Thanksgiving Posts

5 Ways to Cultivate Grateful Hearts That Last by Kathryn O’Brien

Tyndale Kids

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This article originally associated gratitude with Thanksgiving. Now after the holiday, we encourage you to read it with Christmas in mind. We can be grateful every day of the year!

Ah, the wonder of fall. Crunchy leaves. Pumpkin pie. All of those forgotten fuzzy socks and flannel jammies pulled from the bottoms of dresser drawers. And most glorious of all, our kids, our busy, bustling, blessed kids are asked to turn their hearts and minds to living with thanksgiving.

At least for a few days. All over America, at this time of year, children are presented with activities, assignments, and lessons that center around gratitude. As they learn about the hardships of colonial life, they discover the joy of simple things, such as enough food and a warm bed. They make lists of blessings for which to be grateful. They read books about Plymouth Rock and make turkeys out of clay. They wear Pilgrim hats and reenact friendship feasts, remembering those who faced dire circumstances yet continued to praise God for His provision.

All too quickly, though, the big day comes and goes; and along with our harvest décor, the Thanksgiving focus of our nation, community, and family is put away for another year. To help the thanks keep on giving throughout the year, try these simple tips and activities with kids of any age.

Point out blessings. Invest in a spinning globe or world map. On the first day of every month, let your children take turns spinning the globe or pointing to a place on the map. Then do some research together on that nation or city. What are the people, customs, and culture like? What issues do they face? How can we pray for them? In what ways could we help? Allow your kids to see the many ways they are blessed by being interested in the needs of others.

Model a life of thanks. Be a daily reminder to your children to live gratefully, by living gratefully! At the dinner table, share blessings from the day. Start bedtime prayers with a list of gifts from God. Get in the habit of saying thank you to your kids, your spouse, your friends, and complete strangers for kindnesses big and small. Write thank you notes or e-mails with your children. Bring flowers or treats to neighbors, teachers, coaches, or friends—just to say thanks!

Frame the discussion. Buy or choose a special frame, and set it in a place of honor in your home. Fill the frame with the photo of a person, place, or event that your family loves and appreciates. If there isn’t a photograph readily available, spend some time with your kids drawing and coloring it yourselves! Change the picture on a regular basis, by the month, holiday, or season; and use the frame as a reminder to give thanks for that person or place in their lives.

Give thanks write now. Purchase a journal, or even make one from blank paper bound with pretty ribbon. Title the book, We Give Thanks, and every year, ask family members to jot down the things for which they are most thankful. Let even the smallest children participate by dictating their words to an adult or older sibling. Store the journal with your autumn linens so that each year you can bring out the book, reminiscing about past blessings and adding new blessings for generations to come!

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Create a plateful of grateful. Buy a uniquely colored dinner plate (or decorate an old plate with safe markers), and add it to your set of dishes. Let different family members use the special plate at least once a week. During mealtime, give the honoree encouragement by sharing the ways in which they are a blessing to those around them. Mention their God-given qualities, abilities, and talents that you are most thankful for, and say a special prayer of praise for them.

Hopefully, this Thanksgiving—as the last of the cranberry sauce is gobbled up and the cornucopia is tucked away—we will hang onto gratitude for God’s goodness in our lives . . . and our children’s thankful hearts will remain.


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Looking for books that encourage little ones to live with a grateful heart? Check out Give Thanks by Kathryn O’Brien, part of the Sit for a Bit series from Tyndale.


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Kathryn O’Brien writes books for kids and has a heart for moms. She’s published five children’s picture books, including her latest series (Sit for a Bit, Tyndale) and serves as a contributor for several publications. When she’s not writing or enjoying her day job as a Christian school administrator, Kathryn can usually be found texting her three grown children, hanging on the front porch with her husband, or hiking the canyons near her home in Southern California. To learn more about Kathryn, visit her at her website, www.kathobrien.com.


For more tips from Kathryn O’Brien on how to help your kids think about thankfulness, check out this post!

Be Thankful: A Note from Novelist Francine Rivers

With the holiday season upon us, it is easy to become caught up in the day-to-day flurry of shopping, planning, and decorating. But at this time of year, it is always important to take a moment to be silent and grateful. Today on the blog, bestselling novelist Francine Rivers has shared with us her plans for this Thanksgiving holiday.

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Thanksgiving is a wonderful celebration for those of us who have family. It’s a time to get together and share a big dinner and much laughter. But it is something far different for those who have no home or family. It can become a time of deep depression, a time of pain or longing. Some escape further into drugs or alcohol to forget their despair and loneliness.

Each year, our local mission offers Thanksgiving dinner at the fairgrounds. The number of attendees has grown every year. Last year, over five thousand people were served. It is a diverse crowd of men and women, some alone, some with families, many homeless, some with homes but living on small fixed incomes that don’t meet their needs. Others were in rehabilitation programs working one day at a time to overcome the effects of drug and alcohol addiction. Some came because they were living on the street and hungry and in need of a decent meal.

Hundreds volunteered to help set up, cook, serve, and hand out provisions. And Bibles. It is a blessing for those of us who can and have been involved in putting on the feast. Even so, it seems such a small thing in the face of so much need. But the homeless can come for a nice dinner with cake and get haircuts, fresh clothing, and a box of practical goodies as a present.

Frankly, Thanksgiving can bring an aftertaste of guilt for having so much when so many have nothing. It is a reminder that whatever we do have is on loan. Like a pitcher of water, we are filled in order to pour out blessings on others.

There never has been a time that there haven’t been the poorest of the poor among us. There was no room in the inn for Jesus. He was born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough. Jesus said we would always have the poor among us. Thanksgiving is a time to remember we are all created in the image of God. In Christ, no matter where we live or under what circumstances, we can be thankful for the hope He offers and the security that God keeps His promises, not just one or two days a year, but every day.

We can be prepared. We need to share: pint bottles of water, granola bars, and plastic ponchos don’t cost much and can be a great blessing when someone is thirsty or hungry or needs cover from the rain. Sometimes the best gift is time, a sincere smile and greeting.

Thanksgiving may be a one-day celebration, but it should be a state of mind we carry and share throughout the year.

Thanks to Francine for sharing with us such a beautiful tradition.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for Francine’s upcoming release, Bridge to Haven. Preorder your copy today!

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What about you, readers? Are you starting any new Thanksgiving traditions or practicing old favorites?

The Perfect Thanksgiving Blessing

Maggie with Dr. Barry Black

Today we have a guest post from one of our publicists, Maggie Rowe. In addition to working at Tyndale, Maggie is a speaker, writer, Bible teacher, and dramatist. You can read more of Maggie’s thoughts and enter her weekly “Freebie Friday” giveaways here. And now, a few words from Maggie:

If you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, you probably have your menu worked out by now. But how about the blessing?  Most of us will pause on Thursday and offer up a few words of thanks before we pick up our forks.  May I suggest a purloined prayer as the perfect Thanksgiving blessing?

A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of lunching with Dr. Barry Black, Chaplain of the United States Senate. Tyndale is publishing Chaplain Black’s book The Blessing of Adversity in the spring, and lunch arrived in the midst of our meeting with the marketing team. My colleague Yolanda Sidney asked the chaplain if he would honor us by praying the blessing over our meal, and he graciously agreed.

Now you need to know something about this remarkable man.  If he chose to use them, Dr. Black would have more letters after his name than there are in the alphabet.  In addition to earning master of arts degrees in divinity, counseling, and management, he also has a doctorate degree in ministry and a doctor of philosophy degree in psychology. In the poverty-stricken neighborhood where Chaplain Black grew up in Baltimore (described in his first book From the Hood to the Hill), a man like this could only be described as one smart dude.

So when we bowed our heads to pray over that Wednesday workday lunch, I was expecting an impressive prayer – something long and eloquent. After all, this is the man whose prayers are recorded in the Congressional Record, right?

And this is the prayer I heard, the one that brought tears to my eyes in its simple, profound brevity:

“Dear Father,

There are friends who have no food,

and those with food who have no friends.

Today, Father, we are most fortunate to have both food and friends.

For this we most humbly thank you.

In Christ’s name,

Amen.”

Do you have friends with whom to share your Thanksgiving meal? Don’t wait to be asked. Ask around instead and find someone else who might be alone. That’s what we’re doing this year.

Our menu is set – the same stuffed turkey with all the trimmings we enjoy every year – and so is the blessing we will use– this beautiful  prayer we are borrowing from Chaplain Black.  His words are a reminder of how blessed we are when we have food to eat and friends to eat it with.

Happy Thanksgiving!