By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
Perspective is powerful! How we perceive our circumstances has the power to ruin our dream vacation or to bring joy to the most tragic events. Being intentional about expressing gratitude is a great tool to help maintain a joy-filled perspective through every season of life. Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to be intentional as a family to cultivate gratitude in your home!
Joy truly comes from within. Psalm 107:8-9 says, "Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things." These words point us to the truth that we can find what we need to be satisfied from the Lord, and He encourages us to "give thanks to the Lord" as a way to acknowledge God as our provider.
Research even shows that practicing gratitude helps change our moods and thoughts patterns. When we take time to be thankful or see the positive around us over the negatives, oxycontin is released in our brains which helps to improve our mood. When we make gratitude a part of our routines, we can live a happier life. We train our brains to look for the positives in a situation rather than fixating on the negative.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to go a little bigger on showing gratitude in our homes. This season is an invitation to everyone to set aside our complaints and worries and take the opportunity to look for God's good gifts in our lives. Here are a few ways to focus your family on gratitude this Thanksgiving:
1. Create a Family List of Thanksgiving
When my kids were preschoolers, we would get out some brown, green, red, and orange coloring paper and make a huge tree that we could add colorful leaves to that we wrote things we were thankful for. Our tree wasn't necessarily beautiful (although I am sure those who are craftier than me could make it into a masterpiece), but it was a simple centerpiece of thankfulness for the season. For preschoolers cutting, coloring, and talking together about what to add to our tree gives them a hands-on way to internalize that Thanksgiving is about gratitude.
As my kids have grown, our practice has shifted, but the idea of finding a way to write and display things we are thankful for has remained constant. Now my kids can create more sophisticated art on their own and include whole sentences on what they see as the best gifts they have in their lives.
It is important for every person in our family to take time to create a list that is either artistic or simple of what we are thankful for in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Honestly, my kids can get so focused on what they want to receive as we enter the holiday season that we must help them remember what it is they have already been gifted with. When we post our lists or art around our house, we have a visual reminder that God is good, and we can praise him for what he has given us in this season.
2. Document Things Your Family Appreciates Through Photos
If you aren't into crafting or writing as a family, why not let your camera do the work for you! Transform your social media or camera reel into a place to document things you are thankful for as a family. You could use the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving as a chance to capture as many beautiful moments of your family, friends, nature, and more to then print the photos to display on Thanksgiving day.
This personalized display can help center your family's Thanksgiving day conversations around the amazing gifts God has given your family. These photos would point your attention to the good around you and remind you of the reason you have to rejoice. Also, if your kids are like mine, they will love the chance to attempt to capture the world around them in a photo! Nothing more exciting than a chance to use your phone for a minute.
To help you in thanking God, we created a 30 Days of Gratitude Prayer Guide HERE. Download and print this guide to keep with you as a reminder of God's love and promises.
3. Write What You Are Thankful For on the Table
A creative way to get everyone involved in practicing thankfulness on Thanksgiving Day is to get a tablecloth that everyone can write on. Invest in some Sharpies and have everyone who joins you for your meal write or draw things they are thankful for by their seat. As you settle down to eat, converse as a family about the joys you each have observed. This is a way to invite your guests to focus on the good while gathering to celebrate.
4. Serve Together This Thanksgiving Season
Changing your perspective and putting yourself in someone else's shoes is a great way to grow your home in gratitude. It can be hard to always see how blessed we are when we have nothing to compare our circumstances to. We can get so focused on our own stresses, both big and small, that we stop having eyes to see the reasons we have to celebrate!
Thanksgiving is a great time to show some love as a family by diving into a service project in your community. Being willing to love others, especially through these more challenging pandemic years, is a great way to show your kids that they have the ability to make a difference even if your circumstances aren't perfect!
5. Start a Family Gratitude Journal
A gratitude journal is a sweet place to record what you are most thankful for as a family and add to the list each year. This is a place where you can write out the ways God has provided for your family and recount all the amazing ways God has answered your family's prayers. Adding more to the story every year is a beautiful way to record God's goodness and faithfulness over the years.
Psalm 77:11 says, "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old." God invites us to remember what he has done for us… remembering is vital in helping us to keep the faith. Our kids need us to model gratitude so as they grow they learn how to see God's hand at work in the details of their lives.
Our kids thrive when we assure them that this world is a beautiful and safe place. James 1:2-4 says, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." The Bible encourages us to view our trials as joy. It's not easy to be joyful people when we are struggling, but choosing to give thanks anyways is a beautiful way to show your kids that our hope goes beyond our circumstances and is securely grounded in Jesus.
Photo credit: © Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.