At this time of year, Thanksgiving is on most of our minds. Some of us are making travel arrangements, others are preparing for guests to arrive. We are busy planning meals, shopping, cooking and cleaning. And in the harried frenzy that surrounds the holiday season, we sometimes forget the purpose of it all—to give thanks. 

Sure, before our Thanksgiving meal, most of us will stop for a moment and says "thanks"--for our family, our food, our blessings. But isn't this season about more than a momentary acknowledgement of our immediate circumstances? Isn't it about recognizing ALL the assistance, support and favor that we have been shown along the way? 

Perhaps there was a special teacher in your life that encouraged you to go to college, or made you feel that you could achieve your vocational dreams. Or what about that first boss who taught you how to be a good leader? Or the coach that showed you the importance of discipline and being a part of a team? Have you ever thanked the people who made a significant contribution to your life? 

And let's not forget our parents who one way or another, helped to shape us into the people that we have become. Maybe they weren't perfect, but they probably did the best they knew how to do as they were learning to cope with their own baggage. And we often learn as much from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, as we do from the successes. 

Thanksgiving is also a difficult time for many people. The losses in our lives seemed magnified somehow as we struggle to be grateful even with our grief. But I find it helpful to ask myself this question--Would I trade the pain I feel at their loss, for never having had the experience of knowing my loved ones? And I have to answer honestly that I am truly grateful to have had them in my life and I would do it all over again, even if I knew that I would one day have to grieve their passing. 

The recession is also causing many of us to suffer financial hardship this year. And it is tough to be thankful when we are worried about putting food on our table or a roof over our heads. But troubles are transitory—they don't last forever. So we can be grateful for the blessings of the past and the ones yet to come. And if we take time to look around us, there is always something for which to be thankful—health, love, hope, the kindness of others—we all have something that is going right for us at any given time.  We just have to open our minds to see the good that exists, even in the midst of the strife. 

So What's the Best Thanks to Give this year? 

I believe it is the thanks that comes from taking an inventory of our lives and seeing with fresh eyes how all the events have brought us to this moment in time. 

Being grateful for the people and the lessons that have taught us so much and seeing God's hand at work through those who have crossed our paths. 

Learning to live in the present and recognizing the good that surrounds us even when we are experiencing a momentary setback.

Looking back on the most difficult times in our lives and seeing the positive results of our rising above those painful circumstances.

And I believe that sometimes, the "best" thanks of all is the confident assurance through faith and hope, that life holds many more blessings yet to be discovered.

So this Thanksgiving, before we gather around our tables to share turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce; let's take time to give thanks for more than the present. Let's also give thanks for our yesterdays and for our tomorrows. Reach out to thank those who have significantly impacted our lives. Write, call or even just lift up a prayer for them. They may need to hear, at this very moment, that they made a difference in someone else's life.

And if they have passed on, we can always write down our experiences and thank them anyway. I believe they will get the message. And if they happen to be seated with you at your table, don't let this opportunity to tell them what they mean to you, pass you by. You'll never regret telling the people you love how you feel, but you'll likely regret it if you don't.

As we gather together this holiday season with those we love and with the memories of those who are not with us, let's be grateful for the most wonderful blessing of all—one another's love.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Deborah J. Thompson is a writer, artist and Stephen Minister. Her articles are published by Crosswalk.com and "The Fish" family of Christian radio station websites around the country. She shares "Reflections" on Life and Relationships on her website, www.inspiredreflections.info. And she is working on her first book, Your Life, Your Choice, which gives 5 simple steps to harness the power of your choices and bring more Love, Joy and Peace into your life. Join her on Facebook and Twitter/InspireReflect

Publication date: November 22, 2010