14The weather may forget every few days, but the calendar says it's officially fall.

There's just something about the season – the trees we thought we recognized begin to show off with remarkable colors as they work in harmony to create unforgettable sunlight scenes. And the weather.

I truly love fall weather.

We begin to feel a certain crispness in the air each morning, while the afternoons remind us to bring a little jacket as the sun begins to set a little earlier day by day.

Fall is a perfect buffer between a humid North Carolina summer and when winter officially sets in to send us on daily trips to the woodpile.

The fall weather is more than beauty and comfort, though. It's a sign. A signal to us all that the time for gathering as family and friends is just ahead.

It's a season for gratitude and thoughtfulness, where the coolness of the air outside is perfectly countered by a warmth that seems to grow within us all.

We started a new fall tradition in my family a few years ago, and I think it's a good exercise in humility. The gratitude pumpkin.

Maybe you've done this, too (or at least heard about it.)

The concept is simple: get a pumpkin, place it where it's easily visible to your family and guests, and use a permanent marker or paint (for the really artsy among us) to write down things you're grateful for.
It doesn't take long to get past the cool stuff and start writing really simple things like health, family or a home, and that's where the gold is. Realizing how immensely blessed we are in our everyday lives.

Life — even abundant life — isn't about money or cars or possessions. It's about the relationships we build. It's about the joy we get from or bring to others.

There is an undeniable joy in the laughter of a toddler, or the tender moments with a newborn. There is cause for joy and much to be thankful for all around us. It just takes us pausing long enough to recognize it.

The gratitude pumpkin at our house was so filled with the thankful thoughts we wrote on it last year you could hardly tell it was ever orange at all. And that's how I want to live.

I'm ready for the negativity, and the pain and the ugliness we see in this crazy, divided world to give way to a sense of gratitude for what we have.

There is freedom in that place. There is joy in that place. And there is love in its truest form in the place where gratitude lives.

So, consider getting a pumpkin and a marker. Or you can just sit down with a spiral notebook and a pen and begin writing.

Encourage your children, spouse or people you work with to do the same. Record the things that make you smile. Write down the people who bring you joy.

Count your blessings. One at a time. It's almost certain you will run of paper (or pumpkin) before you're finished.

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