When Thanks Is Hard to Give


I dropped my body into my favorite chair and stretched out my legs, hoping the soft embrace of my chaise lounge would comfort more than my tired bones.

After two months, and more than 10 assessments with our 8-year-old little girl who has special needs, my husband and I met with her school’s IEP team and developmental specialists to discuss results so we could develop a therapy and educational plan for the next year.

The first meeting lasted two hours. The second meeting lasted three. And I’m not exaggerating.

Nothing prepares you for times like these.

During the first meeting, I took endless notes so I would’t forget anything. I wanted to remember all the medical terms and glean insights from observations they’d made during Aster’s evaluations. I listened as her specialist shared how some scores went down instead of up, and I remember feeling a surprising sense of peace and strength.

After a year of extensive weekly and daily exercises and occupational therapy, Aster’s visual memory and perceptual processing had decreased, which caused a lot of concern. But there were areas where she had made progress, so we tried to focus on those. Still, before I left, her specialist wrote a referral for us to see pediatric neurologist for more testing next month.

On the way home I felt numb. And then I cried.

A few days later we had our second meeting with Aster’s IEP team at school. Peace and strength didn’t show up this time. In fact, tears filled my eyes as I listened to the school psychologist give an overview of the tests our brave girl had taken and how inconsistent scores made it hard for them to draw a clear conclusion. I understood.

The past six years have felt like a puzzle we can’t solve, so we just keep trying to find all the pieces.

Five presentations and three hours later, I had eaten almost all the chocolate covered short-bread mini star cookies I brought to share. We signed forms and thanked each person there for being incredibly thorough and developing the best individualized education plan they could for our daughter this year.

I walked out of that meeting with a stack of papers and information I did’t know how to process. And I went home where I let the weight of it all sink into the cushions of my chaise lounge.

I knew I needed God.

I needed Him to hold me and help me not sink into sadness. I needed Truth to untangle my racing thoughts and over-analyzing tendencies. But I was tired and didn’t feel like reading, journaling, crying or praying.

I don’t know why but I opened my Bible anyway. And there it was; a verse I did not want to see:

Let us enter His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout triumphantly to Him in song. For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods. (Psalm 95:2-3)

How in the world was I supposed to do that? I didn’t have thanks to give and triumphant was no where close to how I felt.

But I kept reading.

Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under His care. (Psalm 95:6-7)

I found thanks I could give.

But it wasn’t until I let God remind me, through Scripture, Who He is and how much I am kept under His care. How closely He holds my little girl because He is her God. I am His sheep and she is His lamb.

Jesus is my daughter’s Shepherd and her life is in His pasture, not mine.

I stayed in my comfortable chair that night and knelt my heart before my Maker. I claimed His triumph over my daughter’s unknown future and I thanked Him for being a good Father by providing support and resources we need, surrounding us with people who look like His hands and feet, and helping me see thanks that I could give when it was hardest to find.

What can you give thanks for today? 

About Renee

Renee Swope is a Word-lover, story-teller, heart-encourager and grace-needer. She's also a wife, mom, friend, daughter and author of A Confident Heart, a Retailers Choice Award winning book that became a best-seller and has been published in six languages, with over 150,000 copies sold. Renee is speaks around the country at women's events and and serves on the writing team for DaySpring’s inCourage blog. For twenty years, Renee served in leadership at Proverbs 31 Ministries and as former co-host of the ministry's radio program, “Everyday Life with Lysa & Renee.


  1. kim stewart says:

    So thankful to that Jesus is my son’s Shepherd and his life is in His pasture, not mine. Thanks for always encouraging me, sweet Renee, and always right when I need it! Have a blessed day, Kim

  2. He is so good. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.
    I have been in this same and similar circumstances more times than id like to remember, and today I gratefully receive these comforting and encouraging words reminding me. He is listening and sees us.
    I give thanks for you today.

  3. I give thanks for the unknown. I have peace this day although by the world’s standards I should be anxious and upset. I lost my job and have no prospects on the horizon but I know whose I am and who I am. He has me and my family in His care and all will be well.

  4. i give thanks for my daughter. She also has special needs. we were told she may not live beyond 12 years. however she is now 38 years old. Our life has not been what we thought, but it has been a blessing. i know God has worked some amazing things in our life with this little lady

  5. Thank the Lord that he is our keeper in all things. I am struggling with the loss of my husband and my home. Thankful that my son took me in to live with him. I know the Lord has a plan for my life and I am watching for his unveiling of that plan. I ask for peace as I wait and look forward to what his plan is. I am a little lonely and miss my husband but he is with the Lord, so that I am thankful for.

  6. I too am thankful for His blessing that was so hard to accept! Our daughter fought a twelve year Leukaemia battle that eventually, her body lost, but her spirit won. God answered our prayers and healed her!!

  7. Thanks for this today Renee. It’s hard to be open and transparent, especially with our feelings.
    I was thinking as I was reading this that God from the beginning of time knew you would choose Aster for your very own, just as Jesus chose us.
    He knew that she would through your family, have a chance to find Jesus.
    He knew that she would have learning difficulties, and chose your family to place her into where she can get the best help she would need. Without you and your family obeying the voice of God and bringing her into your lives, she may never have had that chance to grow to the best of her abilities and even thrive.
    I’m praying you will see the truth that God wants you to see, even in these trials.
    Blessings on your and your family!
    Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

  8. Thank you for reminding me that my daughter is His and under His care. I am more at peace with the difficulties my daughter is facing and will try to remind myself when doubts creep into my thoughts. Thanks you and God bless!

  9. Today, I am giving thanks for the wonderful sermon at church today. The topic was stewardship, but, the guest preacher did not focus on money. He reminded us of our gifts and talents that God has given us. We are called to use those gifts and talents to glorify God. A beautiful service today!

  10. I am thankful for you, Renee. My women’s group is studying the Confident heart and my life is being transformed as I am reminded of who I am because of who He is and what He has done and continues to do. There are times as I read your book that my tears begin to flow and I think you are writing my biography! Thank you for sharing and I pray that God continues to use you as you follow Him!!

  11. I can relate to this I recently lost my husband suddenly..He was not sick & didn’t have any medixal issues that I knew off. I can’t find peace & comfort in my heart because up to this point we don’t know yet the cause of his death. I have 2 young children to raise 10 year son & 7 year daughter..I have so many questions in my mind & heart. Many peaple are offering help & only thing I told them was prayers,prayers & more prayers. I knew in my heart that I can’t do it alone..After reading the bible & reminders of my friends that I’m not alone God will be with me all the time. I lifted my life, my future,my children, my pain & struggles to him. Hoping & praying that pain will be lessen & peace will finally will be in my heart.

  12. PHYLLIS OLLEY says:

    WOW. I know some of the frustration having raised a boy alone with severe ADHD. I remember all the M Team meetings, all the IEP’s. I remember teachers who had laready given up on my son and each new school year the whispers that the teacher from the year before was only too happy to share with his new one so any chance he had of proving himself were pretty much over before theyhad begun. I remember crying and being angry and going home with no one to talk to as I was also a single mom.

    My faith was not where it needed to be so those feelings of being alone were deep and dark and I felt lost most of the time.

    My son is 36 now and has suffered with drug and alcohol addictions for over 14 years. He was baptized 2 Sunday’s ago and is 30 days clean and sober. Your story brought back so many memories but also helped me to see that even though I left God out all those years ago He is with me now, He has forgiven me, He loves my son more than I ever could and that hope is always there.

    I will be praying for all of you and your precious daughter. May God Bless you always

  13. I thank the Lord for being with me and feeling not only His presence but Him guiding me. After a tumultuous, confusing week of decisions, choices, and opportunities I felt Him right there with me showing me Him. I prayed harder than I have in a long time all thru the days of the week. Even after a disappointing and big let down from a family member that I could not depend on, I did not let that damper the closeness I felt to God. He is so Good and I want to tell others about what He will do if you really expect Him to. It required patience but I knew he would show up. I can’t imagine going through life without Him.

  14. Ruth Moyer says:

    I have twin daughters with special needs. Although they are 42 years old, I have many days when I find it hard to give thanks. But there are many more days when I am thankful.

  15. I gave thanks today not because I felt like it and in spite of every feeling that bombarded my ‘rational’ thinking. I chose to give thanks in ..the everything…because this is God’s will. He is greater!

  16. the God is an ever present friend in times of trouble, this I know and believe. I thank Him that even when I lost my job, painful and hard it has been, God has given me a song of praise and thanksgiving.

  17. I often feel discouraged (stems from selfishness, I guess) but am thankful for seasons. The season of life that I am going through now is only temporary and God is the Light at the end of what seems to be an endless tunnel. He is with me during the journey, sending me unassuming people to say words of encouragement or help in certain unexpected ways that I can only associate as personal gifts from God. There is no doubt. This “season” makes it hard to be thankful…but it will be worth it in the end.

  18. Kerrie Adams says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, your struggles and your knowledge of our Lord and how He is always there for all of us and just how much He loves each and everyone of us. Your story is sad but joyful in the way that we can see Him meeting your needs right where you are. Your story breaks my heart but is yet so inspirational and will help so many others.
    Thank you!

  19. I have twins in first grade; one of whom is struggling in more than one subject despite consistent help at home. I want the school to eval and help us. However, I am also praying for great wisdom and understanding for the balance and perspective of empathy, encouragement, expectation, hope, etc. I have often felt guilty that I struggle so much when I know that family’s like yours have even larger issues to hurdle. It is nice to relate emotionally and spiritually to you. Thank you so much for writing about it; it was timely for me. The reminder to keep looking up (to the hills toward God from where our help comes) is always welcome.
    🙂 Heidi

  20. Renee – My heart could relate so well when I read this on (in)courage. Our circumstances are not the same with our children, but in a way they are not so different.

    Thank you for sharing.

    I wanted to share something that might touch your heart. I sat down this Thanksgiving season and added up my blessings that I have found in the midst of my child’s mental illness. I even surprised myself because I had to shorten the list because it was so long.

    I hope this writing piece will warm your heart. I tried to send it to you through your contact form but it seemed like that was not for private comments. Sorry I am a little new to this blogging.


  21. Renee praying for your daughter for her learning disability. My daughter had a reading problem and passing the star test reading part. Always had her in my prayers. That she graduated in 2015 and know 2 yr in college. Your daughter will do great things. In Jesus name. Amen


  1. […] opened ours last night and told Aster all about it, and since I shared some of our story with you earlier this weekend, I wanted to invite you into our sweet two-minute conversation last night when she met our […]

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