Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 107:1 ESV
IDEAS FOR EXPRESSING GRATITUDE ALL YEAR ROUND
Create an on-going Giving Thanks poster. Hang it on your refrigerator, in a child’s room, even inside a closet door that is frequently opened. Add comments and pictures as appropriate. When it is filled, start a new one. You might cover a whole basement or garage wall with Thanksgiving posters!
Resolve to try to write something in a family Thankfulness or Gratitude journal every week for the next year. Next Thanksgiving, you can enjoy looking back on your list.
Once a month, have a card-making night. Each card could start: “I am (or We are) thankful for name of a person.”
Inscribe a list of things you appreciate about the person inside the card. Be specific.
“I really appreciated the care package you sent to me at college when I was homesick.”
“I love your sense of humor. No matter what a bad day I might have had, you can make me laugh.”
Together with your family, write a prayer of thanksgiving. Print it in an attractive font on good paper, then mat and frame it.
Make appreciation a part of the personal celebrations in your home. At every dinner for a birthday, anniversary, graduation, or other milestone, have everyone at the table answer a question. Some possibilities are:
“What do you most appreciate about ________?”
“Which of _________’s accomplishments are you most excited about?”
“Tell us about one of your favorite memories with _______ this year.”
Invite everyone in your household to write notes to God and to each other about things they are thankful for.
Put them on:
A bulletin board or erasable marker board
A wall painted with chalkboard paint
Multi colored stickies to post on a door or wall
Whenever it gets full, or on Thanksgiving Day, gather around to say a prayer & sing a song of thanksgiving, then remove the notes and start over.
One of our favorite traditions is a very effective and historically Biblical way to celebrate family history and build faith. It was inspired by I Samuel 7:12 which says “Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—“the stone of help” for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!”
Most of us would not place enormous carved stone monuments in our yard (or anywhere else) to commemorate the Lord’s working in our lives, but we can adapt this idea by using rocks. Our family has a basket of rocks on which we painted symbolic words.
There’s an amazing story behind one of our rocks. It represents a time when God provided for our family in a special way. This rock is inscribed with the word “Refrigerator.” Early in our marriage, Jack and I raised our young family on one freelance artist income. (You have heard the expression, “Feast or Famine”? There’s some truth to it!) During this period we had many opportunities to experience God’s provision. One of these times was the day our refrigerator broke down. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. We certainly don’t always pray about our broken appliances, but this time Jack felt led to talk with God about the problem. “We need your help—and quickly. Please, before all our food rots!” Within an incredibly short time, we got a phone call from a friend. She said, “This may sound a little strange, but I was just wondering if you could use a refrigerator. My husband decided he wanted a new one with an ice maker for his birthday and we thought rather than selling our old one, we’d see if there was anyone who might be able to use it.” In over a half a century, never before or after that occasion has any ever offered me a refrigerator!
God doesn’t always answer our prayers or work in our lives in immediate and obvious ways, so having physical reminders—monuments, so to speak—of the times he has done so is an encouragement to us and to our children. We not only benefit from remembering the times of help in crisis, but times when God blessed us with special fun and fellowship. These are all parts of our family and spiritual history that we want to recognize and celebrate.
Start out by finding one rock to use for the first memory stone or Ebenezer in your collection. You can use paint or paint markers to draw a word or picture on it. If you are in the habit of journaling or scrapbooking, those are also good ways to record your special blessings. If you are a media buff, record your family members stories on DVDs. Ask your parents and grandparents to share their stories and make stones to commemorate them; it’s a great way to celebrate and pass on your family heritage.
Use your Ebenezers to frequently retell the stories of God’s love for and intervention on behalf of you and your family and friends. Bringing out your memory stones or recordings in difficult times is a wonderful way to be encouraged. We can’t think of a better faith-building tradition than this ancient custom of creating monuments to help you to remember and pass on the wonderful workings of God in your life—and Thanksgiving is a perfect time to carry out this tradition!
Read a historical novel that takes place in the early 1600’s or a book about the history of Thanksgiving! Here is a short bibliography:
A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple by Kathryn Lasky
The House on Stink Alley: a Story about the Pilgrims in Holland by F. N. Monjo
Pilgrim Voices: Our First Year in the New World by Connie and Peter Roop (ed.)
The Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall
Roanoke: A Novel of the Lost Colony by Sonia Levitin
Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters
Sarah Morton’s Day: A Life in the Day of a Pilgrim Girl by Kate Waters
Stranded at Plimoth Plantation, 1626 by Gary Bowen
John Billington, Friend of Squanto by Clyde Robert Bulla
Make a Thanksgiving tree by “planting” a branch in a pot and fill it with plaster of paris so it will stand up like a tree. Surround it with artificial fall leaves, either from a craft store or cut from paper. Encourage your family members & guests to write what they’re thankful for on leaves and hang them on the tree. (Use ornament hangers or unbent paper clips to attach the leaves.)
Do a holiday project with your children that enables them to talk about what they are thankful for.
Make a turkey – write or draw something on each feather. (Make it out of construction paper or use an apple or small pumpkin for the body of the turkey.)
Make a paper chain decoration with links in colors such as red, gold, orange, yellow, & tan. Write on each link.
Find out how you can serve in your community for Thanksgiving– Help provide food for or serve at a Thanksgiving dinner, visit people in a local nursing home, or invite away-from-home servicemen/women, college students, or foreign students to join your family’s celebration.
Video each extended family member about what they’re thankful for. On subsequent Thanksgiving Days, watch a DVD with the previous years interviews.
Cover your Thanksgiving table with a light colored fabric tablecloth. Before or during the dinner, let your guests use permanent markers to record what they are thankful for on it. Save it for a keepsake or reuse it for several years, providing a new color of markers each year.
Choose an activity that the family will do on Thanksgiving every year. It could be to play a board game, watch old family videos or a movie, take a walk, or read a story aloud.
Some people like to have their own “Turkey Bowl”– an early morning game of touch football at the park.
Involve your whole family in Thanksgiving Dinner preparations. Let the kids help cook, especially items which can be prepared ahead of time. Encourage them to help set and decorate the table and especially to join in the clean up. Perhaps your children might want to choose one special task which they do every year– peel potatoes, make place cards, etc.
Have an informal worship service. Sing a few songs, read a Psalm, share, and pray.
Some people actually write on a linen tablecloth with permanent markers. Use a new color each year. Or create a Giving Thanks journal and add to it annually. Be sure to read highlights from previous years.
Consider choosing an activity that you could do every year– an early morning touch football game with kids from the youth group, volunteering at a shelter, playing board games, have a short service of thanksgiving with reading, music, and prayer or attend a service at your church or another one. Ask everyone to bring photos, slides, or video excerpts to share. Make a long distance call to any missing family members– pass the phone around so that everyone can say hello. If they aren’t available by phone, put the messages on audio or videotape and mail the tape.
Links to Other Sites for Thanksgiving Ideas
History of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Traditions and Trivia – Family Traditions and Trivia About Thanksgiving