By Carlotta Jackson: Thanksgiving is here. It comes around so quickly these days – a sign of getting older, I do believe. This happens to be my favorite holiday of the year. I love trying to get ever closer to my mom’s cornbread dressing every year, I love figuring out what size turkey I need, and I love pulling out time-honored recipes that I cook only once a year. I’m not sure why, but it’s true. Most of all, I love sitting around our table after eating a good meal with family and friends without the opening of gifts and without rushing to the next party or the next house, knowing we as an immediate family still have three more days together without work and school – time for decorating for Christmas and time for watching college football.
Often I tried to be creative and think of different ways to ponder the first Thanksgiving or to have everyone express thankfulness. One year (maybe more than once) all of our children had to research a passenger on the Mayflower, write a paper, and make an oral presentation on Thanksgiving Day.
Today I look back on the years of raising a family – the joys, the struggles, the victories, and the failures. These are all there in the 32 years, but at least one consistent, positive characteristic has prevailed in the lives of each of my nine children – a heart of gratefulness, and I am thankful! We began noticing years ago that our children didn’t seem to play games of jealousy and covetousness for the latest pair of jeans, phone, car, purse – whatever.
My husband and I have tried to examine what brought this about, mainly so we can pass this along to our own adult, parenting children and others. So here are our thoughts, not in a particular order because I’m not sure what order I would put them in. Pleases don’t think we are tooting our horn. Ultimately, gratitude is a God-thing!
Immersion in the homeschool culture probably helped produce gratefulness. We hung with likeminded families who, like us, did not rush out to buy their children the latest item in the stores. Our children did not sit in a school classroom and make comparisons with other children whose parents probably had to mortgage their house to buy those fancy items for which their children whined incessantly and ad nauseum in order to keep up with their Jones friends.
Treating each child with fairness and equanimity prevented jealousy. Although they could have perceived things differently, our children seemed to understand they were treated the same and that each were loved deeply and cherished. Consistently, we communicated to our children how grateful to God we were for each one of them. We celebrated birthdays and we made certain birthdays extra special with traditional celebrations, but we did not cancel everything on everyone’s schedule to make sure we always celebrated on the exact birthdays. Plus, occasional birthdays were celebrated less than others in the rush of life. In an effort to say this with other words, we did not idolize our children. Limits were set for Christmas spending. I suppose having a large family helped to set those limits and kept us from overdoing our spending thus communicating to our children we weren’t going to even try to keep up with the Joneses.
Fifteen years ago my husband participated in a real estate project apart from his daily vocation. It was (and still is) his desire to be a bigger giver and he loves entrepreneurial opportunities. The project “went south” after the contractor embezzled our money. My children watched my husband obtain and work two extra jobs during that period to cover our losses. Additionally, the y saw in him a persistent, grateful heart for provision and never a whimper or complaint towards those who sought to harm us. In front of our children, he prayed God would prosper and bless the one who hurt us. For that matter, despite great trials of tragedy (death of my husband’s father in an airplane crash), despite the births of two disabled children, despite twenty-five plus surgeries for an eye disease, and the list goes on and on, our hearts’ desire has been to praise God anyway and to trust Him with our lives, our testimonies, our children, and daily provision. In other words our children watched us model gratefulness no matter what God allowed to come our way. Did we occasionally fail to do so? Sure, but our overall testimony to them has been one of gratefulness!
Finally and most importantly, we tried to teach our children what it meant to be a spirit-controlled Christian. Although thankfulness is not in the list of spiritual fruit in Galatians 5, we are satisfied a grateful heart is a function of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As we all learn to die to ourselves and live unto Christ, the Spirit of God in us produces in us a spirit of gratitude. We cannot make our children be grateful. We can model it. We can teach it. BUT only the Spirit of God can produce it. Therefore, pray. Pray they will be sensitive to the subtle prompting of the Holy Spirit as He works to produce this virtue in their lives and helps them to “be content in whatever circumstances….” and to “give thanks with a grateful heart.”
Carlotta Jackson has been homeschooling her children for over 25 years, and still going strong with her youngest. You can read more about Mrs. Jackson in her previous blog posts:
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