On the 12th Day of CHRISTmas…..Give Away with Renee Swope

*Give Away has Ended*

Okay gals…..today is the final day of this 12 Days of CHRISTmas Give Away and let me tell you, I have had a blast!!! Seriously!!

You see cyber sisters, this has been a hard Christmas season for us—sadness, death, divorces and turmoil in the lives of many families close to us. It has been painful to watch and experience as we try to help and ease the sorrow. In our own family, we are experiencing uncertainty as my husband is an employee of one of the big three automakers in Michigan and has very low seniority. Bailout or no bailout (which we are against, by the way) Todd has been told to expect to lose his job permanently in January. 

Well, I cannot tell you how the truth “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) has played out over these past twelve days. While my sweet Proverbs 31 sisters are the ones actually giving the gifts, I have loved giving the time and effort to present you all with some ideas and encouragement to not only make it through the season, but to make it focused on Christ and on family.

So enjoy this last day and if you are just joining us, scroll down and get caught up on all of the other posts. You may still leave comments on all 12 days up until midnight Friday, Pacific Standard time (Hey, I am Eastern Standard Time so I’ll give all you west coasters some extra time!!!) All 12 winners will be posted Saturday morning–sometime after I’ve read my Bible and had my coffee. Mid-morning most likely. We have a late night of basketball games tonight.

And in keeping with the theme of giving, if you have a minute sometime today, hop over to my friendMarybeth’s blog. She is helping to get the word out about a family who has adopted some children from China and is selling some delightful candles to try to raise money to adopt more!! You could Christmas shop and help out this sweet family.

Allrighty then….. Now for our last day’s giveaway. Today you will meet the ever talented and equally godlyRenee Swope. She is a gifted speaker and humble leader at Proverbs 31 Ministries who is passionate about connecting women to God and to each other. She has been such a blessing in my life and I know she will be in yours too. So…get to know my friend Renee. Here she is in her own words:

I love to laugh, I love my family, and I love having fun with my girlfriends. Oh, and I really love coffee – especially with options! Give me a tall, soy latte, no foam, no whip. No, make that a grande, coffee light frappachino, with one pump of sugar-free cinnamon dulce syrup, an extra shot of espresso, no whip, but keep the sprinkles. High maintenance? Never!!!

I am a southern girl with a mix of Louisiana spunk and North Carolina sweet – I think it’s the iced tea we drink. I was born in New Orleans and grew up there until my mom re-married when I was twelve-years old. We moved to N.C. and I love it here. We are nestled right between my two favorite places to experience God’s presence – the mountains and the beach.

I fell in love with Jesus when I was a senior in college. He took my breath away when I found out how much He loved me and I have never been the same.

I make my home with three awesome guys– my husband, J.J., and our sons Joshua (almost 13) and Andrew (10). They make me laugh, they say I’m beautiful without make-up and they remind me every day of what matters most – family!

The Swope Family

Now for our chat with Renee—

Renee, what are some Christmas traditions your family has implemented to keep Christ the center of Christmas?

First, we place a few different mangers in the most popular rooms of our house to remind us that Christmas is about Christ’s birth. We even have a Veggie Tale manger scene in the kids’ bathroom. I also hide all of the “baby Jesus” figures so that our mangers are not complete until “Jesus is born” on Christmas morning.

A few years ago we started a new tradition. We wait to open our gifts after sitting down together for Christmas breakfast. We set a place for Jesus at the table with a red “You are Special Today” plate. Then during breakfast, we tell what gifts we each want to give from our hearts to Jesus in the coming year. We have small candle holders clipped to each plate and as we go around describing our gifts to God and each other, we light our candles.

As you can imagine, this wasn’t a popular new tradition when I suggested it, but now our whole family loves it! Our hearts are in such a sweet place once we go to the tree to open our gifts. Plus it makes the day and the fun last so much longer.

Do you have a Christmas verse or passage that you are focusing on this year? If so, how has it impacted you personally?

I was recently re-reading the story of Mary finding out God had chosen her to be the mother of His Son (Luke 1:28-38). I love how Mary responded with complete surrender to God’s calling, making herself available because she believed that above all else she was “the Lord’s servant.”

When the angel described how the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her and Christ would be formed in her, she answered with confident faith: “May it be to me as You have said.”

It struck me how in that moment Mary declared that she was a woman who not only believed in God, but also she really BELIEVED God!!!

God honored her faith and encouraged her to keep believing when He brought another woman (Elizabeth) into her life that would remind Mary of God’s promise, God’s power and God’s purposes. Elizabeth celebrated and encouraged Mary’s faith when she exclaimed: “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” (v.45)

This part of the Christmas story challenges me to be a woman who really believes God, and to look for ways to encourage my friends and family to be blessed by living like they believe Him, too!

You recently wrote in the Proverbs 31 Woman magazine about unwrapping the presence of Christ at the holidays.  What happened to spark this thought?

A few years ago, I couldn’t wait for Christmas to come and bring with it lots of family and holiday joy. But when Christmas day got here and my guests arrived, I couldn’t wait for them to leave! I ended up with a full house and a very full schedule, but an oh so empty heart. Christmas afternoon I snuck away from the holiday noise. I tiptoed into my closet and hid with my Bible, hoping the Christmas story would put my heart in a better place. As I read about Jesus coming as Immanuel, God with us, I realized what I needed more than anything was to remember and find joy in the promise of God being with me. I’d been so busy hurrying around getting ready for the big day that I’d forgotten to unwrap the most important “present” of all – God’s presence! That day I closed my eyes and imagined Jesus – wrapped like the gifts I had under my tree. Then I imagined opening that gift and treasuring the reality of His promise to be with me. It put my heart in a much better place and helped me go downstairs to enjoy the gift of my family’s presence as well.

In the following years, I prayed for ways to unwrap His presence throughout December. I also wrote a Christmas prayer that I framed and set out with my holiday decorations each year. It prepares a place in my heart for Him as I prepare my home and schedule for the holidays.

I’ll be posting my Christmas prayer “The Manger of My Heart” on my blog todayalong with some ideas of how we can unwrap God’s presence each day in December.

Thanks Renee for helping us focus on Christ this month!

You’re so welcome. It helped me, too! 

Now for the idea and question of the day and Renee’s give away:

Renee mentioned opening presents on Christmas morning and opening the present of God’s presence all season long. Our topic of the day has to do with the former and our give away with the latter!!!!

First, one happy winner will receive a cd of Renee’s Christmas message “Unwrapping His Presence” along with a warm vanilla sugar candle from Bath and Body Works. So get ready to leave those comments gals. Then you will be entered.

As for presents; our question today is this: what is the best Christmas present you’ve ever received or given and why?

While I can think of quite a few, I think the most memorable gift I was ever given was a sweet, ceramic, Precious Moments figurine that my husband gave me about five years ago. Now please, I must say that I am NOT the knick-knack, ceramic figurine type of gal. No sireee. I like the simple, clean, uncluttered look in my abode. What made this gift so special was that Todd got it for a sentimental reason and with no hinting at all from me.

The figurine is of a small, compact car with a Christmas tree strapped down on top and a happy couple inside. He wrapped it up beautifully and added a hand-written note that said this:

“I was at the store and this caught my eye. It reminded me of our first Christmas in 1986 when we drove to Constantine, Michigan, bought our first tree for $5.00 at a corner gas station and tied it on top of our Volkswagen Rabbitt to take it home to our tiny apartment. I loved you then and I love you even more now. Thanks for always making Christmas so special for the kids and me.”

Oh ladies….I melted.

You see, I usually hint at what I want. Really hint. In an “oh-she-is-hinting-so-much-it-is-obnoxious” way. Now, that way I may get something I know I like, but I also feel some what disapointed because it really didn’t take much thought on my dear hubby’s part.

Or, since we try to be so frugal, Todd will often ask me what practical things I could use. Again, I’ll make a list. He’ll shop from the list. But the thrill just isn’t there when I open the gifts. 

That is why that little nick-nack is so special to me. 

A. I never hinted that I wanted it.

B. He never asked me what I wanted and I told him about it.

C. He was thinking of me, randomly, in the middle of the day when he was at the store.

D. He remembered a sweet time in our marriage with fondness. (Hate to be stereotypical ladies, but it has been my ongoing experience that men forget waaaaaay more than they remember!)

At any rate, that little knick knack is a treasure to me. Yep! It will be on my night stand at the old folks home someday.

Now, how about you? What is the best gift you have ever received (or given, if you’d rather) and why? Renee is just waiting to give one of you her inspirational cd and that warm, sweetly-scented candle.

Comment away!!!

Sad-it-is-our-last-give-away-day-Blessings, (but stop back by often, ya here??!!!)


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  1. I’ve received so mahy special gifts over the years. With
    God’s timing I ‘ve been able to give 4 precious gifts.
    3 of my children were born on someone’s special day.
    MIssy–Father’s Day that year; Stephen on my husband’s 28th birthday; Linda born on my youngest
    sister’s birthday. I always say our son Stuart was a
    Have happy day gift.

  2. Wow– This one really had me thinking. There isn’t a gift that comes to mind from the past, but I have to say that my recent “present”, that I have really been enjoying, is your website, Karen. It is a few minutes I sneak for myself, in between my job and the housework, the kids shuttling, and everyday Busy-ness. God has been telling me to REJOICE and find the joy in each day. Your words point me in that direction and help center me. You point the way to HIM and just the little things fill me with joy and gladness. THank you.

  3. The first year my husband and I were married he worked really hard to make Christmas special. He loves presents, and when we woke up that morning he hurried me out to the tree. After we’d opened all of our packages, he opened the front door and handed me a string. He told me to follow it, so we walked around the house, through the yard, and into the shed, where he’d hidden an antique pie cupboard under a blanket. Dave had actually listened when I told him about how much I loved making cookies and pies with my mom and rolling out the dough on hers and how I wanted to do that with our children (someday when we had some) and borrowed a truck to go to an antique mall 30 miles away and shopped for one. He even measured the wall in our tiny kitchen to make sure to buy one that would fit! I love knowing that he put so much thought and effort into my present. :-)

  4. Mine is this year. I’m giving my mom and step dad a digital picture frame. We live in Idaho and they are in Washington state. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and had a double mastectomy. We weren’t able to be with her and there are so many things that she wasn’t able to see. So I have loaded her with gobs and gobs of photos and just know that she is going to love it and I can’t wait. I wish that I could be there when she opens it but I can’t. I’m so excited for her.

  5. My favorite gift was the year my husband proposed to me on Christmas Eve. The proposal came as a complete surprise to me and that made it even more special.

  6. The best gift I ever got..happens to be on Mother’s Day. My husband built from scratch, not using a pattern at all, a picnic table. We have five kiddos and so it is larger than your standard picnic table. He didn’t even give me a clue that he was building it. He went into “work:” on a sat, and brought it home. It was truly a surprise. He usually gives away whatever he gets me. He cannot keep a surprise!


  7. I was born 4 hours too late to be a Christmas baby, but that’s ok with me. I have a daughter who was born 5 days before Christmas and my hubby is a December 14 baby. So the whole month of December is very special – oh and expensive! One of my most memorable gifts was given to me by my husband last year. I had been wanting a new bible and he bought the exact one I had been looking at. I love it!

  8. My favorite gift would have to be a beautiful silver and gold pin my dad gave me my senior year in high school. He wrote a beautiful letter about how for years they had prepped the nest, given me lessons and now it was time for me to use my wings and fly–you see, the pin was in the shape of an elegant feather.

  9. My husband and I got married 3 days before Christmas in 2001. It was kind of a whirlwind wedding, and I was really worried that Christmas would totally fall by the wayside. My husband isn’t really into holidays, but tradition is SO important to me. We got to our hotel on the 24th, and he had had his mom decorate our room. There was a little tree (that we got to decorate together), candles, Christmas music playing softly. It was the best gift he could have given me.

  10. The best gifts for me are the homemade ones. I really love that my husband made me a necklace and bracelet last year. I also love when my mom makes ornaments or stuffed animals for my kids. I always liked the gifts my grandma would sew me as a child. I also especially love the gift of time. I only hope that I get better at giving it to others as well!
    Thanks for hosting this! God bless your family!

  11. My love language is not gifts…. I hafve a hard time thinking of the best. I think its all the little ones that are sweet surprises. The ones that were not on the list.

    This year we will be celebrating with just our kids and I think thats a great gift!

  12. The favourite present I’ve ever given was last year. To make a long story short, a gal who had been collecting gifts for needy families had stored them all at her church. Her church was broken into and all the presents were stolen just before Christmas. When I found out about it I called my husband and asked if we could help. Meeting with the lady in charge of the collection I asked for the list of everything that had been lost. The next several hours I had so much fun!!! Not only was I able to purchase everything on the list, but the Lord honoured our willingness I’m sure by helping me find such amazing deals!!! These weren’t large ticketed items – they were all very humble requests – running shoes, sweaters, board games etc… I was able to throw in a few extra things just for fun. I will always remember the joy of giving that day.

    I’ve had many wonderful gifts over the years, but the ones that have touched deep places are the ones that reflect that people really know me. A small box of dark chocolate orange truffles. A salad and dessert delivered by a friend to help me prepare for our Christmas dinner. (I’m not a kitchen gal!) A DVD on Ballroom Dancing from my son when he knew my desire was to learn to dance with the King of Kings. A card sent with the promise to pray for me. I don’t want to collect things, as lovely as they may be – my favourite gifts are those that say, “I know you”.

    I’m so thankful to be known by God. The gifts He gives are the best – His love, peace, joy, salvation, forgiveness, grace and rest.

    Thanks again for hosting the 12 Days of Christmas. I’m going to miss it :o(

    Have a wonderful Christmas,

  13. 14 years ago I was sitting at a church children’s christmas program and was warmed over with (how to describe) with the peace and assurance that I was pregnant. We had been trying to get pregnant and I remember crying over and over when the test was negative but as I sat watching the cutest little 2yr olds singing I just knew that I was going to have a baby. On August 31s I delivered a beautiful little girl!
    She was the best Christmas gift and we are blessed with a son as well.

  14. We do a lot of hinting and list writing at my house too. So the gifts are not always huge surprises. I guess my favorite thing is when we can just be home as a family and not travel on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and our children have time to enjoy there gifts and we can enjoy each other.

    When were pregnant with our first child, I put the positive test in a baggie in my husband’s Christmas Stocking. That was pretty fun!

  15. My best Christmas gift was my son. My husband and I tried to have children for over 8 years. We finally decided to pursue adoption in November 2000. My son was born on Dec. 26th. From the start of the process until we brought him home was only 6 weeks. Only God can do something like that!

    Merry Christmas!

  16. Karen~
    I received your sweet comment on my blog and if you will email me I would be blessed to participate. Sorry, I couldn’t just email you. I have so many favorite Christmases, but 2007 was the best because it was the last one with my dad before he finally lost the battle to cancer – but is victorious because of Jesus’ gift of salvation which Dad accepted 2 months before his death!
    Blessings to you!

  17. The best gift I ever received was in 1998. I remember sensing the Lord wanting me to ask Him for something. I asked to hear from my estranged natural father. I hadn’t seen him in 27 years (since I was 8) due to his alchoholism and I wanted to know that he was okay.

    On December 17 I went for a walk and suddenly felt impressed to return home. When I did my husband was on the phone- with my father! I’ll never forget hearing his voice. He was sober and remained that way for over five years. During that time he called, visited numerous times, got to know me and his grandkids and it was wonderful. Unfortunately, he eventually returned to drinking and all of that ceased.

    This year I’d like one more thing from God. I’d like to see my father saved.

  18. This is a tough question for me. . . in thinking about how to answer, it actually has helped me realize that the best gifts are not the ones necessarily under the tree. I’ve received a lot of wonderful gifts from my husband and family over the years, but it’s hard for me to pinpoint one and say that was the “best” gift. I would have to say time spent with family is probably the best gift – there were a few years when I had to work on Christmas Day and that was hard because I would rather be spending the day with family. It’s something you take for granted until you have to miss it ;)

    Merry Christmas – I’ll pray for your husband’s job. . .thanks for hosting these fun giveaways this month!


  19. My best Christmas present was my first Christmas as a Christian. I was struggling with sobriety over alcohol and drugs and smoking. I had just gotten saved October 19th of that same year and had put down the additictions on July 7th. Kayla and I lived in a one bedroom 640 square foot apartment and shared a room. I bought an $11 live Christmas Tree from Wal-Mart. I had no ornaments and no lights. My mom, aunt and some co-workers started cleaning out and passing down ornaments and lights to me. Not one thing matched that year, there was no theme, but it was the most beautiful Christmas I have ever had. My only Christian friend had given me my first Nativity Scene. It was placed under that tree and displayed proudly so that we would never forget. The best gift ever given…not an item…Grace and sobriety ever since! Hallelujah!

  20. My favorite gift came 2 years ago. My dad had been on strike that year. I wasn’t expecting anything for Christmas, because I knew how tight things were. Much to my delight, my dad made me a Idiot’s Delight game board. I know the name is totally weird, but a great uncle of mine created this game many years ago, before I was even born. It has become a family tradition to learn how to play. With my kids I call it “The Marble Game”. Now I play the game with my husband and kids. I have something that my dad made just for me, very cool!

  21. The best gift I’ve ever received is the only ring my husband has bought me. He bought it for me in February, 2004. It’s my first and only white gold ring. I would love to have a new wedding ring in white gold, as well. It is the best, because it came from my husband’s heart!!

  22. I took a pregnancy test last Christmas eve and it was a “+”! That was fun, and so was giving the news to my man the next morning. This year we have 4 little kiddos (5 and under!) playing under the tree.

  23. Oh the best gift my husband and I received was Christmas of 2004. Right after Thanksgiving of that year, we suffered a miscarriage. It knocked us for a loop. Two weeks later, we were at my Mother’s house and a friend of hers (who didn’t know what happened) felt compelled to bring us a gift.

    When I opened it, we both burst into tears. It was an ornament of the most beautiful angel I’ve ever seen holding a newborn baby.

    Now every year, when we place the angel on the tree, we think of our sweet little bundle and know she is with the Lord and we will see her again.

    Thank you for the 12 days of Christmas give-a-ways. It’s been fun getting to know the P31 ladies!

  24. My son. He was an early (Dec 7th) Christmas present. We found out about him and took custody of him with in 48 hours! His adoption was finalized on his 1st birthday. (He’s 11 now)

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