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Archive for November, 2014

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8 (NIV)

 

I’ve talked previously about regularly writing in a blessings journal. I take no credit for the idea – God used various people in my life to encourage me to start – but I have to say, I’m starting to see changes in my life that I really like. I’ve also talked about how I used to be a Tigger personality but had started to see Eyeore creep in over the years and didn’t quite enjoy him as much. Well…I’ve noticed lately that Tigger is sticking around more and Eyeore is getting booted out.

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The week of the Fourth of July, it was predicted that the midwest was going to get severe storms. We all went to bed at normal time, but God impressed upon my heart to get up and finish the work waiting for me instead of leaving it until morning which was my plan. Therefore, I worked until approximately 12:30 a.m. and then went to bed. The whole time I was working, I was praying, asking God to have the storms move around our area and miss us completely.

Well, God had other plans for our family that particular week. Soon after falling asleep, I was awakened to ferocious wind, stronger than I had heard in a long time. I can honestly say I laid there scared. I spent the majority of the night praying for protection…not sleeping. Soon after, we lost our power. We lay in bed, hoping the electricity would be restored, but doubtful, due to what we were hearing outside the bedroom window.

When we finally woke up and took our morning walk, there was devastation all around. Our house and the houses on our road were intact, but tree limbs, as thick as they were wide, were blocking the street in both directions. I thanked God our neighborhood was safe and for protecting us, despite not having any power. The county sent out a bobcat in order to push the debris off the road so neighbors could go to work. We set up our generator and off I went to take our three kids to the dentist, as planned. My husband chose to stay home from work that day, prompted by God’s urging. Arriving home, after grumbling about needing to find money to fix not one but three cavities, my husband informed me our generator died. Since we are still in the recovery phase from the financial setback that occurred last fall, that wasn’t what either of us wanted to hear.

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However, God worked out the circumstances and my husband was able to borrow a spare from his employment, allowing us to keep the water out of the basement and save our food. Now I had a choice…I could either keep grumbling (which I was doing a great job of) or I could choose to be thankful for the blessings we did have. I chose to be thankful. At first, it took a lot of work. Instead of focusing on the money we didn’t have for the dentist bill and the gas and repair bill for the generator, I chose to be thankful. I started with the fact that the storm broke the humidity that had been hanging around and God supplied pleasant temperatures since running the air conditioning wasn’t an option. Then, my husband was home when the generator quit and knew what to do. Our house was spared any damage from the storm and the tree damage we did have was minor. Our family was healthy and safe. It was a holiday week so I would have extra time to catch up on work when it was finally restored. We had friends and family who were willing to help. God loved us and was taking care of us. This was just a minor inconvenience.

I decided, though, instead of just stopping there, I wanted to take my thankfulness one step further. I chose to do something positive. Instead of sitting around, wasting time, wallowing in a funk, I decided to tackle a job I hadn’t previously had time to start – organizing my office space. It was a job I had been procrastinating about because I knew I needed a large chunk of time and up until this point, I hadn’t had that.

Even though I didn’t start out in a grateful mood (it’s hard to be cheerful when it feels like everything around you is pointing to trials), I soon realized my attitude was a choice…and I needed to choose wisely.

By the time the actual holiday arrived, I had a newly organized office space that I was proud of, the work I was finally able to begin was manageable, and God still gave us plenty of family time to enjoy making memories.

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Sometimes we have to start small when listing our blessings, but I have found for my own life, thanking God has a waterfall effect. Once I begin, it changes my whole mood until I again see blessings everywhere.

© Cheri Swalwell

 

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Spoken from the Heart: Blessed By His Love

 

 

I know you aren’t supposed to have favorites with friends and family and especially between your children, but if I’ve ever had a favorite book published in the Spoken from the Heart  series, it’s:

 

Spoken from the Heart: Blessed By His Love.

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Because it’s my favorite, I have decided to put it on sale now through Monday, November 24th.  Instead of the usual great price of $7.47, it’s available in paperback for only $5.87.

It’s a great gift idea for that friend who has everything but you want to give him or her something special. It’s also great for that friend who is a new believer, been a believer for years, or that loved one who is questioning what being a

Christ follower even means.

If you want a copy for yourself, you can pick up a paperback or the Kindle copy for only $1.47.

Available at:  Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Spoken-Heart-Blessed-His-Love/dp/0692334270/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1416934605&sr=8-2&keywords=cheri+Swalwell

(Paperback and eBook)

Special introductory price of $5.87 through November 24th for paperback

Same great low price of $1.47 for Kindle edition always

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Within the last month, I have listened to two families’ heartache as they have buried their gone-too-soon daughters. I have ached for two other families who have tried to find a “new normal” after losing their six-month-old son and would have been one year this month daughter. My heart hurts for my friend who still misses her two children who wait for her in Heaven: A daughter born still and a son who died at the tender age of four. I also pray for another friend who grieves a second pregnancy that resulted in death when instead she should be celebrating the life of that child this month.

Life is hard and sometimes it just plain hurts! While I can’t stop these things from happening, God prompted me to take the stories of 13 courageous men and women and put them between the cover of Hope During Heartache to offer hope to those who are hurting. And, to make it easier for each of you who want to help those who are hurting but don’t know how, I’ve decided to make Hope During Heartache a little easier to order – to give to your friend who is hurting, a family member who needs hope, or maybe to read yourself so you can understand what your friend or loved one may be feeling after they lose their child.

 

Hope During Heartache: 

True Stories of Emotional Healing from Infertility, Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Death of a Child

Hope During Heartache

Available at:  Amazon – amzn.to/1sKLduh

(Paperback and eBook)

Special price of $10.47 from now until Monday, December 1st for paperback.  

Still great price of $4.97 for Kindle

 

As one reviewer stated on Amazon, “I finally understand! I finally get it!!!…I…listened to her story and was sad with her, but did not fully understand…the loss of a child until I read this book. I now am able to feel how very difficult it is to lose a child due to a miscarriage, still birth or death after birth.” By Happy Mama

Here is a chance for you to offer the gift of hope to a hurting friend or loved one this Christmas.  Whether that special person in your life has lost a child years ago or recently, this book may help them realize they aren’t alone.

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What Love Looks Like

(Love) “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

I Corinthians 13: 7 (NIV)

 

By the time you read this, I’ll have been married for close to sixteen years. When we first starting dating, my husband was amazing at remembering the details. He would listen when I talked and then would surprise me later with something small to let me know he cared about the things that make me happy. Flowers, CDs, a homemade sweatshirt with our picture and favorite saying on it …all things that showed me he heard my heart.

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Fast forward to 2014…as with any couple that has been married a significant amount of time, we’ve experienced life. Ups and downs, highs and lows…we all have them. It’s not a matter of if, but when. And, when life occurs, there are two choices: buckling up and hanging on tight or getting out of the car.

Not only has my husband buckled up, he’s in the driver’s seat. He leads our family with the right combination of grace and strength. He shows our kids (and me) he’s dependable, trustworthy, and willing to sacrifice for our greater good. Most importantly, he’s present for life’s messes. And, life can get real messy.

This past summer, we had a garage sale. The first day of the sale, our dog, Max, was sick. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him, but determined it was one of two things. He had gotten into the garbage the night before (evidence strewn about the kitchen) and I wondered if he had eaten the raw chicken fat or he was having problems with his arthritis. We went to bed Friday night with Max seeming to be much better. I thanked God that things were improving and looked forward to a much needed sleep.

Saturday morning arrived…and he wasn’t better. We woke up the evidence of that statement In. One. Long. Trail. (and then some). Not what we needed when people were expected to arrive in two hours to buy things that we still had to set up.

I groaned outwardly and a little loudly. Not Bill. First, he went outside and set up for the sale, assigning age appropriate jobs to the kids to help out. Then, wordlessly, he worked on first scrubbing with his hands, then meticulously using the carpet cleaner for almost three hours to get our house disinfected and livable again. Without. One. Word. Of. Complaint.

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That’s the way my husband leads our family. Through example. He doesn’t ask anyone to do anything he isn’t willing to first do himself. He keeps the tough jobs for himself and assigns life-stretching jobs to our kids. He looks at life through the lens of Christ and tries to follow His example on a daily basis.

 

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As much as I love the flowers and the CDs and the little things that he still does for me on a regular basis eighteen years after we first met, I have to say, it’s him buckling up in the driver’s seat of this sometimes crazy life we live in that I admire the most. Because, my friend, at the end of the day, I find that’s what love really looks like.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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“The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Psalm 145:9 (NIV)

I was talking to my friend, Kathie, the other day. We’re both employed in the same profession and so we understand the different stressors that come with our job. As an independent contractor in the field of medical transcription, I am (sorta) in charge of how much I work. I can take on more, or less, doctors in a particular season of life depending upon if the work is available. My boss acquired another practice and I was faced with the question of whether or not I wanted to take on more doctors and earn more money, or keep earning what I’m currently making instead. That was the tough question my friend and I were discussing. I jokingly told my friend, “I could take on one or two extra doctors, but then the time I have scheduled for emergencies would be gone.”

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We both have a desire to help provide financially to our households; however, at the same time we don’t want to forget (or neglect) the most important job God put us here on earth to perform – being the best wife and mother we can each be. In order to be at our best, we can’t be stressed out, worn out, or burned out the time. Not to mention the fact that if we schedule our lives using every available minute, when the emergencies come up (and they inevitably will), we won’t have the time to deal with them. God had been speaking to me for over a year that He was in charge and He would provide…I could rest and trust that He had our family taken care of. He didn’t want me to stop working, but I didn’t have to work as though all the responsibility fell on my shoulders (something I put on myself, not anything my husband or children put on me)

That conversation with my friend filled me with peace that I’d made the right decision, for our family, in this particular season. The very next day was a great reminder that emergencies are called “emergencies” for a reason. I was dealing with running a garage sale while tending to a dog sick who had eaten spoiled food. In addition, the day after that, while still managing the above two issues, I also came down with a fever and was out of commission the whole next day. The fact that our dog has never been that sick and I rarely am sick with a fever further reinforced to me if I had chosen to take on the extra work, while I would have managed somehow, that would not have been best for our family in this season.

My Father gets my first. My husband should get the best I have to offer after my Creator, and my kids deserve way more than my leftovers. When I’m spending all my energy and depleting my resources working toward financial gain instead of finding the right balance between working enough to pay the bills and still having plenty to give to my family emotionally, then something is wrong. I needed the reminder from my great friend, Kathie: “When we’re on our deathbed, we won’t regret not working MORE, that’s for sure!!”

However, in an effort to save time and energy, I’m still all about planning ahead. I’ll be the first in line saying, “I’m here to schedule my emergency, please,” if that’s ever a possibility.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

 

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“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

We talked yesterday about how God can bless us through circumstances that seem perfect but also through circumstances that are less than ideal. Last year God used our garage sale to pour blessings on our family. Even though He provided more monetarily than I expected, the main blessings we received centered around Him showing me His provisions for our family. This year, even though the circumstances leading up to the garage sale were less-than-ideal, our family chose to dedicate the sale to Him again, trusting this time He would provide blessings as He saw fit. We weren’t looking for monetary blessings, but instead we had faith He would supply what He knew we would need.

I love how when we honestly choose to live according to God’s Word, life instructions according to my Father, blessings always follow. To say we were blessed again was an understatement.

I’m not sure how the conversation began, but I started talking with a couple who arrived at our house and found out they were from Lancaster, PA. My face lit up as I told them when I used to live out East thirty years ago, that was a favorite place we would visit every year. In fact, I so wanted to connect with them, I texted my dad to ask the name of where we would go every year. One conversation led to another and we ended up talking for over thirty minutes – sharing our hearts which were connected in God’s love, talking about different ministries they were involved in, sharing the ministry God has laid on our family’s heart, etc. Not only did they walk away blessed by what we had to offer tangibly, but I pray they were as blessed as I was by the divine connection we made. I feel like I made two new friends for life, despite the many miles that separate us ten months out of the year.

The neat thing? This couple only comes to visit the midwest in April and August. If we had the garage sale two weeks ago, they wouldn’t have been here because it was July. We would have missed the chance to be blessed by them.

An older gentleman stopped by later in the afternoon and we struck up a conversation as well. He ended up sharing with me how he and his wife “never could have kids” so they are foster parents to two boys, ages three and seven. The love that he has for those boys was tangible in his eyes. He ended up sharing how they are probably going to lose them to a relative despite having had them live in their home for over a year. He was fiercely attached and incredibly protective of the boys, not born from his DNA, but in his heart. As a former foster care/adoption worker, we were able to talk at a deeper level then ordinarily and I was able to share with him in his pain. I’m still thinking about that family and told him I would pray for them and for God to allow the best ending to occur. He left on Friday with tentative plans to come back the next day.

Two hours after I had closed for the day, a woman pulled up and began looking around. I yelled out to her, “I make deals,” and she acknowledged my statement with a nod of her head. After talking with her teenagers, she approached me and asked about a few smaller items. Then she asked about the three-piece activity center we had, one of our larger items that didn’t sell last year. After talking with her further, I found out she is starting a daycare and was looking at adding that piece of equipment for her kids to play on. I excitedly began sharing with her that is what I used it for (gasp), seven years ago and how wonderful it was with all age groups. That opened a line of communication and we talked for about 20 minutes. I was able to pass along to her the useful information that was given to me when I first started out many years ago. I felt like I had met another kindred spirit. When all was finished, I pray she felt blessed with the price and God blessed us as well by allowing it to sell.

 

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Last year I had wondered why we couldn’t sell the activity center. I thought, “I like it. It’s a wonderful piece of equipment – what are we doing wrong?” We put the same price on it this year as last year…and I shared with the woman who bought it the story of not selling it last year. I stated, “I think God knew you weren’t ready yet and He wanted us to save it for you.” I don’t know if we share a relationship with God or not, but I pray through our interactions, if she doesn’t have a relationship with God, a seed was planted

I used to dread all the work involved with putting together a garage sale. From the past two years, God has showed me that my life is about so much more than a single event. Everything we do, no matter how ordinary it seems to us, God can use to bless others. First, we need to offer it to Him, then step back and watch Him work. Always being willing to do our part but waiting to see who God wants to bless and what He has planned.

Do you see God in the ordinary moments in your life? What is one time where you saw “something bigger” than just the event happening around you?

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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 Hope During Heartache: True Stories of Emotional Healing from Infertility, Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Death of a Child.

 

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For those of you who aren’t local but want to read the amazing journeys of 13 individuals who were able to find hope after the loss of their child, here’s the link to purchase it from

Amazon (paperback or eBook):  amzn.to/1sKLduh

 

Hope During Heartache

 

Order now and receive it in plenty of time for Christmas too, if you want to give the gift of hope this year to someone in your life who is hurting.

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“I found that when you have a heart not for ‘What can I get out of this?’ but ‘What can I give to others?’ the blessings overflow.” (No Calculator Needed, 2013)

 

In Spoken from the Heart: Journey from Fear to Faith, I wrote two posts, Money or Memories? and No Calculator Needed. Those posts talked about how I felt led by God to have a garage sale. He was telling me this was the right time and He prompted me last summer to have a garage sale. He picked the weekend for me – keeping it clear and sunny and giving me extra hands to make the work lighter. The whole experience couldn’t have been more relaxing. My heart’s prayer was for every customer to leave our house feeling blessed and also for God to bless us, the way He felt best. I had no expectations except to hopefully make a little money for bills and get rid of things we weren’t using any more.

This year began with me putting too many expectations on myself. Instead of remembering God wanting me to rest in His love, I kept forcing myself to “hear” His voice. We picked a date and moved forward, with me second-guessing our decision the entire time. Two days before the sale was supposed to happen, the forecast predicted heavy storms, so we cancelled. Since we couldn’t remove the ad from the paper, we hung a big sign at the end of the driveway. A few people understood (we even sold a wagon!) but a few were disgruntled for having driven all the way to our house only to be denied. As a result, I questioned if I was obeying or disobeying and wondered whether or not God would bless our sale two weeks later.

 

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Two weeks later we began putting the garage sale together. I was determined this time to have it, rain or shine (although since we don’t have a garage, rain definitely makes it more difficult). The day my family came to help set up, I was swamped with work. I was helping with work overflow and soon realized I mistakenly thought I could do it all.

However, the day of the sale, despite limited sleep, we were all set up and ready to go almost two hours early. I had learned from this summer’s experiences, it’s not so much about my circumstances as it is about my response. Despite the rockier start than last year, I chose to thank God for all the blessings He was providing, and there were many. That changed my mindset and I was ready to bless others just like God blessed them last year through our family…without any monetary expectations for our family.

God reminded me yet again of a valuable lesson He has been trying to teach me for years. He doesn’t need me to obey perfectly. In fact, I will never be perfect. I don’t need to place high expectations on myself to “hear Him right” all the time. I just need to be willing to listen when He speaks. Will I always hit the mark the first time? Nope. Not even close sometimes. But, if I’m truly seeking to listen to His voice, He will keep talking until I get it. And, He offers grace after I repent and ask for forgiveness for those times I deliberately choose not to listen.

God reminded me His blessings aren’t available to perfect people. His blessings are for His children, even when we miss the mark completely, as long as our heart is one of obedience. Come back next time and I will share just some of the blessings we received two weeks later.

© 2014 Cheri Swalwell

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In November 2014, Spoken from the Heart: Blessed By His Love will be released.

 

Here’s a sneak peek at the latest Spoken from the Heart series book, just in time for ordering Christmas presents.

 

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These 32-day books of encouragement are the perfect gift to encourage friends, family members, or yourself.  Spoken from the Heart: Blessed By His Love is the seventh in the series, with more to come in 2015.

Priced between .99 cents and $1.49, they make the perfect gift for that person in your life who you want to bless at the holidays without breaking the bank.  The price is little but the encouragement is BIG!

Stay tuned for more details…just in time for the holidays!

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BLESSSING ALERT

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blessing alert!  They happen all the time, but here’s one I couldn’t wait to share…

I’ve talked before about how I ask God every year for “one word” for the upcoming year.  I started making this request in 2012 when I first read about “one word” from Beth Vogt’s blog.  In 2013, God gave me the word moderation.  I was new to the “one word” concept but by the end of 2012, I was understanding it was a gift that came with work required.  It was my job to learn and start practicing the word God gives.

For 2014, God gave me the word Grace and I have to say…I have embraced the word grace all year.  Giving grace, learning what grace truly is, and finally (probably for the first time in my life) understanding, really understanding what God’s grace means.  The environment in my household is changing (not perfectly) because of fully embracing my “one word” for 2014.

I started to get really excited about 2015 and what my new word would be.  I started asking God extra early this year.  He gave me my word in October – HOPE!  At first I didn’t want it.  I was afraid.  Hope to me always meant that the “reward” was still off in the distance – I had to keep waiting and working and striving and frankly, in October of 2014, I was TIRED!  I didn’t want to wait – I wanted my reward now.

Then God showed me the excitement of hope.  Hope and Joy and Peace are closely tied together.  Hope makes waiting exciting, peaceful, joyful!  And that I wanted to embrace.  I started to get super excited.  God showed me much more about this word, hope, as well, but I’ll save that for a blog post.  J

Here’s the blessing:  Friday I was reading Beth Vogt’s blog about her “one word” for 2015.  While reading her blog, she was talking about how she always has something made or buys something to visually remind her of her word.  I thought to myself, “I would like something to remind me about my word.”  But, we’re still tight financially and so spending extras on myself right now instead of putting it toward gifts for others with the upcoming holiday season wasn’t even a consideration.  And, I was okay with that.

Saturday I was at home relaxing with my family.  One of my great friends called and asked if she could stop by to drop some stuff off (her family has been such a blessing to mine – sharing clothes, giving toys, etc. for our youngest).  I was excited because I had a couple books I wanted to share with her too.

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She came into my house and said she had something breakable, a gift she made for me!  I wasn’t expecting that – when I opened it, it was a beautiful wall plaque and look at what the center word was.  I couldn’t talk for a few minutes and then I could just repeat, “What a blessing.  You have no idea.  Did I tell you about my word?” (I’m sure her husband, who doesn’t see me very often, was thinking, “Hmmm….And she writes?”)

When I could finally get words out, I shared with her that my word for 2015 was HOPE and what an answer to an unasked prayer this was.  It was simply beautiful and meant so much – because she thought of me and it was MY WORD!

So, besides wanting to share with all of you a beautiful gift that my friend lovingly gave to me, a hug straight from God, I want to use this to encourage all of you today.

God hears our spoken and unspoken desires, needs, requests.  Did I need a visual to remind me of my word for 2015?  No…but God knew how much it would mean to me and so because of love alone, allowed me to have that visual reminder of hope…something we all have through Him and something that keeps us going through the hard times.

Do I think because He gave me the word HOPE for 2015 that it’s going to be a tough year?  I’m choosing to believe that the word HOPE was given to me as encouragement.  There is HOPE for a brighter tomorrow because my Father is the One in control.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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