Fall. First snow. Elections over. Wood stove heating our house with its merry flame. Time of harvest. Time of thankfulness.

So much for which to be thankful.

How sad that we often remove from our celebrations the One to whom we give thanks.

I’ll never forget sitting in a child’s preschool class while the teacher led the students in singing, “The earth is good to me, and so I thank the earth for giving me the things I need, the sun the rain and the apple seed. The earth is good to me.”

The earth? I thought.

When I was a child in public school we sang, “The Lord is good to me…”

Reading to my youngest children Margaret Pumphrey’s classic “Stories of the Pilgrims” on the couch this week, I was again astonished by the courage, determination, and faith of that plucky band of travellers who formed a community where they could freely worship God. How half died that first cold, hard, fever-whipped winter in Plymouth. Yet, when the captain of the Mayflower offered them free passage back to England the following spring, none accepted.

Not one.

That fall–in celebration of God’s faithfulness–they held a harvest feast to which they invited their new friends, natives of this land with whom they’d made peace. Fruit pies and puddings. Nut cakes and tarts. A kettle of broth from fresh dug clams. Dishes of turnips and boiled meats. Long tables groaning from the gift of food. Three days of feasting.Having endured persecution, imprisonment, the loss of their homes, the loss and death of loved ones, they chose thanks.

It is easy to focus on disappointment and loss. How much harder to offer thanks in the midst of it.

An awareness of the goodness of the earth, of life–and it is good–is not enough to carry us through the hard times, such as those now recovering from Hurricane Sandy. How was the earth good to them? What loss. What devastation. But focusing our thanks on the one who is above our suffering, yet with us in it, will steady us in hard times as we put our hope in him.

James describes faith as “believing God.” When I read that, I wonder, Do I believe God or my circumstances? Do I believe God, or my feelings? Do I believe God or my obstacles?

Hard times will come.

Only a belief like the pilgrims–a belief that God is good and present and making something beautiful from our sorrows–will carry us from suffering to thanksgiving.

I recently read the advice of a grief counselor who recommended including those we have lost at Thanksgiving by incorporating their pictures or favorite recipes or stories into our celebrations. I’d encourage you to include the ever-present but often overlooked God.

Lead your children in thanking him–if not for your current circumstances then for who he is, for the life he’s given, for the blessings to come. Make it a season, not just a day. Make it a habit, and prepare for a harvest.

“In everything give thanks,” I Thessalonians 5:18.

What are you thankful for today?