The recent first frost triggered a rare domestic day for us as 4yo Esmé and I gleaned the grapes the birds and deer had left on our vines, steaming and freezing 20 quarts of grape juice.
The vines held object lessons aplenty. We discussed Jesus’ discourse on “I am the vine.” I dispelled the notion of cut fingers and toes as part of God’s pruning process, and we had a lively chat about God throwing branches into the fire.
As Esmé wandered off to roller skate and swing and catch ladybugs, my mind ran full circle. Vine. Branches. Bearing fruit. The fruit of the Spirit. Spiritual gifts. Gifts. Giving. Thanksgiving. Thankfulness. It’s all connected, you know?
Esmé has a litany of thanks at bedtime. Flowers and animals and rainbows and people. And Jesus. It’s beautiful. But when I tell her we are to give thanks in everything (granted, I always pick the most opportune moments to do this), she kicks back.
As do I. It’s hard to give thanks when I am burning irritated about mud tracks throughout my house. Or when the clock has sped five minutes too far while I’m trying to get Esmé and her pony entourage out the door. Or when my uncle dies.
I was thinking about how God’s gifts, spiritual gifts, don’t come wrapped in pretty paper and bow. They are hard to recognize, because we expect them to be for our own gratification. They are not. They are for us to USE for OTHERS.
When we realize this, and we have glimpses of seeing through His eyes, and pulses of feeling with His heart – for those split moments, we can be thankful. In everything. Because we see how God is USING us, broken clay vessels that we are, for a glorious purpose.
How can I convey this to my preschooler?
This November, we are putting together a Gift Vine on our bulletin board the back of the bedroom door. Jesus is the vine. We are the branches. The grape leaves are the items we are thankful for: there will be some of the “regular” stuff – hot chocolate, ponies, fuzzy jammies – as well as “hidden” blessings that produce patience and all that good stuff.
And the grapes? I’ll identify (with Esmé) ways that God is using her to bless others each day. We’ll be intentional in doing some things, but I’ve spotted impromptu fruit already:
- Giving money to a panhandler at a rest area.
- Laughing at an old man’s jokes.
- Offering a drink (albeit unpaid for) to a harried fellow grocery shopper, making her smile.
- Cleaning up “somebody else’s” mess.
I’ve thought of doing a lapbook on spiritual gifts, or fruit of the spirit. But for now, I want to keep it simple. I want my daughter to feel the joy of being used. And to be thankful. In everything. (Me too, God. Me too.)
How are you celebrating this season of thankfulness with your preschooler?
Jane avoids domestic projects with her 4-year-old in rural Oregon. You can read about their adventures at Mozi Esmé.