thankful tree

DSC_0020 DSC_0001 DSC_0006 DSC_0021 DSC_0007 DSC_0024 DSC_0011 DSC_0030 DSC_0035

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.

DSC_0001 DSC_0006 DSC_0011 DSC_0018 DSC_0015 DSC_0017

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)


DSC_0044DSC_0002 DSC_0003DSC_0034DSC_0007 DSC_0013DSC_0009 DSC_0011  DSC_0015







In our photo-saturated day, taking pictures can get a bad rap.  “Be present,” they urge.  “Put down your camera and enjoy this moment.”  And there are times to leave the camera behind.  Times to rest and just soak and to see.  But I have learned that for me, snapping pictures helps me see.  Helps me notice.  Like a glory-hunter, seeking the beauty in the dreary and ordinary.  Going out with my camera, with expectation to find gifts.  I learned this some time ago from Ann Voskamp, how she numbered gifts with her camera, framing the moments.  Every frame captures a moment, a mili-second of time never to be repeated.  The way after breakfast, they clamber up onto the couch to read books.  On tiptoes at the window to see the garbage truck on Thursday mornings.  The simple beauty of flour, butter, water, and yeast bubbling in a bowl.  The way they run to help whenever they see me drag the stool into the kitchen.  That little gap between his front teeth.  The girl on her trike, far too small for her now, but still her favorite.  The way she turns to see if I am watching.  Always looking to see if I see her.  I do, baby girl, I see you.  The scraggly wild berries and flowers growing alongside the riverbank.  Ordinary, common.  Beautiful.  Hot steaming loaves pulled from the oven, and the way that nothing smells as good as fresh bread at home after wind whipped cheeks and frozen fingers.

Rhythms.  Rhythms of these days.  Simple.  Small.  Barely noticeable.  Easily forgotten.  I don’t want to miss it.  I don’t want to forget.  I want to give thanks, capture the moments, hands full of memories and moments to hold out to Him and praise Him for.  I love this season, I love these rhythms, Lord.  Costly.  Often painful.  Sometimes downright boring.  But precious.  Worthy.  Heavy with the weight of glory.

Learning to Savor Instead of Straining to Understand

Borrowing these piercing words from the great mind of G.K. Chesterton today (via Emily Freeman’s blog post a couple of days ago).


“Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom.”

“One great English poet went mad, Cowper. And he was definitely driven mad by logic . . . Poetry was not the disease, but the medicine; poetry partly kept him in health.

Everywhere we see that men do not go mad by dreaming. Critics are much madder than poets . . . Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain.

The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who sees to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”

-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain.  Savoring, in essence, goes a step beyond accepting to actually enjoying.  Therein is the exceptional challenge for me.  Not only to accept, but to say to the Lord, “Even in this, Lord, even this I choose to delight in.  To savor.  To give thanks for.”  May He perfect in us that work, that supernatural work of giving thanks in all things.

“In everything, give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” {1 Thess. 5:18}