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As a child, it seemed that the pace at which the seasons changed from one to the next was much slower than it is now. I’m not certain if the reason for this is a result of my age and stage of life or if it’s due more to the state of my environment and current society. Do children today relate more to the sentiments of my earlier years, or do they hold similar thoughts to my current ones?

I obviously cannot give a fact-based answer to that, I can however offer my perspective. And what I currently see is far less of the anticipated excitement of the changes that each new season welcomes, not only in the eyes of adults but in children as well.

But why? What happened? What contributed to the diminishing eagerness of what was to come?

Again -my opinion only, but it seems that we live in a world that struggles to find the gift and enjoyment of any one thing because we are focused on so many other things at once. And oddly enough those things have little or nothing to do with the importance of the current season at hand. The shelves of retail stores contain merchandise for holidays that are months away but ironically not the current one. Our minds are frantically pondering and planning for what’s next –like two months from now next –with little focus on the importance of what is right in front of us.

The result is that we fill our calendars, check the boxes, schedule the events, plan the outings, and squeeze every little thing in that we “need” to do. We lay down each night with swirling thoughts and spinning heads. We take a deep breath and let out a long sigh of exhaustion but even still –sleep is a ways away. We are tired, cranky, overwhelmed, and frustrated. We live in the mindset of “if I can just get through this then….”

What happened to gratitude and thankfulness?

Thanksgiving is over, and many have been planning for Christmas before Thanksgiving even began. I don’t mean to insinuate that planning is wrong because I most definitely am not. Planning and preparation are wonderful things when their purpose is to organize our days in a manner that allows us to focus on the importance of what is now AND what is to come. But when planning simply allows us to squeeze more and more into our calendars only to disregard the gift of the day or the season, it is ineffective, not helpful, or useful. Yet so often this is exactly what I find myself doing along with so many others. The result is that we don’t feel gratitude –instead, we feel defeated and stuck.

Maybe in an effort to be efficient and productive, we are actually just spinning our wheels in the deep pitted tracks of anxiety, stress, panic, loneliness, and discontentment. The more we feel this way, the harder we keep trying –we keep planning, and we keep striving. Yet all the while the tracks are becoming deeper and deeper. So deep in fact, that we really have no clue what we are even focused on anymore. And now we are just trying to make our way out of the mess that mistakenly created by setting our eyes in the wrong direction.

We spent the month of November studying Colossians 2:6-7 where we learned that because of our connection to Christ, we are “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.” Not only are we to walk in Him but we are to abound in thanksgiving because of the Gift of Salvation that we have received as Christians. In the very next chapter, Colossians 3:2, Paul says to these believers, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

Paul knew that a mind that is set on the goodness of God would ultimately produce a heart of gratitude.

The Thanksgiving holiday is based on this idea of gratitude. We discuss what we are most thankful for, as we recall the many blessings that we have received. For me personally, this is the subject I mostly write about during this season. Not only do I write about it –I talk about it, think about it, research it, study it, and ponder what it looks like for my own life. It’s not surprising that being grateful then becomes my focus and my goal. But as the Thanksgiving holiday ends and before I even recognize it, my grateful heart that was abounding is quickly packed up and closed in the cabinet with the rest of the Fall décor.

I begin to frantically plan and prepare for the beautiful Christmas season that is now upon us. I absolutely love it. I love the trees, the lights, the decorations, the gatherings, the family time, and the food. But most importantly I love Jesus and the truth of His humble birth that the Christmas season brings to our minds. We sing songs about Him, read Bible stories about Him, watch plays about Him –and we FOCUS on Him. We focus on the little baby born to a virgin in a lowly manger meant for animals. We understand that this baby is God’s Son who is “the way, and the truth, and the life”(John 14:6). The One who would offer us forgiveness for our sins and offer us the Gift of Salvation.

And as I focus on Him, I am reminded that Thanksgiving isn’t designated for November alone. The degree or amount of gratitude in my heart is not dependent on a particular season, but instead on what I am focused on in all seasons.

The truth is that each day of each season is a gift that we have been given. The Christmas Season is amazingly beautiful, but if we aren’t careful, the gratitude that was wonderfully felt and was visibly seen by others the week prior is now buried under the new focus of demanding plans, parties, events, gatherings, and expectations of those around us. We schedule and squeeze to make it all fit in and work because somehow the extras have been deemed necessary. We find ourselves stressed and exhausted because somewhere along the way our gratitude was lost because our focus was shifted. We unintentionally set our minds on the earthly things instead of the things above.

My intention is not to discourage you from enjoying the wonderful celebration of this Christmas season. Go to parties, plan the gatherings, cook the meals, take the pictures, buy the gifts. But if it gets to be too much –if your grateful heart is weighed down by the traditional expectations, then just pause and refocus. Shift your heart, your mind, your plans and focus on what matters. Focus on Jesus, who He is, and what He has done for us. Focus on the things that are above and set your mind on the gift of today that you have been given. And be reminded of the One who gave it to you –all for His honor and glory.

This Christmas Season and every single one that follows, I pray that we intentionally set our minds and our hearts on the Almighty God. I pray that we seek Him in any and all situations. I pray that we focus on Him as we begin our day, as we end our day, and all of the many moments in between. And I pray that through it all we would rest in Him and His Promises.

Joyfully HIS,

-Jennifer N. Pearson


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