When I first came to Jesus, I remember having a conversation with my friend about how to teach children the art of gratitude; the discipline and obedience and joy found in “eucharisteo”. She told me, “go for a walk and point out everything. Teach them to say ‘thank you for the butterflies and the flowers and the acorns’. My children aren’t so small anymore, but I’m still guiding them along. And when they see a painted sunset sky, they are filled with awe and my prayer is that their hearts whisper a thanksgiving to our Father who created it. The act of constant gratitude and giving thanks changes us, it changes the atmosphere in our home. I pray that when they leave this nest, they never lose the art and beauty and offering of eucharisteo.
Today is the day set aside for us to gather with friends and family and framily and give thanks for all of the blessings we have. My hope and prayer for my children is that it’s never just celebrated and set aside for one day. Thanksgiving is an act of worship; an act of obedience. Certainly, the offering of thanksgiving postures our spirits to line up with His. In this house, I do my best to foster a constant spirit of thanksgiving. Often times we are giving thanks for the silliest things, but truly, is not every thing, every moment, every breath a blessing sent from our Father above?
Here are a few ways in which we cultivate a spirit of Thanksgiving in our home:
Gratitude Journals – It is never too early for children to start documenting the things in which they are grateful for. If they are not able to write, have them draw a picture of one thing they are thankful for from that day. Ask them and then caption the answer on the same page they colored. If they are writers, give them a composition book and allow them to decorate the outside (or inside) so they can have a place to list their blessings.
A Gratitude Wall – Be it a piece of craft or butcher paper as seen on this page, or a chalkboard or even a chalkboard wall, having a space where your whole family can have freedom to list a blessing or gift is a great thing. Place it in the kitchen or a busy area of the home so that they can see it and pay attention and see what others have written (kids love the affirmation of seeing their name or their offering on the wall!). Set a family goal with a number or “so many” praises per month. And see if you can beat it the following month.
Highs/Lows – For older children, this is a great game and conversation starter. What was your highest moment today? What was your lowest? But don’t stop there. Engage in conversation that prompts the kids to think and search out their greatest blessing from that day and give thanks for it. And if they had a pretty bad day or something negative happened, prompt them to give thanks for at least one thing or find something about that situation in which they can praise God for. Again, a spirit of thanksgiving not only brings us closer to our Father, but also changes and shapes our hearts!
Letterwriting – Challenge your family to write one letter a week to someone you know, simply letting them know that you are grateful for their space and place in your life. If you have smaller children, pen the letter for them. If you have olders, take a trip to pick out their own box of cards. How wonderful it is to receive cards in the mail, but how much more wonderful it is to know that you’ve been a blessing to someone!
A few last notes…I’ve found, in our home, that consistently bringing it back to gratefulness really does shape their little hearts. The world is fighting so hard for all of their attention. In this day and age, it’s so easy to forget, or pass over, the things in which we are grateful for. Keeping the theme of thanksgiving, of eucharisteo, in the conversation guides them and shifts them as they journey.
Finding a rhythm might be more difficult than you think as you begin. Choose to be intentional! Don’t give up! Think long and hard and after a while, thanksgiving will come naturally. A spirit of eucharisteo will pour out of you and your children. Dig in, press forward. The process and the growth are so very beautiful.
So today, as you gather with your friends and family, find a quiet moment begin thinking of the actions you can take and the ways you will choose to carry this season of thanksgiving over into next month and the months after.