Fourteen years ago, in our first year of homeschooling, my sisters and I began a study about Thanksgiving. November 1, 1996, we woke up to find a closet door covered in brown paper with a gnarled tree trunk painted on the bottom half. Leaves made from red, gold and orange construction paper were scattered across the dining table. This was our introduction to what has now become a tradition for our family: the thankful tree.
Here’s how it works: Each day, participants select a leaf upon which they must write one thing they are thankful for (if you want to do more than one leaf, that’s okay). The leaves are then added to the bare part of the tree. Friends, neighbors and guests are invited to contribute. The goal is to fill the tree with leaves of every color, expressing many things to be thankful for, by Thanksgiving Day. The purpose is to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness by focusing on a few blessings each day. (The original idea is found in Amanda Bennett’s Thanksgiving: Prayer, Pilgrims & Native Americans, pg.35)
The tradition has spread beyond our home to friends near and far, to a Christian school in New Mexico, even to Indonesia! It’s been adapted to cover walls and ceilings. Starting last year, our family began filling a scrapbook pages with leaves to create a table book that could be enjoyed all year long. As I’m writing this post, my mama is sitting across the table cutting out leaves for the first page of our 2010 Thankful Book.
As an adult I’ve added devotional Scripture readings focusing on thankfulness and gratitude to my Thanksgiving celebrations (these were originally part of family Bible time but since we’re all grown now…). I’ve come to associate the month of November with a call to praise God’s generosity that rebukes my pride, unbelief and greed. Just yesterday I wrote in my journal, “I am so selfish, always grasping after my own desires. My heart needs a November.” With that came the idea to share my scripture readings and thankful leaves for the next twenty-five days. Call it my “Need a November” project. I hope you’ll consider reading with me and writing down a few of the things you are thankful for (in a journal or maybe on your own thankful tree!). Together, let’s embrace a season of thankfulness!
Celebrating Thanksgiving during my internship in Indonesia. Notice the thankful tree in the left background and the leaves blowing across the room. 🙂