Thanksgiving, by definition, is a simple action. The dictionary states it is "the act of giving thanks" or the "grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, esp. to God."
Today, three Stephenville couples are putting the word into action, thanking God for the gifts he bestowed upon them this year.
Each gift came wrapped in a small, perfect package complete with 10 tiny toes, two wide eyes, 10 little fingers and one beautiful smile.
As the Reed, Culpepper and Rose families gather around their Thanksgiving table today, they are sending up thanks to the Lord for the newest additions to their lives - their children.
Kim and Richard Reed had been married for nearly seven years when they decided it was time to bring a child into the world. The world, however, had different plans.
"I got diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma," Kim said. "I went through chemo(therapy) treatments and fighting cancer and children were put on the back burner at that point."
After Kim's recovery, the couple again began looking into the possibility of bearing children.
"We started looking into the possibility if I could still have children and that was not a possibility," Kim said.
Kim and Richard kept their hearts and minds open, however, and chose to detour from their original path.
"We went down different avenues, but we kept getting led to adoption," Kim said. "Finally we just did a lot of praying about it and a lot of research and decided that was the path we were supposed to take."
The couple visited Buckner, an adoption agency in Dallas, and began their journey two-and-a-half years ago.
Their journey ended seven months ago, but not without a few bumps and bruises along the way.
The most heart-wrenching portion of their waiting came last Christmas.
"Last year we found out the day before Christmas we were being looked at and went through Christmas Day not knowing if we were being chosen," Kim said. "We found out the day after (Christmas) that we were not chosen."
Kim said the process was difficult because control was completely taken out of her hands.
"It is hard because it is out of your control totally," she said. "It is hard to realize a stranger is going to give you the greatest gift you will ever have and that is their child."
The disappointment after last Christmas was heavy, however, and Kim began to doubt she and Richard would ever have a child to call their own.
"We pretty much got to the point where I didn't think it was going to happen," she said. "I was very impatient."
But on April 15, nearly two years after registering with the adoption agency in Dallas, the phone rang with good news.
"We got the call (our son) was born and the birth mother chose us that same day," Kim said. "That was on a Thursday and we got him out of the hospital on a Saturday."
Kim and Richard named their son Rhett.
Crystal and Wesley Rose knew when they married eight years ago that bearing children was not an option.
Crystal, like Kim, suffered from Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and received a bone marrow transplant in an effort to cure the disease.
"We knew going into (our marriage) we wouldn't be able to have children," Crystal said.
When the couple began researching options, they were led to adoption. After selecting Generations Adoption in Waco as their agency last November, Crystal and Wesley sent various messages out to friends and family requesting help in the adoption process.
"We put all over our facebook that we were interested in adoption," Crystal said. "We ended up hearing about a girl who was 15 in Abilene."
The young teen's aunt and Crystal's aunt worked together in Abilene and connected the mother-to-be with the Roses in March.
Within days, Crystal received a message from the teen.
"She messaged me on facebook and I called her right then and told her I would love to meet her," Crystal said. "Wes and I went to her parents' house. We spent several hours together and at the end of that meeting she said she wanted us to parent her baby."
Later, the Roses discovered the night they first met with the adoption agency would be an important to their future.
"We found out later that our first meeting at Generations was the night (our daughter) was conceived," Crystal said. "We were praying all that time and didn't know (she) had been conceived."
Following their initial meeting, Crystal and the birth mother began a friendship that resulted in an intimate involvement not often available to adoptive parents.
"Crystal got to be at every one of the doctor appointments from (March) on," Wesley said. "That was such a blessing because Crystal got to experience something she never would have gotten to experience before."
On June 28, the Roses welcomed their daughter, Victory, into the world.
"We were the second ones to get to hold her when she was born," Wesley said.
While the Roses' process was shorter than most seeking adoption, it still had its fair share of disappointment. For Crystal and Wesley, the disappointment came the day before they were scheduled to celebrate Victory's birth.
"The day before our ceremony was supposed to take place the mother changed her mind," Wesley said. "It was one of the biggest events we had experienced and we were at our most sensitive and raw stage."
Wesley said he and Crystal were beginning to accept the mother's decision when an odd thing happened.
"We were beginning to accept the fact that she had decided to parent this baby," Wesley said. "After a while we began to have a peace about it. At about 11 that night, she called Crystal with tears in her eyes and said, 'I am sorry for what I put you through. I want ya'll to parent this baby.'"
Wesley said he came to a startling realization at that moment.
"It just made me realize the blessing that life is, and what those young girls go through," he said. "Her biggest fear was not ever seeing the baby again."
Tammy and Neil Culpepper have been married for nearly 20 years. Ten years ago, when they lived in Indiana, they began contemplating adoption.
"I can't have children," Tammy said.
Tammy, unlike her friends Crystal and Kim, is not a cancer survivor, but was still unable to bear children.
The Culpeppers were not ready to give up on the dream of children, however, and began seeking adoption options.
"We tried with agencies and even another private adoption with a family friend, but it had all fallen through," Tammy said.
The years of waiting finally came to an end this past spring.
On March 19, a coworker asked Neil if he and Tammy were interested in adopting. Her niece had just given birth to a baby girl and, by law, would not be able to keep her because of complications with drugs.
"She had been talking to her niece for a couple of months about us, but we didn't know it," Tammy said.
Tammy said the aunt asked the local couple because they had a desire to not only place the child in a safe family environment, but also to be at liberty to see her grow.
"They wanted to know where the baby was going," Tammy said.
Neil called Tammy with the news at 9:30 a.m.
Within an hour she had contacted her lawyer.
By 4 p.m. a social worker was inspecting the Culpeppers' home.
But Tammy was all too familiar with the potential downfalls of the adoption process and found herself seeking guidance.
"The more I was thinking about it and praying about it I realized God was telling me, 'You need to do this,'" she said. "You don't expect it all to happen in a day."
Tammy said it was nearly 12 hours later that the realization of having a child began to sink in.
"It started to settle in about eight that evening when it was just us and the baby," she said. "(You realize) this is really happening and joy starts to take over the shock."
Tammy and Neil named their daughter Grace Belle.
While the couple was thankful for their new gift, Grace's health was the cause of concern for several days following her birth.
Drugs in Grace's system gave her a low heart rate and minor twitching, which a local nurse feared could be indicative of seizures.
Grace was taken by ambulance to Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth for further observation.
But by the following Friday, Grace had been cleared to go home.
"She was eight days old by the time we took her home from the hospital," Tammy said.
For the first time, each couple will have a child to celebrate the holidays with this year.
"It means everything," Tammy said.
For Tammy and Neil, it is the firsts they are looking forward to the most.
"We aren't doing anything special, just spending (holidays) with family and having a child to watch all the firsts through," Tammy said. "This weekend, I got to take her to see Santa Clause - she loved him."
For the Reeds, it is starting their own family traditions - including a little dress up.
"I get to be Santa Clause," Richard said.
And for the Roses, it means a lot more joy during the holidays.
"For years we have been sad and depressed during the holidays because we don't have a child," Crystal said.
But this year is different.
"It is going to be a great holiday season," Tammy said.