We are entering the crazy rush of the holiday season. Next week marks Thanksgiving and then immediately following is Black Friday, Cyber Monday and countless sales from now until forever. With so much spending, with so much buying, with so much emphasis on things, it’s hard to remember what we should truly be grateful for in life. Never before has there been a need to cultivate a Thanksgiving heart in yourself and in that of your children and home, and not just for the month of November or Thanksgiving day itself, but year-round. That’s why I’m excited to share about this little gem of an ebook from Stacie Nelson of MotherhoodonaDime.com – Thanksgiving Heart: Cultivating Gratitude in Young Children All Year Round.
This is such a great little book. All of us struggle with entitlement and greed and selfishness in our lives and in our hearts. We live in a super me-centered world. And our children are more susceptible than ever to this attitude with the never ending onslaught of news, information, advertisement and entertainment. We need to help remind them from whom all blessing flow.
So, may I, along with Ms. Nelson, encourage you to look inward and evaluate your heart and the hearts of your children and ask God to speak to you about ways you can grow a grateful heart. It is something my family has worked to instill in our children too. The following are some of the ideas and insights you will find in the ebook Thanksgiving Heart.
Grateful in our Circumstances
In Haiti, working among poor people, Stacie realized that her gratefulness was often dependent upon what creature comforts she had and how well things were going in her life. In short, she learned that a heart of thanksgiving is not dependent upon circumstances. Her sentiments were reaffirmed to me in the April 2014 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when President Uchtdorf said:
Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique. Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious.
We can be grateful!
It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God. But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding.”
President Uchtdorf went on to talk about how we shouldn’t just be grateful for things, but should develop a spirit of gratitude, as a disposition, or a way of life that stands independent of our current situation. In short, we should be grateful in our circumstances, whatever they may be.
And that is always easier said than done, right? That’s why I really loved this book. Stacie presents real, applicable, and doable ways we can start fostering this way of life in our lives, yet she recognizes her on-going short-comings, and her in-process thanksgiving heart as well. She shares what she’s done in her family, hoping that it can help yours.
It starts with us
And that means we’ll need to remind ourselves first. And that’s the first thing she addresses in the chapter titled “Model, Model, Model.” After she heard a rather rude comment come out of her daughter’s mouth, and after she started to reprimand her, she paused and realized where her daughter had heard that phrase a few days earlier – from herself!
This has happened to me, embarrassingly, too many times to recall. Children hear everything and absorb way more of our emotions, attitudes, and words than they lead on. So, if we ourselves are not evaluating what we say, and the root of such sayings – our heart – then how are we supposed to cultivate such principles to our children?
And that’s hard, because attitude is something we sometimes just associate with our personalities. Do we use sarcasm, attack our spouses/children with our words, are we overly negative, are we pushy and forceful? Most of these things really are rooted in our own selfishness, and therefore lack of thanksgivings, as we focus on how everything affects me, myself, and I.
As Stacie says in her book, “Giving thanks and speaking it out turns our hearts away from a self-centered attitude and focuses our attention on the givers and the Giver.” She recommends some way we can actively model thankfulness, including saying it frequently, whether verbally or written down. There is a strong emphasis in the book on writing down the things you are grateful for as well as writing down thank yous to individuals as well. At the end of this book, she includes 15 Thanksgiving Journal Prompts or Discussion Starters, and other great ideas on how to record what you are grateful for.
I also really appreciated her focus on improving our prayers, as they, too, can become selfish, only asking for things and not thanking God for His blessings. Her family now brainstorms and discusses things they are thankful for before they pray. I have done this before with our young daughters and it is awesome. I love hearing the things my children are grateful for. We like to give our children a number, usually just a handful, and ask them to tell us that many things they are thankful for. Most of the time they just list off each family member, or friends, or a toy. Sometimes they are just simply thankful for Jesus. It’s a blessing to hear where everyone’s heart is at, and to then praise God for what He has blessed us with!
Okay, I admit it: I loved her chapter on simplifying your life. I’m a minimalist. I like to keep things simply and possessions few. And I hate to spend money. So it totally works for me. It was interesting to read though about this connection between living with less to having a thankful heart. But she has found that” the more stuff we have, the more stuff we want. And the more stuff we want, the less we treasure what we have and give thanks for it.”
The idea is that giving your children everything, leading them to believe that they are entitled to their wants and desires at all times, is doing them a great disservice and communicates that stuff is more important than people. We teach them to look for fulfillment in the wrong ways. If you need help getting rid of some entitlement in your kids, I strongly recommend reading the book Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12 Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. You can read my review of that book HERE.
But, Stacie states that it’s more than just the accumulation of stuff:
Not only simplicity about clearing physical clutter, it’s about cleaning up our time, as well. It’s about making space and margin for the most important parts of life. It’s about having an eternal focus.
And of course one of the best ways to be grateful is to serve someone less fortunate, to give selflessly of your time, talents, and money to someone else, to share, love, and care for another more than yourself. Serving others removes part of that selfishness out of your heart. In this book she lists 30 simple ways to serve. My family has also worked on instilling the value of service in our children.
Journey to Gratitude
Cultivating and fostering a Thanksgiving Heart is not a one-day event, but a life-time pursuit. I loved the 30 days of scriptures and prompts she gives to help you start on your journey individually and as a family. I really encourage you to pick up a copy and get started on your journey! This PDF ebook is only $2.99 and even includes some printables at the end! Click here to view more details!
Tell me, how have you worked on uprooting the selfishness in your heart? How have you learned to be grateful in your circumstances and not just grateful for things?