“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” Philippians 4:5

November marks the beginning of the holiday season for the Collins family.  We slowly bring down our stash of Christmas music, listening to Bing, Dean and Frank croon our Christmas favorites.  We visit our favorite stores to check out their holiday displays.  We discuss, and sometimes debate, the Thanksgiving menu.  We take our Thanksgiving side dishes very seriously and any elimination of baked beans or corn soufflé’ could cause a feud!

As Thanksgiving approaches, I have been contemplating strategies on how to balance healthy eating with enjoying the holidays free from guilt and deprivation.  I put that sentence in bold for a reason: it’s loaded with words like “healthy eating”, “enjoying”, “guilt” and “deprivation”.  And then I have the nerve to think of strategies!  Why in the world would I put all those words together in one sentence and ruin my holidays?  We are Americans and the holidays are about excess: excess spending, excess decorating, excess eating, excess entertaining, etc.  Part of my flesh cries out in a high shriek, “Keep up the exercising, but eat what you want!”  The other part of my flesh speaks in a loud condemning voice, “Stick to your calorie allowance, don’t eat any of your favorites!”  As a Christian, what voice do I listen to and what should be my plan?

Are you ready for the shocking answer?  Imagine a drum roll with a game show host’s voice announcing my answer.  “The voice Sherry chooses to listen to is….NEITHER VOICE!”  In this healthier living journey, I am striving to find balance in all areas of my life.  I should not eat everything I want, no matter how high my level of physical activity.  Neither should I be so strict that I deprive myself of everything and make my friends uncomfortable about their choices.

This leads me back to my bold sentence.  Let’s start with the word “strategies”.  As a Christian, I need to plan for success.  In all areas of life, successful people plan; in business, finances, relationships, etc.  I want to be successful in my healthy journey, not perfect, but successful.  In order for that to happen, I need to set goals and anticipate pitfalls.  These strategies include exercising regularly.  I have found, and there is science to back me up, that exercise keeps me thinking clearly and helps reduce stress.  Many times I overeat when I have brain fog or feel stressed.  I am less likely to reach for another cookie or a second helping of Buffalo Chicken Cheese Dip if my brain is clear.  Another strategy I am including in my arsenal is drinking enough water.  I have found that if I am well hydrated, I do not overeat.  Also, I am going to record what I eat, even if I run over my daily calorie allowance.  Honesty helps me stay on track and focused!

Now, that I have talked about some strategies, I am going to address the phrase “enjoying the holidays free from guilt and deprivation.”  First of all, what are the real reasons for Thanksgiving and Christmas?  Both seasons should reflect my relationship with Jesus: being grateful and celebrating the birth of my Savior.  I say “should”, but all too often, I fail in this area.  I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the seasons, forgetting what is really important.  This year, besides my daily Bible reading, I am planning on reading two books, both by Ann Voskamp, to help me stay focused on the purpose of the seasons.  One Thousand Gifts is a reminder to be grateful, and The Greatest Gift is about celebrating the life of Jesus.  Prayerfully, everything else, like spending time with family, holiday traditions and food, will stay in its rightful place with Jesus in the center.  

Still, I need to recognize that food is a part of our holiday traditions, from Thanksgiving side dishes to cookie baking to the annual Collins family Hot Chocolate Party.  And this is where I need to be free from guilt and deprivation.  I do not want to be the person in the corner eating only celery sticks (by the way, does anyone really like celery?).  I love my Thumbprint cookies and Haystacks.  I enjoy planning the menu for the Hot Chocolate Party with the homemade peppermint marshmallows.  Can I still enjoy these without guilt and deprivation?

Yes, I can!  I can exhibit the fruit of the spirit “temperance” in my life.  Temperance means having self-control, or, in other words, balance in my life.  This is a fruit of the spirit I lack in my life and struggle to develop.  If I am truly balanced, I am not going to indulge in a dozen Haystacks (toasted coconut tossed in melted chocolate) everyday, but I am also not going to exercise two hours every day and eat only celery sticks at the Christmas party.  Balance is enjoying a few haystacks.  Balance is not doubling the Peanut Butter Ball recipe (sorry, Ethan!).  Balance is doing hard math and halving some of the traditional cookie recipes (what is half of 2 1/3 cups?).  Balance is focusing on building relationships at the Hot Chocolate Party instead of just making sure my spread is big enough to feed all of Chambersburg!  Balance is the key for me to be successful.  

I am sure there are some of you who are really good at maintaining balance in your lives.  Yet, I believe there are others who struggle to find balance during the holidays, whether it be in food, spending or just being too busy.  Take a few moments to ponder your holiday goals.  I would love for you to share with me some of your strategies for finding balance.  Feel free to comment on my blog spot and share them with other readers.  Now, I suppose I should figure out what is half of 2 1/3 cups!

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