Shepherd On The Search: Finding Christ in Christmas {+ a giveaway}

Affiliate links in this post. You can read my disclosure here.

What is your favorite part of the Christmas story? One of mine is when God sent angels to shepherds in a field, to tell them Jesus had been born. And when the shepherds heard the amazing news, they set off on an journey to search for baby Jesus.

Tweet: I want to be like the shepherds, looking for Jesus every day that leads up to the celebration of His birth. want our family to be like the shepherds, looking for Jesus each day leading up to Christmas. So we’re taking our daughter Aster on an ADVENTure this Christmas with Shepherd On The Search, an newDaySpring Advent Activity set.



I love how this set includes a cute plush toy shepherd, a box that looks like a manger and the story of the shepherd’s search is captured in a beautifully illustrated children’s book.

The ADVENTure will begins at our house on December 1st {Aster’s birthday} when we hide our shepherd and let our girl go searching for it in some silly place. And, I have a feeling she and her daddy are going to be hiding it from me as we move the Shepherd closer to the manger each day of December.

Whether you’ve got children, grandchildren or know someone who does, I can’t think of a better tradition than playing hide-n-seek with a shepherd and making Jesus the focus of our Christmas fun this year!

ENTER to WIN a companion Christmas CD
Shepherd Cmas CDShare your thoughts and let me know if you plan to join us in this Christmas ADVENTure. Simply leave a comment below (click here if you are reading this via email) I’ll be giving away Christmas Reading Music CD to one of you! And I’ll let you know how to can get more ideas and fun activities to do with your Shepherd on the Search!

Surprised by Motherhood


Her small hands peel back the covers to see if my eyes are open. Gently, I feel her fingers against my cheek as she loudly whispers, “Time to wake up mommy!”

I smile {with my eyes closed} and roll over.  It will take more than her sweetness to convince this tired mama to get out of bed. Hours of driving, sitting on wood bleachers, shouting and cheering for her big brother’s basketball games at a tournament the day before… has worn me out!

I tell Aster it’s still dark and that she needs to go back to sleep. Disappointed yet determined, she walks her little self over to the window, feels her way along the curtains to find the plastic wand so she can pull them back and show me it is NOT still dark. 

Not only is it NOT dark, it is time for breakfast and she knows just what we can eat!


Look Mommy!” She says, as she points her finger to the parking lot. “Wake up and eat popcorn. Seeeeeeeee. There’s a popcorn tree. When you shake it, popcorn falls off!”

Ahhh. Motherhood. It doesn’t come with much sleep, but it does come with popcorn trees! And so many other surprises.

Aster is one of God’s biggest surprises so far in this motherhood journey of mine. Only He could know how much I needed this girl of mine.

God birthed Aster in our hearts and brought her into our family four years ago, just as our boys crested the waves of teenage manhood. Obviously I needed a little more adventure, a lot more carpooling and a huge dose of unconditional love.

And God made sure I got it! All wrapped up in pink bows, giggles, snuggles, sleepless nights, developmental delays, sweet kisses, celebrations,  questions,  fears, happy tears, laughter and memories. So.many.memories.

Today I have a surprise just for you! Im giving away five copies of my new favorite book for the heart of moms, and those who mother in  other capacities: Surprised by Motherhood written by my friend Lisa-Jo Baker. I’m reading it now and  it’s so much more than a book; it’s dessert and friendship for my soul! Today, Lisa-Jo’s publisher has offered to give away 5 copies to five of you!! But first {this}! For days when you wonder if what you do matters, when it feels like the same thing stuck on repeat 365 days a year! Let this be your reminder:  you are braver than you know because you mother!

SurprisedByMotherhood BookcoverWhether you are a mother, have a mother, or have mothered in other capacities and felt inadequate for the job… this is a needed reminder that there is nothing ordinary about being a mother.

Enter to WIN: Simply click “Share Your Thoughts” below and do just that, or share your biggest “surprised by motherhood” moment or memory. We’ll randomly choose five winners and announce them here next week.

When You Have a Burden But Don’t Want to Be One


My email was supposed to be a prayer request, but it started out sounding more like an apology. Although we needed friends to pray, I was hesitant to ask because I didn’t want my request to be a burden for anyone.

A few years ago my husband J.J. was having health problems and needed to have a liver biopsy. His doctor told us it was  precautionary, so we weren’t sure if it would end up being anything serious in the end. And that made me hesitant to tell people about it. Yet I knew I didn’t want to walk through it alone or in my own strength.

Fifteen minutes after I sent my email, several friends started telling me they were praying. Not only did my friends pray – they thanked me for sharing what was going on and for letting them be there for me.

For someone who hates to impose on others, I need to remember that asking for prayer isn’t about putting burdens on my friends. Asking for prayer is about letting our friends walk by our side down a path that we were  never intended to walk alone. {today’s post is a partial excerpt from my #AConfidentHeart #Devotional book}

Is it hard to ask others to pray for you?

Let’s stretch ourselves today and let others walk beside us  in prayer by sharing a burden and then praying for one another. Briefly share one things we can pray for you by clicking “Share Your Heart” below this post. Then  leave a prayer or say “I’ve prayed for you” under the request left before yours. Ready.Set.Pray.

Waving Good-bye to Summer {& hello to a new series in September!}

I waved good-bye to summer last week. And our family calendar breathed a sign of relief that September was almost here.

We stuffed August with everything that didn’t  fit into June and July. Wisdom teeth pulled. Driver’s Ed classes and behind-the-wheel hours completed. Two visits and ten hours of DMV waiting room enjoyment endured. Driver’s test passed and permit acquired. New “Social butterflies” group for Aster survived. {The people were lovely; her reaction to a new environment was not-so-lovely}.

And then there were pool parties, family-get-togethers and out-of-town guests, plus a little overnight get-away with my hubby.

But the best of all? A vacation I had been counting down the weeks for!!

Five days, all five of us together at Fripp Island, SC  before school started. I can’t even tell you how grateful I was to be there with my people. The weather was beautiful. The memories sweet. And all of it was just what this mama’s heart needed.


Cabana Pool Collage

And now September is here.

Kids are back in school and I can hear myself think again.

So what am I going to do with all my time?  Well, God doesn’t believe in boredom for this girl. He’s been working behind the scenes, bringing about some neat opportunities, unexpected changes, hard decisions and a little bit of crazy circumstances to kick off my fall.

It’s been two years since my book, A Confident Heart released. And much to my surprise, New Life 91.9FM {our local Christian Radio station in Charlotte, NC} asked me this summer if I would kick off the fall with them and their partner stations in SC, NJ and PA through a FREE Confident Heart Video series.

Featuring my NEW Confident Heart DVD — which releases TODAY! 

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  • The perfect confidence boost for the Fall – the radio stations will be offering two video segments on their website each week for FREE {with 2 never-before-seen teachings filmed after our last study} — and this is offered all throughout September.
  • I’ll also be joining their morning show team 2 days a week. {Why not call in so we can chat! :).

I’ll be sharing new insights and stories God’s writing in my life through these days. Stories that include how to keep your confidence after you lock your kid and your keys in the car on a 100 degree day with no way to get her  – as well as -how to keep your composure after a head-on collision with a set of monkey bars. All in the very relaxing, slow moving month of August. Nice. It’s going to be lots of fun and just think how much better you’ll feel about yourself after you hear about my shenanigans!

Say good-bye to summer & hello to September
with a fall-kick off Confidence Boost!


Leave a comment letting me know you signed up and tell me a little about YOUR SUMMER!

When you do, you’ll be entered to WIN a copy of my NEW Confident Heart DVD. I’ll be giving away 5 copies this week!}


* The winner of Eva Piper’s book “A Walk through the Dark” is Laurie. We have your email so we’ll be in touch to get your mailing address.

When Problems Pile Up {and Threaten to Take You Down}

I wish we could sit in a coffee shop and chat today

I’d love to talk with you about things that may be weighing you down. They always seem to lighten when shared with a friend.

I’d tell you about the year I let my problems pile up… and how all that pressure almost took me down. It’s all in chapter 9 of my book, A Confident Heartincluding the story about  the time I accidentally took my dogs medicine. Yes ma’am. I sure did.

At the end of every chapter, I also share a prayer – weaving my tangled thoughts and sometimes-consuming concerns with His Words and wisdom. Praying in this way helps me to take my cares to Him with confidence, knowing when I pray His Word I am praying His will for me {and others}. Here’s the prayer that was birthed out of my piling up and tumbling down year:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. When concerns consume me, remind me that You are with me, holding me by my right hand and guiding me with Your counsel. Though my flesh and my heart may fail, You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Help me turn my burdens over to You, knowing that You will take care of me.

Because You are my shepherd, I shall not be in want. You promise that when I dwell in the shelter of the Most High, I can rest in the shadow of the Almighty. You are my refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life; You stretch out Your hand against the anger of my foes, and with Your right hand You save me. Thank You for making known to me the path of life and filling me with joy and peace in Your presence. In Jesus’ name, Amen. {See Psalms 139:23–24; 73:23–26; 55:22; 23:1; 91:1–2; 138:7; 16:11.}

From A Confident Heart by Renee Swope, Chapter 9
© 2013 by Baker Revell Publishing. All rights reserved.

Over the past few years God has been changing me and rearranging me. He’s taught me how to use prayer to turn my worry into worship. He’s also given me a practical way to physically hand Him my concerns! Since we can’t chat in a coffee shop today, I’d love to share them with you through this short video message:

Message Notes: You can download my “Video Message Notes” in a PDF here or in a Word doc here.  They include the points of my message, verses and blanks to fill in. {If you’d like to watch more FREE Confident Heart videos based on my book, click here.}

reneeswope_praying4husbandFREE DOWNLOADS:
Download my “Printable Prayers Collection: How to Pray for Those You Love from Head to Toe.” Today, I’m offering “Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe” {click here to download}

YOU CAN also RECEIVE “Praying for Yourself from Head to Toe” and “Praying for Your Children from Head to Toe” when you sign up here to enter your name and email.  Then come back so you can enter to win today’s giveaway below!


Share one thought or something you want to apply after reading today’s devotion, blog post or hearing my video message
. Click “share your thoughts” right below this post and do just that. 🙂

Enter to Win one of 4 copies of A Confident Heart, OR the grand prize which includes A Confident Heart book PLUS a coffee shop gift card and a Godiva chocolate bar. 

A Confident Heart_3D

$40 in Confident Heart Resources {FREE}!! When You Purchase A Confident Heart this month, you can receive over $40 in FREE RESOURCES and EXCLUSIVE downloads.

CLICK HERE to find out how!


Update on My Mom:
Thank you for your prayers for my mom. She’s had ups and downs but her kidney pain is less and less each day. Ive been concerned she had gotten pneumonia because she started running a fever, coughing, has had pain in her lower lung and some breathing issues {plus she has a history or pulmonary embolisms and has been off of her blood thinners for surgery.} We’ll be seeing her doctor on Monday to check on her kidney and lungs. I think she’s okay but it will be good to hear the doctor confirm that. 🙂

A Little Blogging Break

I can’t believe it’s already August 10th, can you? With time flying and kids going back to school so soon I’ve decided to take a little time off from blogging and most things internet to unplug and enjoy the last few weeks of summer with my family. We might make a trip to the beach next week and then get organized and have some down time before the juggling schedules and balancing routine starts later this month.

I’ll be back in September – with a {hopefully} rested heart, mind and soul – and some new plans for my blog this fall.

The winners of my last give-away are Teresa Richardson and Catherine P. You’ll both be receiving 2 copies of  “A Confident Heart”  along with my conference message “Don’t Throw Away Your Confidence” on CD. My assistant Leah will be in touch to get your mailing address so we can send them your way!

Wanna know when I start blogging again?
Simply enter your email below, click “subscribe” and fill in the funky letters to confirm you’re not a spammer. Then watch for (and respond to) a confirmation email from Feedburner. If you don’t receive one, please check spam or sign up again.


Happy August friends!

The Sweetest Sound I Know

Little girls giggles and high pitched squeals. These were the sounds our days were made of …

Oh how I wanted her voice to be the soundtrack of my life, but it wasn’t happening. Why isn’t she talking? Is this normal? I have two teenagers and can’t remember what is normal. Is it because she’s our third child? Why isn’t our bribery and insistance working??

“Oh don’t worry, she’ll talk.” “Einstein didn’t talk until he was 5.” “Just wait ’til she won’t stop talking! Then you’ll be thankful for these days.”

Their words were  meant to be encouraging. And sometimes they helped to stretch our patience as we waited for our little girl to say simple yet precious words like “Daddy” and “bye-bye”.

In October 2009, we adopted Aster from Ethiopia. In August 2011, as she was heading toward her 3-year-old birthday, Aster was diagnosed with a severe speech disorder called Apraxia.

In the midst my deep sorrow over my fathers’s death, the joy of my book release and the heart-shattering shock about my little girl, all I wanted to hear was the soothing sound of my daughter’s precious little voice.

But Aster could barely say five words, and those were very hard to understand. It was determined that she could understand almost everything, but Aster’s mental planning paths weren’t connecting between her brain and her mouth, and no one knew why.

We’ve scheduled countless assessments, a brain MRI, hearing tests and more. And now after 10 months of speech therapy two times each week, we are celebrating an amazing milestone. Look how far God has brought our sweet and beautiful girl!

Although Aster still has days where she hardly says a thing, when she is chatty, she can say at least 50 words now! And her whole alphabet. She is super excited about her newest accomplishment – she can count up to 10!

We are so proud of how hard our girl is working that smart mind of hers, creating paths in her brain  and building weak muscles in her mouth. And we’re over the top thankful for each little step of progress she makes. If you’d like to see just how far she’s come, the first time she EVER talked on camera was March 4, 2012. Here is that video:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”– 1 Corinthians 2:9

We’re On Spring Break

Photo Credit

We are on Spring Break this week so I’ve unplugged a little to rest, spend time with my family, play and re-organize our  garage and closets. It’s a glorious thing! But since we’re on a “stay-cation” we are not completely unplugged because my boys love their social media connections too —so o you might find me on Twitter or Facebook every now and then.  🙂