With Thanksgiving coming soon, it seems the perfect time to make plans not only for food and who to invite to your meal but also time to intentionally help your family develop a grateful heart. We offer several suggestions below. Try one of them or create your own tradition. As David the psalmist says (Psalm 138: 1-2a NIrV), “Lord, I will praise you with all my heart. In front of those who think they are gods I will sing praise to you. I will bow down facing your holy temple. I will praise your name, because you are loving and faithful.” God is loving and faithful. How will you share your thankfulness with those around you? What new tradition can you establish with your loved ones? Blessings! Marilyn and Diane
The Breakfast Club by Letitia Suk (www.thrivingfamily.com ) For our family, Thanksgiving Day begins early, with family gathered around a card table in the living room to share a special, once-a-year breakfast. Between bites of poppy seed cake and sips of eggnog, we record the year’s blessing on notebook paper: landing a new job, reconnecting with old friends, finding a great sale on kids’ shoes, earning an A in Spanish. No item is too small for the list.
After we’ve filled our papers, I reach for our family’s Thanksgiving Journal, which contains our lists from the past 30 years. As we sift through the pages, we remember our family’s milestones: starting a new business, learning to play an instrument, hitting the home run that won the baseball championship. Tears and laughter flow freely as we read about a 4-year olds gratefulness for a new bicycle, the swing set we inherited from a family at church, our first dog and memories of loved ones who have since passed away.
Shortly after breakfast, the turkey goes in the oven, the card table transforms into a puzzle area and the guests begin to arrive. But the heart of our Thanksgiving happens before the busyness of the day-when we add the year’s memories to a growing collection of God’s blessings. [When is your quiet family Thanksgiving time? Combine that quiet time with paper and pencil to create lasting memories of thankfulness.]
Act it Outwww.buildfaith.org Read the story of the ten lepers (Luke 17: 11-19). Remind your children that Jesus was pleased with the one man who returned to give thanks for being healed. Provide rags for bandages and let your children play the roles of the lepers and Jesus.
Create a chain reactionwww.buildfaith.org Make a “God is good” chain. Gather scissors, pencils, stickers, crayons, glue and construction paper. Cut the paper in stripes and ask your kids to think about the many ways God is good. Write them or draw these attributes on the strips, then connect them to form a chain and hang it in a place where it will remind your family of God’s goodness.
A Tree of Thanks by Donna Brennan www.thrivingfamily.com On my side of the family, sentiments are usually kept to oneself, so when we planned to spend Thanksgiving at my mother’s place a few years back, I knew my siblings and their spouses wouldn’t be comfortable participating in traditions where vocal expressions of gratitude were required. So I decided to try an idea from a kids’ craft project, modified for my family.
From brown construction paper, I cut out the trunk and branches of a tree and taped it to the wall. Then I made leaves out of red, yellow and orange paper. I handed out the leaves to my siblings, their spouses and their kids, asking them to write something they were
thankful for on each leaf. I told them they didn’t need to write their name on it unless they wanted to. The kids were the most enthusiastic, with most of them quickly scribbling down one or two items. The adults were reluctant at first, but once they started reading the other leaves, they all wrote down at least one thankful thought. I was surprised to see some leaves with detailed, heartfelt lists, and a few relatives filled more than one leaf!
Several weeks later when I went to visit my mom, I was surprised to see the Thanksgiving tree still taped to the wall. Mom told me she enjoyed looking at it so much that she couldn’t bear to take it down.
A (Christian) Family Thanksgiving Activity: The Thanks Giving Treewww.aholyexperience.com
Print out The Thanks Giving Tree from the website: AHolyExperience.com
Cut out all of the leaves. Hole punch each leaf. Slip a string through each hole.
Hang the leaves on a bouquet of branches in a container of your choice.
Each morning, pick one leaf, reflect on its verse and make the verse your prayer of thanksgiving back to God. Then set it at the base of the Thanks Giving Tree.
In the evening, return to the leaf and its verse and give thanks to God. And then jot down one gift you are grateful to God for on the back of the leaf. Make giving thanks a daily habit – and daily wear joy!
(While it’s life-changing to cultivate a habit of thanksgiving over several weeks, life circumstances might alternatively have you jotting down thanksgiving for His gifts on the same day, filling all the leaves during one family gathering.)
Or! Each morning, leave one of The Thanks Giving Tree leaves hanging somewhere, and on the back of the leaf, jot down why you are grateful for your spouse, your child, your co-worker, your neighbor. Use the Thanksgiving Tree to reach out and ignite your community with a radical revolution of gratitude! Joy! Dare! “Give Thanks in the assembly!” Psalm 35: 18
Marilyn Shults Diane Hensley Director of Family Ministry Director of Shepherd’s Flock Marilyn@sotv-wdm.orgDiane@sotv-wdm.org 515-225-1623 Ext 21 515-225-1623 Ext 14 Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, 3900 Ashworth Rd., West Des Moines, IA 50265