When You Feel Discouraged {a promise & a prayer}

The other day I had a hard conversation with a friend and her criticism towards me stuck to my heart like dried up Crazy Glue.

I tried to stop thinking about our conversation, but I couldn’t. And as the day went on, my heart started sinking into discouragement. Eventually my runaway thoughts were woven into a prayer for help.

Lord, show me what I need to do to let this go. I need your help.

Within minutes, these words from one of my favorite verses came to mind, “a generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25

I knew it was God’s way of telling me what to do next. My magic memory eraser wasn’t working. The way I could overcome my discouragement was by pouring encouragement into someone else.

So, I texted my friend Angela to see if she wanted to lunch the next day.

And it worked. We met for lunch and I gave her my full attention. Asking about her kids, telling her what a great mom she is… giving her all of me changed everything.

Somehow in God’s economy of grace, when we give we get.
When we pour out, He fills us up.

Encourage Someone Else


When I feel discouraged Lord, show me who to encourage

When I feel sad Jesus, show me how to give someone a little bit of happy.

When I feel forgotten, show me who in my life needs to feel seen. 

When I feel like I have nothing to offer, remind me that the greatest offering I have is YOU. 

Help me give Your love, Your attention, Your encouragement, Your smile to someone today.

When Change Is Inevitable & Hope is Optional

This post includes some affiliates links. You can find our disclosure page here.

WhatIs.GirlMeetsChange

Sometimes you must leave the comfort of what is to embrace the potential of what will be.  @KristenStrong | #GirlMeetsChange {Click to Tweet}

I love these words written by my friend Kristen Strong in her wonderful book,Girl Meets Change: truths to carry you through life’s transitionsGod is stretching me with Kristen’s words, encouraging me to open my hands and let go of what is or what I thought would be, that isn’t – so I can embrace the potential of what will be.

Today, I got to hang out with Kristen and talk about change, and her book on BLAB! Have you heard of BLAB? It was new to me but so fun!! Anyway, we spent time together in a live video conversation with our two dear friends, Crystal Stine and Jennifer Dukes Lee.

We shared our struggles and our stories; how we’re learning to stay close to Jesus in the midst of hard transitions. I also shared some practical ways Ive had to make adjustments so my heart can survive and my family can thrive in the midst of big and difficult changes we’ve been walking through the past year.

GirlMeetsChange_Blab.Week3You can watch the replay of our conversation on Blab.  But… I need to warn you: I was a slight mess for the first few minutes because my mic wouldn’t work. And you will get to see my cute husband trying to figure out what to do while the rest of the girls acted amazingly calm and refrain from shouting, “Shut your computer, Renee!” because hello, we were quite a distraction :). But once we got going, it was so encouraging to listen to what these amazing ladies had to share. So. So. Good! Click HERE to watch the replay.

 

RESOURCES MENTIONED
During our conversation, we talked about a few new resources I’ve created to help my heart and maybe yours, too. I wanted to make them easy to find here, so they are shown below. My journal just released and  it’s on Amazon. The other two products are coming soon from DaySpring. I’ll announce when they are available – here on my blog! So, be sure to sign up for my EMAIL UPDATES – in my sidebar – you aren’t already!

ComeToMe_Cover

Come to Me {journal}
by Renee Swope

Jesus invites us to come to Him: to receive, rest, be renewed, and remain in His love. Experience the power of God’s presences and rejuvenate your soul with the living water of His word as you are reminded with the truth of who God is and who you are in Him.Filled with inspirational quotes and prayers, this journal will help you position your heart to receive God’s peace, plans, perspective and purpose for you each day.

6×8 Hardcover, 144 Pages
BUY NOW on Amazon

 

 

 

A Confident Heart {100 Days of Living in the Security of God’s Promises}
DaySpring HeartLifter (Coming Spring 2016)

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A Confident Heart {Scripture Shareables)
from DaySpring (Coming Spring 2016)

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Girl Meets Change
ENTER TO WIN a copy of Girl Meets Change
Whether you’re walking through a transition now, see one coming, or are recovering from the last one, change is inevitable. But thriving is optional. With Christ close by, be okay. As Kristen shares in her book,If God is calling us out of one place, He is sending us to another with His blessing.” 

Want to enter to win a copy of Kristen’s book, Girl Meets Change: truths to carry you through life’s transitions? Just let us know why you’d like to read it or who you’d like to give it to. Click  SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS (below this post) and do just that.

 

 

Is it worth it?

ReneeSwope_Forgiveness

I thought I was over the hurt. Was sure I had moved on. But as I slipped my thumb under the seal of the invitation to my 10-year college reunion, it hit me:

I had not forgiven her.

During our last semester at school, the harsh tone and accusing anger of a friend had been more than my heart could handle, especially in the middle of my year-long battle with depression. A deep sense of sadness and self-doubt that I couldn’t explain or escape had left me feeling depleted.

When she questioned something I had done and expressed deep frustration toward me, I didn’t have the mental or emotional strength to process her criticism without being pulled into a pit of condemnation.

I knew if I attended our class reunion I would see her and other friends who had gotten tangled in our mess.

And with that possibility came a flood of memories and emotions that paralyzed me. The same way I felt the day our friendship ended. The day that pretty much ruined the last few weeks of my senior year.

Holding the envelope in my hand, all that hurt took hold of me again. Instead of simply deciding how to RSVP, I stood at the edge of a pit filled with insecurity that threatened to pull me back in.

After weeks of holding onto the invitation I decided I was tired of living as prisoner to my hurt. I wanted freedom. The kind of freedom I had come to know in the ten years in-between. The freedom of forgiveness Jesus died to give me.

I needed God’s hope and assurance so I could walk into the reunion, not as a wounded woman but as a secure child of God. Continue reading here.

 

A promise and a prayer

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Do you ever have days when your mind feels crowded with competing thoughts fighting for attention; cutting in front of each other to be first in line?

Yesterday was one of those days for me. So many things on my to-do list felt urgent, tempting me to neglect what was most important.

On days like these I either pray through it all or let my thoughts fight it out and paralyze me. 

Maybe you’re in that same place. If so, I wanted to share my prayer with you….

Lord, I want You to be first in line, leading my days and my decisions. When concerns consume me and worry comes, remind me to pause to tell You what I need and wait on YOU to lead. I long for Your peace to surpass my understanding and for Your promises to guard my heart and my mind as I live in {and follow after} You.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7, New Living Translation

Planning for an (in)Perfect Christmas

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The other day I caught myself whispering an unrealistic secret to my heart:

“Maybe this will be the year everything goes as planned and we’ll have the perfect Christmas.”

Perfect is what I’ve always wanted for Christmas, but in all my years of living I’ve never been able to pull it off.

For me, perfect looks like peace on earth and in my home for 24 hours. A Christmas where everyone is happy and peaceful, loving and kind. No disappointments. No arguments. No debates. It’s all about Jesus and loving each other  – for a whole day.

Maybe like me, you’ve longed for the perfect Christmas too. Maybe you’ve shopped for perfect gifts. Or planned a perfect menu with everyone’s favorites. Perhaps you’ve worn yourself out creating the perfect setting, where your people will gather and you’ll hold your breath hoping nothing goes wrong.

Or maybe you’re not a recovering perfectionist and wonder if I need counseling. I do. And prayer. May I come to your house for Christmas?

Honestly, sometimes I can get so focused on wanting everything to go well that I miss what is right in front of me, and forget just how beautiful imperfect can be.

Jesus was the most perfect Gift ever given, yet He was given to us under the most imperfect conditions, just as God had planned.

This Christmas, I’ve decided to cancel my request for perfect. 

I’m actually anticipating an imperfect, messy, slightly chaotic and perfectly imperfect Christmas just like the one in Bethlehem. Because PERFECT is not what my family and friends need most. What they need is for me to be “in” each moment, making memories with them.

So, instead of trying to create the perfect Christmas and give perfect gifts, I’m giving more of me. {tweet this}

Because the best Christmases are made up of memories and unplanned moments that don’t come with price tags. They can’t be bought, wrapped or put under a tree. But with a simple shift in perspective, we can create an (in)perfect Christmas by being fully present “in” each moment as we look for ways to give these 3 special gifts to the ones we’re with:

Join me over at (in)courage to keep reading today’s post by {CLICKING HERE}. I’d love to connect with you there!

Christ-Centered Christmas Gift Ideas

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for creative and affordable Christmas gift ideas for teachers and co-workers, and I love it when I find one that keeps Christ at the center of Christmas.

Several years ago, my friend Tracie share the cutest idea using the word COCOA written on a gift tag and tied to a Christmas mug. It went something like this:

C is for CHRIST, the reason for Christmas!

O is for ORNAMENTS that decorate our tree and remind us to decorate our hearts and homes with God’s love.

C is for CELEBRATE as we give gifts and remember all God has given us.

O is for OVERJOYED! Instead of letting our hearts feel overwhelmed with the busy season, let’s choose to be overjoyed with the facts that Jesus was born.

A is to remind us that in the ABUNDANCE of holiday activities what we really need is the abundant life Jesus offers through a relationship with Him.

If you’d like to print this acronym and use it for a gift tag, click the image or link below to for a FREE Downloadable PDF with four tags on a page.

A Cup of Christmas Cocoa

Christmas Cocoa Tags- 4-page

For more creative gift ideas and my favorite ways to keep Christ at the center of Christmas be sure to sign up for FREE updates below:

3 Ways To Boss Your Heart Around

ReneeSwope_Psalm103

I caught my heart heading to the pit of discouragement for spring break. It was supposed to go to the beach with my family and me, but it was not cooperating.

We had been hit by one emotional and financial crisis after another. A close friend had just found out that, after a year’s worth of abdominal pain, extreme fatigue, and an undiagnosed illness, she had a large tumor that appeared to be ovarian cancer.

Earlier that week our upstairs air conditioner broke, again. And a week later, we were told our international adoption expenses would not apply as a deduction that year, which meant we owed significantly more on taxes than anticipated. Yet, our savings had been depleted by adoption expenses and failing air conditioning systems.

My heart was overwhelmed. My spirit was depleted. And my body was completely exhausted.

I couldn’t stop worrying about my friend. I couldn’t stop fretting over our finances. And I couldn’t stop wondering, “How am I supposed to rest and relax on vacation with all of this happening?”

Although I had packed my bags for the beach, my heart decided it wasn’t in the mood and started marching straight toward the pit.

I didn’t want to go on vacation, but I didn’t want to camp out in a place of despair either. I knew somebody needed to take charge of my emotions, and my husband knew better than to try. So, I decided it was time to boss my heart around!

King David was really good at getting bossy by telling his heart and soul what to do. In Psalm 103 he starts out with this:

“Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.” Psalm 103:1

Nothing in me wanted to do this, but even in the midst of my turmoil and troubles, I told my soul to praise the Lord. And I had an attitude about it, too.

This was no “sweet bedtime prayer” talk to my soul. No, I needed a deep-down, preach it to my inmost being sermon: “Renee Swope, GOD IS GOOD no matter what your feelings are telling you!”

Then I bossed my heart with some more Truth and pulled it away from the pit by telling myself to “forget not ALL his benefits” {Psalm 103:2}. Next, I followed King David’s lead by walking down memory lane and reminded my heart how good God is at being God: the One who . . .

Forgives all [my] sins and heals all [my] diseases,
redeems [my] life from the pit
crowns [me] with love and compassion,
satisfies [my] desires with good things
so that [my] youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:3-5

No matter what the answer would be to my friend’s diagnosis, or how costly our air conditioner was going to be, or how much we owed on taxes — my soul needed to do this. And, my emotions eventually got in line and filed behind my words as they led my heart out of the pit.

My circumstances didn’t change, but my perspective did when I re-directed my thoughts and my focus, which then re-directed my emotions.

Are there circumstances that have pulled you into a place of discouragement? Do you have concerns that are causing your thoughts to head down a path of despair? I pray you won’t go there….

Join me on (in)courage, where I’m sharing the rest of my story and 3 steps you can take to “boss your heart” into a good place. Click here and let me know how I can pray for you to be brave and a little bossy with your soul this weekend! 

 

When Grace Kneels Before You

Welcome Encouragement for Today friends! I’m so glad you hopped over after reading my devotion!  I’ll explain in just a minute how to enter today’s giveaway. But first I want to share 3 ways we can replace our guilt-induced doubt with grace-infused confidence pulled from Day 12 of  my “60-Days to Stop Doubting Yourself Confident Heart Devotional“:

“She never thought anyone would find out about their affair, but now her secret and her sin would be public.

Just as the people gathered in the temple, surrounding Jesus as he sat down to teach them, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had be caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus,

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.” (John 8:2–6)

They hoped Jesus would condemn her, but the opposite happened.

Instead of lording over her, Jesus lowered Himself before her. Grace knelt down to write on the ground. {tweet this?}

“But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. (vv. 6–8)

The Bible doesn’t tell us what Jesus wrote but I’ve always wondered if it was the Ten Commandments, since her accusers said Moses’s law commanded them to stone her. Plus, after writing, Jesus challenged them to examine their own sins and see if any of them were without fault.

When Jesus stooped down to write a second time, perhaps He wrote over the law with redemption. Could it be that He covered the commandments with words like grace, forgiveness, and mercy. Scripture doesn’t say. But we do  know that something radical happened. Everyone dropped their stones and walked away.

“At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?'”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (vv. 9–11)

In my Proverbs 31 Ministries devotion today, I shared about a time when I really blew it and guilt convinced me I was no longer qualified for my calling. But God used my friend and spiritual mentor/mom, MaryAnn Ruff, to show me what the redemption of God’s grace looks like. And ever since that day, Jesus has been teaching me how to replace my guilt-induced doubt with His grace-infused confidence.

3 Ways to Replace Guilt-Induced Doubt with God’s Grace-Infused Confidence

 

Remember: Remember sin is not who you are; sin is what you do. 
Although Jesus knew this woman had sinned, He made sure she and the crowd knew her sin was not who she was. It was what she had done.

Her sin didn’t get the final say. Jesus did.

Refuse: Refuse condemnation, but lean into loving conviction.
They hoped Jesus would condemn the woman, but the opposite happened. Instead of lording over her, Jesus lowered Himself before her.

When you fall into a trap of the Accuser (Rev. 12:10), close your eyes and picture Jesus – the person of Grace – kneeling down before you, looking into your eyes and loving you out of your sin.

Ask Jesus to help you recognize condemnation’s accusing statements like “You’re a failure” or “You can never be counted on.”Refuse to listen to his lies. Instead lean into God’s loving conviction that is specific. Instead of a broad, sweeping you-are-a-loser label, Jesus will point out our sin and show us what to do to right the wrong.

Instead of “You’re such a failure,” God might say: You were critical in the way you talked to _________ . You need to say you’re sorry and ask forgiveness. Then tell _____ something to build them up.

Replace:  Replace the guilt of sin with God’s redemptive grace.
In the presence of Jesus, the woman’s accusers walked away. He dismissed them one by one, until He was the only one left standing. He replaced their position of authority. He was the only One left speaking into her life.

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Jesus help me replace my guilt-induced doubt with God’s grace-infused confidence. @ReneeSwope {click to TWEET}

God’s grace lures us out of darkness; His kindness leads our hearts to repentance. (Romans 2:4)

He wants to draw us away from destructive behaviors that hinder our relationship with Him and others, so we can live in the freedom of His forgiveness and the security of His love.

Lord, You say there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and my life is hidden in You. Thank You that because of Your love and grace, my sin never gets the final say about me—You do! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Set Apart

Our-Spiritual-Gifts

“What are you good at? Is there something you would love to do?”

When Miriam, the facilitator of our team-building exercise asked these questions, I didn’t have an answer. Here I was, thirty-two years old and I didn’t know what I was good at or enjoyed.

I’d never had the courage or time to think about what I loved to do. Instead, up until that point, I had tried to do what others wanted, expected, or needed me to do. And I was pretty good atthat.

But I was fairly miserable, too.

After I fumbled for an answer and recovered from the embarrassment of my lack, we took a break for lunch. Sliding up beside me, Miriam encouraged me to ask God what He created me to do and what would give me joy, if I did it.

I wasn’t designed to be who others expect me to be or want me to be. I was created to be all God planned and purposed for me to be. {tweet this}

This is one of the truths Miriam shared with me that day, and then she suggested I take time to discover my passions, abilities and spiritual gifts. In the weeks that followed, I took her advice and completed a spiritual gifts assessment.{PDF Download}

Immediately, I recognized strengths and abilities that came naturally to me and sensed there was a reason God made me who I am, with my mixed bag of passions and preferences. It was the first step toward getting to know the woman God created me to be.

Looking back 15 years later, I wish I had known then what I know now. I wish I had known the promise of Jeremiah 1:5, where God says:

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
Before you were born I set you apart” {NLT}.

Just like God called and equipped the prophet Jeremiah to be His mouthpiece to the Israelites, He has a specific call and gifting for each of us. And He establishes both before we are even born.

Isn’t it easy to neglect ourselves to meet the needs of everyone around us, and call it self-sacrifice? It sounds godly. But in doing so we risk shutting down a place in our soul where God has gifted us and set us apart — to serve and thrive.

Do you know what God has wired you to be good at and what you to love to do?

I’m sharing more of what I’m learning over on (in)courage today. Click here to keep reading and join me.  I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

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