Wednesday, February 29, 2012

This Present Moment

"The present moment is always full of infinite treasures, it contains far more than you have the capacity to hold. Faith is the measure; what you find in the present moment will be according to the measure of your faith."

Self-Abandonment to Divine Presence, J.P. de Cassaude

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Creative Scavenger Hunt

Sometime early in 2011 I decided to start looking for creative experiences to help balance what was, at the time, a very stressful and demanding job. I looked for classes at Denver Botanic Gardens, local stores, but most importantly, from the various deal voucher companies. I wanted to try my hand at all sorts of stuff where I didn't already feel accomplished. This was a total creative pursuit; a scavenger hunt of sorts to find new things to explore.

First up I went to a cooking class at the Denver Botanic Gardens and was amazed at how much I learned from a terrific gardener/cook about ingredients and combinations of flavors. I was hooked on being a student after one class. What followed was a series of fun, challenging, hilarious (I am pretty good at laughing at myself and my less than successful attempts at artistry) and surprising discoveries. Now that the hunt has begun I can't seem to stop.

Here is my list of the "creative" pursuits so far...

Cooking - Okay, so you heard about the winter soup class at Denver Botanic Gardens last year, but only last week I took another class at Nature's Table Cooking School on healthy chips and dips. On my, oh my, I can't wait to take more classes at NTCS. I love the chef/owner and all she has to share from her culinary training and her knowledge of healthy ingredients. Todd, Matthew and I need to eat better and I am loving learning and exploring good food.

Exercise - Trying some new exercise classes was about expanding my comfort zone and trying to awaken my desire to move in new ways. First up was a kettlebell class at Power Hour KettleBell Fitness and surprisingly I love it! Now I have my own kettlebells in our basement gym. Next up Zumba at Studio Sabor and a work out at Orangetheory Fitness.

Gardening - I love a beautiful garden but Colorado is such an unforgiving place to garden. So I knew it was time to take control and learn from some experts about two plants I love: roses and lavender. I found classes at Denver Botanic Gardens and they were informative and empowering. Last year I planted both varieties and can't wait to see the results this summer.

Glass Fusing - This has been my very favorite discovery. I didn't even know there was such a thing as glass fusing, but Bella Glass Studios changed all that. I took my first class last year (Holy Coral) and then took Matthew to another class last month (Giggity Giggity Goof Balls). Matthew won a $25 gift certificate and I purchased another Groupon voucher so I can't wait to try out two more classes.

Jewelry - I took three classes (there are so many ways to do this that I explored several styles): a basic beginner class at a Highlands Ranch bead shop; and wrapped beads and mixed media classes at The Colorado Bead Company. I'm not addicted but I love knowing the various techniques so I can make Anglican Prayer Beads and a few other basic jewelry creations.

Knitting - So excited, I just bought a voucher for a beginner class at Wild Yarns.

Mosaics - Absolutely love mosaics and took a fabulous class on creating a mosaic stepping stone at Denver Botanic Gardens...this is a keeper. I can't wait to explore my new love in the months ahead.

Painting - I've taken classes in watercolor and acrylic painting.  I'm not a natural but I really enjoy it.  Michaels and Jo-ann Fabrics makes it inexpensive to get paint, brushes and canvases so painting will stay on my "continue to explore" list.

Pottery - I actually get to glaze my pottery wheel creations tomorrow night at My Art Workshop.  It was just as hard as I suspected it would be and I discovered I wasn't as adventurous as the three seven-year-olds I was took this 4-week class with. They were great fun to learn alongside - apparently adults tend to take the class on the weekends. Maybe I'll post pictures in the future.

Rock Polishing - At least five years ago on one of our camping trips (we love to camp at National Parks) Matthew started finding rocks he wanted to keep. So for fun, I picked up a rock polishing kit at Michaels. Well, it sat in our basement storage until a month ago when I was de-cluttering that area. I couldn't let it go without giving it a try. So this loud machine rumbled for six weeks. On Saturday I was able to see the finished product. Okay, it was a kid's kit. Yep, the rocks were smooth but not the lusterous result I was expecting. So the tumbler is heading to Goodwill.

Skin-care and Soap Making - Last week (yes, you counted correctly, I went to three different classes last week) I tackled soap making at Fusion Botanticals. Talk about a fragrant studio! First we made melt-and-pour candles and facial tonic -- I added sage/citrus essential oil for both; then facial scrub and finally bath fizzies (added jasmine!). So much fun, but I think I'll keep shopping at Bath and Body Works.

So there you have it. I still want to learn glass blowing, stained glass, cake decorating, herb gardening, and who knows what else. And I realize I miss quilting and scrapbooking. But one thing I know, I'll be on the look out for more adventures on this scavenger hunt.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Lenten Journey, Day 2

Yesterday I tackled a closet (the equivalent of my junk drawer) I will be scrubbing a dirty corner. 

"The act of physically scrubbing out a dirty corner, especially one that is hidden, can be a helpful reminder of our preference for life on the shining surface. And the humility required to get down in the muck this way, taking on an onerous job the results of which few will ever notice, helps point us in a new direction, toward life in the light of the Spirit." p.7 (Simplifying the Soul)

"Today, spend a litle time thinking about a particularly unappealing cleaning job you have been putting off....Whatever you choose, however, take it slowly and deliberately; looking hard at what time and neglect have wrought. When you're done -- and here's the tough part -- resist the temptation to point out your hard work to anyone, especially your spouse. Instead, in the privacy of your heart, pray for the gift of discernment regarding hidden sin, and for the grace of forgiveness." p.8

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Lenten Journey, Day 1

If you've read any of my posts, you know I struggle with stuff.  I have stuff that goes back 30 years...some of it good but most of it no longer of any use at all. (I think there is both a physical and spiritual confession in that statement.)

Today is Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent. I've selected Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit by Paula Huston for this year's Lenten guide. I've had the book for a month and today I finally got to dig in. It is so right where I am and I will no doubt both enjoy and chafe along this Lenten journey. 

"The beauty of the Lenten season is that it encourages the development of a humble heart. In Lent, we are invited to look deeply inside, identify what is impeding our ability to follow Christ along the path of humility, and begin applying antidotes." (from the Introduction)

So day one...

Ash Wednesday: Clear Out a Junk Drawer or Closet

"Everything we carried on into the future had to be essential....The great third-and fourth-century flight nade by thousands of Christians into the Egyptian and Syrian deserts stemmed in part from a similar impulse: to strip, to cull, and to give away or eliminate anything that might tie one to the past. The Desert Fathers and Mothers were on a quest for purity of heart, and they understood that physical items are never just themselves but rather symbols and reminders of the life we must, however reluctantly, be willing to relinquish if we are ever to change." p.3

"When we clean out a junk drawer for Lent, we are in some small way dealing with the detritus of breathless hurry and our corresponding inability to focus. We are beginning to tear through the sticky web that binds us to our past: not only to the fine and happy times, the poignant seasons of growth adn change, but also to the tears we once shed, the idols we once worshipped, the myths we once believed, and the lies we once told ourselves." p.4

Here's to cleaning our a junk drawer today!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Twenty-five habits that will change your life

Thank you Lifeway for posting this terrific list:

Twenty-five habits that will change your life

by Nancy Mann Jackson

Talking about change is easy, but taking control of your life and actually making monumental changes often seems too daunting to try. However, improving your life and yourself doesn't have to involve earth-shattering transformations; by making simple, incremental changes, you can gradually create a better, more fulfilling life for yourself.

Your Spiritual Life

1. Spend time with God daily. Rise earlier each morning, go to bed a little later, or skip a mindless activity you need to let go of. Spend the extra time in Bible reading and prayer. Making quiet time a daily habit will bless your life.
2. Make gratitude a way of life. Start a "gratitude journal," every day listing four or five specific things for which you're thankful. Don't repeat the same things over and over; be constantly on the lookout for new blessings for which to give thanks. Making gratitude a way of life will open your eyes to numerous blessings and refresh your attitude.
3. Talk about your faith. Faith is a personal thing for most people, but that doesn't mean it has to be private. If you're not accustomed to sharing your faith with others or talking openly about Christ, make a commitment to start talking. Look for opportunities to mention your faith in everyday conversation by offering to pray for a friend who's hurting or giving God credit for His work in your life. If your mentions of faith are genuine, you'll not only become more assured of God's role in your life, but you'll make a positive impact on those around you naturally.


Your Social Life

4. Get involved in your community. Join a tennis league or book club, take cooking classes, or volunteer at a local soup kitchen. When you get involved in activities that excite you, you're bound to meet others with similar interests.
5. Meet or get to know one new person every few weeks. Whether you meet someone in your neighborhood coffee shop, at your church, or on the Internet, widening your circle of acquaintances is always a good idea. Say "yes" to that lunch date, ask someone to join you for dinner or coffee, or simply call someone who seems to need a friend. Become genuinely interested in others, and you're sure to learn something new or make a treasured friend.


Your Intellect

6. Read a book every month (or two). The more you read, the more you learn. If you make reading a habit, not only will you expand your horizons, enjoy yourself, and learn new things, but you'll also become a more interesting person.
7. Change the channel. If you're a TV watcher, don't spend all your time watching reality shows. Take advantage of the educational programming available on The History Channel, A&E, or your local public TV station. There are numerous shows that offer entertainment as well as education. Make it a goal to swap one mindless program each week for a more mind-enhancing alternative.
8. Pull the plug. Instead of spending all your evenings in front of the television, try limiting TV watching to one or two nights per week, and fill your time with other pursuits that won't stifle your creativity and brain power. Take a walk, read a newspaper, or engage in meaningful conversation with a friend or family member. You may be surprised how many more meaningful endeavors you can find to replace your couch time.


Your Physical Life

9. Sleep better. If you have trouble sleeping, try going to sleep at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning. If it's difficult for you to fall asleep, try listening to music or taking a hot bath before going to bed.
10. Eat healthy snacks. Avoid buying junk food by shopping the perimeter of the grocery store where there are fewer processed or fatty foods. Rather than grabbing something from the vending machine when you get hungry at work, bring carrot sticks or fruits from home.
11. Get physical every day. Exercising at the gym or taking a walk around your neighborhood or a nearby park are excellent habits. But, even if you don't exercise regularly, incorporate activity into each day. For instance, take the stairs rather than the elevator; look for faraway parking spots at the grocery store or mall; do your own yard work; and walk to the store or other errands when you can.
12. Drink water. Improve your health by drinking 48 to 64 ounces of water each day. If you prefer soft drinks or tea, start with water each morning and don't allow yourself to have the other drinks until you've already had several glasses of water.


Your Environment

13. Recycle. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average U.S. citizen produced 4.4 pounds of waste per day during 2000. This is the equivalent of more than 1,600 pounds of trash per year per person, or more than 220 tons of waste being generated each year. Eventually, the trash piles up, and the earth suffers the consequences. Do your part to improve the environment. Start with newspapers or aluminum cans and work up to recycling glass and plastic.
14. Give away your stuff. When you're ready to get rid of old computers, cell phones, electronics, clothes, and shoes, donate them to nonprofits or other community organizations. Not only will you lessen the landfill load, you'll also be meeting a need.
15. Screen your cleaning products. Many of the typical products you're accustomed to using are made with harmful chemicals that can actually damage the environment and your respiratory system. Replace chemical-ridden cleaners with natural-cleaning products, and you'll be able to clean and breathe at the same time.


Your Space

16. Eliminate clutter. Open the mail over the garbage can or recycling bin and throw out junk mail immediately. Evaluate the number of magazines you receive but never have time to read, and consider rotating subscriptions. Group frequently used papers, such as phone lists and take-out menus, in one three-ring binder, suggests the National Association of Professional Organizers.
17. Get tech savvy. Consider scanning papers you want to keep — including everything from household records to old college papers — and keep them on a disk or CD, freeing yourself to toss out unnecessary papers.
18. Clean as you go. In the kitchen for example, make a habit of washing each dish (or putting it in the dishwasher) as you dirty it. Cleaning in small increments is more manageable than facing an entire week's worth of dirty dishes all at once.


Your Finances

19. Clip coupons — and use them. Watch for these money-savers on basic food and other household items. If you don't take a daily newspaper, it can be worth buying a Sunday paper just for the coupons. Keep them in your wallet or in your car, so you're sure to have them the next time you go to the store. A few cents here and there add up to significant savings over time.
20. Live on a budget. According to Dave Ramsey, financial guru and author of Financial Peace and other books, 90 percent of individuals' financial problems are solved when they create a budget and stick to it. Ramsey says your budget's first line item should be giving, followed by savings. Intentionally managing your money can reduce your stress level and expand your options for the future.
21. Give. Give. Give. Giving away money may not seem like a wise financial tip, but being generous with your money can actually be fulfilling. Try increasing the amount of money you give to your church, or choose a worthy cause to support on a regular basis. When you commit a portion of your income to help others, your financial concerns will dim in comparison to their needs.


Your Professional Life

22. Sit up straight. If you sit for long periods at work, correct posture can prevent back pain, unnecessary strain on your body, and increase your productivity. According to Laura Inverarity, physical therapist and writer for the "Physical Therapy" section on, start by sitting in your chair and moving your hips back as far as you can until they are against the back of the chair. Next, adjust the seat height until your feet are flat on the floor, making sure your hips are at the same height or slightly higher than your knees. Remove all objects from your back pockets, and adjust the backrest height so that it is comfortably resting in the curve of your lower back.
23. Take a break. You'll actually be more productive at work if you allow yourself to take occasional breathers. Break up your work into segments and reward yourself with a five- or 10-minute break when you complete a project or a portion of a project. Grab a cup of coffee or a drink of water, step outside for a breath of fresh air, or allow yourself a few minutes to simply daydream or chat with a co-worker about something other than work (but don't get carried away!).
24. Take initiative. Minimize boredom and build your own confidence by taking the initiative to make a difference in your workplace. Find a new challenge or undertaking to tackle that interests you and can benefit others or your organization. Volunteer to take on the project no one else wants; organize a company-wide charity drive or event; or get to work 30 minutes early to hold a Bible study with interested co-workers.
25. Take vacations. Even if you don't take an actual trip, use your vacation days and take some time away from work for an extended period of time (at least three to four days) at least once a year. Getting away helps you release stress, unwind, and stimulate creativity for a better job performance.
By practicing these habits over time, you can improve your life in big ways. It's been said that if you practice something every day for two weeks, it becomes a habit, and each new habit will contribute to your new life — one that's healthier, happier, and more fulfilled. Even if you already practice some of these suggestions, keep in mind that those areas still have room for sprucing up.

Learning to Downsize, Organize and Live Simply

I can't believe that I haven't written here in 14 days...I've been busy. And that's a good thing. Lots of work hours and a lot of clutter busting. That's my big goal for 2012...thin out our belongings so we can spend more time belonging together.

Last Saturday morning while the snow was falling I dug into one of my many organization books. Organize Now! "A week-by-week guide to simplify your space and your life" by Jennifer Ford Berry.  Yes, I have quite a collection of these types of book right now.  I got so many great ideas -- I'll be changing up my linen closet and bathroom cupboards today based on those ideas. 

For those of you also working on honing your organization skills, purging all your extra stuff, living more simply or simply preparing to do some spring cleaning, here are a few of my favorite books.

Downsize and De-clutter
It's All Too Much: An easy plan for living a richer life with less stuff - Peter Walsh
Enough Already!: Clearing mental clutter to become the best you - Peter Walsh
Too Much Stuff: Decluttering your heart and your home - Kathryn Porter
Living with Less: The upside of downsizing your life - Mark Tabb

Organize Now!: A week-by-week guide to simplify your space and your life - Jennifer Ford Berry
Smart Organizing: Simple strategies for bringing order to your home - Sandra Felton
The House that Cleans Itself: Creative solutions for a clean and orderly less time than you imagine! - Minday Starns Clark
Real Simple Solutions - Real Simple
Go Organize!: Conquer clutter in 3 easy steps - Marilyn Bohn

Living in Simplicity
Simplicity - Mindy Caliguire
Real Simplicity - Roxanne and Randy Frazee
The Holy Way: Practices for a simple life - Paula Huston
The Joy of Simple Living - Jeff Davidson
Secrets of Simplicity: Learn to live better with less - Mary Carlomagno
Consumer Detox: Less stuff more life - Mark Bowley
Simplify: 106 ways to uncomplicate your life - Paul Borthwick
Lighten Up: Love what you have, have what you need, be happier with less - Peter Walsh
1/2 Price Living - Ellie Kay

I was able to get many of these great books at the library (yes, Douglas County Library is amazing). I hope you find something interesting here that can help you learn to downsize, organize and live simply.

(in)real life conference

One of my favorite blogs is (in)courage by DaySpring. There are so many different wonderful bloggers who contribute and it often provides a boost to my day.

Coming in April is a very fun opportunity: (in)real life conference.  I've already signed up. I love being able to participate right from home...and if you are in Denver, please join me! Plus it's really inexpensive, only $10.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

31 Days to a Fresh Start

It's February 1. I just wrote my monthly entry in my leather pen+paper journal. I guess there's something for me in the number 1. It's more about do-overs than about dominance. February 1...31 days have expired in 2012 and today I get a fresh start.

"Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning." Lamentations 3:23 (NLT)

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

I have three areas I need do-overs, fresh starts, a new thing:
1) Fitness. It's time to take my fitness seriously. I was actually pretty challenged by Gary Thomas' Every Body Matters. I'm 52 and it's time to stop pretending that it will get any easier. Today I have strapped on a pedometer (love this one! and have started recording my daily choices.  I have read via a variety of sources that keeping a food and fitness journal is a big indicator of success. So I picked this one up at King Soopers last week ( 

In my "mega-Taylor-household-clean-up-and-out" I finally got our basement family room/execise gym in shape. We found the treadmill. Todd built the weights rack and plans to finish building the fitness bench. So in the words of "The Biggest Loser" -- no excuses!
  • I need to eat more regularly - food can be a nusiance for me so I will skip meals and then become shaky and ravenous...and then eat whatever is closest and easiest. So February is about eatting three meals a day and two healthy snacks.
  • I need to move more - February is about walking at least 8,000 steps a day; using my basement gym; taking Jake our beagle for walks; trying out the Zumba DVDs my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday in November; doing some kettlebell routines with Bob Harper (via DVD).
2) Organization. This has been a lifelong challenge. Growing up my mom was on me all the time to pick up my room. There's just so much always going on and organization has never been a strong suit. I'm a girl with piles. But that's just not working anymore. I need to make a new plan. Pick up daily; plan ahead for dinner (or as my husband knows only too well, there just might not be one); get a cleaning schedule in place and then do it; and commit to doing the most important stuff early in the day.

When you are driven and working 60+ hours a week, leading Bible studies, mentoring women, parenting a teenage and being a wife and housekeeper (I have never been particular good at the last role), the tempo of life seems to foster a natural organization. The part-time work schedule I now enjoy has also spawned a sluggishness that I'm tired of. Time to get moving and get productive and organized! And not in binges that leave me wiped out. Time to figure out how to do this daily and not in massive spurts.

3) Devotion. I've become random in my study of the Word. Time to focus on completing the study of David that I'm in the middle of ( and enjoy the silence and solitude of an empty home and expansive deck. Time to wrap up in a blanket, light my Abbey of Gethsemane candle and enjoy the presence of a loving heavenly Father whose mercies are new every morning.