Sunday, November 28, 2010

Teaching Thankfulness: Focus on Others

Mom's Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving has come and gone in a blink of an eye and despite my promises to post lots of ideas, our personal plans for the holiday changed at the last minute and we left town in a flurry of activity.  OK, I could have carved out some time to post on Thanksgiving day but after the "Turkey Trot" fun run, stuffing ourselves with turkey and mashed potatoes and that glass of red wine, I was unable to get off the couch and do something productive.  If you were waiting in anticipation for fun ideas, I apologize, but I decided to post some of my ideas anyway.  We have the whole holiday season to focus on the blessings in our life and shouldn't we cultivate hearts of thankfulness all year round?

Each year we have a tradition where the grandchildren in the family
name the Thanksgiving bird.  Here we are carving "Tarzan the Turkey."

So, for those of you in the states, I hope you enjoyed your turkey and dressing and for the rest of you, maybe these ideas will fit in with your holiday celebration.

I mentioned in my last post, though it seems the holiday is mostly about food, the true tradition of Thanksgiving is rooted in the history of our country and the cooperation between two groups of people.  It is about people who endured great hardship and still found gratitude in their hearts for all that God had done for them.  With the food, parades and football games taking up a good chunk of time, I hope you all were able to focus on your blessings, even those who are in the midst of trials. 

If this week passed too quickly, as it often does, in a whirlwind of eating, shopping and travelling from city to city, then maybe this week will be a better time to count your blessings.  When we turn our focus outward, we naturally take our minds off ourselves and seeing those in need reminds us of all we have.  So consider serving at a soup kitchen with the kids or visiting a nursing home.  Sing carols in a poor neighbor and distribute hot home baked bread.  Love on the elderly or infirmed members of your family with special deliveries of sweets or holiday decorations.  

Here are a few ideas the Walls family are doing:

Alexandra's "shoebox" for Operation Christmas Child

In our family, we use Dave Ramsey's "commissions" method for allowances.  Each child earns money for chores and responsibilities they have in our home.  They are required to divide their earnings into three categories:  SAVE, SHARE and FUN. 

They have freedom to spend "fun" however they want.  They can save it for big items or spend it when the ice cream truck makes it's rounds in the summer.  "Save" goes in the bank for long term savings and "share" goes to charity.  They also have freedom to whom they give their "share" money.  We ask them to pray and let God lay the burden on their heart.  Often we save the "share" money during the year and spend it around the holidays.  This year, Alexandra chose Operation Christmas Child, an excellent charity that send shoe boxes full of gifts to children around the world.

Have the kids write down questions they would like to ask their grandparents or great grandparents.  It can focus on their they played, what they did for fun, what life was like for them or how the world has changed.  They can ask questions about holiday traditions.  Video record it for posterity.

Make homemade goodies and take them door to door.  The Walls family has been know to sing a few carols along the way. 

Homemade Chex Mix

We are working on this today so I don't have pictures yet.  I will post soon.  Have each person in your family write down five things for which they are thankful to God.  Encourage them to be creative. Food, shelter, freedom, family are all excellent answers but encourage descriptive answers.  Not just "dad" but "a dad who goes fishing with me every Saturday".  If your children are too small, write their answers for them.  Trust me, you won't have to tell them to be creative, it comes naturally!!  Then every day in December read a card at dinner time and say a prayer of thanksgiving and see gratitude cultivated in every one's hearts!  Even Mom and Dad!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Teaching Thankfulness: Consider the First Thanksgiving

What a wonderful celebration we will enjoy this week!  An American holiday, Thanksgiving is a time for remembering the "First Thanksgiving" celebrated long ago as well as a time for focusing on all God's blessings. 

On the last Thursday in November, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie, just to name a few, will cover dinner tables all over the United States as we sit down with family and friends to consider all the blessings we have received during the year.  What does this celebration mean to you?  Do the children in your family know the history of the "First Thanksgiving?  Do we spend time being thankful along with enjoying a perfectly roasted bird? 

This Thanksgiving week I would love to share ideas on how to encourage "grateful hearts" in your home with ideas that may become new family traditions.  The idea is not to do everything but to pick something that works for your family.  Consider the ages of your children, the distance you have to travel, the amount of people you are hosting before adding something new to your routine, but I would love for us all to consider new ideas for encouraging gratefulness in ourselves and our children.  Maybe one of my ideas will spark a new idea or maybe you would like to share your own ideas here on the blog.  I would love for you to share with us some of your own family traditions!

I will give a few fun ideas every day, so check back often!

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln officially made Thanksgiving a national holiday as a time to give thanks to God for all the blessings He had given and to remember the "First Thanksgiving" celebrated by the Pilgrims, who voyaged on the Mayflower from England in 1620 and the Native American (Indians) Wampanoag tribe, who helped the Pilgrims survive.

We have several books that we pull out each year to read about the pilgrims and their voyage on the Mayflower.  Reading about all the hardships these men, women and children faced helps us to remember how blessed we are now.  We found our copies at Barnes and Noble, which has a great display each Thanksgiving.

Dress the kids up using paper sacks, feathers, construction paper and other inexpensive items and read the story from a simple children's book.  Small children can act out the scenes.  Put the older kids in charge of the whole production... they can direct, produce and narrate...which gives them something to do and helps everyone feel involved.  Plus Grandma and Grandpa really enjoy seeing the grandchildren perform!

This is a fun and easy recipe that even little children can do.  Your cookies might be a little neater but it is fun for all ages to try.  No cooking is involved, just heating the chocolate.  There might be messy fingers but a few licks will take care of that.

Marshmallow Pilgrim Hats

24 chocolate-striped shortbread cookies
12-ounce package of chocolate chips
24 marshmallows
tube of yellow decorators' frosting

1. Set the chocolate-striped cookies stripes down on a wax-paper-covered tray, spacing them well apart.

2. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave or double boiler.

3. One at a time, stick a wooden toothpick into a marshmallow, dip the marshmallow into the melted chocolate, and promptly center it atop a cookie.

4. Using a second toothpick to lightly hold down the marshmallow, carefully pull out the first toothpick.

5. Chill the hats until the chocolate sets, then pipe a yellow decorators' frosting buckle on the front of each hat.