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What is your greatest Thanksgiving challenge?

For my family it is choosing where to eat—and not with which relatives, but which restaurants.

The question came up one Thanksgiving when my kids were very young, my husband was on the road, and everyone else was engaged elsewhere. How was I supposed to serve up a feast of plenty when help was so scarce? And since my holiday “guests” were fussy eaters who didn’t even like turkey and dressing, why even bother?

Our dilemma drove us out the door and on the road in search of a suitable Thanksgiving spread. While others headed “over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house,” we ended up across town at a popular truck stop.

That day my family enjoyed all they could eat of everything they chose to eat. One child had a dish piled high with nothing but cantaloupe; another went back for multiple servings of mac and cheese. And I had the satisfaction of watching my children clean their plates, knowing I would have no plates to clean later!

And so began our unconventional custom of enjoying a traditional, home-style meal . . . served anywhere but home. Every fall the adventure begins again, ending with some of our favorite holiday memories. The Cracker Barrel country store. IHOP pancake “syrup wars.” Our Thanksgiving feast may not fit everyone’s notion of the perfect Thanksgiving, but it suits us perfectly.

The tradition serves up this essential truth as well: if gratitude isn’t the central item on our Thanksgiving buffet, we can pick the best restaurant—and still miss the best part of the holiday.

Sometimes my greatest holiday struggle is not with Thanksgiving plans, but thanksgiving practice. It’s tempting to get distracted by all the holiday preparations. Even as I was writing this, I came across the following in my favorite online food magazine: The Fifty States of Thanksgiving. According to the author, “it’s never too soon to start planning your turkey day feast. This year, take your taste buds on a cross-country trek and fill your plate with regional favorites.”

Well, shoot, how is anyone supposed to narrow down a menu from that many options?

I don’t know about you, but I get sidetracked by other things as well. I focus on my to-dos and overlook all God has done. I concentrate on current needs and ignore God’s past provision. I get complacent in my plenty and frustrated by my wants.

But what would life look like instead if I spent as much time counting blessings as I do considering menus? After all, God intended thanksgiving as a habit, not a holiday. Giving thanks wasn’t created for an annual feast—it is meant to be our daily fare (1 Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20).

Our most important Thanksgiving decision is not what or where we eat the day of—but what we fill up on all year long. When we celebrate thanksgiving as a way of life, we enjoy “all we can eat” of God’s richest blessings.

Then I will praise You and thank You at the great gathering. Psalm 35:18a