by Juliet K. Kennedy

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I’ve spent some time over the last week pondering how I — as a wife and mom — cultivate thankfulness in my home. I’ve discovered it’s easy to encourage gratitude during the Thanksgiving season, mostly because of the constant reminders about this holiday’s meaning in churches, schools, and the media.

But what about the other times of the year when there isn’t a strong emphasis on giving thanks? Am I as attuned to fostering thankful hearts in my home at those times? Yes, I can list several ways I model and teach thankfulness in my home throughout the year. Yet, I also miss opportunities to show gratitude to my family, friends, and people in my community.

You see, gratitude doesn’t always come naturally, especially during difficult times or when we’re overwhelmed with busyness. Developing a grateful heart often takes effort and awareness.  However, when we authentically, purposefully, and consistently express gratitude, we harvest blessings not only for those in our homes and communities, but also for ourselves.

Over this last week, I reflected on how I could extend thanksgiving beyond the one day a year. What if I were to devote the next year to cultivating gratitude in my family and myself? How would a year of thanksgiving change our hearts and minds?

As a way to focus on giving thanks, I have decided to embark on a yearlong journey of thanksgiving with my family, beginning this November. Will you join us on this journey?  I’ve listed ideas below on ways we, as moms, can foster grateful hearts in our families and ourselves each month over the next year. Together, these acts of giving thanks spell out

Thanksgiving Tree. Last year, my family started the Thanksgiving Tree tradition. Each November, we glue a cut-out of a tree with barren branches on a bulletin board. Then we fill the barren branches with colorful leaves listing what we are thankful for. You can hang your Thanksgiving Tree on a wall in your house to remind your family throughout the year of all they are thankful for.

Honor firefighters, police officers, and those serving in the military. Take a few minutes during the Christmas season to stop by your local firehouse or police station to say “thank you” to those who ensure safety in your community. Send a card or gift to someone in the military to thank them for their service to our country.

Appreciation for teachers, coaches, pastors, and mentors. Reach out to these special people who have touched the lives of your children and you by saying “thank you,” sending a card, or even baking cookies for them.

Notes of gratitude for our loved ones. Designate a day each week to sit down and write a letter to a loved one—a spouse, a child, a parent, a grandparent, a brother or sister. Tell them why you are thankful for them.

Keep a gratitude journal.  With your family, write down what you are thankful for each day. Make this a dinnertime tradition.

Savor small blessings. Take time this month to recognize the small blessings God has given you each day. Give thanks for a beautiful sunset, for the morning walk you took with your dog, or for the afternoon spent at the park with your child.

Give thanks for loved ones you have lost. Capture memories of these loved ones in a photo album or journal. Share these memories with your children.

Invite neighbors to your house for dinner to show your appreciation for them.

Visit the elderly in your community. Spend an afternoon at a local nursing home or at an elderly neighbor’s house and express your gratitude for their contributions to the younger generations.

Invest time to learn about living a life of thanksgiving. Read about people whose lives radiate gratefulness. Ask other moms about how they teach their children about thankfulness.

No complaining for the next 30 days. I once read that complaining is simply a bad habit. When I complain, I fail to give thanks for the blessings in my life. Challenge your family for the next month to avoid this bad habit. Replace complaints with words of gratitude.

Give money to a charity that helps others in need. One of the best ways to give thanks for monetary blessings is to give a portion to those in need. Set a jar on your countertop and encourage your family to deposit coins and dollar bills into it. Donate the money at the end of the month to a charity of your family’s choice.

As a final thought, Melodie Beattie eloquently described gratitude when she said it “unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

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Jenny is passionate about the important role of mothers in modern America. She believes the role of moms is often overshadowed by popular culture values… like the spotlight we place on celebrities and the celebrity lifestyle. Jenny wants moms everywhere to understand they are celebrities to their Creator.

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