With half-eaten bowls of oatmeal on the table, my children jump off their chairs and run to the living room. “Music on?” my son asks, smiling.

With arms lifted in the air, both children yell, “Music! Dancing!” I nod my head and soon hear the click of the stereo system and the familiar beat of Pentatonix from their latest favorite CD. Finishing my breakfast and sipping my coffee, I watch them dance. Isaac, the 2-year-old, runs in circles, laughing, while his older sister, Charlotte, lifts her arms and spins on one foot. Their delight echoes throughout the room; the smiles never leave their faces.

Moments like these show me my children’s innate joy. Having each other, some music and room to move is all they need. I look at them and can’t help but feel joy too.

For many children, joy comes easily but expressing thanks takes more work.

November is the traditional month for sharing thanks. Through my children, I see how joy and thanks go together.
As a parent, I can easily overlook the moments of joy throughout my day. I can be consumed by the
to-do list: never-ending emails waiting for responses, appointments to schedule, errands to run, dishes to clean and put away, and clothes to wash.

Yet if I look up, I can see my children’s joy—and, simultaneously, their gratitude for life—as they play with their trains, recount what they learned at school, celebrate the blue sky, and play and share with friends at the park.

For many children, joy comes easily but expressing thanks takes more work. I know there will come a time when I won’t have to ask my children, “What do you say?” after they receive a gift or someone does something nice for them. But until then, I hope to celebrate the simple moments of joy that surround me and to keep modeling thanks for all the gifts we receive. I want to continue to invite my children into a life of joy and gratitude.

Practices

As a family, keep a list of all the people, places and things that bring you joy. As you share together, offer a prayer of thanks.
Watch what brings your children joy and join them in it. Share in dancing before bed. Color together. Slide down the slide. Read their favorite books with them.
Search your Bible for passages that contain the word joy. Read them together as a family.

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is kimberlyknowlezeller.com.

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