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The holidays: A time to stop and give thanks

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Another year has passed and once again we find ourselves in the midst of the holiday season. Whether this time of year has crept up on you, or couldn't seem to come quickly enough; it is here and it's busy. The holidays are a time of year when we have special foods, gatherings, decorations, and shopping. It is a time when many of us go places we seldom go and see people we rarely see, some of whom we don't even like, even though they might be related to us!

With all the events, shopping, travel and family; we may end up feeling--after it's all done--that we need a vacation to recover from our vacation! This is all part of the stress that can take the joy out of the holidays.

Holiday shopping is a stressful event for me. When I go to a busy store, I often feel like a salmon swimming upstream as I make my way through the crowds, trying to find the items I need, sometimes only to find that it's sold out! Some of you enjoy this challenge; treating it like some kind of sporting event--preparing in the off season, then Black Friday is game time. But for many, shopping is just one of the stresses of the season.

Family can also be a big stressor during the Holidays. Maybe being around your family or your spouse's family stresses you out. It could be the hectic holiday travel, or maybe you are far away from family and will not get to go home for the holidays. It could also be that this is a painful time, because it reminds you of loved ones who won't be around this year. These factors can make the holidays a difficult, stressful or sad time. Whatever your situation, I want to encourage you: this holiday season doesn't have to be a time of stress or sadness.

Too often, we rush through the holidays, getting caught up in all the hustle and bustle, and we can fail to stop and enjoy the season. Although the Holidays have become a time of stress or sadness for many, that is not what they are meant to be. The Thanksgiving holiday is about stopping to give thanks, and holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah are about looking to God and giving, because of gifts that God has given us. Today unfortunately the messages of giving and thankfulness sometimes lose out to an ideology of discontent - the drive to have more or newer or better stuff.

This year, let us consider the gifts that we have been given. Not just the presents and the stuff, but the blessings for which we ought to give thanks. Family, friends, health, steady employment--these are just a few of the things that we could name. Each of us has our own set of circumstances and blessings.

When we take the time to stop and count our blessings, it's a little harder to be stressed or resentful or disappointed about what we don't have. Despite our troubles, we still have the privilege to live in one of the greatest nations in the world. We are generally safe, well-fed, with freedoms and opportunities that most in the third world could only dream of. When we focus on the good things that we have in life, instead of on the things we don't have, we will discover that we can move from a place of stress and discontent to a place of thankfulness and contentment.
This holiday season, I invite you to join me in counting our blessings. Let us take a time out from the hustle and bustle of the season to stop and give thanks. When we approach the holidays with a grateful heart, we will find ourselves less stressed, more content, and perhaps even more generous.