The calendar is running out, and we’re in the final stretch of the year. These are the last days before our weekends start filling up with parties, out-of-town visitors and the craziness that is Christmas in the Western World. This is the last opportunity we have to take some deep breaths and enjoy just a little peace and quiet before time is no longer our own. In some ways, November is cozy, relaxing and comfortable.  november-trees-no-color

But there’s another side of November that is harder to think about. If you’re not in the Northeastern part of the US, allow me to paint a picture of what November looks like: At this point in the year, most of the leaves have fallen off the trees, leaving skeletons against a cold, grey sky. The songbirds have mostly finished their yearly commute to slightly warmer homes, leaving the harsh caw of crows and blue jays to fill the quiet of morning. The clocks have been changed, and darkness falls before many people get home from work. The first snow is still a month or more away. November here is ugly, cold, and unwelcoming.

Our souls have Novembers. Did you know that? We have times when our spiritual lives have grown cold and barren. We struggle to pray. We read our Bibles, but find no “ah-ha” moments. We continue in our spiritual disciplines, but they feel like pushing a boulder up a hill, rather than being wrapped in a cozy quilt. We’ve all been there, and it isn’t a lot of fun.

But here’s the thing about November: After three weeks of plodding through and missing the beauty of October, when Fall was new and fresh and beautiful, we enter what is, for some, the most wonderful time of the year.

Turkey BowlAt the end of November here in the US, we celebrate Thanksgiving. Those of us who take this holiday seriously (and it’s actually my favorite holiday) set aside a day to remember all the ways God has worked and blessed us throughout the year. It’s a day to enjoy time with family and friends, to eat amazing food, watch a whole lot of football, play games, and enjoy being in relationship with others.

At the end of a cold, dark month, we intentionally pause to give thanks.

Our souls, weighed down by our personal Novembers, need Thanksgiving. When we’re feeling cold and dark and distant from God, giving thanks is an easy way to bring back the warmth, light and closeness we crave. Remembering God’s blessings, worshipping Him for who He is, and looking for reasons to be grateful in every circumstance can refresh our souls and lighten our hearts.

Thanksgiving ushers in the Advent season – that season when we look forward to Christmas and all it symbolizes. Thanksgiving begins the reminder that every promise of God was fulfilled when a tiny baby was born and the heavens erupted with the praise of angels.

Giving thanks to God in all circumstances changes our mindset, and focuses our attention on Him. Giving thanks to God for who He is and what He has done can make even the coldest, cloudiest day seem bright and warm, and can rescue the human soul from despair. Thanksgiving brightens the November of the soul and prepares our hearts to receive the blessings Christmas makes possible. On those days when our hearts feel cold and hard, giving thanks is a simple way to bring back the warmth and softness we need.

What are you most thankful for today?