My very first job right out of college was at the Galveston County Daily News. I worked the night shift as a copy editor and layout designer, and for the most part, it wasn’t too bad. That is, it wasn’t too bad until the holiday season. I no longer had the luxury of stepping away from work and celebrating these days with my family. On Thanksgiving Day, my mom made a plate of turkey and all the sides for me to take to work, and I cried the entire way to the office.

This one Thanksgiving away from my family reminded me how easy it is to take this holiday for granted. It made me consider the public servants who sacrifice their free time for our safety. It made me consider medical professionals who spend this day saving lives and keeping people healthy. It made me consider the retail employees who meet consumers’ needs at the expense of their own time with family. It made me consider those who will be spending their first Thanksgiving after losing a loved one. It made me stop navel gazing and realize what a privilege it is to take this one day and dedicate it entirely to gratitude.

The entire season is marked by fullness, and we get to choose how we fill it. We can fill it with stress, over-committing, overspending and weariness, or we can fill it with joy, hope, peace and thankfulness. Thanksgiving is not only a day marked by stuffing our faces with good food or even by spending quality time with the people we love the most. This day quickly moves us into the Advent season, and I firmly believe that our heart posture on this day sets the framework for how we will celebrate Christmas.

As for me, I will spend this day surrounded by a loving family remembering and praying for those who do not have this luxury. I will spend this day truly thankful for all that is around me, all that is behind me, all that is before me, and all that is within me. This is how I will choose to journey into Advent.