FamilyLife Today®

Thankful Family Life, Part 1

with Dennis and Barbara Rainey | November 6, 2014
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Hard to believe it's that time again! Time for Barbara Rainey's official and most favorite holiday, Thanksgiving! Join us for a special look back at Thanksgivings past and present at the Rainey house.

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  • Hard to believe it's that time again! Time for Barbara Rainey's official and most favorite holiday, Thanksgiving! Join us for a special look back at Thanksgivings past and present at the Rainey house.

Hard to believe it’s that time again! Time for Barbara Rainey’s official and most favorite holiday, Thanksgiving! Join us for a special look back at Thanksgivings past and present at the Rainey house.

Thankful Family Life, Part 1

With Dennis and Barbara Rainey
November 06, 2014
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Bob: Most people focus Thanksgiving on the big meal—the turkey. At the Rainey house, on Thanksgiving Day, there are two big meals. There’s a big breakfast ahead of the turkey, and Barbara Rainey says there is a good reason for that.

Barbara: There is something about our Thanksgiving morning celebration that has become such a tradition that we all look forward to it. We all sort of start thinking ahead of time what we are grateful for, and everyone really is genuinely appreciative of one another and of what God has provided for us. It brings—it’s that moment of perspective that we all, as parents, long for—wish we could have all the time, but we don’t.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, November 6th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to hear about the food / the fun—all that goes on at the Rainey house on Thanksgiving Day—maybe, give you a few ideas on your own Thanksgiving celebration. Stay tuned.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. I was rummaging around in the audio vault the other day. Do you ever go into the audio vault and listen to—

Dennis: I have not. Where is it?  [Laughter] 

Bob: It’s a cyber-vault.

Dennis: Okay.

Bob: It’s accessible through your computer.

Dennis: Okay.

Bob: And you can—

Dennis: You’ve been visiting there a lot recently? 

Bob: Well, I’ve just been—I’ve been finding some of the archived programs from yesteryear—you know—

Dennis: Yes.

Bob: —from back in the early days of FamilyLife Today. One of the programs I found was one of the first times we ever talked about how you guys celebrate Thanksgiving—

Dennis: Oh, that’s one of my favorites.

Bob: —at your house. I mean, I didn’t realize when we first sat down to talk about it that we were walking into something that was huge at your house.

Dennis: Well, it’s because of my bride, Barbara, who joins us here on FamilyLife Today that it became—

Bob: Huge.


Dennis: —huge, and I became—

Bob: Just call it what it is—huge.

Dennis: It’s huge, and I became the king—the king of Thanksgiving.

Bob: I was going to say—

Dennis: And if you want to find out how I became the king of Thanksgiving, listen carefully to today’s broadcast.

Bob: I thought you were going to say, you became huge, too, as a result of Thanksgiving—[Laughter]—because between the Company French Toast and the turkey—

Dennis: Yes.

Barbara: And the turkey.

Bob: —it does have that impact on folks.

Dennis: It does have that.

Bob: Barbara, welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Barbara: Thanks, Bob.

Bob: One of the reasons we are drawing attention to Thanksgiving this week is, of course, because it’s coming up in a few weeks—but because you’ve been working on resources for families to use during the Thanksgiving season. This is an opportunity to make gratitude an issue in your home—

Barbara: That’s right.

Bob: —and wouldn’t that be nice if our kids—

Barbara: It would be so nice.

Bob: —if our kids were just a little more grateful. Wouldn’t that be nice? 

Barbara: It would be, and maybe, if moms and dads were too. But you know, if you help your kids focus on being grateful, you can learn the lessons with them.

Bob: So, tell us about what you’ve been working on that is designed with Thanksgiving in mind as a part of the Ever Thine Home® collection.



Barbara: Well, we have been working to create resources that help parents focus on gratitude with their kids because we naturally / culturally think about the topic of being thankful around Thanksgiving and being grateful during the month of November. Rather than waiting for Thanksgiving Day and hoping, by some miracle, your kids automatically become more grateful, the better route is take the initiative, as a parent, and find some ways that you can broach the topic and begin to teach your children about the importance of being grateful and why it’s important.

Bob: So, you have a resource called “Written and Remembered”—

Barbara: That’s right.

Bob: —that has that as its centerpiece; right? 

Barbara: That’s correct. “Written and Remembered” is a small book with four stories in it. Each of those stories is about somebody who had a grateful attitude—some person who, in difficult circumstances or unusual circumstances, chose to be grateful.


That’s really the crux of the issue in gratitude. It’s easy to be grateful when you feel good. It’s easy to be grateful on your birthday and when you’re getting all the attention; but it’s not so easy to be grateful when you’re sick, or when you’re hurting, or when circumstances aren’t turning out the way you want.

In the book that comes with “Written and Remembered,” I’ve highlighted four heroes of the faith—I call them—who, in difficult circumstances, chose to give thanks to God and to become a grateful person. I wish I had had this when my kids were growing up—to have read these stories to them because it does something to your frame of reference to hear about someone, like Joni Eareckson Tada, for instance, whose story is number one.

Joni is confined and has been confined to a wheelchair since she was 17 years old. Yet, she is one of the most grateful people I have ever met in my entire life. I would have liked for my kids to have understood that when they were growing up because it would have helped them go:



“Well, maybe my life isn’t so bad after all. Maybe, my circumstances aren’t so hard. Maybe, it’s not such a big deal that my friend at school decided not to be my friend anymore.” 

I think if moms and dads have something—a tool / a resource—that can help them engage with their kids around the topic of gratitude, it’s much more productive than saying, “Would you just be grateful for what you’ve got?!”  I mean, that doesn’t really accomplish a lot. If we take them into an experience of someone else—and then, they can understand that gratitude is really preferable to complaining—they are a lot more likely to catch it, and then, be more grateful.

Bob: “Written and Remembered” is not simply a storybook with four stories in it. That’s really the catalyst to what you are hoping the activity for families will be; right? 

Barbara: That’s right. After you read the story, there is an activity to do together to understand the concept of gratitude. One of the activities with one of the other books is to write, on postcards, a message of thanks or a message of gratitude to everybody that you can think of who serves you and helps you on a regular basis—



—so, write a note of thanks to a teacher at school, write a note of thanks to the person who delivers your mail, write a note of thanks to the bus driver, or your grandmother, or the babysitter, or the child care worker—whomever. There are a host of people in all of our lives who serve us in ways that we often don’t recognize.

So, the application—for story number three, I believe it is—is to write postcards and send postcards—or hand deliver them to these people and say, “I really appreciate what you do for us.”  That is a way to grow gratitude because it takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them on someone else and what someone else is doing for us. When we say, “Thank you,” it, not only is a good exercise for us, but it encourages the other person.

Bob: Well, I hope our listeners will take some time and go to and see what you’ve been working on—designed for Thanksgiving.



I thought we ought to spend a little time listening to what we talked about—this is more than a decade ago—back when you still had a lot of kids at home and, I think, only one of your kids was married. This is when Thanksgiving was still pretty vibrant at your house—not that it is not today—but, I mean, everyone was home. We sat down to talk about what it looked like at your house.

[Previously Aired]

Bob: You know, I was talking just the other day with your oldest daughter—with Ashley Escue. She said—we were talking about Thanksgiving, which is coming up here in a few weeks—and she said: “Oh, my mom is the queen of Thanksgiving. She is so excited.”  She said, “It’s her favorite holiday.”  Is that right?

Dennis: I think it would be.

Bob: Really?

Dennis: No doubt about—well, ask her. She’s right across the table. [Laughter]

Bob: We don’t have to pretend like she’s not here.

Barbara: That’s right.

Bob: Is it your favorite holiday?

Barbara: Yes, it is.

Bob: Beats Christmas? 



Beats Easter?

Barbara: Yes.

Dennis: Oh, hands down.

Barbara: Yes.

Bob: Why?

Barbara: Because it’s not as commercial and because it’s uniquely American. It’s got a strong spiritual basis / strong spiritual roots. It’s all about being thankful, but it’s not commercialized; and it is very family-focused. You don’t have all the stress of Christmas and gifts and all that stuff that become very distracting to the real meaning.

Dennis: You know, when I was thinking about why Barbara and I both like Thanksgiving—it’s the one day a year when our family really, truly focuses on giving thanks. I’m going to read a verse that, for a number of years, was a verse that we quoted quite frequently to our children when they were younger, growing up. Philippians, Chapter 2—

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: —verse 14—

Bob: I know this verse.

Dennis: —“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”  [Laughter]



You know, I don’t think our family is unique in this, but I think our children struggle a little bit extra—or did, at least, when they were growing up— with being negative about one another and, occasionally, about life and chores—

Barbara: And parents.

Dennis:  —and parents. That’s true.

Barbara: They don’t like their parents sometimes.

Dennis: And this verse, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing…”  For just a few sacred moments, on Thanksgiving morning, they’re all at a table—it’s glorious! 

I did a little study on my Biblesoft computer program, Bob—

Bob: Yes? 

Dennis: —on my computer and found out that the word, “thanksgiving,” is mentioned, I think, about 25 or 30 times and the word, “thanks,” is over 100 times—and “praise” over 200 times. And you know, those words—thanksgiving, thanks, praise—all have one thing in common—they are God-focused.

And I think for Thanksgiving to truly have its meaning—



—it’s not a matter of just looking, horizontally, at all that God has given us / done for us, and the generosity of relationships in our lives and with our family—although that’s all a part of it / you can’t deny that—but it is about lifting our hearts upward toward God to thank Him for who He is and His character, to thank Him for being the Lord God, and to just pause for a few moments out of 365 days and to truly ponder about those things that we should give thanks for. 

Bob: Was it a conscious effort on your part, Barbara, to say, “We’re going to make something special out of Thanksgiving;” or did it just evolve over time?

Barbara: Well, actually, it really evolved. But I think it started because I was home schooling our kids. As a part of our home schooling, we were getting these books, and I was trying to teach history. I just sort of did a lot of reading and became aware of the fact that this was really a fun holiday.

But I did it initially because I wanted the eight of us to have some time together alone without extended family / without friends.



I wanted us to have a little bit of time on that day to be together and to focus on what we were grateful for.

Bob: Do you remember—Dennis, did the two of you talk about “Let’s do something special to celebrate Thanksgiving”; or did Barbara just do it, and you kind of went, “Oh, we’re doing something a little different here”? 

Dennis: Well, you know, we’ve always used the dinner table as an opportunity to build family but also celebrate uniqueness in people / in family members around the table. So, I think what happened around Thanksgiving is—I think this kind of started evolving as we began to celebrate what we were truly grateful for—we were used to sharing things around the table.

So, when Barbara started initiating some of the more formal aspects of reading certain passages from history books, and reading from the Bible, and then passing around note cards and having them write down their blessings—I think it became something of a tradition that now is truly one of the high points of our year.



I think you could call any one of our family members and they would tell you that, indeed, Thanksgiving is a great family time for us.

Bob: Do you ever get the kids going: “I don’t—do we have to do this, Mom?  I don’t want to do this.”  Or do they embrace this assignment pretty happily? 

Barbara: We went around and shared what we were thankful for—and Laura was probably one or two the first year we started doing it. She wouldn’t even have anything to say. I’d just give them some crayons and paper and let them scribble.

But then, we started—all of a sudden, one year it dawned on me: “The kids are saying some really fun things that I’d like to remember,” and occasionally something profound. And so, I just started—the first year, jotting down on—because I let the kids make little place cards out of three-by-five cards and stickers—nothing fancy—

Bob: Right.

Barbara: —for our Thanksgiving meal together. We just jotted it down on those little cards. And then, I sort of started graduating to something fancier.

Dennis: Here’s my card right here.

Barbara: They’re pretty simple—the originals. [Laughter]

Dennis: Dennis Lee Rainey. Dennis is spelled D-I-N-N-E-S. [Laughter]



Wonder who the home school teacher was on that day?

Bob: I wouldn’t have spelled it much better when I was that age.

Barbara: I didn’t give them a grade on spelling for this.

Bob: Well, those were little table cards, and then, tied to that—this goes back to 1993. What were you thankful for in 1993?

Dennis: Well, let me read this because this is pretty emotional, right off the bat— and you don’t do this all in order. You actually go around the circle / around the family—

Barbara: Five times.

Dennis: —five times. You get to share one at a time; and everybody kind of celebrates each person’s Thanksgiving list. My first one was Barbara—“I love her. She’s a great and godly wife. There’s a job where I can teach the Scriptures and challenge others to follow Christ,”—that was what I was thankful for. “Third, two little girls and a new teenage daughter that I have the challenge of loving for several years”—that’s a great thing to be grateful for. “For Ashley coming home and our family being together again,”—she’d been away at college; and so, Ashley was home.


And then, the one that was emotional that I listed on this Thanksgiving Day in 1993—“For Samuel’s response to his muscular dystrophy.”  Actually, Bob, listing them here, that was the first thing I thought of and listed on that. And I looked up Samuel’s card. His list contained Ashley coming home. He was grateful for his family. Third—and this is a 13-/14-year-old boy, at this point—he was thankful for MD and Mayo Clinic. And his list goes on from there, including being thankful for a great brother.

And, you know, those are moments in your family when you are commanded in Scripture to give thanks—even for the trials, the tragedies, and the disappointments that come your way, as a family.

Bob: So, you’ve been collecting these; right?

Barbara: Well, the earliest ones I can find, anyway, are from ’93.

Bob: This is one of those envelopes that if the house was on fire—

Barbara: Yes, I would run and get it.



Yes, it’s that one moment in the year when everybody appreciates everybody else; because when we do these spontaneous things, through the year, somebody goes: “Oh, do we have to say what we’re thankful for?  Do we have to say we like So-and-so?” because it’s just in the middle of life. 

But there’s something about our Thanksgiving morning celebration that’s become such a tradition—that we all look forward to it—we all sort of start thinking ahead of time what we’re grateful for. Everyone really is genuinely appreciative of one another and of what God has provided for us. It brings—it’s that moment of perspective that we all, as parents, long for—that we wish we could have all the time, but we don’t.

Bob: Back in ’93, some of your kids were still in the single digits; right? 

Dennis: Oh, yes.

Bob: Eight / nine years old?  What kinds of things were they thankful for?

Dennis: Well, here’s Deborah—who, at the time, was just about ten. She was grateful for: “…my best friend, Laura. Number two: to have a family. Number three: to go to church. Number four: to have a home. Number five: to praise Jesus.” 


Bob: Now, that’s all pretty simple stuff—

Barbara: Real simple.

Bob: —and not necessarily anything that they’d look back and go, “Yes, that was a highlight of my year.”  In fact, it was probably the first thing that popped into her mind—

Barbara: Exactly.

Bob: —and she wrote it down.

Barbara: That’s exactly right.

Bob: It’s not about what they’re writing down—it’s about cultivating a habit of the heart; isn’t it? 

Barbara: That’s right—it’s helping them focus on what’s really important in life. We have to train our kids to do that because they’re naturally not going to do that. Of course, we don’t either.

Dennis: You know—the Psalms say—Psalm 95:2: “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving.” 

Bob: Right.

Dennis: “Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms, for the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods.” 

And I began to list some of the things associated with Thanksgiving. If you think about it—these are all things we associate with the day of Thanksgiving—hymns / songs. It mentions in Scripture—sacrifice, an offering, prayer. But most importantly, the thing that appears most in Scripture is that of an attitude.



And I think it’s the core of worship.

And, you know, Bob, it may be—when we get to heaven—we may find out that the day we were closest to truly worshipping God was on Thanksgiving because we forgot ourselves and lifted our hearts heavenward to thank God for Mommy, Daddy, brother, sister, our family, good health, a church.

I just think it’s a very healthy exercise. In fact, just in reviewing all of what we’ve experienced around the holiday of Thanksgiving, it made me wonder: “Why don’t we do this more often?—because it’s so healthy, it’s so refreshing, and it’s so encouraging.

As you know, in raising a family of five children, there are a lot of moments that are not—

Bob: Aren’t refreshing or encouraging; yes. [Laughter]

Dennis: They wear us down; you know?  And I got to tell you—



—we always leave the table—full of Barbara’s Company French Toast—and full of gratefulness to God for one another. There’s just a camaraderie and a kindred spirit around our family that is indescribable. It’s what a family is all about.

Bob: Giving thanks, just by its very nature, is a way of acknowledging that someone else is responsible for the good things in my life. When we give thanks, we’re really looking outward and saying, “I owe this to somebody else.”

Barbara: Right.

Bob: “I’m not responsible for this.”  And that’s why, as you said, Dennis, it’s so good for us to get our attention and our focus put in a different direction and spend every day—but, at least, one day a year calling the family back away from self-focus and back toward a focus on the Source of all goodness.

Dennis: Yes. I’ve got to mention this because Barbara started this with her emphasis on home schooling, which she was doing when we first started the exercise.



Here’s one in 1996 when, I think, you were home schooling Laura. Laura wrote, at that time—she was 11 years old / 12: “I’m thankful for Mom because she is so awesome to teach Deborah and I.” [Laughter]

Bob: It should have been “Deborah and me.”

Barbara: Yes.


Bob: It’s fun to listen back to what we—

Barbara: It’s funny.

Bob: —talked about—in fact, this was—it was interesting for me—this was back when you were still reading somebody else’s book at Thanksgiving. This was before you had written the book that you wrote called Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember.

Barbara: That’s right. It was. Yes, I had this book that I had marked up certain pages and certain stories that I thought would be most interesting to my kids. That actually became the basis for writing the book, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember.

Bob: And that book has gone on to sell tens of thousands of copies. A lot of families use that as a part of their Thanksgiving meal every year.


Barbara: It’s really been fun to see because it is an easy way to read and to tell the story about the first few years of the Thanksgiving story.

Dennis: There are really two reasons why I think it’s successful. One is you offer families a short-read—that can be done in about 20 minutes. And then, a more full-blown version of the Pilgrims’ story that takes over 30/35 minutes. Families have a different amount of time that they can spend at the table.

Bob: Different attention span.

Dennis: No doubt about it.

Barbara: That’s right.

Bob: You have to have them put the smartphones away while you’re eating. [Laughter]

Dennis: We’ve read this on our deck. I don’t know—did we have all the grandkids there? 

Barbara: All but two. And we did—we read maybe two or three minutes worth because we had so many people and so many kids that even reading the 20-minute short version was completely out of the question.

Dennis: The other reason I like this is because it allows you—and we mentioned this—but it allows you to capture moments in your family that, frankly, you’re going to forget.



But if you record them, like we were just sharing, you’ll have them to be able to share. That was fun. We pulled out some old—people won’t know what this is—but a VHS tape / an old video tape—and we were showing some birthday parties—except this is much easier. This is easier to access because you’ve got to go to Goodwill or to a thrift store—

Barbara: Get some old equipment.

Dennis: —to find a VHS player for a TV.

Bob: We do have copies of Barbara’s book available still. It has not gone out of format, yet. If our listeners are interested, they can get a copy of Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember. In fact, we’ve got some special offers on the book going on right now. You can go to and click the link in the upper left-hand corner that says, “GO DEEPER,” and get more information about Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember. You’ll also see a link for some of the resources Barbara has been working on in her Ever Thine Home collection—



—resources you can use during the Thanksgiving holiday season to cultivate a heart of gratitude in your children.

Again, go to and click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Get a copy of Barbara’s book and check out some of the resources she’s been working on. Or if you’d like to order copies of Barbara’s book or other resources from us, our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” 

You know, something we are grateful for, here at FamilyLife, is you—those of you who tune in and listen to this program each day—pass the word along to your friend. If you hear a particularly program, you want to share it with somebody—you post a link on Twitter or on Facebook; or you send an email to your friends and say, “You ought to check this out.” 

In fact, I got an email, this morning, from a friend of mine who said: “I just heard a recent program. I’m going to share it with my friends because I thought it was outstanding.” 


That’s always encouraging—to hear from folks when there is a particular program that God uses to minister in your life.

And we are also grateful for those folks who make FamilyLife Today possible—those of you who help support this ministry. We are listener-supported, which means, if it weren’t for donations from folks, like you, all that we’ve talked about here today could never happen—the resources, the website, this program—all of it would evaporate if it weren’t for folks, like you, who pitch in to help make FamilyLife Today possible. So, thanks for your support.

And if you can make a donation today, we’d like to express our thanks by sending you one of Barbara’s resources—her “Untie Your Story” napkin wraps that can be used at any meal where you’ve got friends coming over and you want to spark some lively conversation. It’s our thank-you gift when you go to, click in the upper right-hand corner where it says, “I Care,” and make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make a donation to support FamilyLife Today and ask for the “Untie Your Story” napkin wraps when you do that.


Or you can mail a donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223. And when you get in touch with us, make sure to let us know you’d like those napkin wraps; and we’ll get them sent back to you.

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk more about how we can work, as moms and dads, to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in the hearts of our kids. Hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and 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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Episodes in this Series

Being Thankful 2
Thankful Family Life, Part 2
with Dennis and Barbara Rainey November 7, 2014
Dennis and Barbara Rainey encourage parents to nurture their children's gratitude by practicing gratefulness during the upcoming holiday.
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