Thanksgiving ABC's: Reflections on God's Faithfulness at ALCS

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to look inward and reflect on God's many blessings. On a more personal note, Rachel Williamson opens up about a Williamson family Thanksgiving tradition and shares about her gratitude for her family, the ALCS staff, and ALCS clients and community. Rachel is Kerry's wife of 29 years and our ALCS Office Administrator.
Thanksgiving ABC's
It was a dreary cold day in 1990 when Kerry and I, newlyweds at the time, set out for a 4-hour drive from Fort Worth to Houston. Kerry was in his first year of graduate school, and we were headed to celebrate Thanksgiving with relatives. To pass the time, we decided to play the ABC game with a spin; for each letter, we would name something we were thankful for. Each of us would recite all the previous letters before adding a new one. Some of the things we came up with were a bit comical and ridiculous (you’d be surprised at how silly and funny Kerry can be), but we enjoyed it and decided to make it a tradition. Over time, that tradition has morphed into something that is very precious to me.

The following Thanksgiving, we didn’t recite all the previous letters, but instead, chose something from that year that God had done in our lives or a way He had blessed us that began with each letter. I found that having to look back at my year from that perspective actually helped me to notice and be grateful for things I may have otherwise taken for granted. It turned into a very meaningful time of sharing, one that I began looking forward to each year.

Over the years, we have tweaked our tradition a bit. As our four children were born, and reached an age that they could participate, we invited them to join us. Later, we began writing our lists down, and I would collect them as a memento from year to year. For many of my letters each year, I would have multiple entries, because it was an opportunity to encapsulate and appreciate all of the sweet memories and blessings from the year. In fact, I’ve been known to start my list several days early so that I don’t forget anything! (And truth be told, I get a lot of teasing from Kerry and the kids for doing so!) While it seems like a very simple idea, I believe that gratitude is a choice. It’s a matter of focus and perspective. And my list helps me to focus – to see in the midst of trials and heartaches (at times) what God was up to, and to celebrate His extravagant kindness, faithfulness, and generosity toward me. And as I look back at His faithfulness, it gives me courage and faith to face the future. No, I don’t know what the next year will hold, but I know the hand that I will be holding as I walk through it. He has been faithful in the past, and He will continue to be faithful in the future.
"S" is for Skype and "F" is for Family Business
As our kids have grown and gone off to college, we have had to Skype a family member or two into our Thanksgiving ABC game at times when we couldn’t all be together at Thanksgiving. But this year will actually be the first year that we are all spread out – even in different time zones! One child is in California, one in Colorado, one in Massachusetts, and one in Tennessee. But we’re hoping to figure out how to do a five-way Skype! Maybe my S this year will be “Skype!” :) While I will obviously be thankful for each person who’s in that Skype conversation, this will be a year that I’m also really thankful for the ways each of them has contributed to Abundant Life Counseling Services (ALCS). My F will be “Family business!” Each of them has made ALCS more successful this year, and it has been such a neat opportunity to see them work together as a team and contribute.

Our oldest daughter, Lydia (in Colorado) is bringing us kicking and screaming into the 21st-century, helping ALCS to be a little more social. She manages our social media posts, edits our therapists’ blogs to get them social-media-ready, and keeps us accountable for creating new content. She’s also managing our advertising, tweaking our website, and keeping an eye on our Google analytics for us. Hannah, our second daughter (in California) is a marketing copywriter by trade, and looks over our marketing materials, helping us to articulate ourselves accurately and professionally. She also helped us write letters for a mailout we will be sending out soon. Luke, (in Massachusetts) is our graphics guy. He helps us look great! He and Lydia rebranded ALCS a couple years ago, overhauling our logo and website, but this year, he worked for us during the summer and took things to a whole new level! He takes the photographs for our website, creates all of our signage, and designs our brochures, rack cards and business cards, letterhead and envelopes. Although it’s just a hobby and side job for him, he does such beautiful work! So much so that our printer has commented to us before on the level of his work that competes with many professional graphic artists! (Pardon my mom “brag moment!”) Daniel, our youngest (in Tennessee) did sorting, organizing, and stuffing for a mailout that will be going out soon. Each of them is so gifted in their own way, and it has been such a beautiful thing to see them bring value to ALCS with their unique giftings! This year, they have truly put the “family” in “family business!” So “Family business” will be my F! (or at least one of them!)
The Williamson family at Hannah's graduation from Biola University, December 2018. Left to right: Lydia, Daniel, Kerry, Hannah, Rachel, and Luke
"X" is for X-cellent ALCS Staff Members
Of course, the value of ALCS reaches far beyond the Williamson family! Which is where my X will come from this year! X will be for X-cellent ALCS staff members! (Yes, my children say that that is cheating, but who REALLY has an X they are thankful for?!) This year has been a year of many changes at ALCS. We were so sad to say goodbye to Jay Mayo (moved to Midland to care for his parents), Holly Dennis, (left ALCS to be a full-time mom), and Cathi Heare (left private practice for more work/life balance). But when God takes a Jay and a Holly and a Cathi, He provides a Hannah and a Candice. I am so very grateful for the top-notch folks the LORD continues to send our way! Truly, I am so proud of our staff at ALCS! When Kerry hires new people, he always says, “You can teach skills, but you can’t teach ‘heart.’” God continues to send us people who have an ALCS “heart”… people who have a deep faith and commitment to the LORD, and who have a passion for helping people. He sends us folks who have hearts of humility, maturity, compassion, and wisdom. The same values that Kerry built this business on when he started it 16 years ago permeate each of the therapists here. And they have amazing clinical skills and expertise to boot!

So when people call in, it is my privilege to match them to someone on our staff who can help, because I believe in these people! Even though I can’t be the one to help folks who call into ALCS, I can connect them to someone who can! We are a team here. We care about each other and respect each other’s unique specialized expertise. We work together to help each other be better and to serve our clients and community better. I can’t imagine working with a finer group of people, and I am grateful to be a part of something that “matters” and touches so many people’s lives. I get to see marriages heal, countenances change and become brighter and happier. I get to hear people who have struggled alone for many years reach a point where they say, “I think I’m good for now. Thank you. I really appreciate you guys.” I get to hear people call in because their friend told them that a therapist at ALCS could help them (or better yet, said “they’re [the therapists at ALCS] all great.”) I get to see family members trust us with other family members and be a part of healing for an entire family. THAT’S job satisfaction!
ALCS Holiday Staff Party, 2018, with ALCS staff and spouses. We are grateful for such a great team!
"C" is for Clients, Churches, and Community
Which leads me to my C. C is for Clients! And for the churches and community members who send them! Perhaps it is because so many of our clients come from churches with whom we’ve developed relationships or from previous clients, or perhaps it’s because we’re private pay so that those who come to us really want to come and are willing to make sacrifices, but I’ve had new therapists who join our staff comment on how refreshing it is to work with the population that seems to gravitate toward ALCS! I’m thankful for clients being willing to trust us, and to let us into the most vulnerable places of their lives. (I so appreciate the trust and vulnerability when I hear comments like, “I have been praying for a long time for a counselor…I didn’t even KNOW there was a Christian counselor in Kyle!” or “I’ve never done this before…I don’t know where to start.”) I’m thankful for clients being patient with me as I try to manage more people and schedules than I can keep up with sometimes. And most of all, I’m thankful for clients who have the courage that it takes to make difficult changes and to fully engage in therapy as we partner together on this journey toward maturity and Abundant Life.

So, this year, what are YOU thankful for? If you find a good X (or Q, or Z), let me know!
Rachel Williamson is Kerry's wife of 29 years. She and Kerry have four college age / young adult children. Rachel serves as the ALCS Office Administrator and has a Masters' Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling.

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