Trying to Focus on Gratefulness - More Than A Tradition


Trying to Focus on Gratefulness

/ / - Character Development, Articles, Blog


The Jar

It’s that time of year again when we focus on gratefulness. For a few years, we kept a Thankful Jar. Every day, each person added one slip of paper on which they had written something they were thankful for. At Thanksgiving, we emptied the jar and read each slip of paper aloud. With six people in the house, it took a while to read all the slips and we heard many of the same things over and over again. You know . . . I’m thankful for paper plates. I’m thankful for mommy and daddy. I’m thankful for my dollies . . .

Food. Clothes. A House. Friends.

I knew that some of my kids wrote the same thing every day.

The bowl

Another year, I saw a really cute idea in a Chinaberry catalog. Their wooden bowl with little wooden “thanks” acorns made me giddy, it was so cute! But, I couldn’t bring myself to spend $30 on it. I created my own version and at Thanksgiving, we each took an acorn or two. We passed the bowl and as it came around the table, we each said something we were grateful for and added an acorn to the bowl.

Food. Clothes. A house. Friends.


I don’t have anything I’m thankful for

I stopped doing the whole “think of something you’re thankful for” thing for a few years. I lamented that their thankfulness seemed superficial and they didn’t really know what they had. I mean, kids in other parts of the world have nothing, not even clean water, right? But, they rolled their eyes as they rattled off the same things year after year. Disappointment and frustration clouded my emotions. Then THE BAD YEAR hit.

The bad year (or two)

Have you ever had one of those years when it seems like the world caved in and buried you under it?

I don’t think all these events happened in the same year, but they sure happened close together. It felt like it all happened at the same time.

First, I couldn’t move my neck and the pain in my back hurt so much nothing helped. I received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, a mysterious chronic illness that some doctors don’t even believe exists. It is a life sentence of whole body pain with no cure. (Spoiler: I later discovered how to put it in remission and currently live mostly pain-free). You can read more about what God is teaching me through this HERE.

Then, all of my husband’s support staff at his job disappeared within a few months with no replacements. His employer left him doing the job of three people with no raise in pay.

My little boy’s meltdowns flared up and 2-3 times per week, I found myself struggling with him (yes, even while I dealt with my own debilitating pain). Meanwhile, one of his sisters literally shook with fear and uncontrollable sobbing whenever one of these fits occurred. The other sister argued with me

regularly, trying to wear down my resolve. His brother received a diagnosis of severe dyslexia and the tester tried to pressure us to enroll him in a special school.

Needless to say, I asked myself, What do I have to be thankful for? Everything seems to be falling apart.

The answer

I didn’t do the jar thing that year. I really didn’t feel like it. To be honest, I didn’t feel thankful. But, then I heard the prayers of my children.

Thank you, God, for this food and thank you for my clothes. I really like my house and my friends. Those are great, too. Please help my mom feel better. Amen.


Julie Polanco is a veteran homeschooling mom of 16+ years and the author of God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn and 100 Ways to Motivate Kids. You can receive a FREE chapter of her book by going to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).