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“God wants to have a conversation with you.  He wants to answer. When He does, don’t doubt the answer.” Pastor James Sunnock

As I stated recently, I was raised in a Christian home and have prayed for as long as I can remember. However, I’ve noticed in the last couple of months, my prayers have started to change. I don’t always pray like I used to. There are still intercessory prayers for others and just conversational prayers with God, but sometimes what I do may not be considered praying according to you at all.  To me, though, it’s more intimate than I’ve been with God in a long time.

You see, more often than not lately, I don’t talk to God at all. I’ve stopped giving Him my wish list of wants, cares, burdens, etc. I just sit in silence with Him – resting, listening, waiting to see what He wants to tell me without any agenda given on my part. This usually happens as I’m drifting off to sleep but also during the day.

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And you know what I’ve discovered?  He answers me in ways that are better than I could’ve imagined. While I was expecting an “audible” voice or thought or feeling, I got silence instead as I slowly drifted off to sleep.  However, then, I will have a dream that answers my questions – telling me the direction that He wants me to go.  Or I will wake up with a song in my head telling me what He wants me to hear.

I’ve started really looking forward to my quiet time with God lately. It’s really quiet.  I’m not complaining, begging for my way or telling Him what I don’t like about my life or asking Him to change my circumstances. Nope.  I’m confident He knows my desires, my dreams, my talents. We’ve already talked those to death and He made me, so…yeah, He knows.

I also realized He knows what I need for the next leg of the journey better than I do. I’ve stopped fighting my assignments. I’ve stopped worrying about the details (most of the time) and when I do speak, I thank Him for what I have, that I’m one step closer to His goal.  I ask Him to help me learn what He wants me to master.

Since I’ve stopped asking God for everything, I can honestly say I’m happier. It’s exciting to sit in silence, knowing that when He speaks and what He says will be worth the wait.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

A Locked Door

“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)

 

I was in a bad mood today.  I was angry – angry at God, angry at circumstances, angry at people…just angry.  Probably the first time during this second leg of the journey that I was angry…not afraid, worried, or anxious, but angry! And then I was angry at myself for being angry at God and others.

I was angry at God for giving me a glimpse of what it would feel like to work within my gifts and talents only.  To have a job that I loved and where I shined.  I was smart enough to know that hard days and challenges would still occur, but my stress level would be in the normal range and I would be energized by my work.  When my family came home and I started my “real job,” I had the energy and peace to handle whatever rose.  I was given that schedule for a month and then began a job that was hard because it felt so out of my league. Yes, it was getting easier (kind of) but it seemed that every time I turned around, God was telling me I was here to learn things and while He continually showed me His power and He helped me through the hard parts, it was still HARD.  I actually told God it would’ve been easier if I’d never been given the chance to experience my “dream work” because it made it that much harder to fulfill what He wanted me to do. And I stayed angry while trying to find things to be thankful for…and being the most angry at myself because I knew I was being ungrateful and a brat and spreading my bad around.

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Then I discovered our kids accidentally locked our bathroom door with no one inside.  It wouldn’t have been a big deal except for the kind of lock it was, one that wasn’t accessible to unlock from the outside…without divine intervention.  It was while I was praying for God to help me unlock the lock that I realized something very profound.  I’d rather be in a job that was HARD but that I knew God had given me for a reason and was with me every second than for one second be in my dream job without His blessing.   I apologized right there on the spot, before the door was even unlocked, and asked God for forgiveness.  (After making things right with my attitude, I also asked for help with the lock.)

After a few more minutes, I heard a pop and the door was unlocked.  Because I prayed that prayer, does that mean my job automatically is easy now? Nope, just the opposite.  It actually got a little harder in the next few hours with more demands.   Am I instantly happy and joyful now that I still get to travel this road for an undisclosed period of time?  Nope.  I’m still struggling in that department too.  I have a pit in my stomach because of the unchartered territory I’m traveling but I’m glad that where I’m going, God has gone first and He’s holding my hand.  He’s walking me through a path where He has already mapped out the finish line. He’s promised me that He will help me, not do it for me, but help me.

I’m still wrestling with not being jealous of the month I had “living the dream.”  But, now, instead of feeling like that was a cruel trick God played on me, tempting me and then taking it away, now I see it as He gave me hope of what the future can look like, a glimpse of how it feels to be living in God’s sweet spot – the one He created for me.  It’s just not my time yet.  I have more to learn.  And to think the biggest lesson came from a locked bathroom door.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28 (The Message)

 

As I was walking with God, after having poured out my heart to Him and let Him know this new assignment wasn’t what I signed up for, I heard…

Birds chirping and realized spring had come.  The long winter had passed (and boy did it feel long this year). Spring was here.  New beginnings.  Better beginnings than I first noticed.  He had provided an assignment for me to do from home.  I may have been juggling three jobs again (still not financially secure) but I was home with our kids and not trying to juggle two jobs inside the home along with another outside the home …before we even talk about my most important role as wife and mother.

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I noticed my schedule.  I was able to push off from the computer and take our new puppy outside for 15 minutes to refresh, talk with my Father, and come back refreshed.  I work for two companies who love Him.  I have two bosses who are incredibly flexible with my time, understanding of balancing more than one company/more than one job, and even better?  God had orchestrated it so that they were introduced through the common denominator called…Me.

He gets all the glory for that one!

My daughter and I were talking last weekend and while I still have three jobs, my schedule now is better than it was when I was working as a medical transcriptionist. My weekends belong to my family again.  I’m not getting up at 4 AM to start the work in my queue.  The assignments that I have now don’t require me to wear a headset so even when I’m working, I feel more connected to my kids and more involved.  I have the chance to attend fieldtrips, work the concession stand, and listen to band concerts without the worry of coming back and staying up until 2 AM to finish my assignments.

And you know what else I realized? I didn’t want to be released.  Not anymore.  I’m four weeks into my new assignment and while some things are still “Greek,” it’s starting to make sense and it’s enjoyable.  The overwhelming is fading and I’m learning so much!  Not to mention that the people I work with are wonderful – for both companies.  The people were wonderful from the beginning – I just thought God had messed up since I felt incredibly unqualified.

And I’m right and wrong.  I’m not completely qualified.  I think God is stretching me, helping me to learn things He wants me skilled at. But even if I appeared qualified on paper, I wouldn’t be fully qualified without relying on His help each and every day.  Feeling overwhelmed keeps me right where He wants me – in His arms, asking for His strength and power daily, sometimes hourly.

Someday God may change my role because I believe He has me moving in a direction that He hasn’t revealed to me yet. I don’t know when that someday is…and honestly? I’m peaceful right where I’m at, content to keep working hard at the assignment He gave me.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree.    Jeremiah 29:13 (The Message)

 

I’ve been a Christian since I was around six years old.  I was old enough to remember kneeling by my bed with my mom after she’d explained what it meant to pray the sinner’s prayer and I remember saying the words and meaning them.  I think at that point I was more afraid of going to Hell than desiring an intimate relationship with Someone I barely knew.

I was blessed though.  My parents always taught (and modeled for me) a relationship with Christ versus just living a religion.  We didn’t go to church on Sunday and Wednesday and then forget about God again until the next time we walked through the doors.  God was welcome in every area of our lives.

However, it’s only been as I grow older that I realize the depth of the type of relationship God wants with me and that I can have with the God of the universe.  Lately, He and I have been growing closer…you might say we’re at a new level.  I think it’s been a process because if I look back I can see “steps of growth.” Doesn’t it seem sometimes that only when you’ve climbed up the next step can you truly appreciate where you were, where you are now, and where you still need to get to?

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I don’t think…actually, I know I wouldn’t have reached this deeper level of intimacy with God had we not experienced the “adventure” He led us on these past few years.  I’m not sure if I wasn’t moving fast enough or needed a nudge or why exactly the intensity of the adventure amplified starting in January 2015, but maybe it was just the beginning of the finale. In order to make a finale spectacular, don’t they have to have a bit of fire?

It probably started months ago, but this week God revealed to me a little more about our relationship.  I’d promised Him in January that I’d obey whatever plan He had for our lives…and I’d do my best to trust Him and not try to keep taking control back.  That last part was especially hard for me.  Not because I wanted control but because I always feel like I have to be doing something – I’m not really good at getting things for free (unless it’s free coffee or ice cream or I win a contest).

So, it was with that attitude that I started approaching God this week, and last week, and the week before and just being honest with Him.  This new assignment He gave me was HARD! Really HARD!  This isn’t what I thought He was going to give me…that I thought He’d promised a year ago and had worked hard all of 2014 for the reward that hasn’t come yet.  And I was honest with Him…really honest.  I let Him know I didn’t like it, I wasn’t happy, and I wanted to be released.

And then I sat (or actually kept walking because we were taking a walk together, me and God).  Come back next time and I’ll tell you what I heard.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

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Just in time for Father’s Day

A Present Just For You

June 19th through June 21st

Spoken from the Heart:

Parenting 101 Vol. 4

Parenting Vol 4 Kindle cover

Available on Amazon:

http://amzn.to/1SnE1NC

***FREE***FREE***FREE***FREE***

Dear Fellow Parents:

Earlier this year my husband and I participated in an eight-week Bible study, the first four weeks focusing on Bringing Up Boys and the second four weeks focusing on Bringing Up Girls.  Some of us were present for all eight weeks, having been blessed with a household full of estrogen and progesterone, while others joined for only the estrogen or progesterone filled hours.  As God so lovingly does, He presented me with an opportunity the day before the last class to reconnect with an old friend.  During our conversation, I was privileged to listen as she shared her heart regarding her childhood.  As I was listening to her relive some wounds that were inflicted on her, I heard two distinct themes which can encourage not just the families I got to know for the past eight weeks but to all parents who strive daily to make a difference in the lives of the children God loaned to them.

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Parenting is hard work.  No one said raising kids would be easy, but nothing worthwhile is.  God wants us to seek His wisdom and use His parenting techniques as our guide.  As I reflected on the Biblical teaching that we received during those two months, three specific areas spoke to me.

 

Say “I’m sorry”.  As I listened to my friend share with me some of the pain she still carried from childhood, one sentence stands out among the rest.  “All I want is for XXX to tell me, ‘I’m sorry.’”  As I reflected on how three words left unspoken affected her as a child and continued to hurt her into her adult life, I realized that was one of the underlying themes in our class – being quick to say “I’m sorry” when we have blown it as parents.  Here was a real life example, years later, which proved how important those words are to a little one.  Being able to stand before your child (or children) and say, “I’m sorry” is humbling, yes, but also freeing.  It teaches them that everyone messes up and the appropriate response when we do.  I’ve found in my own experience with my kids throughout the years, they are usually the most willing to forgive and forget when those words are uttered, and they have the longest memory when I choose to remain silent.

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Love.  Another theme that was prevalent in my friend’s conversation was how much love she felt from her mother.  Her mother has unfortunately been deceased for too many years now, and while my friend mentioned that they used to get into it, especially during her teenage years, what she remembers most about her mother was the fierce love that flowed back and forth. She knew that she knew she was loved, accepted, and treasured.  She misses that relationship they used to share because it was unconditional and freely given.

Love was a main theme for our eight weeks of lessons.  Love in the form of time, appropriate touch, and talking.  Spending time talking in the car, dancing in the kitchen, daddy/daughter or mother/son dates on a regular basis, family game nights, playing outside – the ways to show love were as diverse as the people who made up our group, but the overall theme was the same.  Share their lives, share their interests, listen to the hearts of our children and it will last a lifetime.

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Laughter. My friend spoke about how anger was prevalent in her childhood home, and that got me thinking…where anger is present, it’s hard to find joy.  Where laughter is present, joy is more likely found.  I noticed throughout the eight weeks that while most of us shared similar parenting styles, some adults were “less serious” than others.  Some had a natural way of looking at life through the filter of fun.  I remember when our household used to look like that.  Sometimes life can wear people down and the fun seems to go into hiding.  God has been working on me for the past couple years to bring fun back, and the atmosphere in our house has definitely improved.  Three kids with great senses of humor and a puppy can do that, although I have to rely less on them and find more laughter myself.

The joy of parenthood from some of the people in our group was contagious.  Finding the humor while in the thick of puberty, two-year-old temper tantrums, or just the normal “which personality of my child will greet me when I get home today?” helps make life less drudgery and more enjoyable.  I was encouraged as a parent to remember to find the fun in each stage of my kids’ development.  There might be a few stages that I enjoy more than others, but each stage should be embraced and enjoyed while I work to create and then keep a fun atmosphere for the entire family.

My friend still carries her wounds, although she has used them to help break some unhealthy cycles and create new traditions and styles of parenting with her own children.  No family is perfect and we each carry wounds from our own pasts, no matter how wonderful they were.  I know that I will (and probably already have) unintentionally inflicted wounds on my own children despite trying to parent well.

This letter, though, is meant to offer encouragement to those I learned alongside for those eight weeks.  The fact that we all chose to spend one night a week for two months to be better parents speaks volumes.  The fact that we were all willing to learn new habits, work on breaking old habits that weren’t working, and were open to hearing and trying a different approach to the same problem shows we are invested in parenthood and our family.

To all the parents who want the best for their children, choose to fix mistakes from their own childhood and learn healthier approaches because they want their kids to have a solid foundation, I say keep up the great work.  Let’s continue to keep our eyes on the example of the best parent – God.  When we study His nature and the life of Jesus while He was here on Earth, we learn valuable lessons that can continue to help us navigate this thing called parenthood.

Sincerely,

An Ordinary Parent

***FREE***FREE***FREE***FREE***

Just in time for Father’s Day

A Present Just For You

June 19th through June 21st

Spoken from the Heart:

Parenting 101 Vol. 4

Parenting Vol 4 Kindle cover

Available on Amazon:

http://amzn.to/1SnE1NC

***FREE***FREE***FREE***FREE***

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