A boss of mine in college memorably said, “Never squelch praise.” Since 2009 I have compiled an annual list of 10 reasons I’m thankful for each member of my family. I think it began as a project I might assign to certain counselees to help them grow in gratefulness for people around them that they struggled with. When I started doing it in this format (2009), my children were 8 to 14 years old. They are all adults now, and they still look forward to my sharing it with them. It’s similar to a family practice we do for every family birthday–we each share why we appreciate this person. We lately have added telling a fun story about the birthday person too. These are just some ways to keep from squelching praise.
I call this my Decaeuxarista–I’m not a Greek scholar, but it’s my attempt at making up a word that means Ten Thanks (and my kids know it by this made-up name. They expect it around Christmas). It’s good for me to intentionally think about why I’m grateful for each family member. This is the list I shared with them this year. May this list encourage you to edify your family members too.
Laura I’ve included my wife’s name, but not my kids’ names.
- I probably often start with some variation on the theme of you being so kind or easy to like. It’s because it’s the trait that I experience most often. Your kindness often softens the prickly parts of my personality—or should I just say my prickly personality—no parts to it; it’s all prickly. (Thanks for the cactus by the way.) But next to you even I appear at times to be likable. Your kindness rubs off on me.
- I’m thankful for how committed you are to our marriage. We celebrated our 30th this year, and you have always been faithful and trustworthy. I’ve never doubted that you loved me. That’s given us security in our relationship. Some of our acquaintances have marriages that have been a struggle or have even dissolved. You have fought for our marriage.
- You enjoy it when your kids and I gang up on you in a humorous way to joke about some of the funny things you say and do. Some people cannot be teased, but you actually often enjoy it.
- I really appreciate your sense of humor. We were at the Laramie Jubilee Days Parade and you yelled at your nieces as they marched with a banner, “You guys are awesome!” in that funny, overly enthusiastic voice you use sometimes. It makes me laugh. You give me some funny comebacks at times and make me laugh. Sometimes, you know this, you whisper a joke to me and I steal it by making it public.
- You love your kids well. From your thoughtful gifts that you gather throughout the year for stocking stuffers, Christmas and birthday gifts, to your kindness in person with them, to your joy every time they call. You also speak biblical truth to them as they need it. You challenge me to love our kids better.
- #3 was right when he said on your birthday that you soften me. I have become more gracious and kind through your influence. God’s Spirit has used you to help me grow that way.
- You love me well. It’s probably selfish for me to mention this as something I appreciate about you, but it’s true. You know when I’m down, and you make extra time for me. You are quick to rub my hand or just be with me since you know I enjoy time with you. You are thoughtful in how you spend your time when we’re home together. Even if you have stuff to do, you think about how we can be together while you do it. I am a well-loved husband.
- I appreciate your spiritual courage. You flew out and spent 10 days with your Dad when your family needed help. You loved him so well even when he was opposing you because of his Alzheimer’s. You were gracious and kind and firm even though he misunderstood.
- You challenge yourself to grow. Taking Expository Teaching is an example of this. You could have just audited it, and it would have been so much easier. After all, you’re not working towards a degree anyway. But you wanted to get better at speaking, to understand God’s Word and have confidence when you teach. It was a lot of work. You accepted the Assistant Dean of Women position knowing it would stretch you. You’re not afraid of that. You work for growth in your spiritual life and in your ministry abilities.
- I know it was hard for you, but I’ve really appreciated how you have related to your dad this year. Several times we’ve visited him with his Alzheimer’s, and you are patient with him. You repeat who you are and remind him of his interests like cars and his pets. You smile brightly and tell him clearly that you love him. I’ve just sat in awe sometimes at how tender you are with him. I get there and don’t know what to do. You look like you were gifted for this.
- And one extra: You asked for prayer when we were with all the family for Dad’s funeral that you would redeem the time for God’s glory (my words). You wanted not just to fellowship, but to investigate where your nephews and nieces and cousins were with Christ. You made your conversations purposeful because you love Jesus and love people.
- You are a social person. We got an extra week with you after New Year’s and you enjoy people. You went to the college retreat with me and two different parties at the Capons that week. And you met new people and got to know them. Being social is a tangible way of loving others, and I think you love others purposely.
- I appreciate your steadiness. I used to tell you as a teen that you only had one speed and it wasn’t normally urgent which was a pessimistic way to state what I’m trying to say. You don’t tend to be frantic or panicky. Your steadiness is comforting to people around you. It lowers stress and anxiety for others. That’s nice.
- You are generous, or another way of saying it is that money doesn’t seem that important to you. You are quick to give it away and to use it to serve others, and not just your family members. I think your friends and roommates experience this side of you too. Generosity is a great Christlike trait that is evident in your life.
- Your sense of humor is MOSTLY a welcome release in a stressful situation. 😉 You are like me in that your response to stress is often humor. I think it’s a benefit to you and to those you’re around. It can help people relax and give them perspective.
- I like that you share funny work stories with us. Your fellow pilots and enlisted do some funny things and you love laughing with us, but also about your own funny things. You do some humorous things at work, and you’re willing to share them even when they are embarrassing. That’s humble.
- You are responsible in your job. I think Chris R. told us that it only takes a few years to figure out if a Navy officer is just putting in time or if he is actually someone that you can count on. The latter get more and more responsibility. That’s been you. You are giving the US government what they paid for and more. I think that work ethic honors God.
- I was reminded today when I was reviewing my devotions from 2012 how graciously you have responded to me throughout your life. You’ve treated me far better that I treated my own father—especially when I was sinfully angry or annoyed with you. You have been gracious and kind in spite of my sin. That’s overcoming evil with good (Rom 12), and you have done that well with me in your teenage years.
- You call your Mom regularly even when you are extremely busy like you are on deployment. You have a great relationship with her that I think foretells a little about what kind of husband you will be someday. I love that you love your Mom so much.
- You have faced some disappointments in your life and career that have knocked you off balance, but you always ultimately get righted as you contemplate good theology—what you know about God. You are comforted by his sovereignty, his wisdom, and his care for you. I’m grateful that when we talk about these things, you are working hard to trust God. You recognize his plan is sometimes different than yours.
- You love Jesus and the gospel. You are committed to your church which is shown by attendance and service. I enjoy our conversations on biblical topics, and you often initiate them because you want to know God’s Word well.
- You are a thoughtful person—a lot like your Mom. I received a thoughtful Father’s Day card from you in my luggage. It was long and sweet. That’s normal for you. I think every family member has gotten a “wordy” letter or card from you over the years because you are so thoughtful.
- I don’t think I would have asked Trevor Lawrence for his picture. You have grown so much in overcoming your fear of man, and that is one example. You are willing to take risks, and you’re okay if they don’t pan out, which is, I guess, the definition of taking risks. Fear doesn’t keep you on the sidelines.
- You embrace your nerdiness, your geekiness. Some are not that confident in it, but you normally don’t seem to mind that you are a bit dorky. And I use all those words with love. I haven’t seen you on the dance floor, but from your description I think there is more confidence than skill. 😉 And confidence is attractive.
- You call your Mom and share funny stories, you ask her advice, and you have sweet mother-daughter conversations (I assume since I’m sometimes not invited into them). I appreciate how you open up to her and listen to her. Your mom loves that.
- You love to laugh, and I like that especially. And you have a pretty good laugh. Mostly you don’t take yourself too seriously. While you enjoy laughing at the funny antics of your roommates and family members, you are also happy to laugh at your own mistakes. Laughing is a disarming trait; it’s a welcoming characteristic.
- You have started running which shows self-discipline. Maybe you’ve let off a little recently but you did it for months and being self-disciplined with physical exercise is hard. It shows a willingness to start something difficult.
- You have graciously responded throughout your teen years and young adult years to your Dad when I have been obviously wrong and sinful. That’s a wonderful response to my anger. It pleases God.
- You are an inclusive person. What I mean is you include others. You introduce yourself to visitors at your church I think. You love social events and you want others even on the margins to come to them. You look for those that feel outside, and you love them.
- You are teachable. You respond to my or your Mom’s rebukes with grace normally. You actually seek out advice on spiritual and practical issues. You call us when you have decisions to make or when you just need advice with a friend or with a car. Both show a heart that is willing to listen. Proverbs says that’s a good trait of a wise person. You are growing in wisdom.
- You have a sweet relationship with #4 that is a neat sister bond. I could hear you laughing with each other when you visited at Thanksgiving after Mom and I went to bed. You are different personalities but clearly are really good friends. Not all sisters get along, but you do. You both put effort into it, but I think when you were cool in high school, and let’s face it, #4 wasn’t,;) you loved being with your sister and including her. It’s a sweet relationship that will hopefully last a lifetime.
- You don’t know how to do anything halfway. You cannot be partially committed to something. Whatever you do you try to do it with excellence. You’re not a guy that does enough to get by. I admire that.
- You have a good sense of humor that loves to push buttons for us. I like that sense of humor since it matches mine. But you are willing to ask forgiveness when you hurt someone with your sense of humor. That’s growing maturity.
- I enjoyed watching the process of you buying your Toyota Rav 4. You were careful, sought advice, got a mechanic to look at it, prayed, sought to make a wise decision. I was impressed. It seems a mature way to make financial decisions.
- It was fun to hear the USAFA Women’s Basketball coaches gush over your work as the manager while we were there for Parents’ Weekend. At least three of them, including the head coach, talked about how happy they were that you were doing it. One mentioned your interview process as so impressive to her. If you commit to a job, you do it seriously and thoroughly. That’s a great character trait.
- You are disciplined in talking to your family. Mom expects your call every Sunday after church. I know you call your siblings regularly too. You put effort into family relationships and that’s unusual for your age group. It’s a good trait for a future family. I think you thought all your siblings were just as disciplined and were surprised to find out they are more spontaneous than disciplined callers, but it doesn’t stop you from consistently calling.
- You like to be active. Actually three of you kids enjoy running, but you’re probably the most passionate about it. You’ve always been a mover; early on maybe it kept you from studying or reading like you should. That’s not the case anymore. You’re not a couch potato. You have a good balance between physical exercise and intellectual growth.
- You love your family. Some cadets get to USAFA and don’t care about their families anymore. They are happy to get away. You have always been glad to see your geeky parents whenever we’ve come out for Parents Weekend or other times. You enjoy coming home and seeing your siblings. You’ve visited #1 on your own while at the academy. You’ve even considered graduate school in FL because it is closer to #2 and possibly even #1 if he gets moved there. Loving your family is an unusual trait in your environment, but you don’t care.
- You are far more gracious and thankful than I was as a young man. You share several heartfelt and thoughtful things you appreciate about each one of us on our birthdays. That shows a growing thankfulness. Growth in gratefulness shows growth in humility and contentment.
- I think you work to share Christ with other students at USAFA. You’ve told us of conversations you’ve had. You are active in Navigators and have talked to some attendees that seem not to understand the gospel. Having Christian friends that can encourage your faith is important to you, and God has provided them for you.
- I appreciate how your relationship has grown with your Mom. You really enjoy her. You call her every week. You love having your Mom rub your hair because it feels good, but also because you love your Mom.
- You are not a complainer. Mom says that you don’t feel good about 75% of the time, but you don’t complain, and you never have. You just endure it.
- You love me and show it whenever you see me. You hold my hand or give me a hug and often tell me that you love me. Normally in a passive aggressive way like, “Do you know that I love you?” I’m kidding on the passive aggressiveness.
- You are good relationally, and all ages like you. Jessica S. told us humorously that you’re the “favorite daughter” of John and Shelley—your Minnesota parents. You have your senior saints that you go to lunch with on Sunday. Some your age might not be comfortable going to lunch with their own grandparents, but you enjoy your senior saints. You are earnest in your interest in others because you love others.
- You have a heart for ministry. You took a missions trip even though it was six weeks where you couldn’t earn money for school. And even thought it was in the jungle with outdoor bathrooms; I know you adapted well. You love Jesus and serve him. You intentionally build friendships with unbelievers to share Christ.
- You work hard to build relationships. You are intentional with time and money to love your family members and your friends. Even when others are not that responsive, you still pursue friendship. You’ve had relationships in high school and college where most of the relational heavy lifting fell on your shoulders, and you willingly did it. If you hadn’t maintained the relationship, it wouldn’t have existed. And you’re slightly introverted 😉 so this is actually a big deal. You work on your friendships.
- I tease you and mostly you are okay with it. 😉 You respond with laughter and kindness. You are able to laugh at some funny things about yourself.
- You are good with children. Andrew and Jessica S. told us that their kids love you; they have to be careful to keep them from bothering you because their kids like coming down to your room and interrupting you. Their kids were impressed with us because we were “#4’s mom and dad.”
- You love your church, and you have relationships with all ages. I especially enjoy that you have friends that are retired. It’s a mark of your love for CLBC. But even your joy in texting us about 17 members joining in October is a sign of your love for that group of believers.
- You are loyal to your friends. You defend them, and not just your Christian friends. You even push back against me when I razz you about them. You don’t join others in gossip or slander. You have a backbone to stand up against it.
- You are a grateful child. You appreciate the little ways Mom and I try to help with some of your living expenses, and I know this because you tell us. You don’t assume that we will pay for a meal or your phone or car expenses. You don’t fail to say thank you for stuff like this.
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