About this time last year I realized I was burnt out and not experiencing the rest I needed. Using the helpful sabbath resources of Faith Formation Ministries’ Faith Practices Project, my family came up with a plan that would hopefully bring greater sabbath rest. You can read all the details of our plan in this post: How the Practice of Gratitude Transformed my Family’s Weekly Sabbath. But as a quick summary, we started writing down what we were thankful for each evening and then began our sabbath each week by reading the previous week’s thankful slips aloud.
As I reflect back on our year of gratitude and rest, I’m amazed at the positive weekly rhythms and routines that were born out of this practice. Here are just a few of the things we’ve learned:
God will bless whatever imperfect attempts you’re able to offer. Consistency is really hard, especially when you have young kids. I want to admit right from the start that we didn’t always remember to read our thankful slips at the end of our Saturday evening meal like we had intended to. As a perfectionist, that’s really hard for me to admit, as I want to assure everyone that we observed this practice perfectly each week, like clockwork.
But the reality is that life often doesn’t fit together perfectly, particularly when you have young kids, dinner delays, and impending bedtimes. I learned to give myself grace and recognize the wins that came from our efforts, even when they were inconsistent. As a family we had embraced an attitude of gratefulness and my kids knew what Sunday was and what it meant for our pace of life. Since that was a big part of the overall goal, I gave myself the freedom to celebrate those wins.
Thankfulness begets thankfulness. When we first started this practice, we would each name one thing each night, and sometimes it would take us a minute or two to think of what we were thankful for that day. But a few months in, my kids were listing so many things they were thankful for that I had to start limiting them to what would fit on our slip of paper. As we embraced a daily routine of thankfulness, we were quickly overwhelmed by just how much we have to be thankful for—a list that was truly endless.
Gratitude can lead to remembering. This was perhaps the most unexpected thing I learned from our year of gratitude. As we read aloud the past week’s thankful slips on Saturdays, it became a time of remembering in addition to a time of gratitude. As I read aloud that everyone was thankful for ice cream, my kids would exclaim, “That’s the day we went to Rita’s!” As I mentioned that everyone was thankful for mom, they recalled, “That was Mother’s Day.” As we remembered these special events, we were reminded of all the great things God has done in our lives, from protecting us to giving us parents that take care of us to creating a world with simple joys, like ice cream.
When I asked my kids what was their favorite part of our gratitude/sabbath routine, they both listed this time of recalling what we had been thankful for, saying that they loved hearing what we had written and remembering those special days. It was one of my favorite parts as well, because I’ve realized just how quickly I forget how much I have to be thankful for. Reading our thankful slips became a weekly reminder of God’s goodness, and I was amazed at the impact of the simple practice of remembering.
As I look at the colorful paper chain that has now wrapped itself around our dining room, I am in awe of what God has taught us through this practice. We not only have more consistent rhythms of work and rest, but we also have rhythms of gratitude and remembrance that constantly point us toward our good God.
For more on the practices of sabbath, gratitude and remembering, visit Faith Formation Ministries’ Faith Practices Project and explore their resources for individuals, groups, and families.