Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
As my child was born I fought against nature and attempted to hold her in. This is not how the baby books tell you to approach labor. Quite the opposite, actually. I was supposed to work with the contraction, breathing out and letting it deliver my baby into the world. Instead I gripped bed rails and held every breath attempting to stop her from slipping away from me, in both body and spirit.
They took her anyway, through an incision, making that effort to fight my own body all for naught. At twenty-five weeks gestation she was born near Thanksgiving rather than Valentine’s Day. Many Thanksgivings have left my lips but none so full of truth than the day I whispered it over her softly, as a nurse cleared away the tubes from her nose and mouth. I could see her heartbeats on a monitor and I counted every one.
Another heartbeat. Thank you, Lord. Another heartbeat. Thank you, Lord. She forgot to breathe. Let her breathe. Please breathe. She took a breath. Thank you, Lord.
Elsewhere other families broke bread and bowed heads while I sat in the dark and uncovered a Thanksgiving I didn’t know could exist in such suffering. I don’t need a calendar for Thanksgiving now, all orange and brown, marked by apple cider and falling leaves. When she rolled over, it was Thanksgiving. When she spoke a single syllable, it was Thanksgiving. When she took shaky steps toward us, it was Thanksgiving.
I know our story could have ended differently and I’m still counting the Thanksgivings with heartbeats, a new rhythm of life where the smallest things really do call for rejoicing. And at night, when I tuck her in with the tulip blanket and feel her chest rise and fall with breath and pulse of a heartbeat underneath my hand, I can see it in the flesh. Thank you, Lord.
Look for all the small Thanksgivings in your day today. Another heartbeat. Another breath. And give Him thanks.