“Thanks-Getting”?

Thanks-GETTING? | thisgratefulmama.com

Today I enjoyed a quiet afternoon – football in the background, kids napping, husband nodding off on the couch.

While prepping food for dinner, I reflected on how God is so good. And on how much a day of rest is needed. Sunday afternoons at home are a lovely gift.

I wasn’t paying attention to the TV but I still heard it. The end of a Verizon Wireless commercial for Thanksgiving specials. It wasn’t the great deal that caught my attention, it was the slogan.

Thanks-GETTING“.

Barf.

It struck me as gross the first time I heard it. Later, while our son watched football, he heard the same thing. He looked at me with a smirk on his face and said, “ThanksGIVING, mom”. I think he just thought they said it wrong. I am grateful the pun went over his sweet 5-year-old head.

Not funny Verizon. Not funny at all. Some day we’ll struggle to undue what our consumer-driven culture is preaching to our youth.

And yet, doesn’t ‘thanks-getting’ adequately describe what the Thanksgiving shopping craze is all about? A retail driven, consumer fed threat to holiday meals.

Have we all forgotten what we learned in school about what the first Thanksgiving was? Two very different cultures, both struggling to survive, helping one another and sharing a meal together. It was about coming together, despite adversity and many disagreements, to build relationships among even those who were very different.

Does it strike anyone else as ironic that a day once spent in fellowship, giving thanks to God and one another is now being invaded by the desire to GET more stuff?

I think GETTING is the complete opposite of siting back and being grateful. Thanksgiving isn’t about getting more, it is about GIVING. Of our time. Our attention. Our thanks. Our love. And of deepening relationships.

If we’re focused on getting, we are distracted from the joy of spending time together. Instead of reflecting on what we DO have, we’ll be daydreaming of what we can get – for ourselves or others. In most cases, none of us need that item. It may be a deal, but it is more distraction than anything.

Our desire for stuff allows retail to take over a holiday about relationships and gratitude.

While planning for shopping around Thanksgiving, let us not forget that spending TIME with our family is much more valuable than spending our money. Or is it more like saving money by spending it?

Let us not forget that even the greatest Christmas gift may not feel as special if the giver neglects to spend quality time together on Thanksgiving. Or if the giver spends the whole holiday on a phone or computer mapping out retail conquests.

These sales may not repeat until next year. But neither will Thanksgiving.

Are you willing to sacrifice your family holiday and relationships for STUFF?

Put the ads, phone, and computer down and be present. IF you shop on Thanksgiving, do not let the deal planning invade your whole day and conversations. Spend quality time with loved ones. Reflect on what you HAVE. On what God has given. On the people in your life. Eat slowly and enjoy the meal that took so much effort and care to prepare. And linger…this is a holiday about the people, not the stuff.

Be grateful.

Give thanks where it is due.

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. – Psalm 7:17

Oh Yes We Did. And Here’s Why.

Oh Yes We Did. And Here's Why. | Thisgratefulmama.com

What is a girl to do when it is 60 degrees on a Sunday in November?

Well, living in MN, you take full advantage of the day. It was gorgeous!  With the garage already clean and yard work finished, what else could we do?

We decided to get the most benefit out of the weather. We took the whole family outside and put up our Christmas lights during the first week of November.

Sigh. 

Yes. We are those people. The people I used to sigh at and say…why do we have to start with the Christmas SO early? Can’t we just enjoy Thanksgiving?

However, it seems I have had a change of heart. Here’s why:

  1. Last year our Christmas-light-hanging was both a comical and actual disaster: In fact, we embarrassed ourselves and cracked up some of our neighbors. Our failings caused one of them to take pity on us and come to help us. Not only were we ill-equipped (our ladder was too short, our poles were too short), but we had absolutely NO idea what we were doing. Hanging lights was a cinch at our old house with its low roof-line and gutters – where the clips easily attached and our short ladder was perfect. We were completely unprepared for the project at our new house. High peaks and no gutters is a whole new ball game. So, after being the neighborhood Tweedledee and Tweedledum last year, we decided to be both equipped and proactive this year.
  2. We acquired the right equipment: This year we bought this fancy pole that releases the hooks with a trigger. To say it made the job easier is an understatement. It worked SO much better. We also were able to borrow an extension ladder twice the size of our ladder from a generous neighbor. This time we were well equipped before we began. BUT, let me be clear…we still had some hiccups and I’m sure we still looked VERY funny while doing it because we still weren’t totally sure what we’re doing. Lots of trial and error, but less than last year. SO, I guess that means we’re getting better. Next year…we’ll be just like the professionals, right? Isn’t the third time a charm? Haha.
  3. The weather was fantastic: It was gorgeous out. 60 degree sunny days don’t really happen in MN. It was unseasonably warm and still is! A GIFT. It felt great to be outside and accomplish something. Last year it was chilly and because we were unprepared, it took forever. And ever. Freezing people who don’t know what they are doing – who break their lights so they no longer work after ALL that effort…well, our attitudes got a little cold last year. And, in MN, it could easily be 60 degrees today and be snowing and 20 degrees tomorrow and not warm up again until spring. NEVER, EVER waste a nice day in November in MN!
  4. We have small children: It takes two adults to hang lights, especially with someone on a very tall ladder. This means our children must be outside with us. We are simply lacking the desire to freeze (and hear our children complain that they are freezing) while we hang Christmas lights. For us, earlier is practical in SO many ways.
  5. We were in good company: Not only were we outside putting up our lights early, but our neighbor across the street was as well. You know – the kind soul who took pity on us last year and who knows exactly what he is doing. Thankfully, he only had to stop by once to hold the ladder. And, as we walked around our block today, we saw there are 6 other homes with lights up. As long as we’re not the very first…I’m ok with it.

So, we may be those people, jumping the gun on Christmas decorations, but let me tell you. It was WORTH IT. We got to be outside on a beautiful day. Because no one was freezing, it made a not-very-fun task manageable. And dare I say, enjoyable? Probably not. My husband was the one up high in the wind on the ladder…it may not have been very fun for him. Did I mention he’s pretty amazing?

So, when you drive by those houses with lights already up, remember this – they did it early and won’t be out there freezing with the rest of you who decide to wait until closer to December.

And perhaps they’re like me and still value Thanksgiving and weren’t even planning to turn the lights on until afterwards. But then, their 2 and 5 year old children pleaded to turn the lights on. Who could resist? They proceeded to display such sweet child-like joy and delight at those little white lights that it just seems silly to refuse to turn them on. Their smiles and faces almost made my heart pop. Seriously, I do think lights are pretty, but to these children, they’re A-MAZ-ING! And, their delight gave us the perfect chance to talk about how Christmas lights remind the world that Jesus is the true light of the world.

Plus, I like the way the lights show off the Grateful sign on our porch.

When do your lights go up?

Practice Gratitude – And An Invitation.

Practice Gratitude - And An Invitation

 

As I wrote last year, I firmly believe that Thanksgiving is more than a meal with Turkey. In 2014, our family placed an extra focus on gratitude during the month of November. Our son and I filled out gratitude calendars. It was amazing to hear how our 4-year-old son could verbalize what he was thankful for and to also hear him do it with far more variation than I expected.

October was a busy month, filled with a rotation of colds and coughs, apple picking, bonfires, fun activities, a trip to Maine to visit family and rejoice at the wedding of our nephew, and culminated with the return to Minnesota and the celebration of our son’s fifth birthday. It was a whirl-wind.

In fact, October was so busy that I feel like November snuck up on me. I woke up this morning in a day-light-savings haze and realized it was ALREADY November. We were already one day behind!

There are 23 days until Thanksgiving, 52 days until Christmas, and 59 days until New Years Day.

Our plan for 2015 is similar to last year, only we will practice gratitude from now until 2016. If we had started yesterday, it would be an even 60 days, but 59 will have to do. Perhaps next year I will be a little more proactive.

Instead of the gratitude calendar we made and used last year, we are going to try a gratitude tree. I’m excited to go out and find the ‘tree’ this week, but in the meantime, we’ll record our gratitude on little notes to hang when the tree is ready. I can’t wait to share it with you!

It may have to be a big tree to support our family’s notes for 60 days! Perhaps we need one per person…

So, what does it mean to practice gratitude for 60 days? 

Let’s start with defining practice and gratitude according to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary.

prac·tice (verb): perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency. carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.

grat·i·tude (noun): the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

In essence, we are choosing to develop the quality of being thankful by practicing it repeatedly through the New Year. With the busy-ness of the holiday season, it is easy to get caught up in To-Do lists, and all kinds of good activities. Although the season is fun, filled with family and friends and twinkling lights, sometimes we lose sight of just how much we have already, because we are focused on what we have to DO.

By focusing on what and who we are thankful for, we create a pattern of reflecting on what we already have. We will more readily see the blessings in life despite and through our circumstances, and more easily and habitually GIVE THANKS to others. From experience, the effect is uplifting, joyful, and WORTH IT. 

And why would we do this?

Because we have MUCH to be thankful for.

We have MANY people to thank.

We have a Lord who deserves ALL our gratitude and praise.

We will strive to emulate a passage of scripture that is very dear to my heart:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 And so…

I’ll be posting our daily gratitude on the thisgratefulmama Facebook page for the next 59 days. I would love to share this journey with you. Will you join us? 

 

Thanksgiving – Are You Feeling It?

Thanksgiving is coming. Are you feeling it?

Thanksgiving is coming. Are you feeling it?

It’s coming…

Whether you celebrate with family or friends, and whether you eat turkey or something completely different, Thanksgiving is almost here.

I remember how when I was working Thanksgiving week (and any other short-week) ended up crazy-busy. There was always a rush to complete last minute projects before the holiday. And while I remember most people being cheerful, it was often a stressful time.

But this year is different.

Don’t get me wrong, I still feel that looming holiday stress. But it presents differently since I stay at home with the kids now. Instead of work deadlines to meet, I have errands to run, activities to attend with the kids and a husband who travels often. The pressures are different but still exist.

But this year is also different because I’ve been doing my best to focus on gratitude so when stress comes, I can look upon it with a different perspective.

And you know what?

It’s working.

Sure, I’m still struggling in some circumstances to be grateful. In fact, if you lived with me, you could have called me out during plenty of those ungrateful moments. They most certainly occurred.

This year, I feel like ungrateful moments have been shorter in length and that, in general, I’m actually experiencing the gratitude and the joy that is talked about this time of year.

It’s a wonderful thing. Beautiful, really.

My son and I have been making note of what we’re grateful for, daily, since November 1. We’ve made an effort to find something NEW to be grateful for each day, so there are no broken records here.

Inspired by this, we made our own index card calendar journals, and bought 2 containers for $1 at Target in the dollar section.

My son's and my gratitude journals for November

My son’s and my gratitude journals for November

Inexpensive. Simple. Effective.

My barely-4-year old son’s choices are simple. Sometimes they’re just food (aka. grapes are his favorite food and were his FIRST entry), but often times they are someone, or something that he encountered that day.  He’s really starting to get the hang of it and isn’t asking ME what HE is grateful for anymore. After the first week, he began to freely come up with his own answers.  In fact, some days he was on such a gratitude roll, we made lists.

We then apply his gratitude list to how God has blessed us in this way.

For me, the daily recording is a way to look at life and the experiences we have each day, and actually pause to recognize the blessing and the joy experienced from those moments.

At Thanksgiving dinner, does your family go around and say what each person is grateful for? Have you given it any thought?

Perhaps instead of a generic answer this year you can give a well-thought out answer…

Perhaps in thinking of your answer, you will find your spirit lifted, and the JOY seeping in…

And perhaps you will find that Thanksgiving is more than a meal with turkey

Perhaps there will be more things than you have time to share…

It’s OK if it takes practice to think this way.

Gratitude doesn’t always come easy or we would all be joy-filled.

Are you feeling it?

Here’s my sons answers for the past 25 days (my list became more of a novel than a list so I won’t publish it here).

aidenHappy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Is More Than A Meal With Turkey: Start Practicing Gratitude NOW

Thanksgiving.

By far, one of my favorite days of the year.

I love all of it; the company, the football, and the food that leaves me in a so-full-I can’t-eat-another-bite food coma.

Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season. It starts a month of time when people are more gracious, more loving, and more grateful.

Of course, Thanksgiving also marks the moment when consumerism is at its highest and people get nasty fighting over parking spots. And despite meals where we sit together and discuss what and who we are thankful for, many of us lose the holiday spirit before we even walk into the first Black Friday sale. People were so intent on SAVING money, they forget to be KIND getting in the door.

I mean, get out of my way, I have gifts to buy!

How silly is it to run over someone else so you can buy a GIFT for someone else?

Ridiculous.

The holidays can be a stressful time, as people have full schedules, year-end quotas and financials to meet at work, gift buying and budgets to keep. As women, some of us are guilty of taking on too much, and being stretched far too thin because we want to do it all. And some of us also slip into the consuming black hole of perfectionism; we want the perfect gift, the perfect party, the perfect Christmas photo card.

With the holidays looming, a meal where we mention what we’re grateful for isn’t going to prepare me for the long haul to make it with grace through January.

Thanksgiving isn’t a meal with turkey, it’s an attitude.

A lifestyle.

One that isn’t for the faint of heart, and isn’t easy to achieve.

It takes work to train your mind to be grateful. To stop worrying about your own rights and desires and be thankful for where you are now, what you have, and who you’re with. This year, our family will start focusing on gratitude NOW.

This way, when the holiday stress and busy-ness kicks in, we’ll be well-versed in the practice of gratitude.

All of us.

It is my desire and hope that our intentional focus on gratitude will become habitual; that we will continue to focus on gratitude more and more, right through the end of the year and on into 2015.

Forget the New Year’s Resolution…I’m suggesting making the change before the high stress time sets in.

There are 3 practical ways we will increase our awareness of gratitude:

 1. Replace Complaints with Prayers of Gratitude

thessalonians 516to18

Simple, yet powerful. I can take no credit for this idea; it was suggested today at Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) by our teaching leader, Cheri Cameron.

Pausing to be grateful in circumstances that produced complaining gives a complete change of perspective. It doesn’t mean our problems won’t be there when we’re done, but it does mean we rely on God more, and recognize His presence. We take some of our emotion out of the situation, close our mouths, and instead of perpetuating grumbling or hours on end, we say thank you to our creator; for walking through a trial with us, for giving us wisdom, comfort, peace, and people to come alongside.

What does this look like? Here’s a few examples.

  • Complaint: My daughter was up twice in the night last night, waking my son and I, and now we are all TIRED and CRANKY.
  • Gratitude prayer: Thank you Lord for this little girl, that I get to be her mom and help her go back to sleep when her teeth hurt. Thank you for the extra snuggles that I don’t usually get during the day and thank you for the hours of sleep that I DID get last night. I have done with far less sleep
  • Complaint: I have so much to do, I’m just overwhelmed. I feel like no one even notices the work I am doing.
  • Gratitude prayer: Thank you Lord for being here with me today. Thank you for SEEING my efforts and helping me to do the work you’ve given me. Help me to prioritize and to focus on you while I work. Nothing makes the work seem lighter than when I do it while praising the Lord.

When I am grumbling in earshot of my children (sigh, yes it happens), I will confess my poor attitude and pray out loud so they can learn by example. I want them (and me) to stop the pattern of complaining, and to replace it with gratitude.

When our children are complaining, we will help them pause, recognize what is happening, and pray their own prayers of gratitude. This is one skill I want them to learn now.

2. Actively Encourage and Express Gratitude To Others

Thess 511

This month our family will focus on thanking those people who make our life better by being in it. We will actively seek ways to encourage others in their walk of life. We will practice being SPECIFIC on what we are grateful for, not just a generic THANK YOU.

We will thank and lift each other up as a family. Intentionally.

I am too often guilty of the critical-tongue. Things escape my lips and I immediately regret the complaint. It is my goal to internally THINK before I speak and change my complaint into encouragement and thanks.

I am not saying it will be easy. I think it is going to be quite hard! But, I will give it my best effort and ask in faith the Lord to honor it and bless it.

3. Keep a Record

Psalm 665

I am not sure what type of record we will be keeping, but I’m hoping to make a gratitude tree (like this one from http://jonesdesigncompany.com/) or a Daily Gratitude Journal (like this one from http://www.stratejoy.com).

Whatever type we choose, there will a visual, written record. We will record what each member of our household is grateful for each day in November. I hope to do this all year, but we’ll see how this goes.

On Thanksgiving this year, our family will sit down and read these records together, and celebrate the what God is and has done for our family this November.

Since September, I’ve fallen off the wagon on my gratitude journal. It’ time to pick it back up. I miss it. I miss the perspective it gives me when I’m starting my day. I’ve committed to write each day in November, recording the ways God is showing me the blessings in my life and in scripture as I study His word.

Will you join us?