“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.”
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?Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I am lifting you up in prayer right now…along with Aster. God is bigger than all of this and I pray for His comforting arms to surround you and hold you tight and that you would feel the strong reassurance of His everlasting arms beneath you. He will not let you fall. So many times when only groans could come out, God has redirected me to His Word and yes, He tells us to give thanks for our blessings in the midst of our pain. Pain and thanksgiving CAN coexist. His Word is often the balm to my heart that I need. Giving thanks today for His wonderful Word that meets us right where our needs are and brings peace and hope. Beautiful and vulnerable post….blessed by your sharing!
Have a God-filled Thanksgiving,
Keri Siegel says
Good Morning Ms. Swope,
I am a mother also. My daughter is 15 years old. She is a beautiful and intelligent student. I can’t even begin to imagine what you are going through. Nor do I want to. All I can say is, I will keep you and your family in my prayers. Trust God to guide your family in this difficult journey. I am epileptic and my mom is raising my daughter for me. Meanwhile, I am in an economic hardship and she and I have difficulties, so she has chosen to not help me. So, at the soup kitchen where I have lunch several days a week, there is a gentleman who I believe is either autistic or has Ash-burgers Syndrome (I’m not sure which). It’s clear he’s disabled. We’re very good friends. He does just fine. He is well respected, he is very kind, and he excells in many areas. I pray this helps you. Your daughter, is gifted in some area. God would never allow the devil to steal from us in one area without giving us a double portion in another area because He would never allow the devil to get an advantage over Him. I really believe that. So, focus on your daughter’s special skills. Be blessed. Keri Lynn Siegel
Andrea Smith says
Your daughter’s future is not unknown this is what you must trust. Jeremiah 29:11 states “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you says the Lord thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you an expected end”. My daughter, Samantha, has cognitive delays and I navigated and fought the educational system for many years. I was overly protective because people can be cruel to persons with disabilities. One day she wanted to try out for the citywide chorus. I didn’t want her to audition because I wanted people to see her as I see her: in the light of her abilities. With much reservation surrounding me, I reluctantly allowed her to audition. She auditioned and was accepted into the city choir. Not the school choir but the choir for the city of Chicago. One day she told me she wanted to run for homecoming queen. I was apprehensive and dreaded her decision because of my “hang-ups”. I took a deep breath and decided to allow her to run. Guess what? She won! She was the first homecoming queen with disabilities in the history of the school. I remember how people encouraged her and rallied behind her. My point is that we must allow them to grow and experience what this beautiful life has to offer. Will the people of this world remind them of their limitations? They probably will however; you and I know that their “label” or diagnosis is not a death sentence. Praise God now for the victories that Aster will walk into. Remember we aren’t marching toward victory but alongside of victory. Oh and by the way Samantha will start college in January. I resigned from my job but I didn’t know at the time I would be attending school with her but God knew. So as we embark on this new journey we NEED and desire your prayers.
Sue Gorman says
God bless you for sharing this. You have no idea how much this meant to me today. Thank you.
This touched me deeply. The situation for my son is different, but time and again, indeed, daily, I have to leave him in God’s care. As I pray for him so , too, I pray for your child. There is so much as parents and believers in God through Christ Jesus we don’t understand. I choose to trust God anyway. It is all I have.
Thank you for sharing this. My dear friend has a daughter with cerebral palsey. I’m going to share this with her. Praying for you both today! God is so good to comfort and guide us through His Word.
Lisa Swanson says
Wow sweet one I to have been at IEP meetings! I have so much EMPATHY for you! May you know that you are being thought of on those hard days! May schools learn that they a beautiful child that was given to them as a special gift and may they learn as professionals that your daughter is more than test scores, and assessments. May the minister to her heart and spirit and her God given talents that God gave to her! Hugs and Loves being sent your way from Montana!
Alice Fonda Henson Workman says
Thanks for this. Sounds like Aster has a great mom. I am dealing with a husband who two years ago was in pretty good shape. We were then dealing with a cross country move to take care of our mothers leaving friends of 40 yrs. behind. Both mothers have died, and now my husband has been diagnosed with Idiomatic Pulmonary Fibrosis. It seems to consume him overnight. I am doing my best to take care of him and our zoo (4 dogs, 4 cats- all throw aways) and 500 acres. At times I feel very alone, but just a few minutes in the yard reminds me of all the beauty God has placed here for us and it gives me courage to go back inside and face what has to be faced.
Betty W says
I too was faced with the serious illness of my dear husband. In 2009 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and over the following 7 years I was his primary caregiver, companion and friend. God faithfully cared for us, His sheep, providing scripture, songs, friends, finances. He truly is the Great Shepherd. The Psalms have been such a comfort, and I can attest to the fact that He does lead us in paths of righteousness, always faithfully holding us near, even as we walk through the valley of darkness and death. There is no need to fear!
It is when we share anothers struggles with tears and aches that God comes through us to minister and matter most. And when we are thankful for having a heart to share anothers pain it is indeed praiseworthy. . .humbling. . .and true compassion. The kind that moved a Father to send a Son as a living and blameless sacrifice. It’s when we understand the complex gratitude of praise in our pain that we are most like Christ and most capable of understanding anothers pain. . .and our desperate need to share each others burdens and feel thankful to do so. Your words pull compassion into the spiritual and we all read and share your pain, pray and praise. Very powerful read. . .your words and the comments. Community. The love of God. . .
Violet Hernandez says
Renee, I pray for God’s peace to to calm your anxious heart. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. As a Speech-Language Pathologist working in the public schools, it makes me happy to hear you refer to your team of specialists as the hands and feet of Jesus. I feel like I am ministering to my students on a daily basis. Thank you for joining the IEP team in the process of diagnosing and determining what is best for your daughter. Your input and support is essential. As one who sits weekly in IEP meetings, my heart breaks for parents receiving unexpected news. I pray that your IEP team will have wisdom to determine the best plan for your daughter and a heart of patience to implement the plan. Stay strong momma- the word says that He has a plan and a future for each of us. God bless you and yours
Jeanne Drouillard says
What a beautiful heartfelt tribute to our all powerful God. Thank you for sharing
Thank you for sharing your heart and for the beautiful and much needed reminder that we are His sheep and in His care. It was much needed this morning. I too have a young daughter with special needs but am struggling to get the help she needs from her school. I’m a single mom, also trying to best help my aging parents, one recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It all just feels so heavy sometimes and yet there is peace that comes when I stop, and thank Him, even in the hard. When I say out loud, “I trust You.” And now, I will remember too that I’m never alone, our great Shepherd is caring for my sweet little girl, my parents and me too.
Myrtis Obaigbena says
Thank you so much for sharing your heart. It spoke to my soul. You will never know how much you have encouraged me. This morning, and the past few weeks I’ve been feeling discouraged and defeated. Thank you, Thank you.
I will be praying for you and your daughter.
Rebecca L Jones says
I too benefit from this post, my mother had to take custody of two great grandchildren, one diagnosed as ADHD & ODD, while there is medication, much of this behavior appears to me to learned and copied, I do my best to redirect and refocus that attention, and sow in Jesus Loves Me, something they never knew. I’ve seen my mother searching through this with the school, and therapists, it’s a lot of medical jargon. But if we treat the body we should also feed the soul and spirit. I an praying for the Lord to quiet these two with His love, from Zephaniah. I have to respectfully disagree with Keri, but I don’t He’s not giving you double of something to replace what is wrong. He completes us. We are His masterpieces. His desire is for us to know the shaloam peace, nothing missing, nothing broken. Some are healed instantly, some as they went, but He healed all who asked and could believe. Let’s give thanks in everything, I know it’s difficult but so does He. After all He bore all for us all. So I am thankful for Isaiah 53. I pray for ministering spirits to strengthen you, and for you daughter’s condition to be under the name above all names. Happy Thanksgiving.
Rebecca L Jones says
Please excuse the typo, but I don’t…
Quaife Nichols says
Thank you for sharing. Peace and comfort
I have a brand new 5 month old baby and every time I hear myself say “I’m so glad you’re mine” or “my girl” I silently thank God not for her, but for entrusting us with her care. You’re right, our children are his flock just as we parents are his flock. We are simply(not so simply) here to care for and guide one another. I pray for you for patience and courage and strength. And for Aster, for bravery and confidence.
Tammy Gonzalez says
Renee, thank you for this reminder that Jesus loves our little ones–and our grown ones too. That’s a truth I need to hold onto as I watch my son make choices that are obviously not in God’s will…I love the way God spoke to you so powerfully through His Word, and I pray that He’ll continue to minister to your heart as you walk this rough path…I, too, know what it’s like to receive blessing from others as they become the hands and feet of Jesus for me. My middle daughter died at the age of two after a horrid struggle with a cancer-like disease. The blessings that came from folks around us were one of the powerful ways He showed His faithfulness to us. And in that ordeal I found some strength in knowing that God loved my baby immensely more than I did, but I wasn’t able to praise Him in the midst of that storm. I’m glad that He is strengthening you and enabling you to sing His praises. May God bless and keep you, Renee.
Thank you so much for sharing this story about your beautiful daughter and our wonderful God. Jesus is our shepherd. He is holding your beautiful baby girl in His arms. You and your daughter our both His babies. He will watch over you both and give you the strength you need to keep going. I pray that your sweet baby girl always knows she has a purpose and she is beautiful and can do anything with God. I pray this disability does not hold her back from accomplishing her God given dreams. Jesus, You are faithful and You are always good! Thank You for hearing and answering all our prayers. In Jesus Name, Amen!
“Let us then approach Godʼs throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
– Hebrews 4:16 NIV ❤️
Thank you for your honest and transparent testimony. I pray for God’s grace, strength, peace, hope and love to continue to comfort and sustain you and your family. We have so much to be thankful for but get loss in the day to day, minute to minute cares of life. Thank you for the reminder that we are so incredibly blessed, even in the hardest and darkest times we are blessed. This is a reminder of “let go and let God”, allow Him to be any and everything He has promised to be.
Shauna Viele says
Sometimes I go, ” Really, Lord?!?” And usually He replies “YES, REALLY.”
Reality is hard sometimes; hanging on to God’s word is invaluable. Thank you for sharing what is on your heart and mind today. Joining everyone else in lifting you, Aster, your family, and her school in prayer.
So grateful that you know and love God and are teaching Aster the same….will continue to pray for your family,,,,am praying you see God’s blessings in your lives this Thanksgiving.
Emily at The We Files says
Thank you for your brave telling of your story. I can relate, as we are still somewhat at the beginning of figuring out our daughters needs with less answers than we’d like. It can be hard to trust, let alone give thanks. May God grace us with strength to trust His plan and praise Him for the goodness in it all.
Praise God that He gave you this special gift! Sometimes we do not understand so many things; but I know that God chose you to take care of Aster. Charles Stanley has a wonderful devotion on giving thanks in all adversity by focusing on God and not our circumstances. I higly recommend this devotion. God bless & keep you & your loved ones!
This is a beautiful reminder. Thank you so much. I have a 4.5 year old special needs daughter. Your last paragraph brought tears to my eyes. 🙂
Renee Swope says
Thank you so so much sweet friends – for the way you have loved on and prayed for our family today. Honestly, I wanted this to be for you, not me. And I pray that more than anything just knowing this life is hard, and our hearts don’t usually have the strength to carry the heavy stuff, but God has a way of meeting us in the messy broken places if we’ll let Him.
I have read every single one of your comments and they have been such a gift. Just knowing that some of you really needed to read these words brought such hope to my heart. This was a hard post to write because it was so raw and meant the world to read your words this morning.
God is showing me so much about Himself, and about courageous, strong, overcomer of a girl in this hard season of not-knowing. Its a gift to be her mama, but I just have to keep remembering she is HIS first. I’m a steward of the gift He gave us when we adopted Aster.
I treasure this sweet haven of community here and I”m praying with each of you for His answers to our questions, His comfort for our pain, His grace in our weakness and His abundant provision in places only He knows we need most. WithYOU ~Renee
Beth Williams says
Thanks for sharing a heart touching story. Prayers that God will guide you all to the right resources. May He send courage & strength to make you all overcomers!! The unknown can be hard. Trust in God with all your heart, not depending on your own understanding, but acknowledging God in all your ways, so you will know what direction your family should take. (Proverbs 3:5-6) .
Prayers for a calm peace to surround you all & settle in your weary souls.
Renee, I’m so very sorry for the pain and trials you and your family are having. All of you are in my prayers. I pray that God will give each of you His peace and He will help you find just what Aster needs to help her make the progress she needs. God already knows what you and your lovely little girl need and He will provide. Aster is so blessed to have you and your husband as her mom and dad. She’s already a winner because of the love you and your family have for her and each other. God bless you.
Michelle Chapin says
Hey there sweet friend!!! Miss yall!!! Praying for yall!! Interesting while under different circumstance and for different reasons God still connects us and lets us know we are not alone. At 9:46 PM this past Friday I wrote to my friend, Merry in text form this response: ….”it is like I am working on a puzzle and some of the pieces are missing and I am unable to locate them!” Then I get on facebook a few minutes ago and find this….I love you and am praying for you!!!
Thank you so much. This means so much to me today. We are currently going through testing with both of our daughters and I have been so down and had forgotten the promises of our Lord. I will pray for Aster and keep your testimony close to my heart.