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“This is how we know we’re living steadily and deeply in him, and he in us: He’s given us life from his life, from his very own Spirit. Also, we’ve seen for ourselves and continue to state openly that the Father sent his Son as Savior of the world. Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.”

I John 4:13-16 (The Message)

 

Approximately a year ago God invited me on a journey.  It was to find out just how much He loved me and how to rest in that love no matter what.  I had an idea of what I wanted that journey to look like and how long I wanted to travel and as always seems to happen… one year later it doesn’t look anything like what I thought it would.

Twelve months into this journey, I feel like I’m just starting to understand the beginnings of the truths that God wants to teach me.  That I’m loved… not because of anything I do or don’t do, but simply because I’m His child.  What a hard concept to accept in a world where accomplishments, looks, and achievements are verbally (and nonverbally) judged on a regular basis.

Two weeks ago, God gave me a wonderful example of this which I want to share about today.  I was presented with a choice, and while I knew what the best answer was for my family, I knew that it would involve some disappointment in others.  I prayed about it and asked God to please give me the right words to express my feelings.

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After having the difficult conversation a few days later, I was suffering from guilt.  I knew that I’d obeyed God and I believe He wanted me to rest in that obedience and His love, but the old me was caught up in the false guilt felt from the response received.  So, I prayed.  I asked Him to show me if I had sinned or disobeyed… and if not, to reaffirm that I had obeyed and pleased Him.

After sitting silently for a few minutes with my thoughts (I was actually driving at the time), I decided to turn on the radio because the best way to get rid of false guilt is to worship (praise) God.  I knew immediately that God was giving me my answer through the song choice on the radio – it was a song reminding me how loved, accepted, and treasured I am to Him.  It brought back all the verses that God had been hiding in my heart for the past year, reminding me of how He thinks of me.  I’m His Child.  I’m loved.  I’m accepted.  I’m treasured.

I’d be lying if I said that song changed everything for me.  I wish I could sit here and say it did.  But, I still struggled with false guilt for about another week.  I still struggled with disappointing others despite resting in the fact God loved me and I knew I had obeyed my Father with my choice.  I still made choices that weren’t perfect in which I envisioned Him up in Heaven, saying, “Little one, are you sure you want to go down this path?  There are better choices in this situation.”  I didn’t handle the situation perfectly.

Come back next time and I will show you the rest of what God spoke to my heart.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.     I’ve called your name. You’re mine.” Isaiah 43:1 (The Message)

 

Last time we were together, I was sharing about how God affirmed through the power of prayer that I’m where He wants me.  I also shared how God used our daughter to bless someone she didn’t even know because God used who she picked as the winner that particular month.

Today I want to share how God blessed my daughter that day as well.  It goes back over a decade when I was pregnant with her.  I love names.  When my husband and I were engaged, I was more interested in talking about baby names (even though we weren’t even sure when we wanted to start a family) then I was in wedding decorations.  I have always loved unique names, meanings of names, family names, etc.  If we were going to be blessed with boys, we knew that we wanted to honor the men in the family with each boy sharing a part of their father’s name and their grandfather’s name, etc.  God did indeed bless us with two boys who do exactly that.

For our daughter, I wanted to bless my paternal grandmother but later found out she hated her name, so we scrapped that idea.  I had a specific name in mind that I loved, but thought it might be a little too unique so we moved that to her middle name, and needed a beautiful first name to compliment it.  We found out she was a girl in my fifth month and shared that news with everyone, but kept her name a secret.  We chose a name around the sixth month and started secretly referring to her by that name… until the end of the eighth month when I absolutely had to change it.  I found another name I thought I loved more and asked Bill if he would reconsider.  He liked it too and so in the final weeks of her living safely inside me, her name changed.

I love her name, but always had questioned whether I should have stuck with the original name or gone with the name Bill suggested which was equally pretty.  My conclusion was that pregnancy hormones are real and strong and that is the reason for her name on her birth certificate instead of either of the other two choices.  She has heard me tell this story many times and she even uses her “original” name as a nickname at times.  Both are beautiful and both are part of her birth story.

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However, the reason that our daughter picked the winner that she did that particular night was because the winner’s name rhymed with her name.  Her chosen name.  Her legal name.  The name that I had always blamed on pregnancy hormones when now I realize it was God’s prompting.  That is when I knew.

When it says in the Bible that God knew us before we were even formed, before we were even considered, He means it.  I truly believe that God wanted our daughter named exactly what she is named because He had a plan to use her, our daughter, on a particular night over a decade later to bless a particular person that we have never met face-to-face. God wanted us to pray with this friend over the phone because God cares that much.

Do I think that I am the one who blessed that woman that night?  Absolutely not.  I think God could have used anyone to pray with such an incredibly special lady, but I think God loved her enough to let her know that He cares about her down to the detail of having someone pray with her.  I believe that God loved me enough to allow me the privilege of getting to pray with her and get to know her that much better.  And I believe that God loves my daughter so much that He used her to affirm to a stranger that God listens and is in control.

Again, God doesn’t just do one blessing and call it good.  He used the blessing that He gave to the member that night to bless my daughter and me one more time.  He affirmed to me that the name we chose for our daughter wasn’t a second choice or a third choice.  It was the choice He had picked out for her before she was even born.

I will never look at her name in the same way again.  I will never doubt how personal our God is again.  And what He is willing to do for our family, He is waiting to do for you as well.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

 

 

 

“When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.”

Jeremiah 29:12 (The Message)

 

I love my jobs.  Yes, I have more than one job, but many of us now-a-days do.  I’m a wife and mother first, and while that may technically be a “job,” I consider it more a blessing.  I also work for two companies and again, while those are technically jobs, I consider them ministries with a paycheck.

Last month God used a conversation to reaffirm that I’m exactly where He wants me, and He used the power of prayer to do just that.  I love that!  It’s just like God to use not only something He’s been teaching me more about (praying) as well as what is His main method of communication.

For one of my jobs, I run a live chat once a month via internet.  We give out books for free in exchange for people reading and posting reviews as well as give away prizes.  It has become a real community.  I feel blessed to have a chance to “lead” this group and give away things.

Hope During Heartache

I was taught by example that the best way to choose a winner is to let God lead.  One particular month I felt like God was leading me to pick two specific people.  I wrote their names down and attempted to call.  One person’s number was disconnected and the other person didn’t answer.  I chose another person who God kept whispering to my heart, but then asked my daughter, who was sitting with me, if she wanted to pick the second name.  I’m all about sharing the fun.  She readily agreed and after looking over the names, gave me her choice.

I put the phone on speaker, dialed, and the conversation went something like this:

“Hello?  Is ______ there?”

“Hi, Cheri.”

“How did you know it was me?”  (I was laughing because I figured this person had caller ID since I hadn’t introduced myself yet.)

“During my quiet time today, the Holy Spirit told me that I was going to win tonight and when you called, I was to ask you to pray with me.”

I was speechless and felt the presence of God right then.  It took me a few minutes but then I responded, “I have to be honest.  I didn’t pick your name.  My daughter, who is sitting right here listening to our conversation, is the one who chose your name.”

I was still so shocked that I don’t remember her response.  But I do remember asking her what God wanted me to pray with her about and she proceeded to tell me.  Normally if someone asks me to pray with them, I promise that I will and move on, but that particular night, I told her that everyone in the chat could continue to talk among themselves because if it was okay with her, I was going to pray with her right then.  And we did.  It was one of the most beautiful moments and I continued to feel the Holy Spirit’s presence.

Later, I shared that powerful experience with my mom and her immediate response was, “What a wonderful way for God to show you He has you right where He wants you.”  And she is right.  I always knew that God put me here and I have shared in the past how I know that, but what a wonderful affirmation that I’m still where God wants me.

Come back next time and I‘ll share with you how God blessed my daughter through that conversation as well.  Isn’t it just like God?  He loves each of us so much that He’s going to bless everyone involved in a way that touches each of us personally.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

 

 

 

“Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ…” Colossians 3:22-25 (The Message)

Last time we were together I was talking about how God encouraged me with the verse from John 15:16 and how He used that verse to show me a few truths, ones that I needed to be reminded about.  He reminded me that it’s never about me… it’s always about Him, His purpose, His plan and how He chooses to use me.

That brings me to the second truth He showed me.  That agenda I make out mentally every day?  That “to do” list that sits on my desk and never seems to go down?  I needed, for myself, to change my mindset.

God does say in the Bible that I am to work at everything as though working for the Lord.  There have been times in my life where God has told me specific things He wants me to do.  However, on the average day, while it’s okay to have a general idea of what needs to be accomplished, God showed me how He wanted me to approach that handwritten list.

First, I’m to start my day with Him, giving Him my agenda and waiting to see if there is something specific He wants me to do.  Then after having waited and listened, He wants me to go ahead and make the list, in pencil, always being ready to erase, change, cross off, or carry over whatever is on there, according to His plans.

I will admit.  He didn’t reveal all this to me at the same time.  It was gradual, over a few weeks (which had really been over a few years) and then He lovingly gave me opportunities to practice.  Because what is a real heart change without a chance to put it into practice?

Toward the beginning of June, I’d worked hard so that the next week my workload could be a little lighter with all the end of the year activities scheduled.  My practice started on Saturday: Our youngest got sick, after a week of his two siblings being sick for seven consecutive days.  I also received an email from one of my boss needing two assignments completed quickly, with an apology for the rush.  Monday was spent working on those when normally it’s spent on my other jobs.  That afternoon I received what was a big assignment, something I had never attempted before so a learning curve needed to be factored in as well.  I realized then I was being given a choice.  I could embrace this plan or I could fight for my old plan and complain.  I chose to embrace this plan, choosing to thank God that He entrusted me with this new assignment and thanking Him ahead of time for teaching me this angle of work to be used in the future for something else.  Then I prayed hard for wisdom to do a job that would please my boss.

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By Thursday of that week I could honestly say I’d had the best week I’d had in a long time.  I’d worked hard for both companies, I’d turned in and received praise for the big project which turned out to be a lot of fun (I want to do more of those), and I was able to maintain God’s peace and joy all week long.  I also found I was able to accomplish so much more that week then I usually do.

I truly believe the difference wasn’t in the workload but in my attitude.  I still make to do lists, I still set agendas, but they are loosely set.  They are subject to change and that’s okay.  As I’m writing this, I see that God gave me a chance to practice not just in my employment setting, but also as a wife/mother.

The week of my birthday was super busy with end of the year activities.  I knew that ahead of time so we had planned to celebrate as a family the following weekend.  However, that weekend had me nursing a sick little boy back to health and helping him get comfortable in between vomiting and dealing with a 103 fever.  But it was okay.  My agenda was written in pencil.  I was able to look past the change of plans and truly be thankful that I had three children to take care of, whether they were healthy or sick.  I was thankful to have a husband who was right there with me – going to the store to buy conservative measures to help them feel better, helping me decide how best to treat their symptoms and just being there, cuddling together while we watched a family movie, close enough to watch over the sick one who alternatively slept and enjoyed the movie.

I never thought this former control freak could say I’ve given up my plans to the One who makes the best plans… but I can and I am.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.”

John 15:16 (The Message)

 

How many times have I woken up with a to do list already spinning around in my head?  How many times have I been short fused and irritated because of interruptions to what I thought was how my day was supposed to go?

I’m not sure when the switch happened… but sometime in the last month or so, God has been getting my attention.  I think it was around the time a friend wrote to me and encouraged me with the above verse.  Normally if someone uses Scripture to encourage me, I read the Scripture, thank God for friends, thank my friend for being a great friend and continue on.  However, there was something about this verse that I didn’t quite understand the meaning behind… and I felt a compelling need to figure it out.  We talked about that recently in the post, God is in Charge of the Fruit.

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So as I always do when I don’t know something, I Google it, because everything we read on the internet is always true, right?  Seriously, though, I Googled it and this is what God used through that post to speak directly to my heart.

Everyone of us is here to fulfill God’s purpose.  He chose us before we were even born and that in itself is enough to cause us to sing His praises and worship Him all day, every day.  However, it goes even further than that. It’s never really about us.  Let me say that again:  It’s.  Never.  Really.  About.  Us.  Ever.  It’s always about God and bringing Him glory.  We are privileged when He chooses to use us to bring Him glory, but it’s never about us.  Our schedule.  Our plans.  Our purposes.  Nope.  Never.

The first truth I grasped about the above statement was this:  Whether God uses me or someone else, His plan is what matters.  I need to be happy that His plan is being fulfilled and not worry about whether or not I’m a part of fulfilling His plan.  Because if He doesn’t use me as a secretary, then maybe He will choose to use me as a wife… or a mother… or a daughter… or a volunteer at church.  It doesn’t matter in what position He chooses… He gets to choose.  I need to keep listening and stay obedient for what part He invites me to participate.

Come back next time and I will finish by telling you the other truth God spoke to me… one that has brought me more peace than I’ve had in a long time.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

 

Do you ever get tired? I do.  Especially when I’m busy trying to do God’s purpose in my own strength, like we talked about last week.  I may start out using God’s strength but then I have an exceptionally busy week with looming deadlines or my calendar is full enough with work but then add in all the things that keep our household running smoothly and extra activities for the kids.  Soon I’m rushing through my time with God, or falling asleep while praying or what I’m reading in His Word doesn’t seem to apply to me right now.  And before I know it, the enemy has succeeded in getting me to work in my own strength again (or try to) and any victory for God that may have been getting achieved is now lost ground again. I start to look at what hasn’t happened instead of remembering the truth… and that is what I want to talk about today.

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What do you do during those times when you appear to be working hard and seeking God and trying to follow His will… but you don’t see results?  God gave me a word picture last week to hopefully encourage you during these times.

God talks a lot in the Bible about various seasons.  There is a season for everything under Heaven.  And that includes the planting and harvesting season.  Not every season can be a harvest… and not every season will be for planting.  However, in order to produce a bountiful harvest, there will have to be a season of bountiful planting.

I talked two weeks ago about how God is in charge of the purpose and the results of the mission.  However, we choose whether or not we will obey His instructions for our specific mission.  And that is where this word picture fits in.  If we don’t obey God by dutifully planting what He wants planted, where He wants it planted and how much He wants planted, then the outcome of the harvest will in part be up to us.  Because, when it’s time for the harvest to arrive (and the harvest will always arrive in His time), it is those who are faithful that reap the harvest, those who choose to obey His instructions.

 

Paraphrasing the senior pastor at my church, he explains this concept well.  God calls us to obey completely.  If we do more than God asks, we are disobeying.  If we do less than God asks, we are disobeying.  If we do differently than God asks, we are disobeying.  It is only by doing exactly what God asks that we are obedient and faithful.  God calls us to be obedient and faithful.  Regardless of His desires, He still gives us free will to choose whether or not to obey.  When we obey, then when the harvest comes, we will reap that harvest specific for our lives.  If we choose to do it half His way and half our way – is that really obedience?  If we choose to strike out on our own path – is that really obedience?  Will the last two choices produce a harvest when the time comes?

Let me encourage us all two ways today.  First, let us continue to be unwaveringly obedient to God in all areas that He calls us.  He has promised we would reap a harvest if we don’t grow weary in doing good.  Second, remember that God is going to have His purpose fulfilled here on earth.  He has chosen us/invited us to be part of that purpose but He won’t force it upon us.

I, for one, want to be used of God in every area of my life.  I want to be obedient to the assignments He has called me and always remember that I work ultimately for Him.  I want to be planting when He asks me to plant, harvesting when He asks me to harvest, and wise enough to not worry or stress out when I think it should be time to harvest but He wants me to continue to plant for a while longer.

It all comes down to trust… do I trust that God knows what He’s doing?  Do I trust that He loves me enough to want the best for me?  Do I trust that when bad times come (and they will – He has told us repeatedly in His Word that they will come) God ultimately will get the victory and glory if I continue to let Him lead?

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NIV)

 

God speaks to each person as uniquely as He created us.  Some of us are more emotional and therefore He uses more emotion when He wants to personalize something “just for us.”  Others are more intellectual, or factual or realistic and God will then speak to each of those personality types according to the way they are created as well.

Last week, when I was a bit discouraged, God decided to use the analogies of plants, fruit and vines to cement some of His truths into my soul.  After God reminded me through the use of the fruit Scripture that He is going to fulfill His purpose with or without me, but that He chooses to use me for fulfillment of some of His purpose, He continued on with the lesson.

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Reading the above Scripture, He reminded me that apart from Him, I can do nothing!  Not only is His purpose not about me, I am not strong enough to accomplish any of the goals He desires for me to complete without relying 100% on His strength.  And that also is very freeing.

If I have to rely on myself and my strengths (gifts, talents), then I have a lot more pressure and a lot more responsibility and there is no time for resting. However, when I fully grasp that the success of the ministry/mission/purpose that God called me to during my lifetime relies on God’s strength, I realize that my first priority is to gather strength from the source – my Father.

How is the best way to do that?  Relationship.  First with God, my Father, and then with fellow believers.  Always in that order too.  Prayer, reading His Word (the Bible) and surrounding myself with people who will speak God’s life into me and maybe challenge me some to keep going when I feel like quitting or feel like the situation is hopeless.  Replacing the lies of the enemy (“I can’t do it”, “This is hopeless,” “There is no way out”) with God’s Truth: “God will supply all (my) needs, Phil. 4:9 (NIV); and nothing takes God by surprise (Romans 8:29).

Without being attached to the vine who is Jesus, I (the branch) am useless.  I slowly shrivel and die away.  However, when I prepare ahead of time and fill up with God’s strength, I’m much more effective for the mission God has assigned me to accomplish.  God knows that with His strength, I am not only prepared but I will be successful.  Without His strength, I will quickly be overcome.

The choice is mine.  Do I want to run around trying to accomplish things in my strength and find I’m quickly overcome and overwhelmed?  Or do I want to contradict the world’s message and instead of working harder, start by getting on my knees and asking for God’s strength through prayer and His Word before even attempting to accomplish His mission?  I’ve found in my own life, it’s much more peaceful to do it God’s way.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

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