Family.

Fuzzy socks.

A hot cup of coffee.

The opportunity for a fresh start.

Our healthy family, together, safely at home.

This is just scratching the surface on the things I am grateful for. Gratitude is something I intentionally pursue in my life, it is something I cling to. Gratitude is something I grow.

November naturally invites us into a season of thankfulness. As we anticipate our plans for Thanksgiving, our hearts are beckoned into a place of reflection and introspection. But directly competing with this gentle pull is our quick-paced world and over-packed schedules. Not to mention, contentious elections, ongoing discussion of the pandemic, and tragedy sufficient to sink The Titanic.

We owe it to ourselves to insert a well-placed pause in our lives that is fully dedicated to gratitude. In that quiet space we’ll find our resolve renewed and our hearts refreshed.

Maybe you’re thinking, “But Caitlyn, isn’t that the point of Thanksgiving?” Yes and no.

Thanksgiving absolutely centers around thankfulness – clearly. But if yours is like mine, it is also full of great food, laughter, football, and family. All things I’m deeply thankful for – but also things that keep me in an active place of motion. What I’m encouraging you to do is step into stillness. An intentional slow down centered on gratitude. 

A Family Activity Focused on Gratitude

Our family has an annual activity that is a great tool for fostering gratitude in us all. We make a family gratitude pumpkin! This small-sized pumpkin then becomes the centerpiece on our table throughout November. You don’t need much to make this happen – your risk for a “Pinterest Fail” is very low with this project.

Get a small-sized pumpkin, a black sharpie, and gather your crew. Sit down together and reflect on things you are thankful for. As you share, write each word or phrase on the pumpkin. When you finish, you’ll have a beautiful seasonal decoration adorned with words and phrases that represent the many things you have to be thankful for.

I love seeing the cute things our kids come up with but also the deep places they go, as they consider the blessings they have in their lives. This year Peyton’s addition of “kind people” put a smile on my face – it was so simple yet so profound. Harper instantly mentioned her teacher Ms. Cox and also her favorite food, Sushi. I loved watching their minds and hearts consider what they could add to our pumpkin.

Your Own Focus on Gratitude

Now it is time to make this season of gratitude about you. Find time, even just 10 minutes, get out a journal and pen (put up the devices!) and write a list of all the things you are thankful for. Start big (family, friends, faith) and work down to the tiny details (sour gummy worms!). If it is hard to get going, use the list your family created on your pumpkin as a starting point.

In this exercise I feel certain you will feel your heart swell. Your eyes may even get misty as you shift your focus from the challenges, struggles, and needs in your life to the gifts, blessings, and provision in your life. 

The next day, carve out another 10 minutes to reflect on what that exercise in gratitude taught you. What did you learn about yourself? How did you feel your mood and attitude change as you rested in your blessings and the goodness that surrounds you? What I’m hoping you find is that this exercise in gratitude is worth repeating year round.

Don’t relegate gratitude to a “November-only”activity. Make it beautiful hum in the background of your everyday. Make gratitude the place your eyes rest and the focal point that everything else rotates around. Gratitude is reframing – refocusing – refreshing. Gratitude is worth growing.

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