3 Secrets to Lasting Friendships


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.




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!


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 }


“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. 


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.


  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!



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!

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

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!!


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)


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 

Don’t Shrink Back: a {FREE} Confident Heart Devotional Online Study + .99 eBook Sale

We do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed,
but to those who have faith and are saved. 
Hebrews 10:39

“Things will never change.”
“My life isn’t going to get better.”
“I’ll never have the confidence I need.”

Those are some pretty depressing thoughts, aren’t they? But oh how easily they sneak into our minds and we go along with them without even realizing it. There have been times in my life when I felt paralyzed by thoughts like these.

Times when deep discouragement laced my emotions with uncertainty. 
Times when I let Satan convince me that my feelings of defeat and discouragement are normal.
Times when I shrink back from changes and challenges, as well as opportunities and open doors.

There have also been times when I’ve pulled back in my relationships—with family, friends, and even God. Shrinking back into a place of unbelief . . . settling for less than God’s best. All because I was tired of muddling through apprehension and indecision.

Has doubt ever convinced you that feeling inadequate and discouraged is normal? Or that living in a place of confident assurance isn’t possible for someone like you? I think we often forget we have an adversary who uses self-doubt against us—an opponent who shouts from the sidelines:

“You might as well quit.” “Go ahead and give up.” “You don’t have what it takes.”

We don’t have to go along with him. Today YOU and I can take a stand and stop listening to the lies. God wants us to know and believe that with Christ all things are possible—even you having a confident heart that lives with lasting assurance in Him.

Otherwise doubt, and your enemy, will win every time and your heart will be eroded by attitudes and emotions of defeat. But it’s not supposed to be this way. All throughout Scripture, God tells us things can change; life can be better. He declares with confidence:

See, I am doing a new thing! (Isa. 43:19)
All things are possible to [her] who believes. (Mark 9:23)
I am working all things together for good for those who love
me and are called according to my purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

What if we stopped listening to our hearts when our feelings aren’t telling us the truth – and instead we chose to believe God’s words more than our fears and doubts? It’s possible. I only know because I got so sick of shrinking back and decided to do something about it. Let’s map out our thoughts and walk in the power of God’s Word together— and learn how to live in the TRTH—no matter what our feelings tell us.

With God’s help it’s possible to have lasting Christ-confidence by choosing to believe Him. Choose to remember today’s truth, in this moment and the next, because you are not a woman who shrinks back and is destroyed—but a woman who believes and is saved! {Hebrews 10:39}

Today’s post is from Day 11 from my Confident Heart Devotional book? If it resonated with your heart, I want to invite you to join me on a 60-day online journey through the book! 

With the eBook on sale for ONLY .99  cents through Amazon Kindle, and January just around the corner, this is the perfect start for a new year!!

SIGN UP HERE if you’re interested in an online study  that will be starting the second week of  January, and I’ll send you more details.

Lord, give me a confident heart in Christ. I want You to lead me beyond believing in You to truly believing You. Help me rely on the power of Your promises and live like they are true. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


Let’s Do This {TOGETHER}!

 {Some affiliate links on this page. Read our disclosure here.}


Confident, strong, and free.

For most of my life I had a secret longing to be confident in who God made me and free from self-doubt, fear, and insecurity, but I didn’t think it was possible. I was convinced my struggles were part of my DNA, and that other women didn’t battle self-doubt like I did. Thankfully, I got sick and tired of it and set out on a journey to believe and live in the security of God’s promises – no matter what my emotions, hormones or circumstances told me.

And I discovered I was wrong all those years. I wasn’t doomed to a life of self-doubt. Through the power of God’s life-changing perspective and promises I found a way to overcome insecurity, gain strength in our weakness and live free from fears! And I want that for you!

But don’t just listen to me, read these words and see what is possible:

Trust has always been a difficult principle for me. I have a hard time trusting everyone, including God. I’m so happy the Lord led me to purchase this devotional. It is EXCELLENT!!! I love how her thoughts are short and sweet–no meandering around the point with religious speak. She shows us real-life situations where God’s grace can explode, if we let it. I, personally, am going through a very difficult season. The Lord has used this book to challenge the perspectives I have held onto my entire life, and, wouldn’t you know, I’m beginning to learn what He wants to teach me during these trials I’m currently facing–I’m learning how to trust Him. This devotional has also inspired a hunger in my heart like never before; I’m positively gobbling the Word right now. I love feeling so connected with my Savior!! And I loved this book so much that I just ordered two more–one for each of my sisters-in-law. ~ Amazon Reader Review

Are you guilty of negative thoughts towards yourself? I call this “stinkin’ thinkin'” and I am guilty for sure! As I have gotten older and grown in my walk with the Lord, I have learned how VITAL it is to apply Gods Word when I am thinking negatively towards myself! This devotional is phenomenal in teaching you just that… at the end of each devotion, there is a “When I say this…. God says … ” and let me tell you, these are AWESOME!! The devotions are great as well! Renee has an amazing way to write and make you feel like you were having coffee right there with her. She is open, honest, and spoke right to my heart in these devotions. ~ Amazon Reader Review

This book met me at the point of my need as a woman, friend, wife and mother. I couldn’t wait to read it each morning, as I knew there would be a nugget of truth to cling to in my humanity. I recommend this book to every woman in any stage of life. I’m sorry it ended. I think Renee needs to write a yearly devotional. ~ Amazon Reader Review

So, why am I sharing all of this?
Because I don’t want you settling for less than God’s best. If you’re tired of feeling like you’re not good enough, smart enough, or __________ enough (you fill in the blank), I want to show you how to stop doubting yourself and take hold of lasting GOD-fidence!  

Join me for a FREE Online mini-study using my 60-day Confident Heart Devotional as our guide! SIGN UP HERE

Buy the Devotional eBook for only .99 on AMAZON (limited time). Don’t have a Kindle ?  Download a Free Kindle App and read the book on your computer or phone.  Or CLICK HERE to buy the paperback on sale for $12.99 if you prefer to highlight pages and write in the margins.  


Each devotion includes a personal story you will be able relate to, powerful biblical teaching you can dig into, and real-life application wrapped around a promise and a prayer that will empower you to:

· live confidently in your God-given roles, relationships, and responsibilities
· break free from people-pleasing and performance-based living
· trust the certainty of God’s truth over your circumstances and emotions


Got questions? Just leave them in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer them. 

Are the Stress and Struggles of the Holidays Weighing You Down?

Hey friend! Today I was on the Cultivate webinar with my friend Lara, and we talked about the stress and strain of the holidays, all that comes with Christmas, travel and family in town. She asked me about how it can trigger our self-doubts and the weight of it all. 

I thought about you and wondered if maybe you’re feeling weighed down by self-doubt or discouragement in a season that often magnifies inadequacies and insecurities we have felt all year long.

If so, you don’t have carry the weight of uncertainty and discouragement alone. Join me (along with 70,000 others) who have gone on The 7-day Doubt Diet. I’d love to encourage your heart, help you lose the weight of self-doubt and show you how you can gain the freedom of a confident heart. 

sign-up-hereFilled with daily insights you’ll love, powerful promises and scripture-based prayers you’ll want to share, you can sign up to receive my FREE Confident Heart email devotions today.

Here’s what others are saying:
Wow, what a wake up call! I have lived for months, maybe years filled with doubt. I realize now it had consumed me and was contemplating taking my own life..that is until I heard you on the radio then looked you up and now on day 2 of the 7 day challenge..You have made a difference and changed a life. Thank you! Juli

“As I was reading day 1, I felt like you were writing about me. I, too, have found myself many times not doing things that would have brought me joy because of feelings of not being good enough. I am so looking forward to these 7 days!”

“Did you write these devotions especially for me?! Again, today’s was perfect for my life and thoughts. You are either a mind reader or His messenger of words on a topic no one else has dared to speak on before. (I know it’s the second). I love the details with the topic/Bible verses.”

“Renee, it’s as if you are speaking straight to my own life! Thank you for sharing your story and offering encouragement for others, like me!” 


DaySpring is still offering $20 OFF any $60 purchase + FREE SHIPPING in time for Christmas delivery!! Use SHINEHISLIGHT code at checkout!



So I was thinking…

Does your heart sometimes feel torn between longing for a life filled with hope, healthy relationships, meaning and more, while barely doing the best you can with the unpredictable, ordinary and sometimes overwhelming reality of every day?

If so, I was thinking how much I would love to have you JOIN ME tomorrow, Thursday Dec 15th at 11am EST (or listen later) for a free webinar I’m doing. I”ll be having a very real-life, in the trenches, unscripted conversation about the good, the hard, the ups and downs, and challenges of living in our God-given passions, stories, gifts, longings and limits with my friend Lara Casey in her FREE Cultivate Webinar !

We’re going to share our stories of learning to let go of perfection, give ourselves more grace, celebrate little by little progress, and give our very best to less so we can cultivate what matters most!

Whether you can JOIN US LIVE or LISTEN LATER, be sure to register here!
I’d love to encourage you right where you are with hope and real life help that’s gotten me out of the sink hole of never enough. Really hope you can join us!

What I Need Most This Christmas {+ a Christmas prayer}


Sometimes it’s easy to forget. All wrapped up in Christmas-giving, I forget to unwrap the gift of Immanuel, God with me. In all the rush I forget how much I need God’s soul-calming hush.

But I want to remember: God’s presence is the {present} I need most. 

This Christmas, I want to unwrap not only the gift Jesus gives but the gift He is.Tweet: I want to unwrap not only the gift Jesus gives but the gift He is. @ReneeSwope http://ctt.ec/awnba+

So I’m learning to quiet my thoughts and whisper a prayer, asking Jesus to create a quiet space, a dwelling place for His presence in the manger of my heart…

The Manger of My Heart

This Christmas, Lord, come to the manger of my heart.
Fill me with Your presence from the very start.
As I prepare for this Holy day and gifts to be given,
Remind me of the gift You gave when You sent Your Son from Heaven.

The first Christmas gift…the greatest gift ever.
You came as a baby born in a manger.
Wrapped like the gifts I find under my tree,
Waiting to be opened; to reveal Your love to me.

Restore to me the wonder that came with Jesus’ birth,
when He left the riches of Heaven and wrapped Himself in rags of earth.
Immanuel, God with us, Your presence came that night.
And angels announced, “Into your darkness, God brings His Light.”

“Do not be afraid,” they said, to shepherds in the field.
Speak to my heart today, Lord, and help me to yield.
Make me like those shepherd boys, obedient to Your call.
Setting all the distractions aside, to You I surrender them all.

Surround me with Your presence, Lord, I long to hear Your voice.
Clear my mind of countless concerns and all the holiday noise.
Slow me down this Christmas, let me not be in a rush.
In the midst of all the people and planning, I want to feel Your hush.

This Christmas, Jesus, come to the manger of my heart.
Invade my soul like Bethlehem, bringing peace to every part.
Dwell within and around me as I unwrap Your presence each day.
Keep me close to You, Lord. It’s in Your wonderful Name I pray.

{written by Renee Swope, copyright 2016}


Printable Christmas Prayer (click on the links below)