Counting My Gratefulness…round two

A year ago or so I wrote this post.

Last year I was…

whining, complaining, surviving – and then God smacked me over the head with pictures on Facebook of others who were far-off worse than myself. Families who had lost their homes, lost family, lost everything. That was the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines.

I hung up a “Blessings” poster on the wall. I got the whole family involved… some evenings might have involved some twisting of arms, but they did it. It was so good for us all!

I wanted, and still do want,  my kids to have a thankful heart – to be grateful without me telling them that they should be. I don’t want them complaining about the small stuff. That chart, I believe, has helped all of us to find something each day to be grateful for.

And this evening, I’m grateful that my kids are usually….

  • happy to get a piece of chewy-type candy from our guard (really he is just an elderly man who sits on first floor to sign for mail). I’m grateful that they don’t complain about not getting the imported candy.
  • super stoked, though, for the times they do get the imported candy.
  • always excited about a bag of new-to-them clothes (read secondhand).
  • most of the time grateful for whatever is put on the table to eat.
  • happy to do odd jobs for little cash – they’re learning to appreciate the value of saving money.

I don’t have perfect children, by any stretch of the imagination. They are normal children who are sometimes ungrateful, who whine, who try to bribe me to get their way, who disobey, who test my nerves – but they have their shining moments. And it is in those shining moments that I can see God working in their life. That He is walking them through the process of life – and teaching them to be thankful. I know He’s been teaching me!

By the way…..here’s a recent picture of our Blessing Chart from last year. I’m pretty sure I’ll be putting up a new one at the beginning of the calendar year. I believe we’ve just started a new tradition.

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What do you do to teach your kids to be thankful? 

I’m linking up with Velvet Ashes this week at The Groove. This week’s theme is “Thank You!”

Counting My ….

A few months ago we moved to a new apartment. There are things that I like about the new place. For one it is just a three minute walk from where I work and the kids go to school and it has a fair amount of storage space.

And I like this….

We have a small entrance way into our apartment.

We have a small entrance way into our apartment.

And this…

This Japanese Tea room is now the play room for the girls. If it's too messy, just shut the doors.

This Japanese Tea room is now the play room for the girls. If it’s too messy, just shut the doors.

But that is it – really. That is ALL that I like about it. I don’t like that the bathrooms are not big enough for a bathtub. Or that the living room is SUPER dark – think cave. And, please keep in mind that I am not new to Asia, but having six neighbors – and this is not including those living below or above us – living so so close makes me almost crazy. I’m talking so close that I can reach out and water the plants in the window of one neighbor and wash the windows of my other neighbor.

Don’t believe me? Check these out.

I can water your plants for you....

Our windows almost touch…and opposite side is the kitchen to another neighbor.

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I could almost wash the windows off my balcony.

This is what I’ve been whining about for the past few months since moving here. There have been other things that I’ve whined about, but this was what caught my attention to how LAME I had been. As soon as the photos started coming in from the Philippines, my head hung in shame. “At least I have a home….”

The whining had to stop. And it did for a short time…

And then Thanksgiving was approaching. And I was whining because our awesome plans to start a new tradition with the kids fell through. It was a week before and we had NO plans for Thanksgiving. Slight panic – then a friend at church asked us to join their family.

Last week was Thanksgiving and I had the greatest time in a huge church kitchen with a few other ladies to finish up the last touches for a gorgeous meal. I had the chance to pause for a brief minute and take in the beauty of family. The yelling as one uncle threw the long pass of a football, girls giggling about the baby, and the shrill laughter of the women in the kitchen (I’ll not admit to anything on fire, to which caused the excitement) – all of this caused a deep sigh in my soul. Not a longing sigh, but a grateful one. Grateful to have had time to cultivate friendships – to take time to stop and remember all that we should be grateful for this past year. It lit a fire in my soul to do this again…

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That is our “Blessings” Chart from last year. I wanted our family to give thanks each day for things that God had done for us. I wanted it for my life and I wanted it for my children as well – so every night after supper we each shared one thing. We did this for almost two months. So, we’ve started it again. The day after Thanksgiving I taped up a new chart…this chart.

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It’s bigger and I’m excited to see what we will be putting up there. I’m also excited, as I know that when I have to think about all my blessings, that my whining decreases and I my thankfulness increases.

I don’t know if you are like me – wanting to give thanks and to have a grateful attitude, but find yourself singing your own version of the country western song “There’s a Tear in My Beer.” If you are like me, what do you do to stay positive? If you don’t do anything, I challenge you to do this or something similar for a month – you may find yourself doing it longer like we did last year. I’d love to hear how it goes if you choose to do it. Please share your stories below. I’m so encouraged when you do.

Nontraditional Holiday? Why not?

For the ‘American’ part of our family, the big holiday is coming up quickly. You know, Thanksgiving. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potato souffle, pumpkin pie, and all the rest of the good stuff. In the past we’ve celebrated with fellow expats (aka adopted family) gathered around our own table or their table – or even larger gatherings where we rented space at the international school to feast.

This year is different.

This year we did not buy a turkey. I did not make stuffing. I didn’t even make a pumpkin pie. In fact, we are not even going to be home for Thanksgiving. We are leaving and taking a much needed mini vacation.

How do I feel about this? Actually, relieved. I’m not stressed about putting food together . I’m not worried about how Jie Jie is going to act/react at the gathering. I’m excited. We haven’t vacationed as a family in quite a while – like two years. We’ve gone to the US and visited family, but we didn’t go anywhere to shut off completely as a family. We’ve had stay-cations  but we tend to work anyway. We need to go away with books and games. I can’t wait -(actually, by the time you read this we will already be gone).

Why be nontraditional when this is the time I should be teaching my children about “their home” culture?

1. The thought of being away from family is too much this year. This is what one of my friends told me as she related their plans for the Thanksgiving break. They were planning to not have a huge feast at their home as they have in years past, but instead go to a different city and help at an orphanage with a group of other expats. I thought this was a brilliant way to fight the holiday blues. Go and serve others. And with that they are teaching their kids empathy for others.

2. The thought of doing anymore work is going to kill me. This is me, I raise my hand waving my white flag. I’m tired and the thought of cooking and prepping makes me swoon. And we have an “I Am a Hero Game” that we will travel six hours for the day before, so we decided to add time away and explore a small island off the main island.

I totally agree that holidays are a great way to teach kids about your own home culture. It helps them relate and understand where they came from. I understand that and agree. I get the full blown celebrations with all the fun crafts, food, and pre-recorded football games. I have done this – except the football game. We are European football fans, not so much the American football. So, my kids are not going to get a turkey this year. Will they survive? YES.

We really went wild this year – we put up our tree before Thanksgiving! We usually do this the weekend following Thanksgiving, but I wanted to come back to a decorated apartment. 

So, Happy Thanksgiving to you all! If you are eating turkey and pumpkin pie I wish you well as I sit at the beach reading a book and watching the kids play in the ocean. I’m thankful for time with my family.

Your Turn: How do you celebrate holidays? Do you go all out with every tradition? Do you ever do a nontraditional type of holiday? Please share in the comments below.

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