Thursday, October 17, 2019

In Pursuit of Holiness and Good Coffee

I want to be a saint, and I want to drink good coffee. 

I want my home to be filled with both the radiance of Christ's light and the scent of coffee beans. 

When I first drank high-quality coffee, I began to see that my coffee-drinking habits did not have to revolve around the coffee from gas stations or instant coffee granules tossed into microwaved water. As the years went by, I began discovering local coffee shops that use freshly roasted and ground beans to make cups of coffee that are bursting with flavor. I eventually attended a coffee cupping, and my desire for fancy syrups in coffee decreased as I sought to detect the subtle nuances of various roasts and beans. While I don't consider myself a coffee snob, and will happily drink any coffee that is offered to me (even with cream + sugar), I personally want to craft better coffee at home than I'd get at the local diner or gas station. 

Over the past six years, the coffee I make has increased in quality. However, there are moments when I think about how my coffee could be better. When I read books or articles about high-quality coffee, and see the way that water temperature and specific measurements are emphasized, I can feel a little dejected. 

There are so many things I would need to do if I want to make coffee that is ACTUALLY good, I'll think. But those aren't realistic right now. Am I doomed to mediocre coffee for the next several years?

Similarly, I've found that it's easy to look at my spiritual life and say, Well, I can't do x, y, and z, because of work, kids, and life. So what's the point of trying?

Just last summer, I was thinking about inconsistent I've been with getting silent mental prayer in each day. As I berated myself for this, I thought about how there was a period in my life when I would get about an hour of silent prayer + Scripture reading in each weekday. There was another point in my life when I'd visit a chapel every evening for silent prayer before bed. I thought about those times in my life, and wondered why can't I just get back to what I did then?

The reality is that I can't get back to "what I used to do," because my life then was very different. That was pre-kids, pre-marriage, and that time when I visited the chapel each evening? My college dorm room was right across the hall from the chapel, so it was easy (and natural) to visit Jesus before I headed to bed. 

But, even if I can't get in an hour of silent prayer each day, and even if I can't achieve high-level coffee at home, I can still take steps towards holiness and good coffee. 

I shouldn't despair because my electric blade-grinder is not as efficient or good as, say, a conical burr grinder would be. I bought the grinder I could afford, it works decently well, and using it has been a small way that I can achieve better coffee. 

I shouldn't despair because my regular mental prayer consists of 5-minute segments in the morning or evening instead of a lengthy period of complete silence while the house is still.
I shouldn't think that just because I don't have a gooseneck kettle or a scale or perfectly filtered water means that I'm doomed to drink terrible coffee at home.

I shouldn't think that just because my prayer books are in disarray and my various devotional prayers are all over the place means that I'm doomed to fail in becoming a more prayerful person. 

Sipping on my coffee, I realize that actually, what I have just crafted is pretty good. It may not be as incredible as the pour-over I could buy from the local roastery, but it's still good. My lifestyle as a mom of young kids, budget, and kitchen space right now are not conducive with a plethora of new gadgets or being highly meticulous like the roastery. That's okay. Instead of focusing on what I can't do or use, I've been learning that I should focus on the small, realistic steps that I can take. 

I've been realizing that God does not want me to despair or beat myself up over not being as contemplative as I think I "should" be. This doesn't mean that I can simply throw up my hands and forget about developing a prayer life. Lately, I've been thinking about how choosing to walk in the light (1 Jn 1:6-7) involves making the conscious and active decision to live according to God's truth. Even if I don't think I'll ever achieve tremendous heights of mystical prayer and deep union with God during my life here on Earth, I can't let my own inadequacies prevent me from embarking on the path of sanctity.

I can guarantee that you will probably never see latte art
in my kitchen, but it's nice to look at, isn't it?
Pursing holiness involves hoisting my lazy self up and proactively making changes as I seek God's will. I may need to take "baby steps" at times, but I can certainly cooperate with God's grace and form habits that will help me to align my life more closely with God.  

I cannot craft better coffee at home simply by saying, "I wish I could make delicious coffee." Instead, I can do things to help me achieve this goal. Maybe it's not what the barista would do, but it's what I can do. So I'll do it, and try to do it well and consistently, and maybe I'll wind up getting that satisfactory cup of coffee. Perhaps I'll even become a holier person along the way.


  1. Great thoughts!!

    And what's your favorite brand of coffee to recommend for home brewing? ;)

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed this.

      For coffee, I really love the whole beans from Guadalupe Roastery-the coffee is roasted "to order" and is quite good, and the company strives to support the coffee farmers (they have a direct-trade relationship with farmers in Nicaragua, and are trying to build these relationships in other countries). Plus, it's Catholic-owned! :)

      A few months ago I discovered a new roastery close-ish to my house, and I want to buy beans from them at some point, since I could buy beans right after they were roasted to immediately use at home! If you have any local coffee roasters, I definitely recommend checking them out :)

  2. I am a coffee lover too, the smell of roasted beans is like therapy :) Love how realistic you are with how your life looks now, but still asking yourself how you can improve. I needed this reminder, as it can be all too easy to just give up the prayer life because the baby is fussy, the dishes need to be washed, etc.

    1. I LOVE that phrase, "the smell of roasted beans is like therapy." I never thought of it that way, but yes! Even when I didn't like coffee as a kid, I still loved scampering down the coffee aisle at the store and smelling it :)

      I'm so glad that this reminder could reach you at a good time! My husband and I are in a lay movement for married couples, and this seems to be something that comes up at every meeting-that we all have crazy lives with kids, jobs, and housework, so instead of giving up we should work at consistently doing the small things-because that consistency builds a habit of prayer, which is better for us in the long run than the occasional "prayer marathon."

  3. Oh I love this! That is a great way of comparing coffee and our prayer lives. I have been feeling similarly about how my prayer life SHOULD be so much better or include x, y, or z. But what really matters is taking those baby steps and doing one thing you can at a time. I am a huge fan of coffee, and cringe thinking back to the first days of discovering it when I drank the cheapest generic brand diluted with way too much sugar. I now have a subscription to Guadalupe Roastery and drink it black! Quality makes a huge difference. And one day, I'd love to learn all the fancy tricks you're talking about - maybe if I have kitchen space one day :-)

  4. I'm kind of an all-or-nothing sort of person, so I really struggle if I can't do something as completely or as long as I think I should. I'll simply not do it instead of doing it part way.
    This is a real issue when it comes to things like prayer and reading the Bible. Thanks for the reminder that it's okay if I get interrupted by kids or my time is shorter than I'd like. Even less thorough times are better than not doing it!

    1. I'm so glad this could reach you, Shannon. You are certainly correct-spending that time in prayer, however "imperfect" it may seem to us, is lightyears better than not spending that time in prayer. Furthermore, I think the times when we do have kids crawling all over us while we're getting in our prayer is a beautiful gift to God.