Giving Thanks for the Small Things

The nine years that I spent living in the Midwest taught me to love the fall—the beauty of the changing colors, the crispness of the morning air, the promise of time slowing down with family during the holidays.

In just a week Thanksgiving will be upon us. Many of us don’t live in places with fall colors or crisp morning air. Some of us do not enjoy the luxury of time slowing down with family. For others the holiday season will be marked with grief or sadness, perhaps the first spent without a particular family member or loved one. It is not always easy to give thanks.

In the book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?”

I wonder how many times I have missed the beauty of ordinary, small gifts because I never slowed down. I was too busy working or praying or worrying about the big things. As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 for us to not be anxious and not to seek after things that hold little significance. The chapter ends with Jesus calling his followers to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” and if we do, he promises “all these things will be added to you.”

I hope that you and your family will take the time to slow down during this Thanksgiving season. I hope that God will see fit to entrust great things to our families because we also thankfully receive from him the little things.

Here are some thought provoking questions regarding thankfulness to think about as a family (taken from Living into Community by Christine D. Pohl):

  • What rituals or rhythms of gratitude could your family establish that would keep you mindful of the importance of gratitude?
  • How can you work within your family to create a culture of noticing what is good in everyday life (the little things to be thankful for)?
  • What are you doing, as a family, that you could build on to deepen the practice of gratitude?