• Sarah Williams

Thankful Tree



The Holidays tend to inspire us to a sentiment of thankfulness. Maybe it's the togetherness and family time, or the recounting of blessings, or the abundance found in the celebrations, but ultimately, gratitude should not be limited to a season or Holy Day, but should be cultivated in our hearts as a lifestyle. All through the Psalms, David commands to himself "bless the Lord oh my soul".


Cultivating a heart of thankfulness and praise is something that is at the core of our family values. Each night before bed we have each child (once they learn their first words) to share something or several things (sometimes we have to cut them off their lists are so lengthy!) that they are thankful for during the day. It's a joyfilled time and helps all of us even in our darkest days to refocus on the good moments and glimmers of hope. This is a daily discipline of taking our thoughts captives, and setting our hearts to bless the Lord.


Gratitude is all too easily stolen in the pressures and discouragement of circumstances. Comparison seeds discontentment, but gratitude lays the foundation for Joy and Contentment. I absolutely LOVE Paul's words to the Philippian church in Philippians 4:11-12 "...I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content..." This is coming from a man who was at the time of writing IN JAIL!!! Mindblown. Yet, sometimes it might be easier to set our eyes on God's presence and goodness in the midst of the big trials, but I know personally, it's really the little inconveniences that sneak up on me and steal my joy. When I go to look for something and it's not there... (like a child's shoe when we are running late)... really boils my ire and steals my joy. Yet, again Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." This is the verse we will focus on for this activity. We may not be grateful for the trial, but we are able to be thankful to God through the trial.


A few weeks ago, our son had had an uncharacteristically trying day full of poor choices for which he suffered several consequences. That night during our "thankfuls" he mournfully but resolutely stated he was thankful for his consequences. As parents we were taken aback, and asked him "why?" To which he replied "Because it is helping me to be more like Jesus, and make better choices". We can be thankful even for the hard things because it is a refining fire to shape our character to more closely resemble that of our King's and if we can weather our trials full of gratitude and praise it will bring Him the greatest glory.


Every November we create a version of this. Some years we have pinned branches to our walls and taped the leaves in our dining room and hallway, but this year we went small and individual keeping it simple but with the repeated message of gratitude to God.





We focused on 3 aspects of our gratitude to God: Praise, Thanks, and Blessing.


Praise: Focusing on Who God Is.

Thanks: Focusing on What God Does.

Blessing: Focusing on the attitude of our Heart toward God


We also added 2 specific branches for the kids to thank God specifically for parents and siblings.




Supplies:

—2 pieces of paper (printer paper/A4)

—(Scotch) tape

—Brown and green crayons (also red orange and yellow would be helpful)

—scissors

—small card/letter envelope or sandwich baggie

—marker and pencil


Step 1:




On one sheet of paper, trace your hand. You want part of your arm as well so that your arm becomes the trunk of the tree and your hand and fingers are the tree branches




Step 2:

Write in the palm of your tree "GOD" as all of our gratitude should point to God


Step 3:


In each finger write a category to focus our gratitude. I suggest the following:


In the center 3 fingers:

Praise: Focusing on Who God Is.

Thanks: Focusing on What God Does.

Blessing: Focusing on the attitude of our Heart toward God


On the 2 outlying finger branches (the thumb and pinky) we like to have our kids specifically thank God for Parents and Siblings.




Step 4:

Write out 1 Thessalonians 5:18 on the Trunk of the Tree



Step 5:

On the second piece of paper color the entirety with a mix of reds, browns, yellows, oranges, and greens. This will be your leaves for your tree. I prefer crayons for this, but any medium of color works.


Step 6:

Fold your colored piece of paper up in half long way and then continue to half fold short way up until you achieve the size you want of your leaf. I like to fold into eighths or sixteenths. And then cut out your leaf.




Step 7:

Try to write out something for each branch that you are thankful for and write it on the back of a leaf and tape it to the appropriate branch each day.






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