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Monday, November 1, 2010

Gratitude (Thanksgiving prelude)


HOORAY!
My most favorite holiday of the year is officially on the horizon.
I absolutely l-o-v-e Thanksgiving.
I love everything about it.

I love the handwritten letter my mom snail-mailed me back in 2005 when we had to move out of state and away from family due to a job displacement. At that time, my husband had spent every single Thanksgiving with me and my family since 1982, the year we started dating.
There I was in another state, and to say that I had NO IDEA how to plan and prepare for a full Thanksgiving meal was an understatement.
Not only had I never cooked a turkey in my entire life, but nary a pumpkin pie either.

Mom rescued me.

She wrote down an entire Thanksgiving grocery list, a day-by-day plan of advance preparations, and how to pull it all together on the big day. I still follow that plan every single year. And yes, I absolutely do pull out that handwritten list, written lovingly by my mom, as my guide.

So, what else do I so dearly love about Thanksgiving?

  • breaking bread with my kids for homemade stuffing, and placing it on a very old, retro-print tablecloth that my grandmother sewed for her home so many years ago

  • being at the center of my family; homemaker and home manager, wife and mother

  • the smell of turkey as it roasts in the oven

  • the Macy's Day thanksgiving parade (wouldn't miss it for the world)

  • my children, all bed-headed, as they sit in pj's to take in the first hour of parades before scampering off to change into comfortable clothes for the day

  • the muted straw-yellow appearance of the land before winter takes hold and forces us all into a slower time of reflection and togetherness

  • the quiet calm that comes to the normally busy road that I can see from our backyard window

  • the glow of lights in other homes, knowing that families are gathered together as they should be

  • my husband's presence near me, as he relaxes in the overstuffed eggplant-colored recliner he received on Father's day

  • the roar of the crowd as football entertains later in the day

  • heaping whipped cream on homemade pumpkin pies

  • bringing out our special dishes that belonged to my mother-in-law who sadly passed away in 1995

  • Seeing my family enjoying the meal I so enjoyed preparing for them


Thanksgiving, to me, is a day when I am able to really reflect on what matters most. It's not about traveling or shopping. It's not about anything in the way of materialism at all. It's glass half full, seeing the blessings that are a part of my life because God the Father loves me so much that He lovingly gave them to me. How special it is to me to have an entire day to simply reflect on that and to surround myself with the reality of it. A day to thank Him for what I am able to reflect on.

To that end, I want to share an idea with you, one that requires minimum effort on your part but yields maximum impact.

Consider starting a Gratitude jar for your family.

Here's all you have to do:

  1. Decide on a small container with a lid. The medium size Yankee candle jars are perfect for this project, but you could use any pretty jar with a fitted lid, or even a small, pretty box-shaped tin.

  2. Add any decorative elements you desire. If you're a scrapbooker, this will be easy and fun. Wrap it in your favorite paper and add some dimensional elements to the lid, like flowers. Non-scrappers, you could tie a simple ribbon around the neck of the jar and simply attach a handprinted "Gratitude" tag. Or you might even purchase some letter stickers to spell "Gratitude" directly on your jar. You can find examples HERE and HERE.

  3. Place some small strips of paper and a pen by the jar, and place it in a convenient location, one where all family members have access to it.

  4. Each day, encourage your family members to jot down something they're thankful for from the past year and place it in the jar. You might alternate family members each day if you have a larger family, to keep the number of notes in the jar manageable.

  5. On Thanksgiving Day, include the jar as part of your table decorating. When your meal is over and pie is served, take turns pulling out a slip and reading it to the family.


See? What did I tell you? Thanksgiving is a most wonderful day to reflect on all the blessings God brings forth in our lives. The gratitude jar is a simple way to bring due focus to those blessings as a family.

Oh, and by the way, these jars make meaningful gifts for Christmas as well. Just alter the theme slightly, making a memory jar for a specific loved one. You might write down 52 special memories you have of your parent(s) and place them in a memory jar to give as a Christmas gift. If you can find a mini easel, you can include it so they can place your special memory on the mini easel on a kitchen windowsill. Each week, they would select a new memory to enjoy and to perhaps display, to remind them of how their efforts impacted your life, and of how you lovingly remember that effort.

There are probably several ways to do a gratitude or memory jar. For example, I know of one person who did a gratitude tree for Thanksgiving. She used a mini decorative tree and simply attached the notes to the tree. But whether you decide to take up this reflective project or not, do take the time to recall the blessings in your life, both recently and in the past year. Great strengthening for the journey ahead is possible if we purpose to see how His mighty hand was on our lives in days past.

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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