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 memory is that every year we would have a tree…and one year when working with handicaped and developmentally delayed children I ran across a family that had never had a tree…It broke my heart….they had 2 girls approx age 6 and 2…so a co-worker and I went our and actually cut down a tree (that was a sight) and got decorations and brought it to their home….I have never forgotten the look on their faces…priceless :)

  2. Real or artificial? I’ve had both. The important thing to me is the ornaments that go on the tree. When my daughters were young my grandmother made ornaments each Christmas for them. My mother always bought them each an ornament and getting with the tradition, so did I. They both got married the same summer and that December I separated the ornaments and gave them each their own.

  3. I love getting all of the ornaments out and the memories that come with each ornament as we hang them on the tree.

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