My high school years involved a lot of tough times for my family. We experienced job losses, a life-changing injury, two surgeries with long recoveries, marital difficulties, waiting for the adoption of my brother to become final, and my sister moving to college. It felt like things continued to hit us in every direction. When things were bad, there was always the fear they would get worse. And honestly, sometimes they did.
During one of these difficult years, my mom had the idea to start a Good News Jar. This jar lived on the kitchen counter (which was a pretty big deal for my mother, who hates clutter and doesn’t even let the toaster spend a few hours here). Next to it were slips of paper and a pen. Any time we experienced good news, whether as individuals or as a family together, we documented it on a slip of paper and dropped it in the jar. These bits of good news accumulated all year until we went through the jar on New Year’s Eve.
When we read all of the good news together that December 31, it felt like a tangible reminder that God is so good even when life is so hard. There were so many bits of good news that we had forgotten about, too. Some moments were big: “Dad got a new job!” “Charlie’s adoption became official!” Others were small: “Olivia is done with chemistry!” “Jackson got a Christmas dance date!” We were all given the chance to laugh and rejoice together, which had become rare during these turbulent years.
This jar even blessed us outside of New Year’s Eve, as it was so encouraging to see it fill up day by day and month by month. It made us all believe that even in the pit of despair, God had not forgotten us. There are always reasons to be grateful, and giving thanks—especially when it isn’t easy—makes a difference.
I encourage you to practice gratitude with your family this year, too. Maybe you’ll start a Good News Jar on January 1 like my family. Perhaps it can be a Thanksgiving activity in which everyone submits a few pieces of good news and then these blessings are read at the table. Here are some additional ideas for giving thanks together this season:
- Play “High/Low” at the dinner table. Each family member shares his or her highest and lowest parts of the day or week. The only rule is that each person must end on his or her high note!
- If you have younger kids or grandkids, make an A–Z gratitude alphabet. For every letter of the alphabet, come up with something you’re thankful for that starts with that letter. X and Z will probably lead to lots of laughs, too.
- Keep a gratitude list on the fridge. Let everyone in the family add to it and watch as the list grows and grows! Just don’t get it confused with the grocery list.
However you and yours decide to give thanks this season, know that gratitude is a life-changing and heart-shaping practice—even when our circumstances leave us feeling anything but grateful. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (NIV). We do not live on this earth without trials and tribulations (the Bible is even honest about this!). At the same time, we do not live without hope. In good times and in hard times, that is just one of many reasons to be grateful. Let’s pursue His will for our families this Thanksgiving and “give thanks in all circumstances” together.
Olivia Thames is a writer in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves using words and humor to relate the gospel to everyday occurrences on her blog, oliviathames.com. When not writing, you can find Olivia reading, eating Mexican food with her husband, walking but not running, redecorating her house, or laughing with her friends.