Have you ever planted a fruit tree? I’ve always wanted to but never have gotten around to it. I have done a little research, though. Do you know if you plant a two-year-old apple tree, it could take another five years to bear fruit? Pear trees can take another six years and cherry trees up to seven years. That’s a lot of tending and watering in hopes you’ll reap the reward of some sweet fruit. But as any fruit lover will tell you, it is so worth it!

I’ve been trying to grow a different kind of fruit in my home for, oh, about 18 years. Yes, 18 years. I have three kids, all teenagers now, and my husband and I have been tending and watering in hopes of reaping the fruit of thankfulness. It’s a slow process but, believing in the importance of a thankful heart, we press on.

To help cultivate thankfulness in our home, we create a “Thankful Tree” in November for Thanksgiving.  It’s not complicated or even that crafty. And it honestly doesn’t take that much time.  

It’s our way of encouraging one another to slow down and say thanks for the gazillion things we have to be thankful for. Have you ever tried doing one? We like to keep it simple because I have absolutely no artisitic juices in my body. You can get as creative as you want, but here’s how we do it:

  • Cut some basic leaf shapes out of construction paper in a variety of fall colors. Or have your kids gather their favorite freshly fallen leaves from outside. (Dry them in the pages of a book for a day or two to help preserve them.)
  • Place the leaves in a basket with a pen (or silver sharpie for real leaves) and some clear tape.
  • Have everyone take a leaf every day and write one thing they are thankful for on the leaf.
  • Tape the leaves to a wall where you want the tree to grow. (Yes, we tape them right to the wall.)

When the holiday has come and gone, and it’s time to put up the Christmas tree, we take our leaves and put them in a photo album. These albums of thankfulness sit stacked under coffee and end tables as a reminder of all we have to be thankful. They mark times in our lives when God was faithful: comfort in pain, someone to repair a car, or simply the appreciation of a child’s smile.

Yes, God is good, but we never really know how good until we take the time to tell Him, “Thank You.” And thankfulness, well, it’s just one of those fruits that takes time and tending to grow.