Tis the season for pumpkin spice and everything nice. As we round the corner to wrap up the last few months of the year, we find ourselves getting ready for the approaching holidays.
According to Statistica.com, Thanksgiving is America’s favorite holiday, with Christmas coming in a close second.
So what is it that makes Thanksgiving Day so special? Based on various internet polls, articles, and conversations with friends, I’ve come up with the following reasons why people love Thanksgiving so much:
Cooking with each other
Time off of work and school
Here are a couple other reasons people love the holiday:
Positive feelings of gratitude
Feeding the needy, widows, poor, and homeless (soup kitchens, etc.)
If we love this day so much, then why don’t we make it a priority to practice Thanksgiving on a daily basis?
Photo Credit: ©swn
A Society of Overworked People
I don’t mean that we ought to celebrate the actual holiday every day, but if we could glean from all the traditions we love about Thanksgiving, and incorporate those elements into our daily routines, imagine how much better this world could be.
The key element of Thanksgiving and all of the other holidays is that we actually take the time to slow down.
We are a society of overworked people. We work days and weeks on end, packing our days with chores, errands, projects, and other obligations.
When do we ever have time to just slow down? I don’t know about you, but I often relate to Martha when Jesus came to visit her and her sister, Mary, in Luke 10:38-42.
Martha did what most of us would probably do in that situation, rushing around making sure everything is just right for our special guest. Get some tea going, warm up some bread, start making dinner... “Oh, is that dust on the mantle? Nothing but the best for my Lord."
Yet, I long to be more like Mary, just sitting at Jesus’ feet, worshiping Him and soaking in His presence.
Jesus would much rather Martha come to sit with him than watch her rush around in a flurry of activity. He said to her, "My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)
Likewise, rather than making sure we check off every item on our daily to-do list, God would rather we slow down and just spend time with him and the people in our family and community.
I want to encourage you to celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving all year long. Let’s be a society of people that slows down as we learn to practice thanksgiving daily.
Here are six tips for practicing thankfulness year-round:
1. Eat Good Food Regularly
While food is obviously meant to nourish us, I believe it is also meant to be enjoyed. One of the reasons why we love the food during the Thanksgiving holiday is because, for once, we give ourselves permission to indulge. It’s okay to let loose sometimes. Food is meant to be enjoyed. If not, then why does it taste so good?
“So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this!” Ecclesiastes 9:7 ESV
Eating good food doesn’t have to be reserved for special days. If you want to make a random, mundane day feel special for no specific reason, all you need to do is cook or order delicious food. You can even invite your husband and children to jump in and help prepare the meal!
Occasionally, I will make a family-favorite recipe that I don’t typically make, whether because the ingredients are harder to find or it’s a dish that requires more effort. Trust me, once your family realizes what’s cooking in the kitchen, their excitement and smiles will be worth all the extra work. Food has a way of working its way right into the hearts of our families and bringing everyone together.
Bonus points if you add a few special touches, such as:
a vase of fresh-cut flowers to the dinner table.
your best, fanciest dinnerware decorating each place setting.
a hidden veggie in the recipe the kids will never be able to taste.
a dessert the whole family will enjoy.
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2. Make More Time for Friends and Family
Life is so busy. Always on the go, rushing here and there, it seems we never have time to just unwind, relax, and enjoy our friends and family. It takes being intentional to ensure we spend quality time with our favorite people.
It’s always surprising to me when I realize how long it’s been since the last time I’ve seen or even spoken to many of my friends. Time really does go by so quickly, if we’re not careful.
“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14 ESV
Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family is always a great time to catch up with each other and see how much our children have grown. We wonder why we waited so long to get together, and by the end of the gathering, we always say, “Let’s plan something!”. Yet, we end up parting ways, and never plan anything. Please tell me that I am not the only one who does this!
In order to keep another year from going by before we see our friends, in-laws, cousins, or even siblings again, we must be intentional about making time for each other.
Here are some tips to make sure you see your favorite people more than once a year:
Get something on the calendar right then and there.
Invite them over to dinner and confirm the day/time immediately.
Make it a point to regularly text or call them—set a phone reminder, if needed.
3. Prioritize Regularly Eating Together
So now that we have a plan to eat good food and to see our friends and family more than once a year, let’s combine the two! The action of breaking bread together in a loving communion and fellowship is deeply rooted in scripture.
Jesus made it a regular habit to eat with the people He ministered to, as well as with His disciples. This tradition carried on with the apostles even after He ascended into heaven.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42
At a minimum, eating together should start in your own home, as much as possible. When you make eating together a priority, it brings the joy, laughter, and conversation of Thanksgiving into your home every single day.
During the busiest seasons of life, our evenings are filled with sports, dance classes, and Bible study groups. You’ll need to figure out which evenings work best for you and your family.
4. Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal
Journaling is a simple task that you can do at the beginning or end of each day. I have found journaling to be a way to keep myself grounded in God’s Word, reflect on what God is doing in my life, and keep track of my prayers and praises.
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 118:1 ESV
Does writing in a journal each day seem like a daunting task? Here are some ideas to help get you started:
Write about something positive that happened in your life.
Write out uplifting scriptures and/or quotes.
Make a list each day of three things you're thankful for.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Hannah Olinger
5. Reflect on Psalms of Thanksgiving
Most of the Psalms focus on how God takes care of his people. Even in David’s darkest moments, he still found it in him to seek after God, humble himself before his Lord, and call out to God for help. He recognized that the earth and everything in it belongs to God and that nothing happened out of God’s control.
“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is the great God, and the great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:1-5 NKJV
The Psalms can be a life-giving source of daily encouragement.
If you determine to make it a routine to read a passage from Psalms each day, you’ll find how easily you can usher in a daily attitude of Thanksgiving.
6. Find Ways to Serve in the Community
Perhaps a tradition that’s already in your home for the holiday season is that of serving in your community. For whatever reason, we have a tendency to want to give to the needy during the holiday season, but what about the rest of the year?
“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” Deuteronomy 15:11 ESV
Here are a few ways to help in your community all year long:
Contact your local food pantry to see if they need any donations or volunteers.
Volunteer to spend time with children, the elderly, the mentally ill, the homeless, or women.
Volunteer to help with soup kitchens, homeless shelters, community centers, after-school programs, or employment centers.
Check with your church about any programs they participate in, such as Operation Christmas Child, backpack drives, feeding the homeless, or other community outreaches.
“Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” Isaiah 58:10
Originally published Tuesday, 04 October 2022.