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“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” Proverbs 19:20 (NIV)

 

I spoke last time about the importance of having wiggle room in our schedules instead of scheduling things so tightly that we can barely breathe, let alone factor in the human effect that just naturally occurs in life.

There will be seasons in our lives where we are busier than usual, times when God specifically asks us to do more for reasons we may not realize until later, and during those times it’s necessary to obey and ask Him for the strength we need to survive and thrive during those times.  But those times, while they probably feel as though they last forever while you’re in them, shouldn’t be the norm.

Another aspect to this I want to talk about is that if we are overscheduled all the time to the point of stress that is affecting our spiritual life, our health, our earthly relationships – then maybe we are taking on too much and need to ask God to help us reevaluate our schedule for more than just our benefit.

There are many great “yeses” to agree to do.  If I could, I would somehow clone myself and work a variety of jobs:  I would want to be a stay at home wife/mom so that I could give my best to my family all the time, instead of the leftovers during those times when I’m depleted.  I would also be a 911 operator because I applied for that job in college and due to my schedule, they wouldn’t accept me.  I think it would be rewarding to help save lives on a daily basis.  I would also like to be a waitress, a cashier, artist, cake decorator and in full time ministry.

However, this year I’ve been looking at my schedule, really looking at my schedule.  And it holds or has held some really fun and good “yeses.”  However, in order to factor in the human effect, I’ve had to reevaluate what are the best yesses for me and my family and what ones I need to let go of.  God has already identified some things on my schedule where once the commitment is fulfilled, I won’t be re-signing up.  They aren’t the best “yes” for my family at this time.  Or, they were a great “yes” while I participated, but next year God has another “yes” waiting for me instead.

When I let God plan my schedule (and listening to and submitting to my husband’s wisdom on this topic is part of giving God my schedule), then that frees me up for the human effect that will naturally occur… but it also does something else.  It allows me to step into the positions that God has planned for my life and frees up the areas I was keeping the best person God wanted to fill that position.

When I let God choose my agenda, He will natural factor in the human effect for everyone involved, allowing us to make a difference without being overwhelmed.  My getting out of the way frees up the position for that person who is also listening to God and just waiting for Him to show them their best yes with a position that is now available.

When God is in control, He lets everyone win as long as we step back and let Him lead.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.”

Proverbs 11:14 (NIV)

 

I was having a conversation with my husband the other day and we were talking about life.   Nothing profound, just life and how because it’s life, there are twists and surprises that come up when you least expect them.

I made a comment similar to “make sure we account for the human effect.”  By that I meant many different things.  Sometimes the human effect means that while you know what you want to do in a certain situation, other people are usually involved and you can’t predict their choice, behavior or response; therefore, the outcome isn’t guaranteed.

I also meant that you could plan something down to the last detail, but then “life happens” and you will be forced to readjust your plans.  Lastly, I was referring to sometimes, it’s just better to factor in some “wiggle room” or room for life to get in the way because emergencies come up, delays happen, tasks take longer than predicted, etc.

I think that concept has really hit home lately for me.  God recently asked me to let go of one of my jobs to make room for other opportunities He wanted me to step into.  However, during the transition period from when one ended and the others are to begin, I’m realizing how important it is to factor in the “human effect” to my schedule.  I like living a schedule where I can turn the computer off at night and focus on being a wife/mother instead of working from sunup until sundown. I don’t want to fill my schedule back up so full that I don’t have time to stop and pray with a friend, offer encouragement to a stranger or be available to babysit occasionally.

While I know that life is full of responsibilities, I was reminded of the wise advice of my overseeing pastor.  When I called him for prayer in January, he made a statement similar to this one, “Cheri, make sure that you are choosing the best because with your personality, you tend to want to do it all and that’s not always the best.”  He is so right.  I took his advice to heart and now make sure to ask Bill’s opinion, seek his advice and submit to his wishes when it comes to filling my schedule.  He knows me better than I know myself sometimes.  He knows what I can handle, how much I can handle and how much is too much.

We’re going to be having a conversation again in the near future once I gather the information necessary to give him all the facts.  And I will be taking my husband’s advice very seriously so that I can factor in the human effect when making the finishing adjustments to my schedule.

Come back next time for the other truth God reminded me of.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 (NIV)

 

Yesterday went down in the books as hard.  Work was challenging and I didn’t feel like I made much headway.  I received an answer to a promise I’ve been praying about for over a year; but no timeframe of when it would happen.  And I’m in the middle of pressing in regarding an opportunity that God has invited me to try, and while it feels like a “yes,” I want to make sure I hear “yes” before saying “yes.”

Part of my struggle has to do with wanting to make sure I keep my priorities aligned correctly.  I’m at a crossroads right now.  I’m transitioning out of one job and to a certain degree, have the chance to make my new schedule into one that is the best fit for our family. God has been showing me lately what my gifts and talents are, so I want to make sure I’m choosing income and a position that will be working from the realm of my gifts, which is the case of the job I just left as well as the one I currently have.  And I want to make sure and keep God’s priorities front and center.

The question boils down to this:  Do I trust God with my schedule?  With every job He is calling me to? Do I trust Him enough to help me not miss the best fit for my family and with my current schedule?  I believe God will allow me to have choices, but I also believe God has given me the ability and instructions from His Word to choose wisely.  That’s why I’m not jumping into anything but seeking His will and praying about it first.  I’m also taking these choices before my husband and listening to his wisdom since this decision affects him as much as me.

After taking the night off, enjoying a hot bath with a warm cup of tea, some downtime with our family watching a comedy and an early bedtime, I woke up more refreshed and ready to work hard again this morning.  The tasks don’t seem as insurmountable today at 9 AM as they did yesterday at 3 PM.

Two hours earlier our kids had asked me to drive them to school.  God used that “yes” to show off and remind me to keep the important things in life as the major focus. He used a sunrise with a beautiful mix of purple, pink and yellow to get my attention.  Then, when He knew I was focused on Him, He gave me a gift – the one He always gives when I need reassurance He’s got whatever situation I’m facing.  He told me this morning, “You aren’t walking this path alone.  I’m here, ahead of you, leading the way.” 

That simple message reminded me that employment, while it can be fulfilling and satisfying and definitely is something I need to use excellence in to serve my employer, is just that: Employment.  My real goal in life isn’t what job I have, but how I use the gifts God has given me to serve His ultimate purpose – pointing others to Him – both through the satisfaction of working in the right position and the other divine appointments God brings into my life.  Why would I doubt that God would lead me into a situation where my schedule is impossible and I’m stressed beyond recognition?  He might allow that opportunity and let me make the choice, but I believe that if I’m seeking His will, He will show me the right fit for our family – through peace I find from His word, submission to my husband’s wisdom and spiritual mentorship.

If I trust God enough to know that if His real “job” for me is showing His love to others; then I trust Him enough to provide me with a job within my gifts within the schedule boundaries that leave plenty of time for my real job – that of serving Him in the ways He has called me to.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

 

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 (NIV)

 

One of my favorite things to do, especially closer to spring when the winter weather is (mostly) behind us, is to drive my littlest back and forth to school.  We have time to pray, talk and just connect for about seven minutes before separating to our own activities for seven hours until we’re together again.  One particular morning as I was driving, he was talking away and since I didn’t want to interrupt him, I didn’t point out the turkeys in the field or the cardinal that was right by the side of the road.  He loves all things birds, so inwardly I was a little disappointed he missed those “hugs” from God.

However, after he had finished praying, when we were almost to school, he excitedly called out from the back seat, “Look, Mom, turkeys…” and two second later, “…and a red cardinal!”  The first thought I had was, “Isn’t that just like our Heavenly Father? He made sure our little boy didn’t miss those hugs by giving him another chance to see and appreciate their beauty.” 

 While I believe that hug was aimed specifically for our son, God had a bigger lesson to give to me. This morning I woke up stressed! I wasn’t even fully awake and I already had a sense of dread settled in my stomach.  In January God called me to give notice at one of my jobs and I believed He was doing that so I would have room in my schedule to add what He had next on His agenda.  Well, I have been struggling with making sure I only say yes to the “best yeses” that He wants me to commit to and practice my “no” voice for those things that are still great, but don’t fit as well with our family’s schedule.

One assignment I’ve already accepted and am super excited about.  When it was presented to me one week after I gave notice, the timing, the assignment, everything lined up with my ministry and gifts.  I had immediate peace about it and just needed to work out the details.  This past week I was offered another opportunity and while I don’t know the specifics about it yet, I’ve been praying, seeking my husband’s counsel and feel peace about this as well.  However, in the meantime, I need to have another conversation to fix some assumptions I wrongly gave out of fear, instead of waiting for God’s best.  I hate when I do that.  While that opportunity also would be wonderful, I don’t think it’s the best fit for my family and doesn’t bring peace.

I believe God allowed me to glimpse His love this morning through turkeys and cardinals.  While I saw that our son missed the first turkeys and cardinal that God was trying to show him, God made sure to open His eyes to see them the second time.  I believe God does the same for us.  When we’re truly asking for His direction, His wisdom and what His best is for our lives that lines up with His Word, then we really don’t need to worry if we miss it the first time.  God will present it to us again until our eyes are open.

After I arrived home, I spent a few minutes with God and thanked Him for that word picture.  I thanked Him for showing our son some of His beautiful creatures before he got to school but I thanked Him more for the reassurance He gave to me that when I’m looking for His direction, He will make sure I don’t miss it.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,…” Titus 2:3-4 (NIV)

 

There are several verses in the Bible instructing us to listen to those older or with more experience than us.  It’s not because God doesn’t think we’re capable – it’s to help save us a lot of time and energy that would otherwise be wasted making mistakes and getting back on track.

God has been bringing so many wonderful, wise women into my life lately and I’m loving what I’m learning from them.  One such instance happened recently when a job opportunity came across my desk.  I had dedicated the day to writing blogs (one of my favorite past times) and while this opportunity looked promising (almost too promising) I could see hours being wasted researching and checking it out and then… my time to write would be over.

So, God brought to mind a wise woman in my circle and I reached out to her.  She has great experience in this area and so I thought if I asked her if this opportunity showed her red flags or sounded legit, then I would have my answer.  She promptly replied, going above and beyond in her response, and saved me hours of wasted time, something I don’t have a lot of.

Connections Kindle

Last week I was asked to pray about something extremely important.  I sought the counsel of my husband and then asked him if I should reach out to our pastor and ask for prayer too.  He readily agreed so I did; and my pastor gave some much needed wisdom as well.  I used the steps that he suggested and felt real peace that the decision, while extremely hard and sad, was the best one for everyone involved.

I have some amazing spiritual mentors, parenting mentors and even a few marriage mentors.  Some may not even know how important their example is because I watch and admire their godly lifestyle from afar, picking up ideas here and there as I see them interacting with their spouses and children.  I hope that I also am able to encourage others in various areas in their lives as well – not because my opinions are so wonderful but because that’s part of the instructions God gives to us.  He not only wants us to seek wisdom from godly women and spiritual heads in the church, but He wants us to share that wisdom we learn with others who are a little further behind us on the journey because they are younger.

Isn’t it wonderful the way God designed things?  Not only does He love us enough to provide wisdom and teaching for us… but He then knows the joy we will have if we pay it forward and share that wisdom with others along the way.  He also knows that in order to truly hear the wisdom shared and to be able to accurately share the wisdom given, we need to be in His word, seeking His direction all the time.

I’m very thankful for the godly husband I’ve been blessed with, the wonderful women God has allowed to cross my path and the wisdom of the pastors in our church to continue to guide me in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.

If you don’t have any mentor, I would encourage you to ask God to bring the right ones into your life.  When we ask with an expectant heart, He always provides the best answer.

©  Cheri Swalwell 2017

“When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.” Acts 15:4 (NIV)

 

I think bridges are beautiful.  My husband found a path off the highway one day and since we had some extra time, we drove down around to investigate.  It wasn’t just a path.  It was a park with a pond and several old, historical bridges.  Not the normal boring bridges of today; but beautiful, historical bridges with character.  And that got me thinking…

Every day I wake up and ask God to use me in the lives of those He wants to reach, whatever that looks like.  A helping hand at the store for someone who just can’t reach.  An understanding smile or better yet a hug when another is having a bad day.  I don’t care what it looks like – I just want to be available with a heart that is always looking for ways to bless those God deliberately puts in my path.

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As a result of that prayer, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the most amazing people.  That’s when God gave me the most beautiful mental image… a bridge.

A bridge is something which connects one object to another object, a way for people to safely go from one place to another.  A bridge has to be sturdy.  Sure, there are swaying bridges and decaying bridges, but those are worn out from years of exposure to elements and neglect.  Those aren’t functional and they don’t get the job done.

I want to be that someone who connects a person with the Someone who can change their life. I want to introduce others to my Heavenly Father and explain why I can trust Him in faith and share with them all the wonderful things He’s done for me and that He’s waiting to do even more wonderful things for them.  I want to have the chance to show just how personal my Savior is; yet how strong and protective and capable He is.  When this world is in chaos, He’s an anchor because He already knows the future… and better yet, already has the answer in place.

Being a well-built bridge capable of fulfilling my purpose of transporting people safely across requires time.  Relationships that are comfortable enough to share personally also require time.  My desire is to live my life in such a way that those God puts in my path are drawn to Him and ask me why.  I want to soak in His word, the Bible, enough so that when they ask me hard questions, I can answer them with confidence using His words.  I want to live my life in such a way that I don’t embarrass the One whom I represent – authentically exposing my flaws while continuing to change those things God asks me to change.

I want to be a bridge.  Not just any bridge, but one that God will greet when I meet Him face to face one day with, “Well done my good and faithful servant.  You were a beautiful bridge.”

© Cheri Swalwell 2017

Peace, Then Joy

 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)

 

I’ve spoken many times in the past about asking God for a word to represent the upcoming year.  While He’s always granted that request so far in my life, I try to never take it for granted.  Sometimes He’ll give me the word really early the previous year; other times it’s closer to when I’m ushering in the new year.

This year, God revealed something else very special about the words that He so generously gives. In 2014, God gave me the word “grace.”  Then in 2015, God gave me the word “hope.”  In 2016, God gave me the word “peace,” and then for 2017, He gave me the word “joy” and then added a bonus word, “blessings.”

I have to admit, when God gave me the word hope in 2015, I wasn’t very happy.  I had just gotten through the word “grace” in the previous year and there were parts of it that weren’t very fun.  So when God said my word would be “hope,” all I could think was, “Oh great, when I hope for something it doesn’t come true.  Am I going to spend a whole year hoping and not getting? That sounds hard and discouraging.”  The first week of January I received the email that my job would be terminated in less than a month.  Didn’t seem like it was getting off to a very hopeful start.

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However, God taught me so much about hope that year.  And little did I know it, but I would need the foundations of grace and hope in order to truly embrace the word, “peace” last year.  What a fitting word for the election year.    Peace – learning how to have peace despite the circumstances around me.  Asking for God’s peace during scary situations and feeling it settle in like a warm blanket.  Learning to find God’s peace when your parents’ call not once, not twice but multiple times throughout the year stating, “The doctor thinks…” or “The test came back and…”

God taught me through multiple experiences in 2016 to ask Him for peace each and every day.  That peace isn’t something… it’s Someone.  That there is a difference between His peace and what the world tries to pass off as peace.

It’s still very early into 2017, and God, in His goodness, has taught me the most important lesson already: I can’t fully experience the word God gave me for this year, “JOY” until I’d learned how to embrace and ask for God’s peace last year.  I truly believe that the joy I feel this year, despite the circumstances around me and the challenges we have had to face already in 2017, would not be possible without having first learned how to ask for and sit in God’s peace daily.

That is when I realized that God needed to build the foundation first of grace, then hope, then peace and now joy is made complete from the previous lessons learned.  Even though it’s January and I’m enjoying the “joy” God is awakening in me, I’m excited to think about what new word He will give me next year.  Until then, I’m going to fully embrace joy, resting in the peace, grace and hope that God loved me so much to teach me ahead of time.

© Cheri Swalwell 2017