Saturday, November 1, 2014

Celebrating the Season with Thankfulness



       November is here and now is the time that everyone seems to be sharing their participation in a "30 Days of Thanksgiving" gratitude activity. One year, I was all excited to join in as well. I had intentions for each day to list, photograph and share an area of thankfulness to focus on for the day. Well, I believe I made it to day 3. The ideas from various sources for acknowledging gratitude were wonderful. However, they weren't my own and as such didn't strike a personal cord within me. Moreover, I felt like I needed something more than the words "thank you." How do I truly experience gratitude? Act on it.

        After that experience, I decided to compile my own list of activities. I believe it is important to define "Thanksgiving" as a season of celebration and not just a two hour meeting for stuffing belllies and entering food comas. Moreover, I feel as though thanksgiving should be more than a daily statement made one month each year. It's a year-long, life-long attitude that is so deeply seeded in my life that my life reflects gratitude beyond my words. The following is what I came up with for last year. As I look over the list again this year I'm refreshed and encouraged to strive towards making these aspect more apart of life, both now during the Thanksgiving season and through the upcoming new year. There may be areas that need to be altered a bit or changed entirely, but that's okay because the idea is to always be discovering new ways to be thankful and reflect that attitude. 
Give Thanks Thanksgiving Countdown Calendar - PDF Pattern

1) I stumbled across this pattern for a calendar at Everyday Celebrations. I plan to make a few changes though. I would like one which would be year-round so that I can also fill the pockets with ways to appreciate other seasons or holidays. So, the colors will be those in my home's color scheme and the title will be changed to say, "Enjoy the Moments." Having the pattern as a base will make it much simpler to create and personalize!

2) I wanted my list to focus on three areas:
Express Thanks= 10         Express Giving=10          Come Together=10
1. Express thanks for good neighbors. Invite a neighbor to tea/coffee/dinner. If you don’t know your neighbor, then introduce yourself (be sure to include your gratitude for them!)

2. Make Java Chip Pumpkin bread* loaves and share a loaf with someone who is usually under appreciated. 
             *Java Chip Pumpkin Bread= 1 box quick pumpkin bread + chocolate chips + replace 
                  water with coffee.
3. Discuss how you can serve a family or person specifically over the holidays

4. Express thanks for relationships (friends/family) so close that the distance doesn’t even seem present. Call, write, or contact them in any way to express gratitude for them and your relationship. It could be a character quality, something that was done, favorite memory, or the impact they’ve had one you.

5. Create a Blessing Bag to keep in your car and offer to homeless individuals you encounter.

6. Have a family game night. Before each turn name a blessing.

7. Express thanks to a veteran for their courage and sacrifice. Write a letter** to someone currently serving. Greet and talk with someone you see while out today.
           ** Day 7: Letter to Soldiers- multiple sites to allow participation. Letters to Soldiers, &
                Soldiers Angels are two that I found just by doing a quick Google search.

8. Leave a cashier with a bit of a payment towards the next person. (You will need to place a rubberband or clip around it with a note or something designating it as such. Don’t want to get the cashier in trouble for having money lying around out of the drawer!)

9. Enjoy the beautiful fall foliage during a family walk/hike.

10. Express thanks to the Lord for the day. Some days just seem like they shouldn’t have even been attempted. Nonetheless, each and every day is a gift. Write Psalm 118:24 on a notecard and place by your alarm clock for when you rise. Then, stick it in your pocket or somewhere visible to be reminded of it throughout the day.

11. Leave a generous tip. Next time you’re at a restaurant leave a generous tip with a compliment on the receipt. If there is a tip jar, then leave a little more than just your change.

12. Watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving together. Make it even more fun by enjoying the "Thanksgiving Meal" (buttered toast, jelly beans, pretzel sticks and popcorn)!

13.  Express thanks for the quiet times. Rise early and put some coffee or tea to brew. Spend extra moment with the Lord and in thought of ways to live out your gratitude during the day.

14. Offer a listening ear and shoulder to cry on. So often poor attitudes cause poor support systems (ie friendships!). Call or meet up with a friend to simply listen.

15. Use Thanksgiving Box Of Questions during dinnertime. (I haven't personally used these, but I love conversation cards!).


16. Express thanks for the good in life. Critical and negative perspectives are nearly impossible to escape. Have you become a perpetuator? Determine today to examine your words and heart to only allow that which is follows Philippians 4:8 to permeate your environment.

17. Grocery shop specifically with the intention of donating the entire bag. (Many grocery stores offer donation boxes or packages for purchase).

18. Review the story of the first Thanksgiving. Why did they want to observe a time of thanks? What is the significance of the holiday today?

19. Express thanks for your husband. When did we begin to see him with a critical (disrespectful) eye more than a grace giving (loving) eye? Challenge yourself today to not only speak well of him, but to think such as well! Praise him! Believe in him! Respect him!

20. Delight a child by taping change to a vending machine (bouncing balls, gum balls etc)

21. Capture with your camera the various things throughout the day you’re thankful for.

22. Express thanks to God for his provision. Stress can easily mound when it appears that there is more going out financially than coming in. Yet, when all is said and done there was somehow enough. Do we have shelter? Clothing? Food? Support from others? Our notion of provision and the Lord’s may look different, but one thing that is certain is that He is faithful in His promise to provide for us. Trust Him to do so. Thank Him for already doing so.

23. Graciously relieve someone of one of their responsibilities.

24.  Revisit the family photo album and travel back to previous Thanksgiving celebrations. What was your favorite memory of those times?

25. Express thanks for all those that God places in our paths. Some individuals and experiences will build us up, while others will refine us. Remember Romans8:28. Choose to recognize the good that came from our interactions and experiences. Make an effort to be kind today, even when someone we encounter appear to be “tearing us down.”

26. Visit with someone who may be lonely. The best way to combat a feeling of loneliness in ourselves is to remove that feeling from someone else. Nursing homes and hospitals are a great place to start. Don’t stop there though. Think outside the box. Is there anyone that lives alone? Spends evenings alone (spouse works night shift)? New to the area? Etc etc.

27. Everyone share what is their favorite aspect of the holiday season. What activities/traditions added meaning or joy, and which ones detracted from it? What would each person like to include this year?

28. Express thanks for God creating you to be..you. We are his workmanship. He carefully crafted us into being. What we perceive as flaws may be a part of God’s special design for us. Remember  that He created us to be as we are in order to fulfill His purposes for our lives, not our own. It’s easy to compare ourselves to others and see shortcomings. Snap a photo of yourself and on the back of the printed picture write ways in which God sees you.    

29. Spending time with family often times requires a road trip. Make the stress of traveling a little lighter by obtaining a gift card for gas. Next time you’re at the pump, tape the card with a little note to it. (I would say hand the card to someone nearby, but I have a hard time imagining people accepting a gift nowadays).

30. Prepare a meal together. It can be the actual Thanksgiving meal, a side, or just a weeknight dinner. “Too many cooks in the kitchen” is a complete falsity. I say the more the merrier! Divide the work and each embrace the opportunity to serve each other in preparing the meal.

Additional Resources:
 Random Acts of Kindness - Page with numerous ideas for simple acts of kindness.
Homeword 30 Days of Thanksgiving - Page with great ideas for areas of thankfulness.
Give Thanks Countdown Cards- Cards to accompany calendar pattern from Everyday Celebrations
Positively Present's 30 Photo Challenge on Gratitude- 30 days of capturing in film areas of gratitude.

          I pray that this list will encourage us as a family to determine in what ways we would like to focus this holiday season. I'm excited for my children to come to understand Thanksgiving in this manner:)

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