Slice of Life

Almost April already? It is hard to believe! This is what I’ve been into lately.

WENT: My family rode the metro to D.C. to see Paw Patrol Live at the National Theater. It was awesome for my little guy and his best buddy! The show was definitely worth the price. We ended up sitting just three rows from the front. My son cheered, clapped, and got very serious about the action at times. It was a memory that I was so glad to give him. Paw Patrol Live still has some dates open around the country if you are interested in going with your family.

READ: I read the second book of L.M. Montgomery’s Emily series. Several bloggers are reading the series together, and I decided to join them. Here is what I thought about last month’s book, Emily of New Moon (that post will also give you a little background on the Emily series if you have not read it). This month’s book was Emily Climbs. In this book, I love how L.M. Montgomery continues the supernatural element from the first book . In the first book, Emily has an illness-induced vision that allows her to clear the name of a woman who has died; in the second, Emily produces a drawing, seemingly in her sleep, that tells her where a 18704927boy is trapped. Everyone thought the boy was dead, but Emily’s vision was accurate again. I really like how L.M. Montgomery just hints at something uncanny, but she does not go over the top with the supernatural elements. Emily’s “second sight” frightens her, so she prefers not to think about it. Meanwhile, the funniest scene in the second book is when Emily has a misunderstanding about a dog. Emily thinks the badly-behaved dog belongs to a woman she had hoped to impress, and the woman thinks the dog belongs to Emily. Both of them start out having a horrible impression of each other because of the mutt — but it does not belong to either of them! Seeing Emily become published in magazines multiple times in the second book is very gratifying for the reader, who is rooting for Emily despite the oppression of very conservative family members and the expectations of society in general at that time. The second book seems to have some commentary on the negative impact of gossip and jealousy in society, something that L.M. Montgomery was dealing with in her own life at that time, according to this post. At the end of Emily Climbs, I was feeling a little sad — but not surprised — that Emily turned down a career opportunity in New York to stay at home in Canada because the people and landscape mean so much to her. I also hoped that Teddy would return her love so that Dean would not end up holding her back in life. When I have a little free time this summer, I want to skim back through the book and look at the different novels that Emily mentioned as influences to her as a writer. I figure those books were probably influences for L.M. Montgomery as well.

GIVEAWAY: I’m giving away two tickets to see the new Smurfs movie via Fandango, courtesy of FlyBy Promotions. You can enter by clicking here.

BOUGHT: I splurged on my first ever pair of nice sunglasses from Coach. Woot! Now, let’s just see if I can make it through the summer without scratching them or losing them altogether.

LISTENED TO: The La La Land Movie Soundtrack. Repeatedly. So good! La La Land is going on my list of favorite movies.

WATCHED: The new Beauty and the Beast movie is wonderful. I went to see it with a friend, and the entire theater applauded afterward. I sat down with my husband last night and watched the first episode of This Is Us, and I think that’s going to be my go-to show for awhile. Other ones I like are New GirlJane the Virgin, and American Housewife.

COOKED: I tried out a free subscription to Blue Apron that my friend gave me. It was so nice to not think about planning meals that week, but I decided not to continue the subscription because it’s a little pricey for what is offered. I also did not like all of the separate vegetable prep. If I ever did it again, I would probably read through the recipes and prep the vegetables for all of the meals at once. The ingredients are high quality, but the portion sizes do not make leftovers. When I cook, I personally like leftovers because that makes a little less work for me throughout the week.

What are you loving lately? Any good recommendations?

Have a great week!

Teresa

 

 

Reading L.M. Montgomery’s Emily Series

L.M. Montgomery is one of my favorite writers. I wrote this post back when I first started blogging about my admiration for her that came from reading the Anne of Green Gables books when I was young. The Anne books bring me a feeling of nostalgia for when I was a girl, walking on my family’s farm and writing little stories in my spare time. My pap used to pay me for the stories that I would write when I walked over to his house.

Anyway, when I saw that several bloggers are reading L.M. Montgomery’s Emily series, I decided to join in with them. I just finished last weekend, so I’m a little behind others who might be participating (hey, it’s never too late to read a good book, right?).

Emily could be described as the dark-haired, more introspective counterpart of Anne. She is a budding poet with pointed ears that remind whimsical thinkers of a forest elf. When her father, a former journalist, passes away, Emily is sent to live with her mother’s extended family, which had been estranged from her because they thought they were too good for Emily’s father.

The first book, Emily of New Moon, is about a young girl discovering new parts of her identity — finding out about the life of her mother who died when she was young, and also finding herself as a writer despite the negative opinions of those around her. Writing poetry and reading novels is frowned upon by Emily’s aunt, who wants to raise her “properly,” and her first school teacher uses Emily’s poetry as a means of mocking her. The teacher purposefully reads the poems in a sing-song voice and critiques them harshly to show her control of the students.

Considering the times that Emily lived in and her status as an orphan and a female, she must continually hide her writing and her thoughts. She finds freedom in going to the attic to write or in playing with her few close friends that she meets at New Moon. She manages to stay an independent and creative thinker despite the efforts to control her. By today’s standards, it seems silly to consider reading novels and writing poetry out-of-bounds for a young woman, but that was the reality in those times. Emily’s father never tried to oppress her gift because he recognized it and understood it.

Throughout the book, Emily gets “the flash” when she sees something of beauty or has a moment that goes beyond the ordinary. I think “the flash” is something beyond creative inspiration. It is probably what some writers have described as the sublime or transcendence; since L.M. Montgomery was familiar with Thoreau’s writings, that’s my theory. One of my favorite parts of the book is when something supernatural happens; Emily sees something in an illness-induced dream that ends up redeeming the tainted memory of her best friend’s mother, who had been accused of running off to sea and abandoning her young baby and husband. In life, so much is beyond explanation. L.M. Montgomery captures that idea so well with Emily’s dream.

So far, I am enjoying the Emily series. L.M. Montgomery identified with Emily the most out of all her heroines. As a dark-haired, creative, introspective type, I identify with her more than Anne too. Stay tuned next month for my thoughts on the second book in the series, Emily Climbs.

Have you read the Emily books?

 

— Teresa

Books for a Positive Mindset

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51xl9fypayl-_sy346_Both books that I am reviewing this month are great for a positive Christian mindset. The first one is Talk Yourself Happy by Kristi Watts. She explains how you can transform your heart and mindset by speaking God’s scriptural promises as you go through challenges in your life. Watts does not sugar-coat the truth as she shares her own trials and testimony. She writes of betrayal by her ex-husband, raising her son as a single mother, going from a high-profile job to unemployed, going from a put-together persona to feeling less than beautiful, and how God gave her the strength to forgive and make peace with her ex as he lost the battle to cancer. As Christians, many of us walk through trials; they come in different forms, but the way Watts writes of her experiences is so true to the realities of life itself. I could relate to how she struggled with her identity as she went from a high-profile broadcast journalism job to unemployed because I used to work in the print journalism field, and I personally experienced what it was like to have to switch career fields because newspapers have taken such a hit over the past eight years. It was heartbreaking at first, but — like Watts — I am reminded that my identity in Christ will always remain, no matter how my job title may change. My story is not finished, but God has brought me through things I never could have imagined. Growth tends not to happen in comfortable times. I highly encourage you to visit her website.

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159052456xThe second book I am reviewing is Andy Stanley’s Visioneering. I have been a huge fan of Andy Stanley’s preaching for the past seven years. I first discovered his work when a small group I was attending used to watch his videos and discuss them. He gives a lot of practical advice about how to set up a wise life that is effective and pleasing to God. He talks about relationships, finances, and other practical aspects of life. His book is great for someone who wants to discover and maintain a personal vision. As I wrote earlier in this post, changes in the job market meant I had to shift the life direction that I took in my twenties. My early thirties were spent as a full time mom, and now I am in the education field. Having a vision, and not just floating through life, is so vital for having a life that is well-lived. If you have never heard Andy Stanley preach, I encourage you to check out Your Move with Andy Stanley. The videos are free to watch and will definitely provide a paradigm shift.

Both books from my reviews today were provided for free in return for my honest review — but I do highly recommend both. Even if you can’t afford them, please check out the websites for both ministries because the free videos are excellent. Talk Yourself Happy was provided by Book Look Bloggers, and Visioneering was provided by Blogging for Books.

Have a wonderful week!

xoxo Teresa

 

Final Thoughts on the Daniel Fast

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It’s very early on Sunday morning. I’ve got laundry going while I sit at my laptop, sipping some Matcha tea and catching up on a few blogs that I like to read. The house is quiet while my husband and son are still fast asleep. This morning is different because my Daniel Fast is over today. For the past three weeks, I ate the most healthy diet that I have ever eaten in my life. Generally, I don’t do a lot of processed foods or soda anyway, but the Daniel Fast definitely steps up the healthy game. Looking back, I am glad that I took on the challenge for the whole three weeks that my church committed to it. The first week was the hardest, especially not having coffee every morning. Three weeks with no coffee and creamer. Three weeks with no processed foods. Three weeks full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and unsweetened almond milk. For me, unsweetened freeze-dried fruits were a lifesaver some days when I was on the go and needed something just a little snacky.

As I said in my last post, I was not perfect a couple of days. Those days, I prayed and thanked God that his grace can cover my weaknesses — during my time of fasting, and in the daily journey of life itself. I believe I gave God my very best during these three weeks. The most surprising thing for me is that I do not feel like I need a cup of coffee this morning. My energy level went up without it. I also lost five pounds. Honestly, I was hoping to lose more than that — but hey, it’s better than gaining five pounds in the middle of winter!

Throughout my fast, my One Word for the year — JOY — kept showing up almost daily in ways that were so blatant that they had to be from God. Keep going, my child. Another way that God spoke to me was by reminding me that the fast is also about trust. I started out pre-planning so much, exerting my own control over the endeavor, and God told me to relax and not try to do this whole thing in my own strength. Amen to that.

Have a beautiful Sunday!

xoxo Teresa

 

P.S. If you missed my other Daniel Fast posts, check out Why I Started the Fast, along with reflections on Week One and Week Two.

Kari Jobe CD Giveaway

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Grammy nominated Kari Jobe is the premiere female worship leader in Christian

music. Coming off her last live album, Majestic, which featured the worship anthem

“Forever” and radio hit “I Am Not Alone,” Kari Jobe has returned to the studio to

record her new album, The Garden, full of brand new worship anthems for the

church and for personal reflection. Finding inspiration from life’s joys and

hardships, Kari leans into the firm foundation of Christ through it all. capture

I think Kari has a beautiful voice. This CD would be good for a quiet day at home or for when you’re feeling discouraged. I love the graphic design on the CD jacket — so pretty. I would like to give one of my readers a copy of her new CD, provided by FlyBy Promotions. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post.

Update: A winner has been chosen! Even if you didn’t win, I hope you will check out the new CD.

Daniel Fast Diary: Week Three

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This is my final week of The Daniel Fast. Here are my other two posts about why I started the fast and how my first week went. Last week, I was so busy that I didn’t get to write an update. My headaches (probably from the lack of caffeine and sugar) went away completely, and I started to feel a little more energy. As a side perk, I lost about five pounds. A few of the men at my church lost ten pounds the first week (Is it acceptable to feel jealous during a spiritual fast? haha).

The first week went smoothly, as far as sticking to the plan was concerned. The second week? I had a few moments that were less than perfect, but I am still chugging along. On the tenth day of the fast, I felt like God was telling me to go back and read the section of Daniel that tells about his food choice; as I read, I realized that the tenth day was when Daniel’s captors admitted that he looked healthier than the others and agreed to keep letting him eat the foods that he requested instead of foods from the king’s table. I had a moment where I was pretty excited that I made it to day ten.

Last Sunday, our pastor preached a sermon on the difference between perfection and excellence (doing your best at something new). When we try new things, he said, we might not always be perfect right away. Our best might not get compliments just yet. A person who is fasting for the first time might not be perfect, but trying and giving your all is better than not trying at all if you are called to it. This is my first time trying a fast; at times, I did have to rely on God’s grace, but overall it is going very well. The first week was the most spiritually challenging in terms of what life was throwing at me that week, while the second week was more challenging as far as sticking to the plan itself. Interestingly, throughout the first week, my word for the year — joy — kept showing up all over the place.

Only six days left . . .

Have a great week, and thanks for reading!

Teresa

 

 

Diary of My Daniel Fast

This is Day Six of my Daniel Fast. I wrote a post last week about why I’m doing the Daniel Fast and the meal plan that I am following. The fast is loosely based on the verses in which Daniel requests to eat only “pulse” and drink only water when he is in captivity. He ends up healthier than the people who eat from the king’s table because he is able to eat the diet he requests. Some Bible scholars believe that the food from the king’s table was being sacrificed to other gods, or perhaps Daniel’s request was a way of trying to keep his diet within kosher traditions. The verses were not intended to say that a vegetarian diet is better – but by today’s standards, the Daniel Fast is very healthy. It allows fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and water. Dairy, meat, coffee, wine, added sugar or salt, and processed foods are not allowed. The key part of the Daniel Fast is prayer and using the fast as a time to focus on God.

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DAY ONE: The first day of the fast was pretty simple. I had my breakfast shake, prepped my lunch, went to church, and then came home to eat the lunch. My son and hubby fell asleep on the couch, so I was able to cook ahead for the week. It was a peaceful, relaxing day. I sat down and read the book of Daniel from the Bible and prayed as I had planned that evening. I remembered a lot of the beginning of the book of Daniel from Sunday School when I was young (Daniel and the Lion’s Den, the fiery furnace, etc.), but the prophetic part of the end of the book were really complex and difficult to understand without reading some commentary about them.

DAY TWO: I woke up craving my cup of coffee, but my husband and I had the day off work for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so we went out for a walk instead. For a January morning, it was gorgeous. We walked about four miles in the fresh air. It was still easy to stay on the meal plan, other than feeling really tired by the end of the day without any caffeine at all. I continued my prayer and Bible reading that evening.

DAY THREE: This is the day it got hard. I had to go back to work, and my son had been sick that night. My job is very active and deals with people all day, so not having the cup of coffee was very, very difficult. I felt really sluggish, and I was definitely tempted to just add one cup of coffee or tea to my routine. I prayed about it, and I realized that immediately taking out the hardest part of the plan would not be the right thing to do. A fast is not supposed to be easy. Amazingly, that day, as I read my Jesus Always devotional, one of the verses was the verse that I had picked for my One Word resolution for the year (Isaiah 61:1). I felt like that was a burst of encouragement that I needed because I was struggling so much to stay upbeat and have energy. That evening, I went to a ladies paint night with my mom, and we painted a winter scene that turned out great. I ended up adding some freeze-dried fruit to my routine that day because I went straight from work to the painting party.

DAY FOUR: I had a headache and felt sick for several hours. It was probably the lack of caffeine. I prayed about it and pushed forward. When I got home from work, I decided to call it an evening of rest. My body was so exhausted because I had been up with my son again the night before. I have gotten to the point in my life that I have tried not to shy away from things that are hard. This fast is a challenge, yet I realize that many people around the world do not have the option of coffee or tea in the morning. They would love to eat the amount of food that I am eating on my fast. Admittedly, I will be really thankful when I can have a cup of hot tea because it is so comforting to me.

DAY FIVE: I have lost one pound so far. Last night, I started reading Talk Yourself Happy by Kristi Watts. The title sounds kind of gimmicky, but as I read, I found that she was speaking many of the truths that have come about in my own Christian walk concerning perspective and using Bible verses to speak truth to myself. I only planned on reading one chapter, but I was drawn in and ended up reading three. I am going to be reviewing the book on my blog later, and I will give you the full details on it. Her testimony about being a single mom who went from a high-profile job to an unemployed, single mom (and how God helped her through the struggles) is so honest and inspiring.

DAY SIX: This day was an emotionally tough one that left me feeling misunderstood in a certain situation. The temptation to have a cup of tea or a glass of wine this evening is definitely there, but I am pushing forward. I want my fast to be to God’s glory and pleasing to him. So far, so good. God knows me and knows my heart.

 

My fast ends Superbowl Sunday, so stay tuned for more . . .

xoxo Teresa

My Daniel Fast Starts Tomorrow

I am not a nutritionist or a Bible expert by any means, but I want to hopefully inspire others and hold myself accountable for the three-week commitment that I’ve made to the Daniel Fast. I’m starting by including my meal plan for the upcoming week at the bottom of this post. I just wrote it this morning, and I’m going to try to make as much of it as possible ahead of time because I work, and I don’t want to be overly focused on the food aspects of the fast (the spiritual aspects are most important).

The basic idea of the Daniel Fast is that, in the Old Testament book of Daniel in the Bible, Daniel asked his captors to give him only water and “pulse” for ten days and then see if he looked healthier than the others around him. He felt led by God to eat those healthful foods. Generally, I have seen “pulse” defined as what grows out of the ground, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Some people might define pulse in different ways.

I’m guessing that many people will probably eat as little as possible on the Daniel Fast. That’s not necessarily what I feel led to do. A personal trainer told me that I need to eat between 1,500 and 1,800 calories each day to be in a healthy range. My meal plan comes in at 1,205 before the optional evening snack. I will see how I feel at the end of the day and adjust accordingly. Since it’s a “fast,” I would not want to go over 1,500. Some people who do spiritual fasting spend their entire time only drinking water and devoting themselves to prayer; I don’t think God is calling me to do that type of fast.

My meal plan that I made is very healthy. It has protein, some whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. It does not include dairy, meat, processed foods, or added sugars and salts. For me, the hardest part will probably be not having a cup of coffee with cream in the morning. I already like to eat fruits and vegetables, and I like to drink water; I rarely drink soda, so in those ways, this plan is going to go along with some of the ways that I already eat.

If you are interested in resources for the Daniel Fast, which is different from the Daniel Plan that allows meats and dairy (it also sounds wonderful and healthy, but it’s just not what I’m doing), you can visit this site. I am not affiliated with the site in any way, but it is where I did most of my research. I also sat in Books-a-Million one Sunday afternoon and flipped through a book about the Daniel Fast to get some information and inspiration.

The most important aspect of the Daniel Fast is not to become focused on the food itself; rather, it is to pray and show extra devotion to God. People who have participated in prayer and fasting, including this type of fasting, have spoken of incredible spiritual growth and blessings. Of course, the process itself will not necessarily be pleasant. When Jesus himself fasted, Satan picked that time to tempt him and try to make him stumble. He tempted Christ to turn rocks into bread at a time when he would have been very hungry. I plan to read the book of Daniel and pray each day of my fast.

My Three Goals

  1. Eat only foods allowed on the Daniel Fast
  2. Become more healthy over the next three weeks
  3. Pray and read the book of Daniel each day of the three weeks to grow spiritually.


Continue reading

Book Reviews

Welcome to my first set of book reviews for 2017.

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A book that I purchased and read within a matter of hours this month was Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham. As a Gilmore Girls extreme fan, this was a must-have for my bookshelf. I got the free trial of Netflix on Black Friday just to watch Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. The Netflix shows left me wanting more. Now I need to know who the father of Rory’s baby is (Logan, most likely) and what’s next for her. Like other bloggers, I was bothered by how “stuck” Rory and Lorelai seemed, but I was so, so pleased with the story lines for Jess and Emily. Seeing Emily in jeans and a t-shirt was enough reason to watch. The Stars Hollow Musical was weird, but I didn’t hate it (lol); Sutton Foster and Christian Borle were fun choices for it. As for the book, it was awesome to realize that Lauren Graham has such an incredible sense of humor. I also read her novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe, awhile back and thought it was a fun read too. One part of her new book that stuck with me and bothered me was how much sexism Lauren Graham recalled encountering when she wrote her first novel (people asked her who helped her with it, as though she could not have really written it herself, even though she studied English). She was asked a lot of questions that a man probably would not have been asked. Grrr. If you are a Gilmore Girls fan, I guarantee you will laugh out loud when you read her new book.

 

Blogging for Books sent me an uncorrected proof of Liz Curtis Higgs’ upcoming book, The Women of Easter, in return for my honest review. I had just finished reading her book, The Women of Christmas, during the holiday season — something I have done for the past three years. That book has illuminated the Christmas season for me each time I have read it, so I was excited to have a book that I could read during the Easter holidays now too. The only Christian book that I anticipated this much last year was Sarah Young’s Jesus Always devotional. Higgs writes about the roles that the three Marys — Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene — played in the biblical events of Easter. Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’s feet with perfume, symbolically preparing him for burial. His mother stood by as he was crucified, and Mary Magdalene showed her devotion to her teacher and savior as well.Even though Easter probably isn’t on your radar just yet this year, I recommend this well-researched book for that season.

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Book Look Bloggers sent me God Made You Nose to Toes in return for my honest review. I love the cheerful illustrations and the message about God creating different body parts, from head to toe. The rhyme pattern adds to the charm of the book. The entire book is both high-quality and adorable at the same time. Plus, the book looks really cute setting on my son’s dresser.

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P.S. Did you see my post yesterday?

xoxo Teresa

 

Happy Blog Year

Hello, and happy 2017!

I hope your new year is already off to a joyful start. As for me: so far, so good. We had a little birthday party for my son this past week. It was a great time, baking a cake for him and inviting a couple of his best buddies over. To make up for my non-professional cake decorating skills, I slapped a Dory toy onto the side of the cake that I had iced blue and put sprinkles all over. Carson liked the Dory cake. We also had some Paw Patrol masks, party hats, whistles, and an extensive Spotify playlist that included songs for the boys and for the adults too. The party was small, but I feel so blessed that we had a little group of people who took time on a dark, rainy Tuesday to celebrate with us. Always the (overly) reflective type, I thought about how it seems like God had a hand in bringing those friendships into our lives.

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Speaking of being a reflective, introverted person — haha — I have been making One Word Resolutions for the past several years. Past words have been connect, hope, and confident. The hilarious thing is that I often felt like I struggled with those particular concepts throughout the year that I chose the words. I picked confident during a year that constantly challenged me to the point that I wanted to just hide sometimes, but by the end of the year, I realized that the challenges really had contributed a more confident outlook in my life. I had to depend on God to bring me there; I felt like I was often operating from a place of weakness, but that is a place where God can bring growth. The year that I chose hope, I had to keep reminding myself where my hope is anchored. This year, the word that I feel God has placed on my heart is joyful. “Really?” I asked. “Joyful?” I have gotten used to struggling through my One Word Resolutions, so joyful came as a surprise. Then God confirmed the word to me two more times this past week. Joyful it is. Is it lazy of me to hope this one will come naturally? (She winks.) I am going to expect the best.

Last year, my blog focused on Bible Journaling and book reviews. I also did some posts on “what I’m into.” I am going to keep the book reviews because I enjoy getting books in the mail. It appeals to the kid in me. It’s like getting a present once or twice a month. I’m also going to sprinkle in some “what I’m into” posts because those are so much fun to look back on; as I go back through my blog, I nod and remember that phase when I made a lot of cauliflower soup.

As I reflected and listened for the spirit’s guidance for my blog this year, it seemed like God was telling me to start the new year not with the Bible Journaling posts like I had done last year; instead, what kept coming to mind is the idea that my church is going to be doing a Daniel Fast for three weeks this month. It starts next Sunday. That’s really all I know about it. I have done a little Google research, and it seems like the fast allows fruits, vegetables, unprocessed grains, nuts and water. Plain popcorn (no salt, no butter) sounds like it’s a go, but dairy, meat, coffee, and tea are all no-no’s. Rather than focusing on the diet aspect, though, the fast is focused on honoring God and showing devotion. I am going to try to honor God by participating; my husband isn’t going to do it because he works with the public, and he thinks he would not be able to stay pleasant and feel good on the fast. It sounds tough. No lie. I am a little nervous about how pleasant I will be myself. I like fruits and vegetables, so that’s a plus. The hardest part will probably be going to work without a cup of coffee for three weeks straight. Also, not having my usual glass of wine with a friend once a week will probably be tough because it’s become a very fun and relaxing ritual.

Has anyone else done a Daniel Fast before? Is anyone doing it this year? I would love to hear from you. I am going to post a book review this week, and then you’ll hear from me when the fast starts.

xoxo Teresa