Daniel Detox – Day 3 of 10. Craving SNACKS!

Yesterday I posted about having some soreness in my knees and fingers. I felt it in my spine, too, and was pretty sore by the time I got into bed last night. I woke up with most of the soreness and all of the stiffness gone! I feel great, actually. My husband and I talked about how we both feel lighter. He said he felt he’d lost a couple of pounds already, and that’s when he said, “I probably should have weighed before we started this.”

What?? Oh well. He’s already a lean guy … I’m sure he’ll be pleased with whatever the results are.

I personally feel lighter, and not icky at all. Instead of feeling like I have sludge working through my veins like I did around the holidays from all the rich foods, I feel … just … healthier. It’s weird. But I like it.

The biggest hangup for today is craving sweet snacks … I mean, we’ve only gone three days without sweets. How are we craving them so badly? It’s not like we gobble candy every single day … we probably only have a sweet treat every few days, anyway. I guess it’s just a matter of craving what you can’t have.

We’re seeing sweets everywhere, in everything.

We went to church this morning, and I skipped on my usual coffee from the little machine in the foyer. I usually add sugar and cream as a treat … normally I put stevia and half-and-half in my coffee to cut down on the sugar. It didn’t take much willpower to ignore it altogether, because I was in a rush to get to the 4th grade classroom where I was asked to be a sub at the last minute for their sick teacher. Wouldn’t you know … the lesson was about Saul, who encountered Jesus on his way to Damascus, and he was blinded. We learned that Damascus is the capital of Syria, and a typical Syrian food is pita bread and hummus. The kids were given a snack of pita chips, the cinnamon and sugar kind. CINNAMON AND SUGAR, y’all. Then when the lesson was over, the kids got a single item from the treasure box … every one of them except my own son picked a piece of candy. One girl even held hers up and said, “These two are stuck together … can I just have both?” They were jolly ranchers. My mouth watered. I had to swallow twice before answering with a weak yes.

When my husband and I picked up our younger son from his class, he ran up to Kris with a half-eaten doughnut and said, “Here! Hold this! I’ll finish it in a minute!” Kris gave me the side-eye, clenched his jaws and flared his nostrils. Obviously, he really wanted to stuff the thing into his mouth right then and there.

After church, my mother-in-law took the kids to Jack’s while Kris and I headed home to cook lunch. We had fun in the kitchen together, following recipes and making some lemon herb chicken breast with herb roasted baby potatoes and cauliflower. While it cooked, we turned on the XBOX One, like all good, mature parents, and played our sons’ Lego Worlds game. And like all good, mature parents, we continued to play even after our kids got home. They were in agony for a good twenty minutes watching us play their game.

I took a nice, long nap like I often do on Sunday afternoons, and woke up with a craving.

Reese’s Christmas Trees.

I came into the living room and announced to Kris that I had to have some Christmas Trees. Or else I would die. He snarled at me for throwing the wrapper to a Reese’s Christmas Tree in the bathroom trash can, where it just sat on top of the tossed tissues, taunting him.

“Did you notice that we still have a bag of Hershey’s kisses on the top of the fridge?” Kris said. ” I could really use some chocolate too right now … Can I not have ice cream?”

No. We vowed not to cave. Just a few more days … we can make it.

He chewed on some peanuts and swallowed them with resentment. I fixed myself a kale salad (which is quite tasty … but didn’t satisfy like chocolate).

We did discuss what our first “treat” would be after the 10 days. His pick is ice cream, and mine is a cup of coffee with cream and sugar. We talked about limiting treats like that to twice per week from now on, that way it stays in moderation where it belongs.

After the boys went to bed, Kris and I continued our good, mature parenting and turned Lego Worlds back on. Wouldn’t you know … at the start of the game, it dropped my character right in the middle of a decadent Candy Land, with massive lollipops, overturned ice cream cones, mountains of whipped cream and rivers of pink liquid. There were gingerbread houses thick with icing on top, and gingerbread men running around with pies in their hands. There were even chocolate hills.

I ran out of the Candy Land, mouth watering, and into a murky swamp.

Tomorrow is our first day back to school, and I can’t wait. I feel fresh and energized. Which leads me to mention two more unexpected things:

One, I’ve had an abundance of energy. Every single diet, and I mean every single one, resulted in massive brain fog, severe fatigue, and deep, annoying hunger. I homeschool my kids, y’all. The LAST thing I need is brain fog and fatigue. That’s a big reason why every diet attempt I’ve made for the last several months have resulted in a big fat failure. I absolutely will not sacrifice my own mental clarity and energy levels, which ultimately sabotages a good school day for us. This has been different, though. I haven’t had a single bit of brain fog. I joke about craving sweets, but otherwise haven’t been ravenously hungry like before. Every diet attempt before resulted in me heading straight to the kitchen and bingeing for an hour just to make the brain fog and fatigue stop. I haven’t felt compelled to do that a single time.

Two, I’ve kept a cleaner kitchen. I know this sounds crazy, but for some reason, all this extra effort I’ve put into cooking nutritious stuff has also led to disciplined kitchen-duty on my part. All the chopping and cooking leads to a massive amount of dirty dishes, so I’ve been running two loads of dishes per day. Oddly, it hasn’t been daunting. On the contrary, I’ve somehow kept a cleaner kitchen as a result.

I can’t wait to see what Day 4 brings, and I especially can’t wait to see whether or not I get that 2:00 post-school droop in energy.

Daniel Detox – Day 2 of 10: What I Did Not Expect

We made it to day 2 of our Daniel Detox. My hunky husband is struggling … he just walked to the cabinet looking for a snack, grabbed a jar of peanut butter and murmured, “What? Peanut butter has sugar?” He shoved it back onto the shelf and picked up the jar of Nutella. “This has sugar too? Geez.” He slammed the cabinet closed and walked away with some dry roasted peanuts, looking very disappointed. He mentioned earlier today that he could really use a bowl of ice cream, then groaned in agony when our son walked into the living room with a package of Oreos.

I just laughed. He rolled his eyes and said in a mocking tone, “‘Do the detox with me’, she said. ‘It’ll be great!’ she said.”

With all his joking around aside, I’m grateful. It’s really been fun to have someone do something like this with me … he cares enough about my health frustrations and believes in me so much that he’s not only cheering me on, but participating with me.

I didn’t feel the loss of sweets until I was cleaning up our bedroom and found this hiding on the floor in a corner …

Y’all don’t understand … these things are my WEAKNESS. They are chocolate-covered temptations in a deceptive little wrapper. I totally stole three of them … THREE … from my children after gifting it to them in their stocking. And that was AFTER I’d already eaten my own share.

Anyways …

It was nothing but leftovers today … steak fajitas marinated in lava for lunch. It was just as hot as it was yesterday! Lettuce wraps for dinner. I don’t recall ever intentionally trying kale before, so I made a kale salad with fresh dressing, a recipe I found in The Daniel Plan Cookbook. I took one bite and nearly dropped the bowl … it was divine. Incredible. Mouth-watering. I asked Kris to try some, and he had to swallow fast before he spit it out. To him, it was awful. He’s also not ventured very far from the classic Caesar or Ranch salads. But hey, at least he eats salads!

Two things I didn’t expect: One, I woke up this morning with sore joints. My fingers, spine and knees to be specific. When I’ve had a gluten exposure, the inflammation makes my joints swell up within hours, and it lasts for many more hours, but I usually feel it in my fingers and hips (oddly) more than anything else (the other symptom being that it feels like I’m digesting shards of glass through my intestines). This feels different … almost like a sensation of retaining water or something. I’ve been drinking a TON (trust me, I’ve been tracking it in my handy-dandy Wellness Planer I got from Aldi for $7, cha-ching!).

This is the photo I took and sent to my sister when I bought the planner, on a VERY rainy day. 😀

I read that it’s a normal symptom of detoxing. So … maybe it’ll be better tomorrow. I’m just going to keep drankin’ and eating amazing foods!

Two, I don’t hate all the food prepping and cooking. Anyone who knows me, knows that cooking is a chore to me. It’s just one more thing I need to take care of in the day. That inevitable 5:00 pm question of “What’s for dinner?” makes me need to take slow, deep breaths because my answer is usually, “I haven’t even thought about it.” Even when I’m on top of meal planning, it’s still something I dread. I don’t even know why.

My husband can get into the kitchen and spend an hour cooking an incredible meal from scratch and enjoys every bit of the chopping and sauteing. I, on the other hand, feel irritated as I pop a jar of spaghetti sauce and dump in into a pan.

This has been different, though. I’ve so very much enjoyed the freshness, the colors and textures. So far, every meal has been worth every minute, and every ounce of energy. It’s so satisfying to know that the meal that’s being served is a healthy one.

Because I’d already knocked 0ut caffeine from my daily routine, the lack of it hasn’t been a problem … but I do very much miss the taste of coffee. After Day 10, the first thing I plan to do is sip and savor a glorious cup of joe.

I’m going to bed now to rest my sore knees. See ya tomorrow on Day 3.

Daniel Detox – Day 1 of 10. I think I got it wrong …

Day 1 of 10 for the Detox part of the Daniel Plan that I’m taking on!

In a recent post called What the Weight? I talked about how I’ve gained nearly 10 pounds in the last month or two. I worked so hard … or THOUGHT I was working hard … to lose weight for two years. I start an exercise program, burn out, and quit. I start an eating plan, see no changes whatsoever, then quit. Or I flat out FORGET that I’m on a diet, and crash it. Or I get rebellious against it, raise my fist to the sky, and declare “Down with deprivation!” around a mouthful of chocolate.

The 10-pound gain was frustrating because it takes forever to just drop a couple of pounds … then this happens in such a short amount of time.

Honestly, it freaked me out.

Because I’m a Bible gal, I decided to see what the Bible says about physical health. I mean, we search it for every other bit of wisdom … can we not use it for the wisdom of our physical well-being? Of course, the first “health” story that popped up was the one about Daniel.

The book of Daniel was written by Daniel himself to the exiled Jews of that day. When Babylon had been taken over by a pagan king, the king had several of the best-looking locals brought into his kingdom to be brainwashed and tasked to serve the palace. Daniel and his three friends were among them. When the king brought to them rich foods that are meant to be indulged in worship of their false gods, Daniel refused, and asked that he not be forced to defile his body. To prove his point, he asked to be fed only vegetables and water, and to be tested against the others after 10 days. When the 10 days were over, Daniel was found to be “fatter” (which just meant “healthier” back then) and in better shape mentally and physically than the others.

This has inspired a whole slew of Daniel-inspired diet plans and fasts, including The Daniel Plan by well-known pastor Rick Warren. I made a trek to the library and borrowed the book and read it cover-to-cover.

I was thoroughly confused.

Apparently, the Daniel Plan has two parts … the Detox and the actual Plan. As I read the book I kept waiting for it to explain exactly what the difference is … and it was pretty vague. The chapter dedicated to the Detox only says simply to avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar and sweeteners in all forms, dairy in all forms, stimulants and sedatives (think alcohol and caffeine), processed/fast foods, and gluten in all forms.

I had assumed that it would mean a completely vegan diet for 10 days … because Daniel literally only ate vegetables and water. But when I read through the suggested Detox menu, i saw things like lamb, ground turkey, chicken and fish.

Wha … what??

So I guess it’s called The Daniel Plan because it is simply inspired by wholesome eating, avoiding the rich, unhealthy, fattening foods around you, just as Daniel did.

In a way.

Whatever. I decided to give it a go. After all, I had also borrowed a copy of The Daniel Plan Cookbook and the recipes looked incredible … and GET THIS. I even talked my husband into doing the 10-day detox with me!! He’s never done anything like this before. Never dieted. He’s never struggled with weight. He’s lean and naturally athletic. He eats ice cream and M&M’s nearly every night before bed and never. gains. a. pound. He does have pretty horrific acid reflux due to an apparently useless esophageal sphincter that he’s had since birth. He thought it would be a good idea to do the detox with me and maybe it’ll help pinpoint what makes his reflux flare.

photo by Heather Ford

So. On Day One … we bailed.

I had made too many plans for the day and hadn’t had a chance to compile a grocery list based on the food items I’d planned. In The Daniel Plan book, the recipes had a “D” next to the meals that were detox-friendly. In the cookbook, it was amazing to see a GF or a DF in most of the menu items. I chose all GF (which means Gluten-Free, as I have a gluten intolerance) and DF items (which I thought meant Daniel Fast). When I finally made my list, I headed to the grocery store and had a blast. Most of the items were found at Aldi, and I filled in the remaining ones from Wal-Mart and Publix (because apparently Publix is the ONLY place around here that has gluten-free soy sauce now … ugh.)

On New Day One, I talked over the menu plan with my husband. Then it suddenly dawned on me. DF doesn’t mean Daniel Fast … it means Dairy Free.

So now I had all these groceries, all these meals planned … and I wasn’t even sure I’d planned the Detox correctly. WHAT IN THE WORLD.

I quickly went back through every single recipe and realized that they all seem to be compatible to the Detox except for one that called for raw honey … so, Day One was still a go.

We decided to tackle a really labor-intensive meal for lunch on Day One. We were pretty hungry, because we’d both skipped breakfast. We decided on a recipe called Kicking and Screaming Steak Fajitas. It called for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I didn’t recall ever having eaten chipotle before, so this should be interesting. And this should be EXCELLENT for acid reflux, hee hee.

My sinuses caught on fire as I made the marinate mixture, and after a while, my husband wandered into the kitchen (prompted by his growling stomach) and began helping me. While cooking the meat, we both were wiping our watering eyes and laughed at how bloodshot they were. We sat down and took the first bite …

And we both went scrambling for our glasses of water, coughing into it as we gulped. We wiped our eyes, being careful not to get the lava into our eyeballs, laughed and said, “Wow, that’s really good.” We ate some more.

It was incredible. Amazing. Delicious. Filling. We had enough for two more meals when we were finished! Amazingly, it didn’t trigger Kris’s acid reflux at all … not in the least. For dinner that night we had lettuce wraps which were excellent. Decadent. Satisfying.

Oh man, I could eat like this every day.

Wait a minute … I am!!! For ten whole days!! Wow … this 10-day detox is going to be really, really great.

Quitting Social Media … Again

I just did it.

I just deactivated my social media accounts and deleted the apps. Again.

I’ve done it before and talked about it this post, where I shared about how a 3-week social media fast turned into 6, and it restored peace into my life.

When I activated my accounts again, I kept the social media at arm’s length, until recently. In my overwhelm from the holidays, I found myself scrolling through newsfeeds, wasting time that could have been better invested. It made me question why I went back to social media at all.

I had no answer for that.

photo by NeONBRAND

It still doesn’t add any enrichment to my life. Although I enjoyed seeing my friends’ Christmas posts and pictures, it wasn’t anything they couldn’t have told me about in person.

The one and only reason I had been keeping it for the past few weeks is because … How will I be able to tell people about the podcast without postimg about the new episodes? The number of plays were quadrupled when posted on social media, vs. when they aren’t.

I still can’t justify it.

There has to be another way to spread the word about the podcast without it sucking the joy out of me.

For many people social media is a pleasure outlet. Something they enjoy. For me, it becomes a Focus Leech. And trust me when I say, I need every brain cell working in my favor right now. 😆

Here’s to discarding old habits, and taking on fresh new ones!

What the Weight?

Stress.

Everyone has it.

Nobody wants it.

Unfortunately, my typical reaction to stress is to go to the kitchen and bite something. I have a bad habit of clenching my jaws and grinding my teeth (according to my dentist), so maybe stress manifests in my jaws and makes me want to sink my teeth into something.

The undesirable side effect has been a few extra inches clinging to my hips and thighs that refuse to pack into my jeans.

It was frustrating, until I stepped on the scale to get real with myself. That’s when it went from frustrating to jaw-dropping.

It took me YEARS after Caleb was born to get the baby weight off, and in a two-week time span, it has all come rushing back. What the weight??

Diets don’t work for me, y’all. I start feeling rebellious against whatever food/calorie deprivation is involved in the diet before I’ve even completed the first week. I find myself saying one or all of the following:

  1. I cannot go on like this for another day … this brain fog … this grumpiness … I’m. So. HANGRY!
  2. Um … I didn’t realize low-carb meant giving up mashed potatoes. Nope, nope, nope, and all the nopes in Nopeland!
  3. Why am I so hungry. Why must my body insist on being hungry. I’m so hungry it’s all I can think about. Hungry, hungry, hungry, hungry …
  4. This isn’t life! Life is supposed to be enjoyed, not survived! I am barely surviving! I give up! Right now, I choose to enjoy my life, not torture myself! I choose JOY! I choose JOY! (I continue to chant this with every slurp of ice cream)
  5. Who are you, diet, to tell me what I can and can’t eat? *shovels chocolate into my mouth* Take THAT! *swallows a chunk of cheese the size of my fist and chases it with sweet tea* Take THAT! And THAT!
photo by Claudiu Hegedus

Then, inevitably, Monday rolls around, as it insists on doing every week. I feel all barfy and bloaty from all the bad foods, not to mention the volume. I’m pretty sure I have a couple of fresh, shiny breakouts from the toxicity coursing through my veins. I vow to get my life in control. I hop onto the interwebs and research “food plans” and “eating lifestyles” (you know, because denying that you’re on a diet and relabeling it works every time, right?…) I get sucked into before-and-after pictures that I come across. I suddenly remember the “before” pictures I took a year ago and go back to check my weight stats. I’m disheartened to realize I’m in the exact same place I was then.

But no more. No more!, I tell myself. I shall not cave to the sweets. I raise a shaky fist into the air and shout, “I’ll never eat chocolate again!” All while the Diet Devil retreats into the shadows, wringing his hands and laughing that creepy, breathy laugh that sounds like Bozo the Clown has been smoking for 40 years.

That’s where I am today … which isn’t Monday … but still. I called my husband and unintentionally picked a fight with him because I was frustrated that it was so hard to make time to workout. And then I did what every good little nerd does when they’re stuck …

I picked up a few volumes of light reading and began to research nutrition.

I came across something interesting … something that took on new meaning in light of my current nutritional frustrations. I read about Daniel in the Bible requesting permission from the king to abstain from the rich, royal foods that were given to himself and several other young men, and instead chose to eat only vegetables and water for a 10-day period. After the 10 days, he was tested against the other young men and proved to be in better health. He was then allowed to continue eating that way.

I thought, “Now THAT’S how to honor God with your body.”

It took a single Google search to realize that Daniel’s way of eating during that time has inspired a whole slew of religious weight loss books. I had heard of the “Daniel Fast” but because it contained the word “fast” I just assumed it was some version of intermittent fasting or something.

What was impressive to me about Daniel is that he risked getting in serious trouble with the king to honor God with his body, but glorifying God was that important to him. It should be that way for all of us, in all areas of our lives.

For that reason, I’m looking at “dieting” in a way I never have before. Instead of making sad, flimsy attempts to lose weight, I’m going to make the decision to honor God with what I eat and with how I exercise. It’s something that has never occurred to me before.

And I might just start with a 10-day Daniel challenge.

My Friend Gave Me the Gift of a Housekeeper, but It Was So Much More

In my last post, I told you all about how my friend sent me a housekeeper last week. My husband had been working out of town for nearly 4 1/2 months, and I was overwhelmed by the mess.

Ironically, I love to organize. I love cleaning an organized space.

But if the space is cluttered, I can’t stand to look at it, much less clean it.

I had several bins of clutter sitting in my dining room from where I’d tried to condense the mess so that the housekeeper would have room to work her magic, and wow. What magic she did work.

My floors gleamed. My countertops were pristine. My dishes were washed (which she doesn’t usually do, but did it for me, which blessed me tremendously). Even the AIR smelled like it had been scrubbed to a shine.

I called my mom to gush about the housekeeper’s magic, and about how I felt fresh, fun inspiration to organize, which was the opposite of literally days ago, when I felt like my lungs were squeezed of all its oxygen.

While I yammered on and on about it (my mom is such a great listener), I told her about how the clutter being condensed to baskets and bins made the task so much simpler and easier. That’s when I announced to her that I’d like to try scrubbing my house the way the housekeeper had done … all in one go. If she can do it in two hours in an unfamiliar home, surely I could do it in the same amount of time, once per week, preferably on a Saturday morning (I don’t know why, but when I wake up on Saturday mornings, I am in a powerful cleaning mood).

That’s when I suddenly gasped into the phone like air had just been restored to a drowning body.

In that moment I was suddenly taken back to when the housekeeper had first arrived at my house. She asked me what my “goals” were for her. I spilled to her about how I used to enjoy cleaning, back when I lived by myself. I just couldn’t figure out why I hated it so much now. It changed when I got married, and the space was then shared with another person. It felt like the tasks quadrupled, and I couldn’t figure out why the joy of cleaning had been zapped from my routine. Where was the breakdown? Someone who I love more than anyone else in this world was sharing my life now … so why was it so harder?

I was still sucking air into the phone at this point.

Saying all of this out loud made me realize that this “new” way of cleaning, is actually my OLD way of cleaning, back when I used to actually enjoy it. During the week, I would clean by gathering the clutter into a pile, then putting the pile away. Then Saturday mornings I would get up, play music, and scrub each room clean. It was like a ceremony of love for the space in which I lived. To me, cleaning was a show of gratitude for my home. I specifically remember being on my knees in my bathroom, scrubbing the floors with a sponge because I hated using a mop. I placed my rubber-glove-clad hand on the wall and thanked God for my home, as if the home were an actual member of my family.

When I finished sucking air into the phone and freaking my mom out because she thought something terrible had suddenly happened, I began to shout this revelation to her.

See, when my husband moved into my apartment after we got married, it wasn’t just the space we shared. It was also the systems and routines and responsibilities. He used a mop like most other people do. His method of doing laundry was different. His way of putting away clutter was the opposite of mine. Because the systems clashed, one had to give. So I gave. I changed the way I folded laundry (do you guys realize how hard it is to force yourself to fold laundry differently??). I changed my routine to the way he did things, and because he was a naturally neat person, there was no way that his way could fail.

But it did.

By taking on someone else’s way of cleaning, my system broke down and disintegrated. I no longer enjoyed it. I quickly grew into resenting it. For eleven years of marriage now, I’ve outright hated housework.

Normal couples argue about money, or something big like that. But most of our arguments began about housework.

I saw it as the bane of my existence. When housework would pile up to epic proportions, my husband would jump up and clean house for me to relieve my overwhelm. Although I appreciated what he did, he had NO WAY of knowing that it was something I used to enjoy, and wanted to enjoy again. Having it done for me, however, made me feel even more robbed. This made him feel unappreciated, naturally, which led to resentment coming from both sides. A messy house robbed my husband of feeling peace in the space where he lived. Housework was a needle that constantly jabbed me and threaded stress into my marriage. When we had kids, housework kept me from spending more time with my kids. It kept me from having more time to write. It kept me from watching my favorite TV shows, or hiking, or <insert everything I’ve ever loved here>.

Now, here’s the great irony of all: I blamed housework for being the thing that got between me and everyone/everything I loved, when really, I had just forgotten how to enjoy the work itself.

The words that I shouted into the phone at my mom went something like this: “THAT’S HOW I USED TO DO THINGS! WAY BACK IN THE DAY WHEN I USED TO LOVE IT! COLLECT CLUTTER INTO A PILE TO PUT IT AWAY, AND SAVED THE SCRUBBING FOR SATURDAY MORNINGS! IT’S WHAT I USED TO DO! THIS ISN’T A NEW METHOD THAT I’VE DECIDED TO TRY … IT’S MY OLD WAY OF DOING THINGS! WHY DID I EVER CHANGE??”

My mom just laughed at me, and said she always knew I was a natural organizer, and that I’d always organized with pleasure since childhood.

For nearly a week now, I’ve gotten this house into order, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. All because I decided to do it simply the WAY I DO IT.

That seems to be the story of my life … I know I’m an odd person, and the way I do things isn’t conventional. But as soon as someone tells me I’m doing it wrong, I assume the “right” way must be better, so I change the way I do things, so that I can do them the “right” way. This goes for not only housework, but also exercise, dieting, writing, blogging.

It dawned on me that I created my own way of homeschooling, and it works perfectly, with no sign of burnout, and it’s my way. Not anyone else’s way.

With my new Podcast, The Simple Word, I’m doing things my way, not the way anyone else suggested.

With blogging, I’ve only just recently gone back to the way I like to do things, after YEARS of losing my love for blogging once I switched to doing things the way the experts recommended.

Even unloading the dishwasher … I HATE unloading the dishwasher because I hate pulling out each dish, trying to avoid knocking my chins against the open dishwasher door as I go put that item up, then go back and do the same. I hate it. Hate. It. But not anymore … Just this week I’ve given myself permission to unload that dang dishwasher the way I like to do it, which is taking out every single item, dabbing any extra drops of water with a towel, and stacking it on the counter in categories. Sorting is an unusual source of peace for me that I can’t explain. Then I close the dishwasher when it’s empty, and easily put away every freshly clean dish. Because of this, I’ve kept my sink and countertops free of the accumulation of dirty dishes, because I now put dirty dishes straight into the washer. Another new, weird dish-related thing I do…? I run my dishwasher every night, no matter how full (or un-full) it is. I don’t wait until I have a full load to run it. Those dishes get washed and ready for my morning dishwasher unload. It works so well for me, but makes no sense to my husband! Why would anyone want to run a half-empty dishwasher? He doesn’t care, in the end, however … as long as it works! He just shakes his head and laughs at my weirdness.

Funny. Who’ve thought that having my friend send me a housekeeper would lead to a whole new level of joy in my daily life that is now infiltrating brightness and empowerment into my whole family??

God. God thought it.

And I’m the one who gets to reap the benefits.

My First Experience with a Housekeeper

Last week, I had someone do something amazing for me.

I have a precious friend … she’s someone who I can be completely honest with, show my true colors to, and she loves me and accepts me anyway. More than once while Kris was out of town, I called/texted her and expressed overwhelm for basically everything. The fact that I couldn’t sleep, the pounds I had gained, how difficult it was to manage the kids alone, how much I missed my husband. The emotional burden seemed to have manifested physically in the form of clutter, piles, dirty laundry, the dirt on my floor, the smudges on the counters, the dishes in the sink. I just couldn’t seem to get on top of the housework.

I was drowning.

But last week, something drastically changed. Last week my friend did something to relieve my overwhelm (as if listening to me empathetically and lovingly wasn’t enough!).

She sent a housekeeper to my home.

When she called me to tell me that she’d arranged this, I cried. Like, the high-pitched-voice-snorting-in-the-phone crying and I thanked her as if she’d just handed me six million dollars.

Because that gift was as valuable to me as a six-million-dollar wad of cash.

When the housekeeper showed up at my door, I’d already been trying to condense the clutter into baskets/bins/boxes and whatever empty container/drawer I could find. But still, stuff was everywhere. I was convinced she wouldn’t have anything to clean because there was just. so. much. stuff.

I packed a backpack and took the boys to the library where we had school in a study room. It’s a refreshing change of scenery, anyway. I tried to ignore my anxious thoughts, thinking it would take the poor girl all day to clean my house.

Two hours later, she called me to tell me she was pulling out of the driveway, all done.

“You cleaned my whole house in only two hours?”

I could hear the smile in her voice. “Girl, you talk like your house is impossible right now, but I’m serious when I say, you’ve got this. Your house is totally manageable.”

She proceeded to give me advice right off the top of her head … advice that I absorbed like a sponge, and it clicked in my heart. It made so much sense.

“Pick two rooms that are important to you in your house. Keep those two rooms clean, and be more relaxed with the rest. As far as the clutter that you told me you are drowning in … you’ve already got it into bins. Put away one pile/bin per day, and your house will be flawless in a week.”

I swallowed back the emotion and thanked her over and over.

About an hour later, we were home. I walked into the door to gleaming floors. Pristine countertops. It smelled like she’d even cleaned the air. She even WASHED MY DISHES, Y’ALL.

I took a deep breath, and tears stung my eyes.

Now here’s a side note: When I’m overwhelmed with housework, I don’t wish for someone to help me with the work, or for someone to do it for me. Instead, I find myself wishing for someone to keep the kids while I do my own housework. Because … you’ll think this is crazy … I actually ENJOY it.

Since childhood, I’ve always loved organizing. It’s like a puzzle to me, and I feel like I can breathe easier when everything is neat. It’s not just the “being organized” part that I enjoy … it’s the process of organizing, as well. It’s just something God put in me that is fun. I enjoy organizing so much that, y’all, one of my absolute favorite books is Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Even the BOOK ITSELF is so beautifully tidy.

I give you permission to sit back and give me the most epic eye roll in the history of eyeballs.

Somehow, though, this scenario was different. My friend said she felt that God led her to do this. She named a day where it was laid on her heart.

I remember that day. It was a day where I stood in my kitchen and cried because my house was such a wreck, it not only made daily life more difficult, but it also heaped stress onto my already hurting heart. I had asked God what to do, and He was silent.

He was silent to me, but He wasn’t silent to her.

My soul was in pain.

That was the day my friend decided she’d like to do this for me.

Something stirred inside of me as I looked around at my newly scrubbed house. I suddenly looked at all the piles of clutter differently. Instead of seeing it as something stealing my oxygen, I saw it as a game. A mission.

I felt the joy of organizing brewing in my spirit.

That very day, I got to work. The boys kept themselves entertained. They played. They got along.

The next day, I woke up three minutes before my alarm feeling excited … after school, the organization continued. I began to look at closets with a lens of possibility. I no longer saw the messes … I saw ideas.

I made bigger messes as I pulled things from shelves, sorted them, and put them back. I pulled open drawers and did the same. I shifted through closets. I bagged up clothes and shoes … NINE trash bags in total … and rolled them down the stairs to the garage, ready for donation.

And I enjoyed every freeing minute of it.

This endured for three solid days, and is still going each day right now.

I’m having a blast, y’all.

It’s so much more than a new inspiration to organize, though. When I called my mom yesterday, something so deep and meaningful struck me. I couldn’t help but shout in the phone at what I’d just realized.

The Zero-Expense Writing Year, Part 6: God’s Hilarious Provision for Podcasting, and Conclusion

In Part 5, my prayer focus turned to the podcast, where The Simple Word sat empty. The episodes had reached 90 days old, which means they were auto-deleted. This was the rules for a free podcast subscription plan.

My immediate concern, however, was how to safely transport my mic and laptop to my oh-so-glamorous recording studio – aka, my car.

It seemed like a tiny, ridiculous request to pray for God to provide a carrying case for my mic. The ones I’d found online started at $100 (gulp) and I had no other bag/packpack that worked.

I prayed anyway.

Suddenly, the most perfect solution popped into my head.

I sat back in my chair and began giggling to myself. Could it really be that simple…?

The boys became curious about my solitary laughter. They ran over and begged me to tell them what was so funny.

I went downtairs into the garage, followed by my two sons who were berating me with questions. What are you doing? Where are you going? Why are you digging around on the shelf? What are you doing with my old lunchbox?

It was Spiderman.

And it was perfect.

I brought the Spiderman lunchbox back upstairs and set it on my desk. The boys watched curiously.

“Do you guys want to see what it looks like when God provides in the most unexpected ways?” I asked them.

I explained everything to them. Deleting the website. Making the money to remove the ads. The podcast … everything.

Wesley went to my closet and brought out the mic, which was attached to its own tabletop stand. “It won’t fit. It’s too tall,” he said.

I turned a screw on the side, and the mic folded down on itself, cupped and protected by its own stand.

I slipped the mic inside the Spiderman lunchbox, zipped it up, and laughed and laughed.

The boys laughed.

I took the mic out and put it back in. I zipped it and unzipped it. I stood up and held it by the handle, like Wesley did when he carried it to school as a three-year-old.

We laughed and laughed.

I went to the closet and remembered that I had a large three-ring binder that wasn’t being used for anything. I brought it out, carried the Spiderman lunchbox-turned-mic-case, and went downstairs to my car.

The boys followed, again asking me questions as they descended the stairs behind me. Where are you going? Are you going to record? Why do you have a binder? Why are you going to the garage? Ooooooooh…. that’s perfect!

I set the binder on the passenger’s seat. It’s wedge shape turned the tilted passenger’s seat into a perfect, flat desk.

Wesley nodded his approval as we shared a WOW moment. Caleb discovered sidewalk chalk in a bucket and began drawing on the garage floor.

“Welp,” I said. “Let’s go back upstairs and finish school.”

Basically, I floated up the stairs.

A Spiderman lunchbox is such a tiny thing. It’s something that’s been gathering dust on that shelf in the garage for literally five years. It somehow survived my massive truckloads of donations. There it sat, with its large white eyes, waiting for God to use it.

It gave me renewed hope, however, that more of His provision was coming.

Because when He calls you, He equips you.

The next day, I found myself preoccupied with thoughts about the podcast subscription plan. As long as I stayed on a free plan, the episodes auto-deleted after 90 days, and I needed at least $12 per month to keep them active.

God began leading me in His plan for how He intended to provide for the podcast subscription.

And I immediately began begging Him not to do it that way. Any way but that way. I’d been saying YES to everything so far … but this? God. Please, no.

He was leading me to ask friends and family for support.

And that was the LAST thing I wanted to do.

Let’s pause for a moment here to get a little more personal … I don’t like asking for help. I pride myself in being an independent woman. With my husband traveling for work, his absence left a gaping hole in our family dynamic and left us all scrambling for balance. It was disheartening, and in some ways, it angered me. Not at him, but at myself. It was all I could do to hold it together for myself and the boys while he was gone, because the pain of missing him was so immense.

It made me feel weak. And that’s what angered me.

I’m crazy about my husband. But being without him was just too hard.

Did that mean I relied on him too much? Did I need him too much? I wasn’t nearly as independent as I thought. This realization really messed me up. It dawned on me that God was dealing with me through all of this in a way I wasn’t expecting… He was breaking down my pride. Not just my pride over “my” work … But my pride in general.

And here I thought this zero-expense endeavor was MY commitment to GOD. Nope. It was just one tool that He used to show me that I had a pride issue that needed to be fixed. After all, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

So … I prayed, and said YES to God.

I opened a Patreon account, then called my mom.

As I stumbled through an awkward and clumsy explanation, my mom listened. I caught my own reflection in the mirror. My face, neck and chest were fiery red. The skin burned with a sense of embarrassment, all the way to the tips of my ears.

My mom happily agreed to contribute. It was nearly everything I needed for the month.

As I agonized over it all via text with my sweet friend, Cindy, she fired a message back that said she’d like to contribute. I’d not even officially asked her yet.

Her portion covered the rest, and then some.

I felt immediate relief. Finally, I didn’t have to approach anyone else with any more invitations to contribute. After all, I’ve not even finished writing the “bonuses” that Patreon contributers would receive for their generosity.

To my horror, the Father nudged me yet again. He wanted me to approach the other names He brought to mind as I prayed for provision. Of course, I argued, pointing out that my needs were met. Why approach others?

He’s been silent on His reasons, as He often is. But there’s one thing that He made clear to me … My vision for the podcast is very different from His, in a positive way. My only responsibility is to be obedient. To trust. And to say YES when He calls, no matter what.

The Zero-Expense Writing Year, Part 5: Hard Times, and New Beginnings

In Part 4, I had reached a roadblock where I thought I would be finding a fresh, new beginning … my old blog on the free WordPress platform was covered in ads. It was something I didn’t realize would happen when I made the switch to my shiny, expensive self-hosted website site back to the free blog. I needed $51 to remove the ads for a year. But my zero-expense commitment had me at a roadblock. $51 was a lot of money to just magically appear, especially when I didn’t have a job to fund it.

I decided to try to make that $51 bit by bit, in whatever way I could. I knew it would take a while to raise it, but I had to start somewhere. So I went around the house and took photos of a few things I’d planned to donate. I put modest price tags on the items, and submitted them online to sell.

I was shocked when the items began to sell, left and right. Everything was wanted, and they were wanted right then. I was shocked when nearly every single item sold within 48 hours.

The moment my funds reached $51, I went straight to my laptop and opened up WordPress.

I was surprised to find a notification … I had a message from WordPress, so I opened it up. It said, “Happy Anniversary!”

Nine years ago to the day, I had started my blog.

by Gaelle Marcel

Chills swept over me, and I had to look through a blur of tears to make the subscription purchase.

I published a blog post right away, feeling inspired and quite at home. I was once again both rejoicing and humbled. By the next morning, the stats showed triple the number of views than I’d regularly received on my well-established, expensive, self-hosted website.

God’s clarity of direction was astounding.

Blog – CHECK.

Podcast – UNKNOWN.

The next area God had been leading was the podcast, which was now blank, because the episodes had been auto-deleted. They had reached their ripe old age of 90 days, which meant auto-deletion on the current free subscription plan.

God still had plans there. I knew it. I didn’t delete the whole site … I just left it sitting out there, empty.

It made my heart ache.

I began to make focused prayers about the podcast then.

This provision was different than the blog, however. This provision would need to be continual. I needed at least $12 per month to keep the episodes live and available … which meant it wasn’t just a one-time purchase.

I had posted a few more things to sell, thinking God’s provision would follow the same pattern.

Nothing sold.

I prayerfully presented some brilliant (or so I thought) ideas for how to obtain that monthly amount. Every one of them was met with a definitive no in my heart.

You know the no I’m talking about … it’s not a “Thou shalt not steal” kind of message that comes straight from the scripture. It’s the guidance of the Holy Spirit within your heart. It’s that Voice you learn to become acquainted with when God is leading you.

“But God!” I reasoned. “I could approach a business or Christian establishment with a proposal, essentially making a business deal to gain support! That looks so professional, doesn’t it? With the backing of a business, it looks so much more important, doesn’t it? Don’t you think that’s a great idea??”

NO.

“But God, I could take on a freelance writing job. It would just take ONE job, a simple one, to provide the FULL means for the podcast subscription. Doesn’t that sound perfect? If you would just thump aside that roadblock, it would work out perfectly. So … how about it??”

NO.

“But God, the businesses … it would look so important … can we please go for that? I mean … you know?”

I said NO.

Fine.

I knew He would provide. He always does. (2 Corinthians 9:8, Hebrews 13:5, Luke 12:24, Matthew 6:33, Matthew 7:11, Philippians 4:6, Philippians 4:19, Psalm 34:10, and many more).

by Philipp Cordts

I decided not to worry about the subscription for now … Let’s focus on just reproducing the episodes. If I upload some now, there will be a whole 90 days before God provides the paid subscription. Let’s keep moving forward, I told myself. Don’t focus on what you don’t have.

That was the whole point of the zero-expense commitment, after all … to stop focusing on what I don’t have, and looking to God 100% for provision, getting out of His way, and doing things His way.

I already had a good mic … I’d bought it using the money my parents had given me for my birthday last July. The previous episodes had been recorded using the best sound booth I’ve ever tried … my car! Although it was essentially soundproof, the small space was uncomfortable, and it was cumbersome to carry my laptop and equipment into the garage. It was time-consuming to set up a makeshift platform with stacked books inside the cab to set my mic and laptop on. Everything slid off the books. It was difficult to balance things in my lap while also trying not to bump or drop the mic. So I tried something else.

I had used leftover birthday money to buy some foam soundproofing panels. I had mounted them on the walls inside a closet upstairs in the office, and couldn’t WAIT to use it for a recording booth! A few test runs had proven that it was the most perfect space. But then we started homeschooling, using the office for the classroom. I needed that closet for school storage.

Out came the foam panels, and in went a shelf stacked with school supplies.

At one point I attached the foam panels to cardboard, making soundproofing walls that I could set up and take down as needed. I ran a few test recordings … it was terrible. Plus the huge panels of cardboard were hard to store, and always in the way.

I was back to square one with the podcast.

by Kelly Sikkema

The first issue that needed to be resolved is the treacherous climb up and down stairs, and the trip across a concrete garage floor balancing my mic, laptop, and books to stack for a makeshift “desk” in the car. There was no bag, backpack, or case that allowed this transport to be any safer than just carrying it, piece by piece, and setting up my temporary “sound booth” inside the cab of of the car.

With that many trips up and down, an accident was bound to happen. Visions of shattered electronic equipment, with zero funds to replace it, filled my head.

I felt outright fear.

I simply HAD to come up with a safe, efficient solution for transporting the equipment and using my car for an office.

On a break during school lessons one day, I began researching a way to make a car desk. There were standing desks. There were lap desks. I mean, could there be such a thing as a car desk?

There is.

And they’re expensive.

Some cheaper alternatives proved to be platform the size of a lap desk that hooked onto the steering wheel … but still, I needed funds to purchase one. And they looked a little flimsy.

I put aside that, and began researching a protective case for my mic. I nearly swallowed my tongue when I realized they were around $100 for the cheap ones.

So, what now, God?

In that exact moment, the solution arrived as a sudden idea.

I sat back in my chair and began giggling.

Could it really be that simple? There’s no way.

The Zero-Expense Writing Year, Part 4: Deleting the Website, and Closing the Podcast

Not only was substitute teaching at my son’s preschool fun, I was enjoying the extra income, thanking God for the provision to fund the monthly costs of the podcast.

My chosen podcast platform was Buzzsprout. I loved the ease and functionality. A free account allowed each episode to stay live for 90 days, then would auto-delete without a paid subscription. The paycheck from subbing provided for a paid subscription, which allowed the episodes to stay live indefinitely. I had three episodes live, three additional episodes ready to upload, and several more future episodes outlined.

It was a perfect scenario.

Until it wasn’t.

When summer began, the opportunity to sub at the preschool ended. Although working through the summer would have been ideal, the income wouldn’t justify the additional childcare costs required for my own two boys. When the paychecks ran out, so did the podcast subscription.

The days of the live episodes were numbered, and the clock was ticking.

by Aron Visuals

God, I prayed. I really thought this was something You led me into. If you want it to continue, please provide the means.

I still refused to go back on the zero-expense writing commitment. The whole point of the commitment was to STOP taking things into my own hands, and rely 100% on Him. If I could just manipulate the episodes by re-uploading them after each expiration, I could stretch it all out until the new school year began. Then new paycheck of subbing at the elementary school would be more than enough to cover a new subscription.

In anticipation of my new upcoming job (pending the paperwork processing), I started researching how to create lesson plans, how to plan out a school year, teaching methods and approaches. I filled up a notebook with what I learned. I drilled Caleb’s preschool teacher, Mrs. Holt, with questions, because she was a former kindergarten teacher. I found her methods to be flawless, peaceful and effective. It never occurred to me that all of these things would be unnecessary for a sub, because the lesson plans would be outlined for me by the actual teacher for whom I was filling in. Out of the pure enjoyment of it, I studied relentlessly about the best setup for a classroom, ideal learning environments, and the varied learning styles of children.

I had it all planned out.

Shortly after I received word that I was officially hired as a substitute teacher for the elementary schools, my husband came home and informed me of something that would change everything.

by Guilherme Stecanella

There was a job site ready for pipe installation in Little Rock that would be perfect for field work. As a pipe estimator at a large general contractor, Kris was excited for a chance to do some time studies hands-on. He lit up when he talked about it. I saw it as an adventure for our family, knowing it would be both difficult and fun. It would only be for about three months. He would move there July 5th, just two weeks away.

This is great, I thought. My sister lives right outside Little Rock. We could visit her while we’re there visiting Kris. This is just a temporary change. We can handle this!

Then my husband had a suggestion. “What do you think about homeschooling?”

Frankly, I was a little shocked. Two years earlier, Wesley began asking me to homeschool him. I didn’t even realize he knew what homeschooling was. I didn’t think I would make an adequate homeschool mom, and in all honesty, neither did my husband. He knew my plan was to put the pedal to the metal on my “writing career” once both kids were in school full-time, and he supported it. So at that time, homeschooling just didn’t pan out. The subject came up again when Wesley was in second grade. Again, he was begging me to homeschool him. We arrived at the same conclusion as before: It just wasn’t for us.

Now, things were different. Kris would be living in Arkansas through August at least, possibly September. With the kids in school, we wouldn’t be able to see him very often at all.

We talked about it. And prayed about it. And talked about it some more.

A fire was lit in my heart. I was actually craving to create lesson plans for school. I began studying school calendars, homeschool methods, curriculums, and state requirements.

I could do this.

I wanted to do this.

I couldn’t WAIT to start teaching our boys.

But that meant … I wouldn’t be subbing at the elementary school.

Okay, God. Now what? I thought you were leading me to teach at the school! The desire to teach was so sudden and constant. Why would You lead me to this, then suddenly move it away again?

Oooooooh. I see it all clearly now. The newly planted enthusiasm for teaching … the urgency of it … it all made sense now! God must have been pulling me toward this all along. I easily applied everything I’d researched about teaching to home-education. I suddenly had new ideas for blog posts and podcast episodes about homeschooling. I couldn’t wait to get started!

Everything was clicking into place.

Except for one thing.

I logged into my website for the first time in months to begin outlining the new homeschooling blog post series, only to find that he subscription to the self-hosted site would soon.

I needed about $120 to renew it.

I was so busy planning out my boys’ education and getting ready for this new, temporary “normal” of a traveling husband, I almost forgot about the zero-expense writing commitment.

I had no choice but to cancel my self-hosted website subscription.

That didn’t necessarily mean I had to quit blogging, though, right? I could simply take my blog back to the original, free WordPress platform. It was just a matter of transferring the content over. Right? Simple. Easy. Quick.

Perfect. Right?

Nope.

My heart dropped when I realized that the blog had ads all over the pages and posts. Not just any ads, but weird, spammy, junky ones that were suspicious, annoying, and distracting.

My heart sunk even more when I realized the podcast episodes were only three days away from deletion.

I needed $51 to remove the ads off the blog for a year. I needed about $18 per month for the podcast subscription.

I began to pray, and God began to move.