Cave to Cliff

One woman's journey from darkness to light



A Heart of Gratitude

It’s been nearly 6 years since I began my gratitude journal. You can read more about the start of that here. A woman I only knew as @delightingdays on Twitter had gifted me an amazon gift card so I could buy One Thousand Gifts. I now know her as Stacy Karen @delightfulhome. She likely has no idea of what an impact that small gift has made on my life.

Back in 2010 I was a single mom raising 4 kids on my own. Three of those kids have come to me through adoption. Day-to-day life was a battle. Every. Single. Day. I was alone and couldn’t figure out how I could better parent children with a background of trauma.

Depression was my constant companion. It lurked in the background, other days  I wore that thing like a robe. It was all worn out and comfortable to me. Shaking it off left me feeling empty.

I didn’t know it could be replaced with JOY. I had never known such a thing.

I knew there was something more. There had to be. Jesus didn’t come so that I could be trapped in my own mind. I didn’t know how to get out. Then I began to read A Holy Experience Blog by Ann Voskamp. She had begun the practice of listing 1000 for which she was thankful. Interesting concept. It certainly couldn’t hurt, right?

In One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are Ann points out in Luke 22:19 that Jesus broke bread and gave thanks before feeding the people.

In the original language, “he gave thanks” reads “eucharisteo.”

I underline it on the page. Can it lay a sure foundation under a life? Offer the fullest life?

The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace”. Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.

But there is more, and I read it. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Joy. Ah…yes. I might be needing me some of that. that might be what the quest for more is all about ` that which Augustine claimed, “Without exception…all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is, joy.”

There it was! Grace and Joy wrapped up as a gift in our giving Thanks.


This isn’t anything new to us, is it? God’s word tells us to pray always giving thanks. Paul is a great example to us. In each one of his letters he’d say that he gives thanks for them [the people he’s writing to]. It has been right there all this time. There is no secret to joy.

So, I sit down to write. Some days I forced gratitude until it began to pour out of me. It was like those old water pumps. You begin to pump and the water doesn’t come at first. Then suddenly there’s a deluge of water, overflowing your bucket.

Today I’m at number 1147. I don’t write every day, but it has become my habit to look at this life through the filter of gratitude.  I find that is most important for me to practice gratitude when I feel the world closing in on me. We can sit in a room full of people we love and still feel so alone.  Get out that gratitude journal and begin by counting the gifts you have right there.

My friend used to say, “Look at your hand. What’s there?”I thought it was silly at first. Then suddenly it was profound.

What can you be grateful for today? Running water, paid bills, new deck, chirping birds, electricity?


Today and yesterday I wrote:

1139. Joshua and Jessica’s wedding.
1140. Though today had some really tough spots, the day ended well. I count that as a victory.
1141. The migraine that threatened to overrule my day has quietly slipped away.
1142. Dinner was delicious – yay me!
1143. Kitchen is clean.
1144. All the laundry is done.
1145. Late night quiet moments to work and write.
1146. Early morning vineyard sunrise shooting with the love of my life.




photo by Darlene Taylor

Isaiah 61:4 – “And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.” In the margin of my bible I wrote on 8/8/04, “I feel like an old ruin.” It was only a couple of months after my marriage had ended. I remember feeling old and broken. Earlier in that chapter is where we’re told that the Lord has come to give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness We will be called the trees of righteousness so that the the Lord may be glorified. I have held on to those sort of verses for so long. In Matthew we’re told, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” I wondered where my comfort was. I thought “comforted” meant that my pain would just go away and I’d be happy.

Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” My margin says “wounds” is literally translated as “sorrows”.

Yes, please, I would like my sorrow bound up. 

Psalm 147 and several surrounding it are Psalms of praise. Psalms recounting what the Lord has done and can do and will do. Reminding our own souls to turn our faces to Him; to Praise Him in all things. ALL things? Seriously? What if I just lost my baby, job, or husband? What if I just TOTALLY freaked out on my kids? What if I already packed my entire house to find that we’re not moving? What if I lose my job or my arm?

There is something miraculous that happens when we choose praise and thanksgiving. There is a song that says, “When the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say ‘Blessed is the name of the Lord'”. I remember singing that song with tears streaming down my face.

It is a hard, impossible thing to choose blessing and praise when you’ve been ripped apart.

I have spent most of my life feeling a profound sadness. It’s different than when I’m having a rough day. It’s very familiar. When it comes upon me I feel just like I did as a little girl all alone in my room. I could hear my parents in the other room and I would cry. I would just feel so sad and didn’t know why. Then after my mom died I spent about 4 years crying myself to sleep. At some point I guess I decided to stop crying or feeling sad.

I can now say that I’ve moved so far past that. I don’t mind feeling sad. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. In fact, I think it can be a very good thing, I just don’t live there anymore.

I’m also able to feel greater joy.

Someone recently told me that my laugh is different. I don’t hear it, but I believe them. Someone yesterday told me my countenance had changed and my friend next to me nodded.

Thank you Jesus for miracles and healing.

Month of Thanks

No thanks. I’m not gonna post a thing a day via blog or FB of something I’m thankful for. I should. I’m just not up to the task, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t think about it. I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks now. Mostly, I’ve been thinking of things I used to do with Christopher to foster a grateful heart compared to what I currently do with my kids.

One year we made construction paper turkeys with multi-colored feathers. On each feather we wrote something he was thankful for. Other years we’ve done a tree of thanks where the leaves are the things we’re thankful for. I like that one the best.

Last December I wrote a post about the beginning of my 1000 Gifts. I read Ann’s book about a dare to live life FULLY right where I am. How does one do that? There’s no formula to it, my friends. We don’t have to sit around to talk about how to go about it. We just do it. We see, we hear, we feel, we live. Oh, and maybe we talk less.

This morning I talked to Christopher and Dusty about keeping our minds focused on God. We listen to music that draws us to Him. We speak words that bring glory to Him and honor one another. Mostly, we praise Him. I told them that we give thanks in ALL things.

I went upstairs and got to thinking.

Then I took out my gratitude journal and cringed when I realized that in the past 11 months I’ve only written down a little over 100 things to be thankful for. Really? That’s all? Have I not been seeing? Instead of praying for the things that I know God has already blessed me with I’m praying that my eyes would be opened to see Him. While I’ll let Him do the work of opening my eyes, I’ll turn my eyes to Him.

Sometimes when I’m feeling scared due to financial challenges I’ll remind myself of all the ways God has provided for me before. I remember best the ones that I have written down somewhere. I tell people about them and see the wonder in their eyes and remember that our God is a wondrous God; that He loves giving good gifts. Part of me quits asking because I know He’ll provide for me. Part of me quits asking because I’m tired of being the most high maintenance person in the world. I’m always needing or wanting something! Then, another part of me asks because if I don’t, I’ll never know and it’s not just me I’m asking for anymore. It’s my children and the people around me.

Ok, so maybe I will be writing down something I’m thankful for each day. I’ll search for it and wait expectantly for the next gift to come along. I love the simple ones the best.  Like the color of the dark grey sky against the yellowing field when the late afternoon golden sun peeks out for only a moment.

Deep Thoughts

Well, I’m not sure that they’re all that deep. I just find titles intimidating. I wonder if I’ve used one too many times and that everyone is aware of that fact except me.

Several Mondays have passed & I have forgotten to post my gratitude list. I ended on #27; I’m currently at #66. I won’t list all of those. I’ll just highlight some.

  • Friends so generously buying my glasses.
  • The round belly of a friend nurturing the life within her.
  • The hair, the toes, the tiny fingers of the newborn.
  • The joy & tenderness of new parents.
  • The gift of being able to witness the beginning days of parenthood.
  • The dark grey sky against the green of the field when the clouds part for only a moment to let the sun shine through.
  • Clean sheets.
  • Warm fires in a cold lodge.
  • The fact that God never tires of pursuing me.
  • Being carsick & not tossing my cookies in a bus load of people.
  • Free tire replacement.
  • Sage taking his discipline really well.
  • Danielle & Nichole- my new LTG girls.
  • Encouragement to display my photography in the art walk.
  • Photography job right when I need the  money.
  • God’s daily grace given so freely.

holy experience

Full Days

Yesterday was a really hard day. I wrote about some of my struggles on my photography blog. We have a lot of rough days here in the Taylor Tribe; many of them end up with me totally annoyed & putting my kids to bed early just to get them out of my hair. Then I spend time dealing with the frustration by eating, watching too much tv online, or some other form of self-destruction. That was not the case yesterday and I am so very thankful.

I know why yesterday was different. It’s because of Him; the One who promises to hear us when we call. He delivers us. He has plans for good & not for evil. You know what else? The Bible says that Jesus was tempted, too. The awesome thing is that we are always provided with a way out. A choice.

I was able to get up early yesterday for Bible & prayer time. I had recently told a friend that I don’t struggle in certain areas when I am in the Word. It’s harder to sin while He is in my head. The struggle is different. It’s not ever “should I or shouldn’t I”, but rather, “I won’t. He loves me so much.” I’m not perfect & I sin a lot. I tend to think I sin more than others. I’m constantly asking the Lord to burn away anything that is not of Him. I want nothing more than to honor Him in all I do.

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. Crazy, eh? It wasn’t my idea. It isn’t unusual that I wake up during the night, but it is unusual for me to NOT fall back to sleep while praying when this happens. After a little while of prayer and realizing I was not going back to sleep I just decided to get up. Half my Bible reading is done and I’ve written in my journal. I am tired again, but it is almost time to wake the kids for the day. I can’t believe it is Friday already. Crazy, eh?

I just said, “Crazy, eh?” twice in the same paragraph.

When I started writing this blog entry, I had so much to say. Now my brain is turning to mush.

I’m hungry & tired. It’s only 6:30 a.m.

Here’s to a productive day!!!


For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to belong somewhere. I have always felt different. Sort of like I’m standing just outside of the circle. I’m not quite included. I always imagine that the group in that circle will just move on and if I don’t keep up I’ll be left behind because I’m not actually in the group. I just stand around with them.

I think this is why I liked being school clubs. I knew I belonged there. We were all actors. We all built sets, hung lights, did the make up, and mended costumes. Well, I didn’t mend costumes and I kept my feet firmly planted on the ground, but I helped with those things. We were like family for that short time.

Youth group. I LOVED youth group. It also helps that I spent all my time with the youth group leaders, Ralph & Teresa. Ralph taught me how to drive, geometry, and other stuff. Teresa taught me how to make chicken & dumpings, introduced me to Cinnabon, and made me laugh so hard I’d thought I’d pee my pants. Oh my, just thinking about the toy store in the outlet mall in Lincoln City makes me start to laugh even now. She also showed me that I can still be loved even when walking in complete disobedience. She loved me in my rebellion and rejoiced when I, the prodigal, came back home.

I did feel like I belonged when I first became a Christian. I went to church and youth group. I did feel like we were family. Although, I didn’t understand why those pesky boys were always teasing me. I didn’t grow up with siblings in the home and I didn’t have a brother, so I didn’t understand that kind of teasing. I have to say, I miss those guys. Mostly.

For the first time since I grew up and left that church I am beginning to wonder if I can belong again. Yesterday at church I heard things that stirred me. I’ve heard things before. I even wrote them in my journal last year, but nothing changed. This time, though…this time, it felt like change. When Jim was talking about how the church has been a church of transition for the past 10  years I realized that I have felt like that, too. Like I am just here for a short time. When I was first married we moved about 7 times in a year and a half. I’ve been in this house for 5 years, but it was never meant to last this long. 12 moves total in 10 years. That’s a lot for this girl who lived in the same house her entire life. We moved in here with the expectation that we’d move on in 2 years. I kept going to my church in Mac. I kept up with all my Mac activities and friends. I didn’t intend on becoming part of this Sheridan. I wanted to be in Mac. I didn’t even unpack all the way because I was moving on.  My friend, Tim, would ask me every week if I knew the names of cashiers or my neighbors. He’d ask what I was doing to build the Kingdom here in Sheridan? I’d laugh and tell him that I’m not going to connect here because I never wanted to be here. We’re on a 7 year balloon payment because this was so temporary. Now I know I’ll have to move on unless a miracle happens.

Yesterday I realized that we never know for sure how long we’ll be somewhere. None of us do. I decided that where ever I am, I want to be completely there.

Now, I just have to figure out what that means for my family and me.

1000 gifts


Friends who trust me. I feel so unworthy of such trust.
Purple painted fingernails.
A dog that loves me.
The cleansing power of lemons and sugar. My skin is so soft today.
Good music.
Church yesterday. Jim’s first day as Pastor.
Children who desire to bless and please me.
Children who play pretend and call it, “being in skits with each other”.



holy experience


Continuing Gifts

12.  $100 cash gift from friends at church. Used for gas, gifts for kids, and a movie ticket.
13.  M&J. Scarves and gift cards for each of us. The 3 younger kids used their gift cards to buy gifts for one another while Christopher traded his for cash to buy pants at Ross. (Much needed pants, by the way.) I used mine on household stuff and food, of course.
14.  Had a $10 off coupon for Fashion Bug where they were having a sale on socks. I bought 8 pair of really nice socks for just over $12. 4 of those pair are knee highs!
15. Received another $100 cash gift! Might use that one for a membership that will get us into several museums such as OMSI and Evergreen.
16. The kids’ auntie and uncle gave them tickets to go see Narnia. We went on Christmas day.
17. We’ll be spending 4 days & 3 nights out at 5 Rock Ranch.
18. One dozen El Salvadorean tamales. I ate 1/3 of of them all on my own, but not all at once.
19. This one is more difficult for me, but we were given a food basket. It came with a HUGE bag of white turnips. Not really sure what to do with them.

The Beginning of 1000

Ann over at A Holy Experience began to look at the gifts around her that God has given her. She decided to write them down. It changed her. I want that change, too. A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my child about her ungrateful heart. It actually hurt me; I was so saddened by her attitude. As I was thinking about it later I realized that I am not a grateful person. I am not quick to express my thanks.

I want children who are grateful. I want my children to see how good God is. I realize that change must start with me. Not only with me, but in me.

So, a week ago I began to write down the things I’m grateful for. I’d like to write down at least one small thing a day.

1. Richard, my pastor. For his father’s heart toward me. He speaks truth and life to me. He knows my sin and loves me anyway.
2. The Oregon Rain- My soul has felt like a dried up river bed. Dead and cracked. His grace is like rain.
3. Laughter and silliness that us grown ups can exhibit. It makes the hard things easier.
4. Bop It! Only my 2 best friends and Jesus knew I wanted to get this game for my family. One of my kids got it as a gift from people who don’t know us.
5. Stormy, blustery  nights. It reminds me of the little shack I grew up in. You could feel the wind blow through the wall of my room and the rain would pour down one of my walls.
6. The Christmas tree. My kids wanted one, I didn’t have money for one. Some inmates at the local prison had heard we didn’t have a tree and they made it happen.
7. My warrior friend. She is a true warrior. She confirms and encourages me in my Mommyhood and battling for the souls of my children.
8. My sweet daughter Ireland brought me a letter of apology today after she had a bad attitude and yelled at me. I didn’t hear her yell at me. He repentant heart and my heart was tender toward her showed me a glimpse of what God must feel when we come to him in repentance.
9. Sage’s ears. He has the biggest, floppies, and most fun ears to play with!
10. Christopher’s leaps are amazing this year. I remember when I would worry about him not being able to leap. His leaps in the Nutcracker were amazing this year. (Pictures will be up soon.)
11. My friend who gifted me with some money to go towards gifting my children.

holy experience

Livin’ it Up!

I am really enjoying my life right now. Seriously. Life is good. I sleep during normal sleeping hours now. It’s not nearly enough, but I’m getting there. I cook AND do the dishes that same day. I’m not falling asleep while driving. I don’t feel like I’m drowning in the depths of despair.

New Year’s Eve was my last night of work. I had given my notice 3 weeks earlier.

God is so good, isn’t He? The job was there when I needed it. I wrote a blog about how it all worked out in the beginning. It was this blog that prompted a friend to prayer that eventually led to my being able to quit. You see, my friend read the blog and thought it would be better for me to stay home with the kids. I agree. My friend asked God for money to give to me every  month. Guess what God did? Yep, He did it. I didn’t quit right away because I was scared. Why would I be scared when God was showing me His faithfulness? I don’t know, but I do know that I was behind in bills and my kids needed clothes that actually fit them. Well, and maybe there was pride in there as well. I didn’t want to be that needy single mom that just sat around raising her kids and expecting everyone else to take care of her. Have you ever known one of those? I have and it’s not pretty. I don’t want to be like that.

Three months pass. I’m stressed. I cry a lot. I yell a lot. I sleep a little. I don’t do a good job parenting my children. The same children that now go to public school and see their birth mom there. The same children who need me to be safe and strong for them. Life becomes so hard at home. Crying kids. Yelling kids. Mean kids. We’re all angry. I can’t get my college work done. Oh, and I did get the swine flu, too. That was horribly painful, but at least I was able to rest. Did I mention that I cried a lot? I felt so alone. I didn’t get to see any of my friends. My kids didn’t get to have other adults around because I was so tired. Oh, and we won’t even talk about how bad of a diet we all ate. The kids loved that part, though.

I finally decide to quit. Just to make sure, though, I call a good friend. He reminds where the provision really comes from. Jehovah Jireh. He also reminded me of the importance of being a woman of faith over being a hard-working single mom. Thanks, friend.

I think I needed those months of work to show me that I truly can’t do it all. I needed it to teach me the value of time and sleep. Oh lovely sleep, how I’ve missed you. I feel like I’m back to the land of the living.

Here’s the super exciting thing! I’ll get back to taking pictures. I was so tired before. I couldn’t muster the energy. Not only will I enjoy taking pictures again, but I’m also taking a photography class. The instructor is Susan Ragan. She was a photographer for the Associated Press for decades! She is a real photographer. Check out her gallery. I look forward to learning from her. The other night she asked if I took the photography class for an easy A, as she thought I was too advanced for the class. I told her that I knew who she is and I know I have much to learn. I look forward to spending time with her. She actually lives here in Sheridan.

I have an appointment with a doctor to go over the findings of my last appointment. I’m having a ton of digestive issues that makes life quite miserable at times. It also messes with my sleep. I also met with a personal trainer down at the local gym; I’ll be meeting with her again next week.

I also have a new family member. Her name is Ginger. She’s 3 months old. She’s a tri-color border collie. Well, she’s 3/4 border collie and 1/4 rottweiler. Oh, and she’s adorable. I’ll post a picture as soon as I get a good one of her.

I must leave this lovely blog and move on to editing wedding photos and prepare for a wedding reception tomorrow.

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