This is Love

It’s been a decade since Andrew told me, but I’ll never forget the words that spilled out of my little boys heart so effortlessly. Words that changed the way I pressured myself into believing I had to be the perfect mom.

Driving through carpool line, Andrew held his bag of Valentine treats and asked when they’d be passing them out in class. Code for: Do I have to I wait ALL DAY to stuff excessive amounts of candy in my mouth or will the teacher let us eat all the chocolate we want during morning snack time?

He didn’t care that his treats weren’t decorated with cool cartoon characters and hearts, or any Valentine Day indications at all. But I did!

The night before, Andrew reminded me he needed treats to give his classmates the next day, and I had none. After I got our boys to bed, I ran to Target where the Valentines aisle looked like a bomb had exploded. Mismatched candy and gifts everywhere. No appropriate elementary school cards or treats to be found.

Humiliated, I grabbed a few packs of mini Kit-Kat bars and decided my poor child could write, “From Andrew” with a Sharpie on the back of each treat. I would apologize profusely and promise to never forget again.

The next morning as we drove to school, I wondered if I could make up my for my mom-fail with a big Valentines Day surprise when Andrew got home from school. I knew it could mean another trip back to Target, but instead of assuming I knew what he’d want, I asked Andrew, what makes you feel loved?”

He thought for a minute and then he said, “THIS.”

This?” I asked.

“Yeah. This. You being with me. You driving me to school and talking to me about my day. You telling me you’ll be there when I get home. That makes me feel loved and secure. Thanks mom. I love you, bye!”

And he hopped out of the car.

This is love?

You mean, I don’t have to work myself into a tizzy shopping for a toy that will convince my child I don’t forget him, even when I forget important things to him?

I can just be here for him and that will be love. Even though I was a grouchy mom the day before, so much that Andrew asked if I was mad about something, more than once.

This is still love?

I stopped to wonder if God were to ask me what makes me feel loved, what would I say?

Join me at inCourage where I’m asking:If God asked what makes you feel loved, what would you say? We’re sharing our answers there today. I’d love for you to be part of the conversation and pray for you today. Click here to join me. 

Forever Wanted {+ a book giveaway!}

We all struggle with identity—who we are, why we are, and what we have to offer the world. And just about the time we find a sliver of worth or significance, something happens to make us fully aware of how much we lack. A harsh word. A broken relationship. A failed attempt. Then, in spite of our best efforts at positivity or affirmation, we can’t escape the insecurity and aloneness we experience as a result.

When it comes to this epidemic of misplaced identity, my dear friend Michele Cushatt understands the struggle first hand. Without giving away her story (which you can read in her books), Michele knows what it’s like to lose her footing, and to wonder if she’d ever again be able to stand. But she also knows what it’s like to cry out to God for grace and discover the miracle of His Presence and His Purpose right here, right now.


The night held magic.

I knew it before the sixteen-year-old boy standing next to me reached for my hand.
Although we went to the same high school, I couldn’t believe it when he asked me out. He was an athlete, part of the popular crowd. I was completely average, an insecure academic.

So when he asked me to dinner, I fell all over myself saying yes. Clearly, my high school luck was changing.

I remember nothing about the date except for its ending. After driving us back to my parents’ house, he grabbed my hand and took me outside for a walk.

The moon and stars filled the fall sky like scattered shards of crystal. The evening was just cool enough to require a light jacket, but nothing more. Idyllic conditions for a romantic, hand-holding walk. Everything about the night seemed perfect. Which is why I didn’t balk when he pulled me to a stop and leaned in. His lips touched mine in an explosion of adolescent fireworks.

My first kiss.

Magic. In seconds, I went from unwanted to wanted, average to extraordinary. I floated like a balloon on a string held in his hand as he walked me back home.

The magic of the moment carried over to the next morning. Someone liked me! After years of girlish longing, it felt amazing to be wanted. Little did I know, the dream wouldn’t last. Too soon, the magic proved nothing but an illusion.

The truth became clear when I arrived at school. Within seconds, the girl sitting next to me in class said words that stopped me cold: “Something looks different about you today, Michele. Like something happened last night, for the first time.” It wasn’t her words as much as the gleam in her eye that gave her away.

She knew.

Heat filled my cheeks. I tried to shrug it off, but even my naive self knew something was amiss. My fears were confirmed when another girl—someone I’d known for most of my life—said something similar. Throughout the day, more smirks and comments came my way. Then, when the boy never again acknowledged my existence, reality made itself plain.

The entire thing had been a setup. A sham. A few weeks before, I’d confided to a friend that I’d never been kissed. She spilled my secret to a high school full of unmerciful teenagers. What I thought was magic was merely a popular boy’s response to an adolescent dare.

Nothing but a game. He won. I lost.

I lost far more than my first kiss that day. I lost my innocence. I’d been duped, manipulated, and misled. I wasn’t wanted; I was used. A prop to propel a teenage boy a little farther up the popularity scale.

As a result, I bought into the belief that the only way I’d ever be wanted is if I worked at it. I needed to put on a good show and put some effort into being worthy.

My experience with human love has, at times, left me jaded and self-protective. I’m afraid to trust love, to lean into it. I’m afraid I’ll find myself once again duped and used. And yet the Bible promises God’s love can be counted on. Do I trust His sincerity? Do I believe His love will not fail me?

There’s a story in the Bible about a woman who needed to be noticed by a man. When Ruth’s husband died suddenly along with her father-in- law, she became destitute, along with her adored mother-in-law, Naomi. Wanted one day, alone and without resources the next. No spouses, no means of income or provision. Alone.

Until Ruth discovered she had a kinsman, a relative who could assume the role of husband out of respect for his deceased relative.

But it was a long shot. Why would this relative, Boaz, want to give up his independence for a widow and her mother-in-law? An unnecessary burden. And yet Ruth and Naomi both knew it was their only option.

So one night, after the day’s work was done, Ruth walked over to the field where Boaz worked. She found him asleep on the threshing floor, likely exhausted from a full day’s work, and she curled up at his feet to sleep. As custom dictated, when he awakened to find that Ruth had “thrown herself at his feet” during the night, Boaz had a choice to make: receive her as his wife—and become her kinsman-redeemer—or reject her request. It may seem difficult to understand, but Ruth’s life hinged on the whims of one man’s wants.

Have you been there? Maybe you’re not a woman waiting for a man. Maybe you’re simply a person longing to be wanted. You trusted love once upon a time. But then a rejection or loss. An injustice or betrayal. Something hardened within. Never again would you throw yourself at the feet of anyone. Never.

I understand. But I’ve learned something since that devastating first kiss.

Human desire is a flawed echo of a flawless love.

While there is merit in romance, it was never meant to be the apex of all love. Instead, even the most beautiful and perfect human love is merely a hint of something far better.

God’s is love.

That means we are wanted by one who plays no games and hides no ulterior motives. He became the one who was used, unwanted and rejected so we would always know what it felt like to be protected, wanted and received. His love heals our wounds and soothes our hearts. And when we throw ourselves at His feet, there is no fear of what the morning will bring.

For the morning brings with it the knowledge that we’re already wanted. We’re redeemed by the one who holds the power to do the redeeming.

Every lesser love is merely child’s play.

~ Michele Cushatt, I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is
Copyright 2017, Zondervan Publishers.


These words pulled from the pages of Michele’s most recent book—I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is—were penned during her long and grueling recovery from a third diagnosis of tongue cancer, during which she was permanently altered physically, emotionally and spiritually. In it, she speaks with raw honesty and hard-earned insight about our current identity epidemic and the reason why our best self-help and self-esteem tools aren’t enough to heal our deepest wounds.

Michele is one of my best buddies and dearest friends. But she’s also one of the most powerful communicators of the spoken and written word. Her book came at a time when my foundation had been rocked and my security needed shoring up. Here’s the endorsement I wrote after reading it last summer: 


Using personal stories, insightful biblical teaching and soul-searching reflection, Michele Cushatt helped me reframe my life through the lens of who God is and who I am because I am His. Through this powerful 60-day journey of I Am, I found hope and courage to let God re-write the narrative of the story I am living and the story I am telling myself every day. ~ Renee Swope, author of A Confident Heart


ENTER TO WIN

From the moment a woman wakes until she falls, exhausted, on her pillow, one question plagues her at every turn: Am I enough?

When a brutal bout with cancer changed how she looked, talked, and lived, Michele Cushatt embarked on a soul-deep journey to rediscover herself. The typical self-esteem strategies and positivity plans weren’t enough. Instead, she needed a new foundation, one that wouldn’t prove flimsy when faced with the onslaught of day-to-day life.

I Am reminds us that our value isn’t found in our talents, achievements, relationships, or appearance. It is instead found in a God who chose us, sent us, and promised to be with us—forever.

HERE IS HOW YOU CAN ENTER TO WIN

1. LEAVE A COMMENT below this post, where it says “Share Your Thoughts.” 

2. SHARE this POST on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter, with the hashtag #IAMbook

That’s it! Your name will be entered into a random drawing. Be sure to tell your friends so they can sign up too. The drawing will take place on Monday, March 13th! {Contest is limited to US & Canadian readers only.}

How to Be Kind to Your Future Self {+ Book Give-away}


“What would you call someone who …

• …demands that you be someone you’re not?
• …ignores your needs?
• …refuses to let you use your God-given gifts and talents well?
• …sets you up for failure, even disaster, over and over again?
• …does all of the above over and over and over?

Sounds like a bully, perhaps even an abuser, doesn’t it? Look in the mirror and ask yourself, ‘How often does ‘who I am today’ treat ‘who I will be tomorrow’ (or next week or next year) this way?'”

Guilty as charged. That’s how I felt when I read these words. I’m not so awesome at taking care of my future self. And when I read those wise words a few months ago, God got my attention!

I was reviewing my friend Kathi and Cheri’s upcoming book, and I’d been honored by their invitation to write its foreword. But this was no longer  just an honor for me and a favor for them. THIS was a message I NEEDED TO HEAR right then and there! And after reading the whole book, I’m convinced it’s a message every woman needs.

I asked Kathi and Cheri to share some of it with you today. Here’s more from the pages of “Overwhelmed” by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory… 

It happens every single day. 

We tell ourselves that although today we don’t feel like taking the pets to the vet, filling out on those forms, or scheduling that root canal, our Future Self will get right on it.

Tomorrow, we tell ourselves, I will have more drive, more energy, more excitement!.

Then, tomorrow comes, and we feel overwhelmed because we placed unrealistic expectations on our Future Selves.

So how can we help a sister out? The best way to take care of your Future Self is Pre-Deciding: making intentional decisions ahead of time about particulars and principles.

The Magic of Pre-Deciding
You’ve probably seen that word art on your friend’s walls that says, “In this family we …” (My favorite picture on Facebook is one where my friend has a wall art that says, “In this family we love each other …” with her son standing next to his sister, who gave him a bloody nose while wrestling.)

Now, I want you to consider your own, “In my life I will …” type statements.

Pre-Deciding—before you’re facing an overwhelming situation—who you are as a person, what your core values are, and how you will act saves you time, energy, and agony.

You chose ahead of time—before the question is asked, before the problem occurs, before the dilemma arises—what you will and will not do. Who you will be and who you will not be.

Pre-Deciding puts your core values in action long before they are put to the test.

Because deciding in the moment to do the right thing is exhausting. And completely overwhelming.

Pre-Deciding makes sure that your Future Self is your very best self.

Clarifying Your Personal Principles with a Personal Manifesto

I (Kathi) first came up with the idea of a Personal Manifesto when I was making some big decisions in my life and wanted every decision to spring out of the values that I held dear.

A Personal Manifesto is a personalized list of values—who you are and who you aspire to be. It’s like your own personal code of conduct that is not decided in the moment but Pre-Decided before you’re in crisis.

Even though I may not be living out each point fully, it is my goal to grow in each and every one of those areas.

I (Cheri) find that having a Personal Manifestos is especially important for me since I’m a Highly Sensitive Person. Even when I’m feeling completely overwhelmed, Pre-Deciding helps me act on my values rather than react to my circumstances.

The purpose of a Personal Manifesto isn’t to limit you—it’s to help you focus your time energy and even money on the areas that are important to you.

Here are ours:


So how does my Personal Manifesto keep me from being overwhelmed?

1. It keeps me from saying yes to things I should say no to.
I recently was asked to donate to a worthy cause, but as I prayed about the amount to give, I felt no nudging from God to give. My PM says, “I give generously as God directs.” I kept the money, and we used it the next time God directed us to sponsor a child through Compassion.

2. It reminds me what I should say yes to.
If it’s a choice between supporting a friend at her art opening or Roger the night before Good Friday at church (one of his busiest times of the year), I choose Roger. Other people will go to my friend’s art opening, but I’m the only wife who will bring Roger dinner during that incredibly busy time. Yes, he can get his own dinner, and has told me that. But I’m on his team. Always.

3. It reminds me of what—and who—is important.
If I’m tempted to take on a new project, but keep complaining to my husband that we aren’t spending enough time together because my schedule keeps getting in the way, my PM reminds me that I’ve already chosen my priority: I just need to live it out.

Make your own Personal Manifesto. It will take a little time right now, but it will save you a lot of overwhelm in the days to come.

It’s worth the effort.

You Future Self is cheering for you! 


Feeling overwhelmed? Wondering if it’s possible to move from “out of my mind” to “in control” when you’ve got too many projects on your plate and too much mess in your relationships?

Kathi and Cheri share five surprising reasons why you become stressed, why social media solutions don’t often work, and how you can create a plan that finally works for you. As you identify your underlying hurts, uncover hope, and embrace practical healing, you’ll understand how to…

  • trade the to-do list that controls you for a calendar that allows space in your life
  • decide whose feedback to forget and whose input to invite
  • replace fear of the future with peace in the present

You can simplify and savor your life—guilt free! Clutter, tasks, and relationships may overwhelm you now, but God can help you overcome with grace.

ENTER TO WIN: Kathi and Cheri would like to send a copy of Overwhelmed: Quiet the Chaos & Restore Your Sanity to one of you!To qualify for the drawing, simply do these TWO things:

1. LEAVE A COMMENT below this post on my blog, where it says “Share Your Thoughts.” All entries must be on my blog. Click here to leave a comment.

2. SHARE this POST on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter, with the hashtag #OvewhelmedBook

That’s it! Once you do both, your name will be entered into a random drawing. Be sure to tell your friends so they can sign up too. Our random drawing will take place on Monday, March 13th. {Giveaway is limited to US & Canadian readers only.}

Want help creating a Personal Manifesto? Sign up here for great ideas and resources about how to get out from Overwhelmed and you will receive “How to Write Your Personal Manifesto” as our gift to you! 

renee-kathi-and-cheri-photoKathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker and the bestselling author of several books, including Clutter Free, The Husband Project, and The Get Yourself Organized Project. She and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four young adults.

Cheri Gregory spends her weekdays teaching teens and weekends speaking at women’s retreats. She’s been married to her college sweetheart, Daniel, for more than 28 years. The Gregorys and their young adult kids, Annemarie and Jonathon, live in California.

The Things We Do For Love

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I had almost everything I wanted, yet I felt empty and confused.

I couldn’t figure out why all the relationships and accomplishments I had worked so hard to gain weren’t enough to fill me or fulfill me.

Tears streamed down my face as I thought about the guy I dated through high school and college. Our plans of a future together had crumbled under the pressure of me expecting him to be all I needed. I had been crazy about him—a little too crazy.

When I think about the crazy things I did for his love, I want to crawl under a rock. Like the day a friend mentioned that my ex-boyfriend was heading to our hometown for the weekend. We worked near each other, so I parked by his office and waited for him to leave on Friday.

We both “happened” to be at Wendy’s at the same time and bumped into each other. When I finished my order, I got in my car and followed behind him, hoping that if he saw my car he’d realize he couldn’t live without me and signal for me to pull over so we could talk. Seriously, what was I thinking? As you can probably guess, he never stopped.

I was hopeless and humiliated. Without his love I felt incomplete.

A few weeks later, while walking around my campus one afternoon, my eyes drifted to the buildings, dorms, and other landmarks of memories. Suddenly my mind filled with a collage of faces, reminding me of my efforts to win the approval of advisors, friends, and professors—hoping their affirmation could fill my emptiness.

Although I was graduating with honors, had a few job offers, and had achieved success in many ways, it wasn’t enough. I stopped walking and just stood there, taking it all in. I couldn’t help but wonder: 

Why is all that I have never enough to fill me and fulfill me?

A thought rushed through my soul, stringing together two words I had never put next to each other, and I sensed God was answering me.

Renee, all you have ever wanted is unconditional love.

Unconditional love? I didn’t know there was such a thing. Then I heard another whisper in my soul. You will never find the love you long for in anyone or anything but Me. I AM the unconditional love you are looking for.

The thought of God loving me without any conditions was inconceivable, yet something deep in my soul told me it was true.

I had been looking for love that didn’t have to be earned. Love I didn’t have to fear I could lose.  In John 4:11, we meet a woman who was looking for the same. A woman who questioned Jesus when He offered to completely satisfy her needs.

Like me, her desires were endless; the well of her soul was deep. But that day, as they talked, Jesus showed her what she was looking for and where she could find it, just like He had done with me—and just like He wants to do with you.

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In Proverbs 19:22 we read, “What a [woman] desires is unfailing love.”  That word “desire” comes from the Hebrew word ta’avah, which means to greatly long for, to deeply desire or crave. Interestingly, unfailing love is mentioned thirty-two times in the Bible, and not once is it attributed to a person. It is only attributed to God.

God gave us a need for unfailing love because He knew it would lead us back to Him. All He needs is His Spirit that draws us to Him. And as far as the depth of the well goes, it is our heart He is looking into, and we’re the only one who can stop Him from reaching the deep and hidden parts that need Him most.

My friends at DaySpring created something special just for you – my readers! It’s a sale coupon with free shipping + A Confident Heart collection where you can easily find all of my A Confident Heart products in one place! It has all my favorites: beautiful scripture cards, a 100-day Confident HeartLifter with quotes, prayers and verses from the book, postcards, and more! Use the code 25FORYOU at checkout to get 25% OFF + FREE SHIPPING on any purchase! Isn’t that amazing?

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When My Desire For Control Starts Controlling Me

When I Give God Control

Ever notice how when life circumstances feel out of control, you’ll try extra hard to grasp control? 
For me, I’ll try to control my kids, husband, my schedule or what ever I can get your hands on. And it’s usually not a pretty sight.

Like the day I felt like my life was out of control, so I decided to do ALL . THE . LAUNDRY like a ninja warrior! But when I went upstairs to put clean clothes away in my then fifteen-year-old son’s room, I discovered he had not put his clean clothes away the week before! Instead, he’d stacked them on his dresser, thrown dirty clothes on top of them and his big pile of clean clothes had fallen over into his dirty clothes basket on the floor – filled with sweaty stinky boy socks, shirts and shorts!!!

I was not a happy mama! My words to Joshua were harsh and my reaction was excessive. Instead of taking time to breathe and coach my son in laundry etiquette, I yelled at him!!! And a few hours later I felt so guilty I couldn’t sleep.

I lost my temper, but that’s not all. My need for control was starting to control me. 

I wanted to do laundry and for his room to be clean so I’d feel like something in my life wasn’t a mess!  But what I needed was God’s perspective and peace. What I needed were tools and ahead-of-time strategies to deal with frustrating circumstances that set me off.

My friend Lisa-Jo knows how I feel and she’s created a life-giving resource for weary ones like me and you! I’ve watched her let God use the most shameful, raw places of her anger struggles to give hope to other moms. And dads. Honestly, at our house it’s helped my husband too. And even if you’re not a mom, some of just need to know we’re alone if we struggle with our temper.

IF YOU’RE LIKE US and could use simple tips that have made radical, life-giving difference I wanted to let you know about The Temper Toolkit  Lisa-Jo created.

The Temper Toolkit includes:

7 self-paced teaching videos, downloadable audio (so you can listen on the go) and key takeaways from each lesson beautifully designed as phone lock screens, computer wallpapers or a print so you can choose which format is best to help you take the lessons with you on the go.

5 bonus videos including special videos for how to talk to your husband about your temper journey as well as how to talk to your kids. If our kids also struggle with big feelings, here are some practical ways to help them put words to what they’re feeling. And to help them understand all the potential for good packed into their passionate temperaments.

Beautiful prints you can frame like the one designed for What to Tell That Kid Who is Pushing All Your Buttons.

TEMPER TOOLKIT REGISTRATION – CURRENTLY CLOSED 

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And you get all this for $29 – the cost of one exhausted drive-through dinner with the kids after a day of meltdowns (with a 30 day money back guarantee!) That’s right! If this isn’t a good fit, you’ll get your money back with the 30-day money back guarantee. 

PLUS the first 30 friends who purchase The Temper Toolkit using the links on this post, 
will receive a FREE set of 31 Scripture Cards from ME!! (valued at $5 )

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If you’re tired of losing your peace, patience and temper,
let me know and I’ll put you on my waiting list
notification email for the Temper Toolkit.

I know you’re going to love it as much as we do!

Cheering you on! ~Renee

3 Secrets to Lasting Friendships

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I sat across the table listening to their laughter and admiring the bond between two older women I’d just met at a luncheon. Their friendship was uncommon and my heart craved the kind of connection they had.

The way they loved each other, how well they knew each other and how much they enjoyed being together reminded me of a Hallmark commercial. But this wasn’t television, it was real life.

When I asked how long they’d known each other, they both replied, “More than 60 years.”

More than 60 years? Now I was more interested in listening than eating lunch. I put down my fork and picked up a pen to take notes. How did they meet? What did they do to build a lifelong friendship? What kind of moments and memories filled all those years and kept their hearts so closely knit together?  Here’s what I discovered:

They were intentional about making their friendship last because it mattered to them. After meeting in grade school, their friendship grew and continued long after they both married their high school sweethearts, who played football together.

Things had to be planned and time together had to be priority. Their families vacationed together for years. And when they were young and had little money, they’d all get together for a meal while the kids played in the yard. But as their kids got older it became more challenging, so they’d get together and play cards once a week — a tradition that was still going strong.

They determined early on they would be there for each other no matter what. These two lifelong friends were now widowed and counted on each other for companionship and laughter, weekly shopping adventures and everything in between. And they had an understanding between them. If one of them starts feeling down she’ll call the other and say, “Hey, I need to get out of the house.” And then they go do something together.

I thought about how different our generation is, how busy we are. How much we rely on screen time more than face-to-face time…. 

Click here to keep reading. We’re talking about our craving for connection and how to develop lasting friendships over at (in)Courage. I’d love to hear your thoughts and pray for you and your friendships, too.

 

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For the Weary Woman Who Is Tired of Losing it

 

One morning I was working from home, alone. The house was quiet, and I was feeling all kinds of productive. That week marked the final stretch of a big project, and I had planned a fun family dinner and game night. 

Life was peachy. And I felt like such a good mom.

Then my kids came home from Grandma’s house, earlier than planned, and one of them did something that was not-so-peachy! A few minutes later, another child did not do something I asked him to do.

All of the sudden I lost my peace and patience right in the middle of my kitchen.

Let’s say, our family game night didn’t start off on such a great note.

When I went to bed that night, a soundtrack of harsh words replayed in my head.  Guilt convinced me I was a terribly, horrible no-good-parent who had permanently damaged my kids’ emotional well-being.

Shame pointed its finger in my face and told me I was the worst mom on earth.

In the past, I would have shook hands with shame and agreed with guilt. But something was different this time. I had learned the difference between conviction and condemnation.

Condemnation came with cruel broad-sweet statements: You’re such a failure. You’re so hypocritical. You are never going to change. But God’s conviction was specific: Your words were harsh. Your attitude is critical. You need to apologize.

Condemnation says we’ll never change. Conviction shows us how we can.

My friend Lisa-Jo recently shared on her blog about a morning meltdown at her house that broke her but also became a turning point for her family:

I waved my arms and made wild statements I didn’t mean and slammed the milk down on the counter and all the cereal bowls shook. And then under all that screaming I heard a quiet noise. My soft-spoken kid, the one with glasses and my blue eyes. He had his head bowed low over the breakfast counter and tears were quietly trickling down his cheeks. And what he whispered under his breath is burned in my mind.

Why is everyone in this family always yelling at each other?

It hurts to type it. It hurts to remember it. But for me, that was the moment. That was the point of no return.

That was when I knew something had to change. And that something was me….

I wanted a different story for our mornings. I wanted to dismantle the disastrous hamster wheel we were trapped on.

I wanted a do-over. I wanted scream-free mornings.

So, slowly I started doing things differently. Things I thought I couldn’t change, we did.

It’s been five years since that shameful morning, and the change in our family that I treasure the most. The change I literally comment on every single morning to my kids because I can’t believe this life in a scream-free house has been possible.

Here is the best news: Lisa-Jo packaged up the things that have worked for and transformed her family. Simple tips that have made radical, life-giving differences. Things that can help us all – not just survive but thrive!

She’s created a temper-toolkit video series that’s releasing this week, and a FREE printable checklist with everything that works for their family called The Scream Free Morning Routine that you can get for FREE today! It’s a beautiful printable I taped to my refrigerator. You will love it!

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If you’re tired of losing your peace and patience SIGN UP HERE for the Scream-free Morning Routine printable (it’s FREE)!

The Powerful Gift of Being Weak { + book giveaways }

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“Should I be honest?” I wondered. “What if I start crying?  What if she doesn’t really have time to listen?  What if she is just asking to be nice? I could keep it simple and tell her I’m fine.”

There I was, standing in the lobby at church waiting for my husband, when an old friend walked up and asked how I was doing. Our then three-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with a severe speech disorder a few weeks earlier, and I was not “fine.”

I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. I was afraid my little girl may never be able to talk.

Yet I felt like I shouldn’t be any of those things. I should have more faith, more stamina, more strength and courage to navigate the unknown path of special needs parenting.

Sometimes it’s hard to let people know how we’re really doing because we don’t want to be high maintenance, right? We don’t want anyone to feel sorry for us. Or we fear that if we’re honest, someone might perceive our struggle as a lack of faith.

Other times we don’t let people know how we’re really doing because we assume they’re only asking to be nice and don’t really have time to listen. And what if we’re honest but it gets awkward because they don’t know what to say?

Sometimes someone sincerely wants to know and we just don’t want to tell them. That is the place where things get tricky for me. I will tell people I’m fine even when I’m not, because I want to be.

I don’t want to be weak and broken. I want to be okay. I want to feel strong, resilient, and courageous. 

And that is where I stood that day in the lobby at church. Everything in me wanted to keep my guard up, keep my heart sealed off and my lips sealed tight. But I was tired of hiding and pretending. So I took a risk and let my heart, my words, and my tears spill. I shared the hard parts of Aster’s countless assessments, unexpected diagnosis, and the heartache of not knowing her future.

Although Kelly probably had places to go, she stayed with me and listened. She grabbed some tissue when the tears started down my cheeks, and asked if there was anything she could do to help.

When I wanted to be strong, God showed me the powerful gift of being weak.

Paul describes what happens when God allows struggles that make us feel weak. And what God does in our weakness when we’re willing to rely on Christ. How God’s power comes and rests on us.

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:7 NIV

Paul had been struggling and asking God to take away the pain. But somehow he realized and accepted that God allowed the hardship to continue to protect him from pride and the danger of becoming self-sufficient.

Tweet: There’s nothing that can hinder community and friendships more than us not needing each other. #CravingConnection https://ctt.ec/x1m0u+There’s nothing that can hinder community and friendships more than us not needing each other. Like Paul, I think God wants us to become more comfortable with our weaknesses because it keeps us dependent on Him and needing each other. 

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We don’t need to keep pretending we’re fine. What we need, to have and to be, is a friend who says “you don’t have to be strong all the time.” A friend who gives us permission to be weak and remind us of the truth we so easily forget: God’s power shows up in our weakness when we’re willing to be real about our struggles and our need for His strength.

Before we went our separate ways, Kelly asked if she could pray for me, right there in the lobby at church. Afterwards she thanked me for telling her what was really going on, and told me that knowing I didn’t have life all figured out made her feel normal.

God is able to work His grace and His strength in our weakness. When we’re willing to be weak, He gets to be strong for us. When we’re willing to be real, others get to see, pray for and get to know the “real” us and the real God we so desperately need and love.


One of our deepest God-given longings is to be known, by Him and each other. I’m so excited to celebrate the launch of Craving Connection, my new all time favorite book about the beautiful, vulnerable, hard and holy gift of friendship. Grateful to have my heart and my story tucked in these pages with thirty other friends from the inCourage community who took turns writing each chapter for you. If you want to invest in meaningful relationships right where God has you, become the friend you wish we had, and embrace the desire God has placed in you to connect with friends, you are going to LOVE this book!

 

BOOK GIVEAWAY: In partnership with DaySpring’s inCourage and Broadman & Holman publishers, we’re giving away 6 copies of Craving Connection!! Three of you will receive t books – one to keep and one to give a friend.

ENTER TO WIN:  

  1. SHARE this post – on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram using the hashtag #CravingConnection and @ReneeSwope.
  2. SHARE your thoughts under this post, and let me know who you’d like to give a copy to.Winners will be randomly chosen next week and notified via email. If you are reading this via email, click here to leave a comment on my blog. All entries must be entered on my blog for participation in the drawing. 

Today’s post is a partial excerpt of my chapter in Craving Connection, a new book written by 30 different women from the inCourage community,

Confident Heart Devotional ONLINE mini-study starts today!

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I’m kicking off my new FREE  Confident Heart Devotional ONLINE mini-study today on FACEBOOK LIVE at 3pm ET. You can join me here = > www.facebook.com/renee.swope

Hope you can join us!
Renee

PS. My private online study page on my website isn’t working for some reason, but I’ll get it fixed today and send you a new link.

Join me for a {FREE} Online Study in January

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A new year bring with it new hope. Hope for a fresh start. New dreams. A reset. Time to reflect. New plans to write across a fresh new calendar. 
 
But for many of us, there’s this thing called doubt that makes us hesitant to hope and dream. We’ve been here before and remember how hope can fade into feelings of inadequacy. Someone will get sick, plans won’t go as planned, and we will wonder why we ever thought things would be different. Why we got our hopes us.
 
Disappointment and set backs come and our confidence fizzles. And somehow self-doubt convinces us that it’s all our fault – we’re just not disciplined enough, smart enough, good enough, or _______ “enough.” 
 
But that’s simply untrue and unfair to our hearts. Life never goes exactly as planned for anyone. Not even the strongest, smartest, most organized people in the world have a life without frustration. Life is full of ups and downs but it doesn’t mean we should give up or toss out hope and stop dreaming all together.
 
 With {Christ} all things are possible, and when we believe it hope wins!
 
God doesn’t want us to stay stuck. He created us for a life that isn’t limited by doubts or held back by disappointment. {I’m preaching to myself here!} 
 
All through scripture God calls us to have confidence and hope. To keep believing, trusting and moving forward,
 
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer 29:11
 
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. Jeremiah 17:7
 
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. Psalm 28:7
 
These are just a few of the promises we’re going to unpack and wrap around the realities of our everyday lives as we walk through my Confident Heart devotional together. Yes, I’m hoping you’ll join me!!

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For the past few months I’ve been praying about leading a mini-online study with my A Confident Heart 60-day Devotional book. Then, last week, I found out it’s ON SALE for only .99 cents on AMAZON Kindle! I don’t think it’s ever been this low! It feels like the perfect time to read it together and encourage one another in the beginning of a new year!  

If you’re interested in joining me, you can SIGN UP HERE and I’ll send you more details, and be sure to get a copy of the book while it’s on sale for .99 cents! (I have no idea how long that’ll last)

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DON’T HAVE A Kindle? Download the FREE KindleApp on your phone,
Mac or PC, and then read the eBook there.

I’m praying this is one of your best years ever! And I hope to see a little bit more of you online in January and February!

xox0, Renee