The One Reason for the Christmas Season
Oh boy. The music is on the radio. The family schedules are being planned. The specials are on TV (seriously, did anyone else notice that the SNL Christmas Special aired Wednesday? On November 28th?). This all adds up to one thing…
Christmas is here!
Every year, people around the world wait in line for hours for $1.50 off a neck tie, stretch their credit limits buying gifts, and eat themselves sick with treats and egg nog. This adds up to enough mental stress to literally hear those “sweet silver bells” in your ears throughout the night. The holiday buffet is notorious for ruining healthy eating habits the world over. And this year, the season lasts even longer due to Thanksgiving being about as early as it can be.
And yet…Christmas is special. This time of year is different than any other, and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside every time the calendar turns to December. Why is that?
This year I am truly realizing how much joy and love were wrapped up in that precious gift about 2,012 years ago. Some things that have come to my mind this week:
– God created all of us for a relationship with Him. He loved us and wanted a loving relationship with us, but we constantly turned away and chased after our own invented desires, creating a roller coaster of ignoring Him or demanding miracles from Him for centuries. Could I put up with that behavior in the relationships in my life?
– Instead of giving up on His creation, He decided to love us even more. He gave his one and only son and sent him to Earth to save the very people who were ignoring and mocking Him. Think about that. Have I ever even heard of an unconditional love like this?
– The King of the World should have announced his arrival with trumpets, lightning, earthquakes, and booming voices. There should have been shiny gifts and angels presenting Him from heaven. Instead, He was born to a virgin teenager and her nervous fiance in a dirty barn with a bunch of smelly animals. This was the gift to save the human race, and they didn’t even get invited into a house. Hollywood couldn’t even write this story. If I was a king, would I have entered like this? Is that fair?
So instead of stressing about what to buy your nephew or how many cookies you need to bake for your party, take a second for a deep breath. Think about that gift we all were given. Isn’t that incredible?! That’s an amount of love that is hard to imagine. And it’s meant for you. And your family and friends. So before you get stressed or frustrated about gifts or diets this season, think of that gift of love.
No wonder this time of year is different. No wonder there is so much joy and love in houses all over the world during this season. There is a reason for that. And that reason is Jesus. God sent Him to save an unworthy people, and we were given the gift of love and forgiveness and eternal life. Rejoice! Celebrate! Be happy during this time of year, because it is truly the best gift ever given! And make sure to say a prayer of thanks before pouring another cup of egg nog.
22 Things to Be Thankful For
Isn’t it nice when you start the work week on a Wednesday? I’m thankful for that. Since today is basically Thursday (and therefore almost the weekend), I’m in a good mood. And I’m thankful for that.
Thanksgiving is only 2 days away. That means I have 48 hours until I am passed out on my couch drooling because I ate too much turkey, too many rolls, and a few too many spoonfuls of mashed potatoes. I’m thankful and excited about that! Some of you may have seen or participated in the Facebook “thankful” movement. It included posting a different status every day about something/someone you are “thankful for” for the 22 days leading up to Turkey Day. It was a cool idea and I’m sad I didn’t get in on it. So I’m making up for lost time before it’s too late! Here’s 22 things I’m thankful for, in no particular order:
I am thankful for Christmas music. Although I won’t allow myself to listen to it until after Thanksgiving.
I am thankful for God. He has done some amazing things in my life this past year and has opened my eyes to incredible relationships and exciting future opportunities. We’ve grown closer this past year and I’m so thankful for that.
I am thankful for Google. Remember when you had to read books or ask experts when you wanted to learn how to do something? Ha.
I am thankful for my Christian girlfriend. She is such a strong woman and a true inspiration to me. She has brought an unbelievable amount of joy, laughter, and love into my life.
I am thankful for Twinkies….damn.
I am thankful for my health. This year I’ve seen people around me lose their good health, and it’s sad. Even if you don’t have the body you want or that “ideal weight” you have in your mind, be thankful that you are healthy enough to use your body and mind on a daily basis. I am.
I am thankful to have a job. Being a recent college graduate, I see many of my friends looking for work and I’m praying for them. They’re talented, and I’m confident they will all find jobs. But I am thankful to be employed and to be making money when so many haven’t been as fortunate.
I am thankful for football. I can’t imagine fall without it. Procrastinating work and “to do” lists is never easier than when football is on TV.
I am thankful for kids. They keep everyone young and they bring their energy and happiness to family gatherings all over the world this time of year.
I am thankful for memories. The holidays always bring back memories of my childhood around this time, and I think that happens for a lot of people. That is one reason that this time of year is so special!
I am thankful for beer. Who isn’t?
I am thankful for movies. This time of year always seems to bring out all the “Oscar-quality” movies, and I love going to the theater on snowy weekends. I am also thankful for all the classic Christmas movies we will watch over the next month. A couple favorites:
I am thankful for social media. I love seeing pictures of cousins from Colorado and Montana. I have friends that went to college in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, but I can harass them from right here in Iowa. This technology has allowed us to keep in touch with people all over the world within seconds, and I love it.
I am thankful for good friends. I have always been blessed with a great circle of friends, and as we are entering the “real world”, it is fun to have such great people in the same boat with me.
I am thankful for fantasy football. If you can make games between the Chiefs and Browns intriguing to me, you are onto something. Good work!
I’m thankful to live in Iowa. Don’t laugh! Iowa has it going on lately. I’ve been here my whole life, but just recently have I started realizing what a blessing it is to live here, and I wouldn’t trade it for anywhere else.
I am thankful for my family. They are always there for me, and they have been so supportive of me in this time of “transition” after college.
I am thankful to be an American. I know the election caused divisions and disagreements all over the country, but isn’t it amazing that we actually have an election? We are free when so many are not, and that is a blessing.
I am thankful for no snow yet. I’m cool with snow from December 24th-January 1st. After that, it better melt and leave me alone for the rest of the year.
I am thankful for football coach Paul Rhoads. I am an Iowa State graduate, so naturally I love the Cyclones. Paul Rhoads has done it again at ISU, and is taking the Cyclones to their 3rd bowl game in 4 years. For a program that has never had any consistent success, this guy is leading us in the right direction and it’s freakin’ awesome.
I am thankful for a long weekend.
I am thankful for a short work week. Are those the same thing?
What are you thankful for? Leave a comment or tweet me @HolyHappyHealth!
When McDonald’s Beats Panera
Earlier this week, I was in a rush. It was lunch break, and I had an hour to get from one appointment to the next, drive across town, and grab something to eat. I wanted to stick to my healthy goals, but I also didn’t want to pay $45 to get those expensive organic ingredients and arrive 15 minutes late to my next meeting. Out of the windshield of my speeding car, I saw McDonald’s and Panera Bread. Easy, healthy choice: Panera. Right?
Panera Sierra Turkey Sandwich: 920 calories, 441 calories from fat, 12g saturated fat
McDonald’s Big Mac: 550 calories, 260 calories from fat, 10g saturated fat
WTF?! The Sierra Turkey is my favorite sandwich at Panera. And now I see why: it is laced with fat. It almost doubles the Big Mac in calories and fat calories. If you click the links, you can see all the nutritional information. I’m multiplying Panera’s listed “fat grams” by a multiple of 9 to see how many fat calories the sandwich contains (1 gram of fat typically contains 9 calories). Now to be fair to Panera, you can order a half sandwich of the Sierra Turkey (good luck ordering half of a Big Mac). But then you would likely combine it with soup, right?
Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup: 200 calories, 108 calories from fat, 8g saturated fat
With half of the Sierra Turkey sandwich and their smaller cup of Broccoli Cheddar Soup, your total comes to: 660 calories, 328 calories from fat, 14g saturated fat. Still worse than a Big Mac. Now if you add fries to the Big Mac, then this Panera combination becomes a slightly healthier option, but not by much. And the full Sierra Turkey is still less healthy than the Bic Mac-and-Fries combo.
Oh, you are more of a bacon cheeseburger kind of guy? Ok, let’s look at the Burger King Double Bacon Cheeseburger against Jimmy John’s #1 option on their menu: the Pepe sub sandwich.
Burger King Double Bacon Cheeseburger: 440 calories, 220 calories from fat, 10g saturated fat
Jimmy John’s Pepe Sub: 614 calories, 276 calories from fat, 8g saturated fat
Again, what’s the deal? The Pepe sub sandwich isn’t even a 12″ sandwich; these stats are for the standard 8″ version. If I had these numbers in my head at lunch, why wouldn’t I want a double bacon cheeseburger that costs less and hurts my body less? Jimmy John’s may be freaky fast, but they are also freaky sneaky with that nutritional information.
I’m not saying you should go out and demolish a buffet from McDonald’s or Burger King. I think we all know that fast food is not the ticket to overall health. But don’t blindly assume that lunch spots pitching themselves as “healthier options” actually are your healthiest choice. If I am serious about respecting my body and getting the most out of it, I owe it to myself to do a little research before putting food into it. In fairness, all four of the mentioned restaurants have better (and worse) menu items for your health goals. Look at the linked nutritional information for yourself. Just make sure you do a little homework the next time you are searching for a quick lunch break.
2 Reasons To Lift With Your Legs
Today we bring you a special message to help you live healthier and stronger. This message is particularly for our male readers, and it comes from a couple guys that know them well: their own legs.
Right leg: Hey there. It’s me, your right leg. Thank you for sitting down right now; I was getting so tired that my ankle was sweating through the sock.
Left leg: No joke, bro. I felt like I was carrying you around all day. Maybe if I had some regular exercise over here, I wouldn’t be so wiped…
RL: And that is why we are here to talk to you. We think it is great that you are going to the gym, working up a sweat, and trying to get into better shape. This will definitely improve your energy levels and your overall health.
LL: It’s also gonna clear your mind, dude.
RL: Correct. It will also help you to de-stress. But why are you letting your arms and chest have all the fun in the gym? What? We get 5 minutes on a treadmill and we’re done for the day?
LL: Right on. Running is legit, but I need more than that. I look like a drinking straw down here while your left arm keeps giving me smack talk and punching me in the thigh.
RL: Running is great for cardiovascular help and it will burn off fat as well. Which is great! But we need some weight training, just like the upper body. Don’t be afraid to do a few squats, or leg extensions, or calf raises, or…
LL: Or some left-legged curls. I heard the ladies love those.
RL: Shut up, Leftie. The point is, you need to dedicate some fitness time to your legs. Nobody (ladies included) likes a guy with a huge upper body on top of a pair of wet noodles. In fact, your legs should be stronger than your arms, as you will use your leg muscles for far more practical purposes throughout the day. We see a lot of guys at the gym neglecting their legs and focusing on the “glamour” muscles in the arms and chest. Don’t be that guy! We are going for full-body health and fitness here, not just pretty arms.
LL: And if you have weak legs, you put a lot of stress on your back during exercises, bro. And we all know what a whiner that guy is.
RL: Weak legs can lead to poor exercise form, and this leads to injuries. We don’t want you getting hurt! God gave you legs, so take care of us and use us properly, and we will support the rest of that body you are working on.
LL: Dude, you like sports right? Well a good solid foundation of strong legs is crucial in just about any sport out there. Give us some love and we will return the favor on the court or field. And sports can even help you to make us stronger. Think of fun stuff like biking, surfing, and hiking.
RL: I think you see our point. So, next time you head to the gym, make sure you give us a “legs day”, instead of reserving all of your energy for your biceps, chest, and back. We even have a day dedicated to legs in our own workout plan on this site!
LL: And bro, stop looking at your triceps in the mirror so often. It’s creeping me out.
Whew, Friday. Let the weekend begin! Letting go! The title of this post relates to tossing back copious amounts of beer and letting go of all inhibitions!!!
That wouldn’t be very good for my fitness goals or my productivity on Monday morning. Also, it isn’t what has been working on my mind and heart lately. This month, this week, right now, I’m struggling with something I’ve always struggled with: letting go. I like control; I like to imagine that I have it all figured out, and I like to plan/scheme/organize my life. But every day something I never expected happens and my plan changes. And I get upset because now I have to re-plan or re-schedule and re-think my approach. This happens all the time to me, including this week and today. Do you have similar experiences with your life plans? Does it add stress to your day? What’s the deal?
It turns out, I can’t control everything. In fact, I do a pretty poor job of controlling anything. And I just stress myself out worrying about how to plan for my future. Or even just planning for what I’m doing after work!
Today, I’ve felt God working on me with this. And this isn’t a new development: He has been talking to me my whole life about letting go of all of these worries and stresses and leaving them up to Him. The thing is, I push Him off and ignore Him because I’m too busy planning my own path. Dumb, right? If I was going to ascend Mt. Everest and a local Sherpa with years of experience came to me with a proven climbing plan and offered to carry all of my equipment, I should shout “HELL YES” shouldn’t I? But instead I shoo him away because I’m Googling “beginner hiking techniques”. Smart.
The point is: I need to let go of this stuff. It weighs on me and it brings me down if I think about it too much. God is in control, and that is a truly reassuring thought if you let it sink in. No matter how hard you plan, or how much you try, God created all of this and it will end up how He wants it to. I need to do a better job of laying my problems, worries, and goals at His feet and saying “Take them. Do with them and with me what You will.” I’m sure it would free up my mind and my soul if I did this on a daily basis.
This is freeing, but it is also a scary thought if you’re like me. I don’t like the idea of letting go. But I am confident that anything I could have planned for my life is laughable when compared to what God has in store for me. He keeps telling me this, and I’m finally going to do something about it. I’m going to completely lean on Him and trust in Him to lead me where it is best for me. Scary…sure, but I found some proof that it may put my mind at ease:
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.” (Matthew 6:25-29, NLT)
All of my worries can’t add a single moment to my life. So why waste my time worrying? God has me covered, and His plan is awesome.
Now, I’m not going to stop planning everything. I’m not going to throw on sweats, lay in a pile of Fritos, and stop going to work because “God will provide”. That’s irresponsible. But I will stop acting like my plan is the end-all-be-all of my day. I am going to admit when I don’t have the answers and I’m going to ask God to guide me. I am going to let go of my vice grip on my life’s goals and simply trust in His will. (I wrote about trust a bit right here.) I hope this leads to a more stress-free, worry-free daily life. And a happier end goal than I could ever imagine.
Are there certain things in your life that you are holding onto? Are there areas where you push God away? For me, it’s planning for my future. But it could be anything, and I’m curious to know what it is for you.
When Working Out Just Sucks
Some days suck (read: Mondays, Tuesdays, some Wednesdays). I don’t want to get out of bed. And if I do manage to peel myself off my mattress in the morning, as soon as I come home for my lunch break I just want to climb back in and sleep the afternoon away. And now with daylight savings, it seems that it starts getting dark at 2pm, sapping any energy I would have after work.
How are you supposed to stay dedicated to your fitness goals on days like this? How do you go for that run, or grab your bike, or pick up those dumbbells?
The tough answer: Suck it up.
The nice answer: Suck it up. Please.
I know nobody wants to hear that. I don’t even like typing it. It hurts. But it’s also true. If you are going to reach your fitness goals, you’re going to have to be consistent. Even on days when you don’t feel like it. It’s so important.
Has anyone ever told you “it gets easier to quit the more you do it”? Well, it’s true. The first time you break your workout routine, you feel guilty. But if you do it again the next day, it is easier to justify because you have already missed once. And if you’ve missed two days in a row, then it makes sense to skip the rest of the week and start up again next week, right? WRONG.
Even if it sucks, try your best to keep yourself to a routine. It will become harder and harder to break as you stick with it, which will get you in better and better shape and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: stick to your routine > the routine gets harder to break > you look better > you want to stick with your routine.
If you have to skip a day, try to get a little extra work in next time. Or, if you know you will be busy during your usual workout time, reschedule it to a better time for that day. Make little adjustments so you can stay on schedule with your goals.
One last trick: pray for strength/energy/endurance/desire/whatever. If you are having a slow day, doing a quick workout can really give you a boost. And if you need a boost to get into “fitness mode”, ask God for a little pick-me-up. He blessed you with that body, and He wants you to get the most out of it. He will be glad to help you get going, trust me! I’ve started doing this and you would be shocked how easy this is and how quickly it can help. Try it!
That’s all I have for today. Main point: even when it sucks, even when you’re tired, get after it! You’ll be glad you did.
If you want to see a fantastic motivational video to get your butt out of bed in the morning, look no further. I saw this a few months ago and I watch it when I’m feeling lazy:
When is it toughest for you to work out? Which day “hurts” the most? Do you have any stories where you persevered to reach a goal?