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“All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God! Thank him to his face! He gets angry once in a while, but across a lifetime there is only love. The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.” Psalm 30:4-5 (The Message)

 

Joy. Usually when I think about this word, I think about Christmas. “Comfort and Joy,” “Joy to the World,” as well as “peace, joy, and love.”

However, when I think about this word recently, I start singing in my head the new song out on the Christian radio station, from a group my daughter and husband had the privilege of meeting this past fall, and I start dancing and “air” playing the instruments (not nearly as good as they do in reality) because the tune is so catchy. It seriously puts a smile on my face no matter what kind of day I’m having.

Joy. It can be contagious … but to someone who is struggling with learning to trust our Heavenly Father, being thankful, or learning to live without fear, joy feels out of reach.

Life is like an onion with many layers. While we may want God to fix everything at once or instantly make us happy (joyful), our Father knows it’s a process that takes time … and unless completed in the right order, will result in a temporary Band-Aid instead of a permanent change.

For me, I had to give God permission to teach me how to trust Him. Then He taught me how to look for the blessings even during difficult circumstances, then I was able to live a life of thankfulness in my everyday life, even when it looked nothing like I envisioned. Next, He was able to take fear out of the equation for me and then, after working with me on several other layers I needed help with, joy started returning.

 

As with the blessings/thankful lifestyle, it started small and gradually grew. I wrote Spoken from the Heart: God’s Joy Lasts a Lifetime which helps share the journey God took me on to reclaiming to an extent the Tigger attitude, replacing the downcast Eyeore who had come to visit, seeking a permanent residence.

 

 

 

For me, joy takes on many different forms. Sometimes it’s enjoying a cup of flavored coffee, loving the way it brings comfort through smell, warmth and taste but more importantly remembering the gift of love from whom I received it.

Other times it’s much simpler: enjoying a laugh with my husband and best friend, sharing a joke with one of my children or a walk with a friend.

Sometimes it overtakes me when I think about the vast love God has for me and He shows me a glimpse of the dream He’s making a reality in my life and that of my family’s.

What about you, friend? Do you feel joy on a regular basis and if so, what are some things that bring you joy? If not, is that something you want to ask God to bring into your life? Are you brave enough to ask God to start peeling away the layers of your life so that you can experience His full joy too?

Please reply in the comments below. I’d love to have a conversation with you.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

 

 

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“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.’” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

 

Without bragging, I’d say I have the art of multitasking down to a science. I have been a work-from-home mom for the past 15 years with a variety of jobs – sometimes more than one at a time – from owning my own daycare, to transcription work, to administrative assistant, to writing. I have had to learn how to tune things out while focusing intently on editing, proofing and also sometimes writing clear, concise ideas that don’t sound like gibberish to the tune of music blaring, dogs barking, and children crying.

However, even the best of multitaskers have a point where one more noise, intrusion, or event tips the scales in the wrong direction and everything comes crashing down.

This past spring I had overestimated my ability to multitask. In the span of two months, we were approaching the end of the school year and the many additional activities associated with that along with additional ministry opportunities, additional sports activities, graduation and subsequent planning and executing of a graduation party, and helping to care for an ill relative. Some of the additional output was mental, some spiritual and some physical but it all took its toll and tipped my multitasking ability completely over. I ended up crabby and far from calm, despite good intentions.

This summer I chose to spend three weeks fasting and praying, seeking God’s will for my schedule for the remainder of the year. I wanted to write what He wanted written, participate in activities He invited me to, and life my life according to His dreams, not mine.

The answer I received was I felt a nudge to focus more on work and my jobs in this upcoming season and less on other pre-scheduled activities – good activities, but to stick closer to home and finish strong these commitments.

Because I had asked for His guidance, I chose to obey that nudge. I made myself available for various activities I thought He wanted me to do, and He slowly closed some of the doors and opened others. The activities that He kept on my agenda are small commitments – a few hours for one day here or there instead of weeks or months in length.

This has made me available to help family more, be available for my kids who still need me, and take advantage of the last year our oldest will be living at home full time under our roof.

Sitting here today I realize something else. The period from April through June, earlier this year, was so busy I didn’t have time to think, relax or look up and enjoy the moments that were speeding by in a blur while I rushed from one activity to another.

However, as September draws to a close and I look back over the past month, we have been out of state two weekends out of four, I’ve been working on getting a book ready to be published before the end of the year, we’ve adjusted to the beginning of a new school year and had many doctor appointments in between, as well as car shopping, scheduling a tour at a university, and other out-of-the-ordinary activities.

However, this time, I’ve been able to keep calm. While still busy, allowing God to adjust my schedule has made all the difference. I’ve had time to take care of myself physically, spiritually and emotionally, the ability to work during the day so every night isn’t spent playing catch up, and making time to spend with my husband and kids regularly.

The ability to multitask is great. However, in order to multitask to one’s best ability, it’s better to ask God ahead of time what activities He wants you to multitask with instead of continuing to add more and more until calm has left the building and you’re left wondering what happened to your peace.

Have you ever had that problem – where you overschedule to the point where all calm goes out the window? How do you get back to the place of “keeping calm” in your life?

Please respond in the comments below so that I can learn from you and your life.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

“It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 (The Message)

 

Our family used to like to watch a TV show titled “Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction.” My husband and I would keep track of the four to six mini stories told throughout the hour-long show and then at the end when the answers were revealed of which stories were fact and which were fiction, we would compare our guesses, seeing who was better at telling the difference between the truth and a lie.

One of the reasons the show was so appealing was because it was very difficult to tell the difference between something that happened in history and something a clever writer made up to throw the audience off.

Our enemy, the devil, is very similar to that TV show. He takes the Bible, the inerrant word of God (meaning it’s without error, completely true) and subtly twists a little bit here or a little bit there until he gets what he wants – human beings who are believing that his lies are fact and God’s word is fiction.

I struggled with believing many lies before I asked God to teach me how to trust Him. Part of learning how to trust Him was asking for help distinguishing between His truth and the enemy’s lies.

 

I wrote Spoken from the Heart: Choosing a Faith-filled Adventure and share in there how God counteracted the enemy’s distortions with His absolute truth.

 

 

I’ve found, for me, the best way to combat the enemy’s lies is to initiate a conversation with God about a specific issue I want to overcome.

Why, God, do I struggle with emotional eating? I know I need to take care of my body and when I get stressed, I run to food for comfort. Could you show me the lie I’m believing so I can overcome this issue and live in obedience to You instead?

God takes our honest conversations with Him and answers them in ways we can’t possibly imagine. Sometimes He answers immediately, other times it’s a slower process, but He always answers.

Is there an area of your life where you’re struggling to find the truth? Maybe it would be helpful for you to initiate a conversation of your own with our Heavenly Father – asking if there is a lie you’re believing. Then once He identifies it for you, ask Him to replace it with His truth and remind yourself of that truth until you believe it as strongly as you did the original lie in the first place.

If this is something you chose to do and God has been speaking, I’d love if you would share that experience with me. I’d like to rejoice with you.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

 

 

“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Galatians 5:1 (The Message)

 

I didn’t realize how strong a hold fear had on my life … until it didn’t.

I didn’t realize how I was passing those habits of fear along to my children … until they were gone.

Fear can be paralyzing. I used to be afraid of everything. Winter driving? I only “enjoyed” five months out of the year because October through April meant possible snowstorms, and snowstorms meant possible death.

I use the term “enjoy” lightly referring to the remaining five months of the year, because my fear of snowstorms was temporarily overshadowed by the threat of tornadoes, power outages and/or being struck by lightning from May through September.

It wasn’t just the weather either. My husband wanted to go away for our anniversary, to give me a break and enjoy time together like we used to before the kids were born. I would go, but I put so many rules on what was supposed to be a fun getaway, it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as it should have been.

I am very blessed to be married to such a patient (and wise) husband who allowed God to heal my fear instead of trying to “talk me out of it.” Trust me when I say during the time fear had a grip on me, being “talked out of it” wasn’t an option.

It is safe to say fear affected every single area of my life: my marriage, my parenting, my friendships, my work, and most importantly, my relationship with God.

 

I wrote Spoken from the Heart: Walking in Freedom to share my journey of how God brought me out of a life of fear and into a life of trust.

 

Everyone’s journey to freedom will look different because each one of our circumstances are different. For me, while the prayers leading up to the healing occurred for years, the actual healing took place much quicker.

I want to encourage you, my friend. If you also struggle with fear – whether fear of one thing or fear that has taken over your life – God wants us to live in freedom.

What areas in your life are you ready to give to the One who is waiting to free you? It’s scary to take the first step … but trust me when I say “you’ll be glad you did.”

I’d love to hear from you. Hit reply to share with me.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

“Then he said, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.’”

John 13:12-17 (The Message)

 

As we spoke about last time, God used the suggestion of starting a blessings journal to help me move in the direction from Eyeore taking up residence in my spirit to the return of Tigger-like qualities.

It didn’t happen overnight, though. It was a years’ long process that I’m still embarking on because like many other things in life that are worth pursuing, it involves a daily choice.

While God was working on teaching me how to fully trust Him, He also used various sermons at my church as well as blogs and even a necklace to remind me to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

Not when I wanted to be thankful. Not only when things were going right. But to give thanks in ALL circumstances.

That one was difficult for me. In fact, I’d be lying if I didn’t share that this past summer, even though I thought I had mastered this layer of the onion, I went through a period where I struggled with thankfulness in ALL circumstances yet again.

 

I share in Spoken from the Heart: His Plan, His Purpose the struggle I had as I embraced His timetable and His plan for my life instead of wanting things to go according to my plan, learning to be thankful for the process instead of impatient during the journey.

 

I’ve been dealing with an issue for the past three years now which I thought God would have “rescued me from” well over a year ago. It’s a situation that ebbs and flows – sometimes feeling overwhelming and as though I can’t take one more step and other times easing up some and giving me some breathing room, making me think, “breakthrough is coming soon.”

Throughout the ups and downs, my prayer has remained consistent and I’ve continued to pray for release. And yet here I sit. Day after day after day – thinking tomorrow, next week, next month I’ll be released and finally find freedom in this one area … and yet, day after day, week after week, month after month the situation doesn’t look as though it has changed.

This is exactly the type of situation in which God commands us to choose a thankful heart. Thankful for His blessings that shine brighter in dark situations than when things are going well. Thankful for how we can show a different, cheerful attitude during times of trouble than a complaining attitude like others who don’t know His love. Thankful that we can trust He is working behind the scenes even when we can’t see changes in the less-than-ideal situation we find ourselves in.

How about you, friend? Do you find it difficult to have a thankful heart in less-than-ideal circumstances? What is one thing you can say “thank You” to God for when everything around you screams there is nothing good happening?

Please reply and share with me. Sometimes, for me, the only thing I can be thankful for is I’m God’s child and He’s promised to be with me through every difficult situation, every single one.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

“The LORD bless you and keep you, the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)

 

I used to be described as a happy person. I looked at the proverbial glass as half full most all the time.

Even when bad things happened, I was able to see the blessings in the lessons learned and after the storm passed, give thanks daily for how He brought me out of my own stupidity.

Then life hit hard … and fast … again and again and again and …

Slowly, ever so slowly, I stopped looking for the lessons to learn in my circumstances. I was in survival mode and some days it was all I could do to crash into bed at night, dreading having to get up in less than eight hours and repeat the cycle all over again.

I lost my optimistic attitude that life would get better. The proverbial cup, although holding the same amount of liquid, became half empty.

My personality slowly changed from Tigger’s optimism to Eyeore’s negativity.

I stopped looking for blessings … and for a period of time … I even stopped believing blessings were meant for me.

Have you ever struggled with those feelings? Felt as though every direction you turn, before you can catch your breath from the last blow, you’re being pummeled over and over and over again?

In John 10:10 (NIV), God talks about how He sent Jesus so that His children “may have life, and have it to the full,” and that cannot be accomplished when we focus on the negative. The best way to overcome focusing on the negative is to live a life of thankfulness.

The way to start living a thankful life is to look up from the circumstances we’re facing and ask God to open our eyes to the blessings God gives despite the circumstances.

 

In 2014, about seven years into the circumstances that hit hard and fast, I wrote Spoken from the Heart, Blessed by His Love. It was during that time period in my life when God encouraged me to begin a blessings journal.

I would invite you to read for yourself in a simple 32-day devotional how the practice of such a simple little habit began to reverse the pessimism that had taken over my personality and after a while joy started to return.

It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly, ever so slowly, I went from writing down simple blessings like getting a free cup of coffee to “today is over and I can start fresh tomorrow” to much bigger blessings which included seeing God’s hand in our family’s circumstances and feeling the spark of hope when for months it had disappeared.

What about you, my friend? Have you been stuck in less-than-ideal circumstances for too long?

While it seems counterproductive, trust me when I say the first step to overcoming the negativism that comes with difficulties is to look up and start listing the blessings in your life. What is one blessing you can begin with right now?

Please share with me by hitting reply. I’d love to get to know you better and pray for you during this season.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to trust …

“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’” Exodus 14:13-14 (NIV)

 

Trust is huge for me. I had a conversation with God way back in 2006 about trust … whether or not I trusted Him … and whether or not I wanted to pursue a journey of learning how to trust Him.

I chose the latter – despite all my fear and anxiety about what situations I’d face if I uttered the words, “Lord, please teach me how to trust You” which caused me to add the following … “and please be gentle during the process.”

Learning to trust God has been an adventure. Such an adventure I could write a book about it.

In fact, I ended up writing FOUR books about it … and since the adventure isn’t finished yet, I’m sure more books are coming on this subject.

 

Spoken from the Heart: Journey from Fear to Faith

 

Spoken from the Heart: Embracing the Adventure

 

Spoken from the Heart: The Adventure Continues

 

Spoken from the Heart: Choosing a Faith-Filled Adventure

 

Each one of the books above shares how God heard my prayer years earlier and lovingly answered it, slowly peeling back layer after layer of the onion of my life and revealing the beauty He planted inside me at birth.

 

From my experience, trust is the foundation of the Christian life. If I can’t trust God, I will always be afraid when He calls me to step out in faith for Him.

If I can’t trust God, I won’t have the peace He promises to His children.

If I can’t trust God, I won’t see the blessings in my life which come directly from Him.

If I can’t trust God, I won’t live a thankful life, have the ability to keep calm, learn to be joyful, or be able to love with His love others around me.

If I can’t trust God, I won’t be living the full and abundant life He promises to those who love Him.

What about you my friend? Do you have an issue with trust as I used to? Are you halfway through the peeling process and you trust God with most things but not everything yet? Or have you never had a problem with trusting God – it’s as natural to you as taking your next breath?

Please reply in the comments and share with me your experiences. I would love to be encouraged by the way God is working in your life.

© Cheri Swalwell 2018