1. Start Thanksgiving Day by spending some time with God. Read through Psalms that talk about giving thanks to God: Psalm 50:14; 69:30; 95:2; 100:4; 147:7. And then focus on Psalm 9:1, which tells us, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Write down some of the ways that God has worked in your life and your family.
2. List God’s blessings. As you approach Thanksgiving, here’s one way to cultivate a thankful heart: Spend time listing God’s blessings in your life. And don’t stop until you’ve listed at least 10-15. The exercise will force you to think creatively about God’s care and provision—even in small things.
Listing God’s blessings in your life forces you to focus on Him, and in the process you catch a glimpse of His love, care, and compassion.
Then during your Thanksgiving meal, share this list with your family. Read a couple of Scriptures about giving thanks, and then ask those at the table, “What is one way God has blessed you lately?”
3. Five kernels of corn. “We often ate Thanksgiving dinner later in the day with my parents. So we would always have brunch earlier in the day. Just before our family began eating, we would all write (on special place cards) five things for which we were thankful to God. On each of our plates were five kernels of corn—a reminder of the Pilgrims’ daily ration during one of their first difficult winters. As we ate, we passed a basket around the table, and each person placed one kernel of corn at a time into the basket and told of one thing for which he or she was thankful. The basket went around the table five times.” (Barbara Rainey)
4. Feathers of thanks. This idea is popular with small children. Using colored construction paper, create a paper turkey to place on the wall. Then cut out several feathers for the turkey. Give a feather to each person in your family, and have them either write or draw something they are thankful to God for. When they are finished, have them tape the feathers to the turkey.
5. Thank God for each other. Go around the table and say something you’re thankful for about the person on the right. This is not always easy for siblings to do, but it’s a great exercise to remind them to be thankful for their family.
6. Pass on special memories. The Thanksgiving meal is a good opportunity to ask older members of the family to tell stories about family history. Ask your parents and grandparents questions like:
- How did you celebrate Thanksgiving when you were a child? What did your parents make for the Thanksgiving meal?
- How did you meet and fall in love?
- How did you celebrate your first Thanksgiving together?
7. The Lepine family’s “hard tack and manna.” Bob Lepine (co-host of FamilyLife Today®) and his family followed a tradition of eating “hard tack” during their Thanksgiving meal. Hard tack, an unleavened bread which will last for months without spoiling, was used during the time of the Pilgrims on voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. When the Lepine family ate the bread, Bob reminded everyone of the hardships the Pilgrims endured to come to this country. He would ask, “Who else can you think of that needed bread to sustain them on a long trip?” The answer: the Israelites, who ate the daily manna which God provided after He brought them out of Egypt. This provided the family with an opportunity to remember how God sustains them and provides for all their needs (Exodus 16).
Hard Tack recipe*
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup flour
4 teaspoons real maple syrup
5/8 teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoon shortening
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix baking soda and buttermilk, then set aside. Mix flour, maple syrup, 3/8 teaspoon salt, then cut in the shortening. Add the baking soda/buttermilk mixture.
Roll the dough out very thin, then score rectangles in the dough without cutting all the way through. Prick each rectangles several times with a fork. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown.
* Be careful; these will be very hard.
8. Serve at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Prior to Thanksgiving, bring your children to a mission where they can serve the poor. Many churches already have a ministry like this available. Talk to your pastor or church secretary to get contact information, and then ask the mission director about jobs and safety for children. On Thanksgiving Day, discuss your experience.
9. Have each child prepare something for the Thanksgiving meal. It’s easy for children to take the Thanksgiving meal for granted. Often Mom and/or Dad slave in the kitchen and dining room, putting everything in order for guests while children run around or watch TV. This year, ask each child to contribute to the meal as a service to the family. Older children can follow recipes and create a special dish, while younger children can stir vegetables, boil noodles, or butter bread.
10. Read Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember to your children. This beautiful book, written by Barbara Rainey, outlines the plight of the Pilgrims. Reading it as a family during Thanksgiving can become a wonderful tradition in your home. The book reminds children of God’s provision and the sacrifices of the people who first came to this country and laid the foundation for us all. After reading it, pray and thank God for all His provisions, including a home to live in, food to eat, cars to drive, and a country where we have the freedom to worship God.
11. List some ways God provided for you and protected you. Some of these may have occurred in times of hardship. Write your list down on a poster and hang them up in your hallway as a reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness to your family.
12. Invite an international student or a coworker who is spending Thanksgiving alone to join your celebration. It’s difficult to be alone on a family-themed holiday like Thanksgiving. Many international students have nowhere to go for Thanksgiving, and they may have no idea what the holiday is all about. Or you may know of someone who recently went through a divorce, or lost a loved one, and has no plans for Thanksgiving.
13. Use Thanksgiving resources from Ever Thine Home® to focus on God. Untie Your Story, for example, encourages your guests to share about gratitude. This resource includes 12 frayed-edge napkin ties to loop around silverware serving sets. Each ribbon is imprinted with a question like, “What little things are you thankful for today?” or, “Name a person or event before your time for which you are thankful.” The questions invite heart-bonding conversations over ideas that really matter.
14. Blessings jar. Ricky and Ginger Roberts created a decorative jar that sits in their home, so the members of the family can fill it with notes and reminders of blessings all throughout the year. This way, nothing is forgotten. On Thanksgiving, Rick and Ginger pour out the notes and read them out loud as a family.
15. Remember how God has provided for you in the past. Before the Thanksgiving Day comes, spend some time with your spouse writing down special memories. How did God bring you together? What are some special ways He has provided funds for special needs? How has He brought you through times of suffering? These would be great stories to pass on to your children as a legacy of God’s faithfulness.