I love Thanksgiving, as my one-size-bigger-each-year elastic waistband pants seem to attest. Of course, when I was young I could devour the annual Thanksgiving feast without concern, as calories avoided me like the proverbial plague. Then I hit middle-age and I had to start working progressively harder at getting rid of those extra pounds, particularly around holiday time. Now, as a grandmother plodding my way through my sixties, I've decided it's really quite hopeless, so I may as well just have a few extra slices of turkey and enjoy myself!

But more than how I handle calories has changed over the years. As the holidays approach and visions of recession and economic meltdown dance in our heads, we find ourselves a bit less likely to run out and buy quite as much as we may have done just a couple of years ago. Regardless of which poll or chart you consult, all agree that unemployment is at its highest in decades, and consumer-confidence has plummeted. As families struggle to keep the mortgage paid and the lights on, splurges at the grocery store may no longer be an option.

For many younger folks this could be the first time they've had to face such a challenge. Many of us older citizens, however, have "been there, done that," to one degree or another.

When my husband, Al, and I first married — at the ripe old age of 18 and fresh out of high school — it was just a few months before Thanksgiving. I'd never cooked a turkey in my life, but we didn't anticipate that would be a problem since we couldn't afford one anyway. Al was in the Air Force, with one lonely stripe on his arm and a paycheck that reflected it. We'd just have to settle for the mashed potatoes, minus the gravy.

Then some of the single guys from the base got together and pooled their funds, offering to buy a turkey and all the fixings for a full-blown Thanksgiving dinner if I'd cook it. That really put me on the spot, but I figured, how hard could it be? Surely I could find some recipes somewhere….

I did, and in spite of myself, everything turned out fairly decent — well, edible, anyway. And to a bunch of guys away from home at the holidays and used to chow hall food, it was delicious. They didn't even seem to mind that we were all crammed into a two-room apartment with scarcely enough space to turn around and that everyone had to sit and eat wherever there was an empty spot. In fact, they even took the few dollars they had left over and rented a black-and-white TV so we could watch football while we ate. What a treat! And when it was over, they did the dishes and I didn't have to lift a finger.

Just a few years later, however, our family experienced a Thanksgiving that wasn't nearly so pleasant. Al was in Vietnam, and my two babies and I were home with my parents, where money for Thanksgiving treats was a lot more available but holiday cheer was tempered by a loved one's absence.

We all learned a lot about Thanksgiving during those early years of our adult lives. As children it was just about smelling turkey and pies all day long until the relatives arrived and we finally got to eat and then spent the remainder of the day fighting with our cousins. To be truthful, there wasn't much "thanksgiving" involved. But as we grew up and began to experience the trials and joys of raising our own families, we soon discovered that thanksgiving was about a lot more than turkey and pumpkin pie.

Ten years ago, our entire family went through a somewhat different and difficult Thanksgiving, having just attended the memorial service for my beloved father, who died at the age of 88 — less than a week after receiving Jesus as his Savior. Though we missed him terribly, we rejoiced at the faithfulness and mercy of God, who pursued my stubborn dad for 88 years, finally binding him to His heart with unconditional love just days before he left this earth. What a joy to know that we will see Dad again, and celebrate a heavenly Thanksgiving feast together with all the saints and the angels — and the Lord Himself!