Monday, November 4

6 Steps to Practicing Gratitude with Your Family This Month

     I don’t know about the weather where you all live, but here in Buffalo there is a sudden chill in the air. It feels like it happens over night, literally, every year. I’ll be outside on a day in late October when the sun is shining, it’s 60 degrees, and I’m taking my coat off and leaving it in the car as I run errands. The trees are glorious shades of deep reds, burnt orange, and rich golds, and you take it all in, knowing that it will vanish so very soon. I always wish it would last longer than it does. 
     Then, overnight it seems, the gusty winds and rains come, the temperature drops 20 degrees, the leaves are blown right off the trees into piles on the ground and you realize, as you set your clock back and brace for the darker evenings, that yes, winter is coming after all. 
     What does this all have to do with gratitude? 
     Well, whether the weather has changed drastically for you or not, the flip of
the calendar to November queues us to another change of seasons as well: the holiday season! I have friends who have their Christmas trees up already (I’m not one of them, but I don’t shame those of you who do! The girls and I watched our first Hallmark Christmas movie on Saturday night—much to Scott’s eye rolls!).   I’m a take-one-holiday-at a time kind of girl and am still reeling from the excessive candy indulgence and pumpkin carving. I did locate the large green Tupperware bin in our basement that says “Thanksgiving”. For those of you who know me, and who have visited our basement, you know that alone that is a feat of gargantuan proportions (me locating something in my basement!). 
     This week, we’ll be replacing scary spiders (though honestly, we don’t really have “scary” decorations in our house because mom only likes cute, happy spiders) with turkeys and pilgrims and I’m trying to wrap my head around how to practice more intentional gratitude with my kiddos this month. 
     Because I firmly believe that we should all be practicing gratitude on a more consistent basis—that gratitude is ALWAYS the beginning of shifting our attitudes, perspectives, and hearts in the right direction—I believe it's important to take this time of year to remind and re-center ourselves on how to practice intentional gratitude. 
    You should also know, our family practices  don’t usually end up looking Instagram or Pinterest perfect, but we do them anyways. 

     And, that’s what counts.  You won’t find any softly lit, perfectly arranged montages of leaves and pumpkins with script-y words arranged on my kitchen table…nor will you find me taking pictures of said montages to post on social media. Why not? Well, because, I'm not that organized. Lol.  I’ll probably be looking for the battery to my camera which is lost somewhere, or my kitchen table will be so buried beneath school/sports/paper clutter that the beautiful montages will be lost in the abyss. 
     But, I never let that stop us. It's important to keep practicing, to keep talking to our children about noticing the blessings in their lives, to talk to them about how they can use those blessings to help others in some way. Even if you start a gratitude journal today and then don't write in it for 10 days, don't give up...we try not to. We fail to finish things all the time (it's something we're working on), but we keep going. It's kind of a family motto around here.  
So, without further adieu, here are...

6 Steps for Practicing Gratitude as a Family this Month
1. Post It Around the House

Pick up a wall decoration from Hobby Lobby or Marshalls that says “Thankful” or “Grateful” or has a relevant scripture or quote. Hang it up, even if its only for a month (easy peasy, right?!).  I bought this one at Home Goods last year and never took it down. It’s become a permanent fixture in my kitchen because I like it and think it’s an important reminder for myself, and my kiddos, every day of the year. 

We also painted the end of one of our kitchen cabinets with chalkboard paint and I use that space for writing quotes (I'll post a photo next time!), prayers and special holiday sentiments. I’m planning to put a new scripture or quote on the chalkboard each week and then we'll talk about as a family.

This weeks scripture is: Psalm 95:1-3 (see below). 

2. Practice Saying "Thank You" in Your Prayers
The scriptures are clear about this over and over again, God loves to hear us say “thank you” and to offer praise for the many blessings in our lives. 

Psalm 95:1-3 says, "Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods."

While we often thank God for many things during our mealtime and bedtime prayers, I have been feeling convicted that our prayer times have gotten a little bit monotonous we're repeating a laundry list of things that we're thankful for...Thank you God for our house, and our food, and our family, and the sunshine. Amen. 

I'm going to us this month to prod the kids to be more specific. Here are three conversations starters: 

1. Share one thing that happened today that you were really grateful for.  
2. How has God blessed you this week? 
3. When did you really sense God's presence in your life this week? 

Ask your family these questions. Prompt them to start paying attention. Then incorporate the answers to these in your gratitude journal (if you choose to start one), on your Thankfulness tree (see #4) , and into your prayers! 

3. Tell Someone You’re Thankful for Them!
Write a note to a colleague and stick it on their desk. Write a card for each of your family members at some point throughout the month and leave it on their pillow- tell them how thankful you are for them and what you love most about them. Send your grandmother, or mother, or sister or brother a card telling them that your grateful for them. In this day and age when everything is so instant and easy via text, we have lost the art of writing notes and sending mail to those we care about.  Who isn’t over the moon excited to get something other than sales flyers or bill in the mail? I know I am. And who doesn’t love finding a thoughtful note on their desk? I know I do! 
My intention is to write at least one note (maybe 2!) to each of my family members (at home) this month, and I’m going to encourage them to do the same. I’m also going to pick a couple of extended family members or friends to send notes to as well. 

I found these cards at Trader Joes recently (they always have really clever, cute cards, for really cheap!): 

4. Create a Family Gratitude Tree or Journal
We’ve created gratitude “trees” many times. I’ve put sticks in vases in the center of our kitchen table and we’ve hung leaves like ornaments stating our “blessings” on the sticks. We’ve also, for many years, created a “tree” on our sliding glass door and then used paper leaves to write out the things we’re grateful for, usually while we’re sitting around the dinner table. In the past I’ve used brown paper bags to create the tree—this year I got smart and bought a roll of brown parchment paper (so I don't have to wrestle with the paper bags, though they do work!). 

I can't find any pictures right now, but promise to put on in my next post (after our tree is created and up next to our dinner table). 

This website also has some super cute (and printable) ideas for practicing gratitude with young kids. They include a very cute picture of a gratitude tree at the beginning of their post (disclaimer: its WAY cuter than mine will be!).

Hello Wonderful Article- Creative Ways for Kids to Express Gratitude: 

5. Read Books, Poems and Stories about Gratitude
I will write a more in depth post offering some suggestions on books and poems, but in the meantime Google “books”, or “quote” or “poems” on gratitude and you will find lots of suggestions to use at home. 

 Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts has become a classic in the Christian book world, and for good reason. It's beautifully written and reminds us to turn the most mundane parts of our lives into opportunities for praise and thanksgiving.  It's a book I keep on my own bookshelf and reach for when I need a reminder that "the practice of giving thanks is the way we practice the presence of God." 

6. Post it on Social Media
Here is a great way to use social media for good--- challenge yourself to post one thing a day—a picture, a quote, a prayer—telling friends what your grateful for, or encouraging them to practice thankfulness. I've committed to doing one post a day on Facebook this month...kind of like an online gratitude journal. Here is one from yesterday: 

What I've enjoyed about this practice in the few days that I've done it, is that it's forcing me to observe in a more specific way. To intentionally watch for the many things that bring joy each day (God's blessings), things that I can tend to take for granted in the quickly moving pace of our days. When we speak these things out loud, or write them down, it gives more meaning to helps us to appreciate them at a deeper and more intentional level. I bet it will do the same for you (or if it already has, leave a comment and let me know how!). 

That's it for now! 

Each Monday this month I'll be posting:

  • A picture (of something we've tried as a family).
  • A scripture (I'll picking one scripture each week to post next to our Thankfulness tree- this weeks is Psalm 95:1-3 from above). 
  • A few thoughts/suggestions to encourage you to keep going (and to let you know what has or hasn't worked for us). 
  • Some suggested resources (links to books, articles, ideas, etc.).
Happy November! Stop back next week. 

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