Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September, 2015

“…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

 

During this past month, while suffering from my allergies to sin, I wasn’t the only one who was affected.  Unfortunately, those that live with me had to suffer too.  I have a tendency (one I’m not proud of) that when wrestling with something deep in my life, I feel like a failure.  When I feel like a failure, I need to feel like a success in some area, so I will start throwing out demands and expectations in areas that I think are the easiest to control.  I will first attack myself. The area I struggle with the most personally is my weight and the food I put in my body.  I will usually begin to place unrealistic demands on myself and then continue my downward spiral of emotions when I fail, which I always do since the expectations I set can’t be met.

Next comes my house. I have always said that a wife/mother is the heart of her home and she should take pride in its appearance, both the cleanliness/organization aspect as well as the emotional atmosphere.  When I start attacking my home and lack of organization it has presently, I not only sabotage it from an appearance perspective, but I tend to further ruin the emotional atmosphere by placing unrealistic expectations on those that live with me.

While I don’t do these things purposefully, they do indeed happen and I’m not proud of that.  However, as I spoke about last time, God in His grace doesn’t condemn me (He realizes I’ve done enough of that to myself), but instead gently and lovingly reminds me that while those things are important and I have a responsible to take care of what He has entrusted to me, they aren’t the issue.  And, because I love Him with my whole heart and want to obey while fighting the selfish parts of myself that want control, He reminds me of the real issue.  This time He showed me through two separate books (one nonfiction, House on Fire, which I received through The Book Club Network and one fiction which I heard about through Book Fun Magazine, War Room), that the battle is His.  All He asks of me is to give Him my problems and then step aside, giving Him the space and time to work things out while I continue obeying in the areas He has asked of me.

 100_1087

Sometimes that job is the hardest assignment of all.  Give Him my worries, my stress, my issues and then step aside, letting Him work out the details usually not in the timeframe I desire – which is NOW!

For this particular episode, it meant slowing down and just doing what He asked- no more, no less, exactly what He asked.  It meant following the eating plan He introduced me to earlier this summer and sticking with it – no excuses.  Not starving myself but continuing the path toward a healthy relationship with food which may take a lifetime or maybe just a few months of dedication to His plan.  Regarding the house, it meant taking an hour last night and cleaning out/minimizing one bookshelf.  Not every single book we own, not every room in the house, but one bookshelf.  Then tackling another area (not even a whole room) the next time I have extra minutes in my day.  Most importantly, it meant not allowing my panic to demand unrealistic expectations on those I love.  Instead, while our two oldest spent some time being spoiled by grandparents, inviting our six-year-old to help me and having fun in the process.

I find when I fully submit to God and let go of control, it not only makes me more peaceful, but my family thanks me for it too.  I slept straight through the night for the first time in a month.  I had missed that sweet sleep and now that I have it, I want to keep it.

God’s got our life – from job descriptions to financial security to broken relationships to food addictions.  When we let go of control, we actually become stronger because our Father has hands big enough to take our worries and resolve them with the best solution in His time.  When I continue to stay surrendered, my allergy symptoms disappear and my family stops feeling their affects as well.  In my opinion, that’s a win-win for everyone involved.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I’m Allergic to Sin

“The goal of prayer is not to change God’s mind about what you want. The goal of prayer is to change your own heart, to want what He wants to the glory of God.” (Taken from War Room: Prayer is a Powerful Weapon by Chris Fabry. Copyright © 2015 by Tyndale. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.)

 

Anyone who has suffered from allergies, ever, can sympathize when I talk about itchy, watery eyes, constant sneezing, sleepless nights due to being congested, lethargy, and just feeling blah.

Well, for the past month I’ve been suffering from a variety of symptoms: restless sleep, irritability, depression, listlessness, feeling blah, lack of energy and just overall “putting my foot in my mouth,” realizing I need to stay quiet because nothing coming out will be helpful, edifying, or positive.

I had an inkling of what the problem was but for whatever reason, wasn’t ready or willing to tackle the issue – I didn’t want to submit. I wasn’t willing to give control back to the One who not only deserved it, wanted it, and would do a much better job with my life if given the reins freely versus me holding on tight.  Sometimes, for me, I can know the reason behind my less-than-great attitude but still have to walk further down the wrong path until I’m ready to give in and fully surrender control back to my Father.

It wasn’t until this morning that I realized the cause for this sudden “allergy attack.”  I had spent the night giving God back full control, admitting again that I wanted His will for my life which includes His timetable, His goals, His desires, not mine.  Somehow, in the middle of the summer, I got fixated on a crazy idea that God was almost done with our journey – that we would soon be in the Promised Land and while I didn’t know all the details, I thought I knew some and was very happy to start sampling the honey and grapes!  Without consciously realizing it, I slowly started trying to take control back, out of the hands of my Father.  When that self-proclaimed timetable didn’t pan out and there was no honey and grape smorgasbord, my symptoms started appearing – slowly and softly at first until they were out of control and I realized I had a real outbreak.

WP_20150701_20_26_09_Pro

Then, God, in His much-more-gentle than I deserve way, used two books to show me the battle isn’t mine to fight.  I submitted my life to Him years ago and while I passively wanted to gain some control back, I’m still His child and therefore His voice is still prevalent on my radar. When He reminded me that He wants to bless our life with better things than I can possibly imagine, and that He really does have our life in His hands, but that it will require me taking my hands off completely and trusting His before He can really start working, I was finally able to let go, again.

I found myself re-submitting my entire life to Him – this time from a layer of deeper trust that had grown stronger during the past two years.  While the act of submission was still difficult, once I made the decision to ignore my selfish desires to be in charge, the peace came quicker, hope is returning, and I’m finding joy again in the simple things.  However, I first had to completely surrender my dreams and wipe the slate clean.  I had to get to the point where I trust God with all areas of my life: my job, our future finances, my husband and children, my ministry, my passions, my schedule – everything.  The first step is always the hardest and also, for me, the most necessary.

After a month of battling sinful symptoms, I believe I’m back in the place where God can start using me again as I willingly wait on His timing, His leading, His still small voice.  It may take months, years, or until I’m ready to pass from this life to one of eternity. However, now instead of giving God my list of expectations and timeframes, I’m back to giving Him my life, confident that whatever His plan is for me and my family, He’ll speak loudly enough that I don’t miss it since those nasty symptoms of sin are gone from my ears which made it difficult to hear clearly.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

Read Full Post »

Words

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

 

Every day I sit at the computer, I’m reminded of how blessed I am.  God has allowed me to help supplement our family’s income doing something I love – interacting with and encouraging people.  Now my official job titles encompass much more, but in both of my ministries (companies I work for), one of the main privileges I have is interacting with, helping, encouraging and just resolving issues with a friendly smile.  It’s something that comes naturally to me. This job reinforces that one of my spiritual gifts is the gift of encouragement. I’m energized by genuinely filling up others.

As the enemy so often loves to do, he tried to steal that gift from me by accusing me of being a hypocrite.  Lying in bed at night thoughts of all the times I wasn’t encouraging or loving to my family would scroll through my head and I would think, “Which is the real me? The encouraging me on the job or the crabby me at home?” Then guilt would set in.

Until I realized that both are me. It was more of the context of the situation than my personality. It’s one thing to construct a friendly email that I can proofread multiple times if necessary to get my point across in the right tone and another altogether to try to find a friendly phrase to say, “Turn off the burner” when the food is bubbling over everywhere. In the everyday battlefield of life, I don’t always have the luxury of carefully constructed sentences when someone is about to step in dog poop or I need to be heard above the earphones, dog barking, and TV blaring. I’m working on more patience when I have to repeat the same direction four times because someone wasn’t paying attention, got distracted, or deliberately ignored me the first three times.

 DSCN5431

Since my family gets all of me – the perfect and imperfect – I’m working on phrasing things as lovingly with my family as I do those I work for and work with on a daily basis. I’m learning I can take a few extra minutes to say my direction in a better way – sometimes even when dog poop or spilled food on the stovetop are involved. I’m learning to make the sweeter way to word things my default switch so that when I’m in a hurry or having a stressful day, that is still what comes out of my mouth instead of harsh tones or “do it my way or else” attitudes.

For those of you who don’t know your gifts, I would encourage you to take time to find out what they are.  I had no idea I had the gift of organizing but always knew I enjoyed coming alongside others to encourage, lift up, empathize, and just genuinely care.  Getting to use those natural gifts inside me on a daily basis turns my job into a ministry that energizes me, has me looking forward to a new day, and satisfied at the end of the day that I made a difference.  It’s not work. It’s a calling and I want the same for each of you my friends.  That you will find your calling and be able to use it to make a difference with those around you. I’m going to be concentrating more on making sure my family receives as much encouragement from me as those I interact with through my jobs – after all, they are the first and most important job God gave to me.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

Read Full Post »

Another Added Blessing

“Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God.” Ephesians 6:5-7 (The Message)

 

I have been talking about the many blessings God has given me as a result of the two trips I took to California this summer.  This morning, approximately one week since I’ve been home from the second trip, I realized another blessing He gave.  He has allowed me to reclaim my rightful title in this world.  I didn’t realize it but subconsciously over the years my title had changed from wife/mother and then employee to employee and then wife/mother. It happened subtly over the years so I didn’t notice it but this summer, with the opportunity to truly relax two separate times, I realized what I want and that is to be wife/mother who helps supplement the household income instead of a working woman with a husband and children. I realized that it is possible to give my best to both “worlds” while keeping my priorities in their proper place.

The best part? I have two bosses who encourage that. Both of the men I work for are not just men who have a strong faith they live out every day, but very family oriented themselves.  What a blessing!  I realized my subtle shift began with my previous job as a medical transcriptionist.  I’ve always been somewhat of a perfectionist and had the rule that I had to have all my work done before I could play.  With that line of work, there are strict turnaround times – which means from the time the work came in until it had to be turned in to my boss, I had anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.  And it’s a feast or famine type job – meaning I could go a day or so without any work showing up and then all of a sudden having six to nine hours of work waiting for me. It worked well for the ten years I did it, but it shifted my focus to always being on the clock, waiting, watching and making sure I got it completed no matter the day, hour, or sometimes even holiday.

 WP_20150629_14_10_36_Pro

However, God gave me two weeks this summer to reprogram and let the kind words of my new employers sink in.  While the jobs I hold now are still important positions with deadlines, the deadlines aren’t as strict. I have the luxury now of stopping at a decent hour most days and spending the evening being the wife and mom, picking back up the next morning. Less stress…less demands…but yet still important assignments that I look forward to completing, still with the intent of wanting to do my best.  In fact, because my priorities are back in the rightful place, I actually want to work harder and more efficiently to show appreciation to my bosses for allowing me the luxury of providing value to their companies while keeping my priorities in line with God’s word.

I find that while I have to work in this season of my life, I actually enjoy fulfilling the roles God put me in.  I’m also learning the joy of stopping for an hour to take the kids swimming during the summer, working a little less on my children’s birthday, and having the luxury of teaching my kids important life skills because even though the work is still waiting for me, the stress of it waiting is gone.

WP_20150701_16_46_42_Pro

 

I’m not saying anything derogatory about my old boss or my old job.  I’m the one who subtly allowed that job title to claim top position in my life. I’m just thankful that God convicted me without condemnation that there is a better way and He wanted that for me…for our family.

I never thought I would be someone who said she looked forward to working and was blessed with the careers that God allowed her to have, but I can honestly say I am.  I look forward to making a difference in the two companies I’m blessed to work for…because at the end of a productive day, I know that my true calling is waiting and encouraged by those I serve in the workforce.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

 

Read Full Post »

“…Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am…” Philippians 4:13-14 (The Message)

 

In addition to teaching me to look past myself and see what I could do to help others (or bless others) through Him, God taught me two more valuable lessons, in the very gentle way that He has with me.

The first lesson was this.  I’m stronger in Him than I give myself credit for.  When I got into the Denver airport and realized I had missed my flight, if my aunt wasn’t there, I would have stood in line and asked them to book me on the first flight back to my starting point, missing the wonderful opportunity to celebrate my dad…all out of fear.  However, because I believe God is starting to stretch me but doesn’t want me to break in the process, He allowed me the choice to experience an adventure with the company of someone I trusted, because after all, adventures are meant to be shared.  Now, He could have allowed this crazy adventure two weeks prior with our family of five traveling, but I think He wanted me to rely more on Him and less on Bill. And I’m glad because I wouldn’t have had to rely as much on God if Bill was there. I wouldn’t have been making decisions but instead letting my husband lead.

 WP_20150629_12_14_17_Pro

Second, God cares about all the details, even the seemingly insignificant ones.  The night we stayed at the hotel in downtown San Francisco, I had a few heart-to-heart talks with God.  I asked Him to keep us safe and to please multiple the few hours of sleep we were going to get so we could drive safely to Sacramento.  He allowed me to fall into a deep sleep for three hours and then at 5 a.m. He woke me up abruptly – I mean wide awake.  As I laid there wondering what to do (wake my aunt or let her sleep) I remembered my sister’s schedule.  I told you previously that she and I talk on the phone every week.  She calls me on her drive into work at 6 a.m. California time, 9 a.m. EST.  She chooses to drive in that early to avoid the heavy traffic.

So, I started talking to my Father: “Okay, God, I’m thinking You woke me up at 5 a.m. for a reason. If we get up now and start out, we should miss the heavy commuter traffic…but I don’t want to be the one to wake up my aunt.  She needs her sleep, she’s the one driving, and I’m not waking her up. So…if You want us to leave now, You have to wake her up because I’m not going to.”

As I was still lying there, about five minutes later, her phone made a noise.  I thought someone was calling her but instead it was the alarm that she had deleted three hours before. However, now that she was awake, I didn’t mind asking her if she was ready to start out.  She also felt rested and was ready to go.  Later she commented to me in the car how it was strange that an alarm she had cancelled went off. I was able to share with her my earlier conversation with God. I truly believe God heard my prayer and chose to wake her up in such a way that I would know without any doubt it was Him.  We drove through light traffic and by 8 a.m. were in the hotel in Sacramento sharing a pot of coffee (the excitement was wearing off) as we waited to greet my parents.

Another blessing in the whole experience was that originally we would have had maybe three hours to “catch up” after having not seen each other for two years.  God instead gave us a whole night to talk, catch up, and share our hearts.  I’ve always been close to my aunt, but this adventure put our relationship on a new level.  I’m so grateful that God gave me this experience for all the reasons above as well as many more I’m still discovering.  While I will probably always, to some extent, be the type of personality that plays things safe, God keeps reinforcing the invitation He gave me beginning in January of this year – to Embrace the Adventure with Him.  Life is definitely much more exciting and filled with unexpected and abundant blessings when He’s involved in all the details.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

Read Full Post »

“This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.”  II Corinthians 9:10-11 (The Message)

 

Last time we were together I spoke about how God was in the adventure my aunt and I traveled. Today I want to talk about the different blessings He gave both to us and to those around us.

After confirming details for the 10:30 p.m. flight, we needed to sit down for about ten minutes to call our families, switch the car rental arrangements, etc. There was a man sitting next to two empty seats, one of which his luggage was leaning against.

“Excuse me, may we borrow this seat for a few minutes? We just need to make a few phone calls.”

“Sure, I can move those.”

“That line has got to be the length of five football fields, doesn’t it?  Kind of crazy.”

“This is my first time flying…ever.  It’s been a long day.”

“I’m so sorry – when did your day start?”

“I started at 5:00 a.m. in Las Vegas, then they rerouted that plane to Colorado Springs with a three hour layover, and finally back here to Denver where I missed my connecting flight by just minutes. I’m waiting for my sister to tell me what our new plan is.”  After a brief pause he finished sadly, “I just want to get to Arizona to see my brother who has Stage IV cancer.”

The words that flowed from my mouth didn’t come from me but from God who lives within me.  “Can I pray for you?”

With only a slight hesitation, he nodded in agreement and after I asked his name, put my hand on his arm and offered up a heartfelt prayer to our Father, asking for protection, safety, and a chance for him to get to his brother quickly as well as asking God to continue to introduce Himself to my new friend and his family, if they didn’t already know Him personally themselves. I didn’t know what to say next, so I got busy answering texts and talking to my family on the phone. Approximately ten minutes later, he quietly left without my having a chance to say goodbye. I regretted not interrupting my conversation to make sure he knew I would still be praying. God hasn’t let me forget that man and his family since.

Another blessing that occurred happened in of all places the bathroom. I decided to stop one more time before boarding the plane and saw a woman in there with a baby nestled in a carrier across her chest, carrying a backpack while pushing a stroller which held her carryon suitcase.  She was standing in the middle of the bathroom, looking for a stall that was large enough to hold all her belongings, but there simply weren’t any.

Sometimes I open my mouth and the oddest things come out. “I know you don’t know me, and I wouldn’t trust me either, but I’m happy to watch your stuff for you while you go to the bathroom if you’d like.  I really am trustworthy and won’t take your stuff…but it’s your choice.”

She stared at me for a few minutes and finally decided she didn’t have many options. Then, to help relieve her mind at 10 p.m. at night, I yelled through the stall that I would put my feet right in front of her door (like I make my kids do) so she would see that I wasn’t going anywhere.  Such a little thing, but I felt like God allowed me and my aunt to be there that night to help bless two complete strangers whom I will probably never see again.

 WP_20150510_11_40_28_Pro

The moral of this post is: Sometimes the blessings God gives us look “perfect.”  Beautiful weather, all-expenses paid trips with lots of laughter and love.  Other blessings that we receive are a result of imperfect situations.  I felt loved by my family: My aunt who refused to leave me stranded in an airport even knowing it would cost her more money, a sister and brother-in-law who dropped everything to book a hotel in a safe neighborhood so that two weary travelers would have somewhere to sleep for a few hours, parents who chose to pay my expenses so that I could spend a few days being pampered while watching my dad receive an award, a family at home who prayed for our safety as well as spoiled me when I finally got home later that week, and a Father who gently reminded me it’s not all about me. He blesses us so that I can look up and pass the blessings on to others.  That can look like a prayer in the middle of a noisy airport or toes “dancing” underneath a bathroom stall to reassure a weary mother that her stroller and clothes are safely guarded by another very tired traveler who happens to be a child of God.

Perfect or imperfect – I’m so glad that God saturated me and my aunt in His peace during our adventure. We now have something special shared between the two of us to laugh and reminisce about for years to come.  Come back one more time as I share one last lesson I learned from this exciting adventure.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together I’d just gotten off my (very) delayed flight and my aunt, being the sweet woman she is, chose to stay with me instead of getting on the original plane. Together we got in a line that soon was the length of five football fields to see how the airlines would get us to our final destination.  A man in front of us was talking to customer service on his phone while standing in line and he graciously shared the phone number so we could attempt the same solution.  He was on hold for over 45 minutes, but only by God’s grace, we were talking to a representative within five minutes.  Considering all the options presented to us, she booked us a flight to San Francisco leaving that night instead of opting to wait until morning and fly directly to Sacramento, our final destination.  Our decision was partially based on the fact there were no hotels available within driving distance due to the multitude of stranded travelers.  An added bonus we didn’t even ask for included the the woman on the phone refunding the money for the entire flight out to California. I quickly realized that was divine intervention because a stranger next to us in line commented, “I’m in the same predicament as you, and I only got refunded $75.  I want what you have.”  I wasn’t sure how much of “what I had” she wanted me to share with her so I just shrugged my shoulders, although I knew it was all God.

 

WP_20150415_07_03_53_Pro

 

In addition, we were able to get the car rental pickup switched from Sacramento to San Francisco with a new plan to drive to Sacramento at 1:30 AM PST when we landed.  However, after a conversation with both sets of loved ones, we decided instead to book a hotel in San Francisco and sleep for a few hours first.  That seemed safer for two women who didn’t know where they were going…in the dark.  However, we ran into the same problem in San Francisco that we were facing in Denver – all the hotels were booked.  I remembered from two weeks prior my sister saying that, like in every city, there were places to avoid in San Francisco and areas that were considered safe.  While I remembered some of the towns she listed, I didn’t remember them all and was concerned we would book a hotel in a not-very-safe environment.  While having this silent conversation with myself, our new plane was beginning to board and frankly, the thought of missing another flight didn’t sound appealing.

I called my sister and had about 30 seconds to fill her in on our dilemma and ask if she would mind finding us a safe hotel, texting the information to my phone so when we landed I would have it.  Her response? Absolutely! I found out two days later that while my aunt and I were trying to catch a little nap on the plane, she was on the phone with hotel reservations simultaneously looking up hotels on the internet while her husband used his laptop to find us the best deal as well.  Did you know that hotels can go for as much as $3000 a night? I had no idea! They found us a quaint movie theatre-turned-hotel in Union Square – the last hotel room remotely close to the airport available in the area.  We were able to get a good solid three hours of sleep which refreshed us enough to finish our adventure to Sacramento.

Come back next time and I will tell you how God used this imperfect adventure to bless not only us, but also those around us.  Because I find usually that when God chooses to bless His children, there is a ripple that affects those surrounding His children as well. That’s just the way of the great God I serve.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »