Have you finished your Christmas shopping? Wrapped the presents you will give? Addressed the cards you will send to family and friends? I know some of you out there are proudly answering “Yes!” but not me. Not yet. Well, I’ve done a little early decorating; so I suppose I have started stirring that holiday spirit. Actually, it was quite fun this past weekend. We purchased an artificial tree for our little retreat and I was curious to see how it would fit; so, we took it there and set it all up. “Looks good,” my husband commented, relieved that all the parts fit together easily. My pleasure that the first step went well was quickly followed by curiosity, “How do we want to decorate it?” Now, I must admit, patience doesn’t come easily for me sometimes. So, I thought to myself, “We can just take the tree back apart and put it away until December, we can leave it in place and decorate it later, or, we could ride the wave of holiday spirit and finish it out.” It didn’t take long to make that decision. “After all,” I quickly assessed, “the sooner we have it decorated, the more time we have to enjoy it when we visit back and forth over the coming weeks.” Sounded good to me; so we proceeded to adorn our new tree while enjoying some Christmas music and making holiday plans. I stood back to admire our handiwork when my eye caught sight of an arrangement on a table nearby with pumpkins, gourds, berries and fall leaves. Thanksgiving. It hasn’t arrived, yet I’m busy singing carols and decking the halls. How typical, for many of us, all too often in our lives. We get so busy looking ahead to the next thing that we don’t take time to enjoy the present moment. To savor what is before us. Next week holds the day set aside to gather with friends and family as we express gratitude for the blessings that are ours. Oh, how we need that focus. The reality is, all too often our minds are drawn to our problems, things we are doing without, opportunities missed, relationships lost, promises not kept, dreams not fulfilled, fears of what the future may hold. Yes, life brings its share of challenges and disappointments. But it also brings us joy. Relationships strengthened, opportunities seized, promises made and kept, yesterday’s dreams becoming today’s reality, hope to cling to in the face of our fear. Thanksgiving invites a special time to thank God for His blessings to us. As we do so, let’s not only remember the major things in our lives – food, shelter, family, friends, jobs, freedom. Let’s also consider the many ways He blesses us every day. Right now, I’m sitting outside, crunching a juicy apple and enjoying one of those gorgeous fall days you want to bottle up and save for the cold of winter or the heat of summer. The clearest of blue skies, brightly colored leaves riding the gentle breeze as they float down to carpet the ground and gentle songs of birds echoing across the hill nearby. Such a peaceful retreat from the busyness of life. God has graciously poured out His amazing love to me in countless ways. To you, too. Just look around. December will bring a joyful time of celebration as we consider how God reached down to share His love with us through His Son, and as we share that love with those around us. I’ve decorated my tree and am looking forward to the holiday ahead. Yet, right now, it’s a time of thanksgiving; so, let’s pause to express our gratitude to the One from whom all blessings flow. “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God. It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the Lord is good. His loving-kindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100). Nancy Williams, M.Ed., LPC, is a licensed professional counselor with a counseling, coaching and consulting practice in Kingwood. Send questions or comments to www.nancywilliams.net.

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