Coming Home!!!
We are thrilled to say that JJ is coming home from the hospital later day - a day earlier than predicted!!! yay

He had a good nights rest with 3-4 hours of solid sleep. He's been walking the halls at the hospital, has had no pain meds for 24 hours and no IV fluids for 12 hours. Prayer works my friends!!!! Thank you for being part of his healing and progress!!

The Gastro doctor told him this morning he can come home to finish getting well. Although they have not confirmed what he has, the doctor said that he's responding well to the medicines they've given him and we can continue those at home. He will probably be on an all liquid diet for 5-7 days and will need to take it slow in getting back to normal activities.

I picked up the boys a little while ago and we had lunch together. Now we are home unpacking and getting the house ready for Dad to come home. I need to run to the grocery store and then head to the hospital to get my man sometime this afternoon. We'll all soon be "TOGETHER" -- what a great way to end our Thanks-giving weekend!

If it's not that, then what is it?
Thanks for stopping by! We've been in the hospital with JJ since Thanksgiving morning. To find out where this all started, scroll down to Thursday's post. We love reading your comments and prayers. It means so much to hear from family and friends walking this road with us!

Saturday 1:30pm
JJ ate a little bit of solid food for the first time in four days last night. Unfortunately, his intestines were not too happy about it. He started feeling very sick again and got a bad headache for the first time since this all started. His fever jumped back up to 101 and he was up all night going to the bathroom. He wasn't in the mood to eat anything this morning but he was hungry again by lunch time. He just tried to eat some soup for lunch, got a few sips down but then decided his stomach isn't ready afterall.

On the medical side of things, they did x-rays this morning of his abdomen and chest. He was a bit confused since he hadn't heard this was going to happen. The nurse didn't know either, but she found out his lab tests came back indicating he doesn't have c-diff bacteria. The doctor hadn't come by yet to tell him. Later the Dr. confirmed he ordered the x-rays because they don't know what is causing all of this if it's not colitis c diff. The doctor still hadn't seen the x-rays when he came by around lunch time. He is requesting a gastrointerologist come by to look at JJ's records and talk with us.

It feels a little like we're starting over again. But we are very thankful that we're not starting off at the same point - JJ is not in excruciating pain and he's not dehydrated. We are so thankful he's getting fluids and meds to manage his pain and has access to doctors who know what to do. The hospital is not our favorite place for sure, but it's the best place for us to be right now.

Our boys are still out of town with family but coming home tomorrow. I can't wait to see them! I hope we can somehow get them to the hospital even if it's a quick visit.
  • Please pray for the doctors to figure out quickly what JJ has and needs.

  • Please pray protection over his whole digestive tract that's been stripped of good and bad bacteria since he's been on so many anti-biotics for the past 3 weeks. Also, we want him to start on pro-biotics if the doctor will approve that.

  • Please pray for wisdom as we plan our week. I am speaking in FL at a Christmas outreach event on Thursday night. We're also scheduled to drive to SC on Friday for the half-marathon when I get back that afternoon. The race is Saturday Dec 6th, and JJ is so sad he may not get to run at all - after months of intense training.

  • Please pray for us all to have peace that surpasses understanding as we rest in the promise that God is very near, and that we'll commit to not worry about anything, but pray about everything while thanking God for what He's already done. (Phil. 4:5-7)
Saturday 8:30pm
The gastrointestinal doctor came by late this afternoon. He felt like JJ was doing a little better. He didn't have definite answers about what he has, but he think it's some form of colitis and not diverticulitis. He said he wants to do more tests to confirm the negative results of the c diff culture. He thinks it may still be that bacteria and that maybe we got a false negative test. They are also testing for salmonella and other bacteria. He hadn't seen the x-rays yet so we aren't sure if they show anything new.

The more I research the c diff bacteria, the more concerned I become. The gastrointestinal Dr. told us that c difficile is very aggressive, very hard to treat, has high recurrence rates (1/3 people get it again) and that oftentimes it's more intense if it comes back a second time. We will start probiotics and try to build back his good bacteria as soon as he finishes these antibiotics for c diff.

The doctor put JJ on a strict liquid diet again and told him he probably won't be on solids for days. Poor guy has barely eaten today because he now feels nauseas and bloated. The doctor said it's better to be going to the bathroom all the time than not be able to go at all. JJ feels like that may be happening so please pray for his intestines to remain very active!

The doctor also said he thinks the earliest JJ will go home is Monday. This turned out to be a much longer visit than we anticipated but again we are thankful to be here and to be getting such great care!

PS> Thanks to all of you for bringing food, smiles and prayers to us today. We were blessed by all of you in so many ways!!!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Emergency Room
Thursday Morning
Hi friends,I don't know if anyone will read this today but if so, please say a prayer for my sweet husband, JJ. I woke up late this morning and found a sticky note saying he was driving himself to the Emergency Room. He said he wanted me to get some sleep and not spend Thanksgiving at the ER - as if I would stay home!!

He's been sick for the past several days. We got meds after he self-diagnosed himself with a GI tract infection, which he's had before. We realize now that he tends to get them after being on anti-biotics. He'd just finished a round of those last weekend for a double ear infection.

His fever spiked to 102.5 and he started having severe back pain and vomiting around 4am. I was sleeping upstairs when he left the house around 8:30am. We've been at the ER for a few hours now. They put him on an IV for dehydration and had him drink yucky stuff for the past two hours that will make his GI tract "glow" during his CT scan, which they just came to get him for.

He seems to be doing better after getting a bag of fluids. We're watching "Everybody Loves Raymond" and he's laughing some, so that's good. He's so hard to figure out because he is not a complainer. It's hard to imagine that he's in pain when he's not saying anything. When I'm sick, you know it from all the moaning and groaning!! But not JJ; he is silently sick. I know, I married a saint!

Our boys are at JJ's brother's with their family and JJ's parents for Thanksgiving. His brother drove 3 hours to meet me last night and take them back. He is so considerate!! Their parents raised some amazing guys!

I would appreciate your prayers that we get the tests results back quickly, that it's nothing major, and that he'll get meds to make him comfortable since he hasn't slept in days! And that we get to go home today. But while we are here, please pray that God would open doors for us to share Christ (through word or actions) with the staff that is working today and be a blessing as they bless us with their care.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Thursday 1:30pm

Thank you so much for your notes and prayers!!! They admitted JJ because his white blood cell counts were high and his colon "lit up" in the CT scan. It's very inflamed. He has a pretty bad case of colitis c diffillis. It's not good but hopefully he'll get rid of it quickly and we can exterminate our house of germ spores because they like to multiply!

He still has a lot of pain in his lower abs and back. Staying at the hospital will allow him to get all he needs through the IV- pain meds, antibiotics that will kill this bacteria, fluids, nausea medicine, etc. He's already feeling the difference and his stomach has calmed down. They are giving him an all liquid dinner tonight - can you imagine all liquids on Thanksgiving? But he's so grateful to be there and not at home suffering without any relief in sight. So we are VERY thankful that he went and that they admitted him.

My sweet friend Sharon brought me a full plate - actually 3 plates - of homemade Thanksgiving dinner and desserts. Thanks Sharon and Jason!!!!!

Friday 3:45pm
The doctor came by to see JJ this afternoon. His white blood count has gone down - that's good! His fever is a little better. Only bad thing is that he is still on all liquids and he's still got a lot of pain. The doctor said JJ will probably be here until Saturday or Sunday, once his his fever is gone, he's eating solids and his stomach starts processing foods in a normal fashion. That's a nice way of saying it without being gross! They told him he should not have visitors because his room is considered a "Bio-hazardous" area. I was blessed with monthly cramps and a migraine this morning, so I think I'm going to put a sign on our front door that says "Hormone-Hazardous" area and call it a day! So thankful our kids aren't here to witness their parents who are falling apart, but instead they are having fun with their cousins! I sure do miss them though!!!

Thanks for your prayers, we need them 'til this mess is gone!

Greetings You Who are Highly Favored
Do you ever have days when you really don't want to get out of bed? Days when you wake up and the thought of all you have to do is just so overwhelming that you're not sure where to start. Maybe your list has sub-lists and your sub-lists have sticky notes. Or there are issues you don't really want to deal with. Circumstances that are more than you can handle. Emotions that are overwhelming. Maybe words that need to be spoken or hurts that need to be mended.

On days like that I wish I had this verse painted or stenciled in a pretty font on the wall that is opposite of my bed so that I'd see it when I wake up. I'd open my eyes and read:

"Greetings you who are highly favored!
The Lord is with you." Luke 1:28

Wouldn't that be amazing to have God greet me with that truth every morning?

Greetings Renee, YOU are highly favored!
The Lord, your GOD is with YOU!!!!!

What list could I not prioritize and commit to Him, knowing that He's with me and His plans will be accomplished?

What troubles could I not face if I remembered that God's favor rests on me, even when others don't - and that if He is FOR me then who can be against me?

What words could not be spoken in love, for the purpose of building others up according to their needs?

No matter what your day looks like or how you feel when you wake up, even if it's not painted on your wall, let God engrave it on your heart. I'm praying that you'll hear the angels whisper as you wake:

Greetings you who are highly favored!
The Lord is with YOU.

What Matters Most
Saying no can be really hard for me. There are two main reasons. Number one is that I don't want to miss something fun or miss seeing someone I'd like to hang out with at an event I don't really have time to go to. Number two is that I hate to disappoint people. What if they think I'm a slacker for not being willing to help. Or, what if they never ask me again? I may miss out and there I am back at number one reason.

But you see there's this 24 hour thing God did when He created a day. He thought it would be a good thing to put a limit on the time cycle between dark and light. I used to not like that plan of His, but I've learned that He is really smart.
This girl's gotta sleep 'cause she gets cranky when she doesn't do that enough. So if days have 24 hours and I need to shut my eyes during 8 of them, then I only have 16 leftover to take care of my family, carpool, exercise, eat, work, have fun, relax and serve at my church or in my community. (Notice I listed time to relax and have fun -novel idea for us busy women, huh?)

I've been thinking about how hard it is to say no because I've needed to say it more these days. Every time I turn around there are opportunities to help with something or get involved in different activities at church, at the kids schools, at work, etc. And with the holidays coming, I need a plan so
I don't over commit. I need a reason to say those two little letters N-O and then attach them to two little words, thank - you.

In her book, Only Angels Can Wing It, Liz Curtis Higgs suggests a few questions that I can ask myself before taking on something new.

  1. Will this activity really matter one week from today? How about a month from now?
  2. Does it satisfy a heart need for me or someone I love?
  3. Is this something only I can do or is there someone to whom I can delegate this activity?
  4. Is there someone who does it better than I do that would be excited to have this opportunity?
  5. What are the ramifications if I don’t do this and the outcomes if I do?

Now I don’t go through these questions every time I make a decision. But, when something requires extra time, money, energy or emotions, asking these questions helps me make the most of my 24 hours so I can focus on what matters most!

When I do ask these questions, I also ask God to show me the answers from His perspective because He can see things that I can't see. He's got my days numbered and knows what each one holds.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16

Do I see life through my perspective or God's?

A few weeks ago we were at one of Andrew's soccer games. My mom came to watch him play and as we walked toward his field, she followed behind me. So here we are walking along when my mom asked me if I realized how red my hair is. She said I should get my hairdresser to fix it because it didn’t look right. I was a little shocked but decided it was just mom! Well, a few minutes later we were sitting on the sidelines watching the game when she looked down at my toes ( I was wearing flip flops) and told me that my nail polish was too orange.

I laughed and told her that I really liked my frosty light bronze toenail polish and then joked that she may be going color-blind. At this point I had turned around and was looking at her face. That’s when I noticed the pair of very AUBURN tinted sunglasses she was wearing. We laughed when we realized why everything seemed too orange-ish red from her perspective that day!

The afternoon we were talking about what happened and laughing still. My son Joshua was sitting with us at the kitchen table. He looked up at us and said, “Well, that can teach us all a lesson. We need to be careful what we look through before we judge what we see.”

I couldn't believe the profound insight that had come out of my 13-year-old. He is wise beyond his years. Now, if I can just learn from him.

Well, we all got a big laugh and learned a powerful lesson that day. One that I want to apply in my life. So, I've been thinking about what Joshua said and trying to ask myself, "What am I looking through that will determine what I see? Am I seeing through the lens of my perspective or God's perspective today?"

Right Now for Charlotte, NC


Feels Like

We went running towards our goal tonight- in 35 (but it feels like 30) degree weather! I discovered that running in almost-below-freezing temperatures isn't as bad as I thought it would be; basically your legs go numb and you can't feel any pain!

The boys went with us, too, on wheels. Andrew is trying to look cool (not cold) by not smiling!

And guess where I found Josh 30 seconds after we got back? In our pantry looking for food. It's not fair that guys can eat so much and never gain a pound.

It's also not fair that my husband doesn't sweat as much as I do. We both wore a warm and wooly hat, but his hair is not soaking wet like mine is! Yes - that is a soakin' wet sweaty head of hair and it was 35 degrees outside!

Running Towards a Common Goal
I can't believe I'm only three weeks away from my half-marathon. I really need to get another long run in this week - as in 10 miles. I didn't run while we were in New York nor this past weekend, and now my deadline is creeping up on me. My longest run has been 8 miles during training the past few months. There will be an extra 5.1 added to that on race day. Girlfriends, please pray I can run the whole thing before they end the race and kick me off the road.

I was asking myself again why I'm doing this (as I strained my muscles into obedience while jogging up a hill last week). God reminded me that I didn't set out with the goal to run the half-marathon. I set out with the goal to do something my husband really wanted me to do with him. I wasn't sure I could even run 2 miles, much less 5 and then 8 and now 13. But all JJ wanted me to do was try because he wanted us to have something to do together - other than laundry, kids, bills and school projects - with a little romance thrown in once and a while!

We used to run together when we first got married but stopped once we had kids. Although it's been hard and taken LOTS of time out of my days that I didn't really have, it's been worth it because we've grown so much closer. We've spent much more time together the past several months than we had in a while. All because we had a common purpose - a goal we were running towards together.

Even on days like I described in yesterday's post, when our relationship is a bit tense, we have a reason to put that aside because it's time to run. We measured a new running course Sunday night near our house while we were still in the midst of processing our honor/dishonor issues. I was grateful we had something to pull our hearts and pride out of that yucky place.

Do you and your husband have a goal that you are running toward together? It doesn't have to be a half-marathon! Maybe it is spending 15 minutes a day just talking, or going for a walk. It could be renting a movie and laughing together once a month. Maybe it's getting a budget so you start drinking instant coffee at home and now have a reason to sit down in the morning. Or maybe it's learning to dance or joining a bowling team.

I'd love to hear how you, or someone you know, have come up with a common goal to run towards with your man. Or is there something you want to do that will bring you together? We could all start praying with you for it! If you are not married, what is your picture of together time with the man of your dreams?

When my best intentions get me into my biggest troubles!!!
Andrew was having a hard time yesterday; he was really tired and wanted to escape into a computer game. But he had homework to do first. He struggled to stay focused, trying not to let me see the crocodile tears that dripped down his face. He didn't have that much homework. I knew something more was going on. Something else was brewing in his thoughts that had to do with some friends. He'd been hinting about it all day but not flat out saying it.

JJ was sitting across the living room watching a football game while also kind of aware of what was going on with us. I had an idea of something that would cheer up Andrew, but I also thought what Andrew needed most was for his dad to recognize what was going on. I thought JJ should turn off the tv and "engage" with his son. It wasn't happening, and in my mind I was not thinking very honoring thoughts towards my hubby. I invited him into the situation by suggesting he turn off the tv and come over to talk with Andrew.

It all got messy at about that time. JJ felt insulted. I felt frustrated. He finally just said, "Tell me what you want me to do." I wanted him to take Andrew to do something fun, manly, and distracting like shooting the bb gun in the woods at glass bottles that will explode. I wanted it to be JJ's idea but couldn't get him to read my mind. If I told him, it wouldn't mean as much to Andrew. (Such female thinking!)

Finally, I gave in and said, "When he finishes his homework, why don't you guys go shoot the bb gun?"

Andrew smiled so big and said, "Okay!" The tears were gone and so was my husband. He was very frustrated about how things had unfolded. He felt dishonored for the way I handled it all - how I said it and when I said it (in front of the kids). I felt so misunderstood!

Feeling very convicted that I needed to honor my husband's perspective, I remembered something I learned this summer while reading the book of Esther. Esther was chosen by the King to be his new wife because his first wife, Vashti, had dishonored him. The king’s advisers insisted that he remove the Queen from her throne because they were afraid her decision to dishonor the King would influence other wives to dishonor their husbands. God reminded me that the way we treat our husbands has great influence on others. It influences the kind of women our sons will look to marry. It influences the way our daughters will speak to their husbands. And it influences how our friends might talk to their husbands after hearing how we talk to ours.

However, my pride kept reminding me that I had the best of intentions. I thought so highly of my husband that I wanted him to be the one to speak into Andrew's hurts and right whatever was wrong. But sometimes the best of my intentions can get me into the biggest of troubles!!!

I wonder if that was what happened with Vashti. Did she think hers were the best of intentions when she dishonored her husband? Maybe she was trying to prove a point that seemed good to her at the time. I used to think the ramifications she faced were a little harsh. But when I looked more closely, I realized how far reaching her influence was when she dishonored her husband.

After I cooled down a few hours later, I asked God to show me how to honor my husband and change the influence I had on my sons that had witnessed the whole "discussion." The Holy Spirit nudged me to say I was sorry even though I had the best of intentions. I needed to say it - "I'm sorry for dishonoring you."

Now, let me tell you - it was hard! I wanted JJ to say he was wrong, too. But that wasn't God's plan. He wanted me to just apologize for using a tone and timing that dishonored JJ, and leave it alone. JJ even told me that is what would make him feel most honored. So, I eventually swallowed some huge chunks of pride and apologized.

My pride was so hard to swallow but it went down a little easier when I remembered that honoring my husband honors God, and also influences my sons who will one day look for wives that I hope will honor their husbands, too. (It also helped that I really love my very patient husband and don't want to dishonor him - I just don't deliver my thoughts very well sometimes.

When "Odd" is Totally God
Yesterday afternoon I was on my way to a meeting with Lysa when I called my friend Holly from my cell phone. We were talking about where we could meet the next day so I could pick up something she needed me to take to the P31 office. Suddenly our call dropped.

"That's odd," I thought. "I'm on the highway and have a great signal."

Instead of calling her back, I had this odd sense that I should call home to see if I had any messages. It didn't make sense for me to do that. No one was at home. I was in the middle of a decision with Holly so I should call her right back. I wasn't expecting a call from anyone and I would be home in an hour or so. But oddly, I called home anyway.

My voice mail said there was one message, left at 1:23pm. I looked at the clock in my car. It was 1:24pm.

"That's odd," I thought. "They must have just left a message."

I pressed "1" to retrieve the message and listened as a thick-southern manly voice tried to explain that he had found a dog with a tag. "It say's er name is Daisy and she's got yur phone number on it. " Then he said something about working in a ditch on a road that is near my house.

My heart started pounding! It was at the corner of a VERY busy intersection with a four lane road and four-way stop light. I tried to drive, listen to the message and frantically write his number on the palm of my hand. Then I heard him say his name, Josh. God's peace came over me knowing that He had safely led my crazy Daisy into the arms of a man named Josh whose namesake (Joshua) reminds me of God's promise - that He will be with us wherever we go.

I called Josh back immediately. He told me he was about to go to another job site so I assured ld him I'd be there in 10 minutes. He kindly agreed to wait for me. When I got there Daisy was in his truck looking like she'd gladly go with him if he'd invite her. She's a beagle so her loyalties lie with whomever is willing to play with her or pet her. I have learned much about redeeming love through this dog, let me tell ya! I was so glad Josh hadn't taken her up on the offer to become his with her wagging tail and doggy grin.

As I drove home, my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude for God's timing, God's protection, and God's leading in my Spirit. It was Him who had oddly allowed my call to drop. It was Him who oddly lead me to call home to check messages at a time that didn't make sense. It was Him who lead Daisy to the ditchworker named Josh and Him who taught me a lesson that when things get a little odd, it may just be God!

Get in the Game
We were on our way to school this morning when I noticed dark clouds in the distance. I told Andrew it looked like it was going to rain today. He said he was glad because that meant they wouldn't have recess outside.

It surprised me that he'd want it to rain. Earlier this year it was just the opposite. He was always so disappointed on rainy days because it meant recess in the gym. But not today. Something had changed. I wondered what had a happened to make him want to have recess inside, so I asked him.

"Because recess outside isn't fun anymore. No one plays football so I don't fit in now. They all play soccer."

Now I was really confused. Andrew loves soccer. I reminded him of what a great player he is. Rehearsing all the things that he can do well - run fast, get the ball out of tight spots. But my inspirational message wasn't working. He was convinced he wasn't good enough and that it would just be another day on the sidelines.

It broke my heart to think of Andrew withdrawing from his friends and letting his insecurities keep him from getting in the game. As he opened the door to get out of the carpool line I looked him in the eyes and said, "Have a great day bud - and get in the game. You are a great player. "

As I drove away I prayed out loud claiming confidence in Christ for my little man. My son who brings laughter and joy wherever he goes - when he's willing to get in the game of life - physically and emotionally. I prayed that God would speak to his heart and remind him of how valuable he is, silencing his doubts and replacing them with truth that he can do all things through Christ who gives him strength and soccer skills. Then a familiar verse came to mind and my heart echoed David's desire but now it was for my son, "Lord, I pray that Andrew would cry out to you for your perspective and you would make him bold and stout hearted. And Lord today if you see me heading to the sidelines because I feel insecure or doubtful about what I have to offer, will you do the same for me, too."

When I called, you answered me;
you made me bold and stouthearted.
Psalm 138: 3

A Nun, A Lawyer or a Lunatic?
We had the best time in New York. I just noticed that my legs are aching today, probably from all the walking we did. Climbing many flights of stairs and in back alleys, you ask? Nahhh! Just innocent street walking looking at purse carts and chasing down taxis to take us the opposite direction on one-way streets.

Oh my, how I needed that few days of laughing, playing and good Bible teaching. Lysa's messages were powerful and the women were eatin' up God's Word. It was an amazing conference on Saturday, and as Lysa shared on her blog at least 5o women committed their lives to Christ or made re-commitments. They were of every age, every stage and every nationality. I loved being with them and watching their responses to God's invitation to say YES to HIM!

I wish I could show you more photos. Bummer that they are all on Lysa's camera because I forgot mine. I tried to hi-jack it from her before I headed home but it wasn't happening. I'll see if I can get them this week. I need to create a few scrapbook pages here on my blog and tell my side of the story especially the part about me almost getting us killed.

It's true I lost my mind momentarily and argued in the middle of the street with a NYC cab driver. We've been told by the locals that legions of angels must have been guarding us. But I just have to tell you that the old mean cab driver accused our sweet Pedi-Taxi driver of knocking his whole front bumper off his van.

Now, I admit that our Pedi-driver did scrape the taxi. I felt the bump - but it wasn't that big. And there is no way a taxi cycle-cart can rip a whole bumper off. I am sure the thing was hangin' off before we showed up. But despite the danger that insued, the momma in me kicked in! I had actually kicked into "momma" mode before it all happened just thinking about how this young man was not going to be able to walk the next day after cartin' over 410 pounds of us through town. Still, I had no business getting involved. I've always been a "defender of the weak." I guess my passion kicked in to protect the partially innocent.

When I was a little girl, my daddy used to say I was going to be a nun when I grew up. Then I became a teen-ager and he changed his predictions, insisting I was going to be a lawyer. I always thought it was because he thought it paid better but now I am thinking he might have had other reasons.

Caught Between the Moon and New York City
Here I am getting ready to take off. I am going to New York City with my frequent-flying friend who got bumped up to first class along with her oh so sweet assistant. Who by the way gave up her seat and made me take it so I could fly first class!! Is she not the most giving girl?

Isn't it sweet that in the midst of a really hard week God had already planned this oh so fun trip with with Lysa and Holly! I love getting away with my friends but it's such a rare thing. And I have no responsibities this weekend- yay! All I have to do is have fun, eat and shop. No thinking, no planning, no crying unexpectedly when I see a sweet photo of two little girls, no wondering what's next in our adoption journey. Just a little escape.
And Lysa brought her camera so we'll be posting some fun photos of our adventures. We're headed to lunch and then shopping. Do you have any fun suggestions? Places we should go, things we should see?

I've been humming this tune all day.

For more fun photos and the low down on our day, click here to go to Lysa's blog.

A letter to my girls that were never mine

Thanks for your prayers for all of us. JJ and the boys are handling our loss so much better than I am. I guess that's the advantage of being from the male species. You my friends have made me feel so understood! Your thoughts and prayers have been so comforting, so encouraging, so meaningful. Today was much better than yesterday! Radio recording was canceled due to a stomach virus our producer got so I took the unexpected gift of time to process my thoughts and wrote all that I was feeling in a letter to the girls.

Dear Shasho and Zenie,

First of all, I love your names. They make me smile when I say them. And so your sweet photos that are on computer desktop. I have been looking at your photos for days. I remember when we got the first one back in August. Then more came last week. I have loved watching your smiles turn from hesitant to hopeful.

The first photo we received was taken the day you were admitted to the orphanage. I can only imagine what must have been going through your young and innocent minds that day. Why are we here? Why are we staying with these people while our uncle walks away. Why is he crying? Why is he saying good-bye? Have we done something wrong? Will he come back or will he never return but be gone forever like our mommy and daddy?

Today I see something different. I am looking at a photo taken just last month – many weeks after you arrived. You have new home and new friends now. Today I see brightness in your eyes and joy in your smile. I wonder if you know that you are loved. I wonder if you have been held while you cried and assured that there is hope ahead. I wonder if you have been told that someone will come for you and that you will one day have a forever family – where you will be loved and protected.

Sweet Shasho and Zenie, there is nothing you have done to deserve what you are going through. There is nothing you have done to put yourself where you are. Illness and disease have kept you from knowing your mommy and daddy. Poverty has taken you from your uncle and the only home you’ve known sweet girls. But the God of the universe has kept you close to His heart. His eyes are on you and He is watching over you, making sure that you will never be alone. He promises that He will never leave you. His riches are endless and He will never run out of supplies to meet your needs.

Even now as I write to you, God is placing you into a new family. I was hoping and praying that it would be our family. I thought for sure that was God’s plan, but today it seems that it is not. You see another family came to see you and fell in love with you the same way I did. This family had the wonderful privilege of meeting you in person, sitting across from you at the table, listening to you laugh and feeling the warmth of your hands in theirs. They got to watch you interact with the other children and see you playing on the swings. I have to admit that I’m envious of this time they had with you. I wish I could’ve been there. I wish I could have looked into your glistening eyes and seen sparkles of hope when you smiled. But I know that this is God’s plan and that I can trust Him.

I want what is best for you and I have been praying that God would lead all of us in His perfect ways. I wanted you to come home with us if that was His best. But I have to believe for some reason He has something even better. This is a family that is going to love you and help you become all that He created you to be. They are going to be so blessed to have you as their daughters. You will bring such joy and laughter to their home.

God brought you into my life for a reason. I have prayed for you and loved you in my heart and I will continue to. I am okay with the fact that you will never know my love on earth, because I believe that I will get to tell you one day in Heaven. I am praying that I will get to see you and hug you and tell you how very special you are!

I am praying for you sweet girls that were never mine! I am praying that God is preparing a place in your heart to love and trust your new family. Spread your arms wide, open your heart and let Love in!

You will always be in my heart,

I feel so sad...
We got a call last night from our adoption agency director. She left a message saying that somehow a miscommunication happened and a family from Germany is adopting the girls we thought we were adopting. Our agency, wasn't notified until they called to say we wanted to adopt the girls.

I feel like I just had a miscarriage. I've been crying off and on all day. I am so sad. I don't want to hear that God has a better plan. I don't want to hear that God has other children. I know that is truth. But right now, I feel really sad. And I need to feel what I'm feeling. It makes me want to run. It makes me fall on my knees and cry. It pushes me into the arms of my Father's embrace where He whispers what it true.

I have to trust Him. It's not a option for me not to. I know His heart is good and His ways are loving. We have prayed for Him to open and close doors. We know that He already knows who our daughter or daughters will be. We only want what He wants and we want what is best for the girls we now have engraved in our hearts. It's just hurts when His answers aren't ours.

It has surprised me how quickly I fell for these two precious girls. But then I remembered the hours I spent this weekend looking through our agency's private photo web album to find the girls in snapshots. I looked in the background to see if I could find them on the playground, in the classroom and in the dining area of the agency. I found a few and felt like I had spent time watching them play. They didn't know I was there but my heart was falling in love each time I saw them.

Their sweet photo is on my desktop. It's also in my Bible and was with me all day. I know God brought them to me for a reason and I will pray for them daily until He takes the memory of their faces from me. I had started writing letters to them and praying scriptures for them in my heart. I know He will take these treasures and use them for His purposes, whether I ever know it or not.

At first I felt like God didn't want us to give up to easily. Maybe we needed to fight to get the girls. Last night I felt compelled to pray that He'd make a way where there is no way. I prayed believing and I still do. I just know that I also have to let go and trust what He has next for us. We found out today that the adopting family visited the orphanage recently and went through the orphanage to make arrangements to adopt them. Their dossier is complete and it is being processed. It looks like this is their forever family after all and when I stop crying, I will be happy for them. I promise I will!

I need to not feel so sad for much longer. I have radio recording tomorrow and need to be strengthened in my spirit to encourage others as I record these shows. There is so much more going on in the world around me but this news has made my little world tilt just a little of center today.

Speaking Topics
"Renee is a passionate and gifted speaker who has the unique ability to connect with women in a way that is rare. I'm always inspired when I share the platform with Renee because after hearing her speak I know I will walk away with a new revelation from God. Besides being a very gifted teacher, Renee is one of my dearest friends. When I need spiritual advice, she's the one I go to. She's the real deal on and off the stage."

Lysa TerKeurst, Award Winning Author, Speaker
and President of Proverbs 31 Ministries

A Confident Heart
Do you ever feel like you’re not good enough, smart enough, or gifted enough? Do the critical words you say to yourself, or hear from others, make you question your worth as a woman, wife or mom? Renee Swope understands. Even with a great family, successful career and thriving ministry, she still sometimes struggled with self-doubt. Based on her highly anticipated book, A Confident Heart, she offers the voice of a friend who candidly, and humorously, shares her struggles and victories in overcoming self-doubt. Identifying the most common triggers of insecurity, Renee shows women how to replace alack of self-confidence with lasting God-confidence. In this conference, she will equip you to:

  • Exchange “against me” thoughts with scripture-based God is “for me” thoughts
  • Break free from people-pleasing and performance-based living
  • Discover and develop your God-given purpose, passion and personality
  • Learn how to fail forward even when life or sin sets you back
  • See beyond who you are to who you are becoming - in Christ
"I was blown away by how we could feel God's presence touch so many lives through Renee's message "A Confident Heart." Women were changed as they exchanged their doubts and found power in His truth to rise again and defeat their enemies of insecurity and fear so they could live in the confidence of God's calling on their lives!"

~ Conference Attendee
She Speaks 2008

Letting God Fill the Empty Places of Your Heart
(Keynote or Conference session)
Are you ever tempted to find your worth in your job, your house, your appearance or the approval of others? Do you feel like no matter what you do, it will never be enough -- or that you’ll never be enough? In this message, Renee shares how we can find lasting fulfillment,purpose and value in God’s unfailing love. Drawing from rich Biblical teaching and weaving in practical life applications, Renee will help you see what causes emptiness and show you how to replace it with God's fulness so that you can break free from people-pleasing and performance-based living. Receive and believe who you are and what you have in Christ so you can:
  • Live with hope for your future despite the pain and disappointment of your past
  • Defeat the bully of self-doubt and embrace the truth that God’s goodness makes you “good enough”
  • Stop striving and start living in the promise that God’s love is perfect, so you don’t have to be
  • Recognize people, positions and possessions as gifts s you position your heart to be filled and fulfilled by the gift of God’s unfailing love

Rest Assured
(Keynote or Conference Session)
Ever feel anxious, scattered or depleted? Jesus invites us to bring our rest-less hearts to Him: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28) Through powerful Biblical teaching and practical life applications, Renee shows us how we can “rest assured” in Jesus by replacing worries that make us weary with God’s perspective and peace. In this one hour message, Renee will help you rest in His presence and rely on His plans as you learn to:
  • Depend on the certainty of God’s promises
    despite the uncertainty of your circumstances
  • Improve your relationships by embracing grace-based
    expectations of yourself and others
  • Turn worry into worship by focusing on
    “what is” instead of “what if”
  • Live with a confident heart in Christ by exchanging
    fear-filled thinking with faith-filled believing

Come to Me: Receive, Rest, Be Renewed and Remain
Jesus invites us to "come to Him" to receive, rest, be renewed and remain in His truth and grace. We'll re-discover (or discover for the first time) the healing and fulfilling power of God's Word as we rejuvenate our souls with Living Water and dive into the truth of who God is and who we are in Him. Your relationship with God and others will be strengthened as you embrace the promises that because His love is perfect you don't have to be. Through this conference Renee will help you:

  • Position your heart to RECEIVE and believe God's
    promise that because His love is perfect, you don't have to be
  • Turn worry into worship by RESTing in "what is" and trusting
    God with the "what if"
  • Break free from patterns of self-doubt by RENEWing
    your mind with truth
  • Transform your life and relationships as you REMAIN
    in Christ, living and loving others the way He loves you.

This year was like no other after inviting Renee Swope to speak at our two-weekend event for over 500 women from all over the Northeast region. In all the years we have been running this retreat, we've never had such an overwhelmingly favorable response on our evaluations. Women wrote: “I love her relationship with God." “She is so real and such a good teacher!” “Excellent speaker—lessons flowed so well.” “Tremendous messages: she’s lives it and can talk it well”. Her gift of speaking is also complimented well by her ability to connect with women. We all left knowing that beyond her considerable talents, she is a woman, just like us, who is seeking hard after God’s heart. I whole-heartedly recommend Renee!

Kristen Stuart, Camp Berea Women’s Retreat
Speaker Coordinator

Becoming the Woman God Created You to Be
Just as a potter shapes the clay, God created each of us for a purpose in a very unique way. In this seminar message that compliments her popular “Shaped with Purpose” workbook, Renee helps individual women and ministry teams discover and embrace their Divine design. You will laugh, learn and enjoy some ‘aha moments’ as she leads you through an in-depth and insightful look at your spiritual gifts, heart's desires, abilities, personality and experiences. This message will help you:
  • Find confidence in who you are and the unique traits God gave you
  • Break free from the comparison trap so you can fulfill God’s purpose for your life
  • Recognize your strengths and use them to complete the body of Christ
  • Make peace with your past as you discover God’s plans for your future

Circle of Friends
Do you long for friendships that are meaningful, fun, and long-lasting? In this message, Renee helps women connect with each other by learning from Jesus' closest friendships. Listeners will discover new ways to:
  • Create a community of women where you
    find belonging and encouragement.

  • Use your talents and personality-style to
    develop stronger relationships.

  • Build friendships that complete and
    identify relationships that deplete.

Renee Swope shares a meaningful message with women as she invites them up close, illustrating truth through her authentic style. With warm storytelling, Renee pulls back the layers of scripture and uses personal examples to challenge and inspire others. Her transparency is full of purpose as she draws out practical applications of principles for todayʼs woman.Our women are still sharing stories of how their lives were changed from our "Circle of Friends" retreat with Renee. Also, partnering with Renee in planning was a joy that instilled confidence and bestowed encouragement on me. Our women and I were greatly influenced by her heart of prayer, passion, and purpose.

Julie Sanders, Womenʼs Ministry Director
West Park Baptist Church,Knoxville, TN

Divine Secrets of a Balanced Life
Jesus came to give us life to the full, but sometimes our schedules are so full that we don’t have time for life. In this very encouraging and practical conference, Renee shares secrets to creating a balanced life based on the principles of the Proverbs 31 woman, while also shattering the myth of perfection. Learn how to release the expectations to do-it-all, be-it-all and have-it-all, so that you can embrace what God has for you each day! Renee’s messages will help you:

  • Discover contentment that is separate
    from your circumstances and accomplishments.
  • Break free from guilt and regret caused
    by unrealistic expectations.
  • Be intentional with your time by investing
    it in who and what you value most.
  • Manage your emotions and choices to prevent
    the urgent from overriding the important.

Renee has such a gentle spirit, yet she's very powerful in the Spirit! Her heart is burdened for women, and wants to see lives changed. She connected and ministered to women of many cultures, ages, and backgrounds, making them feel welcomed and loved. Her message was powerful She has a God given gift of teaching, providing life application of the Word of God. Women left saying "my life was changed" and "God really used her to minister to me".

Shurvone Wright , Women's Advance Director
The Well Christian Community Church - Livermore , California

Girlfriends' Road Trip
(Also The Journey of a Woman's Heart)

Grab a few friends and join us for the trip of a lifetime! With warmth and transparency, Renee shares seven travel essentials for every woman’s journey. Based on lessons she’s learned through life and the timeless Truths of God’s Word, Renee's shows women how to take time for rest stops and make room for road construction so God can fill the potholes in our hearts. This conference will help women:
  • Move beyond the roadblocks of
    comparison and control
  • Travel with peace in their hearts
    and purpose in your paths each day.
  • Discover hope and joy for the
    journey ahead!

"I've had the privilege of working with Renee several times over the past few years and am always blessed by her genuine love for women of all ages and stages. Her gentle spirit and tender heart for God are evident as she shares from the platform or over coffee. Renee engages her audiences and makes her message come alive. The impact of her messages is still talked about several years later. It has been a blessing, as District Coordinator, to work with such a professional, "real" and Godly woman that shares from her heart the reality of her personal life challenges, as well as the joy she's experienced as she has watched God at work in her own life and in the lives of those around her."

Becky Pemberton ,
Retreat Director
Northwest Conference Covenant Women's Retreat
Moose Lake , Minnesota

Leadership/Ministry Events

Leading with Confidence: Discovering God's Dream for Your Women's Ministry Team
Do you have a passion to help women discover their God-given gifts and purpose, so they can use them to lead others closer to the heart of God? If so, Renee would love to encourage and equip you to do just that! For the past 16 years, Renee Swope has served as a leader with Proverbs 31 Ministries, helping to develop the teams that are now fulfilling God's dreams -- growing it from a small newsletter to one of the leading women's ministries in America. In this session Renee helps women:

  • Develop lasting confidence in Christ as they lead
  • Inspire and empower other women to serve with passion
  • Instill contagious joy and commitment in their team/small group
  • Identify and invest in women who want to invest their lives in others

The Heart of a Leader
Invite Renee to encourage and equip the hearts of your leaders, and prepare to experience God's power in your ministry! Through Biblical insights and real-life leadership lessons, Renee shows women how to:

  • Humble their hearts to hear God's voice
  • Encourage one another as they serve together
  • Acknowledge their need for God's power and presence
  • Respond to challenges and opportunities with Christ-like leadership
  • Trust and seek God's plans above their own.

Christmas Events

Blessed is She Who Believes
Just in time for Christmas, Renee’s message “Blessed is She Who Believes” brings to life the Christmas story that began in the heart of a young woman who believed God’s promises, depended on God’s power, surrendered to God’s plans and revealed God’s glory through her life. Sprinkled with humor and saturated with Truth, Renee’s message will help you become the woman He created you to be! You will learn how to:
  • Replace insecurity and self-doubt with God-fidence and trust
  • Rely on God’s provision and fulfill God’s purpose for your life
  • See beyond who you are to who you are becoming in Christ
Filled with inspiration, personal stories, Biblical insights and laughter, let this message prepare you to be blessed as you move beyond believing in God to believing God for all that He has for your life, at Christmas and all throughout the year!

Unwrapping His Christmas Presence
When the holidays sweep across the pages of your calendar, are you swept into a flurry of obligations? Do you ever lose the joy of celebration in the midst of preparations? Make this year different! Take time to experience the hush of Christ in the rush toward Christmas, as you prepare a place for Him in your heart and home this holiday season. With heart-warming stories and life-changing truths, Renee shares inspiring stories and practical ideas to help women unwrap the gift of God's presence each day in December and throughout the year!

Parenting Events

The Power of a Purpose-Driven Mom

Are your days filled with purpose or are you easily detoured by the urgent and unexpected? Do you wonder if all you do really matters? Join Renee for a look at why moms struggle to find meaning in the monotony of motherhood and how we can make the most of each day while fulfilling the most important job on earth – being a mom! Filled with personal stories, practical ideas and inspirational truths, this message will help you discover your PURPOSE as a mom and develop a plan to live it out each day!

Mining for Gold (Bringing Out God's Best in Your Child)
Do you ever feel so buried in the dirt of defeat as a mom that you miss the treasure of God's image stamped on your child's heart when he was woven together in your wound?. Based on her own struggles as a mom, Renee helps parents bring out the best in their children by noticing and nurturing character traits that reflect Christ's heart. With inspiring stories and practical tools, parents will learn to mine for gold in the heart of their children through:
  • The power of encouraging words

  • The importance of inspiring input (God's Word)

  • The lasting value of nurtured character
(This topic can be presented in a 45-minute seminar or 3-4 sessions for a parenting conference.)

Renee's messages are designed for a variety of women’s events and connect with women of all ages and at all stages in their spiritual journey - whether seeking, new believers or grounded in God's Word. Each message can be presented individually or packaged for conferences and retreats. For more information, or to schedule Renee for an event, please complete a request form by clicking here.