas actually didn't start attending until half way through because he hadn't been living in the city just yet. I remember week after week we'd prayed that Thomas would get a job in San Francisco so that they wouldn't have to be long distance anymore. I can still recall when that prayer was answered and how excited Abby was to share that her then-boyfriend was moving to San Francisco. Our CG guys even came together to try and find a suit his size so he could interview for job he lined up! (Community at it's finest.) We eventually launched out a new group from that one in the SOMA neighborhood, where I co-led with our good friend Jenn. That's truly where we were able to develop and grow our relationship with the Daniels together and separately.. As I watched these two continue to grow together as a couple for those 18 months it was amazing to see the love they had for each other and the way they shared that same love by pouring their time and kindness to others. 

The way they love one another, partner together and shower others with hospitality and love is just so incredibly beautiful, such hearts of gold. Thomas is actually one of B's groomsmen and their friendship just means the world to Brendon. They have had the opportunity to grow over the last couple years with many one-on-ones and small group settings, when picking Thomas to stand up their while we say I DO was a no brainier for B! 

They welcomed us over for a night of red beans & rice and a few games of Mario Kart (which I admit I am not the best at, but love playing). The night was filled with so many stories, laughs, marriage advice, reflection (the Daniels have recently celebrated their first marriage anniversary) and lots of food and wine. Oh, and not to mention Abby's amazing baked brie that I am still drooling over. 

Community and people fuel Brendon and me. If that's enjoying nights with a small group of friends, one-on-ones or double dates or even triple dates, we'll take it. We love to invest in people and grow deeper relationships as much as possible. 

 

The Proposal: How It Went Down

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Ashley and I both agreed that we wouldn't want to start a relationship with each other unless it was intentional; that it we would only do it if we were serious about pursing marriage together. I didn't want to hop into a relationship so quickly that I wouldn't count the cost. But I'm glad I had that time to mull all of that over last year because after our first handful of dates, I knew that this woman would be the one who I would marry.

Planning for the proposal went as far back as New Year's Eve, on the night of December 31, 2016. Brian was hosting a little get-together at his apartment, and all of our friends were there, dolled up and decked out in their New Year's finest.

At one point during the night, I asked Brian if he could step away to talk to me for a minute. I pulled him aside into his bedroom, closed the door, and said "So I think this year is the year..." and even before I could finish that sentence, his eyes got wide and his smile got huge as he interrupted me, saying, "IS THIS WHAT I THINK THIS MEANS?"

And that first conversation with Brian set off a series of events that would solicit the help of a large chunk of our friends (e.g. a good number of our church family) leading up until May 4, 2017, the day that I would propose to Ashley to marry me.


Disney and Disneyland have always played huge parts of our relationship, from watching Disney movies, watching fan videos of World Of Color on YouTube, to a trip to Disneyland as a part of our second date. I couldn't imagine popping the question at anywhere else than Disneyland, a place that holds such a special place in both of our hearts. To be able to pull off a proposal at Disneyland would require a lot of coordination and conversations, but I knew that it would be the perfect place to do it.

We had already been planning a trip to Disneyland sometime in May because we wanted to get both of our families to go, which was perfect because Ashley and I had talked about how, whenever I would propose, she wanted her parents there, too. I started talking with my family about the special reason we'd be going again to Disneyland in May, and I started to arrange for my sister Courtney and her husband Robert to come down to Anaheim from Portland.

The much more difficult part would be getting Ashley's parents on-board. I wanted to ask her Dad for permission to marry her, so that was first off on the list of things to do. I invited him out to dinner and we went over to his favorite sushi restaurant in San Francisco, Nara Sushi. We had a good conversation on movies and ministry over our dinner of various sashimi and nigiri. After I had picked up the bill and as he was snacking on his orange slice for dessert, I dropped the bomb: "I asked you to come out to dinner tonight because I wanted your permission to have Ashley's hand in marriage." He nearly choked on that orange slice. After a few moments of shock and reflecting on what just happened, he gave me his blessing. Phew!

Another component of Ashley's dream proposal included having her close friends around, too. Starting early off in the new year in January, I slowly started to pull our friends aside to tell them about my plans in May, asking if they might be able to take time off work and make travel plans to come to Anaheim. I wanted them to be there after I proposed to help put together a small engagement party. I knew that having our friends present would be a perfect second surprise for Ashley, but keeping it all under wraps would be a challenge...


I was excited that my sister Nicki was just as excited (maybe more, at times) as me for this proposal, and she had a great setup for it. If you remember in the Disney/Pixar movie "Up," the young Elle keeps this scrapbook that she calls "My Adventure Book," in which she pastes photos and articles of all the adventures she wants to have. Nicki offered to great a miniature version of that book and it would have photos of Ashley and me and the final page would hold the ring.

 

She also put together a coordinated effort between our families leading up to the big ask. I would lead Ashley to the front of her favorite ride in Disneyland, "It's A Small World," and as I give a small speech to Ashley our families would come up to us in twos and hand Ashley a balloon. After the final balloon is given, I would flip through the pages of the book, ending at the final page with the ring, where I'd get down on one knee and ask Ashley to marry me.


I still had to go buy the ring. I knew the kind of ring that Ashley was looking for: I had asked her to casually go ring shopping with me online back in December, just for fun. While she was browsing listings on different sites, I made a note of the ones she spent time examining. I also asked Jenn to be my "inside woman" and get information on Ashley's ring size. 

I marked my calendar for the day I would go ring shopping but I needed some kind of alibi or excuse for why I was going to go to the East Bay (where the ring shop was). As "luck" would have it, the day that I chose was the Saturday right before Easter Sunday and Ashley would be pre-occupied with a kids' event at our church for the morning. And I told Ashley that I was going to go to the East Bay to get my car at my parents' house, because we'd need the car to drive to a couple of family events on that Sunday. Bullet-proof!

I meant to only have one or two other people to come with me to the jewelry store but I ended up with a whole squad. I asked James (who I'd been calling my "best man" for years) to come with me, along with Jenn. My sister Nicki offered to come too, to be an advisor. Ashley's sister Angelique would also come, who Ashley would name her Maid Of Honor. And, surprisingly in attendance, Ashley's parents would come along for the ride. 

After a couple of hours of back-and-forth with many voices around me and examining different settings and diamonds, I actually ended up making a ring purchase that same day. I swiped my credit card, tears welling up in my eyes, and checked that one off of my list of things to do.


Another big part of the plan was to try and gather as many of our friends that we could from San Francisco to come down to Anaheim to surprise Ashley after the proposal. She'd mentioned several times that she'd always wanted to have her close friends around whenever I proposed. I started compiling a list of the people I knew she'd want there, and started my quest early to invite these people to come along. I would often pull individuals aside after Sunday morning service at church and go for a quick walk around the block as I shared the details of my May plans. Each time I would tell someone, I got the same ecstatic reaction: wide-eyed, gaping mouths, hushed exclamations, and huge smiles. It never got old! By the time April had rolled around, I had a solid group of 12 people that had committed to coming to Anaheim.

Our families would be staying at an Airbnb near the parks, so I asked our friends if they'd be able to come down to Anaheim a little early to go ahead of us and decorate our Airbnb for when we'd come back from the parks. I put James and Jenn in charge of leading and facilitating that so I wouldn't have to worry about coordinating that part of the day. As a small Thank You to our friends who were coming to Anaheim from San Francisco, I rented a second Airbnb for them to stay at for one night nearby the parks as well.


With all of the components planned or set in motion, it was finally time to head to Disneyland during the first week of May. I usually can't contain my excitement when I'm heading to Disneyland, and while that was still true this time around, I wasn't bouncing off-the-walls as much as I had in the past. Granted, I was still excited but my mind was preoccupied with many different moving parts. I wondered if Ashley could tell that I wasn't as excited for going to Disneyland as I had been for the last few times...

We drove down from the Bay Area towards Anaheim in the early morning hours of Tuesday. May 2. We rented a SUV that could comfortably hold me, my parents, Ashley, Angelique and Brian, and we caravanned with Nicki, Nate and Maddie in their car along the highway. We arrived in the mid-afternoon at our Airbnb just outside the parks and made ourselves at home. Shortly thereafter, Ashley's parents arrived and then Courtney and Robert a couple of hours later.

Wednesday was a pretty typical day for us inside Disneyland, albeit with a little bit of a larger group of us. One thought that Angelique came up with was taking photos of Ashley and me and having them printed out in time for the engagement party. So Brian, Angelique and I started snapping photos and sending them to Annalynn and Jenn over the course of the day. Some of the photos were posed, while others Angelique and Brian managed to take when we weren't looking.

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These photos were being passed back and forth through a group text message thread that Angelique started. And with Brian and I also a part of the thread, it was fun to keep this active secret right under Ashley's nose. As we were sharing photos, we started to collectively wonder whether Ashley had any indication of what was coming... so take a peek at a part of this thread:

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And then came Thursday, the big day.

Surprisingly, I didn't feel anxious and I gave off the impression of being cool, calm and collected. We spent most of the day inside California Adventure, weaving through crowds for Radiator Springs Racers and darting across the park for California Screamin'. We enjoyed corn dogs and beer and cooled off riding Soarin'. It was a particularly hot and humid day so we were all feeling a bit sluggish. Our big group split ways and agreed to meet back inside Disneyland at the Plaza Inn to have an early dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits and green beans. 

It turned out that we timed the dinner a bit too early and we ended up finishing our dinner around 4:30PM. We still had to wait for the sun to get to a good level for that "golden hour" light, which wouldn't be for another hour. Also, our friends were still busy decorating our Airbnb outside of the parks, so we definitely needed more time.

I was starting to get nervous.

At the dinner table, our plates empty and our group lounging around, I keep catching glances with Nicki about what to do next. Ashley was sitting right next to me so I tried to keep myself cool. I still had to get the ring package from Nicki, who had been holding it for me during the trip. So I casually got up from the booth and told Ashley I was going to grab more water at the soda fountain and Nicki got up to join me. I met her around the corner and she pulled out the ring package and I quickly slipped it into my back jeans pocket. I know, probably not the best spot. I just had to transfer it to my backpack and I would be good.

Back at the booth, I slid back into my seat, the ring package still bulging in my pocket. I complained to Ashley that my stomach was feeling a bit unsettled so I wanted to go to the bathroom (this is not an uncommon conversation between me and Ashley, but it ended up working in my favor: I could take my backpack to the bathroom and transfer the ring to it). And with others saying that they wanted to go back to their hotel room to change for before it got too cold in the evening, everyone else was able to scatter and meet back up at the proposal spot.

Ashley was waiting for me outside of the bathroom. I took her by the hand and started leading her back towards the core of the park, where I still had to stall for time: the rest of the group was still gathering and needed to find balloons. Nicki kept me on my toes over text:

I had a fake string of text messages sent to Angelique, Brian and Ashley saying that we would meet them at the next ride. I suggested to them It's A Small World or Matterhorn Bobsleds. Brian craftily responded that he hated It's A Small World, much to Ashley's displeasure (this was perfect because I would be leading Ashley to meet the rest of the group in front of that ride when I popped the question, so Brian continued is vocal hatred of that ride to play it off). I walked Ashley to backwards to Adventureland where I got a bottled water and slowly led her towards the backside of Fantasyland (see text messages to Nicki, above). 

As we approached the queue to It's A Small World, we saw that there weren't any crowds: the ride was temporarily closed for mechanical issues (perfect: no one around!). I caught a glimpse of Nate out of the corner of my eye, who had been prepping the stage only seconds before. I put Ashley into position and then this happened (thanks to Courtney for streaming this live on Facebook):

She said YES.

Yes! Yes! YES!

We looked up from our embrace to see our family and friends around us, cheering and applauding. We each exchanged hugs with everyone around us, and even had applause from Disneyland cast members who watched it all unfold from the front of It's A Small World. They came up to use to congratulate us and allowed us behind the ropes of the still-shut-down ride to take some very special crowd-less photos.The cast members also gave us these little tickets to take to a nearby shop to get free custom embroidered Mickey ear hats and even gave us free passes for our family to use to get to the front of any ride of our choice!

Could it get any better?


After we got our free Mickey ears (we chose the complimentary Mickey groom and Minnie bride ears!), I caught a glance with Brian and gave him the OK to start the next phrase of the evening. He told Ashley that we got special reservations at a restaurant but we'd have go back to our Airbnb to change and get ready for the evening. We made our way back through to the park exit and grabbed an Uber to head back.

As we got out of the car at the front of the house, I told Ashley that I had remembered that she had always wanted her friends to be present at her proposal, and with a well-timed door open, we were greeted with the shouts, exclamations and accolades of a group of our friends from San Francisco. They had transformed the living room of our Airbnb into a beautiful engagement party, complete with balloons, streamers, food and drink, as well as strung-up photos that they had printed out from our relationship and even those taken at the parks just the other day.

We couldn't have asked for a better set of friends like some of the men and women who came down from San Francisco to Anaheim to celebrate our engagement!

We couldn't have asked for a better set of friends like some of the men and women who came down from San Francisco to Anaheim to celebrate our engagement!

We popped open champagne, snacked on spring rolls and plantain chips, and enjoyed the company of our friends who were the first to witness our engagement. It was the first time I could tangibly grasp the culmination of months of planning, conversations and coordination. I couldn't believe that we pulled it off so perfectly. It was definitely a spectacular social evening to top off magical proposal.


I had even asked those of our friends from the engagement party who could make it out to come to the parks the following day, and we had a marathon darting from ride to ride from morning to midnight. 

From January to May, everything came together in perfect culmination. Ashley had her family and her friends present at one of the biggest moments of her life, set with the backdrop of Disneyland, a central component to our relationship, to wrap it all together in a magical instance.

I'm excited to create more magical moments in this season with my fiancé Ashley by my side as we progress towards marriage!

#brashbash17

States Coffee & Mercantile

One of our favorite places to visit when we're back home with my Mom and Dad is this quaint coffee shop in Martinez, CA called States Coffee & Mercantile, located in the heart of old town Martinez at 609 Ward St.

Our friend Lauren, who grew up in Martinez, told Ashley and me about States several months back. She told us about this little coffee shop that was tucked away in downtown Martinez that felt very ahead of it's time. The city of Martinez isn't particularly known to attract young crowds so when she kept telling us to visit States and that we'd both enjoy it, we decided to take a little drive from my parents' house to old town Martinez.

States took over what appears to have been some kind of brick-laden warehouse or small manufacturing center. There's plenty of space to move around and a number of seats to spend hours on end inside. 

They're also a micro-roastery, roasting their own beans on-site. They also have several American-made goods for sale, including their own brand of candles (the "Northwest" candle is probably my favorite one that they make). And their line of basic apparel that sports their brand is helping the sleepy town of Martinez become more hip and desirable to our age group. I picked up a zip-up hoodie myself and I feel proud to sport it wherever I go!

When you stop by, consider picking up a simple drip coffee, brewed with a Chemex. And their donuts are all vegan and surprisingly tasty. Try the blueberry or maple donuts! On your way out, grab a bag of coffee beans for home.

Recently, Ashley and I were at States and Lauren was also there. She introduced us to one of the baristas that Ashley and I have actually seen a number of times on our visit and it turns out that that barista is the worship pastor of a nearby church and that church is going to be partnering with our church Canvas at an upcoming Prayer & Worship Night in San Francisco! Small world!

Explore States through our photos below and drop in sometime!

Things Good For The Soul: Reading

Brendon and I both love reading. It is one of our favorite things to do separately and together. As friends it was something we enjoyed meeting up for. On many weekends we would spend hours at Artis, a coffee shop around the corner from Brendon's first apartment in Hayes Valley. It became a special place for us, not just for reading, but to meet with people too. We would sit for hours reading and sipping coffee, sharing our thoughts every now and then. These were some of our favorite times together as just friends that carried over when we became a couple. 

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One of our earliest dates that I had the opportunity of planning was an afternoon in North Beach, one of my favorite neighborhoods in San Francisco that I feel I don't spend enough time in. We took a stroll down Columbus Street to City Lights, one of the oldest bookstores in the city. If you know me, bookstores are my thing (a shared love with my dad). I could sit in the aisles for hours, starting in the children's section and three hours in, hitting the American Lit, Romanticism and Poetry sections (that's the English major in me). I love literature: I love being filled with stories and knowledge. 

After looking through each section and spending countless hours on each floor, late afternoon began to approach so we said goodbye to the classics and went onward to one of my favorite cafes in San Francisco, Cafe Trieste. Visits here aren't always for the coffee but for the nostalgia, the ambiance and its sweet Italian quaintness. Brendon had been before, but it was nice to be able to share a new experience together by ordering a neighborhood secret that he had never tried before: the Fantasia Iced Coffee, simple iced chocolate goodness with a hint of almond and homemade whipped cream. I shared with him a heart-felt memory that I had: as a child my dad would take me there every time we visited the city, a place he'd go as a teen. He would lift me up at the counter and let me order "four Iced Fantasias, please" for the family. If you find yourself in North Beach it's a must!

When we visited Portland this past March, one of my requests was to head to Powell's bookstore. As we approached the block-wide store, my eyes grew and I could do nothing else other than stop and stare in awe.  We spent two glorious hours inside walking floor by floor. Not once did Brendon rush us or give the look of "can we go?" He walked through each aisle as if it was his first time and gazed in all of its greatness with me.  We piled book after book into our basket, not wanting to leave without our arms full. 

When we have the chance to pick up a book, it's a time for us to rest in the busy days that life has a tendency of throwing at us. It's a moment, whether it be a minute or a hour, that we get to sit down, be comfy, and indulge in a story, be taught or be whisked away in someone else's creative imagination. These moments of rest that reading provides are necessary to a restful soul. It's not often that we get time to rest in our days and I think that it's important that we find these moments in our life to take time to feed our souls with knowledge and imaginative fiction (with coffee in hand, of course!). 

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As you finish reading this post, we challenge you to fuel your soul by picking up a book. Find a really good book that you'll enjoy, a story that will inspire you as a creative, challenge you as a human, tug at your heart strings or push you to want to make the world a better place. Then carve out good chunks of time to indulge in that book, and allow it to soothe your soul.

We promise it will be life-giving and so good for the soul!

What we're reading: 

Brendon: Do Over (Jon Acuff)

Ashley: Present Over Perfect (Shauna Niequist)

What we're reading together: Wildwood (Colin Meloy)

Douglas & Gina

We've been so blessed to share this season of life with our friends Douglas and Gina. I remember the first times seeing Douglas on Sundays at Canvas. He seemed to be full of joy, big smile spanning his face. I met him in passing but we never pulled off to the side to have a conversation.

I remember one Saturday, we were serving together with a bunch of others in our church with Habitat For Humanity for a week-long event called Love Week. We were assigned to help build homes in the Outer Mission area in San Francisco. Douglas was there and I incorrectly introduced him to someone else by another name. Man, that was embarrassing. So I covered that up and told Douglas that that mistake meant that it was time to hang out to get to know each other. Perfect.

Ashley has had the blessing and honor to have Douglas and his girlfriend Gina serve with her in the kids ministry, Canvas Kids. Ashley's had a lot more time to get to know the couple. But Gina had asking Ashley for awhile if we could all spend time together on a double date, so we finally arranged for a time to get together. I love Gina's intentionality!

Ashley and I had Douglas and Gina over at my old apartment in Hayes Valley one Monday evening. Ashley and I cooked up a simple shrimp pasta dinner and we shared a bottle of wine. We had a great time sharing details about our lives, both as individuals and as couples. Douglas also brought some card games, including Codenames: I learned that Douglas and I need to be on better wavelengths to combat Ashley and Gina. We'll get there, Douglas!

One standout comment I'll make from that time together: I learned how Douglas and Gina came across Canvas. They had both ended their time at UC Berkeley and they were looking for a church  somewhere in Oakland, Berkeley or San Francisco. It turns out that my old friend Joyce's (from my college ministry) sister June was a part of a Christian dance crew called "Abba Modern" at Cal with Douglas (by the way, check out this video that June helped me to dig up, prominently featuring Douglas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-59WDyRfUU). June recommended Douglas to go check out Canvas because she knew that I was a part of that church. So Douglas brought Gina along one Sunday and they've been with us ever since. How awesome is that? 

Fast-forward a little bit ahead. We had another double date with Douglas and Gina, but this time they hosted us at Gina's apartment. They prepped a wonderful meal of shrimp tacos for us to share, with all of the fixings. They even prepped some homemade guacamole, which is definitely one of our love languages (I'm pretty sure Gary Chapman missed that one in his writings).

Oh, and we played Codenames again that time. And Douglas and I lost to Ashley and Gina. Again.

What I love about this couple is the joy that both of them have in their lives. They both genuinely love each other, love people, love life, and love Jesus. I was particularly encouraged to learn that Douglas makes an early commute from his East Bay apartment to San Francisco to do early morning devotionals with Gina. #relationshipgoals

And I love that both of them serve together on the Canvas Kids team. Their love for each other and for the Lord easily spills over into the kids that they serve and I love that they exhibit such servant-like hearts this way. Our church (and our kids!) are better because of Douglas and Gina. 

Weekend Recap: April 21-23

The weekend was filled with parents and dessert sprinkled in between.

 

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Early on in this little relationship of ours we committed to spending time with our families. Setting aside nights during the week to see my parents and spending two weekends a month with Brendon's in Martinez. Family is so important to us so setting the time aside to grow with one another is no where near a sacrifice. Blessed to have two sets of parents we truly love hanging out with. 

This weekend consisted of  four days of colorful cuisines. A slow Friday morning of sipping coffee, Brendon working and lots of reading at Martinez' little gem States coffee. (We find ourselves here every chance we get when visiting the east bay) Just the right amount of vegan donuts and ice cream. Two hour-long chapters of Stranger Things. Little spontaneous trips to Target, late night treats of too much pound cake and many countless moments with our parents laughing and  bonding over biscuits, jambalaya and gumbo at the Elite Cafe. 

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Weekends with the parents aren't too shabby. 

Things Good For The Soul: Ice Cream

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I would absolutely love to find somebody who could whole-heartedly tell me that ice cream is not good for the soul. If I were to ever meet that person I would probably roll my eyes and tell them how wrong their opinion was and think twice about our friendship...just kidding...well sortaIce cream cures all, it's the absolute solution to everything.

Brendon is lactose intolerant but it doesn't stop him from indulging in all of ice cream's goodness. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices and endure the consequences for great things. And boy does he...in all honesty I don't think it's that much of a sacrifice for him: if he could, he would probably eat it before and after every meal. 

I believe the Lord created ice cream to be the tangible healer of things. 

So funny story: we tried this thing a few weeks back about giving up desserts until our upcoming trip to Disneyland. We were three weeks strong. Yay, us! Then a turn of events happen where my body needed a hug and we came to our senses and realized life is too short to not enjoy the good things it gives us... of course, in moderation.

So we caved. No regrets.

Finding the words to describe the miracles that ice cream brings to our souls may be almost impossible. It's one of those wonderfully made things thats just good because it's good.

Take a stroll down your past and remember when it carried you through. Like when you had the worst of days, or the moments where you just needed a good cry. Or what about the the times it was so hot out and it was the only thing keeping you from dying from heat stroke? 

And let;s not forget the spontaneous moments, the sweet gestures, the fun times with community or loved ones, those moments when you just craved joy and happiness and how it brought on the fun. 

Oh, ice cream. You are just too good for the soul.. 

A few of our favorite ice cream spots in SF: 

Salt & Straw

Suggested by Brendon: Strawberry Tres Leches
Suggested by Ashley: Sightglass Coffee and Single-Origin Dandelion Chocolate (in a waffle cone!)

Pressed Juicery

Suggested by Ashley: Vanilla Almond with Raspberry and Coconut Shavings

Mitchells

Suggested by Brendon and Ashley: Ube

Smitten

Suggested by Brendon: Salted Caramel
Suggested by Ashley: Lemon Gingersnap

Loving Cup

Suggested by Brendon: Strawberry Shortcake
Suggested by Ashley: Cinnamon Toast Crunch

10 Things For April

Can you believe we are approaching the last week of April? The Sun is finally shinning and we may be done with the showers for awhile at least. These days when we find ourselves with a little free time we've been pursuing some of our favorite shops online to decide what our next purchase should be, we've been eyeing this lately. 

Check out what we've learned this week too: 

Him: 

  1. Swallowing my pride is hard
  2. It's better to force yourself to talk it out than to stay silent
  3. Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors has been the perfect soundtrack to my life and I'm excited to see him live soon
  4. Being Jesus to your friends may simply mean showing up and being present, especially at pirate bars 
  5. Family often means well even though it might come off differently to you

Her: 

  1. Love means loving when its fun and when it's really hard 
  2. There are times when a friend will need you to just drop everything and be present
  3. Giving up sugar is hard and sometimes you have to throw in the towel and forget all reasoning and just eat ice cream from Salt & Straw
  4. It's okay to cry and show your emotions and still be confident in who you are
  5. Ready to move these pieces from my wishlist to my cart right about now: yes, yes, yesss

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday commemorates the last dinner that Jesus shared with His disciples before He was betrayed by His disciple Judas Iscariot into the hands of Roman soldiers (culminating to an unfair trial before Pontius Pilate and sentenced to death by crucifixion on Good Friday, before resurrecting from the dead on Easter Sunday). At this dinner, which happened to also coincide with the Jewish Passover meal, Jesus stoops down to the level of a common servant by washing His disciples feet, tells them that the bread and wine at the table are His body and blood, respectively, and commands them to love one another (by which we get the name "Maundy," supposedly derived from the Latin word for "mandate").

I remember back during my time on staff with my college ministry that we did a Maundy Thursday event, which I hadn't had prior knowledge of before. But I remember coming alongside our host church congregation (we weren't affiliated with them, but they allowed us to use their building for our weekly meetings), having a small worship service to commemorate Jesus' last supper, and partook of communion together. It was a really beautiful display of fellowship and somber reflection of Jesus' willingness to go to the cross.

This year before our Good Friday event with our church, I decided that I'd host a small, intimate Maundy Thursday "dinner" with some Brothers and Sisters. I explained in a Facebook event that I thought there was so much beauty in liturgical practices, and that I wanted to spend time together participating in an inspired Jewish seder dinner, reading Scripture and praying together. It turned out that no one had actually participated in a Maundy Thursday event, nor did many understand what Maundy Thursday was all about.

I took inspiration from a Catholic explanation of a Maundy Thursday meal, including elements like lamb, bitter herbs, haroset, unleavened bread and wine. We also borrowed this post from our friends at Reality SF about modeling a flow for the night.

When 7PM rolled around on Thursday, we had some help from some very willing hands to prepare  the meal. At 8PM, we opened in an established prayer and we had another friend of ours lead us in a meditation of Scripture, including Exodus 12:1-20, Matt 26:17-30 / Luke 22:7-20 and John 13. We served the meal and had a solid time of fellowship before ending the night in a unified group prayer.

It was beautiful to participate in this liturgical practice this year. Everyone commented on how encouraged and built-up they felt after the event. I believe that there's something special about peering back at what those before us have done and considering how we might incorporate their practices today. I believe that this generation craves a deeper spiritual connection with Jesus and that walking through liturgical practices can help inspire creativity and awe of our Lord. I can't wait to do this again next year!

Jenn

By Ashley:

Meet our friend Jenn. She came into our lives about three years ago. Jenn is one of our best friends for a few reasons: we share an equal love for popcorn and boba and she has this amazing infatuation with Star Wars and video games! Okay only two of those are the truth... we'll let you decide what's fact or fiction! :P 

I vividly remember the first time I met Jenn . It was in the hallway of the Presidio Theater one Sunday morning and she asked me to tell her about my small group (what we now call "Community Groups" or "CGs" at Canvas) that met in Hayes Valley at the time. Within moments of that conversation, I single-handedly got this poor girl to agree to come to a complete stranger's small group for a chance to make friends with even more strangers (I wouldn't take "No" for an answer and I even made her give me her phone number there on the spot).  I probably sounded like a crazy person but I just knew if I didn't snag her then I may not have had another opportunity. In that brief 2-minute conversation I could see she craved community. And that Thursday night, she showed up and little did we know that the next three years would consist of serving, leading community groups and walking through moments of celebration and ones of pain together. 

Jenn has seen us both at some of our most vulnerable states and vice versa. But through that vulnerability, it has lead us to a friendship full of so much life, joy and fun!

When Brendon and I first began this dating thing, she was one of the first people we asked to come along side us to pray for this little relationship of ours, to walk beside us and be a constant presence as we looked towards the future. She has been there for each step, helping us navigate this whole adult relationship thing, ha! 

Jenn is one of the most intentional people we know. Her love for the Lord and for her friends is beautiful and the investment she puts forth to really engage in others is what fuels her. If that means making herself available to process life's curve balls, being an encourager or ready to drop just about anything if you need a date to Jane to indulge in banana bread and talk about all the nothings in the world and just laugh until it hurts: she's there. Jenn has played a big role in both of our lives and we are blessed to share this season of life with her. 

By Brendon:

I remember some of my first times on a Sunday at Canvas. Besides Andrea, Jenn was one of the people I remember who left a big impact on me. To be totally honest and transparent, seeing Jenn immediately triggered my ministry mode (coming off fresh from a stint with an Asian American campus ministry) and I was excited that this church was attracting young Asian Americans! Seriously. That was my first thought. But as I talked to her, I got to know a woman who's heart was for Jesus and who was passionate for making others feel at home.

I also emphatically remember her calling me "Brandon" for the longest time, but there's grace for that.

I got to know her more at my first CG hosted by the Julio's at their old mid-Market apartment, starting this journey with old friends from SLO like Chris, Camille, Emily and Annalynn, along with many other people who would become my close friends (like Thomas, Abby, Michel and Melissa). But because that CG was getting so big in number, we launched out into a second SOMA CG that met at Jenn's apartment. Both Jenn and Ashley led that group together, and within their leadership, their friendship inspired me to help build up the community to emulate the love, grace and compassion they shared.

And now as Ashley and I continue in our relationship, I can see how Jenn's friendship with Ashley help to build Ashley into the woman that is next to me today. I'm thankful for how Jenn's friendship shaped Ashley and how her friendship continues to build up both of us as a couple. She's truly a special gem.


She also has a huge heart to serve others through health and fitness. Check her out on insta: @jenifor 

 

April Showers...

April 2017 might be one of the busiest months thus far in this little relationship of ours. It started with a yearly trip with the Canvas team to Irvine. We take this trip every year to participate in a leadership conference called "Catalyst." In the next few weeks, April will include film projects, wedding shoots, Easter preparation, Egg hunts, dinner with friends, family outings, birthday engagements and one-on-ones and a few other little plans in-between. April has just begun, yet we feel like it's almost over with the amount of things planned this month! We never thought so many good things could bring specks of anxiousness and stress. You can probably relate to months that are somewhat busier than others. We know this month will fly by and we can taste the finish line, and it’s looking soooo great. It’s all about having a bit of patience and letting go of your “normal” routine.

What's great is that people fuel us: we love the time we get to pour into others and vice versa. At the same time, our Sabbath is sacred: it can be tough not having many days free so taking the time we can to refuel is important, even if it's as simple as enjoying a cup of coffee and a book to disconnect. We know that April is bringing exciting and beautiful things ahead despite the craziness. Time and time again we think how blessed we are to have such a loving and beautiful community around us, which makes it all worth it. So to keep us afloat through April, we're taking deep breaths, practicing patiences and enjoying the moments as they come.    

Since our weekends are pretty booked this month, we often look forward to weekday dates to the movies and little spontaneous trips to target and the grocery store to find time for each other.

Here are some links we're just loving right now and thought you would like to peruse through. Enjoy and happy Monday!

1. We had the pleasure of seeing Elevation lead worship live this past week and this album has been on repeat ever sense. 

2. We love this brand! These have been our go-to shoes for pretty much any occasion. A big shout to our friend Travis Clark for convincing us that we had to get them. 

3. If you haven't checked out our latest short film of Brendon saying Goodbye to his first home take a look here. 

4. We are having so much fun decorating the Fillmore apartment we are so inspired by these few pieces 1. 2. 3. 

5. This article was passed along to me this week and it's giving me all the feels

Uncommon Fellowship

"Unselfish love fuels uncommon fellowship" -Andy Stanley

This week the staff from our church and a few of our amazing teammates that volunteer week in and week out attended a leadership conference called Catalyst West, a conference dedicate to pour into leaders.  For some of us this was our third year attending; for others it was their first or second time. As we headed into year three preparing our hearts for what the Lord wanted us to receive, we prayed bold prayers that He would break our hearts for the things that break His; that we would leave not as the same leaders but refreshed, renewed, challenged and continuing to move in the direction Jesus has called each of us to.  

In a nutshell, this past week we took away that we are called "not to try to conform the body of Christ to look like us, but to look like Jesus." Imagine if the local church was seen and defined as being selfless and having unconditional love. How beautiful would that be? 

Our prayer after leaving the conference this week and heading into these next few months is that the Lord would burden our hearts to grow closer to His heart every day. 

Take a little peek at this video that we created of all the fun we had at Catalyst! 

 

Goodbye 400 Laguna

It's been one full year of living in San Francisco. After living at home in the East Bay with Mom and Dad for several years and commuting into the city each day for both work, church and pleasure, I made a move into San Francisco proper and made a home in Hayes Valley. 

But a twist of fate would land me without a job the day that my lease was finalized. My company had folded into hibernation mode and I would start my time in San Francisco jobless, my savings being depleted each month for nearly 4 months.

I learned a lot in that 4-month season, especially that I was exhausted from life and that time off from working showed me how much my body and soul needed rest. I found joy in meeting with friends and serving the local church through. I discovered a greater knack for cooking and was able to focus on reading. I took time to get to know myself better and adjust to city life. I eventually found a new design day job and my income generation was restored. But I'm incredibly thankful for that 4-month season of underemployment in retrospect. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Fast forward to a year later in March 2017. My apartment at 400 Laguna gave me so many memories but what I found myself to be particularly reflective on was how many people came in and through my life during this year, from those who helped to move me in and build furniture, to  the deep and emotional talks that would take me into the night.

It was appropriate to end my time at this apartment with one last rooftop party with a group of people who could testify to my past year of life living in San Francisco and who hopefully will play big parts in this next season of life to come. Check out this little video I made using clips from that beatnik-themed party!