This Thanksgiving, I wanted to make certain that my children took some time to reflect. I know that they do this at school, but part of the exercise at home is that I also need to be intentional about reflection. So, we tried a few different tactics together ...
On Wednesday afternoon, we took out our iPods, and I showed them how to use voice enabled dictation. Using this, they quickly made a list of EVERYTHING they were thankful for. Using the prompt, "If you don't say thank you for this item, it will disappear ..." Well, this got them saying thank you for everything they saw around them and generated LARGE lists. However, since the list consisted of things like, "the microwave, the barstools, the kitchen table..." etc it wasn't exactly having the desired effect.
This morning I decided to try again, prompted by something I had recently read. I find myself defaulting (when giving thanks) to material possessions. I'm thankful for a house, for a functioning van, for clothes to wear, etc. All of those things are nice - and to a degree - replaceable should they ever disappear. What I wanted to focus on this year was our relationships. Those connections that we simply can't imagine life without - and to be thankful for those people who God has very intentionally placed in our life. I took each child one by one, snuggled under the covers of our bed and asked them, "Take out your family, for a bit ... you can't say them right away, and tell me the people you can't imagine living life without. We are going to thank God for them today."
The results were absolutely precious:
Kayleigh Elaine -
- Miss Julie and Mr. Josh - I’m thankful for them because they teach my Maranatha class and they teach me about the Bible
- Andrew Rush - I’m thankful for Andrew because he helps teach tennis, and he let me come and watch his tennis match
- Miss Ally/Mr. Sam/Miss Auty/Mr. Noah/Miss Lizzy - I’m thankful for them because they play with us at Maranatha class and help Miss Julie with the stories
- Zhang Lao Shi - I’m thankful for Zhang Lao Shi because she teaches my class and helps me with my math
- Kate - I’m thankful for Kate because she plays with me and gives me presents, and she always comes to find me at recess to play with me
- Ms. Vicky - I’m thankful for Miss Vicky because she teaches my class and leads us to the craft time and I’m thankful that she’s going to have a baby
- Grandpa and Grandma Van Dyk - I’m thankful for them because they babysit me and find me at school during hot lunch - and they leave us smarties when we go to their house
- Nana and Pa - I’m thankful that they invite us over to their house a lot. They let us help make special treats, and they let us stay at Maranatha all of the time and they buy us lots of clothes for school
- Auntie Sarah - I’m thankful for Auntie Sarah because she got me the globe puzzle, and she comes back to visit us from her big trip to Amsterdam that she’s having fun at, and she played with me at the Mackinac hotel
- Great Grandpa - I’m thankful for him because he plays with us and lets us come to his house for lunch and let us play with some of his toys
- Auntie Maria/Uncle Dan - I’m thankful for them because they let us come over to their house for Everett’s birthday and let us play with Everett
- Auntie Alaina/Uncle Dan - I’m thankful that they come all the way from their city to visit us in the summer - and they used to let us play with their kids at their house a lot when they lived here
- Mommy/Daddy - I’m thankful for them because they make food and buy it for us, they play with us, buy us a house, and let me have my own bedroom
- Benny/Madeleine - I’m thankful for them because they play with me and they let me give them hugs
- Doctor Miller - I’m thankful for her because she helps me feel better when I have bad things going on and something wrong with my body
- Miss Shari - I’m thankful for her because she babysits me and buys crafts for us and she lets us play downstairs with the furniture and she cares for us
Benjamin Steven - It should be noted that I took EXACT dictation for this child - and he rattled these ideas off in a heartbeat. Sometimes I had to stop him so that I could catch up with his brain. He had clearly had these in his precious little heart for a while.
- Jared - I’m thankful for Jared because he plays with me even when my sister doesn’t want to
- Brinley - I’m thankful for Brinley because some people don’t like to play with me but she does
- Amelia - I’m thankful for Amelia because she always likes to run and tag me and I like to play tag
- Maestra Slenk - I’m thankful for her because when I’m the star she lets me choose toys to play with for class
- Ciao Lao shi - I’m thankful for her because she tells us good job when we are picking up toys nicely
- All of my friends’ moms - I’m thankful for them because they know my name and because they take time to say nice things to me at school when they see me, and when I leave they wave at me.
- Miss Julie - I’m thankful for Miss Julie because she let me come to her wedding and because she’s so nice to me and she let me have light up bracelets and rings and she gives the best hugs
- Mr. Josh - I’m thankful for Mr. Josh because he plays with me and he always reads a book to me when I ask him to
- Miss Shari - I’m thankful for Miss Shari because she lets me come to her house and because she will let me hold her baby when she gets him and because I know she loves me.
- Mr Kevin - I’m thankful for Mr Kevin because he is funny and he plays wild with us.
- Michael Moeller - I’m thankful for Michael Moeller because he plays outside with me at school and he showed me the big ice chunk and we have a secret hideout that is so cool
- Kayleigh - I’m thankful for Kayleigh because she plays with me and she does crafts with me
- Mommy - I’m thankful for Mommy because she loves me and she snuggles with me and she lets me sit on her lap
- Daddy - I’m thankful for Daddy because he is funny and he plays with me and plays wild too and he plays cars with me
- Maddie - I’m thankful for Maddie because she’s nice and she does crafts with me too and because she’s a funny girl
- Grandma Van Dyk - I’m thankful for Grandma Van Dyk because she lets me have smarties and because she plays with me and she lets me play some games from other peoples rooms and and then we put them back
- Grandpa Van Dyk - I’m thankful for Grandpa Van Dyk because he's nice and he lets me go over to his house while Mommy is at the store
- Nana - I’m thankful for Nana because she loves me and cause she lets me play with Lizzie and put Harry out and she lets me walk Lizzie to where she goes potty sometimes
- Pa - I’m thankful for Pa because he is silly and he lets me bake cookies with him and let me make cookies that didn’t go in the oven and that DID have to go in the oven
Madeleine Mae - Yes, she's only 2, but I thought I'd try. Hers is also verbatim (as I'm sure you can probably tell)
Mom: Who do you love Mae? Who are you thankful for?
Mae: I not know.
Mom: How about Daddy? Do you love Daddy?
Mae: Because he tickles me.
Mom: Good, there's one. How about Nana, do you love Nana?
Mae: Because she take me places
Mom: Good! Great ideas Mae. Who else do you love?
Mom: (attempting to keep the conversation flowing): Why do you love candy?
Mae: Because its yummy in my tummy!!! (collapses in giggles)
Mom: Okay ... who else do you love?
Mae: (Giant cheesy grin) I don't know.
Mom: Do you love Mommy?
Mae: No, I not love Mommy because I didn't say I love Mommy! (shouted)
Mom: Okay. That's fine. How about Miss Shari! I know you love Miss Shari
Mae: (More giant grin) No, I NOT say I love Miss Shari because Miss Shari NOT give me ANY HUGS!! (giant pout).
And ... with that we stopped because really she had caught on to the game and was NOT going to be bullied into coming up with any kind of list :). Maybe next year.
But truthfully, my big kids' list inspired me. It made me pause to reflect on those relationships that really make my life tick. The ones I simply couldn't see myself carrying on without ... Some are given, I'm sure, but all of it is worth listing by way of reflection. So, for my part this Thanksgiving, here is my list:
- God - I know that my depraved existence is only tolerable because of the strength and hope He provides. I am beyond thankful for His active presence in my life.
- Steve - I'm fortunate enough to live with my best friend. Someone who keeps me constantly entertained, who isn't afraid to challenge me (despite how nasty I can get when angry), who supports me in my crazy head strong endeavors and who works so hard to take care of all of us (even though I don't think I need to be cared for very often!!! He knows I do and persists anyway)
- My Parents - They live just 1.5 short miles away and this has been SUCH a blessing. They make an extra effort to take the kids whenever possible. They spoil them and play with them and just generally "do life" with them by their side and that gives me a few extra moments to breathe. This is such an incredible blessing
- My In-laws - They live just about 2.5 (+/-) short miles the OTHER direction and that is an equal blessing. They are never afraid to roll up their sleeves and take on a house project (my beautiful "mud closet" being just one of many instances), they come over on a moment's notice to help if I need a hand, and they are so supportive of our decision to use Christian education for our children. They are an amazing gift to me.
- My "girlfriends" - Growing up I had very few friends that were girls. I seemed to find my way into a crowd of boys much faster than a posse of females. But today I find myself surrounded by women who are mothers of young children, who "get" how life can be. They are balancing their children's delicate souls; they are managing homes and they are balancing personal lives while some even juggle work outside the home. They have taught me the sincere value of community - of involving ourselves in each other's lives in a real way. In true conversation about exhaustion, about mess, and fat/calories, and about how all of us really, at our core, are just trying to do the best we can ... And these women support me. They love on my children when I don't. They are there for me when two hands and two feet just don't seem to be enough. They've seen the chunks (yes chunks) of food on the floor, watched their children run through it ... and looked the other way because really, it just doesn't matter that much.
- My co-workers - Over two years ago, I never dreamed I'd say this, but I work with the most amazing TEAM of people. We are all so different - and yet we've found a way to function and to function well. I know that I can trust their hearts - their passions and their minds. And I hope they've learned to trust mine too ...
- The ZCS staff - I started by writing just to my children's teachers but truly, its more than that ... its the sweet and caring man who holds the door, while supervising the parking lot each and EVERY morning (and who always offers a witty retort or a gentle word of kindness, whatever appears to be warranted that day), its the fact that each time the kids and I pour our incredibly chaotic selves into the front office we find a friendly face - someone who not only helps us and hears us, but makes us feel as though they do have the time for children today. Its the program directors (preschool, immersion, extended day care and all of the others in between) who make decisions, behind the scenes, that directly impact the care and experience my children receive each day. We are so thankful for you
- The Maranatha nursery and preschool staff - You are still such an active part of our children's lives ... you probably don't know just how much, but the songs you've taught them ring through the van multiple times each week (yes, they still remember the motions). Their enthusiasm for what you taught is so great that I carry around multiple families of children who now know the motions, the songs and the verses because of how often my children insist on sharing what they have learned. It makes me tear up each time I hear tiny little voices sing, "Speak life, speak life to the deadest darkest night." You've given us clear talking points for moments when they use unkind words. We have a springboard for conversation when people are unkind to them. And the relationships you built this summer have not gone unnoticed. They are treasured deeply, even though they haven't seen you in 9+ weeks (basically an eternity in the life of a 4.5 and 6 year old).
- My children - the little lives that are the center of mine. The way they challenge me each day - is astounding. Their intelligent questions force me to analyze my own life - do I follow what I'm teaching you? Their trusting spirits makes me reconsider my own judgmental attitude - do I give second chances? Their love and zest for life helps me to see the beauty in things as I look at it for their perspective - do I take time to appreciate all that the Lord created? In short they are the greatest challenge, and the most incredible gift - each and every day.
- Ms. Shari - I can't NOT put her on this list, though I know she'd balk about being called out from among the list of "girlfriends" but the Lord provided a woman who loves my children, who cherishes her time with them - and who always convinces me when I arrive at pick up that it truly was "a great day." My children have spent so many countless hours with her in the past 2 years that I simply can't imagine existing without her. I know that my ability and opportunity to contribute to add.a.lingua is largely in part because my children are so passionately cared for, taught and loved by this gift of a woman.
- Many, many, many other friends, family and relatives who speak into our lives and support us with prayer and words of affirmation.
If you're still with me at this point, kudos to you. It was a bit of a diary-type entry, but sometimes thats just what the blog needs to be ... holding the thoughts, the blessings, the silent prayers I've stored up in my heart ...
And without even addressing the material gifts that we have been given this year, I can honestly look at this full list of gifts and say that my heart is bursting at the seams.
Thank you, Lord.
Happy Thanksgiving friends.
The Van Dyks