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Archive for October, 2016

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-14 (NIV)

 

While I spoke two posts ago about how God doesn’t want me to fight my children’s or friends’ battles for them because He’s inviting them into their own mission, it’s important for me to remember that concept for another reason as well.

God promises protection for the battles He invites me too, the ones that He wants me to fight.  If I want His covering of protection, then I need to stay close to Him and make sure the battles I’m choosing to engage in are the ones He’s assigned me too.

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I was reminded of a statement that impacted me greatly that our pastor spoke in the fall of 2013.  We were new to the church at that time, but what He spoke stayed with me.  I have used it as a litmus test of sorts in many different situations.  He stated, “Doing less than what God asks is a sin.  Doing more than what God asks is a sin.  Only by doing exactly what God asks are we obedient.”

The weekend I was struggling with the enemy’s lies, I needed this particular reminder.  You see, when I stopped listening to the enemy’s lies and began to focus again on God winning, I was ready to rush forward, guns blaring and take the hill.  However, in my quest for God to get the glory, I thought I heard God whisper something pretty difficult and something I was incredibly inexperienced in.  Then I was reminded of the above statement, “If God hasn’t invited me to the fight, I won’t have His protection” and what I was wondering about was not something I wanted to fight without His protection.

So, before rushing the hill and trying to win on my own, I pressed in and prayed harder.  I haven’t heard anything affirmative, and in fact the situation has improved some, so before tackling a hill that I’m not sure was even part of the mission to begin with, I’ve slowed down and chosen to make sure the mission I’m on is the one God assigned.  Not one step more, not one step less.  Instead staying in step with God so that I’m certain I’m under His covering.

I want to encourage you my friend.  When God gives us a mission and we choose to obey, He doesn’t want us to try and conquer the whole thing on our own.  He’s inviting us to do our part, the part He chose for us and the part He’ll help us accomplish if we say “yes.”  We aren’t weak if we stay in step with Him.  Just the opposite, He’s glad we chose to obey and wants to help us live in the victory that He knows is waiting for us at the end.

Come back one more time for the last thing God taught me.

© 2016 Cheri Swalwell

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“Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together, I spoke about how God has given us His children to manage for a short period, to help teach and train them in His ways and help them prepare to fly independently.

During that weekend I was struggling with whether or not I was making the right choice to invite my child into the mission God had given us, another of the lies I was struggling with was this. “I’ve instilled in my child to obey so much that I’m not sure if the Holy Spirit whispered ‘danger,’ my child would listen for fear of being punished for disobedience.”  The enemy knows how to hit below the belt.  When he attacked what I perceived as my failures as a mother, that delivered quite a punch.

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As I was trying to figure out a way to talk to our child about listening first and foremost to the Holy Spirit’s voice, even over mine or his father’s, God reminded me of a principle that we have used in our family since our children’s birth.  It’s the concept of the “big, big boss.”

We wanted a way to create a united front with our kids so we came up with a relatively easy way for them to remember.  If I give a direction and their dad gives a direction, they always listen to their father, even if it’s something as simple as “yes, you can eat a cookie” or “no, it’s almost dinnertime.”  Most of the time we’re in agreement, but sometimes our lines get crossed and they know their father is the ultimate authority in our house.  They’ll never get in trouble if they choose to listen to their dad’s authority over mine.  While I’m the boss, he’s the big, big boss.

However, our kids also know that the true pecking order in our house is as follows:  God first, then their dad, then me.  Having God remind me of this concept that has been taught since they were born, it was easy to sit our child down and remind him, “If mom tells you to do something but the Holy Spirit whispers something different, who should you listen to?  Will you get in trouble for listening to the Holy Spirit’s over mom’s directions?”  (I also then reminded our child that what is heard from the Holy Spirit has to line up with the Bible – the Holy Spirit wouldn’t tell him to do something that was dangerous, mean, or illegal.)  What I thought was going to have to be a long conversation turned out to be five minutes or so.  He understood who was the big, big, big boss and it was another opportunity to reinforce that listening to God above all others is the only right way.

God used a concept that He created for our household years ago to bring peace of mind to me, reminding me once again that when He invites us into a mission (even our children), He equips us for the assignment first.

Come back next time for two more truths God spoke to my heart about.

© 2016 Cheri Swalwell

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“Stand firm, and you will win life.” Luke 21:19 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together, I shared how God reminded me that everything in my life is His and I’m just the manager.  I need that reminder, especially as my kids get older and get their own assignments from God.  I realize I can’t always be right there with them, and that’s okay.  God is their Father as much as He is mine and He’s a much better protector than I ever will be.

That led me to the next reminder that God gave me – if He gives them a mission, then He will equip them for the mission, and most importantly, it’s not my mission.  God may give each of us our own part in the same mission, but it’s my job to stay close to God and make sure I’m only doing what He called me to do, and not taking on other’s responsibilities, the opportunities He’s inviting others to fulfill.

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One of my regular prayers for my kids is this:  That they will develop strong roots in their relationship with their Heavenly Father before leaving our home so that when temptations and trials and problems arise, they will have the tools they need to grow and mature and have victory.

That can be a scary prayer to pray, because essentially part of what I’m saying is this: “God, please allow my children the chance to grow and mature in You,” and most of us know that one of the ways a person grows and matures is through mastery.  I don’t know of any child who has learned to walk without obtaining multiple bruises.  While the bruises aren’t life threatening, they are a part of the learning process of balance, depth perception and coordination.

If I carry my child everywhere because I don’t want them to get hurt, they’ll never learn to walk.  Their leg muscles will eventually atrophy and they’ll never be able to hold up their body weight.  If I fight my children’s or friends’ battles for them, never allowing them to stretch their faith muscles or dig deep in prayer or perseverance or whatever the mission calls for, then I’m allowing an atrophy in their spiritual life, something I’d never want to do.

God gave parents the blessing of raising children through age 18 for many purposes.  However, it’s our duty as parents to allow our children the opportunity to grow in their relationship with God as He invites them into missions of their own or joint missions with us.

Come back next time as I share three more truths that God showed me through what began as a very difficult weekend but turned out to be a great victory.

© 2016 Cheri Swalwell

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“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” II Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

 

I’ve spoken in the past how God is working with me on breaking the grip fear has on me and replacing it with faith.  I’ve also written a post in the past speaking about how I don’t want to pass along my issues with fear to my children.  While I’d love to wrap my kids in Charmin, that’s not the life God chooses for His children.  How can we be salt and light to this world when we’re sequestered behind our closed drapes bundled in fire retardant clothes?

Around the beginning of the school year, God gave me a mission.  This mission, however, wasn’t just for myself but included one of our kids.  While I didn’t pressure my child into accepting the mission, God, in His amazing way, allowed my child to approach me, giving the perfect opportunity to share a little of what God had been whispering to me about the situation and allowing me to invite our child into the mission with me.

Our child eagerly accepted what I was offering and while there were a few instances of fear that our child needed my husband and my help to work through, I remained in complete peace that we were walking in the direction God instructed and I was excited to see God work some miracles.

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Then came fear… my fear.  When I took my eyes off the mission and who had invited me in the first place, I allowed the enemy a chance to whisper lies to me that sounded very believable.  Lies that could happen, although probably wouldn’t happen.  And, because I’m a mom, one of the lies that was hitting too close to home was this one: “What if I’m choosing a path that is putting my child in harm’s way?”

The lies and fear started Friday… and the very next day God spoke directly to my heart through a sermon about finances!  The sermon reminded me that everything I have is God’s.  I don’t own anything – I’m just the manager of all of God’s blessings in my life.  Any relationship that I enter into… God allowed my path to cross with that individual.  Any job or overtime or opportunity for advancement or a paycheck… yup, all God’s doing.  My marriage?  Yup, God gave that to me.  The wonderful cup of coffee sitting next to me while I type this?  Yup, God blessed me with that also.  And, you guessed it – my kids?  Not mine either.  God’s kids that He’s allowing me the blessing to manage for Him.

When looked at that way, I had a serious choice to make.  Keep believing the lies of the enemy that I’m going to cause harm to my child by continuing on this mission… or trust the One who created the assignment and invited my child and I to come along.

I decided to ignore the enemy and his lies and instead focus on the victory God would bring because we chose to continue.  I decided that every time fear threatened to overtake me, I was going to pray harder, asking God for a miracle in this situation and for Him to get all the glory.

Come back next time and I will share what else God taught me.

© 2016 Cheri Swalwell

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Hope During Heartache: 

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

 

Step inside this book to hear from twelve different men and women, through their own words, how they were able to find hope during their heartache. Let them offer you a chance to experience that hope for yourself.

Hope During Heartache

Here are a few excerpts from the book:

Melissa: “For the next few weeks everything remained normal. I felt great and I was even starting to look pregnant with that small bulge beginning to appear.

All of this changed on Friday morning, March 7th…Immediately the thoughts of something being wrong raced through my mind.”

Josh: “It was just after midnight on Sunday, All Saints Day actually, when my wife woke up with cramping. It had only been a few hours since she got home from a family baby shower, a few hours more from when I had stopped handing out Halloween candy to the neighborhood kids.. She was thirty weeks along. The dangers of the first trimester were long past. Statistically, we were in the clear. When the cramping started, she thought that it would pass, but it was bad enough that she couldn’t get back to sleep, so she did homework instead.”

Shannon:  “Sunday, July 10, 2005, as I went to pick up Leo from the church’s nursery, he had passed away in his sleep during the service. This was an unimaginable nightmare, and I can’t explain how I could even get out of bed in the morning afterward…. People have told me how unfair it is that we tried to conceive for so long, having in-vitro fail and then going through adoption, only to lose our child.”

Available at:  Amazon – amzn.to/1sKLduh

(Paperback and eBook)

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“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

 

Last time we were together, I spoke about how the mother/daughter day we had been planning for months was curtailed by car problems.  What I failed to mention was that this day had been planned for months because it was our daughter’s 13th birthday and it was the first of many consecutive days of celebration.

My husband and I took the car down early Saturday morning and they were confident they would be able to get it back to us by the end of the day. I was so happy I promised the men a piece of her birthday cake when we came back in a few hours to pick it up.  Instead of bringing cake and thanking the mechanics for their fast service, we received a phone call that the repairs were more extensive and much more expensive.  We’re talking double what we originally thought.  They were running into problems so the car wouldn’t be ready until Monday morning.

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I tried to be patient and not worry about the price tag, thanking them for their time and reminding them I really needed it back by Monday morning because we had somewhere important to be Monday afternoon.  We were still celebrating her birthday and had planned to meet my parents and husband at a restaurant about 20 minutes away.  They assured me that was doable and said they would see me on Monday morning.

Monday morning I received another phone call –  but instead of telling me to come pick up the car, they said they needed it longer because of more issues.  These issues were due to a mistake on their end and it would delay us getting the car back by one or two more days.  My response was not as nice, there was no promise of cake and I just wanted my car back.  While I didn’t yell, scream or cause a scene, I wasn’t as patient or kind or loving – I wasn’t the best representation of Christ that I could’ve been.  When we did pick up the car Wednesday, I brought Easter candy for them to enjoy but it wasn’t delivered with the smile I usually gave.

Looking back on it now, I’m still ashamed.  If I had only trusted God more, I think my response would have been more in line with what He would expect of His child.  We still were able to enjoy dinner for our daughter’s celebration in the next town (thanks again to my in-laws van).  We still were able to do fun things during spring break, this time with a safer car.  God came through regarding the car repairs – but I’m still worried that I have ruined my testimony to these two men whom I desperately wanted to introduce to Christ.

This past week my husband decided we needed new tires for the same car.  Our mechanic was the best price in town.  They upgraded the tires we were going to get to nicer ones and got the tires replaced the very next day from when I called.  Yet, I feel like the relationship is strained now.  I still regret my actions in April.  I’ve asked God to forgive me.  I know God restores and redeems.

But I learned a valuable lesson, possibly at the expense of other people.  My response matters… all the time.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

 

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“…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20 (NIV)

 

Last time I talked about how God showed me that our responses matter.  God is able to use everything we face because we live in a fallen world, bringing blessings from pain if we choose to keep Him front and center in our lives.

I spoke last fall about our new mechanic and how I believe God brought good out of car trouble in our family not once, but twice.  They became more than our mechanics right off the bat – sharing brownies, cookies and other baked goods as well as our payment for their services.

Last April found us back at the mechanic and with financial pressures that were not the fault of the mechanic, we were looking at a huge bill for what was originally assumed to be a minor problem.  My response should have been one of complete trust in God.  He has proven time and again that He has our finances, that He is Jehovah Jireh.  However, the timing for this faith lesson couldn’t have been more inopportune.

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This particular Thursday morning in April was a day that I had planned for months.  It was the beginning of spring break for our oldest two (our youngest still had one more day) and while our oldest was busy at work and our youngest occupied in school – my daughter and I were going to go enjoy a mother/daughter day for her birthday.  We had the whole day planned.  Drop off the youngest at school, get a leisurely breakfast before heading to the salon, then maybe lunch before picking up the youngest and heading to my Bible study/walking group.  I had worked extra hours so that I could take the day off guilt free and just enjoy making memories with my only daughter.

We made memories all right.  As we drove away from dropping off our youngest, the oil light came on the car.  I knew enough about cars to know that wasn’t good and I better not drive it around town.  Did I mention it was pouring down rain too?  So I pulled over to the side of the road, called my husband and while getting soaked, checked the dipstick (thank you, Dad, for teaching me basic car survival).  It was low on oil, so I asked Bill what I should do and he suggested buying some oil and seeing if that would work.

Ten minutes later, I’m standing out in the pouring down rain, pouring oil into the right spot in the car and watching it flow out the bottom in a river of flood water almost as fast.  Again, I knew enough about cars to know that wasn’t what was supposed to happen.  A quick call to my in-laws to explain the situation gave us their car for the day, so our whole date wasn’t ruined.  I dropped our car off at their house, picked up their van and spent a fun day at the salon watching them work magic on her hair while I dried out.

At the end of the day, I called the mechanic because something was definitely wrong with the car.  He said I could bring it in the next day and he would do what he could to help us, hoping it was the lesser expensive of the two problems he suspected.

Come back next time as I finish explaining how my “less-than-stellar” response wasn’t God’s best and I’m still regretting it.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

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“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

Hebrews 13:15 (NIV)

 

I was driving alone this afternoon and One True God by Steven Curtis Chapman came on.  The lyrics to that song are so meaningful, I would encourage anyone to listen to it.

Then my mind started wandering to the Chapman’s personal life.  I will never forget the day I heard their life had been turned upside down.  I was pregnant with our bonus blessing, approximately 7½ years ago now, and had just met my parents at my daughter’s “Grandparent’s Day” performance (they let parents come too).  My dad greeted me with, “Maria Chapman, the adopted daughter of Steven Curtis Chapman, was killed last night… by her brother.”

I’m not sure why that particular tragedy touched me so profoundly – was it pregnancy hormones?  Was it the fact I was carrying our bonus blessing, still grieving for the child I had carried briefly but won’t meet until Jesus introduces us in Heaven?  Was it because I grew up listening to his music, attending a concert or two?  I’m not sure, but I know I grieved with them and still to this day, check in on their website and blog from time to time, especially around the anniversary of her eternal homecoming.

Hope During Heartache

So, to sit in the car and listen to the words that Steven Curtis Chapman was singing to our Father in Heaven, seven years after his world was literally turned upside down impacted me.  He was praising God for never changing.  I encourage you to look up the lyrics yourself.  But this is what struck me.

Despite the journey of grief their family walked.  Despite the pain I’m sure they still feel at the anniversary of Maria’s death… holidays… remembrance of her birthday… he chooses to sing about God’s goodness, His sovereign power, Jesus being the only way to Heaven.

It reminded me of personal friends that I have traveled difficult journeys with, either walking alongside them or praying faithfully.  One friend who currently is facing ALS with more strength than I have in my pinkie.  Another friend who is daily supporting her husband as he deals with multiple medical issues.  Abuse, financial difficulties, job situations, relationships – the difficulties are endless as we live in a fallen world.

People notice.  Christians and those who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus alike.  They take note of our reactions when life is less than perfect.  Our responses matter.

What a testimony when people like my friend or Steven Curtis Chapman or many, many others continue to praise the name of Jesus and continue to believe, “God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.”  Words that are lived out daily, not just spoken during a church service.

Come back next time as I continue with another side to this statement that our responses matter.  One I’m not as proud of.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

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“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” Psalm 119:50 (NIV)

 

I spoke last time about the journey God led me through after I asked Him to show me His purpose for my life.  While I have traveled quite a journey, I don’t believe God is finished yet.  I have a lot of learning left to do. There are parts of my job that are still difficult and not in my comfort zone; however, the majority of my job descriptions don’t feel like work because I’m in my sweet spot.  It’s what I was called to do.  So while there are difficult days, I can’t say I’m miserable.  And, because God has been so faithful to show me how He’s been in charge of this journey the whole time, when difficult arises, I choose to trust and praise Him, knowing that if He is allowing me to be assigned something challenging, He wants to teach me, train me or use me through it.

In order to get to the place where we are fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives and to be able to live that abundant life He promised, we first have to submit our lives completely to Him.  That means our spouses, our free time, our friends, our hobbies and most importantly… our employment.  Only when we completely submit can God begin to work.

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If you have done that and are still experiencing miserable, I want to encourage you both from the personal experience I shared last time as well as from the position of watching firsthand how God has worked miracles in many different friends’ lives, I believe that God isn’t finished with you yet either.  If you are experiencing miserable, I encourage you to approach God and ask Him if you are in the middle of your training period.  While there can be much “miserable” associated with this period, one way I have found personally to travel through it faster is to ask God what He wants me to learn and then be open to how He wants me to learn — listening for His voice and responding positively to His promptings.

Also, another way that I found works is to praise Him during the miserable and also to look for specific blessings He is giving me, to help encourage me along the way.  As I stated before, while mulling over the miserable one friend is currently still in, God opened my eyes to the friendship God gave to help my friend not feel so alone.

God definitely allows difficult to help us mature, but I don’t believe God purposefully gives us miserable to torture us.  His desires for His children always have good intentions.  He is not some unfeeling Judge sitting impersonally in the sky waiting to inflict horror “just so we’ll learn.”  That thinking is so far from the truth.  God is all about love.  He can’t not love us because His very nature is love.  Just as a loving parent will allow consequences and life experiences shape their children to help them be better prepared for living the best life possible, God allows situations to help us mature and be more fully prepared to fulfill His purpose for our lives.  But never to inflict harm, never with the sole purpose of torturing us and never because He desires us to live a life of misery.

When I pray for my friend caught in a miserable situation right now, I pray with a heart of thanksgiving, knowing that God is getting ready to change the circumstances for good.  How do I know this?  All I have to do is remember my other friend who told me the other day that she had no idea a work environment could be so supportive, so friendly and so amazing.

What God is willing to do for one of His children, He’s waiting to do for all of His children.  We just need to fully submit our lives to His will, His timing and then choose to obey when He speaks.

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

 

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“… People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole,
Steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit.
Depend on God and keep at it  because in the Lord God you have a sure thing…” Isaiah 26:3-4 (The Message)

 

Last time we were together, I spoke about how I believe God allows pain, trials and difficulties in our life to help us mature into the individuals He designed us to be.  Today I wanted to talk a little further about that and how that’s different than being miserable.

God tells us specifically in His word that He will use whatever methods necessary to help us mature, molding and shaping our lives with the potter’s wheel sometimes, turning up the heat in the oven so to speak, not to harm us but to help us become the individuals He designed.

However, God also tells us that He has come to give us an abundant life, life to the fullest.  Those two statements can sometimes seem contradictory.

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Like I spoke of last time, God has created each of us for a specific purpose.  Even people in the same family, who share the same DNA, aren’t meant always to fulfill the same purpose.  God is a very personal God and creates us each uniquely with our own gifts and talents.  I know for myself, it took a long time before I stepped into my calling, my unique purpose in life and honestly, while I’m closer, I don’t believe I’ve arrived yet.

I grew up happiest with little ones surrounding me.  I volunteered in the church nursery, babysat beginning at age 10, and had lead roles in Awana and VBS. My goal was to be a child psychologist.  I also worked at a residential facility for troubled children, owned my own home daycare for six years and worked as a foster care/adoption worked for five years.

God moved me out of those positions into the job of medical transcriptionist where I worked faithfully for 10+ years so I could have the desire of my heart – staying home and raising my own children. It was during that period in my life that I dedicated it to God, saying, “I don’t think You created me to be a medical transcriptionist my whole life.   I want to do more.  I want to know the purpose You have for my life and I will obey.”

During the next five years or so, God started moving me toward the field of writing.  He took more time to transition me from medical transcriptionist to the two jobs I currently hold now – working with marketing, books, editing a magazine, etc.  I always joke (with seriousness) that God paid me for ten years to learn proper English and grammar through my medical transcriptionist job.  It was difficult with some very painful periods, but looking back now, I needed that training ground to give me confidence in my promotion to where I am today.  I wouldn’t trade that time, from the friendships I built with my bosses as well as the blessings God gave me during that time, for anything.

Come back next time for some encouragement if you find yourself in “miserable.”

© Cheri Swalwell 2016

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