Product Details

Welcome Charter School Family!

Below are detailed descriptions of the Lettering Series products we offer as a charter school vendor .

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Complete Taylor of all Trades Lettering Kit (Includes ONE Individual Reproduction License) – $65.00

(1) 6″ x 9″ Taylor of all Trades Lettering Guide with over 60 pages of lettering resources, including:

  • (14) FREE mini video lectures to help you get the most out of your Lettering Guide.
  • (13) pages of lettering and pen-usage instruction.
  • (5) Distinct lettering typefaces, including two brush lettering typefaces, two monoline typefaces, and one cursive typeface.
  • (10) Numbers and three common punctuation marks in two different typefaces.
  • (20) Common sentiments in two different typefaces.
  • Examples of (15) different ways to style framed letters.
  • Examples of (3) different banners and (3) different wreaths that can be used to embellish lettering pieces.
  • (5) Distinct lettering layouts that can be used with a light box or iPad to organize your lettering within a specific frame.
  • (3) Copies each of four distinct practice sheets, with and without diagonal lines (to aid with slanting your letters).
  • (4) Each of three distinctly sized lettering bases in heavyweight cardstock so that you can create your very own handlettered pieces. Sizes include: 6” x 9”, 5” x 7”, and 4”x4”.
  • (1) Tombow Monotwin Permanent Black Marker with both a broad (.8mm) and a fine (.4mm) tip.
  • (1) ZIG Brushables Dual Tip Marker in Pure Black (with the opposite end containing 50% tint, providing two shades in one pen).
  • (1) Pentel Fude Touch Sign Brush Pen in Black.
  • (1) Sargent Art Glitter Gel Pen in Silver.
  • (1) Dixon Ticonderoga Pre-Sharpened #2 Pencil in Black.
  • (1) Pentel Hi-Polymer Block Eraser in White.
  • (1) Pencil sharpener in one of various colors (assigned automatically).
  • (1) Mesh pencil bag in black.
  • (1) Wooden clipboard with low profile clip.
  • (1) 6” clear ruler (to help you measure and align your own lettering pieces).

 

Lettering Guide Cover Sheet

Taylor of all Trades Lettering Guide ONLY (Includes ONE Individual Reproduction License) – $45.00

* Unless this option is selected in addition to the Complete Lettering Kit, a handling fee of $5.00 will be added to this option and may be applied to any additional Lettering Guides purchased within the same order.

(1) 6″ x 9″ Taylor of all Trades Lettering Guide with over 60 pages of lettering resources, including:

  • (14) FREE mini video lectures to help you get the most out of your Lettering Guide.
  • (13) pages of lettering and pen-usage instruction.
  • (5) Distinct lettering typefaces, including two brush lettering typefaces, two monoline typefaces, and one cursive typeface.
  • (10) Numbers and three common punctuation marks in two different typefaces.
  • (20) Common sentiments in two different typefaces.
  • Examples of (15) different ways to style framed letters.
  • Examples of (3) different banners and (3) different wreaths that can be used to embellish lettering pieces.
  • (5) Distinct lettering layouts that can be used with a light box or iPad to organize your lettering within a specific frame.
  • (3) Copies each of four distinct practice sheets, with and without diagonal lines (to aid with slanting your letters).

 

Supply Kit

Supply Kit ONLY – $25.00

* Unless this option is selected in addition to the Complete Lettering Kit, a handling fee of $5.00 will be added to this option and may be applied to any additional Supply Kits purchased within the same order.

  • (1) Tombow Monotwin Permanent Black Marker with both a broad (.8mm) and a fine (.4mm) tip.
  • (1) ZIG Brushables Dual Tip Marker in Pure Black (with the opposite end containing 50% tint, providing two shades in one pen).
  • (1) Pentel Fude Touch Sign Brush Pen in Black.
  • (1) Sargent Art Glitter Gel Pen in Silver.
  • (1) Dixon Ticonderoga Pre-Sharpened #2 Pencil in Black.
  • (1) Pentel Hi-Polymer Block Eraser in White.
  • (1) Pencil sharpener in one of various colors (assigned automatically).
  • (1) Mesh pencil bag in black.
  • (1) Wooden clipboard with low profile clip.
  • (1) 6” clear ruler (to help you measure and align your own lettering pieces).

 

Pen Set

Pen Set ONLY – $18.00

* Unless this option is selected in addition to the Complete Lettering Kit, a handling fee of $5.00 will be added to this option and may be applied to any additional Pen Sets purchased within the same order.

  • (1) Tombow Monotwin Permanent Black Marker with both a broad (.8mm) and a fine (.4mm) tip.
  • (1) ZIG Brushables Dual Tip Marker in Pure Black (with the opposite end containing 50% tint, providing two shades in one pen).
  • (1) Pentel Fude Touch Sign Brush Pen in Black.
  • (1) Sargent Art Glitter Gel Pen in Silver.
  • (1) Mesh pencil bag in black.

 

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Individual Add-On Items – Prices Vary 

(Only available for purchase in addition to the Complete Lettering Kit, Full Letting Guide, Supply Kit, or Pen Set)

Individual Portions of the Lettering Guide

  • Typeface sheets only (includes two each of six typeface instruction sheets) ($10.00)
  • Sentiment sheets only (includes ten sentiment practice sheets in two typefaces) ($15.00)
  • Style and layout sheets only (includes nine layout, style, and embellishment sheets) ($9.00)
  • Practice sheets only (includes two copies each of four different styles of practice sheets) ($8.00)
  • (4) Each of three distinctly sized lettering bases in heavyweight cardstock in the following sizes: 6” x 9”, 5” x 7”, and 4”x4” ($5.00)

Individual Supplies

  • (1) Tombow Monotwin Permanent Black Marker ($5.00)
  • (1) ZIG Brushables Dual Tip Marker in Pure Black ($4.00)
  • (1) Pentel Fude Touch Sign Brush Pen in Black ($4.00)
  • (1) Sargent Art Glitter Gel Pen in Silver ($1.00)
  • (1) Dixon Ticonderoga Pre-Sharpened #2 Pencil in Black ($1.00)
  • (1) Pentel Hi-Polymer Block Eraser in White ($1.00)
  • (1) Pencil sharpener in one of various colors (assigned automatically) ($2.00)
  • (1) Mesh pencil bag in black ($3.00)
  • (1) Wooden clipboard with low profile clip ($2.00)
  • (1) 6” clear ruler ($2.00)

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of all Trades

Submit A PO (School Rep/ES)

Hello Charter School Representative or Education Specialist!

Banner Template

To submit an approved Purchase Order directly to Taylor of all Trades on behalf of your charter school family/student please click here.

If you are a charter school PARENT, please click here for parent-specific ordering information.

Please feel free to contact us with additional questions by e-mailing taylorofalltrades@gmail.com any time!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of all Trades

Parents

Hello Charter School Parent,

Complete Lettering Kit - Condensed

Thank you for your interest in our Lettering Guide and Lettering Series Products!

As a charter school vendor, we follow a specific ordering protocol according to this timeline:

  1. Charter School Parent: Reviews product details by clicking here and determines which items (s)he would like to order for his/her child (timeframe: dependent on parent).
  2. Charter School Parent: Fills out the Taylor of all Trades Lettering Series Fillable Order Form by reading it, filling it out, and e-mailing it directly to taylorofalltrades@gmail.com. This form will help you calculate the exact amount of the purchase order you should submit to your school’s representative or education specialist. Once you have completed this form, in addition to submitting it to Taylor of all Trades via e-mail. please provide a copy of it to your education specialist or school representative so that they can also have an itemized list of the products you wish to order on behalf of your student(s) (timeframe: dependent on parent).
  3. Charter School Parent: Submits purchase order request to charter school representative or education specialist (timeframe: dependent on parent).
  4. Charter School Representative: Submits purchase order to Taylor of all Trades on behalf of the parent and according to the charter school’s guidelines (timeline: dependent on charter school representative).
  5. Taylor of all Trades: Receives approved purchase order from charter school representative or education specialist and ships products out to charter family (timeline: within 14 business days of receipt of purchase order).
  6. Taylor of all Trades: Submits invoice for products provided directly to charter school. Charter school families will not be sent invoicing correspondence or documentation (timeline: dependent on Taylor of all Trades).

If you are a Charter School Representative or Education Specialist,  you may submit Purchase Orders directly to Taylor of all Trades by clicking here.

If you’d like to download a free sample of the Taylor of all Trades Lettering Guide, you can do so by clicking here and joining our mailing list.

You can also click here for a photo gallery of all the Lettering Series products we offer.

Please feel free to let us know if you have any questions! We can be reached via e-mail at taylorofalltrades@gmail.com.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of all Trades

Join Our Mailing List

Want a free sample of the Taylor of all Trades Lettering Guide?

Lettering Guide Cover Sheet

Click here to join our mailing list and you’ll receive your free sample within 24 hours. We won’t spam you or share your info with anyone.

If you’d like to see a photo gallery of the Complete Taylor of all Trades Lettering Kit, please click here.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of all Trades

Purchase on Etsy

Are you ready to start (or continue) or your lettering journey?

Thin Brush Letters Typeface Guide Sheet

Please click here to join our mailing list and receive a free sample of some of the lettering resources our handbook provides!

You can also click here for a photo gallery of all the Lettering Series products we offer.

Below are detailed descriptions of the products we offer in our Etsy store. Follow the links below to purchase your very own lettering resources/supplies so that you can get started on your lettering journey today!

You can also click here to access our Etsy store directly.

Complete Taylor of all Trades Lettering Kit (Includes ONE Individual Reproduction License) – $65.00

(1) 6″ x 9″ Taylor of all Trades Lettering Guide with over 60 pages of lettering resources, including:

  • (14) FREE mini video lectures to help you get the most out of your Lettering Guide.
  • (13) pages of lettering and pen-usage instruction.
  • (5) Distinct lettering typefaces, including two brush lettering typefaces, two monoline typefaces, and one cursive typeface.
  • (10) Numbers and three common punctuation marks in two different typefaces.
  • (20) Common sentiments in two different typefaces.
  • Examples of (15) different ways to style framed letters.
  • Examples of (3) different banners and (3) different wreaths that can be used to embellish lettering pieces.
  • (5) Distinct lettering layouts that can be used with a light box or iPad to organize your lettering within a specific frame.
  • (3) Copies each of four distinct practice sheets, with and without diagonal lines (to aid with slanting your letters).
  • (4) Each of three distinctly sized lettering bases in heavyweight cardstock so that you can create your very own handlettered pieces. Sizes include: 6” x 9”, 5” x 7”, and 4”x4”.
  • (1) Tombow Monotwin Permanent Black Marker with both a broad (.8mm) and a fine (.4mm) tip.
  • (1) ZIG Brushables Dual Tip Marker in Pure Black (with the opposite end containing 50% tint, providing two shades in one pen).
  • (1) Pentel Fude Touch Sign Brush Pen in Black.
  • (1) Sargent Art Glitter Gel Pen in Silver.
  • (1) Dixon Ticonderoga Pre-Sharpened #2 Pencil in Black.
  • (1) Pentel Hi-Polymer Block Eraser in White.
  • (1) Pencil sharpener in one of various colors (assigned automatically).
  • (1) Mesh pencil bag in black.
  • (1) Wooden clipboard with low profile clip.
  • (1) 6” clear ruler (to help you measure and align your own lettering pieces).

Taylor of all Trades Lettering Guide Only (Includes ONE Individual Reproduction License) – $45.00

(1) 6″ x 9″ Taylor of all Trades Lettering Guide with over 60 pages of lettering resources, including:

  • (14) FREE mini video lectures to help you get the most out of your Lettering Guide.
  • (13) pages of lettering and pen-usage instruction.
  • (5) Distinct lettering typefaces, including two brush lettering typefaces, two monoline typefaces, and one cursive typeface.
  • (10) Numbers and three common punctuation marks in two different typefaces.
  • (20) Common sentiments in two different typefaces.
  • Examples of (15) different ways to style framed letters.
  • Examples of (3) different banners and (3) different wreaths that can be used to embellish lettering pieces.
  • (5) Distinct lettering layouts that can be used with a light box or iPad to organize your lettering within a specific frame.
  • (3) Copies each of four distinct practice sheets, with and without diagonal lines (to aid with slanting your letters).

Supply Kit Only ($25.00)

*A handling fee of $5.00 will be added to this option and may be applied to any additional Supply Kits purchased within the same order.

  • (1) Tombow Monotwin Permanent Black Marker with both a broad (.8mm) and a fine (.4mm) tip.
  • (1) ZIG Brushables Dual Tip Marker in Pure Black (with the opposite end containing 50% tint, providing two shades in one pen).
  • (1) Pentel Fude Touch Sign Brush Pen in Black.
  • (1) Sargent Art Glitter Gel Pen in Silver.
  • (1) Dixon Ticonderoga Pre-Sharpened #2 Pencil in Black.
  • (1) Pentel Hi-Polymer Block Eraser in White.
  • (1) Pencil sharpener in one of various colors (assigned automatically).
  • (1) Mesh pencil bag in black.
  • (1) Wooden clipboard with low profile clip.
  • (1) 6” clear ruler (to help you measure and align your own lettering pieces).

Pen Set Only – $18.00

*A handling fee of $5.00 will be added to this option and may be applied to any additional Pen Sets purchased within the same order.

  • (1) Tombow Monotwin Permanent Black Marker with both a broad (.8mm) and a fine (.4mm) tip.
  • (1) ZIG Brushables Dual Tip Marker in Pure Black (with the opposite end containing 50% tint, providing two shades in one pen).
  • (1) Pentel Fude Touch Sign Brush Pen in Black.
  • (1) Sargent Art Glitter Gel Pen in Silver.
  • (1) Mesh pencil bag in black.

 

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of all Trades

Taylor of all Trades Lettering Series

Hello Treasured Client,

Thank you for your interest in the Taylor of all Trades Lettering Guide and Complete Handlettering Kit. Please click here to join our mailing list and receive a free sample of some of the lettering resources our handbook provides!

Please click here for information on how to purchase items from the Taylor of all Trades Lettering series in our Etsy shop. To view our shop directly, please click here.

If you are a charter school family interested in purchasing items through your charter school, please click here for charter-specific information.

You can also click here for a photo gallery of items within the Taylor of all Trades Lettering Series.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of all Trades

Thank You!

Thank you so much for your purchase!

Please allow 3-5 business days for shipment conformation on physical orders and up to 48 hours for delivery of digital orders.

Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and Instagram and to tag us in your own process pictures and videos as you use our Lettering Guide. We’d LOVE to see your progress!

Thanks again!

Taylor of all Trades

Tutorials

Looking for a crafting or how-to video? Then you’ve come to the right place! Check out the drop-down menu to view video tutorials from the following categories:

Crafting

Reviews

Technology

About Me

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

 

BLOG

Thanks so much for choosing to check out my blog! Check out the drop-down menu (above) to read posts from the following categories:

Devos

Family

Homeschooling

Food

Writing

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of all Trades

Explorer Field Trips – A Charter Family’s Dream Come True

Charter School families, this news is HUGE!

I’m a mom of three and my oldest just started kindergarten this year. In her reminder to families about end-of-year funding utilization, our Education Specialist (ES) was good enough to let us know about a new vender on our school’s Approved Vendor List, Explorer Field Trips.

Explorer Field Trips Logo

Note: Taylor of All Trades does not have an affiliation with Explorer Field Trips and is not being paid to advertise for them. 

Here’s how it works:

  • If Explorer Field Trips is an approved vendor with your charter school (which can be arranged if they are not already), you take a look at their website to determine which field trip you’d like your child(ren) to attend. They have so, so many options, ranging from theme parks to museums to fairs to discovery centers (here is a quick snapshot of a small number of field trips offered by Explorer Field Trips, but they offer so many more and can create custom field trips upon request)…

screen-shot-2018-04-20-at-9-44-43-am.png

  • Once you determine how much your trip will cost based on the field trip you would like to take (and how many vouchers you will need), you submit a Purchase Order to your charter school and they will process payment to Explorer Field Trips. It took roughly two weeks from the time I submitted my PO to my ES for me to receive my Voucher e-mail from Explorer Field Trips.
  • When Explorer Field Trips receives funding for your child(ren) from your charter school, they will send you an e-mail with specific instructions about how to redeem your vouchers as well as a link to the printable Field Trip Guide your child(ren) will complete during the trip. Each Field Trip guide includes prompts for the four core learning categories: Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies – the Physical Education requirement is also present in most of these field trips because of the high level of activity involved in the children experiencing everything there is for them to see and do (here’s a snapshot of one of the Disneyland pages…screen-shot-2018-04-20-at-10-53-32-am.png
  • One you receive the e-mail from Explorer Field Trips, you will follow the Voucher Redemption Link provided in the e-mail and they will get digital tickets to you within a few days if they are able to. If they are required to receive actual tickets from the participating venue, they will get those printed tickets to you within two weeks. They do suggest that you request your tickets at least two weeks before your intended trip date(s) to avoid any issues receiving your tickets in time.
  • While on the field trip, your child(ren) will complete the Field Trip Guide and you will submit it to your ES as a sample at your next meeting. Explorer Field Trips may also require you to submit receipts for their wrap-up, so please confirm with them via e-mail inquiry (rachel@explorerfieldtrips.com). They have a lightening fast response time, so don’t hesitate to submit any questions you may have at any time!
  • One last note: All charter schools will have their own set of limitations for things like this. For instance, our charter school will only approve one theme park field trip per student per semester and there is a cap on the amount they will approve for each child, so you couldn’t request a month-long trip to Disney World or anything like that.  Our charter also does not approve any trips involving transportation by boat. It will be best for you to check with your ES about your charter’s parameters for these trips to avoid any issues down the road.

Otherwise, that’s it! I cannot tell you how thrilling this is for our family! I am blessed to have been introduced to my charter by my sister so we are already planning family field trips through Explorer Field Trips and the kids are over the moon about it!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

Amazon Favorites – Homeschool

Here is a list of links to my favorite homeschool products (in alphabetical order) that you can order through amazon.com.

Taylor of All Trades is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, and you will be redirected to Amazon.com if you click on the links provided.

 

Amazon.com Links – Alphabetical Order

A

Amazon Basics Thermal Laminating Pouches (Pack of 100) – 8.9″ x 11.4″

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

Q

R

S

T

U

V

W

X

Y

Z

Amazon Favorites – Crafting

Here is a list of links to my favorite crafting products (in alphabetical order) that you can order through amazon.com.

Taylor of All Trades is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, and you will be redirected to Amazon.com if you click on the links provided.

Amazon.com Links – Alphabetical Order

A

B

Bone Folder – 4″

Bone Folder – 6″

Brother Monochrome Laser Printer, Wireless

C

Canon All-In-One Printer, Wireless

Carrera White Marble Hexagon Mosaic Tiles (3 inches Each; 16 individual tiles; Meshed)

Carrera White Marble Hexagon Mosaic Tiles (3 inches Each; 16 tiles)

Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine

Cricut Cutting Mat (12″x12″) (2 Mats) – Standard Grip

Cricut Standardgrip Cutting Mats (3 count) – 12X12

Cricut Deep Cut Replacement Blades – 2 Blades

Cricut Standart Replacement Cutting Blades – 2 Blades

Cricut Tools Basic Craft Set

D

Deco Foil 6″ x 12″ Sheets (5 pieces) – GOLD

Deco Foil 6″ x 12″ Sheets (20 pieces) – GOLD

Deco Foil 6″ x 12″ Sheets (5 pieces) – ROSE GOLD

Deco Foil 6″ x 12″ Sheets (20 pieces) – ROSE GOLD

Deco Foil 6″ x 12″ Sheets (5 pieces) – SILVER

Deco Foil 6″ x 12″ Sheets (20 pieces) – SILVER

Deco Foil 6″ x 12″ Sheets (5 pieces) – RAINBOW

Deco Foil 6″ x 12″ Sheets (20 pieces) – RAINBOW

Deco Foil – 6″ x 12″ Metallic Colors (5 Sheets of Each) with Foil Pen – ROSE GOLD, PEWTER, SILVER, COPPER, GOLD

Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2 Pencils (24) – Black

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Calligraphy/Watercolor Inks – COPPERPLATE GOLD

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Calligraphy/Watercolor Inks – IRIDESCENT SILVER

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Calligraphy/Watercolor Inks – IRIDESCENT COLORS (12 bottles)

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Calligraphy/Watercolor Inks – WHITE

E

Ecoline Liquid Watercolors (30ml each) – Set of 10 Colors

EK Success Corner Rounder Paper Punch

EK Success Embossing Magic – Static Reducing Powder

EK Tools Paper Punch, 2.5-Inch – CIRCLE

Elizabeth Craft Designs Microfine Glitter (11g) – WARM DIAMOND

Elizabeth Craft Designs Microfine Glitter (11g) – BASIC BLACK

Elizabeth Craft Designs Microfine Glitter (11g) – DEEP TURQUOISE

Elizabeth Craft Designs Microfine Glitter (11g) – PEONY PINK

Elizabeth Craft Designs Microfine Glitter (11g) – COPPER

Elizabeth Craft Designs Microfine Glitter (11g) – DESERT GOLD

F

G

Glass Dip Pen – Pink

Glue Dots, Clear, 300/pck – MINI

Glue Dots, Clear, 200/pck – REMOVABLE

Glue Dots, Clear, 300/pck – ULTRA THIN

H

I

J

Just Artifacts Baker’s Twine (110 YDS)

K

L

M

Metallic Marker Pens by MyLifeUNIT – Metallic Gold and Silver Permanent Markers, Fine Point (6 Markers)

Minc Foil Applicator with Starter Kit – MINI (6″)

Minc Foil Application Machine with Starter Kit – FULL SIZE (13″)

Minc Transfer Folders (Pack of 3) – LARGE

Minc Transfer Folders (Pack of 2) – SMALL

N

Neenah Exact Heavyweight Cardstock (8.5 x 11, White, 250 Sheets) – 110 LB

Neenah Exact Heavyweight Cardstock (8.5 X 11, White, 250 Sheets) – 140 LB

O

Officemate 1- Hole Punch, Silver

Online Labels Printable Sticker Paper, Full Blank Sheet, 8.5 X 11, White Matte (100 Sheets) – INKJET & LASER

Online Labels Printable Sticker Paper, Full Blank Sheet, 8.5 X 11, Clear Glossy (100 Sheets) – INKJET ONLY

Online Labels Printable Sticker Paper, Full Blank Sheet, 8.5 X 11, Clear Glossy (100 Sheets) – LASER ONLY

P

Pentel Brush Pens – 12 Colors

Premium Black Cardstock

Q

R

Ranger Embossing Powder (.6oz) – CLEAR

Ranger Embossing Powder (.6oz) – BLACK

Ranger Embossing Powder (.6oz) – WHITE

Ranger Embossing Powder (.6oz) – HOLOGRAPHIC

Ranger Embossing Powder (.6oz) – PLATINUM

Ranger Embossing Powder (.6oz) – SILVER

Ranger Embossing Powder (.6oz) – GOLD

Ranger Embossing Powder (.6oz) – ROSE GOLD

Ranger Embossing Powder (.6oz) – ROSE QUARTZ

Ranger Embossing Powder (.6oz) – COPPER

Ranger Stickles Glitter Glue (.5oz) – DIAMOND

Ranger Stickles Glitter Glue (.5oz) – CRYSTAL

Ranger Stickles Glitter Glue (.5oz) – STARDUST

Ranger Inkssentials Glossy Accents (2oz) – CLEAR

Ranger Inkssentials Embossing Pens (2-Pack) – Black And Clear

Recollections Cardstock (8.5 x 11, 50 Sheets) – Black

Rhodia Wirebound Lined Notepads, 80 Sheets (5.8 X 8.3 in.)

S

Sakura Pigma Micron Pen Set (6 Different Sizes) – Black

Sakura Quickie Glue Pen (Set of 2)

Sakura Quickie Glue Pen (Set of 6)

Scor-Pal Double Sided Tape – 1/8″

Scor-Pal Double Sided Tape – 1/4″

Scor-Pal Double Sided Tape – 3/8″

Scor-Pal Double Sided Tape – 1/2″

Scor-Pal Double Sided Tape – 1″

Scor-Pal Double Sided Tape – 2″

Scor-Pal Double Sided Tape – 5″

Scor-Pal Double Side Tape – 6″

Scor-Pal Double Sided Adhesive Sheets (5 Sheets) – 6″ X 6″

Speedball Calligraphy Pen Nibs

Speedball India Ink (2 oz.) – Super Black

Speedball Oblique Calligraphy Pen Nib Holder

Steadtler Vinyl Erasers – White

Sizzix Big Shot Machine with Multipurpose Platform & 2 Standard Cut Plates

Sizzix Magnetic Platform

T

Tachikawa G Nib (Pack of 3)

Thermoweb Mixed Media Transfer Foil Sheets, 6×6 (12 Sheets Each of 5 Different Colors) – Vintage

Tombow Dual Brush Pens, Set of 10 – BRIGHT

Tombow Dual Brush Pens, Set of 10 – GALAXY

Tombow Dual Brush Pens, Set of 10 – GRAYSCALE

Tombow Dual Brush Pens, Set of 10 – LANDSCAPE

Tombow Dual Brush Pens, Set of 10 – MUTED

Tombow Dual Brush Pens, Set of 10 – PASTEL

Tombow Dual Brush Pens, Set of 10 – PORTRAIT

Tombow Dual Brush Pens, Set of 10 – PRIMARY

Tombow Dual Brush Pens, Set of 10 – SECONDARY

U

Uchida Embossing Heat Tool

V

W

X

Xyron “X” Create-a-Sticker Machine – 1.5″ Wide

Xyron “X” Create-A-Sticker Machine (1.5″ Wide) – Adhesive Refill Cartridge

Y

Z

ZIG Brushables Marker (Set Of 6) – PASTEL

ZIG Brushables Marker (Set Of 6) – PURE

Zig Two Way Glue Pen

From the Mouth of Babes: How One Mother’s Heart Encouraged Mine

When it comes to friends, God has really outdone Himself in my life. Although most of them live miles and miles away from me, my dearest friends are some of the smartest, most talented, most beautiful, most loving, wisest, most godly, kindest, sweetest, bravest, most wonderful women on the planet. Most of the time I wonder how on earth I came to deserve them because they are just so darn amazing.

One friend, in particular, holds a very special place in my heart because I have never – and I mean never – met anyone with the heart of compassion that beats in her chest. Kara and I have been through so much together. We were in the same orientation group at our undergraduate Alma Matter and became instant friends. We’ve lived together, watched each other get married, been pregnant together, laughed together, cried together, lost and found contact with one another, forgiven each other, blessed each other, build each other up, and become sisters over the course of one of the most important friendships of my entire life. In addition to all of this, watching her raise her children has blessed my heart in countless ways. Her faithfulness and attentiveness to her daughters is a joy and an inspiration. To say I love this woman is an understatement.

True to form, my sweet Kara wrote a post on Facebook yesterday that was saturated in Christ-likeness, tenderness of heart, love, sincerity, and genuine praise for our good God. In sharing her mother’s heart, she was able to bless my own (and many others’) in an intensely impactful way.

So, without further ado, here is Kara’s post (and soul-blessing photo) about a trip she and the girls took to Papa’s seminary campus yesterday…

“We went for a walk around campus this morning. We have never paid much attention to this statue or ever talked to Em about it. She saw it, pointed at it, and without any hesitation yelled, “Jesus!!” Colby and I looked at each other like, “Did you tell her that? I didn’t!” We went to go look at it and Em took off running, excited to see Jesus. Colby asked her which one she thought was Jesus. I thought she would for sure point to the one sitting. He is taller and seems bigger. But Em immediately knelt down, put her small, sweet hand on Jesus’ forearm and said, “Jesus.” She didn’t stop looking at Him until we left. The sweet faith of a child is something amazing to behold. This isn’t the first time Em has known more than she has been taught about Jesus. I am in awe that God has somehow, inexplainably, supernaturally blessed her with a knowledge and love about Himself. It gives me hope and reminds me how much God loves her, but also how much He loves me. To witness His guidance in my little baby’s life despite my failures shows me His grace and mercy in a way I so needed during this season.”

I’m so glad I got to share a little bit of my Kara’s heart with you all. Just by being herself, she sharpens and encourages me in ways I will never be able to fully express.

God bless you, Kara, and may He continue to use your babies to grow and nurture you, just as your friendships grows and nurtures me.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor (and her precious Kara),

The Taylor of All Trades

Protein Lavash Wrap

Over the past year I’ve learned a ton about eating healthy. I can’t claim to eat wisely all the time, but I do try to stay away from certain, harmful things just in general and one of those things is processed food (i.e. food with ingredients I can’t pronounce).

Enter: Lavash bread.

A Mediterranean flat bread with a long history, Lavash bread usually only contains three ingredients: flour, water, and salt. I buy mine from our local produce market.

When made correctly, the final product is a flat, sturdy, oblong bread that is perfect for wraps, and this wrap is one of my favorites.

Here’s what you’ll need…

Ingredients:

  • 1 Lavash wrap (12-14 inches long; cut off excess or make into two mini-wraps if desired)
  • 5 oz can of tuna (I used Bumblebee solid white in water)
  • 1-2 TB mayo (or sub sour cream/creme fraiche/Mexican crema/mascarpone)
  • 2-3 TB pine nuts
  • 2-3 TB chopped parmesan cheese (from the wedge)
  • 1/2 to whole small avocado
  • 1 C lettuce (the greener the better!)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions:

The Lavash

Unfold a lavash wrap on a flat surface and set aside until you are ready to assemble the wrap.

The Tuna

Open and drain a 5oz can of tuna. You can use any protein you’d like her (chicken, beef, pork, tofu), but I think tuna works best in this recipe. Add the tuna, mayo, salt, and pepper to a small mixing bowl and set aside.

The Cheese

Break off small pieces of cheese by gently sticking the sharp end of a knife through the rough edges of the wedge of parmesan cheese. If the chunks are still too large, cut them down until they are in about 1/2″ around.

Mix it Up

Add the cheese and pine nuts to the bowl of tuna and mix until all ingredients are fully combined.

Layer it Up

To assemble the wrap, just layer it up!

First the tuna mixture….

Then the lettuce…

Then the avocado.

Wrap it Up

All that’s left is for you to roll up your wrap, making sure to pull the ends in at both sides.

Enjoy!

Then cut it in half and chow down!

I had this wrap for lunch today and it was AH-MAZING! Here’s to the yummy use of Lavash bread and the variations of this wrap ya’ll will come up with on your own!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

The Art of Affection: How to Give Good Gifts

If you’re like me, gift-giving is a joy, a specialty. You relish the thought of mulling over hundreds of ideas to find the perfect present for your special someone. Your love for him/her is such that you won’t rest until you find a gift that shows just how special (s)he is to you.

After reading that, some of you are thinking to yourselves, “yeah, that is so NOT me.” It’s not that you don’t want to give good gifts, you just don’t know where to begin. You generally give the same gifts to the same people with very little variation or imagination…but not because you don’t love them. You just find it hard to think of what to get them.

I’m hoping this post will help with that. At the heart of it is a desire to learn and apply the art of affection — the intersection between feeling love and showing love.

In a way, this post is “one-size-fits all.” I say that because these principles can be applied to anyone at any time in any kind of relationship.

So here they are: seven practical ways to give good gifts:

Learn to Listen

Honestly, if you just do this one thing it will change your gift-giving game forever. People talk…a lot. It’s what humans do. Even the quiet ones. Without realizing it, people convey what is really in their hearts whenever they open their mouths. Learning to listen to what people are saying is a super easy way to ascertain what they might like to receive as a gift.

What stories do they tell and what is featured in those stories? How can you turn those features into a gift? When they are happy about something, can you turn their happiness into a gift? When they are frustrated by something, can you gift them something that will alleviate their frustration? Did something make them emote – how can you replicate prevent that? Have they been talking about the same thing, event, person, place, etc. forevvvveerrr – it’s a safe bet that you can build a gift around those things.

A few things I do to help me remember what I’ve heard is take pictures of things that people show me, make notes in my phone when they bring up something I think I can turn into a gift, place things in the “save for later” section of my Amazon cart, and copy the links for YouTube videos that provide DIY inspiration based on the things people have said they like, want, or are interested in.

Figuring out how to listen for gift ideas when other people talk does require a little bit of effort, but, as with all things, the more you practice, the better you’ll get!

Recognize the Spectrums

This one is important because it gets you thinking about your special someone on a very specific level.

When it comes to gift giving, there are a few spectrums on which people generally fall. Taking these spectrums into consideration — especially how they correlate with one another — can set you on the path to finding or making the perfect gift for your special someone.

The Meaning Spectrum

This spectrum deals with how much or how little people consider the thought that went into a gift they receive. People who place a high level of emphasis on meaning prefer gifts that show thought and consideration for who they are as an individual; gifts that take personal effort and show sacrifice; gifts that are specifically aligned with their personality, interests, and preferences; gifts that come from a place of very purposeful sincerity.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is a gift’s functionality. Although thought will have been put into it, some people don’t register meaning nearly as much as they register how a gift meets a need or fills a void. If the gift is something your special someone can use and it helps him reach his personal goals more effectively, then he’s over the moon about it.

As the gift-giver, you’ll have to determine where your special someone falls on this spectrum. If meaningfulness is a high priority for them, hand-made gifts are a great way to go. Another great idea would be gifts that show you’ve been thinking about who they are as a unique individual, such as “inside joke” gifts, “this would be perfect for her” gifts, or “walking down memory lane” gifts.

If meaningfulness is not a high priority for your special someone, choose gifts that function well for him. Figure out what he needs to reach or master his goals and get him something that will help him do just that.

The Time Spectrum

This spectrum deals with the way time can be gifted to others.

On one end of the spectrum are people who value gifts because they indicate that intentional time and effort were put into the gift and/or because the gift itself includes spending time with that person’s favorite people — usually the giver of the gift. People on this end of the spectrum feel special when the gifts they receive indicate a desire on behalf of the giver to spend quality time together doing things that are of interest to both of them, things they both enjoy. Although these people will still appreciate doing things that cater to their specific, individual interests, if the other person doesn’t enjoy himself too, the time will be ill-spent because people on this end of the spectrum place a high priority on making sure their loved ones are happy. If both people can’t be happy, the happiness of the receiver is automatically diminished.

On the other end of the spectrum are people who value aloneness and rest rather than time spent with others engaging in various activities. This type of person is happiest at home and values being in places that are familiar and comfortable over places that require her to expend energy doing something new or acting a certain way. Although this type of person loves her significant other, she feels safest and most relaxed when she is by herself. In cases like this, sincere understanding and acceptance of this type of person’s appreciation for stillness and aloneness is a gift in and of itself.

The Cost Spectrum

On one end of this spectrum are people who value gifts that cost a lot of money. Usually this is because they would rather not spend money on or receive gifts of inferior quality when having the best is an option. They recognize that “we get what we pay for,” and are often the ones who will spend a lot of money on their loved ones when it is their turn to give a gift.

People on this end of the spectrum are given to liking and wanting extravagant gifts and, much of the time, maintain interests, hobbies, and tastes that are on the pricier end.

Money is how these people show their love, so, in turn, receiving expensive gifts is how they feel loved. It’s not that they are greedy or money-hungry, it’s that when they love someone they want that person to have the best of everything, so they feel most loved when others do the same for them. To them, the amount of money they spend on someone shows how much that person means to them, so they will often gauge their standing with others based on how much money is spent on the gifts they receive.

On the other end of the spectrum are people who value, well, value. They would rather people not spend a great deal of money on them because, to them, money meets needs, whereas they would prefer for their gifts to reflect the fact that they are wanted, loved, and appreciated.

Whereas money pays the bills, buys groceries, and keeps the lights on, people on this end of the spectrum would rather not have their loved ones spend exorbitant amounts of money on expensive gifts when simple, thoughtful ones are just as special.

These type of people will sometimes see expensive gifts as wasteful, especially if they are the ones in charge of the money used to buy the gift or they know the giver well enough to know that they can’t afford it. These people would rather receive something that doesn’t cost any money at all then be the reason a hardship is created in the lives of their loved ones.

The Experience Spectrum

This spectrum deals with how much a person values doing over getting things.

On one end of the spectrum are people who love adventure, chasing dreams, learning new things, trail-blazing, and experiencing life to the fullest. These types of people respond well to surprises, spontaneity, traveling, adventure, activity, new experiences, crossing things off their bucket list, and doing things that leave them with great stories to tell.

These types of people won’t generally keep mementoes of their adventures, but they will usually take and post 2,000 pictures of every single moment of them and then re-post those memories on social media when real life resumes being mundane and/or hard.

On the other end of this spectrum are people who enjoy collecting mementoes from everyday life of special memories made with the people they love. Although they do enjoy doing things with others, they don’t feel an express need to experience larger-than-life adventures. Instead, they value knowing they have a secure and special place in the lives of their loved ones and collect knick-knacks of those memories along the way.

Often times, these people will have a box (or two or three or twenty) full of reminders of all the special moments they have shared with those who are most important to them. Ticket stubs, receipts, cards, printed pictures, fabrics, toys, gifts, journals, trinkets – you name it. If it holds even the smallest bit of sentimental value, they’ve got it in a bin somewhere.

These knick-knacks are treasured because they provide tangible proof that these people are important to their loved ones — valued, wanted, desired, necessary, irreplaceable. People on this end of the spectrum are the living embodiment of the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and they don’t even pretend to be sorry about it.

The Service Spectrum

This spectrum deals with how much value your special someone places on his needs being met.

On one end of the spectrum are people who have a lot on their plate and often find themselves run ragged by everyday demands. They place a high value on gifts that alleviate the pressure they feel to meet demands, fulfill their roles, and faithfully tend to their responsibilities. For someone like this, being taken out to dinner so he doesn’t have to cook, having a service hired to come clean the house so she doesn’t have to, having his tank filled without asking, changing baby diapers, doing the grocery shopping, running errands, etc.; these are all gifts that are extremely desirable to someone who values the gift of service.

To people on the other end of the spectrum, however, gifts of service are not expressly meaningful because, although they do alleviate some of the demands of everyday life, they are not special, unique, or out of the ordinary. In addition, someone on this end of the spectrum views maintaining a home and a family as a cooperative endeavor and generally feels that her loved ones should not turn a chore into a gift.

Although she will always appreciate the help, she would much prefer a gift that considers who she is an individual — as a unique person with interesting thoughts, hobbies, and desires — not just someone who lives in the house and is responsible for keeping it clean and running smoothly.

The most important thing to remember about the spectrums is that they interact with one another in countless ways and differ from person to person. Your special someone is unique, individual, particular; your homework is to find out where he falls on any given spectrum IN LIGHT OF where he falls on all of the other spectrums as well.

It’s Not About YOU

Tempting as it is, if you want to be a good gift giver, you have to take yourself out of the equation. That is, you cannot give someone a gift that YOU would love to receive, then be hurt when they don’t appreciate it the way you would.

Often times, we think that others will feel special or be helped in the same ways we do/are, but that is usually not the case. This is when listening becomes especially important. Spending oodles of time and money on a gift that speaks intensely to your own heart is no way to ensure you are giving a good gift. Listening to your special someone and putting yourself in his shoes is a much more effective way to think through how to give him a gift he will enjoy.

This becomes especially important when you and your special someone are as different as night and day. Without even realizing it, we can (and tend to) accidentally project ourselves on to our loved ones, but when they are vastly different from us, those kinds of gifts are inappropriate and, in extreme cases, insulting (such as “making a point” gifts which should NEVER be given under any circumstances!)

Regardless of how similar you are to your special someone, the gifts you choose should be about them, not you.

Become a Low-Key Profile Stalker

So here’s the deal: in today’s world, people are much easier to read than they once were. Thanks to social media, we have an endless supply of inspiration from which to draw gift-giving ideas. Even if someone isn’t all that active on social media, you can still find gift ideas that will be well suited to her by low-key stalking her Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc. pages.

What does she post about? Where does he go? What does she do? What has he said he enjoys? Who does she like? What does he want to do? What is she working on? What are his goals? What type of food does she love? Who does he follow on social media? What has she complained about?

You might think negative posts aren’t helpful, but much of the time, they are more helpful than the positive posts. How can you fix a problem, fill a void, meet a need, heal a wound, encourage, solve, mend, etc.? Complaining can be annoying sometimes, to be sure, but being a good gift-giver means listening to EVERYTHING your special someone has to say, not just the easy, superficial, happy stuff.

Plan Ahead

The professor in me couldn’t help including this one. How many times have I heard a student say, “I’m so sorry…I meant to…I’d planed on…I promise I was going to….I had a really big assignment due in another class…I think I still deserve points because…”

It’s easy to prioritize things and people you CAN’T dismiss, like work or a DMV appointment, but people who give good gifts don’t wait until the last minute to throw one together – even if they can.

Planning ahead starts with knowing when your deadlines are. If you have a terrible memory, like I do, a calendar is a great way to help with this. There’s no shame in being organized when it comes to special dates like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc.

Planning ahead also consists of thinking about your gift long before you have to give it to your special someone. If you apply any of the above suggestions, you’ll need a place make notes about good gift ideas and just about any system will work. I use my cell phone to take pictures of things my loved ones point out to me or create a new note to remember what they’ve said long after they’ve said it.

I tell my students this all the time, “If you spend one hour on a six hour assignment, it’s going to show, and your grade will reflect it.” The same principle applies to gift giving: If you spend five minutes on a gift, it’s going to show, and you aren’t going to fool anyone, least of all the person receiving the gift.

Change is the Rule, Not the Exception 

People change. It’s inevitable. It’s what makes us human.

What worked as a gift 10 years ago, probably won’t work as well now because your special someone is a different person today than he was 10 years ago. So much life has happened between then and now. He thinks about things differently, he values different things, he has new or different interests…there are just so, so many variable.

A good gift giver understands that the longer you know someone the more research you have to do to figure out how to make your loved ones feel special. That is, giving good gifts requires an investment in growing WITH your loved ones and taking joy in acquainting yourself with the many new and different things that will interest and define them over time.

Remember, Remember

Nothing says, “I’m not paying attention at all” like  giving someone a gift you’ve already given them in the past. To be a good gift giver, it’s imperative that you make a point of remembering which gifts you have given to which people.

Being a purposeful gift giver involves figuring out a way to remember which gifts you have given to your loved ones in the past, or recording them so that you don’t forget. It’s not very spontaneous, that’s true, but it will keep you vigilant!

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I will admit that this post ended up being a lot longer than I intended. This topic is near and dear to my heart, though, and making people feel special is something I enjoy a great deal. I have learned, though, that there’s a lot more to gift-giving than picking the first thing off the shelf, wrapping it, and calling it a day.

I hope this post was helpful and that I was able to give you a few things to think about. Happy gifting, everyone, and may your loved ones always know how much you care.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

 

 

 

My Story

This blog is not just a snapshot of my life, it’s a window into my heart.

I love to learn and I love to teach, but my passions are so varied that I needed a place to organize them all. That’s how this blog was born.

I’m sure you’ve figured out that the name of my blog, Taylor of All Trades, is a combination of my last name – Taylor – and a spoof of the saying, “jack of all trades.” Although I wouldn’t consider myself a “master of none,” I do know that my interests span many different aspects of life and this blog celebrates those differences.

But there’s more to me than just my posts and I wanted to share my story with you so that you can get to know the woman behind the blog.

I am a Christian

The most important thing anyone needs to know about me is that I am a Christian. Although I can’t claim to be a perfect Christian, not by a LONG shot, brining God glory is the the fundamental desire of my heart. I have a passion for Truth and an eagerness to display the goodness of Christ in every aspect of my life. I fall short so often, but my God is patient and He never forsakes. What He started in eternity past He will complete, and that is such a comfort to a Type-A, driven, perfectionist like me.

I am a Wife

My dad and I were just talking last night about what a good man my husband is.  Sometimes I can’t believe I get to be married to the bravest, strongest, kindest, most patient, most upstanding, most handsome, most steadfast man on the planet. He’s such a gift, such a joy, and I love him more now than when we first met over a decade ago.

Don’t get me wrong, our marriage isn’t perfect. Andrew isn’t perfect. I’m not perfect. We have our ups and downs just like everyone else, and I can safely say that marriage is sometimes the most tedious, bewildering commitment I’ve ever made. But those moments don’t define my marriage. My marriage is defined by the One for Whom it exists: Christ.

I am blessed to be married to a man who loves the Lord and seeks to honor Him in everything he does. I am blessed to live in the faithful protection, provision, and love of a man whose character is rooted in godliness.

Being Andrew’s wife is the crowning achievement of my life; oh, how I love him!

I am a Mother

My babies. My little bundles of joy. My precious, precious munchkies.

Ok, fine, sometimes they are more monstrous than marvelous, but they truly are treasures in this momma’s heart and it is a joy to be the one who gets to raise them.

We have three earthly babies, two girls and a boy, and one angel baby in heaven. God called our Shiloh home at 8-weeks gestation and even though it happened over a year ago, it still hurts in a very real way.

But that’s just par for the course when you’re a mother – hurting for your children. If we had it our way, our children would never feel any kind of pain for any reason, ever. If we could, we would protect them from every ugly, harmful, hideous, hurtful thing under the sun and make sure they only ever knew goodness and grace and kindness and success and joy.

That’s not a choice we get to make, though, is it?

No, it’s not, but fortunately we can entrust them to someone who loves them even more than we do. Their heavenly Father is infinitely wiser, more loving, more powerful, more gentle, more patient, more generous and more able to sustain and protect them than we will ever be. And for that reason, we can trust Him with them. Even if we’re scared. Even if we don’t understand. Even if it hurts.

I am a Teacher

I am blessed to be able to teach at the most wonderful university under the sun – The Master’s University. I started teaching in the classroom just over seven years ago, and recently made the transition to teaching online so that I could stay home with my kids.

I received my Master’s Degree in 2014 in the field of Communication Studies with dual emphases in Rhetorical Criticism and Performance Studies and, before you ask, yes! it was a blast getting that degree.

Sometimes I think the only place I really belong is in the classroom, whether as a student or as a teacher (often times, those roles are one in the same). I have a hunger for growth and learning and teaching at TMU has been one of the great joys of my life.

I am a Fighting for my Health

I’ve been a daddy’s girl all my life, but I recently almost lost my dad. About 7 months ago he had the first of nine strokes but God has been so gracious in keeping Dad here on earth so that we can enjoy his company a little while longer.

The cause of his strokes were complications relating to unregulated diabetes – a disease which runs on both sides of my family and one which I had recently realized I was in danger of obtaining.

Six months before Dad had his strokes, I set out on a weight loss journey with a goal of losing 100 pounds in a year and I was determined to see it through. After learning a TON about health, nutrition, and fitness, I scrapped my weight loss goal and replaced it with a far superior aspiration: losing inches in keeping with a lifestyle that promoted the proper care of my body and my health.

I was doing pretty well before Dad got sick. I’d gone from a size 22/24 to a size 16 and I was feeling better and more energetic than I ever had. But sometimes there are more important ways to spend time than on a goal that can be put on hold. It’s all about perspective and priorities.

Dad needed me and I wasn’t about to chose a dress size over the man who has shaped and encouraged me throughout my entire life.

We are just now coming out of the woods as Dad recovers and I am fighting to get back to a place where my health is a priority. I chronicle my adventures in fitness here on the blog, so stay tuned for updates as I post them.

I am a Crafter

Crafting is my happy place. It’s my own little slice of heaven on earth and I have the crafting supplies to prove it. Although I will turn my hand to almost anything crafty, my absolute favorite way to spend time is paper crafting.

Whether it’s cards, invitations, boxes, bags, tags…if it’s paper, it’s got my name on it!

My YouTube channel, Taylor of All Trades, predominantly features crafting tutorials and I recently opened an Etsy Shop (WishingFlowerCrafts) as a way to sell handcrafted items.

I’ve learned a great deal about crafting from other crafters and my two favorite crafting instructors are Sam over at PootlesPapercraft and Stacey over at Scrapbooking Made Simple (also my favorite brick and mortar crafting supply store).

Stacey is basically the reason I am the crafter I am today, and Sam is definitely the reason I have an affinity for making paper boxes. If you don’t know who these two amazing women are, go check them out, like, yesterday!

I am a Creative

You might think I covered this in the section above, but I added it as a stand-alone because, for me, being creative is something that transcends crafting – it’s at the core of who I am and influences everything I do.

From handlettering…

To drawing…

To cartooning…

To cooking….

…being creative is what keeps me vibrant and excited about life. There is always something new to learn, to try, to master. There are always more way to grow, to mature, to develop one’s sense of courage and accomplishment.

In other words, being creative is not something I do, being creative is who I am.

I am More and Less Than I Seem

And since this is my blog, “who I am” might seem like wonder woman, or a woman who has it all together. A woman who never struggles with insecurity, or inconsistency, or failure, or disorder. A woman without flaws.

May I be the first to say that that is 100% incorrect. A public representation of the best of one’s self might give others the impression that one is infallible, that she is more than what she seems. I’m here to tell you that that just isn’t true. I’m just an everyday woman like you. I’ve got Christ written on my heart, a husband wrapped around my shoulders, kids hanging off every limb, a house to keep, a job to do, and hobbies and interests that give me a sense of “self.”

There’s just no possible way I could publish everything there is to know about me and in that way I will always be less than what I seem. Only those who live everyday life with me know the real me, the me I don’t publish. They see the good, the bad, and the ugly. They have a sense of perspective and context that readers might not. They keep me humble and grounded and sincere. They love me and I need them.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t let this blog fool you. I’m not wonder woman. There is more and less to me than what I publish and I am honored that you have chosen to spend some of your time reading what I have lovingly labored to print.

May God use this blog for His glory and may we all continue to grow in ways that are pleasing in His sight!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

I’d Love to Hear From You! Here’s How You Can Reach Me…

Want to get a hold of me? Have comments, questions, advice, a word of encouragement (that last one’s my favorite, obvi)?

Here’s how you can get a hold of me on all of my platforms:

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Protein and Greens Omelette – A Hearty and Clean Meal for One

I love green veggies. I mean, I REALLY love green veggies. My two favorite green veggies are asparagus and broccoli…add them to an omelette and you’ve got heaven on a plate. Plus, this particular omelette has got it all…veggies, protein, healthy fats, good carbs…yup, it’s a winner!

Now, this recipe is for a single serving omelette, but you could easily turn it into a party-pleasing frittata or quiche.

So, what do we need?

Tools and supplies:

  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Small, non-stick pan
  • Spatula

Ingredients:

  • 1 Nob of butter (Kerrygold is best)
  • 1-2 Tsp extra virgin olive oil (if needed)
  • 2 eggs (or 3-5 TB egg whites)
  • 1 C chopped broccoli
  • 1 C chopped asparagus
  • 5 button mushrooms (cleaned, de-stemmed, and sliced)
  • 1/4 C mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 C pine nuts
  • 1/2 a medium avocado
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Prep and gather all ingredients.

2. Melt nob of butter over medium heat in non-stick pan.

3. Sautée mushrooms with salt (to taste, I use a pinch) until browned, stirring occasionally (between 5-10 minutes. I like mine really crispy, so I let them go the full 10 minutes).

Remember, mushrooms go through three distinct phases when they’re being cooked…

Slimy (releasing all their moisture)

Spongy (moisture is cooking off, slightly browned, but not yet crunchy-crispy)

Crispy (very little moisture left, edges are nice and crunchy)

At this point, if you need to add more moisture to finish sautéing the rest of the ingredients, go ahead and do so. I use 1-2 Tsp extra virgin olive oil for the flavor, but you can use any kind of fat you’d like.

4. Add your greens and a pinch of salt and pepper to the pan and stir until fully coated and al dente (about 2 minutes, longer if you like your greens soft)

5. Add your pine nuts to the pan and stir until fully combined (like, 30 seconds).

6. Add your eggs (or egg whites) to the pan (try to get even coverage) and give it one last pinch of salt and pepper.

NOTE: I prefer egg whites since there are 3 other types of fats in this recipe.

Let your omelette cook through (about 4-6 minutes), then flip it over. It will only need a minute or two on that second side.

7. Plate up your omelette and add the finishing touches.

Mozzarella cheese, and…

AVOCADOOOOOOOOO!!

And as a final, optional (but highly recommended) step, have your 3 year-old inspect your handiwork before you dig in. I promise the compliment she gives you will make your omelette taste even more divine!

And that’s it!

I’m not exaggerating when I say I could eat this omelette every single day of the week (because I practically do, guys, like, literally). It’s hearty and clean and, ohmuhgosh, SO.STINKIN.GOOD.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Homeschooling Basics: A Simple Curriculum Plan for the First Year

Homeschooling Basics2017 was a year of firsts for me. One of those firsts was becoming a homeschooling mother. My sweet girl started school for the first time when we were in the thick of my dad’s hospitalization. He had his first of nine strokes at the beginning of July and it would turn out to be a very long road to recovery for all of us, a road we’re still on and will continue to be on until God calls Papa home.

Now, I’m a planner. I do NOT function well without a written plan in place. When Dad had his strokes, I hadn’t yet begun planning our school year because two months seemed like plenty enough time to get that job done before we started school in September. But life is rarely as tidy as we would like it to be and I wasn’t the kind of teacher I’d envisioned.

It was heartbreaking, really.

For the first two months we hit all of the topics we were supposed to, but Evie’s curriculum was haphazard, disorganized, and topically chaotic. I knew she was learning, but there wasn’t the kind of coherence and order I knew we both needed.

That didn’t last forever, though, and once I finally had the chance to sit down and really think through what we needed to do, I was able to plan out a Kindergarten curriculum that has been working very well for us. It isn’t perfect, but our charter is great at providing all the information we need to succeed, our Education Specialist is a dream, and we have been able to access many of our curriculum books for free through our charter’s resource center.

Depending on which charter you use, you are required to provide samples of coursework from four or five content areas which are based on your state’s content standards for elementary education. Our charter requires Evie to receive instruction in all five content areas — Language Arts, History (Social Studies), Math, Science, and Physical Education — but many charters do not require instruction in PE. We are also required to submit samples for any extracurricular instruction that Evie receives if it has been funded by our charter.

I have been blessed to have an older sister to walk me through pretty much every step of our homeschool journey and I chose our charter specifically because she has had such a positive experience with them. I have also used most of her suggestions regarding  curriculum selections and have found them to work extremely well for Evie. It’s also a bonus that Evie and her cousins are using the same curriculum because having schooling in common is something they excitedly discuss when they see the same books in each others’ homes.

Once I was able to, I created a learning plan (excel spreadsheet) for Evie that spans her first year of school. It includes core curriculum selections as well as her learning path across the four basic learning areas and a list of all our meetings with her ES. Her PE curriculum is not included in this list because it is constructed mainly of local sports team  participation, park play, and at-home exercise programs that she and I do together.

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Our curriculum selections for Kindergarten are as follows:

1. Language Arts

  • Sight Word Flashcards (Aurora City School District)
  • Sight Word Readers (Amazon.com)
  • “Help Me Be Good” Character Stories by Joy Berry; These books double with the Social Studies requirement. My mom gifted me most of the set, but I was able to find individual ones on Amazon. Complete sets can also be purchased on Amazon.
  • Letter writing practice sheets (see below)

2. Math

  • Math-U-See (Primer Level: Teacher Book, Instructional DVD, and Student Workbook)

3. Science

  • Magic School Bus (DVD’s and Student Activity Guide by Scholastic)

4. History (Social Studies)

  • Story of the World (Volume 1: Textbook, CD Audiobook, and Student Workbook)

We also implement the following worksheets which I print almost exclusively from Education.com because the printables on that website are the most comprehensive and effective:

  • Letter practice
  • Number practice
  • Counting practice
  • Shape practice
  • Color practice
  • Concept practice
  • Fine Motor Skills practice

Finally, we use ABCmouse as a “treat” for Evie and she absolutely loves it. I find that it reinforces what she is learning in a fun, interactive way and it is always the last thing we do in our day as a reward for her hard work in areas that don’t come as easily to her as ABCmouse.

Creating a spreadsheet was the easiest way for me to wrap my mind around everything we had to accomplish throughout our first year of homeschooling and I am happy to share a template with whomever it might help — feel free to shoot me an email at taylorofalltrades@gmail.com if you’d like me to send you the template. Otherwise, feel free to use the images provided above as a guide for one way you might structure your first year as a homeschooling family.

Teaching Evie has been such a joy. We have had our fair share of hiccups, that’s for sure, but getting a plan in place and figuring out which curriculum selections worked best for us has proven to be the foundation of a successful learning experience for both of us.

May you find what works for you and may you enjoy every step of your homeschooling journey!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Your Husband’s Not a Dog and Sex is Not A Bone

I’m heartbroken to have to be writing this post. I’m not sure if it’s a generational thing, but the advice often given to younger women in the church regarding sex is not only discouraging, it’s also, I believe, sinful. I hesitate to use that word because I am very well aware of the dangerous types of legalism which are all too easy for nondenominational Christians, like myself, to be tempted by and even guilty of.

But, you know what, someone has to say something and I think that someone’s gonna be me. I can’t keep silent any longer. I am putting my foot down and making a stand because I have to.

Older women in the church keep saying the same things about sex, but what they’re saying is wrong. Someone has to let them know, gently and respectfully, that they are absolutely wrong and that what they are teaching younger women about sex is dangerous, selfish, and idolatrous.

I wouldn’t blame you if you told me to slow my roll, like, right now. The language I’m using may seem judgmental and/or disrespectful, especailly given the fact that I am technically a “younger woman.” “Who are you to point your finger at your elders and say they are wrong,” you might ask. It’s a fair question and one I’m glad you asked.

The answer is actually pretty simple: I am allowed to challenge my elders because what they are saying does not align with Scripture and what I am about to say does. I take no credit for the Truth, I only stand by it. The challenges I bring before the older women in the church are supported by God’s Word – nothing more, nothing less.

So why do I need to challenge the older women in the church? What messages about sex are they incorrectly sharing with others, especially younger women?

There are a few, but the most dangerous ones are:

  1. Women are not sexual beings, men are.
  2. Sex is not enjoyable, so learn to grin and bear it.
  3. Sex is the best way to get your husband to do what you want him to do.

Let’s address them one at a time.

First, older women in the church, including a large number of both male and female christian authors, have been saying for quite some time that women are, for the most part, non-sexual beings. We respond to sexual advances, but we generally don’t initiate or welcome them. Men are the ones with the constant urge to undress and get busy, but women have far more refined sensibilities, hardly any of which involve being naked.

In addition to having a general indifference toward and/or dislike for sex, women take F-O-R-E-V-E-R to orgasm, so much so that the effort required to have frequent, meaningful sex is more trouble than its worth.

I can’t remember which book (or joke) it was, but the analogy a male author used once was that women are like ovens and men are like microwaves. We women need to steep and stew – low and slow – in lavish amounts of relational intimacy, foreplay, and feelings of appreciation and affirmation before we will be “ready” to have sex, whereas men can go from frozen-to-hot-to-finished in less than 5 minutes.

So why is this message wrong?

First, it is clear from Scripture that women were created to desire and enjoy sex just as much as men were. Song of Solomon is a great resource women can turn to for examples of what God intended sexual arousal to look like within the bonds of marriage — for both men and women alike. Solomon’s lover is just as enamored with his body, his touch, and his lovin’ as he is with hers, and what’s more, we are given a very clear representation of longing, desire, passion, and premeditated urges from the woman’s perspective as well as the man’s. Even when they are apart, Solomon’s lover fantasizes about having sex with him, and rightly so…

Which leads me to the second lie older women in the church tell younger Christian women: sex is not enjoyable, so young Christian women need to learn to grin and bear it.

We know from 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 that sex is an expectation in marriage, whether or not one wants to have sex. That is, if we are married, we are expected to have sex. Although Paul does state that his words are not necessarily to be taken as a command, because they are inspired by God we can trust that they are aligned with God’s design for sex within marriage. So that means that sex within marriage should never be an afterthought, should be tended to as often as there is a felt need for it, and that the only reason to abstain from having sex with one’s spouse is for the purpose of serious, purposeful prayer about specific, intense issues. The idea here is that if you are married, not having sex should be the exception, not the rule.

That last paragraph needed to be written because if you are the type of woman who measures her husband’s sexual satisfaction in the frequency of sexual encounters rather than in your and his collective, overall level of sexual fulfillment, then the rule is: have sex with your husband as often as he wants it, whether or not you want to or enjoy sex.

Boy, doesn’t that sound like fun?

No, it doesn’t. And God knows that. That’s why He never intended sex to be something women do out of a sense of duty or obligation. He was wise enough to know that a rule like this needed to be written because, inevitably, women would rebel against pleasing and serving their husbands in every regard, including sex. But in much the same way that God loves a cheerful giver of money, he loves a cheerful lover as well.

God designed the female body to enjoy sex. If you don’t believe me, do a quick google search on the function of the clitoris. It serves but one function in the female anatomy: to provide pleasure and produce orgasms.

Yup. It’s true. We were designed to enjoy sex. We were created by God to feel intense pleasure and, some could argue, even more so than men because women are capable of having multiple orgasms while men are not.

God doesn’t want us having sex with our husbands grudgingly. He doesn’t want us grinning and bearing it out of a sense of duty or obligation. He didn’t design sex to be a chore or a responsibility and we know that because we can see (and feel) that He created us to experience intense pleasure with and because of our husbands.

It is true that sexual stimulation differs from one person to another and that some women take a little longer to orgasm than others. But it is a lie to say that sex is not enjoyable and it is a lie to say that the only way to survive sex in marriage is to grin and bear it.

On its best day, sex is presented to younger women in the church as a means to an end. This leads us to the third lie older women in the church tell younger women about sex: Sex is the best way to get your husband to do what you want him to do.

I cannot tell you how much this lie angers me. I can’t even tell you have often I’ve heard it because I’ve heard it too many times to count. I even heard it just last night.

“You need to give it to him in the bedroom. You have no idea how happy he’ll be to do things for you  if you make him happy in the bedroom. ” “When I have sex with my husband, he can’t wait to do things for me.” “Having sex with my husband puts a magic spell on him — he can’t wait to do things for me right after we’ve had sex.” “If he’s not doing what you asked him to do, just have sex with him.”

I could go on, but I won’t. You get the picture.

Let me be VERY clear: your husband’s not a dog and sex is not a bone.

God gifted sex to husbands and wives as a means of deriving great pleasure, unity, and joy, not as a tool for manipulation in the hands of a bossy wife.

Sex is not an obligation – something you do because you have to not because you want to. Sex is not a tool – a way to get things done. Sex is not currency – a way to pay for having things the way you want them. Sex is not a reward – something you deign to bestow on your husband when he has performed a trick to your satisfaction.

If you think sex is any of those things you have completely misunderstood God’s design for it in your marriage. Your sex life might be in shambles, you and your husband might be sexually unsatisfied, and you might be prone to believing one, two, or all of the lies presented in this post.

But why are these incorrect messages about sex damaging, idolatrous, and sinful?

Because, at their core, they greedily and perpetually worship self.

If you are told that you are not a sexual being, and you believe it, you won’t think it is a sin to withhold sex from your husband. You will think that your husband’s desire for sex is a result of him being the disgusting, insatiable animal he can’t help being, and he needs to get over the fact that he only gets sex as often as you decide he is worthy of having it. You make yourself the gatekeeper of sex in your marriage, and use what little power that fake position gives you to make your husband jump through hoops before you let him in. News flash: that’s horrible. Also, he will resent you for it if he doesn’t already.

Similarly, if you are told that sex is not enjoyable, and you believe it, you will not feel the need to work cooperatively with your husband to create a sex life that is equally enjoyable, stimulating, desirable, and unifying. You will not bother to communicate your fears, worries, disappointments, or questions about sex to your husband and you will resent having to engage in sexual intercourse when you get nothing out of it yourself. If you believe the lie that sex is not enjoyable for women or encourage other women to believe that lie, you are saying that God did not know what He was doing when He designed the female body or when he created the very act of sex. God has very clearly shown us in His Word (and in our bodies) that women should and are able to enjoy sex, so to claim otherwise is a massive lie that cannot be allowed to persist in the church.

Finally, if you have believed the lie that sex is the best way to get your husband to do what you want him to do, please, just stop. I can’t tell you how damaging this particular lie is in marriage. If you feel this way about sex or about your husband, you are debasing him, disrespecting him, dishonoring him, and insulting every noble, honest, brave, good, right, strong, motivating, loving thing that exists within him and you should be ashamed of yourself.

God did not design sex so that you could get your way. Let me say that again a little louder:

GOD DID NOT DESIGN SEX SO THAT YOU COULD GET YOUR WAY.

Sex is sacred. It’s weighty. It’s important. It’s foundational.

Your sex life matters to God. How you think about sex matters to God. How you feel about sex matters to God.

Rather than believing the lie that because you are a woman you are not a sexual being, why not learn about your body and help your husband learn about it too. Figure out how you can emulate Solomon’s lover, both in body and in mind. Figure out what feels good to you. If you don’t already, learn how to fantasize about your husband. Look at his body. Learn how to drool just thinking about it. Learn how to long for his body, for his touch. Teach him how to touch you. Tell him what feels good and gently correct him when he does something that doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to tell him you’d like to try something new. Don’t be afraid to ask him if he’d like to try something new. If both of you consent, it’s not sinful, and its not illegal, by all means – do it! Or try, I should say. It might not be all that successful at first, but try it again and again and again until it’s what you hoped it would be. And if it never pans out, try something else. You get the idea here – sex is supposed to be fun and you are supposed to enjoy it. If you don’t, find out why and figure out how to overcome whatever makes you shy away from it.

At the heart of this message, believe it or not, is hope. I hope each and every woman reading this message is able to experience the exhilarating pleasure God designed sex to produce in her marriage. I hope each and every man reading this message is encouraged to know that his wife is being encouraged to love and enjoy sex. I hope each and every wife reading this message is encouraged to see sex the way God sees it, not the way some older women in the church see it. I hope each and every husband reading this message learns how to pray for his wife in a new and more selfless way. And, if by chance you are not married and reading this message, I hope you carry it with you into your future and remember the most important thing anyone could ever tell you about anything at all: God’s design for your life is perfect, and He is good all the time.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

 

 

 

 

Product Review: PopSockets

In this video I do a product review of PopSockets, the iPhone/iPad accessory that can be used as a drop-preventor as well as a stand for better viewing options. What do I think of this product? Take a look at my video to find out!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Not Your Momma’s Shredded Beef – Mine! Easy, Seven Ingredient Slow Cooker Beef Roast

We all have those special dishes only Momma can make. A family favorite of ours, passed down from my momma, is authentic, homemade taquitos with guacamole. The cornerstone of that dish is the shredded beef and the best way to ensure mouthwateringly flavorful beef is to cook it low and slow in the crock pot.

Once you do, the beef is so tender, so moist, so delicious, and so versatile you’ll want to make it three times a week.  You can serve it as is, in tacos, on salads, over rice, in sandwiches, and so many other delicious family-friendly recipes.

So, without further adieu, here is the easiest, yummiest shredded beef recipe you’ll ever need!

Time Commitment:

  • Prep time: 20 minites
  • Cook time: 10 – 13 hours
  • Shredding time: 5 minites (or less)

What You’ll Need:

  • Crock pot with lid
  • (very highly recommended, but not necessary) Slow cooker bag

Ingredients:

  • 1 & 1/2 – 2 lbs. chuck tender roast
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 yellow (or white) onion
  • 1 & 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

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Directions:

Step One: Prep vegetables by removing the rib and seeds from the green bell pepper and roughly slicing it, peeling and mincing the garlic (I buy the large jar of minced garlic from Costco since I use it in just about everything), and peeling and rough slicing the onion.

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Step two: Remove beef from wrapper and trim excess fat if necessary.

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Step three (optional) : Line crock pot with slow cooker bag to reduce clean-up.

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Step four: Pour two cups of water into the crock pot.

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Step five: Place beef round in center of crock pot.

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Step six: Cover top of beef round with generous amount of kosher salt.

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Step six: Sprinkle ground black pepper on top of beef round.

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Step seven: Sprinkle minced garlic directly on top beef round.

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Step eight: Cover beef round with sliced bell pepper, arranging extra slices on either side of the round.

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Step nine: Cover beef round with sliced onion, arranging extra slices on either side of the round.

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Step ten: Place lid on crock pot and plug it in.

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Step eleven: Turn the crock pot on and set it to the lowest setting. Slow cook the beef round for 10-13 hours for best result.

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Step twelve: Remove round from crock pot into a separate container, store or dispose of remaining broth, and remove used slow cooker bag to the trash can. Note: Be careful as you you remove the beef from the crock pot. This meat is fall-apart tender!

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Step thirteen: (If not wanting to portion off into chunks) Shred by using two forks to pull the meat apart and use immediately or store for future meals. This meat can be frozen, but make sure to let it cook completely before putting it in the freezer to avoid freezer burn.

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And that’s it! When you taste this beef, it’s going to melt in your mouth! I also suggest giving our husband the first taste, especially if you enjoy compliments 🙂

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Glimpses: Just Enough Faith for the Day

As many of you know, I’ve been on a year-long weight loss journey that I’ve been cataloguing daily for the past 3 months. It’s been slow but it’s also been sure. Although I did write a post explaining the motivating factors for me having started this journey, I want to go on the record: this has been the hardest transformation I have ever attempted and I struggle with staying faithful to it often.

Sure, losing lots of weight and learning how to eat in a completely new way poses many challenges, but that’s not where the battle is truly waged, not for me anyway.

No, the real battleground is in the heart. It always has been. And it’s scope is much more far-reaching than the size of clothes I wear or the interesting ways I’ve had to learn to make food work for me.

These are symptoms of the issue, but they’re not the issue itself.

The real issue is discipline, a heart condition which has but two orientations: self or Christ.

Just as our words can be used as a gauge for what’s really going on in our minds, so too is our physical form a gauge for our orientation toward God concerning discipline, stewardship, and faithfulness.

Many of you know that my favorite theological concept is redemption, especially as depicted in the life of Hosea and his wife, Gomer (Hosea 1-3). So pivotal has this concept  been in my life, that I recently got a tattoo that simply says, “redeemed.” As I was looking at it yesterday, a day when I was having a particularly difficult time seeing beyond anything other than the nagging migraine growing in my right eye, I was struck by a very sobering question: redeemed…for what?

Scripture is very clear about the necessity of Christ’s sacrifice in allowing the unregenerate heart to move through the four stages of salvation: 1) acknowledgement (of sin, its consequences, and one’s position therein), 2) repentance (away from sin and toward Christ), 3) confession (that Jesus is God), and 4) faith (in God’s ability to forgive, save, justify, and sanctify). This is the most important, beautiful, history-altering Truth that lowly man can ever know.

And it doesn’t stop there!

God’s gift of salvation is the most important thing in all of life, ever, and its implications encompass every single aspect of our lives.

For what have we been redeemed? For the glory of Christ – that His sacrifice on the cross which effects for us a position of acceptance before a holy God might influence everything we think, say, and do.

Being redeemed means that our souls have been bought back by the salvivic blood of Christ from the very pit of hell, a debt which could only have been repaid with our lives and which we could never have satisfied by our own merit or as a result of our own striving (works). Now, because of salvation, our debt has been paid, death’s grip on our soul has been broken, and we are now in receipt of the myriad blessings accorded to all God’s children, not least the sanctifying power of God which allows us to experience victory over sin’s vices and temptations.

And this applies to every single aspect of our lives. In all things we are to bring glory to God because we are thankful to Him for doing that which we could not. Our responsive love should be immense, complete, and very, very purposeful.

In my case, responding to the conviction that my life lacked discipline meant confessing to God that I had been woefully abusing my physical form and carelessly engaging in food consumption without a single thought as to how that might reflect on Him.

Once I realized that my body, my temple, was a poor representation of all that Christ bore for MY sake, I couldn’t live in a state of slothfulness or negligence any longer. I HAD to change and the only way that was going to happen was if I called out my own sins, repented of them, surrendered them to Christ, and begged Him for the strength to overcome them.

And He has been faithful to do just that! His goodness and grace have rained down on me in infinite measure, allowing me to accomplish a level of discipline which is Christ-centered rather than self-centered. My attempt to attain discipline is not for the sake of my own success, it’s so that everything I am can represent Who Christ IS in the truest possible way.

Do I maintain this perspective perfectly? No, I don’t. But I have learned this: the days I have the hardest time maintaining discipline are the days my focus is farthest from the cross.

But my lack of steadfastness doesn’t change the fact that God is always faithful. He is sure though I am feeble, as He proves time and time again.

Many of my days are marked by a dedication to that which I cannot see – God’s strength despite my weakness.

And then, suddenly, I see glimpses…just enough faith for that day. Just enough hope to get me through. Just enough grace to keep me grounded and moving in the right direction.

I’m in a phase of life where these glimpses are linked to something that others might consider trivial, vain even.

But you know what? I can’t dictate or control the way others view my journey and I don’t believe God would want me to. I am called to honor Him in every single thing I do, and, right now, that involves a very specific journey: my weight loss journey.

PADweightloss comparison_day 7 and day 104

This set of images depicts one of the glimpses that keeps me going – after all this time and hard work, I am seeing actual progress. Knowing that changes ARE occurring gives me just enough faith to keep at it for this one day. Tomorrow, another glimpse will get me through, and then the next day, and the next.

The fact of the matter is that God is faithful. In fact, He is the generative source of all that faithfulness is or can be. To be faithful myself is to put on Christ, to BE a CHRISTian in both word and deed.

For this reason I am thankful for my journey. Thankful for the heart behind it. Thankful for what it means in my life and how it is growing me. But most of all I am thankful for salvation. I am thankful for my Savior and for the fact that I have been redeemed for His glory.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

Fried Avocado Quarters: Your New Favorite Gluten-Free, Low-Carb Treat

If you’re like me, you LOVE avocado. If you’re even more like me, you love FRIED avocado. But, if you’re exactly like me, you’ve chosen a low-carb/no-carb and/or gluten-free lifestyle and breadcrumbs are just one of those things you’ve had to learn to live without.

Until now.

I recently figured out a GREAT bread crumb substitute and I’m absolutely in LOVE with it!

Using that recipe, here is the easiest, yummiest fried avocado recipe you’ll ever use:

What you’ll need:

  1. 1/2 C nutritional yeast crumble
  2. 1 whole, large, haas avocado, quartered
  3. 1 TB extra virgin coconut oil or coconut oil cooking spray

Directions:

  • Slice avocado into quarters, eighths, or however many slices you’d like
  • Dredge in nutritional yeast crumble (honestly, you could literally just eat them like this, but I wanted mine to be extra crispy, so I moved on to the next step)

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  • Heat 1 TB of extra virgin coconut oil or a generous amount of extra virgin coconut oil cooking spray in a skillet on medium heat – be careful, coconut oil has a low burning point, so it will start smoking very quickly.
  • Fry avocados for about 2 minutes on either side.

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  • Remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool.

And that’s it! Didn’t I say it was easy?

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Once you taste these, your going to want to make them for everyone you know! Get ready to be the talk of the low-carb, gluten-free community my friends – these are going to be everyone’s favorite treat in no time!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Gluten Free, Low Carb Nutritional Yeast Crumble: The Perfect Sub for Bread Crumbs

Whether you’re keto, whole30, paleo, THM, gluten free, low carb, or anything in the like, one of the things you’ve had to learn to live without is bread crumbs. Many of us have tried to make pork rinds work for us in this way, but some of us aren’t 100% happy with that substitute.

IMG_8528As  gal who loves her bread crumbs, I was jazzed when I stumbled upon this excellent substitute purely by accident.

One of my favorite ways to eat green beans is the shake n’ bake way: melted butter, nutritional yeast, and parmesan cheese at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Well, tonight I accidentally made more crumble than I needed, so there was a bunch leftover on the pan after I’d removed all the beans. Because I’d let it sit while I was eating my dinner, when I came back to the remaining crumble, it noticed it was nice and crispy when fully cooled. This provided me a lightbulb moment: could this crumble work as a good bread crumb substitute?

I’m happy to say that the answer is YES!

And I’m also happy to say that it’s pretty much the easiest recipe in the world.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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  1. 4 TB melted butter
  2. 1/3 C gluten-free nutritional yeast flakes
  3. 1/3 C grated parmesan or romano (or both) cheese

Directions:

  • Decide if you want to bake AND broil your crumble or just broil it. I personally think you get a better depth of flavor if you bake it first, but the broil-only method literally takes less than 5 minutes. If you’re baking first, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If you are broiling only, set the broiler to high.
  • Melt 4 TB of butter on a paper plate (or bowl) in the microwave for 45 seconds.
  • Add the nutritional yeast and parmesan to the melted butter and stir until all the ingredients are fully combined.
  • Spread crumble out in an even layer on a lined baking sheet. If baking first, do so at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes, the broil on high for an additional 2-3 minutes. If broiling only, do so on high for 4 minutes, stirring halfway. When the crumble is done, it should be golden brown and bubbling slightly.
  • Remove to a paper towel lined plate and let cool completely.

And that’s it!

I tested mine out with some fried avocado quarters, but, honestly, that recipe would have worked just fine without the additional pan-fry. I used coconut oil but its burning point is super low – I think it might work better with an oil that has a higher burning point.

Overall, I think this crumble works better in baked dishes than in fried ones, but they are equally yummy!

I hope this helps you on your quest to find great subs for all those ingredients we low or no carb/gluten peeps have given up to increase health and slowly rebuild our systems.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Miscarrying at the Foot of the Cross: God’s Sovereignty in the Midst of Sadness

My story is not unlike the story of many women. The pain of losing a baby is not unique to me. I am not the first woman to miscarry and I won’t be the last.

But just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s easy. And just because I share this story, doesn’t mean it isn’t painful to recount. I would guess there are many women who still mourn the lives that never were, and that’s probably not something that ever really goes away. Not if you believe, as I do, that human life is a miracle every single time it happens – regardless of size or age.

Psalm 139: 13-16 provides a beautiful explanation of why miscarriage is such a sorrowful event:

13  For You formed my inward parts;
      You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
      Marvelous are Your works,
      And that my soul knows very well.
15  My frame was not hidden from You,
      When I was made in secret,
       And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16  Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
      And in Your book they all were written,
      The days fashioned for me,
      When as yet there were none of them.

When we lose a child to miscarriage, we are losing a whole person. A whole, eternal soul whose earthly days, although few, have been numbered from the beginning of time.

So even though miscarriage occurs quite often (in 10% of all known miscarriages for women under 40 and up to 33% of all known pregnancy in women over 40, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), it is a loss that is just as real as the loss of any other loved life.

So if you’ve lost a child to miscarriage and thought – even for a second – that your sadness is illegitimate, just know that it’s not. If Scripture is True (and it always is) the gift of life is a divine miracle that is preciously near to the heart of Almighty God. In Jeremiah 1:5 He states, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” God’s eternal plan – which was written in eternity past and unfolds before us according to the perfection of His timing – always included the life of your precious baby, even if that child never grew larger than a lima bean. 

That was the case with our most recent pregnancy. We were so excited to welcome our fourth child into the world and were eagerly anticipating the blessings and challenges that newborn lives represent. As far as pregnancy detection goes, I usually know VERY early on that I am expecting because I am extremely regular. In addition to a consist monthly cycle, I had been taking pregnancy tests for a couple months because I knew that we were unofficially trying. As with all my pregnancies, I found out that I was expecting VERY early – around week four, just as I was anticipating the start of my next period. When it didn’t come, I knew I was pregnant. I bought a shirt that said, “THIS IS MY LAST ONE, SERIOUSLY,” and I was elated to be able to “gift” the news to my husband on his birthday. He took the news…um, well, the way any hard-working-man-who’se-hardly-ever-home-and-already-has-three-children-under-five would. A little shocked, a little worried, and a lot happy.

Like clockwork, I began to “feel” pregnant two weeks later. Nausea, raw meat aversions, increased appetite, exhaustion and fatigue, the works. As far as I could tell, this pregnancy was progressing exactly as it was supposed to. I’d had my pregnancy confirmed by my doctor and was excitedly awaiting my first official prenatal appointment and ultrasound which were scheduled to occur at around 10 weeks gestation.

But a few days before that appointment I turned to my husband and said, “I think something’s wrong.” As I thought about it, I realized I had stopped feeling pregnant. My nausea had disappeared and I hadn’t been feeling nearly as tired as I usually did at this point in my previous pregnancies. But Andrew, ever the rationalist, said, “Don’t worry. We won’t know what’s going on until we see the doctor.”

And that’s how we found out we’d lost our baby. Since it was our first prenatal appointment for this pregnancy, when we saw the doctor, he asked us the normal battery of questions – When was the start of your last period? How many pregnancies have you had? Any complications with your previous pregnancies or deliveries? And so on. After he’d finished asking all of his questions, he finished with, “anything you’d like to add?” And so I told him that I was concerned because I had been spotting the entire pregnancy – which was very abnormal for me; I’d never spotted with any of my other pregnancies – and that I thought something might be wrong.

My first clue should have been that he ordered an immediate ultrasound. Usually I have to wait two-three weeks before an opening, but 20 minutes after we saw the doctor, were in the ultrasound room. I’ll never forget how beautiful I thought that little alien was. All head and torso, with the smallest, sweetest little arm and leg buds. Just a perfect, precious person that was mine. My heart was so full of joy and o, how much I loved that child already. Andrew was sitting with our other three at the foot of the bed, and the only thing written in his features was pride. A life had been granted by God and we were ecstatic.

But our joy didn’t last long. I waited for the tech to let us hear the baby’s heart beat, but instead, she asked, “And you started your last period August 6th?” I thought it was an odd question because tech’s usually receive that information from the doctor, but I said, “Yes, the 6th.”

Her response should have been my second clue. “Hmmm,” she said. “The baby is measuring a little small for 10 weeks. More like eight weeks. I’m going to get these images upstairs and see what the doctor wants you to do.”

That should have been my third clue. Seeing doctors quickly is not our provider’s strong suit, and we’ve never seen the same doctor twice in one day within an hour’s time. But that day we did. The tech told us that the doctor wanted to see us immediately, so we headed back upstairs.

When he came in, the first thing he said was, “I have bad news about the baby. It’s small. It measures at eight weeks, but it should be measuring at 10.” Looking back, I feel like such a dunst. When he said that, I immediately thought he was going to tell me that there was something wrong with the way the baby was growing. I somehow thought he was going to tell us that they were able to see developmental abnormalities or physical handicaps or something like that. Not once, not even for a second, did I think he was telling me that my baby was dead. But he was.

“The tech wasn’t able to detect a heartbeat, and because of the size, we can tell the baby stopped growing two weeks ago.”

He kept talking, but I couldn’t figure out what he was telling me. “What?” I thought. “What is he saying? I…I don’t understand what he means.”

And then the hammer dropped. Suddenly I put two and two together and realized that someone whose heart wasn’t beating couldn’t be alive. This baby that we’d prayed for, that we loved so much already, that was so very wanted and precious and joyfully expected, just wasn’t going to come.

My heart was broken.

The doctor kept talking about what had to happen next. Natural passing. Medicated passing. Surgery.

I wasn’t listening. I was crying.

I think he realized we couldn’t process what he was saying, so he said he’d give us a minute to think and talk and then come back.

When he left Andrew and I sat in silence and cried.

Shiloh

We named our baby, Shiloh Lael, meaning, “Gift of God, Belonging to God.” That little life had been gifted to us, but the Lord chose to grant that eternal soul admittance into Glory before ever having spent one moment outside my womb.

We were devastated, but we were grateful. It was a stark reminder that none of our children belong to us. They all belong to God every moment of their lives, both their earthly and their eternal ones.

It doesn’t mean we don’t or wouldn’t deeply mourn the loss of them. Rather, it means we rest in the knowledge that every moment of their waking lives is intimately known by the great I AM, and we can trust that His will is best for them, whether or not it causes us pain along the way.

And, in this case, our pain was complete.

The days following the death of our baby were filled with fervent prayer. I had decided against a D&C because something about it rubbed my conscience the wrong way. Even though Shiloh was dead, the procedure seemed too much like an abortion for me to feel comfortable undergoing it.

And so I “hit the books.” I researched every alternative method to a D&C available to me, and settled on natural labor inducers, such as vitamin C, cinnamon, and intense physical activity.

I’ll never forget how much like real labor my miscarriage was.

I was standing in the kitchen making dinner for my three other children when my water broke.

Liquid rushed down my leg and pooled around my feet. And, because I was miscarrying, blood began to pool on the floor as well.

Not knowing what to do, I made my way upstairs and ran a bath. I called my husband and he made arrangements to come home. Since it was going to be a little while before he arrived, he called our good friend Julia and she rushed over to help with the kids while we waited for Andrew.

Within minutes the contractions started.

Now, I’ve had three babies, so I know what real labor pain feels like. It’s the most hideous thing on the planet. This was not like that. This was real, but it was significantly less intense than the kinds of labor you go into when you are birthing a 7 pound baby. On a scale from one to 10, if live births are an 11, this pain was closer to a 4. It was painful, but it was manageable.

Over the next 5 hours I contracted and bled and collected every single piece of tissue I could. I wanted to see, to really see, my baby. I wanted to hold Shiloh in my hand and know that I had done everything in my power to keep my baby whole. More than anything, I wanted closure.

It never came.

Although I did collect a great deal of tissue, nothing I collected looked like a baby.

When we took the tissue to the doctor the next day, he assured us that the white, brain-matter-looking tissue was our baby.

He explained that since it had been three weeks (by this point) since the baby had died, Shiloh’s body had begun to break down already and wouldn’t have been recognizable as a baby this late in the miscarriage process.

We had no other choice. We had to trust him.

What happened next is the reason I am writing this post.

After showing us exactly which tissues would have been Shiloh, our doctor turned toward the trashcan, opened it, and, as if our baby was nothing more than a soiled exam glove, moved to throw Shiloh away.

I immediately stood up and yelled, “wait!”

I explained we wanted to keep the baby and was surprised when he asked me why.

Did I really have to explain why burying our baby was a significant part of this process?

Shiloh was a real person. Someone who was once alive and now was dead. We were going to honor Shiloh’s death just as we did the passing of any other loved one. Shiloh wasn’t trash. Shiloh was a human being, our fourth child, an eternal being whom God knew before the very foundations of the earth were laid.

That’s what our sorrow was all about. When a child is conceived, a whole person comes into existence, regardless of how many earthly days that life has been granted.

We were grieving the days we didn’t have with this precious little life. We would never be able to kiss our baby’s forehead or count 10 perfect fingers and 10 perfect toes. We would never hear our baby laugh or watch our baby take a wobbly first step. We would never dry our baby’s tears or encourage the dreaming of dreams. Our baby wasn’t called to spend time on this earth and we were grieving all the moments that were never meant to be.

That kind of grief doesn’t just go away. It never just disappears.

Sometimes, when I’ve had a chance to just be still, my mind turns toward Heaven and I think of Shiloh…of how much I love my precious baby and how much I am looking forward to seeing him or her when God calls me Home to Glory.

I am convinced I will know my Shiloh when we meet in Heaven and that the part of me that is Shiloh’s mom will finally be made whole.

But even if that isn’t true. Even if Heaven isn’t about wholeness, that doesn’t change the fact that God is good all the time and His will is perfect in all things.

Miscarrying Shiloh was one of the hardest trails God has ever asked Andrew and me to face. It brought a sadness to our hearts that will likely resurface many times throughout our lives.

But even in our sadness, we see God’s goodness. We don’t know why Shiloh was called home so soon and we don’t know how we will survive another devastation like this, should we be called to it.

But we do know one thing: God’s grace is sufficient.

Because of our loss, our understanding of God’s character has been deepened. We have found an endless vault of peace from which to draw, and our dependence on the Lord has increased in ways we never could have imagined.

Our love for and understanding of one another has matured and our hearts have experienced unity in a way that is altogether new.

Miscarrying Shiloh has brought us to the foot of the cross, and in that we are able to take joy.

We serve a loving Master. One Whose grace is immeasurable and in Whose perfect will we take refuge.

We can’t think of anyone more perfect to care for our precious Shiloh than the One who loved our baby first and wholly.

He who cares for Shiloh cares for us, and by that Truth, our hearts are mended.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Helpmeet Academy: Transparency in Marriage

I’ve been married to my best friend for eight years. He’s just the most amazing man on the planet. He’s the calm to my crazy, the quiet to my loud, and the anchor to my sails. Being that we serve a perfect Savior, it’s no wonder we’re perfect for each other. It’s a match made in Heaven…literally!

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But that doesn’t mean we have a perfect marriage. Not by a long shot.

The past eight years have been marked by many, MANY trails and what sometimes feels like insurmountable obstacles.

Those too are a blessing, trust me.

Of course, it doesn’t always feel that way, certainly not in the throes of conflict. And believe me, we’ve had (and continue to have) our share of those!

We’re sooooo different. Like, really, super, mega, massively different. In fact, when people meet one of us first, they are usually shocked to find out we belong to each other. That’s how different we are.

So how do two people who are vastly, vastly different make it work?

It’s kind of a hard question to answer because it’s just not that simple. But, if you forced me to choose just one answer, I’d say it boils down to transparency, which can be defined as the willingness to engage in open communication for the sake of mutual understanding, relational growth, and increased intimacy.

You see, as much as we’d love to think it’s possible, there is no real life Edward Cullen. That is, no one in existence can claim to benefit from relational telepathy. Hard as we try, much as we’d like to, there’s just no possible way to read each others’ minds.

Wouldn’t that be super helpful, though? No, actually it wouldn’t, and here’s why: having to talk about things, having to work hard to understand one another, to be honest when we’d rather avoid conflict, to listen when we’d rather speak…all of this does two things in marriage: it encourages selflessness and builds trust.

TRANSPARENCY: AN ACT OF SELFLESSNESS

Although transparency absolutely has the capacity to be riddled with selfish motivations and consequences, when applied for the sake of clarity, unity, and understanding, it is, in fact, an act of selflessness.

How much easier would it be to keep our mouths shut when we are displeased, clam up when we feel cornered, or avoid topics altogether because they make us uncomfortable?

Super easy, but not at all helpful.

Your thoughts, feelings, and perspectives are unique to you. Without expression, they have no capacity to be understood by anyone else. How you perceive a situation will go utterly unchecked if you choose not to explain that perception to someone else.

It goes without saying that keeping yourself to yourself in marriage is a recipe for disaster. Often used as a punishment, giving your spouse the silent treatment is just another way of raging against the need to be transparent with them. You’d rather punish them for not understanding you than help them understand you.

Perhaps you’ve grown weary of explaining yourself. Perhaps you feel you’ve said everything you think you should or could say on the subject. If the issue keeps coming up, though, that’s a pretty good indication of the fact that your spouse isn’t benefiting from a clear understanding of your perspective. Either that or your spouse is just plain mean, which happens too.

But for now let’s assume they don’t understand you as well as they should. It’s then that transparency, both the expression and reception of it, becomes vitally important.

Even if you’re afraid you’ll look stupid, or cry, or sound petty, or show just how selfish your little heart really is, it’s YOUR job to make sure your spouse knows who you are.

In that way, transparency is an act of selflessness because it is invitation to accountability. Your spouse is the person who spends the most time with you, sees you at your best and worst, knows things about you that no one else does, and has promised to spend the rest of his or her life with you – even though you don’t deserve it. If you can’t be honest with your spouse, who can you be honest with?

The proper response to transparency should be a willingness to engage the content and a commitment to (lovingly) challenge anything residing in the teller’s heart that doesn’t honor God.

As mentioned above, transparency involves both the sharing and receiving of unique information. To share it when you would rather keep it to yourself, and to engage it when you would rather ignore it are both acts of selflessness in marriage.

There should be nothing you don’t share with your spouse. Nothing it all. Your spouse is your first line of defense against the kinds of self-centered delusion that excuse sin and encourage quiet and/or obstinate rebellion against God.

TRANSPARENCY: THE FOUNDATION OF TRUST

Transparency plays a second key role in the marriage relationship: building trust.

To trust someone is to feel you understand the way they view themselevs, others, and the world, and to build a strong sense of predictability in your relationship with them.

That might sound utterly unromantic to you, but it’s a very important aspect of marriage. I’m sure we all know people who constantly shock us. We think they will respond one way and they respond in a totally unexpected way. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with their changing moods, fickle decisions, and self-centered defenses of childish behavior.

I don’t know about you, but being married to someone like that would kill me. In marriage, we need to be able to define and rely on our spouse’s character so that we can build a life around it. And the most effective marriages are those built on Christ-like characters. That’s why it’s so important to ever strive for Christ-likeness. The more like Christ we become, the more our spouses can trust us with the myriad decisions, challenges, victories, trails, and blessings of marriage. And transparency goes a long way in ensuring spouses can trust one another with these things.

To willingly engage in and be receptive to transparency is to offer yourself to your spouse in a way no one else can. Each time you share your thoughts, feelings, and perspectives with your spouse, you lay one more brick down in the foundation of your lives together. The more bricks you lay, the stronger the foundation. The stronger the foundation, the better able you are to withstand disaster.

An important side note about trust: there should never be anyone you seek to build more trust with than your spouse. I’m sorry if this statement seems out of place, but it needs to be said. Building a foundation of trust with anyone other than your spouse is the first step adulterers take. They either don’t like the person they’ve married and so begin confiding in someone else, or they have decided it’s just too hard to build up trust with their spouse so they start building a foundation of trust with someone who makes it easier for them to do so.

It can’t be said too many times: transparency in marriage is grueling work. Sometimes it’s exhausting, sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s at the heart of conflict, sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth it, but, oh my friends, it sooooo is!

Transparency – open, honest communication and gracious listening – is the foundation of any successful marriage, especially when you’ve married someone who is enormously different from you.

From joys, to fears, to sex, to parenting, to money, to conflict, to Scripture, to prayer, to fun…there should be nothing you don’t talk to your spouse about, NOTHING.

Of course, timing and tact are key components to successfully transparent interactions, but if you are hiding behind them and using them as an excuse not to engage your spouse, you’re not helping the situation. In fact, you’re doing quite the opposite.

What will you choose, transparency or selfishness? It’s you’re marriage so it’s your choice. But if you ask me, selflessness and trust in marriage seems like a pretty fair trade if all I have to do is practice the art of honesty.

Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

 

 

 

 

Low Cal Dinner: Baked (Mock Fried) Chicken with Mushroom Sauce and a Side Salad (Total Calories: 510)

I’m turning a new leaf.

I want to do life well and I want to become the healthy and strong person I’ve always wanted to be.

A huge part of that is taking control of my cooking and eating choices for the first time in my life. As a wife and mother of three young children, I want to make these changes now – before my kids are old enough to fight me in the process.

Tonight’s experiment was a WIN! I had an intense craving for fried chicken, but I didn’t want to waste my workout, so I decided to make a baked version, mock fried chicken, if you will. It was DIVINE! Crunchy, flavorful, healthful, and oh, so satisfying!

Here’s what you’ll need…

For the chicken:

  • 1-2 pounds of boneless, skinless, thin-sliced chicken breast (4-5 fillets)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 5 TBS spelt flour
  • 3 TBS almond meal
  • 1/2 TBS golden roasted flax seeds
  • 1 Tsp garlic powder
  • 1.5 Tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 Tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 Tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil (as a non-stick coating for the pan)

For the mushroom sauce:

  • 1 TBS butter
  • 7-8 button mushrooms, chopped, stems removed
  • 1.5 C heavy whipping cream
  • about 2 Tsp of kosher salt (or to taste)
  • about 1 Tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)

Let’s get started!

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Prepare a baking sheet with tin foil (optional but saves you having to wash it) and 2 TB extra virgin olive oil (use fingers to spread it evenly across entire surface of pan)
  • Beat two eggs in one bowl
  • In a separate bowl, stir all the dry ingredients from the chicken recipe together until fully combined

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  • Dredge each breast fillet, first in the egg mixture, then in the dry ingredient mixture
  • Arrange breaded breast fillets on pan at least 1-inch apart
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on your desired doneness level)
  • Switch your broiler on to HIGH and broil breast fillets for 5-7 minutes to develop a crispy crust

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While the chicken is broiling, make the mushroom sauce:

  • Clean and remove the stems from 7-8 button mushrooms
  • Chop mushrooms into 1/8 – 1/4 inch cubes
  • Heat 1 TBS butter in saucepan on medium heat
  • Sauté mushroom until their liquid starts to drain out (about 3 minutes)
  • Add salt and pepper to taste (I used about 2 Tsp of kosher salt and about 1 Tsp ground black pepper)
  • Increase heat to medium-high and sauté mushrooms until the liquid in the pan cooks off (about 3 minutes), stirring intermittently
  • Add 1.5 C heavy whipping cream and stir until fully combined
  • Test flavor for additional seasoning (if needed)
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce thickens (about 3 minutes)
  • Drizzle over chicken and prepare to be in HEAVEN!

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My side salad is 2 C Romain leaves, 1 serving (1.5 TBS) homemade Hidden Valley buttermilk ranch dressing (from packet), and 1 TBS grated parmesan romano cheese (I get mine from Trader Joe’s).

This meal has a total calorie count of 510 calories and is O, SO YUMMY!

Happy eating!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

 

 

 

Walking By Faith, Not Sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)

It’s a verse we’ve heard a million times. It’s a Jeremy Camp song we’re singing at this very moment. It’s a cliche we’ve heart from every Christian we’ve ever known in any number of situations. But how do we make it our own?

2 Corinthians 5:7 states,

For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

 

Think about your day. Think about how it starts. Faith is what allows you to shower without the fear that your roof is going to collapse. Faith is what allows you to get in the car and drive to work on the assumption you won’t get into an accident. Faith is what allows you to gas up your car because little 1’s and 0’s say you have “money” in the bank. Faith is what keeps you sane, what grounds you, what gives you the freedom to live this life free of the crippling kinds of fear that could prevent you from getting out of bed every morning.

In truth, we are all people of faith. We believe in things because we have to. Faith is what gives our lives meaning and stabilizes our thoughts and actions. It is what centers our worldview and permits us to function in community with other human beings.

This doesn’t mean we are all of the same faith, or even that our faith system is correct. It just means that, at the end of the day, we couldn’t function in this life if we didn’t have faith.

So what does it mean for a Christian to live by faith and not by sight?

The most practical implication, of course, is that we serve a Master Who cannot be seen. Who God is, how He works, what He is…these things cannot be verified by practical observation.

But doesn’t this verse mean so much more than that?

I think the key here is the idea of walking. This is the basic mode of human mobility. Once we learn how to walk as infants, we build up muscle memory, and, before long, it ceases to be something we have to choose to do movement by movement. Although we make conscious decisions about the direction in which we are going to walk, the actual act of walking no longer requires slow, calculated dedication on our part.

Faith is like walking in this way. How you walk in the Faith is determined not so much by the big, concentrated efforts you make to faithfully serve God when stretching trials come, but by the way you handle your heart and mind in the days, weeks, months, and years leading up to those moments – your “faith memory” you might say.

Have you ever wondered why it seems like you are never able to pass the tests God gives you? Have you ever gotten to a point where you think you’d be better off not living a life of faith because it’s just too hard or too much or too demanding? Have you ever wondered if you’ll ever get to a point where you don’t fight God’s will so that you can learn things the easy way (instead of the hard way) for once?

Speaking from experience I can confidently say that those are the questions asked by people who haven’t been diligent in building up a solid “faith memory.” When trials come, you haven’t sufficiently strengthened your “faithing legs” so all that they can do is buckle. You fall, not because the trial is too difficult or God isn’t gracious enough. You fail because your faith is not strong enough.

A strong faith, one that is able to withstand the weight of even the heaviest trial, is a faith that is practiced, strengthened, and memorized daily, hourly, minutely even.

What kind of faith are you building up? It’s an easy question to answer because all you have to do is ask what you are putting into your heart and mind.

Do you spend most of your time in front of the TV or in the Word. Do pray a lot or do you just think about praying and call it a day? The songs you hum mindlessly, what are their lyrics focused on, the things of God or the things of the world? Do you practice loving others in your heart and mind before interacting with them, or do you just hope you’ll be up to the task of dealing with relational conflcits if and when they arise?

The point is, walking by faith isn’t just choosing to believe in something or someone you can’t see. It’s about living a life that is dedicated to mediation on God and His Word on a daily basis so that whatever He asks of you, you are willing and able to do obediently, immediately, and joyfully.

How are you walking today?

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

That For Which the Christian Heart Groans (2 Corinthians 5:4)

I gotta say, I am LOVING my time in 2 Corinthians! God is teaching me so much and I am blown away by how much I am learning in a book I know I’ve read a hundred times in my life.

Today’s verse is 2 Corinthians 5:4 and reads:

“For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality  may be swallowed up by life.”

This chapter is heavily laden with analogies which perfectly explain reality.

So let’s break this one down:

  • We who are in this tent: Here, Paul is talking about our mortal, earthly bodies (as he explains in v. 1). I have no doubt he chose to call it a tent because tents are notoriously portable. They are not meant to be permanent, they are a place holder for something better, firmer, sturdier. They are also of far inferior quality compared with the things they emulate (houses or buildings), and they are limited in their capacity to function in the way something permanent can. Our bodies, our tents, are finite, inferior, less sturdy, and less desirable than the alternative, which will be explained in just a second.
  • Groan: When I think of groaning, I think of despair. I think if deep, deep sorrow, or guttural, compulsive aching. I believe that’s the idea Paul is going for here. As beliers we have an eternal prospective. We know what we are working toward and for Whom we are living. We know this world and our bodies are finite and, when we compare the two, we long for Heaven rather than Earth – especially now that the days are so evil. To say that we groan is to say exactly what is felt sincerely in our hearts – we deeply, deeply ache for Heaven because we know it is the place where our Truest Love lives and we desperately long to be with him there.
  • Being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed: As believers, our lives are very weighty. No single choice we make is free of spiritual consequence, nor is any train of thought or emotion. So, as we long to see Christ and enjoy His presence, we are (or should be) burdened by many things. First, our sin. It should burden us greatly when we sin because it hinders our relationship with God from being what it can and ought to be. Second, we are burdened with a desire to put on more of Christ that we might be able to stand in His presence and be acceptable to Him there – something that will only happen when we die or are resurrected. We are simply giddy within ourselves at the thought of being able to worship at the actual feet of our loving Savior, and are burdened by the fact that we are here on Earth and unable to do so. Third, we are burdened by the lack of holiness we are able to attain in this earthly life and wish to put on more of it if at all possible, to be “further clothed” by Christ’s righteousness, to its very fullest extent. Because of the Fall, we simply cannot be sinless. Until God accepts us into Glory, we are bound in this unacceptable form, beholden to effects of sin which we, as children of God, hate to our very core. Be we long to be acceptable to Him and so ache to be further clothed by His holiness.
  • Being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed: But of all the things we are burdened by, there is one thing by which we are not: a desire to be “unclothed.” In Paul’s analogies, this means that we have no desire to take off the righteousness with which Christ has graciously covered us. We have (or should have) NO desire to be adorned by anything other than the blood of Christ, that beautiful, purifying, washing, cleansing, whitening blood of the Lamb. Everything else with which we can be clothed (anything outside of the perfect will of God) is hideous by comparison. Why settle for a knock-off when we have been gifted the real thing?
  • That mortality  may be swallowed up by life: Again, this speaks to our eternal perspective. We know our end. We know what’s waiting for us when death calls our name and our first life passes away. We fear not the Devil or any of his threats. We hold fast to the Truth, knowing that the only end that awaits us is an eternal one in Glory. When Christ rose from the dead, He obliterated sin and death, swallowing up mortality by life, eternal life. “Where, O death is your victory. Where, O death is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:55).” And that’s just the point. Death has no sting, not for the true believer! We don fear death because it has no power over us. The only power at work in our lives, both temporal and eternal, is the power of God – AMEN!

How blessed are the promises of God! How joyful we can be because we are His!

And if you’re not sure you are His, don’t worry! The gospel is a free gift to all, and God is eager that you should accept it (please click here if you’d like to know more about salvation). You need only ask, His arms are open!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Mass Meal Prep: 15 Low Cal Meals for Less Than $5 Each

Last month I started a 12-month weight loss journey. I have been calorie counting and doing between 30 and 45 minutes of working out each day.

Since I have small children, time is a precious commodity and preparing meals that are healthy, tasty, and easy is a bit of a challenge.

Today, though, I tried something new – mass meal preparation.

I must say, I’m very happy with the results!

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15 Meals Prepped in 5 hours (including clean-up)

Below I’ve provided a cost, recipe, and calorie breakdown for the 15 meals I was able to prepare during a 5-hour stint in the kitchen. Total, these meals will only cost you about $4.60 each – that’s CRAZY isn’t it? Yeah, crazy COOL!

INGREDIENTS – ORGANIZED BY STORE

Here’s what you’ll need:

Wal-Mart:

  1. ONE 2lb. bag of Marketside Raw Broccoli Flouretts ($9)
  2. Boneless, Skinless Thin-Sliced Chicken Breast ($15)

Costco:

  1. Kirkland Tail-off, Cooked, Peeled, Deveined Shrimp ($15)

Trader Joe’s

  1. Frozen Jumbo Sea Scallops ($12)
  2. Frozen Organic Jasmine Rice ($3.50)
  3. Frozen Rice Medley ($1.25)
  4. Frozen Fully Cooked Organic Quinoa ($2.50)
  5. Frozen True Belgian Brussels Sprouts ($5)
  6. Frozen All Natural Asparagus ($3.50)

Probably Already in Your Pantry (price will vary)

  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  2. Butter
  3. Lemon
  4. Balsamic Vinegar
  5. Kosher or course salt
  6. Ground pepper
  7. Ground nutmeg
  8. Ground ginger
  9. Ground allspice
  10. Vanilla extract
  11. Dried rosemary

Total calculated cost (excluding pantry items) for 15 meals is just under $67.00, but we’ll round to $70 because of the pantry items. That makes your grand total for ONE of these meals just $4.60! * Note, if you want to use the portion control containers, they are reusable and will cost you about $1 a piece on Amazon. Click here to purchase the exact ones I did.

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These are the exact meal prep portion containers I purchased from Amazon (link above)

PREPARATION – ORGANIZED BY TYPE

We’re doing this mass-production style, so if the proportions seem exaggerated, don’t worry, they’ll get spread out across all 15 meals later.

Protein:

  1. Boneless, skinless, thin-sliced breast fillets (7 breasts, 7 meals):
    1. Heat 5 TBS of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet
    2. Remove fillets from package and place in skillet
    3. Salt and pepper first side to taste
    4. Let cook on high for 10 minutes on first side
    5. Flip fillets over, reduce heat to medium-high, salt and pepper second side, and let cook for 10 minutes (longer for well done chicken)
    6. Slice, if desired
    7. Portion out in 4oz servings (1 breast)

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      Boneless, skinless, tin-sliced chicken breast, seared in extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper

  2. Fully cooked, deveined, tail-off shrimp (I only used about ¾ of my bag, but you can prep the whole thing) (75 shrimp, 5 meals):
    1. Thaw shrimp according to package instructions
    2. Warm 2 TBS of butter in a large skillet on medium-high heat
    3. Place as many shrimp in the skillet as will fit without them touching one another
    4. Salt and pepper to taste
    5. Cook on first side until butter starts to brown and harden, about 10 minutes (or less if you want to warm not continue cooking them)
    6. Turn shrimp over and cook another 2-5 minutes (again, depending on your doneness preference)
    7. Portion out in 15 shrimp servings

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      Fully cooked, peeled, deveined, tail-off shrimp, seared in butter, salt, and pepper

  3. Jumbo sea scallops (12 scallops, 3 meals):
    1. Thaw scallops according to package instructions
    2. Pat scallops dry on paper towel and season one side with salt and pepper to taste
    3. Heat 2 TBS butter and 1 TB extra virgin olive oil in medium skillet, making sure it starts to bubble before you add scallops
    4. Add scallops to skillet, seasoned side down, making sure they have plenty of room to breathe; you don’t want to steam them
    5. Sear for 3-6 minutes on first side (depending on desired doneness)
    6. Season exposed side with salt and pepper to taste
    7. Flip scallops gently – they may be sticking to the pan, and season second side with salt and pepper to taste
    8. Sear second side for 2-6 minutes (depending on desired doneness)
    9. Portion out in 4 scallop servings

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      Jumbo scallops seared in butter, salt, and pepper

Greens:

  1. Broccoli (9 cups; 6 meals):
    1. Remove large stems and cut larger florets in the smaller ones
    2. Heat 3 TBS of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet
    3. Add all of the broccoli to the skillet
    4. Add an additional 2 TBS of extra virgin olive oil to top of broccoli
    5. Add salt and pepper to taste
    6. Sautee until just tender
    7. Portion out in 1.5 cup servings

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      Broccoli, sauteer in extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper

  2. Asparagus (about 60 spears; 5 meals):
    1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
    2. Thaw according to package instructions (or just leave out on the counter for 20 minutes)
    3. Arrange both packages of asparagus on foil-lined cookie sheet
    4. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, to taste
    5. Roast 20 minutes
    6. Broil on high an additional 10-20 minutes depending on charring preference
    7. Portion out in 12-15 spear servings

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      Asparagus, roasted and broiled in extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper

  3. Brussels Sprouts (6 cups; 4 meals):
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
    2. Empty both package into microwave safe-bowl and cover with cling wrap
    3. Thaw in microwave for 4 minutes
    4. Uncover and halve each Brussels sprout
    5. Put the halves back in the bowl and add 3 TB of extra virgin olive oil, 3 TB of balsamic vinegar, ½ TB kosher or course salt, and 1/8 tsp. group black pepper; stir until fully combined
    6. Arrange all of the sprouts on a tin-foil lined cookie sheet
    7. Roast for 20 minutes
    8. Broil on high an additional 10-20 minutes depending on charring preference, flipping halfway
    9. Portion out in 1.5 cup servings

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      Brussels sprouts, roasted and broiled in extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper

Grains:

  1. Jasmine rice (4.5 cups; 8 meals – will have one leftover half cup):
    1. Heat three bags – one at a time – according to package instructions
    2. Portion out in half cup servings
  2. Rice Medley (2 cups; 4 meals):
    1. Heat one bag according to package instructions
    2. Pour contents into bowl
    3. Add a half tsp. of each of the following to the bowl: ground nutmeg, ground allspice, ground ginger
    4. Add 1 tsp. vanilla extract to the bowl
    5. Add a quarter tsp. of kosher or course salt to the bowl
    6. Add a half TBS of extra virgin olive oil to the bowl
    7. Stir all ingredients until fully combined
    8. Portion out in half cup servings

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      Warm spice rice medley

  3. Quinoa (1.5 cups; 3 meals):
    1. Heat one bag according to package instructions
    2. Pour contents into bowl
    3. Add 1 TB of extra virgin olive oil, the juice of one small lemon, a quarter a tsp. kosher or course salt, 1/16 tsp. ground black pepper, 1 TB balsamic vinegar, and 1 TB dried rosemary (crushed in fingers) to bowl
    4. Stir all ingredients until fully combined
    5. Portion out in half cup servings

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      Oil and vinegar quinoa

The calories for each of the portions are all similar enough to ensure each combination stays below 680 calories per meal, and, even then, you’d have to eat all of the most calorie-laden items from each category in the same meal to hit that. Most combinations stay below 600 calories per meal. The lowest possible calorie count is 440, and you’re still getting plenty of food! The calorie counts for each of the food items are broken down as follows:

  1. Seared chicken in extra virgin olive oil (4 oz; one breast): 230 calories
  2. Seared shrimp in butter (15 pieces; 9 oz): 280 calories
  3. Seared scallops in butter and extra virgin olive oil (4 pieces 4 oz): 280 calories
  4. Sautéed broccoli in extra virgin olive oil (1.5 cups): 120 calories
  5. Roasted asparagus in extra virgin olive oil (12 spears): 90 calories
  6. Roasted balsamic Brussels sprouts in extra virgin olive oil (1.5 cups): 220 calories
  7. Jasmine rice with 1TB soy sauce (1/2 cup): 120 calories
  8. Balsamic quinoa (1/2 cup): 180 calories
  9. Warm spice rice medley (1/2 cup): 120 calories

Just a few final notes:

  1. Today I used what I had on hand, but I would much rather have used fresh (not frozen) Brussels sprouts and asparagus. The cooking times in the oven will need to be adjusted for fresh/raw greens by adding 20 minutes, but the outcome is WAY better.
  2. I buy the thin-sliced breast fillets because they are generally about 4oz each, which is one serving size. It just makes life easier because I don’t have to weigh them out, after they are cooked, I jut have to slice them and put them in the container – I already know they are 4oz and can move on with my calorie counting from there.
  3. If you want a good sear on your meat, you need to let them cook on very high heat for at least the first half of your cooking time. This WILL make a huge mess. You can either fight it or use a different method, but the best result is the one that emulates the way food is cooked in a restaurant.
  4. I like my food charred and/or well done. If you don’t, simply reduce the cooking times provided above.
  5. All servings are based on LOOSLY packed measuring cups

So that’s it! I hope you all enjoyed and are able to use this post to your advantage! I’m loving finding new ways to do this whole “fitness” thing well, and I’m sure you are too!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Proper Perspective Produces Endurance (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Life is hard. Things happen that we can’t control and don’t understand. Maintaining our Christian testimony for Christ’s sake is fraught with temptations, set-backs, willful disobedience, discouragements, misunderstandings, and persecutions. Being in community with and serving alongside other believers can be draining, difficult, demanding, and disheartening. Health issues humble and humiliate us as they expose and accentuate our weaknesses. And certain trials seem to stretch us beyond even our most rooted breaking point.

As Paul addresses common issues faced by believers in the church at Corinth, he acknowledges the fact that discouraging circumstances are normal, but having proper perspective is the only way to overcome the discouragement itself.

2 Corinthians 4: 16-18 states:

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Age and infirmity, physical limitations and decreased stamina – these are all inescapable consequences of time; but they don’t have to and shouldn’t define our perspective.

Rather, we should constantly be reminding ourselves that the most important, impactful, and lasting changes are the ones that occur on the inside.

More so than that, we need to understand that change will occur whether or not we pay attention to it. You will either grow and mature in Christ – through the reading of the Word and sincere prayer, or you will grow in the direction of any of the sinful bents to which our sinful hearts are so easily inclined: bitterness, anger, contentiousness, unkindness, laziness, doubt, cruelty toward others, the list goes on and on.

If we are not actively seeking to grow and mature in the things of the Lord – by understanding that what we think, feel, and believe has eternal ramifications, not just temporal ones, then we will, by default, be growing in that which is approved only by Satan himself.

So, yes, life is hard. Trials aren’t fun. Challenges are, well, challenging. But what are they when we view them in light of the Cross? What are they when we choose to view them through the lens of sanctificion rather than inconvenience. What are they when we see in them that which is ever-faithful: the perfect and perfectly timed will of God?

How do we overcome hardship? How do we break free from the bonds of doubt and discouragement? By renewing our minds day by day in the refreshing Truth of God’s revealed Word and by learning how to pray effectively so that our petitions may be acceptable to the Lord.

There is no hurt too big for God to remedy, no pain too deep for God to heal, nothing so broken God can’t make it whole.

Trust Him. Sincerely surrender it to Him. Refuse to cling to it. instead, replace it with the Truths of Scripture. Meditate on what God’s Word is teaching you as often as you can. Purposefully apply those truths with fervor and dedication. In this way, and only in this way, will you pursue a proper perspective that renews your spirit day by day.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

 

The Definition of Prayer by John Bunyan

I recently started reading books from the Puritan Paperbacks series and I love them! In truth, they are changing my life.

I’ve been a Christian – a member of the church – my entire life. So grounded is my theological base (I say this not out of pride, but to provide context) that I take countless doctrines for granted – often admittedly thinking there is nothing more for me to learn on countless foundational concepts.

One of these concepts is prayer. I could smack myself thinking about how pridefully I have considered myself an expert on prayer when, really, I know hardly anything at all.

In his book, Prayer, John Bunyan defines prayer this way:

Prayer is the sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to His Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God. 

How powerful is that?!

If you have not read this book yet, I strongly recommend that you do. I am learning SO much about prayer as I read it.

From this definition, Bunyan breaks down each portion individually and explains them in great detail.

One of the most impactful implications of this definition, for me, is that to pray properly we must pray in keeping with the will of God.

That might sound like a no-breainer, but I hadn’t really thought of it that deeply before.

Praying God’s will entails a few things:

  • Knowing God’s will through the frequent reading of and deep study in His Word
  • Knowing what to pray by echoing prayers provided in Scripture
  • Not praying in selfish ways so as to convince ourselves our prayers are being either answered or denied, but rather praying that the Lord’s will be done and that He would show us How to pray in keeping with His will
  • Humbly admitting that we do not know how to pray as we ought and sincerely asking the Holy Spirit to make intercession on our behalf

There is so much more that could be said, but I’ve been meditating on these key aspects of prayer for weeks now and they provide fresh conviction each day.

Take a look at your prayer life – is it in keeping with what is expressed as true prayer by Bunyan?

If not, I would, again, encourage you to pick up a copy of Bunyan’s book and allow it to challenge your prayer life as it has challenged mine.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Grace Produces Gratitude (2 Corinthians 4:15)

As we study Paul’s interaction with the church at Corinth, 2 Corinthians 4:15 provides a very poignant message for us:

“For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.”

In this verse, Paul reminds the Corinthians that the instructions he is providing are for them and for their well-being.

He acknowledges that grace is something they do well and that their evangelistic efforts are not fruitless. As they show and share grace to more and more people, the result is thankfulness.

Those who receive God’s grace through salvation and through the lives and love of His elect can have only one response: thankfulness.

Have you ever been there? Someone shows you grace in such a way that you are humbled by their care for you. You are so encouraged, built up, healed, helped, or affirmed by their words or actions that you can’t help thanking them with everything you have.

The sincere showing of grace does that to people. It stirs in them the compulsion to be grateful, first to the person showing them grace, and to God for blessing in that special way.

And Paul goes on to explain that God is glorified by gratitude.

A thankful heart is an amazing testimony of God’s character and worthiness. Nothing turns the world off to Christianity more than miserable Christians.

Are you a miserable Christian? When things happen that you can’t control, do you grumble and complain or do you thank the Lord sincerely for the fact that He is still in control and that His sovereign plan is perfect in all things?

Is living the Christian life a drudgery to you? Are you downcast as you make choices that honor God but alienate you from people who hate Him?

If you are not a thankful person, it shows. And if your testimony for Christ isn’t one of grace and gratitude, I would implore you to take the time TODAY to search your heart and find out why.

If nothing else, we have something the be abundantly grateful for every minute of every day: The redemptive work of Christ on the cross that secured salvation and eternal unity with God for us, something we were utterly unable to do – either through will or wills – for ourselves (for more on salvation, click here).

May God be praised for the ultimate act of grace that gives us cause to be grateful every moment of our lives!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

 

 

2 Corinthians 4:10

2 Corinthians 4 is full of timely wisdom for me.

As you all know, I am currently three weeks into a weight loss journey that will last one year. My goal is to lose 100 pounds in 12 months, and I document my progress daily.

One of the things that confirmed the need for this kind of change was 1 Corinthians 9:27, which states:

“I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

The stark contrast between my life of laziness and self-worship and what is depicted by Paul in this verse shocked me into action, literally.

And, as I keep saying, God’s timing is unfathomably perfect because as I continue my study of 2 Corinthians, this theme is reinforced over and over again.

2 Corinthians 4:10 states:

“Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

2 Corinthians is all about what it means to cultivate a solid testimony for the benefit of fellow believers as well as for the furthering of the Gospel before those whose souls are perishing.

When I realized my lack of self-discipline could potentially disqualify me from having a legitimate testimony and ministry both in the church and in the world, I begged God to show me how I could make significant and immediate changes for His glory.

Although 1 Corinthians 9:27 provided the “how” concerning my desire to have a blameless testimony, 2 Corinthians 4:10 provided the “why.”

Why is it important for us to live a life of self-discipline? Why is it important for us to take care of our bodies and ensure that we keep them strong and healthy? Why is it important for us to have a blameless testimony before men?

Because our bodies are a representation of God’s eternal, redemptive plan – that breathtakingly beautiful message of Salvation that was determined by God before even time itself existed.

As we walk, and talk, and think, and move, and breathe, the body of the true believer carries in it the very person of God. The Holy Spirit within us is the living presence of God Himself, only able to reside in our hearts because of Christ’s work on the cross.

Note: If you want to learn more about salvation or are unsure you understand it, please click here

In His resurrection, when Christ defeated sin and death once and for all, He empowered us to overcome those besetting sins that would jeopardize our testimony for Him in this world, sins like slothfulness, or gluttony, or laziness, or lack of self-discipline, or any number of other “respectable” sins.

So when 2 Corinthians 4: 10 says “that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body,” we need to take that seriously.

Is being overweight a sin? No, i don’t believe so. But are surrendering to the temptations of laziness, self-worship, comfort loving, and fear sins? Yes, yes they are.

As odd as it may sound to some, the first thing I had to do when I set out on this journey was to ask God for His forgiveness. For decades I had been stewarding the body He gave me poorly and, in so doing, limited my ability to “manifest the life of Jesus.” 

To be a slave to anything other than Christ is to diminish His reflection and to dishonor His Name.

That is something I could no longer choose to do. Once God shows you your error in such a blatant way, it’s hard to do nothing. And that’s exactly what He did for me.

Is He doing that in your life today? Is there something He is convicting you to do or change or improve?

Take heart! There is nothing He has asked of you that He expects you do accomplish alone. Repent of your sin, surrender your limited abilities to Him, study His Word, depend on Him in sincere prayer, and DO what you know He is calling you to do.

Don’t resist Him. Don’t put it off. Don’t live one more moment in willful rebellion against Him.

His greatest desire is for your good – trust Him as He leads you away from that which keeps you from His perfect will.

And know that you’re not alone. We are all in process and we are always in need of God’s grace to sustain us as we seek to honor Him in everything we think, feel, say, and do – and in the ways our body represents the work of Christ on the cross (either well or poorly).

I’ll be praying for you (even if I don’t know you) because you and I are exactly the same: sinners saved by grace, ensuring  that “the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body,” and, in His power, fulfilling the chief end of man – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

 

 

 

2 Corinthians 4:7-9

Today’s post centers on 2 Corinthians 4: 7-9:

  • But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 
  • we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 
  • persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed

There’s a lot here.

For starters, the “treasure” that Paul is talking about is the ministry of the Gospel, the sharing of it with unbelievers, and the encouragement by it with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

The “earthen vessels” are us. Our bodies, our time on this earth, our finite human existence. Though the mystery of God’s eternal, redemptive plan is far beyond the comprehension of our limited capacity to grasp it, God still allows us to glorify Him by being the “vessel” through which His plan is carried out.

As we continually surrender to the Will of the Lord and obey His command to live our the Gospel message in our everyday lives, we manifest His power to others. Everything we say, think, do, and feel is a reflection of God’s power and we affirm – both with our words and action – that we can claim to glory for ourselves in the process. The power at work is God’s, not our own.

The next two verses are a comfort to anyone undergoing trial or persecution. Life, in general, is not easy. Add to that the fact that God has chosen to call us His own, and it gets harrier still.

The Christian life is marked by all of the normal struggles of human existence, relationships, professions, finances, children, etc., but it has an additional set of trials as well – the plethora of moral and ethical considerations that dictate the way we handle all of those things.

Our standard, of course, is Scripture. But, as we are well aware, not everyone appreciated God’s perspective. Not everyone loves Him. Not everyone loves those who love Him. And, very often, Believers suffer because of Him.

This, my friends, is a blessed place to be. For with every trial is given an even greater grace:

  • Afflicted, but not crushed – No matter how we are hurting (physically, mentally, spiritually, relationally, emotionally), there is not hurt too great that God can’t or won’t save us from being crushed under the weight of it. The God we serve is strong enough to shield us from the crushing pressure of every kind of trial in existence.
  • Perplexed, but not disappearing – Our  understanding is finite. We cannot see the future nor understand the whole of God’s design for our life and the lives of others. Natural as it may come for us to question God’s design, never ought we to despair over it. Never are we to doubt God or rage against that which He has, in His perfect sovereignty, deemed best for us. We may not understand God’s will, but we must not ever doubt it.
  • Persecuted, but not forsaken – Though the men of this age hate you, hurt you, beat you, berate you, lie about you, ruin you, or even kill you, the only Being that matters most is the one Who will NEVER forsake you. However dire your circumstances are, you are never alone. However insurmountable the task, God will empower you to complete it. However broken the situation, God is mighty enough to make it whole. Whatever evil man devises against you, the God of your salvation will never turn His back on you. Your peace and vindication rest safely and securely in the hand of God, and so do you.
  • Struck down, but not destroyed – The worst any man can do in this life is kill you, and yet, he can’t even do that without God’s say so. The God of Heaven and Earth, the Mighty Creator of all things, is the keeper of your body and soul. And even when the time comes for your body to be sustained on this earth no longer, if your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, your soul is preserved by God for all eternity. No man can ever kill your soul. And, if you are His, God will never forsake it.

In the midst of a trial? Don’t worry, God’s strength will keep you from being crushed.

Struggling with not understanding God’s plan for your life? Don’t worry, resting in the truth of God’s sovereignty will keep you from disappearing.

Persecuted by evil men? Don’t worry, the only Being that truly matters loves you will the love of ages and He will never forsake you.

Wounded, broken, and dying? Don’t worry, if you are a child of God, your soul is preserved in mighty hand of God for all eternity.

Worried you might not be a child of God? Wondering if these promises apply to you? Don’t worry! The Gospel is freely available to all who seek it. If you would like to become a child of God, but don’t know where to begin, please take a look at this great resource from Dr. David Jeremiah and feel free to contact me with ANY questions you might have after you have done so:

Walking Down the “Romans Road” to Salvation . . . .

  • Because of our sin, we are separated from God.
    For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23)
  • The Penalty for our sin is death.
    For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
  • The penalty for our sin was paid by Jesus Christ!
    But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
  • If we repent of our sin, then confess and trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved from our sins!
    For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (Romans 10:13)
    …if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9,10)

To receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, pray this prayer:
Lord Jesus, I’m like everyone else – I can’t make it through life on my own. I’m imperfect. I’m prone to sin. I have come to realize that there’s nothing in the world I can do to make myself acceptable to You. But I know that You have loved me so much that You were willing to submit to the cross and die on my behalf. That’s a grace so amazing I cannot understand it; I can only accept it. And I do. I accept Your free gift, and I know that from this moment on, I am saved. I am a child of God. And I give the rest of my life to serving You and experiencing the joy that only You can offer. Fill me now, dear Lord, and raise me to walk in the newness of life. I thank You and praise You! Amen.

Now that you are a “new creation” in Jesus Christ, the road ahead will be full of life-changing experiences. Growing in knowledge and understanding of the Bible and your Christian walk with God is essential for your spiritual growth.

Here are some ways that you can grow as a Christian:

  • Study the Bible.
    The Bible will guide you through life and answer life’s questions.
    Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
    Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
  • God desires to meet your needs!  Make prayer a part of your daily life.
    So He said to them, “When you pray, say: our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Luke 11:2-4)
  • Be part of a local church.
    And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11-12)
    Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)
  • Fellowship with other Christians.
    And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24, 25)
  • Be baptized.
    Baptism identifies you with Christ.
    Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8:35-40)
  • Share your faith with others.
    Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord. (2 Timothy 1:8)
    Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32)
    But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witness to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

If you would like to part of a local church, but don’t know how to find one, IFCA International (Independent Fundamental Churches of American) is a great resource to use. Just take a look at their “Find a Church” database and input your location information into their search menu.

And, again, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions – there’s nothing I love more than talking about my Savior!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

 

 

2 Corinthians 4:1-2

Today I’m in 2 Corinthians 4.

As I mentioned previously, the Lord is refining me very specifically when it comes to my Christian relationships, especially concerning issues of Christian liberty and theological disagreements.

Being in 2 Corinthians has been such a blessing because in it (and 1 Corinthians) Paul addresses exactly that: issues in the church (amongst the body) that cause disunity and contentiousness.

I talked about Paul’s explanation of how important it is to forgive, comfort, and restore an errant brother or sister in the Lord here, and 2 Corinthians  4:1-2 provides a great follow up. It reads:

 

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 

But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the Word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the Truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 

What I find most interesting about verse 1 is that mercy is the cure to a despairing heart, which means having a heavy heart in ministry is recognized by Paul [and by God] as a very real possibility.

Paul wouldn’t remind us that mercy is the cure to a heavy heart if there wasn’t the possibility of a heavy heart to begin with.

Have you been there? Losing heart as you faithfully serve the body? It’s not a long shot to assume it happens with a fair bit of regularity – we are but human, and the pews of our church are filled will sinners in process. On this side of heaven, the church will never be perfect because its people aren’t perfect.

Maybe you are losing heart right now. Maybe you are feeling the strain of disagreement with a brother or sister in Christ. Maybe you are tired or weary or worn. Maybe you have been hurt or maybe you have hurt someone. Maybe you feel unappreciated or taken advantage of or have realized a certain ministry isn’t working well for you or your family.

Believers lose heart in ministry for any number of reasons. What’s important is that we realize the only solution to our weariness is the abundant mercy of God which He freely lavishes on us when we:

  • Renounce the hidden things of shame (confessing and repenting of willful, persistent, and/or respectable sins).
  • Not walk in craftiness or handle the Word of God deceitfully (sincerely seeing God’s wisdom as you spend time in His Word and in prayer so that any representations you make of the Truth – either in word or deed – are sound; never cherry-picking verses to meet your own needs or to get your way; humbly imparting biblical wisdom to others without harshly judging them if they do not agree with you).
  • Manifesting the Truth (God is the generative source of Truth, and God is Love. To manifest the Truth is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as you love yourself. Do you know what the Love of God looks like? Do you know how to lavish it on others? You might think you do, but the only way to KNOW God’s design for love in the church is to know God Himself. Study Him, cling to Him, pray to Him, be with Him, and sincerely beg Him to grant you His wisdom in this area. After all, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom).
  • Commending ourselves to every man’s conscience (realizing that convictions are not one-size-fits-all and that there is a significant difference between the principles of God – hard and fast commands that leave no room for alternate interpretation or dispute – and personal preferences – behavioral choices that fall under the umbrella of Christian liberty. And if disagreements exist as to what those gray area interpretations are, being self-righteous and judgmental is the opposite of God’s design for the church. Rather, love one another in unity and learn to understand one another’s perspective, even if you don’t or can’t agree with it. And, by all means, if your brother or sister holds a conviction that is more “strict” than yours, never encourage them to defy their conscience. Support their efforts to live a righteous life before the Lord, and forgo that which your Christian liberty affords you – for THEIR sake.)
  • In the sight of God (at the end of the day, everything we say, think, do, and feel is seen by God. Are you able to say that you are blameless before Him, especially concerning your relationship with fellow believers in light of Christian liberty and differences of conviction?)

There’s no denying that being in relationship with others – especially other believers – can be difficult. Relationships are hard and require hard work.

The good news is that God is there to equip us with His perfect, abundant, providential, and lavished mercy so that if and when we lose heart our ministry to others doesn’t suffer.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

2 Corinthians 3: 5

I’m in 2 Corinthians 3 today.

Remember how I keep saying God’s timing is perfect? Well, it still is.

2 Corinthians 3:5 states:

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.

Talk about timely!

I’m on this huge journey right now and some days I can’t imagine how I’ll ever stay faithful or keep at it or press on.

And that’s exactly right. On my own, I’m not sufficient. I don’t have what it takes to be faithful, or loving, or kind, or patient, or forgiving, or joyful, or anything at all.

The first step on the path to humility is admitting – and sincerely believing – that.

I can do nothing worthy of praise outside of God’s equipping and so I need to beg for it daily and depend on it in the same way I depend upon the air to keep me breathing.

May God be praised that He is big enough to carry all our burdens so that we don’t have to? Our job is to trust in, rely on, and faithfully obey Him. He’s in charge of the rest!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

A Blanket Named Sophie: The Ugly Truths Behind a Beautiful Transformation

Two and a half weeks ago I set out on a journey to change my life. I’ve been posting a picture a day on social media and writing a short, daily journal/blog post detailing a weight loss journey that will span the course of a year.

My friends and family have been a huge support thus far, and many of them have commented that my transparency is inspiring them to start or continue their own transformational journeys.

But, like all people, there are still things I’ve been too afraid to share, ugly truths that are so shameful I’ve found a way to keep them VERY well hidden.

But this journey is about transformations that are far more significant than just losing weight. In fact, I believe that shedding the pridefulness that worships self-preservation is one way to ensure the most beautiful kind of transformation – one that surrenders all my insecurities to Christ so that He can begin to reign in my heart more fully than I have ever allowed Him to before.

So get ready. I’m about to share all of the ugly truths that finally pushed me to start this beautiful transformation

 

A BLANKET NAMED SOPHIE

Try your hardest not to judge me. This is my blanket.

a-blanket-named-sophie

Or, more correctly, this WAS my blanket up until VERY recently.

This blanket is the perfect visual aid to summarize the pathetic state I was in just prior to starting this journey.

I’m a keeper, you see, an emotional keeper. What does that mean? It means I keep things because they are meaningful to me and because certain things become so much more than just THINGS, they become a part of who I am.

Exhibit A: my blanket.

This blanket is the most comfortable, most perfect blanket I have ever had the pleasure of sleeping under. It’s stained, it’s discolored, it’s worn, and about two months ago, it started to tear down one seam.

When I first noticed the tear, I told myself I needed to sew that up before it became an even bigger problem, but, because I’m a procrastinator, I did nothing. And the tear turned into a  rip which turned into a gaping whole which lead to…well, what you see in the picture.

Any sane person would have thrown the blanket away when the tear first started leaking fluff all over the place.

But I couldn’t.

All I could see was…

The first time I’d brought it home – a sign that I was arriving because this blanket was really expensive and being able to afford expensive things was a mark of financial success.

The first time I made love with my husband in our very first “marriage bed” in our very first apartment  as newlyweds, a joy greater than any I’d known up until that point.

The first time I’d snuggled up with my newborn baby girl to breastfeed her, terrified I was doing it wrong, comforted by its warmth and familiarity.

Doing the same exact thing with my other two children.

All of the late nights I stayed up typing in bed as I wrote my Master’s thesis, propping it under both legs to keep my feet from falling asleep.

All the times I’d snuggled up inside it and fallen asleep begging the Lord to bring my husband home safe from work.

All the times I’d hidden myself under it and wailed deep sobs of loneliness and hurt after a gnarly fight with Andrew.

All of the sleepless nights during pregnancy that seemed only to be soothed by the comfort of this one thing – my blanket.

So, to me, throwing this blanket away meant turning my back on the most important, most impactful, most special moments of my adult life.

And I just couldn’t do it.

Until….

CHANGED INTO HIS IMAGE by JIM BERG

About four months ago, my husband and I started a teeny tiny bible study with some close friends of ours. We’ve been going through a book called Changed Into His Image by Jim Berg.

It’s a phenomenal book.

Berg does an amazing job of walking his readers through the biblical change process, starting with a brutally honest portrayal of the factors which prevent us from surrendering our hearts to the Lord – all those sinful excuses we make to maintain our rebelliousness in ways that are so nuanced we often don’t even realize we are making them.

In chapter two, entitled Recognizing the Evil Within, Berg explains that the heart of man “is in constant conflict with the Spirit of God and represents everything within us that attempts to make life work apart from God (p. 25).”

He follows this up with one of the most impactful statements I have ever read:

“The toxicity of the heart is so potent that when God wants to judge a man, all He has to do is turn that man over to his own heart. What a frightening thought! You and I have enough evil residing in us that if God were to let us have our own way, we would destroy ourselves. Rather than demanding ow own way, we ought to be begging God never to let us have what our flesh demands. We ought to pray, ‘Dear God, limit me, bind me, restrict me. Do whatever you have to, but please don’t let me have my own way (p. 42).”

Let that sink in for just a bit.

I couldn’t (and still can’t) get away from the pride-shattering impact of those words.

Although I responded to them in the way I (to my shame) respond to all convicting circumstances – with stubbornness and procrastination – the Lord continued to faithfully reinforce their truth over and over again in my life, until I could escape them no longer.

1 CORINTHIANS 9:27 – I DISCIPLINE MY BODY

One of those ways was through my quiet time with Him.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again  – God’s timing is perfect.

A couple of months before I started this journey, I’d started a reading plan that began in Romans and would conclude in Revelation.

About three weeks ago, my reading lead me to 1 Corinthians 9:27, in which Paul states:

“But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

Discipline? Slave? Disqualified?

I thought about it long and hard and was ashamed to admit (first to myself, then to Andrew) that my life wasn’t even remotely marked by self-discipline, and my body certainly wasn’t MY slave. No, the reverse was true. I was a slave to my body – to its wants, to its comforts, to its desires, to its moods and limitations. My body was my master, not the other way around.

And that was just the beginning.

THE UGLINESS OF UGLINESS

As the seeds of that truth began to bloom in my heart, some other, really embarrassing things started coming to light as well.

On the relational side, I began to realize that my self-worship was the catalyst for most of the conflict in my marriage. This past year was a hard one for me and Andrew. Just after our third child was born, he got a promotion at work which meant MUCH more time away from home than we’d anticipated.

This, and the fact that I struggle with explosive outbursts of anger toward him (yet another area which the Lord is currently refining in my heart), meant that what little time we did have together was marked by slammed doors, silent-treatments, and – the utterly useless – sleeping in separate rooms.

All of these things, of course, we kept hidden from, well, everyone. We’re that solid Christian couple, remember? We don’t have problems – our marriage is perfect.

HA!

Hold on, I’m not done – HAHAHAHAHA!

Nothing could be farther from the truth!

Spiritually, I was allowing my martial issues to justify distance from God. Wisdom told me that trying to manage this life apart from God was the dumbest thing I could ever attempt, but sin and selfishness told me that if I just made sure to be more stubborn than Andrew, some day I would get what I wanted most – his unconditional and frequently expressed love.

Aaaaaaand, on top of all of these intangible issues, I was dealing with some pretty gross physical ones too.

After years of basically destroying my body, my digestive system was a wreck. Irregularity would have been a welcomed condition because I only had two types of bowl movements: the constipated kind and the liquid kind.

Did I mention that ugliness was ugly?

And I’m not even done yet.

On top of some pretty hideous digestive issues, I was also developing (with increased regularity) something that embarrasses me more than words can say: cystic pimples in my fat folds.

You have no idea how much I did NOT want to share that information.

No idea.

BEAUTY AFTER UGLINESS

“So why did you,” you ask?

Because.

Beauty is only beautiful because of ugliness. Darkness is only dark because of the light. Truth is only Truth because of lies.

And transformations are only transformative when they defy apathy.

Do I have to share all of this with you? No. Do I have to expose my deepest, darkest, ugliest secrets? No.

But will my honesty bring God glory? I believe it will.

You see, all of this ugliness is a direct result of my sin. And sin is the opposite of who God is. To openly confess to sin is to admit that I can’t do this my way and that I cannot do this alone.

In 50 weeks, I will be a different person. My body will be evidence of the fact that I have overcome tremendously difficult physical and emotional battles.

But when I get there, I am going to say one thing over and over again: I didn’t do it, God did.

You see all this ugliness? You see all this filth and brokenness and worn, stained imperfection?

It would take a miracle to transform this ugliness into beauty, this filth into cleanliness, this brokenness into something whole.

And thats exactly the point.

One year from now, when I am half the woman I am today, my internal and external transformations will be one thing and one things only: a testament to the fact that God can do what man cannot – MIRACLES.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

“My Burden is Light”: Two Opposing Responses to God’s Will for Your Life

I’m in the little years. As I write this, my oldest is four and a half, my middle child is about to turn two, and my youngest is 10 months old. All three of them are huddled around me right now, and I have a feeling it’s going to take quite some time to get this article written.

 

img_5777-1

One of my adoring fans. He must be involved in the writing of this post, he MUST.

In the past, I have often considered my children’s needs, which, as all mothers know can be relentless and unforgiving at times, to be demanding interruptions of the most mundane nature. Interruptions which inhibit productivity, disrupt functionality, and, most egregiously, deter me from reaching MY goals.

We’ve all been there. Weary of the incessantness of the requirements of motherhood on our time, body, intellect, heart, mind, soul, strength, and every ounce that’s left of our dwindlingly independent selves.

If this is how you feel today, I’m here to encourage you to recognize that you are holding onto an incorrect perspective of God’s design for your life and to provide an alternate perspective that is in keeping with the Truth of God’s Word.

But before I begin, I want to be very frank: this article is going to hurt a little bit. It’s going to prick your pride and defy your sense of entitlement. It’s going to call your sin out for what it really is, and will very likely offend you, especially if you’re the kind of mom that needs her insecurities coddled and her self-love justified. After all, you do so much for so many people so often, shouldn’t I, a mother who’s walking in your shoes and knows your struggles all too well, be the first person to validate, approve, and affirm you?

The short answer is: no.

If I love you, I will tell you the Truth…God’s Truth. I won’t share only those parts of Scripture that today’s world deems appropriate, nor will I shy away from holding up the mirror of Truth against which no false image of you can stand. This article is going to be the kind of mirror that shows you how ugly your selfishness really is, that shows you all your wrinkles, and lumps, and spots, and imperfections. But guess what, that’s the very best, most loving gift I can give you. Because once you realize how ugly you are, how weak and flawed you are, how desperate and needy you are, once your sin repulses you and your heart is broken before the Lord, THEN His beauty can shine through you. It is only when you empty yourself of YOU, that God’s perfect, sovereign, comforting, timely, FULFILLING will can be experienced. So, take heart. This article is going to hurt you, but only so that it can help you.

To begin, I’d like you to image two types of luggage with me. The first type is what I’ve dubbed The Hiker’s Steal-Bottomed Backpack. This backpack is large, heavy, full of tools and supplies, and self-contained. It has a finite amount of storage and gets heavier every time you add something. If you want to add something, often times you have to remove something else and it requires an expert understanding of its contents. The only way to add or remove things is through the top – because the bottom of the backpack is made of impenetrable, leak-proof steel – and you are the only person able to do the adding or removing. It isn’t good for much besides hiking and you would feel out of place lugging it around in any other setting.

The second type of luggage is very different. I call it The Mary Poppins Funnel-Bottomed Neckerpouch. It is light-weight, has an inexhaustible amount of internal storage space (just like Mary Poppins’), is flexible, travels well, is virtually invisible, its contents freely funnel out the bottom and can be utilized by everyone exposed to it, and it is capable of receiving input from many sources, not just one.

As you can tell, the first type of luggage is not the “good guy” in this scenario. And yet, this is often the type of luggage we carry around with us – spiritually speaking. We wake up one day, look behind us, and stagger beneath the weight of an enormous burden we feel utterly ill-equipped to bear. We are exhausted, our feet hurt, our back aches, our spirit is low, our self-esteem is shattered, and every time our husband, or children, or parents, or friends demand something of us, we have to find a way to make room in an already overly-stuffed backpack. To do this we need to ditch something that’s already in the pack, and, to our shame, that something is usually our time with the Lord, in prayer, or some other Godly pursuit. Over the years, we have amassed a huge store of Biblical Truths, tools and supplies that are meant to equip us for the path we have been called to tread, and yet, so often we don’t know how to apply those Truths, and so we cannot reap their benefits. We trudge along under the weight of our burden, selflessly serving our families, ministering in our churches, faithfully fulfilling our various obligations, clinging to the expectation that at some point during the day we will be able to shed our burden, put some distance between it and ourselves, and arbitrarily grant ourselves the respite we have so rightfully earned. We draw ourselves a bath, droop lifelessly into that much-needed, muscle-relaxing warm water, close our eyes, and exhale deeply.

“Ahhhhhh,” we think to ourselves. “This me time is JUST what I need.”

And then, seconds after we embark on our glorious, self-pampering detox journey…WEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHH! One of our littles begins to scream. Our eyes bolt open, the serenity of the moment is hurtled into oblivion, and we leeringly make our way back over to our backpack, donning it ruefully – it and all its daily, weekly, monthly, yearly demands.

Technically, the tools we need to handle our disappintment graciously are in the backpack. Even the tools we need to honor God and bring Him glory in this (or any other) trial are stowed away somewhere within its labyrinthian interior. But we’re exhausted. We’re beat. The last thing we want to do is wage a war we can’t fathom winning with a behemoth bag that does little more than break our backs every waking moment of our lives.

And so we ignore God’s Truth, ignore His help, ignore His will, and we simply…trudge on. A frown marks our every feeble attempt at joyful faithfulness, and the truth is, we’re fooling no one. Not even ourselves. In this perspective, honoring God is miserable and we are miserably failing as we attempt it.

Is this you? Is this how you feel as you struggle to live this life well? To look after your husband, children, and home well, day in and day out, without so much as a word of appreciation? I’ll be honest with you, this perspective is what marked my life for many, many years – marriage and motherhood only fanned the flames of this incorrect view of God’s will for my life. And I’ll be even more honest with you: I have often looked at God, pointed my finger at Him obstinately, and blamed Him – BLAMED Him! – for being the one who put that burden on my back in the first place. At times I have been so angry at God for filling my backpack with tools and supplies that I didn’t know how to use, couldn’t access when the need arose, or felt ill-equipped to master. In addition to that, I have accused Him of cramming relational, monetary, physical, familial, emotional, professional, and health issues into my backpack when neither my will nor my legs were strong enough to bear them.

Regardless of how much empathy I feel for those of you viewing God’s will this way; as easy as it would be for me to tell you that your perspective is justified and you deserve to feel discouraged or downtrodden, that simply will not do. Why? Because to view God’s will for your life in this way is to sin against Him by calling Him a lair, something that it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to be.

Matthew 11:28-30 says:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The context of these verses in chapter eleven is Jesus condemning the cities to which His prophets had paved the way for His coming, and yet they still chose to refuse Him. John the Baptist had been heralding the coming of Christ for years but it wasn’t until Jesus began His miraculous ministry that some cities began to repent. Even then, with visible proof of Christ’s power, with eye-witness experiences of the very Truth of God’s Word, there were still cities that refused to repent and honor Jesus as the prophesied Savior.

After Jesus condemns and curses the flagrant rebellion of these cities, He expands His message to all those who would hear Him. He preached the Truth about His ultimate will for their lives, juxtaposing it with the pharisaical, works-based religious system that had blasphemously taken up residence in His house. Jesus was making it very clear that true dependence on Him, true repentance from sin, and true submission to His will looked vastly different than what people had come to view as devout religiosity under the pharisaical system. The false religions operating at that time were contingent upon “right” behavior, not sincere faith. They were man-centered, not Christ-centered. They lacked absolution because they were based on finite principles, whereas Jesus’ Truth was (and is) based on the inexhaustible well-spring of that which Almighty God expresses about Himself: that His “yoke is easy and His burden is light.”

To view His will in any other way is to call God a lair, and to call God a liar is to sin. Worse still is how easy it is to justify this sin and minimize its egregiousness in God’s sight. If you are viewing God’s will for your life as an exhausting, tedious, demanding intrusion on your personal plans, one that drains and discourages you, you are making yourself the center of all your pursuits. If you are prone to feeling sorry for yourself or contentiously punishing your husband and/or children for not appreciating all you do, you are engaging in self-worship, which is also a sin against your holy God. God alone is God, not you, not your pride, not your needs, not your desires, not your aching joints, not even your well-meaning ministerial or evangelistic endeavors. Nothing and no one is God, but God, and to defy this Truth is to defy God Himself.

That’s the bad news.

But there is good news and it is exactly what Jesus is talking about in this passage – the Good News of the Gospel.

When Christ is explaining His plan of redemption He is pointing out the fact that even the most valiant efforts of decent human beings to achieve salvation count for nothing when all is said and done. His Gospel, however, is a liberating one. No more toiling to attain that which is humanly impossible. No more wondering if your works are sufficient to secure a place for you in Heaven. No more worshiping at the alter of self-justification or toiling fruitlessly toward an uncertain end.

God’s Will for Christ’s life was to do away with all of that. So perfect was this plan, and so perfectly submitted to it was He, that Christ didn’t even pray for an alternative option. As John Bunyan writes in his book, Prayer:

“As the Spirit is the helper and the governor of the soul, when it prays according to the will of God; so it guides by and according to the Word of God and His promise. Hence it is that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself did make a stop, although His life lay at stake for it. ‘I could now pray to my Father, and He should give me more than twelve legions of angels; but how then must the Scripture be fulfilled that thus it must be (Matthew 26: 53-54).”

That is, Christ knew that God’s plan for His life was perfect and He had fully submitted Himself to that Truth, so much so that, even though He could have, He surrendered His ability to ask God to protect Him against those who sought His life. And may we praise His name forever because of it! If Jesus hadn’t willingly gone to the cross to suffer the separation from God that our sins warranted, if He hadn’t died our death, and if he hadn’t defeated sin when He rose again, we would have no other option but to carry the heavy burden of works-based righteousness and there would be no hope of relief from it.

But the cross abolished such a painstakingly uncertain system and that’s what we have to understand when we live our lives daily. We are not fighting this fight alone. We are not toiling in vain. We are not loving and looking after our families to no avail. Living in the center of God’s Will, and doing so joyfully, is a “yoke that is easy” and a “burden that is light.”

But it does need to be said that living for God and serving our families as an act of service in His Name is still a burden in that it must be carried out, it must be done. But the difference here is that we are not the one carrying the burden, Christ is.

Christ’s work on the cross has forged for us everything we need for “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), and, in our analogy of the luggage bags, this would be The Mary Poppins Funnel-Bottomed Neckerpouch. This small, light-weight, piece of “jewelry” is the blessed consequence of Christ’s perfect power to defeat sin and death on our behalf. And when the most dangerous of perils is overcome already, all the rest of life and living is an easy burden to bear.

But first we must admit to ourselves that living out our lives faithfully for the glory of God cannot be done without the Spirit’s enabling, whether that be wifing, or mothering, or nursing, or lawyering, or teaching, or any other calling. We can take no self-pride in that which we accomplish for God because it is only through God that we can accomplish anything at all in the first place. And when admit that we are capable of nothing, we make room for Christ to work marvelously in and through us to accomplish everything.

As Paul exclaims in Galatians 2: 20-21:

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

And, so, we “bind truth around our necks” (Proverbs 3:3) and use it as the foundation for not only all that we do, but also for all of the ways we respond mentally, spiritually, and emotionally to what we do. God’s yoke is easy to carry because we are not the one carrying it. Christ carries it for us and equips us in every way to do that which pleases Him most. The necklace we wear is a seemingly insignificant trinkets, one that many people can’t even see (because they are blinded by sin or hatred of God), but one that is endlessly able to contain Truth after Truth after Truth from God’s Word, just as did Mary Poppins’ bag. And as that Truth funnels down into our hearts, it guards our every word, thought, and action, prepares us to respond rightoeusly in the case of every eventuality, gives us grace as we humble ourselves before God (James 4:6), and blesses everyone with whom we come into contact.

We have no need of shuffling things around to “make room” in our neckerpouch when new demands for our time, wisdom, affection, attention, etc. come our way because the focus is not on the task, it is on Christ. The task, in essence, is not an issue at all. The only issue is our heart before the Lord. As we “seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, all things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33),” whether that’s food or clothing or healing or clarity or companionship or blessing or encouragement or any other thing. As we faithfully spend time in the Word and in sincere prayer, God remains true to His promise “never to leave us for forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).” In Him, all things are bearable. Because of Him, no illness or conflict or trial or worry or fear can ever beset us – IF WE SUBMIT TO HIM AND SURRENDER TO HIS WILL.

Yes, it’s true that The Mary Poppins Funnel-Bottomed Neckerpouch is a bottomless, unfathomable, expanding, treasure trove of God’s Truth, wisdom, grace, peace, mercy, love, joy, help, healing, comfort, provision, protection, and countless other of His blessings, but none of them can be accessed if one does not humbly submit her will to the Lord so that He can bestow this special grace upon her.

Our loving father is eager to bless us and teach us and heal us and help us, and His resources for doing so are infinite. But sin and pride will disable Him from being able to lavish them upon us if we are stubbornly determined to do this “life” thing our own way.

Admit it, you know exactly what I’m talking about and: 1) you have either already learned this lesson and can attest that Christ’s Word is True, 2) God is trying to teach you this lesson and you keep resisting Him, heaping destruction on your own head time and time again, OR 3) you are sick of resisting Him, sick of the struggle, sick of being and feeling overwhelmed all the time, and are finally ready to confess your self-worship to God, surrender to His will, and start living under the light yoke of God’s perfect plan for your life, rather than fabricating an unnecessary and untrue version of God’s will which is entirely works-based and not at all in keeping with what God has said is True of Himself.

How much time are you spending in God’s Word? How often do you pray? How sincere is your “religion” when you are alone? If you do not know who Christ is, you cannot pray in His Name for God’s Will to be perfected through your life. As Bunyan states:

“The man that comes to God by Christ [in prayer] must first have the knowledge of Him; ‘for he that cometh to God must believe that He is (Hebrews 11:6).’ This Christ, none but the Father can reveal (Matthew 11:27). And to come through Christ is for the sinner to be enabled of God to hide Himself under the shadow of the Lord Jesus, as a man hides himself under a thing for safeguard.”

Isn’t that a humbling thought?! In our hearts, we want to please God, but even the desire to pray for such a thing is a gift from God. Even the ability to pray effectively at all is the work of Jesus Christ and not ourselves!

Why do we think God’s burden is heavy? Because we and we ALONE are making it so. Doing anything to please God without first humbly admitting that you cannot do it without Him is an exercise in futility. Why, then, would you choose to view His will as The Hiker’s Steal-Bottomed Backpack, when, in reality, it is The Mary Poppins Funnel-Bottomed Neckerpouch, a beacon of Truth that does all of the heavy lifting for you and requires but one thing of you:

FAITH.

Oh that seemingly elusive element of Christianity that is the foundation of who we are and yet is so easily thwarted by sin.

Are you feeling neglected? Unappreciated? Hurting? Aching? Stewing? Fuming? Despairing? Complaining? Distancing yourself from your husband and/or children? Flailing? Drowning? Cursing? Defying?

If you are, there is but one path you must take: repentance. Humble yourself before God and admit that you’ve been trying to live this life your own way and for your own glory, but have had the gaul to do so in His Name. Confess that you have been self-worshiping and clinging to an incorrect view of His will for your life, even as you have been serving tirelessly so that His Name can be glorified. Read and meditate on the Truths included within this article and refuse to view God’s plan for your life as a heavy burden. Put on a correct view of God’s sovereign will for your life and praise Him for it. Learn how to thank Him for every demanding need presented by your husband, your children, your family, and your friends because you recognize that they are being used by God to strengthen your faith, grow you, mature you, humble you, and help you.

God loved you enough to allow His own Son to be killed on your behalf so that you wouldn’t have to carry the burden of the punishment your sin requires. Can you not also trust that the daily burden of living this life for His glory is one that is light because He carries it for you?

Learn from Him through the reading of His Word and in sincere prayer; Glean wisdom and understanding from godly men and women; Set an example of faith for your children; Have peace that surpasses all understanding. And most importantly: recognize that Jesus Christ is the foundation for all of these things and the reason why God’s “yoke is easy and His burden is light.”

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Clean Babies, Dirty Dishes

I’m a teacher so I have summer’s off. During the school year, I am out of the house roughly three days a week. Although these “away” days don’t afford me the luxury of showering at noon or spending the day in yoga pants if I feel like it, they are still significantly easier than the days I spend being an all-day mom. And without those “away” days, the weeks just sort of melt together in one long string of mommy tasks: feed them, bathe them, pick up after them, play with them, read to them, feed them, discipline them, hug them, wash them, wash their toys, take them outside, feed them, pray for them, talk to them, sit with them, feed them, clean them….and on and on and on it goes.

Well, this week was just another one of those “everyday faithfulness” kind of weeks. Our lives are not exciting. I am not conquering world issues, righting global wrongs, flexing my rhetorically minded intellectual capacity, or fighting crime in a spandex suit during my down time. But I am learning how to be a better wife. How to be a better mother. How to love my calling more, and how to take just as much pride in being a stay-at-home mom as I do in being a college professor.

But you know what? Even the divine gift of loving motherhood can be twisted into something evil by sin.

Just today I woke up thinking, “I’m going to get so much done it’s not even funny!”

But then, because I’m pregnant and couldn’t stomach the smell of the day-old dishes in the sink, and because my infant peed through her diaper and needed an impromptu bath, and because I am one of those “just one wrench in the program and the whole thing gets aborted” types of people (this is a flaw and I know it), my plans were significantly derailed.

And so, before I even began, my super-amazing plans for being extra-mucho productive turned to dust before my very eyes. And all because the baby needed a bath. That might seem like a small thing to most people, but anyone with lower back problems knows that tasks involving squatting, bending, hunching, or lifting constitute a major production.

I cannot tell you how disappointed I was. Disappointed that I hadn’t been able to start my day the way I’d planned. Disappointed that I’d been distracted. Disappointed that the dishes were still dirty. Disappointed in myself for not being the wife and mother I had planned on being. Disappointed that I had failed – again.

But then, I turned around in my seat and saw something, really saw it. Two of the most beautiful, clean, happy, well-fed babies on the planet. And then it happened. The Lord gently, faithfully, and lovingly convicted my spirit.

Clean, happy, and well fed babies.

Clean, happy, and well fed babies.

“Where did you rank your children in your list of priorities today? When were their needs considered in your master plan for success. Who is responsible for placing rigid expectations on you about the cleanliness of your kitchen? Not me. Not your husband. Not your kids. Not your friends and neighbors. Whose will were you planning to accomplish today, yours or Mine?”

And just like that I was brought so very, very low. I had been so prideful, so arrogant. My love of having a clean house had surpassed (or, rather, disregarded) my love for my children. My desire to meet my own set of goals had caused me to lose sight of the most important goal: looking after my children well. My own rigid expectations had caused me to become bitter toward the tasks motherhood had unexpectedly foisted upon me.

But God is a good God, and His correction never lacks comfort. As I repented of my sin, selfishness, and arrogance, the Lord filled me with His grace, peace, and joy. And He granted me a new perspective: His. Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5), not a burden, not an inconvenience, not a chore. Children are a joy. That’s the truth. Despite how I feel about them, to consider them to be anything other than a blessing is to contradict God. And I don’t know about you, but I never want to live in that kind of mentality for long.

Praise the Lord for being quick to show us the error of our ways and for offering us immediate comfort, forgiveness, and peace when we repent of them. God is good all the time, and for this I will praise and thank him all day long!

Until next time my friends,

S. Taylor, The Taylor of All Trades

Homemade Shredded Beef Taquitos (And A Little Bit of Mom-Bragging)

Last week I was able to spend time with my parents. They live about seven hours away, as the crow flies, wait…I mean, by car…so spending time with them is always a HUGE treat.

One of the things I love about visiting my parents is eating my mom’s food. She’s one of those people who never gives herself credit for being amazing, which I simply can’t understand – seeing as how I think she’s, like, you know, Superwoman. I’ve been trying to get her to admit that she’s a great cook for years, but she truly thinks her food is – at best – mediocre.

Meanwhile, no matter how hard I try and even if I do exactly what she does when I use her recipes, my food just doesn’t come out the way hers does.

That’s how I know she’s a chef. Anyone can follow recipe directions, but a chef has an intuition about his/her food that is utterly unique. That’s why my mom’s food will always be better than mine. And I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m super proud of her because of that! And most of all, I’m thankful that she faithfully made delicious (or, simple, she would call them) meals for our family all those years because that was the catalyst for my current love of all things food. I’m a novice foodie, you might say. And I owe it all to my momma, whom I love deeply and admire greatly.

I could literally talk about my mom all day, but since we have some Homemade Shredded Beef Taquitos to make, I’d better get back on track.

What I meant to say was that during my visit with my parents, my mom was making a fried tortilla dish similar to taquitos called tostadas. (I hope to be able to write a post about how to make them very soon, so stay tuned!) We had all been out at the pool, but when we walked in, the smell of fried corn tortillas was filling the house.

I took a full, deep breath through the nose and said, “It smells like…”

“Mexico?” My mom said, and we both chuckled.

“…home. I was going to say it smells like home.”

And that sums up how I feel about my mom’s cooking. I love it not for how it tastes, but for how it makes me feel. Safe…young…loved.

Don’t get me wrong, my mom’s food tastes amazing, but it’s more than just food to me. It’s who I am.

So today I’d like to share a little bit of who I am with you.

They’re called Homemade Shredded Beef Taquitos and they are to die for!

Homemade Shredded Beef Taquitos

Homemade Shredded Beef Taquitos

What You’ll Need

Shredded beef

Corn tortillas

Canola oil

Toothpicks

A plate and paper towel (for draining excess oil)

A shallow, wide, nonstick pan

Guacamole (yes, I consider this a must have ingredient)

The Shredded Beef

The best taquitos are the shredded beef kind, but you can make them with any type of meat: shredded chicken, shredded pork, ground beef, even tofu! In my humble opinion, though, the only kind of taquitos worth eating are shredded beef taquitos.

To make Homemade Shredded Beef Taquitos, you must have Crock-Pot Shredded Beef. I promise, everything else pales in comparison! You can click the link for the full recipe, or you can use the snapshot recipe below.

Basically:

In a crock pot, roast a beef round (I have found that Costco’s beef rounds are excellent in this recipe) for six-eight hours (on high, longer on low), until it is “fall apart” tender. That is, when you insert a fork, the beef shouldn’t feel tough at all.

To be more specific, insert the round of beef, fat side down, into the crock pot and add enough water to cover an eighth to a quarter of the round. That usually works itself out to about 2 cups of water, give or take. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt and pepper directly onto the round. Then, slice one onion, one green bell pepper, and (peel and chop) three cloves of garlic, and add them to the crock pot (mostly on top of the round).

Cover and cook the round on high for six-eight hours until the beef is tender and the vegetables are wilted and translucent. Then, scrape the cooked vegetables and excess fat off into the (now) beef broth and remove the round to a nearby plate or bowl.

Make sure to save that yummy beef broth, though. You can use it for a bunch of different things, like Beef Au Jus or Beef Demi Glace.

Refrigerate/freeze immediately (for later use) or, if shredding promptly, let the round stand for about 20-30 minutes (until the interior is no longer scalding hot). Then, with your hands (truly the best method), shred the beef just like you would string cheese, until you have a neat, little collection of beef strands with which to make your taquitos.

Again, you can refrigerate or freeze your beef at this point too, if you don’t want to use it right away. I usually cook two rounds at once and shred and freeze one of them so that I have shredded beef on hand when taquitos or tacos come up again in my meal rotation (once a week). One average-size round usually makes about 20-30 taquitos, depending on how much beef you use to fill each tortilla.

Shredded beef before it is pan seared.

Shredded beef before being pan seared.

This last step is optional, but I really think the depth of flavor it produces enhances the flavor of the taquitos exponentially.

In a nonstick skillet, pan sear the shredded beef in a little bit of canola oil, salt, and pepper until moderately browned, rotating periodically. Remove from the shredded beef from the pan and let it stand for a few minutes until it is cool enough to work with. Set aside.

Shredded beef after being pan-seared.

Shredded beef after being pan seared.

The Tortillas

Corn tortillas need to be softened before they can be used in fried dishes because they will crack and tear if this step is skipped. There are two ways soften corn tortillas. The long (but authentic) way is to heat them on the open burners of a gas stove or on a cast iron comal (toritilla warmer).

But, if you’re like me, you don’t have time to heat 30 tortillas, one by one. That’s why option two is the one I use. It’s cheating, but it works.

Stack about 15 corn tortillas on a paper plate. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Take the bottom half of the tortillas and move them to the top of the stack. Microwave for another 30 seconds. Set aside.

Microwaving the corn tortillas to make them pliable.

Microwaving the corn tortillas to make them pliable.

Assembling the Taquitos

At this point, you will want to create your taquito assembly line: shredded beef, tortillas, toothpicks.

Taquito assembly line.

Taquito assembly line.

Before you begin assembling your first batch of taquitos, start heating just enough canola oil to cover the bottom of your pan on medium-high heat. You want to oil to be very hot by the time you are ready to fry your taquitos.

Use just enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan. No deep-frying in this recipe!

Use just enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan. No deep-frying in this recipe!

Place a small handful of shredded beef in the center of a tortilla.

Place a small handful of shredded beef in the center of a tortilla.

Place a small handful of shredded beef in the center of a tortilla.

Fold one side of the tortilla up over the shredded beef and curl inward, wrapping it completely around the shredded beef.

Fold one side of the tortilla up over the shredded beef and curl inward, wrapping it completely around the shredded beef.

Fold one side of the tortilla up over the shredded beef and curl inward, wrapping it completely around the shredded beef.

Then continue rolling the tortilla until one side completely reaches the other.

Continue rolling the tortilla until one side completely reaches the other.

Continue rolling the tortilla until one side completely reaches the other.

Insert a toothpick into to taquito, making sure it goes completely through the outer flap of the tortilla and the remaining taquito.

Insert a toothpick into to taquito, making sure it goes completely through the outer flap of the tortilla and the remaining taquito.

Insert a toothpick into to taquito, making sure it goes completely through the outer flap of the tortilla and the remaining taquito.

This is what they will look like when you’ve got a few of them rolled and ready for frying.  I usually roll and fry them in batches to make the most of my time.

Five little taquitos, all in a row.

Five little taquitos, all in a row.

Frying the Taquitos

Fry the taquitos in hot canola oil for two-four minutes on each side, or until golden brown and fairly crunchy. 

Fry the taquitos in hot canola oil for two-four minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

Fry the taquitos in hot canola oil for two-four minutes on each side, or until golden brown and fairly crunchy.

Your taquitos will look like this once they’ve been fried on one side:

Flip the taquitos over to make sure they fry on both sides.

Flip the taquitos over to make sure they fry on both sides.

Prepare a paper plate lined with two paper towels to drain the excess oil from the fried taquitos.

Prepare a paper plate lined with two paper towels to drain the excess oil from the fried taquitos.

Prepare a paper plate lined with two paper towels to drain the excess oil from the fried taquitos.

Once each taquito is sufficiently browned on both sides, use tongs to remove them, one by one, tipping them upward so that any excess oil drips off into the pan.

When removing your taquitos from the frying pan, tip them upward so that any excess oil drips off into the pan.

When removing your taquitos from the frying pan, tip them upward so that any excess oil drips off into the pan.

Let your taquitos stand for a few minutes, both to cool down and so that the paper towel can continue absorbing any excess oil.

Let your taquitos stand for a few minutes both to cool down and so that the paper towel can continue absorbing any excess oil.

Let your taquitos stand for a few minutes both to cool down and so that the paper towel can continue absorbing any excess oil.

Once they’ve cooled down, carefully remove and discard the toothpicks. Then, plate up your taquitos with some Easy Guacamole and sour cream, lemon juice, salsa, hot sauce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, Beans del Olla, Spanish Rice, or whatever else you think would make this dish superb.

Make yourself some Easy Guacamole and enjoy!

Make yourself some Easy Guacamole and enjoy!

Until next time, my friends!

S. Taylor, The Taylor of All Trades

Easy Guacamole – A Family Tradition (And A Little Bit About Being An American-Mexican)

I don’t think I’ve said this yet, but if you don’t know, I’m a fourth generation Mexican-American on both sides. Shhhh, don’t tell my sister. She’ll start talking about the fact that we are a sixteenth German on my dad’s side and some sort of non-hispanic on my mom’s side.

In my experience, though, people don’t generally want to know every single possible ethnicity I embody when they ask me what I am. So, for ease of conversation (and because it’s almost 100% true), I say I’m a Mexican-American and leave it at that.

But even that is misleading. When my friends read this they’ll probably start laughing and say (maybe even out loud), “Ha! You, a Mexican? Yeah right!”

You see, I’m what we Americans affectionately call an “Oreo”: dark on the outside, light on the inside. Neither is better or worse than the other, neither is preferable to the other, and neither work against the other concerning my ontologically composition.

But the record does need to reflect that since I can’t handle spicy food, don’t speak Spanish, wouldn’t know the first thing about thriving in Mexico, and have little to no understanding of authentic Mexican culture, I am, in fact, more American than Mexican. So I guess you could say I’m an American-Mexican, not the other way around.

But not everything about being Mexican is lost on me. Some of my favorite things about myself are the things that are very “Mexican”: loyalty to family and friends, a die-hard work ethic, a love of being hospitable, using terms of endearment instead of formal designations whenever possible, talking – a lot, having a hug and/or kiss accompany salutations (especially around family. How long does it take YOU to say hello and goodbye to la familia? You have to add at least 25 minutes to the start and end of a party for just saying “hi” and “bye” to everyone if you’re going to be a member of MY family).

Oh, and one more thing: I love Mexican comfort food. Well, it’s Americanized Mexican comfort food, really. But the food my momma taught me how to make is legit, believe me.

And what is one thing you HAVE to have if you are going to make and eat Mexican food?

GUACAMOLE!

So here is a family recipe for easy guacamole that my momma taught me, that her momma taught her, and so on and so forth. It’s the best and only kind of guac I eat, but, no, it doesn’t include lemon juice, tomatoes, cilantro, onion, or Tapatio. Think of it as the base for the guacamoles with which you are most familiar. But don’t stick your nose up at it. It’s the easiest, yummiest guac you’ll ever make!

What You’ll Need

Avocados (I used three, medium-sized avocados)

A mixing bowl (large enough to mash freely without spilling guac all over the place)

A trash cup or bowl

A knife

A fork

A spoon

Mayonaise

Salt and pepper (optional, but highly recommended)

The Avocados

Every good guac starts with perfectly ripe avocados. They should be tender to the touch, dark green on the outside, and light green on the inside. And I think I’d better just go ahead and say that Haas avocados are really the only kind worth using. So creamy. So meaty. So perfect!

Every good guac starts with perfectly ripe avocados. They should be tender to the touch, dark green on the outside, and light green on the inside.

Every good guac starts with perfectly ripe avocados. They should be tender to the touch, dark green on the outside, and light green on the inside.

Cut your avocados in half, carefully running your knife around the pit. Then, cut off the tippiest top of the avocado, on a diagonal, to remove the brown portion where the nib used to be. 

Cut off the tippiest top of the avocado remove the brown,

Cut off the tippiest top of the avocado, on a diagonal, to remove the brown portion where the nib used to be. 

Next, remove the pit by holding the avocado cut-side up in one hand and (very carefully) thrusting your knife’s broad side into the center of the pit with the other. The knife will get stuck in the pit, and when you twist and pull back, the pit will come lose just like that. You may need to whack at the pit a couple of times to get the knife in the right spot (try for the center of the pit), but, whatever you do, never, EVER stab at the pit with the tip of the knife. The pit is incredibly slippery and your knife will glide right past the pit, through the flesh of the avocado, and right into your hand. If you don’t want to end up in the ER over making guac, DON’T stab the pit with the tip of your knife!

Remove the pit by holding the avocado cut-side up in one hand and (very carefully) thrusting your knife's broad side into the center of the pit with the other.

Remove the pit by holding the avocado cut-side up in one hand and (very carefully) thrusting your knife’s broad side into the center of the pit with the other.

A note on ripeness: You know your avocado is not ripe enough if:

1) It resists your knife when you cut it in half.

2) The pit cannot easily be removed.

Under ripe avocados make for terrible guac. They don’t mash easily and don’t taste very good at all. If you’ve already cut an under ripe avocado in half, put the pieces back together, put it in a plastic bag, put it in the refrigerator, and check in a few days. When it’s softened up, it’s ready to use!

Once you’ve removed the pit, gently cut into the flesh of the avocado lengthwise and widthwise in a grid-like pattern. Again, don’t cut too fast or too deep. The knife will go right through the flesh and skin of the avocado and slice your hand open (no bueno!).

Cut into the flesh of the avocado lengthwise and widthwise in a grid-like pattern.

Cut into the flesh of the avocado lengthwise and widthwise in a grid-like pattern.

Next, take a spoon and run it along the skin of the avocado. This will release the flesh of the avocado, which you can drop right into your mixing bowl.

Take a spoon and run it along the skin of the avocado.

Take a spoon and run it along the skin of the avocado, releasing the flesh from the skin.

Note: Keeping a trash cup or bowl handy makes clean-up easy and ensures your counter top stays avocado free.

Keeping a trash cup or bowl handy makes clean-up easy and keeps your counter top avocado-free.

Keeping a trash cup or bowl handy makes clean-up easy and ensures your counter top stays avocado free.

Once the flesh from all of your avocados is in your mixing bowl, mash it all up with a fork until creamy. It should go from this:

Mash the flesh of you avocados with a fork until creamy.

Mash the flesh of you avocados with a fork until creamy.

To this:

Fully mashed avocado.

Fully mashed avocado.

In all honesty, you could eat it just like this. But it’s not as yummy as it could be, which is why you want to add some Best Foods, full fat mayonnaise. The mayo helps increase the creaminess of the guac, lightens its overall color, and deepens its flavor immensely. And I’m sorry to say it, but Miracle Whip or some reduced fat version of Best Foods mayo simply will not do. Not if you want to eat the best guac of your life!

Add about a tablespoon of mayo, more if you are working with more avocados.

Add about a two teaspoons of mayo, more if you are working with a larger amount of avocados.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once all of your ingredients are in the bowl, mix away, making sure the mayo, salt, and pepper get fully incorporated into the avocado mash.

Stir the avocado, mayo, salt, and pepper together until fully combined.

Stir the avocado, mayo, salt, and pepper together until fully combined.

I always do a final taste test to make sure I’ve used enough salt and pepper. Don’t be shy, if it needs more salt, add more salt. Otherwise, that’s it!

Whip up some homemade tacos or taquitos and be ready to have all of your friends asking who made the yummiest, creamiest guacamole they’ve ever tasted!

Easy Guacamole and Homemade Shredded Beef Taquitos. A yummy, dynamic duo!

Easy Guacamole and Homemade Shredded Beef Taquitos. Is your mouth watering yet?

Until next time, my friends!

S. Taylor, The Taylor of All Trades

Fresh Herb Sprouted Salad

My husband and I are trying to eat healthier and we are trying to do things more naturally to move away from processed foods. Those desires made the prospect of sprouted wheat very appealing. Well, appealing to me anyway. To be honest, I’ve sort of foisted my interest in healthy eating on my dear ol’ hubby, and he’s taking it in stride (very graciously, I might add!). Anyway, once I’d figured out that it was super easy to sprout my own wheat berries, I decided to try out an easy recipe that seemed appropriate for this kind of grain (spelt, to be exact).

I’m using the term “recipe” loosely here. There are no measurements and it’s the type of thing anyone could come up with on their own. I just like food that tastes good – using raw ingredients was a bonus!

So here is my “recipe” for Fresh Herb Sprouted Salad (quantities, ingredients, and measurements to taste)…

In a bowl, combine:

Sprouted Spelt Berries

Sprouted Spelt Berries

Sprouted Spelt Berries

Garden or Fresh Sweet Basil, Garden or Fresh Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley, and Homemade or Fresh Mozzarella

Garden or Fresh Sweet Basil, Garden or Fresh Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley, and Homemade or Fresh Mozzarella

Garden or Fresh Sweet Basil, Garden or Fresh Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley, and Homemade or Fresh Mozzarella

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Kosher Salt, and Pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

And that’s it! Stir it up and enjoy! It’s a super hearty salad, so make sure you use enough cheese and herbs to offset the density of the sprouted spelt.

The finished product -  beautiful and tasty Fresh Herb Sprouted Salad!

The finished product – a beautiful and tasty Fresh Herb Sprouted Salad!

Until next time, my friends!

S. Taylor, The Taylor of All Trades

Sprouted Wheat. Spelt, To Be Exact

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting friends on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. They live a very different life than I do, and I love that. I know next to nothing about eating healthily, and even less about ground-up cooking. Luckily, that’s what friends are for! These friends introduced me to women who, because they live in a remote area, choose to do many things themselves; things like sprouting and milling their own spelt berries.

Say what?

Yup, you heard me right: sprouting, milling, and spelt berries were three (well, four) words I knew nothing about before meeting these amazing women.

It  seems I’m a little late to the party, but that’s okay. It means there are a ton of resources online that one can use to get even better explanations of this stuff than I can provide.

But, since I now have a cursory overview of what it means to sprout and mill one’s own spelt flour, I couldn’t help but put all that information to use.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get to it!

1. Key Terms

Spelt: Basically one of the oldest, most nutritious forms of wheat available today. It has a long, exciting history that I’m sure you would all find exuberayting, but for the sake of time, let’s just say that it is hearty, healthy, and just the type of sustaining grain to keep thousands of people groups alive across many, many centuries.

Spelt/Wheat Berries: It took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to figure out that the thing I needed to buy was called “spelt berries.” I kept asking google to tell me how to “sprout spelt” and that just wasn’t enough information. So, when you are trying to buy your own batch of grains to sprout, make sure you tell the internet what kind of grain you would like and that you would like it in berry form.

Sprouting: Sprouting is the purposeful hydration of various grain berries (spelt berries in our case) until they sprout, which is exactly why this process is called “sprouting,” and why products made from sprouted grains are called “sprouted breads,” “sprouted cookies,” etc. It’s a very specific stage in the life of this little grain, and the reason people sprout in the first place is because it activates and enhances the nutritional attributes of the berry itself. You’ll have to google the specifics if you want all that good sciency information. Remember: I’m the Taylor of all Trades, which also means that I am the master of none. Plant DNA falls under the master-level category of information as far as I’m concerned, so don’t feel bad if you want to look elsewhere for the specific nutritional information regarding sprouted grains.

Milling: This just means grinding the grains (once they are fully dried) into a powdery substance, also known as sprouted flour. Because it’s all I have, I used my Magic Bullet for this step in the process, but, as I’ll explain later, I don’t think that’s sustainable. I may have to invest in a more legitimate option if I want to preserve my Magic Bullet.

So there’s our foundation. Now when I use these terms, if you didn’t already know what they were, you will be able to follow along like the brilliant, astute person you are!

One disclaimer: to try and make this easy on everyone, I’ll do my very, very best to keep the following instructions to the fewest words possible. My husband says I’m an over-explainer, and I totally know that I am. So, for the sake of being helpful, the next portion of this post will be comprised of short, to-the-point directions.

2. Sprouting Spelt (or, as I like to call it, Spelting)

Purchase Spelt Berries

I bought Bob’s Red Mill Organic Spelt Berries from Amazon and the box contains (4) individually sealed (24) ounce bags.

Purchase spelt berries. I bought Bob's Red Mill Organic Spelt Berries that contains (4) individually sealed (24) ounce bags.

Purchase spelt berries. I bought Bob’s Red Mill Organic Spelt Berries that contains (4) individually sealed (24) ounce bags.

Rinse Spelt Berries

There are many ways to do this. The easiest, I think, is to put your spelt berries in a bowl, submerge them in cold water, and run your fingers through them until you think the batch has had a good cleaning. Super fun to let the kids help with this part!

Rinse spelt berries in cold water. My batch was pretty clean, so there were no bugs, dirt, or dead berries in it (dead berries float to the top when your bowl is filled with water).

Rinse spelt berries in cold water. My batch was pretty clean, so there were no bugs, dirt, or dead berries in it (dead berries float to the top when your bowl is filled with water and should be discarded. They will not sprout).

Next, drain the old water – without draining your spelt berries, you want to lose as few as possible – and repeat the rinsing process as many times as it takes for your water to remain clear when you sift the spelt berries with your fingers. Again, because my bag was pretty clean, this only took me one rinse. It may take you 2, 3, or even 5 times. Don’t worry, keep at it!

Dump out the old water and rinse as many times as it takes for your water to remain clear when you sift the spelt berries with your fingers.

Drain the old water and repeat the rinsing process as many times as it takes for your water to remain clear when you sift the spelt berries with your fingers.

Soak Spelt Berries

After you rinse your spelt berries thoroughly, you will need to soak them. Fully submerge them in water in a bowl, jar, or container that will allow them to plump to double/ triple their original size. I used a large glass bowl. Let your spelt berries soak for at least eight, but no more than twelve hours. If you let them soak too long they will begin to ferment (are you makin’ beer or flour, there, ya lush?).

Soak spelt berries in water for at least eight hours, but no more than 12. The berries will absorb the water and plump up in the process.

Soak spelt berries in water for at least eight hours, but no more than 12. The berries will absorb the water and plump up in the process.

Once they’ve soaked for at least eight hours, drain the leftover water from your bowl completely. You’ll notice that they’ve plumped up and might give off a faint “yeast” smell (like when you are baking fresh bread). That’s okay, but if the smell is VERY strong, you will not want to continue this process. If they have a strong, sour smell, they’ve fermented and are no longer on the path to becoming flour. Beer, maybe, but not flour.

After soaking for (8) hours, your spelt berries will have plumped up to double or triple their original size.

After soaking for (8) hours, your spelt berries will have plumped up to double or triple their original size.

Let Them Sprout

After you’ve soaked your berries, what follows is a day-long (or more) waiting game. Sprouting occurs best in dark, warm places. The temperature in your house may slow down or speed up the sprouting process, depending on how cold/hot it is. To sprout your spelt berries:

To sprout your spelt berries, wrap them in  a damp cloth, place them in a bowl, and let them sit in a dark, warm place for at least (24) hours.

To sprout your spelt berries, wrap them in a damp cloth, place them in a bowl, and let them sit in a dark, warm place for at least (24) hours.

Wrap them in a damp cloth, place them in a bowl, and let them sit in a warm, dark place for at least twenty-four hours. The images below show the progress of my sprouting spelt berries at ten, fifteen, twenty-four, and thirty-six hours.

My spelt berries after 10 hours of sprouting. You can see the sprout (the little white spot) just peeking through at this point.

My spelt berries after (10) hours of sprouting. You can see the sprout (the little white spot) just peeking through at this point.

My spelt berries after (15) hours of sprouting.

My spelt berries after (15) hours of sprouting. Sprouts have completely broken the surface at this point.

My sprouts at 24 hours. Good progress, but since it was pretty cool in my area (slowing down the sprouting process), I wanted to give them a little more time to sprout.

My spelt berries after (24) hours of sprouting. Good progress, but since it was pretty cool in my area (slowing down the sprouting process), I wanted to give them a little more time to sprout.

At this point, (twenty-four hours of sprouting), I removed them from the damp cloth, put them directly into the glass bowl, and covered it with the damp cloth. The sprouted berries looked like this.

At this point, (twenty-four hours of sprouting), I removed them from the damp cloth, put them directly into the glass bowl, and covered it with the damp cloth. The sprouted berries looked like this.

Spelt berries at (24) hours of sprouting. Removed from damp cloth; placed directly in glass bowl,; covered by damp cloth.

Spelt berries at (24) hours of sprouting. Removed from damp cloth; placed directly in glass bowl,; covered by damp cloth.

FINALLY, at (36) hours, my spelt berries had sprouted to my desired length.

FINALLY, at (36) hours, my spelt berries had sprouted to my desired length.

You can sprout your spelt berries as long as you would like. Eventually they will become wheat grass, which I know a lot of people consume regularly. But since I’m not one of those people, stopping at thirty-six hours of sprouting worked perfectly for me.

Taste Them!

No, really, taste them! They are super yummy! Kind of sweet, kind of earthy, a tad chewy, and a tiny bit reminiscent of Honey Smacks (without the honey, of course).

Another view of my sprouted slept berries at (36) hours of sprouting.

Another view of my sprouted slept berries at (36) hours of sprouting.

3. Eating/Preserving Sprouted Spelt Berries

So, once you’ve waited forever and a day (okay, okay, maybe just twelve hours and a day) for your spelt berries to sprout, you have a few options as to what you can do with them:

Eat Them Just the Way They Are

Sprouted grains are a great source of nutrients and are super hearty. If you want, you can keep them around just for snacking on throughout the day. But be sure to refrigerate them if you don’t want them turning into a wheat field in your kitchen. That is, they’ll keep sprouting if you don’t take steps to slow/stop the sprouting process.

Make a Sprouted Salad or Use Them as a Garnish with Other Dishes

Fresh, sprouted salads are super yummy. You can add just about anything you want, and, because sprouted grains are so dense, a little goes a long way. I recently shared a recipe for a Fresh Herb Sprouted Salad, using herbs from my garden and mozzarella that I made in my own kitchen. It is to die for!

A beautiful and tasty Fresh Herb Sprouted Salad!

A beautiful and tasty Fresh Herb Sprouted Salad!

But if you don’t want the sprouted spelt to be the main attraction, you can always just use them as a garnish atop other dishes. It’s a win-win situation!

Freeze Them

If you don’t want to use your sprouted spelt berries right away, you can put them in a labeled ziplock bag (excess air squeezed out, of course), and store them that way for months. You can also store milled spelt berries (a.k.a. sprouted flour) in the freezer. It’s a great way to continue reaping the rewards of all your hard work months into the future!

Mill Them

This process is simple-ish, but I took a lot of pictures just to be safe. Again, I’ll be keeping my directions short to save time and reduce the amount of rambling that normally accompanies my explanations:

Preheat your oven to it’s lowest temperature settings (usually around 150 F) and transfer your sprouted spelt berries to cookie sheets so that you can dry/dehydrate them (a dehydrator will work too, or sun drying).

Cover cookie sheets with sprouted spelt berries.

Cover cookie sheets with sprouted spelt berries.

Dry/dehydrate your sprouted spelt berries in the oven for 3-8 hours with a spoon in the door so that moisture can escape, and shake/rotate the trays every hour or so to keep the berries from roasting. (If your spelt berries roast, they will no longer be useful for baking.) The time it takes to fully dry your berries will depend on their water content, the climate in your area, and whether or not the temperature gauge on your oven is true.

Keep a spoon in the door of your oven so that moisture can escape while your sprouted spelt berries dry out.

Keep a spoon in the door of your oven so that moisture can escape while your sprouted spelt berries dry out.

You can check whether or not your sprouted spelt berries have dried sufficiently by tasting them. Dried berries are dense, dry, and earthy. If you don’t dry them out completely, they will jam up whatever appliance you use to mill them and burn out its motor (no bueno!)

Once your berries are dry you can begin to mill them in a grain mill, a coffee grinder, a food processor, or a blender. I used my Magic Bullet. Be sure to only mill a small amount of sprouted spelt berries at a time. If you try to mill too many at once, they will jam up your grinder’s motor because the milled flour gets sifted toward the bottom of the grinder where the blades are. I smelled the motor of my Magic Bullet overworking itself a few times, so I think I will invest either in a coffee grinder to use specifically for milling sprouted spelt, or an actual grain mill attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. But they are fairly expensive, so I may have to save up before I buy one.

If using a grinder or blender, mill a small amount of berries at a time.

If using a grinder or blender, mill a small amount of berries at a time.

Just in case you were wondering: milling produces the same amount of flour as the amount of sprouted grains you started with. So (24) ounces of spelt berries will become (24) ounces (or three cups) of sprouted flour. 

Milling produces the same amount of flour as the amount of sprouted grains you began with.

Milling produces the same amount of flour as the amount of sprouted grains you started with.

The consistency of my sprouted flour. If you desire finer flour, keep grinding and then sift out as many of the larger grains as you would like.

The consistency of my sprouted flour. If you desire finer flour, keep grinding and then sift out as many of the larger grains as you would like.

Another view of my sprouted flour.

Another view of my sprouted flour.

Once you’ve milled your sprouted spelt berries, they can be used to make cakes, cookies, breads, and many other baked goods. I used them to make Sprouted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and they were delicious! They added an earthy depth of flavor to the cookies that was truly delightful.

Sprouted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sprouted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, have fun figuring out new ways to use your sprouted spelt berries and the flour you mill from them. The sky’s the limit when it comes to this historic, nutritious grain!

Until next time, my friends!

S. Taylor, The Taylor of All Trades

Some of the Things I’ll be Writing About

So, again, this is a blog about dabbling. But even dabblers need to be a smidge organized. That’s what this post is all about. What topics do I intent to cover? Why did I chose them? And what can you expect from them? I’m glad you asked! I’ll be writing about the following 10 things on a pretty consistent basis:

God

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Galatians 2:20

And that sums it up folks. I am a Christian. Although everything else is fun, everything else is secondary. I’ve got a long road of growth ahead of me and I’ll be sharing the lessons God teaches me along the way. May God use them to bless, mature, and teach you as well!

Married Life

“Then the LORD God said, ‘it is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis 2:18

I have said it many times: marriage is the best, hardest thing I have ever done. God’s design for marriage is that I be a helper to my husband, NOT the other way around. I’m still a work in progress, but the Lord continues to grow a desire in me to be the very best helper my husband needs. May the Lord continue to grow all of us as we endeavor to be the most god-honoring spouses we can possibly be!

Parenting

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;”

Psalm 127:3-5a

My children are such a joy. The Lord has used them to sanctify me in ways I couldn’t even have imagined before they arrived. So cute. So full of love. And so very sinful. My prayer is that I will be the faithful mother God has called me to be so that my children will desire Him and, Lord willing, accept Him as their personal Lord and Savior. I pray for your children too, and for you as you seek to parent them in a way that brings glory to God.

Cooking

“Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;’ God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”

Genesis 1:29, 31a

I love food. I love to learn about it. I love to smell it. I love to prep it. I love to cook it. And I LOVE to eat it. Food is one of those blessings that I am thankful for all the time. Not just because I need it to survive, but because God was so good to us in making it taste so good. I’ll be sharing my love of food with you as often as I can – it’s just too fun not to!

Crafting

“She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle. She makes coverings for herself;
 Her clothing is fine linen and purple. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen.”

Proverbs 31: 19, 22, 24

Crafting is one of those things that I never grew out of. My mom was always encouraging us to use our imaginations and crafting was one of my outlets for doing just that. I could craft all day, and, before the kids came along, I used to. But now I have to be a little bit wiser about how long I craft, for whom, and to what end. The projects I share with you will usually be 6-8 hour crafts, split up across a few days. Easy to learn and easy to make. That’s what my crafting is all about these days!

Homesteading

“She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

Proverbs 31:27

There’s only so much homesteading I can do living in an apartment, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try. The things I share with you will cater mostly to people living in small spaces, but still want to make wise choices when it comes to saving money and being healthy. I’m no expert, and I’m just starting out, but, boy-oh-boy am I having a ton of fun!

Writing

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Although it would be blasphemous to claim that my work is inspired by God, I do aim to create pieces that are profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. That doesn’t mean my work is the fluffy, feel-good stuff we sometimes demand Christian authors produce, but it is always keenly aware of God’s design for the use of language and it always uses Scripture as an example of what types of stories Christians ought to tell. The ability to write is another one of those blessings that completely floors me and that I try to use as often as I can manage!

Teaching

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Although it would be blasphemous to claim that my work is inspired by God, I do aim to create pieces that are profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. That doesn’t mean my work is the fluffy, feel-good stuff we sometimes demand Christian authors produce, but it is always keenly aware of God’s design for the use of language and it always uses Scripture as an example of what types of stories Christians ought to tell. The ability to write is another one of those blessings that completely floors me and that I try to use as often as I can manage!

Reviews

“Discretion will guard you,
 understanding will watch over you.”

Proverbs 2:11

Everyone’s a critic. And if they’re not, they should be. In today’s society we value ratings, percentages, customer commentaries, testimonials, and reviews. Let’s be honest, they help us make wise decisions by gathering countless pieces of data into one neat, little star system. This section of information isn’t much different. I’m one of those people who spends hours researching the perfect product to find the best quality at the best price point, and I don’t think you should have to reinvent the wheel if you are consuming the same product as me. From music to movies to books to home products to just about everything else, I’ll be sharing my educated opinions for you to take or leave at your leisure.

Everything Else

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31

Let’s face it, if one is going to be a taylor of all trades, she’s probably got a lot of things going on at once. And I usually do. That’s why this page exists. It’s a place for me to gather all the other things I’d like to share that don’t fall neatly into one of the other nine categories I’ve already created. It will be fun to see what shows up here – enjoy!

Until next time, my friends!

S. Taylor, The Taylor of all Trades

Simple Sally (1.28.14)

“Never take a man’s heart willingly,” he said, as he stoked the fire with the heel of his worn, leather boot. “Make him ask again and again so he never forgets it was his idea to give it to you in the fist place.”

It was cold out, and we could see our breath forming clouds of heat against a pink sky glowing with the first light of day.

“I’ll never take a man’s heart,” I replied after a sufficient amount of silence had passed between us. “No man’s heart is worth having.”

I had been kicking dirt around with the tip of my shoe but stopped to cock my head up slightly in Mr. Hall’s direction. I was hoping to see indignation in his eyes, and maybe even amusement. If he thought I was joking, I might make him laugh. I liked the way his Adam’s apple jumped up and down when he chuckled with his mouth closed.

But if he heard my response, it didn’t show. We stood in near silence, as we did every morning, waiting for my dad to pick me up on his way home from the dairy.

Mrs. Hall had been a good friend of my mom’s when they were in high school, so she didn’t mind letting me sleep on her couch while my dad was at work.

“Just until you find someone to look after her properly,” she’d said, when she brought the casserole over that first Saturday after the general consensus in our little town determined it to be official.

“Because I know she’s not comin’ back,” Mrs. Hall had said. “And if you don’t work, you can’t eat.”

Her pink fingernails were filed into long, oval talons that matched the cardigan she had tied around her shoulders. I must have looked like a rag doll from where she stood, her perfect curls hanging in sleek ringlets around her face, a hint of rouge giving her cheeks a gentle glow.

I was six at the time, and hadn’t been bathed in a week. My hair was knotted from playing football with the boys during lunch, instead of sitting on the benches with my legs crossed and my napkin spread neatly across a pressed skirt.

Even then I knew there was something amiss. Something about the way they kept looking at each other, then at me, then at the floor, then back at each other.

“Well, okay,” her chipper voice rang out across the silence, startling everyone, including herself. “You just bring Sally by around nine, and we’ll get her settled in for the night.”

The Hall’s lived clear across town, but they were closer to the dairy than any of my dad’s other friends. Plus none of them had offered to help take care of me now that my mom had run away from her responsibilities, “chasing some nonsense dream about finding a man that will treat her right,” as the round faced gossip at the super market had put it. Apparently my mom was looking for a man who was not like my dad, a man who wouldn’t treat her bad. When I was six, I had no idea how he could have treated her bad when he was never around to treat her any way.

While she sat at the kitchen table, muttering something about, “we share everything…didn’t know that meant husband’s too,” combing the catalog for a brighter color to wear on her nails than Mrs. Hall would ever have the guts to try, my dad worked, or slept, or went out. But he never treated her bad, not from what I saw.

And then after she was gone, he didn’t treat me bad either. He didn’t really treat me any way. He made sure I ate, made sure I had clothes to wear, then set me lose upon the world. I couldn’t imagine a better life. Other kids had a curfew, and their moms made them wash up before dinner, and they got spanked when they were bad. My dad and I hardly saw one another, and when we did, there wasn’t much to say.

Even now, we don’t have much to say. I’ve been sleeping over at the Hall’s for eight years, and I don’t have much to say to them either. I guess the person I talk to most is Mr. Hall. He starts his shift right as my dad’s shift ends, so he takes me to the dairy and we  wait in the yard until my dad comes to get me. On cold mornings, like this one, Mr. Hall makes a fire to keep me warm, “so I don’t get arthritis early in life,” he says, and I like that he cares about my bones.

“Mrs. Hall said to have your dad bring you over early tonight,” said, Mr. Hall. “Around seven.”

“Why,” I asked dryly.

“Something about ‘you need a woman’s guidance.” He shook his head in what I thought was frustration, but I couldn’t understand why it mattered to him at all.

“Will Carrie be home,” I asked. It was the only thing I could think of to say.

“Mmhmm,” he snorted. “Probably wants to help her mother ruin you.”

I turned to look at him. He was making no sense to me and he knew it. He turned toward me and cast two earnest eyes in my direction.

“Don’t change, Sally,” he said. He was almost pleading.

“You…you don’t care what people think of you and you are honest. You always have been. Don’t change for anyone.” He pivoted toward me with one foot and was about to take a step in my direction, when the sound of footsteps caused him to revert back to his original position in front of the fire.

I stood there, gaping like a fool, unsure of what to say, thinking perhaps I wasn’t supposed to say anything. No one had ever spoken to me like that. It made me feel uncomfortable, but it also made me feel special. At least I think that’s what it made me feel. I had never been special to anyone, as far as I could remember.

“Bob,” came my father’s voice, as he reached the place where Mr. Hall and I stood.

“Pete,” Mr. Hall replied.

They nodded in passing and Mr. Hall kicked damp dirt onto the fire. He walked in the direction of the dairy, my father walked in the direction of the car, and I was expected to follow behind him. This had happened every morning for the past eight years, but somehow this morning was different. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want Mr. Hall to go. I wanted to keep standing in front of the fire listening to Mr. Hall talk…about me.

Sally,” my father said when he realized I wasn’t behind him. And that was my cue to either catch up or walk home.

The rest of the day was spent mulling over what Mr. Hall had said. And the way he looked when he said it. And the almost step he had taken in my direction. It felt like seven o’clock would never come, but then it did and I was standing at the Hall’s front door once again.

“Come on in, Hun.” Mrs. Hall’s voice rang out in the boisterous, drawn out way it always did. “Go on up to Carrie’s room. I’m right behind you.”

As I walked through the familiar hallway, with its pink paisley wall paper and gaudy, gold plated mirrors, I found myself hoping, yet fearing I might bump into Mr. Hall. I made my way up the two half-flights of stairs covered in thick green carpet, and lingered, for just a moment at the landing before walking, disappointedly, into Carrie’s room.

What awaited me was terrifying. On every available surface lay bright colored scarves, and pleated, woolen skirts, and loud, patterned dresses. Littering the floor were knee high boots and pastel flats, button-up pea coats, and skin-tight capris. Before I knew it, Carrie was running a brush through my hair and giving me directions to pick out whichever ribbon I liked best.

Because I had not provided her with a prompt reply, she had moved on to something else, chattering on about finding out what size I was and whether or not she and Mrs. Hall should take me to the beauty parlor. I couldn’t think of anything to say, but even if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to say it. She barely stopped to breathe, let alone make room for me in her whirl-wind conversation. She stopped, only for a moment, when Mrs. Hall walked in, and only long enough to be scolded for not waiting to begin.

For the next two hours, two squealing women, as Carrie made sure to point out, because she was now 18 and officially a woman, dressed, undressed, redressed, combed, teased, poked, pinched, painted, spritzed, tied, untied, clipped, cinched, tugged, teased and powdered me from head to toe. It was utter mayhem, and by the end of it, I walked away with a brand new (hand-me-down) wardrobe, accessories box, make-up kit, and rack of shoes, complete with my very own migraine and exciting new case of culture shock.

“Perfect,” she sighed, as Mrs. Hall tucked one last fly-away hair into the monument now perched atop my head.

“Let’s take her downstairs and see what Daddy thinks,” chirped Carrie, beaming at the finished product she and her mother had created.

In a flash I was whisked out the door, practically carried down the stairs, and deposited in the hallway to await the formal introduction such a transformation required.

It was only then that I saw the first glimpse of my new self. Peering through the the gold vein over lay of one of Mrs. Hall’s antique mirrors were two round eyes, decorated in peacock green powder, and tar black, cat eye style liner. Two bright pink lips cracked open just enough for me to gasp at the fact that I simply could not believe I was staring at my own face.

To that face, which was not my own, I lifted a skinny, bangled wrist, which lifted a skinny, moisturized hand, which lifted five skinny, pink-tipped fingers, which felt compelled to find out if the shimmering cheek in the mirror was as soft in real life as it seemed to be in the dim light of its reflection. As if to remind me I had no business touching anything as fine as a made up face, Mrs. Hall’s hoarse whisper stopping my fingers just shy of contact.

Sally,” she croaked, “it’s time.”

I was terrified. I could feel my heart thumping in my chest, the tips of my ears flush with embarrassment, my legs soldered to the floor in a fear induced paralysis.

Annoyed that I hadn’t yet started moving, Mrs. Hall sashayed toward me, grabbed my wrist, and thrust me into the middle of the sitting room, where three pairs of eyes cast themselves upon me, then widened in shock.

Mrs. Hall had told my dad to stop by before heading to the dairy, but she hadn’t told me. She’d wanted i to be a surprise. It was odd to see him marvel when I was the object of his attention. I thought maybe it was pride I was seeing written in his features, but I wasn’t sure. He hardly ever looked at me, I mean, really looked at me, so I wouldn’t know a look of pride even if I saw one.

Carrie, too, seemed to have found a renewed sense of awe. I wasn’t expecting her to be blown away by my transformation, since she was one of its manufacturers, but nevertheless, she was as wide-eyed as my father.

And then I saw his face, his eyes. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. Mr. Hall’s expression seemed to be flashing back and forth between disbelief and anger, and something else too. If I had to name it, I would chose the word hunger. Yes, to me, his eyes seemed hungry. The way my dad’s eyes looked when Mrs. Hall answered the door every night. The way her eyes looked as she caught his final over-the-shoulder glance on his way back to the car. The way any other man, except for Mr. Hall, might look at any other girl, except for me, in any other situation, except for this one. I had never wanted anyone to look at me that way, but now that someone had,  it scared the hell out of me.

Suddenly, the game was no longer fun. All I wanted was to change out of my ridiculous costume, brush the tangled knots out of my ridiculous hair, and wipe the caked on layers of paint and powder off of my ridiculous face. I wanted to be myself again: Sally left to herself; Sally nobody sees or cares about. Simple SallySimply me.

But something about the way Mr. Hall looked at me, something about the fear and freedom it unleashed inside my heart, something about the hunger in his eyes and the hunger that I knew he’d see in mine, changed me forever. And so, on that night – as a man named Mr. Hall looked with hunger at a girl named Sally, who was standing in the middle of his sitting room pretending to be a woman, I realized:

I, Sally Parker, would never be the same again.

Until next time, my friends!

S. Taylor, The Taylor of all Trades

The Clearing (1.25.14)

Looking back, there were many reasons I ventured into the forest that morning.

For years I thought it was because my father had struck me. One clean, hard swoop of his powerful hand across my cheek and I had fallen to the floor like an anchor slicing cleanly through still water on a calm day.

His hands were calloused from working the land, leaving a swollen abrasion just below my right eye. Those who didn’t know him considered those hands an indication of the kind of man he was. But they knew nothing. He was a mute. And though anyone in our small town could have answered on his behalf, traveling tradesmen seemed more content to take his silence as hostility than to ask why he chose never to speak.

Ignorant strangers. Coming and going as they pleased, disrupting the calmness and serenity of our community with their unhinged jaws and over zealous commitment to the tap.

In my mind I blamed them for my father’s rage, but in my heart, I knew I had brought it upon myself. My agony is that I didn’t admit it until time had swallowed up the allotted moments of his life and could offer him no more.

When I blamed them, she knew I was lying, I think, though it was hard to tell from where she stood, hidden in the shadow of an ancient, etched-stone monument. She was not used to sharing her wood, she explained, and asked me to forgive her inability to provide refined hospitality.

“I was not expecting to enter your wood,” I murmured cautiously.

And it was true. In my haste I had fled from  my father’s house, and in his broken mouth, his tongue could not form the words to call me back.

And so I stumbled over jagged rocks, covered in slippery moss. And did combat with drooping vines, oozing milk and sap. My feet rebelled against the clawing dampness of thedirt, and my clothing surrendered pieces of itself to the jutting, thistled branches of the wood.

By the time I successfully reached the entrance to the clearing,  I expected my father’s house to still be visible in the distance, but it was not. In every direction, save the path that lay before me, the wood was gray, hushed, and ominous. An eerie mist seemed neither to rise from the earth nor fall from the sky. Rather, it seemed to perch lazily upon every leaf, upon every bloom, upon every surface it could find.

And it seemed to me to be humming a lullaby. A morbid one, I decided, from the sorrow in it. Whereas one might expect, while in a wood, to hear the sounds of woodland fauna, in this wood there was only one sound: the slow melody of a mist in mourning.

There was only one sound, that is, until there were two.

“It’s not a very happy tune, is it?” she asked in a delicate, soprano voice. I jumped at the unexpectedness of her presence, and dared not answer quickly. If the tune was hers, I would do myself no favors by disliking it.

“It’s alright. The tune is not mine,” she chimed. “But I do thank you for your concern.”

“Where are you,” I asked in a cracked voice, my heart still throbbing dully in the notch at the base of my neck.

“In the clearing,” she answered. “You may enter, if you wish.”

Had I known the cost of entering that clearing would be so high, I’d like to think I would have chosen instead to hasten in the direction of my father’s house. But in that moment, with the darkness of the wood increasing, and the steady melody of the mourning mist thinning the air until I could scarce draw breath, I took my first step into her forgotten world.

With each new step, the leaves began to change, first in color – from soot gray, to deep pine, to sea foam green, to sky blue, to glittering silver – then in posture. At the entrance to the clearingthe leaves were shriveled and downcast. As I ventured deeper, life began to fill their veins, revive them, and draw them skyward. The crest of the clearing was lush with beaming foliage as direct sunlight flooded the soft, tall blades of grass that smelled of honey-dew and swayed to the rhythm of an imperceptible wind.

A towering monument stood solemnly at the far end of the clearing, casting its shadow upon the glimmering vines that grew outwardly from it. With etchings that spoke of ancient rites and a society of powerful beings long forgotten, the monument seemed not only the center-piece of this clearing, but its guardian as well.

“Do you like it,” she coaxed. “My home?”

“It’s beautiful,” I murmured, still lost in the grandeur of it all.

“Yes, it is,” she sighed, “though few have seen it. And fewer still are they who live to speak of it.” Her voice had deepened and though I could not see her, I could feel her eyes narrowing as she cast them upon me.

Standing in the center of the clearing, I caught my first glimpse of her as she paced among the trees that nestled the lofty stone-hewn monument. In the shadows, her slender frame fell in and out of clarity, first distinct, then blurred, then distinct again. I perceived her to be wearing a silken gown, threaded with glistening strands of starlight, replenishingthe earth as its glorious train obediently followed its master’s stride.

She was magnificent, and terrifying, and her words had been a warning. One false step and she would end my life.

“What is your name,” I asked in a shaky voice, knowing that attempting to maintain mental privacy was a wasteful and fruitless endeavor

“Ah,” she replied, “no one has ever asked me that.” Her voice rang with genuine surprise, and, to my great relief, amusement. “I am called many things, but my name is Saniya.”

At this, she stopped pacing and came to stand beside, yet slightly behind the monument, making sure to keep herself tucked safely in its shadow. I breathed a sigh of relief, taking her stillness and front-facing orientation as a sign of approval.

“Do you mind if I ask….I mean, would it be rude of me…it’s just that I don’t know-”

“What I am.” She cut me off before I could complete my question, but her tone was not severe or disapproving. She seemed to have been waiting a long time for someone to take interest in her and I was willing to talk about anything that would ensure my survival.

“You can think of me as a spirit,” she began, “though that is not all I am. I am both flesh and phenom; I am both here and not here. I endure both within and outside of space, and live both according to and apart from the laws of being. I have the power to sustain as well as destroy, and the way I act upon this world is both finite and immeasurable. I am a great many things, but the most important thing for you to understand about me is that I am Time.”

In her eagerness to expound upon the unfathomable aspects of her nature, she had forgotten to remain in the shelter of the monument. As she explained herself to me, she was drawn out from her hiding place, and had come to stand directly in front of it, the fullness of her splendor now unleashed upon the clearing.

I was dumbfounded. The fullness of her splendor was no longer hidden in monument’s shadow, and her gown, its substance pulsing in and out of visibility, gave off a light that could only be described as piercingly brilliant. In the fullness of her presence, I perceived the whole history of man dancing about the clearing, it to bursting in and out of focus around me. My own life seemed to swim amid the chaos of the ages, and for one terrifying moment I was given a glimpse of my own future.

That glimpse, not so much an image as a feeling, brought me to my knees, and forced the contents of my stomach to spew involuntarily upon the bright-white blades of grass that were gyrating violently around me.

“No,” I gagged. “Not that. Please, not that.”

“It is already done,” she said coldly. “It is the cost of entering this place, and the cost of leaving this place alive.”

“But,” I stammered, windless and disoriented, “I didn’t know.”

“You have been granted the remainder of your days,” she stated beneficently. “Is that not enough?”

“What lays before me is not life,” I hissed. “What lays before me is a waking death.”

“Do not despise Death,” she cooed. “For if you wish your passing to be a peaceful one, you need only greet Her with a smile when she knocks upon your door.”

With tears plummeting down my cheeks in droves, I lifted my eyes to gaze into the blinding face of Time.

When I awoke, I found myself sprawled out upon the grassy meadow at the base of the forest. Head swimming, I lifted my hand to my cheek, and was relieved to find that it was still scraped and throbbing. Could it have been a dream?

I drew myself up onto uncertain legs, shooed the grass from my rumpled skirt with trembling hands, and hastened toward my father’s house. Opening the door, I expected to find him awaiting my return with a stern but relieved brow.

But he was not there, and the house was strangely different. The furniture was the same; so too were the fabrics and flatware. But there was something not quite right. There was something missing.

With my heart beginning to race, and the sting of tears beginning to form behind my eyes, I bolted toward the pub in a final attempt to prove that it had all been a dream.

When I burst through the door, I was met with startled looks and disapproving murmurs.

“Have you seen my father,” I asked frantically. “Please, I must speak to him. Can you tell me if he’s been here.”

No one answered. No one even listened.

“Lost yer way, did ya, Lass?” A drunken merchant stumbled over and hung his heavy arm upon my shoulder, drawing me into himself, hissing his foul breath into my face.

I gagged at the rottenness of both his breath and pelvic movements. It disgusted me that a man his age could bear to treat a girl as young as I so perversely. I wasn’t yet fourteen and he was well over sixty.

“Leave ‘er alone, Joe,” came a woman’s voice from behind the counter. “Back to your pint before it goes flat.”

As I looked at her, I realized I knew her. She was the same bar maid that had always worked at the pub, but there was something different about her eyes. They were heavier, darker, more worn. She looked like herself, but…older.

Joe had not yet released me, and his hands were now groping parts of me that even I touched only out of necessity.

“Get off,” I shouted, and began to jab him violently with my elbows and heels.

“Joe, that’s enough,” said the bar maid sternly. “Leave her alone.”

“I’m not stoppin’ till the Lass asks me to herself,” Joe growled incoherently.

“I already did, you drunken fool! As you deaf as well as stup-”

“She can’t ask you to, Joe,” the bar maid said, cutting me off. She looked at me pityingly and said, “she’s mute.”

No. It couldn’t be. It wasn’t real.

Joe had finally released me, and in a haze of disbelief, I made my way back to my father’s house.

The room was spinning. I stumbled from table, to chair, to bed, to stool, before finally coming to stand directly in front of the looking glass. How was it possible. I looked like me, but…different. My face was thinner and more feminine. My skin was taught and more mature. My breasts were larger, my hips more curved, and my eyes, my eyes were not my own. Well, they were my own, but they were so much…older.

In the corner of the looking glass, at the other end of the room, a shimmering box caught my eye. Perched lovingly in the center of the bureau was my father’s trinket box.

I approached it for the first time with the knowledge that he was truly gone. Gently lifting its lid as tears began to stream down my face, I removed precious and valuable items:the deed to our house, a drawing of my mother, a love letter she had written him during their courtship. My father’s wedding band.

And there, there at the very bottom of his box, on a shred of parchment that seemed to have been torn in haste, in my father’s handwriting, was the name Saniya.

Until next time, my friends!

S. Taylor, The Taylor of all Trades

Let’s Be Honest

This may look like a mountain, but it's really just a mole hill.

This may look like a mountain, but it’s really just my resident mole hill.

Can I take a moment to just be honest? I started this blog because I truly love to do it all. Or, rather, I truly love to TRY it all. I’m not an expert at anything, really, and it’s taken me a long time to come to grips with that. But you know what? That’s who I am. I can be super steady (I’ve got two degrees in one field, for Pete’s sake!), or I can have the attention span of a gnat (I think I’ve started about 100 journals in my life and can you guess how many I’ve kept faithfully?).

The truth is, I’m curious and I’m a learner. So what does that mean? That means that most everything in my life is actually a mole hill, whether or not I perceive it to be a mountain. My husband is helping me to respond to my mole hills with more ease and less rigidity (as one ought to respond to  mole hills), because I can often treat piles of clean laundry, like the one pictured above, as if they are my arch nemeses, when, really, they are just big piles of clean laundry that need to be folded, put away, and, hopefully, not re-erected. I mean, they could be piles of dirty laundry, right?

Whatever they are, it’s important for me to show them to you. Why? because I feel that it’s very important for bloggers to represent themselves honestly. Writing this post will take me about a half an hour by the time I’m done with it. Others will take much longer. Why do I point that out? Because the tag line for my blog is, “Doing it all, all the time.”

What I mean is that I do little bits of everything on a daily basis, and I love it! But what that also means is that I don’t do little bits of lots of others things precisely BECAUSE I dabble so much.

One of my undergraduate professors said that all of life’s choices are a trade off. To choose to do one thing is simultaneously to choose to not do something else. So, right now, instead of folding my laundry, I am writing a blog post about not folding my laundry. The two are mutually exclusive. So when I dabble in this or that, sometimes other things don’t get done.

I’m not saying X is better than Y, but what I am saying is that I am not superwoman. I cannot “do it all, all the time,” and I want you to remember that. Social/informative media has a dangerous way of portraying its creators as perfect, excellent, diligent master minds, and can sometimes make readers feel inadequate, under-productive, or just plain dissatisfied with their lives.

Please don’t let my blog do that to you! Please don’t read my posts and see anything other than a woman who has her fingers in every pie she’s ever pulled out of the oven simply because she can’t wait long enough to let it cool and because the chef always gets the first taste.

I love my life, and I love that I get to do so many things so often, but if you think I don’t have both mountains and mole hills setting up camp in my living room, you’re dead wrong. My life looks just like yours. Today, tomorrow, and everyday.

Until next time, my friends!

S. Taylor, The Taylor of All Trades

Growing Herbs in the City

My brand spankin' new herb garden, situated on a teeny tiny little cabinet on my teeny tiny little balcony. "Though she be but little, she is fierce (Helena, A Midsummer Night's Dream)."

My brand spankin’ new herb garden, situated on a teeny tiny little cabinet on my teeny tiny little balcony. “Though she be but little, she is fierce (Helena, A Midsummer Night’s Dream).”

Urban gardening is a growing phenomenon. I’m not jumping on a bandwagon or anything, I just love to cook. And anyone who loves to cook knows that the best tasting food is homegrown and scratch made. Hence this little project.

Now, I have no idea what color my thumb is, but I did do a little research, and apparently, the herbs that I’ve chosen suite my particular plant hardiness zone pretty well. So, at the very least, I am giving myself a fighting chance at keeping these babies alive, and I like those odds.

I’m a novice gardener but with the help of my trusty sidekicks (my sister, daughter, and nieces), I’ve potted my new plants fairly attractively and that makes me feel very much like the Rocky Balboa of the herb gardening world. Gosh, with all this hype, I sure hope my herbs survive!

So, anyway, here’s the skinny on my initial foray into herb gardening:

1. Choosing the Herbs:

I chose German thyme, flat-leaf italian parsley, sweet basil, lavender, and rosemary plants (also called starts), and chives from seed.

I chose German thyme, flat-leaf italian parsley, sweet basil, lavender, and rosemary plants (also called starts), and chives from seed.

Again, using the USDA plant hardiness zone guide (link above), which basically measures how well certain plants will thrive in certain geographic regions based on average, annual minimum winter temperatures, I chose herbs that are projected to thrive well in my area, which happens to be in a 9b zone (25-30 degrees, F).

I’m sure as time progresses I will learn how to pick the best starts, but this time around, I looked at all of my available options in my local Home Depot Gardening Center and picked the healthiest looking German thyme, rosemary, lavender, sweet basil, and Italian flat-leaf parsley plants. I really wanted to buy a chive plant too, but, alas, there was none to be found. So, I am braving the seedling process and hoping I won’t muck it up too badly. Only time will tell.

2. Choosing the Pots:

I chose medium-sized, well-holed, clay pots and appropriately sized saucers - one for each of the herbs I purchased.

I chose medium-sized, well-holed, clay pots and appropriately sized saucers – one for each of the herbs I purchased.

There’s really no big secret to this. Herbs need to be potted in pots with excellent draining systems. Since I chose medium-sized pots, I figured four holes was sufficient. Then, I just chose saucers that corresponded with the diameter of the bottom of my pot, and ta-da! I just didn’t want the water to drip directly onto the cabinet or floor. Otherwise, I’m sure I could have done without the saucers.

3. Potting, Step One: Laying the Foundation

Step one: Fill the pots without about and inch of potting mix and water it until the potting mix is generously hydrated.

Step one: Fill the pots without about and inch of potting mix and water it until the potting mix is generously hydrated.

These are the instructions right off the root bulb packaging. Super concise and super helpful!

The first step is to lay the foundation for your plants. Fill the bottom of the pots with about an inch of potting mix and add water until the potting mix is generously hydrated. Go ahead and plan on getting your hands dirty at this point. You want to make sure that all the planting mix is hydrated, so you’re just going to have to let your fingers get down and dirty.

4. Potting, Step Two: Potting the Root Bulbs

I didn’t get a picture of the root bulbs in their containers, but the gist is: remove the root bulbs from their containers gently, making sure to rip as few roots as possible in the process.

Then, gently situate the root bulbs in the center of the pot, above the potting mix foundation that you have already laid. Add as much potting mix as is necessary to fill in the remaining gaps, including the top of the root bulb, just under the sprouted leaves of the plant. Water generously, making sure all of the potting mix is hydrated sufficiently. The pictures below show what my first two pottings looked like, and what all of my potted herbs looked like once I was completely done potting them. 

Potting parsley: center the root bulb atop the potting mix foundation and fill in all the empty space with more potting mix, including the top of the root bulb, just under the sprouted leaves of the plant.

Potting Italian flat-leaf parsley: center the root bulb atop the potting mix foundation and fill in all the empty space with more potting mix, including the top of the root bulb, just under the sprouted leaves of the plant.

Potting German thyme: Same instructions as the parsley. Center the root bulb atop the potting mix foundation and fill in all the empty space with more potting mix, including the top of the root bulb, just under the sprouted leaves of the plant.

Potting German thyme: Same instructions as the Italian flat-leaf parsley. Center the root bulb atop the potting mix foundation and fill in all the empty space with more potting mix, including the top of the root bulb, just under the sprouted leaves of the plant.

Potting sweet basil: Same instructions as the Italian flat-leaf parsley and German thyme. Center the root bulb atop the potting mix foundation and fill in all the empty space with more potting mix, including the top of the root bulb, just under the sprouted leaves of the plant.

Potting sweet basil: Same instructions as the Italian flat-leaf parsley and German thyme. Center the root bulb atop the potting mix foundation and fill in all the empty space with more potting mix, including the top of the root bulb, just under the sprouted leaves of the plant.

All of my herbs potted and lookin' pretty!

All of my herbs potted and lookin’ pretty – pretty messy!

A quick note: If you plan to pot your herbs instead of plant them in a bed, you should use potting mix. I chose a small-ish bag because I knew I wasn’t going to be potting a large number of pots and that my pots were going to be medium-sized, not large or extra large. I can’t give you any advice on which potting mix to choose – I just went with an organic, herb-specific mix that looked like it would do the job. So far, no complaints!

Organic potting mix for fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

Organic potting mix for fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

5. Potting, Step Three: Clean Up (For the Messy Impaired, Otherwise Known as The Nearly Obsessive Compulsive)

Yeah, you can totally skip this step if you want to, but I couldn’t. I’m a neat-ish type person, so I needed to make sure my balcony garden looked tidy. By the time I was done potting, there was potting mix, water, and discarded potting containers everywhere. No bueno. A quick bit of clean up and, poof! My urban garden went from this:

Cleaning up!

Cleaning up!

To this:

So fresh and so clean!

So fresh and so clean!

6. Proper Care for Herbs:

One article I read said that potted plants should be watered daily, as opposed to other household plants which only need to be watered weekly. The trick is to find a good balance between over and under watering. If the potting mix in each pot is dry, you need to water generously. If the potting mix in each pot is damp, water just a tad. If the potting mix in each pot is soaking wet, don’t water. A little bit of water each day seems to do the trick. Make allowances in either direction (more or less water) based on how hot/wet/cold it is in your area.

As far as sunlight goes, hearty herbs (rosemary, thyme, chives, lavender) need lots of full sunlight each day, so make sure they are in a place where the sun shines on them directly much of the time. Softer herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro) still need a lot of sun, but could fry to death in the full heat of a summer’s day in a desert area like the one I live in. To keep them alive, I put them on the lower levels of my herb rack to make sure they still get sun, but that it is mostly indirect sunlight, as opposed to direct.

7. Harvesting the Herbs (Yum!):

Each herb wants to be harvested in its own special way. I’m no expert, but the research I’ve done breaks it down like this:

Basil:

To harvest basil, cut the leaves just above (not below) two sprouted leaves on a stem. This cut will then sprout off into a v-shape, producing two new leaves. This cutting system will ensure your plant just keeps on growin’. Be sure to leave the large leaves at the bottom alone, as they collect and transform sunlight into all the photosynthesy goodness that keeps the plant alive and thriving.

Our sweet basil harvest.

Our sweet basil harvest. And, yes, those tiny, helping hands are my favorite part of the entire shot!

Parsley:

The key to harvesting parsley is to harvest from the outside in. The leaves will continue to shoot up in the center and grow long, outward stems. Since the leaves are what are used in cooking, you want to cut the stems relatively close to the base of the plant to allow new stems to grow from the center outward.

One of my littles helping with the harvest.

Prettiest little parsley picker ever!

Thyme:

No special harvesting instructions here. We generally use the thyme leaves in cooking, so cutting your stems then removing the leaves is the most common way to use this herb. But thyme is also used in bouquet form in stews and soups, so feel free to tie them up, add them to your bouquet, and toss them when you’re done!

Rosemary:

Rosemary is a hearty herb that grows straight up. To harvest, cut a full stem close-ish to the base (leave about an inch or two still sticking out of the potting mix), and it will keep on a growin’ right where it left off. I gotta tell ya, this is one of my favorite herbs ever! Rosemary butter and rosemary baguettes are some of my favorite things on the planet!

7. Storing the Herbs:

Preparing my herbs for refrigeration.

Preparing my herbs for refrigeration.

Herbs can be refrigerated, frozen, and dried. It’s up to you how you’d like to use them. The picture above is what my herbs look like when I am going to be using them within a few days to a week from the time I cut them. I put them in labeled zip-lock bags and store them in a lower shelf in my refrigerator so they don’t freeze.

You can also wrap them tightly in saran wrap, making sure to gently squeeze out all the oxygen, and freeze them for 3-6 months (depending on the herb).

Finally, for long-term use, you can sun dry your herbs, or bake them in a medium-temperatured oven so that you can use them some time down the road.

I like to use them fresh, but, hey, it’s your plant, get the most out of it in ways that are best suited to your needs.

So that’s it! Combined, my start-up garden cost me less than $70, and I didn’t even go about it the most cost effective way. I’m sure you can find all of these supplies at thrift stores for significantly less than I did, and then you’d really be upping your savings game.

The point is: have fun, don’t give up, and enjoy the fruits (or herbs) of your labor!

A good lookin' bunch, if I do say so myself!

A good lookin’ bunch, if I do say so myself!

Until next time, my friends!

S. Taylor, The Taylor of all Trades