Called to Be Thankful
About the Guest
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Laura Rainey DriesLaura Rainey Dries is the daughter of Dennis and Barbara Rainey.
Barbara Rainey and her daughter Laura talk about their favorite Thanksgiving memories, including five kernels of corn, Company French toast, and reading the Pilgrims’ story.
Called to Be Thankful
Bob: Yes; what you’re doing is—you’re taking sight cues and sound cues in the home and directing our thinking, with the sight and the sound, in the direction of a theme. In this case, it’s the theme of God’s goodness and our need to show gratitude and to be thankful. The more a home can direct our thinking in that direction, the more contentment there’s going to be in the home.
Barbara: Right. And we’re creating an atmosphere when we do that / we’re creating an ambience when we do that. When we give thanks and we elevate God’s presence in our home, we make our home more welcoming. We open the door, in a sense, for God to be at work in our hearts. When we’re not focusing on what He’s doing, then we’re closing the door to His work. So it’s welcoming Him / it’s making much of His presence in our home. It’s teaching your kids / it’s teaching one another. It’s a great way to share the time together.
Bob: So where will you and your husband be spending Thanksgiving Day this year?
Laura: Well, several months ago, at the 40th anniversary of the FamilyLife celebration, my grandmother and my uncle very clearly told Josh and me, “You will be at the farm; right?”
Barbara: They did?! [Laughter] I missed that little piece.
Laura: So, we will be at the farm.
Bob: You’ll be with your family.
Laura: Our family, at the farm.
Bob: And as you prepare your husband to come to your family’s Thanksgiving celebration / as you’re driving there with him, and you say to him, “Now, Josh, let me just tell you what you’re walking into.”
Bob: What will you tell him?
Barbara: [Laughing] What are you going to say?
Laura: “You’d better put me as all five things that you’re thankful for! [Laughter] ‘One, Laura; two, Laura; three, Laura…” [Laughter] Just kidding!
Bob: How will you prep him?—because he probably has not had as intentional a Thanksgiving as he is about to celebrate.
Laura: No. I think I’ll probably—just like what we’ve just talked about—
—giving him a little bit of the history of our family, and how we’ve done it over the years, and then also give him a little bit of a heads-up that “You need to have five things that you’re thankful for—to be able to write down and to share with the family.”
Bob: [Laughing] And “They should all start with ‘L’—
Laura: And “They should all start with ‘L.’”
Bob: —“and end with ‘A’.”
Laura: That’s right!
Bob: And will you say something like, “Now you just need to know, my mom kind of goes way over the top when it comes to Thanksgiving”?
Laura: My mom does a beautiful job at Thanksgiving. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s how you’re going to say it?
Laura: That’s how I’ll say it!
Barbara: That was very kind of you, since I’m present in the room!
Laura: You’re right here.
Barbara: What else could she say? [Laughter]
Laura: The Rainey family does not—we do not do things halfway for holidays—for meals / for gathering together. It is all very intentional. Thankfully, this past summer, he was with us at our beach vacation. He got a very small taste of the intentionality of our family— the level—but the bar is raised at Thanksgiving. He’s in for a treat.
Bob: That beach vacation was where he proposed.
Laura: That’s right; he did—magical!
Bob: So now he’s about to be immersed in what is 30 years of family history.
Bob: Do you think it will be a shock for him; or do you think it will be something that he will walk into and go, “You know, this feels right”?
Laura: He won’t be shocked by it. I think he’s always pleasantly surprised and enjoys that time. I think people long for conversation that’s more meaningful than just the average—you know, “What did you do today?” or “How was the game that you played in last night?” We’re looking for opportunities to have more intentional conversations. I think he’ll appreciate it and welcome that. He is intentional with his conversations; but to have it, as a family, is, I think, welcomed and I think a special part of who we are.
Bob: Okay; I want you to think about—
Dennis: This will be the last question! [Laughter] This is my broadcast! She may think it’s hers.
Barbara: She’s taking over—she’s taking over for him!
Bob: I want to ask you about Thanksgiving at your home in 2042.
I’m going 26 years into the future—so Thanksgiving 2042. We’ll assume that there might be one, or two, or three, or more—
Laura: Nope! It’s better to stop there! [Laughter]
Bob: Okay; there might be some children—
Bob: —who are now teenagers or older.
Bob: You are the one responsible for what your family’s Thanksgiving is going to be.
Bob: So, what will you carry with you, do you imagine, from what you grew up with? How will your Thanksgiving be similar and how will it be different; do you think?
Laura: Well, we will absolutely have the Company French Toast; but I think—when I look into what I would love for our Thanksgivings to look like—I would love for them to have that intentionality of conversation. It may not be to the same degree or to the same level, but I just remember how mom powered through every year:
“We will read the story. This is our time. We are going to read this story.” She didn’t quit!
So I think—thinking through having my own kids, and what I want to teach them, and what I want to instill into their lives—and teach them about being intentional, and having good conversations, and having people gathered around the table. I think that’s what I would like to teach them and to instill into their lives, whether that’s through a Thanksgiving conversation, or if it’s every day when we have dinner together, or once a week because things get crazy—that’s something that I would want them to take away, regardless of the season—but especially at Thanksgiving.
Bob: Well, we’ll check in in 26 years and see how it turns out.
Laura: Sure! I’m going to be running this broadcast!
Dennis: Yes; she will be, in fact. [Laughter] I just want to go on record that Laura is 220 volts. She will power through her Thanksgiving too. [Laughter]
Laura: Thanks for having me!
Bob: It’s been a delight to have you step into the studio.
Bob: And you can go hide out in the other room now, while we finish FamilyLife Today. [Laughter]
Dennis: Thank you, Sunshine.
Laura: You’re welcome!
Dennis: Thank you for the impromptu—you’re used to this, though.
Laura: Yes; I love it!
Bob: Alright; are you re-seated? Have you come back to join us now?
Dennis: I have.
Bob: And your daughter is—
Dennis: Don’t think about it. Don’t replace me just yet! [Laughter] But, as I’m listening to this, I couldn’t help but think just how God rewarded Barbara’s faithfulness to import some traditions around our Thanksgiving table. In fact, one of my favorite memories, if not my greatest, is when we ate out on the deck. Our adult children had us quarantined to the end of the table with all of the young grandkids.
Dennis: So all of the adult children, who were down at the other end of the table, having a delightful, uninterrupted conversation—
Bob: Adult conversation.
Dennis: —and Barbara and I are cleaning up spills / we’re interacting—[Laughter]—which, we love grandkids and all; but we weren’t a part of the adult conversation! We were kind of wanting to be with our kids.
I don’t remember the number; but it was 25 of us or so, out on the deck with numerous card tables set up, end to end, and then a couple of real tables at the other end. It was just a delight. It was a mess! I’m glad it was outside—we could hose it off after it was done.
Bob: I want to ask both of you about the relational dynamic of the Thanksgiving meal; because when you’re raising your kids, you’re controlling that dynamic to a certain extent.
Bob: You’re kind of deciding what the priorities are going to be, and you’re directing what’s going to go on that day. When your kids become adult kids, and families get together for an extended family Thanksgiving, as you’re talking about doing here in a couple of weeks, there can be some drama that comes with that.
Bob: There can be some listeners who think: “I used to love Thanksgiving; but now, it just feels like we’re walking on eggshells with everybody. We know what topics not to bring up. Sure enough, somebody’s going to say something that’s going to hurt someone else’s feelings.
We’re going to have—instead of a wonderful blessed Thanksgiving—we’re going to look at each other and go, ‘Why does it always go south for us?’”
Dennis: I’ve got three words for you.
Dennis: “It’s a family.”
Barbara: And I have a word—and that is, “We’ve been there too.” We’ve had some Thanksgivings, where kids weren’t excited about doing the story; they didn’t want to write what they were thankful for; or they were just not doing well. They made it real clear that they weren’t doing well.
In those times—what I’ve noticed that we’ve had to do, as our family has gotten older—when our children were at home, as you said, we controlled the environment / we controlled the situation. They may have rolled their eyes / they may have complained; but we read the story and everyone wrote what they were thankful for. But now that they’re married, and now that they have children, and they all gather together, we can’t manage that / we can’t control that.
I pick out really short portions of the story; and we read maybe three paragraphs if it’s really crazy like the day we had Thanksgiving out on the deck. Sometimes, we read a little bit more.
It helps now that our oldest grandkids are old enough that they can pick up the book and read it. So, in the last three or four years—maybe five—we’ve had our grandkids read the story. That helps them pay attention, and the parents are real proud that their kids are reading. They are supportive because, you know, “My daughter” or “My son is reading the book to everybody, and I’m going to support that.”
So, you know, it has changed and evolved. We’re at a different place than we were when it was just us with our six at home, but it still works.
Bob: But here’s more what I’m thinking about—I’m thinking about this gathering including one adult child, who’s making choices that mom and dad are heartbroken about.
Bob: Another adult child, who’s not getting along with a sibling.
Barbara: Another one; yes.
Bob: Another adult child, who’s coming here and, if the subject of politics comes, it’s going to be a war, especially with what this year’s election cycle has looked like.
Bob: And you just think: “Well, it’s no wonder that we talk about the weather and football; because if we get into anything that feels meaningful, we could have real drama on our hands. Everybody gets their feelings hurt, and everybody goes isolated to one corner of the house, and nobody talks to anybody anymore.”
Barbara: But to me, that’s even more reason to help everyone focus on gratitude.
If you have the questions—the ribbon questions that we were talking about earlier—and you just help everyone say just one thing that they’re grateful for—even the kids that are not getting along can find something for which they’re grateful, and they can share it—even if it’s just a word or two.
Bob: What are you trying to say or do?
Dennis: I’m picking up the “Untie Your Story.” I’m thinking of how these 12 napkin ties, that have 12 different questions, can do the exact same thing you’re talking about and direct the conversation—and lift it out of, maybe, self-absorption, or being hurt, or being disappointed, or having a pity party.
Here’s the thing—if you’re waiting for the perfect moment for a family, you’re going to be waiting a long time if you’ve got very many family members.
Dennis: Honestly, a family is a group of imperfect people. Just look at the families in the Bible! I mean, they’re not painted with airbrush and with Photoshop® colors—they’re painted, warts and all.
Dennis: And I think we need to learn to accept—I know that’s hard for certain moms and dads, listening to this right now—grandparents. They so want peace in their family.
Dennis: I get that—I want it, too; but we just have to learn to settle for less, maybe, than what we wanted—not correct everyone / not try to straighten it all out—but allow God to take up residence / to show up there. Ask the family members some meaningful questions, and let them answer.
Barbara: And I think, too, as the mom and dad—or as the grandma and the grandpa who are hosting—I think we have an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ.
When we’re griping and we’re not doing well, and when we’re not getting along with each other—say Dennis and I aren’t—God doesn’t stop loving us. He doesn’t stop being intentional toward us. He doesn’t go away. I think that creating an atmosphere that intentionally loves and turns people’s hearts toward gratitude, which is what Thanksgiving is about, is a very good thing, even if you don’t get the response that you long to get. We’re still mimicking what God has called us to do, which is to be a thankful people. To me, that trumps everybody’s bad attitudes.
Bob: Well, here’s where your napkin ribbons help with that; because the questions you’re asking on the napkin ribbons—that everybody can answer—are going to direct the conversation in a direction that is going to be affirming—
Bob: —that’s going to be positive / that’s going to have people talking about positive things rather than bickering with one another. You can’t control that, but you can steer things; and that’s what you do with the napkin ribbons.
Bob: You steer things in a direction of thankfulness and gratitude rather than a direction of, “What am I frustrated about?” or “What am I griping about today?”
Dennis: And that’s what she does in the book, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember—that directs families to write down on a card, “Looking back over the past year, what are the five things you’re most thankful for in 2016?”
Bob: “Laura,” “Laura,” “Laura,” “Laura,” “Laura.” [Laughter]
Dennis: We know how Josh is going to answer the question!
Bob: Just in case he’s listening.
Dennis: Yes; that’s exactly right.
But those cards really do become a history of God’s work in your family’s life. I’m going to tell you something—those cards today allow us to get a snapshot of a year—and a summary—in a way you don’t forget. That’s one of our problems, as a family—we forget God’s goodness. We forget to celebrate it. It’s why Thanksgiving is Barbara’s favorite holiday; and I’d have to say—has become mine.
Bob: Well, I think that’s pretty easy to see when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and you see all of the resources Barbara has created for Thanksgiving—the “Untie Your Story” napkin wraps; the “Gather Me” placemats; the banner that says, “We Give Thanks.” There’s a lot that you have created to help families maintain a heart of gratitude during the Thanksgiving season.
I would encourage our listeners—go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about all of these resources. The book Barbara has written called Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember —it is available online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request your copy of the book. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com, and our toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
We want to send anniversary greetings today to Douglas and Kathy Thames, who live in Charleston, South Carolina. They are celebrating 43 years together as husband and wife.
So “Congratulations!” on your anniversary today.
Anniversaries matter—they’re a big deal. Here at FamilyLife, we’re celebrating 40 years of ministry to couples. Over those four decades, God has used this ministry in the lives of hundreds of thousands—actually, millions of couples, all around the world—who have been to our events, tuned in to this radio program, visited our website, used our resources.
When you invest in the ministry of FamilyLife Today, you’re investing in helping marriages and families thrive—go the distance with joy. We want to see couples anchored in Christ as they live out their marriage together. You help make that happen when you support FamilyLife Today.
If you can help with a donation today, we’d love to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a resource you can use with elementary-aged children. Actually, preschool and early elementary-aged kids are the perfect audience for “The Twelve Names of Christmas,” a dozen ornaments for children designed to highlight different names of Christ and help them learn about who Jesus is as they hang the ornaments on the Christmas tree this year.
“The Twelve Names of Christmas” is our thank-you gift when you donate at FamilyLifeToday.com, or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Or you can mail your donation and request the ornaments—write to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, we’ve got a lot of couples who are going to be spending the weekend with us this weekend at one of our seven Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways taking place in different parts of the country: Destin, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; South Padre Island, Texas; Estes Park, Colorado; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Cedar Rapids; and Bellingham, Washington. Be praying for those couples and for the events that are taking place this weekend.
If you’d like to join us at an upcoming Weekend to Remember getaway, we still have several events happening this month and early next month as well.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more, or call if you have any questions at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for today. Thanks for joining us. I hope you have a great weekend! I hope you and your family are able to worship together in church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back again on Monday. We’re going to continue our conversation about Thanksgiving in your home and how you can make it a very special time for your family. Barbara Rainey will be back—hope you can be as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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