GIVING THANKS OR CHOOSING GRATITUDE?
Thanksgiving and I have a relationship. My mom’s due date with me was over Thanksgiving weekend. It’s one of the rare times I’ve heard stories of both my grandmothers visiting simultaneously for a holiday. Apparently, after a weekend of turkey and leftovers, football, and family strolls in the neighborhood, my grandmothers were hoping I would be delivered before they had to fly back to Michigan. Queries of, “Any signs yet, Ruth?” resounded as they packed their bags Saturday night. I decided to make my debut in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and my grandmothers were able to visit quickly before catching their flights. As I grew, Grandma Stierna often shared how thankful she was to build relationships with her grandchildren from the very beginning of their lives. She said she thanked God daily for her family, even when life got messy, but in reality, grandma demonstrated gratitude.
Thankfulness as a feeling can be fleeting. We experience thankfulness as happiness, pleasure, or gladness brought about by positive circumstances. But gratitude is a choice that we make despite the circumstances. The apostle Paul reminds us to Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT This is a tall order that requires us to invite God’s Holy Spirit to fill us and provide us the ability to choose gratitude in times when all feelings of thankfulness have left us.
It’s important to pray for gratitude when we are in the thick of parenting our children–ask the Lord to help you find life and joy in the hard days of tantrums, sass, and mess as well as the sweet days of snuggles, accomplishments, and serenity. If we ask, God can frame our days in gratitude and we can feel thankfulness too!
Knowing the nuances between gratitude and thankfulness can be helpful as we teach our children to choose gratitude and joy. Even the secular mental health community agrees there is a difference between gratitude and thankfulness.
So how do we teach our kids to move beyond feeling thankful to choosing gratitude?
Talk about gratitude: give your kids a template from which to talk about gratitude. Express gratitude for the highs and lows of your day or week. In our family we call them “Hots and Nots,” and we talk about them every Sunday. Find your family rhythm.
Act with gratitude: find at least one thing that your family does together to give to others. It’s hard not to feel gratitude when you’re able to give time or resources to other people who need support. If you need ideas for who to help, check with an Epic leader. We have needs in our community, locally in SF, and around the world with our global partners.
Make gratitude a habit: invite the Holy Spirit in to help you with consistency. Pick a day of the week or month to be focused on gratitude, and make it fun! Use the Thanksgiving holiday to jumpstart your effort. This is a good list of ideas to get you started: 25 Thanksgiving ideas for kids
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
—William Arthur Ward
All of us at Epic are grateful for you! Thanks be to God for the care, grace, and love shared within this community of parents! May this Thanksgiving be filled with gratitude for all the Lord has provided: good comfort, physical needs, peace with one another, and God’s grace and love covering your entire family.
Grace and peace,
November Epic Kids Unit Verse: