Thank God! Pray to him by name!
Tell everyone you meet what he has done!
REMEMBER the wondrous works that he has done; his miracles, and the verdicts he’s rendered!
Psalm 105:1,5

Last year, my family decided to try something different.

Every day in November, on handmade paper leaf ornaments, we wrote something that we were grateful for. We hung the leaves from a bundle of sticks. We called it,

Our Thanksgiving Tree.

fall tree


Creative name, right? 🙂

We thought that the activity would be a good way to teach Simon, our newly fostered son from Eritrea, about Thanksgiving – a holiday he had never heard of prior to arriving in the United States a few months earlier.

We didn’t realize that God was going to use the activity to teach and bless us.

thankful leaves

“I happy. Good family.” Simon’s first leaf read.

Who knew that 4 little words could bring such joy to my heart.

He’s happy! Thank you for that affirmation, Lord. I didn’t know…I so wanted to know…and now I do.

As the leaves on the trees outside our window began to fall, our little Thanksgiving tree got more and more full. As did our hearts.

Full tree, full hearts.

Translation: Brent & Caitlin
Translation: Vienna (our daughter)
Translation: Vienna (our daughter)



The object of the activity was to teach Simon about Thanksgiving. I, in turn, learned lot about my new son and what he valued most.

The vast majority of Simon’s leaves included names. Names of people that gave him a gift. Names of teachers that worked hard to help him in school. Names of people that he shared a meal with that day.

It wasn’t the gift itself that he was most thankful for, but the giver of the gift. It wasn’t the meal itself, but the people he shared the meal with (although “dinner” did make it on a couple leaves – I guess my meals tasted OK those nights). 🙂


My son reminded me that I am blessed to have a village. He reminded me to be grateful for my people. Not my house. Not my accomplishments. Not my technology. My people.

Raising a child definitely takes a village; especially raising a non-blood related child. I heard a statistic recently that claims most foster parents don’t continue fostering beyond a year. Whether that is true or not, I know without a shadow of a doubt that we wouldn’t be able to do what we do if it weren’t for our family, church, friends, colleagues, case managers, licensing specialists, counselors, and teachers.

This October we hit one year as foster parents. We couldn’t have done it without our people.

I am so excited to see what God has in store for our family this year by practicing the art of being thankful. I can’t wait to see if and how Simon’s values have changed after living in a new culture for one year (I expect less spelling errors too – wow, he has learned so much!). I can’t wait to teach Evan, our son who joined our family last January, about this fun family tradition. I can’t wait to hear what Vienna, our chatty 2-year-old, is thankful for. I have no doubt that God has something special to teach me this November through each of my family members and the things that they are thankful for.

Now It’s Your Turn.

What might YOUR family gain by identifying what you are most thankful for, for one whole month?

This November I invite YOU to build your own Family Thanksgiving Tree following these simple steps…

Last year, I used items that I had lying around the house to make our Thanksgiving Tree.

All you need is:


  • I had curly willow branches left over from our wedding decor that I simply placed in a vase. Curly willow branches can be purchased at most Florists or online. If tree branches aren’t in the budget, cut a few branches yourself from a tree in your backyard.
  • Note: If you aren’t digging the tree, use the leaves to make garland or a wreath.


  • Last year, I found a free leaf template online that I used as a stencil. I traced the leaf pattern onto pieces of card stock paper, cut them out, added a hole using a hole punch, and tied on a piece of string.
  • This year, I may give my fingers a break and buy a pack of die-cut leaves from a local craft store or etsy shop. If you like the all-natural look, consider using wooden leaves.
  • Make sure your leaves are large enough and strong enough to write on.
  • You will need one leaf per person, per day (26 days until Thanksgiving), Or, be like my cheap-skate self and write on both sides of the leaves (1 leaf, 2 days).


  • Every day of November invite the members of your family to share one thing that they are thankful for. Have each person write it on a leaf, then hang it on the tree. Our family chose to then pray and thank God for each of the things that we wrote down – a reminder that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:7).
  • Choose a time when you know everyone in your family will be available. We found that a natural time to do this activity was at the end of dinner or right before bedtime.

Share your ideas.

I would love to hear from you. Post your questions, and your suggestions on how to make this activity even more meaningful, or beautiful in the comments below.

And please share pictures of your own Thanksgiving Tree on the Living Life and Loving It Facebook page, now through the month of November.

Caitlin Boersma
   Caitlin Boersma
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