8th Day of Christmas with Renee Swope

Welcome Encouragement for Today devotion readers to our 5th annual 12 Days of Christmas giveaways!

But first, as promised in the Unhurried Christmas devotion (click here if you haven’t read it) here is the info for the free 5-day resource: From Chaos to Calm: The LET. IT. GO. Christmas Challenge:

Do you often have Norman Rockwell-like expectations about the holidays — the decorations, the food, the gifts, the activity — laden schedule, the family get-togethers?

There are many areas where women want to exert control ensuring the perfect yuletide season. What if we learned instead to let go of unrealistic expectations and embrace an “out-of-control” Christmas this year: relaxing and relating in a peaceful manner while letting others offer input and ultimately allowing God to call the shots?

Then join the 9000 women who have gotten my free 5-day resource From Chaos to Calm: The LET. IT. GO. Christmas Challenge?

This challenge will allow Christmas to go from chaos to calm as you learn to control what you should and trust God with what you can’t. The result? Less stressing and more blessing!  Click here for the free sign up.


Now, back to the 12 Days of Christmas giveaways.

Each day I’m featuring one of my Proverbs 31 sisters offering a recipe, idea or memory and giving away a prize for the day!

Today’s guest?

Our Proverbs 31 Executive Director of Radio and devotions, author, speaker and awesome friend:

Renee Swope

She writes:

Christmas was only days away and we still didn’t have a tree. Living on a college-student’s budget with our first baby on the way, we were scraping by and couldn’t bring ourselves to spend $25-50 on something we didn’t need.

It seemed kind of trivial when I told God how sad I felt that we couldn’t afford a Christmas tree.

But that year, I discovered how much God cares about the longings of our hearts and, if we’re looking, He’ll show us His heart for us in them.

The Sunday night before Christmas, my husband, J.J. and I noticed the tree lot near our apartment had marked all their trees down to $10! Grins stretched across our faces as we made plans to buy one Monday night as soon as J.J. got home from work.

We walked down each row of the tree lot looking for just the right spruce to fit in the corner of our one-bedroom apartment. Feeling sentimental and slightly maternal, I realized that picking our first Christmas tree was going to be almost as difficult as choosing our child’s name.

The sun went down quickly, the tree-lot started to close and the spotlights shut down. There we were, standing in the pitch dark without a tree.

My creative and very patient husband pulled his car into the rows of trees and flashed on his high beams.  Suddenly, the bright lights dispelled the darkness and standing in front of me was the most precious tree I’d ever seen. Although it had some droopy branches and a gap on one side, I pointed at it and told J.J., “That’s the one I want!”

Later that night, with my hands wrapped around a cup of hot cocoa, I sat on our couch looking at it. I thought about how sad I felt earlier when the darkness made it impossible to see the trees. Yet, when the beams of light illuminated the lot, my heart filled with hope.

Etched in my mind was a picture I wouldn’t forget, a memory that drew me back to another time marked by darkness – a time when I wasn’t choosing, but needed to be chosen.

Just when it felt like all my dreams had died and my hope was gone, the Light of God’s unfailing love punctured the clouds of darkness and depression surrounding my mind. It happened on another cold winter’s eve in January 1989 while I was sitting in the balcony of a church hoping to hear something that would fill the empty places in my heart. Feeling His Spirit tugging on my heart, whispering words I longed to hear, I sensed God saying, “Renee, you are the one I want.”

He’d been trying to tell me for years, but I had allowed the wounds of my past and the words of others to convince me that no one would ever want me.

At some point, I think most of us have felt like the little Christmas tree and me. Scarred by disappointments, we wonder if anyone would ever choose us. With gaps that make us feel like candidates for rejection, we hope no one will notice our inadequacies. And like the fate of my spruce pine, it seems the only way we’ll get chosen is if all the good ones are picked first.

First Peter 2:9 reminds us that through Christ we are chosen! God sent His Son to light our darkness and fill the gaps in our hearts. Sweet friend, I pray that you will hold onto the truth that God sees you today, and He wants you to hear Him declaring with all His heart, “You are the one I want!”


Now for Renee’s giveaway. It includes:

  • Signed copy of her best-selling book A Confident Heart
  • Living in the Security of God’s Promises – printable
  • Bath & Body Works Christmas treat
  • Starbucks gift card

To be entered in her giveaway, tell us about your favorite Christmas tree memory. Or, if time is tight, answer this question: Real tree or artificial?

Remember, you have until Sunday night December 16th to comment on all the posts. One grand prize winner will be chosen from among the gals who post on all 12 days! The grand prize is:

A unique advent candle display depicting Bethlehem, Mary and Jesus, with votive holders and candles nestled inside. A $50 retail value. And, along with it, a copy of my new book LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show & Start Walking in Faith.


  1. My favorite tree memory was when I was 6 or 7 years old and stringing popcorn and cranberries to put on the tree. It was magical that year. :)

  2. These last couple of years I have been writing a Christmas poem to send to my loved ones. It has given me the quiet meditation I need to read the Christmas story and find inspiration from God’s Word. My thoughts on the verses then merge into a poem that has a memory from my past. This year I saw a Christmas card that spoke of how we see the nativity through a window without realizing the special the birth of Christ and how if fulfilled prophecy. I hope to someday have more poems to make a small book for my loved ones to minister to their hearts.

  3. When my kids were little we would go cut our Christimas Tree with my parents. My Dad was such a kid at heart and he loved getting everyone together to do this. My kids are all grown now, but I am raising my grandson and I am looking forward to making new memories with him.

  4. My favorite memories are just decorating the tree and the house with my family. We usually make cookies and treat too. And also going out to look at the Christmas lights!

  5. My best memory is when my mom and I picked out the perfect tree but about a week after we put it up all the needles just started falling off! It was like it was raining pine needles in our living room. We took our “perfect tree down” and went back to our usual Chalie Brown type tree.

  6. making CHRISTmas cookies every year beginning the day after Thanksgiving with my BELOVED MOM!!!!!!!! She makes them homemade with her own recipes to this day she is 82!!!!!!!

  7. My favorite Christmas tree memory is of my oldest, who was 1 at the time. She had fallen asleep under it, laying on top of the presents!

  8. I remember as a child laying under our Christmas tree and looking up at the lights. I always did this and the memory has always stuck with me.

  9. One year we couldn’t find a tree when I was little. So, we went to a local nursey and bought a beautiful pine that needed to be planted. We decorated it and watered it and had a wonderful Christmas celebrated around that tree. After Christmas, of course we had to wait a few weeks, we planted that tree in our yard. For several years after that, we were able to decorate two trees… one inside and the other outside!

  10. It wasn’t very funny at the moment it happened, but looking back my favorite Christmas tree memory was when my 1 year old pulled over the Christmas tree right before company arrived. We propped it up with the high chair and repaired the stand later. I put that same tree up this Christmas, 10 years later! My kids still love that tree and I do too!

  11. I did not grow up in a traditional family and have created my own traditions since the birth of my children almost 19 years ago.Every thanksgiving night we put up our christmas tree and got the holiday rolling with joy.Many of those years I was a single mom on a tight budget so we used the same fake tree year after year! It never mattered though. It was always so beautiful to just sit and bask in the glow of the lights and listen to christmas music. It still is.

  12. We have an artificial tree for our apartment. I have a special Christmas memory. In previous years, I had trouble getting pregnant and had multiple miscarriages and an etopic pregnancy (5 babies in heaven in all) in September 2004 my husband and I began fertility treatments. Disappointed that October we hadn’t conceived, we had enough funds to do one more month, so we forged ahead to do it in November. We did the treatments, and by late November I was sick..my stomach hurt so bad. worried that it might be either a reaction to the meds I was on or an etopic pregnancy again, I headed to my ob/gyn. Included in the test, was a pregnancy test which came -up negative, heart broken, I was diagnosed with a viral infection and was told it would clear up in a few days. But it didn’t, and as I prayed to God and did devotions, my heart was telling me I was pregnant! On December 8, 2004, I decided to take an at-home pregnancy test and it came up positive! The medication had worked! I ran back to walmart and found a cute little baby themed carriage, and that night my husband and I put up our tree. I handed him the carriage and told him that starting next year we would have to hang some of our smaller ornaments higher up because the baby might be able to reach them. At first it flew over his head..then it hit him! we almost decided on names that night..if it was a girl Emily Noel..emily was a family name, Noel for Christmas. A boy, Christian Thomas, Christian to give thanks to God, and Thomas, because we were doubting God’s miracles. On August 12, 2005, I gave birth after having a troubled pregnancy to Christian Thomas! My favorite memory of our Christmas Tree~

  13. I’ve always loved the idea of real trees but never had one. Maybe one day. My favorite memories of our Christmas tree is watching a recorded California raisins Christmas claymation special that my husband grew up watching while the kids decorate the tree and we have hot chocolate. I love looking at all the handmade ornaments the kids made for me over the years. They don’t go on the tree anymore because most of them have seen better days, but I still have them all. :)

  14. One year I came home from college and there was no Christmas tree. My Mom loved Christmas, but this had been a very tough year. Then the younger children were sick and she was so tired. That night she and I went to a parking lot tree lot, found the best tree we could, put it up and really brought Christmas hope! It was a special time.

  15. Too many awesome memories! Grew up with real trees and while I loved the adventure of picking one out and the smell, I always hated the clean up and still vacuuming needles up months later. Ever since I became a mom, I have done the artificial prelit tree for less work and frankly, less expense. Someday we will go back to real but for now artificial works for us.

  16. Thank you Lord for answered prayer and teaching me to practice your presence more this season and running from all the hustle and bustle I was caught up in for si many years. Hugs in Him…

  17. We normally do a artificial tree but this year we decided to do a real tree. It was a wonderful experience for our two girls & my 12 yr old brother-in-law even got to tag along. It was so much fun! Now our wonderful cat, that still has many lives, decided to take up residence in the tree at night time :-( but it still looks pretty. As long as my girls are happy, I’m happy!

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