sunshine in a cup. ☀︎

where the love is.

It is a cool, brisk April morning (considering you live in Nashville, TN).  You are running on four hours of sleep and are in desperate need of a pick-me-up before your 8 A.M. exam.  On your way to class, you stumble upon a Nashville gem your friend told you about the week before.  When you walk through the doors, you are greeted by the warm aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans and the sweet, subtle notes of milk and honey.  The only thing warmer and sweeter than these scents are the smiles that line the counter in front of you.  You are greeted with loveYou are family.

Tucked away in a shopping center on the corner of 12th and Wedgewood avenues, one turn of the head could mean missing out on an essential part of Nashville coffee culture.  In January of 2011, California natives, Bethany and Maile Newton, moved to Nashville, TN to start a café that would soon become a hit amongst many local coffee-goers, known as The Jam Coffeehouse.

The Jam

The Jam’s mission statement reads:

“Our heart is to create an environment where all feel welcome. Our passion is to see people healthy. Our vision is to inspire a ‘whole-listic’ lifestyle. The Jam is where the love is.”

Newton mentioned that while living in California, she and her sister had worked in various coffee shops with the hopes of opening their own one day.  They are very passionate about inspiring others and also love creating many delicious food and beverage items.  The Jam was a way for them to combine their passions while serving a vibrant, diverse community.  According to Newton, the idea for the name, The Jam, came about quite organically.

“We were inspired one day at a restaurant that we didn’t enjoy very much. We said, ‘This is not my jam!’  In that moment, we decided to create something delicious and call it The Jam!”

Although there are many coffee shops to choose from in the Nashville area, The Jam has taken many steps to set itself apart.  The Jam is dedicated to using farm fresh, organic ingredients in order to support local farms around Nashville and promote a healthy lifestyle for its customers.  According to Newton, they specifically support Willow Farms, Johnson’s Honey, and JD Country Milk.  Additionally, all of The Jam’s syrups are made in-house with unrefined sweeteners and their milk products are non-homogenized.

With its extensive menu and bountiful drink options, The Jam is sure to have something for everyone.  They serve everything from foamy, honey-infused lattes to green smoothies prepared with coconut oil and avocados.  They also offer a few breakfast and lunch items, such as the Good Morning Tacos and the Mama Mia Sandwich.  In addition to the fresh food and energizing coffee beverages, Newton claims the tea lattes have also become a fan favorite amongst many of The Jam’s regulars.

Kate Wurm, a junior at Belmont University and past employee of The Jam, says that one of her favorite drinks to order is the Aztec Warrior, a chili Pu-erh tea infused with cinnamon and cocoa, prepared with organic coconut sugar and non-homogenized milk.

“If I were to get an iced [beverage], it would be a dirty Aztec Warrior.  It is a tea latte but if you get it dirty, you also get a shot of espresso.  It is so good but also so beautiful!  Before it is mixed, it is three different layers of tea, coffee and milk, and I take a picture of it every time!”

At The Jam, Wurm worked as a cook and was constantly impressed by how well each recipe was crafted and designed to achieve maximum flavor.

“It’s really cool to see how intentional the recipes are and how much thought went into them, down to even the smallest detail.  Even though [they] only have a couple breakfast items, the ones that they do have, they are proud to make.”

While wholesome, locally-derived ingredients may draw many new customers to The Jam, one of its major selling points is the atmosphere.  The Jam utilizes a simple but elegant 1950s diner aesthetic with plenty of seating to work on homework or socialize with friends.  Soft music can be heard in the background while customers are called by name to receive their drinks at the counter.  The Jam employees make it a point to treat customers like family which has helped them retain many regulars.  Wurm recalls how the employees’ positive interactions with customers inspired her to apply and become part of “The Jam fam.”

“I had worked previously at a lot of cafes and food places and the atmospheres were really tense and I always went home feeling defeated because I never felt appreciated.  [At The Jam], they’re very accepting and really good at making their customers feel important no matter what they look like or what they’re ordering.”

Wurm described the working environment at The Jam as very family-oriented.  Whenever she entered the building, she was always greeted with enthusiasm and love.

“I love the people that I [worked] with.  My favorite thing [was] walking in in the morning, Violet coming over, opening the door for me, and giving me a big hug.  We always had music blasting in the morning while we were prepping [for the day].”

Wurm said it [was] not uncommon to stay for an hour or more after getting off work to talk to her coworkers and bosses.  One of her favorite parts about working at The Jam was getting to work for individuals who were truly invested in their employees.

“[One day] I stayed for about an hour and a half after my shift just to talk to Maile and it was cool because I’ve never really had a relationship like that with a boss where they genuinely cared about what I was doing in school.  You can tell in the way that they treat their employees and their customers that it’s all rooted in wanting to love people.”

The Jam serves many different groups of people but its close proximity to universities such as Vanderbilt and Belmont have made it a hit amongst college students.  Many students go to The Jam with friends but are bound to see others they know there as well.  Tiffany Cokkinias, a junior at Belmont and a regular at The Jam, says that her sister, Tessa, was the reason she discovered it.

“The first time I ever went [to The Jam] was with Tessa.  I think the reason I like it so much is because I associate it with my sister.”

Cokkinias says her favorite drink to order is the Café San Fran because of its flavor, but also because of the sentimental value that comes with it.

“The first time I went [to The Jam], I tried the Café San Fran.  Tessa took a picture of me tearing up because it was so good.  I’ve tried several different [drinks] but I always come back to the Café San Fran every time.  I think it’s partially a sentimental thing because it was the first time I had been in this place and it was with my sister.  Also, you can’t really go wrong with hazelnut Nutella!”

The Jam has only one location, but Newton hopes that they will be able to begin franchising in as little as five years.  Wherever The Jam ends up, however, they are sure to reach the hearts of the customers they serve.  To customers like Cokkinias, The Jam will always be a place to call home.

“I feel like I have belonging when I’m there.  It is like home to me whenever I go.  Whether that’s because I meet new people or share a cup of coffee with someone or think of the first time I went with my sister and how much she means to me, I want to share it with others and make them feel like it is home for them, too.”

lessons learned as an RA.

sometimes turbulent = a beautiful mess.

If you would have told me freshman year that I would later become a freshman RA, I probably would have given you a nervous chuckle and a sharp shrug of the head.  “I admire everything that RAs do, but that is not the job for me,” is probably what I would have said to you.  Unbeknownst to me, I was in for a surprise.

What do you do when the thing you never thought you’d do becomes one of the single most important parts of your life?!  Well, that’s where I am right now, to be 100% honest.

I became an RA in August of 2017.  I remember RA training like it was yesterday.  I learned how to build intentional communities within my complex while memorizing protocol and bonding with my staff — it was a lot to take in.  Then, as if things hadn’t been moving fast enough already, it was suddenly the night before move-in day.  I remember lying on my couch with all the lights turned off, sobbing softly to myself.  Yes, this probably sounds like something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, but it happened, nonetheless.  I was so nervous.  I literally had every fear on my shoulder.  I know Satan is powerless before the throne of God, but he gave me quite the run for my $$$.

What was I afraid of?

  1. Being a sucky RA
  2. Drowning in school work  
  3. Not being present for my guys
  4. Being a sucky RA
  5. Never seeing my friends
  6. Being a sucky RA

And the list goes on and on and on …

As you’ve probably gathered, my biggest fear was not the job itself, but rather not doing it well.  I love people with all my heart and might, and I didn’t want to fail my guys — I wanted to be there for them through everything.

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My residents’ first volleyball game // Sept. 2017

In the midst of my sobbing, I managed to call one of my best friends, ready to vent to him every last thing on my mind.  I told him that I thought I had made a mistake and that this wasn’t for me.  I came so close to quitting.  I really did.

God has a funny way of working, I’ll tell you what.  Right as I told my friend how unprepared I thought I was, he told me, “those are all lies; you were put in this position for a reason.”  I didn’t really know what to say.  I knew that God was sovereign and would deliver me through the nerves and anxiety, but I can’t say that I actually believed it in the moment.

Fast forward eight months.

I have learned so much.  I’ve learned where my weaknesses lie, but I’ve also learned where my gifts lie.  I’ve prepared a short list of things that I’m taking away from this year.  If you’re not doing anything too important at the moment, I hope you will stick around to read them.

I LEARNED TO NEVER FIGHT MY BATTLES ALONE.

I was blessed with a beautiful, fun-loving staff.  Yes, sometimes we bicker and argue, and many would say we are all very different types of people, but we’ve made it work.  Truthfully, I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else by my side to take on this year.  I’ve learned that mistakes happen sometimes, and the most important thing I can do is learn from them.  I’ve learned that I can always ask for help no matter what situation I’m dealing with.  I’ve learned that taking myself too seriously is so last year.  At the end of the day, I know my staff would do anything they could for me, as I would for them.

I LEARNED TO ALWAYS DO MY JOB OUT OF LOVE.

Being an RA means that sometimes we have to put an end to shenanigans.  When policies are being broken, we’re the ones who have to step in and say, “enough is enough.”  If you know me, I H.A.T.E. confrontation.  I would literally do anything to avoid it.  But, I’ve learned that confrontation doesn’t have to be done in an aggressive manner; it can be done with love and kindness.  Obviously, I have a job to do, and sometimes that means writing people up for breaking the rules, but I will never stop reminding them of how much they mean to me.  At the end of the day, my door is always open, and my guys are always welcome to talk to me about anything that is on their heart or mind.

I LEARNED THAT GOODBYES SUCK. 😥

When you’re an RA, you get really close to people.  It just happens.  Unfortunately, that also makes it 10x harder to let them go.  Boy, oh boy, has that hit me hard lately.  My one wish coming into this year was to build relationships with my residents that would transcend college.  Obviously, it was unrealistic to think that I could create that bond with everyone, but I sure have cherished every relationship I have been able to make.  Saying goodbye shreds me to pieces, it really does.  But, as a good friend so wisely told me years ago, “Don’t think of it as a goodbye; think of it as a see you again soon.”  I love that.  God puts people in our lives at different times for different reasons, and I’m learning to accept that.  As much as it can hurt, I know He has a much greater plan in the end. 

I LEARNED WHAT I WANTED TO DO WITH MY LIFE.

Let’s just say, when it comes to what I’m passionate about, I have commitment issues.  And that’s even considering that I’ve figured out what I want to do with my life.  Coming into this year, I hadn’t the slightest idea what my calling was.  For a while, I wanted to be an artist manager.  Then, for about a semester, I thought it’d be fun to sport a lab coat and be a pharmacist.  Through these turbulent seasons of discovering and rediscovering what I was passionate about, I learned one thing.  I wanted to help people.  After I became an RA, I fell in love with helping students.  I decided that I wanted to work for a university, and never looked back.

Look at what God did.

Move in day

WHEW, this year has been a breath of fresh air.  Moreover, this job has changed my life in ways I could have never imagined.  I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’ve gotten to reflect on some of the best and worst parts of who I am.  The greatest gift, however, has been seeing how God used this position not only to allow me to bless others, but to also be blessed by the very people I serve.  My guys mean the world to me, and I love them with all my heart.  My prayer is that they never forget that, no matter how close or far away they are.

Simply Yours,
Simply Lando 

 

let’s do life together.

welcome to my crazy, messy, beautiful life.

Hello, friends!

My name is Landon.  I wouldn’t call myself the biggest advocate for formal introductions but I also think it is important to know who you’re engaging with.  I am a junior at Belmont University studying the art (or at least that’s what I call it) of public relations.  To be completely honest, this blog is probably a wonderful way to put some of my PR skills to the test, but that is not why I am here.  I am here because 21 some-odd years ago, the Lord thought it would be a good idea to create another baby … that baby being MWAH — me.  He must have had quite the sense of humor because that baby would soon grow up to be quite the character.  Sporadic, probably too analytical for his own good, and maybe a teensy bit too emotional at times but, nonetheless, loved.  That’s what I want to do.

I want to GIVE LOVE.

I want to INSPIRE HOPE.

I want to SHARE THE GIFTS that God so kindly entrusted me with.

I’m not perfect.  I procrastinate a lot, I don’t pray enough, and I probably spend way too much time worrying about what others think of me.  Through all of these things, He still calls me His child and invites me to His table.  I am in awe of how He loves me, how He loves you, how He loves us.

I want this to be a place where there are no borders, no pretenses, no questions that can’t be asked.  I want to be completely honest with you all and I hope you will return the favor.  Above all, I want this to be a place where you can go when you need encouragement or a reminder that you are never alone.  Let’s do life together; I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Simply Yours,
Simply Lando