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“Who is like you, Lord God Almighty?
You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” Psalm 89:8 (NIV)

 

I shared last time how God used visual imagery to help me heal from years of food addiction.  Now, it may seem like He healed me instantly, but as I shared, God invited me on this journey a year ago April… and it took a year of committed obedience for this heart to finish putting the pieces of the puzzle together to be at the place where healing could occur.

Since my conversation with God, and His healing my heart, I have chosen to walk in the belief that God has helped me permanently change. But along with believing He did it, there is still a level of commitment on my part to live differently, as one who is free, not still in bondage.

It didn’t take long for the enemy to try and derail my commitment.  A little more than 24 hours actually.  He gave me one day to think I didn’t need God’s help and then chose a series of circumstances that in the past would have derailed my “new” commitment instantly.  This time, though, I’m walking in God’s healing and therefore, resisting is easier.  I saw what the enemy was doing and I wasn’t going to let it stop me from living a life free from the weight of addiction.

While I feel free to eat any food God created now, I am free to eat within the boundaries of true physical hunger and what’s best for my body.  Not Thanksgiving Day meals on an ordinary Wednesday after having eaten a normal breakfast and planning to eat dinner with my family less than four hours later.  Not grazing all day long, safe in the knowledge of God’s grace “if I mess up.”  No, and that’s where it’s different this time.  I don’t have the desire to graze, to eat constantly or to have that Thanksgiving Day meal on an ordinary Wednesday in the spring.  My emotional hunger has been filled… completely sealed.  Now the temptations to eat with family when I’m not physically hungry are there… but since I’m not spending my days filling the emotional hunger which leaves no room for physical hunger to even have a chance to begin, I’m finding that I’m usually hungry for meals with my family that I enjoy more.  And, it’s easier to eat less because I know I’m not facing “one last meal” before the next diet.  And, I find I’m craving healthier foods most of the time too.  I’m eating to fill a physical need… because God has filled the emotional need.

What about those times, though, when the enemy lays on the circumstances that leave my emotional tank empty? Not the memories from the past but the current situations that would have had me running for a donut? Now I’m turning to God to talk about them.  I’m quicker to give Him that baggage, that burden and trust He has a solution.  Of the three issues that came up two days after my conversation with God, one resolved itself, one turned out to be a nonissue, and one just needed a little extra grace in order to move past.  None were solved with a donut or piece of cake.  And that, my friends, left me more satisfied than I’ve felt in years.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.” Psalm 36:5 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I shared about how God, in all His goodness, didn’t want me wondering what His faithfulness looked like, and knowing the type of personality He created me to have, decided to show me in a wonderful way instead of just having me learn about it. He gave me heart knowledge when He could have settled for head knowledge.

After asking God to show me the root cause of my emotional eating, and Him answering me with memories which put the pieces of the puzzle together, I sat in that answer for 48 hours, asking what He wanted me to do next, but not really taking any active steps to sit quietly and hear an answer.  Not yet.

Two days later, I sensed it was time.  I was missing Him more than usual.  It’d been a busy day, emotional for different reasons, and I just wanted my Daddy. I took advantage of a quiet house, chose to stop working and was ready to finish our conversation. I asked Him the question, “Lord, what do You want me to do with the information You gave me on Saturday? You revealed to me the hole I have which in the past I’ve always tried to fill up with things which don’t work. Activities, other people.  None of those things are permanent solutions and I’m ready for this hole to be filled in once and for all.  I’m at the point in our relationship where I crave spending time with You, filling up not just daily but continually with Your strength, but this, this hole? I’m ready for this hole to be filled once and for all, completely sealed tight. How do you want me to seal it completely so I don’t keep running to food as a cheap substitute?” 

 God knows our hearts… better than we know them ourselves.  I think He knew the sincerity with which that prayer was prayed.  He and I had already spent the previous eight months working on food issues through a series of fasting so He knew I was willing to obey… but I couldn’t do it on my own. His answer came in the form of an image. It was of a giant hole in my heart in which He put potting soil (the kind with the rich minerals that you can see – the good kind, not just ordinary dirt). Into that potting soil, He planted a bright blue flower, fully grown, already in bloom, dead center of the filled hole.

Now that image might seem weird to you.  Why would I want to see a bright blue flower, in potting soil, sticking out of my chest?  It was then that I knew.  He filled the hole completely for me, right then, and watered it over the next few days, filling it with more potting soil until it was packed down… completely sealed.

While God healed completely in that moment, I knew my responsibility was to walk in that healing… and I could simply enjoy filling up with His strength on a daily basis without wasting my time filling a hole with the wrong stuff.

During my quiet time the next morning, I had a niggling feeling I was missing “the icing on the cake.”  I looked up the meaning of the blue flower, knowing God doesn’t do things by chance and so there had to be significance as to the flower He chose to bloom inside my heart.  I’m not a flower expert… but I could still picture the image of the flower He chose so clearly, so I thought I would try and Google it.

I Googled “daisy” although even though that flower was close, it wasn’t it completely.  Up popped the exact picture of the flower I saw in my mind, and it was a Gerber daisy (I didn’t even know there were more than one type of daisy).  And the meaning behind the Gerber daisy is this… cheerfulness.  The meaning for English daisy was given too… innocence.

The reason that is so personal?  God gave me the word JOY for 2017.  He chose this year, the year of JOY, to plant cheerfulness in my heart as He healed an addiction I’ve carried for almost four decades.  He gave me back the innocence of my childhood and freed me from the slavery of food once and for all.  It’s my responsibility to continue to walk in that freedom and enjoy all food that He has given, but He is the One who gets the glory for the healing.

Come back one more time as I share the last part of this journey with you.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”

Deuteronomy 7:9 (NIV)

 

Our pastor, Pastor James Sunnock, released his first book, Living Free, and when I bought it earlier this year, I asked him to autograph it for me. Part of his autograph talked about how “our Father is always faithful.”  I was slightly stumped about that because I think of myself choosing to be faithful to obey the commands God gives me to fulfill, but I don’t really think of God being faithful to me.  I’m His servant, He’s my Master – why does He have to be faithful to me? But, isn’t that just like God to use His power to bless us and our lives when we should be focused on worshipping Him?

God, in His love, a few months later, showed me through actions a smidgen of what my pastor was referencing about His faithfulness.  I’ve shared multiple times, probably more times than you care to hear, about my struggle with food addiction.  Last April, approximately one year ago, I must have had a heart change because God was able to start making progress with me in this area.  He took me through several periods of fasting, each different lengths and each giving up slightly different things to help me begin to break the stronghold I have on food.  While some went better than others, I faithfully worked my way through them and obeyed to the best of my human ability (which, on some days, didn’t look like obedience at all).

However, then the struggle came back.  I stopped fasting, I didn’t hear that I was supposed to fast again and my struggle became real again quickly. I realized I wasn’t healed… I had merely been working on symptoms, not the root cause.  So, I went back to my Father and started another conversation with Him.  First, He answered me that He was all I needed for healing – I didn’t need to look for answers in books, other people – I just needed to listen to Him.  Okay, I’ve learned how to trust Him, so I knew if He was all I needed, then that worked for me.  Then I waited for a few more weeks.

Last weekend I started up another conversation with Him.  This time I asked God to reveal to me the root of my issue.  I knew it wasn’t that I enjoyed the food.  Not all of it anyway.  Most of what I ate, I did purely for emotional reasons.  I was upset… I ate my feelings.  I was sad… ate more feelings.  Happy?  You guessed it – let’s eat some feelings.  Not enjoying the process, the taste or the feeling afterwards.  I wanted to break that cycle but knew it would take understanding and healing of the root first.  So I asked.  This time He didn’t make me wait long at all.  The answer was almost immediate in the form of some memories.  He showed me exactly when the root was planted, how I watered it… and then He let me sit (or maybe I was afraid to continue our conversation just then) on that reflection for two days.

Come back next time and I will show you how God showed me His faithfulness to finish our conversation, in what feels like once and for all.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Ephesians 4:3 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I spoke about my love/hate relationship with technology.  However, there is one form of technology that I love, love, love – the power of the text.  For someone like me, who does better expressing herself with words (written) than words (spoken), texting is a great invention.  It can be used to connect throughout the day with those you love, between friends whose lives have gotten as busy as yours but yet you want to make sure they know you are thinking of them… or even to help repair relationships.

Last week, there was a breakdown in my relationship with someone.  This same issue kept popping up with regularity; yet we were unable to solve the root of the problem and barely dealt with the symptoms. Through the use of text, it opened up the line of communication to speak freely (my) feelings that I have a hard time expressing in person.  We communicated back and forth for a little while and while it didn’t solve the problem right then, we started moving in the right direction instead of being stuck in the standstill which had occurred for weeks prior.

Over the course of the next 24 hours, that first simple text, which had started the communication, evolved into breaking the silence and getting us back to where we needed to be, fully connected again. While the entire conversation didn’t take place via text, it was the jumpstart needed to start the process.

I’m learning that just because I hear the “ding” of my phone, that doesn’t mean I have to rush and answer it every single time.  We have “text free” and “no technology times” in our household and these are in place as much for me as they are for everyone else.  I love how our youngest uses texting to share bird pictures or “Jewel” pictures with his grandparents, friends from school and even to ask his teacher a question about his homework.  Yes, his teacher texts him back almost immediately with the sweetest texts and answers!  He is so blessed! Our oldest two text us to keep us updated and involved in their lives. That means a lot to me that they want to share things with us still.  I have a group of friends that I can group text whenever there is a prayer request that needs to be passed along. Texting flirting with your spouse is quite fun too!

Unfortunately, just as texting can bring encouragement to others, it can also be used in negative ways.  While we can’t control how others use their texting power, we always have full control over the way we respond.

There is definitely power behind the text… it can be used for evil or for good.  I pray that in your life, you have experienced the positive power of the text and have only passed along that positive power to others yourself.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Exodus 9:16 (NIV)

 

Those who know me realize I have a love/hate relationship with technology.  On the positive side, it allows me to work from home so I get to be at home, raising my kids and still the “heart of the home” while helping earn a paycheck and contributing financially to the household.  It also has allowed me to begin a ministry with the writing of books, creation of this blog and other aspects of life that God has led me into.  Additionally, it has helped me reconnect with friends I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to find again as our lives took separate paths, many states apart, so the creation of Facebook and use of email have a special place in my heart for those reasons.  Google?  I’ll take Google any day over the set of encyclopedias we used to own; although I have to say, I think it’s made me lazier because now I use it for everything.

However, those who know me also know the parts I consider the negative side of technology.  I hate that people don’t seem to talk to each other as much anymore.  Even someone like me, who hates to be “on” technology when I’m not working, I find that I will take out my phone and scroll through Facebook instead of looking up and engaging with people within arm’s reach.  Since most of my working hours are spent in front of a screen, I prefer, when given the chance, to turn things off, pick up an old fashioned paperback book at the end of the day and escape versus flipping on a Kindle or Nook.  However, there are some books I only have access to via eBook, so I will gladly choose reading the rich content anyway I can get it, even if I means via technology.

One way kids love to connect now a days is through technology and I’m a bad mom, because when my kids say, “Can I show you something?” I cringe and my first instinct is to say, “No.”  Not that I don’t want to connect with them and their interests; it’s just that either I’m working on a deadline on my own technology or my eyes and brain have had enough stimulation from screens that I don’t want to be entertained that way anymore.  I need to learn the heart behind the request and that when I say “yes,” I’m saying yes to the opportunity to connect with them, not staring at more technology.

While I’ll probably always feel a push-pull toward and against technology, I’m grateful to live in “such a time as this.”  This is the era God chose for me to live in, to raise my family in and to influence others through.  He made me part Little House on the Prairie, part modern working woman for a reason. It’s not my job to figure out why, but it is my responsibility to listen to His still small voice and look up and connect face-to-face or look down and choose connection with my kids as He invites me to.

What about you?  Do you have a love/hate relationship with technology or do you just love it or just hate it?

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

No More Guilt

“I’m the best wife to my husband and the best mom to the children God loaned to me.”

(multiple authors)

 

During our first year of marriage, I poisoned my husband by feeding him undercooked chicken.  During her first 12 weeks of life, I accidentally let our daughter roll off the makeshift changing table (our coffee table) and slide down my leg while I reached over to catch puke from our then 3-year-old sitting next to me. Before our youngest started school, his bedtime mirrored ours so that he would take two long naps during the day which allowed me to work successfully from home.

I used to suffer from mom guilt.  I worked from home so that I could be there for my kids during their childhood but was I really with them if I was chained to the computer? I’m not a great cook, cleaning the house isn’t top on my priority list and well, spot remover doesn’t remove all spots from my clothes… so would my husband do better with a different “me?”

I’ve read the above statement multiple times in the 18 years I’ve been married and today it finally became truth, coming to rest inside my heart once and for all.  I’m the best wife for my husband and I’m the best mother for the children God loaned to me.

I may not be the best cook, but my family sure enjoyed the night we ordered pizza when the lasagna I tried to make turned out to be soup.  I know what their favorite foods are, what they’re allergic to and what they need to stay away from.  I know that we have a tradition of cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, Sweetwater’s donuts on Thanksgiving morning and that my husband loves strawberry rhubarb anything.

I know what movies my kids love, their future goals, their fears and their dreams.  I cheer loudly (but not too loudly) at our daughter’s volleyball games, work concession stands during football season and have committed to working out for the C25K Club in order to get into shape and participate with two of our three kids for the 5K at the end of May.  I’ve learned to appreciate reptiles, Star Wars and (most) musicals. I’ve learned that a houseful of noise is something I’ll miss someday… so at times I wear earplugs and thank my Father for the blessing of a full quiver instead of an empty house.

I love the inside jokes 18 years together have created, how my hand fits nicely inside Bills, how my lap is still big enough to cuddle on, how one look from any of them and I understand (most of the time) what’s needed – a hug, a joke, a funny face or some homemade special family recipe brownies.  I love that we choose to serve God together at church and how despite the various age differences between our kids, no one gets left behind.

I may not be the best wife and mom in the world… but I’m definitely the best wife and mom to those God has blessed me with.  Each day I wake up thankful for the privilege of one more day with each of them.  I choose to make memories today so I can live with no regrets tomorrow. And I’m learning to choose to be the best “me” so that I can be around for as long as God allows.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

“He had led everyone in his house to live worshipfully before God, was always helping people in need, and had the habit of prayer.” Acts 10:2 (The Message)

 

I used to work like I’m irreplaceable in my job.  Long hours, trying to stay ahead of the deadlines (most of the time) and burning out to the point of exhaustion. When I quit one job and transitioned into another (approximately 15 years ago), I was exhausted.  It took me six months before I got the strength up to do more than work my new job and fall into bed at night.

I used to live the rest of my life as though I was replaceable.  Just one more hour of work… I’ll volunteer in my kid’s classroom “next year”… I can read them a story tomorrow… Exercise? I can start next month when “things slow down.”

God started working a heart change in my life a few years ago.  I think it started when I was given notice my job was being eliminated three weeks from that day. I realized that I was definitely replaceable at work… and quickly too.  God didn’t stop there.  He blessed our family that summer with a wonderful vacation with my sister and her family and then blessed me with another vacation with my extended family and I found out soon enough I was definitely irreplaceable to those who truly matter.

While God instructs us in His Word that we should work with excellence for others as though we’re working directly for Him, that type of work takes time. God also wants us to make sure we’re prioritizing our time with activities which are the best fit for our family, our lives and our personalities. Our best “yeses” means not filling up with “almost the best,” which leaves no time for the important things.

Last year, God continued this lesson for me by giving me an invitation.  He invited me to put down my writing (except for my twice weekly blog posts) and spend more time with my family.  He never promised that He would give me my writing back… and He didn’t tell me ahead of time the other plans He had for our family, just a simple invitation.  Take the time to make memories with your family now.

Our family had started down my “writing path” approximately 5 years prior and it had been a busy five years.  I was happy to take on that invitation as I love spending time with my family, although there was a part of me wondering if God was asking me to give up writing altogether.  That made me sad, I’ll be honest, but I realized if that was truly what He was asking, I trusted God enough to 1) Obey and enjoy the time with my family and 2) If He truly was closing this door, He had another “best” door waiting to open for us.

As a result, I was able to walk away from the computer more, got re-involved with relaxing with my family at night, reconnecting with TV shows, spending time outside, family movie nights, silly excursions and just being actively engaged in their lives. God also invited me to volunteer in one child’s class twice a month, volunteer for concession stand periodically, and get more involved in church ministry.

As 2016 wound down and 2017 started up, God did indeed give me back my writing and then some.  I find myself busier than usual again; but the lesson I learned last year stuck.  I make more boundaries in the areas where I’m replaceable.  Instead of just continuing to serve in areas “where I’ve always served” or do because I’ve always done, God has invited me to move away from certain areas that are great activities but not the best fit for our family at this time.  Family time is held more sacred and we have the fun of last year’s memories to reminisce about and hold us together on the days that are tougher.

There are still days where work gets the better parts of me and family suffers and other days where work is put to the side and family is focused on.  But God showed me in such a significant way that while I may think I’m replaceable most places, there are a few places where I’m the only “me” and I would be missed greatly if I wasn’t around anymore.  Those are the places I want to focus on because those are the people who matter the most.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017