The aroma of pumpkin pie wafts through the air, mingling with the scent of baking turkey. You pause, smiling as you hear the sizzle and pop of the bird dripping into the roaster. Soon, real potatoes, creamed with milk and butter, will be added to the repertoire. Maybe you've pulled out a beautiful tablecloth and set the table with grandma's china -- or if you're expecting a large group, it might be potluck style, served on paper plates, with friends and family tucked into every corner of your kitchen and living room.

As homemakers, we are in a unique position to make the Thanksgiving holiday a special time for our families. Thanks to the hard work of women in my life, Thanksgiving holds many special memories. Growing up it meant all the cousins at Grandma's, tons of food, a game of "Annie Over," and people with bulging paper plates in most every room of the house.

Since having children of my own, Thanksgiving has meant everything from a pilgrimage to family out of state to hosting in my home.

But as good as the memories are, there have been plenty of Thanksgivings that I didn't feel too thankful as the holiday approached. Financial difficulties, grief or strained relationships made it difficult for me to focus on creating something special for my family. Other times, I was just too worn out from the daily tasks of homeschooling and caring for small children to be excited about something that meant more work.

As the Thanksgiving season approaches this year, I'm thinking about what it means to be truly thankful. I'm digging for what I really want to give my family. As I've looked for this deeper meaning, I did a little research into the roots of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanksgiving didn't simply grow out of the abundance the pilgrims experienced. It also grew out their suffering. The winter before the first American Thanksgiving, in 1621, about half of the pilgrims had died. They'd spent their first year in the New World praying for their very survival. When they gathered to celebrate a good harvest, the memories of great loss weren't far behind them.

In 1777, General George Washington and his army paused to acknowledge the first Thanksgiving of the newly formed United States of America. They stopped in open fields in the bitter cold. They were on their way to Valley Forge where a winter of suffering awaited them.

In 1863, after the horrors of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln asked all Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November.

For our ancestors, Thanksgiving was not only a celebration of the good, but also a determination to honor God no matter the circumstances. In 1990, in President George H. W. Bush's Thanksgiving proclamation, he said the first Thanksgiving was one of the "many occasions on which our ancestors paused to acknowledge their dependence on the mercy and favor of Divine Providence."

Perhaps this is the deeper meaning my heart searches for as I embrace the Thanksgiving season -- the determination to acknowledge my dependence on the goodness of God. I want to offer Him my thanks in happy times and sad, and to pass that on to my children.

For some people across our nation, Thanksgiving comes in the midst of personal wartime sacrifice. For others, it comes after they've suffered great loss in the devastation of a hurricane. For many of us, the daily grind of homeschooling, a season of financial difficulty, or unexpected sickness threatens our decision to spend this holiday in gratitude. And without a thankful heart we find it even more difficult to give ourselves to the task of serving our families this Thanksgiving.

Whether you are experiencing a time of abundant harvest in your life, or reaching for the ability to be grateful, let me encourage you to seek the Lord today for a grateful heart. Proverbs 15:15 says that a cheerful heart is a "continual feast." In my experience, a cheerful heart is an outgrowth of a thankful heart. What more can I offer to my family this season than a continual feast of gratitude?