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Archive for April, 2014

“God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:20 (The Message)

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Last fall, when my income was drastically reduced, I was surprised God didn’t supply another job or avenue for revenue right away. There were a number of things He was supplying, but what He’d provided in the past, He wasn’t as quick to give this time. I witnessed financial miracles and job opportunities from God for various friends of mine, but He wasn’t answering that way for me. I chose to trust, to remember how He’d answered quickly in the past, and chose to walk in the direction I was hearing Him speak, all while waiting for our financial miracle.

I was talking with a friend recently and while she was sharing her heart about her own struggles, it hit me. My reduction in finances was about so much more than finances, just as her struggles were about so much more than the original source that began the process of change in her life.

I’d casually mentioned in What Faith Looks Like – Part II that possibly God knew better than I did what the 2013-2014 school year was going to look like for our family – that maybe my kids and/or my husband would need me to be more available. With my old schedule, being fully engaged wasn’t an option. With my new schedule, I’ve been able to participate more during this very busy season in their lives. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. In addition, God prompted me to organize our house which showed areas in our budget that needed to be readjusted. I wouldn’t have done the legwork to investigate if I hadn’t been motivated by reduced income. Another huge benefit is I’ve truly learned to be content and appreciative of all the blessings we have. Some blessings are smaller like a beautiful sunrise or not losing our power during the latest storm. Other blessings are much bigger – yet they all are counted equally and my heart is filled with contentment at how much we truly have.

Lastly, God has given me eyes to observe and look for ways our family can bless others. There is nothing like going through a trial yourself to create empathy for others who are experiencing hardships – emotionally, physically, financially, etc. In life, there will always be people who have more advantages and there will always be people who are less fortunate. I’m choosing to focus on people who are less fortunate and asking God to show our family ways in which we can be a blessing to them. Through blessing others, we are finding that we in turn get blessed ourselves.

It’s been approximately six months since my income was reduced. It hasn’t been replaced yet, but that’s okay. I’m trusting God to replace or increase the lost income in His time. He has a bigger purpose for our family than lost income. And, everything we have is His. Everything we earn, everything we own, everything is His. It’s our job to be good stewards and listen to how He wants us to use those resources for His glory.

In what area of your life might God be working a bigger miracle than circumstances show?

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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Spoken from the Heart: Parenting 101 is now available on Amazon and Deeper Shopping, paperback and eBook forms.  The book contains 32 easy-to-read, faith-filled messages of hope, inspiration, and encouragement no matter what stage of parenting you find yourself in.  At such a great price, you can pick one up for yourself as well as several for those in your life who are mothers (or fathers). Order now to ensure delivery before Mother’s Day.

Parenting101_Kindle

Stay tuned for the companion book which will be available in time for Father’s Day.

Click on the link below for easy shopping at either Deeper Shopping or Amazon.

Deeper Shopping: bit.ly/M0r9Qd

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1iWexWr

 

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“Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” Luke 6:38 (The Message)

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As I stated last time, after praying and waiting, God in fact confirmed through two very different sources that He indeed was calling me to step out in faith. Now…this is where the familiarity began between myself and my son. I knew what God was asking of me. I was willing to do it, but I was scared. God has brought me to the next level, where I choose faith instead of fear, but that doesn’t mean the fear isn’t still present. Now I walk in faith while shaking in my boots. Even though I was obeying and choosing to walk in the direction God wanted me to, I was silently having a temper tantrum based on fear. I don’t have enough time without neglecting my family. What if I mess everything up? What if I get rejected? I have no skills, this isn’t going to work out after all. I’m not good enough.

With even more understanding that I had with our preschooler, I think God understood the words and feelings behind the temper tantrum I was having. He sees my willingness to obey. He knows I’m not choosing to ignore His request or run in the opposite direction. He realizes I’m just letting my fear talk louder than my newfound faith and trust. However, I also believe He loves me too much to allow me to stay stuck acting like an immature child instead of growing into the spiritually mature adult He knows I’m capable of becoming.

As is so typical of our Father, He again spoke to me in ways that I understood. He used two separate mornings of my quiet time to get me alone and speak to my heart. The first fear He addressed was what He expected out of me. He gave me the above verse, Luke 6:38, and reminded me that to impact someone’s life as a blessing, I needed to give generously. So, as I was following His lead and reaching out with His request, I needed to do it with a generous heart. It’s not easy to give generously without also giving genuinely and willingly. Those two concepts go hand in hand. Not letting fear talk but instead letting God’s generous spirit be heard. He reminded me all I have is His anyway – He would supply enough for my family as well as what He wanted me to offer to others.

The next morning, He addressed the second fear, the one of self doubt and lack of confidence. He gave me a different verse this time, I Corinthians 1:27-29: “Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God.” (The Message) Well, His words blew away that excuse. He expects me to be weak in myself. He doesn’t expect perfection, skills, or talent at first. And, I’ve proven in the past I can learn new things. So, I need to change my attitude to one of excitement at learning something valuable that God could be waiting to use in a different form for another job in my future.

I want to encourage you today, my friends. We as parents or friends or spouses, understand when fear speaks loudly for those we love in certain situations, and we love them anyway. God, a far better parent than I will ever be, understands to the nth degree our fears, weaknesses, and struggles and loves us anyway. When we’re making healthy choices, we don’t allow our friends, children, or those we love stay stuck in a rut or continue to exercise their right to temper tantrum. God, who is always right, doesn’t allow us to stay stuck either. He loves us far more than that.

So, even though I’m still afraid, I can look at the not-so-distant past and see how God laid the foundation for blessings for our family. He didn’t just hand us blessings, but guided us with which steps to take in order to be ready for the time the blessings would come. This scenario is no different. God is giving me a choice. I can walk in the direction He is leading, trusting that He has more blessings for our family, but realizing there will be work required on my part to prepare for the blessings to arrive. Or, I can choose to disobey, ignore, or pretend I didn’t hear Him. I won’t be punished but I could be missing out on some great things God wants to give us. I have one more choice. I can continue down the path He has chosen for the next leg of our journey, kicking and screaming, or I can choose to do so with a healthy attitude, focusing on faith and the positives along the way instead of giving in to a little healthy fear.

I don’t love our son any less because of his initial response of anger and defiance. I realize that with the proper modeling and appropriate reactions from me, he will eventually outgrow that behavior and learn a more appropriate reaction. It’s my job as his parent to step it up and be a better role model for him of how to do it right the first time.

Am I still scared? Sure. But so was Joshua and Daniel and Noah and Abraham. Being scared isn’t wrong. God just calls me to walk in faith while I’m scared. When I focus on pleasing my Father, I find an added benefit. My fear begins to disappear. It’s hard to be happy and scared at the same time.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

 

 

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Spoken from the Heart: Parenting 101 is now available on Amazon and Deeper Shopping, paperback and eBook forms.  The book contains 32 easy-to-read, faith-filled messages of hope, inspiration, and encouragement no matter what stage of parenting you find yourself in.  At such a great price, you can pick one up for yourself as well as several for those in your life who are mothers (or fathers). Order now to ensure delivery before Mother’s Day.

Parenting101_Kindle

Stay tuned for the companion book which will be available in time for Father’s Day.

Click on the link below for easy shopping at either Deeper Shopping or Amazon.

Deeper Shopping: bit.ly/M0r9Qd

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1iWexWr

 

Read Full Post »

Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families…That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God.”

I Corinthians 1: 27-29 (The Message)

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When given a direction, our four-year-old has his own version of obedience. For example, the other night he was overly tired and needed his rest. He is so consistent that I knew what would happen. Sure enough, when he was told it was bedtime, he scrunched up his face and angrily announced he was not going to sleep and would not rock with me, all while allowing me to lift him gently onto my lap and attempt to hold him close. After a few minutes, I quietly reminded him to think about his words because he wouldn’t be allowed to change his mind once he was in his bed. As predicted, his anger disappeared, he melted into my arms as we cuddled, talked, and prayed. When he finally went to bed, he was asleep within minutes. I’m tuned into my child well enough to know his first reaction is anger, but when answered with understanding and a soft reply, it quickly disappears and he obeys with the right attitude.

Like mother…like son. God spoke to me in January regarding a specific request He wanted from me. As I talked about in Spoken from the Heart: Journey from Fear to Faith, before obeying, I made sure it was really God requesting it and not my own thinking getting in the way. So, I checked Scripture and yup, it was something God would approve. Then, I prayed about the request and waited, making sure it was God’s plan and not some creative idea of mine that would fail. Now, that step might seem lazy or a passive-aggressive way to get out doing what God was asking, but for me, it’s was important.

Throughout my years of communicating with God, we’ve built up a rhythm and I’ve learned how to listen to the specific way He speaks to me. When I want to know something is from Him (whether a verse He wants to give me, a command to obey, or a sin He wants me to work on), He presents the same message to me in various forms. The ways themselves aren’t always the same, but the message is consistent. Therefore, for me to pray and then wait was my way of saying, “Okay, God, I’m listening and willing to obey.”

After praying and then going about the jobs I already knew He wanted me to do, He in fact confirmed through two very different sources that He was calling me to step out in faith. Now…this is where the familiarity began between myself and my son. I knew what God was asking of me. I was willing to do it, but I was scared. God has brought me to the next level, where I choose faith instead of fear, but that doesn’t mean the fear isn’t still present. Now I walk in faith while shaking in my boots. Even though I was obeying and choosing to walk in the direction God wanted me to, I was silently having a temper tantrum based on fear. I don’t have enough time without neglecting my family. What if I mess everything up? What if I get rejected? I have no skills, this isn’t going to work out after all. I’m not good enough.

Come back next time to see how God chose to respond to my temper tantrum.

 

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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A Valuable Lesson

“First pay attention to me, and then relax. Now you can take it easy—you’re in good hands.”

Proverbs 1:33 (The Message)

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How does the saying go, “Hindsight is 20/20?” God is taking me to the next level on my faith journey, and while I’m experiencing a new set of growing pains, He has comforted me with a look at the past. Today I want to encourage those of you on your own faith journey to remember to look back sometimes to see the progress you’re making, since sometimes it feels like an uphill battle with very little progress.

As God calls me to take new steps of obedience, He’s been giving our family a chance to reap the benefits of steps we took in 2013. In God’s Timing is Always Best, written exclusively for Journey from Fear to Faith, I talk about how God spoke to me specific tasks He wanted me to complete. The first one was to have a garage sale. We had been accumulating “stuff” throughout the year, so finding things to sell wasn’t the hard part – it was finding the time. God presented an opportunity, we walked, and the result was better than I anticipated. Second, God prompted me to start organizing our house. As we worked together organizing, sorting, and blessing others with items we had outgrown, we found other areas that had been neglected and needed a little TLC. Home projects were completed and our house was again in great shape.

One direct result of taking the time necessary to get our house in order was the blessing of being refinanced to a reduced interest rate and shaving a substantial number of years off our mortgage overall. I thought the blessings were finished and praised God for His provision. However, as I talked about in Just Enough or The Best?, also written exclusively for Journey from Fear to Faith, God doesn’t want us to just get by. He wants us to live a life of abundance, but we have to obey and follow His lead. God told me this fall to look for ways to lower our expenses before seeking ways to increase my income, so I began looking at other areas we could save. God blew me away with His answer. However, in order to receive that blessing, we needed to have our home inspected one more time. When asked what condition our home was in, I was able to say with confidence, “It’s in great shape,” thanks to the hours we’d poured in this fall. It was without worry that we waited for the final answer and God granted “the Best,” not “just enough.

In order to reap the blessings God had waiting for our family, we had to walk in faith without knowing why He was asking what He was. There were plenty of times during the journey this fall that I wanted to give up. There were plenty of times I didn’t understand why. However, I did trust and walk, knowing I had heard Him clearly and honestly wanted to obey.

So, let my journey encourage you. Sometimes God asks us to take steps that don’t seem to make sense or seem too hard. However, have you ever considered that maybe it’s all part of the process? That God is pleased with your faithfulness by walking in a way that lines up with His Word even when you don’t completely understand the why?

Keep walking, my friend. Don’t give up. In due time, God will not only provide the blessings, but in my experience, they are usually better than what you could have done for yourself.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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In order for God to bring blessings into our lives, sometimes He has to get rid of some things to make room for what He wants to give us.

Our family started saying goodbye last fall to things God wanted us to get rid of.  We are beginning to see some of the blessings God wanted to give. If we hadn’t been obedient and allowed those things to leave, we wouldn’t be able to say “hi” to the blessings that are coming.

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Even when good things come, saying goodbye can still be hard.  Just remember…when we’re God’s children, He doesn’t want “enough” for His kids.  He holds out for the BEST!

Our BEST hasn’t come yet…but I have faith it’s still coming!  And I’m learning enjoy the journey along the way.

What BEST has God brought to you?  What have you had to say goodbye to in order to make room for His BEST?

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Extrovert or Introvert

“Extrovert: A friendly person who likes being with and talking to other people : an outgoing person.

Introvert: A shy person : a quiet person who does not find it easy to talk to other people.”

Merriam-Webster online Dictionary

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Growing up, I always assumed I was an extrovert. I enjoyed people, was told in school I talked too much, and wouldn’t have used the word “shy” in a description about myself. However, the older I get, the more I realize I’m really introverted. The signs were all there, yet I didn’t know at the time how to read them.

Two weeks of selective mutism my freshman year when we relocated to another State. Choosing to live at home instead of in dorms at college. Eating lunch at my desk for five years instead of in the lunchroom with my coworkers. Working from home for the past ten years and loving it.

However, as I said before, growing up thinking I was extroverted, I was thrown off balance when I became a mother and realized I was a closet introvert instead. Being raised by two extroverts, our house was always open to anybody who wanted to drop in unannounced or stay for a few days. My mom was born to be a hostess and always has food in her freezer ready to defrost and cook up gourmet style. My parents welcomed any and all of our friends, at any hour – the more the merrier.

Therefore, it was a surprise to me that as my children got older, I realized I tended to lean toward introversion versus extroversion. For a parent, especially one that enjoys quiet time to recharge her batteries, that can be a challenge. The highlight of my childhood years was connecting with friends, attending youth group, and participating in school activities. There were some days while in high school that I left at 7:00 a.m. and didn’t return home until after 9:00 p.m. because of involvement in so many activities. So I had to ask myself the question: Am I going to neglect my children’s social lives because I need more quiet than my parents did or is there a way I can help them reach their full potential while still taking care of myself?

While our kids may not attend every single event that their friends do, there are benefits to having an introverted parent as well. I’m not afraid to tackle tough subjects with my kids. Even though they’d prefer to tell me about the latest movie or videogame, I’m always asking them to talk to me about them. I want to know how they are, what they’re interested in, and share an open dialogue regarding topics of drugs, sex, and other touchy matters. Any friend of our children’s that comes over is welcomed into our home as one of the family. I may not cook a gourmet meal, but I will try and have something enjoyable, like macaroni and cheese or pizza.

For an extroverted parent, the experiences make look different but be equally as challenging. And, when you are introverted but are parenting an extroverted child or visa versa, that brings in a whole new host of issues to navigate.

I wrote this post to be an encouragement to all parents out there. Whatever way God created you, rest assured He didn’t make a mistake. He loves that you are introverted or extroverted – neither one is better than the other. And the children you were called to parent? God put them in your family for a specific purpose as well.

My extroverted children are helping me come out of my shell while I can relate to the introverted aspects of my other children and come alongside them with the added layer of truly understanding what they are feeling. After all, if I can try something new where I’m not comfortable and live to tell about it, they can muster up some courage to take a small step toward that goal as well. Also, I can bring a better understanding of being sensitive to introverts for my child who is extroverted and doesn’t have a clue that some people need quiet to recharge.

However, having said all that, when I took on the responsibility to be a parent, I made a commitment to be the best one possible with my strengths and weaknesses. Knowing now that I’m more introverted than previously realized, I need to make sure to recharge my batteries, as much as possible, before my kids come home from school so that they get the best parts of me and not the leftovers. Same with my husband – He deserves much more than an exhausted wife who can barely keep her eyes open at night. It is my pleasure, as much as possible, to reserve some of my energy so we can laugh together while watching TV or make up new inside family jokes.

What about you? Are you introverted or extroverted? A great friend of mine posted a free questionnaire on her website that can help you determine which category you tend to lean toward. Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://marianneclements.org/career/introvert-or-extrovert/.

Extroverted or introverted…just remember each personality type has many gifts and talents they can bring into their own lives and others around them to help encourage, build up, and guide. I believe, when all is said and done, our kids don’t care what type of personality we were born with. For my own, I just want them to know that my priorities in life are God first, then their father, and then them. They are more important than friends, work, or hobbies. If I can succeed with that goal, then I know I’ll have done my job well, introverted or extroverted.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

 

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EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT!

We are getting ready to celebrate Easter this weekend, but before we know it, Mother’s Day will be here.  Do you need something special for that wonderful friend who is also a mother?

Coming within two weeks, Spoken from the Heart: Parenting 101 will be available to purchase.  A great gift to give to that soon-to-be mother, first-time mom, or seasoned mother of many.  Encouragement, comic relief, and a chance to sit and relax for just a few minutes every day packs this great little book which is small enough to fit just about anywhere.

Official announcement coming soon…but here’s a sneak peak.

Parenting101_Kindle

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“Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.” Romans 12:14-16 (The Message)

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Pastor Sunnock gave an illustration one Sunday and it stuck with me. He was talking about various ways people interact with each other. When you first meet someone, everyone starts out on the front porch. You are strangers to each other, friendly with each other, but it doesn’t go much further than that. However, once you begin to learn more about each other, you found out whether or not you have things in common. Those that do are the people you invite into your living room. While you are more comfortable with the people in the living room, conversations are still guarded somewhat, a little bit formal, and people tend to still be nervous around each other. He went on to say only a select few from the living room ever get invited into the kitchen. Those that do are the ones you trust – with your heart, your family, your secrets, your dreams. The kitchen is where the fun is. The kitchen is where you bare your souls, usually over good food, fellowship, and fun.

Some people are very comfortable on the front porch. They don’t want to let people into their lives and for various reasons they don’t care to be let into others. Other people feel they’ve made it if they are in the living room. They relate more than superficially, but don’t have a desire to dig deeper and don’t want people prying into their lives. Others are most comfortable in the kitchen. They have a desire to be vulnerable with others, share their hearts and expect the sharing to be reciprocated. Invitations into the kitchen come with some risk, though, because the more you expose yourself, the greater chance you have of being hurt. However, the more vulnerable you are, the better the opportunity to experience acceptance and love in the form God intended.

Where are you standing? Are you comfortable on the front porch? If so, have you considered maybe taking those few steps into the living room? Allowing yourself to open up to someone you can trust and see how it feels? Are you already in the living room but would like to move into the kitchen? Are you in the kitchen and you see someone in the living room waiting for an invitation? What about out on the front porch? Can you see the front porch from your position in the kitchen?

While I’m not advising forcing someone from the front porch before they are ready, I’m asking this: Do you live your life in such a way that you’re welcoming those who choose to take that next step? Are you approachable? Friendly? Vulnerable?

For myself personally, I try to camp out in the kitchen with most of my relationships, but have had a tendency to stay on the front porch too long or linger in the living room in others. I definitely have room for growth.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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