On Monday I wrote about the framework I am using to focus myself and my children on Christ during the Nativity Fast. You can check out that post, but the basic breakdown is:
Focus on Gratitude (Nov. 15-Thanksgiving Day)
Focus on Service like St. Nicholas (November 27-December 6)
Focus on Anticipation (December 7-December 24)
Today I want to offer some simple, practical ways that you and your family (and me and my family!) can practice gratitude during this first section of the Fast.
6 Ways to Focus on Gratitude During the Nativity Fast
1. Offer Gratitude During Prayer
One of the simplest yet most profound ways to focus on gratitude is to incorporate more thanksgiving into your prayer routine. This can be done through personal prayers–both formal and informal–and through family prayers.
For the next few days, challenge yourself to begin each prayer with thanksgiving and gratitude. When you see something good or beautiful around you, offer a quick, spontaneous prayer of thanksgiving. And, when praying together as a family, have each child pray a short prayer such as, “Thank you Lord for…”
2. Record Gratitude
Many people keep a gratitude journal. I have never been that person (maybe I’m too lazy or just too contrary), but I’m trying to incorporate this discipline into my routine for the next several days.
For me this involves using the Notes app on my phone and keeping a running list of things I am grateful for. Having it on my phone ensures that I will be able to write things down as I think of them, no matter where I am. I am generally a notebook and paper kind of girl, but I think the ease of this method will help me in the short term.
3. Write Thank You Notes
We need to express our gratitude to God, but we should also give thanks to people who have helped us and enriched our lives. I am challenging myself to write 10 thank you notes during this time.
My process was:
-Make sure I have stationery/ cards (Check! I have some super cute ones that I almost never use)
-Create a list of 10 people that I want to thank (These include, among others, my teaching mentor at my new school, my husband, and my great-aunt.)
-Set aside time in my weekly schedule dedicated to writing thank you notes (I chose two half hour blocks. This seemed more doable to me than trying to push myself to write them each day.)
-Find addresses (Often one of the hardest parts for me!)
-Decide when I will drop them off at the post office (One the way home from work.)
I also would like each of my kids to write at least one thank you note. We are going to spend some time over Thanksgiving break doing this.
4. Teach Kids How to Give Thanks
Often times we, as parents, assume that children should innately know how to thank others; however, giving thanks is actually a skill that must be taught. If you have young children, you can make a game out of it or role play.
For example, you could pretend that you are at a store. You can be a store employee and your child can be shopping. Act out what it would look like to thank the employee for helping you.
Older children (like adults) can need reminders to thank others. Parents can point out the hard work and service of others (“Wow. I bet your teacher took a lot of time preparing that lesson.” “Those construction workers have a hot day to be repaving the road.” “Your sister was so kind to put away your laundry for you.”)
Parents can also model thankfulness in front of their children. Thank a waiter or store clerk, ask to speak to a manager just to give praise for an employee, thank your spouse for a thoughtful act, and, or course, thank a child when they are helpful. Your actions will provide a lasting example to your child.
5. Make a Family “Thankful” Craft
If you have been around this blog for any length of time, you know that I am not a craft-y person! It is just not my gift.
However, I am the mother of two children who love to express themselves through art and crafts, so…..I try.
This year we are going to keep a Thanksgiving Jar. I asked my daughter to decorate a glass jar that I had in the pantry (probably from pasta sauce or something like that). She went all out and had tons of fun putting on stickers, ribbons, and other assorted items.
Then, I cut up small pieces of paper. Each day we each write at least one thing we are thankful for. Then, on Thanksgiving, we will empty the jar and read all of the items.
This was super simple but will hopefully be memorable and encourage gratitude.
6. Pray the Akathist of Thanksgiving As a Family
Finally, we plan to pray the Akathist of Thanksgiving together as a family on Wednesday night. Thanksgiving Day itself can get busy, so we thought that it would make a good evening activity for the night before.
What do you do to practice gratitude?