“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14 KJV
Have you heard the Christmas song, “This Christmas“? It goes, “This Christmas will be a very special Christmas for me…”
Each Christmas, we remember all that’s transpired since the last Christmas. For some, it’s a time of happiness with loved ones, and for others, they’re feeling more like “Blue Christmas”.
From Scripture, we can find several threads that connect to the kind of atmosphere we choose and the type of Christmas we can decide to have.
A Christmas of peace. When we are at peace, we choose to embrace tranquility and trust God and His hand in our lives, regardless of our circumstances. Christ’s coming is the biggest gift and reason to be at peace we could ever have. The earthly life of Jesus wasn’t marked by a lack of strife, but it was marked by peace, and ours can be the same, if we so choose. “…on earth peace…” (Luke 2:14)
A Christmas of joy. We can choose joy for the great things God has put into our lives. No one has perfect lives, and some years highlight that more than others, but when we choose a lifestyle of joy, we recognize all of the amazing blessings God has given to us. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10b-11, NIV)
A Christmas of hope. This year more than others, I’ve heard a lot of people deciding to hope for the good God has for them, and that makes my heart rejoice! Truly, when we zoom out, so to speak, and take a good look at our lives, it is so obvious that our problems aren’t that big and our reason for hope is so huge. “And his name will be the hope of all the world.” (Matthew 12:21, NLT)
A Christmas of good will. We can choose to believe the best of others- be friendly, helpful, and forgiving, never forgetting all that we’ve been forgiven of. The birth of Jesus is the first part in the salvation story, and as much as we need it, how can we not give the same? “…good will towards men.” (Luke 2:14)
May your Christmas be defined by choosing peace, joy, hope, and good will in your life. May broken relationships be restored, pride be set aside, hope be embraced, peace be chosen, and joy be overflowing.
From your friends here at Canvas & Table, may you have a very blessed and Merry Christmas.
Today, we are bringing you a guest post from Ashley’s second cousin, Joy Humble, whom lives “a simple yet enjoyable life”. Joy writes at Choose Joy about finding joy in the everyday ordinary and we are so happy to have her sharing here on Canvas & Table today!
Psalm 100, Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing, know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.
Today I am going to talk about how gratitude has changed my life, and even more specifically, how it helped me battle depression. I have found that it is easy to be grateful when you get that job you’ve been wanting or when you get a new car or a raise, but it is much harder to be genuinely grateful when you are going through a hard season in life. Maybe you are struggling to pay the bills, maybe you are having relationship issues, maybe you have lost a loved one. In times of hardship and suffering its really difficult to believe that there is any good in your life. My personal journey of learning how to be grateful has largely come through battling depression.
My parents named me Joy and I believe that the name I was given is a prophetic word of the personality and person God created me to be. I believe that the last thing the devil wants us to do is live out the calling that God has placed on our lives. I also believe that the devil tries his best to sabotage and destroy those plans and our destiny. Depression is the opposite of joy and I have dealt with depression for many years. I believe that the enemy likes to attack me with depression because that is what is most effective at killing my joy and hindering me from being the person God created me to be. When you are in that dark and hopeless hole called depression, it is very difficult to be grateful for anything. Gratitude is the opposite of depression. Gratitude says, “God is good”, while depression says, “Is God even there?” In the last year I have learned that, while in that dark place, I must choose to make conscious choices to see God’s goodness and be grateful for all of the amazing things He has done in my life. A large element of depression is self pity. Poor me, my life sucks. And its really difficult to get out of that cycle. Forcing yourself to be grateful begins to break that cycle. I started writing in my blog once a week about something I was grateful for. Some days it was hard to think of something. It is pathetic I know, but true. But, when you start to make those conscious choices, it becomes easier and easier to see God’s goodness in your life. Those daily choices will change the course of your day, your attitude, and the cycle of depression and self-pity.
I have taken many things for granted in my life. I like to call them the “Thanksgiving List.” These are the things we all list off at Thanksgiving when we go around the table. Things like our family, job, house, car, children, pet, food, etc. I don’t know about you, but many times it seems like Thanksgiving is the day I am grateful for all of those things and then I tend to take them for granted the other 364 days of the year. As an American, I expect to always have a home, a job, and food on the table. At times I feel like most Americans feel as if they are entitled to those things as human beings. But it is not that way in other parts of the world and even in some places in America. Because of this mindset I believe many Americans struggle with being grateful, because our lives are already so blessed, but we are too busy looking for even more amazing and wonderful things to happen to us to notice. We want a better job, a newer car, a bigger house. And while we are so focused on what we don’t have, we completely lose focus of all of the many blessings that God has given us already. The majority of Americans have what they need to live a very full life and usually a bit extra. I think it is important to understand that this is not as common in other parts of the world and realize how much God has blessed those of us living in areas of the world where we have all we need. This is one of the reasons why I have a desire to travel outside of the U.S. – I want to see the world outside of my own little bubble. I think it would be a great perspective to have.
Everyone can find something to be grateful for. If the only thing you can think of today is that you are breathing, great start. Tomorrow think of something else to be grateful for and as the days go by it will be easier and easier to see all of the blessings that surround you. Don’t wait until you have everything you want in life to be grateful. Start today and give God glory for all He has done and the goodness He has displayed in your life. Think of the good things He has done in your past, the good things He is doing today and thank Him for the good plans He has for your future!
My name is Joy and I am married with 2 little boys, who are very active and curious. I live in a small rural town in Indiana. I am a work from home mom and a Christian. I love to write and cook and I also ave an interest in food photography. I live a simple yet enjoyable life. I post regularly on my blog, Choose Joy.
Comment below and let us know- What are you choosing to be thankful for today?
There’s something that’s been on my heart all year long: there is a time to say “yes” and a time to say “no” to everything. Early this year, God started drawing my attention to a level of over-commitment in my life that was creating an atmosphere of stress & busyness in my life that was unhealthy spiritually, mentally, emotionally, & physically. While some changes were immediate, others have taken the course of the year and others have started migrating from a “yes” to a “no”. Today I want to share my journey with you.
Saying “no” isn’t something new to me- I’ve always managed to be fairly straight-forward and bold in what I allow into my life. However, after ending the year last year in a state of exhaustion, it became apparent to me that while I had my hands to many good things, they weren’t all God things. What’s the difference?
A good thing is just that- it’s a good thing to do. You believe in it, and you think it’s a wonderful activity, but the grace isn’t there to do it. It isn’t what you were created specifically to do, at least for this season of your life, and it isn’t something you feel God has directed you to be a part of.
A God thing is something you’ve specifically seen God lead you into and not lead you out of. It’s something that goes towards your “why” in life, and for which you’ve been specifically anointed & set apart to be a part of in your life. This can include your vocation- not just “super-spiritual” activities.
I don’t know about you, but when I started looking at my life in that light this year, I could see where there was no grace, where there was abundant grace, and the places where God was beginning to lead me out of in my life.
I’m writing this today because I think there are a lot of us doing good things that cause us to neglect the God things. The God things are those things that make up your purpose, those things you should be doing in this season of life. The good things are those things that sound good, but that you know you’re only doing at this point because they are just good things to do. And there is a difference.
God things connect to your core while good things tire you on a deep inner level. This all has to do with grace. If you have three children, God has given you the grace to deal with them, and while it may be tiring, it’s purposeful. If you’ve decided to help your neighbor with her three kids and this isn’t something you’ve seen God lead you to do, you are going to be a different type of tired, because the grace isn’t there for doing it- it is literally just a “good thing” you are doing, not a God thing.
I challenge you today to consider the activities that make up your schedule. Walking away from good things can be difficult, especially when you feel as if you are leaving a hole behind for someone else to fill and when you really care about the way that good thing affects others. Yet, when you pray about it and have peace about leaving that activity behind, trust that God will fill that hole with the person to fill it for the new season. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been there, and He does it every time.
Here we are, new year, new roadmap. Many of us end a year and start a new one thinking about where we are in relation to where we hoped we would be.
I’ve always appreciated the newness a new year brings. It brings inspiration and a blank sheet without anything truly changing, save our mindsets. Most of us feel the subtle change, yet there are others of us facing the disappointment and stark reality of what the old year did not bring.
I’ve always enjoyed New Year’s, but only as I got older did it really begin to mean something to me. Over the past few years, I’ve decided to set goals with the new year. I have never been one for resolutions and there is something decidedly different about goals for the year, at least in my eyes. My husband & I, since we’ve been married, have made a practice of going somewhere different every New Year’s Eve and really setting apart that time to recognize where we’ve come from and where we’re going. I’ve gone along that way for a few years now, and last year I really set some big goals for myself. I knew where I wanted to be and I poured myself into making those things a reality.
However, in about September, it hit me that some of those things weren’t going to happen. I really struggled with that- these were big, life-changing goals that I had worked toward with all my heart but I couldn’t “make” happen. These things I so deeply desired for my life were out of my hands, yet I didn’t want to let them go from the timeframe I wanted them in. All around me, I could see others experiencing life change, but my life was staying the same.
Sitting at a dinner table with friends the following month, a dear friend gave me some golden advice. She told me that those things will happen- I just need to stop focusing on them and trust God to handle them. I went home and really mulled over her words. It wasn’t the first time I had heard them. My husband is such a faithful encourager to me, always reminding me of God’s goodness and faithfulness in regards to these matters of the heart. I think the thing that changed was that I was ready to take them to heart.
So, as I started this year, I was reminded of all that is the same and all that has not happened over the past year. I recognized for the first time how people can be filled with disappointment and disregard for New Year’s. If you keep constantly being disappointed, it is quite natural to learn to protect yourself from that disappointment by simply not taking a part in what caused it.
As I’ve processed all of this, I felt compelled to write it out. I might not be where I wanted to be, but I’m still where I am for a reason. I look around and am filled with compassion for bitter, hurting, and disappointed people whose lives are not what they wanted them to be as well as the realization that I have to make choices to not end up with that same outlook on life. So, this year, I wrote down my goals for the year. I decided to be at peace with what did not happen last year and to look forward to the possibilities of this year. “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares in its joy.” (Proverbs 14:10) I took time to recognize and accept the sorrow of what did not happen, yet I also made the deliberate choice to not allow that the power over me to cause me to not take the time to hope for what this year could be.
Life doesn’t always turn out how we hope it will. In fact, even in the good things, it is rarely what we ever imagined for ourselves. This past weekend, my husband & I hosted some friends and watched all six Middle Earth movies (and extended editions at that), in a 20-plus-hour marathon, complete with the seven meals eaten by Hobbits. A year ago, a friend and my husband had hatched the plan, and we actually did it. It was completely ridiculous and silly, but it was something that really struck me deeply as a way of just enjoying the season we are in and making the choice to recognize the blessings of where we are, even if it isn’t where I would have chosen to be.
This year, I ask you- will you choose to enjoy the blessings of the season you are in, even if it isn’t where you would choose to be? Maybe you aren’t in the job you hoped you would be in, or the house, or the relationship, or with the family you hoped you would have. Yet, not having that job allows you some sort of freedom- perhaps from responsibility, perhaps in your time- you wouldn’t otherwise have. Not having a house, or a spouse, or a baby all present their own freedoms.
I am confident God gives us the desires of our hearts for a reason. I am not turning my back on those desires, and I am not implying that you should, either. Yet, in the waiting time, in that time when you don’t know why you aren’t at that next step, will you honor God by enjoying the blessings of that season He has placed you in?
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment…” 1 Timothy 6:6 ESV
“But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 ESV
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…” Philippians 4:11 NKJV
I was at a crossroads. Everything I thought I thought about food, diet, and lifestyle was on the line. Was I going to make the choice, or was I going to wait until I had to make it?
Something they teach you in the study of psychology, specifically in life coaching, is that all change comes about by choice or by crisis. This is so very true, as life often teaches us. This is my story of what wellness means to me and how I’ve gotten to where I am today. In the lines of this wellness journey, I hope you are able to connect with my story and be prompted to think about your own personal choices and what you need to do in your own life. No judging, no pressure, just my own story.
I grew up before the organic movement really became mainstream. I remember a popular Christian comedian joking about taking vitamins and just eating what you want, and I adopted this outlook on life without really thinking about it. I didn’t like most vegetables, and the ones I did weren’t really considered to be at the top of the “good for you” list (talking about you, potatoes!). I would give anything a try, and I’m very thankful for my mom’s persistence in getting me to try new vegetables and eat just a few bites of this vegetable or that one, yet by the time I entered adulthood I was just excited to be able to live life without those dreaded veggies (except for my friends, the potatoes). I had a mindset that said I would eat what I wanted, use portion control, and thereby not struggle with weight. I hadn’t ever really struggled with my weight (my slight unhappiness with my waistline at the time is laughable to me, now) and I was overall pretty healthy, as far as nutritional choices impacted my body, so it seemed to be a pretty good strategy. The fact that the list of vegetables I like totaled four (seriously- four) didn’t trouble me in the slightest.
When I was nineteen years old, I moved overseas to Haiti to live on the mission field. I had been on trips to the Dominican Republic and China prior to that, so I understood that my diet was going to change and I wasn’t going to have a lot of options. Yes, I would probably even have to learn to eat the dreaded bean. Well, fast-forward to my twenty-first birthday, and I am moving back to the States to marry my sweetheart. My year and a half living overseas taught me to love onions, swallow beans without chewing, and learn how to get by on whatever food was available (a huge plus was the cooking skills I returned with- my time overseas taught me to make do with whatever I had, which eventually led to my love for making up recipes, but that’s besides the point).
Stateside living…I had started gaining weight for the first time, really, just before I moved overseas. There were some internal issues in my body that contributed to this, and I actually continued to gain for the first few months in Haiti. With some medical direction and a bit of a menu change that happened consequently at the same time (and not intentionally), I returned to the States for my twenty-first birthday in good shape and at a healthy weight. However, I was at a sales job (read: sitting all day) and I was in the midst of planning a wedding, all while working and seeing my fiancé after work about 40 minutes away from where I lived, which meant a whole lot of eating out. I started gaining weight, and I really peg this time as the climax of not really caring what I was eating (in the midst of the bliss of new love) and gaining weight without doing anything to change it. Then, Thanksgiving hit, and there was a health crisis. My fiancé’s health took a bit of a tumble, and I was there to walk through it with him. For the first time, I needed to change my diet and start focusing on low-to-no-carb meals, filled with veggies. I took to cooking dinner at my fiancé’s house on my way home from work so we could eat together before I would head home. We got gym memberships at our local YMCA, and we started working out together as soon as we each finished work.
This worked wonders in our bodies! My dislike for veggies pushed me to seek out vegetables I had never tried before, and I discovered several I really, truly liked! Not only did my fiancé’s health improve, but we both began loosing weight. This was great, with our wedding date looming ahead. Just a few short months later, we were significantly skinnier and healthier, and we were married. Then, alas…some of you already know what I’m going to say. If you aren’t married, let me warn you. The “Freshmen Fifteen” has nothing on newlyweds. You are in love, you are no longer thinking about fitting in a wedding dress or impressing relatives, you are already married, and you enjoy eating together. There is a huge temptation to stop going to the gym and just enjoy life and food together, and that’s exactly what I did.
Fast-forward to the end of the year, and it was a crazy selling season for my husband’s business. Just like most (if not all) of the people in the industry we knew, we ate out a lot. My health had been suffering due to the issues I referred to earlier, which had very little to do with diet. My cousin (and co-author of this blog) had been reaching out to me about Essential Oils over the course of a few months and I decided to give them a try, due to her recommendation, just as we went overseas to visit my husband’s family for New Year’s. We returned fat and happy with almost eight months of disregarding our health under our married belts. I was so sick upon our return, and continued to be that way for nearly a month (a cold and flying don’t make for good traveling buddies). Meanwhile, my box of Young Living Essential Oils sat unopened until my cousin asked me if I had tried them and I decided to break them open. I didn’t do much with most of them for the next several months, although I did find out that I loved Peppermint and Progessence Plus.
By that fall, I had really taken note of some of the things I saw posted in the Facebook groups I was in for the Essential Oils, over the course of six months or so. We had had some health issues come up in our home again, and we had gained a good bit of additional weight, so I was working on make our diet more low-carb. Nothing too drastic was being implemented, but a general awareness of what we were eating was becoming important to me. I was reading some books on cleansing and I really started recognizing the connection between what I was eating and how I was feeling, as a part of the bigger puzzle. In October, just as the selling season started again, my husband and I committed to working out daily, six days a week. We were sick and tired of being sick and tired, as the phrase goes, and this is really when our lives turned a corner. Every time we had changed our habits, it had been due to crisis. We needed to change, or some really serious things were going to start happening in our bodies, things we were already experiencing signs of. This time, we stood at the precipice of change with no crisis edging us forward. Changing would be a choice.
Interested in Essential Oils? As mentioned in this post, Young Living Essential Oils played a big role in helping me discover a healthier lifestyle and becoming interested in wellness. Check out our Wellness page for additional information, or check out our website for additional information. If you decide to become a member under us, you will gain membership to the private Facebook group I mentioned in this post. Thanks for taking the time to read a bit about how to support us and this blog!
Meal planning is important- I wrote a whole post about it. But, the fact is, there are always going to be times when we aren’t able to plan ahead, due to things coming up and forcing us to make last-minute meal decisions. In a culture that clearly doesn’t have a track record of maintaining healthy weight, food choices are a big deal. To help us navigate them, here are a few simple tips to helping one make healthy meal choices when on the go:
Plan ahead. Keep healthy snacks on hand that can help you endure through those times when it really is time to eat, but you are close enough to home to wait to eat a proper meal with just a snack.
Know your food places. It’s important to know what places you can go to eat and still eat a healthy meal. Establish “go-to” restaurants that you enjoy where you can get a meal that provides the proper nutrition and doesn’t take up a whole day’s plus calorie allotment.
Know yourself. One of the popular chains that offers many healthy food options also carries my favorite chain mac-n-cheese. As a self-proclaimed mac and cheese connoisseur, I know that if I eat at this restaurant, I will not eat healthily. I’m a big believer in allowing oneself to splurge on occasion, but if my goal is to have a healthy meal, I know which places not to visit. In the same way, know the places where you should avoid if going out for a healthy meal.
Know your friends. We all have friends in different places in life than us, and sometimes that means different values when it comes to eating. If you end up going out to eat with someone with a very different look on diet than you on a regular basis, figure out options that will work for the both of you. Food really isn’t something that should ever hurt your friendship, yet sometimes a little strategy is needed. Maybe you need to be completely honest with them about needing to find somewhere healthy to eat because of what you are trying to achieve in your diet. Be gentle and be sweet, don’t over-share about your values, and just get to the point.
Use portion control. Want to cut down on those calories? Save half of your meal for later, order smaller portions, or even order off the kids’ menu. There are quite a few restaurants out there that don’t offer unhealthy choices, but simply offer huge portions. Cutting down on how much you are eating is sometimes half the battle!
Balancing diet and life is important, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Embrace these tips for eating healthy on the go, enjoy yourself and go with the flow when life calls for it, allow yourself to splurge now and again, and make the choice to live a more healthy lifestyle by consistently choosing meals that are good for your body.
What are some of your tips for ways to eat healthy on the go?