By Shari McMinn
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16 ESV)
Oftentimes, children who are unique learners have special challenges that make them very self-focused. It is a conundrum for parents to simultaneously focus on their child’s issues while not making that child become the center of the family universe. My husband and I faced this dilemma with several of our children who had significant learning delays and emotional disturbances. It was a struggle for our other children to put up with their very needy siblings, especially when it always seemed that we had to address their behavioral issues before we could give attention to the less needy children.
One way we addressed this issue was by teaching all of our children to have a grateful heart for even the most basic things like fresh air, clean drinking water, loving family members, and our Christian faith. We would often put thankfulness as a top priority in the way we prayed and spoke in general conversation. It was especially difficult after my husband died unexpectedly because that loss was monumental for all of us and it was a challenge to find anything to be grateful about in the aftermath. Within a few years of his death, one of my teenage daughters was killed, so there was seemingly even less to be thankful for.
One of the things we were always most thankful for was simply being together. I would say, and my children eventually began to repeat this affirmation, “At least we are together.” That became a family motto no matter what happened to us. We would say it while driving in terrible weather-related road conditions, during long bouts of sicknesses, when farm animals died, if food was limited, as a school day went sour, if someone offended our family with careless words, even when a holiday reminded us of the death of our beloved Dad or sister. No matter what befell us, “At least we are together,” would be comforting that day.
If you think about it, no matter how dire the situation is, we can indeed be thankful for those who love us enough to remain living life together with us every day. Yes, there may be quarrels and conflict among family members, but who has your back when the going gets rough? Hopefully, parents and siblings top the list of loving support and we can always be grateful for them.
Being thankful for family can be the most basic gratitude there is. During your Thanksgiving meal tomorrow, discuss with those around your banquet table who they are thankful for. Grandma that lived another year after a serious illness? Sister who assists with the younger kids? Brother who helps as chore team leader? Mom who works tirelessly to homeschool and keep the house a loving refuge? Dad who works hard to pay the bills and is fun to play with? Beloved Aunt and Uncle who show up for every family celebration and generously bring treats?
Raising and homeschooling children with special needs can be draining for parents. I often found that my children with special needs focused on their negative life aspects more than the things that were a blessing from God. When we can instill in our children a grateful heart for simple things, they can have a more positive outlook on their life and a hope for what they can accomplish. It is important to train our children to be thankful in all circumstances, knowing that others in the world have less opportunity or material possessions than we do, even if we live modestly. To know Jesus Christ as our Savior, to live in America, to have a loving family, to be able to homeschool — these are all privileges to be thankful for year round. Because of each, we have great freedom and blessing.
At your Thanksgiving banquet table or another meal later this week, I encourage you to practice this simple way to thank God for the important things in your life. Legend has it that the Pilgrims did this during later Thanksgivings when food was less plentiful. You can learn more about the Thanksgiving Five Kernels of Corn Tradition here.
A. Give each person at your meal table a small cup or dish with five corn kernels.
B. Before feasting, have each person verbally share five things they are thankful for, such as:
- Something about outdoor nature during the autumn season.
- Something about love for one another.
- Something about God’s loving care of us.
- Something about one of our friends.
- Something about the freedom we have.
C. Let what was shared become the basis for a grateful and positive conversation as you enjoy your meal together. It is so easy to complain about what is going on in the world, instead of verbally affirming what God is doing in everyone’s life through His abundant blessings.
D. Let this set the stage for the coming Christmas season by having a grateful heart toward the Creator who made us all, everything we have, and sent His Son as baby Jesus to eventually die on the cross at Calvary for our sins.
Pastor Dr. David Jeremiah is known to have said this and I heartily agree, “No matter what our circumstances, we can find a reason to be thankful.”1
Happy Thanksgiving! Watch for my next blog, “Peacefully Navigating the New Year,” which will be posted on December 27, 2023 (the 4th Wednesday).
P.S. If you have a topic I should write about, please email me with your suggestion(s). This blog is for you!
Shari McMinn, your trusted homeschooling friend