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Good Health for Good Works is preparing to take some time off to celebrate Christmas! But we didn't want to miss the opportunity to share this previous post to remind both you and ourselves of the importance of establishing and living by priorities this season.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Christmas is one week away! As we are making final preparations for our Christmas celebrations, I feel it is important to ask one very important question: When will you stop?
When will you bring to a halt your Christmas preparations so that you can actually enter into the experience of celebrating God’s best gifts to us - our Savior and time with loved ones?
Let me be more specific: What is the exact date and time that you will stop shopping for the perfect gift, wrapping presents, cooking and baking food for gatherings and writing and sending Christmas cards? When is the time that you will choose to live with things as they are, even if you have not done everything as much as you wanted or as well as you wanted?
There is a time to just stop so that you can savor the opportunity before you – to enter into worship and fellowship associated with the authentic meaning of Christmas.
I guess what I am saying is, “Don’t miss it!” Don’t let Christmas sail by without stopping to worship, remember, savor and be a full participant in this meaningful season of celebration.
In Luke 10:38-42, we are reminded of the two sisters, Mary and Martha, both of whom had the opportunity to fellowship with Jesus in their own home. Martha is described as “worried and upset about many things” as she was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” Mary is described as having “chosen what is better” as she “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he had said.” Notice that, as Jesus speaks to Martha, the issue at hand is not that she was making preparations, but rather that she was allowing her activity to distract her from something more valuable and important – fellowship with Jesus and others.
Over the next few days, as we cook meals and host gatherings, may we focus on choosing “what is better.” Our willingness to do a “holiday halt” may be the key to a merry and meaningful Christmas celebration as well as preserving our own health and sanity. It may also serve as a great example to others of the importance of making choices for the sake of higher and more meaningful priorities.
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.”
May you have a very merry and meaningful Christmas!
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"I hate Christmas!"
I admit that several years ago, I said these three words out loud. Talk about a holiday heresy! A good Christian woman is just not supposed to say these three words. After my momentary outburst, I realized that I don’t really hate Christmas. In fact, there are several things that I love about Christmas –
So, what could have ever possessed me to say those three awful words - “I hate Christmas!?” One word: stress! Stress that comes from the self-imposed pressure to meet expectations. Expectations created based on:
I don’t know about you, but I have learned that if I want to honor God and bless others this season – to have a meaningful and merry Christmas instead of committing a holiday heresy - I need to examine some of my perceived expectations, such as:
Family gatherings should feel good and be enjoyable!
Christmas traditions should be upheld every year.
Christmas celebrations should include numerous gifts
and celebrations that are elaborate.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? Me too!
I think that honoring God and blessing others at Christmas involves examining my perceived expectations in light of the truth – those godly principles that apply to every day of the year, regardless of the season or the expectations that come from my own thoughts or from other people.
Even in the midst of “peace on earth, goodwill towards men”,
difficult people will still be who they are!
And remember that, sometimes, we can be difficult to deal with as well!
Be loving and love the unlovely in light of reality.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Remember the old “holiday traditions” but realize that people and circumstances change.
Examine and adjust yesterday’s traditions to today’s realities because,
“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
Even in the “season of giving” there are still only 24 hours in a day
and money still does not grow on trees.
Use wisdom and prayer in determining expenditures
of time, energy and money and,
“…give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
(2 Corinthians 9:7)
I feel better already and am looking forward to merry and meaningful Christmas celebrations!
How about you? How are you doing in these last few weeks before we celebrate Christmas? What do you feel is expected of you this Christmas season? Are your perceptions about your expectations based on the truth? What needs to change so that you can authentically honor God, bless others and have a meaningful and Merry Christmas?
Thanksgiving is over, and the wonder of the Christmas season is here! I love it!
But the wonder of the Christmas season also includes a wonderful To Do list that has gotten much longer since before Thanksgiving. In addition to all my regular activities, it now includes:
We do all these things during the Christmas season because we want to honor and express our thankfulness to God for sending His Son and we want to bless others and enjoy our family.
But all this wonder often makes it more difficult for me to maintain my normal health routines that I depend on to keep me on track with good health habits. As I am working through my wonderful To Do list, I’m finding it harder to cook healthy meals, get regular exercise and get enough sleep.
Have you ever considered that one way that we
can honor God and express our thankfulness to
Him during the Christmas season is to do what is
necessary to take care of this beautiful
body, mind and spirit that He has given us?
And one way that we can bless others and our family
is to take care of ourselves so that we
are available and have the energy to
give to them and enjoy them?
To help us do that during this wonderful season, I want to share my current favorite One Pot Wonder that I have cooked many times when I want to prepare a healthy meal in the midst of a busy schedule.
This One Pot Wonder has many positive attributes:
This One Pot Wonder is called Shakshuka (recipe below) and I must thank my daughter for introducing me to this wonderful meal!
My family enjoys this meal with a high fiber crusty homemade whole grain bread that contains oats and seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and chia) – another One Pot Wonder recipe that I will share at a later time.
I hope you try out this wonderful One Pot Wonder so that you can enjoy a wonderful and healthy Christmas season!
(adapted from https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/245362/chef-johns-shakshuka/)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
1/2 cup water, or more as needed
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons crumbled goat or feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Heat olive oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add onions and mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt. Cook and stir until mushrooms release all of their liquid and start to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in bell peppers. Stir in jalapeno pepper (optional). Cook and stir until peppers begin to soften up, about 5 minutes. Season with cumin, paprika, turmeric, black pepper, and cayenne. Stir and cook to "wake up" the flavors, about 1 minute. Pour in tomatoes and water. Adjust heat to medium and simmer uncovered until veggies are softened and sweet, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes. Add more water if sauce becomes too thick.
Make a depression in the sauce for each egg with a large spoon. Crack egg into a small ramekin and slide gently into each indentation; repeat with the rest of the eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until eggs are to your desired doneness.
Top with goat or feta cheese and parsley.
Good Health for Good Works is travelling this week, but did not want to miss the opportunity to share a previous post to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!
Today, there are:
So many things that have little eternal significance. That one great meal will be digested. That sale item bought will eventually be thrown out or given away.
May I suggest that we, in the midst of all the busyness,
make an investment in something eternal.
Let's find a place, any place (bathroom, basement, closet) where we can get alone for a few minutes and let's breathe and remember and thank God for the wonderful deeds He has done in our life this past year. Let's invest in our relationship with our Eternal Father.
I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
Let's find a loved one, any loved one (parent, sibling, in-law, cousin, friend) and let's take them on a one on one Thanksgiving walk and ask and listen and connect and empathize and encourage. Let's invest in the life of this only here once in eternity person that God has created and brought into our life because once they are gone there will never be anyone identical to them again!
And as for your health? Well, if we do struggle with health issues related to unhealthy eating, it is probably not because of one indulgence. It is because of repeated indulgences. So, enjoy today and invest in thanking God, enjoying His provision and enjoying others. And if you do overindulge, quickly get back to those parameters we put in place that help us to limit our indulgences. One easy way to do that is simply to send all the leftovers home with others or to immediately put them in the freezer.
Our health is important, but our health is not always the most important thing. It is foolish to pursue good health as an end to itself. Health, like money, is only a tool. It is useful because, if used wisely, it enables us to survive, thrive and be a blessing to others!
I'm not saying that investing in healthy eating today is not important. I'm just saying that, sometimes it is wise to shift our focus beyond the one big meal that will be eaten today and digested tomorrow and, instead, focus our attention on investments of eternal significance. Or at least make it a point to focus on both!
When it comes to our health-related efforts, we often put our focus on outcomes.
What was the number on the scale today?
What was your time on that 10K race last week?
How many sizes did you go down on that diet you tried?
And it is not surprising - that is how the world works. The world focuses on outcomes. In fact, achieving a specific outcome is the basis of almost every single health improvement program that is advertised in the media.
There is nothing wrong with desiring a specific outcome. Goal setting is a good thing. But when we forget that the outcome we seek is merely a result of our daily behavioral choices, we can run into problems. Becoming obsessed with an outcome can quickly cause us to lose perspective and head down some paths that will, ultimately, not get us to where we want to be.
This is why, as a wellness coach, I encourage people to –
Focus primarily on behaviors rather than outcomes
Think about it –
Losing a specific number of pounds or dropping down to a specific dress size are not behaviors, they are outcomes. They are a result of a series of behaviors practiced consistently over time. An excessive focus on a weight-related number drives people to take on unsustainable eating habits that will quickly disappear once the outcome has been achieved. That’s where the yo-yo diet syndrome begins.
Clocking a specific time in a 10K race is not a behavior, it is an outcome. It is a result of the behavior of following a solid training plan consistently. An excessive focus on a specific race time drives people to take on training plans beyond their ability often resulting in injury.
There is a big difference between a behavior and an outcome. This is illustrated in scripture in the following parable about evangelism that differentiates between putting our focus on obedience versus putting our focus on outcomes.
He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.
Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows,
though he does not know how.
All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.
As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
The man displays obedience by scattering seed on the ground (sharing the Good News). But what happens with that seed is out of his control. Things are happening, but he does not control the details of the process (how much, when and how). All he knows is that he will eventually see the outcome of his obedience – the harvest (souls won for Christ). And that harvest will take place according to God’s timing and design.
The same principle is true when it comes to experiencing the outcomes of our health behaviors. We “scatter our seed” when we put forth the effort to eat healthy foods and take the time and effort to exercise. But, like the seed sower, we don’t control the process of change that goes with our efforts.
If there is one thing we know from science, it is that when it comes to health outcomes, there is much we that don’t know and there is much we don’t control. What we know from life experience is that we will eventually see good outcomes from our efforts, and those outcomes will come about according to God’s design.
In reading this parable, it reminds me of two very important biblical principles to be applied to any and every endeavor:
Where is your effort and attention?
Are you focused the outcome or are you focused on the
obedience that will get you there?
Daily obedience changes us for the long-term while outcome driven
shortcuts rarely bring long-term success.
What drives your expectations?
Are you desperate to do whatever it takes to achieve your outcome?
Will you surrender the results of your efforts to God
so that He can use them to create what He has in mind?
Let’s be like the seed sower who obediently scatters his seed and trusts God to use his efforts to produce a harvest in His own way and in His own time.
What about you? When it comes to your health improvement efforts, are you focused on daily obedience and surrendering the outcomes of your efforts to God? Or are focused on doing whatever it takes to orchestrate the outcome of your choosing?
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Good Health for Good Works is travelling this week, but did not want to miss the opportunity to share a previous post containing a healthy Thanksgiving salad recipe! You may want to consider including this salad on your holiday menu for a healthier and more colorful Thanksgiving feast!
Thanksgiving is almost here! Whether we are hosting the big dinner at home or going to dinner elsewhere, this is about the time that we are starting to think about the Thanksgiving dinner menu. While turkey generally takes center stage on the Thanksgiving table, for me, it is really all about the side dishes. That is where we can add some variety to the traditional Thanksgiving menu by including side dishes that are both creative and healthy.
Tradition is great, but why not celebrate God’s abundant provision by including some non-traditional foods as well? After all, God’s abundance goes way beyond just potatoes, corn, squash, pumpkin, cranberries and green beans!
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. (Genesis 1:29)
In fact, the greater variety of fruits and vegetable, the better, because they contain important micronutrients. While macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) provide us with energy and are the building blocks of our body’s structure, micronutrients are just as important! Fruits and vegetables contain the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, trace elements, phytochemicals and antioxidants) necessary to keep our body systems running optimally. Often we take these compounds with the big fancy names (such as cancer fighting isothiocyanates) for granted.
I encourage you to add some healthy variety to your Thanksgiving dinner menu and I have a great recipe to help you do that! It is a wonderful green salad that is always a hit at my Thanksgiving table alongside the turkey and other traditional foods.
A green salad at Thanksgiving? You bet! And I love it for the following reasons:
This is a Thanksgiving side dish that you just won’t want to miss! I hope that you will try it and I hope that you will make it your own by making some additions to it with your favorite salad vegetables. The possibilities are endless!
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than to include foods that acknowledge God’s abundant blessings and honor Him by staying healthy so that we can serve Him with energy, effectiveness and excellence!
Sweet Potato & Pomegranate Salad
2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed, plus olive oil, salt & pepper for roasting
2 cups baby salad greens (baby kale, spinach, arugula, etc.)
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup toasted pistachios, toasted & chopped
handful of chopped cilantro
2-3 chopped scallions, white and green parts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 clove minced garlic
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Remove skin and chop the sweet potato into bite sized cubes. Drizzle with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until they start to edges start to turn a darker brown. Cool and assemble all ingredients
Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey, garlic, salt & pepper. Pour over salad, toss and serve.
The abundant and full life! It’s one of the best promises of God, especially in contrast to the works of the evil one that are designed to steal, kill and destroy.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
In the past month, I’ve learned something about what it means to be a full participant in the full life that Jesus provides, rather than a spectator. And my commitment to fitness was a big part of that!
In the month of October, I took the trip of a lifetime - a trip that I had prayed for many years ago. God answered my prayer and gave me the opportunity to go to Germany to visit family and then on to Italy to experience Venice, Florence and Rome! Even better was that I got to go with my daughter and my husband met up with us for the last part of the trip.
Travelling with my daughter was both fun and challenging. That girl walked me into the ground and encouraged me to step outside of my safety and comfort zones!
After a long day of walking in Florence, she informed me that we would be climbing 469 steep steps to the top of the Florence duomo to get a view of Florence at sunset! I honestly worried that I would not be able to do it and even thought about backing out. But I braved those steps and was able to make it to the top with much less difficulty that I had expected. The rewards of seeing the painting on the inside dome up close and the beautiful view of Florence from the top of the cathedral were well worth it!
After spending a full day walking the streets of Rome, my daughter informed me that we would be waking up early the next morning to climb to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. That morning, there would be no other way to describe me than as cranky and irritable and I seriously considered taking a pass. I appreciated her concession to take the elevator part of the way up, but there were still 300 steps to climb after that. And I am so glad that I climbed them! After Florence, those 300 steps seemed like a piece of cake! The rewards of getting to touch the mosaics inside the dome and have a cup of cappuccino with my daughter while enjoying the view from the roof of St. Peter’s was absolutely worth the effort!
Both of those stair climbs were highlights of my trip! And because I invested in the commitment to regular exercise, I was able to fully participate and not be held back by my lack of cardiovascular endurance!
My commitment to fitness has allowed me to be a full participant in the full life that God has given me!
That’s not because I am special - I am not an athlete and I don’t look like anything other than a typical woman in her mid-50’s. But I have consistently fulfilled my commitment to exercise regularly and that is what allowed me to be a full participant in my trip of a lifetime!
That's not to say that the full and abundant life consists of experiences (such as my trip) or possessions. The full and abundant life consists of having the fullness of Christ living within us and the hope of an everlasting life with Him. But I am thankful that Christ also gives us fullness of life through the many blessings and opportunities He gives us. They will be big and small and they change with every season of life.
What about you? In what ways has Jesus made your life full in this season of life? Jesus provides us with many opportunities to enjoy a full life and that will look different for each and every person. But are you a full participant? Are there any commitments or changes to your health habits that need to be made so that you can be a full participant in the opportunities to live a full life that God brings your way?
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Good Health for Good Works is taking the month of October off to embark on an October Odyssey - a trek across the pond to visit distant relatives in a foreign land.
Families are funny in that there is always that bond that transcends separations whether they are physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. I'm looking forward to spending time with my aunt, uncle and cousins and learning about who they are, what they have experienced and what our family history means to them.
What about you? Have you ever taken a deep dive into your own family history? One of the greatest gifts we can give our descendants is information and context about our family health history.
A great place to get started is with the Family Health History Initiative developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services. To make it more personal, why not write a letter to your future descendants about your family's health history, including strengths to imitate and weaknesses to avoid? For each descendant, give a short description of their health habits (smoking status, eating habits, activity levels, coping skills, hobbies and leisure time activities) as well as their accomplishments (physical endeavors, mental toughness, spiritual strength) and struggles (substance abuse, anxiety/depression, disabilities, chronic health conditions). Then end the letter by explaining what all this information means to you and what you hope it means for your future descendants.
What kind of health legacy do you want
to leave to your descendants?
May the Lord say of us what He said of Abraham as we leave a legacy in the way we manage our health and every other area of life.
I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him
to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just...
See you in November!
When it comes to making improvements in our health, I find that most of us, including myself, want to “leap tall buildings in a single bound.” We have Superman-sized desires and want to see big results from a few action steps taken in the heat of great enthusiasm.
Mahatma Gandhi once said that “It is health that is real wealth…” and I think most of would agree that our health is very valuable to us for a variety of reasons. Health, just like wealth, is one of our most valuable resources. Given the connection between health and wealth, let’s consider how the following proverb about attaining wealth might apply to attaining good health as well:
Dishonest money dwindles away,
but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.
Proverbs 13:11 (NIV)
Or as another Bible translation puts it -
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
Proverbs 13:11 (ESV)
Wealth that is gained hastily or through dishonesty is wealth that has not really been worked for. Those who take the shortcut to wealth do often get a good result, but it is only temporary, and the good result often dwindles or is reversed. Contrast this with the person who, by the consistent daily practice of hard work and wise money management accumulates wealth little by little and watches it increase and grow over time.
Health can also be gained hastily by taking some shortcuts. Consider about every fad diet that you have ever heard of. The story is nearly always the same and it almost always involves either enthusiastically taking a drastic action (cutting food groups out of your life forever) or a desirable shortcut (lose weight by consuming chocolate flavored high protein shakes and energy bars). The result is a quick loss of many pounds and the result is most often temporary.
When something is accumulated little by little over time (knowledge, skills, money, good health habits), learning takes place. As we build or accumulate in the daily ups and downs of life, we learn many things.
Taking drastic actions and short cuts may get big, quick and dramatic results, but it bypasses the learning process. And because nothing has been learned, the result will not stick once a challenge is introduced.
The difficulty of focusing on accumulating good health habits little by little is that is forces us to focus on the small, going against our desire for big, quick and dramatic results! It’s just not the American way!
Here are a few examples of very small good health habits that I have learned and accumulated over the years:
All of these are small steps that have made a big impact on my health while being not particularly big, exciting or dramatic.
In observing myself and working with others, I have learned that, rather than focusing on leaping “tall buildings in a single bound”, it is better to focus on small changes that can be learned and implemented slowly over time so that they will stick in the face of the challenge called stress. This goes against almost everything in our human nature and our culture. But, in my experience, it works!
How about you? Are you willing to trade your Superman-sized desires for small steps? Are you willing to slow down and take the time to learn so that the good health habits you accumulate will stick when they come up against the stresses of life? What small step could you focus on today?
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…
About the author:
Hello! My name is Ginger Hill and I am a Christ follower and a wellness professional. Over the years, I have personally and professionally seen the benefits of healthy living and I have also seen the hardships of struggling to practice good health habits in the midst of a busy and sometimes stressful life. I am passionate about helping myself and others to live a healthy lifestyle and I believe that good health is essential in helping us to do the good works that God has called us to do. Because I am a work in progress, I write these blog posts to encourage myself and I share them with others in the hope that they may be encouraged as well.
Psalm 92:12,14 (NLT)
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