Crisp leaves fall, littering yards and streets.  A cool breeze blows softly, nipping at your nose.  Fireplaces crackle as you snuggle up on the couch under cozy blankets watching movies with hot cocoa.  Families coming together to celebrate all that has been done and given in the last year.

This time of year is absolutely one of my FAVORITE times in life!  The different sights, sounds, and smells.  I look forward to it every year.  When the season is over, I literally want to rewind to make it last longer.  But let’s not talk about it being over yet…it’s only just beginning!

Growing up, I remember different Thanksgivings.  A couple in California with different family members, lots of them in Colorado, one or two in Tulsa, and more recently those in Texas.  I don’t think any one of them have been the same, or they have and I’ve just meshed them together or just simply forgotten altogether.  But I like that they all haven’t been the same.  I like different.  I crave to be different.  And this year, we are adding to another year of differentness.

My brother has the honor and privilege to work with refugees in the Dallas area from all over the world.  He helps them understand our crazy American ways, how to find a place to live, get a job, buy a car, and even manage time.  Something I’m sure we could all benefit from.  This year, we have the greatest honor of being able to invite one of these families into our home and experience the classic American holiday.  And I couldn’t be any more excited about this opportunity to share this holiday with them!  However, it’s much more than just sharing the holiday traditions, but looking at the real reason why we celebrate that I hope to share with them.

One of the things that this time of year brings, and one that I believe has just gotten worse, out of control, and is robbing the real reason for this time of year, is the “holiday shopping”.  We’ve coined terms like “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”.  I’ve heard people refer to it this year as a sport.  Hunting for the best deals at every store.  Coming up with a strategy on what stores to hit when.  People go so far as to literally camp out on the sidewalks with tents, couches, BBQs, and even a hot tub!  And this is all in hopes to be first in line to get these shopping deals on all this “stuff”.  Stuff that they won’t be able to take with them when they die, but they are just “dying” to have it and will do whatever it takes to get it.

This is NOT my favorite part of this time of year.  And anywhere you go, you can’t get away from it.  It’s all over the commercials on TV and radio, your mailbox is flooded with the ads, and even watching the news feels like one long ad for all the deals and helps you figure out how you can get everything you want.  I will admit though, there were a couple years in my life years ago where I got caught up in the frenzy.  I scouted out the deals, finding the best deals on different things I had always wanted or “needed”, made a plan to try to be first, or at least as close to the front as possible, and then divided and conquered to make sure that when those doors opened, I’d be in there getting my hands on those things on my list before it was too late.

This year, what really makes me sad, is that many retailers are opening their doors ON Thanksgiving Day offering these “Black FRIDAY” deals, seemingly canceling Thanksgiving and pretending it doesn’t exist all in hopes to attract shoppers to their stores to sell their “stuff” to make more money.

Can you imagine if everyone who was involved in all the scouting, planning, preparing, and standing in those lines for hours, or even days, across this country was to get passionate about helping people in need instead of helping themselves to “stuff”?  Imagine if the church made it’s own “Black Friday”, advertising the way merchants do and doing whatever it takes to get people in on this day?  Imagine the impact we could have on our nation…on the world.

I for one am thankful that I am not caught up in that mess anymore and that I’m able to focus on the real reason for this holiday and season.  I’m thankful for a God that has created me the way I am, for His never ending love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, healing, strength, and sending His Son, for my family, for my friends, for my job, for the roof over my head, for the food on my table, for the car that gets me where I need to go, for those that fight for my family and me so that I can know what freedom means, for the opportunities I am able to share God’s love and be His hands and feet.

This season, I hope, and challenge, you to reflect on what this holiday, what this season, is all about.

Photo source: Molly Tolsky

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