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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?

Jesus.

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.

jesus manger christmas

Celebrate this gift this Christmas!

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22 Things to Be Thankful For

Thanksgiving Sleep

Me after the coming meal on Thursday

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!

Letting Go(d)

Stifler and Jim Drinking

“Letting go” on a Friday

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!!!

Just kidding.

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!

Letting Go

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.

Rushing to Wait

become more patient healthy happy holy

Be patient. It took awhile to build this view!

Isn’t it the best feeling when you get a great deal? When your plan falls perfectly into place and you get that dumb grin on your face? I love that. But what about when the opposite happens?

I drive an ’05 Jeep Wrangler, and I’m the third owner. I love taking the top down in the summer and it’s great for drive-in movie theaters. However, Wranglers don’t have all the modern electronics of most cars on the road today. With all of their removable tops, doors, and windshields, it wouldn’t make sense to put a bunch of expensive electronics on the inside. I realized this when I bought it, but as it gets colder here in Iowa, I want to know what the outside temperature is. I also would like to know which direction I’m going as I drive, because I’ve always been a little directionally challenged. Just last month, I started a journey to Iowa City (2 hours directly east of my house) by driving north on Interstate 35 for 20 miles before realizing my mistake. Brilliant. And my buddy riding shotgun was none too thrilled about getting to Iowa City 45 minutes later than expected.

This past Monday, I found the solution to both of these problems at the only place that could have such a magical cure: Wal-Mart. I located a “3-in-1”, battery-operated, self-mounting device that simultaneously told you the direction you were driving, the temperature outside your car, and the time. All I had to do was activate the sticky tape on the bottom and stick it on my dash. Incredible, right? After the initial shock of this amazing find wore off, I composed myself long enough to purchase it for $3.89.

The perfect deal! I’d found it in my first attempt! This solved all my problems, and for less than $5. Y-E-S.

It was only 3 minutes after this moment of ecstasy that I learned the sad truth. My “guaranteed accurate” thermometer gave me a reading of 95 degrees, which is strange mid-October weather in Iowa. (This never changed once throughout the day, despite the temperature dropping from mid-60’s to high 40’s.) And my trusty compass assured me I was traveling north as I drove home, even as I was driving straight east for miles. Ugh. I had gotten screwed. And do you know why?

I’m impatient.

I was so eager to fix my problem, I was willing to accept any solution. I didn’t even look at any other stores or check out Google for other options. I don’t even remember looking around the aisle at Wal-Mart for other choices. All I could think about was solving my problem, completely, right now. So I bought a poorly made tool that did exactly nothing of what it promised. In fact, I didn’t even check to see if it worked before dedicating 2 minutes of my life smashing it into my dash with my entire body weight. Smooth move, Thomas.

themometer compass living happy healthy holy

$3.89 worth of regret

After spending a good chunk of time removing the boneheaded purchase (and its stinky gunk) from my dash 2 days later, I realized this wasn’t the first time I had made a hasty decision or purchase. I do it all the time. A cheap thermometer/compass tool isn’t a big deal, but it shines as an example of my thought process as I make decisions, both big and small.

If I would have simply waited 15 minutes until I got back home, I could have Googled a solution with high reviews from other drivers. I could have checked prices at Wal-Mart, Target, AutoZone, and more. This would have saved me $3.89, 2 days of buyer’s remorse, and it would have actually solved my problem (which is still unsolved). All I had to do was be a little more patient.

Do you find that you struggle with this as well? Are there other areas of your life that you switch plans and make choices due to a lack of patience? I rush to find the newest workout plan that offers “guaranteed results” and “massive triceps in 3 days or less”. These change every week, so my workout regimen does too. I read half an article about yogurt’s dietary powers on the Internet and all of a sudden I’m shoveling Yoplait in my mouth at every meal. I see clients meeting with my mom (a registered dietician) and filling her in on this new diet they’re trying that “works better than anything I’ve ever tried!” They are usually off of that diet within 2 weeks and moving to the next one they swear is even better. What’s the deal?

This isn’t just fitness, either. If I do the same boring thing at work for a week straight, I start looking around at what other people are doing in their jobs and thinking about how much fun that would be. I often look at my savings account and decide it’s growing far too slowly, so I begin brainstorming additional ways to make money. When driving to Ames from Des Moines, I try a different route each time because I just know I can shave 3 minutes off my travel time if I go up the “back route”. What’s the deal?

Patience comes down to trust. If you trust that something good is going to happen, then you have a great reason to be patient. But when you lose trust and you no longer believe that waiting is worth it, then why would you be patient? You wouldn’t. Trust is essential to patience. I need to trust in my workout plan to achieve my results. I need to trust that slowly saving my money is a responsible way to build up my savings for later. And I should have trusted in the opinions of other drivers before spending actual money on my Wal-Mart debacle.

In my life, I have recently been putting a lot of my trust in God. I realize people might be at different points in a relationship with God, but I just wanted to share something that works for me. God says through the Bible that He has our best intentions in mind, and why wouldn’t He? He created us. All too often, I try to take things into my own hands (my Wal-Mart purchase, my new diet, my get-rich-quick schemes), and every single one of those plans fail. And they fail hard, right on their face. It has been very helpful for me to slow down and trust in God’s plan, not my own. But I still struggle with it every day, because I’m so used to this culture of impatience and trying every new thing on my own.

Trusting in His plan gives me more patience than I could ever have on my own, because I know His plan is simply better than mine. It also helps my mind to relax and become free, because the pressure is off. God has it all under control, and that is a freeing thought! I can stop scheming, planning, and worrying. That greatly improves my mental health and reduces my stress level. All I have to do is trust. And be patient.

bad planning living happy healthy holy

Does this look like some of your “great” plans?

I’m a work in progress. I’m one half-bent piece of a 1,000 piece puzzle, but with patience and trust I’m confident I can continue to make progress. My body can get healthier, and my mind can become healthier through freedom of stress. Patience is a pretty powerful tool. Way better than anything you can buy for $3.89 at Wal-Mart…trust me.

What do you think? What are you impatient with in your life? What creates that “rushed” feeling inside of you? How do you deal with trusting in your future plans? Let’s talk about it as a community! Leave some comments and join the discussion.

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