"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations."
-- Psalm 100:4-5
For many years now, our family has taken a great American "road trip" for summer vacation. We usually tie the trip in with some business travel that my husband needs to do, and just make a vacation out of it. We've driven days to get to both northern and southern California on different trips, and this summer took us on adventures through countless states to get to Boston and back. We love to stop and see the kind of stuff along the way that you'd never see if you were jumping on a plane and headed straight for your ultimate destination. It's kind of a running joke with us that our family loves to drive through "flyover" country.
Today I was looking around at all the neighborhood Halloween decorations that were being packed away, and I excitedly told my girls that it was time to get out our Thanksgiving items. We started talking about how much we loved Thanksgiving. It truly is my favorite holiday, in part because the stores want nothing to do with it (well, maybe the grocery stores do). They were laughing at me, because I told them that it suddenly struck me that Thanksgiving is the "flyover country" of holidays.
So many people hit Halloween and then the rush to Christmas is on.. full-steam ahead. The stores start even before that time. I remember one October, going in the grocery store to pick up Halloween candy the middle of October and was stunned that the store was already clearing the Halloween candy aisle and beginning the massive red and green transformation to the "Christmas candy" aisle.
Starting about now, catalogs assault us at every turn, tv ads hawking the "latest and greatest" Christmas presents abound, the mad dash begins to "hurry up and order the hot items" for Christmas before they are impossible to find. By many, Thanksgiving is all but forgotten in the rush.
Don't get me wrong.. I love Christmas. But the rush straight past Thanksgiving kind of disturbs me. Sometimes I want to just turn it all off. Stop and exhale.. stop and breathe. This mad dash to which I'm referring doesn't feel like it has a lot to do with counting down to the celebration of Jesus' birth, anyway.
Sometimes, this happens to us when we pray, as well. We are so intent, so focused on presenting our requests to God.. sometimes we forget to stop and say "Thank You" for all the wonderful blessings we have already received and continue to receive.
I know how often I have to stop my own children and remind them to say "thanks" to someone (and sometimes that person is me). How sweet it is when they do remember, on their own, with no prompting whatsoever from Mom. How much more precious it must be to God to hear "Thank You's" from His children.
Years ago, my girls and I decorated a simple cardboard box. We wrapped it in fall colors, leaving an opening in the top and they colored all the sides with crayons. "The Thankfulness Box" was born that year in our family. All throughout the month of November, we kept a stack of small pieces of construction paper next to the box. Whenever any of us felt truly grateful for something, we tried to remember to write it down and place the paper in the Thankfulness Box.
That Thanksgiving, we left the box and papers sitting out on my parents' Thanksgiving table. We had lots of extended family in attendance,and we encouraged anyone who wished to take part to also put their notes of appreciation & thankfulness into the box. The box was sealed up after Thanksgiving and placed into the attic with all the fall decorations.
The following November, we again placed the box in a central point in our kitchen and added the slips of paper. This time, on Thanksgiving Day, we turned the box over and carefully emptied it of all its treasure.
And treasure it was. We all gathered around and read with amazement the wonderful notes of gratefulness and thanksgiving. Praises to God for all His many blessings. Thankful parents welcoming a son home from Iraq, grandparents so thankful for the blessing of a new grandbaby.. siblings grateful for each other. So many notes had to do with the blessings of a close family.
There was one note that my eye settled on almost immediately. I would have recognized that handwriting anywhere. In my Grandma's shaky script, the note read "I am thankful for my family and very much for my sweet little girls." As tears began to fall from my eyes I thanked God myself for the gift of a precious Grandma. You see, my Grandma had just passed away about ten days before I read that sweet note. She'd written it on Thanksgiving Day the year before, and it had been sealed in the box for all that time.
I would so encourage you to start a Thankfulness Box tradition in your own home. Or maybe a "Thankfulness Tree" using the same idea. Our girls just love it and so many of the sweet notes every year are in their handwriting. Even the youngest children can draw pictures of people & things for which they thank God. Encourage that daily attitude of thankfulness all year long, but especially in this month of Thanksgiving. Your family will receive such blessings from this simple tradition.