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Archive for October, 2013

What Faith Looks Like

“Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd: “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works.” When the messengers got back home, they found the servant up and well” Luke 7:9-10 (The Message).

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I’m struggling today. And yesterday. And the day before that. However, I’m determined not to struggle (as much) tomorrow. I’ve shared with you my faith journey for the past two years and how I was stretched this past summer to reveal what true faith looks like. God has brought me and my family through quite a bit, and for that I’m incredibly grateful. However, I’m still struggling and to make matters worse, I’m disappointed in myself for those struggles

I’ll explain more about that shortly, but first I want to talk about a passage that keeps drawing my attention in Luke 7:1-10, about the Centurion. There was a centurion, who was of Roman descent, not Jewish lineage, who had a sick servant. The centurion asked for elders of the Jews to go to Jesus and ask him to come and heal this servant whom he valued very highly. Jesus listened to the elders’ request and agreed. Before Jesus reached the officer’s home, some friends were sent to intercept Jesus. Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (NIV). And you know what Jesus’ response was? Luke 7:9-10 says, ’I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’ Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well” (NIV).

I love the centurion’s statement of faith, but even more I love Jesus’ response. I’m struggling in my own life right now because I want to be the centurion. I want to have faith in God so strong that it never waivers, despite circumstances that threaten to scream louder.

As I spoke about last time, this past summer I was warned I’d be losing a significant chunk of my income within six to eight weeks. That should have given me enough time to find something to replace what I’d be losing. Even though I tried many different avenues, and even surrendered my desires completely to God and what He wanted me to do, the doors remained closed. Despite the deadline approaching closer with no real prospects, or at least no prospects that would result in immediate income, God’s peace continued to whisper I was doing what He was asking of me. He had given me Exodus 14:13-14 this past spring and I was daily clinging to the promise of that particular passage, to stand firm and let God deliver our family from these circumstances.

The day of the deadline I asked God to give me some reassurance I was truly walking in His direction, not being lazy, and not procrastinating. I needed to know I was obeying His will and pursuing the path He had chosen for our family at this particular time, even though most of what I was hearing was “wait”. Come back next time to hear how God answered.

Have you experienced times in your life when you thought you were obeying God’s voice, but circumstances don’t seem to be changing quickly?

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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“Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given” John 1:16 (NIV).

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August 8th came and I still had no idea how God was going to provide. I just knew He would. It’s been over a month now and God has provided enough to supply our needs. Instead of focusing on how our bills will be paid, God has filled me with peace. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have times of panic, but they are shorter in duration and don’t rear up as often.

That’s how it works when we submit to God’s authority. Sometimes we have to walk through unpleasant times, but when we submit to our Father, it’s actually fun to see the results. I’m learning to love letting go and giving God full control, knowing His end product is much better than any plan I could devise on my own. But, the first step has to be submitting to His ways, His plans, and His time. And, I’m finding that I usually have to submit before I see any tangible evidence of the outcome.

So, that’s why this summer we chose to tackle the difficult task of teaching submission to our children. Are we still dealing with it? At the time I’m writing this, yes, but we are seeing definite growth. Isn’t that how it is in life? It usually takes lots of practice in order for something to become second nature. Just as I am still learning how to fully submitting to God in all situations, our children have the opportunity to practice submission to us as their parents for quite a few more years.  Our prayer is that by learning to submit to us, they will learn to fully trust God.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!” Proverbs 3:5-7 (The Message).

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Last time we were together we talked about the issue of submission. It’s not a coincidence that during the summer while dealing with this issue as a parent, God asked me submit to Him on a deeper level. I believe God wanted me to grow in the area of trust, and He used my job as a way to cement that teaching. Late June I found out my income would be lessened significantly in six weeks. My first reaction was a panic attack.  However, God had something better in mind for me than that. I’d learned a few months ago to praise God even when things looked bleak, so that’s what I did. After praising Him for an opportunity for something better, without knowing any specifics, I asked for peace while I waited. During the downtime, I still panicked some and had many conversations with my Father about what I was willing and not willing to do. I reminded Him I didn’t want to work outside the home because my desire is to be a stay-at-home mom, but if He wanted me to do Plan A, B, or C, that would work into my schedule fairly well.

However, the more I trusted God had a plan and His plan would be for my good, it was easier to submit and say, “Your will, Lord, not mine.” I remember about two weeks before my “official last day,” putting my hands up and saying, “Whatever You want me to do, Lord, I’m willing. It’s not about what I want. You know my desires better than I do.” The amazing part about my prayer was I became excited to give it all over to Him and watch Him work. I didn’t grudgingly say words I was supposed to; no, with a grateful heart I willingly submitted to God’s plan. That full submission even included peace about employment outside the home. I trusted if that was His plan for our family, He’d work out the details.

Has there ever been a time in your life when you had to submit to God but were afraid? What were the results?

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

 

 

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“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” Proverbs 16:3 (NIV).

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Through the long summer of providing opportunities to learn about proper submission, not only to us as parents but ultimately to God, I learned a few lessons myself. I learned to appreciate how God gives us plenty of practice. I learned even as an adult, submission to God and to others continues to be a lifestyle. And I learned the sooner I submit, the easier the path will be (usually) than if I fight to hold onto (perceived) control. I also learned many tears can be involved as our spirit of not wanting to submit is removed and we finally obey God (or others) with a willing heart. Just as with our child, the outcome isn’t a broken spirit, it’s a submissive spirit. There is a difference.

I still want said child to be the terrific person I see in front of me. I’m not trying to squash the independence, energy, or enthusiasm for life. I just want said child to realize when we willingly lay down our agenda and say, “Your will, Lord, not mine,” how much easier life will be. God doesn’t ask us to submit our will to punish us or devise ways to make our life more miserable. On the contrary, when we submit our lives to God and willingly allow Him to guide us where He wants, our lives are better as a result.

Next time I will share how God used the lesson we were trying to instill in our child to help me walk through a trial that was around the corner.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

 

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  1. “God is a God of order. God doesn’t think His order is the ‘right way’ or the ‘best way’ – He thinks it’s the only way!” (Robert Morris).

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This summer my husband and I were given a choice. We could either take the easy way out and “keep peace,” or tackle a behavior that on the outside looked annoying and innocent, but had a longer lasting potential for disaster. We chose the latter.

One child in particular was refusing to submit to our authority. Modern society could argue that it wasn’t really an issue of not obeying our rules, instead said child was just trying out independence. It was a natural step in the “breaking free” process. Or maybe our child was just a born leader and therefore submitting to parental authority was something that didn’t come naturally. On the contrary. My mother heart knew differently. I knew we weren’t dealing with a clever child trying to get out of doing chores or fine-tuning some terrific lawyer skills. No, we were dealing with a heart issue.

How did I know this, you might ask? By examining the heart behind the words. Said child debated everything. From chores to food to hobbies. It didn’t matter what the issue or request. This particular child wanted to be in charge and resented having to submit to anyone. My husband and I realized, though, we want our children to learn the important lessons while still living at home. We realized if our children can’t learn to submit to our authority, people who are seen and heard and felt, then they would continue to struggle submitting to God’s authority. It was shown very clearly to us, it’s our job to guide regarding submission. Our children have the choice whether or not to accept the teaching, but our job nevertheless was to instruct.

Do you have a similar issue in your life? If so, how have you handled it, or how are you handing it currently?

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:37 (NIV).

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So how did I succeed embracing the interruptions in life instead of letting life dictate what happened? First, I prayed and asked God to help realign my priorities with His. Just as some people are born to have a career, I’ve always had a deep desire to stay home and raise our family.  But, I’d need to juggle some form of a career while having that privilege. I’m blessed to have a steady income while working toward a career that was more in line with my gifts and talents. However, at times, this transition phase was crazy! My heart wanted one-on-one talks and dates with my husband, but I was met with deadlines and turn-around- times that left me exhausted. I spent more quality time with work than with those I worked to provide for.

Once I prayed and asked God for a solution to my insane schedule, I waited. I continued to work to the best of my ability, and praised God for a solution, as I knew He would give it in His time. The answer began sooner than I thought and certainly not in the way I expected. I love God’s sense of humor!

In addition, while I waited for God to direct me His way, I began to have a heart change. I realized I needed to change the way I viewed life. I needed to embrace the interruptions, because, in actuality, some of life’s greatest moments occur when we least expect it. Letting work sit for a few more hours so I could enjoy a lunch date with my mom; agreeing to tackle a home project with my daughter while she shared with me some struggles; or popping some popcorn, picking a movie, and snuggling up as a family for a night of laughs. These were some of the things I hadn’t allowed myself to enjoy because I was too busy checking off my “to do” list. It took me realizing how replaceable I am at work and irreplaceable with those I love to see the reality of how misplaced my priorities had become.

I thanked God He gave me the desire to obey Him and that He helped make possible the shift I needed to realign my priorities in the correct order.

Does this mean I automatically get it right all the time? No! There are still deadlines and responsibilities that loom large. However, when I put God first and ask for His help to juggle work, finances, and other tasks, I’m rewarded with a pleasant surprise. I actually enjoy life’s interruptions because that means I’m living the life God intended.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

 

 

 

 

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“The legacy of your life will not be judged by how many emails you responded to or how well you maximized your lunch break. It will be measured, I believe, by how interruptible you were.”  (Jeff Goins)

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In 2013, God gave me the word moderation. For three quarters of the year, I struggled trying to grasp what moderation meant in a world with three children, two-and-a-half jobs, extracurricular activities, and a love of reading. I knew I needed adequate sleep, healthy food, and a chance to move my body on a regular basis. How was I supposed to do the above and meet deadlines, find time to date my husband, be there emotionally and physically for my kids, and spend quality time growing my relationship with God? And shouldn’t my relationship with God be first and not relegated to whenever it fits?

God used a series of events all year to gently show me what exactly defines an interruption. I wrote previously in “So Many Hats” about where my priorities need to be; however, knowing that truth and being able to put it into practice on a daily basis were two different things. I came to the realization I never wanted my relationship with God, my interactions with my family, and my health to become inconveniences with work receiving my best. I knew I needed to make some serious changes to keep my priorities in line with what God’s word instructs. However, I didn’t know how to do that since life continued to travel at breakneck speed. I didn’t think I could afford to slow down long enough to jump off.

It was then I realized God gave certain instructions for our life for a reason. He doesn’t tell us to rest on the Sabbath to keep us from having fun. No, He knows our bodies need a chance to truly relax in order to rejuvenate and enjoy good health. By allowing both our minds and our bodies to stop at least one day a week, we have a chance to truly rest and feel less stress. (Genesis 2:2-3). When we let go of anger and learn to forgive grievances quickly, our bodies and our minds are free to live peacefully instead of in turmoil. When we learn how to separate ourselves from our job and enjoy a relationship with God first, then healthy relationships with friends and family, I’ve found life is more enjoyable.

What about you?  Are you trying to find moderation in your life or has God already taught you this principle?

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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