I have always thought it would be fun to celebrate Christmas in July. I mean, why NOT celebrate Christmas two times a year? After my five-year-old looked at me and said, “I don’t want that one, I want a big one,” when I generously offered her a dum-dum lollipop it occurred to me that maybe we should be celebrating Thanksgiving more than once a year. So yesterday, I invented “Thanksgiving in May”. Catchy, isn’t it? I have chatted with many of my friends, fellow frazzled mothers of ungrateful children, us all begging each other for the magical answer to getting our children to be thankful. In a society where parents revolve their lives around their children and often children are handed something without expecting to give anything in return (my children being no exception) it seems nearly impossible to teach them to be grateful for what they have.
So, yesterday, I set out, feeling a little smug, I might admit, for inventing this brilliant holiday, sure that it would be a success. I had it all planned out that we would go on a walk armed with our Kodak, ready to snap away at all of the things we had to be thankful for. Sounds like a good plan, right? I am going to show you the pictures, because what the girls wanted to take pictures of were cute. Here’s a start:
Aren’t the pictures cute? In our case, a picture does NOT speak a thousand words. We started on our walk with hope and excitement and ended it with frustration and with me saying, “No more talking.” Followed by a tearful phone call to my best friend. Hmm…I wonder if the pilgrims felt this way the day of their first Thanksgiving….
What I pictured happening on this walk was an opportunity to point out to my girls all of the beauty in the ordinary-how all of creation magnifies God’s name and glory; how a sparrow in a tree can remind us of our worth in God’s eyes; how a simple flower is arrayed in greater glory than a princess in fine, silk dresses. I wanted them to see the world around us is full of things to be thankful for and take joy in. What actually happened on this walk? My one daughter, the one who complained about the lollipop, complained about the long walk, the weather, her sister….etc, etc, etc, etc, etc….My other daughter spent the entire time trying to control me, her sister, the walk, the animals we saw on the walk, and refused to partake in our mission at all. She would speed up just enough to pass me and her sister, then slow down and walk a foot in front of us to control the speed in which we were talking and the path we were taking. She blatantly and stubbornly refused to acknowledge a single thing there was to be thankful for.
I admit, quite humbly, that I pictured this post before we set out on the walk one that I could write with pride and a sense of triumph. I wanted to be able to say that this was a successful journey, not only physically, but much more importantly spiritually. This would be a new traditional for my family-not just a yearly one, but even weekly and eventually daily, so that we can get into the habit of seeing the beauty in all that is around us. It is so easy to see the things that discourage us, the things we don’t have, but I have found that when I stop to count my blessings, they far outweigh anything I am lacking.
After I talked with my friend yesterday she said, “Maybe thankfulness isn’t something that can be forced, but something that is taught by example. Something that your kids will catch by seeing your thankfulness.” What wisdom. I have often heard that the remedy for a critical spirit is a thankful heart. As a mom, I am sooooo ashamed to admit the times when I am way too critical of my children and my husband, feeling like it is my job to “fix” them rather than pointing out to them, and I think sometimes more importantly to myself, all the qualities and gifts God has given them.
So I began my own journey, after the girls were tucked away for their naps, and snapped a few things that I am thankful for. God is a romantic, and every day He woos me with His grace, love, and creation. For this, I am truly thankful.