I’ve written for this blog for several years now, which means I’ve created multiple Thanksgiving blog posts. This year I didn’t want to do the typical “have your kids list off everything they are thankful for” post. Yet my kids are still pretty young, and getting them to stretch past that is often beyond their capabilities. Then I remembered part of a sermon I heard a few months ago about gratitude.
The pastor was challenging believers to move beyond the “elementary level” gratitude of thanking God for our blessings, and towards 1 Thessalonians 5:18 thankfulness: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I was truly convicted by this challenge. Do I really praise God for my difficulties, or do I just try to focus on the good that happened and move forward? The second half of the verse assures me this is worth meditating upon… and worthy of teaching to my children.
So after a few weeks of praying about how to teach this concept to kids, I don’t have a lot of ideas. What I do know is that it starts with us. We need to model authentic gratitude for God’s sovereignty. It can’t just be at the Thanksgiving dinner table. When we are stuck in traffic, we need to thank God that we are perhaps being spared from a situation or being taught patience. When we are sick, we need to praise God for the reminder that we are healthy most of our days, and to appreciate them. When our dishwasher breaks, we need to be thankful we have one at all! The list of opportunities goes on and on. I truly believe that when our kids see us model this in a genuine fashion, they will be inclined to follow.
I think it is fantastic to provide intentional opportunities for us to show gratitude, I just don’t think true thankfulness can be forced. Bear that in mind should you incorporate the following ideas:
Play Highs/Lows. This is a typical game for the dinner table, but consider adding a twist. Perhaps when a family member shares their low for the day, challenge them to see a blessing in the disappointment. I believe it is still important to show empathy for the hurt feelings or sadness your child experienced; we aren’t asking them to be robots, we are asking them to model seeking God’s perspective.
Play “The Gratitude Game”. I saw this https://teachbesideme.com/gratitude-game-pick-sticks/ idea recently. Basically, you have a group of colored straws or popsicle sticks. When someone picks up a red straw, they can thank God for a person in their life, for orange a place, for green a food, for blue a thing, and for purple they get to pick. My suggestion is that if your child picks purple, encourage them to find a blessing in a hard situation. When your turn comes, you do the same.
Incorporate 1 Thessalonians 5:18 thankfulness into your prayers. “Lord, we thank you for this opportunity to see your hand at work.” “Jesus, thank you that you are our provider and that we know you will provide even when we don’t understand how.” “God, thank you for the testimony we will have when you work in this situation. Thank you that our character is being refined in this trial.” When our kids hear these prayers repeatedly, they will be more likely to speak to their Savior in kind.
Pray honestly. Sometimes you may not be able to see God’s goodness. I think it’s okay to let your kids hear you ask for it. “Lord, we want to trust you in all things. We know you are good, but we are hurting right now. Please show us how you are working in this.” Kids don’t need a mother who is in denial of her true feelings. They need a mother that trusts her feelings to her maker.
Teach Scripture on the topic. The Bible shows us that thankfulness is the appropriate response in all situations. Let your children see how frequently God requests this of His children. Here are just a few verses on the topic:
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!” ~Psalm 50:23 (ESV)
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! ~Psalm 30:11-12 (ESV)
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name! ~Psalm 100:4 (ESV)
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. ~Ephesians 5:4 (ESV)
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night… ~Psalm 92:1-2 (ESV)
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High. ~Psalm 7:17 (ESV)
Hang on a second—two of my boys just destroyed an entire banana cake I made for company and the evidence is all over the floor. Where was I? Thankfulness, right?!
Okay, thank you, Lord that I have more ingredients to make something else!
I’d like to share two personal, recent examples that I will be sharing with my kids this Thanksgiving season. These two situations are ones my sons have walked through (at least partially) with me, so I want them to see my gratitude.
First of all, I am thanking God for how He has shown up in my three-year-old’s allergies. At one-and-a-half, he was diagnosed with 21 food allergies; thankfully he has outgrown all but 8 of them. We are about to undergo testing to see if 3 more can be incorporated into his diet. It has been challenging for our entire family, but so cool to celebrate together each time he is healed of an allergy! We’ve had cashew and coconut celebrations, gluten fests, and a pistachio party. We are facing this challenge together as a family, and Everett knows how we love him and want him healed of every last one. What I praise God the most for however, is the character my little boy is growing in the midst of this. He has incredible self-control and a sense of responsibility; he knows to ask before he eats anything, and he has a FANTASTIC attitude when we tell him no. In fact, 99% of the time he responds with, “That’s okay! God is healing me! Maybe I can have that next year!” This young man knows the power of God at work in his own body! Could a mom be any more proud? Also, his brothers are learning thoughtfulness and conscientiousness. They can’t just eat a nut and leave the table. They know they need to wash their hands immediately and clean off their spot. They have also become great prayer warriors! They regularly ask God to heal their brother. Here Everett is with a watermelon cake. He had absolute joy and wasn’t focusing on how he was missing out… boy, can I learn from him!
Another situation we are praising God for is the recent birth of our healthy baby girl. There were so many challenges during my pregnancy with her. Upon finding out I was pregnant with her, I bled heavily for a full month. All the while, I was vomiting repeatedly, sometimes up to 20 times a day. This lasted for ⅔ or the pregnancy. Next, I had a hernia, which made me look huge for most of the pregnancy. Then my whole family and I got the flu. Then I got food poisoning. Then I hurt my back. Then I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and had to take my blood sugar 4 times a day, eat a specific diet, and write down everything I ate (all things a mom of 3 has time for, right?). Then we found out the baby was breech. I was so over being pregnant at this point! (I am someone who puts an enormous amount of energy into being a healthy environment for my baby, so to have all of these challenges, it was humbling and frustrating.) Anyway, upon finding out the news, I came home, and my three little boys, and my husband put their hands on my big belly. They each prayed for God to turn our baby girl. They talked to her as they had throughout the pregnancy. “Baby, we are so excited to meet you! We need you to turn your head so you are upside down. Then put your feet up here so you can come out. Can you hear me? Okay do it now!” While I was doing crazy upside-down exercises to help her move, my son would crawl under my tummy and talk to her some more. What a blessing to see the faithfulness of children in prayer! Well, the time came for me to go for an ultrasound and see what the baby’s position was…. And she turned!!! It was highly unlikely that it would happen, but God moved on our behalf. We were so incredibly thankful, and the best part was that we were able to share the depth of joy with our sons! I pray that the seeds of seeing God at work are planted in their hearts through this testimony. Next came the birth… and I am thrilled to say it was my easiest birth. Blessing after blessing ushered in the arrival of Adeline Eden. She is healthy and beautiful and a wonderful addition to our family. I truly believe that the frustrations during the pregnancy have made the blessings so much sweeter. And so I can honestly say, thank you God for it all. And now I get to see my sons embrace their baby sister. Perhaps God was already cultivating a protective love in their hearts for their sister the whole time.
I know my trials are small right now. For this I am thankful. And sometimes if I am honest, I have an easier time giving thanks through great challenges than through small disappointments. Like why is it so hard to give thanks for the baseboards and carpet I was hoping were replaced? Or for the trim that isn’t painted yet? I still have lots in which to be sanctified. But I will keep pursuing “the will of God in Christ Jesus” for me (1 Thess 5:18).
I hope you have much to be thankful for this season. Yet I know there are many going through trials right now. Maybe you were expecting to embrace a child by this time… maybe this is your first holiday without a loved one… maybe you or someone you love has received a difficult diagnosis… Whatever it may be, I pray that God reveals His goodness to you through it and that your heart will be able to praise Him.