Living It Out: Being Thankful

Thanksgiving Tree 2014As I write, it’s only a few days until Thanksgiving. The ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner, which will take place at my house this year, sit on shelves in my freezer, refrigerator, and pantry. The special tablecloths and tableware (we’re using Thanksgiving-themed paper and plastic) rest on the floor of my closet in the plastic bags they came in from the store. The house is on its way to being holiday-clean, and the Thanksgiving tree is on the wall.

We started the tradition of a Thanksgiving tree a few years ago. I cut several sheets of black construction paper into shapes that resembled a tree trunk and branches and taped them to the wall. I made some leaf shapes from colored construction paper and encouraged each child to take leaves and write one thing he or she is thankful for on each leaf, which we then taped to the “tree”.

This year’s Thanksgiving tree involves store-bought leaves (yay, Dollar Tree!), but the idea is still the same. With 5 children, there are 75 colorful leaves helping make a beautiful Thanksgiving decoration in our living room.

In a few days, we’ll take down the Thanksgiving tree and put up the Christmas tree instead. We’ll crumple up the pieces of construction paper and colored leaves and throw them in the trash. The Thanksgiving tree will be done for.

I hope my children’s thankful attitudes live on.

Thanksgiving is a great time to focus on being thankful for all the wonderful blessings God has poured into our lives. But I don’t want my children’s gratitude—or mine, either, for that matter—to be limited to a few days each November. I want thankfulness to be a lifestyle, not a holiday accessory.

If that’s what we want—because I assume that you want this for yourself and your family, too—we would do well to ask ourselves two questions. The first is this: Why are we to be thankful?

For one thing, God has commanded us to be thankful. As with all His commands, there’s a reason behind this one: God wants us to appreciate all He’s given us (which is everything we have). He knows that anything less than contentment is idolatry.

Idolatry? Really? Yes, because when we fail to be content with what God has given us, it’s the same thing as saying that we need things to be happy, and finding our happiness in anything except God is idolatry. God wants us to worship Him and Him alone, and to find our deepest contentment in Him, rather than in anyone else we know or anything we possess. It’s not just that He’s jealous for our affections—though He certainly is that—but also that He knows that nothing else can satisfy us like He can. God wants us to experience the soul-deep satisfaction that only He can provide, so He commands us to choose to say that whatever earthly things we possess are enough, that how much we possess is irrelevant, really, and find our contentment in Him.

The second question we need to ask ourselves is, How can we make sure our thankful attitude lasts all year long, not just when it’s Thanksgiving Day?

There are several ways we can do this. One important way is to root out any ingratitude in our hearts and deal with it. Are we discontent unless all our conditions are met? If so, we need to repent and ask God’s forgiveness (which we can be thankful we’ll always receive). We can also make it a point to build thankfulness into our daily routines, such as asking each child to list 3 things he or she was thankful for that day as we tuck him or her into bed at night. We could pray prayers of thanks out loud and let our kids hear us, which blesses not only them, but ourselves as well. One thing I try to remember to do whenever we’ve all gone to the store is to thank God on the way home for the ton of groceries and supplies in the back.

These are only a couple ideas. You can probably think of many more, such as singing songs about being thankful, doing a word study in the Bible on thankfulness, or some I haven’t thought of. The point is that we need to be purposeful about being thankful, or the world will suck away our contentment and teach us to be dissatisfied.

I encourage you to take some time during this Thanksgiving week to evaluate how thankful you really are, and to plan some things you can do to make sure you build an attitude of thankfulness into your lives and the lives of your children.

May it be Thanksgiving Day every day for us as we return gratitude to the Lord for all that He has done.

Colossians 1:10-12—And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

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