Now that I’m a parent I get it. Or at least now I laugh at myself more because I think I get it—I have some semblance of how God feels listening to my whining and thinking, “Really, really, Janelle, after all I’ve done for you?”

My moments of gratitude for God’s patience with me usually occur on spontaneous, fun days I have with my family, days that include eating out, meeting up with friends, maybe going to a movie and staying out late. On those days it’s not uncommon for either of my kids to complain about what seems trivial—like how they didn’t get to sit next to the right person—and then a meltdown occurs.

That’s when I catch a grin spreading across my face as I think that this must be how God feels when I complain about insignificant daily matters even though the sun rose beautifully in the sky and there was not only food on my plate but food I enjoyed eating.

Parenting helps me understand the expansiveness of God’s provision and revel in the particularity of God’s love, much like the inexhaustible love I have for my children.

This Thanksgiving season we will be off schedule without school. Most likely there will be opportunities to indulge with extra food, screen time, late nights—you name it. This could, even with the best of intentions, lead to a meltdown (children, parents or both) so remember to laugh. Laugh at yourself and with your spouse. Laugh with your parents who can appreciate your parental humility.

And then try this—make a gratitude chain (see “Practices”). Our family started one because my 5-year-old son excels as a visual learner and my 7-year-old daughter is like her mama and needs hands-on activities to make learning stick.


To create a gratitude chain, cut construction paper or other colorful paper into several 2-inch wide strips. Invite your children to write words of gratitude on the slips of paper and staple them into circles that make up a chain. Display your chain in a visible place in your home. This is a great activity for family members of all ages to participate in during the holiday season.

The words themselves aren’t the point, rather the action of marking moments of gratitude. Surprisingly enough, my family found that if we weren’t home when we were thankful for something, the kids would often remember to make a chain when we were back. The visibility of their gratitude helped them form a habit of thanksgiving.

Janelle Rozek Hooper
Janelle Rozek Hooper is the ELCA program manager for Ministry with Children and the author of Heaven on Earth: Studies in Matthew (Augsburg Fortress, 2010). Learn more about her at

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