Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2013

Admiration: “an emotion excited by a person or thing possessed of wonderful or high excellence.” (taken from Wiktionary).

Respect: “good opinion, honor, or admiration” (taken from Wiktionary).

As usually happens, when I ask God to start peeling back the layers in me that need to be fixed, He brings to light exactly the area He wants me to work on.  I normally have an extraordinarily large amount of patience, but when stressed, upset, or burned out, my edges can get a little rough.  It’s something that until recently I wasn’t completely aware of, but since God has brought it to my attention, I don’t like it, and I see it’s an area I need to improve upon.  I actually thought I was justified in my approach (just being a firm parent) until I started hearing my “arguments” replayed between my children and realized how ridiculous I sounded.  They were matching me tone for tone, word for word, and I didn’t like what I was hearing.  Instead of hearing gentle reminders or kind words of explanation or even firm directions without being drawn into an argument, I heard exaggerations and idle threats: “Do you want to pay $500 to replace the vacuum because mom will take it out of your allowance!”  (How’s that for one child pitting me against the other?)

It brought back a conversation I had with my husband recently (I love how God shows me these things from more than one source).  We were talking about keeping the big picture in mind despite the daily drama.  Why allow myself to get stressed and throw out idle threats when a calm response is more effective?  If I want to be seen as someone my children should honor, then I’m solely responsible for the image I portray.  It also reminded me of a phrase I use with my kids a lot but need to take to heart more often:  “You aren’t in charge of anyone else’s actions, only your reactions.”  Ouch!

Last year I wrote a blog about respect and the role it plays in marriage.  (Here’s the link to read that blog en toto: https://journeysfromtheheartofawifeandmother.wordpress.com/ 2012/04/22/respect-not-just-a-verb/)  I spoke about how important it is to respect whom you’re dating because those same characteristics will continue into marriage.  This year I want to address a similar virtue:  Admiration.

If you look at the above sentences, admiration is part of the definition of respect.  That’s how I think of admiration and respect – you can’t have one without the other.  I have found if I respect someone, I already admire them.  I’ll go so far as to say that admiration first gets my attention, and when appropriate, turns into respect after a relationship is built.

My husband is a great example of someone I admire and respect.  That’s why I have started following his approach to help me smooth out my rough edges.  He’s a great example of keeping the level of drama to a minimum.  He reacts appropriately to the situation:  Spilled milk is a minor inconvenience that requires a few towels and maybe an extra load of laundry while bad grades as a result of not studying require a little more intervention.  Deliberate lying or disobeying takes on a far more serious consequence than mutual roughhousing resulting in some bumps and bruises on a sibling.

It doesn’t stop there.  He is admirable not only in the way he treats me, but his expectations of how our kids treat me as well.  He’s quick to put a stop to their disrespect or rude behavior when directed at each other or their mom instead of letting it reach mammoth proportions that require a bigger consequence.  However, his way of intervening mixes the perfect blend of, “I’m not going to tolerate it” firmness with “but I still care about your feelings” gentleness.

My admiration for his character bleeds over into his other relationships – with extended family, friends, co-workers, and strangers.  My husband makes it a rule to treat others with the same respect that he wants shown to himself.  As a result, he’s a great example for our children to follow:  Our sons are learning how to be real men and our daughter is learning how she should be treated by her future boyfriends/spouse (if we allow her to date, that is).  He’ll go out of his way to clean up a mess, help out a friend, or take a few extra minutes to do something the right way just because it’s the right thing to do.  Instead of complaining if the house has become a disaster, expecting me to keep it “company ready” at all time, he’ll roll up his sleeves, without saying a word, and deep clean whatever needs the most attention.

I have always considered my husband to possess a gentle strength and the above descriptions are great examples.  Between the two of us, I’m much more impulsive, react with my emotions first and logic afterwards, and at times speak before figuring out the right way to approach something.  He, on the other hand, is slow to speak, carefully weighing his words and how they will affect others, making sure to use the most positive spin in even the most awkward situations.  He and I can tell our children the same thing, yet I’m always amazed at how much better he says it then me.  I can’t tell you how many times I have stopped and admired the way he phrases a request to where the child listening almost wants to do the chore because of the way he presented it.

I would like to encourage you today.  If you have someone in your life, a spouse, a significant other, or even a friend that you admire, what are some ways you can tell them verbally how much you appreciate them?  That special someone in your life would probably love to hear how much they are admired.

I’m grateful my husband is such a wonderful example for our family.  We’ll all reap the benefits as he helps me smooth my rough edges, in his very gentle way, I might add.

DSCN3732

Copyright: 2013 Cheri Swalwell

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 (NIV).

In our family, I make dinner and therefore, my children help out by being responsible to clean up afterwards.  This usually allows me to finish up my work for the night as well as lay things out so our morning runs more smoothly.

About a month ago, one of my children was in a hurry and as a result, when putting away the leftovers in the downstairs refrigerator, failed to make sure the door closed all the way.  Ten hours later, when my husband went downstairs to feed the dog, he found the door wide open.  My first response was to be upset.  I had overheard the conversation between our two oldest the night before and I knew care hadn’t been taken when putting the leftovers away.  The job was done haphazardly, so I pointed out to the child responsible all actions have consequences.  When you do a good job, you reap the positive consequences.  When you do a halfhearted job, you reap those consequences too.  I further explained sometimes the consequences that are received affect the entire family instead of just yourself.  I didn’t stay upset, but I wanted to make sure my child understood that always doing our best is important.

Fast forward not even two hours and I received my third email that week from my boss informing me of yet another mistake I made.  The first mistake I made was three days earlier and was a mistake that could have had serious implications had my boss not caught it for me.  The second two were a series of misunderstandings and thankfully, very minor.  However, the point was…my words to my child came back to haunt me.  As much as my husband and I try to teach our children to become responsible, independent adults, they need to see mom and dad mess up too sometimes, despite good intentions.

As a result of the emails from my boss, I needed to step back and see what I could eliminate from my busy schedule.  I was making careless errors because I was trying to wear too many hats at the same time when what I really needed was to slow down, step back, and take a breath.  I’m much more alert and precise when I’m rested and when I give my full attention to whatever task I’m working on at that particular time.  Most importantly, when I invite God into every aspect of my life, He’s quick to show me my mistakes and help me perform at a more optimal level.

I love when God works that way.  He allows me to see that even when I’m teaching my children a lesson, He reminds me I need to continually work on the same principles as well.  By realizing as a parent I’m here to guide my children and help them navigate their way into adulthood instead of standing over them with an iron fist and rigid rules, it opens up the door for better communication.  It also gives me an opportunity to show them by my imperfections how to pick myself back up, brush myself off, and learn something from my mistakes instead of wallowing in self pity, and a “I’ll never get it” attitude.

I was left with this thought.  Just as I didn’t set out to make careless mistakes my boss had to fix, more than likely my child didn’t deliberately set out to ruin the leftovers.  My child was preoccupied and didn’t think about checking to make sure the refrigerator door was closed before coming back upstairs the same way I was preoccupied with too many other things to realize my work was suffering as a result.

Just as my Heavenly Father loves me enough to remind me during those times I mess up that I’m still valuable and wonderful and perfect in His eyes, I wanted my child to receive that same message from me.  I decided since leftovers were out of the question (we had to throw them away), why not make something fun for dinner instead?  While I was out, I bought each child their favorite candy bar as a special treat.  Not as a reward for making a mistake, but as a tangible example I think they’re pretty special, even when they mess up.

Mistakes happen to us all.  It’s my job as the mother, the heart of my home, to view them with a healthy perspective.  And really, who wouldn’t rather have pizza than leftover soup?  However, if my refrigerator door mysteriously starts staying open every time I make soup…there may be some ‘splainin’ that needs to be done.

 

DSCN3729

Copyright: 2013 Cheri Swalwell

Read Full Post »

“Studies show that families who eat dinner together on a regular basis tend to produce offspring who are happier, healthier, and oftentimes more successful.” (OnlineClasses.org).

 

I had the privilege recently of connecting with a reader, Alison M., who came across my blog and the post titled, The Gift of Family Dinners.  She introduced me to research that she and some fellow designers put together regarding the impact that regular family dinners have on teens and their relationships with their parents.  I have included the link to the article and would encourage you to click over and take a look for yourselves: http://www.onlineclasses.org/2013/01/14/family-dinners/ (Credit given to OnlineClasses.org).

I have spoken before about how family dinners have impacted my life, and now I want to share a little how they continue to positively influence the lives of our kids.  We currently are raising a middle schooler who will soon cross over to his teen years with his sister very close behind, and a much younger one who is watching and learning and taking in everything his older siblings do.  My husband and I stress the import role they have as models to their youngest brother, even though the ultimate responsibility of modeling belongs to my husband and me.

Take family dinners for example.  It is my responsibility as the wife and mother, the heart of our home, to create an atmosphere that is pleasant, welcoming, nurturing, and accepting.  That doesn’t mean that issues of obedience are never discussed and consequences never applied, but even during those “not-so-fun” experiences, my prayer is our house is one where once our kids are grown and living on their own, they will want to come back, knowing our door is always open and they are always welcome.

Our children are blessed to have the dad they do.  He can turn an ordinary meal into an extraordinary experience with his personality, humor, and creativity.  We have had more inside family jokes begin during dining experiences than I could count, but he also knows how to get to the heart of the matter as well.  Our kids look up to their dad and he knows how to mix just the right balance of love and firm discipline to help them achieve their best.  He’s slow to speak, making sure when he does talk, it’s something that will positively impact their lives.  He’s also terrific at modeling his love for me to our kids and gives examples on a daily basis of how to treat a future spouse (to our sons) or how a woman should be treated (to our daughter).

This past December, from two separate people, I received “Conversation in a box” cards.  You can imagine how excited I was about getting these! First of all, it touched me these individuals know me so well and how much I would love such a gift, and second, it was an opportunity for our family to grow our family dinners to the “next level,” and talk about deeper topics than our usual questions about our day, etc.

Our house is pretty evenly divided with three males (who are not as excited about sharing their feelings) to two female (who love to talk).  I have to say, these cards are a great way to get us talking, laughing, and enjoying our mealtimes instead of focusing on who won’t eat their vegetables, how to get the three-year-old to stay seated for more than five minutes, or whose turn it is to wash, dry, and put away.  They vary from serious topics (name something you’re afraid of and why) to more casual, fun activities (an altered version of twenty questions).  I’ve been pleasantly surprised how everyone has gotten into the fun of the game and the answers shared have been at times predictable, sometimes funny, and other times very endearing.  I’m learning things about my husband and my kids I never knew and it has opened up the line of communication for more in-depth conversations about important topics.

Another dinnertime activity has been to start a “blessings list.” I bought a simple notebook at the store, and several times a week (at this point it’s random, but I hope to become more consistent with it) we’ll pull out the notebook and write down one or two things each family member is thankful for.  I wanted to find a positive way to get our focus off what went wrong during the day and instead realize how much we have to be thankful for.  No matter what the blessing listed, it’s a chance for all of us to stop and consider how much we truly have and too often take for granted.

As our kids continue to grow and change, I want to keep family dinners as a place for us to come together after a long, busy day to reconnect.  We’re still fortunate to be able to eat dinner with my in-laws once a week and my kids still prefer her cooking to mine.  That’s okay – if I were honest, my cooking skills leave a lot of room for improvement.  (I can bake a mean brownie, but my poor husband has to eat crunchy potatoes and undercooked rice.)  I love it when we get to share meals with any of our extended family, love to share recipes, eat dishes that we don’t get to enjoy on a regular basis, and just soak in the fellowship with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.  Each experience gives us one more memory to share.

We only have a limited amount of time to positively influence our kids while they’re still living under our roof.  I want to take full advantage of the opportunities God provides to pour into their lives as much as possible.  I don’t want them leaving our house without knowing how important they are and how each one has a special purpose for their lives designed by the Creator Himself.  If they leave fully embracing that truth, I’ll feel as though I did my job well.

No matter how your family spends their dinnertimes, as long as it’s together, taking time to connect with each other, that’s what counts.  Laughter makes life better and when kids know they’re accepted, loved, encouraged, and supported along the path toward adulthood, it makes a big difference in their outlook on life.  I know that the above article encouraged me our family is heading in the right direction.  I would love to encourage your family along the path as well.  Thank you, Alison M., for writing in and connecting with me and our friends.

100_1044

Copyright: 2013 Cheri Swalwell

Read Full Post »

Absolutely!

“…because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:12 (NIV).

My mother told me when we were growing up, she and my dad always tried to say yes as often as possible, so that their “no” carried more weight when it needed to be applied.  My aunt, several years later, offered me that same advice when I started having children – “say yes as often as you can, so when you have to say no, it’s more potent.”  I also worked at a residential facility for troubled children for a period of time in college, and we were instructed on how to phrase the directions that needed to be given in a more positive light instead of just saying, “Do this, do that,” or “No, you can’t.”

Since raising my own children, I find when they ask for something, more often than not, I try to accentuate the positive in my response.  When asked if they can have a snack, I will answer, “Absolutely, just as soon as you finish your dinner.”  When asked if they can watch TV, the response they get is, “Absolutely, as soon as you have vacuumed the house.”  When a request is made to go play with friends, the response is, (that’s right, you guessed it), “Absolutely!  As soon as your room is clean using my standards.”  By stating it that way, my goal is to keep my kids motivated on the prize and not thinking only about the work that first must be accomplished.  To encourage, not discourage.

Even though I was given great advice from my mom, my aunt, and my supervisors at the residential facility, God has been showing me that example in His Word for years.  There are many times in the Bible God gives explicit instructions like, “You shall not murder, You shall not steal, and You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God…” (Exodus 20: 7, 13, and 15, NIV).   However, there are also countless times in the Bible when God gives us instructions in life, but He phrases them in such a way that we see the positive outcome of obeying instead of focusing on what we have to give up.  “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you,” (Exodus 20:12, NIV) is just one great example.  Instead of telling us to quit disrespecting our parents, He shares with us the blessing we’ll receive if we choose to honor them instead with our words and our actions.  Ephesians 4:32 is another great example.  He encourages us to be kind and compassionate to one other, reminding us that He, Himself did the very same thing for us, which is another blessing we are promised.

Yes, there’ll always be times as a parent that we need to just get our point across: “Stop!” (if our child is running into a busy street or parking lot), “No, you aren’t going to the party if there is no adult supervision,” or “You can’t drive the car because you haven’t earned our trust.”  There are multiple times in God’s word where telling us no and expecting us to obey “just because” are found as well.  But, as with effective parenting, when we cushion as much as we can between positives, focusing on the reward and not on what is being given up, then the times God tells me “no” becomes easier to swallow.  I can trust that He’s not out to ruin my fun, but in fact, He’s trying to protect me, probably even from my own selfishness.

And, just as when I love the times that I can wholeheartedly tell my children, “Absolutely!” to a request they make with no strings attached or no prerequisite required, I think that God loves to be able to tell us “Absolutely!” simply as a reward for our obedience.

Copyright: 2013 Cheri Swalwell

Read Full Post »

Trust

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9 (NIV)

As I was giving our three-year-old a bath, I couldn’t help but think about trust.  It was time to wash his hair and I was thinking about how easy this part of the process had become.  Around age two, when his vocabulary was becoming more advanced, washing his hair had become a bit of a struggle.  It took several months of consistent reassurance and establishing a routine to make getting his hair wet a fun experience.

I had to establish a level of trust with him. Trust I wouldn’t let too much water get in his eyes, trust I would wipe the water away that did trickle down his face, trust he wasn’t going to drown when leaning back in the water, etc.  By repeatedly assuring him he was safe and I wouldn’t let him get hurt, he was able to relax.  Only then could he truly enjoy his bath with fun songs, games, or just generally be silly because the fear had been completely eliminated and the trust firmly in place.

Isn’t that how it is with other relationships we have?  We don’t automatically trust someone when we go out with them on a first date.  It takes weeks, sometimes years of positive experiences to truly have a “best friend” you can trust with your secrets, passions, and children.  Even in a work environment, it takes time to establish a trust relationship with co-workers and with your superiors.  What about church?  Some people come from backgrounds where trust with any religious affiliation has been broken or damaged, so to set foot in a church again (even if it’s a completely different location, state, or denomination), it takes a certain amount of trust to press forward through the fear.

Just as it takes time to establish a relationship with other people, it takes time to establish a level of trust with God.  The way to learn to trust God is very similar to trusting humans.  We need to spend time with Him, reading the Bible and finding out what He thinks about certain situations.  We need to spend time in prayer, talking to Him about our feelings as well as sitting quietly and allowing Him to speak to our hearts.  We need to make time in our lives to get to know God, and ask Him for help.  Then we need to trust while we wait and see how He’ll deliver.

It’s a given fact people make mistakes and they will, despite their best intentions, let us down at some point.  It will happen.  Sadly, some people lump God into that category and believe when bad things happen to us in life, God is to blame.  They draw the false conclusion He can’t be trusted either.  However, God is a God of love and even though He’s a just God and can’t allow evil to prevail (wrongs will be righted), He doesn’t sit up on His throne and randomly make some people’s lives miserable while allowing others to seemingly sail through life unaffected by trauma.   I can’t answer why some people seem to suffer continuously on Earth while others seem to barely struggle at all.  But, I do know God isn’t up in Heaven with a golden ceptor, randomly waving it around depending on His mood.  God doesn’t show favoritism and is so filled with compassion and love for all humanity, the Bible says He loves us all the same.  In Psalm 56:8, we are told that God, “… (keeps) track of my every toss and turn  through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book. (The Message).

The above doesn’t describe Someone who rejoices when we suffer, inflicts suffering on us, or is Someone untrustworthy.  No, the above verse describes Someone who loves us so much that when we’re hurting, He collects our tears in a bottle and records our every heartache.

Trust comes more easily for some but can be a real struggle for others.  I happen to be in the latter category.  I have trust issues I’ve been working on for years.  I didn’t trust my husband easily when we first started dating, and sadly learned that I didn’t automatically trust God either when my world turned upside down.  I tried my husband’s patience countless times when we were dating and then after we got married when my “distrust default button” would rear its ugly head.  Thankfully, God has even more patience with me than my ever-patient husband when I automatically go to my default button with Him.

From personal experience, I know when I turn to God when I’m hurting or devastated from something tragic in this world, He will comfort me.  Whether through a friend, family member, devotional, piece of Scripture, or something else I know is His personal message meant just for me at that particular time.  The more I practice trusting, the more God proves I can depend on Him, and the faster and faster I turn to trusting God when bad things happen instead of running away from Him, shutting down, or worst yet, getting angry He allowed something bad to happen to me.

I’m also slowly learning that even when bad things happen (and they will as long as I live on this Earth), if I’m quick to praise Him despite the circumstances (not necessarily for the circumstances), the quicker I’m able to see the good that can come out of an otherwise bad situation.  God inevitably will always get the glory, and because of that, we can trust Him with the final outcome, even if the circumstances in between are less than ideal.

DSCN0467

Copyright: 2013 Cheri Swalwell

Read Full Post »

UPDATE ON CONTEST:

Happy Friday Again, Friends:

I’ll be the first to admit.  Things make more sense in my head sometimes than when I write them down.  Thank goodness for proofreading.  Although, this time it got away from me.

For the contest giveaway earlier today, I think I made it more confusing than it is.  So, here’s the short and sweet version:

1.  Invite a friend to “like” my Author Facebook page. 2.  Once they have actually “liked” my page, either you (or your friend) comment in the section below.  Include your name, your friend’s name, and an email address for me to contact you if you are the winners. 3.  The winners will be picked randomly after Friday, April 19th, and then I will send the winner an email at the address provided so both people can pick which book you would like me to send.

If you have any questions about how it works, feel free to ask in the comment section.  After all, we’re all friends here, right?

Thanks to my friends who help me make sense to others when what’s in my brain doesn’t come out the right way.  I appreciate you!

 

DSCN3701

Read Full Post »

Happy Friday Friends:

 

I was thinking I would love to connect with more people via my Author Facebook page and came up with a fun way to do that.  For one week, I will run a contest.  From today, April 12th through Friday, April 19th, if you invite someone to like my page and they do, please put your name along with your friend’s name in the comment section, and you will be automatically entered.  Don’t forget to include your email address so I have a way to contact you to send you your prize.

 

Here is the link to my Facebook page in case you aren’t a friend yet either.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/cheri-Swalwell

 

If you are new to my Facebook page, feel free to invite your friends along, but you are welcome to add your name in the comment section to let me know you are new and you will be entered to win a devotional of your choice.  Don’t forget your email address so I can contact you if you are the winner.

 

I have two devotionals out:  A 40-Day Habit Between Friends: Taking it to the Next Level and A 40-Day Habit Between Friends: Because They Need You. You and your friend will have a chance to choose between either book if you win. The winners will be chosen randomly and unfortunately, I have to limit the winners of the devotionals to U.S. residents only.

 

However, if my non-US resident friends would like to join in the fun, I will be happy to send you a collection of devotions via email.  In the comment section put NON US RESIDENT:  then your name, the name of your friend, and your email address.  I will hold a separate drawing for all of you.

 

Now, there is an extra twist that makes winning a devotional even better.  My books are getting a facelift.  Same great content inside; but the covers will be changed, as well as the title tweaked slightly.  So…if you want a chance to get one of the vintage books before the new titles come out, here is your opportunity!

 

Thanks for your help and I hope you have fun playing.

DSCN3701

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »