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{together} for Good

Have you ever wondered how God could work all things together for good in your life? Maybe you’re in a situation that feels impossible, a marriage that is unraveling, a job environment that is unhealthy and all you can see is HARD.

In my Proverbs 31 Ministries devotion today, I share how I wrestled with this in the midst of very difficult circumstances during and after our daughter’s adoption, and the ways God showed me HOW He was working things for “good” in unexpected ways.

If you hopped over from my devotion, I’m so glad you stopped by! As promised, here are a few photos that tell part of the story of us bringing our beautiful girl home. {And there’s special giveaway at the end of this post.}

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All I could see were the hard parts. Everything we would have to give up: sleep, money, comfort, familiarity, others’ approval. All the hard things we would have to navigate: huge expenses and significant changes.

What if our sons resented us for re-arranging their lives forever? What if our parents and extended family didn’t approve? What if we exhausted our time, emotions and money only to end up with broken hearts and an empty bank account? How could God work all that together for good?

I could not see how. I could only see “hard.” Yet we knew God was calling our family to adopt a severely malnourished baby girl from Ethiopia. And in October 2009 we brought Aster home.

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Was it hard? Yes. Even more than I imagined.

But as I trace God’s hand over the past five years since we brought Aster home, I see Him working countless things {together} for good. Most of all, I see a handwritten love letter sent to our little girl from her Heavenly Father, written on every page of our adoption story.

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I see God working the hard things together for good. Despite our inadequacy, sadness and fear of the unknown when Aster was diagnosed with a speech disorder, global developmental delays, low muscle tone and sensory processing disorder, I now see God working it all for good.

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I see God working the overwhelming things together for good.  A year of sleepless nights brought out servant-hearted compassion in our teenage sons when they saw their dad struggling with depression caused by sleep-deprivation. I’ll never forget the night they decided to take turns sleeping on a mattress in their sister’s room to relieve her anxiety and give us back our desperately needed sleep.

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I see God working even the embarrassing things together for good. Like the day I had a meltdown in my car and a stranger tapped on my window to see if I was okay. And that same afternoon, I ran out of gas on my way to get my youngest son at basketball which mean my oldest son, who had a new cast on his broken foot, had to push our car off the road. I see awesome stories for them to tell their children about me one day.

When my reality doesn’t look or feel like “good” to me, I ask God to help me see how. How he is keeping his promise that “in all things [He] works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Roman 8:28).

What I’ve discovered is this: God is always working things together for good, but not just for our good. Sometimes we are part of His working things together for someone else’s good. 

You see, I believe Jesus heard a mother in Africa praying for her baby. A mother who was living in the middle of “hard” like I’d never imagined. A mother who couldn’t see how she could give her little girl the nurture and nutrition she needed.

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Hagere: Aster’s birth-mother feeding her during our visit.

Aster 5.1.09And when God heard that mama’s prayers, He tapped on the heart of a family in North Carolina who loved Him and were called according to His purpose. I also believe God saw an orphanage in Ethiopia searching for a forever family to provide unconditional love and medical care for a 6-month old, 8 pound baby with pneumonia.

So Jesus went back to that family in North Carolina who had been asking God to reveal Himself to them and through them, knowing this little girl would be an answer to that prayer.

And that’s when God started working the hard, impossible, and overwhelming things {together} for good.

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Is there a relationship or situation in your life where all you see is hard? Have you asked God how He can work some part of it together for good?

I don’t know about you, but some days I need a tangible reminder that He can. A visual that prompts me to pray and helps me remember how He does, like the beautiful bead necklace I’m wearing below made from repurposed bullets found in the rubble of Ethiopian soil.

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Each time I look at it, I remember how God answered a desperate mother’s prayers for her baby and filled my family’s longing to experience more of Him. Only He could know how much we needed the gift of a little girl to light up our world, and to remind us that He indeed can work even the hardest things {together} for good.

FBTB EarringsENTER TO WIN To celebrate how Jesus takes the hard and heart-breaking realities of life and works them together for good, Proverbs 31 Ministries is partnering with Fashion & Compassion to create a beautiful jewelry line from repurposed bullets found in the rubble of Ethiopian soil. “SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS” under this post and you’ll be entered to win. 

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The From Bullets to Blessings Collection is handcrafted from Ethiopian bullets, dug out of rubble, and assembled by vulnerable and rescued women throughout Mexico and Charlotte, NC. CLICK HERE to find out more about the collection and the women who create these pieces. It’s a beautiful picture of God working the hard things together for good in their lives through Fashion & Compassion.

“Who Told You That You Were ________ ?”

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What’s wrong with me?” It’s a question I’ve asked far too many times.

When I forget to do something important, when I’m late for a meeting, when I yell at my kids, lose my keys, can’t keep up with deadlines and dirty laundry, or walk into a room in my house and can’t remember why I went in there — the list goes on.

And every time I ask, “What’s wrong with me?” I actually tell myself something is wrong with me.

Then I try to figure out my elusive fault so I can change it.

But then one day it happened:  I got tired of telling myself something was wrong with me.

I got tired of trying to figure out my elusive fault so I could change it.  

And I realized what I needed to change was the way I talked to myself.

God doesn’t want us berating ourselves with questions and statements that make us feel defective.

But, we have an enemy who loves to cast a shadow of self-doubt over us by playing into our self-defeating thoughts. He tries to get us to focus on all that is wrong with us (real or perceived), instead of anything that is right with us….

CLICK HERE to keep reading the rest of this post over on the (in)Courage blog where I’m hanging out today. I’d love for you to join me there and share your thoughts!

Giving God My “I Can’t…”

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Sometimes I just want to shout, “I can’t DO THIS!”

Circumstances can get overwhelming.

Relationships can be frustrating.

And there are days when I just can’t figure out what to do. 

I was having one of those week recently, and God used my little one to help me see the missing piece in my process.

Aster was trying to play a game on our iPad when she shouted, “Mom, I can’t do this!”

She was in the living room and I was in the kitchen washing dishes. Without even really thinking about what I should say, I instinctively responded:  “If you can’t do it, just bring it to me.”

And as those words came out of my mouth, I realized that is God’s response to me, when I’m struggling.

He says, “If you can’t do it, Renee, just bring it to Me.”

When I’m hurting, overwhelmed, or confused.

God says, “If you can’t ___________ just bring it to Me.” 

This week if you start feeling overwhelmed, confused, frustrated or uncertain …. remember to bring it to God.

Take what you can’t handle and put it in His hands.

Watch God take your “I can’t…” and turn it into something He can.

QWhat is an “I Can’t…” that you can give to God this week? Share it in the comments and let’s pray for each other this week. How about we share ours, and then leave a short prayed for someone who left a comment above ours. {I’ll go first}.

Your “I can’t” can be as simple as  “I can’t get all the laundry done” or as complicated as “I can’t figure out God’s will for my life” or as private and short “I can’t forgive my husband”. {If you’re reading this via email, please click here to leave a comment below this post on my blog}

You Were Made for Guiltless Living {guest post & giveaway}

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 Can we have an honest conversation about guilt? Everywhere I go, women are wrestling with feeling guilty all.the.time. And I understand. It’s something I struggle with, too. 

If you are familiar with the heavy weight of guilt, pull up a chair and lean in. I’ve invited my friend Ginger Hubbard to share with us some powerful truths she’s learning to hold onto – truths that point her back to God’s grace again again again.  Truths she writes about in her book, Guiltless Living.”

For so long in my life, I struggled with trying to be a good Christian.

Inevitably, I would blow it on a daily basis then proceed to beat myself up spiritually and emotionally.

In setting my standards high for being what I perceived the perfect wife and mom, I chose the woman described in Proverbs 31 as my role model. On one particular morning, I remember reading about her and making unfavorable comparisons.

She got up before it was still dark. I had rolled out of bed around 8:30 am.

She was well dressed in fine linen and purple. I was in a baggy, terrycloth robe with my hair pulled up in an orange chip clip.

She held the distaff while grasping the spindle with her fingers (not sure what those things are, but I am certain they contributed to her noble character). I held the dust buster to the crumbs on my bed sheets while grasping the empty bag of Doritos.

She provided good food for her family and was always on top of things. I offered a choice of Burger King or McDonalds and felt the weight of my unaccomplished to-do list crashing down on me.

In comparison, I did not measure up. I felt anxious, defeated and disappointed in myself.

I wanted to be the wife who was always cheerful, never irritable, and only said words that edified, encouraged and built up. I wanted to be the mom who never lost it and only spoke with kindness, wisdom and faithful instruction. But, as hard as I tried, I always wound up blowing it in some way.

I just could not achieve the “good Christian” status I desired.

Through prayer and studying God’s Word, I began to realize that no matter how hard I tried, I would never achieve being the perfect Christian. I learned that the battle of victorious Christian living could not be won by sheer willpower or by teeth-gritting determination, but by tucking myself underneath the full armor of God and trusting that God is not only fighting for me, but He has already won the battle.

In measuring our self-worth in accordance with our own performances, we not only become anxious, but we miss out on experiencing the peace and rest of who we truly are in Christ.

Our worth is not based on what we do or do not do. It is not based on our successes and failures. It is not even based on whether we sin a little or sin a lot.

Our worth is based solely on Christ and the atoning work He has done on our behalf. We are His children, purchased at a price, forgiven and fully redeemed.

Embracing this wonderful truth brings about freedom. It is the freedom to forget about ourselves and lay down our measuring rods of self-worth and ongoing scrutiny. It is the freedom to release the suffocating anxiety our weaknesses cause, and instead take hold of God’s grace given to us through the cross.

Join me today in letting go of performance-based worth and self-imposed expectations. May we purpose to rest in the victory Christ has already won and truly experience the rich and satisfying joy of guiltless living!

gingerhubbardbookcoverENTER TO WIN {book giveaway}
Because Ginger has struggled so much with the issue of performance-based self-worth, she has a deep compassion for other struggling women. Se can relate and understand the mental, spiritual and physical exhaustion that comes from this way of living. If you are one of these women, Ginger’s deep desire that you will lay down your measuring rod of self-worth and stop beating yourself up so you can take hold of God’s grace and embrace guiltless living! Today, Ginger is giving away 3 copies of her new book, Guiltless Living! 

Click “Share Your Thoughts” below this post to leave a comment and ENTER TO WIN. 

October Giveaway Winners

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 9.35.23 AM The three winner’s of my Pumpkin Spice Grace & Fall Book-Bundle are: Barb R., Lisa E., and Connie

You will each receive a copy of my Confident Heart Devotional and Lysa Terkeurst’s new best selling book, The Best Yes! plus a fall scented candle from Bath & Body Works!

 

DSC_1042 The three winner’s of my His Banner Over You is Love are: Gerri A., Statia, and Lauren H.

You will each receive a copy of Jennifer Dukes Lee Love Idol and a “Pre-Approved” necklace gift set

 We have the winner’s emails from your entries, so my assistant Megan will be in touch to get your mailing addresses.

FLASH SALE: A Confident Heart eBOOK just over $2!

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I found out today that the retailers listed below have A Confident Heart  eBOOK
on SALE {this weekend ONLY} for just over $2!

 

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Amazon ($2.24): click here

 

Christian Book.com ($2.39): click here

 

LifeWay ($2.99): click here

 

Barnes & Noble ($2.99): click here

Special Discount & Giveaway Winner!

Be sure to take advantage of your 15% DISCOUNT that ends Oct 25th!!

StudioJRU Art Prints for Renee Swope

Jennifer from Studio JRU is offering a 15% discount in her art store  - just for you ~
through Saturday 10/25/14.  CLICK HERE to visit Jennifer’s online art studio and store and Studio JRU and use discount code: creativity at checkout for 15% off. 

ORDER a print for yourself & friend {just in time for Christmas}

LAYER’s Art Print Giveaway WINNER
Donna S. ~You are the winner of a print from Jennifer at Studio JRU‘s
“Layered” art collection! You’ll get to choose one of the prints featured above.
We have your email from your entry, so my assistant Megan will be in touch.

 

His Banner Over You is Love {guest post & giveaway}

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Ever longed for other’s approval? Does the spin cycle of affirmation-seeking sometimes leave your heart wrung out?  Today, I’ve invited my beautiful friend, Jennifer Lee Dukes, author of Love Idol, to sit with us for a while and share how we can live free from our need for approval – knowing we are already preapproved:

My 10-year-old daughter decided a few weeks ago to cut ten inches off of her hair and donate it to an organization that makes children’s wigs.

She didn’t tell me her plan until we were a few minutes away from the hair salon. I had assumed she would be asking for a half-inch trim.

It seemed like a rash decision to me, but Anna assured me that she’d thought it through.

“I’ve had this in mind all summer,” she said resolutely from the back seat of our car. “I want to donate my hair. Because it would mean a lot to me if I lost my hair and someone donated theirs to me.”

But what Anna didn’t tell me was this: She was secretly afraid that she’d hate her new hairstyle. She didn’t share that piece of information with me until after the ten inches had been snipped.

Despite her fears, she went through it. Because, inside her small self, she apparently knew this truth about a life of faith:

if you never risk the scary thing to do the right thing, you’ll miss the chance to be a part of the God Things.

In the end, she told me, she actually does love her new haircut. (And I do, too.) But that wasn’t the point. That was never the point.

The truth is:

Doing the right thing isn’t always the beautiful thing, and it might not be the popular thing. But if we set out in our life, only to be liked or applauded in this life, we will compromise anything, and thus, achieve nothing.

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I don’t write these words as a way to publicly pat my daughter on the back.

I tell you this story because her actions have something to teach any of us who have been scared to say “yes” when God calls us to do something that feels scary.

I’m not proud to say that there have been times when I have said “no,” out of fear.

That happened a few months ago, when someone from a large Christian women’s conference asked me to speak at an event. I felt in my spirit that God might be telling me to say “yes,” but I was too terrified to follow through. I had never spoken to a crowd that large before.

So I told the conference organizer, “no.” Out of fear.

You want to know what made my “no” even more absurd? I had written a book called Love Idol a few months earlier, encouraging women to give God their yeses, even when they’re scared!

With my “no,” I had contradicted my own advice.

Thanks be to God, He gently guided me back to the truth. And a few weeks later, I gave my “yes” to another conference planner, despite my trembling heart over whether people would approve of me.

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Most days, I know the truth about who I am. I know that I have nothing to prove and that in Christ I am already approved – pre-approved!

When I remember that, I can say yes with more “God-fidence” despite my fears.

Those yeses are important. Because the moment we stop fussing over how it will all turn out, is the moment we start actually living for God. Only then can we fearlessly love our neighbors, lead a Bible study, talk into a microphone, pray out loud, stand up for our beliefs, fight for the underdog, speak truth in love, write a book, or take audacious risks for the Kingdom.

We can give our voice, our story, our love. Our yes!

Even our hair.

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His Banner Over You is Love.

The value of your yes isn’t adequately measured by the response of those who are watching. Worth isn’t measured by virality or Facebook shares. It is measured by a God who declares us incalculably worthwhile, and immeasurably loved.

When we know who we really are — approved and loved by Christ — we are no longer held back. We are free. Because we know we are His.

Not because we are viral. Or invited. Or magazine-cover-beautiful. Or applauded at the annual meeting.

But because we are His.

His banner over you doesn’t say, “Prove yourself” or “Try Harder” or “Go Viral.” His banner over you isn’t a sales report or a Facebook share.

His banner over you is simply this –

LOVE.

You don’t have to earn anyone’s love anymore. Believe this: That you are already God’s beloved.


Enter to Win

DSC_1042What resonated with your heart as you read Jennifer’s thoughts about being preapproved?

Share Your Thoughts and ENTER to WIN a signed copy Jennifer’s book, Love Idol, and a custom PreApproved necklace. Jennifer is giving away three book & necklace gift sets.

 

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Jennifer Dukes Lee is a storyteller and grace dweller. She is author of Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need For Approval—and Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. She and her husband are raising crops, pigs and two humans on a farm in Iowa. Read more at JenniferDukesLee.com.

 

 

 

A Video To Encourage You

 

 

 

Special Discount & Giveaway Winners!!

Be sure to take advance of the 15% DISCOUNT~ ends Oct 25th!!

StudioJRU Art Prints for Renee Swope

Jennifer from Studio JRU is offering a 15% discount in her art store  - just for you ~
through Friday 10/24/14.  CLICK HERE to visit Jennifer’s online art studio and store and Studio JRU and use discount code: creativity at checkout for 15% off. 

ORDER a print for yourself & friend {just in time for Christmas}

LAYER’s Art Print Giveaway WINNER
Donna S. ~You are the winner of a print from Jennifer at Studio JRU‘s
“Layered” art collection! You’ll get to choose one of the prints featured above.
We have your email from your entry, so my assistant Megan will be in touch.