Creating a Practice of Gratitude, Contentment, and Joy in Our Homes for Thanksgiving and All Year Long
I’ve been thinking about how to make this Thanksgiving meaningful for our family. I’m sure you’ve been considering the same thing.
I realize more and more how a heart of gratitude produces a heart of contentment and joy regardless of circumstances. The Bible tells us the joy of the Lord is our strength, and I’m recognizing that more in my life all the time. If I let the enemy steal my joy, I am weaker in my walk with God, and I can easily be overcome with the smallest of circumstances. When I have a heart of joy, gratitude, and contentment, I truly feel invincible (with the Holy Spirit’s help, of course).
That got me to thinking about my kids. They live in an anxiety-ridden, anger-filled world. How can I help bulletproof them from the cultural and spiritual burning arrows (Eph. 6:16)? By helping them fill their lives with prayers of thanksgiving and an attitude of gratitude. By helping them to recognize and count their blessings every day. So, this Thanksgiving, I want to help them build the foundation for what I hope will become a daily habit in their lives.
I’ve been searching for ideas to do something at this year’s Thanksgiving that will get the ball rolling. I’m going to share a few ideas I found, but I honestly hope you will share some of your own ideas in the comments so we can brainstorm together ideas that can help strengthen our children and our families.
- Thanksgiving Tree: I’ve done Thanksgiving trees before, but this idea was from Traci Smith in her book Faithful Families suggests keeping it simple and using a tree or shrub you have outside your home and hanging paper circle ornaments on it that each person has written their thanksgivings on. Each person fills out three circles with something they are thankful for. The family gathers at the tree and shares their items and then hangs the ornament on the tree. End with a family prayer together.
- Thanksgiving List: Put up butcher paper about 4-5 feet long on a wall. If you can do this early in the month, or at least for the week of Thanksgiving, family members are to add their items of thanks to the list. On Thanksgiving Day read all of these out loud and then pray together thanking God together and asking God to help us all to stay thankful throughout the year. (This and other ideas are outlined in No Ordinary Home by Carol Brazo).
- Acorns, corn kernels, or seeds: Choose an item to give to each person at the table. Pass a small basket around the table before the meal begins. Each person puts their acorn/kernel/seed into the basket saying one thing for which they are thankful. Each person may have three items, so the basket goes around the table three times. Additionally, have each person take home one of the items as a reminder to be thankful throughout the next year. If you are using kernels or seeds, you may want to glue one to a card for each person, so they can put in their Bibles or stick it on a mirror to remind them to always be thankful. Write 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 on each card: Always be full of joy. Never stop praying. Whatever happens, always be thankful. This is how God wants you to live in Christ Jesus. (NLT)
- Choose a special story to read, especially if you have several children in your family. Some ideas would be the story of Squanto, The Thanksgiving Story, Three Young Pilgrims, Sarah Morton’s Day, Samuel Eaton’s Day, or The Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving. Turn the conversation to the ways God intervened on behalf of the people in the stories. Talk about commitment and respect for God that is seen in most of these stories. The story of Squanto almost lives up to the Joseph story in Genesis in how God worked everything out to provide for the Pilgrims and to provide a new family for Squanto. Choosing a story book or Bible passage to read each year at Thanksgiving can become a meaningful tradition.
- I found a great website and blog that offers many other ideas and a free Thanksgiving Packet when you sign up for their mailing list. The website is called Not Consumed and is especially geared toward homeschool families.
What are your ideas and traditions? How do you build memories with your kids for Thanksgiving? How do you help your family think about gratitude throughout the year? We would love to hear from you.
My prayer is that you have a blessed Thanksgiving and that all of us truly spend time thanking God for all His blessings, mercies, and help this year. We truly serve an Awesome, Generous God.