Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  Then, on the heels of Thanksgiving starts the busiest season of the year – the Christmas season.  For me, both holidays signal a time of not just fun and family gatherings but a time of giving to those not as fortunate as I am.

Glorious fall leaves

Photo Credit: Sammi Blake

Everyone has traditions for the holidays.  My family and I certainly had our own while I was growing up.  Most of my Thanksgivings were spent in Roanoke, VA with extended family.  Two of my aunts, Aunt Mary Ann and Aunt Becky were members of a Woman’s Club that always served a Thanksgiving dinner to the less fortunate the night before Thanksgiving Day.  In many ways, this set the tone for the entire Thanksgiving weekend.

This tradition of serving food to the less fortunate left an indelible impression on me.  I can see that it helped to shape me and instill in me the value system I have today.  It is my heart’s desire to carry on a tradition such as this with my daughter Ansley who is a week away from her first birthday.  From the time she was just a little bump in my belly I have thought about how I wanted to teach her the important things in life.  Reverence to God and the Earth as well as Stewardship to others are some of the core values to name a few.

Ansley was due to be born last Christmas Eve.   Funny, growing up and as a young adult thinking about having my own children, the only month I thought I would never want to have a child was in December.  God has his own timing I guess!  Once I knew her due date was Christmas Eve, I knew I was being given an angel.  So what if it would be in the month I had always said I would avoid having a baby in!  Not that I really thought she would come on her due date.  And, guess what?  She didn’t.  Ansley came a month early.  She was born on Thanksgiving Day.

I don’t want to relive the details of why Ansley came early.  Suffice it to say I don’t remember much of that day and didn’t get to see, touch or hold my daughter until a couple of days later.  The first time I “viewed” my new daughter was on a camera.  No celebratory Thanksgiving meal for me and as for my family- well, Ben and Kathleen brought it into the family waiting room and everyone except me ate there.  I couldn’t even get out of the hospital bed.  I have to say though that looking back I realize this last year has flown by like the speed of light.  And although that particular Thanksgiving was not the most traditional Thanksgiving, I can now say it was not only the most memorable, but also the most special Thanksgiving I have ever had.  I have a healthy, happy and yes – beautiful little daughter that is thriving.  For this I give thanks.

Beautiful fall day

Photo Credit: Sammi Blake

I also give thanks for having the opportunity to help my stepchildren learn the importance of stewardship.  Recently, my stepson, Austin had a food drive at his school.  It actually lasted the entire month of October.  While doing my normal weekly grocery shopping I bought items for the food drive.  I got enough food to fill a grocery bag for almost every day of the food drive.  At first Austin didn’t understand why in the world I would have bought so much- I took this as a teaching moment to explain about giving to the less fortunate.  I talked to him about how blessed we are and that we get to pretty much eat whatever we want at our meal times.  I told him that many kids throughout the world and even right here in our own city don’t sit down to regular meals.  I explained to him how important it is to help others in need.  Since that conversation there have been several times when Austin has talked about people in need and the other day he even reminded me about how he got so much Halloween candy while Trick-or-Treating.  He asked me if he could share his candy with the less fortunate.  I explained to him that it was important to provide nourishing food to those that need it.  To say that his desire to give even his precious candy to others touched me would not even cover the emotions I felt during this conversation with him!  Austin’s heart is in the right place.  For this I give thanks.

The Christmas season was another important season of stewardship I was taught growing up.  I can remember at least one year adopting a less fortunate family and giving gifts to them instead of getting many gifts for the three of us kids.  Doing this in your own family might seem a bit extreme.  You might even think your kids would rebel.  I challenge you to try it – the outcome might surprise you.  I can remember only feeling good about getting less and giving more.  For this I give thanks.

I myself need to do more for others.  I do know though that doing one small thing can always lead to another.  I challenge anyone reading this to start a tradition of stewardship with your own children and keep it going through the entire year and then, through their entire lives.  Teaching them stewardship is giving them a gift that keeps giving.

I give thanks for so much.  I truly am blessed in more ways that I can begin to count.  May you be as blessed.

To giving thanks.  Oh, and Happy Birthday my precious daughter…

Ansley

Photo Credit: Sammi Blake

Our children are our future.  We need to teach them to reach out and help others in need.  Start planting the seeds of caring in your own family when your children are young.  Instilling the value of stewardship never begins too soon.

8 thoughts on “Giving Thanks

    • Thank you Blair. I cannot wait for you guys to meet her too! I look forward to our children having memories together like the two of us do.

  1. Congratulations on being such a great inspiration for these children! Your blog covers every bit of what the real meaning of the holiday season is about. I know as an adult how great we feel when we can offer gifts to others and as a parent it is part of our jobs to teach our children to do the same. Not gifts to just anyone but, to those less fortunate than us. Just like it warms our hearts it does their’s too. Recently, I was in my son Thomas’ classroom and helped the children pack Operation Christmas Child boxes for children in need. You should have seen the faces of these Kindergarten age children when we explained that, what was in the small shoe box was all that these children would get from their parents for Christmas. It warmed their hearts and mine as they prayed over these boxes to arrive safely in the hands of a child that would receive their box that they had specially created. What a blessing it is to be able to give to others and to to make an impression on our own children so they continue this as a life long stewardship. I loved your message Sammi and my hope for others is that, whatever the tradition they have created within their families it is warming their hearts this holiday season.

    • You said it so perfectly Jennifer. Just as we are giving gifts to others in need, we are giving gifts to our children when we teach them these life lessons. I can’t think of a better “present” to give my daughter Ansley. If we could spread stewardship and kindness around the world through the works of our children, our world would truly be a better place!

  2. Sammi, I loved reading your post! I had tears streaming down my face remembering our Thanksgivings as an extended family! The tears only poured out more reading about Austin learning the importance of giving to others and then asking if he could reach out to children on his own by sharing his Halloween candy. You are a wonderful mother and I am glad to see that you are instilling important values in your children’s lives! Love and miss you all!

    Cathy

    • Cathy,

      Thank you so much for the wonderfully, kind words. I pray every day that I will be the best mother I can be for Ansley. My hope is that I instill in her love for God and others, and true kindness and compassion towards everyone. I know you wish the same for Tanner.

  3. Sarah, Christy, Marli, and I along with out families started a tradition several years back. We get together one weekend before Christmas and shop for a family who is less fortunate than ours. The guys watch all the kids (which will be 7 this year ) and the girls shop. We come home, show off all our purchase, have dinner together, and wrap presents. A couple of the guys deliver the gifts the next day. It’s such a wonderful tradition. We enjoy time together as a family while helping others. As the kids get older we will incorporate them into the activities of shopping, wrapping, delivering, etc. I agree with your focus on instilling these values.

    • What a great tradition. I forgot that you guys did that. As the kids get older I’m sure they will look forward to it every year. I know you all will use this time as an opportunity to teach the kids the importance of what they are doing and how they are helping others. They will one day have such wonderful memories to look back on!

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