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Archive for November, 2015

The $3.92 Car Repair

 

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 (The Message)

 

One particular Thursday in September started out quite ordinary. Get up, get dressed, fix lunches and send my husband and kids off to his job and school with a kiss and “see you tonight.”  I heard the car start and wondered why Bill wasn’t backing out of the driveway. Soon he came back in the house and said while the car started just fine, when he went to put it into gear, the gearshift was completely loose and it wouldn’t lock in place anywhere.

So we came up with Plan B.  He take the other car, I call his parents who live next door to see if I can borrow their van to take our third to school and we figure out how to get the car fixed, since towing wasn’t an option with it refusing to go into neutral.  Minutes later, I was calling Bill back, explaining I couldn’t reach his parents because they weren’t answering their phone. I admit – my first thoughts weren’t full of faith but instead fear. However, it only took me a few minutes to decide to give this challenge over to God and see how He took care of it, because I certainly had no ideas that didn’t add up to hundreds of dollars.

I went outside and walked around the car while praying, asking God to not only take care of fixing our car for minimal cost, but to make sure Bill’s parents were okay too.  Then I came back in the house with peace.  He brought the name of a friend of a friend who works on cars to mind so I quickly texted my friend and asked if she could just have him call me.  I thought maybe he could steer us in the right direction if he couldn’t physically come and fix it himself. In the meantime, my knight-and-shining-armor pulled back into the driveway, deciding to take the day off work so he could help me deal with this issue and we could use our other car to take our youngest to school. While I could have managed fielding calls, trying to figure out what was wrong, it was so nice to have my husband home and we could deal with this as a team.

We decided to Google the issue and through the information we gathered on the internet, Bill came across a YouTube video that showed how to fix the problem using parts from the hardware store. We took our youngest to school and had a small impromptu date for breakfast (BOGO free coupons are awesome!), and then Bill worked on the car while I worked at my jobs, five feet away from him.  He asked me early afternoon if I wanted to take a break and go with him to get the parts he needed and so we ended up having another impromptu date, laughing, joking, and just enjoying the beautiful weather and each other. I remember looking at the total when we were paying at the store and thinking to myself, “$3.92? That’s all it costs?”

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The best part? The fear that had initially tried to grab hold of me had been replaced right away with faith that God had the solution all worked out and we could trust Him.  There were so many reassurances given throughout the day.  We stopped at an auto store to see if we could buy the whole part instead of making a new one and the employee suggested the same thing YouTube did, “Your best bet would be to go to the hardware store.” The friend of the friend? He called later in the afternoon and upon hearing the symptoms I described, stated exactly what Google had told us at 8 AM that morning. By the end of the day, Bill had made a new part, installed it, and just had a few tweaks left which he would complete the following day.

All in all, God allowed our car to break on a random Thursday morning in September. Because of that “inconvenience,” my trust muscle was strengthened even more and God showed me once again He has our finances. If He can fix our car for $3.92, what else is He willing to do?

Another bonus that came from our adventure? I excitedly shared the blessing God gave us that day with others, giving Him all the glory.  The following week I received a phone call from one whom I had shared with. “Guess what? You remember your $3.92 car repair blessing?”

“Yeah,” my curiosity piqued.

“Well, your blessing gave me the perfect example I needed when sharing about how God wants to be involved in every area of our lives. Thank you for sharing with me so I could share with someone else who keeps asking me questions about this God I love so much.”

I had to thank God again…not just because He cares so much about our family to save us over $500 on a random Thursday, but to remind me that everything He does for every one of us is part of the big picture…showing His love to those who are curious and might want a relationship with Him themselves.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

 

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More Than Just Words

 

“…bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:28 (NIV)

 

I’ve gotten in the habit in the last six months or so to tell people either through email correspondence or in person, “Blessings to you.”  God also laid it on my heart to regularly come before Him and ask for His blessings for both my bosses and their families. I have to admit, when I first starting uttering those words, I didn’t realize the magnitude of what I was saying.  I knew I wanted good for those people, but I didn’t realize the power that is released when a person prays “blessings” over someone else.

God slowly started showing me what it really means to “pray blessings” over someone and it’s not something that should be taken lightly but it is something that should be given freely. When we pray blessings over someone, we are in essence asking God to heap blessings into that person’s life.  What a wonderful thing to say and spread throughout your family and friendships.

God even goes so far as to ask us to pray blessings over our enemies. What?!? you ask. But yes, God wants us to pray blessings over those we have issues with.  Instead of taking time to plot revenge, replay how we’ve been hurt multiple times a day or try and get others to take our side, God is clear in Luke 6:28 (NIV), “…bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

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I know for me, when I realized that was what God was asking of me, I decided that I better obey.  I first had to identify who my enemies were.  Like everyone else, I had my own list.  God first brought to mind someone from twenty years ago.  I thought I had sufficiently forgotten about this person, but God showed me I hadn’t truly forgiven or forgotten.  Then He reminded me of someone else…someone who hurt another I loved more than myself and continued to inflict pain.  It was easier to forget about that person than to actively ask God for blessings while he or she continues to hurt those I love. But that’s not God’s way, is it?  He doesn’t ask me to judge or punish others – that’s His job.  He asks me to get out of the way so He can deal with their hearts – in His terms, His time.

I started with the 20+ year old relationship. More time had passed and the feelings weren’t quite so raw.  The first few times I had to choke out the words, “Lord, please bless _____” when my feelings didn’t match my words.  They were spoken in obedience, not love.  But slowly, the more I did it, the more I realized He was working in my life.  I realized I really did want blessings, not curses for that person, and added another and another and another.  Each time, through time, my feelings would begin to match my words.  I may still not desire a relationship with those people (and God never said I had to), but I can honestly say I don’t wish them harm and do indeed ask God’s blessings for them.

You see, I’m no different than anyone else.  Just as others have hurt me, I’ve hurt others.  As a result of God showing me what it truly means to ask for blessings for someone else’s life, when I say, “Blessings to you” to family or a friend, I truly mean that I wish God’s blessings to surround you.  And when I get the unexpected gift of being wished blessings, I realize that prayer has been answered because I am indeed incredibly blessed…in so many ways.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone today.  May you feel the peace and joy of God throughout the day no matter how you celebrate and with whom.

 

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

 

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Available Now:

Spoken from the Heart: The Adventure Continues

Available Now on Amazon

in paperback : http://amzn.to/1SguiIv

and eBook: http://amzn.to/21diCft versions.

TheAdventureContinuesKindle - FINAL

Start at the beginning with:

Spoken from the Heart: Journey from Fear to Faith, Available at Amazon

in paperback and eBook versions.

http://amzn.to/1xFdg0Z 

 Spoken_from_the_Hear_Cover_for_Kindle

Then, read how our family decided we were all in with:

Spoken from the Heart:

Embracing the Adventure

Available at Amazon

in paperback and eBook versions

http://amzn.to/1DEmdZy

Embracing the Adventure kindle cover

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How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! Psalm 133:1 (NIV)

 

I realized something this week.  It’s the first week of school as I type these words, the end of the second day of school (although fall has been well established by the time you are reading them) and I realize how much God loves me.  For a number of reasons, but today I want to talk about lessons and community in particular.

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God has been talking to me about friendships lately.  I guess you could say He started this conversation with me last spring when my husband and I attended a parenting life group at our church and the leader talked about how much time she and her husband invest in their children’s lives instilling the importance of good friendships and what that means.  At the time I thought, “I really haven’t done that with my kids. Sometimes I remember to pray for their friendships, sometimes I remember to encourage their friendships, but I don’t really sit down and discuss the importance of picking good friends and being a good friend.

I moved around a lot during childhood so just when I was starting to establish good friendships, I would leave and have to start all over again.  Instead of learning how to stick things out, I learned that eventually I would leave so I better not get too attached.  I learned how to be the “new girl” with the “strange accent” and soon enough…I was gone and starting all over again. I have said many times that when I married my husband I not only got a great man and a wonderful new family, but well-established roots.  We live in the house next door to his parents and two of our kids go to the school where he attended kindergarten through twelfth.  I was  “grandfathered in” and it was nice.

God had other plans for our youngest and as a result, last year everything was new, for all of us. It was something I was quite familiar with – establishing a reputation and slowly connecting to the teachers and other mothers while helping our youngest learn the importance of friendship.  By the end of the school year, I could say that I had quite a few friends as well as our son having established his own.

Which brings me to today – the second day of school. Yesterday it was really nice seeing friendly faces and even though our kids aren’t necessarily in the same classrooms with each other again, we still took a minute to catch up while having the opportunity to meet new parents of new classmates.  Instead of reassuring our littlest that he would be okay and make friends, we talked about helping out the kindergarteners who might be scared and nervous, like he was last year.

In the midst of it all I took time to think about the blessings God gave me personally.  A teacher who texted me to help her in her classroom, giving our littlest and a friend time to reconnect before school started to help ease them back into the routine. That same friend also initiated a chance to connect regularly. We now have a date to walk the track after school, inviting anyone else to join us if they want. And the biggest blessing of all? Today, as I was multitasking with a conference call while waiting to pick up our new first grader, one of my friends came over to the car to chat with my daughter. Even though I couldn’t join the conversation, today, it was so nice to know that someone I respected was breathing life and truth into my daughter in a way that I can’t. Because our values are the same, I have confidence our daughter was built up in that ten minutes instead of sitting quietly listening to a meeting she didn’t understand.

I’m finally understanding the blessings of community.  There are several parents at our youngest’s school who also attend our church which further cements the bonds.  I’m looking forward to getting to know them better, introducing them to my other friends, and most importantly, continuing to grow our community of parents and kids.

Moving around most of my childhood didn’t help me to understand the importance of community.  I do feel blessed to have experienced the positive aspects of being introduced to different regions of the U.S. as well as different cultures, but the blessings continue to grow as God patiently and lovingly allows me to experience the blessing of community personally as well as sharing it with my children.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

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Good Before the Bad

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:1 (NIV)

 

I used to hate that God would send blessings our way…and then soon we would face a huge trial.  “Why, God, do you tempt me with good things and then allow the rug to be pulled out from underneath me?  I just allow myself to relax and WHAM – we’re hit with something difficult!”

However, this summer I realized that being blessed before the trial is Biblical.  I was reading Matthew 3 and 4 and that is exactly what happened to Jesus Himself here on earth.  If you aren’t familiar with that passage, it’s when Jesus asked John the Baptist to baptize Him and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him before He officially started His ministry.  I would say that’s a pretty big blessing to receive!  Then, directly after that, He was led into the desert and fasted (no food or water) and at the end of 40 days is when He was tempted by Satan three times but still didn’t sin.  I would say that was a big trial.

There are many other instances in the Bible that talk about people achieving huge victories (blessings) and then immediately facing a trial afterwards, usually equally as huge.  So, if people in the Bible were able to face blessings and then trials immediately after, who am I to think I shouldn’t?

Then it hit me.  I wonder if God allows the blessings ahead of time to show us His love and protection before the trials hit so we have something in recent history to remind us that God protects, provides, heals, and cares for us.  When we have blessings, we see God’s provisions, love, and protection over us right before we need to cling to Him constantly.

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When I think about it that way, I’m grateful and humbled to think that God loves me enough to send blessings my way first before the difficulty to remind me He has this particular trial taken care of also.  How can I be upset that He wants to lavish His blessings on me first, during and after difficulties?

That’s just the nature of God – He loves His children.  Sometimes He chooses to take away the difficulties altogether and we never see them.  However, if that happened all the time, we also wouldn’t have the privilege of seeing His protection and how He keeps us safe.  Sometimes, He allows us to go through trials to help us grow – but even during those times, He is always right there with us, going ahead of us and knowing the outcome before we start walking.

So, next time I have some major blessings come into my life, I will concentrate on saying “thank You” to my Father for loving me enough to bless me, not fear that there is a trial waiting for me around the corner. Because whether or not this is one of those instances where I will then face a trial, I know that God has this…and He has the answer already figured out.  I just have to start walking.

© Cheri Swalwell 2015

 

 

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In 2013, our family started a journey.  I thought it was just a journey God wanted me to take so that I could stop living life in fear and start living life from the faith I had in Him… for every area of my life. However, that journey soon turned into a choice. Would we, as a family, embrace the adventure God had for us or would we choose the path less traveled? Our family made the choice to embrace the adventure… and while the road hasn’t been smooth, it has been incredible.

If your family is traveling an adventure of your own and you would like some encouragement, I would love to be that friend.  Let me walk with you, offer you hope, peace and joy while you step out into the unknown… or just choose obedience and wait for God to speak details.

You can start at the beginning of my journey, during the summer of 2013, in:

Spoken from the Heart: Journey from Fear to Faith,

Available at Amazon

in paperback and eBook versions.

http://amzn.to/1xFdg0Z 

Spoken_from_the_Hear_Cover_for_Kindle 

 

Then, read how our family decided we were all in with:

Spoken from the Heart: Embracing the Adventure

Available at Amazon

in paperback and eBook versions

http://amzn.to/1DEmdZy

Embracing the Adventure kindle cover

 

Stay tuned, soon to be released is the conclusion in:

Spoken from the Heart: The Adventure Continues

Coming Soon to Amazon

in paperback and eBook versions.

More details to come…

TheAdventureContinuesKindle - FINAL

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Communion

 

“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

I Corinthians 11:26 (NIV)

 

I talk a lot on here about how much I love my church.  About a month ago, I was sitting in church and reminded yet again of another reason why my church is so amazing.

I’ve attended various churches throughout my life – I was raised conservative Baptist but have been a member of Christian Reformed and a few other similar denominations.  I don’t consider myself a member of a specific denomination and when asked, will answer only that I’m a Christ follower.

Most of the churches I was a member of participated in communion maybe three to four times a year, saved for special occasions.  In some churches that I considered my home church , I barely remember sharing in communion because it was so infrequent. If you aren’t familiar with communion, it’s a time when the church celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the way in which all people are saved, by sharing together in “eating His body and drinking His blood” (symbolized through crackers or bread and grape juice).  Some of the churches I considered home invited anyone who wished to share in the celebration while others (including my current church) extended the invitation Biblically.  The Bible is very clear that there are two prerequisites for celebrating communion together: You must have asked Jesus into your heart and you can’t be holding a grudge or anger against anyone.  It doesn’t mean you can’t be mad or having trouble forgiving someone – it means you willingly give God your anger and choose forgiveness, knowing the feelings may follow days, weeks, or months later but you are choosing the path of forgiveness.

We have attended our church for over two years now. While we were still visiting, we realized they celebrated communion every month and I enjoyed it.  Coming from churches where communion was rare, it felt foreign to celebrate so often but I was drawn to the fact our pastor always reminded people of the prerequisites necessary to participate.  I also loved that every single month, our pastor found some new “nugget” to share with us concerning communion which drew me even closer to Jesus while we celebrated the reason He died and rose again.

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This past month, though, when celebrating communion together, a whole new angle hit me.  I heard the pastor give the invitation to come and celebrate if I met the two prerequisites.  I started to examine my heart to make sure I wasn’t harboring unforgiveness toward anyone and I realized something major. I didn’t have to forgive anyone this month! I realized that by celebrating communion monthly, about every four weeks, we are given the opportunity to forgive others regularly which doesn’t allow the seeds of anger to take root. There is no time for bitterness to develop if confessing anger on a regular basis. Throughout the two years we have regularly attended, there have been months where I’ve had to ask God to help me forgive others and then the next month continue to ask forgiveness toward the same individual or situation.  But this particular month, God showed me clearly of the wonderful opportunity our church gives every month to forgive those in our lives so we too can be forgiven.  I could honestly stand before God that weekend and say, “I’m not holding onto any anger toward any individual,” and that felt good.

Two days later, I jokingly said “where’s communion when I need it?” because I was feeling angry toward a situation and the person involved.  I knew though that I didn’t need the act of communion to forgive that person.  Communion was just a great practice every month to remind me of how God forgives me and expects me to forgive others as quickly.

I love our church for many reasons and am so glad God took the beautiful celebration of communion to confirm to me that our family is exactly where He wants us.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

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