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Get ready for a great Thanksgiving!
Get ready for a great Thanksgiving! (Flickr/Daniel Spiess)

Want a guaranteed-better Thanksgiving? Perhaps even the best Thanksgiving ever?

I actually believe Thanksgiving may be one of the most Christian holidays we can celebrate. As believers, we are to give thanks always—in every situation. And we have reason to be thankful. Our God is on His throne, Jesus is alive and we are loved with an everlasting love.

That's enough, right?

But, let's face it. Thanksgiving is hard for some people. They've lost loved ones. They're lonely. And another day off spent watching everyone celebrate online how wonderful their life is only makes it harder.

This has been an especially difficult year for some. We've been more divided as a nation than any year I remember. Some people simply don't feel as blessed this year, perhaps not even as thankful.

Others are so caught up in having the perfect meal and the perfect table setting, the house decorated just right, that they get distracted with busyness and end up disappointed rather than enjoying some of the wonderful blessings around them.

And then there are those of us who simply take things for granted, failing to stop and be truly thankful.

Here's a checklist of activities that, I'm convinced, will make your world look brighter and your holiday grander. You may not be able to do all of them, but I would encourage you to complete those you can.

Here are seven steps to the best Thanksgiving ever:

Read Psalm 136.

Slowly. Maybe even aloud. Maybe a couple of times. Let the words dwell in you. Make them a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Trust me on this.

Make a thankful list.

We used to do this as a family tradition when our boys were at home. I wrote about it in a previous post, but one of the best ways to fill your heart with gratitude is to make a list of things for which you're thankful. When you reflect on the things you do have—rather than the ones you don't—your heart grows in appreciation.

Spend time with family and friends.

You may not be able to be with them in person (and for some, this is one of the harder parts of the holidays), but even exchanging a text with someone you love can brighten your day. Reach out to someone you haven't heard from in a while. And if you're mourning over someone special this year, spend some time remembering why they're special.

And, if I may be so bold, some of those reading this are grieving so hard for someone they lost that they fail to enjoy those they still have around them. I suspect the one you lost would want you to keep enjoying life.

Smile often.

Smiling does something inside you and always makes an impact on people around you. The ability to smile or not is almost always a reaction to a perspective. How's your perspective this year? Sometimes a perspective check can change your attitude, the way you feel, everything.

Remember, Jesus is alive. The gospel is good news! For the believer, our future is secure—and wonderful. Paul wrote, "Our light affliction, which lasts but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17). Think on that and you'll have to grin (at least).

If you're reading this and there has never been a time in your life where you surrendered your heart to Christ, I pray you will today. You don't have to understand everything. It's a faith decision, but the reality is we are all sinners, God is a holy God, and He loves us enough that He sent His Son to die for our sins. "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom.10:9).

Give to others.

Not only can you shop online, but you can also give online to most churches, charities and nonprofits. There are lots of places you can serve others over the holidays. The Salvation Army is usually a good place to start, and most communities have numerous other helping ministries.

Giving is a catalyst for an internal smile. It releases hidden joy inside you that you can't understand until you experience it. Paul credits Jesus with saying, "'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:39b). The happiest, most contented people I know are generous people.

Exercise, take a nap and drink some water.

This one may seem out of place in a list like this, but I've learned when I don't feel good, it's often because I'm partially dehydrated. We all run at a fast pace. Taking some time to relax and catch up on your sleep may be the best gift you can give yourself for a better Thanksgiving. And you know you need to exercise, right? Even the smallest activity can make you feel so much better.

Think of others first.

This may be the most important. For example, if you wear your feelings on your shoulders or are easily offended by what others did or didn't do for you, you'll have a miserable holiday. On the other hand, if you clothe yourself with an attitude of humility and consider others' needs before your own, the rest of this list will take care of itself. And, here's the strange thing: you'll be blessed as you do so.

There are my suggestions for the best Thanksgiving ever. You may not be able to do all of them this weekend. The key is to complete as many as you can.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit ronedmondson.org.

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