There’s just something special about celebrating the holidays as a child. Everything is new and exciting, the cousins are all in one place, playing and making memories, and you look forward to every special tradition and new activity. But as we grow up, schedules get busy, we forget about our traditions and maybe miss a year or two. The “kids” get engaged and married and then have their own families that they have to consider when planning Thanksgiving dinner, and you realize that the holidays don’t stay exactly the same forever. I didn’t realize until I was much older how profoundly the holiday traditions that my parents and grandparents intentionally created for us would affect me as an adult and affect how I will approach the holidays someday when I have a family of my own.
Thanksgiving in my family has always been centered on gratitude for our abundant blessings. That legacy of gratitude has been built over time by the practice of praying together, thanking God for our blessings, and my very favorite family tradition – the Thanksgiving Journal. This tradition, more than any other that I can remember, has instilled a true spirit of gratitude in my family and the intention of documenting that gratitude so that we can leave that legacy for generations to come. Like any tradition, you can start this in your family today, and all you need is a notebook or journal. It’s that simple!
In 1991, my grandpa (we call him Pop) picked up an emtpy journal and asked everyone at Thanksgiving to write what they were thankful for. I can imagine it may have been a little awkward and out of their comfort zones to be so honest in a book that everyone could read, but they did it for him. It was the year my parents had gotten married, so there was much for them to be thankful for! Every year, he continued the tradition. He would write an introduction at the beginning with a prayer and some Scriptures that were on his heart, a little recap of what happened over the last year, and what he was thankful for before handing it off to someone else to share. In 1992, my mom wrote, “I am thankful for a sentimental dad who cares about making new traditions.” Year after year, the blessings and heartaches and abundant thankfulness for how the Lord provided for my family was written onto the pages of this unsuspecting little book.
In the almost thirty years that we have honored this tradition, our little notebook has documented hundreds and hundreds of blessings from God, the marriage of my parents, the passing of both of my great-grandparents, the birth of four grandchildren (myself included), big moves, new jobs, pets, kids growing up, graduations, engagements, and more marriages. And to think what thirty more years will bring.
There are years we’ve forgotten the special tradition, but we always pick right back up where we left off. We actually have two different notebooks because the original got misplaced and we had to start a new journal to keep the tradition alive. But the physical journal itself is not where the tradition lies, although it is a nice time-capsule of sorts to hold on to. The legacy isn’t because of the cover design or the size of the margins. It doesn’t disappear just because the pages are yellowing or beginning to fall out. If we lose the journals and never find them again, all those years of thankfulness will be just as real and special and important. But this practice of gratitude far exceeds the bounds of Thanksgiving.
The legacy of gratitude was instilled in our family because of my grandparents and parents living out their faith and expressing their gratitude day in and day out. Thirty years from now, I hope to be honoring this tradition with my own children and grandchildren, and I hope in thirty years, they share this same love and thankfulness as I do now.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! (Psalm 107:1-8, noted in the first entry of the Perkins Family Thanksgiving Journal)