From the time that my children were little, it has been important to me that they grew up to be grateful people, and people who used their words to build others up and to encourage others. When they were growing up and if someone said something unkind, then I would have whichever child that said something unkind say 5 nice things to the one who they had said something mean to. I remember how sometimes the kind, nice things would flow freely and sometimes how when they were feeling upset that they would hesitate and pause in saying kind words. My thought was if they were going to say a mean thing to someone then hopefully the five nice things that they would say would help them to practice using their words for kindness and not for tearing others down.
Sometimes my son would rattle off about every article of clothing for his nice things. He would say, “Nice shirt, nice shoes, nice shorts…”, and I would have to stop him in his list and tell him to pick some other things about one of his sisters besides what they were wearing. We had a little song that we would sing that used the verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:11, and we would sing “Encourage one another and build each other up… don’t tear each other down.” This song came with actions of someone rising up when they were being built up and falling down when they were being torn down. My hope for my children was that they would learn to use their words for kindness and encouragement. Words are so powerful.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
I remember being told that ringing a bell had the same effect that our words had. Once you ring a bell, then we cannot go back and “unring” it. The sound that the bell made has already been heard. Our words are the same, and I tried to teach my children how important our words are. I have tried to teach my children that if we say something mean that it has already been heard and that we cannot take it back just like we cannot “unring” a bell.
Through these years of my kids growing and learning then I have been thankful whenever I have witnessed them using their words to encourage others. After the loss of my husband in a work related accident in August 2011 and the death of my only son at the age of 18 in a car accident in June 2013, then the girls and I witnessed how many people tried to use their words to encourage us. I also noticed how some struggled to find words to say during these traumas in our lives. I would try to encourage those that were struggling for their words to not worry about having something to say as there were no words that could take away our pain.
Words are so powerful, and I am so thankful for each time that I have been able to witness my children using their words for good. I am thankful for each person in my own life who have used their words to encourage me and to build me up.
We were so excited to carry on our tradition with my husband’s family for Thanksgiving this year. For many, many years, we have been having the family come to our home for Thanksgiving. My husband was raised in a large family with 7 brothers and 3 sisters. The girls and I love the family so much, and we have been so thankful that they have stood with us through the deaths of our two guys. Every year for the past seven years since my husband has been gone, the family has continued to come and spend Thanksgiving with us. Continuing this tradition has been a priceless gift for the girls and I. We are surrounded in love and laughter for those days. We can end up with very large groups as his mom’s 11 children have children and now some have grandchildren as well. The girls and I thoroughly look forward to it and treasure it with all of our hearts. I have shared many times that I believe that it is a double blessing. I believe that time with my husband’s family helps my girls to feel a little closer to their dad who they miss so much, and I believe that it helps his family feel a little closer to him when they are around his children. I am so thankful that our closeness has continued throughout the years. We love our big, loving family.
There is a lot of preparation beforehand to get ready to feed sometimes 50 people from Wednesday – Friday and sometimes Saturday morning. I work on my lists for at least a month prior to our time together and make many trips to Wal-Mart to stock up on all of the food and supplies that we will need. Being this was my first Thanksgiving as a widowed, empty-nester, I was thoroughly amused at some of the looks that I was getting as I continued to make multiple trips to the store and as I would leave with an overflowing cart. One concerned community member approached me with her eyes opened wide as she stared at my overflowing cart. She asked me with concern, “Kristi, aren’t you living alone?” I wanted to burst out laughing because her concern for me was all over her face. Thankfully, I was able to just smile and respond, “Yes, I am, but I am busy preparing for a big Thanksgiving.” Relief washed over her face. I laughed my entire drive home.
I spend those days in the kitchen over Thanksgiving, cooking, doing dishes, and laughing for as many hours as I am able to stand there. My mother-in- law’s sister Bessie was there with us this time, and she expressed concern about how many hours that I was working in the kitchen. I tried my best to explain to her how much that I loved it. I love to cook, and there are always family members in the kitchen with me telling stories and teasing one another. I spend so much time laughing in the kitchen those few days. I absolutely love it.
My daughters added a new twist on our kitchen conversations this year as they begin to share with family members about filling buckets. Several years ago, my sister showed us a book that fit right along with the concepts that I had been trying to instill deep within my children to use their words for kindness and encouragement. This book showed how everyone has a “bucket” and how we can be bucket fillers by using kind words to build them up and doing acts of kindness for them. This book also showed how some people are bucket dippers when they say mean things to others or are unkind and how that empties the bucket of that person that you are not kind to. We loved the book, and I loved the illustrations of such an important lesson in how I desired to live and wanted my children to grow up living.
This Thanksgiving, the girls shared on Thursday night with some of the family members that were in the kitchen how to fill someone’s bucket. At first, there was a little hesitancy and uncertainty in what to say. Our group was a mix of kids and adults that night in the kitchen. We stayed in the kitchen late as “buckets were filled”. My adorable 6 year old niece who is such a smart girl readily picked up on the concept and begin filling buckets by saying nice things to those who were in the room. She would exclaim, “I am going to fill your bucket” as her eyes were shining with so much joy. One of my husband’s brothers “B” asked my girls to model how they filled each others buckets. Tears were in my eyes as I listened to my two incredible daughters who have been through so much pain pour into one another’s buckets. It was so beautiful. It was a wise move on the uncle’s part as that set a new tone for the night. When I went to lay down for a few hours that Thursday night, my heart was so filled with gratitude and joy that my two daughters led this beautiful time with our family.
On Friday morning, it is one of our traditions to have a big breakfast, and I was up early and in the kitchen preparing that. We were also having a birthday party luncheon at 2 pm for one of my husband’s brother’s Reggie. During that time of food preparation and meal time, one family member begin teaching family members that were not in the kitchen with us the night before about bucket filling. Tears are pouring down my face as I share this with you. What I was able to be a part of was such a beautiful time with our family. I watched as the brothers and sisters poured into each other. I listened as my mother-in-law poured into her kids and as they poured into her. I witnessed my mother-in-law and her sister pour into each other. I watched as grandchildren poured into their Nana and into others in the room. It was beyond beautiful. We had many tears in the room that day. Tears of joy. Tears of gratitude.
It is always such a blessing to stop and truly thank the people who are so important in our lives for the impact and influence that they have had on us and on others that they have come into contact with. I cannot adequately put into words how beautiful those hours were on Thursday night and on Friday with our family as we truly stopped and just shared our gratitude for one another and filled each others’ buckets. I cannot express how thankful I felt in those moments as a mother as I had the blessing of watching my two incredible daughters lead the way on Thursday night. What awesome, priceless moments that they got started for our Thanksgiving celebration for 2018. It was truly a time of thankfulness. It was truly a time of pouring into our family members. It was a beautiful time of giving thanks and filling buckets.
What an incredible gift to stop and say the things that we love and appreciate in one another. How beautiful would this world be if we focused on filling the buckets of those around us and did not “dip”‘ from their buckets. How much joy comes from living a grateful life even in the midst of pain and tragedy. My heart is beyond full from this Thanksgiving. Thank you family. The girls and I love you all so very much. We were all blessed in such special ways this Thanksgiving. We are so thankful for all of the love and support and joy that you surround us in. We sure missed those family members who were unable to be there. We are so thankful for each one who was there and how beautiful and joyous our time was together. The girls and I are so grateful.
“The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” Charles Schwab
“As with all commandments, gratitude is a description of a successful mode of living. The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us.” James E Faust