This is a close up photo of a group of small white pumpkins on a plaid table cloth background. There is space for copy.This photo would work well for Thanksgiving and a holiday season in the fall.

Like the past several months, Thanksgiving this year is likely to be very different than any other recently celebrated. So many of the changes and disruptions of 2020 have been beyond our control. Despite limitations and restrictions, the COVID-19 virus has not disappeared, as so often promised.

While a vaccine’s development is looking promising, many families and friends will choose not to gather this year out of an abundance of caution. The yearly community Thanksgiving services and the traditional community Thanksgiving meals here in the Lowcountry have also been canceled, again out of an abundance of caution.

This Thanksgiving will be very different.

Amid the continuing stress of ongoing uncertainty around us in so many areas, it is not surprising that, at times, we naturally focus on the loss of people and opportunities we miss the most. And that is precisely why we all need this time of thanksgiving even more than ever before.

If even for a day, or just for a few hours, a time set apart allows us to pause from all the chaos and take a deep breath. Thanksgiving is that time.

While it might be more difficult or challenging to identify them among the rest of what is happening, there are still parts of our lives – many parts – that bring us joy. Intentionally focusing on these positive aspects of our lives and those around us and those we care about is a gift we can receive and enjoy and then share.

For many, joy comes from gratitude, a sense of appreciation for the good that has been received, acknowledging that it is not earned or even deserved very often.

For people of faith, God is the source of good in the world and in us. This belief and trust in a higher power allow the occurrences of this earthly life to be put into perspective.

Yes, Thanksgiving will be different this year. It will also remain a time for experiencing and expressing gratitude. Gratitude for the past and all the positive memories it holds. Gratitude for the present, taking each and every moment not for granted, but as beautiful and unique gifts. Gratitude for the future, adopting a hopeful and optimistic attitude that God is not yet done with us or the world.

May this “different” Thanksgiving still be a time of gratitude for you, and one that you will not soon forget.

Pete Berntson is the pastor of Church of the Palms United Methodist Church in Okatie.