With the upcoming seasons of Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas, preparing for these holidays can be exciting, stressful, sad, or happy occasions. Many times, it’s not “either/or” for any of these expressions of emotions. It can be  “both/and” or all of them at different points of the preparations.

            No matter what I may be feeling, I find that it is important for me to prepare my own heart with gratitude while getting ready for these days of celebration. The  rhythm of preparation is just as important as the the actual day of celebration.  Being grateful for the blessings of my family, friends, home, job, and health gives me a perspective of living with my gratitude in the present moment. I know there are valid times for longing for things to be different yet our longings can lead us to places where we are not living in the present moment of “what is.”

            Self-care is one of the elements that is necessary in our rhythm of preparation. How can I truly enter into celebrations with others if I have not taken care of myself?  It impacts our bodies, minds, and souls so that we can stay grounded in the true meaning of each “holy day.”

            Self-care may include taking a walk to get some fresh air, eating in a mindful healthy way to set the pace for all the feasting that will happen during the season,  (assuring ourselves that we will still enjoy whatever dessert limit we set for ourselves), and getting plenty of sleep.

            Slowing down even for 5-10 min/day so that we can pay attention to the presence of Christ  by being still and quiet with Him, is another way of preparing for the busyness of the holidays and tending to our souls.  During this time, we can be mindful of “breathing in His presence” so to speak. Our minds will probably scatter to thoughts about what needs to be done in all the preparations of the celebration, yet we must remember that this “sitting with Christ” is also the preparation.  I am reminded that this kind of soul care is definitely wrapped within the blanket of gratitude for the presence of Christ. He is the reason why we Give Thanks and celebrate the Christmas season in the first place.

            Another preparation for this upcoming holiday season is to be mindful of our family, friends and community around us. Whether it is showing grace, patience, sharing meals where laughter or tears show up in conversation, it is all within the spirit of Gratitude.

            One movie that I like to watch before Thanksgiving is:

Babbette’s Feast.  The community in the story had lost their gracious spirit towards each other which is something that Babette duly noted when arriving in their village having escaped from her war-torn country.

            By the end of the movie she had shared her gratitude with the village in a very creative and sacrificial way that reminded all the community that they were, indeed, a community of people in relationship who lived together for many years through “thick and thin.” Babette’s act of gratitude in creating and sharing an incredible feast with her new community renewed the hearts of the village toward showing grace and gratitude to each other.

            Our times with family and friends are undergirded with the foundation of Gratitude for every different “holy day” that we celebrate this season.  Paying attention to our Self-care with ourselves, Soul-care with the presence of Christ,and Community-care with others reminds us how they are all inter-related with the constant PRESENCE OF CHRIST . We are never alone, Christ is always with us and, for this, we can all have a heart of gratitude in our preparations and celebrations of the holiday season.