One thing my mama did really well when I was a kid was celebrations. Even if we had little money, even when it was a hard year, she made sure every holiday and occasion was special.
When I became a mom, I wanted to plant that sweet memory in the hearts of my children, too. I wanted them to grow up feeling the same warm love and enjoyment for special family times that I savored in my own heart. I began planning early, thinking back to my favorite memories and traditions. At first, it seemed we didn’t have any real traditions.
But as I began to compile the list of favorites, I saw much of what I remembered so fondly was in the simple things we tend to overlook. I couldn’t remember much about the actual presents I received or the absolute most divine pumpkin pie recipe. I couldn’t recall one single thing we ALWAYS did or one amazing vacation we took.
As I pondered the things my mom did to make everything special, I realized the sparkle was never in the extravagant.
The sparkle of sweet holiday memories is created in the MOMENTS spent together.
It didn’t even seem to matter what we did. In fact, the deeper I looked into those fond memories, the more I saw how beautifully simple it was to create a family culture of celebration that involved none of the typical fanfare associated with holidays. The fondness in my heart was filled with times we laughed so hard we snorted milk out of our noses or times we played a board game with twice the number of recommended players and a list of rules someone made up as we went.
The sweetest memories were of games, activities and silly things we did together. Extravagance, cost, and elaborate plans were honestly never even a possibility, much less a reality. The focus was always on being together.
And for that, I’m eternally grateful. I’m grateful for the opportunity to teach my kids the one lesson I wish I had seen more clearly in my early years as a mom.
Celebration is about OTHERS.
It’s about stepping outside of your own wants, needs, or desires and seeking to enjoy the company of someone else. Sometimes I feel like today’s culture misses this truth. We get so wrapped up in Pinterest-perfect table settings or the best possible gift that we miss the needs of those around us and the blessings God has so graciously bestowed upon us.
Have you ever noticed that?
It’s true about everyday life, but it’s especially true about the holidays. The to-do list is huge, the tensions run high, and our desire to make special memories ends up a big fat FAIL.
We become so focused on the doing and getting, we miss the thanking and giving.
And without the thanking and giving, the memories have no sparkle. They end up stuffed into a box in the attic with the ugly Christmas sweater until next year. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even if all we’ve ever known is self-centered materialistic holiday madness, we have the ability to never go back there again. Oh, and the cool thing about kids is, they have a special tendency to forgive and forget when it comes to our faults. I like to think of that as God’s special blessing to parents (and boy am I ever thankful for it).
Speaking of thankful, one thing I’ve aimed to do is foster an attitude of gratitude in my kids. I want them to see the beauty of our family culture NOW! I want them to appreciate the blessings they have today and the sparkle they can enjoy if their focus is on others.
Even in a less than Pinterest-perfect house, a less than Pinterest-perfect dinner table and a family life full of difficult circumstances, our God is good.
That, my friend, really is cause for thanksgiving, isn’t it?
He’s sovereign and He loves us with a love we can’t even fathom. Really, thankful is the only response I can muster. Which is the reason I’m fond of pumpkin season (I mean fall). It’s a great reminder to stop and recount the lovingkindness of the Lord and the incredible graciousness He grants to us.
Free Gratitude Printables
Of all the holidays, I feel like Thanksgiving is the most neglected. It’s certainly among the most neglected practices in our lives! It seems to me the stores are full of costumes and candy one day and then Santa and reindeer the next. I suppose it makes sense for Thanksgiving to be less of a “retail” focus, but it certainly should NOT be less of a focus in our homes and hearts.
Every year, we try to make the entire month of November all about thanking and giving to others.
- We created a new tradition of having a BLESSINGS PARTY.
- We complete an in-depth Gratitude Journal.
- We plan many thankfulness activities.
- We are intentional about how we focus our minds.
I’m excited to share this HUGE and totally FREE printable pack of gratitude printables (including a gratitude journal for kids) to help you create a focus on thanking and giving this year. It’s three of my favorite thankfulness activities wrapped into one sweet pack. This video will give you an overview, then we will go into more detail on how to use each part below.
Gratitude Journal for Kids (and yes, it’s free)
I’m excited to share with you a brand new printable pack to help you focus on those good things this fall. It includes an 8-page journal to record things we are thankful for. (Both junior and youth level writing lines are included to meet the skill level of your children.)
Each page has a theme to help children categorize things they are thankful for. I’ve found this to be incredibly helpful with children as they search deep for what to put on their list. The categories include being thankful for who God is, what He made us to be, what He created, His gifts, and His promises. There are also pages for your home, community, and world.
In addition to the thankfulness journal, we have included a coloring page of Isaiah 63:7.
I’ve found that recording all the reasons to be thankful is one of the best ways to conquer the darkness when it threatens to steal our joy. But I’ve also found it valuable to go a step beyond. Included in the pack are cards you can fill out and give to others. The cards say, “I’m thankful for you because…”
I would encourage you to give these cards out throughout the season, thanking people for the blessing they are in your life. Think outside your regular path and consider even the mailman, the cashier at McDonald’s, and the stranger at the post office.
This is an incredible way to instill true thanksgiving in the hearts of your family and at the same time bless those around you. We’ve even included a sheet to track the people you give them to so you can pray for them (and so you can make sure you don’t duplicate)!
As I mentioned above, we started using this idea to host a Blessings Party each year. At the party, the kids create cards, play games centered around being thankful, and then are sent home ready to bless others.
Thankfulness Hymn and Verses
I absolutely LOVE hymns and Scripture! These two final pages have so many practical uses. We display the Thanksgiving Bible Verses in a picture frame in our home. We change it out seasonally with all of our monthly Scripture printables (these are a perk for being a Not Consumed Community Subscriber). You could also cut it up and display the verses on your Thanksgiving table. Or put them at the table all season. One year we worked as a family to memorize these verses.
For the Thanksgiving Hymn Puzzle of the Doxology, you could use it as an activity for the kiddos anytime or a game to see who can put it together the fastest. We’ve used this on Thanksgiving day to keep everyone busy.
My favorite way to play is to hide the pieces around the house. We hide two sets (one with the number 1 on the back and one with the number 2). Players break into two teams and race to find the pieces. If they find a piece with the other team’s number on it, they can’t take it!
The first team to come back with all the pieces and put the puzzle together wins. Of course, you should all finish by singing it together.
Gratitude Scavenger Hunt
Last, but not least, is the Thankfulness Scavenger Hunt. We’ve used this with groups, Sunday School classes, and even in our homeschool prior to Thanksgiving, but my favorite way to use it is on Thanksgiving Day. This gives kids (both young and old) something meaningful to do as they visit with family and await the debut of the turkey.
You could make it a game and have older kids snap photos of as many items they can find while having younger kids draw their items in the box. You can also put people on teams. I find younger kids and teens are a great match for games like these. After we play the game it’s a great conversation piece as we share around the dinner table various things we are thankful for!
Download your Gratitude Printables today:
Get the entire Gratitude Printables Activity Pack and ALL of our most popular holiday favorites in one simple download collection. We’ve made it easy-peasy to keep your hearts focused on the real meaning of EVERY season through Scripture-rich printables encouraging time in the Word, family enjoyment, and the service of others. Click the image below to learn more.