thankful tree

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The holiday season is so busy for us, with Philippa’s birthday the week of Thanksgiving, and Noah + Phoebe’s birthdays the week of Christmas, along with all the other usual holiday hectic!  We press in hard to some intentional habits during this busy season to keep our hearts tuned to God’s grace and to keep ourselves rooted in the soil of our simple everyday lives.  We started the habit of intentional thanks during the whole month of November a couple of years ago.  Our children love doing this!  When they saw that I had turned a corner of our living room into a little corner of praise + thanksgiving, they were literally squealing and jumping with joy.  I grab a branch from the yard (or in this case from one of our favorite picnic spots) but you can also just tape cut-out branches to your wall or draw a tree on a chalkboard (as I did last year, see pictures below) and tape your leaves to it.

I fill a bowl with cut-outs of colorful leaves (though you can print free thankful tags here) tied with baker’s twine, put a footstool nearby so little feet can clamber up anytime to bring their thanks.  I make it a point to let them interrupt whatever I’m doing to come over and help them add a leaf to the tree when praise strikes their hearts.  Yes, child, come boldly to the throne of grace!  Ordinary footstools become altars of praise.

We started this a couple of years ago after reading beloved One Thousand Gifts author Ann Voskamp’s posts (look here + here for lots of ideas + free printables!)  about making a thanksgiving tree a sweet family tradition, a way to focus our hearts toward Thanksgiving and to remember that this is how He tells us to enter His presence: enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise (Ps. 100:4).

We carve out a space right in our living room, the gathering room, the room where most of our life happens: the reading of books, the cuddling around the fire, the sibling fights, the teaching + disciplining, the laundry-folding + the vacuuming.  Right in the mix of it all, we plant our own little tree and as the leaves are daily all falling outside our windows, this little tree is gaining leaves day by day, until the end of the month when it will be full of color + singing of all His goodness.

Don’t get me wrong.  We are not a super-holy family over here.  We fail a lot, daily.  We argue too much.  We worry about money.  We lose our tempers.  We are too harsh with one another.  Our selfishness comes out in a million little ways.  Isn’t this the strangest miracle of all, the most beautiful of all?  That He beckons us, even us, to come to His table?  To feast on His goodness?  His mercy + forgiveness for us in Christ Jesus?  This little altar isn’t for the self-righteous.  It isn’t for the Sunday-best.  It’s for the meek.  The ones who know they are unworthy, dirty.  Undeserving.  The ones who know that the good things alone aren’t grace, but that all is grace.  It’s for the penitent.  It’s for the failing + flailing families, just like ours.

And that’s reason for the highest praise of all.  God giving us the greatest gift when we are least deserving!

Our challenge for each other this year is to find new things every day to praise Him for (last year most of our tags said “cars” + “lights”), and thus teaching our kids + ourselves to hunt for His manifold grace.

It’s not too late to start your own Thanksgiving tree.  It’s never too late to give thanks!  Here are some pics from our “tree” last year.

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Even in the midst of hard weeks, even in spite of our unholy moments, we want to remember we can come + give thanks.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess. 5:18)

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