This all started with a picture . . .
Though we’ve tried hard to prevent that sense of entitlement in our boys, they’ve have fallen prey to the “I deserve this” mentality. We have never bought them stuff just because they wanted it, never impulsively purchased a candy bar in the check out aisle.
We’ve worked hard to help our boys see nothing truly belongs to us. All that we have (and we have a lot) has been given to us by our good God.
So last year (2014) at Christmas time, I was reading something by Ann Voskamp about preparing our children’s hearts for Christmas. One thing she mentioned was to start a gift list.
I’ve kept a gift/gratitude journal for the past few years. I’ve counted over 3,000 gifts, which include anything from the beautiful uniqueness of snowflakes, to hubby coming home safely from a business trip, to the doctor who diagnosed my appendicitis before things got bad. My gifts often include glimpses of God’s touch on creation and in my days.
At the beginning of 2015, hubby and I decided to be intentional about finding gifts in our days, and we asked the boys to do the same. They’re both in training in the practice of being grateful. Learning to see God’s fingerprints in our days is one of the best gifts we can instill in our children.
One boy thought it would be cool to count 2,000 gifts in 2015 (can you say, “over-achiever?”). We determined how many gifts we’d need to find and add to our list each day, and gave ourselves space for those busy nights.
Some days, it was easy for us to see the gifts. Other days, it was hard. When one boy had a tough day at school, and their snarls greeted us at the dinner table, we had to help them dig into their days and find the gifts hidden in them.
One of the beautiful things that began to happen is our conversations around the supper table opened up. We’d hear anecdotes from their days, insights about things they were learning, and every now and then, a boy threw us a bone that offered glimpses into their personal joys and struggles.
Choosing gratitude is a discipline. Some nights, one or more of us didn’t feel like searching for the gifts in our days. Yet, we did it. Almost always, it helped change the mood of the family member who was struggling.
Counting gifts has helped me to look beyond the surface snark that sometimes joins us at the supper table and see the hurting boy behind it. It helped me learn to ask questions and begin to figure out what was really going on.
I recently asked my family if they saw any benefit to counting gifts. Hubby said it helped him keep a better perspective. One son said it helped him see all he has to be thankful for. The other son said it didn’t help at all.
We are training our boys to look for the gifts God places in their lives. They aren’t going to see all the good that comes from this discipline right now.
Hopefully one day, they will, and it will help them keep an accurate perspective when life’s hard hits.
So . . . to the picture.
I posted a picture on Facebook and Instagram that showed our list of gifts from 2015. We wrote most nights, and by December 31, we had logged 1,662 gifts.
Many people commented on the picture, which inspired me to share this little family practice we have. We’ve already begun our 2016 list. Of course, the boys want to have more gifts than we had in 2015. But the main thing I hope to instill in them is a growing sense of gratitude, and the eyes to see the gifts God places in our days.
We often find gifts in presence, not presents. They arrive in the form of small glimpses into the world around us, and from the mundane things that happen in a day. If we have the right perspective, we’ll be able to see the many gifts God plants in our days.
That’s my hope for our boys . . . that they can see His love wrapping around them through relationships, His beauty, the big and small things that occur in a day, and on occasion, the big ticket items they think they want.
What about you? How do you practice gratitude in your days? How do you teach your children the idea of gratitude?