Well, it appears to be official.  I avoided gluten for most of my 30-day cleanse.  There were small amounts here and there, but nothing significant.

Thursday night I had one-half of a foot-long Subway sandwich, thinking I was making a fairly safe choice.  I was bloated, mildly crampy, and generally unhappy in less than two hours.  My body pretty much purged itself of everything I’d eaten.

I thought, at the time, that maybe I’d just tried to come off the cleanse too fast; I went ahead and had my second half for lunch on Friday.

This time, less than a full hour and I was crampy, in the bathroom, and feeling very “off”.  Even my sinuses seemed to be worse.

I’ve never been tested for a gluten sensitivity, but empirical evidence certainly seems to point toward a strong probability.

I’m going to take most gluten back out of my diet and see how I feel in a few days.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.  Proverbs 29:18

I need a vision and a plan.  Today I’m getting out a calendar and putting everything on it, day-by-day.  My key concept and verse.  What I’m giving up and what I’m praying for.  Each day will be detailed.

Now, the thing about having a vision and a plan (I’ve learned the hard way) is that I have to be flexible enough to change as circumstances dictate.  So, yeah, maybe I won’t do exact what the plan says.  Just having a plan to try to stick to is the important part.

What is my life purpose?

My purpose is to serve God, be a witness to His awesomeness, and raise my children to know Him.  Everything else is filler, either to get me to my purpose or to distract me from reaching it.

What are three goals to  help me reach this purpose?

  1. Know God, through prayer and Bible study
  2. Serve God each and every day to the fullest of my abilities
  3. Teach my kids about God through word and example

Make a budget (no, I will not list it here).  I’m basing it on Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover– roughly.

  • Housing 30%
  • Transportation 15%
  • Tithe 10%
  • Food 10%
  • Savings 10%
  • Utilities 5%
  • Health 5%
  • Clothing 5%
  • Charity 5%
  • Miscellaneous 5%

Some modifications for me: because I’m living in the same home with all my family, my housing (fortunately), only equals roughly 5% of my monthly income.  My transportation (even with no car), is 17%.  Tithe stays the same.  How is food supposed to be 10%?  I’m fairly certain I would be nutritionally deficient and starving.  Food will be 15-20%.  Savings is currently debt payoff at 10%.  Utilities is only my phone right now; I need to find a slightly cheaper plan or it will be just over 5%.  (That’s really sad).  Having the rest at 5% should do, although this will make dates with the kids and birthdays rough.

For prayer, I’m reading Matthew 6:16-18 and praying over the times I will be fasting (that I will do it with wisdom).

I’m giving up discretional spending for the remainder of the 21 days except for my son’s birthday party on Sunday.  I even gave my sister my debit card and the grocery money for next week.  I’m already feeling fidgety about it.

On the up side, I did go grocery shopping last night and managed to stay within my budgeted amount, although I had to give up some things I really wanted (for health reasons).  I’m going to have to modify my menu until it’s more affordable.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

Today, I have to make a list of the “musts” in my life versus the “shoulds”.  Not “I should lose five more pounds”, but “I must stay within a healthy weight range so I can enjoy life to the fullest.”  Not “I should reduce my debt”, but “I must pay off my credit cards so I can be generous when the opportunity arises”.  I may or may not share the list below, but I will post it somewhere conspicuous so I see it often.

Although my key verse is 2 Chronicles 7:14, I’m also read Ecclesiastes 5:10, Matthew 6:26, and  I Timothy 6:10.

PBS defines “affluenza” as “the bloated, sluggish, and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses.  “Credit-itis” (per Adam Hamilton) is “the opportunity to buy now and pay later”.  Are there signs of affluenza and credit-itis in my life?

Yes.  Let’s be honest, even as rough as the last few years have been financially, you don’t get into the credit issues I’m in without some credit-itis.  I’m getting better; I didn’t use Fingerhut for Christmas gifts.  Until I stop having the affluenza that makes me want to keep up with my ex (I never have worried about the Joneses), I’m going to have problems. 

I’m read Matthew 13:1-23.  What happens to the gospel in my life when I am consumed by a desire for wealth?

The desire for wealth can consume me, choking out the life given by the gospel until it’s lost completely.  Even if I manage to not have the gospel choked out, the very act of worrying about stuff means that I have spent more time, money and energy on stuff than on God.

I’m praying for commitment to this process and that I learn gratitude through each step.  As part of that, I’m giving up whining.  Whenever I want to complain about something, I have to Pollyanna it and find the bright side.

Day one, here we go.

  • I must stay healthy for my kids.  Weight only matters so much as it inhibits my ability to stay active and healthy; appearance is secondary to a healthy body mass. 
  • I must use moderation in exercise.  Over-exercising is as unhealthy as not exercising at all.
  • I must watch what I eat so my kids don’t have to deal with the effects of colitis.
  • I must get out of debt so I can get past worrying about it.
  • I must learn to live below my means again so I can take care of my kids, pay my tithe, and practice random acts of generosity.
  • I must stop valuing things more than people.
  • I must realise I’m not taking anything with me when I die and put my treasure in eternity.
  • (more to come)

This is just a day-by-day general outline of each of the 21 days.  For details, please see each individual day.  I’ll add links as I go.

  1. “Should” vs “Must” (Motivation).  Pray for commitment and give up whining. Give up: whining.  Verse: 2 Chronicles 7:14
  2. Get the Vision (Planning).  Pray for the plan to glorify God.  Give up: credit/ debit cards.  Verse: Matthew 6:16-18.
  3. Take Action (Pack It Up).  Pray for the United States and the President.  Give up: sarcasm. Verse: Matt 9:14-15.
  4. Decisions (Take Ownership).  Pray for a forgiving spirit. Give up: bitterness (the past).  Verse: Hebrews 12:14-15.  PARTIAL FAST: sunset 2/4 to noon 2/5.
  5. Where is My Idol? (Entertainment).  Pray for a discerning spirit. Give up: TV/media fast for 24 hours, then keep TV at 2 hours/ week maximum for remainder of challenge.  Verse: Acts 13:2.
  6. Fear.  Pray for California and its leaders.  Give up: fear (the present).  Verse: Luke 18:9-14.
  7. Support.  Pray for finances.  Give up: control of “my” money. Verse: Matthew 25:34-40.
  8. Letting Go (Peace).  Pray for peace & safety.  Give up: ownership.  Verse: Matthew 25:14-21.
  9. Sell It.  Pray for my church.  Give up: ambition.  Verse: Acts 10:30.
  10. Donate It.  Pray for my workplace.  Give up: anger.  Verse: Colossians 3:23.
  11. Know What & Why I Believe.  Pray for my Godly mission.  Give up: control (the future).  Verse: 1 Samuel 1:17-18.
  12. Growth.  Pray for my mom & sisters.  Give up: settling.  Verse: Luke 2:37.
  13. Food.  Pray for my oldest child.  Give up: food (2-day juice/water fast).  Verse: Joel 2:12.
  14. Give It Away. Pray for my second child.  Give up: quitting.  Verse: Nehemiah 1:4.
  15. Sentimentality.  Pray for my third child.   Give up: sentimentality.  Verse: Daniel 9:3.
  16. Debt.  Pray for my fourth child.  Give up: debt as an option ever again.  Verse: Daniel 9:20.
  17. The Car.  Pray for the nation’s economy.  Give up: ownership of transportation.  Verse:  Psalms 17:5.
  18. The Home.  Pray for those who are homeless.  Give up: ownership of a home.  Verse: Mark 10:29-30.
  19. Ready for My Mission.  Pray for the unsaved.  Give up: being entitled.  Verse: Proverbs 11.
  20. Health.  Prayer of gratitude for my health; pray for those sick around me.  Give up: my Sabbath/ rest day.  Verse: Mark 2:23-28.
  21. Reflection.  Prayer to learn to wait on God’s timing.  Verse: Isaiah 40:31.

So, I decided after the “30 day” cleanse that I tend to get bored with extreme ideas after about three weeks, or 21 days.  This is odd, since a lot of books and websites about how to change your habits say it takes 21 days.  Still, I’m going to use it to my advantage.

This is the first series of 21 day “experiments” where I’ll go all out into something.  I will live, eat, breathe, and sleep a topic until I’ve (hopefully) exhausted it, picked up some new habits I want to keep, and debunked a few ideas I never want to try again.

This series is on Minimalism.  “Minimalism” according to the six self-avowed minimalists interviewed by Naomi Seldin of TimesUnion.com, basically comes down to knowing what “enough” is and paring down your life to get there.

My journey started at www.theminimalists.com/21days; that site was the framework for my own 21 day challenge.  I enhanced it through the books Give It Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better With Less (Mary Carlomagno) and Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity (Adam Hamilton).  I’m going to couple it with prayer and fasting, as both of those are also, to an extent, about giving things up so you can have more.

Each day will have a step towards minimalising my life, a series of Bible verses, and a few study questions.  Then I’ll have a prayer focus for that day with verse, what I’m giving up, and possibly a fast.

You are welcome to come along with me.  Follow a day behind if you like; I’ll try to put up each day’s entry the night before so you have something to go on, but I’ll list the rough outline in the next section.  This is supposed to be part of Day 2, but I hate going into anything not knowing what I plan to do.  Call me Type A if you must…

So, here goes my foray into Minimalism.  It’s not about the end result, either.  It’s about each step of the journey.

Want to save money, save time, reduce stress AND lose some weight?

Plan your meals.

Planning your meals isn’t all that difficult, either.  All it takes is about two hours a week to start (as little as 30 minutes once you get going) and a few simple guidelines.

1.  Get some sort of planner.  I always did my menus in Excel and just printed them myself, but any large-box calendar will work; just divide each day into three meals.

2.  (This will help reduce time in the future)  Make a list of some of you or your family’s favorite breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.  Don’t worry about ingredients; just get a main dish.  List at least seven in each category, but more is actually better in this case.

For example: Breakfasts might have oatmeal, egg sandwiches, yogurt, and french toast.  Lunches might have soup, sandwiches, salad, and tacquitos.  Dinners might have pasta, meatloaf, chicken stirfry, and fish sticks.  Snacks might include oatmeal cookies, apples, ice pops, and rice cakes.

3.  Figure out which days have time constraints.  If you have soccer practice for two kids on Wednesdays from 4-6 pm, you don’t want a time-consuming dinner prep.  If you have a run-out-the-door morning on Mondays, you might want to do yogurt.

4.  Fill in each day (for either a week at a time or a month at a time) with a main dish.  Monday breakfast: yogurt; Monday lunch: PB&J sandwich; Monday dinner: Crockpot chili; Monday snack(s): red apple; rice cakes.

5.  You can stop here if you want and just wing-it with sides, but if you really want to lose weight and have a balanced meal, you’re going to want to fill-in the sides:

a.  Every breakfast should have a protein, a serving of fruit or vegetables, a serving of whole grains, and a dairy (which can sometimes double as the protein).  For the “yogurt” on Monday, you could also have a cinnamon bran muffin (whole grain), blueberries and slivered almonds to mix in, and 8 oz of juice.

b.  Every lunch should have a protein, 2 servings of fruits and/or vegetables, a serving of whole grains, and a dairy.  For the “PB&J sandwich”, you have peanut butter for protein and can use whole wheat bread for the grains.  Toss in a serving of carrot sticks and 8 oz of your favorite veggie juice smoothie (2 servings of veggies) and a small handful of cheese cubes (dairy) and maybe have 8 oz of water.

c.  Every dinner should have a protein, 2 servings of vegetables, a serving of whole grains, and a dairy.  For the crockpot chili, make sure you put veggies like green and red peppers into the pot at the last minute, have a side salad, piece of homemade cornbread, and glass of milk.

d.  If you only have one snack, it should be fruit- or vegetable-based (the opposite of breakfast works well) AND have a small protein and glass of water.  So have a handful of pea pods with hummus and a glass of water.  If you’re having a second snack (keep that metabolism ramped up!), then you can be a little more liberal (oatmeal cookie and some grapes, maybe?).

Viola!  You have up to four weeks of meals all planned out.  Each night, see what you need to defrost or prep for the next day.  Then each day just follow the menu and you’ll reduce stress, eat better, and save money.

Still don’t feel like going through all the effort to make menus?  Let me do all the work!  One personalized month of menus, including grocery check-off list for each week, for just $50… or sign up for a four-month  subscription (4 months of menus, delivered month-by-month) for just $100 ($25/month).  Email everydaygirlguide@gmail.com for details.

Have you ever had a great idea… but didn’t do anything with it?  Or maybe you started a project with lots of steam, but never quite got to the end?  I’ve been there many times myself.  I’ve noticed, most often, that I fail if I don’t follow five easy steps toward success.

1.  Take a step.  You’ll never finish what you don’t start, so do something right now.

“The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

I have a treasure chest of things that were great ideas that I just never did.  Songs I never composed, letters I never wrote, words I never said.  In each instance, I just never got started at all.

Sometimes I let fear hold me back.  Failure is an awfully scary prospect, after all.  Sometimes I procrastinated until the moment passed.  Sometimes I just wasn’t sure where to start.

Here’s the key: start anyway.  Do something about your idea.  Write it down.  Do research.  Get a plan.  Just do something and do it now.

2.  Make a map.  Every undertaking, even the small ones, fares better with a plan.

“You can do anything, but not everything.”  David Allen

Far too often, we try to do everything at once.  I do it all the time.  I get so caught up in the excitement of getting started that I think I can do it all in one day.  Then I burn out four days later and the idea goes away completely.

Do yourself a favor.  Make a plan.

Start with the big picture.  Where do you want to go, what do you want to do, and why?  Write it down, because you’ll need this information again and again.

Outline the very biggest steps to get to your goal.  Say you want to become a published author.  The big steps are brainstorm ideas, research the market or idea, write the book, and market the book.  Huge steps, but a clear roadmap.

See if you need to go back and break down the big steps into even smaller steps.  This isn’t always necessary, but if you’re writing a book, you may break your book down into pre-writing, outlining, writing, editing, and rewriting.

Finally, make a to do list every single day.  Use a piece of paper.  Get a calendar or planner.  Put it in your Outlook calendar online or on your phone.  Make it as detailed (hour by hour) or simple (a checklist) as you want.

Now you have a map of where to go.

3.  Start walking.  Work on your idea or project every single day.

“Many people who succeed in the face of seemingly impossible conditions are people who simply didn’t know how to quit.”  Robert Schuller

Go run a marathon.  Go on, right now.  No?  Okay, maybe you can’t run a marathon today.  But you can probably do a marathon distance, little by little, if you work at it everyday.  You might even be able to do a real marathon by the end of it… if you work on it every day.

Remember the to-do list?  Here is where it’s essential.  Every single day, make yourself a to-do list of at least three items.  Do not go to bed until those three items are finished.

“One of the secrets of getting more done is to make a to do list every day, keep it visible, and use it as a guide to action as you go through the day.”  Jean de la Fontaine

4.  Always have a destination.  Remember why you’re doing this.

“Remember that your own resolution to succeed is far more important than any other.”  Abraham Lincoln

Remember when I said do write down WHY you’re doing this?  It’s important.

You don’t usually take a trip without knowing where you’re going.  Don’t start a project or goal without knowing why you need to get there, either.  This motivation will carry you past slumps, rocky moments, and plain old laziness.

Ever started a diet just because you felt you should lose a few pounds?  Those diets are generally not successful.  Go on a diet because your health is at stake and you suddenly have motivation.

Keep it at the forefront of your mind.  Use a photo, a key phrase, or just a single word, but always know WHY you’re doing this.

5.  Reach your destination.  Never quit until you’re finished.

“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Aristotle

You can eat an elephant if you just keep taking bites.  You can run a marathon if you just keep taking steps.  You can reach your goal if you just don’t stop.

That doesn’t mean not to take breaks.  If it’s a long-term goal, schedule some rest breaks.  But then start right back up again.  The important thing is to never, ever quit.

Use these five steps, throw in your own willpower, talent, and life experience, and you’ll finish what you started, with flying colors.