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Cultivating Thankful Hearts

November 15, 2013

If you participate in any kind of social media you’ll notice that it’s almost Thanksgiving, not because people are retelling the Thanksgiving story or that there is a hint of turkey in the air.  Rather there are the daily thankful updates and thankfulness tweets and instragram thankful pics.  Personally, I love it. In fact, if you follow us on Facebook, we’ve been sharing our thankfulness through daily pictures.  Anytime we stop to give thanks it’s a good thing.  This is the time of year we remember to pause from our complaining, our busyness, our inward focus and we turn our eyes upward.  We start seeing.  We start appreciating.  We give thanks.

Thankfulness creates holy moments from the mundane.  That moment when you express gratitude you multiply your own blessings and turn whatever you touch into more than enough.

If only we could keep a bit more of this spirit throughout the year.  Would it not be the loveliest thing in the world to live more aware, more alive, with more gratitude?


And how, oh how!, do we cultivate this spirit in our children?  Our culture’s constant message is one of discontent.  You need more stuff!  What you have isn’t good enough!  The phone you bought yesterday is outdated.  The clothes you are wearing are so last season.  The commercials, the billboards, the apps and subtle and not-so-subtle messages. Yet, contentment and gratitude are probably among the most important messages we can pass on to our children.  Truly, the presence or lack of gratitude will manifest itself in every single one of their successes or failures in life.

Here are some little ways we are striving to cultivate a culture of gratitude in our homes:

~We say grace at every meal.  I’m sure a lot, if not most, of our readers do the same.  But, here’s the thing, after thanking the Lord for the provision and blessings we are absolutely not allowed to complain about what is set before us.  “Thank you, God, for this food.” cannot be followed by “Ew! I don’t like spinach!”  Our gratitude is revealed by what we say and what we choose not to say.

~We say grace after every meal, too.  It’s an old Hebrew practice also found in Catholic/Orthodox traditions, that most of us have sadly forgotten.  We not only say a prayer before we eat, but after as well.  We thank God that we were able to partake, asking for His blessing, and that we would be strengthened until He allows us to come to the table again.  Just a moment.  Just a pause.  Just a holy thank-you.

~Most evenings as I go into the kitchen to prepare dinner, I light a candle and take a moment to pause.  I let my heart whisper my thankfulness to God.  I let that candle burn as I prepare dinner to remind me not to rush, but to move at the pace of the Lord.  Not to hastily toss things together, but to lovingly craft.  To let the secret ingredient be my love.  Then when it’s time to eat, I transfer that candle to the table.  It helps create the atmosphere that we crave at the end of our busy days.

~Receive Communion as a family as often as it is offered.  Our church offers the Eucharist every Sunday.  And those of my children that partake gather around my husband and me.  We each pray.  We each give thanks.  We each receive it together.  The word Eucharist comes from the word eucharisteo which literally means to give thanks.  “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them…” Luke 22:19  In giving us His body and blood, Jesus broke it with thanksgiving.  When we receive it with joy we receive a spirit of thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving becomes our daily bread, part of our very being.

Eucharist is the state of the perfect man.  Eucharist is the life of paradise.  Eucharist is the only full and real response of man to God’s creation, redemption, and gift of heaven.  (Alexander Schmemann)

~When it comes time for birthdays and holidays sometimes we don’t give our children a gift from the store.  Often it is a gift of an experience.  A family trip to the zoo, a ride on the train to a special destination, tickets to a play, or a camping adventure.  We are hoping that through this they will learn to treasure memories and people rather than things that come in packages and plastic.

Cultivating Thankfulness

~Thank you notes.  It’s an antiquated practice maybe.  But, we still think it’s important.  (Although, we are also terrible about getting them out at a decent time.  You may receive a note months after a gift.  But, I hear there is no statute of limitations on a thank-you.)

~For the month of November we set aside a bit of extra time for thankfulness.  Each day we write one thing for which we are thankful on a Fall leaf cut from construction paper.  We tape these to the wall.  By the time Thanksgiving Day rolls around we are surrounded by colorful leaves and all our thankful thoughts.

~At the close of our Sabbath meal each week we go around the table with each person recounting their favorite moment from the week before.  Often as we go around and share there is a lot of “Oh! I forgot about that!  That’s my favorite, too!” And then as the next person shares we recall another favorite and another.  As a symbol of this we pour wine in the Kiddush Cup, letting it overflow.  Truly our lives overflow with blessings.

Kiddush Cup

~Find ways for your family to serve those less fortunate.  Be it a missions trip or gathering donations for a charity, find ways to interact with others who need your compassion.  On our way to church on Sunday we usually pass quite a few homeless or needy people.  Our family is learning the names of the regulars, we talk with them, ask them about their families, sometimes bring them a sack lunch.  There is one man in particular that the children love.  He’s an older gentleman and has only one arm.  He washes windows with a long squeegee at a corner near Old Towne.  He takes care of his ailing and aging mother.  We always make sure that we stop, look him in the eye, see his humanity, inquire about his mother, and bless him before we go.  It’s a small thing, that we hope blesses him.  But, it also blesses us and increases an atmosphere of gratefulness.  We are grateful that Jesus lets us mingle with Him as He is present in the least of these.

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:40

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Aunt Julia permalink
    November 23, 2013 7:14 am

    Daja, I enjoyed reading this blog. God has graced you to be an amazing wife, mother, writer, teacher. I thank God for you. Aunt Juli

    • November 23, 2013 8:27 am

      Thank you so much, Aunt Julia. I love you!


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