How to Have A Healthier Thanksgiving (PLUS! Winner of the book giveaway)

     THANKSGIVING.  Family, friends, football, and food... and abundance of food.  Since Thanksgiving is somewhat of the kickoff the holiday season, too much indulgence on Thanksgiving Day may just set the tone for how you eat for the rest of the season. I'm not saying do not enjoy yourself on Thanksgiving dinner but I am saying not to overindulge. So how can you set a healthier tone for the holidays and avoid holiday weight gain?



Fit in a workout for the day. This Thanksgiving Day, I plan on starting my day with my usual work in and work out.  I will be lacing my sneakers, popping in a Focus T25 or P90X3 DVD and getting my work out in. Yes, it is a holiday. But it doesn't have to be my rest day. I choose those two programs because one is 25 minutes long and the other is 30 minutes long. You may not have these programs but I'm sure you can set aside 30 minutes to go for a run or a walk.

If you can't somehow fit in a workout the morning of Thanksgiving, plan to take a walk after Thanksgiving dinner. Make it a fun, family activity. Take the kids, grandma, whoever wants to join, and take a nice stroll around the neighborhood. Let your family members/ friends now what you plan on doing and recruit people to go along with you. If you know you're going for a walk afterwards, you will be less tempted to stuff yourself until you explode during the meal.


Do you really need that appetizer??? My dad is a great cook. Everything he makes is off the wall delicious. (OK, I'm drooling now).  I think the reason for that is because he is slow and deliberate when he cooked. So, during get togethers growing up, my mom always had food out so we had things to munch on while we were waiting for the main meal. I know a lot of families have a similar custom. As much as I hate sounding like the Thanksgiving grinch, do we REALLY need all that appetizer? Instead of stuffing your face before stuffing your face some more, why not use that time to play a game? Or actually talk to each other and see what is going on in each other's lives? Or whether permitting, go outside and play football or kickball... or take a walk (haha!).



When you are full- STOP EATING! Stop saying, "Oh, I'm really full." and keep picking at the food! When you are putting food on your plate, instead of putting heaps and heaps of food, start with a little bit of everything. When I say a little bit, I mean a little bit. Enjoy the food. Savor every bite.  Seriously, who gave us permission to be gluttons for Thanksgiving? And, my dear friend? Forgive me for sounding like I'm judging. I'm not judging you. I'M PREACHING TO MYSELF TOO!! In the past, I've acted like the food will vanish if I don't eat it all. If I love it so much, I can pack it up and eat it the following day! According the, leftovers can last up to 3-4 days.


Another thing people like to do during big gatherings like Thanksgiving is celebrate with alcohol. A glass of wine (maybe even two) is alright in my book. A no-no is drinking yourself to a stupor (ok, maybe that's an exaggeration- but you get my drift). Healthy doesn't only mean not overindulging when we eat. It also means your overall health. Drinking all that alcohol, even if it's only on special occasions, is hazardous to your liver. AAANNND, if there's family drama that has been swept under the rug for the sake of togetherness for the holidays, alcohol may just take get that drama out from under the rug and get everyone riled up!



Wanna burn off a bit of those calories you just inhaled? Help clean up after dinner. You'll be moving around and burning calories. The hostess will appreciate it and love you. Just make sure you don't pick at the leftovers as you're putting them away. #1- That's just gross. #2- That's gluttony since you just ate.

My fitness partner and I
geared up for Thanksgiving
by pushing each other
to workout all this week.


Put it in your calendar! Set a reminder for yourself!  WORK OUT THE NEXT DAY! If you have a workout buddy, schedule it with him/ h er ahead of time so you can keep each other accountable.

Please know that I am not against enjoying the holidays. I love thanksgiving. I have a thanksgiving tree where the kids and I hang cut out leaves that has things we are grateful for. Leading up to thanksgiving, I do a special Thanksgiving devotional with the kids. I have so much to be thankful for including and especially God's saving grace and His new mercies that I desperately need every day. I am thankful for my family. I think that's what Thanksgiving should be about! Reflecting on the many things we are thankful for.


Your Life Still Counts... (a book giveaway!)

"For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland." Isaiah 43:19

     "We know that you are not getting this degree to become a CEO of a company and make a ton of money, instead of -- per credit, this particular degree will be -- per credit. That's a 40% discount."

     I stopped dead in my tracks and I silently cried. I was in the middle of the greeting card aisle in my local Stop and Shop and I didn't care. Is this really going to happen? Am I going to college?

     "Hello, Marie?" said the voice on the other line, "Are you there?"

     "Yes, I'm here," I replied, "I'm just trying to gather myself. I can't believe that. Really? As a part time student?"

     I was on the phone with the admissions adviser for Oklahoma Wesleyan University.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing. What this woman just told me about the tuition discount has now made college completely doable for me. I inquired about it but I thought that I will need time to save my pennies.

     A few weeks before this conversation, I began reading  The Best Yes, by Lysa TerKeurst.  I felt that my best yes was to take the steps to go back to college. I prayed and thought about what I REALLY wanted to do and I felt led towards Christian ministry.

    After all, I have this blog that I started with the hope to inspire and encourage others. I wasn't sure what I had to bring to the table for God. BUT GOD, placed this desire to tell others about Him in my heart and so I'm pursuing it.  The biggest roadblock for going back to college was the financial part.  My husband and I have two children, a hefty mortgage, and bills, bills, bills.

     However, based on my conversation with the adviser from OKWU that college was now doable! Really??

    It has been 17 years since I last attended school. Four of those 17 years were filled with working and partying and bar hopping. I was a hamster in a hamster wheel going and going and going but getting nowhere. BUT GOD was there. Even if I didn't know He was. College was so far in the back burner.

     Eventually, I eased up on the bars and partying. I met a man in the most unlikely place in a most unlikely way. It may have been the magic of Christmas, but on Christmas Eve, my birthday, this man won my heart. A year later, I was pregnant. Unmarried. Uncertain. Unprepared. BUT GOD, helped us through it.  The years that followed brought us two boys.

     Marriage is tough and marriage that is lopsided in faith is even tougher. It isn't an easy road to walk BUT GOD helped us through it.  I wanted to do ministry work but it caused a disagreement in our marriage. BUT GOD guided me, encouraged me, held my hand as I sought to become a peaceful, respectful wife to my husband

     And now, here I am. Halfway into my first college course for my Bachelor of Science in Christian Ministry. I just became a part of the Bible Study Live team for Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies, an online ministry for women. I have this humble blog where I try to encourage others in their spiritual and physical fitness.

   WHO WOULD'VE THOUGHT??? I can't end this post with happy ending because my journey is just beginning. I'm entering a new chapter in my life. The pages are blank. I don't know for sure what these pages will say. But I do the know author. He is the Great I Am, the Lord God. "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within (me), will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Philippians 1:6 (emphasis mine). 

   Looking back, I can see how God has been with me all the time. I am not proud those late teens and early twenties years. I turned my back on God. I put God in the back burner and only called on Him in my time of need. But all that time, He was there. He is there for you too.

    Do you want to know how God can use your past to create a beautiful future? This book I am currently reading may just have the message you need to hear. In Your Life Still Counts, Tracie Miles helps you recognize that God not only has a purpose for you, but He has prepared you for your divine purpose.  

     And guess what???? I am giving away a copy of Your Life Still Counts! All you need to do is leave a comment below! A winner will be selected by random (I will write the names on a piece of paper and have my boys pick a name... simple as that).  This contest will close at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, November 19, 2014. I will announce the winner on Friday, November 21.

Healthy and Hungry Free Challenge (Kick off)

For many of us, this time of year means being encountered with food everywhere we turn. Some of us groan at the thought of having to fight the temptation of all the food around us. Yet, there are 870 million* people in the world who are hungry, while 1 in 6* Americans (over 50 million) face hunger. (*Statistics per World Vision and Feeding America).

 This holiday season, I am running a Healthy and Hungry Free Holiday Challenge on Facebook. You can find more information about this challenge here. This challenge isn’t just about us being accountable with our food and lifestyle choices during the holiday season. It is also challenge to reach out to those who would just be happy with a fraction of what we have.
Below are just some organizations that reach out to those who are less fortunate.

The Lighthouse Mission exists to feed the hungry and help the homeless by sharing God's love with people in need in practical ways. Our commitment is to feed the poor, but our goal is to empower people to overcome poverty and live purpose-filled lives.

SARAH JEROME’s Mission Trip
Sarah and her team are kicking off their Christmas break by heading to Villa Esperanza. Villa Esperanza, or "Hope Village", is a place where young girls have found refuge who once lived in La Chureca or other dangerous environments. Here at the Villa they are given their first individual bed with clean sheets, and clothes and food. School suddenly becomes an option and with it hope for a better future. In short, they are given a NEW LIFE! Villa Esperanza goes further, by offering life-skills and social skills training, psychological evaluation and counseling, and medical care. Here the children receive personal care in a family environment. The children of Villa Esperanza are given the tools they need to reach their full, God-given potential.
The deadlines are fast approaching and your help is needed. You can help by going to the link above, on the donation option, hit Missions and
for Trip Name put “NICARAGUA” and for Student Name “SARAH JEROME.”


Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.

With 44,000 staff members worldwide (including the United States) we bring sponsors and donors alongside children and communities in nearly 100 countries. The map below shows our work across issues — from health to disaster response — integrating lasting solutions to the root causes of poverty and sharing God’s hope for a brighter future. And we stretched donations with grants and corporate gifts-in-kind to make every dollar donated achieve $1.15 in impact.

**YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO THE MONTHLY CHILD SPONSORSHIP TO HELP! You can make a one time gift. They have a donate where most needed option. Your gift enables World Vision to respond quickly in areas of greatest need, to help the world’s most vulnerable.

Our mission is to feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger.
This list contains some of the many organizations that help hungry men, women and children throughout the world and in our very own country. I am aware that there are many other amazing organizations. You are not limited to the organizations listed here. If you know of other reliable and trust worthy organizations, please share it in the comments below.

Motherhood and Suicide- My Story

Only a small handful of people know about what I am about to share.  Even my own parents do not know about this incident. This comes from a deep dark corner of my past that I never want to revisit.  I hesitated writing about this, but I want to share this with the hope that it will  turn others who are in darkness to this Light that has helped me. And for those who may know someone who suffers from depression, that they will fall on their knees and cover that individual with prayer...

The pitter patter of the rain outside should have helped me sleep. Instead, I tossed around in my bed.  My thoughts kept going to the news of Robin Williams' suicide which has been plastered all over social media.  The cause of death- strangulation with a belt.

When I heard about the belt, it brought me back to the day I tied an extension chord around my neck and tried to hang myself. This was well before I became a mother, before I was married...

A friend once told me I do not seem to have a passion for life. I was blah. Another person described me as an enigma. I think that, at that point of my life (my late teens/early twenties), they were right about me.

I always kept a guard up. I was afraid to be myself because... I did not know who I was. All I knew was I wanted people to like me. I did not want to disappoint people. I tried to be a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend ... and in my efforts to do this, all I ever did was disappoint people. I also disappointed myself. It often drove me to question my worth in this world.

I couldn't afford seeking professional help. Truthfully, I was also afraid to seek professional help because I thought that I would still be told that I brought this feeling of hopelessness upon myself. So I can't say for sure I had depression. But there were many instances when I would wonder what the point of living was.  I would think about how much easier life for others would be without me. I would think about how my life didn't really mattered.  I tried to end my own life twice. The first time was a really lame attempt. (Remember when teens were inhaling Lysol in a bag and dying from it?? I got the idea that this was probably the least  painful and ugly way to die, so I tried it... only I was too stupid to realize I need a lot more Lysol to do the job.) A few months after that was when I hung myself with a brown extension chord. I still remember the feeling... coldness crept up my body and I slowly felt light headed and it felt as if I was just fading away. Then somehow, in the middle of all that, I saw a vision of my little sister being the first one to find me. And suddenly, even if my life was crappy, I didn't want to end it, for her sake. 

After that day, I moved about my life.  On the outside, perhaps I seemed okay but inside, this hopeless feeling still existed. I continued trudging on, one foot in front of another, playing a part that seemed empty and pointless. I coped with the feeling by writing.

I was in a better place when I met my husband.  There were still dark days here and there. I was good at hiding it. I continued using my journal as my outlet. Then came October 1, 2002.  The day I found out I was pregnant. It was unplanned and my mind swirled with a million thoughts.  I was entering into the unknown. I was now 1000% responsible for a human being. For the next nine months, I would have this life growing inside of me. I was the source of this human being's every need. At the same time, I felt helpless because I knew I have little control of what will happen to this baby. So on that day, I got on my knees and prayed. I did not know what else to do. And that's when my relationship with God began.

Since finding out I was going to be a mother, suicide never entered my mind again. Life wasn't perfect. In fact, we went through rough times.  I wrote pages upon pages on my journal and prayed and prayed to cope.  I'm sure that thinking I was the best person to raise my son was also what kept me from ever thinking about suicide.  Perhaps it was a little prideful of me to think that, but that's what I thought.

It would take six years for me to fully surrender my life to God. For those next six years, God pursued me. He put me in situations and He put people in my path to finally draw me to the foot of His cross.  Since then, I have used Scripture (especially the book of Psalms), music and my journal as my outlet.

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I am not saying that God is like a genie and you just need to ask Him to take depression away and He takes it away. I realize that Christians and non Christians, mothers, husbands, single people suffer from depression and have either committed suicide or attempted suicide. We live in a fallen world full of suffering, illnesses and death. Depression is an illness. Just as we hear miraculous healing of people who are physically ill, there have been people who have been healed by the power of prayer. THIS IS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE. SO I DO IMPLORE YOU TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP IF YOU ARE SUFFERING FROM DEPRESSION.

However, I do believe that relationship with God is a crucial part of the battle against depression.  You see, once you get to know God then you will realize just how important you are to Him. You will come to know His great love for you. "For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." -John 3:16. This verse may seem like such a far fetched idea but it is true. If you take certain Bible verses out of context, you won't be able to grasp this love, but His Word, in its entirety, is God's love letter to us. It points us to Hope that this world cannot offer. An eternal hope that can help us maneuver through this fallen world.  A Hope in Jesus Christ.

My prayer is that if you or someone you know suffers from depression, you will find some time to seek God today and you will come to know peace and hope that comes from Christ alone.