Growing Gratitude

As the calendar turns to November, I usually start focusing on Christmas.  I'm an early decorator for my favorite holiday and really don't do much for fall.  So, my three pumpkins get put away in favor of trees, snowmen and twinkle lights.

A few years ago, one of my boys asked me why we didn't decorate for Thanksgiving.  The reality is, we travel to my in-laws for Thanksgiving every year, and so I just never felt like it was necessary to decorate for a holiday we wouldn't even be home for.  But then I thought maybe I was missing an opportunity to teach my children about being thankful and real gratitude.

In my desire to jump straight to Christmas on November 1, was I somehow shortchanging the idea that Thanksgiving and giving thanks wasn't important because we weren't home?

Also, since advertisers tend to release the toy catalogs earlier and earlier, my kids would start making and revising their gift lists earlier too.  So it seemed that once November hit, not only was I focusing on decorating for Christmas, but kids were solely focused on what they were going to get.  

In an effort to combat this constant asking for more, we began to discuss gratitude differently.  Not just empty phrases like "You ought to be more thankful for all that you have" or "Do you know that there are kids who don't have any toys at all?", but sincere conversations about being thankful for what we have, instead of falling into the trap of asking for more.

Since I like any excuse to use my scrapbooking supplies, I drew a tree on the chalkboard door in our kitchen and cut out leaves.  My idea was that each day for the month of November we would each take a leaf and write something we were thankful for -- and they couldn't write the same thing every time.  Since my boys were young, most of the leaves were covered in the names of favorite toys or family members. Instead of demanding, they think more deeply on what they could write, and we used this as a springboard into discussions of how much we had and how much God has blessed us.  And how we, in turn, could bless others with our abundance.

We also read scripture that focused on being thankful and giving thanks.  A few of my favorites are:

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:19b-20

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

My boys are older now and busy with high school and middle school, instead of writing Christmas lists for toys.  But I think this is a good year to bring the thankful tree back. It's a simple idea that can help all of us focus on being grateful for what we have.  You don't have to be fancy and draw a tree and cut out leaves, you could use a poster board or a notebook. Won't you join us in ways that gratitude can flourish to a new level?