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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
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time getting my children to maintain a thankful heart. Ok, who am I kidding? I need to include myself in this! We are pretty spoiled here in the United States, aren’t we? We have so much of so much!
We have an overabundance of food, for one. Most people struggle to either stay at a healthy weight or are always looking for new ways to lose weight. Most of us have excess clothing. I don’t know if this is something I should feel good about or not, but my family has so many clothes that we could probably go two weeks before I absolutely had to do our laundry. I did get most of our duds at consignment stores, or at least on sale, but still – that’s a lot of clothes for 5 people!
My children have way too many toys and my husband and I thoroughly enjoy our various hobbies. We Americans enjoy freedom and luxuries that we simply take for granted. We have plentiful educational opportunities, cozy, warm (or cool with air-conditioning, depending on the weather) homes, not to mention seemingly endless entertainment options. I mean seriously, should we surf the web, watch some TV, play the Wii or text our friends?? Please let it be noted: I don’t text yet; I can’t. I have the cheapest of cheap, basic cell phone packages. But someday, in the most likely near future, I know I will succumb to joining the masses in the wonderful world of text communication!
Today as I was thinking about how we as a family will celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I considered how I might attempt to get myself and my children in a “more thankful” mood as the holiday quickly approaches. I think it’s probably difficult for us Americans to actually feel truly thankful because we have such a materialistic culture. We are always wanting more. Longing for new things. Wishing for the latest trend or gadget. And especially as the Christmas season is almost upon us, I feel like this is the one time of year when my family and I spend way too much thought and conversation on what we want, instead of what we already have that we’re truly thankful for.
My purpose here is not to make you feel guilty. Even though I have already managed to make myself feel that way!! On the contrary, I just think it’s good to be reminded of how blessed our country really is compared to the rest of the world and that we should really focus, this time of year especially, on being truly thankful for all that we have.
I want to teach my children (and work on it myself) the virtue of living a thankful, grateful life. I desire for us to please God in living a life that overflows with thankfulness, as it says in Colossians 2:7. I just love the way that verse is phrased. Can you even imagine being so thankful for everything God has blessed you with (most importantly your eternal salvation through Christ and all that goes with it!) that you have so much thankfulness that it actually overflows?!? Now that is quite an image to ponder! Where does the thankfulness overflow to I wonder? When I read that verse, I picture myself being so full of thankfulness, that my grateful attitude overflows to other people in my life. Perhaps my thankful heart will “rub off” on my family and friends, influencing them to have a greater feeling of thankfulness in their lives. Hmmm… Maybe that’s not at all what Paul, the author of Colossians, meant when he wrote that verse! But still I am left with that image in my mind of having so much thankfulness in my life, that it overflows onto others, impacting them in a positive way.
So when my kids start in with the “I wants” and “Can I gets?” and I start to feel discontent with what I have, I hope I will remember to pray for a more thankful and content heart for myself and my children. And remind my kids to not be so focused on getting stuff, but to be thankful for what they already have. But how does a mother do this? Here are a few ideas that my family does to help us develop more thankfulness:
1) At prayer time, have everyone (including Dad and Mom) each thank God for 3 things they are thankful for. Maybe do this for a week straight, the week before Thanksgiving (or really any time they are getting a case of the “gimmies”), having them list 3 different things each day.
2) Get involved as a family in helping the poor. Nothing makes me personally feel more thankful than when I stop to imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t have all the blessings I have! Or when I see people who are less fortunate than me, it makes me so grateful for my lot in life. Providing your children with opportunities to actively reach out and help poor people will encourage them to look outside of their own lives and see others in need and think of how they might help them. It will make them much more thankful for what they are blessed with when they see others who don’t have as much. Your local community and area churches are plentiful with volunteer and giving opportunities.
Several years ago, God put it on my heart to sponsor a child in an impoverished nation. I brought up the idea to my husband and children, who readily and excitedly agreed! So the Lord brought Jorge, age 8, from Villa Franca, Honduras into our lives!! The cost is very minimal, merely $30/month (through World Vision). We regularly send him stickers, photos, cards and letters to let him know how much we as a family care and pray for him and his family. We receive back letters and pictures he draws, plus a new photo of him each year. It’s a wonderful experience for all, being able to bless this little boy who lives so far away. We often talk about Jorge and what we know of what his life is like. This helps my kids be more aware of the poverty and hardships in so many other countries and leads them to be more thankful for all they have.
3) Give Christmas gifts to needy children. Another activity that has really helped my children focus on the needy instead of their own “needs” is our annual tradition of putting together boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, we go to the dollar store and buy items to pack shoe boxes. Each child packs one box for a child his/her gender and age. The items include small toys, crayons, pencils and paper, candy and gum, toothbrushes and toothpaste, colorful wash cloths, hair accessories, even bars of soap! Simple, everyday things we take for granted! Each year I’ve had the joy of witnessing my children become more and more excited about this tradition. I think this year was the best ever. After we packed up our boxes, I had them watch some online videos on the OCC website to get a better idea of what exactly their shoe boxes will mean to the children that receive them. I got a little choked up at how they were literally giddy with the joy of giving! I think they are finally discovering that “it is better to give than to receive.” Operation Christmas Child is not the only wonderful organization that works to to provide Christmas gifts to underprivileged children. Angel Tree and Toys For Tots are two more that I know of off the top of my head.
What does your family do during the holiday season to promote a feeling of thankfulness in your hearts? Please share your ideas and traditions in the comments section below. I am always looking for more ways to teach thankfulness to my children and myself, and I know other readers will appreciate new ideas as well! Happy Thanksgiving!
My name is Suzy and I am a passionate servant of Christ, wife to my best friend, and mother and teacher of 3 energetic, witty, hilarious children. I am just getting started pursuing my dream of writing Bible studies and inspirational books. I survived potty-training 3 kids and our first 4 years of homeschooling. I figure that every other goal I have for my life pales in comparison to those accomplishments! Visit my website, where you will find lots of motherhood and homeschooling advice and more, all based on the wisdom found in God’s Word. You can also find me on facebook.