Have you ever started the New Year without setting aside time to pray over the year ahead? Or gone through an entire Thanksgiving Day without actually verbalizing what you're grateful for? Maybe it's just because of the busyness of the day, or maybe it just feels awkward to go around the table trying to remember what all actually happened in the last year and come up with the one or two things you're most grateful for off the top of your head. If you have school-aged children, trying to get them all involved in this time of sharing can be even more difficult!
I have been so blessed to grow up with a tradition that emphasizes the "thanks" in Thanksgiving. As I have tried to continue various family traditions as an adult, I have learned that traditions take preparation. If your family tradition is to decorate Christmas cookies together, you have to be prepared with the flour, sugar and other ingredients needed. The same goes with our family’s Thanksgiving tradition. It just requires preparation quite a bit earlier in the year.
Every New Years, our family chooses and decorates a box to use as our "Family Blessings Box" for that year. As you can see, the look of the boxes has varied widely from year-to-year as my brother and I got older.
Some years we would be really prepared with art projects to use for the box and other years... not so much. (Yes, that is a tissue box with stickers on it. We thought it was hilarious.) No matter how the box looked, it was kept out in the living room or kitchen all year. Any time a blessing occurred, big or small, we would write it down on a little scratch piece of paper and put it in the box. Then when Thanksgiving came around, we'd open the box and take turns reading the blessings from that year.
I have loved the tradition of the Blessings Box for 2 main reasons:
1: It reminds everyone of what happened (big and small) throughout the year.
I am horrible at keeping any sort of journal. I have tried many, many, many times to record my life through journaling every evening, but I think the longest one went 3 months. However, after jotting down blessings as they happen and tossing them in the Blessings Box throughout the year – ta-da! - I have a good record of the year's events! Our family has actually kept all of the boxes throughout the years and displays them in our home. Going back through them from time to time has allowed me to be reminded of the events in past years and how God provided in them.
As my brother and I grew up and went off to college, we created our own Blessings Boxes to have with us at our dorms and now my husband and I have our own at our home. When we all get together for Thanksgiving and go through them, we are able to share about little events from the past year that we may have forgotten to mention to the rest of the family. If Blessings Boxes are made for grandparents too, the grandkids get to hear how God has been at work in their lives as well.
2: The physical reminder of seeing the box creates an attitude of gratitude all year long.
It's easy to celebrate and be thankful for the really big things in life like promotions, graduations, personal milestones, etc. However, those smaller everyday blessings – money to get gas, encouragement from friends, healthy kids – tend to go by unnoticed on a more regular basis. Sometimes the biggest blessings we read from our box don’t have to do with money, things, or events, but the people in our lives. The people God has given us can both be the biggest blessings, and the least thanked. When I pass by our Blessings Box, I am reminded to thank God for whatever or whoever He has given me that day. By writing down those who have blessed me, I am reminded to make sure they know how grateful I am for the influence they have had in my life.
Families who have heard us teach about this tradition of ours and use the Blessings Box with their children also tend to find that their kids become more content, less entitled, and better able to see God’s blessings (sometimes even more so than the parents). Any time my parents teach on the Blessings Box, they always tell the Blockbuster Video story. I was in 2nd grade, and don’t remember it (cue my embarrassed face). Apparently, we had planned a family movie night, but were too tight on funds to rent a movie. My parents turned it into a game to see who could find the most spare change from around the house. We dug into nooks and crannies of the couches, went through junk drawers, and turned pockets inside out and came up with the 99 cents we needed to get the movie. Many months later at Thanksgiving, we went through the box and came across one that read “99 cents for a movie” in my 7-year-old printing. Since we were no longer so tight on funds, we had been able to rent movies easily and would have totally forgotten the blessing of that 99 cents if it hadn’t been written down that night.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
In the long run, the Blessings Box allows us to celebrate victories instead of dwelling on hardships. No matter what kind of difficulties we faced as a family, we were always reminded to look for the blessings. Now, we aren’t perfect, so don’t think that every year at Thanksgiving our boxes were overflowing with blessings that we had written down. Some years, Thanksgiving would roll around and we would be convicted by our lack of intentional gratitude, as reflected in a sparsely filled box. So we’d go through the calendar and write down the blessings that we could remember from the year and put them in the box. Seeing a year’s worth of blessings all at once creates such a sweet time of celebration for us every Thanksgiving and because of that, it’s one of my very favorite traditions.
If you would like to join our tradition of the Blessings Box, we'd love to see yours! There's still plenty of time before New Year's to get the supplies for it. Honestly, we thought about creating a Blessings Box to sell at conferences and to supporters, but that takes out a lot of the fun of choosing and making your own. Instead, you can find boxes below that are very similar to ones we have used in the past for our family's boxes. Since we are part of Amazon’s affiliate program, you're still supporting us by shopping through these links. Amazon will donate even more to the ministry if you go through smile.amazon.com/ch/31-1623965. This will designate us as the non-profit linked to your account.
We look forward to seeing your own family’s Blessings Box! When you finish decorating yours, post a picture of it on Facebook or Instagram using #OurFamilyBlessingsBox! We pray God uses our family’s tradition to help you and your children notice the many ways He will bless you in 2018.