Thankfulness is Something to Practice

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When I was growing up, my mom would typically prompt Thanksgiving table conversation along the lines of, “Let’s go around the table and share something we’re each thankful for.”

Cringe. Shudder. Sticks out tongue. I hated that. (Sorry, Mom.)

Not only was I put on the spot, often “getting” to go first, but I felt embarrassed and awkward to voice aloud something that someone else might think was dumb or corny. Know-it-alls do not like to be perceived as dumb or corny. And I was most definitely a know-it-all.

Nowadays, I also realize that I just wasn’t a very thankful kid.

I always wanted something more. What we had certainly wasn’t as nice as what someone else had. I was the one crouching down in the backseat of the car when my mom stopped at garage sales or hiding in the racks at Kmart if I saw a kid from school. Forget the fact that they were in Kmart, too! I perceived my parents’ frugality as a sign that we lacked something.

In reality, I didn’t know how good we had it.

I didn’t know that there were kids at school whose moms sewed their clothes because they couldn’t afford the racks at Kmart. I didn’t know that there were kids who didn’t have enough to eat. I didn’t know that life could be harder for people than I had it, because I thought I had it bad. (I didn’t.)

It’s not that I was unhappy. But, I think I was dissatisfied — and I probably grumbled and complained far too much. (Sorry, again, Mom.)

Clearing the clouds away.


In my old age, however, God is refining me. When we found ourselves in a heap of debt and scaled back more than we ever thought possible, I realized that we’d had it pretty good. And I had the grace to see, that even in debt, we still had it pretty good: a warm home, healthy kids, and plenty of beans and rice on the table.

One of the mysteries of thankfulness is that it can completely transform your perspective.

I remember one particular day not too long ago when I started out grumbling and feeling sorry for myself. My journal entry from that day is in list form. It begins as a list of all my grievances with God and the world, yet, somehow by the end of my rant, God changed my course and the list became a list of Thanksgiving.

He does, indeed, work in mysterious ways.

I don’t claim super spirituality. That’s not growing in my garden. But, the experience was telling.

I’ve done the exercise several times since, listing out the things that I was thankful for, counting my blessings. When you set your mind toward seeing the good in your life, it changes your perspective. It doesn’t alter the hard stuff. That is still there. But the goodness is a reminder that God is still there, He still cares, and He isn’t going anywhere.

And you start the see the glass as half-full.

Simply Thankful

As we enter the holiday season — yes, it’s just around the corner — let’s both take a moment to count our blessings. Not only is it good for our souls, but it’s good for our kids.

When we are thankful, when we are practiced at expressing that thankfulness, our kids see. They see that Mom notices when they change bad attitudes, pick up their stinky socks, or just laugh and be silly. They see Mom making the best of a situation and that empowers them, too.

Thankfulness doesn’t always come easily. In fact, some days it’s hard. But, if you can take five minutes and list the things that you are thankful for, you will most likely see the many ways you are blessed. It may not be the same as what’s growing next door, but that’s okay. It’s all good.

As part of my efforts toward a simpler season, I encourage you to download this simple one page sheet: I’m Thankful for…. It’s nothing fancy. A scrap of notebook paper would do just as well. But, if you can take five minutes and list your blessings, I think it will help you think differently about the cares of today. It helps me.

And depending on the nature of the things you write down, I think it’s okay, and probably beneficial, to leave it where your kids and hubs can see it. Yeah, it might be a little embarrassing. But, at the same time, I’m guessing that their names would be on the list.

It would be pretty cool to see my name on a list like that.

How do YOU express thankfulness?

Is it easy or hard?

Want to plan a fabulous holiday? A Simpler Season holds almost everything you need to do just that.

This guide to planning the winter holidays provides creative ideas , time-saving tips, and budget-minded inspiration for making the most of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. With the busy family in mind, I’ve provided recipes, to-do lists, children’s activity sheets, planning pages, gift ideas, and step-by-step tutorials for creating homemade gifts. Grab your copy today.

Disclosure: I’m partnering with Hallmark to bring you ideas for celebrating life, the ultimate special occasion. I’ve been compensated for my time spent writing. However, my opinions, jokes, family photos, little extras, and funny quirks are all my own. You can sign up to receive regular emails from Hallmark.

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  1. Hi, great post. One way we show gratefulness in our home is a few years ago, I started asking our kids what they were thankful every night before bed. Sometimes I write them down but lately we haven’t been writing them. I think we will make it a priority again to write them down. Just a few weeks ago I found a notebook I had written some things my kids were thankful for…soup for lunch!! Its the simple things! Thanks again!!!

  2. Wow, I thought our family was the only one who cringed when Mom said, “Let’s go around the table and list two things you’re thankful for!” It used to be worse – she would lay two dried beans on our plate and we had to hold them up while listing our thankfulness items before depositing them in the bean jar that was going around. I HATED it. It’s not that I wasn’t thankful, but I don’t think I understand just how thankful I SHOULD be.

    A little over a year ago (in August 2010), I started a “Thankful For” post on my blog each Friday. I list 10 items that have caused me to give thanks in the past week and I share them with the people who stumble onto my blog. If you want to see what I was thankful for last week, you can read it here:

    I’m at 630 items and counting and it has been amazing what those weekly lists have done for my attitude. The end of August this year, I decided it would be good for me to start a daily thankfulness list in a little notebook. It’s private, just betweeen God and me, but I’ve found it’s important that even on the very worst of days, I find SOMETHING for which I can give thanks. It’s very humbling and helps with the grumbling that sneaks up on me.

  3. Great post. I find it’s always easy to be thankful when I focus on who God is and what He does for me, but it’s not always easy to be thankful when i focus on what’s going on in my life. The trick is to get myself to remember to focus on the right things!

  4. Great post! It is a good reminder to have an “attitude of gratitude” ( love that saying and use it often to remind myself) no matter what the situation! We practice a similar ritual as Walizgrl’s, and use prayer time before bed to express our thanks to God. It has given me a good insight into my children’s thoughts (even at the young ages of 4 and 2 1/2) and it is a good time for us as adults to focus and be grateful everyday!

    PS…I used to hide in those same Kmart racks! 🙂 Funny, huh?!

  5. So encouraging! I am always in awe how giving thanks (or just plain “giving”) changes my perspective. It makes me wonder why I don’t make the thankful list more often. Thanks again for sharing your experiences!

  6. We may be the only South Africans who both follow your blog AND celebrate Thanksgiving! 😉
    My mom is an absolute NUT for all things American, and after my husband miraculously survived a terrible car accident 10 years ago, she decided that our family neede to start celebrating Thanksgiving! As it’s not a holiday here, we celebrate on the closest Saturday, with all the authentic food (turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, etc) … but because it’s summer here we often eat outdoors and the kids usually swim all afternoon 🙂
    This year I’ll be getting the family to fill in the “I’m thankful for …” lists, and we’ll be making a Thanksgiving tree as per one of your other posts. So looking forward to it!