"The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?"

      Ahh, the holidays. The time of year when the weather gets colder, homes get warmer, Christmas music in the air, Christmas decorations fill almost every front yard, flickering yellow candles in every window...

      The most wonderful time of the year. Or is it? The National Retail Federation estimates that the average American will spend approximately $700.00 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion. Wow! That's a lot of money for a few days out of the year. 

      This could be my opinion but, I think the holidays bring pressure to spend so much money on what you would otherwise not even buy on a regular day. The overly huge store signs and discount labels make us say, "I gotta have that!" But, 'tis the season to give, right? For some, that is the case. For others, not so much. I am not saying giving gifts is bad at all. Read on. 

      While the holidays are supposed to be the perfect picture mentioned above, for some it's "the most depressing time of the year." Now, that doesn't mean more people are prone to commit suicide around the holidays, but for some it is very stressful. For me, it can be easy to forget the people who are not gathering with family this year because their loved ones have passed on. Or some are not able to afford gifts because mom or dad got laid off or fired. Or won't be carving that great, big turkey because money is tight for the single mother/father. You get the point. 

      So, these thoughts led me to ask myself a question: Why is the emphasis on gathering as a family only on a few days out of the year? I mean, shouldn't that be happening anyway? We highlight the holidays as "family gathering time" and when that doesn't happen it seems like that hurts a family worse than a casual get together. We know schedules get hectic, some families have two families to choose from to spend the holidays with and some have successfully worked out a system. For some, the holidays are, "Just another day."

      Let's not get so lost in tradition that we forget to have the "holiday spirit" all of the other days of the year. It takes more than turkey and pumpkin pie to bring a family together. I am not talking about being in the same room, but rather, knit closer together than that stocking hanging on the fireplace. 

      So, while the holiday season brings about a certain "cheerful aura," let it not be just that. Let thanksgiving be a lifestyle. Giving thanks always. Not just a holiday or a day off from school or work. Or the prayer at the dinner table that we give a little extra time for once a year. Easier said than done. But hey, you can get started early on your New Year's resolution that way.

      Dear reader, remember to be mindful of how blessed you are, not just in the holiday season when the beautiful white snow is falling and the heat is warming your home and you want for no thing. Not just when you're able to give gifts to your family members or go broke doing it, but all the same when you are able to give the gift of your time to someone who needs a listening ear. 

      Romans 12:15-16 of the Holy Bible states, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited."

      Remember, someone always has it worse than you. And the opposite is true: Someone will always be more well off than you. So, according to the scripture in light of the holidays, I believe we can apply that even in our thoughts toward the homeless or struggling individuals. I know I am learning that more myself.

      So, no matter your situation, don't let the holidays stress you out. You don't have to go broke or buy anyone's love. My heart truly goes out right now to all those not celebrating with loved ones who have passed on. If you know someone who will be grieving this season instead of rejoicing or celebrating, reach out to them. Make a difference. If you are blessed, you are blessed to give.

      Let us give more than we receive this holiday season.