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“He’s your praise! He’s your God! He did all these tremendous, these staggering things
that you saw with your own eyes.” Deuteronomy 10:21 (The Message)

 

  • The beauty of the snow and ice draping the bare branches in the wintertime, hanging over the country roads with the soft sunlight filtering through.
  • The smell and taste of one’s favorite flavor of coffee; better yet, sharing it with someone you love.
  • The chance to move my body and work up a sweat while filling my soul with friendship and encouragement before officially starting my work day (even though it unofficially started hours earlier).
  • Opening the door for a stranger for no other reason than “just because.”
  • Choosing not to retaliate with words or gestures when someone cuts you off in traffic (or during the pickup line).
  • The chance to cuddle, curled up with blankets, while watching a favorite movie after working hard all week, enjoying the laughter and memories being made with your family.
  • Listening to your kids interact with each other, knowing this time next year the family dynamics will be drastically different – still good, but different.
  • Having a husband who volunteers to go grocery shopping with you (even though it’s one of his least favorite activities) and then surprising you by taking you to dinner afterwards for a mini date before heading home and working several more hours.
  • Listening to your child share about his day, something he discovered outside, or a new truth he learned at church.
  • Sitting at church, surrounded by your family, worshipping together week after week.

I am reminded often that the little things I tend to take for granted are really the big things. And yet, why do I still rush around, impatient, trying to fit everything in on my “to do” list while ignoring more times than I should the things that are most important?

May I remember to embrace the little things … which are really the big things … and when I’m on my deathbed, are the things that will matter the most.

What “little” things in your life are really your “big” things? I would love for you to share them with me privately or with everyone below.

May we all be on the lookout for at least one “little thing” today and embrace it as the big thing it truly is.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

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“Yes, Please!”

“Every ‘no’ to the flesh is a ‘yes’ to God’s promise.” Pastor Juan Martinez

 

Those of you who have been around this blog for a while know about my struggle with emotional eating … and you also have heard me say that God has been working on healing the inward part of me so that my outward part would be a reflection of that healing.

I had the privilege of meeting Pastor Juan Martinez last fall and while we weren’t talking about emotional eating (or food at all), when he said the above phrase, my unhealthy relationship with food is what immediately came to mind. Because, when it comes to obeying God, while I’m not perfect, this is the one area in life where I have continued to struggle and continued to resist completely surrendering over to Him.

But God isn’t done with me. He knows how much I want to obey and how much my flesh keeps getting in the way, so God used those words to remind me of what I already knew … it’s my choice. Every day I wake up and I have a choice. I can choose to say “no” to my flesh (choose self-control), which is ultimately saying “yes” to God’s blessings, or I could give into my flesh (ignore self-control) and ultimately tell God “No thank You, I don’t want to be blessed by You today.”

A few weeks later, while having improved some in this area, but not fully surrendered my will, God used a Bible verse to further cement this truth for me, again in the area of my unhealthy relationship with food. Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV): “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

This is significant for three reasons. The first is that the context in which I read this verse had nothing to do with food issues. But God used a fiction book which I was reading for enjoyment to add another layer of truth in my soul and remind me once again … I have a choice. Secondly, I love God’s blessings. I want God’s blessings. I try to live my life in a way not to block God’s blessings. Yet, twice in less than a month God is telling me the choice is mine. I can choose whether to have His blessings blocked (choosing “yes” to the flesh and choosing death and curses) or I can choose to have access to His blessings but saying “no” to flesh and “yes” to life and blessings. Third, I love my children fiercely and I take being their mom seriously. When God lays out to me that my choices (and since He was speaking to my soul about food in this instance) in regard to what I put into my mouth will bring about life and blessings or death and curses and those choices affect my children, it changed everything for me. I want to make choices “so that you (me) and your (my) children will live.”

Every day I have been waking up asking myself, “Am I choosing life and blessings today? or am I choosing death and curses? Do I want me and my children to live or do I want to make their life harder by passing on my food issues to them and their children and … ?

I love that God is so persistent. When He knows that we honestly want to obey but are struggling in certain areas, He will provide the tools we need to help us succeed. However, bottom line, it’s still my choice. And my choice? Yes, Please! to life and blessings!

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I spoke about how God had been inviting me for years to minimize and organize our home, making it a place that was inviting to those I loved. I also spoke about how he used three friends, and a book, to motivate me to begin making those necessary changes.

As I began reading The Minimalist Home, it talked about not only creating a home that is inviting by decluttering and organizing, but creating home that invites those who live there to feel loved, protected and nurtured.

God’s been talking to me about that aspect of our home as well and while I’ve been working slowly on decluttering and organizing, I realized I had a few shifts I needed to make in the emotional climate of our home as well.

I’ve been sharing over the past few months that God has been bringing joy back into my life and Eeyore has been kicked out. Despite that subtle shift in my personality, I still have the tendency to “make mountains out of molehills.” In an effort to “train our children toward independence and adulthood,” I’ve realized that I can revert to the “assembly line” mentality more often than I like. Barking orders, making sure the ship is running smoothly, sometimes at the emotional expense of those I love and am called to serve.

I’ve said many times before, my husband is a wonderful example of grace and kindness. He gets his point across, and he holds the line with our kids more firmly than I do at times, but he always uses grace and kindness. I was reminded this week to use more of his grace and kindness to get my point across instead of using the military approach.

I had plenty of opportunities to practice my newfound approach: water jugs that made it out of the store but not safely home, completing one child’s chores two days in a row because the child ran out of time, and blatant disrespect.

I was given the opportunity to remember the motive behind the smashed water jug – the child was trying to help and feelings/emotions are always more important than the added expense and time of buying new water jugs. The child who needs better time management was given grace and many opportunities to rework the schedule in order to be successful. And the disrespect, while still not tolerated, was dealt with in a way to keep an emotional connection between myself and the child while still dealing with the unacceptable behavior.

I love that God cares as much about the emotional atmosphere of our home as the physical environment. While the emotional feel didn’t need as much fine-tuning as the decluttering and organizing, it still benefited from a checkup as well.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

“This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” Titus 3:8 (NIV)

God has been inviting me to organize and minimize our home for quite some time now. Two summers ago, I decided to approach His invitation by pawning it off on our daughter – offering to pay her for organizing our mess. She did an excellent job and earned every single dollar – but when a person isn’t invested in the project because it’s not their clutter, soon the clutter become unmanageable again.

This past summer I decided to take a different approach – this time I enlisted the help of all three kids and I joined in too. We tackled various rooms each week and while we made progress, it still wasn’t the change I wanted. While some areas stayed fairly neat, most of the clutter returned.

God, however, wasn’t finished with me. He knew there was more He wanted to teach me and more He wanted me to learn so that real change could occur. (I love how our Father doesn’t leave us in our messes but continues to work on our hearts until true change takes place.)  He used three different friends’ examples to give me the push I needed to make real progress. He also used a book I have the opportunity to read and review to give additional encouragement and tips on how to declutter and keep it that way. He knows my heart is ready at this point (not last year or two years ago) to learn from others and put into practice the wisdom I’m learning.

None of these friends judged me. None of these friends told me I had to join them in their pursuit of minimizing, organizing, or cleaning. Two of the friends encouraged, invited, and shared how their lives were calmer as a result of their organization projects, and while they encouraged me to jump in as well, there was no condemnation if I didn’t.

So I started with my clothes closet. This was an area I had decided I was going to wait on, but actually, according to one of my friends, the closet is one of the easiest places to start. So I jumped in one Saturday afternoon and tackled only my clothes. Not my husband’s. Not the clutter under the bed or on the shelves, just my clothes. Three garbage bags later, I felt lighter. It really was freeing. I found clothes I forgot I had. The clothes that remained were organized and all had a spot in a drawer or the closet. Then life happened and we got busy and it was three weeks before I returned to our bedroom to continue the project. This time I tackled the other half of the closet floor and under the bed. Three more garbage bags later, our room feels even better. I have probably one or two more projects left in our bedroom to take care of, and then it will be finished.

The work that was accomplished almost a month ago is still neat and tidy. By keeping only what fits in the space, everything has a place and it’s easy to put it away. All of this sounds like simple wisdom, but it was a heart change that made the difference. Creating a home that creates an environment of peace for my loved ones became more important to me than trying to find room for stuff. I also put off beginning this project because of the amount of work it would take, but now that I’ve started, I’m loving the results and that motivates me to create that safe haven, the place of rest in the remaining rooms in our house.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

Teach Initiative

“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:39 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I shared about how working as an administrative assistant has given me the confidence to learn how to take initiative on my job and that has translated into other areas of my life as well.

Today I want to talk about another similar topic, one equally important in my opinion, and that is learning how to teach initiative to others. While one cannot force another person to step up and work with excellence, take pride in a job well done, or work with a strong work ethic, the “person in charge” is in charge to an extent of the atmosphere in which its employees work.

Most everyone, I’m sure, has experience being a part of a positive work environment as well as being a member of a negative work environment and I’m sure, if asked, could list off the pros and cons of each place.

In my opinion, as the mother of our household, it’s my responsibility to create a positive environment overall in our home and that translates as well into the area of chores and responsibilities. It’s my calling to train our children in the areas of the house that I am responsible for running smoothly – which include laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, and cooking. Our kids have their assigned chores and overall our house runs fairly well; however, as I was thinking about the way I’ve gained confidence over the past few years, I asked myself if I was instilling that same confidence in our kids or if they had instead been taught from the standpoint of, “This is your direction, do it.”

We have busy lives, just like everyone else who’s reading this. A lot on our plate and a lot of balls we’re trying to keep juggling in the air. I soon (sadly) realized for the sake of “time,” and probably some laziness on my part too, I was more of a “drill sergeant” barking orders that I expected to be followed instead of someone who encouraged my children to look at a problem and figure out how to solve it themselves in a way that made the most sense to them.

I have decided I want to try and teach initiative instead. Since I’m relatively new at taking initiative myself, I might need a lot of grace and will have a few false starts and stops, but I believe that is the more biblical approach to parenting then my previous dictatorship has been. And more than anything, I want to model the type of relationship Jesus would approve of with my kids and my spouse.

For me, I had to learn how to take initiative before I could begin to embrace learning how to teach it. And while it won’t look perfect at the beginning, I hope with time it will become a regular part of our family dynamic.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

Take Initiative

“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.” Isaiah 32:17 (NIV)

 

I’ve always been good at following directions. I’m the youngest in the family and was raised by all “oldests,” so following directions comes naturally to me in most areas. However, three years ago when I started working as an administrative assistant, my employer was appreciative when I would take initiative to solve a problem instead of waiting to ask, halting the flow of the work that needed to be accomplished. My theory was, it’s better to ask first than to do it wrong because it’s easier to do it right the first time than to go back and fix it later. After three years, though, I’m learning the benefit of taking the initiative and then even if mistakes happen, I’ve at least started the process.

I didn’t realize I was learning and putting those life skills into practice until I started volunteering at our son’s school. I have been blessed to have a job where I can go in occasionally and help out in our son’s classroom from time to time. As a result, I’ve had the privilege of serving a variety of different teachers. As my confidence has grown through my job, I am learning to put that “taking initiative attitude” to good use not just on my job but in life in general. Instead of interrupting the teacher every five minutes while she’s teaching to answer questions, I am learning to make the best decision possible and then letting her know afterwards in case I need to tweak what I did.

However, just as I’m not the boss of the company I work for and I’m not the teacher in charge of the classroom, never would I think to wake up one morning and take initiative without first taking instructions. Once I’ve been given the task to complete, then my initiative is welcomed and appreciated to finish the job in a timely manner.

I think the same principle can be applied in our relationship with God. Our Father wants us to first come to Him and ask what our assignment is; then it is up to us to take the instructions we’ve been given (sometimes spelled out exactly and sometimes only one step at a time) and then fulfill them to the best of our ability. When we do that, we please our Father the same way I pleased my boss and those teachers I was fortunate to serve.

For me, it took building my confidence, and making quite a few mistakes, before I was able to finish stronger, smarter and with more positive results than my first few attempts. Thank goodness for grace from my employer, my teacher friends and especially from God when I want to be obedient and fulfill the assignment He gave; yet somehow mixed up the instructions and created a big mess instead.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

“himself firmly over his kingdom, for the Lord his God was with him and made him exceedingly great” II Chronicles 1:1 (NIV)

 

I noticed something this morning when I was hanging the laundry outside and chatting with God. I was telling Him about my problems, issues that while not insurmountable, seemed big to me, but really, in the grand scheme of things, could be issues only for a season or two. And it was during that prayer time I realized, I’ve been going about my conversations with God all wrong.

Instead of praying for resolution from the symptoms, I needed to start praying earnestly for resolution of the root problem. For instance, instead of me praying for God to help me lose weight and exercise regularly, I need to ask God to reveal to me why I turn to food instead of Him when happy, sad, angry, worried, excited … Once He reveals to me the root of the problem, then I can ask for healing from that, and the symptoms will slowly disappear.

God brought King Solomon to mind. II Chronicles 1 tells the story of King Solomon establishing “himself firmly over his kingdom, for the Lord his God was with him and made him exceedingly great” (verse 1, NIV). A little while later, God comes to King Solomon and tells him in verse 7, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” And instead of asking for help out of financial problems, a new wife, more cattle, he chose … wisdom and knowledge because it was his desire to lead well the people God entrusted to him.

As a result, because he was humble and didn’t ask for selfish desires, God gave him wisdom, knowledge AND riches; in fact, he has been described as the wealthiest person ever recorded … ever.

By remembering King’s Solomon’s story, I realized whatever problem I was complaining about to God (and there were several this particular morning), I needed to ask Him for what was really important … a heart change. God showed me when my heart changed and I desired to be more like Him daily, all the symptoms I was complaining about above would slowly disappear.

Financial issues? If my heart is aligned with God’s, then I will want to stay within our family budget, get rid of debt and be able to bless others more with our excess instead of living paycheck to paycheck. Eating issues? Same – if my heart truly wants to obey God’s principles, then I will learn how to live within the boundaries of self-control, giving up my love of food for the overwhelming love I have for my Father. Fill in the blank with whatever problem you are facing today and the answer will be the same.

God used King Solomon’s story to remind me about what is truly important … and when I ask for that, the rest will always fall into place.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019